Saturday, February 18, 2006

God, Language, and Vertical Logic

People want to know: is this or that religion true or false? Does God exist? How much religious talk is to be taken literally, metaphorically, symbolically, mythologically, or allegorically? In order to be religious, do I have to check my brain at the door and surrender myself to an intellectual ghetto of implausible fairy tales and the beastly society of a bunch of credulous, slack-jawed yokels?

Yes, you do.

Just kidding.

If you recall last Saturday's post, I floated the idea of putting the kibosh on this blog, in part because it interfered with my forays into the unknown. As part of the solution to that problem, I've decided to do some of my unknowing in public, so to speak. What I mean is that my commitment to the blog would have interfered with developing new ideas and moving on to the next book. Therefore, I will simply work on some new ideas in full view of your prying eyes.

I remember ten or fifteen years ago there was a film about Picasso, showing how he worked. I didn't see it, but from what I understand, it was filmed from behind a transparent "canvas" made of glass, so that the viewer saw the painter in action while the painting came into being. Now, I'm hardly comparing myself to Picasso--or to any artist, for that matter. But you are invited to take part in this self-indulgent journey, as I attempt to wrest a new book from the formless and infinite void. It may or may not happen, but you'll be the first to know.

Any original book begins with an attitude of abject faith that it is possible for it to be written. At present, I am merely swimming in a sea of provocative hints and clues pointing me toward something that I have not yet actually discovered.

In other words, I am only dwelling in the particulars that may one day reveal the meaning to which they may or may not be pointing and therefore become a book. Most books are presumably written only subsequent to the discovery that it is their purpose to convey. This one begins before, but hopefully during and after, the approaching discovery, as it draws closer and closer.

Although we are surrounded by clues, there is no guarantee that these clues are actually clues, that is, that they are somehow connected to something larger that we do not yet see or understand. What makes me so sure that these are even clues, since a “clue” presupposes a solution to the mystery to which it points? In fact, there is no way of knowing yet whether these are actually clues or just false leads, or worse yet, planted evidence.

Like Columbus, we are embarking on a voyage of discovery in search of an unknown land we feel exists but which we have not yet found. Also, like Columbus, if we wait for the land to be discovered before we set out for it, there is no certainty that it will ever be discovered. And in any event, if not Columbus, then someone must eventually gamble that the New World exists and take the voyage of discovery.

As always, our guiding clue is higher bewilderment, or the ability to appreciate the bewildering existence of clues. Anyone who has ever set about to solve a problem is familiar with the initial stage when you know and yet don't know. You have unconscious but not conscious knowledge--a holy hunch, the sense of a connection among the medley of facts before you that you can't quite apprehend.

We begin this foray into the unknown with a passion for wholeness and a sense of the eternal, guided by the dim foreknowledge that wholeness and eternity are somehow related as space is to time. In this regard, scientific faith is no different from religious faith. Both science and religion serve as “probes” into the unknown. Both involve a passionate commitment to the idea that there is something there to be discovered, something that will reward our passion to understand.

For both scientist and visionary mystic, the leap from a lot of known particulars to their joint meaning--from random appearing clues to their internal coherence--is a leap of imagination. It is not possible to specify a “rule” whereby the leap may be made from the known to the previously unknown discovery, otherwise it wouldn't be a discovery. It is discontinuous. The discovery evolves and extends us into the unknown. But for some reason, these discoveries are accompanied by a distinct kind of joy for which we don't seem to have a word.

So there you go: some unedited, pretentious blather for your Sunday morning amusement!


Now back to the topic at hand: language, God, and the trans-logic of supersensible domains.

In order to begin this discussion, we probably need to go back to Freud's discovery of the unconscious, especially as elaborated by the psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte Blanco, because the unconscious shares much in common with the higher realms of consciousness where God is encountered. In fact, it is my belief that the vertical dimension extends above and below, so to speak.

While Freud ably addressed the "underworld" of the lower unconscious, he mistakenly consigned all religion to that realm as well (some religion most certainly emanates from there, such as most of Islam). But his genius notwithstanding, Freud had no understanding of real religion. Coincidentally, he also had no feel whatsoever for music--it didn't do anything for him. I can't help thinking that these two disabilities were related.

In any event, we can certainly be thankful to Freud for being the first psychic cartographer to map the world of the unconscious. Moreover, he discovered the mode of logic whereby the unrepressed unconscious mind operates.

In other words, the unconscious is not only the realm where repressed psychological content resides. There is also an unrepressed unconscious which is by far the larger part of our being. No matter how "conscious" you are, it will be only a fraction of the unrepressed unconscious, in the same way that your dream life is literally infinite and inexhaustible. The idea is to live fruitfully in the dialectical space between the conscious and unconscious minds, something I will elaborate on later.

In my previous book I discuss "mind parasites," which you may think of as split-off aspects of ourselves that are dispatched to the unconscious. One of the reasons these parasites are so problematic is that, once lodged in the unconscious, they become subject to the eerie unconscious logic that I am about to describe. It is this logic that gives them their monstrous quality, whether experienced as internal persecutors or projected outwardly as, say, Muslims do with their florid anti-Semitism.

In fact, both anti-Semitism and Bush hatred are so bizarre because they partake so liberally of the unconscious logic that literally creates monsters. Nor can someone given over to this kind of logic be reasoned with, because you cannot reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into.

Listen, for example, to this piece of unhinged Cheney hatred written by that intellectual giant, Alec Baldwin, on puffingtonhost yesterday: "Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions."

This is an example of almost "pure" unconscious logic, identical in tone to the kind of insane rhetoric that comes out of the Arab world. Although the statement appears completely illogical, it actually obeys the strict logic of the unconscious. It's just a different kind of logic. As in the recent discoveries of chaos and complexity theories, Freud's discovery was that apparent irrationality is not arbitrary but ordered: it is patterned irrationality.

That is, according to Freud, unconscious logic obeys five main principles: timelessness, placelessness, non-contradiction, displacement and condensation, and inability to distinguish between imagination and reality. However, Freud had no idea that these same principles also applied to the higher vertical realm of consciousness, what Sri Aurobindo calls the supramental overmind. Rather than spending time explaining how these five principles apply to the unconscious, I'll skip that and explain how they apply to the higher vertical as well.

