Saturday, February 10, 2007

Probing the Now, the Center, the Simple, the Eternal (2.08.09)

Yesterday I had meant to weave the spellbinding account of my day-to-day life into a more general discussion of how one may lead a spiritual life in the contemporary world -- which, like it or not, is where we always are. However, I became so engrossed in the fascinating minutia of my life, that I forgot to provide a moral to the story.

When we say "lead a spiritual life," we are not talking about a conventionally religious life per se; nor do we wish to confuse it with any kind of new age excuse for narcissistic navel gazing, which never bears sound fruit -- or only bears fruitcakes like Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins. Rather, what we are really talking about is vertical transformation and the conditions that make this transformation possible. Those conditions are embodied in religion, but it is clearly possible to practice a religion and miss out on the transformative element.

This is one of the reasons I am attracted to ancient Christianity as opposed to so many of its modern and postmodern versions, such as fundamentalism. If you read the accounts of the original practitioners of the "Christian way" (as it was then called), it is obvious that they were drawn to its transformative aspect. In other words, it is hardly as if they merely heard a nice story about a man who rose from the dead, and said to themselves, "I like that. I think I'll become a Christian." Rather, there was something far more dramatic and experiential going on, and this is vividly reflected in the writings of the first 500 years of Christianity, right through Augustine -- who is hardly comparable to a dry and dusty academic theologian.

For example, in his Confessions, Augustine recounts several mystical experiences of direct contact with God. Of the most famous one, he writes of how "we did gradually pass through all corporeal things, and even the heaven itself, whence sun, and moon and stars shine upon the earth. Yes, we soared higher yet by inward musing, and discoursing, and admiring your works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond them, that we might advance as high as that region of unfailing plenty.... There life is that Wisdom by whom all these things are made, both which have been, and which are to come..."

He concludes with an observation and a speculation: "If to any person the tumult of the flesh were silenced -- silenced the images of earth, waters, and air -- silenced, too, the poles of heaven; yes, the very soul be silenced to herself and go beyond herself by not thinking of herself -- silenced be dreams and imaginary revelations, every tongue, and every sign, and whatsoever exists by passing away," then "life might be eternally like that one moment of knowledge that we now sighed after..."

So while religion obviously involves "faith" and "belief," these are not intended to be merely static and saturated "containers." Rather, properly understood, they should be fungible into a different sort of experiential knowledge and should facilitate a real transformation. In other words, it seems that dogma is not the end of religious knowledge, but only the beginning. Truly, we believe in order that we may know.

In the past, I have discussed dogma in terms of Polanyi's analysis of scientific knowledge, which he compares to the cane of a blind person -- to a probe in the dark. If you can imagine being blind for a moment -- which, of course, you are -- think of how the cane would quickly become an extension of your hand. At some point, you wouldn't even be aware of the cane's impact on your hand. Rather, these raw sensations would be instantaneously transformed by the brain into a three-dimensional image of your spatial surroundings. At the same time, it would expand your world and allow you to move through it in such a way that you could further expand your world by degree.

Clearly, scientific knowledge works in this way. Consider, for example, the equations of subatomic physics or quantum cosmology. In the case of the former, this mathematical language allows us to extend our senses and "see" beyond the illusory, solid material world the senses give to us. Likewise, the latter allow us to "visualize" the temporal arc of the cosmos, extending back to a time long before human beings even existed -- in fact, to the very time that time supposedly came into existence.

But you will notice that we always convert this scientific knowledge -- again, think of the probe in the dark -- into a human vision. When we think of a "big bang," that's what we think of, even though, if you could somehow have been there at the moment of the big bang, you wouldn't see any banging, for the same reason you don't see it happening now. After all, the cosmos is still banging away at this moment -- i.e., it is expanding -- but we don't experience this through our senses. Rather, we only know it by using the scientific equations as a probe in the dark to extend our senses.

But the universe is not merely a form of our sensibility. In other words, no matter how far science extends its probe into the dark, it is still going to be a human hand grasping a slightly more elaborate cane. And, needless to say, the universe is what it is, regardless of -- or in addition to -- what we say or think it is.

