The Breast of the West (1.17.12)
Now that I think about it, virtually all forms of mental illness have as a central feature a lack of movement, or a "stuckness" about them. When someone is depressed, it is not just that they are sad -- everyone has their moods -- but that they are in a kind of static and joyless state of mind. There is no movement. Or, if there is movement, it's all arbitrary. Nothing is any better or worse than anything else. There is no convergent meaning, as everything goes "flat."
Come to think of it, this is the reason why one of my first published papers touched on this very topic. In it, I compared the workings of the mind to a dissipative structure. Here it is: Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure.
The reason I bring this up is that in my book, I took some of these same ideas and merely transposed them to the key of Spirit -- the central idea being that the higher self, no different than the local ego, can only grow under certain conditions; specifically, it must be open, it must be far from equilibrium, and it must exchange matter, energy, or information with the environment.
I hope this doesn't sound academic, because it is actually highly practical. In fact, I'm a little surprised and relieved that I'm not famous, because it is a kind of "master key" that unifies disparate phenomena, both within and across domains.
Let's begin with the realm of psychology. I believe that all forms of psychopathology result from the person failing on some level to meet the criteria for a dissipative structure.
For example, let's take the pathological narcissist. The narcissist typically develops a "false self" or "as if" personality to negotiate with the outside world. While he will use people to prop up and mirror the false self, in reality, there is no deep exchange with others, i.e., no L or K link. Rather, he uses people in order to maintian a kind of static equilibrium, so as to avoid painful emotions such as shame. In other words, the narcissist may outwardly appear to have a strong ego, but it is actually quite brittle. The very purpose of his narcissistic defenses (i.e., the false self) is to protect it from an emotional catastrophe.
But such a person slowly dies from within, because if one cannot tolerate pain, one cannot tolerate pleasure. In order to maintain the closed system, the narcissist also closes himself to real love, which causes the soul to wither from within. He eventually dies of his addiction to the false mirroring.
When people hear the term "narcissism," they often think of it in terms of physical beauty, but it can equally affect the intellect. Academia is full of brilliant people whose intelligence has been hijacked in the service of their narcissism, so that their minds eventually become closed and therefore no longer susceptible to real organic growth (vs. a kind of mechanical accumulation). Obama's new science advisor, John Holdren, comes readily to mind, but one could think of hundreds of others. One also thinks of Queeg and his petty Darwinian fundamentalism, so utterly closed off from the greater reality.
The other day, I mentioned the schizoid person, whose mind becomes closed for unconscious fear of damaging the other with one's love. Likewise, portions of the personality can become sealed off, frozen, and autistic, and therefore highly resistant to change -- like giant boulders, or sometimes fine sand, within the soul. Other times it is felt as a kind of icy glacier. The point is, the images symbolically disclose an underlying reality, which is always joyless because it does not flow.
Some people who appear to be open systems are actually tightly closed systems who are merely interacting with their own disavowed projections. One thinks of people who suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. It's fascinating when you think about it, because these people are under the delusion that they are interacting with the "outside" world, when it couldn't be more obvious that they are really just trapped in their own private Idaho.
And here is another key point: this state also brings a kind of pseudo-freedom that conceals actual enslavement to the projected object, from which they cannot in fact get away. It reminds me of the Taoist idea that if you want to control a cow, just give it a large pasture. In America, "freedom of speech" is precisely that large pasture, in which people are free to find their own fences, which then provides the subjective illusion of real freedom. But Raccoons -- by their very nature -- are very quick to identify these intellectual and spiritual fences, which we don't so much "tresspass" as transpass. Did you notice how our former jester was forever trying to contain us in his little scientistic pasture?
I could cite dozens of other examples of how this works on a psychological level, but I think I'll spare you. The point is that the identical principles equally apply to the spiritual plane. The deep structure is the same, but the object (or Subject) is different.
What is a spiritual practice but the effort to form an open system with.... let's just call it O, because if we define it ahead of time, we fall into the danger of actually being a closed system interacting with our own projections. There are so many warnings about this in the patristic literature, not to mention a Meister Eckhart, that I'm not going to get into specific examples.
Well, maybe one. Eckhart spoke of the idea of the soul being like a virgin, or being in a state of poverty. In both cases, he is talking about none other than being a truly open system with O. You know, blessed are the poor in spirit. Why's that? Because their's is the Kingdom of Heaven. Explain. Okay. Poverty = spiritual emptiness. Kingdom of Heaven = the flow of internal joy.
The Tao Te Ching (I love this particular translation) also makes so many brilliant points about this dynamic that I won't bother to cite them all. Here are just a few:
The Tao.... is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
But if you want to be crooked, get bent!
Nah, I made that last one up.
Anyway, speaking of Blogo, the same principles apply to politics, for how could they not?:
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists....
If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.
Suffice it to say that leftists are not just un-Christian but un-Taoist, being that government becomes a huge and intrusive breast that keeps one a child forever.
But the real coonservative?
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.
You see? The ultimate open system. A divine child forever.
And when the breast is not available, my teddy will just have to do.