Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama and the Emperor's New Empty Suit (10.17.11)

Slept too late. Speed post time. We're on to #4, The Emperor. This is a timely timeless archetype, what with the likely election of a president who embodies so many elements that are the precise opposite of what this arcanum symbolizes.

UF begins with the observation that "the less superficial a person is -- and the more he knows and is capable of -- the greater is his authority." Specifically, "to be something, to know something and to be capable of something is what endows a person with authority." Being, knowledge, and/or action. The more of these one has, the more intrinsic authority. And importantly, this won't be any kind of secular or conventional authority. Rather, the person will simply radiate the authority outward, from the center to the periphery.

In turn, each of these categories has a dimension of depth. One can know superficially or deeply. One can do something adequately or with great depth, like the artist. But the most interesting category is that of being, for that is the most mysterious of the three. One of the primary purposes of religion is to confer depth at the level of being.

The other day I was reading an article about Schuon by the Orthodox Christian scholar James Cutsinger, whose initial experience of Schuon's "intrinsic authority" was virtually identical to mine. No one had to tell me that this man was an authority. Rather, the depth of his authority was communicated directly, center to center:

"Nothing had prepared me for my first encounter with a book by Frithjof Schuon. I vividly recall reading the opening page, and then rereading it again, then a third time and a fourth time, before proceeding" (Cutsinger). Now interestingly, the depth is not a matter of "complexity" or sophistication. Indeed, those things are often just tricks of the tenured to make you believe they are deep when their ideas would be recognized as utterly banal if conveyed in plain English.

Cutsinger agrees that "the words themselves were certainly not difficult, nor the style at all complex. Indeed, compared to many a modern philosopher's work, Schuon's books are noted for their simple, and often poetic, beauty. And yet for some reason I found myself unable to move with the speed I was accustomed to."

Precisely. Part of it involves the question of rhythm, in particular, the rhythm of eternity. I noticed this the other evening, when I was watching a baseball game. For most people who cannot appreciate baseball, it is often because they cannot attune themselves to its rhythm and its depth (which only becomes more difficult as the jagged rhythms of the culture around us "speed up"). Unlike most other sports, you have to imagine waves of greater length and deeper troughs.

Anyway, during a commercial, I switched over to the hockey game (hockey season has just begun), and it was a totally jarring experience compared to the leisurely rhythm of baseball. Instead, the rhythm was frantic and chaotic.

Now, after baseball season ends, I'll get back to hockey, because once you get used to its rhythm, it starts to slow down and become more decipherable. But I realized that one should "respect the seasons," so to speak, and not blend them, otherwise you'll miss some subtle elements. You cannot treat baseball like hockey or basketball, or you'll miss all of the deeper rhythms that slowly unfold from April to October.

It also reminds me of Keith Jarrett, who talks about how much internal preparation it takes for him to move between jazz and classical. I believe I read somewhere that it takes him about six months to make the transition, and I can well understand why. (cf. Will's comment on yesterday's post about the potentially dangerous and even deadly rhythms of jazz.)

I can also see it in my own life. My job has become much more difficult for me since I started the blogging. You can well imagine why. I greet each day by doing my best to resonate with the rhythms of eternity and bring down a little nugget of joy. But then I have to turn my attention to some loser who's trying to scam an insurance company, and write a 30 page report. I feel like a rabbi who studies the Torah one day and works at the kosher meat packing plant the next.

There is another corollary at work here, for just as only depth can recognize depth, only depth can recognize shallowness and superficiality. This is clearly why so many shallow people seem to think that Obama is deep, or nuanced, or even beyond that -- that he truly represents some sort of messianic or "transformational" figure. I feel as if his entire mind could safely fit into a little corner of mine. And I'm not bragging. I would assume that all Raccoons feel the same way.

(By the way -- and this would be a good topic for a post -- none of the shallow sophisticates -- both liberal and conservative alike -- understand that Sarah Palin's greatest effect is at the level of being (similar to Ronald Reagan). This reality is so much deeper than a Peggy Noonan or David Brooks column that to compare the two would be silly. When we hear about this liberal-approved elite "conservative intelligentsia" before whom we are supposed to show great deference, it is mostly a cult of entirely conventional mediocrities. In my world, there is a group of intellectuals that far surpasses these liberal-approved conservatives, precisely because they have evolved beyond the head and into the higher mind, or mind of light. Dennis Prager comes to mind. Mark Steyn. Roger Kimball. Victor Davis Hanson. They have no problem with Sarah Palin, and they run circles around a tiresome hack like Peggy Noonan.)

Oh yes, just to finish up with Cutsinger's observations about reading Schuon. He writes that it was as if he were running along the beach, and then suddenly found himself in the ocean. Very mysterious. In other words, he was merrily scampering on the surface of one medium, but then, to his surprise, found himself in a different medium. Let's just call it "being" for short, but being is not monolithic, and has "many mansions," such as the sacred, the holy, etc. As Cutsinger notes,

"Here was a new medium, no less able to support my movement, but requiring an altogether different engagement. There would be no more running now. I would have to swim."

And here is the irony: you will notice that our scientistic jester never stops trying to walk on water. Ho!

At the same time, he can't help thinking that we are trying to swim on dry land. Guffah-ha!

Back to the Emperor. Among other things, the Emperor is the symbol of divine authority on earth. He is not a replacement of divine authority, but its horizontal prolongation. And along these lines, perhaps the most important point is that, as UF writes, "God governs the world by authority, and not by force. If this were not so, there would be neither freedom nor law in the world."

This automatically excludes Obama from being a legitimate ruler, in that the left is all about governing by force. He will not "lure" you toward the good by his intrinsic authority, but compel you to "share" and "spread around" the fruits of your labor with his purely earthly power. And that's all it is. His profound lack of understanding of Christian doctrine is too well documented to discuss here.

God does not "compel" acceptance of his authority, or we would not be free. Thus, the typical atheist who asks for miracles in order for God to "prove" his existence is really asking for God to remove his freedom. But that is something he will never do. Rather, only humans can do that to themselves and to each other. UF elaborates:

"One is free to be believing or unbelieving. Nothing and no one can compel us to have faith -- no scientific discovery, no logical argument, no physical torture can force us to believe, i.e., to freely recognize and accept the authority of God."

The atheist says to Jesus: "Come down from that cross, then I might believe in your power!" But power is not truth. Rather, truth is power. And the truth is, Truth is crucified in history, and yet, survives. And that is a powerful miracle.

To be continued....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why Are People Such Assouls?

Probably easier to just write a new post than dig through the arkive for the Saturday re-run.

Ever wonder why human beings -- I mean mankind at large, not this or that individual -- are such assholes?

That's an important question, isn't it? As the cliché goes, the leftist/radical/revolutionary loves mankind. It's people he hates. You know, Joe the Plumber. Sarah the Hockey Mom. Bob the Suburban Mystic.

For the Raccoon -- and any properly religious person -- it's more or less the opposite. He doesn't hate mankind. But he doesn't hold it in much esteem. At best, it is a neutral stance, in that for every great achievement of mankind, there are two or three abominations. For every peak, there is an equal and opposite valley. Charles Murray discusses this point in Human Accomplishment:

"What, I ask, can Homo sapiens brag about -- not as individuals, but as a species?... Military accomplishment is out -- putting 'Defeated Hitler' on the human resume is too much like putting 'Beat my drug habit' on a personal one. I also omit governance and commerce.... those achievements are akin to paying the rent and putting food on the table..."

Amazingly, the left believes that it can turn this situation around by merely increasing the size of government and the amount of rent they will charge us for it. They love to make fun of religious people, but can you imagine a more naive belief system?

The problem is not just that man is fallen, but that if he fails to realize this, he will not recognize the very medium in which he swims. Furthermore, he will mistake movement and agitation for real change, when it is merely disintegration and descent.

Everyone can see that there is a kind of "natural balance" in the biosphere. Or at least there was until the humans moved in and wrecked the neighborhood. People who imagine that only modern humans have done this are strictly fooling themselves. In fact, this is the take-away point of Genesis, isn't it? That the moment Man opens his eyes to dualism and self-awareness, trouble begins. Truly, there were no problem in the cosmos prior to that moment.

