Thursday, March 30, 2006

Your Reluctant Astralnaught, Decanting From the Serene of the Climb

So, tomorrow I'm being interviewed for the next issue of What is Enlightenment Magazine? No, that wasn't a question. That's the name of the magazine--What is Enlightenment?, henceforth WIE.

Under the title of the magazine, it says "Redefining Spirituality for an Evolving World." I guess that's where I, your humble and Reluctant Astralnaught, come in.

That is, the next issue is going to focus specifically on the topic of "evolutionary spirituality" in order to provide a context for my cosmic Bobservations. They already gave my book a very gracious review in the Dec '05-Feb '06 issue, and then conducted a lengthy cross examination of me in December--the third degree about the fifth dimension.

But suspicions remain. They now have some followup questions, especially focussing on the topic of cultural evolution within the larger context of cosmic evolution laid out in my book. It's not really fair, because if I had known I were going to be tested, I would have read my book more carefully.

One of my mentors, W.R. Bion, never prepared ahead of time for talks. This is because he wanted anything he said to evolve directly out of O (as discussed yesterday).

In other words, Bion wanted to be subservient to O, so that his words would be a living demonstration of O-->(k). Although this could be a little nerve-wracking going in, my understanding is that O never failed him (he died in 1978, seven years before we met). He would be both apprehensive and excited before a public appearance, because he was just as curious as anyone else to find out what he was going to say.

As this blog has evolved, that is the approach I have adopted. At first, I tried to wrestle with my mind and come up with topics and content by force. But at some point a few months back, I just decided to chuck that purely (k) approach and instead make it a Self-indulgent exercise in O-->(k), or better yet, O-->(n).

That is, like Bion, I never know ahead of time what I'm going to be writing about. Or, if I do, I try not to think about it consciously. Instead, I plant a little seed the night before, and then wake up and see what kind of green cogitation has grown.

It's interesting, because there are a lot of things "I" don't know the answer to. Left to my own devices, I can only produce Astroturf and artificial flowers. But when I just get out of the way and begin writing, the answers come. It's as if, if I want to find out what I think about something, I have to go through the proper channels and formally ask another part of my nonself. Otherwise, I'm liable to get either a predigested answer of some kind, or mere speculation, or no answer at all.

So anyway, for the last interview with WIE, they didn't give me any questions ahead of time, which proved to be a good thing. They were very difficult and challenging questions, and If I'd seen them beforehand, I think I might have panicked a little. Then my mind would have kicked in, closing me off from O. As it turned out, I think I acquitted myself pretty well, but only because I got out of the way and just relaxed and floated downstream on the waters of O-->(k) and O-->(n).

But this time, wouldn't you know it, they gave me some of the questions ahead of time. So now my self-important mind wants to get all involved. Like Inspector Clouseau, it has barged onto the stage saying "Don't worry. I am in control now. Nobody move!"

Here are some of the questions:

1. The horizontal and the vertical--how this relates to the four singularities (matter, life, mind and spirit) and how it is expressed in human beings and cultures.

2. The relationship between the evolution of childrearing practices and the integration of the human psyche--within this larger cosmic context. The progression through human history.

3. How this integration makes the vertical more transparent or present within human culture.

4. The pluses and minuses of the birth of individuality.

5. The significance of the fact that the cosmos is intelligible to us.

I guess that even if O vanishes and becomes inaccessible, I could still tackle those questions in an external way. However, it just won't be the same if it becomes an exercise in mere (k).

One thing I am very apprehensive about is the whole idea of evolutionary spirituality of which I am now apparently one of the spokesmen. There is a healthy way of looking at this and an unhealthy--not to say heretical--way of looking at it, and the differences between the two can look quite subtle, but they are actually quite profound and incompatible. In fact, it is possible that I am treading such a razor's edge on this matter, that I may well be the only oddvocate for my particular position.

Reader Mikalm left a very interesting and relevant post yesterday on the subject of evil. It is from the prologue of a classic horror story entitled The White People, by Arthur Machen. One of the characters, Ambrose, says the essence of sin is "in the taking of heaven by storm.... It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. There are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it..."

