Saturday, July 19, 2008

Meditation for Dummies: Sit Down and Shut Up!

Here is your weekly soiled bobservation from two years past. As always, I try to pluck the best items from the bunch -- or at least one with unfilfulled potential -- but it seems to me that the pickin's were somewhat slim that month. I wonder why? Let me think back....

I don't know. Just an echo of the Rhythm of Eternity, I suppose. Can't always be inspired, although one does one's best.

As it so happens, this one touches on the topic we've been discussing this week. It was originally called On Meditation and Prayer: How to Depart and Bewholed. Let's see if I can nudge it a bit and get it up on its feet. Or at least make it entertaining. Or insultaining, with a few zingers from Dupree's belowtorch.

*****

Let’s pull another reader’s question out of the cosmic hopper, this one from Twisted Knickers, who asked, “I'm another one of those in the back of the class trying to keep up, and I'd appreciate it if you could recommend some books on learning to meditate. Or, maybe you could offer some meta-advice on how to navigate through the choices.”

“I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the contrast between traditional Christian meditation and the 'Eastern' types of meditation.”

In fact, yesterday I received an email from another reader with a similar question, who asked about a book entitled The Power of Focusing (which I had never heard of). “My question to you is whether you've heard of ‘focusing,’ whether you have any experience with it, and if you would recommend a person in search of the Truth to give it a try?”

[Focusing? What a novel concept. I always thought that being a scatter-brain was the key to the spiritual enterprise. After all, you folks saw the comment section at brother Deepak's site. If this doesn't demonstrate the power of frivolousness, I don't know what does, because this is the power that drives Deepak's empire. Isn't it fascinating how with capitalism, a sinister mediocretin can actually harness stupidity and shallowness and convert them into material power? And this is the very capitalism that Deepak would decry as "greedy" or "exploitative." The irony.]

In my view, there is nothing magical about meditation per se. I myself practiced it for many years without really getting anywhere, and I am sure this is true of many spiritual seekers, especially those drawn toward Buddhism. Many irreligious or anti-religious Westerners are looking for what they regard as a “rational” alternative to religion, so they turn to things like Zen, which is largely a non-theistic (not atheistic) psycho-spiritual technology.

Ultimately I found Zen and similar "bare witnessing" approaches to be rather dry, although there are obviously many wise and lovely aspects to Buddhism -- I suppose it's partly a matter of personal inclination, or one's dharma, to reference a buddha-ism. (I also have a lot of problems with the deeply immoral non-violence of Buddhism, at least as preached in the West, but that’s another subject; another irony though, because the Zen of the Samurai was hardly non-violent -- quite the opposite.)

In the West, Buddhism is often wrenched from its cultural matrix and reduced to a kind of shallow "realizationism." I agree with Schuon that “meditation cannot of itself provoke illumination; rather, its object is negative in the sense that it has to remove inner obstacles that stand in the way, not of a new, but of a preexistent and ‘innate’ knowledge of which it has to become aware. Thus meditation may be compared not so much to a light kindled in a dark room, as to an opening made in the wall of that room to allow the light to enter -- a light which preexists outside and is in no way produced by the action of piercing the wall.... The role of meditation is thus to open the soul, firstly to the grace which separates it from the world, secondly to that which brings it nearer to God and thirdly to that which, so to speak, reintegrates it into God.”

I find this to be a perfectly accurate description, because it is in accord with my own personal experience and with another one of my nonlocal authorities, Sri Aurobindo. (Yes, I know, Schuon would have a lot of problems with Sri Aurobindo, who was not a strict traditionalist, but that’s between the two of them.) For Aurobindo, the only purpose of meditation is to silence the lower mind or “frontal” personality in order to make an opening in what he calls the “psychic being.”

For Raccoon purposes, we may think of the psychic being simply as the vertical self that is both “deeper” and “higher” than the ordinary, worldly, conditioned ego. It is both "behind" and "above"; or, you may think of it as a line that extends from the principle to the manifestation, from God to man, or from O to (n). Using the lingo of modern physics, the ego is local, while the psychic being is nonlocal; or, (•) is particle, whereas (¶) is wave. In fact, for most people, (•) will be a kind of particle, or "crystalized" aspect of (¶). But the Raccoon "reverses figure and ground" in order to ride the wild surf of O. Or, he "reverses the vector flow" that causes us to live at the outskirts of being, at what I call the "terminal moraine" of the senses. Instead, he gathers himself inward and upward, and "breathes the eternal."

