Saturday, September 01, 2007

Let's Play Who's the Victim?!

One of the appeals of leftism is that you can never be called a hypocrite. That is, if you have no standards, then there is no standard by which to judge you.

Why then are leftists so incredibly, gleefully judgmental? Because, as Polanyi pointed out, one of the defining characteristics of leftism is the subversion of traditional morality. But since you cannot eliminate the moral impulse, it ends up becoming unhinged, that is, uncontained by any transcendent moral boundaries. Therefore, the moral impulse "fuses," as it were, with what is below instead of what is above, and becomes a dangerous vehicle of the most base passions. This is why leftism is associated with the greatest mass murderers of all time -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al.

In a lengthy essay entitled Hitler Was a Socialist, John J. Ray makes reference to the notoriously "slippery standards" of the left, writing that they "have no fixed principles. If a principle suits their rhetorical needs of today they will proclaim their loyalty to it -- and then cheerfully adopt the opposite principle tomorrow if that happens to suit the rhetorical needs of that day."

Regarding the absence of fixed principles, I can remember on many occasions hearing liberals insist that Saddam was "our creation," and that, like the Shah of Iran or Marcos in the Philipines, we were morally responsible for him. If true -- which it wasn't -- then it would follow that we would be responsible for removing him and "restoring" freedom.

Since that is exactly what President Bush did, the left had to fabricate ulterior motives for the liberation of Iraq -- Haliburton, big oil, imposing theocracy in America, etc. Because of the traumatic cognitive dissonance of President Bush putting their vacant ideals into action, the left had to detach from reality and enter a parallel looniverse of political discourse, in which Bush was and is condemned on wholly fantasized grounds. This is what I mean about the fusing of the moral impulse with the unconscious "primary process," the latter of which is rooted in wish fulfillment rather than the dictates of reality.

In a passage that encapsulates volumes that could be written about the left, Ray discusses the deep structure of leftism, which is always the same, even while the surface content changes from era to era, year to year, day to day, and even moment to moment (as anyone knows who has tried to engage in rational debate with a leftist -- you can't do so, because the rhetorical ground keeps shifting under your feet). Like the borderline personality, they possess a kind of "stable instability" that is their only enduring structure:

"The political content of Leftism varies greatly from time to time. The sudden about-turn of the Left on antisemitism in recent times is vivid proof of that. And what the political content of Leftism is depends on the Zeitgeist -- the conventional wisdom of the day. Leftists take whatever is commonly believed and push it to extremes in order to draw attention to themselves as being the good guys -- the courageous champions of popular causes. So when the superiority of certain races was commonly accepted, Leftists were champions of racism. So when eugenics was commonly accepted as wise, Leftists were champions of eugenics -- etc. In recent times they have come to see more righteousness to be had from championing the Palestinian Arabs than from championing the Jews so we have seen their rapid transition from excoriating antisemitism to becoming 'Antizionist.'"

Which brings us to soon to be ex-Senator Larry Craig. What exactly was his crime? It was doing what homosexual men have always done, which is to compulsively seek anonymous sexual encounters in order to diminish anxiety (the anxiety has specific causes that we needn't get into here, but it usually has to do with a defective sense of masculinity and the need to primitively incorporate the male essence of another; this is just one possible explanation among many -- sexuality is a much more complex and nuanced issue than any doctrinaire leftist imagines).

The left would have you believe that only "closeted" gays engage in this sort of compulsive behavior because they are victimized by society, but any honest homosexual can tell you this is pure nonsense. If anything, it is the possibility of AIDs which put a damper on this kind of behavior. And now that AIDs can be controlled with drugs, we are indeed seeing a resurgence in the kind of compulsive anonymous sex that was responsible for AIDs to begin with.

In any event, how can Craig be homosexual? He obviously wants to be married to a woman. Why should he be defined as a "homosexual" just because he is compelled for unconscious reasons to seek a certain kind of sexual encounter? Because that is the extraordinarily simplistic understanding of sexuality promulgated by leftists. Similar to the "one drop" rule that mandated that one was excluded from being white if one had 1/16 or 1/32 "black blood," leftists believe that if one ever engages in a homosexual fantasy, impulse, or act, one is automatically homosexual. (Which is an especially cruel belief as it apples to adolescents, who are often confused about their sexuality. For the leftist, this confusion is redefined as normative, and the child is told that he or she must "accept" their homosexuality.)

