Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Maps, Legends, and Seven-Dimensional Cartography

Sherrard writes that "In our post-mortal state our habits continue, though the means for satisfying them are now different." They continue "because we are still in the thrall of those images, or apparitions, or fantasies" which ruled us in this life. And these ghostly fantasies that we call "thoughts" are often themselves the byproducts of mind parasites.

Sherrard mentions the example of Hamlet, who hesitates to plunge in the knife for fear of "what dreams may come": "for it is in the post-mortal state that we are caught up in those passionate, parasitic sequences of thought and image -- those streams of consciousness -- which we have set moving in this life through some 'vital congruity'... of our soul and which we are compelled to follow, like a dream, as they unfold in our post-mortal state."

So be careful what you obsess over. Have you ever had a real obsession, something you couldn't get out of your head, and which just kept replaying over and over, like broken record or Keith Olbermann show? Well, those are just extreme cases. Much of what we call "thought" is really disguised obsession.

In turn, one of the primary purposes of prayer or meditation is to break the link in the obsessional chain. Being that obsessional thought always skitters along the surface horizontally, you can disrupt it at any time by going vertical, or up and in. Remember, you always have inward mobility and upward nobility.

In a later chapter (we'll get back to the present one), Sherrard talks about how even the senses "are false witnesses for those with impure souls." In other words, what we think of as the most "objective" source of data becomes thoroughly subjectivized in the wrong hearts. This is why science, which is neutral, often leads to the pneumapathology of scientism. You might say that scientism is a form of metaphysical OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), in that it is entirely circular and self-enclosed, and yet imagines that it is adequately describing "reality."

Which, of course, is why you could never "debate" someone with such delusions of adequacy -- such as Charles Queeg about Darwinism -- because it would be like trying to talk someone out of a hand-washing compulsion. It's just a mental tic, as his thousands of former readers well understand. I've had patients who wash their hands, or who check their locks or windows or stoves, hundreds of times a day. Saying "don't do that" would be entirely beside the point. It would be as helpful as asking an Islamist to stop hating Jews. You can't break into that closed circle. It is their map of reality, and if you take it away they'll be utterly lost in the cosmos, with no one to contain their unbound hatred.

Sherrard writes that "We must always remember that we can see things only as they appear to us after passing through the filter of our own perceptual equipment, and the degree to which this filter will admit or exclude the reality of what we see, or think we see, will depend entirely upon the modality of our own particular consciousness." Doors of perception, and all that.

One of the great spiritual dangers of "education" is that it inevitably involves a greater or lesser degree of indoctrination. As a result, the most educated people will often be the most indoctrinated. This is because the "educational establishment" becomes a thing in itself, the result being that those who best adapt to it are the ones who "move up" -- again, we would never deny the workings of natural selection, confined to its proper role.

The same is true of the MSM. The reason why they all think alike is because they are adapted to a ghostly reality that they co-create in adapting to it. It only exists in their heads, but they all mutually reenfarce one another, so that the dream appears real.

I well remember taking the state examination for my psychology license in 1991. The written test in particular is utterly irrelevant to what I would call "psychic reality." Rather, it's like a huge body of knowledge that one must master just for the sake of mastering it.

But there is a more sinister implication, because it forces one to defer to the state's definition of the mind and of mental health. But it does not correspond to the human mind. It is mostly a patchwork of disconnected fragments of knowledge compacted together like some sort of monster. And many of the fragments are inserted there by various political interest groups -- all the usual suspects, i.e., sodomites, feminists, cross-dressers, perverts, pagans, and liberal racists. You must regard the abnormal as normal -- or at least pretend you do -- or you cannot be a psychologist. Period.

The purpose of a theory is to mirror a world. As I have mentioned before, this is also the purpose of revelation and of theology: to mirror the divine reality. In the case of both science and religion, it is always a mistake to confuse the map with the territory or the menu with the meal. And in neither case is the map ever complete. Rather, we spend our lives as cartographers, and there is reason to believe that we take our maps with us when we go on the Big Hike.

