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.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Bob's Life: A Modest Thing, but Thine Own

Reader JP asked a good question, or at least one I feel capable of answering this morning: "This will sound trivial but what is your typical day like? Do you write these before going to work? How do you divide your time during a typical day? It's kinda off the topic but I'm just curious."

It's a good question because it may open out to a more general discussion of how one one leads a spiritual life in this modern space age a go-go world of ours. But it also won't tax the stomach flu-weakened Gagdad system. I prematurely celebrated the passing gastric storm last night by pounding some chicken with black bean sauce with my customary gusto, but it turns out that my traumatized tummy was not fully prepared for this kind of commitment. It was not an outright rejection, mind you, but let us just say that General Chang's finest was accepted only with a marked ambivalence that lasted well into the night. A less rash and bold man would have started with oatmeal or jello. But such a timid man would not be a Coon, now would he?

My point is that when I am feeling less than on top of the Cosmos, my coon vision shrinks proportionately, but I am always capable of writing about myself. Such is the power of my narcissism that it is my last body system to shut down.

Now, as to this matter of my typical day. This might be a little tedious for most of you, so feel free to take the day off and come back tomorrow. It's much more than most Coons want or need to know.

Of course, everything changed with the arrival of Future Leader in April of 2005. But to be honest, everything changed with the pregnancy, which commenced on July 25, 2004 (unless you count Future Leader's lonely three days in the petri dish immediately prior to that, culminating in a very robust-looking blastocyst).

To be even more honest, it probably all changed with the decision to have a child after some 15 years of marriage with no such desire. As fate would have it, we both changed our minds simultaneously in the fall of 2002. In my case, these child-centered thoughts came as a great surprise. I won't go into all of the details, otherwise this post will be hijacked in a different direction. Suffice it to say that when these child-thoughts began barging into my head, they were as alien as if I were having impure thoughts about Brad Pitt. Very disorienting, don't you know. How can this be?

But immediately after that, in December of 2002, my sister-in-law tragically died, and that too changed everything. My wife was terribly depressed for awhile, so we didn't get back on the baby track until late 2003.

The reason why I bring up the baby business is that everything about the experience changed the orientation of my life. Up until that time, I pretty much lived in the moment. I meditated every day, read widely, and worked on the book when the inspiration struck.

But because we were a relatively older couple (I was 48 and Mrs. G was 43 when she became pregnant), I couldn't just enjoy the pregnancy in the usual way. Rather, I was very aware of the fact that the clock was ticking, and the older the mother, the more things can go wrong. I imagine that if you're 25 or 30, you can enjoy the pregnancy in a much more organic way, because you don't feel the pressure of the clock. But in my case, I just couldn't wait to get my hands on that baby. For two years I was walking around like Fat Bastard mumbling I want the baby!

Anything short of the baby was slightly unreal and abstract, which had the effect of making those two years somewhat unreal and abstract -- just a transitional period from point A to point C. Because of my spiritual practice, I was entirely unaccustomed to living in this future-oriented manner, and I just wanted to get it over with.

In one of those cosmic tri-incidences, the final version of my book was submitted the same month Mrs. G. became pregnant, which also turned out to be the same month I was diagnosed with adult onset type I diabetes. This also changed everything, not just by virtue of having the disease, which was not that big of a deal for me. What was a big deal was that I was now not just responsible for myself, but to Future Leader. It's weird enough having a child this late in life, weirder still when you suddenly have a disease that may significantly shorten your lifespan. Again, if it were just me, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But I owed it to him to stick around for as long as possible. I want to be around to see him drop out of high school.

So it is fair to say that my spiritual life receded into the background during this time. And then, after he was born in 2005, that again changed everything. For although Future Leader is an extraordinarily delightful and entertaining baby, he is not an easy baby -- something like a combination of Robin Williams and Harpo Marx on crack cocaine. As a result, every day since then has more or less been a matter of getting through the day by any means necessary, especially for Mrs. G., who left her career as a therapist, career transition coach, and writer to be a full time servant of His Majesty. Suffice it to say, the focus is back on the present, big time, but not in the old way, since the focus is on this little imposter instead of the real baby, me.

I know, I know, my typical day. I'm getting there.

We've worked it out so that Mrs. G. ministers to Future Leader should the need arise at night. For a long time -- until February of 2006 -- he was a terrible sleeper, which almost cost Mrs. G. her sanity, and by extension, Dear Leader his serenity. Things have been much better since then, but he still goes through his phases, like right now. In any event, once I wake up, I take over and allow Mrs. G. to sleep in for as long as she needs to avoid giving me a headache.

Now, I try to wake up no later than 5:00AM in order to get started on a post, because Future Leader generally starts to stir as early as 6:00. This in itself is a big change for me, as I used to be unable to function without nine hours of sleep, whereas now I get by on seven. Occasionally I am able to wake up at 4:00, which is much better and always makes for a deeper and more well-written post.

Two other big changes are related to this. In the past I always thought of myself as a "night person." I was very slow to wake up in the morning, and the idea of bounding out of bed and trying to be creative would have been strictly inconceivable. Furthermore, I always thought of myself as the "inspirational" type, in that I only bothered writing when the occasional burst of creativity came over me. For example, during the course of working on my book, weeks would pass by without feeling inspired enough to write a thing.

But after I began blogging, I settled into this pattern of waking up early and, without any preparation, writing whatever came into my mind. About half the time, the seed of an idea is already present, and it is merely up to me to follow where it leads. As I have said before, nowadays I will often wake up with the post starting to write itself before I even get out of bed. In that case, I have to get up and "catch it" before it blows away.

