Vertical Respiration and Spiritual Asphyxiation
It is inconceivable that one could find writing or thinking of this quality in the MSM. I mean imagine--imagine!--that our so-called newspaper of record even employs someone as dense, vulgar, spiritually perverse, and bereft of talent as Maureen Dowd, let alone elevates her to the status of "star columnist."
These are not serious people. Imagine paying millions of dollars to an airhead such as Katie Couric just for reading twenty-three minutes of liberal news to people too lazy to read it themselves? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for capitalism. But what is going on when you can get something of infinite value for free, but mediocrity is really going to cost you? Fortunately, that situation is not going to last--in fact, it's crumbling before our eyes.
It's the same way with the education establishment, and they know it. If vouchers were available, there would be such a mass exodus from the public education system that it would actually be dangerous, like opening the Walmart door on the day after Thanksgiving.
Metaphysics is the study of the real. It deals with truly perennial truth that is not subject to change--the objective principles that underlie this or any other possible reality. I have said before that I believe that religion, under the surface, is pure metaphysics. Although it is accessible to anyone, you certainly don't need to know about it to have a fruitful spiritual practice. Faith is entirely sufficient.
For me, powerful confirmation of metaphysical principles has come in the form of independently discovering them, only to later find out that many other people, both past and present, have discovered the exact same things. I now know why this is the case, but at the time, it was a shock. After all, for yourself, you're setting out on a spiritual voyage into uncharted waters, into the unknown. You come back with certain ideas, observations, experiences. Are they real?
I think one of the attractions of this blog is the joy (and relief) of finding other people who have similar intuitions or experiences of higher reality. Even--or perhaps I should say, especially--for me, the feedback I receive is a powerful kind of confirmation that this reality is "subjectively objective." We're both staring at the same thing, right above our I's.
People ask how one can prove the existence of God, and this is one of the ways: people who independently discover the same thing, with the same details, the same landmarks, the same stumbling blocks, the same fine points.
Anyway, back to Vanderleun's essay. In examining the motivations of what I call the secular fundamentalist mind, he writes of how they obtain "a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, 'stuck it' to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured."
For all I know, Vanderleun was merely being hyperbolic in deploying this extremely arresting and memorable imagery. And yet, metaphysically speaking, he was being absolutely literal. For human existence in exile from the divine is literally a state of spiritual asphyxiation.
Again, in the traditional view, human beings have a tripartite structure of body, mind and spirit. Because the modern world thoroughly conflates soul and spirit, much confusion results. One of the problems is that different traditions have different words for the same thing, or else use the same word, e.g. "soul" for very different aspects of our being.
For me, whatever terms you use, the easiest way to conceptualize the difference it is to say that we have a horizontal aspect of ourselves, the "ego," and a vertical aspect, or "spirit." The ego is an open system horizontally. It deals with human relationships, feelings, information, etc. But the spirit is--or should be anyway--an open system vertically.
Here is a perfect example of something that is simply true. You are free to argue why it is true, and you are even free to live your life as if it were not true. But in the latter case there will be easily identifiable consequences, just as there would be consequences if you decided one day to stop treating your body as an open system. In that case you would starve, or die of thirst, or literally asphyxiate.
Likewise, there is a common, well-know psychological type who attempts to live life as if the horizontal self were an emotionally closed system. For whatever developmental reason, the "schizoid" personality cannot form deep and meaningful relationships. As such, they cannot be emotionally nourished. They dry up from the inside out, becoming a shriveled husk of a human being. There are many examples of such character types in film and literature. Ebeneezer Scrooge comes immediately to mind.
Other people, "compulsives," often become closed intellectually. Terrified of novelty, they develop a small map of reality and never stray from it. New information is threatening, so they keep rediscovering the same thing over and over. They are not really alive, because only an open system is alive.
There are more horizontally closed people than you care to imagine. Next time you are unfortunate enough to get into a discussion with a leftist, observe the horizontally--not to mention, vertically--closed system that ensnares them. That is why it is pointless to talk to them, not because of this or that detail or disagreement.
Consider "baptism." There is a reason why spirit is spoken of in terms of water, of something that flows, that cleanses, that cools, that nourishes. But most critically--here again, I am sure you will know exactly what I'm talking about--it liquefies and dissolves the congealed, ossified, and hardened lower self.
One of the effects of modernity, what with its emphasis on the individual self, on science and on empiricism, has been to lock people within their body and/or mind. In the words of René Geunon, "Modern man has become quite impermeable to any influences other than such as impinge on his senses; not only have his faculties of comprehension become more and more limited, but also the field of his perception has become correspondingly restricted."
The lower, empirically "opaque" horizontal world eclipses the metaphysically transparent reality that is revealed only through faith and vertical knowing. Hypnotized by secondary phenomena, many modern people become alienated from the primary noumenal reality. For them, life is lived at the fragmented periphery rather than the unitive heart of being.
Think of a physical analogy. What happens when you add water to dry dirt, which actually consists of innumerable individual particles? As it liquifies it becomes one. It is just so with spirit. Only the "waters" of vertical engagement can begin to dissolve and unclot an ego that has become hard as stone, and begin to harmonize its existence with a greater One.
In speaking of vertical respiration and asphyxiation, there is both an upward and a downward movement. The downward movement, or "inspiration," is called grace ("spire," of course, meaning both breath and spirit). The upward movement is called prayer, or ex-spiration. Prayer therefore connotes a state of inner emptiness, or "self-offering," so that one may then receive the oxidized blood of spirit. You cannot fill something that is already full of itSelf. You must exhale occasionally.
The essence of spirituality is vertical respiration, of exchanges that go on between "above" and "below." According to Valentin Tomberg, "Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practice some form of prayer; he who practices it receives vivifying benediction in some form." Furthermore, "respiration is the state of the soul that the apostle Paul designated as 'freedom in God.' It is a new way of breathing. One freely breathes the divine breath, which is freedom."
What spiritually in-formed person could say it isn't so?
I had also wanted to get into the topic of destructive and malignant spiritual envy raised by Vanderleun's piece, the "onanistic pleasure," the "dark thrill of denigration" that "has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming" horizontal man in his very own self-worshipping "Church of Zero." For it is an error to think of spirituality as "good" and secularism as "bad." Rather, there is merely good and bad spirituality, and, as I have written before, there are very specific symptoms that go hand in hand with the spiritually dry and asphyxiated state of secular alienation from the vertical. Perhaps tomorrow.
It occurred to me on yesterday's bike ride, while on top of the world lookin' down on creation, that the earth itself is a spontaneous prayer rising upward. It's the only explanation I can find. Especially in spring, after the waters have come.