Or I suppose one could also be "bisexual," but that is equally naive in positing a fixed "essence" for what is almost always a psychologically confused and conflicted person whose identity is anything but fixed. Indeed, that is usually the problem in such an individual -- the failure to achieve a mature sexual identity. I personally have not encountered a bisexual person who didn't have a deep boundary disturbance and identity confusion.

Remember a few years back, the celebration on the left when the Supreme Court overturned the sodomy laws in Texas? This was on the premise that sexuality is an entirely private matter, and that the state had no business legislating what people do with their bodies behind closed doors. Fair enough. Why then is it the government's business to target homosexuals who like to pick up men in public restrooms? On what possible basis can they object to this? They're not hurting anyone, right? After all, all he did was tap his foot and brush his hand. I don't like the idea of being propositioned in a public restroom, but why do leftists object?

Normally they wouldn't. Again, I think it's the unhinged moral impulse of the left, that has no traditional boundaries and no fixed standards. Therefore, they blindly lash out in an incoherent way, based upon the needs of the day. They say that they are offended by Craig's "hypocrisy," but the obvious hypocrites are the leftists who would normally see a homosexual being persecuted by the state as a quintessential victim.

The question of "who is the victim" is always the key to understanding the leftist dialectic. One of the reasons they have no fixed principles is that it all depends upon whom they can define as the victim. One could well imagine circumstances in which Larry Craig would become a cause s'lob in the struggle against a marauding, out of control police state persecuting homosexuals just because, say, they oppose President Bush's policies!

But Craig cannot be a victim because he is a conservative white male. In fact, in the economy of the primitive leftist imagination, the conservative white male is always victimizer, even when he is the victim. This is how someone ends up being gleefully stoned by the leftist mob merely for expressing a homosexual impulse.


Dr. Sanity has a similar diagnosis of the left's meta-hypocrisy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

War, What is it Good For? Absolutely Everything (7.30.10)

Or at least struggling toward the Absolute which transcends everything.

If I had time to come up with a post this morning -- which I may still have, depending how long the boy stays asleep -- I was going to continue exploring the subject of Difficulties On the Path and the Hostile Forces that make it so, whoever or whatever they are.

In fact, yesterday I went through my liberary and plucked down any books that pertain to the subject, so I could brush up on my spiritual mind parasitology. To my surprise, I didn't have a copy of Unseen Warfare, which I thought I had read a few years ago, but I guess I hadn't. I must have just read excerpts in The Heart of Salvation: The Life and Teachings of Saint Theophan the Recluse, so I ordered a copy.

It was originally written by a Catholic priest in the 16th century, but then edited and added to by St. Theophan, the great 19th century Russian Orthodox mystic theologian and staretz. On the back cover it quotes Theophan, who wrote that "the arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place, is our own heart and our own inner man. The time of the battle is our whole life."

I think that is a key idea, for there is simply no way to avoid the battle of a lifetime. Or, to be perfectly accurate, you can opt out of the battle on pain of squandering the purpose of your life. Look at Otis. His problem is not so much that life is a battle, but that he is shrinking from it. He is a conscientious objector in the war for his own soul. He's laid down his weapons, and is hoping that by appeasing the Adversary, he'll go away. Fat chance.

I think the purpose of spiritual combat is to transpose the constant battle of life to a higher key, so to speak. Just as, say, the sex drive is contained and transmuted through marriage, inner conflict is given new meaning by placing it on a higher spiritual plane, on which we polish and perfect our character against the rocks of adversity.

You don't really discover who you are or "what you're made of" until you're up against it. Therefore, to deprive man of adversity is to deprive him of the opportunity to grow and evolve, which is apparently the reason why we are here. Or so we have heard from the wise, the merciful, the obnoxious. As Petey has explained it, angels pretty much know everything, but within a limited domain, and that's it. They cannot evolve, because there is nothing to clash with. Their lives are entirely non-friction, so to speak.

Take, oh, I don't know, me, for example. At this very moment I am doing something I would have thought impossible just 28 months ago, which is to say, hatch a new thought and type a coherent sentence with a baby stirring in the next room. I often lament how little time I have anymore, and long for those times when I could spend an entire leisurely day parked in the hammock office and reading mystical poetry.

But the plain fact of the martyr is that I've somehow been far more productive over the past two years than at any other time of my life. Three years ago I was a sensitive genius who needed absolute silence in order to plumb the depths and share my gifts with an unworthy world, but now I just blather and bleat whatever comes out of my fingertips, and it surpasses what that pretentious windbag came up with before.

Have you ever noticed that for the majority of rock acts, their first album is their best? Once they become successful and have all the slack, their creativity goes in the dumpster. They have nothing more to say, and simply repeat themselves.