Religion offers a language through which we may speak of the eternal, or timeless. Remember, eternity is not time everlasting, but timelessness. As I explained in my previous book, time is a function of eternity. In fact, the two are dialectically related, and one is not possible without the other. However, our surface ego, or frontal personality, gives us the illusion that only time exists.

Yet, we always have intuitions of the eternal from which the events of time arise and return. Religion is a way of acknowledging and talking about this, of giving form and substance to this more primary ground of timelessness. It is where we came from before birth and where we are headed after death, but it's also here now. In fact, now is the only place eternity is or has ever been.

Recall that when God reveals his name to Moses, he says that it is, "I AM THAT I AM." Not I was, or I will be, but I AM. When you think about it, there is something very mysterious about this "I" and this "AM." As a matter of fact, there is no science or philosophy that can account for them or explain what they are. They actually are ultimate categories of thought that mere logic can never penetrate. As it so happens, this "I" and "AM" are the slots in the cosmos where eternity comes pouring into time consciously.

Similarly, what did Jesus say? "Before Abraham was, I AM." Also, the Upanishads speak of this in many ways: "aham asmi" (I AM), or "so ham asmi" ("I am he"). The Tao Te Ching too: "Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see."

I just looked inside myself and realized I'm hungry. To be continued tomorrow.

Good book on the time-eternity dialectic: "The very nature of the world, in its physical and biological aspects, compels us to postulate something other than continuous change, in contrast to which alone that change is possible, something other than time, on which time itself is dependent or of which it is a necessary aspect.... All time and all process imply, and exist only within, a nontemporal totality."

And of course, there is that great genius Alfred North Whitehead: "Wherever a vicious dualism occurs, it is by reason of mistaking an abstraction for a final concrete fact. The universe is dual because, in the fullest sense, it is both transient and eternal... The Universe is one, because of the universal immanence. There is thus a dualism in this contrast between the unity and multiplicity."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Spiritual Reality, Patterned Nonsense, and Coherent Absurdities

In my ongoing discussions with Petey regarding the future of the blog, and in the effort to drive away even more readers, we hit on the idea of discussing aspects of my book that may need some additional elaboration or revision. After all, I probably began writing it in about 1998, and it was mostly finished by about 2002 or so. But it didn't come out until early 2005 because my publisher is relatively small, and I had to wait in line behind other authors whose books preceded mine.

The wait actually turned out to be a good thing, because at the last minute I panicked and realized that the entire Chapter Four wasn't good enough and had to be rewritten. A couple months after I had submitted the final manuscript, I contacted the publisher and asked if it was still possible to make any "little" changes. They said that normally it would be impossible, but that they weren't scheduled to print the galleys for a couple weeks, so I had until then to make any revisions.

You know what they say: "nothing doth concentrate the mind like the galleys," or something like that. So I disassembled the whole thing, having no idea whether I would be able to put it back together in two weeks time. I felt like an emergency room doctor who had made a giant incision right down the middle of the book, with body parts strewn all over the floor of the liberatoreum where I do my writing. That was probably the most focussed two weeks in my life. I was definitely given some kind of transpersonal assistance, whether you want to call it my own unconscious or something higher than that.

The point is that I've had a lot of new ideas since then. In addition, some of the less developed "ideas for ideas" in the book are no longer raw but fully half-baked. Moreover, in order to "make ends meet" in the cosmos--as you know, the book is circular, spanning the entire 13.7 billion year expanse of the cosmos from the primordial nothing to the transcendent Nothing beyond name and form--I had to treat some subjects in a somewhat cursory manner, and regard them as cognitive "flyover country," so to speak.

Also, I would like to address errors in the book, or at least subjects about which I have gained a deeper understanding in the interim. It's not so much that they are necessarily wrong, but when you're talking about spirituality, something can be true on one level but false on a higher level, so it gets confusing. It's like Newtonian physics: it's true on the macro level, but no longer apples at the subatomic level. That sort of thing pervades discussions of religion, which is one of the reasons it can be so misunderstood by both fundamentalists and by intellectuals: both attempt to apply a sort of linear logic that is inappropriate to the spiritual dimension.

Being that the book is literally circular, I originally had the idea of publishing it in spiral form like a rolodex, since it has no beginning and no end, plus I or the reader could simply insert new knowledge and new insights into the appropriate place as they became available. So that's what I'm going to do here from time to time. Think of it not as a rolodex, but a cosmic holodex.

Now, with that prelude in mind, we have recently been touching on the relationship between language and the higher spiritual dimensions of consciousness. One reader seems to believe that no such higher dimensions exist, and that they are a mere trick of language: "If you think that enlightenment is to be revealed through clever wordplay... constructed haphazardly of contradictory statements, you're descending down a path where logic will not guide you, and your conclusions will likewise be unsound... [O]ne wonders whether you haven't permanently crippled your reasoning powers searching for mysterious perpedinculars" (he is referring to what I call the vertical, or the spectrum of consciousness).

However, another reader, Liquidlifehacker, is on the right track when he cites the biblical passage, "In the beginning was the word," noting that this "makes me understand how important the word is, not just that in the Bible but all words because words have power and I know there is power in HIS word. So if we take that one step further, What is a name but a language unit by which a person or thing is known?"

Yes. As I have mentioned before, the world is not made of protons, neutrons, quarks or atoms. Rather, it is made of language. Of course there are radically different languages applying to different domains of the cosmos, but they are all languages nonetheless. For example, the twenty-six mathematical constants that govern the character of the big bang are a language. All math is a language, including quantum physics. DNA is a language. Music is a language. Psychoanalysis is a language that has been developed in the last 100 years to describe the atemporal unconscious, which has a non-linear logic all its own. Poetry and prose are two rather different ways to use language, the former mostly applying to the vertical, the latter to the horizontal.

Human beings acquired language because language is what is. It is not something that we "add" to the cosmos simply because we are sophisticated apes with particularly complex brains. Language is not invented but discovered. Likewise, Spirit is not invented but encountered, partly through the proper use of language.

Now beginning on page 189 of my book, in the section entitled "Unknowing and How to Communicate It: The Hazards of Talking Pure Nonsense," I discussed some of the problems involved in the use of language to talk about what ultimately transcends linear language--the spiritual dimension. Later, on page 204, I briefly discussed one of the obstacles contemporary intellectuals have with religion, in that it generally asks us to believe things that appear frankly implausible, even impossible.