In short, as I tried to get across on pp. 219-224 of One Cosmos, the dual purpose of meditation is to 1) achieve stillness or mental silence, or (---); and 2) to maintain openness, surrender, or self-offering, or (o). I specifically define “faith” in this context as a sort of “expectant silence,” as we do our part to make ourselves a receptacle for the power or grace that transcends us. We are literally attempting to make contact with the spiritual world (or person), which always engenders an influx of forces. Again, the important point is not the meditation -- which is only a means -- but preparing ourselves for the subtle energy of grace, or (↓).

Depending on various personal factors, the grace appears in different guises. For some it will be more of a higher emotional experience, for others, awareness of the sacred and holy. For some it will simply manifest as an unaccountable change in personality, for others, newfound abilities or a deeper understanding of spiritual matters. It is not at all uncommon to actually feel this energy, often in the heart region or above the head. In fact, tantric yoga attempts to commandeer this energy and “take heaven by storm,” so to speak, which I would not recommend. Occasionally things can get out of hand.

Schuon is again exceptionally clear when he notes that “the contact between man and God [in meditation] becomes contact between the intelligence [he is referring here to the higher mind] and Truth, or relative truths contemplated in view of the Absolute.... Meditation acts on the one hand upon the intelligence, in which it awakens certain consubstantial ‘memories,’ and on the other hand upon the subconscious imagination which ends by incorporating in itself the truths meditated upon, resulting in a fundamental and as it were organic process of persuasion.”

This, I believe, accounts for what the immortal Dilys has called the “draining the swamp” aspect of true meditation and prayer -- why it not only opens us to the higher, but has the practical effect of cleansing, purifying, and “deconditioning” the lower mind as well. This is again why I am not a big fan of “empty” meditation of the Zen variety, especially when removed from the overall sacred and cultural matrix that guides, contains, and reflects it.

As touched upon above, another point to consider is that meditation is only an “exercise” or an adjunct to the spiritual life. It cannot be its purpose or end. Just as exercise has the purpose of making the body more healthy and fit in general -- not just while one is exercising -- meditation is a verticalisthenic that should carry over into one’s moment to moment life. In other words, insofar as it is possible, we should make the effort throughout the day to live in that silent (---) and open (o) state, in which we are not so involved with the ceaseless barrage of mechanical chatter and internal propaganda coming from the lower mind and the external cultural wasteland. Most of these "thoughts" are probably just chattering mind parasites anyway, either individual or collective.

This is why I am so drawn to Orthodox Christianity, because it really emphasizes everything we have been discussing above. Another of my nonlocal authorities, St. Theophan the Recluse, writes of how the lower mind is entangled with the world like an opium addict. It cannot get enough of what it really doesn’t need: "There is a lot of motion, but no life.” And “the reason there is no life in such a life is that it does not occupy and nourish all the aspects of human life, but only a small portion of it. And this small portion stands in last place, not even touching the center of human life.”

St. Theophan writes that “within each person is a spirit, the highest aspect of human life (¶). It is the force (↑) that draws that person from the visible to the invisible, from the temporal to the eternal, from the creation to the Creator.”

Writing of the ego, or frontal personality (•), St. Theophan notes that we might think that someone is “deep in thought.” But “in reality, he is deep in emptiness.... Observe yourself, and you will see that the greater part of our time is spent on such empty and straying thought. Some days, not a single substantial thought enters the mind.” Do our trolls not prove this point?

Not a single substantial thought. How true. This can actually happen to an entire freaking lifetime -- much more often than you might think. But here again, this is why I believe it is so important to have a religious framework for one’s “thinking.” As I have had O-->(k)sion to mention many times in the past, the very purpose of an authentic, revealed religion is to be able to think fruitfully about the otherwise unthinkable. Through meditation, concentration and prayer, we may take this thinking deeper and deeper -- or higher and higher -- into the vertical. Put it his way: religions are vertical languages that go hand in hand with the horizontal languages of math and science. Evolution is the evolution of both.

St. Theophan’s specific advice regarding meditation and prayer is to think of it as the state of standing before God with the mind in the heart. Body, soul, and spirit all have their own special ways of knowing, and this is the way to know God, as opposed to “knowing about” God with the mind. Another Orthodox text simply says to “establish peace and recollection within yourself and ask for the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost.” St. Theophan says it is “simple: it is prayer -- children talking to their Father, without any subtleties...”