Although the achievement of holiness requires great effort, it "works on lines that were natural once; it is an effort to recover the ecstasy that was before the Fall. But sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and the knowledge that pertain alone to angels and in making this effort man becomes a demon.... The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall."

Much to ponder there.

Ambrose is talking about the razor's edge alluded to above. The "evolutionary spirituality" of which I am the apparent spokesperson can involve "taking heaven by storm" in the forbidden way, or it can "work along lines that are natural."

One way involves a reversal of the fall; the other a recapitulation of it, with bells on. One path involves humility, surrender, and profound respect for tradition; the other, a Promethean violation of protocol, crashing through the gates of heaven with your transdimensional, ego-armor plated Hummer, unregenerate mind parasites in tow--or worse yet, behind the wheel. It happens. But only constantly.

Thus, an ascent (into grandiosity, inflation and intoxication) can be a descent, just as a descent (into humility, obedience, sobriety, and spiritual emptiness) can be an ascent. This is where the great danger of "evolutionary spirituality" can lie. Walking its edge can end in a hooray-zorrection. Or, it can result in a narcissistic, new-age razing of traditional hierarchy.

Blending cosmic evolution and traditional metaphysics is not as easy as it looks. I want to make real religion relevant to people and to situate it within the drama of psycho-cosmic salvolution history--to be able to discuss theology within the framework of total reality, leaving nothing out. But at the same time, I want to go through authentically otherized channels, with my proper peaceport and unknowculations in order.

In my view, human beings are only properly themselves when they are stretching beyond themselves--that is to say, evolving, transcending--toward a fulfillment that cannot be possessed or perhaps even realized in this lifetime. We must collaborate with, and feed ourselves on, a Truth that is both anterior to us and ahead of us, drawing us toward it. That's the evolution I'm talking about: Same wine, new bottle, Old One, same battle. Otherwise you may be bootstrapping your way to bootleg spirits.

PETEY'S CORNER

Regarding the immigration debate, Petey has an unusual take. He is concerned that with all this cheap labor, food doesn't cost as much as it is supposed to.

As a result, people eat too much and become obese, especially Hispanics, who are in the midst of an epidemic of Type II Diabetes and other health problems that result from obesity.

Therefore, Hispanics are the biggest victims of Hispanic immigration, because they actually get sick and die from too much cheap food. Which then puts a strain on the healthcare system....

Food was fried, people died!

He also doesn't get the whole "demonstration" thing. After all, a demonstration is simply a pseudo-event, in that it has no other purpose than to be noticed by the liberal media. Therefore, the media should not cover them, because doing so gives the pseudo-event the illusion of reality and substance, and makes the media complicit in conjuring a false reality instead of simply reporting on the real one. In the real reality, millions of people are constantly demonstrating by simply contentedly living their lives outside the glare of the media. As a result, they don't exist.

25 Comments:

Blogger Finding Fair Hope said...

I hope your readers are learning, among other things, the art of writing. From what I've noted among the comments, they are not too shabby in that department anyway -- but today's post is a great example of How To Write a Blog. The trick is to get out of your own way and let "O" take over. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I'm spinning my wheels. And Petey is welcome to my blog and website any time, although he probably would be bored to distraction there.

3/30/2006 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

Bob -

Well, it seems that you're still in the zone, in spite of (or because of) your foreknowledge of the WIE questions. I think at a certain point "zone-ing" can become something of a steady state, given to flucuations, of course. like learning to ride the bike - you're not going to forget how to do so entirely but somedays your hand/eye coordination is going to be better than others.

Anyway - seems to me that the mere desire to re-capture the Edenic state, to return to God, is itself a "storming of heaven". This is a bit simplistic, but I suppose that for me, the questions is: are there short-cuts to doing so? And what would they entail?

I think that entering into a higher realm with the ego passions still basically intact would mean the short cut was a prescription for what used to be referred to as "eternal damnation".

The effort toward spiritual renewal must be made, of course, but I think as long as we're aware that the last leg of the journey should be effected by grace - the point where our efforts no longer apply - we'll be OK.