To put it another way, science extends our senses forward, backward, and below, in so doing "widening" our conception of the cosmos, both spatially and temporally. But religion serves a different purpose. It too is a probe in the dark, but it specifically probes the inward and the upward. This is the great confusion of both scientific fundamentalists and religious literalists. The former imagine that the horizontal probes of science exhaust all that may be probed, whereas the latter imagine that religion is meant to probe the material world. Thus, for example, they attempt to use Genesis to probe the horizontal, just as scientists imagine that they can explain anything of a non-trivial nature about the vertical by relying solely upon their sensory probes.

This is something I actually understood when I began studying psychoanalysis. I began doing so at a time when psychoanalysis had fallen out of favor among strict scientific types, who regarded it more as a "mythology," even a sort of cult invented by Freud. What I realized is that the concepts of psychoanalysis are precisely analogous to probes we may use to explore consciousness, as we try to extend our knowledge from the well-lit area of the ego, across the subjective horizon into the darkness of the unconscious. There are a number of different psychoanalytic schools, and they each "work." Why is this? How can this be?

I believe it is because it is not so much the explicit theory that counts, so long as it may be used as a probe to explore the unconscious and to widen that part of consciousness that we have "colonized." The unconscious is just as dark and silent as the subatomic world is until we have developed a "language of achievement" with which to probe and illuminate it.

I don't want to get sidetracked into a discussion of psychoanalysis, but let us transfer the same general idea to religion. To try to understand psychoanalytic concepts as an objective description of the mind is to misunderstand them, precisely. Again, they are subjective probes we use to reach into the darkness of the unconscious mind. Likewise, there is no question in my mind that a religious system must be similarly understood as probe we may fruitfully use to reach into eternity, the vertical, the interior, the great within, heaven, whatever you wish to call it. Even if you don't consciously realize you are doing this, this is what you are doing when you "indwell" in religion. You are expanding your consciousness and thinking about things that are otherwise unthinkable in the absence of religion.

Indeed, this is why religion persists and will always persist, because human beings, alone among the animals, have a built in need to reconcile themselves to the vertical, on pain of no longer being human. I was thinking about this the other day, in considering the first humans who awakened to the vertical. In fact, in every sense, "awakening to the vertical" is synonymous with "becoming human." I am currently reading a book, Before the Dawn, that I will soon be reporting to you on. It goes into the latest research on human origins, and I wanted to use it to update or correct any outdated information in Chapter 3 of One Cosmos.

The author confirms one of my main points, that anatomically modern humans emerged by approximately 100,000 years ago, and yet, there was no evidence of what we call genuine "humanness" -- which coincides with the discovery of the interior world -- until it suddenly burst upon the scene some 50,000 years ago. Just as we have forgotten the experiential intensity of the early Christians, it's easy to dismiss the intensity of what it must have felt like for the earliest humans to awaken to the vertical.

Consider some of the famous cave art that emerged in Europe after our great awakening. What force prompted our furbears to do this? Consider the fact that some of these caves are accessible only by long tunnels that extend deep into the earth, and are hardly wider than a human body.

Someone -- again, compelled by what mysterious force? -- had to be the first to wriggle down that tunnel into unimaginable darkness, where he was eventually released into an underground cavern. His newly awakened soul then felt compelled to adorn the walls of this cavern temple with beautiful, fully realized works of art -- with mankind's first "masterpieces." Upon seeing the Altamira paintings, Picasso -- who was in a position to know -- famously remarked, "after Altamira, all is decadence." For this was art in its purest sense, in that it was obviously completely divorced from any commercial or egotistical motives. Rather, it was a purely spontaneous attempt to probe the interior reality to which humans had gained unique access, and to reconcile man to the vertical.

Now, where was I? Something about leading a spiritual life in the modern world. Now that we have more of an idea of what spirituality is intended to do, we are in a better position to come up with a way to organize our life around that endeavor -- to create conditions in which we may experientially "probe the vertical," so to speak.

Frithjof Schuon has said that "The chief difficulty of the spiritual life is to maintain a simple, qualitative, heavenly position in a complex, quantitative, earthly setting." When we chase after the exterior world and its phenomena, this has the effect of both externalizing and dispersing our consciousness, when the essence of a spiritual practice involves centration and interiorization -- as mentioned a couple of days ago, living "from the inside out."