And one more thing: don’t look for immediate “results.” Rather, just do it for its own sake. Just make it a routine part of your life, like exercising or brushing your teeth. In my case, I’ve hardly missed some sort of physical workout a single day in my adult life. One has to adopt the same attitude as it pertains to exercising the Spirit. It’s the least you can do to devote at least 15 or 20 minutes a day to turning your mind to higher things (↑), so that the Higher Thing may turn to you (↓).

Meditation / Concentration / Prayer: These three words epitomize the spiritual life, while at the same time indicating its principal modes. Meditation, from our standpoint, is an activity of the intelligence in view of understanding universal truths; concentration, for its part, is an activity of the will in view of assimilating these truths or realities existentially, as it were; and prayer in its turn is an activity of the soul directed towards God. --Fritjhof Schuon

44 Comments:

Anonymous ximeze said...

"As touched upon above, another point to consider is that meditation is only an “exercise” or an adjunct to the spiritual life.

It cannot be its purpose or end.

Just as exercise has the purpose of making the body more healthy and fit in general -- not just while one is exercising -- meditation is a verticalisthenic that should carry over into one’s moment to moment life.

In other words, insofar as it is possible, we should make the effort throughout the day to live in that silent (---) and open (o) state, in which we are not so involved with the ceaseless barrage of mechanical chatter and internal propaganda coming from the lower mind and the external cultural wasteland.

Most of these "thoughts" are probably just chattering mind parasites anyway, either individual or collective."

...the ceaseless barrage of mechanical chatter and internal propaganda coming from the lower mind and the external cultural wasteland.

Exactly!

So, bottom line, we're still talking about cleaning the crud off the Cosmic Mirror so Light can get 'in'.

7/19/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Yesterday there was some discussion, including my own comment, about "esoteric" subjects. I believe there are good examples "buried" in today's post -- in plain view, of course.

Let me state that I have no particular disagreement with the post, even though, in an extended conversation, we might debate details of this or that technique. And so I read the words with interest: focusing is a favorite subject of mine, call it what you will.

Using a brief passage from the quotes Ximeze chose:
"...insofar as it is possible, we should make the effort throughout the day to live in that silent (---) and open (o) state..."

and

"...the ceaseless barrage of mechanical chatter and internal propaganda coming from the lower mind and the external cultural wasteland."


They say what they say, and are true, in my opinion. I take that as "knowledge."

But "to make the effort," to be able to "live in that silent and open state," to discern what is chatter and propaganda and the lower mind -- i.e. to gno what's what and be able to affect it (or not have it affect me so much), rather than simply live as an "effect" of it -- it is in this sort of area that we can speak of "esoteric knowledge."

Or, not: the scope of what is required to do that corresponds to some form of "Sit Down and Shut Up!"

7/19/2008 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous christopher said...

I have found profound but subtle changes in engaging in effective spiritual practices. They become part of my daily life or at least a cyclic part of my life, most days.

I would have a hard time clearly explaining what has changed directly but my whole life has improved.

I cannot justify chanting Sanskrit mantra to a mala except in the consequence. So I had to try it to see. In my case I was so oddly directed to the practice, from somewhere in right field where I do not play, that it seemed essential that I try it. This is that downward arrow thing, I think, a direct and personal message: "do this."

It became clear to me years ago that the field of meditation and prayer is broad and includes forms that people do not ordinarily associate with the kind of sitting that is so common an image these days. I am happier with the more active versions. Sometimes I practice music with this in mind, a rhythmic riff with variations works too. I can't do this beyond a certain point. I get too serene and then begin to battle sleep.

Shutting up is not the essential part. Not to me. Quieting the scatter is. Thus it may be that there is a possible appropriateness to the word "focussing" which I saw on a psychology book years ago, even bought, but never read much of.

But for me prayer is all of a piece with meditation and only distinct in direction. It is the same activity redirected. I have confidence that I have always accepted, never really understood, but have never cared to justify - God listens to me.

I believe "God listens to me" in a quiet and settled way. I don't have to prove it. It proves itself. And it is really no one else's business. So I don't have to explain.

I do my part in being careful what I pray for ("do not test the Lord your God"). Praying in the right way for me is easy. Thank you, Father. I can recognize the right words in the work of others, and I can make my own up. When I do prayers of this kind, then over a remarkably short period of time my life "brightens up".

I know it because I have so many before and after pictures in my life, before the prayer practice and after - distinct pictures. The mystery for me is how I can slack so easily here even as I know that it works. That is WHY I have so many before and after pictures...

7/19/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

After reading "Sit Down and Shut Up', I did what I was told and went outside to my lushly shaded veranda.

