Saturday, March 04, 2006

Is Anything Really Evolving Except Our Own Cosmic Narcissism?

Reader Hoarhey asked a most provocative question yesterday. I read it right before going to bed, and it was so multi-faceted and full of possibilities that it kept me up. Well, not really. Nothing interferes with my sleep. However, I was thinking about it as I fell asleep, I woke up with thoughts about it running through my mind, and I even dreamt about it. Why was I standing on the clothes dryer? What was that brown recluse spider doing in the rafters? Why was my little son down below, trying to reach up? Why the brass column? (Now, now, keep it clean.)

Back to Hoarhey's question. He asked, "Perhaps you could flesh out your theory of evolutionary consciousness with some examples of people currently who have evolved beyond those who have come before. I myself am having a hard time locating any. I would be hard pressed to compare any of the many historical Spiritualists which you list daily in your blog with someone like Deeprock Chakra and see anything but de-volution. Or lets take politicians of say 2 or 3 hundred years ago who in my opinion, had a pretty good grasp on the shortcomings of human nature and cosmic cause and effect and compare them with the likes of a Hillary Clinton or a Chuck Schumer. Am I incorrect that we seem to be currently stuck in a narcissistic backwater?"

I believe that in previous posts over the past five months I have addressed these issues in various ways, but I will attempt a recap here.

Addressing that last question first, yes, in many ways we are stuck in a world-historical narcissistic eddy. It is one of the things we will have to overcome if evolution is to continue. A few months back I wrote a piece entitled The Luxury of Narcissism, in which I attempted to address this issue from the widest possible world-historical angle. You should probably go back and read the whole thing. One of my main conclusions was that the reason people appear to be so much more narcissistic today may simply be because they can be. Human beings have always had narcissistic strivings, but only with our previously undreamt of levels of widespread leisure, comfort and affluence are these strivings able to be indulged in a way that would have been unavailable even to kings and princes in the past:

"In other words, before 100 years ago (and even 60 or 70 years ago), people were too busy working, subsisting, and dealing with pain, illness and early death to be particularly self-absorbed. Perhaps there was so much more awareness of the frailty of life that it didn’t occur to most people to exalt something as ephemeral as the individual self. In a way, the transcendence of religion came naturally, as there was no reason to elevate our brief sojourn in this vale of tears to the ultimate experience. Until the early 20th century, the average person could expect to be in intense and excruciating pain at some point in his life, and perhaps often in life, because there were no powerful analgesics that were widely available. Very few diseases could actually be cured well into the 20th century."

"By the 'roaring twenties,' all of the important countercultural [read: narcissistic] ideas and values that would later dominate the post 1960’s world were in play among the well-to-do. However, their inevitable spread through the rest of the population was delayed, first by the Great Depression of the 1930’s, then by World War II and the Korean War. Therefore, until the mid 1950’s, people of necessity had to 'concentrate more on economic survival and domesticity than on self-expression and self-gratification, which most, in any event, could not afford.'"

Now, back to Hoarhey's question. First of all, we cannot look at the problem in terms of years or decades. Rather, the minimum unit of measurement of the type of spiritual and psychological progress I am talking about would have to be centuries. As I have mentioned before, we cannot even really view it from within history, but instead have to take a sort of "martian's eye view" of world history, which chronicles the catastrophic and unexpected emergence of human self-consciousness: of troublesome thoughts and what to do about them. Really, we have to look at the whole 40,000 year chunk of history + prehistory, which is what I attempted to do in my book. Furthermore, we have to realize that this evolution will be a saw-toothed function, as we push forward and slide backward.

For example, The Old Testament candidly documents just how difficult it was for the ancient Hebrews to spiritually progress from polytheistic barbarism into the higher Truth of monotheism. Here we were dealing with what was then clearly the leading edge of spiritual evolution--the Jewish people--and yet, they had to do battle with their own atavistic tendencies to make sacrifices to Moloch, to a false god. Nothing has changed since then with regard to the basic dynamic. It's just that we are all chosen and Moloch goes by different names.

If there was one part of my book I wish I could have expanded, it would have been the too brief survey of history entitled Adapting to History: Why the Past is So Tense. But in order to do justice to the topic it would have taken a complete book--or many complete books, actually. Obviously I had to speak in generalizations and regard large swaths of history as cognitive "fly-over country," so to speak. But the main point I wanted the reader to come away with is that collective psycho-spiritual evolution has clearly been occurring if only you look at human beings from a wide enough angle. There was a time when all peoples practiced human sacrifice. There was a time that slavery was universal. There was a time when animals and children--not to mention women--were not treated with dignity or empathy. Etc. Truly, history was in a world-historical eddy until just three or four hundred years ago, going virtually nowhere until the emergence of free markets, science, democracy, and individualism.

In fact, there was a time--not too long ago--when one simply did not live long enough to evolve in the way I am talking about. You were born, you started performing backbreaking, menial work as soon as you were able, you suffered through a lot of pain, famine, disease, and loss, and then you croaked when you were 30, 40, or 50 if you were lucky. You were also likely illiterate, with no real ability to think abstractly. In order to experience some of the harsh and cruel conditions of the past, we needn't travel backward in time. For example, as I have discussed before, the "war on terror" is, in the final analysis, a war between psychoclasses--between our own psychological past and present.

There is so much more to say about the issues raised by Hoarhey. One critical point is the presumptive narcissism of saying that we are "better" or "higher" than our forebears--or our contemporaries, for that matter. This would appear to be a clear invitation to narcissism, and in many ways it is. This is what fuels both the fantasies of the new age movement, but also, sadly, the highly atavistic form of conventional "churchianity" that dominates most people's spiritual understanding.

In my book I proposed a method to determine the level of psychological evolution of any given culture or individual. It is quite simple, really, but I think you will find that it has universal applicability and that it has a built-in means of overriding the ubiquitous narcissistic impulse. It steers a middle course between conservatives or traditionalists who believe in an invariant human nature that has not changed since mankind first appeared, and the leftist tendency to "immamentize" the spiritual and to measure progress in wholly material terms.

Specifically, I said that the two key measurements of psycho-spiritual evolution were integration and actualization. The former may be thought of as a horizontal function, the latter a vertical one. Integration has to do with psychological "wholeness," that is, how well we are able to integrate split-off aspects of the psyche, or what I have called "mind parasites." Clearly, for example, the Arab middle east is a place where we see a transparent lack of psychological integration. Instead, we see unconscious acting out everywhere we look--rampant paranoia, systematic abuse of women and children, confusion of fantasy and reality, untamed envy, dysregulated shame, etc. You don't have to go too far back in history before you see that this lack of psychological integration was the norm. It was not pleasant living in the middle ages, much less ancient Greece or Rome. (And please, we're talking about the average mentality, not individual exceptions; in all places and times, there have been individuals who obviously achieved the highest levels of aesthetic, spiritual and metaphysical insight.)

The second measure of evolution is actualization. Here again, this could be an invitation to narcissism, but not if you look at it in the way I intended. That is, traditional metaphysics maintains that human beings have a threefold nature that includes body, mind (or soul) and spirit. Our modern understanding has unfortunately conflated soul and spirit, but the one is personal and horizontal, the other more universal and vertical. The latter is our objective self that is capable of objective knowledge. It is the intellect properly understood, not in its debased current form; the contemporary "intellectual" is generally anything but. I am talking about the part of us that grows with spiritual development, called the nous by the ancient Christian fathers, the "psychic being" in Sri Aurobindo's yoga. All traditions recognize it; it is our "spiritual blueprint," to be distinguished from our lower self, or ego, which is largely a result of genetics, culture and family. It is the part of us that can know the truth, the truth that can set us free and save us. If it is not distinguished from the lower self, then that is where much trouble arises: "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right," as the song goes.

This post has probably already gone on too long. I will have to continue it tomorrow. If anyone’s interested.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cosmic Christianity, or Adam & Evolution

This is a worthy topic of debate. Depending on the outcome, it would possibly force me to disavow Christianity, which I am not prepared to do. Although not entitled to call myself a Christian, in the sense that I have not been baptized or taken the sacraments, I feel an extremely close kinship with it, and consider it to embody the highest wisdom. Why then have I not taken the formal leap? That is a separate issue that I will leave aside for now. Suffice it to say that my life has been immeasurably enriched by my ongoing immersion in Christian wisdom, most particularly coming from the Orthodox and hermetic traditions.

Perhaps that is one of the problems. I suppose "Orthodox" and "hermetic" would be considered antonyms, in the sense that Christian hermeticism operates "off the map" of any official church. And yet--at least for me--I find that it provides the missing key that suddenly illuminates the entire spiritual cathedral of Christian teaching. Again, for me it is like the oxidized blood to go along with the flesh and bones of dogma (and I do not mean "dogma" in any pejorative sense).