In some cases, I suppose, the workings of grace might appear as the armor-plated Hummer, particularly in this day and age when, I feel, grace is hovering like never before, there for those who have prepared for it.

3/30/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anonymous--

I cannot speak for Andrew Cohen or for What is Enlightenment. I am aware that some followers have become disgruntled--or at least they are not exactly gruntled.

This in itself means nothing. First, spiritual movements always attract the mentallty ill, the narcissistic, the empty, the vulnerable, the stupid, the antisocial, etc. Huge amounts of transference go on, just as in psychotherapy. In that case, you would be amazed how your words and actions can be distorted.

And every movement has its detractors and bitter apostates. You could easily find ex-Catholics or Jews with frightening tales to tell.

Even someone as pure as Frithjof Schuon went through his trials. Darkness attracts darkness, but so does light.

I didn't approach WIE for this interview, they came to me. I can only say that they have treated me with the utmost respect and courtesy.

3/30/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

Anonymous -

I can't speak to the spiritual integrity or lack thereof of WIE - I will read the postings on the web site you cited.

However - I think for you to suggest that Bob's inclusion in WIE is motivated by his desire for "self-promotion" is a bit much. Anybody who reads Bob regularly will, I truly believe, come away with the perception that Bob's motivation re expressing himself through his writing is not at all self-serving, is rather altruism in the highest sense.

3/30/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

anonymous--

You will forgive me if I base things on my own personal experience rather than every lurid thing that is published in the blogosphere. That would be like trying to be informed by reading dailykos or huffingtonpost.

Soon you will no doubt be reading such things about me. Perhaps you will write them: "Gagdad Bob a Front For Murderous Cult Leader. Petey Implicated."

3/30/2006 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anonymous--

In fact, your comments are so personally obnoxious I had to delete them. If you're going to pretend to be a champion of truth, feel free to refrain from lying and smearing me. It might enhance your credibility.

3/30/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

I didn't get to read what anonymous said since it was already deleted, but I do see their second post here...

I would like to ask you anonymous,
Since WIE approached Bob, why are you under the assumption that Bob is seeking something you don't approve of by giving an interview? Have you ever entertained the thought that alot of people have and are going to be interested in Bob's book and would like to discuss the whole concept? Is Bob suppose to shut the door and refuse any inquiry? How is the peek of interest asking to share considered "evil?" in your eyes? You know, with that type of attitude, Jesus would never have accepted invitations to ate with the publicans and sinners.

IMHO, Instead of putting all your energy into attacking posts here, why don't you try taking your concerns and offering them up as prayer for Bob tomorrow when he goes on his interview and ask God to protect him and guide him?
-----------

BTW, concerning the immigration protest...

I think people would be suprised at who organized so much of it. Check into who was in charge of busing the kids to and from!

Good Luck tomorrow Bob! I wish you the best of time and that God moves the Spirit through ya!

3/30/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

*You know, with that type of attitude, Jesus would never have accepted invitations to ate with the publicans and sinners.


I meant to *eat

Hahahahha I tell ya I AM THE TYPO QUEEN!

3/30/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

to Bryan -

(Bob, I'm assuming here it's OK if we transplant yesterday's ongoing conversation to today's commentary)

IAE - Bryan, I wouldn't want you to give full credence to others' claims to any kind of higher perception of meta-evil, only that you give credence to the possibility of there being such a thing. It seems to me that this is the way spiritual progression works in general - such and such claims perception of such and such, and others, bereft of such perception, investigate and find out for themselves.

Also, your mention of your New Age friends and their perceptual claims: well, I don't claim to talk to angels and see auras and recall in detail past lives, etc. What I'm getting at is pretty basic, I think, though intellectually I suppose it can be parsed to death. Anyway, to suggest that those who can intuit the existence of meta-evil are on the same level as New Age fruitcases is, I'm afraid, one of those conversation-stopping rhetorical techniques along the lines of "oh, you don't approve of affirmative action? you must support David Duke."

