The Adventure of Consciousness
I used to be very interested in such "peak experiences," thinking that they must represent the sine qua non of spiritual development. But as I have seen my own life and mind become gradually transformed over the years, I have become much more interested in the issue of altered traits rather than altered states.
When I first began my spiritual practice, I assumed that I was looking for some sort of dramatic experience, an exalted spiritual rubicon that I would cross and never look back, like the sudden satori of Zen or moksha of Hinduism. True, I did have some such experiences, but I now think of them more as "lures" to demonstrate the validity of my search and keep me on the path, as opposed to being some kind of final deustination. (For those who have the book, I use the symbol (!?) for these experiences that most anyone, even the most hardened atheist, will have at least once in their life--when the veil is rent, so to speak, and you are offered a "metaphysical freebie" that conclusively shows you that the apparent does not exhaust the real.)
Now, if I criticize "fundamentalism" or literalism, please realize that I do so from a friendly and sympathetic position. For example, I happen to believe that a fundamentalist who thinks that the world was created by God in six days is actually much, much closer to the truth than any doctrine that leaves the divine mind out of the equation.
But as you know, in contemporary America there is much talk of the "born again" experience. You were a fallen creature wandering satan's horizontal playground, had a personal experience of the risen Jesus, and were saved. End of story.
I see at least a couple of serious potential pitfalls with this view. First of all, it reduces what I believe is an ongoing evolution to an either/or situation, with no clear appreciation of the unfolding nature of spiritual growth, and how difficult it is: that one must engage in spiritual warfare with body, mind and spirit, not just once, but every day.
Moreover, the individualistic experience of being "saved" can and does easily lead to a paralyzing narcissistic inflation. You know God's will. You are saved. Others are not. Having once been a leftist, I can testify as to how irritating such talk is to them. It is actually an invitation to not be taken seriously. Which is fine. Jesus said that Christians would be persecuted in his name. But I think there's a better way that doesn't in the least compromise Christian teachings.
In fact, I believe this notion of sudden and permanent salvation is a modern twist that often involves a bit of frank heresy. Spiritual satisfaction actually risks drawing one further away from God. For me at least, there must always be a sharp line between creator and created. It is because of the dynamic tension involved in inhabiting that middle position, or "transitional space," that spiritual growth can take place: blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. But when our point of departure is an intellectual certitude of absolute salvation, truly, that is just an invitation for unresolved personal issues to rush into the breach--issues that have never been properly dealt with through the type of "spiritual warfare" exhaustively described by the ancient fathers and such modern luminaries as Theophan the Recluse.
How else to explain how so many "saved" people continue ot behave so badly? They were given an altered state, but it did not necessarily lead to any altered traits. Of course I am not talking about everyone. But I would certainly suggest that it is a majority. I would bet that very few Christians understand just how sophisticated are the ancient techniques of spiritual warfare, or even that such a thing exists.
Again, as I have mentioned before, traditional metaphysics teaches that human beings are composed of no less than three distinct parts: body, mind (or soul), and spirit. Each of these is subject to constant growth and change. Obviously that applies to our bodies. And we can also see that it applies to the mind, in that this is what conventional education and self-improvement are all about. But since the enlightenment, we have tended to conflate soul and spirit, with disastrous consequences; spirit has actually been reduced to soul, so that there is no recognition that spiritual growth runs along its own track. Most people stop learning anything truly new by the time they are 25 or 30. Worse, the vast majority experience no spiritual growth at all. Even the best of them are stuck in the lower intellect, as if that is all there is.
As you know, one of my favorite places to study left wing secular pneumapathology is huffingtonpost.com. It offers such a wealth of the varieties of spiritual illness that it is irresistible. A couple of days ago there was an article by Cenk Uygur, entitled The Liberation of Meaninglessness that exemplifies what it is like to be of reasonable--probably above average--intelligence, but to be absolutely enclosed in a spiritually primitive, animal-like existence. Truly, like an ape with a slightly more sophisticated brain, suffering from a sort of invincible blindness to any reality that transcends his immediate senses. In fact, most Darwinians would have no objection to the characterization of being glorified apes.
Bear in mind that this most certainly represents "sophisticated" contemporary leftist thought. It is the kind of thought that makes them feel so confidently superior to the religious. Uygur asks, for example, "What are we waiting for? What--heaven? Hell? You have got to be kidding me. Please don't tell me that you are wasting the one precious life you have waiting around for the fairytales of our ancestors. Our ancestors thought the stars were holes in the sky. They thought the Earth was flat, that the Sun revolved around us and that there is a man with a gray beard up in the sky."
Fascinating. On the one hand, he recognizes that life is infinitely precious. Few people are so spiritually blind that they cannot see that. But in the next breath he says that "We are infinitesimally small. We are miniscule animals on a tiny planet circling a small star in a giant galaxy. There are at least 200 billion stars just like ours in our galaxy alone. And there are anywhere between 10 to 100 billion other galaxies. When you zoom out from a single person to the Earth to our sun to the 200 billion other stars in our galaxy and to the billions of other galaxies, you realize we are entirely irrelevant."