Regarding the debate alluded to above, reader Mark writes that the Catholic philosopher, theologian, and scientist Teilhard de Chardin--a pioneer in the understanding of our spiritually evolving cosmos--"may have had some interesting ideas on the evolution of human consciousness but Jesus as omega point wasn't one of them. There is nothing in the New Testament to support it.... Jesus doesn't believe in the evolution of consciousness at all. Why would he? He has no idea about any such thing."

That would be the nub of the issue before us: whether Christianity is compatible with an evolving cosmos that is ultimately the evolution of consciousness. Now, if I believed that Christianity were not compatible with with such a view, then I would sadly have to drop Christianity, for the same reason that I would have to do so if it insisted, say, that the earth were only 6,000 years old, or that the sun revolved around the earth, or that women are composed of male ribs.

If I know more than my religion, what kind of religion is that? If I can easily disprove the assertions of a religion, then it won't be long before that religion has abandoned any claim to metaphysical or spiritual truth. This is a very old problem. For example, it is the problem Thomas Aquinas confronted in his great Summa, in which he attempted to reconcile faith and reason. Yes, scripture is eternal. But our understanding of how the universe works is always changing and evolving. Therefore, it is always necessary to show how the uncreated wisdom of scripture is compatible with our shifting understanding of the things of time.

We now know that the cosmos is not eternal but that it banged into being 13.7 billion years ago. Likewise, we know that biological life has not always been here but that it suddenly appeared some 3.85 billion years ago. We know that Homo sapiens appears on the cosmic stage just one or two hundred thousand years ago. Furthermore, we know that that the rudimentary consciousness of this Homo sapiens was nothing much to write home about until just 35 or 40 thousand years ago, when we suddenly see cave paintings, body adornments, musical instruments, and widespread burial of the dead.

Consciousness evolved. Consciousness is evolving. End of story. Or, to be perfectly accurate, the beginning of the story, for the evolution of consciousness is the only story that is, and that story is not over. Therefore all religions must be compatible with that fact if they are to be vehicles of Truth.

Now importantly, this is not to reduce religion to science. Quite the opposite. For I am saying that true religion is true for all time and cannot be incompatible with any truth discovered by science. For "we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age.... We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages" (I Cor 2:6-7).

So the central question is, is there such a thing as "evolutionary Christianity?" I believe there is. As a matter of fact, it is one of the things I am working on. Although perhaps never articulated in a straightforward way prior to Teilhard, it is clearly implicit in Christian teachings. To cite just one example, it is thanks to the Judeo-Christian tradition that we even have the concepts of history and progress. The Hebrew prophets discovered the directionality of history and were the first to clearly understand that it was not cyclical or degenerative. Christianity teaches that history is salvation history--it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Furthermore, the end--the eschaton or telos--is drawing us toward it. What we call history is the shadow of this transcendent object, in that all people at all times have at least dimly intuited its existence and been drawn toward it--not always in healthy ways.

Jesus actually said many provocative things about the evolution of consciousness. To his disciples he said I have yet many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them now. Why not? Christianity was not originally called "Christianity," but was simply referred to as The Way. The incomparable Russian Orthodox starets Theophan the Recluse--himself evidence of a highly evolved consciousness--said The way to perfection is the way to Consciousness. What is consciousness? And how does it evolve?

There is knowledge and there is understanding. Our intellect evolves through knowledge, while consciousness evolves through understanding. We can know without understanding but cannot understand without knowing. As Blake put it, Truth cannot be told so as to be understood and not believed. In short, if you understand it, you know it. And you believe it. You would be a fool not to.

Consciousness is the container. Knowledge is the contained. Consciousness is a derivative of being. It evolves as higher knowledge is metabolized to become understanding and thereby expand being. As consciousness expands, we can bear more Truth in the sense alluded to above by Jesus. The first and last word of being--the Alpha and Omega--is I AM. Evolution is the ongoing, ever-deepening disclosure of that uncontainable ontological fact. It is what it means to constantly be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:1). After all, it is nothing to be transformed horizontally. That is like rearranging the furniture but remaining on the same floor of the high-rise. We want to be transformed vertically. We want to progress and deepen our understanding. We want to evolve and take the eschatolator to the next floor.

Reader Mark concludes by saying, "Bob, you have a lot of speculating thoughts about reality ultimate or otherwise, but what I find sadly lacking is a direct personal experience of God as He is. Until you meet God, you have hardly begun to put things into perspective. The All is not what you imagine or try to unimagine."

Mark presumes to have access to my experiences, but one thing I cannot provide him or anyone else is a direct personal experience of my direct personal experience. In any event, there is no purpose in debating someone who "knows God as He is." Such an exalted being has evolved far beyond the fallen creatures who enjoy writing and reading this blog--we who are simply trying to understand and bear a little more of the unfolding, hyperdimensional truth that Mark already knows and possesses.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Doing Your Part to Keep the Cosmos Healthy

Someday it will be common understanding that we inhabit an evolutionary cosmos that is fundamentally spiritual in nature. Until then, we have to satisfy ourselves with being at the leading edge of this cosmic evolution, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. We must be voices crying in the bewilderness of a spiritually blind scientific materialism on the one side, a religiously bland materialism on the other.

The two great forerunners of evolutionary cosmology were Hegel in the West and Sri Aurobindo on the East. The former is widely mis-or disunderstood, while the latter is simply not understood, or not widely known, anyway. However, I also believe that Christian metaphysics, properly understood, is evolutionary to the core, and entirely compatible with a philosophy of cosmic evolution. It could hardly be otherwise.

In fact, that gives me an idea for something I should post about--Jesus as the divine emissary who brings the "good news" of cosmic evolution. Teilhard de Chardin certainly recognized this, seeing Jesus as the "omega point" or fulfillment of the cosmic drama. This omega point--which lies outside space and time and is already complete in itself--operates like a telos that draws us toward our own spiritual completion. In Jesus, "alpha and omega"--the completed whole--meet in the middle of history, and he comes to telos all about it. It is accomplished. So relax already. Better yet, relux and call it a deity.

Hegel's philosophy is so difficult and so capacious that it has been used by mystagogues and demagogues of both the left and right to prop up their own sorry philosophies. For example, it is well understood that Marxism was largely a recasting of Hegel's philosophy in materialistic terms. But whenever we adopt a materialistic view, we are turning reality on its head. Materialism is deceptively and seductively simple, but it is an insidious metaphysic that does great violence to our humanness. Frankly, it posits a cosmos that is not worthy of our being in it.

Hegel was obviously ahead of his time, in that contemporary physics now requires us to regard the cosmos as a seamless and indivisible whole in which every part is internally related to every other part. Wholeness in both space and time is the prior condition of reality, not something we arrive at inductively by somehow adding all of the parts of reality together. Physics forces us to take seriously the idea that the Truth is the whole and that the whole is the Truth; it is not a static truth, but a dynamic, unfolding truth--or more accurately, an ongoing revelation of truth as it discloses more of itself in the fullness of time.

Hegel's central lesson is that the Whole--what he called the concrete universal--is not an amorphous blob--"the night in which all cows are black"--but that it has an internal, trinitarian logic all its own, the infamous "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" that subtends all evolutionary progress. The whole is an infinitely complex system, and human beings are self-aware images of that system. We are conscious Spirit because the absolute is conscious Spirit, and conscious Sprit is immanent in the cosmos. Likewise, we have an underlying subjective wholeness because we partake of the prior wholeness of reality. Neuroses and mind parasites disrupt this wholeness and create all sorts of irreconcilable divisions in the psyche.

This is the reason why your billions of individual brain cells--which are involved in trillions of constantly changing connections with each other--so simply and elegantly resolve themselves into the atemporal experience of a unitary "I." Your I AM is a mirror of the fundamental unity of the cosmos. It is not the result of this brain activity, but the prior condition of a nervous system that can sponsor such holistic consciousness to begin with.

What we call nature is only the outward aspect of the world--a partial and misleading view of things given by our senses. Only consciousness can know of the interior horizon of the cosmos. But it takes a higher consciousness still to comprehend the inner dialectic that unifies spirit and matter, which is why Hegel was not shy about regarding himself as the greatest philosopher who had ever lived. In his mind, he had realized Absolute Spirit, insofar as it is possible to do so on our plane.

That is, the Absolute Spirit is ceaselessly restless and dynamic. It is constantly synthesizing and resolving partial expressions of itself into higher unities. But each higher unity is itself another partial expression of the absolute, so the activity is endless. I believe this is what personal growth or evolution is all about.

In the past, I have written about living one's life on the shoreline between the time and eternity, the finite and the infinite. Hegel's system is another way of talking about this. To be "rational" in Hegel's sense of the term is to constantly press forward, to seize the tiller of cosmic evolution by striving to overcome all of the dualities and contradictions that surround us. Remember what I said the other day: the deeper person is the one who can comfortably synthesize and harmonize the most points of view.