Looked at in this way, the very purpose of a spiritual practice is to internalize an accurate map of reality in the full sense of the word. To put it another way, it should be the "cure" for various distorted or partial maps. You simply must have an accurate map, or you won't get anywhere. Or, alternatively, if you don't change maps, you're liable to end up where you're headed.

Sherrard discusses one of the subtle effects of the scientific revolution, and that is the bifurcation of reality into mind and matter, or the physical world and the reason. Excluded from this closed world is the intellect, which is our organ of perception of higher worlds (in my book, symbolized as ¶). Note that this bifurcation creates an intrinsically false map, but that the map can't destroy the intellect, any more than the Islamist's bad map of sexuality eliminates the sex drive. Rather, it simply returns in perverse form, as we see in Iran.

So when we are compelled to internalize a false map of reality that excludes the intellect, the intellect will then roam free, like a ghost, and try to make its own map, to the exclusion of the other two (sense and reason). This is how you end up with, on the one hand, fundamentalism, and on the other, the Deepaks of the world. Both have insanely inaccurate maps, the former because their map is two-dimensional, the latter because it corresponds only with his bottomless narcissism.

You might say that the fundamentalist fetishizes the map, turning it into a graven image, while in Deepak's case, his narcissism leads him to devalue the God-given maps, so that his alternatively vacuous or sinister babbling in no way mirrors the divine world.

As Sherrard writes, "This is a dark and hellish world, the world of the ego's self-deception.... This exaltation of our ego-consciousness, and of the pseudo-knowledge that goes with it, are evidence of the fall." In short, "what does not have its roots in [the] divine life is essentially dead."

When Christ says "let the dead bury the dead," he might as well be saying, "let Deepak bury Michael." This is not a casual asnide, but the essence of Christ's life and his example: "He is uttering a universal horation to all those who wish to live: that they have to die to and bury their dead selves; for when identified with these selves, they are as dead."

So crucify and bury those manmade maps, because they don't chart the torahtery.


Blogger walt said...

To explicate the details of an accurate Map is the work of the Cosmologist. The one you describe daily is a BIG-ONE -- let's say, Vast -- and it's obvious you wish for it to include Everything.

It's a "thread" that runs through all your posts. (Hint, hint.)

Sherrard's concept of one's tendencies surviving physical death, leaving one subject to the whims of dreams and dissolution, adds a note of "urgency" to our daily practices, I'd think.

6/30/2009 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Yes, Walt. I immediately got that same impression-- that attending to one's soul is a daily and urgent task, in light of what dreams may come. I don't know where in my past experience or education I've ever encountered such an idea. I'm not sure where I would anchor it in typical theology. But it rings truth like a smoke alarm.

6/30/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger The Slackosopher said...

As an amateur philosopher I've been thinking about the paradigmatic nature of OCD. With Freud, I believe it was hysteria, Jung (and Laing) it was Schizophrenia. Those views perhaps were in accord with the psychological and spiritual needs of the times.

We know live in the "Age of OCD" and reading this blog has been very helpful, both on a personal level (oh, all my mind viruses!) and a philosophical one that OCD is a very fruitful lens to see human behavior more clearly.

I wonder though if OCD is so difficult to see and change because it is so deeply encoded in our brains and nervous system. Can talk therapy reach it?

I am thinking in particular of the book, "The Mind and The Brain" by Jeffrey Schwartz which takes a nonmaterialist view of OCD.

Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

6/30/2009 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

The more you quote Sherrard, the more wary I get. The notion of postmortem virtual reality sounds more like the Greek Hades or the Norse Hel than the Biblical Sheol, which is a rather more quiet place.

Surely he does not believe that the soul is immortal without the grace of God?

