Let Go and Let Bob
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