Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reincarnation, Resurrection Bodies, and Vertical Heredity

Yesterday we were discussing how myth and poetry speak to us from across the void, revealing secrets from the dark side of consciousness. As I have mentioned before, in order to talk about spirit at all, language must be employed in a very special manner. On the one hand, language was evolved in order to deal with the mundane problems of a typical day in the archaic environment of 100,000 years ago: finding food and shelter, coping with danger, and impressing women.

That is the horizontal aspect of language. It is mostly reducible to a purely Darwinian explanation. But there is a very mysterious vertical aspect to language that cannot be so reduced, unless one wishes to be absurd. Most modern people don't mind being absurd, so long as they can imagine that they understand. Better to be absurd than to deal with the anxiety of not knowing.

It has been remarked that poets are metaphysicians in the raw, mediators between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the nighttime and daytime realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambigious variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional object.

Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am taking about involves vertical recollection, or anamnesis.

Whereas in the daytime there is more or less a one-to-one relationship between word and object (or concept), night language is far richer and polysemic, or holographic: a single word can be a vector through which multiple meanings of various levels pass, depending on one's point of view. One may crystalize a particular interpretation, but a single interpretation cannot exhaust the meaning. This is especially true of the special language called authentic scripture.

And yet, it is possible even for scripture to become so saturated with a particular meaning that it loses its capacity to shock, to vault us out of our habitual way of knowing the world. It can be reduced to a mere "daytime" story.

I think, for example, of the account of Jesus' resurrection. Most of us have heard about this story since we were children, to such an extent that when we think of it we probably conjure up a mental image of it. Furthermore, upon doing so, most of us probably say to ourselves, "impossible."

And yet, if you consider some of the details that we tend to overlook, the story is more odd than we realize. For example, it is emphasized--in particular, in Mark, Luke and John--that the risen Jesus is not recognized by those who were most familiar with him--who had just been with him a few days before. Some mistake him for the gardener, others actually take a walk with him and discuss recent news of the day, including the bad news about Jesus.

How bizarre is this? Imagine just losing a loved one. You are in a state of grief and shock. You look out the window, and there is your recently departed loved one, mowing the lawn. But you don't recognize them.

Obviously, the story was told in this particular way for a reason. The writers of the gospels could have just said that Jesus rose from the dead and everyone recognized him immediately. But they specifically emphasized that he wasn't recognized. Clearly, he must have looked different. The "resurrection body," whatever it is, must look different than the physical body.

What are we, anyway? Whatever else we are, we are energy, energy in different forms and patterns. Ah, but what is energy? If anyone gives you a "daytime" answer to that question, know that they are lying--mostly to themselves.

I have a conscious thought: I am going to make a fist. I do so. No one can tell you how I did so--how consciousness--whatever that is--exerts an effect on matter in this way.

On the one hand, we can look at the world horizontally and say that matter gave rise to life or that brains give rise to thought. However, such a view generates a multitude of insoluble paradoxes that can only be resolved if we supplement it with the vertical, top-down view, and say that the brain does not create consciousness, but rather, that the brain exists as a result of conscious will.

In order to understand our situation, you must imagine a cross with a horizontal and a vertical arrow. We live at the point of their intersection. The horizontal line has to do with heredity, with Darwinian evolution, with the transmission of culture, etc. If this were all we are, we would be no different than other animals. We would not live in a cognitive space of spiritual freedom, routinely exerting a top-down influence on our horizontal selves. We would not possess that inexplicable capacity called "free will."

But not everyone seems to have the same degree of top-down influence over themselves--of free will. In fact, it is a capacity that varies quite widely.

According to a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, "there are strong--i.e., creative--souls, and there are weak--i.e., imitative--souls. The stronger a soul is, the greater the independence from the semi-hypnotic influence of the model presented by the preceding generations of family chosen for the soul's incarnation."

As such, "a strong soul shows in his or her psycho-physical personality fewer features traceable from the parents, and is in general less representative of family, people and race than of itself; he or she is more an individual than a type. In contrast, a weak soul becomes an individual who seems to be only a pure and simple copy of the parents.... [T]here are some cases where heredity is reduced to a minimum and other cases where it manifests itself as almost all-powerful."

Thus, it seems as if there are two kinds of heredity operating in us: a "horizontal heredity" and a "vertical heredity" that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about "reincarnation," we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious--about that part of ourselves that is immaculately conceived and born out of the voidgin.

Are we really the product of two heredities? I don't know about you, but genes or no genes, I have no idea how I dropped into my particular family. I am amazingly incompatible with most of my family members--not necessarily to the point of open conflict (though there is that with one particularly polarized member who despises me), but mostly indifference and mutual incomprehension. I was born with very specific, not to say unusual, inclinations that I can find in none of my relatives, either living or dead. But I certainly see them in non-blood relations with whom I share vertical DNA.

Interestingly, I have kept one of the birth announcements that were sent out upon my touchdown here in 4D. It has a drawing of a little space suit with a hole cut out in the helmet. There you see my face beaming through. I have a bottle in my right hand, an umbrella in the left. On top of my head is a little propeller, which is funny, because I have a little propeller on top of my head right now. The caption reads "From Out of This World."

Yes, dropped straight from the vertical into a very horizontal family. And yet, looked at from another angle, I can see how being raised in this particular family was perfect for the accomplishment of my, er, mission.

What? Wrap it up? I don't think I can do that. We'll have to continue with this resurrection-reincarnation-vertical heredity business tomorrow.

*****

Dropped into a strange family from out of this world? Quite possibly. Thus far his temperament is quite specific and different than his horizontal parents. We will do our best to facilitate his mission and to decipher the signs he is throwin' down to his vertical homies. I think this one means, "All this kooky-talk is embarassing me. I wish my dad would zip it once in awhile."

Monday, April 03, 2006

On Seeing by the Light of Darkness

By night, an atheist half believes in God. --Edward Young

This will be a threefold challenge, since I don't know what I'm talking about, have no idea how to express it, and am in no condition to do so. Regarding the latter, there is another baby bug in the house. Fortunately it is not of the GI variety, like the last one. Rather, it is of the sore throat-upper respiratory species. Still, combined with the time change, it takes something out of a lad.

On the other hand, a temporary, sometimes even willed, derangement of the senses can be the best approach to the unknown. It pushes you off the map of the familiar, to the threshold of the greater Mystery. People use fancy vacations, drugs, meditation retreats, etc.--anything to try to trick the nervous system and get around its tendency to erect a fence of routine and familiarity around everything.

For the majority of the time I was employed as a retail clerk between 1976 and 1988, I worked the graveyard shift. That's a good name for it, because there is no doubt that the still darkness of night is when the transdimensional spooks come out to play. I was generally sleep-deprived during those years, and might have been utterly exhausted by, say, 1:00 or 2:00am. But then, out of necessity, I would break through a sort of "wall," and afterwards be in an extended state of hypnopompic alertness until going to bed at around 9:00am. You might say that one I would close but another would open.

Interestingly, the Greeks had a word, psychopomp, referring to the conductor to the realm of lost souls. That realm is what we now call the unconscious. As a matter of fact, the "free association" of psychoanalysis is nothing more than an attempt to lull the ego to sleep, while the analyst is the psychopomp who will lead the search for the lost parts of oneself dwelling in the darkness of the unconscious.

Anyway, once I would break through that wall of fatigue, I would enter a very distinct state. Hard to describe, but it was as if the world were dreaming---which it was--and I was, so to speak, partaking of the same state. Only while awake. In the midst of this night consciousness, many ideas--call them "mythological" or "sacred" ideas--made perfect sense that didn't necessarily make sense in the unforgiving light of day.

The entire process was abetted by a certain radio program that aired from midnight until 5:00am. It featured lectures by various spiritual luminaries both high and low, everyone from Krishnamurti to Alan Watts to D.T. Suzuki to Timothy Leary and Ram Dass. I was especially influenced by the spellbinding lectures of the ethnobotanist, shamanologist, and mushroomologist Terence McKenna, may he rest in peace. He is a perfect example of someone who only makes sense at 3:00am. In that vein, I like to think of this blog as a sort of 3:00am dispatch from ther heart of the void: all the eternity that's fit to print.

You might compare it to how certain religious ideas might "resonate" more if you are standing in a 14th century European cathedral, each part of which is designed to carry your temporal consciousness upward and outward, to the contemplation of eternity.

It wasn't long ago that the world was a very, very dark place. I mean that both literally and figuratively. That is, before the invention of electric lights, the night was pitch black except for perhaps a small center of candle or firelight. People were aware of the darkness as a real and present entity, in a way that we are not. Modern people rarely live in darkness except when they are asleep. As such, the only time they have access to the dream world--and night consciousness--is when they are unconscious.

It is as if night consciousness is our "missing half" that would allow us to make sense of certain things that cannot be discussed or understood in the harsh light of day. Certainly this is something James Joyce realized in attempting, in Finnegans Wake, to tell the entire story of mankind from the standpoint of "nighttime logic." That is, he depicted all of human history as the restive and far-flung dream of a single sleeping individual in a single night.

In order to have a comprehensive understanding of ourselves, we must not only be familiar with the daytime part--the ego--but also the nighttime part--the unconscious. Likewise, I am of the belief that there is the mundane, horizontal "daytime history" of academic historians, but also a more vertical "nighttime" history of the human race that can only be discussed in ways entirely unfamiliar to the rank and file historian.

To cite just one example that comes readily to mind, take our founding fathers. One of the problems with secular leftist history is that it is increasingly a spiritually suffocating "daytime" history, to the point of absurdity. Thus we have books that will tell you that the founders were motivated entirely by economic self-interest, or that they were actually less elevated than we are, in that some of them were slave owners.

