Friday, June 23, 2006

Pickin' Up Bad Vibrations

Hostile forces? Such talk undoubtedly tests the limits of most readers’ credulity. However, this untoward reaction may represent a measure of the degree to which one's mind has become devitalized by the ravages of scientism--of a strictly mechanical, material, and quantified view of the world.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to conduct psychological evaluations of a number of people from formerly communist countries, mainly the USSR. Uniformly, what has been so striking about them is a certain palpable absence of soul, which was one of the most damaging consequences of communist totalitarianism. For the ban on religion also amounted to a ban on the deepest and most vital regions of Being itself. After a few generations of malign neglect, the damage becomes incalculable and sometimes irreversible in this life. These people are alive, but somewhat like a palm tree that manages to survive in Alaska or a pine tree at the equator. They are surviving, but in an environment not fit for, or worthy of, humans.

Admittedly, it’s a somewhat small sample--perhaps a dozen or so--but not only were these people not religious, but they were literally incapable of being so. It was not that they were hostile toward religion, as is the American left, which represents another type of soul deviancy. Rather, it was just meaningless to them--like someone who didn’t care for opera but allowed that other people might.

But it also left them very empty and devoid of meaning. There was a depression about them, but it had a rather different feel than a psychological or biochemical depression. It was actually a little spooky, as if they had been the victims of “body snatching.” Like Vulcans, it was as if they could operate in the realm of logic, but something vital at their core was missing. They were hollow--in a way, not even like animals (which have an animal soul), for they were more like soulless machines. It also made them very comfort-seeking, very hedonistic--not in the grandiose and narcissistic American way, but in a petty way, as if life consisted solely in stealing whatever small pleasures were available.

Obviously, Europe is well down this bright and shiny secular path, as is half of America. Western Europe is getting to the point that it no longer comprehends religion, as is true of secular America (which is why they are so allied in their contempt for American values). If we do not reverse this trend, we’re going to lose something so critical to our psychic substance, and yet, not even know what hit us. Secular Americans are genuinely clueless in their ignorance of how much they benefit from the thoroughly Judeo-Christian milieu in which they were raised. Like those atheistic Soviets, they really don’t get it, and are largely incapable of doing so.

My point is that the human mind is a religious mind. If you like, you can say that this is simply because of the way we’re built biologically, although I don’t believe that. That is simply a theory advanced by scientific Vulcans trying to understand human beings in terms of their own limited metaphysical framework.

So when I talk about “hostile forces,” I’m talking about something that you know exist, even if you don’t know that you know. I could also affirm with equal certainty that you believe in attachment theory, even if you’ve never heard of it, for infant and childhood attachment is the axis of human psychological development.

But just as you generally cannot “see” the effects of your own attachment history until you undertake some form of psychotherapy and systematically uncover it, you will not really get a sense of the hostile forces until you undertake a serious spiritual practice. This is really an area in which all traditions agree. Some sort of resistance is provoked when we try to advance spiritually. This is not speculation but empirical observation. “Hostile forces” is simply a term used--it is Sri Aurobindo’s term--to give a name to a well-known phenomenon.

You can think of the human soul as a sort of ground station for a whole host of collective, individual, personal and impersonal psychic influences from various levels. In other words, there are degrees as well as modes, the former a measure of verticality, the latter its horizontal manifestation. You may think of it as analogous to radio transmission, which has both variety (i.e., modes) and hierarchical degrees (ranging from the sublime to the infrahuman, as in the case of most rap, say, or Air America).

Different traditions have developed different maps to describe the vertical realm, and those from the East are generally more complicated and detailed than those of the West. This is primarily due to our more externalized consciousness. If you like, you can visualize a “global brain” with a right side and a left side that split in two and took divergent paths some 3,000 years ago. In the West, we came to regard matter as ultimately real, whereas in the East, consciousness was regarded as ultimate.

But let us not forget that Christianity was originally an Eastern religion that only later became westernized by the Latin church--not an altogether bad development by any stretch, the reason being that truth is One, and ultimate or integral Truth must subsume both the interior and exterior of the cosmos.