My own life was pretty enslackened four or five years ago. But it was also at something of an end. I am quite sure that this went into the decision to have a child, which, in its own way, is as momentous as the earlier decision to have a body. One does so knowing full well that one is jumping feet first into a catastrophe, with no assurance of a happy outcome. It's a total gamble. I mean, I could complain about my parents, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I could have landed a few feet to the left, next door, in which case there would have been dead bodies involved.

I just can't believe what a high-wire act having a child is. I would never give him back -- ask me again tomorrow -- but at the same time, I'm not sure I would have taken this on had I appreciated the stress beforehand. There are no doubt dark times when one could say the same of life itself: all things considered, would I really have chosen this over the timeless bliss of nonbeing?

Apparently so. Petey says that folks on his side are pretty damn bored, and that the competition for bodies is quite fierce. To the extent that they have any stress there, it's over the chance to incarnate and take a stab at evolution, which is to say, spiritual combat.

This morning, Dr. Sanity has a relevant post entitled A Generation Destroyed by the Madness of Postmodernism. You wouldn't think it's related, but it is, because it has to do with the West's shirking from spiritual combat, specifically, my own generation's idiotic and cowardly belief that war has somehow been transcended or become unnecessary. She links to an interview with Victor Davis Hanson, in which he criticizes academia for its neglect of military history.

Hanson cites several reasons for the neglect, including the conflation of war and amorality, "forgetting, for example, that chattel slavery, Nazism, fascism, and Stalinism were ended by arms or military deterrence. Second, multiculturalism -- no culture can be any worse than the West -- has redefined the history of Western arms as exclusively in the service of racism, colonialism, and imperialism that in turn were unique to the West. And lastly, the advent of postmodernism... into the arts and sciences meant a general disdain for, and absence of mastery of, names, dates, personalities, facts themselves -- the stuff of military history -- in favor of seeing all of the past as a morality tale to be deconstructed on the basis of preconceived (and often anti-empirical) gender, class, and racial oppression."

My guess is that this rejection of external combat is simply a mirror of the prior wimpified rejection of spiritual combat. As Hanson says, "there is still this crazy notion that anyone who studies war does so not to understand and thus often mitigate its effects, but rather out of a sort of repressed or even overt desire for bloodletting -- as if an oncologist likes tumors or a virologist is de facto an advocate for AIDs."

Real warriors understand the spiritual nature of combat -- you might say that they have heroically transposed the unseen combat of the spirtual world to the material plane -- which, I might add, is hardly less spiritual: "War by nature involves the ultimate sacrifice of soldiers, usually of a rare segment of the general population willing to die for an idea, an order, a good or bad cause, to inflict havoc or save humanity."

Ironically, a clueless amazon reviewer of Unseen Warfare wrote the following: "As a Christian pacifist, I'm extremely wary of militaristic language, in either common speech ('bullet points' or 'I got bombed last night') or allegedly spiritual discourse ('Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war...'). So I was initially put off by the title Unseen Warfare."

I'll have to read the book and decide for myself, but here is what it says in the book about Saint Theophan:

It was Saint Paul who repeatedly said that the Christian life is an athletic contest, and that we must always train for this contest. He also first likened the Christian life to a battle, and the Christian to a soldier; he described the discipline appropriate to such a warrior; his armour, his offensive and defensive weapons, and the internal and external enemies against whom he has to fight. The Bible is full of this doctrine and its related disciplines.... Most of these combats occur during purification, when man is divided against himself, the old man against the new.

Here's a bullet in: being a spiritual wussifist will not do. Rather, you must choose sides, declare war on yourself, and terminate your mind parasites with extreme prejudice. You can "study war no more," but you'll end up sombody's slave one way or the other.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Being a Cosmic Fugitive From the General Law (7.29.10)

I don't know if I even have time to carefully read, much less assimilate, all of those responses, much much less come up with a thoughtful, non-repetitive one of my own. I'm guessing the big O is probably feeling the same way right about now.

I thought I'd turn to a couple of the experts, and see what they have to say, beginning with Schuon. In a letter to a disciple, he talks about the moment in life when a man makes the decision "to realize a permanent relationship with his creator" and "to become what he should have been" all along, whether we call this state "salvation" or "union."