But in my "nighttime" view of the founders, I literally regard them as political avatars sent to earth with a divine mission. Again, literally--I see them as analogous on a political level to Jesus or Buddha or Krishna on a religious level. The more one immerses oneself in their spiritual and intellectual world, the more this becomes readily apparent. Just imagine if we were to gather together the greatest secular "daytime" minds of today and hold a constitutional convention. One shudders at the--ironically nightmarish--thought!

You will no doubt realize that our founders are still our primary benefactors and protectors from the onslaught of the daytime left. Despite 225 years of "progress," our founders still understand us better than we will ever understand them, in the same way that scripture, in its esoteric aspect, comprehends us better than any profane Jesus seminarian will ever be able to understand scripture exoterically. I would venture to say that the purely mythological beliefs that George Washington cut down a cherry tree, never told a lie, and threw a coin across the Delaware River are more true than the "sophisticated" idea that he was a greedy capitalist motivated only by self-interest. Indeed, how to talk about such greatness without resorting to myth?

You will also note that when you try to denude the world of its nighttime dimension, you actually do end up creating a waking nightmare: "the sleep of reason begets monsters." Another way of saying it is that (paraphrasing someone) there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. This is one reason why the secular left is such a fount of un- and insanity. Like a psychotic person, they dream while awake and call it reality.

But of course, they believe we are the insane ones. Thus, another dimension of the "culture war" is between those who can see in the dark vs. those who believe the darkness no longer exists just because we have electricity. For them, darkness is no longer visible. They see only light. But because their eyes have become insensitive to the dark, they see only by artificial light, not natural light--that is, the true light that lights the world.

I'm really rambling, but I guess that's part of the point I'm trying to make. I did not "intend" to venture down this path, but it was facilitated by illness and fatigue. I was going to begin a discussion of reincarnation, which several readers have requested. My point, before going into the discussion, is that reincarnation is clearly one of those topics that can only be understood by the light of night. We must imagine ourselves in total darkness, perhaps huddled around a small fire, allowing the night to whisper its secrets from the far side of consciousness.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Noble Raccoons, Trousered Baboons, and Horizontally Marooned

Once again, another puzzled reader who is confused by my darwhiggian politics. How is it possible that I -- your jehovial witness and authorized cosmocrat of the luminous aion, Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the West San Fernando Valley chapter of the International Order of the Friendly Sons and Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons, a true and faithful brother under the pelt -- can be a non-leftist?

I tried to address this a couple of weeks ago, noting that "some people who enjoy it when I discuss politics are turned off by the spiritual bobservations. But that group isn't nearly as disappointed as those who appreciate the discussion of spiritual matters, only to be outraged when they discover that I am not a left wing moonbat."

Many misguided and covertly superior souls echo the sentiments of one reader, who complained, "political musings seem out of character with a search for self. How and when did that particular journey become politicized?... I respect your spirit-driven posts, but I'm having trouble with the political ones. I don't find it useful to tar myself with either brush. I swing both ways, depending on the issue, and work hard to stay limber."

My short answer was that regardless of whether I am posting about politics or spirituality, my opinions are "of a piece," and follow directly from my understanding of the whole of things. First, spirituality can only proceed on the basis of Truth, and leftism in all its forms is rooted in a primordial Lie. Secondly, spiritual evolution on a mass scale depends upon the proper cultural conditions. The deep structure of Leftism is anathema to these conditions.

In the future, when I get around to it, I'm going to insert a lengthy summary in the sidebar, so I can just refer readers there without having to go around in circles like this. That way, if they read the summary and still don't get it, then they will know that this blog is simply not for them. Our values are utterly polarized and irreconcilable.

It is amazing what people project into you when they disagree with you. Disagreement triggers an emotional reaction that is promptly projected into the person responsible for triggering it. As a psychologist I am well aware of the process, but you never really get completely used to it.

For example, I've never called anyone evil who isn't actually evil. Nor have I ever "dehumanized" people with whom I disagree, unless they have already dehumanized themselves -- such as the Islamists. But this doesn't stop people from accusing me of accusing them of being evil.

For the most part, I am analyzing things from the deepest of deep structures, not on the surface of day-to-day politics. I specifically try to avoid getting involved in the political "tempest of the day," or if so, try to place the tempest in a much larger framework of cosmic evolution.

Looked at in this way, we can say, for example, that Karl Marx was the great anti-Moses who belched forth his unholy and illiberal revelation from the depths of the abyss. I do not say this in a polemical or emotional way. Rather, I say it in a matter-of-fact and literal way. And all forms of leftism may trace their squalid genealogy back to this cunning sorcerer of dysfunctional historical, psychological, economic and religious fantasies that continue to infect leftist thought today.

But in turn, all forms of thought which I oppose may trace their lineage even further back to the primordial origins of time, history, and humanness itself, where events are shrouded in mythology. Myth speaks to us from beyond the horizon of linear history, and tells us about our origins in the vertical. Rumors and stories abound regarding a Primordial Calamity, of some propensity deep within human beings that makes them turn away from the light and proudly embrace darkness.

In my view, the most simple way to conceptualize this calamity is to say that humans repeat the fall every time they reject verticality for horizontality. Many baleful consequences follow from taking the wrong turn down this priomordial fork in the psycho-cosmic road. For example, reduced to horizontality, human beings are indeed descendants of apes, nothing more. It is a merely a difference of degree, not kind. We are monkeys that know a few more tricks, but that's about it.

Talk about dehumanization! There is no one more anti-human than the secular humanist, since he fiendamentally denies our very humanness as the first principle of his philosophy.

However, viewed vertically, the reverse is true: apes -- and a fair number of human beings -- are degenerate and degraded descendants of the Human Being as such, not of Adam the man, the terrestrial belowprint, but of Adam Kadmon, the divine clueprint, the perfect primordial man, firstborn of the naked godhead.

In order to believe in strict horizontality, one must necessarily renounce intellection (higher thought) and artificially enclose oneself in an ultimately absurd and unintelligible wheel of misfortune. But the vertical does not so much disappear as become displaced into the horizontal, so that the cosmic process of evolution is reduced to a pale imitation. You have now been reduced to a hungry ghost that goes by the name of "progressive."

A "progressive" in the colloquial sense is someone who wishes to force his version of horizontal utopia on the rest of us, a progress denatured of its most vital element, the soul of man. It is a two-dimensional paradise where no one goes hungry because there is free junk food for everyone.

As I have mentioned before, the story of Genesis is not about our horizontal origins, but about our vertical origins. You might say that God created the horizontal world in six days. However, he sanctified and blessed the seventh day to remind us that creation is not a self-enclosed loop -- that there is an inscape hatch.

That is, the Creator specifically left a conspicuous hole right in the center of his creation. It is everywhere and it is always here, although there are some more obvious springs dotting the landscape, pleasantly bubbling forth from a higher dimension. I'm looking at one right now, outside my window. Talk about a master painter!

This cosmic sabbath is our means of spiritual egress in an otherwise inescapable prison of meaningless horizontal repetition and circularity. Where would we be without this blessed hole?! It is a miraculous thing to contemplate. And a tragic thing to contemplate those proud and self-sufficient trousered apes who don't know of its existence.

For one thing, their pride and hubris bar them from entry into it. On the individual level, the fall repeats itself in the closed world of the proud little ego, a subjective hell, if hell is understood as eternal existence in the closed circle of materialistic natural selection rather than the open spiral of supranatural election.

The field of nature is a thophany, a meeting point of vertical and horizontal energies. The serpent -- the most horizontal of all beasts -- represents the self-enfolded world of scientistic materialism or Spinozean pantheism or Marxist dialectics.

Its complementary symbol is the tree, archetype of verticality. Unlike terrestrial trees, the Tree of Life has its roots aloft, its branches down below. Or, it is a lotus that blooms in the heart, but whose roots are out of this world. Or perhaps the anti-serpent is a winged-dove that descends from above.

Either way, we are called upon to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I take this to mean that we must not forsake either the horizontal or the vertical. We must be as wise as serpents to avoid being one. In my case, I am exactly as wise as a serpent, since I could once hiss with the best of them.

But how do we manage our descent into materiality without reducing ourselves to bestiality? Moreover, how do we manage our ascent in the vertical without rejecting the gift of holy animality?

Put another way, how do we reclaim and actualize our noble raccoon heritage? For,

In the West and in the East
There's a mighty little beast
For courage there is no other.
When the chips are all at stake
We are proud to call him brother.
So with our noble tails entwined
And a spirit strong of mind
We'll have hearts that cannot melt.
In the forest, in the trees
On the land or seven seas
We're brothers under the pelt.
Raccoons, the noble Raccoons

I think I'll stop now, consult with Petey, give it some further reflection, and be back tomorrow. For clearly, the cosmic evolutionary struggle in which we are engaged comes down to completely incompatible ideas of what it means to be a fully realized raccoon.

PETEY'S CORNER

Regarding Cynthia McKinney's claim that she has been victimized for "being in congress while black," as usual, Petey has an unusual take. He believes that liberal victimhood is psychologically empowering, because at least it allows the self-proclaimed victim to actively participate in their own subjugation.

It's the best of all worlds, because the person can be a disgraceful human being, like Cynthia McKinney, whose failure is entirely self-generated. But proclaiming yourself victim means never having to recognize that painful truth. Perfect! You oppress yourself all the way to secular godhood, for the victim is the sacred liberal icon. In the liberal world, you are not innocent until proven guilty, you are guilty unless granted victim status.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Lies Made Flesh and Other Problems of Embodied Existence

You can learn a lot from a guy who doesn't have a body. No, not just the content, which may or may not be reliable. But it reminds you that human knowledge is unavoidably embodied knowledge, and having the sort of body we do has a direct bearing on that.

