All Along the Watchtower
Ah, but the grapes! That's where I had the mind parasites cornered. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with cold geometric logic, that a duplicate key to my watchtower did exist. And I'd show you that key if they hadn't bribed Petey. I know now that he was trying to protect some light-fingered hobgoblin from the vertical world... Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory...
What? Where was I....
Oh yes. Our fall is literally (that is, metaphorically) a fall into horizontality, from eternity into time, from unity to multiplicity, from concentration to dispersion. It therefore follows that "ascending" is synonymous with undoing or reversing each of these things.
As Hieromonk Damascene describes it, "The spirit is immortal being and thus partakes of time-transcendence; while the lower soul is tied to earthly time. The spirit, in experiencing eternity, abides in stillness; while the lower soul is involved in action that is bound to time."
He goes on to say, "As we repeatedly catch ourselves descending to the level of thought (the realm of action in time), we can call ourselves back to the level of spirit (the realm of stillness in eternity). Later, through continual practice, we will be able to watch the thoughts coming, trying to gain admittance into our minds by stealing our attention."
The parallels with what Sri Aurobindo teaches are almost exact. For him, the fundamental approach to building your watchtower involves 1) aspiration, 2) rejection, and 3) surrender.
Aspiration may be conceptualized in different ways, but if you are a Christian, it would involve constant recollection of, and opening to, the divine grace--sitting calmly and quietly and literally (that is, literally) drawing upon that energy. Depending on your personality, you may concentrate inwardly, in the heart center, or upwardly, above the head. Some people may think of the heart as a throne where Jesus resides. Or you may think of the spirit "descending like a dove" from above.
"Rejection" is a form of discrimination. Ultimately it involves discerning between reality and appearance, between truth and maya. But at first, it is simply the mundane task of driving a wedge between ourselves and our lower thoughts, of realizing that what you think is none of your business.
As one of the greatest authorities, St. Theophan the Recluse, writes, "Little by little you will separate from your thoughts” and “find that you have strayed far from your first-created image." He further points out that the lower mind does not "steal our grapes" in a straight forward manner, but usually through thoughts that then give rise to other desires and passions.
Thus, St. Theophan recommends that we do not attempt to get involved or argue with these thoughts, because this will simply bind us to them.
In this regard, Hieromonk Damascene writes that "Struggle against thoughts is vain and futile. It is enough simply to observe the thoughts as they arise," and to "let them go without reacting to them or following them.... A thought cannot exist long under the light of direct, objective observation. If we do not align our will with it, it naturally disappears." In short, "resist not evil" means not struggling against thoughts but rising toward our Source, where they cannot reach.
When Jesus says "take no thought for the morrow" or "without hating your own life you cannot be my disciple" he is talking about the need for the ego to commit cluelesside. "What adults often consider happiness is in reality the emotional excitement of the ego; while a lttle child's happiness consists in the simple, selfless joy of being alive.
When Jesus told each person to 'deny himself' and 'lose his life,' he was not saying to obliterate the conscious mind. Rather, he was saying to purify it by casting off the ego that has grown on it like a parasite."
The ego has a kind of "external coherence" that is held together through things such as status, desires, possessions, a few ruling ideas, and other circumstances. But building your watchtower involves achieving a kind of "internal coherence." It is easy to tell when someone is speaking from the external ego vs. the interior Self.
Most of the politicians, pundits and talking heads you see on TV are of the former variety. Their minds are like little tape libraries that play only prerecorded messages. It is an entirely different experience to be in the presence of someone who is speaking from a deeper and more coherent center of the Self.
Any authentic guru or spiritual teacher will naturally be of the latter type. Think of it this way: there are causes that exist within the horizontal realm and causes that exist within the vertical. Horizontal causes are the "wisdom of the world," but each of these causes is counterbalanced by causes moving in the opposite direction. It is a world of exciting "heat" rather than elevating "light," but most people apparently take this world for reality.
But genuine vertical influences operate in a topdown manner, and do not cancel each other out. From what we have heard from the wise, building your watchtower involves gathering and assimilating these vertical influences until a sort of "magnetic center" begins to grow. It has the dual capacity of both deflecting the horizontal influences and drawing upon the vertical.
Living your life in this manner is something like riding on imaginary rails, a sort of subtle magnetic field that can't be seen but can be felt. I can only reemphasize that it is critical to have some kind of daily contact with a person--whether living or "dead," it doesn't matter--of the vertical type. In reality, you must form a relationship with such an individual. Why? Because they have a "magnetic center" that is stronger than your own and draws you toward it, into their harbor.
Me? Yes, I have formed such a relationship with a vertical being who only just recently fell to earth. This little fellow is trying to teach me everything he doesn’t know, before he forgets it.
Like the difference between dogs and horses:
Or the bottle right in front of you is always the best one:
And getting into someone's drawers can be entirely innocent fun:
(photo cropping courtesy dilys)