However, I noted that some degree of "belief in the unbelievable" may be a necessary component in deconditioning ourselves to the narrow and restricted consensus reality of our particular culture. I wrote that "Many modern sophisticates shun religion because their misuse of reason informs them that God cannot possibly exist, when the very point of a serious spiritual practice is to discover for oneself whether or not God exists, not through means [read: languages] designed to know other realities, but by utilizing the proper, time-honored methods."

Since writing that section several years ago I have developed a deeper understanding of the relationship between language and spirit, and why religious language is so strange and sometimes incomprehensible to modern ears. Rather than get into a partial discussion of it in this post, I'll elaborate some of my ideas on this over the weekend.

Let me just leave you with this preview: religions are ways of encountering the vertical, of gaining access to it, and of talking about it. If you take religious language and attempt to apply horizontal categories to it, much of it will frankly make no sense, any more than you could take one of Shakespeare's sonnets and reduce it to a statement about the horizontal. For example, "Shall I compare thee to a summer day," might mean, "I think you have a temperature. You are 102 degrees and very sweaty. You better lie down and take an aspirin."

Likewise, a purely rational assessment of religious language will get you nowhere. Scripture is patterned trans-rationality (not irrationality), religion a coherent absurdity, as Joyce called it. Tomorrow and Sunday I will attempt to explain why it must be that way.


People often catch hold of something written by me and give it an interpretation quite other than or far beyond its true meaning and deduce from it a suddenly extreme and logical conclusion which is quite contrary to our knowledge and experience. It is quite natural, I suppose.... it is so much easier to come to vehement logical conclusions than to look at the Truth which is many-sided and whole. --Sri Aurobindo

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hey Baby, What's Your Caste?

Let me clarify a comment I made yesterday about people belonging to different castes. I did not mean this in an elitist way, and I certainly didn't mean to imply an endorsement of how the caste system was applied in India.

That system actually had a sensible basis. Remember, before the scientific and market revolutions, culture was virtually static. There was no notion of progress; in fact, most cultures thought that the reverse was true--that our ancestors once lived in the mythological "Great Time" of a golden age, but that subsequent generations had somehow deviated from the ideal. The purpose of culture was to try to imitate the ways of the ancestors, otherwise the passage of time would simply lead to more degeneration and chaos.

Obviously human beings all over the world still struggle mightily with the allied notions that dynamic chaos is the source of order and that the application of rigid order generates chaos. Where would the socialist left be, for example, without the primordial distrust of free markets and individual liberty?

In fact, European conservatives are the same way--by and large, they are nothing like the revolutionary conservatives of contemporary America, in that they tend to be elitists who wish to preserve inherited power and privilege (Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding, who was a modern Hayekian "conservative liberal"). Prior to the conservative intellectual movement founded by William F. Buckley in the mid-1950's, American "paleo-conservatives" were similar to their reactionary European counterparts.

Likewise, the Islamists are quite transparent in their desire to impose a caliphate to impose order on the world. They are specifically in revolt against every form of chaos that leads to order and complexity: free markets, democracy, free speech, religious plurality, emancipation of women.

Remember, history is not just horizontal, but vertical. There is a deeply ingrained collective mind parasite that causes human beings to be terrified of disorder and to want to remedy it with rigid solutions applied in a top-down fashion, not just in the past, but today. We are all somewhat susceptible to it.

But in order for human beings to evolve in the post-biological sense, it was necessary for them to break through this particular psychological barrier, which was only accomplished in the Christian West. Before that, human beings were stuck in an evolutionary rut, or world-historical eddy, if you like. But that is the norm--after all, all successful species are basically stuck on a Darwinian treadmill of rigid adaptation.

Now the Hindu caste system was originally based on the banal but accurate observation that individual human beings do indeed belong to different castes--that there are different personality types (for example, consider Jung's typological system of 16 main personality types; see book below). This should surprise no one. It is simply a variant of the idea that "it takes all kinds to make a world." Their mistake was in wedding this idea to the primordial fear of disorder, and creating a rigid system in which one's caste was determined by genealogy instead of inclination.

In a perfectly functioning market system, the same thing will happen spontaneously, as people discover their particular gift, actualize their innate potential, and find their adaptive "niche." (Yes, troll, let me save you some time and say that I realize the system is not perfect.)

Again, the original caste system was based on the idea that a functioning society required very different tasks and skills, and that certain temperaments were better suited than others to discharge those tasks. Warriors, priests, intellectuals, merchants, laborers--all have very different temperaments (in fact, there even appear to be temperamental slaves, but I don't think I'll go there; suffice it to say that there are a great many sheep in the world whose collective energy creates wolves).

It has long been observed that living another man's dharma is a grave spiritual danger. In other words, it is possible for us to get stuck in the wrong caste, so to speak. If this happens, we will never actually be. Rather, we will only seem to be, and our life will pass by unlived before we plunge into the abyss.

Hey, it almost happened to me. When I started college it was as a business major, as I had no earthly notion of what else I might do with my life. I did not know my caste. But I was definitely not a merchant. Thankfully I flunked out after two and a-half years, saving me from a fate worse than death--worse, because it would have been a living death. That is by far the scariest kind of death--hence the universal fear of zombies and vampires, of which there are more than a few in the world. Another man's dharma is not just dangerous--it is death.

It is important to emphasize that our caste is not just a present fact, but a future one. This is another area of confusion. We are all oriented by a ruling idea, and our lives will generally be stationary--even if there appears to be a great deal of movement and commotion on the surface---if we do not search for the way toward this permanent goal, or align ourselves with our highest aspiration.

If someone had told me when I was 10, 20, or even 30, that I was a member of the priestly caste, I would have scoffed at the idea. But that turned out to be the case. It just happens to be what I am temperamentally suited for. There are many people operating as documented and undocumented priests, gurus, holy men and suburban shamans that are not so suited. They are dangerous frauds. But you may know them by their fruits, in the same way that you may know my business acumen by its fruits.

Now, what about humility? Am I saying that the priestly caste is superior? Not at all. Quite the opposite. I think you will find that the person to whom the priestly inclination comes naturally is already humble, whereas the false-priest is full of spiritual pride and vanity. They make outlandish claims and they require followers to confirm their greatness.

These false teachers--Tony "Unlimited Power!" Robbins and Deepak "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire!" Chopra come to mind, but there are countless others--are somewhat like vampires, feeding on the spiritual substance of their adoring flock. They require the constant flattery of Nobodies in order to feel like a Somebody. The world is full of such characters. Just look! They're everywhere. Their spiritual knowledge never rises above the plane of mere information (usually dis- or misinformation, at that).