This is why I love modern developmental psychoanalysis, because it is the one science that understands the importance of the fact that we are embodied. In this regard, it actually has an interesting parallel with Christianity, because it is obviously the one religion that emphasizes the fact that ultimate truth is embodied--that "the word became flesh."

But the opposite is also true. If truth can become flesh, so can lies--not just this or that lie, but The Lie. This is the hazard of living in a modified primate body. You see, people still think about the body in premodern ways, as if there is a sharp division between body and mind, and that we consist of a sort of immaterial soul that is implanted into a body. (There is some truth to that, but I don't want to go there for the moment.)

Science continues to study human intelligence in the wrong way. There seems to be a default position that intelligence is simply a result of a complex enough nervous system--as if, through blind natural selection, our hominid brains just became more and more complex, until voila, human intelligence popped out. That is a very unsophisticated, pre-post-postmodern view.

For human intelligence and self-consciousness only came about through a very species specific situation, not simply through genes and brains. Although genes and brains were obviously necessary, they were not sufficient to produce humanness.

The situation without which humanness could not (and cannot) emerge is our neurological incompleteness and plasticity at birth. As infant brains became larger and larger, they began to overrun the ability of our female furbears to give birth to them without dying in the process. In order to survive, mothers had to give birth to babies "prematurely" so that much of their brain growth would take place outside the womb.

It was in the hothouse ancestral environment of infantile helplessness, neurological incompleteness, and utter psychological dependency on caretakers that our humanness emerged--and emerges today. Every helpless baby that comes into the world repeats this process, for better or worse, because much of the outcome of development depends upon the quality of childrearing.

As it pertains to the human ability to "know," one of the fundamental problems is that, for human beings, unreality, magic and illusion are actually the "default" state, while reality and disillusion are only gradually learned (if they are acquired at all). Because human beings are born in a neurologically immature, completely helpless state, we are steeped in illusion and fantasy during the time our brains and nervous systems are being assembled.

Early experience is relatively "hardwired" in, so that the substrate of the human mind is built on the illusion that we are not really helpless and powerless, but that our painful and frightening needs will be magically alleviated through our desires. We are cold, lonely and hungry. We cry. Suddenly we are swooped up, caressed, comforted, and spoken to in a soothing manner (or not). Nourishment appears out of nowhere, converting painful stomach contractions into pleasant fullness, while at the same time we are bathed in the radiance of a soft, enveloping, benign universe (or not).

I was thinking about this just the other day with our baby. Of course, we think of him as "the baby" of the house. But in reality, he is the sovereign King, even God, of the house. Every need is attended to, sometimes even before he recognizes it as a need. His every utterance, no matter how inarticulate or ambiguous, is taken seriously. "Yes your majesty! Are we hungry? Do we wish to be held? Do we have a poopy diaper? Your wish is our command!" That's a very intoxicating experience. You can tell.

Infantile omnipotence is a double-edged sword, because without it, we would live in a frightening, barren and hostile universe, indifferent to our needs, to our very existence. The experience of omnipotence is necessary to our psychological survival, but it can have its own dark side, as some people and groups never get past it.

Given good-enough parenting, we will gradually become “disillusioned” from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that our feelings are urgently important to other people, that life is fair, that it is possible for all our needs to be taken care of--that it is possible for heaven to exist on earth. Under ideal circumstances, we will first have the edenic experience described above, and only gradually awaken from it in a non-traumatic way, as reality seeps in little by little.

For a variety of reasons, other children will never experience this blissful paradise, experience it only sporadically, chaotically and unreliably, or be traumatically exiled from Eden by the premature impingement of reality. For such individuals, there will always be a nostalgic yearning for what they missed, this infantile utopia in which frustration does not exist and desire is instantly converted to satisfaction. A few of these individuals will be lucky enough to obtain lifetime tenure at a major university, but the rest must deal with an unyielding world that does not mirror their unresolved infantile needs.

Back to the idea of our embodied minds. I believe this underlying template of infantile illusion has a lot to do with false beliefs. Not merely false in the sense of “untrue,” because no one can know everything, and it is not possible to get through life without holding some beliefs for which there is no proof or which will later be proven wrong.

What I am talking about is not so much false beliefs as what might be called “motivated stupidity.” These are beliefs that are not only untrue, but could not possibly be true, and yet, are embraced just as fervently as any truth. In fact, one of the giveaways that we are dealing with motivated stupidity is that these false beliefs are held onto more fervently than true beliefs, as if clinging tightly enough to an object will reinstate one's omnipotence.

I think the problem of motivated stupidity especially afflicts contemporary liberalism. President Bush is not Hitler. He is not, as Cindy Sheehan said, "the biggest terrorist in the world." The war in Iraq is not being waged for the purpose of enriching his already wealthy friends. Bush is not spying on innocent Americans. Global warming during the five years of his administration did not cause hurricane Katrina. This is not the worst economy since Herbert Hoover. President Bush is not a racist. Republicans do not want children to go hungry.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it is much more difficult to do battle with a weak mind than a strong one. Weak thinkers embrace their false ideas in a manner disquietingly similar to religious groups who predict the second coming, or the arrival of space ships, or end of the world, but who do not modify their beliefs when the event fails to come about.

In fact, it is a well-known observation that a few of the disappointed may depart from such a group, while the majority only become more thoroughly entrenched in their belief system, defending it all the more vigorously. These are the sad Ghost Dancers, those who believe that if we only wish more fervently, we really can alter reality. Just like an infant can do. Think of "War is Not the Answer," "Give Peace a Chance," and all the other liberal bumper stickers.

What this obviously means--obvious to a psychologist, anyway--is that the primary purpose of beliefs is not necessarily to comprehend reality. Rather, belief systems are superimposed on a deeper ground of emotional need for comfort, predictability, and meaning. There is a deep emotional need for the world to make sense, even if the explanation actually makes no sense.

What sets humans apart from the animals is not just our ability to know reality, but our even more striking ability to not know it--to create patently erroneous systems of thought that we then inhabit, and which actually compromise our survival prospects. No lion ever entertained the idea that it might be healthier to live on grasses rather than flesh. Penguins don’t decide to live near the equator, where it isn’t so cold. But the UN thinks that lots of talks and meetings will make the threat of a nuclear Iran go away. Liberals really think that Saddam and his satanic spawn would never, ever, have obtained nukes.

Only human beings can hold ideas that are completely illogical and self-defeating. In fact, there is no doubt whatsoever that the majority of beliefs human beings have held about the world down through history have been false, often ridiculously so. For example, just consider medicine. Until the early 20th century, the average visit to a doctor was likely to leave one in worse shape, not better. But useless or harmful treatments helped people cope with otherwise intolerable anxiety, and were obviously psychologically preferable to the truth: that no one knew why you were sick or how to cure you.

So there is something about human beings that makes them uniquely susceptible to bad ideas. Therefore, it would appear to be axiomatic that there must be something about bad ideas that is paradoxically adaptive. But adaptive to what? Clearly, they are adaptive to internal reality, to the emotional needs and anxieties of the person who holds them. Leftists don't really want Bush to be Hitler. They need him to be. Desperately. As uncomfortable as it is, it is far preferable to being left alone with their own internal infantile anxieties, with nowhere to project them.

The psychoanalyst Winnicott made the apt observation that "there is no such thing as an infant," at least from the infant's point of view, since the infant is unable to clearly distinguish itself from the mother.

What this means is that human beings are fundamentally a group animal, not just in a social sense, but at the core of our very being. We all harbor the unconscious residue of an infantile matrix out of which our individuality only later emerges. In developmental psychology, this process is known as "individuation," and there are many things that can go wrong on the journey from infantile symbiosis to individuation and mature independence.

One of the things that frequently goes awry is that the drive toward individuation is overcome by the opposite, regressive pull toward fusion and dependence (in its healthy form, this drive to merger allows us, for example, to fall in love). Becoming independent is fraught with anxiety, and can trigger a host of emotional problems in someone with a history of insecure, traumatic, or ambivalent attachment.

A casual survey of history reveals that human beings are a deeply troubled species. Arthur Koestler observed that we err in placing all of the blame on human greed, selfishness, and assertiveness--that is, excess individualism. Rather, he pointed out that the amount of crime committed for personal motives is inconsequential compared to that committed by large populations--that is, groups--in a completely self-transcendent manner on behalf of religion or ideology, king or country. The Islamists are a case in point. Suicide bombers obviously do not selfishly kill for personal gain, but selflessly to advance the cause of their group.

Therefore, as Koestler writes, "the historical record confronts us with the paradox that the tragedy of man originates not in an excess of individual self-assertiveness," but in a malfunction of the affiliative, group tendencies of our species.

Koestler also had the intuition that this had something to do with an excessive "need to belong" triggered by infantile experience, leading to an unquestioned identification with the group, a suspension of critical thinking about the group's beliefs, and a trancelike submission to a powerful parental substitute.

As Adam Smith knew, individuals may be selfish, but they are also self-interested. This makes them rational, predictable, and comprehensible. On the other hand, no one knows how to deal with the individual who has given over his identity to the group. Such a person does not possess an individual mind, but a group mind which is not critical, rational, or predictable. As such, they may react violently to any kind of threat, not just a physical threat, but any questioning of their worldview. A harmless wimp may be transformed into a beast of depravity by identifying with the powerful group, tribe, clan, party or religion.

Leftists such as Cindy Sheehan routinely accuse the United States of being the most selfish and individualistic nation on the planet. Interestingly, this may explain why the United States is, by a wide margin, the greatest force for good the world has ever known. In contrast, countries that have attempted to dissolve individual identity by promoting a regressive merger with the nation/group have been a source of unqualified evil: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, communist China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and now Islamofascism.