You could even delve more deeply into this problem and reduce it to its most basic element. This is what Bion did. He noted that the universal problem facing mankind -- both collectively and individually -- is thoughts and what to do about them. The obvious answer is to think them, but we all know how rare that is.

Or perhaps you don't. But virtually every psychotherapy patient is suffering from this problem if they are lucky. In other words, they are persecuted by depressed thoughts, anxious thoughts, thoughts of inadequacy or low self esteem, envious thoughts, obsessive thoughts, etc. Wealth doesn't matter. If anything, it only serves to underscore their misery, in that they realize better than anyone that no amount of money can eliminate the mind parasites that make one's head uninhabitable.

But most people don't even bother to think those thoughts. Instead, they enact things before they have a chance to become thoughts. Or they evoke them in others and make them miserable. Or they embody the thoughts in the form of pain or dysfunction. Or often they just deaden the source of the thoughts, either through drugs or alcohol, or sometimes just systematic neglect. Most people have never had an original thought in their lives.

So, man is clearly a kind of "new category" in the cosmos. There was no good in the cosmos prior to his arrival. But nor was there any evil. UF writes that man may "go beyond the limits of the law and engender arbitrarily malicious forces whose nature and action are beyond the framework of the law," for example, "the Molochs and other 'gods' of Canaa, Phoenecia, Carthage, ancient Mexico and other lands, which exacted human sacrifice."

Yes, these beings are the product of thought + imagination, except that they are for the purpose of destroying thought and imagination. That such cultures cannot evolve should go without saying, any more than the bloodthirsty Palestinians can evolve. The trouble with Palestinians is that they cannot ask the simple question: why am I persecuted by all these hateful demons? Instead of thinking the thoughts, they violently project them from the psyche, and then murder them. It seems to be the Muslim way.

How much better off they would be if they had a culture that recognized man's fallen nature! Such a culture will not externalize blame or adopt the role of victim. Rather, such a culture will collectively ask, "what did I do wrong, and what can I do to fix it?" You will note that the culture of the secular left has much more in common with the Palestinians, in that it never occurs to them that people are largely responsible for their own problems. Indeed, this is one of the purposes of a culture of liberty: to allow people to fuck up on their own. What a blessing! It has never occurred to me that I am a victim of circumstance. Rather, if I look a little deeper, I can always find something I could have done differently. Or not. Sometimes the problem is just me. Being me simply has a price. It would have been easy to be someone else.

Individuality is freedom lived. Or, to turn it around, freedom in the abstract is meaningless. So too is merely "embodied" freedom. Rather, what we are after is mental and spiritual freedom. These are the freedoms that the left resists. They do not want you to actually be an individual. Rather, you are a member of a group, i.e., black, hispanic, female, homosexual, transgendered, etc. But as UF points out, mystical revelation restores the freedom that has been partially or totally lost, in particular, the freedom to be oneself, which again, is the only real, concrete freedom. The left offers only counterfeit freedom -- for example the "freedom" to choose an abortion, even while they compel the premature sexualization of the innocent. Or a compulsory "fairness doctrine" that eliminates free speech.

Only the awakening of free will can deliver one "from possession by fixed ideas and psychopathological complexes." As Freud put it, "where id was, there ego shall be" (the real meaning of which is where it was, there I shall be). This is just another way of saying that, just as we have been attempting to colonize an enslaved world with liberal principles over the past 250 years, so too must we colonize the individual mind with those same principles. It serves no purpose to free a culture for socialism, as it is a contradiction in terms. It is like freeing an individual to become a slave.

Real lived freedom is a kind of every day sacred magic inserted from on high into the cosmos. For it is an analogue of the Creator's vertical generation of the cosmos itself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Magic: Divine, Human, and Satanic (10.11.11)

We're just wrapping up with the Priestess before moving on to arcanum #3, the Empress. UF concludes the chapter by noting that scientistic materialism can only be "true" if we exclude all of the other planes that make the horizontal plane of natural facts possible, and isolate the realm of quantitative facts from the rest of reality.

At the polar opposite of this is the Hermetic-philosophical sense, or the "sense of synthesis," which is capable of a vision of the whole: "The scientific sense... summarizes the facts of experience on a single plane, in the horizontal. Hermeticism is not a science and will never be one. It can certainly make use of sciences and their results, but by doing so it does not become a science."

Or, one could say that profane science is the study of the relative, which is change itself. But Hermeticism is essentially the science of the changeless, which is to say, metaphysics. Metaphysics is the science of the permanent, of those things that cannot not be, for example, the Absolute, and by extension, the Infinite. Or, of Beyond-Being, and its child, Being.

Again, science can verify truth on a single plane, while the gnostic sense investigates the depth of said truth. Thus, any philosophy of naturalism can only be absolutely true to the extent that one fails to ponder its depth and significance. The moment you engage in the latter, you have disproved it, for you have revealed a vertical depth of truth and being for which naturalism can never account. You have left materialism behind. For to listen in expectant silence in the vertical space is to be "instructed by God." Coongratulations. It's your psychic bar mitzvah! So say goodbye to your spiritual childhood and leave mater behind.

Now, on to the Empress. As a brief aside, I think one of the reasons this book didn't resonate with me at first, is that it starts out a bit slow, at least relative to what follows. My recollection is that the book really starts to catch fire after card four or five, but we shall see. This chapter in particular had some bland spots for me.

UF points out that the Empress symbolizes the realm of sacred or divine magic, which is embodied in the formula that the subtle rules the dense, and all it implies. I suppose that when I first read the book, I was slightly put off by this whole idea of "magic," being that it's such a loaded word. But UF has a very specific meaning in mind. First, he notes that the only legitimate magic is that which is "authorized from above." And the only legitimate aim of magic is liberation in order to ascend. And the only legitimate formula is the combination of the two wills: divine and human.

Thus, real magic results from our alignment with the divine will in order to ascend toward greater freedom. A new power is born through the unity of divine and human wills. Elsewhere he quotes Peladin, who spoke of the application of the strengthened human will to accelerate the evolution of the living forces of Nature. This is accomplished through the science of love.

And remember from the previous card, that love is the essence of unity, or the free unification of twoness in oneness, even while preserving the twoness. "Sacred magic is the power of love, born of the union in love of divine will and human will." Freedom, love, magic, will, ascent, evolution, multiplicity, oneness... all of these things are interrelated in surprising ways. "This is the aim of sacred magic; it is nothing other than to give the freedom to see, hear, to walk, to live, to follow an ideal and to be truly oneself -- i.e., to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the ability to walk to the lame, life to the dead, good news or ideals to the poor, and free will to those who are possessed by evil spirits."

I won't bore you with some of the letters Bob receives testifying to the reality of this magic. People who couldn't "see" God now can; or people who couldn't hear, now do; or people who couldn't walk the walk, now dance the sacred coondance. But not one of these people attributes it to Bob. Well, maybe one person, but he was rather scary. The point is, they all "get it" -- that the magic results from aligning oneself (↑) with (↓), not by being a clone of Bob, God forbid, or I'll have to contact the authorities.

I usually have to reframe these ideas in terms of my own experience and understanding in order to appreciate where UF is coming from. I'm sure he wouldn't mind, for that is again how one moves down the spectrum from spiritual touch, to hearing, to synthesis and comprehension, then to projection and vision. No one else can give you the comprehension. It has to be your own, so it will naturally be inflected through the particulars of your own personality. Even Jesus -- who was a mode of the universal -- was nevertheless a human personality. True, he was "everyone," but he was nevertheless someone. This is what distinguishes him from merely mythological figures that are purely archetypal and therefore conventional.

UF then goes into a very important passage on what gets in the way, which is none other than the mind parasites of which Bob speaks in his book. If the object of sacred magic is liberation in order to ascend, then anything that intrudes upon or prevents that process is more or less parasitic.