Other times I literally start typing in search of the thread, with the faith that it is somewhere, and that I will be able to grasp it. You may notice sometimes that a post sort of meanders a bit until it suddenly takes off with a "zing." That's the sound of me catching the thread and suddenly being yanked into hyperspace.

Have you ever tried to remember a dream that is beyond the edge of consciousness? It feels something like that. You can't use effort to remember the dream. Rather, you have to sort of relax back into that state. Eventually you'll get a little thread of it -- an image or a feeling -- which will lead back to the dream. That's what the posts are like. Once I find the thread, then the rest tumbles down into place. Vertical recollection.

So the pressure is on as soon as I wake up, because I need to find that thread before the beast in the next room starts to stir. But long as I have the thread in hand, then -- much to my surprise -- I can continue working on it under the most adverse circumstances, with Future Leader crawling all over me and generally greeting the day in his characteristically enthusiastic manner, with inane Elmo in the background, and with the 24 second clock winding down.

Again, compared to my previous life, the ability to write anything under these circumstances is more or less indistinguishable from magic. It's something I never would have imagined.

So I work on my post between 5:00 and 8:00, but not continuously. There are a lot of disruptions. You may also be uninterested to know that, because of the diabetes, food intake is never far from my mind. I maintain a fairly strict and fanatical regimen in that regard, because it's just not worth it to ever have your blood sugar out of range.

The way I look at it, each and every day my body is on fire, and it is my job to put out the fire. I have a specific target where I want my blood sugar to be when I wake up, before each meal, within two hours after each meal, and before going to bed. I take a pretty radical approach, because I basically determined the minimum amount of carbohydrates (no less and no more) compatible with survival, and apportion it into six small meals per day, every three hours. It's a matter of trying to keep a constant blood sugar level, with no peaks and valleys. As far as anyone knows, this is the whole key to avoiding the long term complications of diabetes.

This may well be the best approach to dietary health in general. As it so happens, I converted to a Zone-like diet over a decade ago (I was never a fanatic about it, but just incorporated some of the general principles) and it made a dramatic difference on my mood and my cognitive abilities. With the Zone diet, insulin is considered the "master hormone," and the whole idea is to eliminate bad carbohydrates in order to regulate it, while increasing protein and healthy fats. As a matter of fact, one thing that strikes me about the whole climate change hoo-haw is that if experts can't even get the food pyramid right, why should we believe them about what the weather is going to be like in 50 years? I began following Zone principles back when dieticians counseled us to eat as many carbs as possible and to avoid fat, which has disastrous consequences. It is the reason why we have the epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes.

As I have gotten more deeply into blogging, my so-called career has become an increasingly bizarre nuisance to me. Needless to say, Raccoons are not envious creatures, but if they were, here is who I would envy: imagine being Charles Krauthammer or Tom Sowell, or even a lightweight like Tom Friedman or a dope like Paul Krugman. Their entire work life consists of producing a couple of measly columns a week! That's it! In my case, I produce a longer one every day before my work life even begins.

But such is man's fate. You know the drill -- "by the sweat of your brow you shall earn your bread," and all that. I suppose it's best for the writing to remain a hobby anyway, as it keeps it free from any commercial taint whatsoever. It truly is a joy, and the most intense and happy part of my day is when I'm sitting here in the pre-dawn silence and darkness, chasing after one of those little threads. It really has come to be the basis of my own spiritual life. Frankly, I don't know what I'd do without it.

Now, a couple of outraged readers have raised a valid criticism, asking how I can possibly be a psychotherapist with all of my various prejudices? As a matter of fact, they're right. I can't anymore. I have more or less phased that out, with the exception of short term situations. Instead, I mainly work in forensic psychology, which involves lengthy, one-time clinical interviews lasting anywhere from three to eight hours, psych testing, reviewing voluminous medical files, and writing long and ponderous med-legal reports. As a result, I only have to leave the house two or three times a week, and do a lot of work (dictation and editing) right here in the Coon den.

If I am honest with myself, I simply cannot do psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which is the only type of therapy I am trained to do (and any other kind would just be too boring). Doing this kind of therapy requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline in order to maintain neutrality and not project oneself into the situation, and I just can't do that anymore. To be honest, I was never cut out to be a therapist to begin with, and I only ended up with a Ph.D. in psychology because of my unbridled curiosity, not because I was thinking of a career. I am much more suited to be a teacher, but that is a very different thing than being a therapist.

I remember a patient from a while back. He was a secular Jewish man who was getting involved in Cub Scouts with his nine year-old son. He was angrily complaining about the religious aspect, bitterly questioning why they had to ram this worthless religious BS down their throats. I remember another person who said that Yasser Arafat was one of his heroes. Or a female patient, a feminist child of the sixties, who, like a male "playboy," went from one unfulfilling sexual relationship to another, never questioning the basis of her feminist orthodoxy, to the point of being mildly suicidal due to the absence of meaning in her life. Or one who was obsessed with left wing politics and was full of the typical conspiratorial ideas about the right. His sickness was entirely embodied in his politics, but where to begin?

As I said, I just can't do it. I want to shake them, not do therapy on them. I don't know how ShrinkWrapped does it! He has discipline of steel.

Say, you folks must be awfully bored by now....

Anyway, I work seven days a week, so that I can knock off by mid-afternoon. If I am able to get any meaningful reading done, it is while Future Leader is napping between 1:00 and 3:00. Not too long after that, it's time for exercise, either weight lifting, yoga, mountain biking, or stationary bike. I also sometimes take the young 'un to the park in order to give Mrs. G. a little sanity break.

Somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 I will have exactly two beers, preferably a dark ale. In addition to all the other health benefits, it turns out that it has a beneficial effect on my diabetes, as alcohol temporarily suppresses the liver's release of sugar. Everyone's diabetes is different, but in my case, I am lucky enough that if I don't drink my two beers, my blood sugar is higher in the morning, so I am truly blessed! Beer is a medical necessity for me.