Divine Energy is as close as a breathe away.

When I opened my eyes, a few moments later, I noticed a hummingbird checking out the lavender blooms on my althea - nay. Off he flew to the pink begonia blooms - nay. And then he was gone. I think I'll get an attractive feeder; see if he'll come back and stay a while.

"In His parable of the wedding feast, Christ makes it clear that we shall not enter eternal union with Him if we have not acquired for ourselves a wedding garment. This wedding garment is precisely the indwelling Grace that we have made ourselves fit to receive and called down into our spirits."

Modern, man-made versions of Christian doctrine give the impression that, in order to be "saved", it is necessary only to come to the wedding feast; but this is not true. Salvation is not automatic. Christ's invitation to the wedding feast is free, and the gift of His Grace is free, but we must be made fit to enter in and receive it. If we have made the chalice of our soul dirty, the pure Grace of God will not abide there, and we will be found without a wedding garment. Thus, although we have come to the feast, we will not be able to remain there."

From Christ the Eternal Tao.

At times when the chatter is incessantly automatic, I will "SD & SU" and slowly say, as many times as necessary, on the in breathe: "Jesus Christ, Son of God"; out breathe: "Have mercy on me".

7/19/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Sibylline Zipper said...

Regarding the technique of focusing as presented in the book ''The Power of Focusing''. I tried it a few years ago but could not really get it to work for me, but I also know someone who swears by it. It's not a form of Zen-like breath-counting meditation of mantra meditation or concentration where you try to empty the mind. It was developed by a psychologist named Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago who was trying to discover what it was that successful psychotherapy patients did that the unsuccessful ones did not do. Focusing is his attempt to systemize and make explicit what these people did intuitively and that led them to resolve their problems. The best way I can describe it is as a kind of systematic Q&A or dialogue between the concsious and unconscious mind. It takes a lot of patience and sensitivity and discipline to do. Like I said, I could not get it to work for me but I have always wanted to try it again because it seems to have potential. Although it's more a psychological than a spiritual technique a couple of things I read indicates that people who do it long term are often led to a spiritual opening of some kind. BTW, I think Bob may be doing focusing or something very similar when he produces these posts. At least that' what it seems like to me from my limited knowledge of the technique.

7/19/2008 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Meditation has become too popular.

Or rather, to the wrong people and for the wrong reason.

The authentic spiritual traditions have various means of strenthening the mind (and usually the body as well, to some extent). This is necessary because the higher worlds are inherently more REAL than this one, and by their very solidity would cut and bruise those who would try to enter them unprepared.

To use these disciplines for purely this-worldly purposes is a borderline blasphemy. It is also a horrible waste.

When I was a young adult, I would cheerfully encourage people to learn simple non-religion meditation, but I don't do that anymore. It was not possible for most of my friends anyway: They found it either scary, boring or impossible. In retrospect, I think this was a mercy. A first line of defense.

7/19/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Magnus, You are right IMO about the change of reality inherent in the meditation (or even the prayer) process. It cannot be other if it is effective. In the efficacy, it is not really about the form OR the subject but about the cOOnection and its breadth (breath) of love (pure energy) that sweeps up all or some piece of me and the world. That means it is transformative. Something is changed.

In a long term practice that change may become really deep and wide and then my entire life will have changed, if not for the better so far as I can see, at least for the better in God's opinion, which is trOOly what counts.

It might be that I am all backed up like so many of us could be. If I am not prepared for it then this change might happen all of a sudden, a big release somewhere in me or my world and therein lies the real danger. This happened to me when I was 21 by "accident". Huge displacement both in me and as a result in my world...it led fairly directly to two years in Bangladesh from my at that time living broke and literally starving on the streets on the south side of the San Jose State campus. I could view this change, at least from my side as an accidental oddity, or based in a really elaborate hallucination of a very mentally ill man. What I call it is a mystical experience of sitting on God's lap and having the chance to see with God's eyes for a couple hours one night.

It saved my life, but there was a price. Not the smallest part of the price I have paid is this continuous cOOn quest that I have been driven to follow ever since.

So a change of the sort we seek here or share here on this blogsite can happen even at one try by "accident", a high voltage thing, like lightning. But as you write, usually we just get bored or confused or doubtful or some other inane (and protective) thing. As most of us on this blogsite know, among the Traditions it is not only the traditional teachings but a compelling submission to personal guidance that is recommended to safely train the student into the practice. It is also well known that there are natural barriers along the path such that it is not a simple and straight path. It is far easier to just quit than to continue past the barrier. The many barriers like boredom are all of one type, one way that the "guardians at the threshold" show up. There are others, some much more unpleasant.