I can accept your definition of evil as that which causes suffering, but I think that even here, an intuitional reach - that is, an extra-sensory perception - is required, to a certain degree at least. The causes of suffering are not always readily apparent yet we do seem to grasp them. I would think that you, Bryan, probably use your intuition in doing so, though I admit I would be hard-pressed to define this a separate from an intellectual knowing.

Another question I would have is - is the concept of meta-evil actually useful in the long run, is it helpful in defining evil, does it ultimately aid us in our own personal quests? I think it does but further explication is going to have to wait until another time because now it's my turn to be indisposed . . .

3/30/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous dilys said...

I've read and heard a good deal about AC, and personally wouldn't get near him. Of course, he has demonstrated no interest in my little enterprises, so I have no complicated ethical decisions to make.

At the same time, why shouldn't there be a three-way [or four-way, depending on what spirit AC :-( really :-) embraces)] conversation for everyone's entertainment. I'd stake a large sum that Bob will soon enough take the measure of things for himself. Furthermore, how Bob and his views are understood and applied is just that much more information.

As a wry and wise character in Wharton's The Age of Innocence says about life in this world, "I go where I am asked." So does another sage I know, who also points out the foolishness of trying to muster an army against one's own favorite targets, to make oneself ever more firmly "right."

Perhaps all the touring anonymi could simply state their own opinions outright per se, attack extra, optional, exscinded.

3/30/2006 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

Dilys -

Gotta run in a few but it seems to me that public teachers such as AC resort to the controversial techniques they do because they are, in fact, public teachers trying to teach in a private fashion. They began leaning on dramatic techniques in order to effect the greatest change possible in their students. Then things get out of hand.

There are, however, private teachers, by which I mean un-self advertized teachers, who can and do find you when you are ready.

3/30/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous RORSCHACH said...

If it's not on TV, it doesn't exist.

Or as a man named Alex once said: "It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen. "

3/30/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

RORSCHACH,

But don'tcha think your own imagination is awesome? I get quite entertained by mine!

3/30/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brush off or ignore many reports of abuse at the hands of the man with the God complex at your own peril. By agreeing to do the interview Bob lends a certain degree of legitimacy to an authoritarian cult that is very much at odds with the freedom and authentic personal growth that Bob has so eloquently written about on this blog.

3/30/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

How does giving an interview give legitimacy to Alan's teachings? I mean come on...Alan teaches there is no God or Hell! We all know that the verical leads to something...In fact, if you want some concern...maybe you should project it over to WIE, since I think Bob's interview might blow them away!

Anonymous, let me ask you something ok? And be honest with yourself on this one ok? I am sure that you interact with some people that you don't agree with on their ideology or for that matter partake in their ongoing sinning? Correct? I bet you even have some family members that continue to make mistakes over and over and perhaps do things which you know are wrong? Do you stop talking to them if they ask you a question/questions? Can you not have a conversation with them without participating in their sinning?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I guess I think Bob has enough of his own convictions and that he is strong enough to get through an interview without "taking on" the actual magazine's founders teachings! I would think new agers and even the likes of Scientology might get a peeked interest in Bob's book on the title alone! Should Bob put up barbed wire on all interviews if they ask for one? Can he not participate in an interview as an author? Ya ever think maybe he is being asked for the interview because of his thinking and because of his book or probably because he is a psycologist?

IMHO, I think Bob is smart enough that if a question crops along that is somehow being steered to promote some other agenda that he will be able to see it.

3/30/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anonymous--

Get a grip. I would do an interview with the New York Times or LA Times if they'd ask me. That would hardly mean I'm adding legitimacy to liberalism, in that case a truly dangerous and destructive cult that is very much at odds with my beliefs and values.

3/30/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

LiquidAssets -

::high five::

(or whatever they do these days, I am so totally not with it)

3/30/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Hi Will,

I think that our opinions are converging the more that we talk this issue through, although I am still interested in continuing the discussion to see where it leads.

You write, "I wouldn't want you to give full credence to others' claims to any kind of higher perception of meta-evil, only that you give credence to the possibility of there being such a thing. It seems to me that this is the way spiritual progression works in general - such and such claims perception of such and such, and others, bereft of such perception, investigate and find out for themselves."