In externalizing and dispersing our consciousness, science tends to get lost in time, in phenomena. But the vertical is only accessible in the present moment that is given to us. A kind of remembrance must take place in this present moment -- vertical remembrance, which is what prayer, meditation, and contemplation are all about. This is what Schuon calls the "liberating center," but it is only available to us through 1) centration, by whatever means necessary, and 2), ascent (of the awakened soul) and/or descent (of grace).

It follows that a simple life, free of needless distractions, is best. I see it very much as creating stable boundary conditions so that something higher may emerge from the lower -- just as we can only speak meaningfully by relying upon stable rules of grammar, or create music by relying upon fixed scales. This is why I mentioned yesterday that my outward life may not look like much -- trophy wife and accessory baby notwithstanding -- but is in fact a continuous interior adventure that would be impossible if my life were more complicated. The one would eclipse the other.

Well, that's all for now. I would be happy to field questions.

*Oh, and by the way, just to make it clear, so we don't confuse this with some sort of outright withdrawal from the world -- real charity should be a necessary consequence of living from the inside out and therefore sacralizing the horizontal, so to speak.


Lisa said...

Your inclinations yesterday about being better suited as a teacher are right on target/center. Thanks for making it so easy breezy!! Glad you are feeling better.

River Cocytus said...

Bob, have you ever read Baltasar Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom? He encapsulates some of the things you have said very neatly.

In regards to religion he said: "Do the spiritual things as though there are no temporal things, and the temporal things as though there are no spiritual things."

In other words, Genesis documents the vertical, spiritual history of the beginning; it certainly relates (as it is not purely spiritual) to the material, but does not tell the exact story because that's not what it is about.

The Bible is interesting, because it contains both material commands, like the Sabbath (Law) and spiritual things, such as "And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day." It even includes things that are both; such as the Gospels.

Discerning which is which takes discretion; and doing so takes more than just 'believing'. Believing, as you said (and I will confirm the truth of it) is the 'door', the spiritual milk.

One of my problems with, for instance, the Jehovah's witnesses is, "The practice a form of Godliness but deny the power of it." In other words, they have in their own way immamenitized the eschaton. The best way I have found to describe it is this: The take all of the Bible literally and none of it spiritually.

When it clearly is, or contains BOTH, and in no programmatic pattern.

Science for one helps us know what things in Scripture in general that can NOT possibly be literal (and what probably have a literal component, if not being entirely literal!)

One can also spot a false prophet by his physical predictions not coming true. Most real prophecy is delivered with 'if's around the evils... Liberty is essential.

Don't know how much of my comments you read, Bob, (but, to be honest I post them just because I find something I want to share) but I do have a question.

What is your overall experience with Christianity/Christians? As in, ever gone to a church, what kind/what was your impression, etc. Interested to know, as one's experience definitely changes one's faith.

GLASR said...

While visiting the D'Orsay, sitting in the "room" where Cormon's "Cain" is on exhibit, I had this moment of man going vertical. Put aside what Cormon is portraying, imagining that's you out front. Alive longer than any previous expectation. Your "family" basically intact and growing because of you. Head on a swivel, violent reactions to threats perceived, intuition, instinct and will your tools. The impulse to fall to your knees, give thanks, ask for more - for them - overbearing. Searching, you look to your "family", to a rock, to a tree, to the animals you have vanquished for food, clothing, safety. Your thoughts turn to the other "families" who's members you separated from their life through the necessity of self preservation .......... you look up, you go vertical.

Dramatic? Of course BUT the next time you're visiting Paris ............. Oh, and you'll need to approach eyeballing art the way I do. Do not get the museum guide until after you have been through the museum. This particular painting, regardless of where you are in the room, their eyes follow you. Like an Abbott and Costello or Three Stooges scary episode.;~)

heh heh HEH, Cus!

Alan said...

Adding two thoughts, if that's possible, to Bob's post about lifestyle...

My little experience tells me that being part of a spiritual community where all "remember together" both can intensify the benefits of slackness and allow more involvement with the world without being too identified.

Another thought is that perhaps wealth generation of western civilization really already allows everyone to live more of the life that Bob lives - if we chose to.

Jacob C. said...

Bob: I love what Picasso said about Altamira, but there are a lot of people who wouldn't understand it. Decadence is one of those words that, like liberal, has been completely redefined. I myself can no longer hear the word "decadent" without thinking, inexplicably, of chocolate.

brian said...

Wonderful post today Bob.

It is very interesting to me that the exact complement of the scientist in the lab is the monk in his cell.

ms. e said...