Now, my crack about religion being only for the very stupid and very smart probably also sounded elitist. My point was this: there are different kinds of men--emotional men, physical men, intellectual men, spiritual men, and various shades in between. And there is a religion for each.

To put it in yogic terms, for the physical man there is karma yoga, the yoga of action. For the emotional man there is bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. For the intellectual man there is jnana yoga, the yoga of metaphysical and philosophical knowledge. And for the spiritual man, there is raja yoga, the yoga of meditation and ascent. They all work, and no one is better than the others, but one can be worse than the others if you are practicing the wrong one.

To cite just one example, many sophisticated westerners such as JWM have difficulty embracing Christianity because in the West it has largely lost its sapiential (knowledge) and transformational components, and has been reduced to a simple fideism of bhakti yoga, or worship of Christ.

But in fact, all of the major religions are analogous to yoga, in that they have a place for all the castes and temperaments. In Christianity, the sapiential-transformational component was never lost in the Orthodox tradition, whereas by necessity it was under-emphasized in the Catholic West due to the exigencies of worldly power and the need for organization and orthopraxis.

But even then, you don't have to search far in Western Christendom to find the most sublime and unsurpassed spiritual wisdom, for example, in the figure of Meister Eckhart. His corpus is impenetrable to those who are not "resonating" at the same spiritual wave length, which is a good thing, because it protects it from becoming the watered-down gruel of mere intellectual knowing and false teaching. Such teachings are only for the trans-intellectual, which is what I meant by my elitist sounding wisecrack. These teachings cannot be understood by the worldly intellect. But obviously, there's nothing at all wrong with the worldly intellect of the scientist or engineer. The world can get along just fine without me, but where would we be without them?

Well, I've probably rambled for too long. Time to leave the slackitareum and earn my keep by the sweat of my brow, like everyone else. Except for all those scoundrels making a living from the postmodern-day Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.


Almost forgot--my wife is a career transition coach who specializes in helping people who are stuck in the wrong caste, so to speak, find a more spiritually satisfying career. Her book provides a structure to help find your calling if your calling has been calling and you haven't been answering. Her website has excerpts from the book and a link to reviews on

What's your caste?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Alternate Realities: Where's the Rest of Me?

Why does religion always come pouring back in, despite the best efforts of secularists to do away with it? It seems that religion is just like nature, which, as we know, can be driven out with a pitchfork, and yet will always hurry back. It will return for the same reason that the unconscious will always return in a neurotic individual who tries to repress it. You cannot cut off a part of yourself and pretend it doesnt exist. This is the source of a great deal of comedy--the tension involved in pretending to be hyper-rational while the unconscious is leaking in everywhere--like George Costanza or Basil Fawlty.

Science, as we have mentioned in the past, deals with a particular aspect of reality, the quantitative, the outwardly extended universe. Religion, on the other hand, deals precisely with other aspects of reality that are excluded by science--the qualitative and internally extended universe, those inscapes known as the soul.

Traditional cosmologies posit a three-tiered cosmos of matter, life and spirit. Science studies the lowest order, matter, and concludes that only it is ultimately real, a self-negating philosophy that appeals only to the intellectually uncurious and metaphysically blind. Instead of "in the beginning was the word," secular science has its own creation myth that says, "in the beginning was a single blind substance, mighty matter, mother of all, both visible and invisible. All things were made through it, and without it nothing was made. Out of it comes life and the light of the mind. But the material darkness fully comprehends the light, which is just an illusory side effect of whirling matter."

It is said that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. What does Petey say about materialism and positivism? "If you believe that, you'll believe anything." Which is it? Do we comprehend matter? Or does matter comprehend us? Or does matter comprehend itself? If so, how? That's pretty impressive for mere matter. Can I get some?

In order to study the physical universe, western science drew the distinction between res cogitans and res extensa--between matter and mind. So successful was the enterprise that it eventually reified this methodological distinction into a metaphysical absolute, and then concluded that only the material was ultimately real. This has led to a host of unnecessary philosophical conundrums since then. To paraphrase Whitehead, the universe was reduced on one side to conjecture, the other side to a dream.

But if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a ptichfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floor boards, and down from the ceiling. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it. In fact, it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that knows itself in the act of knowledge.

When science sets its compass on the face of the deep, the depth disappears. Science tries to confine the universe to its own derivative categories of space, time and motion, but the real uncontainable universe always returns. Life--much less consciousness--will never be reduced to physics. In fact, physics will never be reduced to physics either. This is the real lesson of the quantum world, which leaks like water through any attempt describe what occurs there with the porous equations of linear reason.

Although I am sympathetic to the efforts of intelligent design theorists, ultimately they are looking for God in all the wrong places. Of course the universe is intelligently designed. God has always been self-evident to uncorrupted natural reason. Everywhere you look you will find irreducible information, complexity, and beauty betraying the light of the divine mind. So what? You can study a human brain, but it will tell you nothing about the consciousness of the person to whom the brain belongs--it is not as if you can "know" someone by looking at a CT scan of their skull. You will know a brain, not a person. Knowledge of a person is "inside information"--as is knowledge of God. But you have to be an insider to know that.

There is another kind of truth in the universe that can only be known from the inside, from the within. This within operates along very different lines from the without, and cannot be comprehended by applying the same principles used by science. Religions are very special languages that we employ in order to talk about, understand, and deepen our experience of the greater within of the cosmos.

If we try to talk about this within using the methods and language of science, we will get nowhere. For example, eternity cannot be discussed by reducing it to something within time. If we are going to discuss eternity at all--one of the prime characteristics of God--then we will have to use language in a very special way so as to convey the feeling without reducing it to something merely rational and temporal.

Look at it this way. We live on the shoreline between two worlds, one extending infinitely within, the other extending infinitely without. But actually, we are more like an island surrounded on all sides by the watery deep. Science, you might say, studies the island. The non-dual mystic dives into the ocean and disappears into oneness. But religion plays along the shoreline where waves of the infinite are constantly lapping onto the conscious shore. Religions are ways of talking about what it is like to live on that shoreline between the finite and infinite--which is where we live anyway, crucified, so to speak, on the cross of vertical and horizontal energies.