Well no, that's not quite correct. In fact, it's not correct at all. Earth is not to be confused with heaven. We are not meant to live non-friction lives, for it is precisely the obstacles that present the opportunity for growth and transcendence. But there are "legitimate" obstacles, tests and trials that work within the Cosmic Law, and illegitimate ones that may look satanic, but are actually mostly human. Or, you might say that they are a kind of black magic which results from the alignment of the human will with the forces of darkness. Does this really happen? Please. Grow up. You've already had your psychic bar mitzvah. Now start acting like it, schmendrick.

UF makes the critical point that the Adversary never deprives anyone of his freedom. That is not his style, but more importantly, it is not his role. He's not some sort of street thug or community organizer. No: "Temptation is [his] only weapon and this presupposes the freedom of he who is tempted."

But one can obviously squander one's freedom, to the point that one is essentially "possessed" by the demon that one has co-created with the Adversary. As UF describes it, "One engenders an elemental being and one subsequently becomes the slave of one's own creation." And here is the money quote, as it coonfirms Bob's ideas about demonic mind parasites, which

"have been discovered by contemporary psychiatrists and are recognized as real -- i.e., as 'parasitic psychic organisms' independent of the conscious human will and tending to subjugate it." As such, "One need not fear the devil, but rather the perverse tendencies in oneself! For those perverse human tendencies can deprive us of our freedom and enslave us. Worse still, they can avail themselves of our imagination and inventive faculties and lead us to creations which can become the scourge of mankind."

Let's pause here for a little red meat for the base. Liberalism is obviously about freedom. But the founders always understood this in the manner outlined above, as spiritual freedom, i.e., the freedom to ascend. For example, in the words of John Adams,

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.... We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.... We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections.”

The Democrat party has long since abandoned the classical liberalism of America's founders for a leftism that is not just its political opposite, but its very negation. It is a collusion of man and his own lower forces in order to create hell on earth. Instead of a vertical freedom conferred by God and respected by the state, it promulgates a horizontal freedom granted by the state. But the state can create nothing. Just as it cannot create wealth but only take it away by force, it cannot grant real freedom, since that freedom is a priori and intrinsically spiritual. And by attacking and undermining religion itself, it results in the creation of a new kind of man-beast hybrid whose freedom is for his own sake. It is not even horizontal freedom, but merely the freedom to fall further into his own warped imagination, i.e., the Rule of the Mind Parasites.

Virtually all freedom-loving Americans have a sense of deep foreboding about what may come with the Rule of the Mind Parasites. But this is nothing new. UF quotes a passage by St. Paul, who spoke of how the entire Creation had been "groaning in travail," awaiting its hour of liberation, when it "will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God."

Isn't this inversion amazing, that the "irreligious" secular left -- precisely because they are irreligious -- are laboring under the fantasy that the world has been groaning in travail while awaiting the hour of... Obama? -- a shape-shifting cipher and compulsively lyin' Hawaiian who represents the quintessence of soothing hypnosis and oily seduction, the favorite methods of the Adversary? For he is the inverted image of the Empress.

To be continued....

*****

This post at Belmont Club has some implicit connections to mine. You figure them out:

"'It was a bold man who first et an oyster,' a wag once wrote. But many a timid man followed the bold. Once the first pedophile discovered holidays in Thailand or a perverted clergyman spread the word that children trusted men of the cloth it was only a matter of time before a kind of bubble blew up which created a whole new category of tourist industry and very nearly collapsed institutions which had lasted for millenia. When radical Islamists discovered that Western civilization made cars, airplanes, the Internet and biological science available to the common man it wasn’t long before mass terror attacks using these implements were under way. One day evil people make a business process or technological breakthrough and for a time, they have a boom which to us looks like a catastrophe. Imagine the excitement with which real scammers must have regarded Fan and Fred, or the derivative market, as you prefer. Seek and you shall find.

"It’s interesting to speculate about what bad guys may be looking for next. An amusing story is told about Kurt Godel, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century. It seems that Godel applied for US citizenship and proceeded to his examination in company with Albert Einstein and Oskar Morgenstern when it occurred to him to tell the judge about a logical loophole he had discovered in the US Constitution through which America could be turned into a tyranny.

"Einstein and Morgenstern coached Gödel for his U.S. citizenship exam, concerned that their friend’s unpredictable behavior might jeopardize his chances. When the Nazi regime was briefly mentioned, Gödel informed the presiding judge that he had discovered a way in which a dictatorship could be legally installed in the United States, through a logical contradiction in the U.S. Constitution. Neither the judge, nor Einstein or Morgenstern allowed Gödel to finish his line of thought and he was awarded citizenship.

"It’s amusing until one realizes how often we discover, at intervals of 50 or so years, how a cohort of people more or less simultaneously learn to game a system until it crashes. I really do wish the judge had let Godel finish, though the 5% of men in the world would have been listening to his words more intently than all the rest."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Religion: It's Alive!!! (10.11.11)

Look, I know I'm not as "eloquent" as Gagdad. Or as coherent. Or linear. But all that stuff's overrated. Like I mentioned the other day, I'm like evolution herself, which is much more like a disorderly bush than a flowing river. In other words, everything just sort of cascades out of a central explosion, whether of life, matter, or spirit. The explosive center is everywhere.

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mind and Mater (10.10.11)

Continuing with the High Priestess card. Interesting that the French name, as you can see, is La Papesse, or "The Popess." Interesting because Schuon often refers to the pontiff as the archetype of Man as Such, i.e., "Pontifical Man," the latter being the "vertical being," or microcosm, who bisects all the planes of existence and who contains all potential within himself. The Latin pontifex connotes "builder of bridges," and Man is indeed the ultimate bridge builder, only it is a vertical bridge (or sometimes ladder) between manifestation and principle; or the many and the One; or Heaven and Earth; or the upper waters and the lower waters.

As Rooth notes, the bridge is both conveyance and barrier: "Heaven and Earth were united in the beginning before they were separated by the event of manifestation.... So the bridge represents both the way across as well as the fact of their separation, and in this respect it is equivalent to the axial pillar which both connects and keeps separate." The vertical bridge back to God is the residue, or mysty coontrail, of the Creator's involution into spacetime.

I am intrigued by this implicit idea of "female pope." What could it possibly mean when we combine -- or play with -- the archetypes of pontifex and female? To put it another way, what does female connote in its vertical aspect? I ask this because female is usually associated with all of the words and concepts derived from mother or mater, including matter, meter, mara, maya, mattress, measure. There is the Father Principle, or "pure form," which "fertilizes" pure materiality in order to bring about the manifestation (e.g., the play of purusha and prakriti, or Shiva and Shakti).

Genesis treats this subject in mythological terms, as the woman represents the descending tendency who is seduced by the snake, the ultimate principle of earthbound horizontality. Conversely, Mary is the shadow of Eve (or rather, vice versa), in that she gives birth to the ultimate pontifex, or to the principle within the manifestation. Thus, Mary-Matter-Maya is "pregnant with God," not just 2000 years ago, but for all time. We don't have time to go into Eckhart's many fruitful ideas about the feminine aspect of divinity, e.g., that God perpetually lays on a maternity bed giving birth. Creativity -- which is often seen as a more masculine activity -- is actually far more feminine, both because of the birth motif, but also because true creativity is fertilized "from above."

It can also be fertilized from below. But enough about popular culture and the fallen bastard children of Eve.

UF goes into a lovely little soliloquy on the "gift of tears" which are a sort of fluid membrane between the above and below, a certificate of authenticity of most any encounter with the God of Love. In contrast to the "dry" experience of depersonalized oneness, UF writes that the soul who experiences the miracle of divine love is moved to tears. Only humans cry tears of joy (although our jester will no doubt provide a link to prove to himself otherwise; but this will be a horizontal link, when the only way to actually prove the point is to have the personal experience of the vertical link, i.e., to shed these real tears of joy and/or repentance).

