Who Died and Left the Holy Spirit in Charge?
So many interesting and sometimes touching comments yesterday. I can see that we'll probably dwell on this topic for awhile, because in a way, it is "everything." For if there is no vertical, no human ascent, and no divine descent, then there is no way out of this absurd and meaningless existence.
But thankfully, the cosmos is not a closed loop but an open circle -- or spiral -- with a way in, up and out: “The ‘good news’ of religion is that the world is not a closed circle, that it is not an eternal prison, that it has an exit and an entrance.... ‘Perdition’ is to be caught up in the eternal circulation of the world of the closed circle... [whereas] ‘salvation’ is life in the world of the open circle, or spiral, where there is both exit and entrance” (Meditations on the Tarot).
What do we mean by "vertical" and "descent?" When you think about it, most of our knowledge falls into the "as if" category. For example, we really have no way to visualize what's going on in the quantum world, but it is "as if" it sometimes behaves in a wave-like manner, other times like particles, depending upon how we look. In reality it is neither. These are just analogies to try to wrap our minds around what's going on "down" there.
"Down" is another one. Why is the subatomic world "below" our macro world? For that matter, why is the unconscious mind "below" the conscious, or the past "behind" the present? Sometimes merely tweaking your analogy brings new understanding. What if the unconscious is the past within the present, the realm of the unthought known? Is the mind a computer? Or is it a hyperdimensional organ? Is Iraq Vietnam? Or is radical Islam nazi Germany? Different analogy, different reality.
The fundamental axiom of esotericism, "as above, so below," actually applies to most of our knowledge, in the sense that, without even thinking about it, we resort to analogy to understand realms that are inaccessible to our senses. For example, there isn't really a genetic "code" or "blueprint." In reality it is neither of these manmade categories. Rather, it is what it is, which is entirely mysterious -- impossible, really. Likewise, time is a "river," but what is it really? Who knows? How can there be anything other than eternity?
It gets even more problematic when we try to discuss something as mysterious as the mind, for how could the mind -- which is the unThought container of everything -- ever contain itself? Here we can only use analogy -- which means in a sense that, on a meta-level, the mind is an analogy-making organ, or the very "link" between various dimensions and realms.
However, just as in religious disputes, you would be amazed at the academic fights that go on between people and their beloved analogies. It's easy for an ignoramus to ridicule the Christian world, which formally split in 1054 over the filioque controversy, but that is nothing compared to what goes on in the reified airheads of academia.
I got a real taste of this in my psychoanalytic training, a discipline that has many religious trappings. It has a founding prophet (Freud), a group of original disciples, a dogma, an orthodoxy, evangelism, a method of salvation, and various initiatory rituals. It eventually split into various hardened camps that were, for a time, quite hostile to one another. I've been out of that world for awhile, so I'm not up to date with the politics, but there was a time when the members of one school would dismiss the other school by saying that their members were "insufficiently analyzed" -- in short, that they only believed what they did because they were more or less crazy. This is very similar to one sect of Christianity saying that another is damned to perdition over this or that doctrinal difference.
And yet, it would be completely wrongheaded to take this as an excuse to descend into a wimpy syncretism or odious relativism. For I think we can agree that, whatever the mind is, it is what it is. It isn't any single one of our models, but neither is it all of them put together, i.e., integralism. The truth is nevertheless out there (to employ another analogy).
Yesterday I spoke of the "descent" of intelligence that occurred in me at age 29. Fortunately, it occurred at exactly the same time that I discovered the works of the British psychoanalyst W.R. Bion, which assured that my intelligence became a fluid thing instead of hardening into this or that dogma. For there is no end to the mischief created when intelligence mingles with some narrow and hopelessly partial viewpoint. When this happens, it is almost always for extra-epistemological reasons, usually narcissistic in nature, other times having to do with an emotional need for security or a failure of imagination. One way or another, mind parasites are providing the energy.
Human intelligence can only go so far before it becomes detached from imagination, so that people at the extreme high end of the IQ scale often lack imagination and become unbalanced spiritual cripples. Think of the typical proud MENSA type, whose IQ may be higher than yours, but who knows nothing about Spirit. They are essentially "idiot savants" with a warped and specialized perspective on reality. The same thing can happen in the other direction with an artist who has a brilliant imagination unmoored by the intellect or morality. The greatest art, such as Shakespeare, is infused with both the highest intelligence and deepest imagination.