But after the initial enthusiasm subsides, in many cases "the aspirant is unaware that he will have to go through difficulties he carries within himself which are aroused and unfolded by the contact with a heavenly element." Very similar to what Sri Aurobindo taught, the "lower psychic possibilities -- quite evidently incompatible with perfection -- must be exhausted and dissolved." This is known as the "initiatic ordeal," the "descent into hell," the "temptation of the hero," or "spiritual combat." In Vedanta, it is called the fire of "tapasaya," which refers to the burning that accompanies the dissolution of these patterns and knots.

And as I mentioned yesterday about discerning the plane from which the difficulty is arising, Schuon says that the psychic elements that are unfit for consummation can be "hereditary or personal." Or, they can result from our own will, or, conversely, pressure from the environment. In any event, they generally take the form of "a discouragement, of a doubt, of a revolt," and the important thing is to not further empower them by "embarking on the downward slope of either despair or subversion." One must detach and fight back, not build an errport for these parasitic thoughts to land.

In an essay on Trials and Happiness, Schuon points out that "a trial is not necessarily a chastisement, it can also be a grace, and the one does not preclude the other. At all events, a trial in itself not only tests what we are, but also purifies us of what we are not." Just think of all the things you thought you wanted at the time, but which would have been disastrous if you had gotten them.

Who we are is up ahead, not behind. It reminds me of mountain biking. In order to avoid a crash, you should generally not look down at what you're trying to avoid, but up ahead ten or twenty feet. By focussing on where you want to go, you'll keep your balance and automatically avoid the obstacles.

Similarly, as Schuon says, "we have to avoid becoming hypnotized by the surrounding world, for this reinforces our feeling of being exposed to a thousand dangers." It is as if we are on "a narrow path between two abysses; when looking to either side one risks losing one's balance." Instead, one must "look straight ahead and let the world be the world," or "look towards God, in relation to Whom all the chasms of the world are nothing." This is the meaning of Jesus' statement that "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Schuon also talks about the distinction between the "trial by water" and "trial by fire," the former essentially involving the siron song of temptation, hypnosis, and seduction, the latter the dragons of the unconscious mind and the dreaded General Law.

I first came across the idea of the General Law in Mouraviaeff's Gnosis. I don't know if there is actually a General Law in the cosmos, but there might as well be. He begins with Origen's comparison of the cosmos to a living organism, the soul of which is God, the "soul of souls." He then asks what the purpose of human existence could be. On the one hand, it could be "an element of the universal organism," serving its aims; or "an isolated individual" pursuing his own aims.

If we compare the human being to a cell in the body, the cell is subject to two categories: "The first keeps the cell in its place. In esoteric science we call it the General Law. The second leaves a certain liberty of action for the cell, and is called the Law of Exception." I'll skip some of the details, but as it pertains to humans, the General Law allows man a certain margin for free movement. Although objectively limited, the limits appear subjectively vast to horizontal man, who "can give free rein to his fantasies and ambitions" within their bounds -- what you might call "bourgeois happiness":

"As long as man accepts the principle of the final annihilation of his personality without a fight, he can carry on in life without attracting the increasing pressure of the General Law upon himself."

Ah ha! This would explain why the sub-Raccoon population seems so blandly content. They have no idea that their lives are subject to the General Law. They don't rock the cosmic boat, and therefore do not attract the attention of the authorities.

But dash it all, wouldn't you know "the case is totally different if he struggles to surpass the limits which [the General Law] imposes.... It acts simultaneously on several planes: physical, mental and moral. Its action on the moral plane is conceived by man, since time immemorial, in the form of a personification: the Devil."

Now, in the Orthodox Christian tradition -- which I suppose we'll be getting into later -- there is much practical consideration and advice about how to deal with the provocations of the General Law, i.e., how to wage hand-to-hand combat without hands. In any event, it is a commonly encountered pattern that "once positive results are obtained," the seeker will "unmistakably run up against the opposition of the law and the game of the Crafty One."

Pleased to meet me, hope I guess my name!

Again, you can debate about the ontological basis of all this, but as far as the phenomenology goes, it is identical in form to the resistance that is universally encountered in psychotherapy. As soon as you make a move toward health, a legion of internal propagandists and saboteurs will be aroused from their slumber to block the way. Likewise, by "placing himself under the aegis of the Law of Exception, man goes against the General Law, which he is even called upon to overthrow, if only on an individual scale." The seeker must remember -- "under penalty of surprise attacks" -- that "salvation depends on victory over the Devil," which "is the personalized aspect of the General Law."