I write of my own reality, long tested, proven in the ways invisible to any but me. So obviously it is only my opinion for the rest of you. However I am not the creature I was before that moment. The creature I was then could never have even started to write something like this post. And I couldn't have written it in just this way without a few weeks here on OC.

By the way, this is not the only OC in my life. Just south of me is the city of Oregon City, the end of the Oregon Trail. I spend most of my spiritual fellowship time there in OC.

7/19/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous alan said...

Quick comment: To me the quality of the comments today is exceptional... so let me stop that :-)

A thought: A fundamental difference between Christian meditation and others I have tried is pointed to by this quote from Bob's post...

"St. Theophan’s specific advice regarding meditation and prayer is to think of it as the state of standing before God with the mind in the heart. "

The traditional Christian pscyho-therapeutic method emphasizes that we are entering into a relationship with God - a person - when meditating/praying as opposed to just going into ourselves alone. We might not often perceive the presence of God (and his trinitarian three persons in one), but he is there - it is only our unfitfulness that we perceive hole vs the whole.

7/19/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"(I also have a lot of problems with the deeply immoral non-violence of Buddhism, at least as preached in the West, but that’s another subject; another irony though, because the Zen of the Samurai was hardly non-violent -- quite the opposite.)"

And those Buddhists Monks can be quite violent towards other groups of Buddhist Monks.
Kinda like a Buddhagang sometimes.

Okay, I'm jokin'...I know most Buddhists aren't into Monk rivalries.

But it is ironic to see pacifists attacking each other. :^)

7/19/2008 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Insultaining..."

I love that word, Bob! Ha ha!

7/19/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"But the Raccoon "reverses figure and ground" in order to ride the wild surf of O."

Surf's Up, Dude! OMabunga!

7/19/2008 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"In short, as I tried to get across on pp. 219-224 of One Cosmos, the dual purpose of meditation is to 1) achieve stillness or mental silence, or (---); and 2) to maintain openness, surrender, or self-offering, or (o). I specifically define “faith” in this context as a sort of “expectant silence,” as we do our part to make ourselves a receptacle for the power or grace that transcends us. We are literally attempting to make contact with the spiritual world (or person), which always engenders an influx of forces. Again, the important point is not the meditation -- which is only a means -- but preparing ourselves for the subtle energy of grace, or (↓)."

That resonates down to the marrow of my soul, Bob!

7/19/2008 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"In fact, tantric yoga attempts to commandeer this energy and “take heaven by storm,” so to speak, which I would not recommend. Occasionally things can get out of hand."

Recommendation duly noted! I cooncur, this is not a Good Way to access O! More often than not you'll get zero instead...or worse.

7/19/2008 07:47:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Alan, I humbly wish to add to your observation that in Hindu life there is more than Vedanta, and there are personifications galore. At the same time, modestly educated Hindus (this information is in no way esoteric) understand that the Gods and Goddesses of practice are also THE God of monotheist theology - so that Shiva is Brahman is the unnamed Truth.

Thus if Schuon was crypto-Vedantist in order to reconcile the world religions, he also knew full well that in practice Hinduism is chock full of personal relationships with God.

The truth of Buddhism is that God is mainly a left open question, that if I want a God and also to follow Buddhist practice, that is permitted as well. Buddha said God is unnecessary. To my knowledge I don't know where he asserted that doing spiritual practice without God is required. I know it is possible to have a personal relationship with God and be Buddhist in practice.

Pure Land Buddhism, the most common form in Japan consists of Worship of Amida Buddha. Straight up. Amida is not Gotama Buddha, but Buddha of the Pure Land. I once came across a "Gideon Bible" put out by a Pure Land society, and it was in English, placed in the hotel drawer of the Intercontinental Hotel on Maui. It was a happy encounter and the book read like a Christian Bible in some ways.

7/19/2008 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

St. Theophan says it is “simple: it is prayer -- children talking to their Father, without any subtleties...”

Aye! Far too often, we try to make it too complicated, infusing mystery where there is none, or replacing the Mystery with our own.

As my Grandpa used to tell me, "just talk to God like you would talk to me".

It is so simple that it's hard to comprehend and realize.

That's not to say we don't need to drain the swamp, to get the best results that we may not recognize, 'cause it's never gonna be the way we expect it to be, which is why we should'nt bring our own expectations into meditation and prayer.