For that matter, look at the infantile selfishness we see in the recent French rioting. They are essentially rioting to maintain the prerogatives of His Majesty the Baby, who must be loved and cared for unconditionally. You do not fire a baby when he is bad. You don't even punish him. In fact, you have no expectations of him at all. European style socalism does the same thing for adults, creating a giant nursery in which the conditions of infancy are perpetuated. In their imagination, angry babies can "fire" the parents that frustrate their omnipotence. But then you have a problem: for the infant still requires grown-ups to fund and implement the nursery. I don't think the Europediocracy will like it when Muslims gain control of the nursery.

This actually constitutes a large part of the "war on terror": trying, for example, in Iraq, to bring individuation and psychological maturity to a people who have known only infantile merger with the tribe, faith, or "strong man." The task is made all the more difficult as a result of the approximately fifty percent of Americans who are merged together in their own infantile group fantasy of eternal suckling on the inexhaustible teat of mommy government: "Don't bother me, I'm eating."

You can't be French forever. Enjoy it while it lasts:

(photo editing courtesy Dilys & Fishy Art)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Your Reluctant Astralnaught, Decanting From the Serene of the Climb

So, tomorrow I'm being interviewed for the next issue of What is Enlightenment Magazine? No, that wasn't a question. That's the name of the magazine--What is Enlightenment?, henceforth WIE.

Under the title of the magazine, it says "Redefining Spirituality for an Evolving World." I guess that's where I, your humble and Reluctant Astralnaught, come in.

That is, the next issue is going to focus specifically on the topic of "evolutionary spirituality" in order to provide a context for my cosmic Bobservations. They already gave my book a very gracious review in the Dec '05-Feb '06 issue, and then conducted a lengthy cross examination of me in December--the third degree about the fifth dimension.

But suspicions remain. They now have some followup questions, especially focussing on the topic of cultural evolution within the larger context of cosmic evolution laid out in my book. It's not really fair, because if I had known I were going to be tested, I would have read my book more carefully.

One of my mentors, W.R. Bion, never prepared ahead of time for talks. This is because he wanted anything he said to evolve directly out of O (as discussed yesterday).

In other words, Bion wanted to be subservient to O, so that his words would be a living demonstration of O-->(k). Although this could be a little nerve-wracking going in, my understanding is that O never failed him (he died in 1978, seven years before we met). He would be both apprehensive and excited before a public appearance, because he was just as curious as anyone else to find out what he was going to say.

As this blog has evolved, that is the approach I have adopted. At first, I tried to wrestle with my mind and come up with topics and content by force. But at some point a few months back, I just decided to chuck that purely (k) approach and instead make it a Self-indulgent exercise in O-->(k), or better yet, O-->(n).

That is, like Bion, I never know ahead of time what I'm going to be writing about. Or, if I do, I try not to think about it consciously. Instead, I plant a little seed the night before, and then wake up and see what kind of green cogitation has grown.

It's interesting, because there are a lot of things "I" don't know the answer to. Left to my own devices, I can only produce Astroturf and artificial flowers. But when I just get out of the way and begin writing, the answers come. It's as if, if I want to find out what I think about something, I have to go through the proper channels and formally ask another part of my nonself. Otherwise, I'm liable to get either a predigested answer of some kind, or mere speculation, or no answer at all.

So anyway, for the last interview with WIE, they didn't give me any questions ahead of time, which proved to be a good thing. They were very difficult and challenging questions, and If I'd seen them beforehand, I think I might have panicked a little. Then my mind would have kicked in, closing me off from O. As it turned out, I think I acquitted myself pretty well, but only because I got out of the way and just relaxed and floated downstream on the waters of O-->(k) and O-->(n).

But this time, wouldn't you know it, they gave me some of the questions ahead of time. So now my self-important mind wants to get all involved. Like Inspector Clouseau, it has barged onto the stage saying "Don't worry. I am in control now. Nobody move!"

Here are some of the questions:

1. The horizontal and the vertical--how this relates to the four singularities (matter, life, mind and spirit) and how it is expressed in human beings and cultures.

2. The relationship between the evolution of childrearing practices and the integration of the human psyche--within this larger cosmic context. The progression through human history.

3. How this integration makes the vertical more transparent or present within human culture.

4. The pluses and minuses of the birth of individuality.

5. The significance of the fact that the cosmos is intelligible to us.

I guess that even if O vanishes and becomes inaccessible, I could still tackle those questions in an external way. However, it just won't be the same if it becomes an exercise in mere (k).

One thing I am very apprehensive about is the whole idea of evolutionary spirituality of which I am now apparently one of the spokesmen. There is a healthy way of looking at this and an unhealthy--not to say heretical--way of looking at it, and the differences between the two can look quite subtle, but they are actually quite profound and incompatible. In fact, it is possible that I am treading such a razor's edge on this matter, that I may well be the only oddvocate for my particular position.

Reader Mikalm left a very interesting and relevant post yesterday on the subject of evil. It is from the prologue of a classic horror story entitled The White People, by Arthur Machen. One of the characters, Ambrose, says the essence of sin is "in the taking of heaven by storm.... It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. There are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it..."

Although the achievement of holiness requires great effort, it "works on lines that were natural once; it is an effort to recover the ecstasy that was before the Fall. But sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and the knowledge that pertain alone to angels and in making this effort man becomes a demon.... The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall."

Much to ponder there.

Ambrose is talking about the razor's edge alluded to above. The "evolutionary spirituality" of which I am the apparent spokesperson can involve "taking heaven by storm" in the forbidden way, or it can "work along lines that are natural."

One way involves a reversal of the fall; the other a recapitulation of it, with bells on. One path involves humility, surrender, and profound respect for tradition; the other, a Promethean violation of protocol, crashing through the gates of heaven with your transdimensional, ego-armor plated Hummer, unregenerate mind parasites in tow--or worse yet, behind the wheel. It happens. But only constantly.

Thus, an ascent (into grandiosity, inflation and intoxication) can be a descent, just as a descent (into humility, obedience, sobriety, and spiritual emptiness) can be an ascent. This is where the great danger of "evolutionary spirituality" can lie. Walking its edge can end in a hooray-zorrection. Or, it can result in a narcissistic, new-age razing of traditional hierarchy.

Blending cosmic evolution and traditional metaphysics is not as easy as it looks. I want to make real religion relevant to people and to situate it within the drama of psycho-cosmic salvolution history--to be able to discuss theology within the framework of total reality, leaving nothing out. But at the same time, I want to go through authentically otherized channels, with my proper peaceport and unknowculations in order.

In my view, human beings are only properly themselves when they are stretching beyond themselves--that is to say, evolving, transcending--toward a fulfillment that cannot be possessed or perhaps even realized in this lifetime. We must collaborate with, and feed ourselves on, a Truth that is both anterior to us and ahead of us, drawing us toward it. That's the evolution I'm talking about: Same wine, new bottle, Old One, same battle. Otherwise you may be bootstrapping your way to bootleg spirits.

PETEY'S CORNER

Regarding the immigration debate, Petey has an unusual take. He is concerned that with all this cheap labor, food doesn't cost as much as it is supposed to.

As a result, people eat too much and become obese, especially Hispanics, who are in the midst of an epidemic of Type II Diabetes and other health problems that result from obesity.

Therefore, Hispanics are the biggest victims of Hispanic immigration, because they actually get sick and die from too much cheap food. Which then puts a strain on the healthcare system....

Food was fried, people died!

He also doesn't get the whole "demonstration" thing. After all, a demonstration is simply a pseudo-event, in that it has no other purpose than to be noticed by the liberal media. Therefore, the media should not cover them, because doing so gives the pseudo-event the illusion of reality and substance, and makes the media complicit in conjuring a false reality instead of simply reporting on the real one. In the real reality, millions of people are constantly demonstrating by simply contentedly living their lives outside the glare of the media. As a result, they don't exist.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Being and Nuttiness: O, Where Does it End? (3.19.08)

If we could only somehow get to the bottom of it all. Isn't that what we're trying to do? Have a direct, unmediated encounter with reality, whatever that is?

Science has a lot of answers. But only to very narrow and specific questions. If you ask the wrong question, you get no answer at all, like, "Why are truth and beauty so intimately related?" Worse, some questions just generate paradox, like, "What was before the big bang?"

Various sciences abstract from the meaning of being as a whole, which is only possible because truth emanates from being, a truth which we may know. How is that possible? Science can never explain the existence of the truth-bearing scientist, any more than you can give birth to yourself.

Sciences develop very technical languages to convey this truth of Being--for example, the language of quantum mechanics or the hyper-sophisticated coding of the human genome. But again, these languages aren't Being itself. The map is not the territory. The human genome project is not alive, and you cannot make a cosmos out of mathematics.

Being just is. We can describe it any way we like, but our description can never exhaust the infinite ocean of Being. It perpetually flows into our little vessel of human knowing without being diminished one iota.

In my book, I use the symbol "O" to stand for the infinite and unknowable ground of ultimate reality that undergirds our existence. It can never be known. We can only "know about" it.

In fact, we can know many things about O, just as I can know many things about you. But I can never know you the way you know you in an unmediated way, from the inside. Only you can have this kind of "inside information" about yourself.

Thus, observational science proceeds in the direction of O--(k), while logico-deductive science proceeds in the direction of (k)-->O. (k) is the realm of everyday dualistic knowledge about O. This knowledge may be known objectively and passed like an object from mind to mind.

For example, the theory of natural selection is (k) about the ultimate unknowable mystery of the living O. It is not to be confused with O. For surely, O is alive, and yet, it is hardly a biological object.

The theory of natural selection can never, ever tell you how O evolved to the point that it could hypothesize and know a truth about itself, any more than musical notation can account for the existence of music.