"Art thus created by gifted individuals the main 'ceiling' at Altamira seems to have been the work of one artist on behalf of the entire settlement was also an intellectual instrument, which encouraged discussion or storytelling, accounts of exploits and the history of the community. It played a creative role not merely in general education but more specifically in the development of sophisticated language, being capable of communicating thoughts on an ever widening range of subjects. It is likely too that cave art promoted the birth of a religious spirit. There is nothing in these art works as such to suggest religious purpose. But the conditions in which they were viewed, flickering torches bringing to life these fine representations with their deep colours out of the surrendering darkness, induced a sense of wonder and reverence. And as the people marvelled at the way artistic skills could re-create nature, they became aware of the even greater miracle of nature itself, in the vast world beyond the cave, and asked themselves: who could it be who created that? Thus cave art was thought provoking, and the thoughts it provoked provided the impetus for men and women to lay the foundations of theories of life, and of the universe. Precisely because of its non material, its metaphysical qualities, art became the father of religion."

And Michaelanglo became the high priest of art.

Filled and fueled by The Holy Spirit he dedicated his life and work to the greater Glory of God.

Pablo Picasso? A Primitive Soul

Van said...

For those of us not likely to visit the D'Orsay tonight, here's the next best thing, a selection of CORMON, FERNAND's Paintings at ARC (, and
"Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse"
Med-Res photograph
Hi-Res photograph

Smoov said...

Bob's lifestyle requires resources. I too appreciate the benefits of the simple, uncomplicated life. Nothing makes life more complicated and anxiety-ridden than being broke all the time, however. I've spent a rather enormous amount of time and effort to get where I am now. It has cost me two marriages, and so far has afforded almost no slack. However I own a large chunk of a corporation which will be sold within 3-4 years. At that point I will be roughly Bob's current age, and I will never have to work again, nor will I ever run out of money.

I do not intend to buy three big houses and a stable full of sports cars. I do intend to move to California and buy a suitable place where I can maximize slack, cultivate flowers and contemplate God.

Until then I will be coming here to gird myself against the temptations toward dissolution that wealth brings.

Van said...

Smoov said "...Nothing makes life more complicated and anxiety-ridden than being broke all the time..."

Or even the concern over it. Through some unexpected rescheduling of projects and budget cutbacks, I received one week's notice (not bad for a consultant)which was up yesterday and I'm now officially 'between projects'.

As I noted to Joan of Arrgghh! the other day, I find myself temporarily, and for the first time in a very long time, with unexpected Slack on my hands; but the bummer of it is that unboundaried Slack can, if you're not careful, make you feel as though you are teetering on the brink of desperation. Sufficient wealth would, I assume, help provide boundaries for your Slack, and so at least that much of your situation I envy you.

It seems that Slack time is not just having the time to be leisurely, but the ability to be leisurely about your Slack time.

uss ben said...

Wealth may afford some more slack, but we may attain transcendence in any situation or circumstance.

Why did John and Peter rejoice when they were whipped and thrown in prison?
How many of us would rejoice in those circumstances?

How did Paul remain so focused on the vertical after being beaten, shipwrecked, and thrown in prison ...several times?
Everywhere that Paul went, a lot trouble followed, and yet he was not deterred from his mission, his goals, or the race he was running.

The 'thorn' in his side kept him honest and aligned with Truth.

Don't we all have 'thorns' in our side?
I believe we do, but we are unaware of it until we become more aware of Truth.
The 'thorn' becomes more defined and painful as we transcend.
It isn't material in nature, although it can appear material from a certain perspective.
In any sense, the farther we transcend, the more we colonize our subconscience, the deeper we ascend into our innerverse, the 'harder' it gets, regardless of our horizontal situation or circumstances or perhaps in part, because of our circumstances.

Because of adverse or 'bad' circumstances, I am much more thankful and have far more gratitude than I would have had without those 'bad' experiences.

This is why liberty is so crucial and important.
I can choose to be thankful or bitter, life or death, good or evil, slack or worry, hero or coward, and so on.

Liberty is a requisite for growth, because that is where Grace descends, based on our choices.
Sometimes even when we make the wrong choices.
All the more reason to be even more thankful, and to surrender, to fall up into that Grace.
The price is more than worth it.

walt said...