Now, man is in the image of the Creator. The most quintessentially human "faculty" is the intellect, or nous, which actually shares in a part of the "uncreatable" substance of God. Again, it is a purely passive, or "female" principle, as it is a reflection of the light of the Father. This is none other than Sophia, or wisdom herself: "Pure intellect is that which reflects; love is that which acts." (Interestingly, this implies that the solar principle is located in the heart, the lunar principle in the mind; more on which later. But you can well understand why so many so-called "intellectuals" become so pathologically feminized, as they are detached from the solar principle above as well as its manifestation below in the heart, or higher mind.)

UF notes that "the intellect is the feminine side of the soul, whilst the fertilizing imagination is the masculine principle. The intellect that is not fertilized by the imagination guided by the heart is sterile." Here again, we can see why I keep our scientistic jester on the playroll, as he teaches us so much. One thing he teaches us about is the purely feminized mind, which is "all maya," or all quantity. Why would any of us want to return to that cold and dry crone-world?

Back to the Priestess. I won't get into all of the details of UF's reasoning, as I would prefer to focus on the principles. And the main principle embodied in the Priestess is the descent of the word through the stages of reflection, memory, word, and writing. For example, think of the descent of revelation, only the last stage of which is "The Book." In other words, religion begins in the world of principles, or at the center, and moves out to the periphery.

Science, on the other hand, begins with facts -- "the book of nature" -- and attempts to reason from the periphery to the center (which is strictly impossible, as the very conduct of science presupposes the human center). Put another way, the "last stage" of God's involution is the material world, whereas the latter is the starting point of science.

Mysticism is the science of "spiritual touch," and it must be at the heart of all religion. As UF writes, spiritual touch -- or intuition -- "is that which permits contact between our consciousness and the world of pure mystical experience. It is by virtue of this that there exists in the world and in the history of mankind a real relationship between the living soul and the living God -- which is true religion." It is only because of this faculty of spiritual touch -- which is obviously a subtle sense that needs to be nurtured and developed -- that God is something "more than an abstract notion."

But after mystical touch comes gnosis, or the spirit of understanding; and after gnosis, the magical sense, or the ability to put knowledge into action (or non-action, to be precise); and after magic comes the book, MOTT being as fine an example of the latter as one could imagine. As UF writes, if the God-knower "wants all that he has experienced, understood and practiced to be not limited to himself and his time, but to be communicable to others and transmitted to future generations, he must develop the Hermetic-philosophical sense, and in practicing it he will 'write his book.'"

And how eternally grateful we are that so many of these illustrious pneumanauts left their living books for us! For it is only through the very organicity of the living book that the totality of tradition may be "held together," from the top to the bottom, from the center to the periphery, from the vertical to the horizontal. To not have this experience of the living whole is to be possessed by a demon, whether it is the demon of Marxism, or of metaphysical Darwinism, or of materialism, or of scientism. Each of these results in the soul being possessed and ensnared:

"Yes, autonomous philosophical systems separated from the living body of tradition are parasitic structures, which seize the thought, feeling and finally the will of human beings. In fact, they play a role comparable to the psycho-pathological complexes of neurosis or other psychic maladies of obsession. Their physical analogy is cancer."

Ain't it the truth. The only cure is kenotherapy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Lovely Yoke at the Center of the Cosmic Egg (10.10.11)

Next up: Letter II, the High Priestess. But before moving on to her, is there anything else I'd like to say about the Magician?

Yes, a couple of points. UF makes the critically important point that, with regard to the spiritual world under investigation, everything hinges on the depth of experience. This is not analogous to scientific knowledge, which has no "depth" per se, and may be passed from mind to mind like any other object. The dominance of this latter modality is precisely what leads naive minds to conclude that the world is fundamentally "like an object," which of course is nonsense. If that were true, it could never be known.

We'll leave to one side for the moment Polanyi's argument that the scientific enterprise is actually much closer to spiritual epistemology -- and vice versa -- than scientists realize. The point is, the arcana of which UF writes are like preconceptions, or "empty categories," which must be filled in by experience in order to become genuine knowledge. As he writes, "all superficial, incomplete or false experience is bound to give rise to superficial, incomplete and false conclusions." Therefore, the "effectiveness and value depend on the fullness and exactitude of the experience upon which it is based."

For you callous sophisticates out there who imagine there is something stupid about religion, always consider the source, as there will always be an abundance of stupid people, especially as more of them are spiritually maimed by the privilege of a higher education. This is axiomatic. It is not like your scientific religion, which any idiot can understand. Are there dangers in this approach? Well, duh. Life is dangerous. Qualifications count in any knowledge that is embodied and not just theoretical. I am not impressed if my brain surgeon has merely been to medical school. I want to know if he has assimilated the knowledge and successfully put it into action. I don't want him merely to "know stuff." I want him to physically be the knowledge, to incarnate it in action.

Here again, there is something paradoxically analogous to being childlike, something I especially notice now with my 3.5 year old, who loves his work, which is to play. You can see that he's always hard at work, except that it is in the mode of play. As UF writes, "The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e., concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still, complete and undivided, whereas with one who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again entire and undivided.... The Master did not want us to become puerile; what he wanted is that we attain the geniality of intelligence and heart which is analogous -- not identical -- to the attitude of the child...."

It is in this mode of relaxed work-play that we may regain the unity of consciousness, or the union of conscious and unconscious minds; or, if you like, left and right brain, or heart and mind. The Magician embodies the higher synthesis "of the conscious and unconscious -- of creative spontaneity and deliberately executed activity." Here again, these verticalisthenics require serious play, which is why it would be a serious error, or a very unfunny joke, to dismiss Bob as a genial metaphysical entertainer merely because he clothes his bobservations in jehovial witticisms, pithylogical gnosissism, laughty revelations, and the like.

Bob looks at it this way: "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Children -- well, my child, anyway -- are always laughing. Humor and human are of the same essence. Therefore, the journey to hyperborea calls for some seriously deep yucks. In turn, one can see how the empyrean is unreachable for a comedian such as Bill Maher, who is only capable of humor so low, cheap, and broad, that even Larry King gets it.

Now, on to the High Priestess. Here again we have a somewhat chaorderly chapter that I will do my best to summarize.

There is a reason the Priestess follows the Magician, and this has to do with the distinction between the pure light of knowledge -- which is analogous to the sun -- and its reflection in the book -- which is analogous to the moon (the moon is always female). (Note the book on her lap.)

UF then veers into an important aside; here again, his constant asides can be disorienting, but speaking as Bob's Unconscious, I am completely sympathetic. The Unconscious is not "linear"; but this is hardly to say that it is not logical. Rather, it simply follows its own logic. You might call it "night logic," or the logic of the Dream. This logic is rich, holographic, fractal, non-linear, and pregnant with implications. Rather than A leading to B leading to C, it's more like....

Well, frankly, unconscious logic is also intrinsically imagistic, and the image that comes to mind is a lung, an upside down tree, or a burning bush that is never consumed by the Fire. Think of how oxygen enters through a single passage, but then fractally branches off into innumerable byways, until it literally touches the blood. That is how religious in-spiration works as well. It is how one touches the divine -- or rather, vice versa.

Anyway, UF goes into the difference between Christian yoga and yoga-yoga, in that the former aspires to a unity of two rather then the dissolution of twoness into an acosmic and impersonal Oneness. (And don't be put off by the word "yoga," as it simply means the same thing as "religion"; both have to do with "yoking" or "binding" (from the Latin religare, "to bind"). Thus, "my yoga is easy."

Christian yoga is founded on the principle that there is something higher than oneness, and that is the yoke of love. And clearly, love is not possible -- or, it is merely an illusion -- if all is actually one. But Christianity teaches that love is not an illusion, but the essence of God. Thus, the recognition of a trinitarian God, which you might say is "one in love" as opposed to one in.... what? I don't know. That was for all those Councils to figure out 1000 or 1500 years ago, and I don't want to rehash it here.

The point is, this does not mean to imply that this is a dualistic cosmos; but it also isn't a monistic one. Duality, as UF suggests, is always pernicious, as it posits two rival "ultimates" which battle it out until the end of time -- which never ends. But it is absurd to think that there could be two ultimates.