But so too is the greatest science, for what is science but a "probe" that extends into the unKnown and allows us to think about reality in a fruitful and generative way? Good science makes you feel more alive to the mystery, whereas bad science always demystifiies the world. Remember, "mystery" is hardly an absence of knowledge. Rather, it is a means and a mode of knowledge, precisely. To be immersed in the mystery of being is not to be lost in an obscure cloud of ignorance. Rather, this mystery is the generative ground of all -- it is O.
As I have said before, most narcissists feel that they are in some way "special," and better than others. But the fact is, they usually are special in some area, whether it is looks, or musical skill, or academic brilliance. One's narcissistic pathology can easily attach itself to any of these gifts, so there are plenty of intellectuals whose intellect is more or less in the service of their narcissism and exhibitionism. As applied to spirituality, this combination is particularly deadly, for it ultimately means that one is covertly co-opting God for the glorification of one's own ego.
Now, it is axiomatic that God resists the proud. To a certain extent, those who know don't speak of it -- or do so with reluctance, or at least discretion -- and those who blab about it to just anyone don't know. There is even empirical research documenting the fact that people who truly have had transformative "peak experiences," or full on, life-changing ingressions of the vertical, rarely speak of them. For one thing, they have a sacred quality that brings with it an instinctive reluctance to cast pearls before swine. But this cannot be an absolute rule, or no one would speak of God! Nevertheless, it is a good rule of thumb. Those who eagerly and recklessly presume to speak for God are most likely talking through their hats. For one thing, one must be authorized to do so -- not by some earthly religious body, but from above. Here again we are touching on the subject of "descents."
The Gospels tell us almost nothing about Jesus' education, but it seems doubtful that he received any formal theological training. Nevertheless, when he first encounters the religious authorities, they are astounded by his ability to speak as "one who knows" -- with such intrinsic authority. From whence did this authority come? Clearly not from man or from any manmade institution. Rather, he was authorized "from above" (to say the least).
Now, you might ask, where does this leave Bob? Where does he get off speaking of these things? Who gave him the authority? That's a very good question. In my case, I am very aware of my limits. When my descent came, it came in the form of understanding. Suddenly, I understood spiritual reality in a way that I had previously only understood intellectually -- which is to say, did not understand. However, the only "authority" I possess is your understanding, as both come from the identical Spirit.
Thus, I do not feel that I am overstepping my bounds by merely trying to share -- never force, and never argue or try to convert -- my understanding with others. This is why I say it is more like singing. Not to say that I am an "artist," or anything like that. Rather, merely to say that it's not an intellectual thing. It just is what it is, and I'm glad some people enjoy it. If they don't, that's fine too. That's why I don't want to get into arguments with trolls. Nor do I wish to become known, except by a very narrow group of people. How to reach that group without exposure to the wrong types is an inevitable problem, but so far I can't really complain. We only get one or two trolls at a time, and the wrong types rapidly lose interest.
I might add that I certainly realize that I am not vertically authorized to be any kind of direct transmitter of grace -- a "guru" type person, as it were. Yes, you could say that this is like conceding that I am not God, but obviously, untold spiritual mischief is caused by people who overstep their boundaries and do just that. It's not so much that I am tempted to do this, but there is something within many people that tempts them to confer this gift upon others, which many spiritual frauds are quite happily identify with. There is no question that there are beings who are authorized to do this -- genuine saints and true theologians who are themselves transmitters of grace. But they are on an entirely different plane, and they are not to be confused with a money-grubbing psychopath such as Deepak Chopra.
But me? I humbly pray only for a deepening understanding and the ability to express it to others who might benefit from it -- to be the discussion leader. That is more than enough for me, because it keeps the descent alive by "prolonging" it into the horizontal on a daily basis. Plus, the feedback and comments flesh it out and make it all the more vividly present and real.
Speaking of my abject humility and desire for anonymity, don't forget to vote early and often, starting tonight at midnight (voting lasts for a week, and I think you can vote every day). Don't worry, we won't win, but we don't want to embarrass ourselves. Plus, at least a couple of those blogs are downright evil, from what I've seen. Let's just say "moral equivalence."