I can definitely sympathize with this argument, but for this particular question I find that I am in an interesting position. I have the testimony of, for instance, Christian mystics telling me of their perception of metaphysical evil. On the other hand, I have the testimony of Buddhist mystics, including the Buddha himself, telling me that metaphysical evil does not exist. So whose perceptions do I trust, and for what reasons? I will have to have some reason to privilege one of those traditions over the other, since the perceptions qua perception do not give me grounds to side with one rather than the other, and generally my reasons will have to do with whatever prior commitment I have made to one tradition or the other.

The main conclusion that I would draw from the disagreement of these two traditions on this question is that spiritual perception is unreliable and that its content is easily influenced by the tradition in which one finds oneself.

However, concerning your exhortation that I at least take the possibility into consideration, I would respond, by all means. I probably have given the impression that I adhere to the Buddhist position on this question much more strongly than I actually do. I am sort of playing "Buddha's advocate" out of curiosity as to whether or not the Buddha's position can be refuted, and if it can, then I will not hesitate to abandon it.

You write, "Anyway, to suggest that those who can intuit the existence of meta-evil are on the same level as New Age fruitcases is, I'm afraid, one of those conversation-stopping rhetorical techniques along the lines of 'oh, you don't approve of affirmative action? you must support David Duke.'"

At first I was going to apologize to you for my having indulged in guilt-by-association, but then I got to thinking, how do we know that the intuitions and spiritual perceptions of the New Agers are invalid? And I'm not trying to be funny or facetious here; in all seriousness, how do we know that? They claim to have perception of spiritual realities. Clearly it is logically possible that they possess vertical capacities that you and I lack, and if you and I were more spiritually advanced, then we might be able to see what they see. In that case, the apology would be to the New Agers, who are in possession of the light while you and I languish in spiritual darkness.

Obviously, neither you nor I are willing to take this possibility seriously, but why not? If we say that the New Agers do not have the backing of a long and distinguished tradition that, for instance, Christianity has, why then, neither did Christianity at its start. Christianity was young and weird at that point too, and as easily sneered at as we sneer at the New Agers (cf. Emperor Marcus Aurelius's remark that Christianity is "mere obstinacy"). Moreover, there are a lot of New Agers out there intuiting pretty much the same things, so a fairly consistent tradition is developing quite rapidly. If we say that the New Agers' claims are simply too stupid and wacky to be believed, then that is mere prejudice.

So upon what grounds do we reject their claims to spiritual perception? Probably the answer is going to turn out to be, because of our prior commitments to other traditions that reject the New Age teachings.

But I see no difference between the epistemological status of the New Agers' perceptions, qua perceptions, and those of the Christian mystics or Buddhist mystics, and that was the point of my comparison. Our decision to privilege one set of perceptions and to reject the others is made for other reasons.

You write, "I can accept your definition of evil as that which causes suffering, but I think that even here, an intuitional reach - that is, an extra-sensory perception - is required, to a certain degree at least. The causes of suffering are not always readily apparent yet we do seem to grasp them. I would think that you, Bryan, probably use your intuition in doing so, though I admit I would be hard-pressed to define this a separate from an intellectual knowing."

It is true that I have intuitions (getting the creeps about someone who later turns out to be bad news and that sort of thing), and sometimes those intuitions turn out to be accurate, and sometimes they don't, but I have no idea how to interpret their ultimate significance. My own experience of spiritual perception is actually one of the things that makes me doubt its validity as strongly as I do. I'll give a example which is perhaps trivial and even silly but which probably will illustrate my point fairly well.

Back when I was a Christian before I converted to Buddhism, I was conditioned by my Christian leaders to believe that non-Christian religions worshipped demons, and whenever I would see Hindu or Buddhist iconography, I thought that I could feel an evil and demonic presence behind those images. Now that I have spent considerable time training in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, I look at such images and see beauty and truth, and I feel a wonderful and benevolent energy behind them.