You could claim that one of the ultimates is merely an illusion, which is what materialists do. That is, there is a mind-matter duality that is ultimately reducible to matter. This, of course, is a non-starter, as it represents the worst kind of metaphysical nonsense.

UF asks, "Does there not exist a legitimate twofoldness?... a twofoldness which does not signify the diminution of unity, but rather its qualitative enrichment?

Hmmm, let's see.... I'm thinking of marriage, which strikes me as a legitimate twofoldness that enriches unity. Is there such a thing as a metaphysical marriage? Isn't this why nuns wear wedding rings? More to the point, isn't this what Petey was referring to when he wrote, A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion?

As Three Dog Night taught us, "one is the loneliest number." And as Petey taught us, It was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo. Now God had a lila Word to play with and keep him company! The point is, eternity would be intolerably dull and monotheotonous without sometwo to love in threeness: Lover, Loved, and the Love that passes between them. Truly, duality's a crowd, but trinity's company.

And God's love would not be particularly admirable if he were merely loving himself by proxy. No, God's love is completely unnarcissary. As UF writes, "If God were only One and if he had not created the World, he would not be the God revealed by the Master, the God of whom St. John says: God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

I suppose I would venture to branch this out a bit, and say that God is also Truth, or Knower, Known, and the Knowledge in between; or Beauty, in the same essential formulation.

The point is, as UF says, mere Being deprived of love "would be the most appalling torment -- the Inferno itself!" Love -- and Truth and Beauty -- is what imbues being with worth, with value and meaning. What is the Resurrection if not the triumph of love over broken being? Being itself is morally indifferent, perhaps even vaguely sinister, in the absence of the divine light of love.

But if we posit love as a a fundamental principle, then we may understand existence to be a "moral process."

Well, we've only touched the surface of the High Priestess card. To be continued tomorrow....

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Magical Mystery Tour of the Interior Cosmos (10.05.11)

Remember, this is Bob's Unconscious speaking to us from beyond the subjective horizon. Also, remember that this is not meant to be -- nor could it ever be -- exhaustive, and cannot be a replacement for reading the book. I have no intention of "saturating" the experience of reading the book with my own ideas.

MY first impression upon rerereading MOTT is that the man could have used an editor. But who could have accomplished such a task? This presupposes an ability to master this infinite and eternal body of knowledge -- to wrap one's arms around it, so to speak, both in time and space -- and then to assimilate and organize it within oneself. In Bionion terms, it means that one would have to be capable of containing what UF contained; one would have to have an interior cosmos that exceeded his, and I doubt if too many people meet those qualifications.

Besides, once something is fully contained, it is functionally dead; it is no longer capable of evolution. Bion used the symbol ♀ for the container, and ♂ for the contained. The relationship between ♀ and ♂ is that between an explosive force and a limiting boundary. Words, for example, are ♀. Although words contain meaning, the meaning constantly escapes the words, which is the only reason why words are capable of saying what cannot be said and evolving meaning. One must be very aware of this function of words when discussing mystical theology; one must never forget the uncontainable ♂ within the ♀.

Bob attempted to discuss this issue in OCUG, which is why he used symbols instead of words for certain key ideas. For example, the word God is a container, an ♀. But how can any word possibly contain the ultimate ♂? It's okay to use the word, so long as you never forget that, especially in the case of God, ♂ vastly exceeds any ♀ you could come up with.

Now, the first arcana is that of the Magician. Before getting into its specific meaning, bear in mind that, even more than a word, this is a symbol, or ♀, which is full of explosive ♂. UF even explains this at the outset, noting that these archetypal symbols of the Tarot have "the virtue of awakening the deeper layers of the soul," i.e., ♂. In other words, you cannot think without symbols. But you must not confuse the symbols with the thoughts they provoke, or reduce thought to symbol.

Here again, Bob touched on this in OCUG, noting that one must develop a new relationship to language, so that you actually speak it, rather than vice versa. When we hear about "speaking in tongues" and the like, I believe this is likely a popular misrepresentation of a deeper principle. This is why we call it "speaking in Tongan," in order to avoid the confusion. You can be sure that the scientific materialist only believes what he does because he is spoken by a particular kind of dry and desiccated language, and has become contained -- and therefore imprisoned -- by it. This is why no real poet could ever be a materialist. The poet knows as well as anyone that ♂ always breaks free of ♀, and that this is a divine mercy.

UF goes on to say that these archetypal symbols have the capacity to awaken "new notions, ideas, sentiments, and aspirations, which means that they require an activity more profound than that of study and intellectual explanation." Rather, one must dive deeply into them, which is to simultaneously dive deeply into the mystery of oneself. For "it is the deep and intimate layers of the soul which become active and bear fruit" in these contemplative exercises. And that is the whole point: to become deep, since God is the ultimate depth.

Here again, UF highlights the ♂ ♀ dialectic of the symbols -- and this goes for any archetypal symbols, including the totality of the Bible -- in that they "conceal and reveal their sense at one and the same time according to the depth of meditation." In Petey's term, they reveil, the veil (♀) being necessary to clothe the (♂) so that it may be thought about in a deepening spiral.

Again, this is a true complementarity, which is why one cannot simply strip away the veil to disclose the underlying reality. This is the approach of those barbarous atheists who imagine they can seize reality with their greedy and grasping meat hooks; but we see how far they get with that, which is to say, nowhere. They merely grasp their nether parts with this nOnanistic activity, which is why they are spiritually barren. They are filled with millions of Unborns who will never see the light of deity because they were never conceived in d'light immaculate.

Now, the magician is the master archetype for our journey into the rest of the symbols. Why is that? Because he is the symbol of what we must become if we are to have a fruitful journey through the rest of them. We must become this magician. And what does this magician represent?

Well, among other things, he embodies the principle of Slack, in that we must leave the field of profane time behind, and enter a different reality that has its own rhythm and sensibility. Here is how UF formulates it:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

The first of these prescriptions has to do with what Petey calls the principle of Higher Non-doodling, which in turn is similar to the wu wei of Taoism. It also coonverges on what Sri Aurobindo calls the attainment of the "silent mind," which is well explained in chapter 4 of The Adventure of Consciousness.

In fact, we see a perfect convergence of these approaches, as Satprem writes that "the major task that opens the door to many realizations is to silence the mind.... Clearly, if we want to discover a new country within us, we must leave the old one behind -- everything depends on our determination to take this first step." (In OCUG, Bob uses the symbol (---) for this step.)

Part of this is in order to escape the (♀) in order to get at the (♂), so to unspeak. In other words, our surface ego, or local self (•) is so hemmed in and contained, that we need to get beyond or behind it, and the best way is to get it to shut the hell up. This is because, as Sri Aurobindo writes, "In a certain sense, we are nothing but a complex mass of mental, nervous and physical habits held together (♀) by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small, self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations." This outward and external (♀) becomes thicker and more dense, until we are "confined in a construction." No more (♂). Your fortress against reality is complete.

This is why you might say that the first half of life involves learning, while the second half involves unlearning. Or, "be as little children," who are so full of (♂). This requires a leap into faith (o), which Aurobindo describes as "an intuition not only waiting for experience to justify it, but leading toward experience."

Here again, UF agrees that we must achieve calm and silence "at the expense of the automatism of thought and imagination" (the bad kind -- more on which later). Only in so doing will we be capable of truly "speaking" of these matters, instead of merely being on auto-pilot. A Raccoon must never speak of spiritual matters in in this mechanical way. I suppose that doing so has its place, but it is ultimately "by the dead and for the tenured," not for us.

One reason why silence is so critical is that it is only in silence that we become "one." And as UF writes, we must first become one in ourselves if we are to become one with the spiritual world. It's just common sense. Without unity, there can be no knowledge of any kind. For example, the only reason why we may possess scientific knowledge is because a primordial unity subtends the division of subject and object.

However, that is the world of horizontal quantities, whereas the spiritual world is one of vertical qualities. Thus, the next step, according to UF, is to understand the Law of Analogy that governs the qualitative world of the vertical. This, of course, is why Jesus spoke in parables that are full of richly resonant symbolism with which we must "play" as little children.