It is here that we find the meta-cosmic and trans-historical source of time, being and self. As best as I can describe it visually, the cosmos is somewhat like a Klein bottle, which has an inside and an outside but only one surface. However, this Klein bottle is in the shape of a toroid, similar to a donut, except that the hole in the middle is our solid world, while the donut is a whirling process that tosses up temporary forms that arise and pass away, like so many grains of sand on the shore. As such, the conventional world of the senses looks real and solid, but it really is an empty hole. The real action is taking place where the hole meets the Whole and partakes something of its abiding reality.

Or as one wag put it:

In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo


Hey, what's spinning on Petey's bong water stained turntable today? Mmmmm, vintage garage psychedelia. Melts in your brain, not on your wrist.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bach to the Future: Alternate Realities, Part Two

This subject of alternate realities is a rich one. I had intended to finish Part Two today, but the exigencies of caring for His Majesty have intervened, so I'll just address some of yesterday's thought-provoking comments and finish as much as I can of Part Two. We may well continue this discussion all week.

Dan said that what was intriguing about Bach's idea of alternate realities "was how he would travel and visit the 'other Richard' at some point in the future, to see how his life had turned out." Bach experienced a realm where millions of interconnected lines represented various choices he had made at some point in his life. "Here, a turned-down business deal and the lines split of left and right, here, a relationship gone awry, here," etc.

I am inclined to see this simply as an exercise of Bach's imagination, a sort of exalted Monday morning quarterbacking. It is not a bad thing, as I will attempt to explain.

Occult lore does speak of higher dimensions of time, including a fifth dimension where all the possibilities of a given moment exist. Think of it as a sort of plane that is pierced by the line of time, where only one possibility can be realized. Supposedly there is a sixth dimension as well, which contains not just the possible, but the actualized possibilities of each moment. Finally, there is a seventh dimension, which I identify as the eschaton, or telos, the fulfillment of eternity that is drawing history toward it. It is the omega point, or what I call "O" in my book.

I have in the past posted on what I call "Nocturnal Metahistory," which is a way of talking about the vertical, hidden, "night time" of history, where events are being dreamt in the womb of eternity before manifesting in the daylight of conventional history. History in the latter sense involves the past actions and reactions of human beings. It is history as remembered and recorded, which is only a tiny subset of History in itself.

Now in the neo-Platonic Gagdaddian view, History, the Aeon, is thought of as a sort of rotating, hyper-dimensional object that throws an illusory shadow we experience as history. When eternity breaks into time, it bifurcates into a left side and a right side, or more exactly a day side (the horizontal) and a nocturnal side (the vertical). In reality, History cannot be understood without reference to these horizontal and vertical streams. The horizontal aspect of History is well known to us, consisting of the “stream of time” that historians dip into to retrieve facts, documents and events.

Contemporary historians who focus exclusively on the horizontal have forgotten all about the “vertical,” about the matrix of History where things inwardly incubate before becoming events in time, and where events in time go to be “worked over” in the dream logic of the night (this is what Finnegans Wake is all about). But all historians also unwittingly operate “vertically,” in the sense referred to above. That is, they approach the historical enterprise with a “topdown” view which organizes their search and allows them to “see” what is significant in History (at least to them).

The analogy with an individual person's history is exact. For example, patients come to therapy with a narrative of their past life, chronicling their experiences with parents, their education, their friendships, loves, passions, conflicts, etc. But as a psychologist, I am not so much interested in this horizontal narrative as I am of evidence of influences coming from a vertical dimension called the unconscious. All along, their lives have been shadowed by this unconscious, which has continuously created, shaped, sabotaged, or prevented events in the horizontal. Similarly, a historian is like a dreamer trying to interpret the dream, without knowing it is a dream and that he is one of its dreamers. Is it possible to be in but not of the dream of horizontal history?

The great discovery common to all religions is the existence of a vertical influence operating both personally and collectively, this one coming from a “higher” dimension rather than from the unconscious below. Now, as I have mentioned before, there is something analogous to memory that operates in the vertical. In this sense, just as we are able to remember what has happened to us in the past, it is possible to "remember" our future--not in the horizontal sense, as if we can predict the future--but in the vertical, as in making our future self--our real self--present. This is something that is known to all traditions, called by Plato anamnesis. It might also be called "reading the book of life." This realm consists more of forms without content, but it is possible through imagination to give content to the form.

This, in my opinion, is likely what Bach was doing--"remembering" his true self, but clothing it in the form of imagining an alternate future. You might call it "qualitative" memory, in that it remembers what is of eternal value and is worthy of resurrection, so to speak. We all must search for the being without whom we are not real. Bach saw where his dead self was leading, and instead gave birth to his true self--a variation of being "born again."

Hoyden said "I can relate to being unable to grow in spiritual, or vertical realms, while holding onto beliefs and feelings that are not in harmony with the higher realms." Yes. I believe we should always make choices based on whether they will facilitate a lifestyle compatible with vertical liftoff. That's something I always intuitively did, even before I knew I was on a spiritual path.

JWM says "I can point to several instances in my life where seemingly insignificant decisions resulted in life changing consequences. Every one of those decisions propelled me in a life affirming direction. Those moments often were accompanied by- how do I put it? Transcendental events? That voice that just calls out in your head and says, "Stay here."

Yes, exactly. Vertical recollection. In my book, I use the symbol (?!) for these important experiences. We can ignore them or pay very close attention to them. These moments are dense with another kind of time, where we can feel the potential of the moment. Fortunately, when we are on a wrong path, life will randomly provide these "forks in the road," where we can "repent," turn around (the literal meaning of repent), and reorient ourselves. But the number of these tends to be finite. You have to take advantage of them before the aperture closes again, perhaps for good.

Kahntheroad asks, "How can we tell if a synchronicity is a signal from our higher self rather than a ploy of mind parasites? Does our higher self ever use synchronicities to compel us towards situations with immediate negative consequences with, perhaps long term positive implications? Or are such negative consequences always a result of our own failure of interpretation or execution?"

It is difficult to provide a simple answer to that question, for each case is different. First of all, as you ascend in the vertical, you will notice an increase in synchronicity--meaningful coincidences--because time "thickens" there. Because of the symmetrical relations of the supramental domain, things that are separated in time and space can be copresent, as in a dream. Yes, it is possible to confuse synchronicities with mere coincidences. The difference is that synchronicities are truly meaningful, deep, and personally instructive--some much deeper than others.