Music is completely unperturbed by all efforts to capture and contain it. All the music that has been produced in the history of the world has not yet made a dent in it.

Music will continue to flow forever, just as will language. Language will never explain the ceaseless creativity language. It just flows and flows and flows, regardless of your theory or system. It is truly infinite, since it is one of the primary modes of O. "The Word" was with O from the beginning, and the beginning is always now.

Science must satisfy itself with (k), which is fine. Obviously, (k) has its place. Since most cultures revolve around (-k), I thank God that I live in a place that mostly honors (k). Any method of science is only correct to the extent that it submits to O and allows itself to be molded and determined by the object it is studying.

But for most of history--and in much of the contemporary world, in particular, the Islamic world--this direction is reversed, and reality is determined and molded by (k), which automatically makes it (-k). In the case of the Islamic world, it is overrun with (-n), which never touched O to begin with.

Worse yet, when (k) replaces O, one then lives in the parallel loooniverse of -O, which is where so much of contemporary leftist wackademia resides. Whenever you deny O, you will simply replace it with a -O.

In fact, you may even elevate yourself to O, as do so many secular fundamentalist fanatics. They do this in both trivial and profound ways, from dictating how the infinitely complex system of the economy should be governed, to making it against the law to discuss O in public schools.

We in the West suffer from the opposite problem that afflicts the (-k) Muslim world. Unfortunately, our culture does more than honor (k). Rather, it elevates it to the highest. The secular world tries to eradicate O and replace it with mere (k), which automatically places you in a counterfeit world at least one degree removed from reality.

Religions, properly understood, attempt to restore our primordial relationship with O. Fundamentally, they contemplate the holy and manifest mystery of Being by trying to enter it directly--not talk about it but from within it. And when they do talk about the mystery, it is not in the manner of (k)-->O (or at least it shouldn't be). Rather, the direction is reversed, and it is O-->(n).

(n) is not to be confused with (k). To take just one obvious example, it would be a grave error to reduce the words of Jesus to mere (k). Rather, Jesus spoke in almost pure (n). You will note that Jesus used no technical terms at all. Obviously, specialized (k) can be quite technical. Most of it is well over--or under---my head.

But (n) is often quite homespun and plain--even rustic--sounding. The Tao Te Ching, for example, contains no technical terms at all. Nor do the Upanishads or the Talmud. Nor, for that matter, did most of the great philosophers of history employ any technical language: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Schopenhauer. Only when (k) started to become confused with O did we see this great confusion in philosophy, a confusion that pervades the contemporary academic world.

In fact, sad to say, contemporary philosophy has detached itself entirely from O. It now consists of nothing more than (k) about (k), which, suffice it to say, is merely (-k) as it pertains to metaphysics, which is the science of the Real.

That is, if revelation represents O-->(n), metaphysics is nothing less than (n)-->O. The latter is not possible without the former. Without genuine O-->(n), metaphysics will just be an intellectual parlor game, as in the grotesque mystagoguery of a Heidegger. As it pertains to O, plain speaking is the mark of authenticity. Problems only arise when people confuse the plainness of religious language with mere (k).

Fundamentalism in any form--whether secular or religious--is the reduction of O to (k) or (-k).

The world of (k)-->O is a barren one that is unfit for humans. Being spontaneously gives itself to us, but in order to appreciate that, we must adopt an attitude of receiving. If we do not maintain this receptive attitude, the world cannot open up and give of itself from within--within to within, alone to alone (or Allone to a lone).

This is a love relationship. It is phil of sophia, a love-filled longing for the Real. Love opens up the world. Or rather, allows us to appreciate the Love, Truth, and Beauty that are just there. Why are they there? It is a mystery to be savored, not a riddle to be answered.

For as the Upanishads tell us, the universe is a tree, its roots aloft, its branches down below. And as Christianity teaches, it is a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.

***

I think I will start a new feature on the blog, that is, monitoring some of Petey's far-flung activities. He's all over the blogosphere, dropping little notes here and there. (Sometimes he has to do it under my name, because he doesn't have his own password.)

He wants me to call it "Petey's Corner," but I challenged him to come up with something better.

I notice that Petey left a pointed comment on Dr. Sanity's blog yesterday, regarding her suggestion that the Left declare itself a religion. He said,

"I like this idea, since liberals are halfway there. After all, they already make a god out of their irreligion. It would be just a small step to make a religion out of their godlessness.

"Of course, being a godless irreligion, liberalism has no god, only demons. Plenty of them, from Alar to Zionists.

"And the motto of the N.Y. Times would have to be, 'There is No God, and We are Her Mouthpiece'."

In fact, Petey also commented on the Muslim version of the Vagina Monologues. It's a very short play. Just one word: "HELLLLLLLLLLPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!

Petey doesn't understand why the left is obsessed with collateral damage in the Muslim world, but couldn't give a hoot about the far more widespread clitoral damage.

Today, Dr. Sanity has a song parody of "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay," by Monty Python ("We're the Democrats and We're Okay). Petey had the effrontery to add a final verse of his own to the Maestro's offering:

I hug the trees, I wear high heels
Suspendies and a bra
I wish I'd been a girlie
Just like ex-Pres' Jimmah'

Of course, Petey does not intend to question the masculine sexual power of Hillary Clinton. For one thing, he agrees with Sharon Stone that it's way too threatening.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

All Along the Watchtower

Perhaps we should pause here a moment and reflect on the notion of "ascending into your watchtower" and pondering "how and whence the robbers try to steal your grapes."

Ah, but the grapes! That's where I had the mind parasites cornered. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with cold geometric logic, that a duplicate key to my watchtower did exist. And I'd show you that key if they hadn't bribed Petey. I know now that he was trying to protect some light-fingered hobgoblin from the vertical world... Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory...

What? Where was I....

Oh yes. Our fall is literally (that is, metaphorically) a fall into horizontality, from eternity into time, from unity to multiplicity, from concentration to dispersion. It therefore follows that "ascending" is synonymous with undoing or reversing each of these things.

As Hieromonk Damascene describes it, "The spirit is immortal being and thus partakes of time-transcendence; while the lower soul is tied to earthly time. The spirit, in experiencing eternity, abides in stillness; while the lower soul is involved in action that is bound to time."

He goes on to say, "As we repeatedly catch ourselves descending to the level of thought (the realm of action in time), we can call ourselves back to the level of spirit (the realm of stillness in eternity). Later, through continual practice, we will be able to watch the thoughts coming, trying to gain admittance into our minds by stealing our attention."

The parallels with what Sri Aurobindo teaches are almost exact. For him, the fundamental approach to building your watchtower involves 1) aspiration, 2) rejection, and 3) surrender.

Aspiration may be conceptualized in different ways, but if you are a Christian, it would involve constant recollection of, and opening to, the divine grace--sitting calmly and quietly and literally (that is, literally) drawing upon that energy. Depending on your personality, you may concentrate inwardly, in the heart center, or upwardly, above the head. Some people may think of the heart as a throne where Jesus resides. Or you may think of the spirit "descending like a dove" from above.

"Rejection" is a form of discrimination. Ultimately it involves discerning between reality and appearance, between truth and maya. But at first, it is simply the mundane task of driving a wedge between ourselves and our lower thoughts, of realizing that what you think is none of your business.

As one of the greatest authorities, St. Theophan the Recluse, writes, "Little by little you will separate from your thoughts” and “find that you have strayed far from your first-created image." He further points out that the lower mind does not "steal our grapes" in a straight forward manner, but usually through thoughts that then give rise to other desires and passions.

Thus, St. Theophan recommends that we do not attempt to get involved or argue with these thoughts, because this will simply bind us to them.

In this regard, Hieromonk Damascene writes that "Struggle against thoughts is vain and futile. It is enough simply to observe the thoughts as they arise," and to "let them go without reacting to them or following them.... A thought cannot exist long under the light of direct, objective observation. If we do not align our will with it, it naturally disappears." In short, "resist not evil" means not struggling against thoughts but rising toward our Source, where they cannot reach.

When Jesus says "take no thought for the morrow" or "without hating your own life you cannot be my disciple" he is talking about the need for the ego to commit cluelesside. "What adults often consider happiness is in reality the emotional excitement of the ego; while a lttle child's happiness consists in the simple, selfless joy of being alive.

When Jesus told each person to 'deny himself' and 'lose his life,' he was not saying to obliterate the conscious mind. Rather, he was saying to purify it by casting off the ego that has grown on it like a parasite."

The ego has a kind of "external coherence" that is held together through things such as status, desires, possessions, a few ruling ideas, and other circumstances. But building your watchtower involves achieving a kind of "internal coherence." It is easy to tell when someone is speaking from the external ego vs. the interior Self.

Most of the politicians, pundits and talking heads you see on TV are of the former variety. Their minds are like little tape libraries that play only prerecorded messages. It is an entirely different experience to be in the presence of someone who is speaking from a deeper and more coherent center of the Self.

Any authentic guru or spiritual teacher will naturally be of the latter type. Think of it this way: there are causes that exist within the horizontal realm and causes that exist within the vertical. Horizontal causes are the "wisdom of the world," but each of these causes is counterbalanced by causes moving in the opposite direction. It is a world of exciting "heat" rather than elevating "light," but most people apparently take this world for reality.

But genuine vertical influences operate in a topdown manner, and do not cancel each other out. From what we have heard from the wise, building your watchtower involves gathering and assimilating these vertical influences until a sort of "magnetic center" begins to grow. It has the dual capacity of both deflecting the horizontal influences and drawing upon the vertical.

