On Gardening in the Dark: Who's the Hardest Working Man in Sow Business? (updated 9.16.07)
Who's the man that won't back down, when there's spiritual danger all around?
Can you dig it?
Sorry. That was Petey's little invocation. He was just trying to build me up and give me a little confidence as I venture into the hazardous waters of giving spiritual advice. Of course, I did this in Chapter Four of my book, but I tried there to do so in a more abstract manner, disclosing what I believe is the "deep structure" of any fruitful spiritual practice, whatever one's tradition.
Where to start?
There are objects and there is motion. Religions are like intellectual cathedrals that endeavor to mirror the hierarchical dimension of the vertical on this side of manifestation--they are "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement--an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.
In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant.
We are fallen beings. Specifically, we are exiled from the vertical; we are strangers in this world, wandering in the desert of the horizontal, trying to find our way home. We go through books, experiences, teachers, trying to find Truth or Freedom or Happiness. Sometimes we catch a glimpse, only to see it recede into darkness, like a dream that fades upon awakening.
The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed.
So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual bankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.
For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no--we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.
Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths--catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.
Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and setting up shop in the vertical.
In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host--you--and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.
For this reason, most anyone on a spiritual path requires some form of meaningful psychotherapy. If not, their entire spiritual practice is likely to be overrun by mind parasites disguised as spirituality. The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.
However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?
Lies are the wisdom of the world. The world is immersed in, and ruled by, lies. Therefore, to the extent that you lose yourself in this world, you too will be lost in a sea of lies. For example, the war on Islamofascism is not ultimately a war against a physical enemy, but a war against the most outrageous and pernicious lies. Likewise, the "culture war" in America is not really about culture, but about truth and about unconsciously motivated stupidity. Europe has already lost this war. Like the American left they have abandoned truth for comfort, happiness for pleasure, vertical liberty for horizontal license.
Birth is always a chaotic and painful transition from one mode of being to another. The seeds of our new birth are already present within us, in the womb of our being. What are the conditions that allow the seeds to grow and bear fruit? Hell, I don't know.
"Petey? What do you think?" Okay. How about the sunlight of truth, the water of grace, the fertilizer of ritual, and the loving assistance of an expert gardener who certainly need not be technically "living" in the biological sense of the term?
Well, my allotted time is up this morning. As you can see, we've just gotten started. But the horizontal beckons me from the threshold of transdimensional doorway, so I bid you adieu. In fact, I will leave you with adieu and don't--a verticalisthenic, if you will. Today, whenever you have a spare moment, instead of wasting it in idle mental wanderings, try silencing your mind and breathing in the eternal, drawing breath from above your head down into your heart, and then offering the breath back up again to your new gardener.