Now bear in mind that this is not "multiculturalism" or relativism but its opposite. It is to experience the deeper unity beneath the partial expressions of reality, not to elevate those partial expressions to the ultimate. This latter fallacy is committed by all relativists.

That is, the finite, atomistic logic of the common intellectual holds opposites and limited perspectives in rigid and fixed categories, which is the end of evolutionary thought. The "common sense" of the typical contemporary left wing intellectual confuses the contingent with the essential. The realm of the essential is foreclosed to them, because intuition of it requires a higher form of cognition called faith, a patient unknowing that clears the way for the operation of the synthetic function that allows us to see into the deep within of things.

When it is said that "faith can move mountains," it is a poetic way of noting how this special mode of thought does indeed have remarkable powers to evolve our understanding of the material world--for example, to reconcile matter and spirit, reason and revelation, life and death. Faith is a much higher form of reason, for only it allows access to the Reason--the concrete universal.

Of course, "health" is etymologically linked to the word "wholeness," and the reason is obvious. Physical health, psychological health, and spiritual health all involve wholeness in different ways. For what is physical illness but a "part"--a bacteria, an organ system, a cancer--that has split off from the whole, so that the harmonious unity of the organism is disrupted? Again, what is a mind parasite but a part of the personality that has gone its own way and has its own subversive agenda that is not in the best interests of oneSelf? And what is spiritual pathology but the exaltation of a graven image--some partial expression of the whole Truth, elevated to the ultimate?

Indeed, what is political pathology but the the great reversal of e pluribus unum into its perverse reflection, e unum pluribus? Out of One, Many might as well be the secular mantra that underlies the projects of multiculturalism, "diversity," moral relativism, identity politics, victimology--virtually all of the pneumapathologies of the Left. The leftist cure is even worse than the spiritual sickness it represents, because the cure involves attempting to recover their lost wholeness by rigidly imposing it from on high, a false god if ever there was one.

Today's post has been a tiny, partial expression of the whole. However, now that we are hovering around the penumbra of the concrete universal, I think we will spend a few more days here, synthesizing some further insights as they apply to Christianity and perhaps even getting into some Aurobindo. As I have mentioned before, this East-West synthesis will be the way of the mankind's spiritual future, so we might as well get to working on it now. Sure, it's inevitable anyway. But it's always a good idea to bow before the inevitable.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Selected Excerpts from Mommy is a Democrat

The other day, Dr. Sanity posted on the new children's book Mommy is a Moonbat, er, Democrat. Frankly I think she was being a little rough on it, writing that "The platitudes served up in this book with such reckless abandon" will "more than adequately contribute to the ongoing destruction of our children's critical thinking capabilities by creating a painless shortcut to rational thought."

Ouch.

I don't usually disagree with Dr. Sanity, but I actually had the opportunity to read the whole book in context, and it's not as bad as you might think. Here are a few gems pulled out at random:

--Ask not what your country can do for you. Instead, organize a demonstration and demand it.

--Behind every great man is a privileged heterosexual woman. Or, a fabulous gay guy, an accomplished bisexual, or perhaps someone who is transgendered, queer, "questioning," intersexed, or just curious, or possibly an animal companion. Of course, this is not to cast judgment on great asexual beings or loners-by-choice who have no one behind them.

--It's not how you play the game, so long as no one wins or loses and gets their feelings hurt.

--A fool and someone else's money can solve any societal problem (The Democratic Credo).

--If life gives you lemons, file a class action suit against Sunkist.

--Always remember you're above average, just like everyone else.

--A person is known by the company he boycotts.

--When the going gets tough, the tough start leaking.

--Beggars can't be choosers. Rather, they're now called "homeless."

--Boys will be boys until government provides subsidized ritalin for every one of them.

--Regardless of your background, any American who really works hard at it can still be a victim.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Word Made Fresh and The Weird Made Flesh (2.28.11)

Let's begin with two stipulations, one very old, the other of more recent vintage, treating them not as religious statements per se but metaphysical ones:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,

and

In the beginning was the the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

What the heck, in the spirit of multiculturalism, and in the effort to increase our depth of vision with an extra I, let's toss another bon mot into the mix, this from the opening of the Isha Upanishad: In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.

What does it mean, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? As I have mentioned before, I believe that it has to do with the creation of the most fundamental duality of the cosmos. This duality can be viewed from many angles, but it can be summarized by saying that "in the beginning God created the vertical and the horizontal," for this duality subsumes the irreducible (irreducible in terms that can be thought about) categories of quality and quantity, interior and exterior, eternity and time, whole and part, implicate and explicate, subject and object. In each instance we are dealing with a "limit case" beyond which thought cannot traverse. In fact, the one side of the dualism necessitates the other and represents the conditions of thought. Nothing "mental" can be made without the vertical/horizontal duality as a precondition.

With the second statement we introduce an unexpected twist: In the beginning was the Word, or Logos. Moreover, this Word was with God, implying that it was there "before the beginning," before the great dualistic creative activity of the first statement. Indeed, if the Word is God, this can be the only logical conclusion.

This then apparently raises language to a most exalted status. But clearly not if we merely look at it in the usual way. It's so easy to take language for granted, when in reality we are dealing with something that is frankly magic. In fact, the very same Biblical passage cautions us about this, pointing out that the light of the Word "shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Or, to put it in the slightly saltier terms expressed in the Book of Petey, "the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't get it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos."

One additional point would appear relevant. From Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read "Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." We are particularly interested in how our capacity for creativity might mirror the primordial creative activity of the Divine Mind.

So, what is language, anyway? What is a word? As a matter of fact, a word is a very special thing, because only it has the capacity of bridging the dualistic worlds introduced by primordial creation. Apparently words can do this because they are somehow prior to the great duality and therefore partake of both heaven and earth, above and below, vertical and horizontal.

The literal meaning of the word "symbol" is to "throw together" or across, as if words are exterior agents that join together two disparate things. But the Biblical view would suggest that langauge actually has this "throwing together" capacity because it somehow subtends the world on an interior level: language is what the world is made of, so it shouldn't surprise us that with it we can see all kinds of deep unities in the cosmos. The unities are there just waiting to be discovered, and language is our tool for doing that.

"In the beginning" of human consciousness there is also a fundamental duality--or dialectic--between the conscious (horizontal) and unconscious (vertical) minds. It is incorrect to visualize the mind in spatial terms as a sort of unconscious space below, with a line separating it from the conscious mind above. In reality, each moment of consciousness involves a generative, ceaselessly flowing "translation," or unfolding, of multi-dimensional, nonlocal mental space that cannot be thought about into a local, linear, and particularized expression that can be thought about.

Again, in a healthy person there is a fluid and generative dialectic between these two realms. But many things can go wrong with that process--in fact, most forms of psychopathology have to do with the person being caught up and entangled on one end or the other. I don't have time to get into that now, but suffice it to say that there are some people--let's call them the obsessive-compulsives--who live their lives wading in the shallow, rocky shoreline of the conscious side, while others--let's call them hysterics and borderlines--get lost in the storm-tossed sea of the unconscious side. Again, the key is a dialectical rapport between the two dimensions. That's where you are really "alive." And much of that aliveness has to do with language, that secret key to the universe.

For what is a word? What is so special about language? Again, a word easily serves as an emissary between the two worlds. On the one hand, a word refers to something particular in space and time--a cup, a tree, a dog. On the other hand, a word is by definition an abstraction with no localized or localizable being: we only recognize cup or tree or dog because they are a function of cupness, treeness or doginess. Therefore, words are the local tools of the translating function of vertical into horizontal being, of infinite into finite, of eternity into time--if we know how to use them. If we do not live in the dark.

Speaking of which, I've been typing this post--like all my recent posts--in the darkness of the dawn. They say that dawn is the friend of the muses. I suppose that is because at dawn we still have one foot in the waters of our night-sea journey into the multidmensional dream world. Perhaps my posts only make sense at dawn and cannot withstand the harsh light of daytime logic. In any event, that blanding light is now shining through my window, signalling to me that I am once again late for my daily horizontal exhile. But I'll be back. Back to the beginning tomorrow morning, where we will plot another raid on the formless infinite, and attempt to translate it into terms we can think about.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Down the Rabbit Hole to the Threshold of the Unglishable

It is no great accomplishment to hear a voice in the head. The accomplishment is to make sure that it is telling you the truth. --Terence McKenna

So true. My unincarnated co-conspirator Petey talks a good game, but as you know, he can get very evasive when you try to pin him down. Are you being literal? Metaphorical? Symbolic? Allegorical? Obnoxious? Was that a joke? Hey, where did you go?

Anyway, have you ever have that exalted feeling that you've stumbled upon the key to the world enigma? That you've crashed through the doorways of the divine imagination and glimpsed the eschaton in all its naked glory? That you've been deputized by the Aion to disclose its inner secret, only to forget what it was when you wake up the next morning sober?