Bob, you used this quote from Schuon, "The chief difficulty of the spiritual life is to maintain a simple, qualitative, heavenly position in a complex, quantitative, earthly setting."

That probably sums up both the biggest aim and the biggest challenge I've struggled with over the years. The two or three paragraphs of your post that follow that quote speak volumes, I think. Each line struck me as a key concept. For many years,much of what I attempted to "organize" did not work too well, and I found answering "the financial question" to REALLY have a "dispersing effect" on whatever awareness I had. Nowadays, faced with a lot of slack and little pressure, the horizontal seems a lot more friendly.

I will say this to others in this regard, meant as encouragement: "perseverance furthers."

The subject of intentional simplicity as it relates to spirituality is a rich area, full of valuable ore. Thanks, once again.

Dymphna said...

Liberty is a requisite for growth, because that is where Grace descends, based on our choices.
Sometimes even when we make the wrong choices.

That's why, when Christ said, "come follow me," he did not add "and make sure you're financially secure before you do."

Smoov --

how do you know you have three or four years left to make your transition to "a suitable place"? Why wait until you have your secure piles of money to contemplate God and grow flowers?

I suspect that when you are wealthy enough not to have to worry about money again, some other material thing will rush into that vacuum. As JC put it, better than I, "look at the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin..."

You might try the flowers and contemplation thing right now, while there is still time.

[I offer this as someone who is disabled and whose better half is currently unemployed...or rather he doesn't have a paying job. But creative soul that he is, he's busy using his gifts from the moment he gets up in the morning. And I'm busy managing on very little.

What I thought I *needed* turned out not to be the case at all. One of God's little jokes. He's full of them.

So maybe a job will come our way, or maybe not. Life will still be more interesting than I could have imagined.]

River Cocytus said...

Good to hear from you, Dymphna!

I do pray for y'all when I remember to. (Which I will tonight.)

Hmm... I keep seeing E pluribus raccoon and thinking

E pluribus coon'em.

But that's just silly.

NoMo said...

"This is one of the reasons I am attracted to ancient Christianity..."

What else is there?

Rainbow Trout said...

For me the greatest impediment to an uncomplicated life is my love relationship, which is very turbulent.

I know that celibacy is a time-honored path for the god-lover, but I just can't make the jump. I want to stay in the love game, and that choice is going to cloud my serenity for a long time to come.

On the other hand, the stormy union is an engine of personal growth and change; I've made some gains too. I've become more whole, it seems.

BTW I'm a rabid lefty, the new troll on the block. Go ahead and take a shot at me, I'm ready.

catdog said...

isn't the horizontal created by God? So why do we have to reject it, or even get away from it. After reading here for some time I am appreciating now (again) that the "world" is God's consciousness (or a small part of it) which kinda changes the perspective a bit. Every flower , tree, car, person the whole box and dice is nothing but God consciousness and our subjective consciousness can have a relationship with all of that, and the Creator! We need a moral compass / spritiual path but the things of the world are the mind of God (which was the basis for early scientific enquiry and set the West on its current path).

Anyway River Cocytus said...

In regards to religion he said: "Do the spiritual things as though there are no temporal things, and the temporal things as though there are no spiritual things." - which is much neater.

uss ben said...

I have never seen a rainbow trout with rabies.

And where did you read we should ignore the horizontal?

uss ben said...

Sorry, question was addressed to catdog.

catdog said...

not saying I read it here, but it is a view which runs through even the Christian tradition at times and certainly in the traditional spiritual systems of the East.

Joan of Argghh! said...

The 'thorn' becomes more defined and painful as we transcend.
Ben, a beautiful post! I think, at times, the thorn becomes a bit more pronounced and pointed for two reasons. It is either assaulting our pride, or it is focusing our hunger for the eternal in the here and now.

That sharpness is similar to (to me) the blades of grass on the feet of the poor transparent folks in "The Great Divorce". As we colonize more truth, the more able we are to bear the reality of Truth, and the pointy ground beneath our feet no longer impacts us. It bends under the weight of our colonized Truth.

We sometimes view the sharp jabs as insurmountable, but the Eternal eye sees them as mere blades of grass. Transcendence makes the vertical weightier, giving us a more solid presence in the here and now.

walt said...

Bob, you said at the end of the post that you would entertain questions, so here's one from my wife:

"When do we get to see more pictures of the kid?"