This is also the time that I may be able to listen to some music. In my old life, I listened to music all the time, whereas now I have to do so when I can. At the same time, we play with Future Leader until he goes down at 7:30 or 8:00 -- if I am lucky, with a Dodger or Laker game in the background. Except when I'm sick, I put him down every night, rocking him to sleep with a bottle while softly singing whatever songs spontaneously pop into my head. I have never mentioned this embarassing factoid before, but I am a huge fan of the little-appreciated cult-genre of Sunshine Pop, which makes for very good lullabyes.

Are any other Coons aficionados of this guilty pleasure? Can I get an amen for the Yellow Balloon? The Sunshine Company? Spanky & Our Gang? The Millennium? And of course the immortal Godfather of the genre, Brian Wilson.

That's pretty much my life. I guess it doesn't look like much, but I like to think that what it lacks in breadth it makes up for in depth.

Well now the babies are all sleeping,
And the twilight's giving in,
She looks like you,
He looks like her,
And we all look like him.
Well maybe it's just a little thing,
The way I feel tonight,
A little joy, a little love, and a whole lot of light.

You got a real fine love,
You got a real fine love,
One I am unworthy of.
You got a real fine love, baby.
--Real Fine Love, John Hiatt

Thursday, February 08, 2007

L. Bob Gagdad and the Cult of Merry Raccoons (2.21.10)

"What we see in this post is a drift towards a 'cult' mentality. All cults require a dire threat from the outside in order to create an 'us against them' atmosphere. Without the external threat, a sufficient level of internal cohesion cannot be created.

"Bob has stuck out his neck and declared that leftists pose the threat of actually destroying mankind by blocking all people's access to God.

"This is just flatly ridiculous on the face of it. Please don't buy in."

D'oh! I hate it when people find out the truth about Transdimensional Order of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons.

But what took this genius so long to figure it out? Without an external threat, how can Dear Leader be expected to maintain internal cohesion and cult discipline -- as the left does by villifying George Bush and promulgating apocalyptic fantasies of global cooling.... er, nuclear winter.... ahh, global warming.... umm, climate change?

As you are about to see, I've been playing up this dire existential threat in order to create a "Coon against the world" siege mentality ever since my very first post on October 5, 2005 (which we celebrate as intergalactic "Coonday"). In what follows, I'll go through that post paragraph by paragraph and demonstrate how the left really is such a boon, I mean existential threat, to our sacred fundraising efforts on behalf of the cult:

1) "I don't think it's healthy to orient your life around politics 24/7, as does the secular left, for which politics is their substitute religion. Politics must aim at something that isn't politics, otherwise, what's the point? Politics just becomes a cognitive system to articulate your existential unhappiness. Again, this is what leftists do -- everything for them is politicized."

This is axiomatic. In a famous remark that reflects one of the defining characteristics of modern conservatism, Eric Voegelin noted that the very basis of the leftist project is to "immamentize the eschaton," which, in plain language, means to horizontalize the vertical. Just as the Roman Empire collapsed partly as a result of "horizontal barbarians," the leftist represents a kind of bovine, ham-handed (as if cows could have hands) "vertical barbarian" for whom nothing transcending the immediate senses is ontologically real.

Thus, for example, all truth is relative, free will is attenuated through the cult of victimology, envy (perhaps the greatest enemy of spiritual fulfillment) is promoted as a defining virtue, and transcendent moral obligations are reduced to an arbitrary cultural agreement. Leftism is defined by an externalizing consciousness that locates the reason for unhappiness or failure outside the self. On the other hand, one of the greatest gifts of a proper spiritual education is that it forces one to locate the reasons for one's unhappiness within. Every leftist politician arrives with the perverse gospel that, "it's not your fault! You are a victim! Don't be responsible for your life! Liberty is a pernicious illusion anyway! Transfer your power to me, and I will rescue you!"

2) "One of the general purposes of this blog is to try to look at politics in a new way -- to place the day-to-day struggle of politics in a much wider historical, evolutionary, and even cosmic context. History is trying to get somewhere, and it is our job to help it get there. However, that 'somewhere' does not lie within the horizontal field of politics, but beyond it. Thus, politics must not only be grounded in something that isn't politics, but aim at something that isn't politics either."

Here again, it goes without saying that this is a kind of talk that is unknown -- because unknowable -- on the left. Their project always involves the diminution of spiritual freedom in order to attain a purely worldly goal that horizontal leftist elites deem worthwhile. Thus, a few days ago, Hillary Clinton promised that if she is president, she will confiscate the profits of legal corporations at the barrel of a gun and use them in the way she sees fit. Likewise, she will no doubt attempt to take health care out of our hands, and essentially appropriate a substantial portion of the economy through government rationed healthcare.

3) "This is not an abstract, impractical or esoteric notion. The ultimate purpose of politics should be to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of the American founders, so that humans may evolve inwardly and upwardly -- not toward a manifest destiny but an unmanifest deustiny."

This one almost goes without saying. The left does not value spiritual liberty but horizontal equality. Once you recognize this distinction, you will see how it animates nearly every one of their domestic policies. To the extent that they value freedom at all, it is only the shadow version of true liberty represented by license -- which is generally much closer to vice than it is to liberty. Just as our freedom to know is only meaningful if we use it to conform ourselves to truth, our liberty is only meaningful if we use it to conform to virtue.

4) "For example, when we say that politics must be grounded in something that isn't politics, we are simply reflecting the philosophy at the heart of the American revolution, that the sacred rights of mankind, as expressed by Alexander Hamilton, are written in human nature 'by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased by mortal power.' In short, human beings possess a 'spiritual blueprint' that is antecedent to politics, and which it is the task of politics to protect, preserve and nurture."