Living your life in this manner is something like riding on imaginary rails, a sort of subtle magnetic field that can't be seen but can be felt. I can only reemphasize that it is critical to have some kind of daily contact with a person--whether living or "dead," it doesn't matter--of the vertical type. In reality, you must form a relationship with such an individual. Why? Because they have a "magnetic center" that is stronger than your own and draws you toward it, into their harbor.

Me? Yes, I have formed such a relationship with a vertical being who only just recently fell to earth. This little fellow is trying to teach me everything he doesn’t know, before he forgets it.

Like the difference between dogs and horses:



Or the bottle right in front of you is always the best one:



And getting into someone's drawers can be entirely innocent fun:



(photo cropping courtesy dilys)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tao it Yoursoph Christianity

One of the clearest expositions I have ever found on the Christian approach to unseen warfare is entitled Christ the Eternal Tao, by Hieromonk Damascene, a Russian Orthodox monk living in the bewilderness forest of Alaska (see sidebar). Judging by the title, one might think that this is some kind of new-age twaddle, but it is anything but. In fact, if you read the reviews on amazon, the hostile ones are not from Christians, but from those gentle new-agers who don't want their paganism mixed up with heavy metal Christianity.

I love this passage, written by someone named Jingjing in 8th century China. It represents a spontaneous merger of Christianity and Taoist philosophy, in the same way that early Christian Fathers tried to understand revelation through the lens of Greek philosophy:

"In the beginning was the natural constant, the true stillness of the Origin, and the primordial void of the Most High. The Spirit of the void emerged as the Most High Lord, moving in mysterious ways to enlighten the holy ones. He is Ye Su, my True Lord of the Void, who embodies the three subtle and wondrous bodies, and who was condemned to the cross so that the people of the four directions might be saved.

"My Lord Ye Su, the one emanating in three subtle bodies, hid His true power, became a human, and came on behalf of the Lord of Heaven to preach the good teachings. These teachings can restore goodness to sincere believers, deliver those living within the boundaries of the eight territories, refine the dust and transform it into truth, reveal the gate of the three constants, lead us to life, and destroy death.

"The Lord set afloat a raft of salvation and compassion so we might use it to ascend to the palace of light and be united with Spirit. He revealed the workings of the Origin, and he gave us the method of purification by water. Thus we purify our hearts and return to the simple and natural Way of the truth. This truth cannot be named, but its power surpasses all expectations. When forced to give it a name, we call it the Religion of Light. The teachings of the Religion of Light are like the resplendent sun: they have the power to dissolve the dark realm and destroy evil forever."

***

Hieromonk Damascene treats Lao Tzu as a forerunner, even a prophet, of Christ, and sees the tao as identical to the logos, the difference being that the insights of Taoism are not dependent on any divine revelation. Rather, they represent the summit of what is achievable by the natural mind, through the disciplined silencing of one's lower self.

Both Christ and Lao Tzu refer to our spirit as the light; later Chinese teachers would call it the original mind, while ancient Christian ascetics adopted the term nous, meaning "spirit" or "higher mind."

Both Taoism and Christianity are no different than any other yoga (in the generic sense of the term), in that they teach a way to a separate the higher and lower minds. That is, our higher mind is obscured behind a blizzard of undisciplined thoughts, horizontal fantasies, and reactive emotions that turn round and round the unmoored axis of the ego, a general term for the lower self.

The ego, in the sense we are using the term, is not our true Subject. In fact, it is more like an internalized object that lives parasitically on our true subjectivity. It is shaped by personal, cultural, and historical conditioning, and is largely a reflection of various accidental and contingent factors.

Have you ever met someone who was almost pure "object," with almost none of the light of the higher self shining through? Someone who has never had an original thought, someone whose passions and interests seem almost entirely programmed by the environment around them? I meet many such people. You might say that they have fallen all the way down, into the horizontal obscurity of quasi-animal existence. It is a kind of pleasant purgatory, or perhaps a hell with no visible chains or walls.

Remember that when we speak of the "vertical," this is to be understood metaphorically. In reality there are not two selves, one above the other. Rather, we are dealing with two poles of the same being, one extending outwardly toward the terminal moraine (or moron) of the senses, the other extending inwardly, beyond even the horizon of our particularized sense of "I am."

There is no bright line in this interior continuum, but you might say that there is a sort of "vector flow" that moves in one direction or the other. What I mean by this is that our normal consciousness "flows" downstream in the direction of Subject ---> object, washing ashore on the rocky beach of material reality. It seems that most people are sons of this beach.

One of the tricks of meditation, contemplation, and prayer is to reverse this vector flow, as we turn our gaze up and in, toward the nonlocal source of consciousness. It is only here, close to this source, that we can say with Meister Eckhart that "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

One cannot get through life without the ego, any more than we can make do without a body. In this regard, the ego is like a "virtual organ" that has a role and a purpose. However, in the proper spiritual economy the ego should be subordinate to the spirit, just as the body should be subordinate to the ego.

Here again, how many trousered apes of the postmodern variety reverse this hierarchy? One of the baleful effects of our neo-pagan times is that this lowerarchy is elevated to an actual goal, the end of all being: Obey your thirst. Have it your way. Because I'm worth it. Image is everything. Just do it. Don't bug me, I'm eating. Free your a** and your mind will follow.

The inner light can become almost totally obscured. In fact, one of the ways to prove to yourself that this light exists is to spend a little time with people in whom the light is entirely absent. You won't need to look far. Dailykos. MTV. MSM. Most of academia. These might resemble real people if you look only with the eyes of the flesh.

But these carnal beings are not real people. Alone among the animals, it is entirely unnatural for human beings to be wholly "natural," for this is to live entirely in the horizontal world bequeathed to us by natural selection. But natural selection does not govern the vertical. Rather, verticality and inward mobility operate along the lines of supernatural election.

The ego is puffed up with vanity. It enjoys being king. Under the spell of self-sufficiency, it begins to ignore the promptings that emanate from the father shore of our being. The vespers become muffled, and pretty soon you are Master of Your illusory Domain. I think therefore I am. Period. Reality is a form of my sensibility. Truth is relative. Perception is reality. Without me, it's nothing.

You have devoured the apple.

This is the primordial calamity, the Sickness That Has No Name. Now you are on the run. Immersed in its own immediate gratification, the ego lives a life of perpetual distraction. Anything to avoid turning around and seeing the hellhound that is on your trail. Worse yet, the hound of heaven.

Our higher self is born of a voidgin and descends from eternity. The ego, however, is a child of time. It is an extension of the world. Therefore, it instinctively turns for comfort and reassurance to the very things that gave it birth, nurtured it, and have made it wrong all along. Things can get expensive here for the Freudian ego, for freudom isn't free. It requires a lot of mirrors and morers, a lot of fancy props and flattering props.

This is why you can never get enough of what you really don't need. Never! It's what you call a "bad infinity," the mirror image of the benign infinity of the divine mind. Larger distractions. More elaborate escapes. More artificial gratifications. More complicated psychodramas. Trying vainly to drain more pleasure out of things than there is in them. Moooooorrrrrrrre!

But the wool only stretches so far. Try as you might, you can't pull it any further. The third eye sees what you're up to anyway.

Interestingly, you have arrived where you are through an elaborate and complicated maze of soph-deception. And yet, the way back is so simple. It's always a straight line. And very short. If you are a fabulously wealthy person living in a two-dimensional world, you can go anywhere you want in flatland to try to "get away from it all." But there is an easier way. For, no matter where you are in flatland, the third dimension is equally accessible. And it's free.

Well, not free. But it's a bargain nonetheless. It'll only cost you your life. Yes, there is only one way out.

You must commit cluelesside.

Guess what? I'd like to continue, but today I must face another kind of gallows, when I must stare into the ghastly countenance of His Accountancy this afternoon. Yes, time for my annual fleecing by the attax dog, and I haven't even started "making my arrangments." So we'll have to continue this line of inquiry tomorrow. If I have any blood left. For, as a perceptive, albeit psychotic, patient of mine once said, "you can only get so much blood out of a turnip."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lies and How They beGet that Way

Whew. Let's just turn the page and move on to another view of the hostile forces. Here I will be assisted by an anonymous friend who has helped me greatly, clarifying my own ideas and providing me with a means to think about them. He is what you call a "Christian hermeticist." In his case, he is completely orthodox, and yet, he is fully informed not just by the letter, but by the spirit. I realize that this will be controversial to some, but.... I was about to say that "you cannot," but I will just say that "I cannot" reduce Christianity to merely what is contained in the Bible.

As I have said before, the Bible itself is extra-Biblical, having been deeply informed--not to mention selected and assembled--by tradition. Christian faith and teaching were in the world before the scriptures were written (to be perfectly accurate, it was here, at least in part, even prior to Jesus). Revealed truth was first handed down orally, and tradition embraces certain truths that are either not contained in scripture, or else expressed there obscurely.

Not to downplay their importance, but I am of the firm belief that tradition upholds the validity of scripture at least as much as the reverse. I personally could not possibly have the understanding I do without recourse to the writings of the great Saints and Church Fathers. I stand in awe of their living testimony. By itself, knowledge of revelation is relatively useless. One must know how to be transformed by it.

We live in a world of forces. There are physical forces, mental forces, and spiritual forces. In the mental realm, truth is a force. There is a counter-force called "lying," which, if you think about it for even a moment, has possibly had an even greater impact and influence on the world than truth. Or at the very least, it is a constant battle. Truth is always embattled on all sides, just as light is surrounded by darkness. Darkness, on the other hand, is not necessarily surrounded by light.

You'd think it would be uncontroversial to utter a simple truth, but you'd be wrong, wouldn't you? If you don't believe in the "force" of falsehood, try uttering a controversial but banal truth at one of our elite universities, such as "men and women are fundamentally different and, on average, excel at different things," or "children do better with a mother and a father than with two mothers and two fathers," or "some, if not most, cultures are patently sick." It seems that to carry Truth is to pick up a cross and paint a target on one's back.

