Religion: It's Alive!!! (10.11.11)
We left off yesterday talking about that book in the Priestess's lap, which represents the descent of spirit, from the spiritual touch of mysticism down to the Hermetic-philosophical sense, which results in "writing one's book," so to speak. Two things come to mind. First of all, the vast majority of books are not even worthless. So why do people write them? As Bob mentioned in OCUG, there are already far too many books in the world, so if you're going to throw another one on the pile, you'd better have a damn good excuse. But mainly, it will come down to 1) money, and 2) narcissism. Being that #1 is a pipe dream for 90% of authors, we are left with #2 as the principle cause of the ever growing tide of drivel.
It is appalling that so many religious books in particular are void of content, at least as far as I am concerned. As Bob would say, they are all (k) and no (n). But unlike science, where it is perfectly appropriate to communicate in terms of (k), religious (k) that is not backed by the full faith and credit of (n) is ultimately worthless and even harmful, as it leaves the impression that religion is essentially void of vertical content -- which is the very content of religion.
This is what UF is referring to on p. 43, where he writes that "Gnosis without mystical experience is sterility itself. It is just a religious ghost, without life or movement. It is the corpse of religion, animated intellectually by means of scraps fallen from the table of the past history of humanity." So much contemporary religion is characterized by this problem, that it's easy to see why people reject it. It's not that they want to be irreligious. It just doesn't speak to them, because it is dead.
But by the same token, people can be put off by living religion, because its practitioners will appear more or less insane to the uninitiated. Most liberals for example, have no problem with religion, so long as you don't actually believe it. None of them think Obama actually believes that crap, or they'd never vote for him. They are banking on his insincerity and cynicism. But Bob is genuinely unsane. He's not faking it.
I don't mean to keep using the same metaphor, but it really is analogous to modern jazz, which to me is the quintessence of real music making, but which few people want to actually listen to. For one thing, it requires qualifications in order to do so. It's not like musical wallpaper. It's alive, meaning that it is spontaneous, unpredictable, harmonically challenging, and intrinsically adventurous, even while staying within certain bounds.
Here again, listen to what UF says: a mysticism that does not give birth to gnosis "must, sooner or later, necessarily degenerate into 'spiritual enjoyment' or 'intoxication.' The mystic who wants only the experience of mystical states without understanding them, without drawing practical conclusions from them for life, and without wanting to be useful to others, who forgets everyone and everything in order to enjoy the mystical experience, can be compared to a spiritual drunkard."
So many spiritual drunkards! This pretty much summarizes the New Age movement, which is utterly devoid of sobriety. Again, I hate to keep bringing up the man, but have you read Deepak Chopra's deranged blog entries at huffingandpissed? He truly writes as if he is brain damaged. Just incoherent ranting. Suffice it to say that this is a grave offense against the Holy Spirit. One cannot make God look foolish with impunity. Who knows, perhaps his writing is already evidence of the punishment. I can't even imagine how painful it would be to have to be him.
Now, speaking of the bush vs. the river. UF makes a critically important point. We know it's important, because like all important points, it will utterly elude our scientistic jester. The point is this: true coontemplation picks up where discursive reason leaves off. You will note that we get the occasional moron who accuses Bob of being "anti-science." He's hardly anti-science. It's just that what represents the "end" for the tenured, is precisely the starting point for the Raccoon. For as UF writes,
"Discursive thought is satisfied when it arrives at a well-founded conclusion. Now, this conclusion is the point of departure for contemplation. It fathoms the profundity of this conclusion at which discursive thought arrives."
Obviously, this contemplation of depth can never be accounted for by the thing being contemplated, whatever it is. Contemplation is always at a "right angle" to material existence. Truly, it is the miraculous vertical rabbit hole that leads all the way up -- or down depending on the case. But the point is, "contemplation discovers a world within that which discursive thought simply verifies as 'true.'" Say it again: no, don't bother. I think you get the point.
Please note that what UF is saying does not only apply to the world of scientific truth, but to religious truth as well. Again, there are spiritual books that are deep, and many more that are shallow. Both disclose "truth," but what a difference! It's like a great artist and a Sunday painter drawing the same landscape. Who knows, the latter might even be more technically "accurate," so what explains the depth of the former? Here again, it is that sense of mystical touch, which the gifted artist is then able to convey on canvas, which is his "Hermetic" book.
There is something much deeper than the simple binary question, "is it true or false?" Think of a great film. Was it true or false? Did the events really happen as described?
What foolish questions! As UF writes, contemplation "perceives more the significance of the truth discovered by discursive thought," and then tries to trace this depth back to its ultimate source. How does one do this? "By listening in silence. It is as if one wanted to recall something forgotten."
You might say that the Divine is analogous to the "tip of the tongue" phenomenon, in which you know it's there, but have to relax into it -- perhaps even forget in order to remember. Or, perhaps it's like the distant stars which disappear when you stare directly at them, but reappear in your peripheral vision. There is an infinite amount of light that will elude you if you attempt to stare it down with scientism!
No, this is the realm of vertical recollection, or what Plato called anamnesis. As UF points out, horizontal memory renders the past present, while vertical memory "renders that which is above as present below." This is perhaps the key to understanding scripture, which, if reduced to mere horizontality, becomes functionally useless. No, that's an exaggeration. The point is, it will still operate vertically, even if you imagine that it is horizontal. It can still work its magic, but if you insist too much on the horizontality, it can diminish the verticality.
As the mystical sense is analogous to spiritual touch, the gnostic sense is analogous to hearing. Obviously, it is this that Jesus is attempting to highlight when he speaks of having ears but being unable to hear, for true hearing takes place on the level of vertical depth. Do you hear what I'm saying? Good. This kind of deep hearing can only take place in an environment of expectant silence or passive openness, i.e., (---) and (o).
You will notice that we listen to a great artist in a different way than we do to the typical hack. One of the reasons for this is that the true artist has earned our respect, as we know from experience that there will be an added dimension of depth to his work if we only give it time. Conversely, one could listen to a mediocre "artist" (a contradiction in terms) forever, and discover no hidden depths.
Back to the jazz analogy for a moment. I first became attracted to it by reading some of the famous critics, who wrote about its incredible depths, and I said to myself, "this is for me!" But in some cases, it took years of "expectant silence" to finally understand what was going on. The analogy with religion is exact.
In fact, I see that UF next goes into a little riff on the nature of art, which he compares to the magical sense of projection: "The talent of the artist consists in this: that he can render objective -- or project -- his ideas and feelings so as to obtain a more profound effect on others than that of the expression of ideas and feelings by a person who is not an artist. A work of art is endowed with a life of its own," very similar to the process of birth itself.
Religion is either a living and breathing reality, or it is dead, just like any other philosophy.