Here again, this idea is entirely foreign to the left, which is a wholly materialistic philosophy. For them, the purpose of politics is hardly to preserve and protect our liberty, but to impose ideological conformity and to diminish freedom through government intervention. There is probably no place less intellectually -- let alone, vertically -- free than liberal academia, which eliminates dissent through political correctness and speech codes.

5) "The founders, who were steeped in Judeo-Christian metaphysics, did not believe in mere license, which comes down to meaningless freedom on the horizontal plane. Rather, they believed that horizontal history had a beginning and was guided by a purpose, and that only through the unfolding of human liberty could that 'vertical' purpose be achieved. Our founders were progressive to the core, but unlike our contemporary reactionary and anti-evolutionary leftists, they measured progress in relation to permanent standards that lay outside time -- metaphorically speaking, an eschatological 'Kingdom of God,' or 'city on a hill,' drawing us toward it. Without this nonlocal telos, the cosmos can really have no frontiers, only edges. Perhaps this is why the left confuses truth with 'edginess.'"

Running out of time here, but the left is engaged in the perpetual project of denying and undermining our unique Judeo-Christian heritage. As I have said before, they are callously destroying the vertical habitat in which the Raccoon actually lives.

6) "Liberty -- understood in its spiritual sense -- was the key idea of the founders. This cannot be overemphasized. According to Michael Novak, liberty was understood as the 'axis of the universe,' and history as 'the drama of human liberty.' Thomas Jefferson wrote that 'the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.' It was for this reason that Jefferson's original idea for the design of the seal of the United States was Moses leading the children of Israel out of the death-cult of Egypt, out of the horizontal wasteland of spiritual bondage, into the open circle of a higher life. America was quite consciously conceived as an opportunity to 're-launch' mankind after such an initial 100,000 years or so of disappointment, underachievement, and spiritual stagnation."

The left believes there is nothing special or exceptional about the United States -- unless it is exceptionally bad, as famous leftists such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Michael Moore have been saying for years. Just the other day, John Kerry mentioned at an international conference that the United States is a pariah among nations. I give him credit for his honesty, as all lefists believe this, but, like Yasser Arafat, never reveal their true feelings to the wrong audience.

7) "Although it may sound slightly heretical, without human liberty, the Creator is helpless to act in the horizontal. This does not diminish the Creator but exalts him, for a moment's reflection reveals that an intimation of our spiritual freedom absolutely belies any mere material explanation found within the horizontal confines of history. For ours is an inwardly mobile cosmos, and as the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki writes, our free will brings us 'face to face with that realm of metaphysical reality which hangs in midair unless suspended [vertically] from that Ultimate Reality, best called God, the Creator."

Again, true freedom can only involve aligning our will with the Creator, otherwise there can be no such thing as liberty -- just as there can be no such thing as knowledge unless it involves aligning ourselves with Truth.

8) "Tip O’Neill is evidently responsible for the cliché that 'All politics is local.' The greater truth is that all politics is nonlocal, meaning that outward political organization rests on a more fundamental, 'inner' ground that interacts with a hierarchy of perennial and timeless values. Arguments about the surface structure of mundane political organization really have to do with whose nonlocal values will prevail, and the local system that will be established in order to achieve those nonlocal values."

What leftist would ever say such a thing? Since a leftist is by definition a metaphysical yahoo, his only recourse is to ridicule that which he does not understand.


So that pretty much lays out the basis of our little cult in my very first post. The question is, do we really have an enemy -- i.e., is the left really opposed to the Coon platform -- or are we pretty much "on the same page," with only minor quibbling at the margins? You know the drill -- we're all Americans and we all want the same things. We just have slightly different strategies for achieving them.

I do not personally adhere to this sanguine view of our differences. I will speak only for myself. When you talk about the differences between me and a typical leftist, you might as well be talking about different species. The left, of course, is obsessed with trivial racial differences, but the difference between me and a leftist is infinitely greater than any differences based on race, class or gender. I am a member of the same race as anyone who shares my values. Therefore, Tom Sowell and I are members of the same race, just as Margaret Thatcher and I are members of the same gender. On the other hand, the girlish John Edwards and I are the opposite sex, and Al Sharpton is from another planet altogether. "Race" hardly defines our differences in any meaningful manner, and yet, the racist left believes that it is All Important.

There is a reason why leftism is an ideology that appeals to losers, misfits, the envious, the unhappy, and the addle-brained young. It is not that leftism creates the demand. Rather, these people demand an ideology to cater to their various pathologies and deficits. In other words, it is a demand-side politics that arises from certain unfortunate but ubiquitous trends in human nature. However, once the ideology is created, then its central task will be the creation of more lost souls who demand the ideology of leftism. Here again, this is one of the keys to understanding most any leftist policy, which fosters dependency, envy, narcissistic entitlement, and victimization.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Leftist Project of Mandatory Celestial Abortion

I may have met my match this morning -- one of those 48 hour GI viruses courtesy of Future Leader. Frankly, I don't know how I completed yesterday's post. I actually feel better today, but I slept too late, so I'm not even sure I can come up with a topic.

It's very interesting. It's moments like this that I realize that all of my writing comes from a certain interior "center," and that if for any reason I am ousted from that center, the writing could not happen. I've never thought of it this way before, but the "place" where the writing comes from is much more important than the actual content. My life increasingly revolves around trying to stay in that center, because nothing else makes up for its loss. So long as I am in that place, then the content takes care of itself. It's the difference between writing from the inside out vs. trying to do so from the outside in -- the latter being difficult as a result of those damn cherubim with flaming swords turned every way to guard the tree of life. Especially if the cherubim are contagious.

