The Devil Made Me Do It the First Time, Second Time I Done It On My Own
Beginning with the section on Judgment, Schuon says that our "transgressions" are not to be seen merely as sins, but as the absence of a positive quality, that is, privations. Just as virtue ultimately consists of consciousness of a plane of reality -- the only completely reliable guarantor of virtuous behavior -- sin must result from an absence of this awareness, more often than not self-willed (i.e., pulling the wool over one's own I).
Positive qualities such as wisdom, purity, courage, prudence, or strength -- which are real realities -- relate to some aspect of divinity. Thus, to be unaware of them, for whatever reason, is to invite their opposite. It reminds me of the truism that anything that is not explicitly conservative eventually becomes liberal. This is why virtually all organizations, from the AMA to the ABA to the APA to academia to the GOP and even to Christianity, devolve and descend into liberalism if the permanent truths are forgotten.
And not just "forgotten." Again, it is not a matter of merely "remembering dogma," although that may be an important safeguard for those who have neither the time nor the space for intellection. Rather, it must again result from consciousness of a plane of reality.
To cite an example that comes readily to mind, yesterday the children at my son's preschool put on their annual Christmas show in the school chapel. It is almost impossible to imagine a more vivid experience of innocence and purity than to hear these children -- who are mostly four and five years-old -- singing their Christmas songs. If one is conscious, it is literally heartbreaking in its purity. Now, contrast this attitude with, say, Richard Dawkins, who says that such religious brainwashing literally constitutes child abuse. One of us is insane, which is to say, out of touch with reality.
It is as if there are two "centers" or attractors, and man is situated roughly between them. However, only one of these is "real." The other one is a human creation which, by being "fed," grows in strength, just as any other dissipative structure (or open system at disequilibrium). This is how inclinations become habits and eventually vices -- you know, as brother Waylon taught us, "The devil made me do it the first time / Second time I done it on my own."
This false center then "illusorily opposes itself to the divine aspect that it denies." As Tiger Woods teaches us, "vice lives by the regular and somewhat rhythmic communication with the obscure center which determines its nature, and which, like an invisible vampire [read: mind parasite], attracts, clasps and engulfs the being in a state of transgression and disequilibrium." We create what eventually enslaves us.
Through this process, the unnatural becomes natural, and darkness is converted to a kind of obscure light one learns to live by, but which is really the heat of transgression in disguise. It continues until someone clobbers you upside the head with a nine iron, one way or the other.
If this alternative center didn't exist, then "a simple infraction would remain but an isolated case; but every infraction is by definition a precedent and establishes contact with a tenebrous center" (Schuon). As such, a large part of the spiritual adventure involves first identifying and trying to put some distance between oneself and the false center one has created or simply fallen into as a result of "culture."
Again, think of two sources of gravity, one pulling you down to the earth, the other drawing you up toward the sun. The latter is obviously infinitely stronger, and yet, the lower you go, the more the peripheral center can seem to dominate the higher. Often the person has to literally "hit bottom" and realize that there is no lower to go. After that one can only dissipate and fragment -- or, alternatively anesthetize and numb -- oneself to avoid the catastrophic but saving truth.
As Schuon goes on to say, this speaks to the necessity of periodic rites of purification, "which have precisely the effect of disrupting such contacts and and of re-establishing communication with the divine aspect, of which the transgression -- like its cosmic center -- has been the negation."
Now, how does this relate to our discussion of the afterlife? Let's toss it over to our reporter at the serene of the climb, Jakob Boehme, who has the story for us. Jake?
"Thanks Gagdad. The souls of this world who have lost their consciousness of the divine planes bear hell within themselves, but know it not, for the false world they have feverishly created hath cast them into a deep sleep, a most fatal sleep indeed. They distract themselves with their small pleasures and petty amusements wherewith they are intoxicated, so that whilst in this short life, they blot out the pain of hell, which groweth inside them like a demon seed.
"Ah, but when the body dieth or breaketh away, or when a wrathful viking chick goeth medieval on thine ass, the soul cannot any longer enjoy such temporal pleasures and take its delight in the elaborate but false world so created. Only then does the poor soul stand in eternal hunger for those objects it spent its earthly life pursuing in vain.
"Do you see the problem? Tiger does. The soul's inclination remains, but now there are no objects to fulfill it, which causeth it to be in a most grievous perpetual state of anxiety and a continuous rage of hunger for that which never existed to begin with. The itch remaineth, but no scratching be permitted. This is why we say that men can never get enough of what they don't really need -- as if one needs a stable of low-class bimbos when one is already betrothed to a hot Swedish supermodel! O, the folly of man!
"So leave that black rose alone, for in so chasing after it, you are forging your own fetters, not just in this round, but more importantly, for the 19th hole."