Do you see the confusion? Once you collapse the realm of the soul and the spirit, you inhabit an impoverished "flatland" in which everything is equivalent to everything else. Life--which is clearly higher than matter--is violently reduced to mere matter, no different than one of the billions of stars--or atoms or rocks, for that matter.
Uygur confuses what is more fundamental with what is more significant, which is exactly what his metaphysic condemns him to do from the outset. The conclusion is loaded into the premise, and the premise results from his own spiritual blindness, now elevated to a form of great intellectual courage. He assures us that human beings are "a cosmic joke." (Odd that these people are called "humanists.") Our brief presence in the cosmos "doesn't even qualify as a hiccup in time.... The insignificance of that period time within 15 billion years cannot be overstated. Our lives go by quicker than a cosmic second. We are so small as to be nearly nonexistent. Yet we are led to believe that we are the center of the damn universe. Everything we do is so important. We lead these careful, guilt-ridden, cautious lives only to die abruptly and disappear into cosmic insignificance."
Do you see how this man is promulgating the first incorrect philosophy that the yahoos who wrote the Bible dispensed with on page one? It is called cosmolatry. That is, this man is suggesting that the material cosmos is the highest and greatest, just because it preceded our arrival. It is ultimate--in its wake we are completely insignificant.
In fact, it was in order to prevent human beings from going down that primitive and spiritually vapid road--cosmolatry is hardly a modern or postmodern philosophy, but a very primitive one--that the Bible states "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In other words, the rug is pulled out from primitive cosmolatry right from he outset: there is something higher and greater than the material cosmos, as awesome as the comsos may appear to the untutored senses. It is just another creation of something greater, something far transcending it. To coin a phrase, it is "one cosmos under God," not equivalent to God.
As I have mentioned before, it is ironic that secular atheists are even more fundamental than the most fundamental fundamentalist. Thus Uygur contemptuously dismisses religion by reducing it to its most base understanding. If we could talk to one of the writers of the Bible today, they would say "We wrote that woman came from the rib of man because we had no fucking idea where women came from. You've traced back the origin of life and you're still wondering if we knew something you don't know? We were practically cavemen. We knew less science than your average third grader now."
Although the cosmos is entirely meaningless, Uygur presumes to instruct us how to have a meaningful life, not realizing that his metaphysic rules this out a priori. He says, "There is something liberating about meaninglessness. We are cosmically insignificant, so who cares what we do?.... For the love of God, just please live the life you want to live, not the one you think you should live." "Enjoy yourself without infringing on others. Hedonism is not the answer [hmm. why not?]. But a stodgy, unadventurous life isn't either."
A stodgy, unadventurous life. That's what Uyger's life would represent to me, an awful imprisonment in maya, in the world of the animal senses and the lower mind, with no possibility of exodus into vertical liberation. In reality, the spiritual life is the only adventure that is: the awesome adventure of consciousness into God. There are ways to miss out on this adventure, both religious and secular. And that, my friends, would be a wasted and meaningless life--a celestial abortion, if you want to know the truth.
As a consequence of the inability to distinguish between the higher and lower, the secular liberal temple of the Oscar ceremony confers one of its highest awards upon the infrahuman. From the invaluable American Digest, via larwyn):
"With the THREE 6 MAFIA scheduled to serenade the clotted cream of our culture tonight at the Oscars with their moving ode..., "You Know It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," one wonders exactly what songs THREE 6 MAFIA might be called upon to perform as an encore at the after parties should they win.
"Checking the group's impressive catalogue it could be one, or more, or perhaps all of the following masterpieces:
Blow A Nigga's Ass Off
Fuck That Nigga
Fuck Dat Shit
Get Buck Muthafucka (Original)
Long And Hard (Original)
No I'm Not Dat Nigga
Hoes Can Be Like Niggas
From Da Back
Fuck Y'all Hoes
Weak Azz Bitch
Jealous Ass Bitches
Beatem To Da Floor
Put Cha D. In Her Mouth
Pussy Got Ya Hooked
Slob On My Knob
or the immortal,
Slob On My Knob (Pt. II)
[Because there was so much more to say.]
"Given the climate of the Academy today, any one of these might indeed be Oscar material in and of itself. But given the proclivities of the Academy today, my money's on either one of the last two as the songs much in demand wherever our glitterati gather tonight after the show."
Fascinating. We know that liberals are obsessed with race. No one seems to consider that this might be a reaction formation or unconscious attempt to "undo" feelings of condescension and superiority. Thus, racial superiority returns through the back door in the form of racial quotas, hate crime legislation, speech codes--and in awards such as this, elevating the bestial to the sublime.
It reminds me of George Clooney's moral grandstanding last night about how enlightened the Hollywood nitwiterati have always been in the fight against racism. In point of fact, a film like To Kill a Mockingbird might more accurately be described as a self-congratulatory exercise in trying to atone for the degrading way that Hollywood had generally depicted blacks prior to that. In a return to form, they once again joyously celebrate their portrayal of blacks as subhuman gutterati. Liberals used to fight for abolition. Now they fight for the Abolition of Man.