Animals cannot lie. While they can have certain naturally selected mechanisms of deception, they cannot live a lie. But living a lie is in the normal course of events for human beings. Someone said that language was given to man so as to conceal his thoughts. Interestingly, this problem is fully recognized in scripture, as the very first conversations recorded in the Bible are lies. The serpent lies to the woman, the woman transmits the lie to the man, and the man lies about it to God. The very emergence of self-consciousness seems to be inseparable from lying.

So lying is absolutely fundamental to human existence, a fact that wasn't systematized until the early 20th century, in the works of Freud (the good Freud) and his followers. In particular, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a sophisticated epistemology showing how a vital lie is at the basis of most all forms of psychopathology. Once the lie is in place, it causes the psyche to enter a sort of parallel universe, for it constructs itself on the foundations of that primordial lie.

In my own colorful terminology, I have called these internalized lies "mind parasites." I believe the term is an accurate one, for it is meant to convey the idea that a vital lie that lodges itself in the psyche is not static, but takes on the characteristics of the host, so to speak. I remember once discussing this with my analyst. I don't remember the exact context of the problem I was whining about, but he said words to the effect of, "What do you expect? It's as smart as you are."

In other words, the mind parasite has available to it all of the elaborate machinery of the mind. Therefore, it can easily justify itself, elaborate itself, gang up on the truth, intimidate healthier parts of the psyche. It's like a dictator who uses legitimate means to come to power, but then corruptly uses all of the levers of power to stay there and eliminate opponents.

Those who are in thrall to the lie are slaves. While they may enjoy a subjective sense of freedom, it is an illusion. In fact, they have forfeited their freedom and are attached to a monstrous demon that they have generated out of their own psychic substance, in the same way that a spider weaves a web out of its own body.

Think of a vivid example that is readily at hand---the Islamists. Is it not obvious to one and all that they are absolutely enslaved by artificial beings of their own creation? And that they want everyone else to be enslaved by the same demon? Does this not demonstrate the insane power of demons?

There are personal mind parasites and collective mind parasites. Many cultures revolve entirely around monstrous entities that have been engendered by whole communities, such as the Aztec. Here again, it would be wrong to say that the Aztec had a bloodthirsty god--rather, it clearly had them. Thousands upon thousands of human beings sacrificed to satisfy this god's appetite for human blood, elaborate mechanisms set up to supply fresh bodies, the heart of the sacrificial victim cut out by the officiating priest who would himself take a bite out of it while it was still beating. A whole society of Jeffrey Dahmers trying desperately to allay anxiety by vampirically ingesting the life force of others. The Islamists are just the latest edition of this primordial anti-religion. But you undoubtedly know some people in your own life who do the same thing--hungry ghosts who "feed" on the spirit or blog of others.

In all times and in all places, human beings have looked for ways to objectify and worship their self-created demons. This is preferable to having them run around loose in one's own psyche. Take again the example of the Islamist. How would one even begin to tell him: "you have a persecutory entity inside of you that your life revolves around. You have placed it outside of yourself so as to make your life bearable, for it conceals a truth that is too painful to endure."

To a large extent, this dynamic is at the heart of more mundane politics as well. For those who do not experience George Bush as a demon, it is almost impossible to understand those who do, any more than we can really understand the motivations of the Aztec. The collective mind parasite has a grammar and logic all its own, inaccessible to all but initiates into the Lie.

You don't actually want to get that close to an intoxicating Lie of that magnitude. It's not safe. Better to observe it from a respectful distance. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulled down into a false world of counter-lying rather than simple truth. You cannot create an artificial "good demon,” which is what secular leftists are trying to do when they aren't creating bad ones. Those who criticize my "negativity" probably think I am engaging in the former--heatedly countering the lie--when I am calmly engaged in the latter--simply affirming the truth. This is the inner meaning of "resist not evil." Resist it in the wrong way, and you come into its orbit.

For a demon operates through a combination of will and imagination. You may think of perverse will as the male principle and perverse imagination as the female principle. Together they beget the demon child that then controls the parents, taking over both will and imagination. Consider how so much art and academic nonsense is nothing more than the elaboration of the perverse imagination--ideological superstructures giving cover to lies of various magnitude. Think of how much "activism" is simply the angry agitation of the perverse will.

This is the inner meaning of "you shall not make for yourself a graven image," for Truth is a living thing, a Being, that cannot be reduced to the idolatrous systems of men, especially corrupted men who do not honor Truth to begin with. Most modern and postmodern ideologies and philosophies are opiates of elites too sophisticated for such nonsense as Truth.

And this is the inner meaning of "honor your father and mother”: not rebelling against received truth and tradition in an adolescent manner, especially before you are even mature enough to understand what it is saying.

Unfortunately, I've run out of time, because I wanted to get into the sophisticated means that tradition has bequeathed to us for uprooting those lying entities that have no business taking up space in our psyches. I guess this will have to be a two-parter.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Body Snatchers, Haunted Mansions, and Revelations from the Abyss (3.12.08)

No time to spell check or even edit today. Wish me luck.

One of my favorite little books on Jewish mysticism is The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Adin Steinsaltz. Kabbalah can be extraordinarily complex, but I sometimes wonder if that's just a reflection of the limitations of the person explaining it. Mystics can be so... so mystifying... mysterious... mystagogic. But if you truly know something "from the inside," it's much easier than trying to describe it from the outside.

Imagine, for example, if you didn't know anything about hockey, and were trying to describe what was happening by simply observing a game from the outside. It would appear much more complicated and complex than it actually is. You wouldn't see the invisible strategy that is organizing the seeming chaos, you wouldn't understand the different roles of the players, and you wouldn't be aware of the rules under which the players are operating. When you really understand something, it actually reduces the complexity (which doesn't mean to say it becomes simplistic, or even simple--just easier to describe).

Having said that, some precious teachings should be protected by layers of enigma, paradox and oral transmission. How else to shield them from the grubby hands of a Madonna (imagine where those unholy hands have been.... Dennis Rodman.... Ewwwww!) or Britney Spears, who is so dense that she had a Hebrew symbol tattooed to the back of her neck--which is about as kosher as naming your kid Adolf.

Straight away, Steinsaltz sets the stage by writing that "The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence.... Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being. What is more, the various worlds interpenetrate and interact in such a way that they can be considered counterparts of one another, each reflecting or projecting itself on the one below or above it."

I like this description because it is exactly analogous to the way the unconscious--the lower vertical--operates in psychoanalytic theory. The unconscious is another world that operates along different logical principles, but it is not "someplace else." It is not literally located in space, "below" the ego. Rather, it is right here, right now, interpenetrating everything we think and do. To "see" it, it is merely a matter of shifting your perspective. Like right now, if I open my ears, I hear a bird chirping in the backyard. In the distance is the "hoo hoo" of an owl. There's the very quiet humming of the computer. These things were always there, but it's a matter of paying attention to them.

Steinsaltz then proceeds straight into the differences between the vertical and horizontal, which for me is the essence of any spiritual metaphysics. Again, in speaking of the vertical, of higher and lower, he is not speaking of an actual physical location. Vertically speaking, "to call a world higher signifies that it is more primary, more basic in terms of being close to a primal source of influence; while a lower world would be a secondary world--in a sense, a copy." Thus, viewed horizontally, we may trace the material cosmos back to a primordial event some 13.7 billion years ago.

But this is only the horizontal explanation. Traditional metaphysics deals with the vertical causation of the cosmos, which is what confuses people. From the vertical standpoint, this world is indeed a copy, as are human beings, of a divine prototype. The "logos" might be thought of as the model of all things, the nexus between the divine mind above and the creation here below. Looked at in this manner, the inexplicable beauty of the world is not somehow the outcome of horizontal cause and effect. Rather beauty is the cause of the cosmos (among other nonlocal causes, such as Love and Truth).

Because of the ubiquitous vertical and horizontal influences, every aspect of human existence is made up of both matter and spirit, of form and essence. While we are fundamentally spiritual, we are unavoidably material, which sets up a host of interesting tensions and conflicts that fall under the heading of "the fall." The fall--or exile, if you like--is indeed a vertical one, a declension from the divine repose of celestial bliss, down to this world of toil, conflict, uncertainty and ambiguity.

In the past, I have posted on the inner meaning of "angels," which--now, don't be too literal here--are nothing more than vertical beings that travel in only two directions: up and down. Have you ever had a brilliant insight that came out of nowhere? No? How about you, Will? I thought so. That would be the gift of a vertical emissary. The more you reconcile yourself to the process and accept it on its own terms, the more messages you get. What about those lower promptings? Yes, we'll get to those momentarily.

Now that I've lost most of my readers, I'll ask the question: Did you know that you can create an angel, a vertical being? I know I do all the time. According to Steinsaltz, every mitzvah you perform--every good deed--is not just a horizontal act in the material world. It also has an effect in the vertical world. As a matter of fact, a holy act creates an angel, a new spiritual reality that will then go on to have its own vertical life and influence.

Let's just consider a banal but highly illustrative example, the first one that came to my mind--Oscar Schindler. One flawed man nevertheless trying to do the decent thing in a hopeless hell of utter depravity. But how many countless angels did he create, angels that continue to bless the world in demonstrable ways!

Let's jump ahead to the shadow side of this spiritual economy. For, as Steinsaltz explains, "just as there are holy angels built into and created by the sacred system, there are also destructive angels, called 'devils' or 'demons', who are the emanations of the connection of man with those aspects of reality which are the opposite of holiness." Thus it would follow that, just as good deeds create beneficent vertical beings, other actions create vertical beings "of another sort, from another level and a different reality." In so far as it is possible to do so, I try to create angels with this blog. I don't know if I am successful, but I do know that I attract demons.

