Friday, March 12, 2010

Secrets of Successful Farming: Good Seed, Deadly Pesticide, and Lots of Miracle Grow

People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him. -- Swami Abhishiktananda

All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose

In his Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene -- an Orthodox Christian monk -- makes the claim that today we "are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union." Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we might call the "energies" of O, or (↓).

Yes, the Christian message is universal, but every revelation has an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component (although, as we shall see, the two can only be artificially separated, for this complementarity is analogous to the body and soul that constitute the living person).

Even so, the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by no-nonsense cherubim with flaming swords who prevent flaming assouls from barging in without the proper protocol. Rather, only those with sincere humility and childlike innocence know the passWord: amen for a child's job!

And while no one is sufficiently childlike to place themselves above dogma, I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal." (The book on Swami Abhishiktananda comes with Petey's imprimatur, in that it is 90% Coon-friendly.)

In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative, layered with multiple meanings, and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective barrier over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel.

In fact, after the above comment, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). And although he is being "figurative," he is also being quite literal, is he not? But the uninitiated will have no earthly idea -- or only an earthly idea --what he is talking about. At best, they can imagine what it is, and pretend that this is an adequate replacement for the experience of "harvesting" all that fruity goodness.

In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus? Also, note that the limiting factor is within the disciple, i.e., "as they were able to hear it." This means that the disciple must expand his inner horizon in order to make himself adequate to the fullness of what is being transmitted. You must stretch your mental ligaments, not contract them. Limber up and my yoga's easy.

Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric -- an important point, for otherwise it sounds as if one is talking about some kind of arbitrary magic. But aligning oneself with this force is one of the principle aims of the Christian life, because with it "all things are possible." Possible, mind you, not necessary. It's not like some kind of machine.

Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."

Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig."

As we have said before, it's all about farming; if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- turning the soil, planting the good seed, exposing oneself to sufficient light on a daily basis, irrigating with the waters of life, keeping the weeds and parasites out, nurturing the immature saplings, and especially, watching over the field.

For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the narcissistic lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps in and keeps right on digging.

Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.

This cosmic inertia -- in Vedanta it is called tamas -- is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable course, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.

Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels with raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation, although there are also important differences that need to be respected.

Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to watch and pray. It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.

Watching what?

Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

Hieromonk Damascene eliborates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are antonymous. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."

Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda

11 Comments:

Blogger Grant Maher said...

Bob quoted:

"Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

The entire world, including your own less savory elements, will try to "plunder" you on a daily basis.

However, the raccoon knows spiritual power is always dominant.

We have established on this blog that God is real, is involved in the world, and has here a cadre of people who are His conscious soldiers (the raccoons).

The raccoons view the still errant mass of humanity as their flock of sheep, to guide and to control, to lead forward the evolution.

To do this the raccoon must be severe at times and a more or less continuous counterattack should be in motion against the racalcitrant elements at all times.

At no time should the raccoon army be holed up in a palace and under attack. We do not do defensive actions. We always take the fight to the enemy and it is they who must quail.

No fear, people.

3/12/2010 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus?

There is an identity, a unity and wholeness with the Person of Jesus and the Words of Jesus. You don't "get" one without the other. And if scorching is the price of admission, it is well worth the cost.

Excellent post today. The bobservation on watching is especially helpful to me at this point. Thank you.

3/12/2010 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

...interlude...

Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we might call the "energies" of O, or (↓).

I almost always dyslacksically type "teh" instead of "the". Now I'll just take it as an Odian slip.

...back to the post...

3/12/2010 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition."

An understatement if there ever was one.

I echo mushroom's thanks regarding watchfulness.

3/12/2010 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

we need a ... real
funky President

1974:
"Funkytown, nasty
(Hey, listen to the man)
Yeah, I'm the Godfather (baby)

People, people
We got to get over
Before we go under
People, people
We got to get over
Before we go under

Hey, country
Didn't say what you meant
Just changed
Brand new funky President

Stock market going up
Jobs going down
And ain't no funking
Jobs to be found"

---Daughter: James Brown's body is 'missing from its crypt'...---

3/12/2010 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Sound's like Papa's got a brand new body bag.

3/12/2010 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/12/2010 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/12/2010 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Some good stuff lately. I know it is the right stuff because it tastes sweet but hurts when I digest it. That is to be expected from transformational content.

There is a lot of "spirituality" for lazy people these days, and I extend my gratitude to Amazon for reminding me of it. Evidently you can just sit down and visualize the Universe raining money down on you. But I don't particularly want a rain of money. I want to radiate love, hope and courage like a hot bonfire to those who live in this age and onward. There doesn't seem to be any lazy, cuddly way to get to that. So, scorching it is, for now.

3/13/2010 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Excellent
This is the first post I was able to get my wife to read.

Most inspiring B'ob.

WV:jordin
Sweet. A crossing!

3/13/2010 05:09:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Wonderful, pertinent post today (yesterday), not that they all aren't.

Yesterday, I fasted until sundown. Nothing but water and a little green tea. At the end, after a snack to get my blood sugar back so I could go to the gym, I experienced that "concentration without effort", that upside down tree feeling for almost an hour.

I now know I need to do that more often.

By the way, interesting thread at Belmont Club about the rapid expansion of Christianity in the 3rd world.

3/13/2010 07:00:00 AM  

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