When in doubt, just listen quietly.
Or sit down n' shut up!

Just reach out, and He'll reach in, or reach in, and He'll meet you there with the same Aye you see Him with.

7/19/2008 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Most of these "thoughts" are probably just chattering mind parasites anyway, either individual or collective.

Boy, am I dealing with those mind parasites lately.

Achieving (---) is difficult enough on my own, but with all the activity and interruption going on here *all the time* (read: baby that barely sleeps and spends his waking hours as mommy's little barnacle), doing the "Frank Laubach" thing seems nigh on impossible.

I know, I know--I need to get up in the still of the early morning, baby or no baby. Yawn.

7/19/2008 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

Thanks Christopher - I'm always wiling to learn and just sharing what I have learned.

7/19/2008 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Liturgy calls right now Bob, but here's an interesting article re: materialism and the soul: The World and The Holy Grail

7/20/2008 06:11:00 AM  
Anonymous christopher said...

River, Thanks very much for access to that article. I found the yearning that rises up in me whenever I find something I want to be true. The notion of the blood and water consecrating the planet - for me I would add this is true of all the sheddings, that the world is the chalice receiving the life of all of us, that singling out Christ's blood and water is centered as a symbol for us all as we live breathe and die in His image.

But that is only my opinion.

7/20/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey raccoons: Obama's in Afghanistan, and McCain isn't. Does this put the O man up or down? Weigh in.

7/20/2008 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Everybody knows Osama is in Afghanistan. What's your point?

7/20/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Obie Road.

7/20/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Chris: I'm not certain what you mean, but I will try to explain what she means.

The distinction between Christ and any human is not a matter of grace - Christ did not 'attain' oneness with God. He had it by ESSENCE. So in Orthodoxy at least this distinction is commonly hammered into our brains by contrasting the Theotokos (unity and complete purity and glory by grace) and Christ (unity and complete purity and glory by essence or nature.)

Thus if God had a body, the blood of this body would be unimaginably holy.

If we were to look at the life of Christ we would find nothing particular unusual about it (like traveling to far off lands to learn from wise teachers) because being the Truth he simply was those things - there was no need for 'research'.

The World is the Grail; and is being transformed before us. The 'Christian milieu' or framework is a result of Christs blood and water slowly working its way through the realm of ideas.

This is basically what she is saying.

7/20/2008 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous ersamus said...

Christopher,

Out of curiousity, what led to you ending your time in Bangladesh?

7/20/2008 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Thank you River. I understand the distinction better now.

I would like to help you understand my take on things but only on the understanding that I am not interested in arguing who is right and not. I am sure God is just fine with you except for the normal urging that you can always be better in your life and work and play.

For me the same. I am nearing the end times of my passage on the planet and writing from that lifetime, well spent or not. One of the best parts of that is that I find I want to harmonize more than I want to argue, and I want peace and ease more than I want to be impressive and right.

When I began to post here, I was challenged with how knowing the truth and being right is more important than being compassionate and now I think to myself, "wait'll they get to be looking hard at 63 like me". But I know that isn't strictly true.

You can't be compassionate without knowing the Truth, not really. You can't be Truthful if compassion is not in the heart of it. And anyway, my service, my genuine service to God and my fellows is a daily affair in the places that I have committed to go in my life. I don't have to do more.

I know without question that center is everywhere in the deepest creative sense - that this universe does not last even a nanosecond without the Creative Hand of God at this very moment. There are cycles among cycles, themselves indeterminate in number if not infinite. As GBob's COONifesto claims, it is possible to access this most intimate of centers, provided certain things happen or are in place.

Perhaps a serendipity, perhaps a serious program and discipline, perhaps Grace, perhaps faith in a sacrificial gesture, perhaps God's sacrifice of himself...

But it is written in other places that the cosmos is exactly God's sacrifice of himself. That means at the very beginning it was already done...

Christ is thus the enactment, the instruction, the tableau, the mirror, and more, because through center he is intimately yoked (yoga is the same root word in Sanskrit) and all this without any special Sonship. If you like and need to add that special connection, the God/Man and force historicity on what is the current and ongoing breathing of God as (S)He creates the universe in the eternity of now, making GBob's described Holy redeeming crater in the history of the planet, then it is clearly efficacious. The liveliness of this historical connection is obvious and compelling but also clearly double edged.

There is nothing that manifests in history that is not also double edged. This is the nature of the world. Or as Schuon says, there is GNO spiritual path which cannot be effectively criticized from a stand taken outside of it.