Here again, you can take this literally or you can take it figuratively. But think, for example of just one awesome conjurer of demons, say, Karl Marx, the anti-Moses who belched his new revelation from the vertical depths of darkness. Could you even begin to count the number of devils, demons, and other agents of the nether world who are still being created and still making mischief as a result of falling under his sinister spell? You do see them, don't you? They're everywhere! Some things are metaphors, some are not. The term body snatcher is not a metaphor. Petey says that it explains all you need to know about the left.

If you have stayed with me this far, then you will understand that, just as there are evil beings, there are evil worlds. These are simply the "space" inhabited by the evil beings. Wisdom is a space, or "mansion." So too, creativity, love, beauty, peace. You can sense it when you enter one of those mansions. You can also sense it when you are near one of those haunted mansions where the dark ones reside.

The closest I like to get to one of these mansions is memri.org, which makes the Islamic darkness visible to us on a daily basis. Can you not feel and sense the utterly dark abyss of that black hole, where light neither enters nor escapes? If not, you may want to contact an exorcist, for something has hijacked your moral vision. There are many such vertical abysses in the world. Bottomless pits of anti-Truth and anti-Beauty.

Enough malevolent wishes and wicked deeds, and pretty soon you have created a world. People are fascinated by these worlds. In fact--this may just be apocryphal--I once read someone who pointed out the etymological links between "fascist" and "fascinate." For fascism begins with fascination, a sort of hypnosis, a dulling of the conscience, and the intoxicating infectiousness of the Unrepressed Man who lives by his will and his impulses, outside the Law.

Obviously, the evil beings have no independent existence, since their existence is contingent upon human actions. They are "parasites on the light," so to speak. But, once created, they are "alive" in a very real sense. Again, feel free to consider it metaphorically, but do consider it. There is a sort of "spiritual increase" that goes on. For example, the more you nurture and take care of something, the more you will love it. Likewise, the more you choose evil, the more it will be as if evil is choosing you--you become an instrument of it.

This process is described so exhaustively in great films and novels that it is hardly worth noting here except in passing. One of the reasons I enjoy the classic film noir of the 1940's is that they often deal with just this theme, of the typical person--say Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity--at first haltingly, then enthusiastically, making a key decision that then plunges them into the realm of dark forces beyond their control. McMurray, for example, thought he was "choosing," but all the while he was being tempted, seduced, hypnotized. Gotcha!

The Godfather also obviously touches on this theme in the pivotal character of Michael, who, by film's end, has transformed from fresh-faced innocent to devil incarnate, devolving far beyond his father, who still had a touch of humanity. While in the higher vertical we can never surpass the prototype, in the lower vertical we can. We can, like Hitler, be worse than the demon who inspired us.

As Steinsaltz describes it, "the sinner is punished by the closing of the circle, by being brought into contact with the domain of evil he creates.... as long as man chooses evil, he supports and nurtures whole worlds and mansions of evil, all of them drawing upon the same human sickness of the soul.... as the evil flourishes and spreads over the world because of the deeds of men, these destructive angels become increasingly independent existences, making up a whole realm that feeds on and fattens on evil."

Hitler. Stalin. Bin Laden. Yasser Arafat. Kim Jong-il. Ahmadinejad. Detached worlds of pure evil as an end in itself. Who could say it isn't so?

That would be the Old Serpent's vast team of useful idiots. He's got a very deep bench.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Understanding Understanding Evil

Evil.

What is it? Where does it come from? It seems to be one of those irreducible concepts that we cannot do without, despite the mockery of sophisticated leftists who would like to eliminate it from our vocabulary as an outmoded barbarism (except as it applies to rubes such as President Bush who believe it exists). Here again, through a sleight of language, the left thinks it can make an unpleasant reality go away. In fact, the greatest evils in the history of mankind were committed by thoroughly secularized communists and nazis who would have scoffed at the idea that evil exists except in purely expedient sense.

But human beings cannot help thinking in terms of good and evil, any more than they can help themselves from thinking in terms of true and false, even if they are not unsophisticated enough to believe that Truth exists. The problem, of course, is that human beings believe many things to be true that cannot possibly be true. Likewise, they have little difficulty reconciling themselves to evil and calling it good.

One of the things that turned me toward religion is that it presents such a vastly more sophisticated ontology than any secular philosophy. I will be the first to admit that this came as a total surprise to me. In initially pursuing the spiritual life, I was not looking for “knowledge.” Nor, for that matter, was I looking for anything along the lines of “eternal life.”

Rather, I was looking for an “experience” to which countless sages, saints and mystics had testified down through the centuries. This well-documented experience goes by various names--moksha, samadhi, nirvana, enlightenment, etc.--and is simply one of the modes available to humans, like falling in love.

But the windbag bloweth where it listeth, and I was gradually drawn down a slightly different path, I suppose based upon my own inner inclinations and potentials. This is in keeping with the spirit of yoga, which identifies at least five distinctly different forms, each suited to a different temperament: hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and raja yoga. In my case, I began with raja yoga--the yoga of meditation--but I am apparently more of a jnani, which is the yoga of wisdom, metaphysical knowledge and discernment.

I probably shouldn’t even say that, because it is for others to determine for themselves whether there is any wisdom or knowledge in what I write about. However, I can describe what it feels like to me, because it is both very distinctive, and, as I said, very unexpected.

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was about a decade ago. After years of what I would call mere intellectual study, it was as if I had suddenly crossed some kind of threshold, and I understood in a different way. What is interesting to me is that this didn’t involve any kind of advance in learning or knowledge, but an apparent advance--or at least alteration--in understanding. In other words, not a change in content, but a change in form, very much analogous to the way Piaget describes the cognitive changes a child goes through as they move from developmental stage to stage. You can pour all the knowledge in the world into a concrete operations child, but they will understand it in an entirely different way once they move into formal operations.

For me, the spiritual life has been exactly like that. Esotericism represents a kind of “pure” understanding that is anterior to what is understood. Since you “understand,” you might well ask the question, “what is the nature of that which is understood?” In other words, is it possible to deeply understand something that doesn’t really exist? Think about that for a moment. To make it easier, shift over to the material realm.

Take the example of Einstein. In 1903 (or thereabouts) he had a deep insight into the nature of physical reality. He “saw” something no one else had seen, but this wasn’t a case of mere “seeing.” Rather, he deeply understood. Having understood, he knew that what he understood could not possibly be wrong, even though he understood something quite counterintuitive--even impossible, based on then current models of reality--and it took another two decades or so for his understanding to be empirically confirmed and to become knowledge that was widely available to others, so that they too might understand in a more conventional way.

Thus, the leading edge of Einstein’s discoveries was a sort of pure understanding.

I think the process is more or less identical with spiritual understanding, although the entire enterprise is fraught with many more hazards because of the more exact nature of mathematical language as opposed to spiritual language. The horizontal realm deals with quantities, whereas the vertical realm deals with qualities, or degrees of being. Plus, the vertical axis has an above and a below, and more often than not, the above becomes contaminated by, or thoroughly conflated with, the below. The history of religion proves this time and again. Many religious thinkers, panties be upon them, are almost pure below.

Spiritual knowing is a kind of vision, but obviously not of the sensual kind. One doesn’t “see” a different world, any more than Einstein literally saw subatomic particles in his day-to-day life. However, with any kind of real knowledge--even scientific or psychological knowledge--one sees the multiplicity and relativity of the world, but at the same time sees through and beyond the world in its metaphysical transparency. Something shines through, in the same way that the unconscious leaks out for one trained to observe it, or the noetic light shines through a great painting or piece of music.

Science is the religion of the ultimate object. Religion is the science of the ultimate Subject. Science studies the world in order to understand it. Esotericism understands the world in order to study it. Science begins at the center--the mysterious and unexplainable human subject--and extends its search to the periphery of the cosmos, to all the of the minute ramifications of multiplicity. Each edge or strand of multiplicity represents a department or discipline of science. I suppose this is why my mind is so undisciplined. To be a disciple of the One, it must be.

Spirituality begins at the periphery and moves back toward the center, toward a more general synthesis, which is another word for understanding. For to understand means to reduce a multiplicity to a unity. It is Truth as opposed to truth, the latter of which pertains only to the periphery. Truth is the unity of truths. It is what “sets you free” when you realize it, because it liberates you in the vertical, giving you a new perspective on the horizontal.

Again, to my everlasting surprise, the languages of various authentic religious traditions turned out to be vehicles of intellection for higher Truth. By imaginatively dwelling in their systems of thought, they reveal themselves to be windows to heaven, or transmitters of interior vision.

This itself introduces a profound mystery, that is, how is it possible for so-called ancient scriptures written by ignorant men to have this capacity--not the outward knowledge they contain, which is often an irrelevant distraction to the uninitiated--but the inner guidance and pneumatic trajectory they provide? Understood literally and exoterically, religion often doesn’t make a lot of sense to the modern mind. But what if we’re missing the point? What if religion is trying to facilitate not knowledge, but pure understanding?

This is one of the adverse consequences of the Enlightenment mentality that has been bequeathed to us--that is, a bleaching of the distinction between intellection and intellectualism, wisdom and knowledge, thought and understanding. It is with these distinctions in mind that we can move on to an analysis of the ontological status of evil.

Which I suppose will have to wait until tomorrow, because this little overture has turned into an overchore that has probably already taxed the reader. But in the next few days, I would like to look at the issue of evil from the Jewish, Christian, and Vedantic standpoints, and see if they do indeed provide any kind of useful understanding in the sense discussed above.