As you can see from my recent posts, I've been thinking very hard about certain spiritual matters that I had previously had to place on the back burner, partly due to the demands of trying to blog about the deep psychological structure of horizontal politics on a daily basis. In fact, I did this in violation of my own advice found on page 234 of my book: "It is critical to consume the proper spiritual 'food' and cut back on the graven mass media images that draw you into the 'tempest of the day.'" These things "resonate at a certain frequency that will awaken a sympathetic response in you if you are not vigilant." Therefore, "you must 'wean yourself from the momentary' (Kierkegaard) and make sure you give yourself each day your daily transubstantial bread."

I suppose that's one thing I've been trying to do with the blog lately--provide a quiet little vertical roadside diner where people can come and visit amidst the roiling insanity of the world. I will still write about politics from time to time, but we are in such good hands with ShrinkWrapped and Dr. Sanity in that regard. They probably don't even realize how important their work is. They are doing something truly novel--something that has never successfully been done in the past. You'd think it would be easy, but most past attempts to apply psychological principles to culture, politics and history have been either hopelessly shallow or ridiculously transparent agenda-driven twaddle produced by vaguely Marxist hack-, wack,- and attackademics. For that reason, psychohistory quickly discredited itself and no one took it seriously. ShrinkWrapped, Dr. Sanity, and others are virtually resurrecting this moribund field, whether they know it or not. The discipline is full of potential pitfalls, and it takes a wise and self-aware person to avoid them, because it is easily prone to excesses--explaining too much, or simply tarring your ideological enemies with a pathological brush. They do neither.

Where was I? Oh yes. The spiritual explorations. As I mentioned, since I liberated myself somewhat from the day-to-day political trench warfare, I've been able to focus like the proverbial laser beam on certain problems that I essentially had to set aside after I finished my book in 2004. The very same week I submitted the final correction of the galleys I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes--how's that for timing?--and didn't feel very well, both physically and psychologically, for a number of months. I think the more "finely tuned" your physical instrument is, the more you notice subtle changes in your body, not to mention the gross changes brought about by having had your blood sugar deranged for who knows how many months.

Then, a few months later, the birth of my first child at the age of 49. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal, but with the diabetes, it introduced a new stressor into the situation that I hadn't planned on. I'm not complaining. It's just that I really have to take care of myself if I want to be around for some of those precious moments, like when he drops out of high school or steals his first car.

One of the things that makes me "believe in" the spiritual is that when you sincerely and humbly think about it, you get results. Once I began opening myself up to the problems I'd been thinking about, ideas and theories started pouring in. This also happened in the writing of my book. Solutions to problems don't exactly come from "thinking" or "problem solving" per se. Rather, you have to immerse yourself in a problem and wait for the answer to come. Where does it come from? I don't know. You could say "the unconscious," but I think that just begs the question, because if the unconscious is capable of such feats, we have to come up with a better name than "un" conscious, because it's very conscious. It may be "non" but it's certainly not "un" conscious. Actually, it's a different mode of consciousness.

Not only that--and here's the weird part, but it's true--it doesn't seem to work just "inside" but "outside" your so-called mind, as if you are a point in a nonlocal field that extends both inside and out. Obviously, many people have had this experience, most notably Carl Jung, who called it "synchronicity." Here again, it doesn't so much matter what causes it, so long as you notice that it does happen. In my case, subtle intuitions that point me this way and that, leading me along an invisible trail that shows me what I've been looking for. It's not as if "answers" are provided. Rather, it's more like a missing key is given--a key that exactly fits the problematic "lock" you've been thinking about.

If you look at all my recent posts, we've covered a lot of ground, but much of it revolves around the problems I've been working on, specifically, how to "build a more perfect logos," as Terence McKenna put it. That is, I'm trying to come up with a way to more effectively describe and communicate the "super conscious" world, in the same way Freud did with the unconscious. In so doing, some critical answers---or at least previously hidden signs pointing to potential answers--have been falling into my lap.

Unfortunately, I'm flat out of time. I will explain more in tomorrow's post.

*No time to spiel check today, so forgive any typos in my spiel.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

On Seeing the Depth of the Cosmos With Your Own Three Eyes

Psychologists don't actually know much about consciousness. However, one thing we do know--or should know, anyway--is that it is not a bag. And yet, in thinking about the nature of consciousness, this seems to be the default setting of most psychologists--as if consciousness is a sort of empty container where mental events take place and are stored. In many respects, this is simply a projection--"injection," actually--and reification of our perception of three dimensional space. But it's the other way around. Three dimensional space is a projection of the mind.

In many ways, human psychological development can be thought of as a conquest of dimensionality. (Don’t get bogged down in a literal understanding here--this is a mental exercise to facilitate understanding.) For example, the psychotic mind inhabits a "zero dimension" of pure mathematical symmetry. It is a world of infinite meaninglessness, with no floor or center, just a roiling panorama of catastrophic, uncategorizable novelty. Symbols are equivalent to what they symbolize and the terror is endless, because there is nothing to contain it.

The autistic mind may be thought of as one-dimensional. It knows no depth, only points of sensory contact with objects that are known by their feel and texture--hard, soft, rough, smooth. For them, a communicative expression does not emerge from the human face. Rather, it is simply a bizarre collection of disconnected points--a nose here, an eye there, a curved mouth down there. The points are not synthesized into an internal representation of the emotional depth or interior of the other. The psychologist Frances Tustin wrote about how autistic defenses can operate in neurotic adults as well, for example, in certain repetitive rituals such as "rocking." These rituals help to contain an anxiously fragmented mind by focusing on some limited sensory perception. Without it, the mind might slip into the terrifying chaos of zero dimensions.

Once we reach two dimensions, we are in the realm of something more recognizably human. This was called by Melanie Klein the "paranoid schizoid position," and more people inhabit it than you might realize. It is the world of extreme, forced splitting into diametrically opposed emotional categories of good and bad. This type of two-dimensional thinking pervades the Islamic world.

For example, just yesterday there was a link on LGF to a transcript on Memri.org of a film seminar on Iranian TV by Professor Hasan Bolkhari, entitled "Tom and Jerry - A Jewish Conspiracy to Improve the Image of Mice, because Jews Were Termed 'Dirty Mice' in Europe." This man is a "professor," and yet, his mind clearly does not operate like yours or mine. Rather, it is simply a caricature of depth, when it is actually operating in the two-dimensional world of extreme splitting.

The professor soberly discourses on how "the Jewish Walt Disney Company gained international fame" with their Tom and Jerry cartoon (for the record, a Hanna Barbera creation). He goes on to suggest that the main motivation "for making this very appealing cartoon was to erase a certain derogatory term that was prevalent in Europe." That is, "If you study European history, you will see who was the main power to hoard money and wealth.... In most cases, it is the Jews. Perhaps that was one of the reasons which caused Hitler to begin the anti-Semitic trend... "

In his two dimensional mind, the Professor observes that "No ethnic group or people operates in such a clandestine manner as the Jews." In fact, "This ultimately led to Hitler's hatred and resentment." Therefore, in nazi Germany, "Jews were degraded and termed 'dirty mice'," so Tom and Jerry had to be made "in order to change the Europeans' perception of mice."

Obviously, this type of two-dimensional thinking is not confined to the Muslim world. In America we have many of our own two-dimensional professors, such as Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and Juan Cole. Their minds are like utterly predictable calculating machines. Whatever data you put into them, they spit out the same results: U.S. bad, everyone else good.

Only with the emergence of the transitional space proper are we dealing with the creative use of three-dimensional psychological space. This is the imaginal space that emerges between an infant and his or her loving caretakers. But this creative and dynamic space is often hijacked and reduced to two dimensions as a result of the malign imagination of internalized mind parasites.

The fourth dimension adds time to the mix. This is called the "depressive position," a term of art that does not imply clinical depression per se, but the capacity to form stable relationships that endure through time. One of the reasons it is “depressive” is that it involves transcending the omnipotent psychological defenses of the lower dimensions. For example, a borderline patient is not in the depressive position. Rather, when they become angry at a loved one, they instantly convert the loved one into the category of all bad. Not only are they bad now, but they have always been, and always will be, bad. In a very real sense, time and history have been destroyed. The feeling creates the reality.

Perhaps you have noticed when you shift from one dimension to another. For example, depression clearly involves a loss of dimensionality. One of its most striking characteristics is that the world seems to lose a vital dimension of depth. Suddenly it is flat, lifeless, and devoid of the meaning that can only be located and experienced in the higher dimensions. Moreover, many psychological defense mechanisms operate by plunging the individual into a lower dimension. I call these “dimensional defenses." For example, there might well be unpleasant meanings and psychological realities located in the fourth dimension--indeed, there usually are. One way to avoid them is to descend into a lower dimension where those meanings cannot be located or "entertained."

I didn't mean for this to be a discourse on psychological development. For one things, these are my own theories, and I doubt if many psychologists would subscribe to them. But any way you look at it, this is as far as conventional psychology can take you--into the four-dimensional space of the depressive position. It's what most people would call "reality."