This is actually how the enigmatic Boris Mouravieff describes the nature of esotericism. It is not so much that one is dealing with an "oral tradition" of "secret knowledge" (i.e., not casually shared with just any grubbyone) that is "mysterious and hidden" from those who would misunderstand or degrade it -- although those things are all true. Rather, one is dealing with "inner knowledge" that comes directly from (or to, to be precise) the "inner man" and brings the letter to life. Information is to the externalizing ego what perennial Wisdom is to the Inner Man. The purpose of esotericism is to make this inner man known to himself:

"The final object of positive science is the same in principle, but the efforts are diametrically opposed. Starting from the center, positive science extends, specializes, and so diverges towards the periphery. At the limit each point forms a separate discipline. Esoteric science begins from the multiplicity and variety observed on the periphery accessible to our senses, and moves towards the center. It tends towards a more and more general synthesis" (Mouravieff). This is why the center is both interior and vertical. The one is a necessary consequence of the other.

A few days back we mentioned Sri Aurobindo's axiom that "within there is a soul and above there is a Grace. This is all you know or need to know." The turning point in one's spiritual development comes with the "second birth," which is the birth of the inner man, precisely (i.e., the "soul within"). This event goes by different names in different traditions, but one thing a Coon always asks in all situations is "by virtue of what principle?"

That is, we honor religious truth wherever we find it. But religious truth hardly implies something that violates everything else we know to be true. Rather, it will always reveal a meta-cosmic principle that is knowable to us. This is the difference between Western religions and, say, Islam, where everything Allah does is a "special case," the purpose of which is unknowable by humans.

For example, no Coon would waste a moment debating over the question of whether human beings may know truth. Why not? By virtue of the wider principle that the cosmos is infused with a logos that forms the basis of both the obvious intelligibility of the world and the intellect that may know it. Both mind and matter -- both the interior and exterior of the cosmos -- are permeated with same immanent logos, so naturally, by virtue of that principle, many implications follow. Among other things, no matter how deeply we dig, we will always find the logos, or "intelligent design." God's fingerprints -- which is to say truth and beauty -- are everywhere, from the submicro to the supermacro and everything in between.

The exterior man is an interior linked to the exterior. In short, you might say that he exteriorizes his interior in a manner that is hardly more subtle than an animal. But the Kingdom of Heaven is Within -- "within" not referring to a particular place, but to the mystery of withinness as such. Where else could it be? The Great Within is man's true birthright and true habitat, but how many human beings ever undergo the second birth and make a home there?

This is what makes a barbaric people such as the "Palestinians" so barbaric -- i.e., their completely externalizing consciousness that regards olive trees as more real than information. The Jews -- pound for pound, probably the most successful group in human history -- can thrive under the most adverse exterior circumstances because of hundreds of years of interior training, whereas Muslims can succeed nowhere because of hundreds of years of externalizing consciousness. Go back to 1948 and place the Israelis on the west bank and the Arabs in present day Israel. Today the former would be a little paradise amidst the squalor of Islam, while the latter would be an undeveloped hellhole ruled by hatred and envy.

Yesterday Ben asked, "In regards to Divine 'gifts' or 'abilities', which are unique in each of us, did we always have them, before they were revealed, or were they given to us as they are revealed?" Here I can only go by what it feels like, and it feels to me as if we are born with the gift, but that it becomes obscured precisely due to our exteriorizing consciousness, or "fallenness," as we become increasingly entangled with the world.

Remember, prior to our primordial calamity, Adam lived in intimacy with God, but afterwards he was driven from paradise and his consciousness became "horizontalized," so to speak. Before the fall, spirituality came naturally to him, whereas afterwards it was -- and is -- more of a struggle, to say the least. You might say that the rest of the Bible deals with man's struggle to reestablish the vertical link with God, culminating in (if you are a Christian) God's determination that man's efforts are futile, and that the only option available to him is to come down and personally reestablish the link himself.

But once again, we must always ask "by virtue of what principle" does this event and the transformation of consciousness that follows take place? In other words, it seems axiomatic -- a tautology, really -- that the Word becomes flesh because it is possible for the Word to do so. This is not to detract from it, but to rescue it from being confused with "magic" or some other such paganism. It is not through "magic" that the Word becomes flesh. Rather, it is "in the course of things." But to say it is not "magic" hardly means that it is not a glorious mystery, mystery being a mode of understanding, not a form of ignorance. It is no less wonderful that God has dropped a lifeline through the ever-present hole at the center of creation through which heaven and earth -- the horizontal and vertical -- may be reconciled.

According to Mouravieff, it is with the "second birth" that our latent faculties are actualized, as this coincides with the establishment of a link between the visible and invisible worlds -- between "word and flesh," so to speak. In so doing, we make the transition from "mechanical man" to a truly "living man" revivified by the "waters" from above. Coons are well aware of the fact that we are often discriminated against for our orientation -- which is to the "above" and the "within." This is why the Master made many perceptive and wise cracks to the effect that, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you."

The horror of secular leftism is the horror of a race of inferior externalizing men engaged in the project of sealing the hole in creation and literally "reversing" the incarnation. In other words, they want to force all humans -- interior and exterior man alike! -- to live by the darkness of their absurd principles, which include the impossibility of any vertical inscape, any reconciliation of the celestial and earthly realms. This is to annihilate man as such, because it destroys the fulfillment of man at his inner reaches. It is nothing less than the institutionalization of forced celestial abortion so that no one may undergo the second birth.

Contemplating this is just making my nausea worse, so I'd better stop for now.

The fact that you don't feel a force does not prove that it is not there. The steam-engine does not feel a force moving it, but the force is there. A man is not a steam-engine? He is very little better, for he is conscious only of some bubbling on the surface which he calls himself and is absolutely unconscious of all the subconscient, subliminal, and superconscient forces moving in him...

