On Evolving All the Way Down and In
O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. --Augustine
When the divine descent occurs, it's a little like putting seasoning into a pot of soup. Or maybe prozac into a skull full of neurons. That is, when you sprinkle salt into the soup, you can't just affect the beans but not the meat. Likewise, when you sprinkle an SSRI into a brain, it gets into everything, which is why the effects are nonlinear and unpredictable in their details. Also, it takes a while for the spices -- or the prozac -- or God -- to penetrate and macerate into the substance.
In the case of an SSRI, it often takes a month or more just to reach its full biological effect. But then the person begins engaging in more functional activities, which in turn feed back into the system. In other words, the SSRI has both direct and indirect effects. This reminds me of how the divine descent causes various changes in behavior, which in turn have their own effect on the being. This is why, while it is true that religious people outlive the irreligious, it's impossible to disentangle all of the variables that go into it, since belief in God causes demonstrable changes in behavior, not just thoughts and emotions. Besides, who could ever measure and quantify the biological benefits of peace, joy, certitude, calmness, Oly Slack, etc?
It's one thing to have one of those (?!) moments, another thing entirely for it to saturate your psychic substance and lead to a genuine and lasting transformation. In fact, Sri Aurobindo felt that it was necessary for the divine descent to literally penetrate all the way "down" to the cells, which are -- because they are the closest to the border of the material inconscient, or the outer edge of the divine involution -- the most resistant to the descent. I have long felt -- of course, I could be wrong about this -- that the transfiguration of Jesus is an esoteric account of the divine Light penetrating all the way to the cells, so that the person becomes overwhelmingly "luminous." Likewise, I remember reading a forensically compelling book on the Shroud of Turin that speculated that the source of the pattern on the shroud was from this same Light.
It's as if matter itself has a kind of proud -- or stubborn, anyway -- independence from God. Which I suppose it must, because there must be something that fundamentally "resists" God in order for there to be a creation at all -- just as an artist cannot make a sculpture out of water, only a hard and resistant substance that "fights against" him. Or, as Will ventured in a comment,
"I think it helps to remember that we are supposed to face challenges, oppositional forces. Might as well see yourself as a mythic Odysseus trying to get back home because that's exactly what you are -- a mythic hero in the making. Of course, the Creator could have eliminated the need for challenges, in which case we'd all be inert, semi-conscious flotsam."
Which makes a lot of sense. For example, it is relatively easy for an adequately intelligent and sincere person to accept religion with the mind, the latter of which (mind) being the most recent evolutionary advance (or descent). However, the vital mind is obviously more ancient and more resistant. This is the "emotional brain" which harbors all sorts of mind parasites that wish to go on being -- anger, envy, resentment, narcissism, and various other passions. It reminds me of those bizarre sea creatures that live in the lightless depths of the ocean.
Whereas the mind can be converted rather quickly, it takes much longer for the descent to transform the vital emotions. Thus, a lot of people who might be considered "religious hypocrites" are really just people in whom the descent has not penetrated all the way down to the vital. Which is why Augustine wrote that "complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." Rather than doing the hard work of transforming the vital, these people try to shun it altogether. It's like trying to build algebra while rejecting math. Once again Augustine was on the case, asking, "Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility."
Which raises an interesting point, in that for most people who cannot accept God, it is not because of the mind proper, but because of the vital mind. Almost always, you will have noticed that they are afflicted by pride, or resentment, or superiority, or anger, or some other petty emotion that prevents them from surrendering to and assimilating truth. All of those scientistic types who pretend that they are just too intellectually humble to accept religion are actually far too proud. The atheist actually does have an absolute: his own ego, which will submit to nothing higher. It is just rebellion and idolatry in disguise, a refusal to submit to the Adam smasher of humility in the face of the Absolute. For once you intuit the Absolute, humility is the only option. It is as natural as the urge to dump a bag of manure on Bill Maher.
It is not the properly rational man who rejects God, but the passional man who, as Perry notes, inevitably gravitates either toward fanaticism or relativism. We know all about the religious fanatics, since the shrill and fanatical relativists of the left never stop talking about them. But as is becoming more evident by the moment, the unhinged relativism of a Queeg is every bit as fanatical as that of the fanciful creationist who supposedly believes that dinosaurs are "Jesus ponies." Has the Catholic church ever excommunicated heretics as rapidly as Queeg?
The point is, everywhere people are people. As Dupree's drunken and malodorous Pappy used to say, "folks is folks." The main difference between the religious and the Darwinian fundamentalist is that the latter is more consumed by pride and self-interest. Metaphysical Darwinism is largely a Trojan hearse to smuggle in an atheistic culture of death, which in turn justifies and excuses the vital man's failings and transgressions. By rejecting the Absolute he abolishes the need to transcends himself, and therefore the need to become human. No one should be surprised at the increase in human beastlings who have taken over virtually every institution and profession. They've certainly taken over mine. I would no sooner join the American Psychological Association than the Man Boy Love Association.
Let's talk for a moment about the vital mind. Consider what goes on in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. In a sense, it is aimed at trying to penetrate the darkness of the vital with the light of mind (not the Mind of Light, mind you) -- trying to illuminate and gain insight into unconscious conflicts, or to "make the unconscious conscious." But mere insight is never sufficient, as it will represent nothing more than what is called "intellectualization," which is just another defense mechanism. Rather, therapist and patient must engage in what is called working through, so that the insight is not merely "mental," but really descends "all the way down" to the bones, so to speak, and transforms the problem (or one's relationship to it). This is why real growth is so much more than merely reading a book about psychology.