6/30/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Sherrard writes that "We must always remember that we can see things only as they appear to us after passing through the filter of our own perceptual equipment, and the degree to which this filter will admit or exclude the reality of what we see, or think we see, will depend entirely upon the modality of our own particular consciousness."

Ehhhmmm... gotta quibble on "the filter of our own perceptual equipment", not on the filter, but what does the filtering; it's a small thing that has huge implications. If we say that the perceptual equipment, our senses, filter what we're able to see, we'd might as well check into a rubber room next to Hume and Kant in the Post-Modern hotel.

If it were the perceptual equipment, the senses, that filtered what we were able to see, we'd actually be that helpless brain in a vat, at the mercy of our senses and environments, and not only would we never know it, but we'd never have left the Geico caveman enclosure to begin with.

There is a filtering system set up, but it is set up by us, through our willingness to passively accept our own first conclusions, setting them as our default goto assumptions about how things are, or other peoples assertions about how things are, never exploring the slightest discrepencies our senses present to us or questioning contradictions further.

To the extent you allow yourself to be influenced by your own lazy conceptions, you do "see things only as they appear to us after passing through the filter", but it is a self imposed filter, and you can pull the blinds open, and the first person who is willing to examine not only the status quo, but their own assumptions, they are fully able to walk freely out of those doors of conceptions, which are locked from the inside.

6/30/2009 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

Opportunity for collective practice: break the link in the obsessional chain.

Denninger calls a national "Consumer Strike". I love this idea.

"Yes I Can" do without the iPhone with TomTom GPS I was planning to buy in Austin Friday.

6/30/2009 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"In turn, one of the primary purposes of prayer or meditation is to break the link in the obsessional chain. Being that obsessional thought always skitters along the surface horizontally, you can disrupt it at any time by going vertical, or up and in. Remember, you always have inward mobility and upward nobility." This is so true. I have often experienced obsession disguised as thought, and the only way to break free has been to run to the Heavenly Father. Sometimes I have to riff off the Lord's Prayer just to *begin.* As for Sherrard's view, I think along these lines: "Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." So yes, you will suffer loss if you don't do the soul-work now. But you will be saved! (That's found in 1 Corinthians 3, btw.)

6/30/2009 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Fascinating stuff. These ideas certainly illumine and enrich my musings about the old-fashioned doctrine of Purgatory.

wv: inguist
= someone expert in languages such as Atin, Atvian, or Ithuanian.

6/30/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

with a holey map
columbus scored a new world
sails up my friends

6/30/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

T. Dalrymple does M. Jackson

An arms-race mentality develops; and while there may have been a self-mutilation somewhere in the history of the world greater than Michael Jackson’s, for the moment I cannot think of it. Given man’s infinite capacity for innovation, no doubt someone will soon manage something even more extreme.

6/30/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Aquila said...

QP: It's been done already, to no discernible effect.

6/30/2009 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

Nice post Bob. Brings up a whole host of issues, many of which raccoons are likely to have disagreement on I imagine, given all the different views on afterlife even within Christian traditions. A couple of my thoughts, for what they're worth.

I personally use the term "worldview" instead of "map." I liked your saying, "the menu is not the meal." Have to remember that one. I also liked your expression, "Remember, you always have inward mobility and upward nobility." How true I've found that to be! :)

Traditional Christianity teaches two "judgments" for whenafter we die, a particular judgment at the moment of death, and a general judgment by Christ at the resurrection (may he be merciful on us all).

The particular judgment is, I believe, the state of one's soul at the time of one's death, carried through into the death state. Here the "judging" is the working out of one's existential condition in life. If you are tormented at the time of death (like Michael Jackson was, Lord have mercy), that existential torment continues in Sheol.

Orthodoxy doesn't teach any doctrine of Purgatory however. Rather, the torments we carry with us from life into death are akin (to my thinking at least) to congenital defects we carry with us from gestation to birth. Death before the general resurrection is therefore somewhat analogous to the womb, a place of potentiality rather than actualization. I think Bob wrote in one article a long ways back about how the child in the womb "breathes" water, and upon birth makes the transition to breathing air. I wonder what we will breathe after we die? I hope the Holy Spirit.

