Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Loose Cannonical Teachings of the B'ob

Update from the knowa's arkive: I'm not seeing much from the early days that hits the sweet spot.

My recollection is that I didn't really hit my stride until early '06. I think it took that long for me to get out of the way of the process. Frankly, "I" reached my outer limit fairly early on -- within a couple of months. I mean, you try it: try telling everything you know on a daily basis, with new and interesting material every day. You must instruct and entertain. How long could you go before getting sick of yourself?

Remember, I had no desire to simply comment on the news of the day. Rather, to paraphrase Terence McKenna, I wanted to create a little beachhead in hyperspace on the way to colonizing it.

You can undoubtedly go a lot longer than you think, so long as you enlist neglected parts of the psyche. For example, you won't get far without the cooperation of the Dreamer. Look at how he works -- or doesn't work, is more like it. Every night he effortlessly cranks out those elaborate dreams without repeating himself and without even breaking a sweat. And he certainly never worries during the day about whether or not he will be able to come up with the goods again that night. You know what that SOB is like? He's like that lucky old sun:

Up in the mornin',
Out on the job,
I work like the devil for my pay.
But lucky old sun, got nothin' to do,
But roll around heaven all day.


For most of my life I thought I was a night person. Only with the blogging did I "discover" that I was actually a morning person. Later I heard the adage that "dawn is the friend of the muses." And the reason it is so friendly to the muses is that it is in that borderland world between day and night, or between naught and deity. It is where you can trancelight some of the nighttime logic into a day tome.

I remember my analyst saying something along these lines. It might have been my first day in psychoanalytic therapy, which requires you to lay on the couch and say whatever comes to mind without censoring yourself. He blurted out something to the effect of, "do you know what you're doing?"

"Er, I don't know. Blaming my mother for all my problems?"

"No, you're trying to disable the left brain so we can interrogate the right and take its deposition, so to speak."

In other words, the purpose of free association is to simulate that borderland situation so that you can escape the narrow constraints of the left-brain ego, and see what's actually out there in the big wide world of the unconscious mind.

But when you're talking about religion, here's the problem: on the one hand, you're trying to disclose universal and timeless truths. But at least in my case, I am attempting to do so in a way that is entirely spontaneous, novel, and unrepeatable. You could say that this is one of the themes -- or even conflicts -- that runs through the bobservatory.

Specifically, I only feel religiously "alive" when I'm making it up on the spot. Therefore, I have concerns that to become an official member of a single group would present me with a dilemma. You can't be a member of a symphony orchestra, and while playing a written piece, suddenly jump out of your chair and begin improvising. Canons and loose cannons don't mix.

Oh well. Here's an early post in which I started to gain some distance between myself and mysoph. Of course, it wouldn't have been possible in the absence of an audience willing to humor me. This is why the book was a little more difficult to write, because I had no idea if any audience actually existed for what I was trying to convey. If I had known you lunatics were out there, I would have made the book much more unsane.

*****

Many people have asked me, “Bob, how do you see God?” This always surprises me, because the answer is so obvious: first unrealize what you think you know, then transform faith into vision by turning the world upside-down and inside-out and converting time into space. It works every time.

I’ll admit it, when Petey first told me this, I didn’t really know what the hell he was talking about, and even bet him that he was wrong. But the more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense. Actually, you might say it made perfect nonsense.

The thing is, it’s not just a matter of knowing where to look, but howto look. You could go to the top of Mount Sinai, or into the most secret vestibule of the Vatican, or to the mouth of the Ganges, or into Deepak's offshore bank account, but if you don’t know how to look, you’re just going to see a mountain, a building, a river, and big pile of moolah. On the other hand, if you know how to ascend the mountain, enter a dark cloud of unknowing, crucify your lower mind, and drink from the sacred river, you might just get nowhere.

You must begin by transforming your vision and developing a spiritual way of “seeing.” As a matter of fact, this is something we routinely do. For example, when you look at the letters on a page, you actually make them invisible by looking through and beyond them to the words they spell. Likewise, the words are equally invisible, because you look through them to the meaning they are pointing at. You could undertake a chemical analysis of the ink with which the words are printed, but that would take you no closer to their meaning. Rather, it would take you far in the opposite direction, completely destroying their meaning.