Smoov said...


I have cultivated a simple life as much as possible. The main thing that gets in the way is travelling approximately 120 days per year. But even that can be made to work.

People assume that wealth and the spiritual path are incompatible. Bob proves this to be untrue. While Bob may not have Warren Buffet levels of wealth, I think we can safely surmise he is in one of the upper income brackets.

Wealth can be tremendously empowering--and hence a means to true freedom. The fact that most people who make millions get addicted to the work they do doesn't mean everyone does. I'm not addicted to my work. If anything, I'm addicted to One Cosmos, and to Slack.

I'm not saying my way is the only way by any menas, or that it is better than the traditional poor-but-happy route. Unless wealth is given to you (inheritance) or obtained through extreme luck (lottery) then generally speaking it takes enormous creativity, stamina and resourcefulness to create it out of thin air. In any case I have no regrets. Even today I can have our plane ready for me later today if I get a hankering to spend a day in Manhattan, strolling around the MOMA. This does not suck, and it does not interfere with my ability to learn through Bob. Corporate entrepreneurs make perfectly good kits--and eventually 'Coons--as long as they "get it", which I think I do.

Rainbow Trout:

I for one won't attack you because you haven't said anything profoundly revealing of any deep, irradicalbe soul-sickness, which is the case with 90% of newly spawned trolls. I agree with you on the love-complicates-slack thing.

I've weathered two marriages and right now--despite my corporate workload--I have more Slack than ever. I might just stay single, unless I win the cosmic lottery and find someone as worthy of the term "better half" as apparently Mrs. Leader is.

Sal said...

I'm with Nomo - it's all of a piece.

When Bob says he likes Early Christianity b/c it was all about the transformative and now it's not, I have to say "What? Of course it is."

Can only conclude that my lines re: churches, have fallen in pleasant places all my life.

Perhaps the transformation of individual people that resulted in the transformation of entire pagan societies looks more vital than the transformation of individual people in a post-Christian society?
Here, they're hidden in plain sight. But that doesn't mean that God does not grace them as much as any early Christian.

River: or as St. Ignatius Loyola put it, "Work as though everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God."

Joan of Argghh! said...

"isn't the horizontal created by God? So why do we have to reject it, or even get away from it."

Catdog, this kept nagging away at me, because it kept reminding me of something, but now I remember.

There was some silliness going on in some Christian circles in the late 70's and they were, admirably, seeking out the vertical in radical, mystical ways. Heady stuff, but my spirit shied away from it, preferring to, "wait and see". It wasn't that they were seeking out mystery, it's that they were touting their methods, dogma, and path as the Truth At Last and the Last Truth. The last hurdle into transcendence. Or something.

Either way, an old, wise, Welshman who'd seen it all was nonplussed when introduced to this newer, shiny doctrine. When he was asked his view of it, he just laughed.

"Manifested Sons of God?! Transcending the physical?!!" he thundered. "Just pinch 'em and see if 'ey squeak!"


Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, when I said "ancient Christianity," I was actually referring to a strand that starts broadly in antiquity and survives to this day. But it looks to me as if the initial roaring torrent has become more of a stream. The water is still there as pure as ever, but there are an awful lot of.... what's the word? Opposite of trubutaries.... Just woke up... can't think yet...

And re the horizontal: It is not quite accurate to say that it was created by God, because most of the problematic aspects of the horizontal are a product of fallen man creating a home in which he feels comfortable with his fallenness. There are other reasons, but it would take an entire post to explain them. Suffice it to say that the cosmos is hierarchical, and that things can paradoxically be more distant from God, even though everything ultimately remains "in" God.

And trout person:

Tell us a little bit about your turbulent relationship. I'll send you a free book if it is not an intrinsic reflection of your anti-human ideology, at cross purposes with your divine nature and therefore guaranteed to seal your unhappiness.

And more pictures forthcoming.

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh, and someone asked about my own history and experience of Christianity on a more personal basis. I've written of this in the past, but I suppose there's always more I could say, partly because it continues to unfold, and naturally the future alters the past.

Dymphna said...


I demur.

You responded to my notions about spiritual poverty by telling me that you already live among the few who can have their own plane at the ready simply to satisfy a whim to visit a museum.

What was your motive in revealing that? I don't understand...

The fact that you spend 120 days a year on the road might explain failed relationships in the past? That's quite a vocation --sounds like you've been called to travel.

