Saturday, August 16, 2008

Let Go and Let Bob

When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not -- that, say the wise, is the highest state. --Katha Upanishad

The fourth commandment, “remembering the sabbath,” is another one that materialists naturally strain to comprehend. But like the other commandments, it has a literal meaning, a moral meaning, a symbolic meaning, an esoteric meaning, and a Raccoon meaning.

The literal meaning, of course, follows from the idea that God purportedly took "six days" to create the world, and on the seventh, sat down, cooled his heels, and just enjoyed the show. Furthermore, he didn’t merely spend the time doing “nothing.” Rather, he specifically contemplated the fact that his creation was “good.” Since we are created in the image of God, we are called upon to imitate this pattern by being productive for six days but then resting and rejewvenating on the seventh -- to relux and call on a deity.

But this commandment has so many important implications that it’s almost impossible to cover them all in a single post. I discussed some of them in my book, specifically, on pp. 236-238. First of all, if “observing the sabbath” meant nothing more than taking it easy on Saturday or Sunday, it would hardly have much intrinsic spiritual significance. But clearly, since it is included in the Decalogue, it must be of the utmost spiritual importance. But how? I don't know. Go ask a rabbi. Let me finish this coffee and think for a minute. Hey, where's Petey, anyway? It's already 6:30. Late again. Oh, I forgot.... it's his sabbath.

In order to understand this commandment, we must go back to the very beginning of Genesis, where God eternally “creates the heavens and the earth.” In the esoteric view, this refers to the continuous separation of the vertical (heaven, eternity, the Absolute) and horizontal (earth, time, the relative world). So long as we are in the horizontal -- the horizontal alone -- we are indeed “strangers in this world.” In the absence of the vertical, it is a sort of absurd hell, or at best, a meaningless pleasure palace in which we should mindlessly chase after our lusts and desires until crying time. “A raging animal inside of a dying carcass,” as I believe I once heard Alan Watts put it.

But “remembering the sabbath” has to do with vertical recollection, and cultivating the leisure necessary to achieve it. It is literally re-membering, for it involves reacquainting oursophs with our ground of being before things get too out of hand. In other worlds, it is possible to get so lost in the horizontal -- one’s horizontal commitments can become so complex and all-consuming -- that it is difficult to find one’s way back to that OMnipresent hole in creation known as the sabbath.

For the sabbath ultimately represents a shorthand way of discussing those little springs that dot the landscape of being, through which vertical energies bubble forth from the ground. Every night, before going to sleep, I make it a point to remember how and where I drank from one of these springs during the day. No matter how difficult my day, I can almost always remember some point at which I was “given my daily bread,” so to speak -- some point at which the vertical energies shone through and lit up the inside. Come to think of it, it often happens while making one of these little morning raids on the wild godhead. It’s a big reason I write them. I wake up looking for one of those little springs bubbling up around my computer. As always, the challenge is to make sure I bring a big enough crock.

In any event, it is specifically because the sabbath is “built in” to the cosmos that vertical energies can enter and leave the “kingdom of man.” In other words, we aren’t trapped here below deck in the dark hull of the horizontal, merely sailing toward our doom. It is the reason why prayer, meditation, contemplation, and lectio divina all work. These are all activities that make the vertical presence present, because they allow us to step outside the relentless stream of time and sit on the shore for a bit, “watching the river flow.”

Through these inactivities, we may turn toward what is “behind” or “above” the external world and its nihilocracy of urgent nonsense. Existence is woven from the warp and weft of horizontal and vertical energies, and if you are wholly committed to the former, you can well understand how you might become completely warped.

Now critically, the purpose of the sabbath isn’t just to gear us up for the horizontal, a brief reprieve from the toil and drudgery of existence. Rather, the reverse is true. Although there is a rhythm and a dialectic between the sabbath and the worldly, in my view, the entire purpose of creation is the sabbath, not understood literally, but esoterically as our ever-present link to the whole. Keeping the sabbath holy is etymologically linked to the idea of “wholeness” and healing. I don’t intend to bash the left again, but one thing you will notice about “progressives” is that they are relentless. The idea of the sabbath is foreign to them, because it has been replaced by the idea of trying to force perfection in the horizontal, something which can never happen. For one thing, it is already happening. But only now. And now. And now.