The older Traditions, even older than the Judaic side of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamist Traditions, are unanimous in the notion that the center is infinitely intimate within in the present moment and also beyond in the sense of outside of history. It is the older envisionment on the planet, and almost universally connected to the notion of a before time, a Golden Age.

I am not interested here in the arguments immediately possible, such as the ones made by C.S. Lewis in orthodox apology but only to say that it is another and older human spiritual impulse to place God as Other in a place perfectly beyond time because God as Self is never absent from this moment of intersection and this moment of intersection of Time and Eternity is never not here now. This is completely consistent because the Other and the Self both stand in a position outside of history. History is the heart of Maya in the Eastern view.

In this view for me Christ is one archetype of all transformative potential and necessary as an expression of God's Breath. It remains true that with God as Self ever present, the center of things no matter where I focus upon Him, then there is no sacrifice that cannot be equally holy if made expressive in just this way, intentionally wedding center to history. It explodes history, no matter where placed, like perhaps Dr. King's assasination, or the baby birds lost out of the nest beside my front door. There are some experiences on this planet that seem to make this clear, as in the life of my friend, a mother who lost her son this year to a bicycle and bus accident. He was a remarkable 16 year old who is another example of the sayings "too good for this world" and "only the good die young". He too died to redeem the sins of the world.

Again, River, I do not intend to say you are in error. From my viewpoint you are not. This is a matter of God leading you and me in paths of Truth and Integrity.

Once again, as Walt says...this is in awkward place for metaphysics.

7/20/2008 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Well, if you believe me to be in error, then feel free to say it clearly and succinctly. As my prayer book reminds me, "Admonishing sinners" is an act of mercy. I prefer that I be the one who is admonished.

It is true that I am in error, but it is only in degree of my comprehension of Christ and not in my confession of him as the Son of God.

My error is a result of my fallen state, and not a result of holding to the notion that this same Christ was indeed the Godhead incarnate.

If I had a prophetic gift, I would say something like this: When I meet you on the other side, you will tell me that I was not insistent enough on Christ's Godhood, and explain how I could have confessed him more truly!

But I don't, so that's what we call hyperbole.

God's justice is unlike any human justice and God's compassion is unlike any human compassion. This much I know.

7/20/2008 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous erasmus said...

Christopher says:

"I know without question that center is everywhere in the deepest creative sense - that this universe does not last even a nanosecond without the Creative Hand of God at this very moment."

This seems to be similiar to what I rembember learning about in the Lutheran tradition as "sustaining grace" i.e. creation being sustained by God at all times though grace.

"Saving grace" being another type of grace.

I can also say that I never learned about the deaths (accidental or othersiwe) of 16 year olds as redeeming "the sins of the world" by any stretch of the imagination.

7/20/2008 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous erasmus said...

And Christopher, you said

"For me the same. I am nearing the end times of my passage on the planet and writing from that lifetime, well spent or not."

I was also wondering if you were ill, or merely approaching retirement age.

7/20/2008 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Also, you speak a wise thing, Christopher; for there is not a moment in which God does not sustain all things. The world is sane because God is consistent and he is consistent because he loves. He makes the world intelligible so we may know him. As the Akathist Writer said, "Scientists, they speak prophet-like of your glory."

7/20/2008 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Regarding the odd notion that "the deaths (accidental or othersiwe) of 16 year olds redeem the sins of the world."

One thing a Raccoon insists upon is that theology is not "just anything." It is concise, not flatulent; it is precise, not foggy; and it is intellectual light before it is warmth or sentiment.

7/20/2008 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous hodgepodgist said...

But what about the baby birds?

7/20/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Animal sacrifice is so last yuga.

7/20/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous hodgepodgist said...

Elvis?

7/20/2008 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Scatter said...

Of course! Elvis's favorite poem, which he never tired of reciting to visitors to Graceland:

As I awoke this morning
When all sweet things are born
A robin perched on my windowsill
To greet the coming dawn
He sang his song so sweetly
And paused for a moment’s lull
I gently raised the window
And crushed his fucking skull

7/20/2008 07:30:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Scatter, that's TERRIBLE!




bwaaaaaahahahahaha

7/20/2008 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Scatter said...

Trust me, I've forgotten more terrible secrets about Elvis than the rest of the world will ever know.

7/20/2008 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

You guys are cool. As I said I am not here to do more than learn and participate, not really anything else. I stand by my first assertion about this place that you guys have something real, something important here.

