Everybody's In Show Biz
That living animals exist is obviously an empirical fact. However, the materialist necessarily treats it as any other fact, and therefore fails to appreciate its ontological and epistemological consequences, for a living cosmos can no longer be treated as a dead one and still be considered remotely "understood." Rather, it is an example of a fact that changes everything -- like, say, meeting a girl named Lola at club in old Soho and discovering almost too late that she is a he.
Or, it's like a good film that reveals a mystery at the very end that suddenly recasts everything you've been watching for the previous two hours. What was that movie.... Oh yes. The two-parter, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. You watch it for four hours, but don't find out what you were actually watching until the last scene. Although, let it be noted that, even of you don't make it that far, the film nevertheless has the intrinsic merit of that scene of Emmanuelle Béart prancing around naked by the mountain spring.
I wonder if the cosmos is like that? I mean, I wonder if one must get to the end in order to know the beginning? Actually, I wonder how it can't be like that. I have a feeling that this will be one of central points of the Theo-Drama, but we'll just have to wait and see. We're still in the middle of the film right now. But one reason why murder is unforgivable is that it's like someone ripping your film out of the projector, so you never get to see its end, and therefore its ultimate meaning.
Speaking of which. That reminds me. One other theologian who talks about life-as-film is Boris Mouravieff, in his Gnosis. He says that the present is actually situated outside time, which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense, otherwise we couldn't be aware of time. The idea is to lift ourselves "higher" above the river of time, so to speak, so that we can better see what's going on with our lives.
In a way, this is what psychoanalytic therapy attempts to do. Instead of just being caught up in our life and merged with the unconscious, we're going to try to "rise above" and consider it like a sort of object. It's analogous to two trains that are about to collide. The engineers in the trains can't see what's about to happen up ahead, but if you were sitting on a hill above the scene, you could "see the future" -- even though you're still in the "same place" as the two trains.
Speaking of witch and wiccan, this is what it is like for me and our trolls. I know their every move, their every line of attack, in advance. Does this mean that I am omniscient? Hardly! It just means that their life is on a train track and that they have relinquished their true vertical freedom (as opposed to horizontal license). You don't have to be sitting on a very high hill to see this.
This, of course, is the secret of God's omniscience, and how it may be reconciled with free will. That is, just as I can predict the thoughts of trolls before they occur, this does not mean that the troll doesn't still have free will, much less that I have "taken it away."
By the way, this problem is more serious in intelligent trolls than unintelligent ones, since the latter at least have the virtue of a kind of "crazy spontaneity," being that they are unable to think in any systematic way. But the most wearisome trolls combine the worst aspects of intelligence and predictability.
Anyway, Mouravieff writes that the present is analogous to a kind of "slot" through which we view the film of life. The present has no measure -- again, it is outside time -- but the slot does. In Raccoon terminology, I would express it this way: one of the fundamental purposes of a spiritual practice is to "dilate" the slot through which we live the film of our life. This dilation is none other than slack.
Some of you are no doubt struggling to understand the point, so I'll try to bring it down to concrete examples. We're all familiar with the opposite of slack -- let's just call it "stress." Stress is when you are so dragged along by the conspiracy that you have no breathing room whatsoever. It is as if there is no gap between you and the world.
Rather, you are simply a function of the latter, being dragged along in its wake. It's as if some thug has carjacked your life and tossed you out of the driver's seat, except that your sleeve gets caught in the door, so you're being dragged through the street like a rag doll.
I hate when that happens.
Many, if not most, people simply grow accustomed to this situation, as if it is natural to live in this manner. Such a person doesn't really know the present. Rather, it is as if they are living on a two dimensional line. The past is behind and the future is ahead, but there is really no present, because they are too enmeshed in the line to appreciate it.
Shocking, I realize, but you may have no idea how many human beings not only live this way, but do so by choice. It's like a life without insight, because insight can only occur as you ascend further up that hill and dilate your slot.
Sometimes it takes a kind of brutal instance of (?!) to wake up and wrench oneself out of time. I think that in the past, these kinds of "moments" were more or less ubiquitous. Disaster in one form or another was always just around the corner -- plague, famine, deadly infection, war, etc. -- so there was simply no way to comfortably assume that the present would continue indefinitely in its present predictable mode. (For those of you who have done your part to keep the Coonifesto in print, I discuss this in slightly different terms in pp. 214-216.)
Mouravieff points out that "exterior man" lives his life on that two-dimensional line. It is as if he is always in the "now," and yet, not "present." Presence is what occurs when we dilate the slot, instead of living our lives like a slot machine.
Now, speaking of gambling, life itself is a gamble, a wager that places everything on the line (or above it, to be exact). It is the first attempt by the cosmos to lift itself above the line and dilate the now. That little "hole" is again where everything takes place. It is surely the only "place" where eternity rushes into time and time returns to eternity. It is the place of meaning, of love, of beauty, you name it.
Therefore, the now is ultimately a kind of "circle of return," for which we use the symbols (↓) and (↑). Bear in mind that these occur outside time and inside eternity, at least ideally. When you pray, or meditate, or coontemplate, or engage in bloggio divina, you are really trying to "ease your way into heaven," so to speak, are you not?
And what is heaven? Well, for one thing, it's like existence seen with no slot at all. Or, it's like taking off a tight pair of shoes. I forget which.
In any event, as we proceed on The Way, one of the first fruits will be this dilation of time which opens onto the real present, or more precisely, presence, for there is no real present in the absence of presence or presence of absence. Obviously you have to at least be here in order to be here. As a therapist, I cannot begin to tell you how many people aren't actually here at all. If they were here, they wouldn't be here in therapy.
Here's the bottom line. When you start out on the path, your life is a bad B-movie, in which you are the star. But you want to change this into a Be movie. As Mouravieff explains, "Each human being, then, is born with his own particular film." But exterior man never really sees the film, because he's too much a part of it.
The "second birth" is none other than an escape from "bondage to the film" and entrance into "the domain of redemption." This is when you recognize your membership in the Scattered Brotherhood of the Transdimensional Raccoons, and go from being merely "anthropoid" to true anthropos, i.e., Pontifical Man, the vertical cosmic ladder out of the otherwise oppressive dope opera of the now.
The latter folks are "the dead who, in the words of Jesus, 'believe themselves to be alive.' Esoteric evolution starts when man... proves capable of breaking the circle and transforming it into an ascending spiral" (Mouravieff). Of course, other factors come into play -- grace, the recognition and assimilation of 'B' influences, assistance from other members of the Scattered Brotherhood, etc.
Well, my slot is contracting. See you tomorrow in the balcony!