Well, we're out of time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Monkey in the Middle

Time for your weekly rerun from 700 posts ago. This one was originally called My Theory, Which is Mine: The World is Intelligible at One End, Intelligence at the Other, and Human in the Middle, but that was too long for a title. The point is, man is the vertical being who bisects every plane of reality, from the lowdown downdest to the tip toppermost of the poppermost man on a flaming pie. As always, lots of new thoughts have been slipped in as they occurred to me.

***

Who knows where ideas come from, let alone ideas for ideas? But there was some sort of vague notion in yesterday’s post that was trying to get me to think it, but didn’t quite make it over the linguistic horizon. So let’s make another raid on the inarticulate this morning, and see if we can’t drag it across the phoenix line.

The main idea is something of a truism, even though few people seem to draw out its implications. And this idea that I have -- which is mine, by the way -- follows the lines I am about to relate. Ahem. This idea -- which belongs to me -- is as follows. This is how it goes. Ahem. The next thing that I am about to say is my idea, which is mine. Ahem. Ready? My Idea, by El Bob Gagdad. My idea is along the following lines. This is it. This is how it goes. Remember, it's mine:

Religion embodies specifically human knowledge aimed at the human world.

The reason why this is both controversial and axiomatic is that the human world is gradually being eclipsed by a non-human world that results from a human activity, science. Let me back up bit, and lay a frim framdation.

Let us stipulate that there is but one world, a noumenal world that simply is what it is (O), regardless of our theories (k) about it. In short, O = O. O ≠ (k).

O is like the ocean. It tosses up theories about itself like so many grains of sand on the beach. And then it washes them away like tsand castles in a tsunami. The little human monkeys that theorize about O often forget -- especially lately -- that they are as much a product of O as their theories. Thus, at best, their manmade theories can account for everything but the theorizer. Even if these theories approach the penumbra of this thing called Truth, they cannot account for this most shocking aspect of existence, which is not just that Truth exists, but that it permeates existence on every level. Very strange.

Although existence is necessarily One -- if it's not, then your theory has some 'splainin' to do -- it nevertheless discloses many seemingly irreconcilable worlds -- at least if we begin at “the bottom” of the cosmos and try to work our way up. For example, modern physics reveals a world “underneath” (whatever that means) ours that operates along shockingly different lines than the human world. I don’t want to go into all of the details now, but one of the major conceptual problems in physics is that even physicists don’t know what to do about the bizarre micro-world they have discovered, as it cannot be reconciled with the macro-world of relativity, let alone with any human world. It's as if macro existence floats on a swarm of the incomprehensible. And we all know how painful that can be.

And neither the macro-world of relativity nor the micro-world of subatomic physics has anything to do with the human experiential world, at least in the absence of a heroic dose of psilocybin. In fact, the quantum world is so paradoxical that it literally cannot even be imagined. That is, if we try to picture what goes on down there, the picture will most certainly be wrong. This is not to say that we cannot use quantum physics, which we obviously do. It is just that we cannot use it to understand our world, the human world. You cannot read a (post-classical) physics text and expect it to disclose any useful information about our day to day world.

Likewise, with regard to cosmology, the “big bang” undoubtedly conjures up a visual image, but the image has nothing to do with the reality, any more than you could imagine the square root of negative one. For it is not a human world.

Nor is the world of DNA a human world, or even a living world. From the standpoint of the human world, life is not a function of DNA; rather, DNA is a function of life, which is a total freaking mystery. As my son grows older and I pass on to him the eternal secret of the Gagdad way of life, I am not going to hand him a textbook on genetics or natural selection and ask, “any questions?” To do so would be absurd, but absurdity is no barrier to the tide of brain-dead materialism that continues to encroach like weeds upon the human world.

Consciousness too is a complete and utter mystery. You will often hear the cliché that you can learn more about human beings by reading this or that great novelist than you can by studying psychology, and this is often true. There are certain forms of psychology that most certainly do not touch the human world, behaviorism among them. I remember once, during one of my internships, getting into a debate with another intern. He was a behaviorist, while all of my training was in psychoanalysis, the most deeply human of all merely psychological (as opposed to anthropo-theological) theories. It wasn’t so much that he was wrong. Rather, he wasn’t even wrong, because his theory was so detached from psychic reality. Truly, it was like trying to explain to a blind man why he shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day.

Again, science is a wonderful human activity, but it does not disclose a human world or provide any useful information about the meaning of life or even about what it means to be human. In fact, science itself must be placed in the larger context of the human world if we are to avoid reducing humanness to some scientific abstraction.

This is where religion comes in, because -- to restate my theory, which is mine -- it represents the most human of knowledge, aimed at human beings and the human world, which is to say the real world. Yes. This is something that truly needs to be emphasized: that science does not disclose the real world, but various abstract models of the world that humans -- and only humans -- may access, and only because of their humanness.

Thus, science is an extension of the human knower, but it can never explain the existence of the human knower. In other words, it is a small part of the larger world called truth to which humans have unique access. While animals are subject to the laws of the cosmos, the fact that we can know the truth of these laws places us infinitely “above” them (even if not beyond them, at least in the embodied state).

As I have mentioned before, religion often involves implicit metaphysics without explicit knowledge. What I mean is that embedded in any religious tradition are all sorts of exquisite metaphysical insights that are expressed in an obscure, ambiguous, symbolic, or mythological way. Thus, they have to be unpacked and understood. Well, not necessarily. They do their deepest work on a resonant unconscious (or supraconscious) level, but the nousy Raccoon wants to know why and how.

Metaphysics is the science of the Absolute and of the true nature of things. You might say that it is the science of the ultimate Subject, whereas science is the religion of the ultimate object. The purpose of metaphysics is to discriminate between the Real and the apparent, in order to align our will with reality, in a divine-human partnership .

Let us begin with two trippy stipulations, treating them not as religious statements per se but pregnant metaphysical ones:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,

and

In the beginning was the the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

What does it mean, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? As I have mentioned before, I believe that it has to do with the creation of the most fundamental duality of the cosmos. This duality can be viewed from many angles, but it can be summarized by saying that "in the beginning God created the vertical and the horizontal," for this duality subsumes the irreducible (irreducible in terms that can be thought about) categories of absolute and infinite, quality and quantity, interior and exterior, eternity and time, whole and part, implicate and explicate, subject and object. In each instance we are dealing with a "limit case" beyond which thought cannot traverse. In fact, the one side of the dualism necessitates the other and represents the conditions of existence and thought. Nothing "mental" can be made without the vertical/horizontal duality as a precondition.

Another way of saying it is that existence comprises two necessary and irreducible poles: existence and intelligence, which ultimately flow from the same Absolute source. This is why both “things” and “subjects” open out to the infinite. In the case of things, they radiate the divine presence in any number of ways (for example, beauty), while in the case of subjects, it is their very nature for the divine presence to inhere in them. It is why the world is intelligible to intelligence; to say one is to say the other, for if the world is not inherently intelligible, there can be no intelligence, and vice versa.

This is in accord with the second Omendment above: In the beginning was the Word, or Logos. Moreover, this Word was with God, or the Absolute, implying that it was there "before the beginning," before the great dualistic creative activity of the first statement. Indeed, if the Word is God, this can be the only logical conclusion.

This then apparently raises language -- that most human of capacities -- to a most exalted status. But clearly not if we merely look at it in the usual way. It's so easy to take language for grunted, when in reality we are dealing with something that is frankly magic, even divine. In fact, the very same Biblical passage cautions us about this, pointing out that the light of the Word "shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Or, to put it in more coontemporary terms expressed in the Book of Petey, the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't comprehend it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos.

One additional point would appear relevant. From Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read "Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." We are particularly interested in how our capacity for creativity might mirror the primordial creative activity of the Divine Mind.

