Receiving Your Spatial Delivery with Both Feet Planted Firmly in the Air
This is a little difficult for me to answer, because I'm not sure there can be a general rule. I say this because in a sense, the spiritual path is no different than any scientific endeavor, except that you are both the object and the subject of the study. But since each person -- each subject -- represents a unique "problem of God," by definition there can be no "one size fits all" solution.
This comports with something I believe one of my teachers once said with regard to conducting psychotherapy. True, we have a DSM that contains all different diagnostic categories for various psychological disorders. But in reality -- say your patient is named "Jane" -- it is equally accurate to say that she is suffering from something called "Jane's Syndrome," a condition unique to her that the two of you will need to unravel together. It's a bit like those rare "orphan diseases" that no one studies because so few people have them. Looked at from a certain angle, we all have a spiritual orphan disease that is not susceptible to categorization and objective study.
It has been said that a physician diagnoses individuals while a prophet diagnoses mankind. We can extend this to say that a religion also diagnoses man as such, rather than such-and-such a man. In so doing, it endeavors to give an account of your existential symptoms while explaining their etiology and proposing a cure. But these "big box" approaches rarely account for individual differences, which is one reason why schisms occur. A schism is simply one person's "cure" applied anew to all of mankind.
Even when I was in graduate school I could see that the same thing applied to some of the great theorists we studied. While their theories are presented as objective and scientific, as soon as you read a biography of the theorist, you get a pretty good idea of where the theory came from -- how the theorist has elevated something that "saved" his own life and applied it to all of mankind.
I remember once on one of my internships, getting into an argument with a fellow intern about psychoanalysis. He was a behaviorist, a theory which reduces the mind to mere behavior (even thoughts are reduced to a type of "interior behavior") that is either reinforced or extinguished based upon reward or punishment. For him, psychoanalysis was little more than hocus pocus, since everything about the so-called "mind" could be rationally explained by looking at behavior.
At that point in my life, I was still into the sort of competitive intellectual one-upsmanship that characterizes academia, so I actually attempted to win the argument. But the argument was and is strictly unwinnable for the same reason you cannot win an argument with an atheist. Or, to be precise, you can only win an argument with an atheist, except that they won't know it, will they, so what's the point? Why try to convince someone who regards himself as a machine that he is not a machine? You might as well argue with a toaster.
In the past I have spoken of human psychospiritual development as a "conquest of dimensionality" (a term I once heard Terence McKenna use) from point, to line, to space, to four-dimensional spacetime, to hyper (multidimensional) space. In a previous post I wrote that:
"In many ways, human psychological development can be thought of as a conquest of dimensionality. (Don’t get bogged down in a literal understanding here -- this is a mental exercise to facilitate understanding.) For example, the psychotic mind inhabits a 'zero dimension' of pure mathematical symmetry. It is a world of infinite meaninglessness, with no floor or center, just a roiling panorama of catastrophic, uncategorizable novelty. Symbols are equivalent to what they symbolize and the terror is endless, because there is nothing to contain or anchor it. [One does not have to be clinically psychotic in order to have experienced this; it happens to me when I contemplate "President Hillary."]
"The (severely) autistic mind may be thought of as one-dimensional. It knows no depth, only points of sensory contact with objects that are known by their feel and texture -- hot, cold, hard, soft, rough, smooth, etc. For them, a communicative expression does not emerge from the human face. Rather, it is simply a bizarre collection of disconnected points -- a nose here, an eye there, a curved mouth down there. The points are not synthesized into an internal representation of the emotional depth or interior of the other. The psychologist Francis Tustin wrote about how autistic defenses can operate in neurotic adults as well, for example, in certain repetitive rituals such as 'rocking.' These rituals help to contain an anxiously fragmented mind by focusing on some limited sensory perception. Without it, the mind might slip into the terrifying chaos of zero dimensions. [Again, one does not have to be autistic to have experienced this dimension.]
