Loafing Around God's Vertical Bakery (updated)
As we were discussing the other day, the cosmogonic (“vertical”) order includes a center and a periphery, which may be visualized as a series of concentric circles with radii emanating out from a central point of zero dimensions. The only difference is that in euclidean geometry, the closer one gets to the center, the less space is occupied by each concentric circle. In the case of the spiritual journey, the opposite is true: the closer one gets to the center, the “wider” and more expansive the space.
This is why Ramana Maharshi never left his mountain cave, Sri Aurobindo never left his room, and St. Theophan the Recluse was a recluse. No one but the most metaphysically naive and unimaginative inhabitant of atheistic flatland would think of these celestial I-ambassadors as living a “restricted” lifestyle. You may know a false prophet by his fruits, but also by his number of appearances on the Larry King show.
In order to get the picture, you must also visualize the above-referenced circle as a cone, with the central point at the top. This is the most adequate image of the vertical, bearing in mind what I just said about the increasingly expansive world in each successive “ring.” A horizontal world -- of which there are many -- is going to be any of those rings mistakenly regarded as the whole of reality. To take just one example that comes readily to mind, there is the “New York Times” ring, a very narrow, parochial, unsophisticated, and naive world where the inhabitants paradoxically regard themselves as the opposite of these things: open-minded, sophisticated, cynical, worldly, and certainly superior.
Interestingly, in his lack of metaphysical sophistication, New York Times Man does not know the mountain, but knows only his own little enclosed citified world. And yet -- here is the inconsistency at the heart of any bad philosophy -- he secretly does believe in the mountain, because he knows that he is standing at the peak. This reflects the primordial “lie of the left,” which proclaims that “my relative is the absolute.” It is what allows them in good (meaning “consistent,” not actually good) conscience to betray the country by revealing state secrets to our enemies while attacking others for supposedly doing so. Like all bad and narcissistic prophets, they do not say, “I did it because it was right.” Rather, they say, “it was right because I did it.”
Now, we all know -- I am speaking to my Homo sapiens readers, so the rest of you Homos without sapiens can just ignore this -- that the exterior world reveals itself in two modes. There is the phenomenal world available to our senses and reason (reason in its restricted, mechanical sense, not in its more expansive “logoistic” sense). And “behind,” “above” or “beneath” that is the noumenal world -- that is, whatever reality actually is, unfiltered by our evolved nervous system. In short, there is a world of causes and effects, essence and existence, principles and their manifestation, brahman and maya, the One and the many, O and (k).
Correspondingly, there is an “outer” and an “inner” man. The outer man knows through reason and empiricism, while the inner man knows through the intellect in its traditional connotation (in other words, we are not talking about debased garden-variety “intellectuals”). Just as something is not true because it is logical but logical because it is true, the Inner Man does not “conclude” with logic but perceives with the intellect, the “heart-mind,” the nous, or “psychic being” (in Aurobindo’s terminology). The knowledge of the intellect (most of it, anyway) may subsequently be explained with logic, but it was not arrived at through logic.
When we speak of truth and method, we are specifically referring to the total, a priori truth of the principial world, not to the relative truth of the manifested world. Here again, all bad and naive philosophies -- meaning almost all philosophies -- turn the cosmos upside down and confuse principles with their manifestation. Scientism, atheism, objectivism, reductionism, existentialism, rationalism, and all forms of leftism habitually and necessarily do this, which ends up generating paradox and hopeless inconsistency.
Just as there is only one cosmos, there is only one Truth. Your mission --should you choose to accept it -- is to align yourself with this Truth. All attempts to do so place us in the realm of method. Method is any practice that helps us deepen our adequation to the Real. Therefore, we needn’t restrict ourselves to explicitly spiritual practices, but to anything that helps to make us deeper and more whole -- diet, exercise, adequate rest, psychotherapy, medication, etc.
First we must know the truth -- which is, in a certain sense, the easy part -- but then we must be this truth, which becomes “extended” in the manifested world by aligning our will and sentiment with it. This is one of the dangers of propagating such wisdom to the masses -- the well-known dilemma of casting pearls before swine -- because to merely understand these things with the ego is to misunderstand them. No one can quote scripture like you-know-who.
In other words, we all understand that it is possible to know the truth but to act contrary to it. You might say that this forms the essence of our fallenness: we know the truth but reject it, turn away from it, rationalize, blame, externalize, deny, etc. Why? Ultimately because to submit to a truth is to die a bit, and to submit to total truth is to die completely -- it is to be crucified, is it not? For if truth is what you must know, then the petty desires of the ego don’t enter into the equation. The ego is simply “in the way,” but will nevertheless defend its little thingdumb.
But thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Trancelighted into the terms we are discussing today: “let the truth of the celestial center manifest here at the periphery, and let me align my will with it so that the manifested world will be just a little more in accord with the principial world of the sovereign good.”
And while you’re at it, if you don’t mind, give us each day our daily bread. No, not horizontal bread but the vertical bread that feeds the Self but is indigestible by the ego. Personally, I never go to bed at night without first recalling the many ways in which this vertical bread -- or manna from heaven -- was indeed given to me during the day. It has to be a pretty bad day to have ended up with a handful of gimme -- like that terrible day in October of 1966, when Willie Davis made three errors in one inning of the World Series in what turned out to be Sandy Koufax's last appearance on the mound.
In fact, one of the reasons I bake these little loaves fresh each morning is because it is one way to make sure I get my daily bread. Furthermore, at risk of sounding grandiose, my hope is that these little loaves can serve the same purpose for others. To the extent that that happens, it actually makes the loaf bigger, not smaller.
This is because life at the periphery is a zero-sum game. But as you approach the center, scarcity is replaced by abundance, if only because envy is replaced by gratitude. Thus follows the spontaneous attitude of forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, which is to say, down the mountain and away from the center, where temptation naturally reflects the ontological emptiness of the ego. But deliver us from evil, or save us from the periphery! Because the periphery is maya, whereas the center is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Forever.
It cannot be otherwise, unless it is other than wise.
As I'm fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
From the spiritual sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the spiritual sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won't get lost
Or go astray --George Harrison
What an excellent description of unsophisticated New York Times Man:
"A distinct subculture, a belief system if not a religion, exists in the United States. Its members draw their instruction on what to believe and how to live from the New York Times...."
New York Times Man "is a creature of human respect, although he doesn’t show it as much as he craves it. He sees nothing above his caste, and when he casts his myopic eyes downward, is assaulted by the visage of the common man. This explains his paternalism. He is also a creature of his age, being too disconnected from that which is ageless to transcend it. He is trapped in time and place, the servant who fancies himself a king, the simpleton posing as a savant."