What is language, anyway? What is a word? As a matter of fact, a word is a very special thing, because only it has the capacity to bridge the dualistic worlds introduced by primordial creation. Apparently words can do this because they are somehow prior to the great duality and therefore partake of both heaven and earth, above and below, vertical and horizontal.

The literal meaning of the word "symbol" is to "throw together" or across, as if words are exterior agents that join together two disparate things. But the Biblical view would suggest that language actually has this "throwing together" capacity because it somehow subtends the world on an interior level: language is what the world is made of, so it shouldn't surprise us that with it we can see all kinds of deep unities in the cosmos. The unities are there just waiting to be discovered, and language is our tool for doing so.

For man possesses two types of intelligence, a horizontal, analytical, “dividing” mind, and a unifying, synthesizing mind. However, the latter takes priority, for the ultimate purpose of analysis is to synthesize. For example, to paraphrase Aldous Huxley, science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. And what is the final unity? Why, the same unity we started with, only transformed by the spiraling journey back to its unchanging self.

To summarise: if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a pitchfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floorboards, and down from the ceiling. The wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it, and it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that miraculously knows itself in the act of knowledge, as "the circle which opens in truth closes in beauty."

In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo

Friday, October 10, 2008

Improvisations on the Meditations (10.05.11)

I think it's time to delve back into Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism (heretofore MOTT). It is the most profound work of Christian spirituality I've ever encountered, and is so dense that you can't possibly read it just once and be done with it. Rather, it is one of those books that needs to be reread every year or so. The problem is, it would probably take a year to properly read, and much longer to actually internalize and assimilate.

I guess I've read it cover to cover maybe four or five times. I know this because I have two copies, each with different colored highlighting. And yet, each time I read it, I get something new out of it. I know this because new passages are highlighted on subsequent go-rounds.

Also, as I mentioned in a comment the other day, the first time I tried to tackle it, I got nowhere. It was just too difficult; we were both too dense. But by the time of my second attempt a year or two later, a transformation had taken place within me that allowed me to understand it. Indeed, it was like entering a vast cathedral, only this time with the lights on. In other words, without the Light, an infinite space can appear as a black wall, which is essentially the predicament in which the atheist finds himself. He imagines he's describing an objective wall, when he's really just disclosing his subjective darkness. It's difficult to imagine a worldview more banal.

There is a reason that all spiritual traditions speak of "illumination." The visible light we see with our eyes is an analogue and symbol of the light we see with our mind. In other words, the intelligibility of the world is prior to its materiality. The spiritual world is an intelligible world, but in order to see it, you will require the uncreated light of the awakened intellect, i.e., the nous. Without it, you will again be staring at a blank wall (or you will simply have to take someone else's word for it). Jesus will just be a community organizer, if he existed at all. Miracles will merely be statistically rare events instead of vertical lessons. The Bible will be a collection of "flat" or even silly stories instead of simultaneously urgent and timeless memos of infinite depth from the Self to your self.

A couple of important points before we begin. The book is not about Tarot reading, nor does it have anything to do with the occult. Rather, the author merely uses the twenty two major arcana of the Tarot as a basis to "riff." It's almost as if he free associates and uses the cards as unsaturated archetypes to explore his own incredibly fertile spiritual imagination. But his ideas are for the most part completely orthodox and intelligible to others, unlike, say, occultists, who may or may not speak truth, but clothe it in idiosyncratic and obscure ways that can be extremely difficult to decode.

While earlier in life the author (who was born in 1900 and died in 1973) was a follower of Rudolf Steiner, he broke with that group and converted to Catholicism at the age of 44. In fact, he was booted from Steiner's Anthroposophical Society for being too independent of Steiner (who died in 1925).

Here again this is interesting, because Steiner was an example of a spiritually gifted occultist whose fluid ideas then reified into an orthodoxy. This is a fine example of how the master ruins the disciples and vice versa. Importantly, this is a dynamic that afflicts virtually all groups, as Bion recognized in some of his early papers. Indeed, it is precisely what had happened to Bion's own field of psychoanalysis, as Freud the explorer became Freud the inerrant prophet of a pseudo-religious order. Bion himself was analogous to the "new messiah" or mystic who challenges orthodoxy, but only in order to return it to first principles.

One sees this pattern again and again, as it is truly universal. For example, a Ronald Reagan appears on the historical stage as a revolutionary, but only in order to reawaken the country to its first principles of classical liberalism. Likewise, although Buddha was a heterodox Hindu, he too was merely attempting to return to the original principles of the Vedas, only in their purest and de-ritualized form.

The author worked on MOTT in his 60's, and it was originally published posthumously in 1984 (in English in 1985). Although the identity of the author is known, he wished to remain anonymous, so we will respect his wishes and refer to him as Unknown Friend (UF), which is what he calls himself. As a matter of fact, this is one of the charms of the book, as UF truly is our friend, and a precious one at that. Not only is he our friend, but he will be the invaluable friend and guide of any serious spiritual seeker from now until the end of time. And it is very much a "brotherly" relationship, despite his obvious spiritual eminence. This is very much in contrast to Schuon, who is so forbidding that one cannot imagine being his peer. (I certainly hope that this blog can be someone's unknown friend a hundred years from now -- not just me, but the whole transdimensional community, or Raccoon clench.)

With regard to my post the other day about the person who was asking for spiritual guidance, UF is a fine example of how one may form a living relationship with a guru, saint, sage, or mentor, despite the person not being "technically" alive. The fact is, they are very much alive, but they will only come to life in the dynamic transitional space between you and them. But how is this different from any other deep friendship? For example, I naturally love my wife, but I also love the space we have created for ourselves. This can go unappreciated, but it is the background context of my whole life. It is the space in which I live and breathe.

By the way, I'm basically engaging in this verticalisthenic exercise for my own benefit, so I'm going to try and pretend you folks aren't here. This is because I'm getting sick of us. Therefore, it's time for Bob's Unconscious to take the helm, and Bob's Unconscious lives in its own Private Idaho, although, at the same time, this particular Idaho is a universal Wedaho. In other words, we all share the same deep unconscious, so the further away I get from you morons, the closer we are (and that includes you, Bob).

One thing I like about MOTT is its jazz sensibility, of which I have written in the past. I adopt the identical approach, in that I have tried my best to internalize and assimilate the major chords of spiritual truth, and then attempt to improvise over them in a spontaneous way. In order to accomplish this, you can't really "try," or it will become immediately evident. Surely you have heard a bad blues singer, who substitutes volume for depth of feeling? Compare a great blues singer such as Muddy Waters, who is always relaxed, to a Janis Joplin, who screams with great effort.

Although I undoubtedly play the occasional clam, this jazzy approach is the only way that I can personally make Spirit come alive. Yes, there is danger in this, in that it can lead to an excessive focus on the individual and to idiosyncratic or eccentric interpretations. But this is the value of tradition, in that I always try to stay within the structure while simultaneously playing "beyond" it, in the same way the jazz immortals use the Great American Songbook as a basis for their improvisations.

Louis Armstrong was the first great jazz improviser. Before him was Dixieland jazz, in which no one stood out from the ensemble. But to improvise means to stand up and play "over" the group. Importantly, to produce great jazz, one must simultaneously be a part of the group while transcending it. This balance is the key, and I think it embodies a general lesson, almost a koan. That is, Man is the group animal whose very groupishness is the matrix out of which his individuality emerges. To be an individual is to live on the surface of the group, so to speak, but with roots deep within it. A narcissist fails to appreciate the importance of the group in making the individual possible, as if he could exist without it. And yet, the group cannot be the the "end" of our existence, as leftists believe.

I suppose it's somewhat analogous to the body/mind relationship. You cannot have a mind without a body, but to reduce the mind to the body is to do away with the person and our very reason for existence. Or again, one could say that this reflects the exoteric/esoteric complementarity of religion. Although I am an esoterist, I do not believe for one moment that esoterism can exist in the absence of exoterism, which is what the new agers believe. Here again, this leads to narcissism and the kind of infertile and even satanic spirituality of the Deepaks of the world.

