Life Goes On... and In and Up
I may have mentioned this before, but I had this idea of publishing my book in the form of a rolodex -- a “holodex,” as it were. That way, any subsequent scientific discoveries could just be inserted at the appropriate point in the 13.7 billion year adventure of cosmic evolution. While I meant for the book to deal in timeless principles that have no “expiration date,” in order to reduce it to a manageable size, I naturally had to treat large swaths of the pilgrimage from God to God as “flyover country.” In a way, you might say that this blog serves that purpose as well. Everything I write here could be inserted somewhere in the book to supplement or expand upon something that’s already there.
There is no outright rejection of God that does not eventually involve rising up against God. Likewise, there is no rejection of science that doesn’t involve a rising up against science. Thus, we have silly books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which is a mirror image of some Islamist or Christian fundamentalist diatribe that rejects science. In the first case the vertical is rejected, while in the second case the horizontal is rejected. Both approaches are worthless to the Integral Man who is in contact with the entire spectrum of reality.
Yesterday Dr. Sanity had an important post entitled Losing Your Memory, Your Insight, and Your Mind. No, unlike Dawkins’ exercise in perfect myopia, it is not a “how to.” Rather, she notes new research that has identified a particular part of the brain that is associated with memory and the capacity for psychological insight (or lack thereof):
“Think about it. Memory is absolutely essential for the ability to develop insight. If you cannot remember events and their antecedents or their consequences, then you would be unable to put these events into any kind of context or perspective. If you forget how you thought or felt about these events yesterday, then you cannot easily review the process of how your thinking or feelings altered or consider why.”
In one sense, as Aristotle said, your soul is everything you know. But in another sense, your soul is only that which you can remember, because what you consciously remember is only a subset of what you know. Furthermore, there are many things we know but don’t want to know. When this happens, we patch over the resulting lacunae -- the willful “unknowing” -- with a kind of false knowledge, or what Bion called -k (minus k).
If we imagine the mind existing on a vertical axis, the Freudian unconscious is the lower vertical area, a psychic repository of things we know but don’t want to know. This means that the ego is often the vehicle of things we think we know, but don’t actually know at all (-k). However, since the vertical extends both above and below, the ego is also the vehicle of things we think we don’t know, but actually do. For example, the most outwardly unspiritual man nevertheless “knows” God in his bones, for this is something we were made to know. This is why Dawkins’ book should have been called the “God Delusion Delusion,” because it is an exercise in -k about O (remember, -k is not mere ignorance, but a “rising up” against knowledge).
As I have mentioned before, in order to talk about spirit at all, language must be employed in a very special manner. On the one hand, language was evolved in order to deal with the mundane problems of a typical day in the archaic environment of 100,000 years ago: finding food and shelter, coping with danger, and impressing women.
However, there is also a vertical aspect of language that mediates between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the vertical and horizontal realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object. Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am taking about involves vertical recollection. In its absence, you will suffer from another kind of undeveloped insight.
Whereas in the horizontal world there is more or less a one-to-one relationship between word and object (or concept), vertical language is far richer and polysemic, or holographic: a single word can be a vector through which multiple meanings of various levels pass, depending on one's spiritual capacity. One may crystalize a particular interpretation, but a single interpretation cannot exhaust the meaning. This is especially true of the special language called authentic scripture. And yet, it is possible even for scripture to become so saturated with a particular meaning that it loses its capacity to shock, to vault us out of our habitual way of knowing the world. It can be reduced to a mere horizontal knowledge, which is to turn O into -k, precisely.
On the one hand, we can look at the world horizontally and imagine --fantasize, really -- that matter gave rise to life or that brains give rise to truth. However, such a view generates a multitude of insoluble metaphysical paradoxes and dead ends that can only be resolved if we supplement it with the vertical, topdown view.
Esoterically understood, forgetting is associated with sleeping, and sleeping with death. Thus, in order to restore the world and ourselves, we must remember, wake up, arise and be reborn. For just as there is horizontal recollection -- our conventional memory of the past -- there is “vertical recollection” of the above. And it is literally a re-membering, both because we are dismembered and alienated from vital parts of ourselves if we are exiled in the horizontal, but also because there is such a shock of recognition and familiarity when we encounter and re-collect the primordial Truths that are anterior to us.
In order to understand our situation, you might imagine a cross with a horizontal and a vertical arrow. We live at the point of their intersection. The horizontal line has to do with heredity, with Darwinian evolution, with the transmission of culture, etc. If this were all we were, we would be no different than other animals. We would not live in a cognitive space of spiritual freedom, routinely exerting a topdown influence on our horizontal egos. We would not be able to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, or to delude ourselves with -k about O.
But not everyone seems to have the same degree of topdown influence over themselves-- of free will. In fact, it is a capacity that varies quite widely. According to our unknown friend, "there are strong -- i.e., creative -- souls, and there are weak -- i.e., imitative -- souls. The stronger a soul is, the greater the independence from the semi-hypnotic influence of the model presented by the preceding generations of family.... [T]here are some cases where heredity is reduced to a minimum and other cases where it manifests itself as almost all-powerful."
Thus, there are two kinds of heredity operating in us: a "horizontal heredity" and a "vertical heredity" that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious -- about that part of ourselves that is immaculately conceived and born out of the voidgin.
Back to the issue of memory and insight. For human beings, remembering is to forgetting as waking is to sleeping and birth is to death. Just as it is possible to forget in the horizontal, it is also possible -- inevitable, actually, due to certain primordial calamity -- to suffer I-AMnesia in the vertical. "Forgetting" the vertical reduces man to animality, just as sleep reduces us to vegetality and death to minerality. To sleep is to forget, to forget is to die. To awaken to the vertical is to remember and to actually be alive, or "born again" from above.
The intellect, or heart-mind, is an organ of truth. Just as the heart pumps blood and the lungs exchange oxygen, the intellect functions to metabolize truth. In fact, human beings would cognitively and spiritually starve and suffocate -- do starve and suffocate -- without constant exchanges with the oxidized blood of Truth from above. Because of this exchange, the mind grows and renews itself.
Now, reader JWM has often spoken eloquently of his struggles with faith, with vertical recollection. And yet, at the same time, just yesterday he wrote, “The last time I posted I was down, and feeling like I’ve made no progress, despite a lot of effort.” However, he had a recent experience in the horizontal that made him realize “I have grown much. Much indeed. I guess I had to see it for myself.”
Yes, you see, eternity takes time. Without time -- horizontal duration -- evolution would not be possible. Rather, there would be only the static, timeless vertical world. While human beings are condemned to relativity and contingency, that is only half the story. Rather, we are also condemned to transcendence, and only in “looking back” in the horizontal can we see how much we have grown and how much we have transcended. I can look back 20, or 10, or five, or one year ago, and see a much “shorter” version of the vertical me.
It is said by naive atheists that you cannot prove the existence of God. Fine. Whatever. But there are two things you can easily prove for yourself, 1) the vertical growth that mysteriously occurs as a result of a relationship with this "imaginary" being, and 2) how much metaphysical and philosophical foolishness is generated by people who deny the existence of this being.
Thus, if you want to have a vivid appreciation of God, just visit a typical secular university campus, where the bottomless sea of foolishness (-k) is the only proof of God you need, so conspicuous is He in His absence.
Put it this way: the vertical became horizontal so that the horizontal might become vertical. If that weren't true, I would still think of Richard Dawkins as a deep thinker.
When the inferior man hears about the Tao, he laughs at it; it would not be the Tao if he did not laugh at it... The self-evidence of the Tao is taken for darkness. --Lao Tsu