Material development was delayed for hundreds of years in the East because of the overemphasis on the interior dimension and a misunderstanding of the nature of maya, for it is true that the material world is “illusion,” but it is not only illusion. It is only ultimately illusory in comparison with the Absolute, with Brahman itself. The relative is obviously quite real, only in a relative way.

As a matter of fact, this is one of the main innovations of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, which to my mind represents a reunification of those two streams that split apart some 3,000 years ago. It is the historical task of Eastern religions to become more exterior, while it is the task of Western religions to become more interior. Interestingly, if one travels all the way back to the origins of Christianity, to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, one will find that it is already quite interior, easily the equal of any yogic tradition.

This is why a fair number of modern people are pushing into the future by building a bridge to the first century--by embracing the earliest forms of Christianity, as opposed to modern deviations such as fundamentalism which are in fact extremely exteriorized. There is really nothing “fundamental” in fundamentalism. Certainly early church fathers such as Origen or Denys the Areopagite wouldn’t recognize it.

Not to go all summer-of-love on you, but whether you are a scientist or a religionist, in the final analysis, reality consists of vibrations, some good, some bad. Have you ever picked up good vibrations in a religious service? Or how about after one of my posts, or reading my book? In so far as it was possible for me to do so, I quite consciously endeavored to fill my book with good vibrations that would literally resonate in the sensitive reader. Just so you don’t think I’m being a completely silly ass, a number of readers have informed me that, at least in their case, I succeeded. But it wasn’t really me. Rather, at each step along the way, I was simply attempting to retransmit things that had been transmitted to me and which had awakened some sort of “soul response” in me. Everything was personally tried and tested.

The point is that human beings are open systems, both on the horizontal and the vertical planes, and this is how to begin to understand the hostile forces, those bad vibrations.

This is beginning to run a bit long, isn’t it? We’ll have to continue with this nonsense tomorrow. Same time, same station, same frequency. Oh--and don’t try to understand what I’m writing about while wearing a tin beanie--the vibrations will bounce off.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,

You wrote:
"This is why a fair number of modern people are pushing into the future by building a bridge to the first century--by embracing the earliest forms of Christianity, as opposed to modern deviations such as fundamentalism which are in fact extremely exteriorized."

It's way harder for me to write a short comment on this than to write a long one. But, you're right about what a lot of Christians are doing, but I'm not sure it's right for Christians to be doing this.

I've had a lot of exposure to Christians and churches that try to be "restored" or "first century". Those have been around for generations in America. I've also had first hand experience with "emerging" churches and their efforts to regain some of the mystery and perhaps this "inner" stuff of the First Century church.

The problems with this are:

First, the core of Christianity is outside time. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." takes care of a lot of it. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. (In fact, the Greek words behind "heart", "soul", "mind", and "strength" really mean something much more spiritually systemic and integrated than our English words communicate, but just try and find someone in a church who really knows what these words meant in Greek, or Aramaic for that matter.)

Second, the First Century Christian church was about as full of problems and dysfunctionality as it is today. Paul's letter to a large extent were written to get people back on course. Christians don't really want to be like the First Century church; they want what the First Century church was supposed to have been had it been perfect. It wasn't.

Third, as much as we might want to be First Century Christians, we're stuck being Twenty First Century Americans trying to be Christians. Trying to go back to a time in history places a huge burden on the mind that doesn't need to be there, especially since the core truths of Christianity are outside time anyway.

I wish more Christians would engage in this culture war we are in right now in the present. We need fewer worship leaders and more lawyers; less entertainment and more education. Christian churches just waste a lot of time. Our kingdom may not be of this world, but that should be the very reason we try to make a difference.


Gagdad Bob said...

I think you're taking me a bit literally. "Building a bridge to the first century" was meant to be a bit of a larf. I'm simply talking about recovering the interior dimension of Christianity and integrating it with the horizontality of more mainstream Christianity. Both are required, in my opinion.

Jenny said...

Speaking about the Russians, I've seen a few families who have adopted children from Russia and I had the same thoughts about them as you decribed in the patients you have seen. They are missing something. One child in particular was so cute with such an angelic smile - but his adopted parents caught him torturing the family dog and trying to kill his infant sister they had had after adopting him - presumably because he was jealous of her.

Alan said...


I have to agree with your three main points but disagree at the same time.