"Once we reach two dimensions, we are in the realm of something more recognizably human. This was called by Melanie Klein the 'paranoid schizoid position,' and more people (including parts of yourself!) inhabit it than you might realize. It is the world of extreme, forced splitting into diametrically opposed emotional categories of good and bad. This type of two-dimensional thinking pervades the Islamic world, including its pseudo-American representatives such as CAIR (i.e., house of Islam and house of war.)
"Only with the emergence of the transitional space proper are we dealing with the creative use of three-dimensional psychological space. This is the imaginal realm that emerges between an infant and his or her loving caretakers. But this creative and dynamic space is often hijacked and reduced to two dimensions as a result of the malign imagination of internalized mind parasites.
"The fourth dimension adds time to the mix. This is called the 'depressive position,' a term of art that does not imply clinical depression per se, but the capacity to tolerate ambivalence (as opposed to foreclosing it through splitting) in order to form loving and stable relationships that endure through time. One of the reasons it is 'depressive' is that it involves transcending the omnipotent psychological defenses of the lower dimensions. For example, the 'borderline' patient is not stably in the depressive position. Rather, when they become angry at a person in whom they are emotionally invested, they instantly convert the person into the category of all bad. Not only are they bad now, but they have always been, and always will be, bad. In a very real sense, time and history have been annihilated. The feeling creates the reality. [Obviously, this forms the basis of much leftist thought, in which depth of feeling is confused with clarity of thought.]
"Perhaps you have noticed when you shift from one dimension to another. For example, depression clearly involves a loss of dimensionality. One of its most striking characteristics is that the world seems to lose a vital dimension of emotional depth. Suddenly it is flat, lifeless, and devoid of the meaning that can only be located and experienced in the higher dimensions. On the other hand, panic can plunge one into a space of infinite dread. Moreover, many psychological defense mechanisms operate by descending into a lower dimension. I call these 'dimensional defenses.' For example, there might well be unpleasant meanings and psychological realities located in the fourth dimension -- indeed, there usually are. One way to avoid them is to descend into a lower dimension where those meanings cannot be located or 'entertained' by the mind, any more than a circle can describe a cone.
This happens both on an individual and a cultural level. For example, the Arab Muslim world cannot tolerate certain meanings with regard to female sexuality, which is why they are so threatened by the "content flow" of globalization, as per Thomas Barnett's theories. In fact, all defense mechanisms can be looked upon as attempts by the mind to create an autonomous closed system within the mind.
Obviously, the same can be said for the left, which is what political correctness is all about. In the final analysis, political correctness is simply an ideological defense mechanism that prevents the mind of the leftist from allowing contact with reality -- with certain unwanted truths. Coincidentally, just this very moment I received an email from a budding Ricky Raccoon who described his political journey from left to right in two sentences:
1. open mind
2. insert logic
Exactly. Once the mind becomes an open system, then growth takes care of itself, so long as it is "fed" truth -- which is one reason why it is so rare for a conservative to regress back to leftism. The operative word is "open," for only an open system is capable of growth. Indeed, only an open system at disequilibrium is alive. To put it another way, a closed mind, or a mind at equilibrium, is quite literally dead -- emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually.
For example, "love" can only occur in an open system between two people. Something is quite literally exchanged in the process, i.e., the "substance" of love. Surely you have felt this substance enter and leave your heart. It is especially fascinating to experience this exchange with Future Leader, not just from my end, but from his, as he "discovers" the separate existence of mommy and daddy and forges an (L) link between us. You'd think it would be easy, but a fair number of adult narcissists never achieve this link, because they are stuck in a one person psychology whose goal is control rather than love. A narcissist is a closed system par excellence. It looks like he is loving another, but it is really just retroflected self-regard.