But neither internal nor external reality are limited to four dimensions. This is pure projection, an artifact of our evolved nervous systems. For example, if you could ask a worm how many dimensions there are in the world, they would undoubtedly say two. Ask a bacterium, and they'd probably say one. Ask most humans, and you get four.

But in my opinion, one of the things that spiritual development involves first and foremost is the ongoing conquest of dimensionality---of higher dimensional space. One way to think about it is that the conquest of each dimension brings with it a new degree of freedom. Think about that insane Iranian professor. How free is he really? In reality, he's free to move in only two directions: Muslim good, Jew evil. Same with Noam Chomsky, at least insofar as his mind touches on politics. His mind is free in only two directions. Conclusions are preordained. He's on a railroad track.

Now several of my readers have pointed out a useful analogy for spiritual experience, one that I myself have used in the past. That is, they compare it to those "Magic Eye" pictures, which look like a bunch of random two-dimensional dots until you relax your gaze, and suddenly a three dimensional object emerges from the page, floating there in the space before you.

Yes. This is an excellent analogy. Genuine spiritual insight involves dwelling in what appear to be meaningless clues, out of which suddenly emerges spiritual "vision." It is there. You "see" it. But that doesn't mean others will see it as well. For example, when I read the Book of Genesis, spiritual insight after insight tumble forth from the pages. But a two-, three- or four-dimensional scientific or religious literalist will simply see something concrete: somebody dividing light and dark or water and land. Some people walking around in a garden. A tree you're not supposed to touch. Etc.

In the past, I have touched on the idea of spiritual experience taking place on the shoreline between the infinite and the finite, between time and eternity. Consider the fact that we have two biological eyes or ears that are set slightly apart. Because each of the two organs has a slightly different vertex, we are able to see and hear stereoscopically or stereophonically. If you have only one good ear, you can't experience stereo, only mono.

Now, suppose we have a "third eye" or a "third ear." What would reality look like from that perspective? As a matter of fact, it is our "third eye" that sees into eternity. If you want, you can even think of it as a right-brain phenomena. That is, the left brain experiences things in sequence, while the right brain experiences them "all at once."

There is a way of living in which these two modes--the lower and higher eyes--harmoniously coexist to facilitate the emergence of additional dimensions of depth--of not being shipwrecked on the rocks of time, or of being lost in eternity, but somehow experiencing time in eternity and eternity within time.

I tried my best to capture this in my book. That is, if our perception of spatial depth comes from our integration of different points of view, depth may be thought of as a function of the number of perspectives that are integrated in an experience or perception. In my book, I tried to integrate as many points of view as possible--scientific, cosmological, biological, psychological, developmental, neurological, philosophical, spiritual, religious, mystical, etc.

I am hardly the only person who has had the experience of the deep unity that subtends--or supertends--the surface multiplicity of the world. As a matter of fact, it's more common than you think. I'm just trying to develop a language to talk about it. Just as we have Euclidean geometry to describe external space, we need to invent a geometry of higher dimensional spiritual space. It's one of the things I'm working on. So if my ideas appear half baked, that’s why. In reality, they’re more like 30-40% baked at this point.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I See Dead People!

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call them? --Shakespeare, Henry IV

Oh, I think so, wise guy. Where would we be without the authentic gurus, avatars, saints, seers, and miscellaneous holy men who have marked out the path of exit and entrance into the closed circle of material existence? Once you have formed a relationship with one of these celestial beings, it brings real tears of gratitude to contemplate how much they have sacrificed for the love of mankind and where your life would be without them. Thanks to their guidance and example, we can have real faith and hope that our spiritual endeavors are not in vain--that they will bear fruit.

Formed a relationship? With a dead person? Say it ain't so, Bob!

Now that I have successfully driven away half my readers with all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo--those so-called "normal" ones--I think I can say it, can't I? It's just you and me, right?

Yeah, I talk to dead people. And they t.... Never mind. I'll get to that part in a minute.

Mankind is haunted by the memory of paradise. Religions arise to memorialize and give structure to this memory. Rituals are enacted to make the memory present. But Buddhas show us that we are mistaken to see this as a memory of the past, as it is actually a memoir of the future. A Buddha is someone who has found the vertical path of exit from the closed circle of mere animal and material existence.

On the other hand, the avatar breaks into time from eternity in order to reconcile the horizontal and vertical worlds. There are more Buddhas than avatars. It is said that the avatar only incarnates at world-historical crisis points, when mankind has reached a hopeless impasse in its spiritual evolution. The avatar comes to fulfill a specific mission. That mission is not always strictly spiritual in the narrow definition of the term, but can be scientific, political, even military. You can look at it metaphorically if you like. But do look at it. Consider where the world would be if you removed a handful of capacious souls from the world-historical stage, say, Plato, Newton, Edison, Einstein, Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill. One of these men is worth more than most nations.

Now, I hope it isn't offensive to my Christian friends to suggest that there has been more than one avatar with a divine mission. As a matter of fact, it has been orthodox belief--ever since Augustine I believe--that the Christ had been present in the world in an attenuated or partial form from the beginning. There were hints and adumbrations before the full revelation appeared in the form of Jesus. You might say that the Christ existed as a sort of quantum field or wave function until, in the fulness of time, it collapsed and became particularized in the person of Jesus: "Before Abraham was, I AM." In any event, it is not so much Jesus' divine birth, but his divine death, that counts. That is what really sets him apart from the others. He is risen!

So one can still remain Christian and recognize the existence of other divine emissaries, even if they are not regarded on the same plane as the "only begotten"--at the very least, Moses, John the Baptist, St. Paul, etc. And I hope no one doubts that there have been "Christian Buddhas" as well--Denys the Areopagite, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Theophan the Recluse, Seraphim of Sarov, and so many more. Ignore these luminous beings and you are denying yourself one of life's true metaphysical delights.

As I tried to convey in my book, there is only one story. It is the story of an evolving cosmos awakening to itself and becoming conscious. Who could argue with that? It happened. And it's happening. First there was matter. Then one fine day, life. Then just a short while back, self-consciousness. And most recently, the recognition of, and identification with, Spirit. Matterlifemindspirit. You can insert an arbitrary line dividing one from the other, but at least recognize that you are the one who created the abstract dualism. The underlying Oneness of existence knows no such demarcations, neither in space nor in time. Is that why it's possible to form a relationship with a teacher outside our local spacetime matrix? To resonate with someone who dwells in the nonlocal noumenal world from which this one is a local projection? I don't know. Probably. Off hand I can't think of a better reason.

I do know this. For a long time, I tried the "do-it-yoursoph" approach to spirituality. You may not think so, but I tend to be pretty rational, and it actually wasn't too long ago that I was an atheist. Still, I was always drawn to spirituality, so long as it was something along the lines of Zen or Taoism--strictly rational in a right-brained sort of way. Most forms of Buddhism might be described as "psycho-spiritual technologies" aimed at facilitating post-biological evolution, or ego transcendence. You don't even have to have any particular beliefs, either rational or otherwise. You just sit, meditate, and wait. That's it.

The purpose of such spiritual exercises is to become deep, that is, to plunge into the vertical. You can only think of one thing at a time. In this regard, it is just as important to develop a good forgettery as it is to have a good memory. In order to recollect the vertical, we must forget the horizontal. Meditation is learned forgetting. It is to change one's center of gravity from the horizontal to the vertical, or perhaps die to the one and be resurrected into the other. Either way, death is the guardian of this threshold. In making this transition, one recognizes the existence of something analogous to "gravity" on the spiritual plane, as we are "attracted" by and into it--as if it is a giant planet or star.

The uncorrupted heart is able to perceive the divine presence in the Buddha or avatar. When we perceive this, we spontaneously bow before it. In so doing, we open up to their benign influence. This is to move from spiritual technology to radiant grace. In the transitional space formed by the heartfelt veneration that occurs here, you actually reincarnate the departed avatar or Buddha. Their words become flesh.

Look at it this way. Our human personality develops in the transitional space between our brain's neurology and the empathic others of our childhood. Just so, our higher self is given birth in the transitional space between us and a transcendent being. As you know, some have even made the analogy explicit by referring to it as "the Father." In this view, our earthly parents only derive their just authority in being divine deputies of our nonlocal parent. Their job is to serve as examples and take care of us long enough to usher us into the presense of our real parent.

You want spiritual advice, right? I can do that, but I must emphasize that he in whose name I speak is mightier than I--mightier than me and Petey put together--and whose sari I am not fit to carry. I can bobtize you with my honeyed words, but s/he will do so with fire!

Yes, you can try to be a soph-starter, as I did. Or you can enlist the priceless assistance of one of the many helpful nonlocal operators who are always standing by. Immerse yourself in the word they have left behind, and read it not with your mind, but with a higher faculty: your heart. See for yourself if you can't make them a real living presence in your life.