Kahntheroad also asked, "Do you think you're being a tad bit hard on the new agers? Before coming across your work I must say that, in addition to studying traditional religions, I also benefited from listening - with a critical ear, of course - to some of these 'gurus.' For example, someone like Wayne Dyer talks about a broader spirituality, personal responsibility and is even able to get away with quoting Jesus on a PBS."

Remember, the purpose of this blog is not to try to change people whose approach to spirituality is working. So if Wayne Dyer works for you, that's fine.

I am personally skeptical of the whole new age chitlin' circuit racket of cheap enlightenment. Have you ever seen some of the nutty ideas and outlandish promises in those magazines? Most of it is just retrograde born-again paganism. I do not believe it is appropriate to speak of these matters lightly to a large and indiscriminate audience, as if it is "spiritual entertainment." I always try to steer people back to actual religions, because they embody uncreated wisdom with unplumbable depth. With the new agers, you tend to hit bottom very quickly. A lot of it is frankly narcissistic--the student flatters the teacher's ego and the teacher gratifies the student's ego, each reinforcing the other in a narcissistic cycle. Real spirituality, like real therapy, is more of an insult, or narcissistic injury. As Jesus said, "I came not to send peace, but a sword."

Also, real teachers tend to send seekers away, not to encourage any and all comers. For example, Sri Aurobindo wrote in a letter, "I do not readily accept disciples, as this path of Yoga is a difficult one and can be followed only if there is a special call." In another letter he balked at the notion of creating a mass movement, noting that he had no interest whatsoever in fame or publicity, in that it would simply interfere with the work he was trying to accomplish. "For serious work it is a poison.... a movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Alternate Realities: One is Too Many, a Thousand is Not Enough

From reader Dan, "OK, HERE'S a question: are there alternate realities based on choices, much like Richard Bach wrote of?

I don't know anything about Richard Bach, but I looked him up on Amazon and see that he is the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and went on to write a number of other wildly successful new-age books. Unfortunately, when you write a book such as mine, you inevitably get lumped in with the new-agers such as Bach, but I hope I share nothing in common with them except competing for the same shelf space. Wait, they don't believe in competition. Or scarcity. I should say our "cooperation" in choosing this moment to create a reality in which there is the illusion of a single space for two books. In reality, because of quantum indeterminacy, there are parallel universes where my book has sold as many copies as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Neil Diamond has even set my book to music. Then I sued Neil Diamond for musical malpractice. No wait. That was in this reality.

For some reason, it is de rigueur in the new age world to believe in "alternate realities based on choices." Because of pioneering new-age manifestos such as Fritoj Capra's Tao of Physics, there is a widespread belief that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle means that reality is created by observing it, and that if we choose to observe it in a different way, then we can create a different reality. This is such a thorough misunderstanding that it is difficult to know how to respond.

For starters, the uncertainty principle is not so much a statement about reality as a statement about what we can say about reality. That is, looked at in one way, the quantum event is a particle. Looked at another way, it is a wave. But it's still one thing. We just can't say what. It's a limitation of language, a reminder that language falls short of our ability to describe what is going on at the subatomic level. And it is never a good idea to mistake a deficiency in language for a key to truth. Truth isn't purchased that cheaply. It's one of the reasons new age books are a paradigm a dozen.

Obviously, there is only one reality. Reality by definition is one, or else it is not reality. If there are two realities, then they are independent of each other, and one of them will be unknowable to us. But if they are related, then they are related on a higher level that unifies them. They are part of a system.

Having said that, reality is a gradient, or spectrum, if you like. Depending on where you stand in the spectrum, it will appear as a different reality. Take for example, Helen Keller. Perhaps it is an apocryphal account, but there is nevertheless a true principle involved. If you have seen The Miracle Worker, you all member the scenes before Helen understands language. Being "deaf, dumb and blind," she is thoroughly engulfed in the senses and buried in the body. She lives in a purely physical, material reality. Then, with the assistance of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, she learns the symbol for water, and is magically ushered into an entirely new domain, the realm of abstract symbols. Suddenly she is liberated from a brute material existence and enters the human world.

Again, there is the one world but there are degrees of reality. I ask you, which world is more "real," the first world inhabited by Helen--the fully material--or the second world--the abstract and symbolic? Reductionist and materialistic science would say the first world gave a more accurate representation, since our minds are just illusory side effects of a particularly complex brain, itself an accidental outcome of blind material forces. Of course, when the materialistic scientist says this, there is no reason to take him seriously, since according to his paradigm, his ideas have no reality and no ultimate truth value at all. After all, how can matter know anything, much less the truth of its existence? That's pretty grandiose for a piece of mere matter.

As I have mentioned before, the world of science is the horizontal world of quantities, of time, of linear cause-and-effect. The vertical world runs perpendicular to this, and is the realm of qualities, of spiritual evolution, of truth, beauty and love, among other things. Not only is it governed by a different kind of causation, but it is also ruled by a different form of logic, called "bi-logic." This is not the place for a full explication, but everyday Aristotelian logic is what we call assymetrical, whereas bi-logic is symmetrical. Both the Freudian unconscious and the spiritual supra-conscious operate along the lines of symmetrical logic, which includes five main features: timelessness, placelessness, non-contradiction, symbolism, and an absence of clear distinction between "imagination" and "reality."

Now before Helen Keller entered the realm of abstract thought, she lived in a world that was both concrete and infinite. It was the world of the eternal zero, the endless void of the infinitely finite. Once she entered the world of abstract symbols, she had a way to bring local meaning from the infinite into the finite. There is still just the one world, but now she had evolved vertically in such a way that the world appeared entirely different. There are countless such vertical worlds. For example, this is what happens when you "inhabit" a religion. You literally enter a world. Is it real? Yes. Is it accessible to science? No. It does not exist in the way that the blunt instruments of science require to perceive it. Ex-ist literally means to "stand out" in the same way that an object does. As such, even though God is real, he does not actually exist. He just is.

There are many such degrees of reality, both high and low. Psychoanalysis mostly deals with the lower planes of symmetrical logic, while spirituality deals with the higher ones. Based on an obscure cosmic principle Petey has told me about, you can only reliably ascend in the vertical to the extent that you have cleaned up the mess in the lower vertical. Otherwise, no matter how far you ascend, you will continually be "snapped back" into the lower realm--the realm of atemporal mind parasites who work their magic through the miracle of symmetrical logic. Although they are from "the past," they are "always here." They have the quality of omnipresence, which is why many people--many, many people--especially from certain Arab countries--confuse them with God. Many of these entities also have the quality of omnipotence, in that they are always watching and judging, like a malicious eye in the sky.