Anyway, Orthodox pray for the dead because we believe the prayers of the living, and especially the living saints in heaven, are efficacious in healing the souls of the dead, since they cannot pray for themselves in that state.

So our mission in life, should we choose to accept it, is to become free of the parasitic (demonic) torments of this life, to attain to true health and well-being, and become dispassionate and truly loving of God and neighbor, through willing cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I found a nice video clip on the Orthodox answer to the popular evangelical question, "Are You Saved?" Thought I would share as it is well done.


Love in Christ.

wv: indeb (indeed!)

6/30/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

interestingly the trial by fire quote also appeared to me in response to the recent Sherrard quotes. (Although I am not clear on how much it refers to one's personal life and how much to service.)

Also, I do not know whether the trial by fire takes place immediately during the process of death or at the time of final judgment. It may be that the sleeplike state of the deceased makes this question irrelevant, as they probably don't experience linear time like we do.

6/30/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Aquila, I'm willing to hold it as an idea whose time has come.

6/30/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

QP -

Businesses apparently figured it out last year.

wv sez moses likes the idea!

6/30/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For what it's worth, Sherrard's ideas seem to be rooted in the same Orthodox sources as Father Rose's book on the after death states.

6/30/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

Van said...

Ehhhmmm... gotta quibble on "the filter of our own perceptual equipment"

I took it to mean our mental perceptual equipment. Physical seeing is so tied in with thought, yes? For (minimum) example, our eyes are much more, and different, than cameras lenses.

6/30/2009 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Sorry for the OT, but this from the Honduran's trying to keep their constitutional govt in tact,
The protests against the ousted president underscore just how tricky the political situation is in Honduras. While Mr. Zelaya remains popular with some segments of society, especially the poor and some unions, many in the middle class, as well as the Catholic Church, army, and many politicians are firmly against him.

"Tell Obama he's not in charge here," said Juan Pablo Pereia, a farmer protesting in favor of the new government. "We Hondurans are in charge. We have our laws, our constitution.

Wish someone would tell him we'd like to the same here too please.

6/30/2009 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Hmm, wandering around on Orthodoxinfo.com gives a hint as to why this Church in particular would go into greater depth on the issue of death. There seems to be a strong tradition based on the belief that constant awareness of death protects against sin and its precursor, waste of time.

6/30/2009 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Elephant, yeah... I assumed that was what he meant too... I waffled on whether or not to say anything... but... that assume thing, has a habit of really coming around and biting you in the ass in the end.

6/30/2009 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Remember, you always have inward mobility and upward nobility."

I'll chime in with BP on that one too; on those times when the flat urgency has seemed impossible to escape, I've found that looking 'upwards' can give you the perspective to step over and out of the corral... really saved my bacon on many an occasion. That phrasing adds even more vertical lift to it.

6/30/2009 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

From what I see in scripture, death for the believer is like blinking - close your eyes for the last time here and in the next moment you're being welcomed into the presence of the Lord.

I almost can't wait.

6/30/2009 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van said...
"Remember, you always have inward mobility and upward nobility."

"I'll chime in with BP on that one too; on those times when the flat urgency has seemed impossible to escape, I've found that looking 'upwards' can give you the perspective to step over and out of the corral... really saved my bacon on many an occasion. That phrasing adds even more vertical lift to it."


I cooncur as well. The 0--(-k) corral is no place to keep yer bacon.
Thankfully, we have the O--(k) corral in which to save our bacon. :^)

7/01/2009 06:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

Oh Chief Ben, didya have to mention bacon! I'm still doing the Apostles Fast. A couple days to go.

Hmm bacon. Guess I know how I'll break the fast. :P

wv: pubstion

[Even wordveri is trying to tempt me to the pub. :) ]

7/01/2009 03:45:00 PM  

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