O merciful Homo futurus, wholly I-AMbassador of the Omega Point, esteemed Eschatolator Operator, we pray that you lead us upward and occasionally throw us a freakin' bone down here in 4D! If it be your will.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Can See Your Ho's From Here

Still experimenting with photos. This one is from today's bike ride. Not very good. I will do better.

That would be the liberatoreum, over there toward the mid-upper left, at the edge of the foothills. No, not those little white dots on the ridge above. That's where the entertainment executives and trial lawyers and rappers live. Don't worry--they're inside a gated community, so we're safe from them. We're down below, in the upper left corner of that triangle of green.

That range in the far background on the right is called the Santa Monica Mountains. It's what God put there to block our ocean view and cause the temperature to hit 108 here in the summer, when it's a cool 78 on the ocean side, just a few miles away.

I grew up right here. My parents bought the house in 1964. My father died in 1984, and when my mother had to enter a convalescent home in 1990, I bought the house from her so she would have a source of income to pay for the care. Since then, the state has purchased all of the land surrounding our little development that you see in the picture, so it's wide open space all around, as far as the eye can see. I do a lot of my best pondering back here. You might say its my own personal ponderosa.

I done took to mountain biking 'bout three or four years ago, right after the land become public. Hardly nobody ever come back here, so it may's well be all mine. Just me and Petey in the sidecar and all them coyotes, deer, rattlesnakes, bobcats, tarantulas, and ticks in the summer. Nothin' really dangerous, like one of them rappers. I don't know what I'd do if I come up on one of them in the middle of nowhere. Maybe conk him on the head with a big stick and put him in the back of that old Kaiser Willys I found, make it look like he got caught up in the fire or something.

On Gardening in the Dark: Who's the Hardest Working Man in Sow Business? (updated 9.16.07)

Yes, who is the man with the noetic bodacity to speak for the invisible logos that joins Mind and Cosmos? Who is a dweller on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway through which the dead pass daily? Who has pulled the ancient sword from the philosopher's stone and stuck it in the breadbasket of metaphysical ignorance? Who navigates in hyperspace with one hand firmly gripping the tiller of spiritual evolution, the other hand caressing a cold beer? Whose blog is the mystic church of the New Testavus for the rest of us, making darkness visible the unthought known in broad daylight? Whose book blows the locked doors of the empyrean off their rusty hinges?

Who's the man that won't back down, when there's spiritual danger all around?

Bob!

Can you dig it?

Sorry. That was Petey's little invocation. He was just trying to build me up and give me a little confidence as I venture into the hazardous waters of giving spiritual advice. Of course, I did this in Chapter Four of my book, but I tried there to do so in a more abstract manner, disclosing what I believe is the "deep structure" of any fruitful spiritual practice, whatever one's tradition.

Where to start?

There are objects and there is motion. Religions are like intellectual cathedrals that endeavor to mirror the hierarchical dimension of the vertical on this side of manifestation--they are "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement--an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.

In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant.

We are fallen beings. Specifically, we are exiled from the vertical; we are strangers in this world, wandering in the desert of the horizontal, trying to find our way home. We go through books, experiences, teachers, trying to find Truth or Freedom or Happiness. Sometimes we catch a glimpse, only to see it recede into darkness, like a dream that fades upon awakening.

The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed.

So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual bankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.

For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no--we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.

Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths--catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.

Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and setting up shop in the vertical.

In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host--you--and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.

For this reason, most anyone on a spiritual path requires some form of meaningful psychotherapy. If not, their entire spiritual practice is likely to be overrun by mind parasites disguised as spirituality. The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.

However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?

Lies are the wisdom of the world. The world is immersed in, and ruled by, lies. Therefore, to the extent that you lose yourself in this world, you too will be lost in a sea of lies. For example, the war on Islamofascism is not ultimately a war against a physical enemy, but a war against the most outrageous and pernicious lies. Likewise, the "culture war" in America is not really about culture, but about truth and about unconsciously motivated stupidity. Europe has already lost this war. Like the American left they have abandoned truth for comfort, happiness for pleasure, vertical liberty for horizontal license.

Birth is always a chaotic and painful transition from one mode of being to another. The seeds of our new birth are already present within us, in the womb of our being. What are the conditions that allow the seeds to grow and bear fruit? Hell, I don't know.

"Petey? What do you think?" Okay. How about the sunlight of truth, the water of grace, the fertilizer of ritual, and the loving assistance of an expert gardener who certainly need not be technically "living" in the biological sense of the term?

Well, my allotted time is up this morning. As you can see, we've just gotten started. But the horizontal beckons me from the threshold of transdimensional doorway, so I bid you adieu. In fact, I will leave you with adieu and don't--a verticalisthenic, if you will. Today, whenever you have a spare moment, instead of wasting it in idle mental wanderings, try silencing your mind and breathing in the eternal, drawing breath from above your head down into your heart, and then offering the breath back up again to your new gardener.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Look What I Found

While mountain biking in the ancient hills around Godwin manor today, I stumbled across something that had been hidden from me under years of overgrown brush until our recent wildfire. Does anyone recognize this beast? Should I try to drag it home on the back of my bike and sell it on ebay?

Or maybe I'll keep it. Might make a cool birthday gift for The Boy.

From this angle, you can't see the best part: the skeleton laying in the front seat. And what is this scribbled document in his hands? Must be important...

Developing a Spiritual Practice, Part One: Spiritual Perverts and Other Problems of God

A number of people have contacted me asking for specific advice about developing a spiritual practice, but I always tell them the same thing. I wasted many years of aimless searching until I finally recognized that the only true path was Islam.

Fooled you again, boy!

Actually, there are few completely universal truths, but the news of the day continually reinforces the importance of avoiding Islam. Do that, and you can't deviate too far from the true path.

Let's say you've done that. You've spent 30 or 40 years avoiding Islam, staying completely non-halal, refraining from beating your wife, not blowing up any churches and works of art, contemptuously mocking CAIR, not being constantly angry and humiliated, not whining about your civl rights being threatened. What's the next step?

As I have mentioned before, I am a little uncomfortable putting myself out as a guru or spiritual teacher of some kind. I've gone back and forth debating with Petey about this, and he always ends up saying something cryptic--and I think a little insulting--like, "what is a bad man but a good man's teacher, anyway?"

There are at least a couple of issues here. First, people have such a genuine thirst for spiritual truth that it is a terrible sin to exploit that. Seriously, on the spiritual plane it's almost like child abuse, because the uncorrupted spiritual impulse is so pure and innocent. It spontaneously reaches out like a child for its father or mother, and it would be awful to use that to aggrandize oneself. Again, this is one of my main objections to frauds such as Deepak Chopra and the rest of the new age gang of narcissists, pneumapaths, and gnostic salesmen.

Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by choices, just wanting someone "in the know" to tell you what to do? In the past, friends of mine who know about my golden ears have asked for advice when purchasing stereo systems. I tell them that they have to audition different components and learn how to listen, and that their ears won't lie to them. There's no wrong choice--just don't purchase a stereo manufactured in the Muslim world. But they don't really want to hear that. "Just tell me which one is the best, and I'll buy it."

To extend the analogy, it is easy to recognize the bad choices in the hi fi world. Those would be most of the mass-market components found in your local big-box store. Purchase most anything above that level of quality, and you have taken a quantum leap toward sonic truth. After that, you can spend ridiculous sums of money, but there's a rapidly diminishing rate of return. In other words, you have to part with a great deal of cash to make increasingly infinitesimal improvements at the margins.

It's the same way with religion. Clearly, the typical reader of this blog will have to wander from the beaten path a bit in order to satisfy their discerning soul. In other words, if you are among the dwindling remnant of my readers who don't mind that I've stopped focussing so much on politics, then you will likely not be satisfied with simply joining your local church or synagogue, dragging yourself to services once a week, and leaving it at that. Obviously you want something more. You don't yet know what it is, but you can sense it.

That sense--assuming you have it--is a very important thing to cultivate. It is not something to be extinguished by the first religion to fall off the turnip truck. Like sexual desire, it needs to be tolerated, sublimated, and transformed. You can't just "act out" spiritually in order to extinguish the impulse.

Freud was partially correct in noting that human beings are driven by primitive instincts such as sex and aggression. What he did not address was the fact that we are also driven--or pulled, actually--by other factors that are equally important. Ignore those and you do violence to the integrity of the human person.

For example, human beings are inherently relationship-seeking. One of the most fruitful advances in psychoanalysis occurred when pioneers such as D.W. Winnicott and R.D. Fairbairn realized that human drives do not occur in a vacuum, but are inherently "object related." Freud largely focussed on the drive alone, as if human beings are simply hydraulic machines or "pressure cookers" that need to let off steam, whereas the modern view sees the drive more as a "link" that connects two persons or subjectivities.