IMHO, what Christians are seeking when they look to the first century, is the change of *being* that many early Christians went through - change of "mind", in our terminology today, doesn't quite cut it as an explanation for metanoia.

These people had such a profound spiritual change take place in their lives that they set the world afire and many were martyred. The gifts of the spirit were evident everywhere. There were/are methods for changing your being that exist outside of time and, with the right coaching, can be found within us.

Unfortunately, because of the change in how we "think" over the last millenium, we have lost the ability to communicate with each other about these things. Our language has become "horizontal" and that has limited our ability to even conceptualize what this is all about - which leads to most efforts failing - as you point out.

The spirit is speaking to people though they perceive it as through a glass darkly. There are methods for achieving what these people are looking for - they are outside of time....AND they need to be put forth in a new wineskin for today's humanity.

Acting "out there" without simultaneously cleaning up "in here" only leads to more problems.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes. Swish.

Hoarhey said...

>>"Secular Americans are genuinely clueless in their ignorance of how much they benefit from the thoroughly Judeo-Christian milieu in which they were raised. Like those atheistic Soviets, they really don’t get it, and are largely incapable of doing so."<<

I have a neighbor with whom I periodically discuss "America" and its ideals and origins. He has an interest in the founding of this country and reads voraciously about the founders and history but has an ingrained belief that the country was founded on economic principles rather than spiritual. He was raised in a traditional midwestern family which wasn't particularly religious but like a fish in water and because he was raised in that environment, he is inculcated with the Judeo/Christian ethic that was literaly part of the air he breathed. When we discuss a point about values he will come back with "well it's just common sense" as if everyone on earth would see it that way. Lately I've been asking him "would that just be common sense in Iran?" (insert country of choice)
I'll plant a few seeds and when I see him in another few months, I can actually see how he has incorporated some of what we discussed into his worldview.
I don't think he will ever be particularly religious but because he is open to learning and seeing the truth, he is open to the possibility that it is the spiritual ideals (common sense) of the nation which then produce the economic and other beneficial manifestations.

CatoRenasci said...

Bob, a very interesting post. I'd like to point out that something very similar was famously described by Nietzsche in his often-quoted - but little understood - aphorism 125, Der Tolle Mensch (The Madman) from Die Froehliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science) in which he speaks of the madman being mocked in the marketplace as he seeks God -- and then the madman talks of the death of God, that he's come too early, the people have done the deed themselves, but don't realize it, it's too far off.

Very deep stuff for over 125 years ago.

jwm said...

On the resistance:
In 2000 when I married my wife I had a belief in God, a habit of daily prayer, but still had a vague hostility to Christianity and all that 'Jesus saves' stuff. My wife is a Nichiren Buddhist. Perhaps you've heard of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
At the time I figured one religion was as good as any other. Out of respect for her beliefs we were married in a Buddhist ceremony. I decided I would take up the practice after returning from our honeymoon.
I had heard her and others speak of negative feelings arising when they sat down to chant. It wasn't long before I found out what they were talking about. I would try to sit down with her, recite the liturgy, and do the chanting, but it would quickly generate discomfort, annoyance, anger, and then actual rage. I practiced diligently for a year, but the negative vibe never left or showed any signs of relenting. The practice just felt wrong to me. I gave it up. Like a lot of people I was deeply jolted out of my worldview by 9/11. In the aftermath of that, a spiritual hunger awakened in me that has led me to draw closer to the religion of my childhood. But I still encounter the resistance. With Buddhism it was a powerful, palpable anger. Now it's the feeling that the more I try to draw closer to faith the more I am aware that I'm not there yet. Alan hit the target when he described it as a change of being. Sometimes I wait for the big AHA! and other times I don't really want a big AHA!, but I keep moving toward it anyway.

And then again- I think back to yesterday. I think of the various surahs that I quoted that deny the basic articles of the Christian faith, and the raw revulsion that those passages engender in me. I was at the top of Piccachio drive sweating and panting, and realizing how angry I was. At what? At a force I perceive as utterly hostile to the source of Truth and enlightenment.
And that source would be...?
Holy cow- how did I get here?


Tana Zajicova said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
will said...