I should have said that my better half left his job voluntarily. It occurred to both of us that even though he was making very good money, he was also spending too much time away from home. Home is a spiritual center, after all...

So he left his job, with no prospects of another one immediately in sight. His company was puzzled over his decision, but he gave them three months' notice so as not to cause a disruption in their work.

We didn't think it would take so long to find another position, but it has for the simple reason that he won't takea job which requires much travel (for him, 120 days on the road would be soul murder) and he won't do a grinding commute every day. There is no room in such a schedule to slow down and be stilled.

So we trimmed our sails and wait for better weather. It will come, but meanwhile we have all this time together. And it frees up my creativity to figure out how to live more simply right now, in the moment.

We've never had any debt, not even in the leanest times, but paying for undergraduate school for our son has been a drain. Fortunately that ends in May, when he joins the real world to make his own way.

What I intuit in your description is a sense of being driven and that once you're King of the Hill (by your standards) then you'll relax and grow flowers? But there's always a higher hill to conquer, no?

I don't ask these questions to be contentious, but out of concern. The most driven man I ever encountered -- Jules Lederer, Ann Landers' husband -- said similar things about what he was going to do when he'd "made it." He had all sorts of plans for his simple life when the right time came. But the kairotic moment never occurred -- or maybe it did and he simply couldn't see it. I felt sorry for him but his restlessness made me uncomfortable.

I have since had that experience repeated with wealthy men -- the restlessness, the sense of being driven by a part of themselves they had severed from consciousness.

Remember the wealthy man who asked Jesus what he should do and was told to sell all he had and "come follow me"? The guy walkeed away sadly because he knew he couldn't do it.

Maybe that is not you at all, but from what you've said so far, it sounds like a similar situation.

When my mother was dying of Parkinson's and my husband was nursing her through that final year, he wasn't "working" or "achieving" -- he was painting landscapes. My mother, a spiritual materialist to the last (and someone who'd sought a spiritual path from her youth) would ask him, "so tell me again? Why is it that if you could be making lots of money you're just doing this?" -- and she'd gesture around at his painting, at her sickroom, etc. He would always answer, with a laugh, "because that's what I'm called to do."

Smoov, what are *you* called to do?

rainbow trout said...


The trout's turbulent relationship of ten years centers on a feeling of intense rage that rises out of my chest and seizes my throat, almost feeling like a choking hand or the noose of a rope.

The feeling is always provoked by an action from the mate that signals de-valuaton or invalidation (refusing to change the station on a car radio, forgetting a date with me, or if she says "you're ridiculous," which is a statement she uses during fights)

These provocations/fights get settled, but the rage-ball in my throat is difficult to clear. I cannot speak to my mate, so I then withdraw and wrestle with the rage in private, because there is no safe place to discharge it.

Eventually the rage slowly seeps/diffuses into the rest of my system and poisons my well-being. I find myself being passive-agressive or feeling hostile towards the mate, even though the original issues are satisfactorily settled and the relationship should be getting back to normal.

The mate, although abrasive, is not willfully abusive, and I'd like to keep her if at all possible.

But, I need help. This thing is not getting better.

The bouts of rage produce a cumulative unease that is oppressing my spiritual life.

I would like the book you spake of. How do I supply you with my mailing address confidentially?

Gagdad Bob said...


The fact that you have been in a "relationship" for ten years without ending it long ago or sacralizing the relationship through marriage is the reflection of some sort of infra-human ideology. What is it? (Whatever it is, it will also keep you from graduating to spiritual manhood.)

Van said...

Smoov said "People assume that wealth and the spiritual path are incompatible. Bob proves this to be untrue."

Yep. I completely agree.

"Wealth can be tremendously empowering--and hence a means to true freedom... I have no regrets. Even today I can have our plane ready for me later today if I get a hankering to spend a day in Manhattan, strolling around the MOMA. This does not suck, and it does not interfere with my ability to learn through Bob."

I love that!

Ladies and Gents, being on the earth and continuing to breathe, requires some effort - no matter how much you OM. If you can channel your creativity into efforts which produce what others value as well, you create surplus wealth for your self - which is what it appears Smoov is doing, and mega kudos to you!