A great deal of pernicious societal misunderstanding has resulted from the notion that our uncivilized drives are somehow more real than our civilized personalities, and that if we could only express them in a conflict-free (and conscience-free) way, then we would inhabit a sort of instinctual paradise. This immature view is at the foundation of a lot of leftist thought. It is thoroughly romantic, in the rotten sense of that word.

Later innovators such as W.R. Bion developed the idea that human beings are also epistemophilic--that our minds are driven to discover knowledge and truth. Freud thought of our desire to acquire knowledge as a sublimation of instinctual drives, but Bion thought of it as absolutely fundamental to our humanness. We are born to know. But, just as with religion, this inborn mechanism can go haywire, so that it can know many things that are patently untrue. Most of the things people have "known" down through the centuries have been of this nature.

But the epistemophilic drive can also go awry in more subtle ways, in particular, the development of a defensive barrier in the form of a belief that one knows all there is to know. Such a person stops "asking why" at a certain arbitrary point, and then defends that point as being the last word. This is my objection to scientism, which takes the truths that are discoverable on the material plane studied by science and then elevates that plane to the status of all there is to know. Such a mind is functionally dead insofar as the epistemophilic drive is concerned. It will never discover higher truth. As Bion said, "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity."

This brings us back around to the main topic of this post, how to develop a spiritual practice. To our relationship-seeking and epistemophilic drives, I would add a pneumaphilic, or spirit-seeking drive. Is it not obvious that such a drive exists? No culture has ever been discovered that did not develop some collective means to channel this drive into various religious forms and practices. Here again, you could be like Freud and try to reduce the pneumaphilic drive to something more primitive, such as a desire for fusion with the primordial mother. But that is a false and partial view.

This is not to say that spiritual pathology does not exist. It most certainly does. Most any normal person can recognize that in much of contemporary Islam we are seeing florid pneumapathology of the first order. For just as the sex drive and the epistemophilic drive can become perverted, so too can the spiritual drive. The sex drive can become twisted in all sorts of ways--pedophilia, fetishism, radical feminism, etc. So too, the knowledge drive can crystalize into a perverse version of itself--deconstruction, Marxism, most forms of leftist thought, the designated hitter in the American League, etc.

In the same way, the spiritual drive can become a perverse fixation, both in its positive sense (i.e., cults) and in its negative sense (i.e., obligatory atheism, which is a kind of spiritual "color blindness"). One does not have to look far to see this phenomenon, both in its extremely dangerous forms that threaten mankind at large, but also in more subtle forms that harm only the person with the spiritual perversion. A lot of new age thought is of this variety. Just magical thinking, really.

Now back to your specific problem: what to do about a spiritual practice? I will get to that. I don't mean to ramble, but a few additional cautionary notes are in order. As I mentioned, I am reluctant to put myself across as some sort of spiritual teacher. In addition to the reason I cited, one can only advance along the path with an attitude of utter humility. Can you not see how this immediately disqualifies most of the arrogant and hubristic "teachers" claiming to be superior enlightened beings?

Another reason is that spiritual knowledge is not something to be treated lightly or disseminated to people who are not ready for it or will simply misunderstand or distort it. There are penalties for doing so. There has always been a recognition that one must make oneself a worthy receptacle of spiritual knowledge. This is why most traditions insist on a strong foundation of moral principles before one even starts--for example, the ten commandments in Judaism and Christianity, or the eightfold path in Buddhism.

Yet another problem has to do with the fact that each of us is, so to speak, a unique problem of God. This is something that applies equally to psychology. If you have a little psychological knowledge, you quickly recognize that people can be pretty easily pigeonholed into various categories. Obtain more knowledge, and you eventually recognize that it is almost as if a person of any depth is suffering from their own particular psychological syndrome that no one else suffers from. They can only cure this syndrome in their own way. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

It is the same way with a spiritual practice. Yes, there are universal truths. But they cannot really be transmitted per se. Rather, they have to be discovered by each individual. It is not like scientific knowledge, which, once discovered, stays that way, and can be passed from mind to mind like an object. Rather, real spiritual knowledge can only be subjectively acquired through personal experience. It must be discovered, not just once, but again and again.

I'm starting to run out of time here, so I'll be continuing with this topic for at least a couple more days. But look at something as simple as a belief in Christ. Dogma is important, as it provides the structure, or "bones" for a belief system. However, unless the dogma is illuminated by the light of personal experience, it will be like a blueprint with no building, bones with no flesh--much less a beating heart that circulates spirtually oxidized blood. It is fine to say that the Bible is the word of God, but one must hear, understand, metabolize, and be transformed by it. And no one--least of all me--can do that for you.

But I think I might be able to help. More tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Science Catching Up With Petey: It's a Living Cosmos

It turns out that I don't have enough time to continue the line of thought we have been pursuing together--assuming that anyone has been following along anyway--that line of thought having to do with better comprehending the vital relationship between language, symmetrical logic, and God.

So before getting back to that, today we will briefly venture down another rabbit hole in the cosmos, that one having to do with the mysterious fact that this is a living cosmos. As you initiates know, this was the subject of chapter two of my book, entitled Biogenesis: The Testimony of Life. In that chapter I argued that the universe was not contingent at all, but a necessary consequence of the fact that we are alive and conscious.

That is, our cosmos is uniquely suited for the existence of life and consciousness, to such an extent that if any of the twenty or so mathematical parameters that govern the character and development of the universe were changed one iota, the universe as we know it would vanish, only to be replaced with one that would not be capable of sustaining life or consciousness.

One thing they don't tell you in school about how to have a meaningful existence is: be sure and pick the right cosmos. For out of the infinite number of universes that are possible, only very few will allow life or consciousness to exist.

Let me save our troll some time and say that I am not arguing for a species of intelligent design theory. ID is true as far as it goes, but it is still just another form of scientific materialism disguised as religion. What I argued in my book is that, when we talk about a "relationship" between life and the cosmos, we are dealing quite literally with a tautology, a statement of equivalence. That is, our universe is so narrowly suited to life that, in order to not mislead, we cannot refer only to "the universe," but to something along the lines of "the living universe," or "the universe in the process of coming to life." Ours is exactly what a universe hospitable to life looks like; everything in it points to or implies life, just as life implies it.

From our privileged standpoint of being alive, there is absolutely nothing surprising about the character of the universe, because it had to be almost exactly the way it is in order for life to exist in it. So when we talk about Life as such, we are necessarily presupposing everything that made it possible for Life to exist at all.

However, because of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, science takes an arbitrary "time slice" of the universe, and points out that life was visibly manifest on this side of the slice, but not on the other side. But they forget that the slice was of their own doing, and that the universe does not know such divisions. We can create such abstract dualisms anywhere we like, but we must never forget that they are just abstractions that we interjected into the seamless whole.

In reality, the universe is nonlocal both spatially and temporally. Who are we to say that a flower is not simply an external organ of a bee, and that a bee is an external organ of a flower? As it so happens, stars are organs of biogenesis. Without them, life cannot exist, as the ingredients for life are cooked in stars that then must explode in order to propagate their ingredients outward. And very few universes are capable of producing stars, much less stars that do us the courtesy of going super nova and spreading their life-giving wealth around the neighborhood.

Anyway, I'm late for work. I just wanted to point out that science is beginning to catch up with some of the inevitable conclusions put forth in my book. However, they are only half way home. That is, they still don't know what Life is. In this regard, they are like an expert watchmaker who can tell you all about springs, gears, and pendulums. But you wouldn't ask a watchmaker to tell you about the nature of time, now would you?

"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature." --Michael Faraday

"Nothing is too freakishly coincidental if it be consistent with a living cosmos." --Petey



*****

Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe, by By James N. Gardner (excerpts):

It is, in the view of Columbia physicist Brian Greene, the deepest question in all of science. Renowned cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.

And just what is this momentous question?

Not the mystery of life's origin, though the profundity of that particular puzzle prompted Charles Darwin to remark that it was probably forever beyond the pale of human comprehension. A dog, Darwin commented famously, might as easily contemplate the mind of Newton....

No, the question is more profound, more fundamental, less tractable than any of these. It is this: Why is the universe life-friendly?

.... We have been taught since childhood that the universe is a horrifyingly hostile place. Violent black holes, planets and moons searing with unbearable heat or deep-frozen at temperatures that make Antarctica look tropical, and the vastness of interstellar space dooming us to perpetual physical isolation from our nearest starry neighbors -- this is the depressing picture of the cosmos beyond Earth that dominates the popular imagination.

This vision is profoundly wrong at a fundamental level. As scientists are now beginning to realize to their astonishment, the truly amazing thing about our universe is how strangely and improbably life-friendly or anthropic it is. As Cambridge evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris puts it in his new book Life's Solution, "On a cosmic scale, it is now widely appreciated that even trivial differences in the starting conditions [of the cosmos] would lead to an unrecognizable and uninhabitable universe."