That Russia succumbed to the evil of communism may be even a worse spiritual tragedy than we think. Sources as diverse as M Blavatsky and E Cayce had predicted that out of Russia would eventually come an authentic spiritual ideal that would serve as a light to the world. Perhaps it was the eastern orthodox mysticism combined with a more activist ideal of brotherhood that was at the core of what Blavatsky and Cayce predicted. Russia is both "European" and eastern - fertile ground for the combing of east and west spiritual traditions.

Maybe the ideal is still there, under the satanic inversion of the universal brotherhood concept that was (is) communism. One wonders what would have blossomed if only Lenin and his goons hadn't hijacked the Russian Revolution.

For what it's worth, the Fatima prophecies of 1915 (two years before the Russian Revolution)predicted that Russia, if it did not find its true soul, would "spread error throughout the world".

Sal said...

alan -
not disputing you or Bob, but my own personal experiences lead me to believe that there is a lot more "verticalness" in Christianity today than you give it credit for.

Perhaps this is just luck on my part, with my lines falling in educated and orthodox places. (Disclaimer here - as a life-long Christian, I never had the "seeker's experience" that many here are engaged in. I changed ecclesiologies for richer, and that took some wrestling, but that was all within the same religion.)

Spouse wants to take a walk, back later...

Alan said...


That's awesome!

I'm all ears to learn more.

My personal experience is in the RC tradition which I believe works well for more intuitive types (as the practices currently stand) yet doesn't work well for those who must by their nature walk a more rational path - at least part of the way there. I think if you go to a zen monastery in the western world, you are likely to find Roman Catholics (ex and current) are the largest participating group of newbies. However, everything is there in the tradition for those with eyes to see :-)

Gagdad Bob said...

Don't get me wrong--I wasn't contrasting Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Both are as "interior" as one is capable of going. It's just a matter of outward emphasis.

Sal said...

Leave it to Dilys...
What she said:

Thanks for the clarification, Bob.
My worry is that some, approaching Christianity from a different tradition, project their personal wants on it, rather than just letting it be itself. Which causes them to miss out in some ways.

An example of this in a small way was the biggish influx of Evangelical Protestant ministers into Catholicism from ca. 1985-95. Many of them went right into apologetics and teaching without missing a beat, but sometimes without taking the time needed to develop the *sensus Catholicus* they should have had before hitting the speaking circuit.

Some, in fact, went completely off the rails because they never lost the habit of private judgment.

I have no doubt that they all loved the Church - but there was a clear undertone of wishing it could be more like their former homes.

alan -
imho, the genius of the church is that it can accomodate anyone, from the simplest to the most complex. Now, sadly, the match of personality to spiritual practice isn't always made and some fall through the cracks, but the potential is there.

Philomathean said...

Studying Russia is like watchinga slow motion train wreck that started in 1917 and just keeps getting worse.

As I've written at my own blog, Russians worshipped a secular "God" of their own creation for 70 years -- a secular, materialist system that was supposed to usher in the era of the "Soviet Man." In 1989 this God was proven false, leaving the Russians spiritually bankrupt.

This is a dangerous state of affairs. It's dangerous for the Russians, who are physically dying individually and as a people. It's also dangerous for the rest of us, because the Russians have a lot of nasty toys that they will sell to anyone, consequences be damned.

Gagdad Bob said...

Philomathean, I like how your mind works.

Connecticut Yankee said...

Bob-- Interesting remark about good and bad vibrations. It certainly helps to explain the power of visual and aural forms of religious communication. I once commissioned a Greek Orthodox iconographer to write (that's the word they use; not "paint" or "draw") an icon of St. Michael the Archangel as a gift for a friend. She explained to me that every step in making the icon is accompanied by prayer: selecting the wood, preparing it by sanding it until it is as smooth as possible, preparing the pigments and the gold leaf, outlining the figure of the saint, applying the glazes, etc. When I saw the finished icon, I could tell that it was a work of prayer as well as art-- it was radiant with spiritual power as well as color.
In terms of music, I keep thinking of Bach's custom of writing shorthand Latin invocations ("JJ" for Jesu, juva or "Jesus, help", and "SDG" for soli Deo gloria, "To God alone be glory") in the margins of his music manuscripts.
Thank you for the good vibrations in today's post.