In other words, you must occasionally step back from creation -- as did God -- and realize that it is already good. It is only for us to realize it. But this realization is more of a challenge than you realize. Like the injunction against envy -- which is actually a reward and not an “order" -- the ability to truly experience “sabbath consciousness” is also a reward. It is something that most people have a great deal of difficulty achieving. Therefore, they displace their own inability to experience the simple joy of being, and project it into the future, when the revolution creates Sugar Candy Mountain on earth -- when everyone uses mass transit, when Walmart is driven out of business, and when the last real man has been castrated with the entrails of the last conservative. In short, progressives habitually turn an existential defect into a virtue, since politics is their religion, 24/7/365. To “remember” the sabbath would mean forgetting about the revolution, and that would be the one sin.

When we are caught up in the stream of time, the unity of reality is broken up into hopes, dreams, regrets, wishes, plans, resentments, etc. You cannot get away from these things so long as you are in time, because they are a function of time. The only way out is up and in, where we are called upon to live as if we are already in paradise. In truth, the sabbath is not a recollection but a “memoir of the future.” Here, the world does not need to be worked on or improved, merely enjoyed as it is. In a strange way, we would live in paradise if people were only capable of realizing that we already do. Just toss a frame over your shoulder and enjoy the work of the old master painter.

After all, this present moment of your life is the end result of thousands and thousands of little plans, goals, choices, and decisions you have made over the course of your life. Are you able to step back for a moment and realize that this is it, that this is the very moment you've been waiting for, the result of all your plans coming to fruition? Or are you in reality simply addicted to “planning” as a way to escape the moment?

In the final unalysis, the sabbath must be internalized, so that one has access to it at all times, like a portable slacktuary, a zone of silence, a realm of inner peace between you and the world. For as much as you may think that you are in the world, the opposite is generally true. The world is in you, pal -- it sinks its teeth into you and will not let go, which is why we have to consciously practice letting it go and “dying” to the world.

For the sabbath is also a rehearsal for the Big Sabbath, when it is dark and no man can work anyway. As Petey quipped in One Cosmos, “The paradox at the heart of the sabbath is that you must live your life as if you already abide in the eternal, because you do, but aspire to get there as if your life depends upon it, because it does. The former is more difficult than the latter, because your worries, anxieties, plans, and conventional aspirations trick you into thinking there is another way out. And if you believe that, you are doing the adversary’s heavy lifting for him, and giving him his black sabbath rest.” So relax and die a little.

Lay me down / In silence easy / To be born again / To be born again / In another world / Got a home on high / Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world / I'm nothing but a stranger in this world / Got a home on high / In another land / So far away / Way up in the heaven / In another time / In another place --Van Morrison, Astral Weeks

42 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Morning, Bob!

I had just read your linked article from American Digest before coming here, and wondered as I read it whether you had seen it. Nice touch!

"...the sabbath must be internalized, so that one has access to it at all times, like a portable monastery, a zone of silence, a realm of inner peace between you and the world."

And, as you said, we must be capable of this, which does not come "naturally" to those of us conditioned by modern life. But if we therefore ask "How?", we could do far worse than to print out this post, and re-view it, repeatedly, line by line.

Certainly, this is one that "grows" on you! Thanks!

8/16/2008 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Maybe with the big bang, God just tossed a frame over his shoulder to see what things would look like.

8/16/2008 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Which is why he was apparently surprised that it turned out good...

8/16/2008 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

Such a wonderful post on all the levels I love and I've only read half of it - I will return. Nuff to say - I read Hershel's book a couple of weeks ago - highly recommend his brand of spiritual nourishment. It is, well nourishing.

8/16/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Awesome Sabbath post, Bob. Heschel's thin little book is one I find myself returning to constantly for nectar, lately especially. And what you're doing with it here is sweet indeed.

Plus weaving in Vanderleun and Van Morrison...suitable for framing.

8/16/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Petey, I read somewhere that for Orthodox Jews, sex on the sabbath is a special mitzvah. Is it true that they call it a "sabootycall?"

8/16/2008 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

To be "in Christ" is to be in the Sabbath, for he is our sabbath rest. (Heb. 4) "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Thanks for the reminder!