Simply put, if the Big Bang had detonated with slightly greater force, the cosmos would be essentially empty by now. If the primordial explosion had propelled the initial payload of cosmic raw materials outward with slightly lesser force, the universe would long ago have recollapsed in a Big Crunch. In neither case would human beings or other life forms have had time to
evolve.

As Stephen Hawking asks, "Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately."

It is not only the rate of cosmic expansion that appears to have been selected, with phenomenal precision, in order to render our universe fit for carbon-based life and the emergence of intelligence. A multitude of other factors are fine-tuned with fantastic exactitude to a degree that renders the cosmos almost spookily bio-friendly. Some of the universes life-friendly attributes include the odd proclivity of stellar nucleosynthesis -- the process by which simple elements like hydrogen and
helium are transmuted into heavier elements in the hearts of giant supernovae -- to yield copious quantities of carbon, the chemical epicenter of life as we know it.

As British astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out, in order for carbon to exist in the abundant quantities that we observe throughout the cosmos, the mechanism of stellar nucleosynthesis must be exquisitely fine-tuned in a very special way.

Yet another bio-friendly feature of the cosmos is the physical dimensionality of our universe: why are there just three extended dimensions of space rather one or two or even the ten spatial dimensions contemplated by M-theory? As has been known for more than a century, in any other dimensional setup, stable planetary orbits would be impossible and life would not have time to get started before planets skittered off into deep space or plunged into their suns.

.... Collectively, this stunning set of coincidences render the universe eerily fit for life and intelligence. And the coincidences are built into the fundamental fabric of our reality. As British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees says, "There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld . . . . Our emergence and survival depend on very special tuning of the cosmos."

.... my Selfish Biocosm hypothesis suggests that in attempting to explain the linkage between life, intelligence and the anthropic qualities of the cosmos, most mainstream scientists have, in essence, been peering through the wrong end of the telescope. The hypothesis asserts that life and intelligence are, in fact, the primary cosmological phenomena and that everything else -- the constants of nature, the dimensionality of the universe, the origin of carbon and other elements in the hearts of giant supernovas, the pathway traced by biological evolution -- is secondary and derivative....

This central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis offered a radically new and quite parsimonious explanation for the apparent mystery of an anthropic or bio-friendly universe.... if intelligent life is, in effect, the reproductive organ of the universe -- then it is entirely logical and predictable that the laws and constants of nature should be rigged in favor of the emergence of life and the evolution of ever more capable intelligence. Indeed, the existence of such propensity is a falsifiable prediction of the hypothesis.

.... The inescapable implication of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the immense saga of biological evolution on Earth is one tiny chapter in an ageless tale of the struggle of the creative force of life against the disintegrative acid of entropy, of emergent order against encroaching chaos, and ultimately of the heroic power of mind against the brute intransigence
of lifeless matter.

.... we should obviously be skeptical of wishful thinking and "just-so" stories. But we should not be so dismissive of new approaches that we fail to relish the sense of wonder at the almost miraculous ability of science to fathom mysteries that once seemed impenetrable -- a sense perfectly captured by the great British innovator Michael Faraday when he summarily dismissed skepticism about his almost magical ability to summon up the genie of electricity simply by moving a magnet in a coil of wire.

As Faraday said, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature."

Playing Along the Infinite Shore Where the Eternal Breaks Into Time

Reader Brother Bartleby has posed one of the central questions I have been grappling with in my attempt to formulate a new theology. And when I say "new theology," I don't mean theology per se but perhaps meta-theology. As I mentioned in my book, I am not trying to become a "guru" or invent a new religion. Rather, I'm trying to better understand how the existing ones work when they work and why they don't when they don't. Because they definitely work. Except when they don't. The question is why.

Yesterday I wrote that "The idea is to live fruitfully in the dialectical space between the conscious and unconscious minds," adding that I would elaborate later. But Brother Bartleby can't wait. He asks, "Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness, or is this an actual state, say between waking and sleep which when utilized wisely can actually change the trajectory of ones life? Or....? Please elaborate."

Well, that's what I'm working on. One thing I detest about most so-called spiritual teachers is their mystagoguery. Perhaps you've noticed that they are full of beautiful blather until it comes to certain key points around which they become very vague and evasive. Then they might even blame you for your failure to understand or for a lack of sincerity. It's a common guru trick: blame the seeker.

It is similar to a lot of academic writing. If you really understand something, you should be able to explain it in very clear language. But if you don't understand something, then you can always fall back on confusing and portentous language to make people believe that they are just too stupid to understand your rarified ideas. Also, sometimes the ideas are so banal that they need to be dressed up in overblown language to make them appear exotic or elevated. Most contemporary philosophy is of this nature.

But you can have the opposite problem as well. For example, the words of Jesus are very simple and even at times rustic, and yet, they are among the deepest words ever spoken by a human being. Because of their deceptive simplicity, we can think we have understood them when we haven't even begun to plumb their depth. His words are uniquely "unsaturated" on the vertical level, and will mean very different things at different times based upon your own spiritual growth. The words will come down to your level, but you mustn't allow this to fool you into thinking that you don't have to "ascend" in order to deepen your understanding of them. You can deceive yourself into thinking you've understood, when you've only just begun. Most of his statements can be fruitfully pondered for a lifetime, and are not reducible to an unambiguous rational theology, as so many people try to do.

This then brings us back to language. Since I brought up Christianity, I'll stick with that example. What on earth was Jesus up to with his striking use of language? Obviously something very special. He used language almost in a magical way designed to transform the person with ears to hear it. How did he know how to do that? And in our modern, sophisticated way of understanding language, is this critical factor lost on us?

It certainly is. On the one hand, we have literalists and fundamentalists who want to take the words of Jesus as unambiguous communications, as if he is making scientific statements about the material world. On the other hand, we have progressive liberal theologians and Jesus seminarians who dissect and drain his words of their richly mythological dimension, so that they fail in their primary task of resonating with the deeper layers of consciousness.

Again, truth can be deceptively simple. Take, for example, the word "depth" as applied to human affairs. Has anyone ever explained to you what this means, and why such a thing should exist at all if we are nothing but Darwinian machines? As a matter of fact, one of the projects of postmodernism is to attack the very concept of depth with their spiritual wrecking ball, and make everything equal to everything else. There is no higher or lower, no hierarchy of being, just a cosmic flatland of arbitrary meanings that we assign things.

But in fact, there is something ontologically real called depth. Depth is the measure of the vertical, and our souls are the means of measuring it. Furthermore, this is where God is encountered: in the depth, in the deep within of things. If not there, where? On the surface? No, that is the way of graven images. God is found in the "I" and the "AM," but certainly not understood in a narcissistic sense, as if "I am God." Again, words can be so simple that they can deceive us into thinking we have understood them--and what can be more simple than "I am"? But almost no one understands what this means, and if they understood completely, they would be God, wouldn't they?

"The idea is to live fruitfully in the dialectical space between the conscious and unconscious minds." What did Petey mean by this cryptic statement? Is it just the usual mystagoguery? Or will he get on with it and explain himself? "Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness, or is this an actual state, say between waking and sleep which when utilized wisely can actually change the trajectory of ones life?"

First off, no, it is not the latter. It is definitely not a sort of hypnopompic state between waking and sleeping, although that state certainly has much to recommend itself and is worth cultivating, as it is an important piece of prime real estate where the waves of the eternal lap ashore into consciousness.

"Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness?" That is more like it, although I wouldn't confuse it with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, because that is a more detached state, when I am talking about a very engaged and dynamic state of engagement. In fact, it is one of the reasons I rejected Buddhism--perhaps because of my upbringing in the Christian west--because I firmly believe that the world is worthy of our being in it, and that "enlightenment," or whatever you want to call it, must take place in the world, not in some detached nirvanic state of bliss. I like a challenge. (And I'm not saying Buddhism isn't right for others.)

For the record, this is the entire basis of Sri Aurobindo's yoga, and what sets it apart from other forms. In this regard, it is much closer to Judaism and Christianity, which unwaveringly regard the world as real and not an illusory condition from which we are best advised to escape: "The object of our Yoga is self-perfection, not self-annulment. There are two paths, withdrawal from the universe and perfection in the Universe... the first receives us when we lose God in Existence, the second is attained when we fulfill existence in God. Let ours be the path of perfection, not of abandonment; let our aim be victory in battle, not escape from the conflict." In other words, the task is to actually embody the higher, to bring it down into the lower, not to flee from life and thereby lose our sense of the divinity in everyday living.

I am going to continue with this line of thought in tomorrow's post, which I am actually going to complete right now, since I have to leave very early Monday morning and won't have time. Don't worry--unlike my competitors, I'm not trying to go Deepak on you and leave you hanging just when we've gotten to the important part. However, do keep in mind our new blogging covenant--that I am trying to figure this out and learn how to express it as I go along. Sort of a mutual discovery. Or just a wild nous chase. We don't know yet.