But isn't it the same with religion? Isn't the essence of a spiritual practice to bring the divine descent further "down and in," and to bring about a deep transformation, not just a surface one? Isn't a genuine saint someone who has been fully (so to speak) transformed by the descent? Isn't this why these fleshlights glow in the dark? Stories abound of the incorruptible nature of the saint's body upon their demise, as if something happened to the very structure of the cells.
In a letter to a disciple, Sri Aurobindo wrote that "the very first step in getting out of the ignorance is to accept the fact that this outer consciousness is not one's soul, not oneself, not the real person, but only a temporary formation on the surface.... the outer personality is the person only in the sense of the Latin word persona which meant originally a mask." It is but a "small and diminished representation of our secret greater existence."
The problem is, much of this greater existence is not yet conscious and individualized; it is consciousness, but it has not been colonized, so to speak, by the conscious mind. But as one advances spiritually, "one begins to live more and more in the inner being, while the outer becomes more and more superficial. At first the inner consciousness seems to be the dream and the outer the waking reality. Afterwards, the inner consciousness becomes the reality and the outer is felt by many as a dream or a delusion, or else as something superficial and external." Isn't that right? Isn't that the problem with the left, that their dream is as solid and impenetrable as rock? Furthermore, they are proud of their ignorance, so where does one begin?
I never watch TV news, but yesterday I was in the presence of one of those big brother CNN monitors, and I was jarred by what I heard, as if a sick dream were suddenly being violently imposed upon reality. It was about the vital news that a worthless drug addict rock star had had sexual relations with his worthless drug addict daughter. Why must we know this?
What did Van say the other day about the world of poetry and myth beginning to look like a more exact and precise account of reality? The shock of recognition in one of van Gogh's visionary paintings is just that -- a recognition that no mere photo could ever accomplish, since the photographic reality is a declension from the Real, whereas the true artist is attempting to represent the Real, or to infuse the canvas with its noetic light.
This is also why a droning intellectual pinhead is so boring compared to the vivid language of a Jesus or Lao Tsu, since the language of the latter is always infused with being and light, of which the words are mere vehicles. To believe in the fantasy of metaphysical Darwinism is to believe that the Soviet realist painting is superior to the gifted impressionist's, or that muzak is superior to jazz, since the former follows the strict outline of the melody more closely. I'm sure no one has failed to notice the spiritual deadness of our most recent troll's language. He never stops teaching us about the reality of the Logos, does he?
Now, the vital mind is not wholly negative. Furthermore, in the overall cosmic scheme of things it must exist, as it is the human analogue of the rajasic or horizontally expansive and passional modality. Passional types have their role to play -- they can be dreamers, crusaders, explorers, men of vision and action.
People who think of Obama as somehow "intellectual" are quite in error. Rather, as is true of most leftists, he is quite dominantly vital, with very little light of intelligence. Thus, the vague and impotent dreams of unity and change. He represents the "vital dream" par excellence, but with almost no practicality or wisdom. Far from sophisticated, he is naive, sentimental, vain, petulant, and childish -- qualities which are again the underside of the cynical sophisticates of the left. This is why Air America or Andrew Sullivan or the New York Times idiotorial board are in a permanent state of tantrum. Intellect that is detached from the divine plane easily descends into childish anger, hysteria, or sentimentality. This is why the left "fell in love" with Obama, as they were merely duped by their own unredeemed vital mind.
There is no doctrinaire leftist who is not inordinately proud of his own mind. And yet, why would such mediocrities be so proud of what the spiritually normal person would be ashamed to display in public? Another way of asking it is, what is the source of their unwarranted self-confidence? One thing that comes to mind is the absence of shame, which creates the false impression of self-confidence. A shameless person is also a corrupt and unscrupulous person, because he has gotten his confidence on the cheap by merely disabling the conscience (which connects directly to the divine plane, and is even a "portion of divinity" within).
This is something I noticed as long ago as adolescence, except I didn't have the words for it. In fact, I suppose I was even painfully envious of these cluelessly confident types, but now, in hindsight, I can clearly see that if I had possessed that kind of "self-confidence," I would be dead today. The absence of that type of hubris was definitely a divine mercy. Rather, it has specifically been my own lack of complacent self-satisfaction that spurred the charge inward and upward. There has never been a point at which I have been satisfied with the status quo, or when I have excused myself from the responsibility to evolve. Let me emphasize that this has nothing to do with "learning more" but being more. (I am oversimplifying, because there is another part of ourselves that must simultaneously be fully satisfied with present being, but that is a topic for another post.)
The point is, God doesn't give you what you want, but what you need, in particular, what you need in order to evolve and grow spiritually. If the left had their way, they would eliminate redemptive suffering from the cosmos. No wonder then that leftism is a philosophy of stupidity, since it is entirely based upon what these spiritually barren and alienated people selfishly want with the vital mind, of which one can never get enough. In rejecting God, they necessarily become the infrahuman party, and thereby do the adversary's heavy lifting.
When the powers of any grade descend completely into us, it is not only our thought and knowledge that are affected, -- the substance and very grain of our being and consciousness, all its states and activities are touched and penetrated and can be remoulded and wholly transmuted. Each stage of this ascent is therefore a general, if not total, conversion of the being into a new light and power of greater existence. --Sri Aurobindo