Generally the soul wakes up, rubs its eyes and says "Hallo, where's that Grace?," and begins fumbling around for it and pulling at things in the hope that the Grace is at the other end of said things. Finally it pulls at something by accident and the Grace comes toppling down full tilt from God knows where. That's the usual style. But there are others.
-- Sri Aurobindo

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Receiving Your Spatial Delivery with Both Feet Planted Firmly in the Air

We didn't properly dodge that last question, did we? "How do I maintain a stable, balanced life in the material plane when my thoughts are constantly drifting towards intellection of the higher realms?" I forgot all about it when my thoughts drifted toward the higher realms.

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?

Monday, February 05, 2007

M-moses, Baba, Tommy, and the Frankly Amazing Journey

There once was a note, pure and easy,
Playing so free like a breath rippling by.
The note is eternal, I hear it, it sees me,
Forever we blend and forever we die.
--Pure and Easy, The Who

"Petey, If God is always already all, then why the elaborate process of involution and evolutionary return? Furthermore, how can I 'meet' God on His own transcendental plane, when the bulk of my knowledge and understanding comes from my interaction with the horizontal plane? And conversely, how do I maintain a stable, balanced life in the material plane when my thoughts are constantly drifting towards intellection of the higher realms?"

What say you, Petey? Any likely stories for us this morning?

My fellow Coons, in the last analysis, each of us is but a spark in the dark ever since we were tossed from the park. When we talk about "ultimate reality," we must necessarily use forms and symbols as a blind man might use a cane (to borrow a metaphor from Polanyi). This is a prominent theme in many forms of mysticism, including Orthodox Christianity, in which the Godhead is hidden in darkness within a cataphatic cloud of unknowing.

How do we adapt our inner eyes to the divine darkness, so that we do not confuse the form with the substance? What the hell, let's ask another Petey through his alter-ego, Tommy:

Deaf Dumb and blind boy
He's in a quiet vibration land
Strange as it seems his musical dreams
Ain't quite so bad.

Sickness will surely take the mind
Where minds can't usually go.
Come on the amazing journey
And learn all you should know.

Pete Townshend wrote those lines under the influence of the unorthodox Indian spiritual master Meher Baba. Until this moment, I didn't know a great deal about Baba, but according the Wikipedia entry on him, he begins his metaphysics where any sound metaphysician must, which is to say with the idea of "divine unity, the view that diverse creation, or duality, is an illusion and that the goal of life is conscious realization of the absolute Oneness of God inherent in all animate and inanimate beings and things."

In short, Baba starts with the perennial -- and necessary -- distinction between the Absolute and the relative, or what we would call "being" and "beyond being." It is also the distinction between the One and the many, or Brahman and maya, the latter of which represents on the one hand "illusion," but also power and play, or shakti and lila. For Christians it would be the difference between God's essence and energies (dynamis), while for Kabbalists it would be the difference between the Ain Sof and the Sefirtoth, or the formless Godhead and the inner form, or "blueprint" of creation.

I like this -- it's very Eckhartian: Baba "compares God's original state to an infinite, shoreless ocean which has only unconscious divinity -- unaware of itself even though there is nothing but itself. From this state, God had the 'whim' to know Himself and asked 'Who am I?'. In response to this question, creation came into existence. What was previously a still, shoreless Ocean stirred, forming innumerable 'drops' of itself..."

Why do I like this? Because it's exactly what I unsay at the beginning of the Coonifesto in so many bobscure nonwords. From our human perspective, the "within" of the cloud of unknowing looks like "nothing, pure emptiness, a formless void without mind or life, a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea, unlit altar of eternity, fathomless vortex of the Infinite Zero." It is "One brahman deathless breathing breathless, darkness visible the boundless all, unknown origin prior to time and space, fount of all being, unborn thus undying, beginning and end of all impossibility, empty plenum and inexhaustible void."

And that is That.

But wait a minute. Something stirs within the darkness of this eternal One. What's is it? It's a question:

"Who is? I AM. A wake. A lone. Hallow, noumena!"

Who knew God was a Seinfeld fan? And has Kramer's racist diatribe changed this?

In any event, as Baba says, creation -- including our womentary maninfestation -- comes into existence simultaneously with God's Infinite Question, "Who am I?" Happily, this comports with the answer Moses received within his own little cloud of unknowing atop Sinai, which was, I AM WHO I AM, but you can call me I AM for short."

What? Haim?

"No, stupid, I AM."

Oh... okay... I AM... umm, care to elaborate, because -- no offense -- but that's what I call myself.

"Yes, that is correct. Tell your fellow wandering Coons that I AM has sent me to you, and that this is my name forever, and that all subsequent generations must vertically remember this fact."

B-b-bu.... I'm not m-much of a t-talker, Lord.

"Never mind that. Who has made man's mouth, anyway? Don't sweat it. I will be with your mouth and teach you O-->(k) despite the little hitch in your verbal giddyup. And I apologize for calling you stupid. I've got a lot on my plate. This is my crazy time of yuga."

Since repetition is the mother of pedagogy, alert Coons will have gnosised that the passage above from p. 7 of One Cosmos is a holographic fractal that contains the entirety of the book and repeats itself throughout. The same story is told from slightly different angles on pp. 8, 9, 10, 13-14, and 15-17. For example, on page 8: "But it was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so he expired with a Big Bong and said 'let there be higher physics,' and it was zo." Or on page 9: "Only himspoph with nowhere to bewrong, hovering over the waters without a kenosis. Vishnu were here, but just His lux, God only knows only God, and frankly ishvara monotheotonous." Etc.

