Celestial Abortions and Pre-partum Depression (12.27.10)
Now, when you get right down to it, there are only a couple of options to leading a spiritual life, which we have defined as one in which the purpose of your life is to conform yourself to yourSelf, or to your divine archetype -- to paradoxically "become who you already are," so to speak. This requires that you grow in truth, wisdom and virtue, and thus close the "gap" between accident and substance, or contingency and essence. Yes, there is a real "you," but timelessness takes time, walking on water wasn't built in a day, yada yada, blah blah blah. We know this already.
Another way of saying it is that in the spiritual life we are specifically attempting to grow something that transcends time. That something is "you." This is not really controversial. For example, every living thing begins with an immature form "seeking" its mature form. Something -- whether God or Nature -- wills that babies become adults.
But this doesn't just involve changes to the physical form, especially as it pertains to human beings. Rather, everyone knows that real human change takes place on the interior plane, and that it continues well beyond the point that we have reached physical maturity. Two physically mature human specimens can have nothing in common, whereas that is never true of other animals. In fact, among all the animals, only humans can (and should) continue growing indefinitely. A mind that has stopped growing is effectively dead, as it has become a closed system. And the most damaging closure is the vertical kind.
You could say that someone who is not in some form or fashion growing toward a real nonlocal telos is effectively living as an animal. Thus, many people who think they are not spiritual actually are, for example, the artist or writer who seek true beauty in their work, or the scientist who passionately seeks timeless truth. In a more enlightened age, these activities would be understood for what they are, and could not have become detached from the greater spiritual Adventure of Consciousness -- or even become opposed to it, as happens with scientism or with debased "art" that has no spiritual direction at all (except "down" or "away" from the light).
Now, if I, the transconscious mode, did not exist, then there would be no deep continuity in your life, and thus, no actual entity that undergoes change through time. In other words, animals essentially exist only in space, in such a way that they basically mirror the external world that they co-create.
But the human has deep temporal roots that extend all the way back to his own conception -- and some would say prior even to that. The human being lives in time, but time isn't just a linear succession of discrete and disconnected moments, as the existence of memory and transtemporal vision (e.g., "prophecy") prove. Rather, the past and future are entangled in the present, not just consciously, but unconsciously.
For example, most forms of mental illness are a result of some unmetabolized -- which is to say, unsynthesized -- aspect of the past intruding upon the present. A symptom exists as an unconscious "part" that needs to be integrated into the whole. But other symptoms can emanate from the future, so to speak. This was the position of Carl Jung, who observed that much mental illness is actually a result of a spiritual stillbirth, or the pain of failing to realize one's archetype. Such a person can ransack his past, looking for "what went wrong," but he won't find it, because it's in the future, not the past, or "above," not below. Call it a spiritual prepartum depression.
As I mentioned above, there are only a couple of options to leading a spiritual life. One of them is hedonism, which ends up doing violence to the temporal aspect of human existence, as it reduces life to the mindless pursuit of discrete moments of pleasure, as if salvation consists of the accumulation of these disconnected experiences.
But the whole point is that these moments are inherently disconnected and can never surpass themselves, and in fact, usually diminish with time. In other words, the first time you do something is usually the most intense, and if you spend your life trying to achieve that level of intensity, you're just wasting your time. As Bob put it in One Cosmos, many problems are caused by trying to wring more pleasure out of something than there is in it. This can happen with food, vacations, sex, what have you, and is responsible for a lot of compulsive behavior. Anything that gives pleasure can become problematic if used in the wrong spirit.
As Bolton writes in Keys of Gnosis, the idea that happiness results from an accumulation of pleasures is pure illusion, since "each of its successive moments is in effect a separate world for experience." The bare moment "neither receives anything from, nor imparts anything to, any other moment, not even the next ones adjacent to it." Excluded from my transtemporal influence, the pursuit of moment-to-moment pleasure "does not allow the least possibility that any of them could be combined to make a total in this world..."
Now, this is why, ipso facto, there is so little wisdom on the secular left, unless it is just accidental or parasitic on some other non-leftist source. Only religion teaches one the secret of converting momentary pleasures into something enduring (this is one of the particular virtues of Judaism, which is so "this worldly" in a specifically other-worldly manner; a mishnah teaches that the first question God will ask upon your demise is why you didn't partake in all of his permitted pleasures).
One can possess perfectly normal intelligence, even superior intelligence, as they say, for example, of Bill Clinton, and yet be devoid of spiritual wisdom, since it can only exist on a transcendent plane above the linear succession of temporal moments. No one has to convince me that his 1,000 page autofellatiography is an overflowing wellspring of spiritual vacuity, devoid of wisdom.
Likeunwise, Hugh Hefner isn't reduced to sleeping with three empty-headed 20 year-olds because he lacks wisdom, but he is such a pathetically desolate soul because that is what he has spent his life doing. The one-dimensional physical beauty he compulsively seeks is a kind of perverse mirror of the five-dimensional spiritual beauty he lacks. (One reason he is a big supporter of "women's causes" is in order to reap their baleful effects.) He does provide a sort of compass for the soul, however, since at this point you could probably ask him almost any question about life and get the wrong answer. As such, his soul's journey in this life has been catastrophic. He built -- or grew -- nothing. His soul will leave the world in worse shape than it came in. He is a celestial abortion. He has unhad the time of his life by breaking it to bits.
Bolton goes on to say that "the greatest amount of pleasure of whatever kind can never exceed the greatest single instance of it, and likewise with pain." This is why, to quote Plotinus, to try to make multiplicity, "whether in time or in action, essential to happiness," is to try to put happiness together "by combining non-existents" (quoted in Bolton). What does exist is the present, only it is not actually a "bare moment" on a linear scale. Rather, it has vertical extension, and this is where pleasure can actually be deepened in a meaningful sense, and this is what true spirituality endeavors to do. It is a way for the pleasures of your life to actually accumulate and add up to One instead of none.