8/16/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

No time today, cleaning up for a birthday party - but thought y'all might find this amusing.

8/16/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous petey said...

It is self-evident that since free will must exist, then so too must quantum indeterminacy. It's just a matter of turning the cosmos right side up: as above, so below. Indeterminacy is hardly the source of liberty, but the last residue of the Creator's radical freedom.

8/16/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I had so many laughty thoughts until Cuz Dupree showed up. Now I can't remember any of them.

I'm beweft of depth.

8/16/2008 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

How Can Ray Be in Two Places at Once When He's Not Anywhere at All?

8/16/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I absolutely loved the Frame Up!

The boundary and discipline of the frame, overcome by the wild creation that simply will overflow such constraints. As though we thought we could box it all up and own it!

And it was a conversation at breakfast this morning about art... how the framing is everything, calling attention to an unseen detail.

On the Sabbath, sometimes, it's not the whole picture, it's the picture of the holy.

It's too windowful for words.

8/16/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin Dupree said...

Joan:

It was a serious question. I'm searching for a faith, and just looking at various options and fringe benefits.

8/16/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If you live in a space of unlimited dimensions, then our four-dimensional cosmos must provide an interesting frame....

8/16/2008 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

No shit.

8/16/2008 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hey, atheists are victims too!

8/16/2008 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"The Coalition lobbies on church/state issues and advocates for atheists, humanists, nonreligious members of the U.S. armed forces and other nontheistic citizens."

Okay, I have to ask - can humanists really be considered human?

8/16/2008 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

On a musical note, we just bought this album yesterday. The lead singer is Liam Finn, the son of the lead singer for Crowded House. He obviously picked up a lot from his father & his uncle. I haven't given it a full listen yet, but so far it sounds pretty good, imho.

8/16/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

In Heschel's book, I found this passage defining the qualities inherent in the Sabbath:

The words: "On the seventh day God finished His work (Genesis 2:2), seems to be a puzzle. Is it not said: "He rested on the seventh day"? "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth" (Exodus 20:11)? We would surely expect the Bible to tell us that on the sixth day God finished His work. Obviously, the ancient rabbis concluded, there was an act of creation on the seventh day. Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath.

After six days of creation -- what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.

Menuha, which we usually render with "rest," means here much more than withdrawal from labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind. Menuha is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive. This must have been the view of the ancient rabbis if they believed that it took a special act of creation to bring it into being, that the universe would be incomplete without it.

What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.

To the biblical mind menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. The word with which Job described the state after life he was longing for is derived from the same root as menuha. It is the state wherein man lies still, wherein the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust. The essence of good life is menuha.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters" (the waters of menuhot). In later times menuha became a synonym for the life in the world to come, for eternal life.

8/16/2008 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Bob,

I have come to believe in a creator rather late in life. Because of that my readings of scripture are uncolored by youthful indoctrination.

I had a signed copy of "One Cosmos". I read it more than once then passed it along to my son. I know the inscription said I owed you more for rereading it, but right now I'm flat broke. C'est la vie.

On your recommendation I hunted down a copy of "Meditations on the Tarot". Hard to find. Hard to read. Going on to 3 years now and I'm not done with it. I've got to be in a certain state then read a chapter three times in one sitting.

I'm not a dummy - managed to pass a few postgraduate math courses. Easy stuff compared to "Tarot".

That brings us to my most heretical view of The Sabbath.

I don't see anywhere in the bible where God commanded worship.

Now before folks start quoting scripture I will remind you that it is translated from Greek, Armaic, and Hebrew, languages which are quite different from English in both syntax and semantics. These ancient languages were written in shorthand. Saved precious time and parchment. Translations were very contentious and undoubtedly colored by early Church doctrine.

What I do see, in re The Sabbath, is that we are told to set aside a day for seeing the beauty of God's creation. If going on a picnic brings you joy then you are celebrating God's purpose.

God's teachings are not proscriptive. They are the surest path to happiness. God's Heaven on Earth.

Regards,
Roy

8/16/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Roy,

"I don't see anywhere in the bible where God commanded worship."