In other words, as I wrote in One Cosmos, in the words of Zimmerman, to live outside the law, you must be honest. Whatever you do, don't engage in autokidding, or pulling the wool over your own I's. You must show proof, including three forms of disidentification, that you are a worthy candidate to defy the authority of the General Law, because as soon as you defy it, you'll get it from all sides, brother, including your own family, for as Jesus said, "a man's worst enemies are those of his own household" (Matt 10:36).

The Law of Exception is a narrow way, more difficult than a Camel passing through the lips of the surgeon general, but it's where the razoraction is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Lord Don't Move My Mountain, But Give Me the Strength to Climb"

The same day I read the story about Mother Teresa's little... dry patch, I received an email from a longtime reader who is experiencing a similar Dark Night, although it hasn't yet lasted 50 years. He is asking for feedback, so I thought I'd throw it out to the wider Transdimensional Order of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons, and see if we can't put on our collective coonskin thinking caps and come up with something useful, or at least not completely useless. I'd like to offer some meditations on the topic, but I have a feeling that you-know-who is going to wake up any minute, so it may have to wait until later in the week for a more fulsome evasion.

I'm going to change the name -- let's call her Otis -- and some of the details to protect anonymity of this sin-drenched rascal. And don't even try to guess who it is, because you'll be wrong.

Otis begins by conceding that "I haven't read OneCosmos for a while, which happens to be a symptom of why I'm writing you now."

Ahem. I think we've identified the problem: insufficient bobtizement in the daily weird.

"For the past year or so I've been spiraling down the Rabbit Hole.... I feel like my mind is embroiled in a battle of psycho-spiritual attrition. I feel immobilized on every front -- spiritually, creatively, socially, financially... everything. Nearly every practical effort of my rational mind triggers a rabid, debilitating tantrum by counter-protesting, well organized mind-parasites (who might as well be funded by George Soros). And I mean every action. Something as benign as returning a phone call from a friend, mustering the energy to get to the gym, taking the basic steps to finding work."

Now first of all, raise your hand if you've been in this situation. One, two, three.... I see that many of you can relate. Naturally, the first question is to determine what plane this is arising from, broadly speaking: physical, bio-psychological, mental or spiritual. Naturally you want to first rule out any medical issues, anything from diet to allergies to an underactive thyroid. Usually it's not that, but still, you want to begin with a clean bill of health.

And before considering the question of mind parasites, you want to determine if this is more of a biochemical dysregulation issue as opposed to a purely psychological or spiritual one. Superficially this sounds like depression, but depressive symptoms are only the "final common pathway" of a host of possible causal factors, from the purely biological to the purely psychological to the existential to the spiritual, i.e., activated kundalini (although the psychological naturally causes chemical changes, and vice versa, so it's never completely clearcut). For the same outward symptoms, there are times that medication such as an SSRI can be a "magic bullet," other times that it will have no effect at all. (I should probably add the disclaimer that I am not attempting to diagnose or treat here, just offering up some general advice that would essentially apply to anyone.)

"Mind parasites" is essentially my colorful term for unconscious complexes. We all have them and can't avoid having them. It's just one of the prices of being human. The idea is to "contain" them, rather than them containing you. More on this later.

Ms. Otis continues:

"I'm in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Perhaps the worst part is that I can't even take the solace I once did in spiritual matters. It's as if I've exhausted my thirst for knowledge, since it seems the abstractions no longer digest. I don't want to say I know it all (if I did believe that I obviously wouldn't be writing this). However, I do feel that my rational mind has a good enough grasp of the abstract ways of the world. Still, all such 'knowledge' or 'understanding' is pretty worthless if I can't apply it to my own life. So this frustration has lead to a visceral aversion to deep spiritual writings (Sadly, this includes OneCosmos, The Bible, the other sacred texts). I think I'm become terrified of genuine knowledge (K). Perhaps the power and responsibility intimidates me."

It's difficult to give an opinion on this without some wider autobiographical context. In short, it's hard to say whether this is a deviation from the spiritual process, or a part of it. This is something I will get into in more detail later in the week, since Future Leader is now officially awake. But with regard to both psychological and spiritual growth, pain is involved. The question is whether it is productive pain (e.g., "burning off old karma") or useless pain.

I remember Dennis Prager once throwing out a similar question to his radio audience, essentially asking, "what do you do when God withdraws?" For him, this was one of the appeals of Judaism, since it consists of so many concrete actions that are intrinsic to the religion. Jewish religious paractice may be somewhat unique in emphasizing the primacy of doing over being: the being follows from the doing, rather than vice versa. I was just reading about this the other day in a passage by Steinsaltz.... Now that I'm looking for the passage, I see another relevant one, where he quotes an eminent rabbi, who wrote that "There is nothing more whole and complete than a broken heart," which obviously resonates with Christ's paradoxable about the poor in spirit inheriting the earth -- it is the cracks that allow the light in.