Analogously, if God is transcendent, there is no way to see him by simply looking in a conventional way at material or empirical reality. That’s going to take you far away in the wrong direction, that is, unless you somehow look through and beyond the world in a manner analogous to the way we see through words and letters to their higher meaning. This is why religious fundamentalists are neither religious nor fundamentalist. Rather, they are materialists, in that they act as if the literal words and events of the Bible are more real than that to which they point or instantiate.

I imagine if were a trained meteorologist, I would no longer see a cloud as an unamibiguous white patch against a blue backdrop. Rather, I’d begin to see the cloud available to my senses as a mere “ripple” against the background of a much more encompassing meteorological process that is largely invisible to the senses.

Similarly, before the days of MRI’s and high speed CT scans, an experienced cardiologist could place a stethoscope against your chest, and simply by listening to the sounds, visualize the nature of the problem.

In my own field, especially with a particularly neurotic individual whose unconscious is “leaking” everywhere, I will immediately see mannerisms, demeanor and behaviors as the visible portion of a much deeper, invisible process. In all of these instances, the expert sees or hears the same things as the lay person, but the expert somehow uses what is on the surface to achieve a sort of depth of vision. It is the opposite of deconstruction, which takes fixed meaning and subjects it to a ruthlessly skeptical interrogation. Rather, it works in the other direction, allowing the particulars of our experience to spontaneously reveal their higher meaning.

It has long been observed that there are two basic temperaments: the Aristotelian and the Platonic. The former inspects the particulars for what is common to them and, through induction, generalizes to universals. The Platonist sees the universal first, with particular individuals representing reflections, instantiations, or “copies” of the universal. For the Aristotelian, the commonalities are less real than the particulars, while for the Platonist, the universal--that which we “see” with the intellect--is more real. What the Platonist sees is not actually an object, but a manifestation of something that is unmanifest.

Since God is transcendent, there is no way we can see him in the way we see other things. And yet, just as there are material facts, there are religious facts. But facts never speak for themselves. There is a paradoxical adage, “never trust a fact without a good theory to support it.” Science, for example, ignores facts that do not fit into the materialistic paradigm. These facts might as well not exist, for without a theory to illuminate them and give them meaning, they are simply invisible.

Religions are supposed to provide structures in order to illuminate the spiritual facts of our experience. Like good scientific theories, they not only make sense of those facts, but also allow us to see new facts, in the same way that the paradigm of quantum physics allowed scientists to see an entirely new realm of phenomena that was invisible to them with the old Newtonian, mechanistic paradigm. The facts were there all along, but without a theory through which to look, no one saw them. Likewise, religious facts are all around and within us, but without a religious practice, they will go unnoticed. One might say that you should try to know God not because He exists, but so that He can exist.

Both science and religion require faith, that is, a willing suspension of disbelief in order to enter their respective worlds. This is very similar to the aesthetic experience. In order to enjoy a play or movie, we must temporarily forget that it is “just a movie,” and fully abandon ourselves to its world. Through a process of “unknowing,” we eliminate the barrier between us and the aesthetic or spiritual world, and convert that barrier into a transformational space, where the other world makes contact with our imagination. Or, you could say that we must become a mirror, without which the reflected object disappears.

With regard to imagination, it has a positive and a negative connotation. In its negative sense, it involves abandoning ourselves to the idle machinery of the monkey mind. It is a kind of bad detachment from reality in favor of an unconscious sub-reality. It is as much a closed circle as is mere cerebral intellectuality.

But imagination in its positive sense is absolutely vital for religious understanding. Again, imagination is the membrane that makes contact with the higher world. It is dangerous to try to merely understand religious truths, because it reduces them to the static and saturated known, and undermines their function of bypassing the ego and vaulting us out of our conventional way of knowing.

These religious truths cannot be comprehended through dogma or through irreligious skepticism, but only through an imaginative engagement with their world. For example, if you are a Christian, you should read the gospels as deeply as possible with your imagination. In so doing, you will discover that they mysteriously comprehend you much more than you could ever comprehend them.

In short, you must, through your imagination, raise yourself up to religion, not lower religion down to your conventional intellect. To do this you must close one “I” and open another. In Christianity this different “I” is called the nous, but in different traditions the same thing goes by different names. For example, in Vedanta it is called the buddhi, while in Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga it is called the psychic being. With the development of this latent capacity, the familiar world we know with our senses is turned upside-down, from matter to Spirit. Imagination turns it inside-out, as we begin to see the higher in the lower. Time becomes space, in that mere duration is now experienced as the moving image of eternity. Faith has become vision. And I owe Petey another six-pack.

