Circumnavelgazing Our Cosmic Ombilicus
Yesterday while driving to work I was navel-gazing again. Yes, I was thinking about my belly button. For what is a belly button? I can see that Future Leader is already curious about his -- he calls it his "baby button." But when he asks what it is, it's difficult to think of a concise answer. So consider this a Raccoon bedtime story about the cosmic significance of your baby button.
It is interesting that the human body bears the permanent mark of its own dependency and incompleteness, and its previous life in another dimension. The human form is so perfect, and yet, no matter how perfect the body, there is always this odd "scar" we all carry right at the very center of our physical being, the reminder of another mode of existence: "I once abided in the infinite, and all I got was this lousy belly button." [And yet, the body wouldn't look quite right without one. As far as I know, even Cher hasn't had her belly button surgically removed or enhanced, but you never know.]
To continue our navel-gazing, what does this scar signify? Well, let's see. First, it memorializes our transition from life in a watery medium to life in a gaseous one. In this regard, life during our first nine months couldn't have been more different than life after the dramatic caesura of birth, as Bion called it. And yet, our watery existence is hardly irrelevant to what comes later, as more and more research is documenting the importance of our intrauterine experience and how it "carries over" into the next world.
Now, in our case, we didn't just treat Future Leader as a human subject from the day of his birth -- with all the dignity and nobility to which any human being is entitled -- but from the day of his conception. I would guess that about a third of modern Western mothers do this, either consciously or unconsciously. The percentage is far lower in non-Western cultures, where children are often not treated with the dignity of an autonomous subject, and instead regarded as possessions, resources, or an extension of kin or cult. For that matter, it is a truism that the most dangerous place in the world for a black person -- or liberal, for that matter -- to be is inside their mother's womb.
Our preparation for extrauterine life takes place under circumstances that are quite different from those that will later prevail. From the vantage point of the fetus, intrauterine life appears to be a "thing unto itself," and yet, it is actually pointing toward something beyond itself. In other words, its reason does not abide in itself, but in a state that will only reveal itself later. The fetus cannot know that its intrauterine existence is actually a preparation for the "big event," which always comes as a bewildering and disorienting shock.
In this regard, our physical birth is not only a transition but a death, as are all births. It is the stark end of one way of life and the beginning of another. The navel is a reminder that we were once directly connected to the source of life, whereas now we must tolerate being separate from it and renegotiate a relationship with it. In fact, one key to early parenting is to try to foster the conditions of intrauterine life in order to ease the transition and make it less traumatic. Even though the baby has left the physical womb, he remains -- or should remain -- in an external one -- a womb with a view -- for some time, so that psychological "hatching" will gradually take place over a number of months.
Following the method of cosmic analogy -- as above, so below -- what can birth tell us about the spiritual life? It is interesting, is it not, that Christianity is so permeated with the archetypal iconography of womb and of birth? "Virgin," "seed," "conception," "born again," "Mother of God," "children of light," etc. Each of these has a deeply resonant archetypal meaning for the spiritual life.
Just like intrauterine life, extrauterine life is not merely a thing-in-itself but a preparation for something else. It too has a trajectory that points to its own end, although that end will come like a thief in the night and no one knows the hour or day. All the more reason not to waste time -- to work while it is Day, for the Night will come when no man can work.
Time is all we have in this life, so to waste time is to forego eternity. The First Thing -- all else pales in significance -- is naturally to avoid being an astral abortion. Odd, but there are abortionists everywhere who will eagerly help you end your earthly pregnancy. Many of them are called "professors."
If you should end your pregnancy, you will usually continue "living" -- occasionally an astral abortion ends in suicide -- but in the manner of a spiritual stillborn or "existentialist" whose existence no longer points beyond itself. For what has specifically been aborted is essence from mere existence -- or the spiritual seed from the womb of time.
While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
Now, just as our physical body bears the scar of its incompleteness and separation, so too does our soul bear its own version of this. For it also has a "hole" at its center that we may spend our lives trying to deny or fill in inappropriate and ultimately fruitless ways. But the hole is there for a reason. It is actually a theomorphic and theocentric hole, and there is no way to fill it unless one is properly oriented to the source of our being. We are connected to the source of our being by a vertical channel, or ombilicus, through which energies pass up and down, in and out -- we call these energies aspiration (↑) and grace (↓) (the latter of which must be in-spired to become operative).
How to find that I-ambilical cord through which we are spiritually nourished? Everyone is looking for it, and there are countless Spiritual Salesmen who will claim they can sell you one. But each of us must find the path of access that leads to the Way: For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
In other words, He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
We are either in the wilderness or on the path. But once on the path, there is no turning back. One cannot return to the wilderness but must continue pushing onward, inward, and upward. In other words, you cannot be a little bit pregnant: Whoever has put his hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.
As Boris Mouravieff writes, the world is constituted of "A" influences and "B" influences, and it is through the assimilation of the latter that our "psychic center" will grow. There are a number of ways to conceptualize the "A" influences, but let us say that they are horizontal, exterior, and ultimately random, canceling each other out and adding to the sum of zero, or the total entropy of both psychic and physical death. Most men are subject to the rule of the illusory "A" influences, chasing after one or another until falling into the abyss. This is the way of the Exterior Man.
But the interior Coonman orients himself around the esoteric Center from which "B" influences enter the field of life. Unlike the "A" influences, these do not cancel each other out, but are all oriented in the same direction and are actually the only enduring reality. To quote Mouravieff,
"In life, every being is subjected to a sort of competitive test. If he discerns the existence of the 'B' influences; if he acquires a taste for gathering and absorbing them; if he continually aspires to assimilate them better; his mixed inner nature will slowly undergo a certain kind of evolution. And if the efforts which he makes to absorb the 'B' influences are constant and sufficient in force, a magnetic center can be formed within him."
If one is successful in forming this magnetic center, it will not just attract the "B" influences but actually deflect the "A" influences. I hope this is not sounding too esoteric or "gnostic," because it should be a common experience to most Raccoons in some form or fashion. It may be new to Kit Scouts, all the more reason to listen closely to your elders.
I have come to realize that one reason I enjoy blogging first thing in the morning is that I have unwittingly set up a situation in which I shut out virtually all "A" influences and instead attempt to gather and align myself with "B" influences. In so doing, I actually reinforce my own magnetic center, which then stays "strong" for the remainder of the day.
I thought of this yesterday in reading a comment Schuon once made to a disciple, emphasizing that
"What we do in the morning is very important for the whole day; it is good not to quit the morning japa before one is certain that it has determined our being and therefore also our entire day. The brain is a sponge that absorbs the stream of appearances [i.e., 'A' influences]; it is not enough to empty it of the images on which it feeds, one must also satisfy both its need to absorb and its habitual movement.... One must infuse into the mind, as far as it will carry it, a consciousness of the Real [i.e., 'B' influences] and of the unreal; this consciousness will provide the framework for the rest. The world is a multiplicity that disperses and divides; the divine Word... leads back to Unity [and] absorbs the soul and transposes it imperceptibly, by a sort of 'divine stratagem' into the calm and unchanging climate of the Absolute..."
Speaking of Schuon, Mouravieff also writes of the benefit of maintaining contact with those Real Men whose own magnetic center is stronger than ours. This is also the value of spiritual community -- including the Coonosphere -- for what is One Cosmos but a spiritual pediatrician's office in which we can all -- myself included -- talk to the other moms, make sure that we are getting the proper nutrients, and be reassured that everything is proceeding normally in our pregnancy, as we await our voidgin birth?