Anyway, we're just going to riff on UF's riffing, and see where it takes us, beginning with the Foreward. Here we are tipped off at the outset to the jazz sensibility of our unknown friend, who writes of his alignment with a venerable tradition that unites "a spirit of free research with one of respect for tradition." In so doing, his purpose is to "incarnate" his word within this tradition, or to make his own words flesh, so to speak. Again, it is this organicity that you must appreciate, as our Unknown Friend comes to life before us. He will not just evoke a link between us and him, or between you and the great community of spirits who have preceded us on this earth. Rather, he is tossing down a vertical lifeline that situates us at the cosmic center:

For the links in the chain of the tradition are not thoughts and efforts alone; they are above all living beings who were thinking these thoughts and willing these efforts. The essence of the tradition is not a doctrine, but rather a community of spirits from age to age.

So jump into the living waters of this great river, and prepare to meet your Ocean.

****

I guess this would be the book's most famous reader. That's the two-volume German edition at the bottom of the pile, right below the poems of Suzanne Somers:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Keeping Hopelessness Alive

I'm glad that some Raccoons are optimistic about the election. I'm not. I'm not pessimistic either. In fact, as I've mentioned before, I place no hope in politics to begin with, and pretty much lead a hopeless life, at least as it pertains to the World. This probably sounds like bitterness or cynicism, but it certainly doesn't feel that way to me, and I'm quite sure that no one who knows me would consider me embittered.

Actually, it's much more of a Zen thingy, except that I don't have to actually practice Zen to be this way. I can't really claim credit for it, because it's just my nature. However, there was a time that I tried to fight against it and be like The Others, and it's not always easy to explain it to people who don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about.

For example, I tried to explain it to someone at that family function I attended last week. The person actually took sympathy, as if I were depressed or somehow missing out. Perhaps I should point out that this side of the family is Jewish, but only in a deeply secular -- which is to say, materialistic -- sense, so that my way of living is basically incomprehensible to them. The conversation revolved around my relatively late fatherhood, and I made the comment that if a man hasn't more or less seen it all by the age of 40, he's sort of pathetic. Being that I'd seen it all, I wanted to have the one experience I hadn't had, fatherhood. His response was, "noooo, why do you say that? Life isn't over at 40!!!"

But that wasn't at all the point I was attempting to make. Rather, what I meant is that for most people, they have had all the usual worldly experiences by the age of 40; they know what it's like to get drunk, fall in love, have some good meals, make some money, go to Disneyland, see their favorite team win the World Series, have some nice vacations, see their candidate become president. But then they merely try to either perpetuate the same things, or ramp it up and try to wring more pleasure out of these things than there is in them. In this man's case it was a new career and a younger wife, but it's really just the same wine in a new bottle.

That way of living is fine and appropriate for the first half of life, as the sun moves toward its zenith at your personal summer solstice. But to try to hold the sun there as it gravitates back to the winter underworld is again just sort of pathetic. One way or another, the purpose of the second half of life is to make a decisive turn toward the interior adventure, not to cling to the exterior one.

In my case, I'm fortunate to be living this life of radical novelty at an age when things are usually just repeating themselves. The presence of Future Leader assures us that every day is the same, and yet never the same. We are totally rooted in the moment, which is quite liberating. Specifically, we are liberated from the tyranny of linear time. Again, this always came naturally to me, but now it is simply heightened.

I believe it was in How To Know Higher Worlds that Rudolf Steiner makes the point that it is critical to pay attention to organic growth in all of its modalities, whether it is flowers blooming in your garden or watching children grow.

The operative word is life, and there is nothing so alive as a child. I can never be alive in the same vital sense that he is, and yet, I feel as if I have transposed that vitality to a higher key that is appropriate for my age. Extremes meet, so they say that old age is like a second childhood. I'm only 52, so I'm not there yet, but I feel as if I am starting to get there in spirit -- to let go of the world and to allow the others slowly learn the same lessons or fight over the scraps. I'm too consumed enjoying the present.

Anyway, one reason I live this way is that I can then be pleasantly surprised when things turn out well. If you always imagine that things are going to go well, then you are going to experience disappointment and frustration on a continuous basis. I've heard Dennis Prager discuss this same idea, and although I haven't read it, I know he writes about it in his book Happiness.

Also, I think you have to be aware of historical irony. That is, events that look bad constantly lead to good things, and vice versa. You can't just take one abstract "time slice" and decide whether something is good or bad. It's always a mixed bag. I think this is the deeper meaning of "God's will, or that we cannot know the plan of creation. Whether or not you believe in an activist God, it's out of our hands. You just do what needs to be done in the moment.

In fact, there's a famous old Taoist story about a man whose horse runs away. His sympathetic neighbors comment on his bad luck, and he responds, "we'll see." The next day the horse returns with three wild horses following behind. Now his neighbors rejoice and congratulate him on his good luck, but he remains noncommittal: "We'll see." The next day his son is thrown while trying to break one of the horses, and fractures his leg. "Such bad luck." "We'll see." Then the next day the military officials arrive to conscript his son, but he's laid up with the broken leg, so they pass him by. "What luck!" "We'll see." Etc.

So I think this is the deeper meaning of "giving no thought for the morrow." I do everything I need to do in the present, and then just forget about it. The present moment is the field of karma that one is constantly tilling. We are always planting little seeds that have varying timelines of development. Eventually, when something bad or good happens, it's easy to tie it to a proximate cause, much more difficult to relate it to its ultimate cause. I mostly worry about not planting any more lousy seeds.

I never imagine that my life will change in any fundamental way, no matter what happens. I realize that the environment I live in is in my head, and that the only way to really change things is to change my head. Here again, this can be confused with solipsism or narcissism, but it's quite the opposite. I just mean it in a very concrete, experience-near sense. You must be very, very careful about the ideas you allow to take up residence in your head, because they will end up sharply limiting your ability to know the Real, which always transcends any idea you have about it. Life is impossibly rich, with hundreds of little daily pleasures that will pass you by if you do not heighten your awareness and hone your ability to appreciate them. Never imagine that getting what you want will satisfy you so long as you cannot appreciate what you have.

I remember a patient of mine who was contemplating an affair. One reason I don't do therapy anymore is that I constantly blurted out things that therapists aren't supposed to say. In his case, I said words to the effect of, "why do you want another woman when you have no idea how to appreciate the one you have?" My professional training prevented me from adding, "you narcissistic bastard."

A little over four years ago I was diagnosed with adult onset type I diabetes. Such bad luck! Yet, I have never for a moment thought of it that way. It just is what it is. While it has certainly changed my life, I can't even say that it has been for the worse. As soon as the diagnosis came, I merely decided to be the best diabetic in the world. I work out at least once a day, always keep my blood sugar in a normal range, and keep my blood pressure and cholesterol even better than the normal range. Even so, you just never know. No matter what the state of your health, you can only try to tilt the odds in your favor, but there is always a random element, or at least an element that is so multifactorial and non-linear that there's nothing you can do about it.

One thing I do sometimes wonder about is the ticking time bombs that might be hidden in plain sight. For example, for a number of years we had a beautiful Great Dane named Finn. We got him from a rescue, so we didn't know much about his background. He had occasionally been a little aggressive, but it was nothing we thought we couldn't control. However, in 2005, out of the blue, he basically tried to eat me. I was pulling his bed from the living room to the bedroom, and he took it as a grave offense. He came at me like a grizzly bear, and if I hadn't been wearing a bathrobe, he probably would have severed an artery in my arm.

Long story short, all the dog trainers agreed that this was not something that could be trained out of him. It was more like a rage seizure that was totally unpredictable. In hindsight I realized the truth of this, because he would get this far-off look during these episodes, and appeared dazed and out of it for a few minutes afterwards. So with great reluctance, we had to put him down. It was very sad, because he was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen, and most of the time he was quite endearing.

Such bad luck!

But then along came Future Leader a few months later, and I still almost swoon when I think of what might have happened. There is no doubt that he would have innocently crawled into Finn's bed, and then.... well, you probably would heard about it on TV.

So, what have we learned today? I don't know, I don't have time to reflect.