So was I right then when I perceived an evil presence behind those images, or am I right now when I perceive a positive presence behind those images, or am I wrong in both cases, and is it rather that in both cases I am simply indulging in imaginative fantasies that have to do with nothing outside of my own head?

The answer that one gives to that question will depend entirely upon what one already thinks about Hinduism and Buddhism. My perceptions in themselves have no epistemological value whatsoever.

You write, "Another question I would have is - is the concept of meta-evil actually useful in the long run, is it helpful in defining evil, does it ultimately aid us in our own personal quests? I think it does but further explication is going to have to wait until another time because now it's my turn to be indisposed . . ."

This is the central question, and I very much look forward to reading your further thoughts on that, because Buddhism asserts exactly the opposite, namely that believing in metaphysical evil actually is a source of dukkha. There is a poem by one of the Zen Patriarchs that asserts that good and evil are poisons of the mind; unfortunately, I can't find the poem at the moment. Anyway, the reasoning behind this idea, as I understand it, is that belief in good and evil creates the state of aversion, which along with desire is one of the two origins of suffering in the mind. But I look forward to considering your view.

3/30/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

bryan---" There is a poem by one of the Zen Patriarchs that asserts that good and evil are poisons of the mind"

One must remember on their journey that at the end of our life, when we let go of this tent of a body, it won't be the 'mind' that was paid for with such a suffering price.

3/30/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

Bryan -

First, thanks for your civilized response. Your take on these matters does make me question as to what I might be assuming as opposed to what I might be registering intuitively - and that's a good thing.

Excuse, please, if I jump around a bit as things occur to me. Your mention of those people who seem to intuitively creep you out - actually, that's what I had in mind as to being a sort of street-level Exhibit A of meta-evil, that is, evil as an actual active force as opposed to a negation. Bob mentioned this the other day in his blog, his encounters with a few of those utterly empty souls in his role as a psychologist; and their ability to "creep out" though they might appear very normal, even pedestrian.

I do, in fact, see such evil as a negation - "empty souls" - but it's a negation "with a force". Rough analogy but the fabled Black Hole In Space is first and foremost, a negation, but it does have a force. I think analogies such as this do carry a certain weight re matters of the spirit, you know, as above, so below.

If I had been in your former congregation and had heard a preacher tell me that Buddhist symbols and such were demonic in nature, I think I would have converted too, just to spite him. I loosely define myself as "esoteric Christian", which means I think Christianity, when seen in its fullest dimension, integrates Buddhist, Hindu, etc., principles. It doesn't oppose them. In integrating them, it does transcend them, I think, and becomes the definitive spirituality, insofar as religious philosophies go. And herein is one reason why I think a meta-evil perspective is helpful. For me, it's probably the most compelling reason:

Christianity, while acknowledging the Buddhist importance of "inner work" (that is, if its understood correctly) also seems to have an active, outreaching, element that is, for the most part lacking in Eastern religions. Call it the "brotherhood" angle. In this, the Christian West beats the East hands down. Yes, such a dynamism can be hugely sloppy, can make huge mistakes, and can be overemphazied to the neglect of the inner perspective. But overall, I see it as a major plus. I also think that this dynamism has as its necessary counterpart - maybe it's a corrolary - the concept of "evil" as being an active, dynamic force in its own right. Buy one, get the other for free.

On the individual level - if I view my potential for evil as a force I can, by my own volition, activate within me, a force which can manifest itself dynamically, I think I will tend to view this potential with more respectful caution than if I viewed it as a negation, albeit one that could cause suffering to myself, others. I will also tend to view it as an instinctual, "primitive" force which can and should be sublimated - this in itself lends me a feeling of dynamism, a feeling that I can fulfill God's will by doing my creative part in His Creation. Yes, I know that this "dynamic" perspective of evil can and has been perverted in many ways, to say the least. But again, overall, I think it a plus, that is, it "works", and if it works - it's real.