According to Baba, "Each soul, being formed by God's whim to know Himself, contains within itself the same desire for self-knowledge." In attempting to answer this question -- as the "Who am I?" journeys back to I AM -- we become conscious of our divinity. But in order to do this, we must overcome many illusory and anti-evolutionary mind parasites, or samskaras, along the way. This idea is presented on p. 14 of One Cosmos, when we fall into so may "jivass godlings and samskara monsters."

The spiritual path represents a reversal of this involutionary process. As the soul "begins to traverse an inner spiritual path," it "gradually eliminates all impressions which cause the appearance of separateness from God" (Baba).

And "once the sanskaras are gone, the goal of knowing itself as conscious divinity is attained. The drop soul once again becomes merged in the Ocean, that is, it realizes its true Divine indivisible and eternal nature. It has now answered the question of 'Who am I?' with 'I am God.'"

Now, I know there are many Christians who believe that this doesn't apply to them, but with minor modifications and important qualifications, it does. I don't want to get into a theological debate over the fine points, and in any event, it is not for me to say. Suffice it to say that if you wish to investigate the original Christianity of the early fathers, it is not difficult to do.

As to the second question, "how can I 'meet' God on His own transcendental plane, when the bulk of my knowledge and understanding comes from my interaction with the horizontal plane?" Again, one does so by reversing the process of involution. In short, if you find yourself in an existential hole, the first thing you must do is stop digging. Scientists can keep digging, but the way back does not -- cannot -- lie in that direction. That's fine. We have no quarrel whatsoever with scientists, so long as they do not confuse digging with climbing, you dig? In the words of Richard Weaver,

“The modernistic searcher after meaning may be likened to a man furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence. But no synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed.”

Ah ha! The opposite direction! Umm, could you unsay a bit less?

Yes, back to Tommy, in whom:

Sickness will surely take the mind
Where minds can't usually go.
Come on the amazing journey
And learn all you should know.

For the spiritual seeker, "health" is a kind of spiritual sickness and sickness is a kind of spiritual health. It's paradoxable, don't you know: blessed are the poor in spirit, the last will become first, and all that jazzus.

Once again, this is indirectly undressed in pp. 252-266 of the Coonifesto, each paragraph of which deals with caterpultering your buddhafly across the phoenix line -- with how to de-part and be-wholed in the vertical. Frankly, because of our original sinatra, this is very hard to do without a little nonlocal assistance, but not to worry: in lama land there's a wise old man, and he'll goose your nous for you.

So come fly with me on the amuzing journey, where "each sensation makes a note in our symphony."

And remurmur: Do be. Do be. Do!

Listening to you,
I get the music.
Gazing at you,
I get the heat.
Following you,
I climb the mountains.
I get excitement at your feet.
--Petey Townshend

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Rambling Post From Nowhere to Nothing

Back to those next two questions, "Does anybody else actually exist or am I just a waking dreamer, dreaming the world and all of its inhabitants into existence in order to actualize my fractured consciousness?," and "For that matter, do I even exist or am I just a scripted player in a wider dream?"

As to the first question, it is one of those many questions that are obvious to the intellect but which cannot be proven by philosophy. For example, there are many philosophers who absurdly affirm that free will does not exist, when nothing could be more self-evident to the awakened intellect than the existence of our objective and transcendent will. Without freedom, we could not know truth, and therefore, we could make no truthful statements at all, so denying free will is logically self-refuting. Nor could virtue exist, for our choice between good and evil would be an illusion. At once we would have to abolish our legal system, since it would be founded on the illusion that people are free to choose between obeying the law or breaking it.

It is possible to "prove" many sophistries with philosophy, which is why so many minds can end up shipwrecked there in a no-mind's land between the macro world of theology and the micro world of empiricism. It's not so much what you can prove with philosophy, but what you cannot disprove. For example, you cannot disprove that free will is an illusion, that other minds don't exist, or that natural selection fully accounts for human consciousness, because philosophy is not equipped to deal with things that form its basis and possibility: truth, free will, other minds, and non-genetic meaning, among others.

So there are naturally philosophers who have made the sillypsistic argument that only their own mind narcissarily exists and that the world is its dream. This represents a half-correct perversion of the true state of affairs, which is captured in the following quote by Frithjof Schuon:

"The truth of the Cartesian cogito ergo sum is, not that it presents thought as the proof of being, but simply that it enunciates the primacy of thought -- hence of consciousness or intelligence -- in relation to the material world which surrounds us." Now read carefully, Coons: "Certainly, it is not our personal thought which preceded the world, but it was -- or is -- absolute Consciousness, of which our thought is precisely a distant reflection; our thought which reminds us -- and proves to us -- that in the beginning was the Spirit."

There is a sizeable area where "bad philosophy" meets with the leftist impulse to deny human nature in order to create their notmore utopia, because all leftist ideas originally hatched from the unfertile egghead of some cracked philosopher. But the yolk is always on us, because teaching people that free will is an illusion is a sure way to lay more beastly bad eggs on the public. In short, if you argue that humans are less than human -- or set up a system of disincentives toward becoming human -- pretty soon you will have a world of infrahumans.

A fine example is the so-called "Palestinans." Now, a normal person would naturally ask the question: what must a people do to prove to the world that they are not deserving of a state, unless that state is called "Subhumanistan?" (Pronounced Sub-huMANistan.) For fifty years liberals have excused these Arabs of the obligation to elevate themselves to the human plane, which is precisely why they have created such a comprehensively infrahuman hell on earth.

If I were president, I would simply say: "you are beasts -- which is to say humans reduced to a state of nature -- so the best we can offer you at this time is a cage. However, should your population begin to show rudimentary signs of humanness, then we might talk about a state. But monsters are not 'given' a state. They are given Nobel Prizes. Monsters only take states, and this is something we cannot allow you to do, any more than we intend to solve our crime problem by turning San Quentin prison into the 51st state of the union."