We live in the same reality as the Muslim world, right? Yes and no, in the sense there is single world with degrees of reality. The Muslim world of cartoontifadas, beheadings, terrorists, and systematic female abuse is steeped in symmetrical logic, whereas secular liberal world has largely been reduced to a barren, asymmetrically logical world without much of the higher vertical breaking through anymore. Through the magic of symmetrical logic, Muslims are able to freely reverse such categories as victim-terrorist, being offensive-being offended, weak-powerful, primitive-superior, etc. Since they do not respect Aristotelian logic, they are not bound by the rule of non-contradiction, and can inhabit a spiritually malicious dream world where everything is its opposite--Jews are weak and vile, yet they control the world, the Muslim world is backward and impoverished, yet Islam is superior to all religions, etc.

Also, as mentioned above, the secular liberal desert of the European and American left has lost access to the vertical world of spiritual reality. As happens with soul-corrosive socialism, too many of their citizens have been reduced to comfort-seeking animals in the horizontal wasteland. This is one of the reasons why Europe is doomed. They have exited the vital spiritual world in favor of a horizontal socialist paradise in which all of one's material needs will be ministered to but which no one will defend, because it is uncomfortable to do so. When Rome fell, it was largely a result of horizontal barbarians. This time Europe will fall as a result of an invasion of vertical barbarians. In America we have our vertical barbarians as well. But only about 49% of the population. Nothing to worry about.

To be continued tomorrow, timelessness permitting.



More difficult:


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mindfulness over Martyrdom

This is kind of a long post, but Petey promised it would come together at the end, and I must admit he was almost right.

In Victor Davis Hanson's weekly gem Losing Civilization, he draws the same connection I do between the totolerantarians of the left and the totalitarians of Islam, noting that the cartoontifada "represents an erosion in the very notion of Western tolerance.... Insidiously, the censorship only accelerates. It is dressed up in multicultural gobbledygook about hurtfulness and insensitivity, when the real issue is whether we in the West are going to be blown up or beheaded if we dare come out and support the right of an artist or newspaper to be occasionally crass."

Obviously, we "do not threaten to kill Muslims when they promulgate daily streams of hate and racism in sermons and papers, and much less would we go about promising death to the creator of 'Piss Christ' or the Da Vinci Code. How ironic that we now find politically-correct Westerners--those who formerly claimed they would defend to the last the right of an Andres Serrano or Dan Brown to offend Christians--turning on the far milder artists who rile Muslims.... The Islamists are sad bullies, who hunt out causes for offense in the most obscure places, but would recoil at the first sign of Western defiance."

The cognitively and spiritually bereft idea of multiculturalism causes the West honor totalitarians "who embrace or condone polygamy, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, political autocracy, homosexual persecution, honor killings, female circumcision, and a host of other unmentionables to threaten our citizens within our own countries."

At risk of pointing out the obvious, is it not clear (to paraphrase someone) that tolerance is indeed the virtue of the man with no convictions? It is actually moral cowardice, and as such, opens up a free space for bullies to operate unhindered. Contemporary liberalism is illiberal to the core. There is a hidden unity between the postmodern left and the pre-modern Islamists: it is a tacit conspiracy between those who make a god of their religion and those who make a god of their irreligion, and forcefully demonstrates the emptiness at the rotten core of liberalism (yes, on the spiritual plane it is possible to be simultaneously empty and rotten).

There is a story about a British magistrate in colonial India who interfered with the venerable act of tossing a resistant widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. A villager protested that the magistrate had to understand that this was just their sacred practice of sutee. The magistrate responded that we also have a sacred law that involves hanging people who burn widows.

Why is no one in the liberal MSM willing to step forward and remind the Muslim world of our sacred law of freedom of expression? After all, isn't this the crown jewel in the secular iconography? Not anymore. It has been replaced by a higher good, political correctness, which is now the holiest ideal of the left, itself a perversion of the Christian cognitive template that the equates the innocent victim with God. The secular liberal confuses this equation and regards any victim as God.

As I mentioned before, this also highlights the fact that the liberal victim is not really a victim, but an aggressor. Of course there are true victims, but officially sanctioned liberal victims use their victim status to generate real power in the world. Victims can say and do anything, and certainly do not shy away from throwing their weight around. They have real power and know it. And they are protected from consequences of using that power illegitimately, in ways that you or I could never be.

This is why liberal victims are always bullies. They don't have legitimate power or knowledge, only illegitimate power and knowledge. The cartoon jihadis are just a bunch of pathetic losers immersed in a pseudo-religion that only deepens and justifies their moral, intellectual, spiritual and economic squalor, but with the complicity of the left and their elite media, pointing this out makes you the aggressor, so that any reaction on the part of the victim is given sanction. The real headline of this farce should be, "Muhammad Implicated in Middle East Failure to Launch: Millions Left Angry, Stupid."

In a piece entitled What Is a Picture of Muhammad, Anyway?, Robert McHenry notes that a picture of Muhammad is only a picture of Muhammad if you accept it as such. In other words, no one knows what the prophet actually looked like, panties be upon him. So you have to want to be upset in order to decide that this or that picture actually represents Muhammad.

McHenry points out that "This is not unlike our response to a small child's drawing that looks like mere scribbling: 'Oh, yes, dear, that's a lovely picture of Aunt Louise.' If only one of the artists had meant to depict Muhammad, neither we nor our panel of Muslims would have been able to pick out his work from the field. What is objected to, then, is not an actual thing or an observable act--but an intention, a state of mind, a point of view."

McHenry then gets into the more general question of exactly what constitutes an insult? For example, "A says or does something, whereupon B reacts with strong negative emotion." But "A may or may not have intended to evoke that response; the response does not depend on A's intentions. We blur this fact in ordinary speech when we say that A has given offense. It would be more apt to say that A has provided the occasion for offense."

There you have it in a nutshell. Just as you would a child, someone has to take the Islamic world by the hand and firmly tell them: "No. We have not offended you. You have chosen to be offended. Your feelings are your responsibility, not ours. You are free to have them, but no one cares about them. And don't you dare act out your infantile rage."