The trick, is not to let either the efforts needed, the wealth created, or it's lack, to occupy more relevance in your life than is wise. I tend to see the little and not so little urgent necessities as Balls of attention in my mind, I am aware of them, I keep them spinning and bouncing as needed, and occasionally I will hold one of them and give it more direct attention, but at no time will I enter into it or let it draw me into it, encompassing either myself, my life or those in my life. They are things which require attention, just remember that they can't be allowed to control your attention.

BTW, Ben, excellent comment(2/10/2007 06:08:01 PM)!

Dymphna said...

van said--

The trick, is not to let either the efforts needed, the wealth created, or its lack, to occupy more relevance in your life than is wise.

Exactly! That sense of proportion requires a fine balance, though I don't think it's a "trick" so much as it is a learned discipline.

I seem to keep returning (not pre-planned) to Christ's story. Remember how annoyed Judas was at the luxurious expense of the oils and ointments used on JC's feet? The money "should" have been spent on the deserving poor, perhaps?

van (or bob, or anyone), a question: do we become what we think about? Is that what mind parasits are? Is that the core of cosmic discipline -- slowly eliminating the parasites?

Van said...

Dymphna said..."do we become what we think about? Is that what mind parasits are?"

Using my example from above, I think we risk becoming enveloped by what we think about. Bob may have more to say on the mind parasites, but I think in the routine cares of life case, such as concern over the oils, wealth, etc, rather than what they are for, if you don't maintain that proper balance you do run the risk of becoming enveloped within them, and your attention which previously you may have directed straight outwards, now goes a little way, hits the curve of the careball you've been sucked into, and revolves around and around within it.

I think you have to keep a proper mental distance and perspective on the 'things' of life, or risk becoming one of them yourself.

PSGInfinity said...


That is one of the most frightening visions I've ever seen. Truly, it scared me. Clearly, Cormon had a vertical a/de-scent when he created Cain. I wonder what being around him during Cain's painting was like?

River Cocytus said...

Speaking of mind parasites, are phishers/scammers not a case of 'descending from man'? Infra-humans?

Just dealt with one on myspace. Usually, it is a quick skip and a jump to uncorking the scam, (google suffices for most investigations.)

Still, it leaves a sick feeling in my stomach, like I've been violated. Which in fact, I have. Nonetheless, the knight expects attacks on his person; and is fully prepared to rebuke the adversary when he rears his ugliness, whether it be in flesh and blood or not.

Kind words, hard knocks.

It also plants a seed of suspicion; which is really a seed of fear. Fearing that some of the people I have met on the intertubes are not in fact whom they represent themselves to be.

Was talking to my ma about meditation, and she pointed out that false meditation is a state where you empty your mind and let ANYTHING in. When the house is swept and empty, the spirit can return with 7 of his buddies (who are much badder.)

So the key with (o), perhaps, is to be like a wise gatekeeper; the gate is open, but so are the eyes. Let God come fill you, but stay away, parasites.

Anyhow Bob, I'm not sure if I have read the post on your past w/ Christianity. Could you point me to it? (You mention it often in posts, so searching might take a while?)

Only if convenient. I'd imagine if you do write about it in a future post you'll drop the link.

Trout- you speak about your other as an object. She is a person, essentially similar to you being made in God's image. I do not know your stuff, so I can't make any recommendations. I can, however say, that knowing where one's love stands on all things possible is important in all things.

One must be joined from above; the parts won't reconcile themselves.

rainbow trout said...


The trout has now officially gone loco. I'm have fallen so far into my infra-humanity that I'm consider myself completely outside the pale.

I was destroyed by love. I love her, I asked her to marry me, and she said no, and I stuck around anyway, and she let me.

And now, there is nothing but the rage. You've been a big help, Bob. Now I know what to do.

Gagdad Bob said...

My dear trout:

Of course, I cannot give specific advice, but in general I would say of a situation such as yours that it is not so much that the man has become infrahuman as that he has conspired with the woman to allow him to sink beneath his own manhood, thus entirely turning himself inside out and upside down and thereby reversing the divine cosmic order. I say this with all due respect, but only a sick woman would want to be with such a weak and pathetic man, and such a woman is generally desparately in need of a real man in order to transcend herself. Recommended reading: The Way of the Superior Man.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Joan, Van, and Dymphna-
Thanks for the compliment.
I had to go back and reread the post you were talking about, because I barely remembered it, ha ha!