Worship is one of those things which cannot be compelled, see also "Love." It also can't be helped, inasmuch as if you really see the truth of the Absolute it tends to spontaneously arise. You can force people to worship, and lots of people put on a great show of worship, but the only kind that counts is that which is in the heart.

8/16/2008 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Walt:

Thank you for that slackademic deuscourse.

Roy:

As a matter of fact, in Meditations on the Tarot there is something to the effect that the Christian God does not rule by decree but by a kind of authority that must be recognized, after which one consents to worship. So at least on an esoteric level, it shouldn't be seen as a command or decree but the result of the realization of a principle. But since most people are unable to recognize metaphysical principles, they need the commands to avoid getting themselves into trouble. This is true of many areas of life, not just religion.

8/16/2008 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous chandler said...

Bob

NOW I know why I have been in so much trouble....thank you....One Cosmos and your blogs have been a huge window to the soul for me...I still labor through the finnegan wake, but that's just me..soon I'll just rejoyce..I also labor through commands at my peril.....but you help me understand my trouble every day...and you are also politically FEARLESS, which I love.....

8/16/2008 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger jp said...

From Ray's article:

“If you believe in determinism, you have to believe it all the way. No escape possible. Conway and Kochen have shown here in a beautiful way that a half-hearted belief in pseudo-determinism is impossible to sustain.”

Van, you need to discuss this with Ray.

8/16/2008 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

You're still reading Ray & his links?

Amazing.

8/16/2008 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Off topic. Just watched Rick Warren's 'civil discourse' CNN event with Obama and McCain, one hour with each asking the same questions.

Obama hemmed and hawed, never nailed down anything and took forever doing it. "International" was his favorite word. The pundits afterward called his delivery "nuanced."

McCain got right to the point immediately, with humility and passion, answering each question directly and with packed content. The talking heads called this "answering the questions before they were asked."

To the media 'experts' it was style versus style, with some bitching about the religious nature of the questions. But it wasn't about style or questions, it was about the answers, and the stark differences couldn't have been more profound.

Put these guys in a few debates and Obama goes back to Nazareth.

I feel a lot more comfortable with McCain after watching and I've scratched "None of the Above" off my personal ballot.

OK - back to topic. ;-)

8/16/2008 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ximeze, to be fair that one was actually somewhat interesting :)

8/16/2008 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Julie, Robin and Bob,

Bob, you get bottom billing because I'm an old fogey. Chivalry? It's the only way.

Julie, thank you for helping me on my way to understanding.

Robin, I think the big winner tonight was the American people. Pastor Warren demonstrated most forcefully that the debates over the last 20 years have become a farce. I've watched every debate since Nixon-Kennedy. This was outstanding. A great stride in returning some sanity to our national conversation.

Bob, I really don't know if I've ever had an original thought in my life. Maybe one or two. I don't know which ones. I don't care. My motto is "If you don't learn three new things every day, and realize that you were wrong about three things you thought you knew, then you're just not paying attention".

Blessings,
Roy

8/16/2008 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Julie,
Ah yes, to be fair.

8/16/2008 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm glad to hear Warren asked questions about abortion and homosexuality. I thought I'd read he wasn't going to do that. Good that he changed his mind. Obama needs to be pressed on the abortion issue and how it comports with his so-called Christianity.

8/16/2008 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

"I don't see anywhere in the Bible where God commanded worship"

Christ to Satan "Begone Satan, for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve" (Mt. 4). Worship is both demanded and seen as a service.

"You shall worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 96 and 29). Holiness is not looking at sunsets and having picnics. It's not even the same sort of thing.

8/16/2008 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous church lady said...

Well, isn't that special!

8/16/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Roy, I do hope it was helpful. Now if I could just help myself...

Is it just me, or does it seem as though reading certain chapters of The Spiritual Ascent actually brings about, in the mind of the reader, some of the states being discussed. Like, oh, I dunno, the Pilgrimage and Holy war sections?

Just curious.

8/16/2008 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

So just after I wrote that last comment, I had a sudden urge to go outside. There's a strong wind blowing, and I wondered if I'd see lightning flashing in the distance. To the north, the sky was swept clean, clear and dark, the stars faint. To the southeast, over the roof of my house, a patch of Maxfield Parrish clouds glowed, backlit by the full moon. Just as I looked up, I saw a glowing gap in the clouds in the unmistakable shape of a heart, there for just a couple of seconds before the clouds broke up in the wind and the moon emerged, almost too bright to look at.