As to the question, why shouldn't we believe all the New Agers, Buddhists, Christians, claiming special insight into meta-matters: well, you know, there really are some un-truths that are self-evident. Anybody, Christian, Buddhist, who is hearing voices in their head or claiming special visitations from Gautama himself are going to get a bemused look from me. I guess we don't know for sure, true, then again, you don't know for sure if I'm not an alien from Arcturus. (contrary to popular opinion, I am 100% terrestrial, BTW) But, due to your experience, observation, etc., you go on the assumption that I'm earth-born. Which is a healthy way of going about it.

This is not to say that, from time to time, a Swedenborg might pop up with genuine (I think) revelations. But we can cultivate a BS detector, based on what we've seen, researched, extrapolated, collated, etc. We can, for the most part, determine if somebody or another's revelations have legs, can go the distance.

When we share each other's sense of detection, a certain short-hand communication is developed, one that bypasses a lot of unnecessary picayune analysis. For example, even though Bob is about a race track's distance ahead of me in intellectual capacity, we roughly share the same space on the vertical, that is, we share an insight, a gnosis. Thus we converse in a short-hand that includes a lot of "these truths are self-evident", albeit they may not be self-evident to everybody. But in time, they will be self-evident to everybody. My point here being: It might be that you are hamstringing yourself with analyis of things that are fairly self-evident, and not just to those who share a "gnosis". This can be the bane, I think, of many intellectually gifted people. And it can lead, I think, to a rather crippling solipsism.

Well, that's all the time I have for now, but let me mention one thing: Your web site and your last post on the Shelley poem - you say that you are surprised by Shelley's linking of Love w/Death. Actually, Shelley's expression of ardency is so strong that it links, in a way, with the Tristan/Isolde Love/Death thing, I think. That is, it's a Love so complete that materiality can't really contain it and to fully integrate it, one must die. Or so is my impression. Lotta pop songs have the same theme, I suppose Camille Paglia would point out. I probably should have commented on your very interesting site but I figured you wouldn't mind the advertisement.

3/30/2006 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Will said...

Bryan -

Carving out a niche of time for myself in the AM . .

>>. . . a poem by one of the Zen Patriarchs that asserts that good and evil are poisons of the mind; unfortunately, I can't find the poem at the moment. Anyway, the reasoning behind this idea, as I understand it, is that belief in good and evil creates the state of aversion, which along with desire is one of the two origins of suffering in the mind.<<

I understand the concept and can actually agree with it but I think it needs to be put into a certain perspective. Some time ago there was some back-and-forth here re the early Christian Gnotics and how the Church was not necessarily wrong in squelching them, this because Gnostic mysticism was simply not understood, which often led to beliefs that totally missed the point, which in turn, led to disastrous consequences. I cited the relatively modern example of the Nazis appropriating Meister Eckhart as "one of their own". Eckhart too articulated a type of "beyond good and evil" message, which certainly appealed to the SS - for all the wrong reasons, of course.

That there is a "beyond good and evil" is true, but it is only true from, as Bob would say, the top of the vertical. However, if the One is hierchical in structure, it is not true at the base, which is where we live and breathe. I think it's possible to have both perspectives at the same time, actually.

Granted, the good/evil angle can, without a deeper insight, give rise to dualistic thinking. But so can the "beyond good and evil" perspective. How many Buddhists really understand the concept in its deepest sense? I would wager not many. And it is my impression that the Eastern concept (misunderstood, to be sure) of "everything is as it should be, 24/7" long ago created a lassitude of spirit in the East. I know this is a bit simplistic but I do think it ultimately obtains.

Between the two misunderstandings, East and West, I would have to favor the West's as being the lesser evil. It errs on the side of dynamism, at least, and, even as it stumbles and lurches, it promotes growth and creativity.

3/31/2006 03:05:00 AM  
Anonymous rorschach said...

Recommend to you Carl Goldberg's book SPEAKING WITH THE DEVIL. Dr. Goldberg investigated several psychological cases and became convinced that there is a more comprehensive explanation for the origins of the will to evil (he calls it 'malevolence') than the traditional, pat psychological or spiritual explanations. Seems to describe it as a disease of the mind that cripples one's moral judgment. Calling it mere mental illness, or blaming it on bad childhood experiences, does not do enough to explain it.