Let's continue with the letter, in which Otis discusses practical steps he has already taken: "I've tried many times to develop a routine practice, based on insights shared by you and others. Meditation has been a struggle. Following all sorts of advice on breathing exercises, yoga, mind games, visualization, creative immersion, and onward. I suppose I've always looked for/expected revelation from everything -- books, films, conversation, travels -- and now I'm waking up to the blunt truth that knowledge alone will not save me. It's going to take more commitment, responsibility, intuitive, maturity, and a strong will to break through. But I'm, ultimately, still a child. And that stubborn child isn't willing to give up it's hope for an easy way, a short cut."

Yes, superficially this sounds like a bit of a cafeteria approach, when for most people, the best way is to immerse yourself in a single tradition. One of the reasons for this is the grace such a tradition affords -- not to mention the "spiritual protection" -- again, more on which later.

Interestingly, there are hints that Otis is in the twilit realm between one world and another, between death and rebirth:

"Still, my escapes and crutches are all cut off. Spending time with friends, losing myself in casual conversation, music, film, following sports or politics, just sitting back and enjoying a fine day. Over the years my body has gradually come to reject all of my old vices. Drugs are a bust, mere alcohol no longer moves me at all, eating is now mostly utilitarian. I have difficulty relating to people. "

This can be a difficult and disorienting phase, for the simple reason that we rely upon what gives pleasure to provide us with a sort of instantaneous meaning and orientation. To the extent that previously pleasurable activities fail us, we can feel adrift, with nothing yet to replace those old reliable "pointers."

"I'm not living up to my commitments.... One of my concerns in looking for work is that while I can always sell myself -- I make a powerful first impression -- I'm not confident that I'll live up to my potential.... Of course I can -- but my track-record shows that I don't, no matter how good my intentions. What makes this so frustrating and confusing is that this aversion is not limited to droll obligations like getting a job or paying rent. It extends to taking advantage of opportunities that are wholly positive..."

This sounds more personal/psychological to me; however the "in between" phase can lead to a sense that reality is completely absurd, so that nothing is really worth the effort. Reminds me of this essay by Van der Leun the other day. Sometimes the realization that I just can't do it anymore is the most honest thing you can say about your present life.

"I've lost my fire, my passion, my will. I'm a stove clicking, waiting on a match. Again, I know I need to suck it up and do what must be done. But when the time comes I get dizzy, disoriented, and overcome with anxiety.... As my various delusions of stumbling into some road to Damascus moment melt away, I'm left wondering how one develops The Will to overcome these forces. Is this a normal phase of spiritual development? Are there simple methods to ease into a practice? My mind is too cluttered to activate my imagination, or, perhaps I've become too frightened to let go and connect with the vertical or non-local. Still, through it all I've been blessed beyond reason; repeatedly, often inexplicably, rescued from dire circumstances of my own doing. In a way this increases my frustration, since my squandering of such gifts can only be seen as a slap in the face to God."


I really haven't had time to address the writer's concerns in much depth, but before I do so, I would be very curious to know what others think. Again, these are generally universal issues, and to a certain extent, the way you deal with them depends upon the tradition you're in. For example, in Volume III of Sri Aurobindo's Letters to disciples, he has a whole section dedicated to Difficulties of the Path, and a related one entitled Opposition of the Hostile Forces.

The former chapter begins with a letter that reads, "All who enter the spiritual path have to face the difficulties and ordeals of the path, those which rise from their own nature and those which come in from the outside. The difficulties in the nature always rise again and again till you overcome them; they must be faced with strength and patience. But the vital [emotional] part is prone to depression when ordeals and difficulties rise. This is not particular to you, but comes to all sadhaks [practitioners of yoga]."

In another letter he speaks of "the resistance of the Universal Nature which does not want the being to escape from the Ignorance into the Light. This may take the form of a vehement insistence in the continuation of the old movements, waves of them thrown on the mind and vital and body so that old ideas, impulses, desires, feelings, responses continue even after they are thrown out and rejected, and can return like an invading army from the outside..." (By the way, one encounters the same sort of "internal saboteurs" in psychotherapy, only from a different level.)

Anyway, let's hear some honest and creative responses to this dilemma, and perhaps some testimonials as to how you made it through your own Time of Darkness. Feel free to post anonymously if it's too personal.