If I am not clear then so be it. Some of it can be "cross cultural, in that I insist on sacredness in places perhaps you, whoever you are do not. Some of it can be theological or metaphysical in that my terms may carry weight that you do not give them, and you weight that I do not give them. I feel I am in no danger of seducing anyone and this is fine with me.

Again, the proper context of metaphysics is probably books and seminars, not blog boxes.

But I am not here to do more than hold discourse where I can learn. If baby birds and 16 year old boys do not redeem your world then so be it, but I am not writing in primarily Christian terms either. What I mean is that in the context that I live in there is simply not the fundamental difference between Christ as Self and a baby bird as Self or for that matter, an asparagus as Self. It is the same center in all cases. If there is redemption anywhere it is everywhere if not actually then in the potential. That is behind the Bodhisattva ideal that I hold to, that no one goes unless we all go. It is sentience that is at issue, not intelligence. I have difficulty that because a mentally challenged individual or a cow cannot grasp this stuff he is somehow less likely to have the freedom promised. For that matter, my cat is basically a better soul than many people I know.

But you see how metaphysics gets in the way sometimes, because there is so much that has to be left unsaid or else is garbled. It is difficult. I am genuinely not Christian, have not been for over forty years. I am sensitive about it, a little, because I live in Christendom and I am required in various ways to hold my peace.

But I tried to point out that in my own belief it is a matter of the conversation between God and Self that molds the destiny of each of us. That I do not hold specifically Christian beliefs obviously does not make them wrong. I am just one man. I even wrote a while back that I didn't really believe in ecumenism, though I have no trouble with the essence of a Perennial Philosophy if it is not pushed so far. I hope the different traditions will remain intact. I believe that a resolution and ultimate revelation that does not permit that has to be suspect. It is better to have all the religious diversity and conflict than to lose any essential pieces of the traditions.

As for living in Bangladesh, that was a thing related to the troubles of 1967-69 and my personal troubles, as well as what was possible in our family. I was a young man in trouble as well as all the rest of what was in the world. I was in personal crisis and what happened to me one night did not immediately resolve my crisis. Being out of the States was a good solution. Bangladesh came to an end when my Dad's contract was up and also when my Honorable Discharge came my way from the Army. I was 21 when I went and 23 when I came back.

I was not on a religious quest, living in the forest, or anything like that. I was actually Financial Secretary of Holy Family Hospital in Dacca, a full time job for eleven months of the two years there, self studying philosophy, psychology, learning and teaching guitar and experiencing the overt upwelling of the failed political union that turned East Pakistan into Bangladesh. I traveled to and through Nepal three times, was in India twice, and northwest to Kashmir once. My mother wrote a novel and my Dad ran the American Society School. I came back to the States in time to catch the main turmoil of the times in 69-71, once again on the campus of San Jose State.

As for my statement of the end times, I am headed to 63, but feel I must work to 70 if I can. There is a natural course of things - my body tells me of my mortality all the time now in so many small ways. It is just so. I do not resist.

7/20/2008 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

OMG, had no idea you were once actually..... um...... en-carne-ated.

Another missing piece of Americana slips into place.

7/20/2008 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous scatter said...

It's okay, I'm not proud of it.

Well, maybe a little...

7/20/2008 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Erasmus said...

I'll admit I was hoping for a religious quest forest story.

I'm glad that you're just feeling achy and not suffering from pancreatic cancer or anything like that.

I can safely say that experiencing overt upwelling of failed political unions is on my list of "Things I Don't Actutally Need to Experience to Feel That My Life Is Complete."

7/20/2008 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous hodgepodgist said...

Scatter,

Who performed the dirty deed which caused your demise? Was it the Butler in the pantry with a candlestick? Or maybe that maid in the closet with a broomhandle?
Enquiring minds want to know.

7/21/2008 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

My money's on the Maid, since she had to feed the beast. Bet he bit her once too often & she decided to get even.

'Course the Butler might also have been in the habit of doing her in the closet ....


Scatter?

7/21/2008 12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous scatter said...

The maid and I had our issues, but the plain truth is that I died of cirrhosis.

7/21/2008 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

Yikes! Just discovered this site, and I'm raw-ther impressed by the writing, and some of the thinking. I have a personal story about meditating for the first time on my blog, under "Alice Fell, After All." Meditation, for me, basically changed my life. Huge, enormous ACTION.
(JosephineCarrWrites.blogspot.com)

7/29/2008 08:01:00 AM  

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