Coincidence? Maybe. It didn't feel that way. But even if it was, it serves as a reminder.

It would have made a for a perfect 4-d frame.

8/16/2008 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Fans of ThePeoplesCube should check-out this item on AT about its creator, Oleg Atbashian. No wonder he's so funny & so good at nailing Leftists: he's a for-real, no-sh*t, actual, former creator of Soviet-agitprop.

8/17/2008 01:46:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In any event, it is specifically because the sabbath is “built in” to the cosmos that vertical energies can enter and leave the “kingdom of man.” In other words, we aren’t trapped here below deck in the dark hull of the horizontal, merely sailing toward our doom. It is the reason why prayer, meditation, contemplation, and lectio divina all work. These are all activities that make the vertical presence present, because they allow us to step outside the relentless stream of time and sit on the shore for a bit, “watching the river flow.”

O man! Or, rather than serve on the ship of fools, we are invited,
yea! Given! The opuretuneity to be in the bridge of the Ommand Ship!

Bravo Zulu on a great second helping to feast upon, Bob!
Thanks! It's much better the second time around for me. :^)

8/17/2008 01:58:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Damn! Gotta go offline for awhile. Thunderstorm a brewin'.
I'll be back though, so don't fret none. :^)

8/17/2008 02:55:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

"Last one to Mecca is a Presbyterian"

That was funny.
Where'd that picture go?

8/17/2008 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

True, but nothing's funny forever. Replaced by the photo of Sun Ra in a coonskin cap.

And Julie:

Very true. You will find that the mark of an authentic spiritual master is that he is able to use language in such a way that he simultaneously demonstrates while explicating, or makes the transcendent object "present" to consciousness.

I suppose it's similar to poetry, which is always trying to evoke what cannot be made explicit, or to say what cannot be said. I believe this is an unappreciated component of spiritual language, in part because so few people have to discernment to sense this palpable power and presence.

But in the end, it is why one can tell with 100% certainty that a Deepak Chopra is a fraud while, say, Unknown Friend is a being of light. Deepak's whole career depends upon people being unable to discern this vast difference.

8/17/2008 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"In other words, you must occasionally step back from creation -- as did God -- and realize that it is already good. It is only for us to realize it. But this realization is more of a challenge than you realize. Like the injunction against envy -- which is actually a reward and not an “order" -- the ability to truly experience “sabbath consciousness” is also a reward. It is something that most people have a great deal of difficulty achieving. "

I really enjoy these Decalogue posts, they had a big impact on me the first time around - opened the biblical door for me that had been shut by the flat 'talking snake stories' perspective I had prior to them.

Speaking of perspective, seems to me, with a little imagination, you can toss the frame over your shoulder into any recollection of a period of your life (as was done in yesterday's American Digest link), and find the same composition - not always a 'pretty' picture (as with "Judith Beheading Holofernes"), but with the right and broad perspective, well composed all the same.

If, at some point in the future, we'd like to be able to see 'pretier' pictures when we toss the frame over the shoulder, I suppose it's up to us to make our 'pose' more graceful.

8/17/2008 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "“If you believe in determinism, you have to believe it all the way. No escape possible. Conway and Kochen have shown here in a beautiful way that a half-hearted belief in pseudo-determinism is impossible to sustain.”

Van, you need to discuss this with Ray."


Nah, as the link also notes "And to Bohmians and other like-minded physicists, the pair says: Give up determinism, or give up free will. Even the tiniest bit of free will.", Ray needs to see what he reads and discuss it with himself.

8/17/2008 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said "I suppose it's similar to poetry, which is always trying to evoke what cannot be made explicit, or to say what cannot be said. I believe this is an unappreciated component of spiritual language, in part because so few people have to discernment to sense this palpable power and presence."

I'll add a hearty HO! to that! The poetic manages to strum chords of consciousness containing more notes than the fingers it appears to play them with, resonating differently for each of us and whose composition remains somewhat of a mystery, even to the poet.

8/17/2008 08:08:00 AM  

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