10 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"But imagination in its positive sense is absolutely vital for religious understanding. Again, imagination is the membrane that makes contact with the higher world."

Yep. And more, it is a vital part of Reason... reasoning without imagination, is mere calculation and logic chopping.

6/16/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/DJ30Df01.html

6/16/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is why religious fundamentalists are neither religious nor fundamentalist. Rather, they are materialists, in that they act as if the literal words and events of the Bible are more real than that to which they point or instantiate."

And for similar reasons, it is why modern philosphers are not philosophers, but misosophers, they take their words once learned, as being sufficient unto themselves, their meaning no longer necessary. What else can you say to someone like Descartes, who casually blurts to the effect "Oh, now I can imagine not having a body and still thinking, I can even imagine there being no world... and still thinking, but I can't imagine not existing and still thinking, therefore..." the rest is unimportant and meaning even less. Words without meaning can mean anything, and most of it will be bad things.

" I will immediately see mannerisms, demeanor and behaviors as the visible portion of a much deeper, invisible process. In all of these instances, the expert sees or hears the same things as the lay person, but the expert somehow uses what is on the surface to achieve a sort of depth of vision. It is the opposite of deconstruction, which takes fixed meaning and subjects it to a ruthlessly skeptical interrogation. Rather, it works in the other direction, allowing the particulars of our experience to spontaneously reveal their higher meaning."

With informed imagination, the particulars are able to do more than march, they can begin to dance...
"Fly me to the moon..."

6/16/2009 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Yeah, the old Plato vs. Aristotle thing. Plato and Aristotle are both right, although standing alone they're both wrong.

Plato + Aristotle= Aquinas

I wonder why we use a cross for the addition sign? Coincidence?

6/16/2009 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
I’m glad you’re doing this. I haven’t missed a one, btw – even the reruns - just haven’t commented.
Anyway, I seem to remember when I signed up for a blog there was an 8 GB limit for uploading photos. If you’re getting close to that (which seems like you could easily) it could cause probs. I don’t spell computer too good but I know they don’t happy when you hover around “Maximum” anything. If you’re not backing up the blog (I think you are) you should. And if there’s a way to check the photo bin volume, you might want to. At 1,300-sumthin posts, it may be time to migrate to another host, who, for a few bucks, offers more space, flexibility, back-up – like Wordpress. I hear they have a nifty "import Blogger" thing. (I hope Blogger can't read. Psst. Over the wall at midnight. Pass it on.)
When I hit 1,299 I’ll do it.

6/16/2009 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Cassandra said "Plato and Aristotle are both right, although standing alone they're both wrong."

Yeah, sometimes its almost as if there's a bit of a generation gap going on there, sometimes those 2,393 yr olds just don't see eye to eye with them cranky 2,437 yr olds.

;-)

"Plato + Aristotle= Aquinas"

Very true in many different ways.

6/16/2009 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Did I say 8 gigs?
I meant, twenty-one point one jiga-watts.

6/16/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Gazriel said...

"In short, you must, through your imagination, raise yourself up to religion, not lower religion down to your conventional intellect."

I remember, when I was in my rationalistic-no-nonense-there-is-no-God phase, having a brief moment of lucidity. I asked myself, "If I were God, what would I be like?"

Up until this point the only notion of God I had ever partaken of was the mythical, wise, white-bearded, cloud-floating father figure who is watching and judging my every moverment. But allowing myself the freedom to engage the notion of God creatively opened me up to a higher possibility.

Up until this point I had never read any religous text, nor beheld a minister by whom I felt inspired, aside from Dr. King. The answer I gave myself is as follows: "If I were God I would be an eternal entity that exists in a state of purity and bliss forever and ever, weaving worlds of forgetful beings who through a process of multiple births, experiencing everything from bug to fish to reptile to mammal to primate and finally human, would remember themselves as one with my eternal freedom."

I wouldn't start meditating and reading the world's religons for another couple of years, but when I did I remembered my idea for a 'wishful Creator' and it brought a smile to my face.

6/16/2009 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Don't forget to raise a glass for Bloomsday. It's still beer o'clock, right?

6/16/2009 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean the lurker said...

thanks for starting over cause people i've given your book to can jump on board now!

6/16/2009 09:03:00 PM  

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