There is something deeply wrong with people who can only be offended, never shamed. As Mark Steyn points out, if a Muslim wants to be offended by something, why not be "hurt" and "humiliated" by all the evil people who actually call themselves Mohammad? "The leader of the 9/11 plotters? Mohammed Atta. The British Muslim who self-detonated in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammed Hanif. The gunman who shot up the El Al counter at LAX? Heshamed Mohamed Hedayet. The former U.S. Army sergeant who masterminded the slaughter at the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed. The murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh? Mohammed Bouyeri. The notorious Sydney gang rapist? Mohammed Skaf. The Washington sniper? John Allen Muhammed. If I were a Muslim, I would be deeply offended that the prophet's name is the preferred appellation of so many killers and suicide bombers on every corner of the earth."

Here is McHenry's key insight. That is, "It would appear that the reason for choosing to be offended is that it is believed to elevate the offended one to a superior moral position. 'You have offended me! I am now authorized to blame, censor, censure, denounce, excoriate, fault, etc., you.' Or, in some cultures, riot, burn, and kill. In short, all the nasty things that we humans enjoy so much that we feel instinctively that we need moral sanction to do them, and no sanction is quite so available, so ready to hand, as the bad behavior of others."

That point is worth pondering. But only for a lifetime. If you are the type of person who is easily offended, part of the reason you do it is to elevate yourself and give yourself a false air of nobility and righteousness! Once offended, then your own dreadful superego is put to sleep, freeing you to do what you wanted to do all along, which is vent your primitive, instinctual aggression. The victim is God, and vengeance us his.

Now, let's tie this together with the contemporary left, which has no ideas, only attitudes, stances, and emotions. Let us further stipulate that ideas emanate from a realm that we can equate on a spiritual level with life. Someone who is full of ideas is full of life. Someone devoid of ideas--of creativity--is functionally dead on the psycho-spiritual level.

Still, biological life goes on, and one must consume something in order nourish the mind. So leftists have gotten into the habit of consuming death in order to nurture their movement. In Speak of the Dead (HT David Webber), Noemie Emery observes that "since September 11, liberals have found a new weapon of preference, and that weapon is martyrdom. They have discovered grief as a tactical weapon. They tend to like grief they can use. They use it to arouse guilt and sympathy to cover a highly partisan message, in the hope that while the message may be controversial, the messenger will be sacrosanct and above reproach. Since 9/11, they have embraced this tactic repeatedly, and each time with a common objective: to cripple the war, to denounce the country, to swing an election, but mainly to embarrass and undermine the president."

This article was written some six months ago, before the most recent example of liberal necgrophilia at the King funeral. She cites a number of similar instances of what I call "dining on death." For example, there was the time they "accused Republicans of insulting the dead of September 11 by selling a photo of George W. Bush on Air Force One on that day." Then there was the attempt "to capitalize politically on the shock and sorrow from the deaths of Paul Wellstone, his wife, and his daughter." Or remember the " 'Jersey Girls', four young widows whose husbands died in the Towers, whom Gail Sheehy formed into a Bush-bashing regiment, and who ended up campaigning for John Kerry and cutting commercials for him"? And of course, the pathetic death-mom, Cindy Sheehan.

Now, what do these all have in common? They are all represent attempts on the part of the left to come up with gold-plated victims to carry the banner of their otherwise unpalatable ideas. If a certified victim leads the charge, he or she is immune from criticism, because criticism will offend the victim and the victim's supporters, and offended people are righteous and superior. And if they are righteous and superior, they are a priori right without even having to make any substantive argument at all. This is why the left is always right, even though they no longer even know how to argue rationally. "We're for the little guy! You know, the victim."

The immaculately empty-headed Maureen Dowd said it best: "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." The victim is God. But only the liberal victim, mind you. You can be sure that she does not accept the absolute moral authority of those mothers who have lost a son in Iraq but strongly support our aims there, or who think that Cindy Sheehan is a morally reprehensible dingbat.

Emery draws the obvious conclusion that "for Dowd and her ilk, moral authority stems less from service or suffering than from the potential to cause serious trouble for Bush." The entire sad process has nothing to do with legitimate debate, rational argument, morality, or even bereavement--except the unbearable grief of having watched your political power dwindle in election after election. Cindy Sheehan is simply "the vehicle for a collection of losers, who will use her, and then toss her over and out once she has served their purposes, or more likely failed to do so."

Finally, how do we tie this rambling post together with a nice ribbon and make it personally relevant? At New Victorian there was a recent post entitled Happiness is Not Normal, discussing a "new" form of psychotherapy that, instead of trying to change negative thoughts and beliefs, involves learning how to observe them and let them go. It focuses "less on how to manipulate the content of our thoughts and more on how to change their context--to modify the way we see thoughts and feelings so they can't push us around and control our behavior." The trick is "disidentifying with thoughts--seeing them not as who we are but as mere reactions," similar to mindfulness meditation, which involves "observing thoughts without getting entangled in them, approaching them as though they were leaves floating down a stream."

This is the practical meaning of turning the other cheek. We saw President Bush practicing it at the King funeral, behaving with his usual affable gallantry in response to the petty, mean-spirited, inappropriate, sanctimonious, and small-minded Jimmy Carter, who turned the proceedings into a liberal satanic eucharist: death as the occasion to nourish one's depleted ego. I don't even personally know anyone who is so tasteless and ill-mannered that they don't know how to behave at a funeral. Do you? But it's not a matter of taste or civility. Rather, what you and I find repellant, Carter and all of the people who cheered and left wildly approving posts on dailykos are nourished by. That's a scary thought.

I have been practicing a from of mindfulness for about eleven years now. Of course, doing so prevents you from being easily offended, so you lose the benefit of taking offense in order to feel morally superior to others. Nor can you just act out whatever feeling you have in the moment, even if you are under the illusion that someone provoked it. And you can't decommission your superego anymore and give yourself a free hand to act out your feelings. Nor can you nourish yourself on death and make yourself into a victim in order to avoid rational debate with others.

Bottom line: you can't be a Muslim or a contemporary liberal. I don't usually like to make judgments based on skin, but in this case it's difficult not to. After all, their skin is thinner than ours.


Coming tomorow, part one of Alternate Realities. (Check your local reality; not intelligible in certain ultra-liberal precincts; void where prohibited by secular thought police )