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.