Autobobography of a Yogi
One thing Wilber always emphasized is that one must follow a tradition and stick with it. You can't just dabble or avoid real commitment, in part because commitment is one of the things that begins to change you. But there's a Zen saying, "chase two rabbits, catch none," which is why it's best to follow one path down the rabbit hole.
At the time, there is just no way I could have chosen Christianity. Actually, I was initially drawn to Zen, since it seemed the most free of dogma, and it also has that counter-cultural vibe that is the mother's milk of adultolescent liberalism. It's cool, and I just wouldn't have had any interest in an uncool religion. Remember, this is the mid-1980s. I'm a liberal with a full-blown case of Reagan Derangement Syndrome. It's embarrassing to admit, but I was no different than today's crazy liberals who are afraid of the "Christian-fascists."
But I really didn't get anywhere with Zen. When you come right down to it, it's pretty austere. Basically you 1) sit and 2) wait for enlightenment -- all the while knowing that very few people actually experience the state, often not even the teachers! So it amounts to "faith in enlightenment," which, now that I think about it, is what I actually had. I knew that I didn't know, but I knew that some people knew. No, I had never actually met one of these people who know, but I knew they must be out there. Knowing that someone was once enlightened served the same functional purpose as knowing that someone was once resurrected.
So let's see. I only finished graduate school in 1988. At the time, I was still working in the supermarket, where I'd been since 1976. My dissertation wasn't exactly spiritual but it was definitely visionary, and capacious enough to allow for a spiritual view of the cosmos. It's full grandiose title was Psychoanalysis, Post-Modern Physics, and the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution: Toward a Rapprochement of Mind and Nature.
The word "rapprochement" was actually a bit of wordplay, since it is a psychoanalytic term for the period of early development when the child is ambivalently working out his independence from the mother. If you look at evolution on a cosmic scale, it's as if consciousness was teased out of the maternal matrix of nature, eventually resulting in the proud two year-olds of the Enlightenment who imagined that they were completely separate and autonomous from mother nature. In other words, the dualistic view causes us to imagine that there is this sharp divide between mind and nature, in the same way that the two year-old begins to think he's completely separate from the parents.
But I wanted to show that, based upon the findings of modern physics, there was no avoiding the conclusion that the universe was conscious, and that this consciousness was thoroughly entangled throughout -- like cream hidden within the milk, as some enlightened guy once said. I ended up publishing two papers out of the dissertation in 1991 and 1994. A Raccoon recently read the one from 1991, and can testify that I am indeed Master of the Universe and that I discovered the Key to the World Enigma almost 20 years ago now, even though only he and I and Josephine Bernstein know it.
What, might you ask, does this have to do with psychoanalysis? Well, first of all it was a theoretical dissertation, which relieved me of the burden of relying upon facts, data, or reality in general. As I said, "visionary" -- perhaps not as visionary as the art of Yoko Ono, but in that realm.
But what I was trying to demonstrate, gosh darn it -- here, let me dig out a copy of the paper from 1991 -- it's called Wilfred Bion and David Bohm: Toward a Quantum Metapsychology -- well, first of all, it starts with a little quotation from one of the great physicists of the 20th century, Werner Heisenberg, who says "The same organizing forces that have created nature in all its forms, are responsible for the structure of our soul, and likewise for our capacity to think."
Sounds like nice rhetoric, doesn't it? But this guy believed it. Like so may of the pre-eminent physicists of the 20th century -- Einstein, Schroedinger, DeBroglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, Eddington, the Professor on Gilligan's Island -- their explorations of matter led them to the conclusion -- more or less -- that matter not only had mind-like qualities, but that the discoveries of physics were entirely compatible with a mystical view of the cosmos -- which is probably how the professor was able to make a transistor radio out of a belt buckle, some seaweed, and couple of coconut shells. Wilber put out a helpful book that contains the mystical writings of these men, entitled Quantum Questions.
But where these eggheads were vague, I wanted to be specific. So that's what my dissertation was about -- showing the exact parallels between metaphysics and metapsychology. That paper from 1991 "explores the relationship between the order of the universe and that of the mind," the purpose being "to forge an interdisciplinary dialogue in which modes of thought from these apparently divergent fields might integrate and enrich one another, in contrast to our present state of affairs in which physics and psychology are basically irrelevant (if not antagonistic) to one another."
So where's my Nobel Prize for this fact-filled guessathon of experimental non-fiction? Where's the recognition for this logical and coherent absurdity, fully loaded with all the optional equipment?
There was recognition. It was called the Dr. Josephine Bernstein Memorial Award for Research and Dissertation Excellence. So I definitely had one supporter, one kindred spirit, but she was dead. Now what? In an early post I mentioned that I had to give a little speech at the graduation ceremony. I still have a copy of it tucked away in my dissertation. The speech goes a little like this:
“This dissertation is really a reflection of my own personal obsession, which happens to involve the mind, that is, the subjective internal world, and its relationship to the objective, physical universe.
“In our time, we are in the midst of a dramatic shift in the manner in which reality is to be understood. In the three hundred years since the onset of the scientific revolution, science gradually came to regard everything in the universe -- including ourselves -- as mere machines.
“In this way of looking at things, the mind is completely superfluous, roughly analogous to the smoke emanating from a steam train.
“But there is within science a growing movement which is beginning to mount considerable evidence for the notion that, rather than thinking of material reality as fundamental, it is the evolutionary process which is the foundation of reality.
“What is so interesting is that these patterns of process seem to be woven into the very fabric of the universe, fractally recurring and cutting across all of the various levels we study -- including human mental development.
“In other words, we are gradually seeing the picture emerging on every level of scientific inquiry -- from physics to chemistry to biology to cosmology -- that the mind is not some sort of accidental intruder in the world, but rather, the nonmaterial organizing principle supporting the whole enchilada.
“This general endeavor is called the Evolutionary Paradigm, or synthesis, and my study was simply an attempt to fully integrate psychoanalysis within this new framework.
“The appearance of life itself forces us to reconsider all of the reductionistic schemes and artificial boundaries we have invented to divide various domains such as mind and matter, animate and inanimate, physics and psychology.
“The great physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote that ‘The same organizing forces that have created nature in all its forms, are responsible for the structure of our soul, and likewise for our capacity to think.’
"I believe that the evolutionary synthesis is nothing less than a grand new myth for our age, through which we may understand our place in the universe, our relationship to the totality."
“With our new understanding, we can truly say that the development of the cosmos culminates in an unbroken fashion in the thought of man.
“Anything short of this view, I think, ignores the irrefutable testimony of Life and Mind, and is unworthy of our true stature.”
So that was 1988. Right after that I finally quit the supermarket to try to establish a career as a psychologist, despite the fact that being a retail clerk came much more naturally to me. So I thought, well, I guess I should start to try to publish some papers. That's what people do to get a reputation and not perish, right? So I did that, even though I couldn't help concluding that, in the words of John Lennon, "no one I think is in my tree."
Then, in 1994, at my wife's grandmother's funeral, I met a strange man who was to change the course of my life. Of all things, he was what you might call a "conservative mystic," and yet, he wasn't a nazi. In fact, he was Jewish.
Well, I'm flat out of time. To be continued.
And good night Dr. Josephine Bernstein, wherever you are.