3/31/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally: Goldberg seems to come from school of thought that presumes Fall of Man was necessary and inevitable. Our private demons and tempters, whatever they may be, work on us with tools that we, in turn, can take away from them and use to our advantage, instead of our detriment.

3/31/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Hi Will,

I do appreciate the advertisement for my blog; thank you for that! My jaw is on the floor that anyone would be sufficiently interested in my literary ramblings to respond to them. Your comment about the love/death motif in Shelley seems right on the mark to me.

I think our opinions on the subject of metaphysical evil have just about converged at this point. You write, "That there is a 'beyond good and evil' is true, but it is only true from, as Bob would say, the top of the vertical. However, if the One is hierchical in structure, it is not true at the base, which is where we live and breathe. I think it's possible to have both perspectives at the same time, actually." As long as the existence of this state beyond good and evil at the top of the vertical is acknowledged by Christian mysticism, then I have no quarrel. Buddhism also recognizes a distinction between absolute truth, where dualisms do not apply, and relative truth, where they do. In parallel to your assertion that one can keep both perspectives at the same time, Sri Ramana Maharshi said, "Always keep the non-dual view in your heart, but never act on it."

After reading your remarks, it occurs to me that the primary difference is in emphasis, that the Buddhist and Advaita Hindu traditions make very explicit this state, whereas in Christian mysticism it seems to be almost kept a secret, couched in hidden language and reserved for the teachings at the very heights, as in Eckhart.

Analogous to this distinction, it occurred to me in reading your remarks that you use the concept of metaphysical evil as a kind of yoga, enabling you to turn away from and resist barriers to vertical transformation, whereas the Buddhist would tend to use the denial of metaphysical evil as a different yoga, attempting to point the mind directly at the state at the top of the vertical. Each, as you point out, has its significant strengths, and each has its significant weaknesses.

You write, "Between the two misunderstandings, East and West, I would have to favor the West's as being the lesser evil. It errs on the side of dynamism, at least, and, even as it stumbles and lurches, it promotes growth and creativity." I can respect this choice. The learned scholar of yoga, Dr. Georg Feuerstein, argues in favor of the Eastern emphasis on the grounds that the Western emphasis on dynamism has lead to the dangerous exploitation of nature and the neglect of true inner development, but there is clearly a good news/bad news tradeoff with the Western emphasis, and the Eastern emphasis leads to its own set of social and political problems as you point out.

I don't think that I personally could ever reconvert to Christian mysticism if only because my experience in the church was far too abusive, but I acknowledge that the choice of emphasis that I have made is heavily conditioned by my own personal history. More importantly, the disagreement in emphasis between the two traditions suggests to me that there must be some synthesis, neither Buddhist nor Christian, that can encompass the strengths of both. I'm not intelligent enough to know what that synthesis is, but it is well worth pondering.

3/31/2006 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

You know the lefties that gripe and bitch about America this and that? I get so frustrated at them because to me (and I am not just harping on patriotism) which they always say 'the right' is attacking in the way of their aligning themselves with the same values as the enemy, but it goes much bigger than that for me.

IMHO, I am so blessed to have been born into a country like America instead of some country that doesn't even value women. I feel it's a blessing from the start and to bitch about the environment of a country that I was lucky enough to be part of is to me just ungrateful and tearing down that initial blessing. People should spend more time and wonder what it would have been like being born into less. People should ask themselves "Why was I so lucky to be born into freedom?" I know that I wouldn't want to be born in any other country. I see the blessings and privilege that has been paved for me and I truly wish it for all. I thank God I wasn't born into a country that aborts little girls just because of their chromozones. I thank God that I was born into a country that offers so much freedoms. I haven't ever had to live without them "yet" but I thank God that He allowed me to be born and live in a country that allows individuality. To me...to be anti-American on a global scale as so many artist do these days or people in the media with their own personal agendas continue to do, is just a slap in the face of that blessing from God. Let those that bitch go live in less privileged countries and then come back and rethink it. Instead of tearing down America and the blessing to live here that God granted me...I prefer to thank Him for every day He has given me under the big red white and blue!

3/31/2006 04:12:00 PM  

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