I don't want to spend too much time with this, but apparently it does not go without saying that the mind must also be an open system cognitively in order for intellectual growth to take place. Here again, it is possible -- in fact, probably more likely than not -- for an academic worker bee-type intellectual laborer to spend his life in the belief that his mind is open, when in fact it is a closed and circular system, usually as a result of some ideology or set of beliefs picked up in graduate school. This is why so much academic scholarship is worthless or harmful (as always, we are speaking of the humanities), since it is quite literally mental masturbation. Real knowledge, like real love, involves the metabolism and internalization of the substance of truth. Once again, I am quite sure that this is not news to Raccoons, although perhaps they have never heard it put this way. But when I refer to the "substance of truth," all Raccoons will know what I am talking about.
(Have we gotten lost again? Or is this post actually going to arrive at its destination? I have no idea. Let us continue hacking away at the dense vegetation.)
Now, if you were a bacteria, you wouldn't know anything about higher dimensions. Rather, your life would essentially be an eternal point. In the case of slightly higher forms of life, you might discover the line, in the sense that you could move toward food and back away from something dangerous or noxious. I imagine that mammals live in a kind of space, and yet, it must be more like an eternal now. In other words, it is missing the temporal dimension. To a certain extent, the birth of humanness co-insides with the discovery of time -- of the past and the future. Since we live in time, we take it for granted, but it is actually -- obviously -- a very special state. As far as we know, nothing else in the cosmos has awakened to its temporal dimension.
But neither internal nor external reality are limited to four dimensions. In my opinion, one of the things that spiritual development involves first and foremost is the ongoing conquest of higher dimensions. One way to coonceptualize this is to understand that each dimension brings with it a new degree of freedom. In the case of spiritual growth, it brings with it the discovery of vertical freedom, does it not?
What did the Master say? "My kingdom is not of this world."
Eh? What? A lowly pauper a -- the -- King?
The Book of Genesis is a good example of hyperdimensional prose (which is a good working definition of scripture), since it is something like a crystal through which the divine light is refracted in infinite ways. This is why it supports so many interpretations, each of which conveys the substance of spiritual truth (which feels very different than the substance of intellectual truth). As Schuon says, it functions "to provide points of reference for a complex truth and for the sake of the Inexpressible." Modern critics never understand this, for dogma or doctrine provide "allusive indications..., the implications of which are limitless.... For it is not a question of inventing truth, but of remembering it."
A two-, three- or four-dimensional scientific or religious literalist -- like my behaviorist colleague -- will simply see something concrete in Genesis: someone dividing light and dark or water and land. A couple of people walking around in a garden. A tree you're not supposed to touch. Etc.
In the past, I have touched on the idea that spiritual experience arrives via spatial delivery at the shoreline between the infinite and the finite, between time and eternity. Consider the fact that we have two biological eyes or ears that are set slightly apart. Because each of the two organs has a slightly different vertex, we are able to see and hear stereoscopically or stereophonically. If you have only one good ear, you can't experience stereo, only mono.
Now, suppose we have a "third eye" or a "third ear." What would reality look like from that perspective? As a matter of fact, it is our third eye that sees into eternity. There is a way of living in which these two modes -- the lower and higher eyes -- harmoniously coexist to facilitate the emergence of additional dimensions of depth -- of not being shipwrecked on the rocks of time, nor of being lost in eternity, but somehow experiencing time in eternity and eternity within time.
I tried my best to capture this in the Coonifesto. That is, if our perception of spatial depth comes from our integration of different points of view, depth may be thought of as a function of the number of perspectives that are integrated in an experience or perception. I simply tried to integrate as many points of view as possible -- cosmological, biological, psychological, neurological, philosophical, anthropological, theological, mystical, etc.
Having said that, the integration does not actually come "from the bottom up." Rather, the integration is actually "at the top," but it can only be progressively revealed to us as we grow spiritually. But "how do I maintain a stable, balanced life in the material plane when my thoughts are constantly drifting towards intellection of the higher realms?"
By finding your own way to be in the world without being of the world -- by participating joyfully in all of the dimensions available to the human being, while at the same time not getting lost in them "from below." After all, this is what the Creator does, isn't it?