There would be no reason to waste a single moment arguing with someone over the question of free will, because freedom is lived, not arrived at inductively or deductively. All serious spiritual seekers understand the meaning of the phrase, individuality is freedom lived.

Now, the fact that most people squander their freedom and live their lives as if they were a machine or computer does not detract from the reality of the situation. I was thinking about this the other day, with regard to something as mundane as my Blogger profile. There I have a partial list of my biggest influences, my favorite music, etc. You may click any of them and discover who else in the Blogger world shares your interests.

Here, let's give it a try. Let's start with the enigmatic Scott Walker, who is little known to the public but has an intense cult following based mainly upon four brilliantly eccentric albums he made between 1967 and 1970. I see that quite a few fellow bloggers are members of the cult. A lot of weirdos, I might add.

Likewise, I am gratified to see that many Bloggers apparently understand that Buck Owens was hardly the grinning doofus of Hee Haw fame, but one of the great innovators of country music, especially between 1960 and 1966, when he single-handedly defied the bland Nashville conventions and forged the magnificent twin-telecaster, locomotive Bakersfield sound.

But I'll but you a dollar that if you go through all the names, there is not a single overlap between the Scott Walker people and the Buck Owens people. That alone makes me an individual as unique as my DNA. Or take the handful of philosophical, psychological, and theological influences. Only three people come up for Melanie Klein, one other person for Allan Schore, none at all for Matte Blanco or Whitehead. Add all my influences together, and the chance of someone sharing the same ones would be billions to one. Someone once referred to reading as "the mystery school of individuation." How much more is this true of the internet, which allows us to "fine Coon" our individuality in ways never before possible?

In short, whether for good or for ill, there is no question that I am alarmingly "unique," in a strictly value-free sense of the term (I am not making any special claim for myself, as this is probably true of all Coons -- the only "species" that consists of unique individuals as opposed to a "type"). And as a matter of fact, I am quite aware of this uniqueness. When I was a young kit -- especially because the uniqueness existed in potential but was not actualized -- it was a source of pain, because naturally I wanted to be like "the others."

Even now, when people meet me, there is good chance that they will walk away from the encounter mumbling to themselves, "Hmm. Never met anyone like that before." For some -- for Coons -- hanging with Dear Leader would be a positive experience. But for the non-coon world, there is no question that contact with me would be an irritant or a puzzle, unless I specifically rein it in -- as all Coons must do in order to make their way through the sub-Coon world.

Now, the other day I mentioned the "celestialization," or vertical globalization, that will have to accompany horizontal globalization. I am going to talk about this despite the odious Mr. Pibb's request that I do so. In the absence of this vertical globalization, I see no hope for man -- or at least no hope that human beings will achieve their potential and become who they were meant to be. As you can see from my own little example of myself, no government or collective could possibly confer my uniqueness upon me. Rather, they can only limit it or take it away entirely, which is precisely the problem in what Barnett calls the "non-integrating gap" of the world, including Islam.

As Barnett explains, once your nation connects to the functioning core of the world, you no longer have control of the "content flow" into your country, and this is a big problem for the infrahuman who is only prevented from acting out by strict top-down control of information content. In America, we are so accustomed to having total access to all information, that most of us can handle the content flow that comes with globalization.

But not everyone. There is a reason why access to porn remains the primary use of Al Gore's magnificent invention. In other words, if there are literally millions of Americans who cannot handle the information flow of globalization without being sucked into a world of infrahuman compulsion, imagine the catastrophic effect on a culture that thinks a two-piece bathing suit consists of a burqa and a snorkel? Frankly, if the internet were available when I was a young punk (which in Joey's case was a term of endearment, BTW), I do wonder what the effect would have been on my soul.

Nevertheless, as a result of globalization, never before have human beings had more of an opportunity to realize their unique potential and become who they are. But how many people take advantage of this? Relative to the total, I would say very few. But in my spiritual system, an absolute prerequisite of real spiritual growth is to first become who you are, otherwise, ipso facto, you are someone else. And the entire Islamic world is invested in preventing people from becoming who they are, which is why freedom must be rejected at all costs.

The only world-historical purpose of our liberation of Iraq can be the vertical liberation of a small part of the Islamic world, so that they might have the intoxicating experience of living their individuality. Once this happens, it cannot be put back in the bottle -- as in the case of Gorbachev's attempts to save the communist system through Glasnost, or "openness." Openness is incompatible with any form of leftist (or religious) mind control, so the whole system rapidly collapsed.

This is why economic liberty is far more important than political liberty to vertical globalization. This is obvious if you consider your own life, in which your liberty is "lived" on a moment-by-moment basis in the free market, what with the countless little decisions you make every day. Meaningful political liberty arises not through abstract ideas, but through the experience of living one's economic freedom.

This is also why leftism is always against the Cosmic Law, because it always limits our ability to discover and live the unique idiom of our freedom in the open system of natural liberty. And this is why leftism always arrives gland-in-hand with totalitarianism, whether in its "hard" form or in "flaccid" forms such as political correctness, campus speech codes, the education system in general, and the stupifying worlds of the MSM and a so-called "entertainment" industry which mainly functions to magnify ugliness and depravity, disregard beauty and virtue, and eclipse any dimensions beyond the animal-human lowbrid. One way or the other, you must always bend over forwards to accomodate leftism.

Well, I had better sign off. As part of my Total Slack Retrieval System™, I actually work seven days a week. That is, instead of doing a lot of work five days, I do a little every day, and then knock off early. That way my Sabbath arrives every afternoon and I don't really require vacations because I make sure to rejewvenate every day.