Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take Charge of Your Delusions with the One Cosmos Wisdom Tool!

When philosophy uses reason to resolve a doubt, this proves precisely that its starting point is a doubt which it is striving to overcome, whereas... the starting point of a metaphysical formulation is always something intellectually evident or certain, which is communicated, to those able to receive it, by symbolical or dialectical means designed to awaken in them the latent knowledge which they bear unconsciously and 'eternally' within them. --F. Schuon

A recent uninvited guest in the Casa del B'ob once again proved the soundness of Schuon's rule of metaphysical formulations and the impossibility of communicating them to those unable to receive them. The Mysteries aren't intended to be vulgarized and dispensed to any yahoo with an open hand and empty head, and they certainly weren't meant to be eagerly groped and pawed over by the grubby fingers of new age barbarians who reduce the most sublime knowledge to its ego (or worse) level equivalent.

Now, history is littered with caricatures of spirit. But so too is the present. I have in my hand a typical example in the form of a catalog I received in the mail a couple of days ago from company called Sounds True. I bring this up not just for valid purposes of mockery and ridicule, but to emphasize that there is actually great spiritual danger in treating these matters so lightly. For example:

The Mandala Healing Kit: Spark Your Sacred Geometry (for people who can't spark euclidean geometry). Loveland: Music For Dreaming and Awakening (dreaming or awakening? Make up your mind!). The Advanced Manifestation Program: Upgrade the Way You Think -- And Live (disclaimer: upgrade only works if you start off really stupid). Take Charge of Your Life at The Quantum Level (since you obviously can't deal with reality on this level). Explore Non-Ordinary Reality with the Wisdom Tool of the Shaman (step one: bend over to receive the Wisdom Tool).

The hucksters who propagate this debased nonsense have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic spirituality. They are poseurs, flatterers, con men and unCoonmen pretending to be as dense as their followers so their followers can strive to feel as clever as they are. But as always, the counterfeit of any kind relies on the existence of the genuine article, even while causing its devaluation. Gresham's law doesn't only apply to economics.

A real teacher is more likely to drive you away than to make outrageous promises and ask for your money. This is why it is best to work within an established religious framework. If I should ever receive a celestial mandate to become a World Teacher and solicit donations and love offerings, don't worry. I'll let you know.

Sure, the traditional path is less glamorous, like indexing instead of trying to find some exotic or risky way to beat the stock market. Yes, there are some people who can do that, and there are some spiritual practitioners who are able to operate outside the lines. But doing so requires an abundance of caution -- not less discipline, but more. As Bob Dylan sang, to live outside the law, you must be honest. You must know your own limitations, because Reality will eventually bring you to heel.

Ronald Reagan once said that "the solutions are simple, but not simplistic." As a matter of fact, simple is hard. Complexity is easy. Most people are very complex, especially the clever ones, since their mind parasites are by definition as intelligent as they are. Their intelligence just gives them more skill at pulling the wool over the eyes of their host and avoiding detection.

People are full of unconscious wormholes, psychic envelopes, secret lives, hidden compulsions, ulterior motives, and auto-hypnotic agendas. While they may appear deep, their complexity tends to conceal their essential shallowness. For mysticism is nothing more than the art of living with one's whole being -- body, mind, and spirit -- at a deeper level.

Macarius, a fourth century church father, discusses the problem of mind parasites weaving their way into the unconscious in a most vivid and arresting manner: "When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not in hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God?"

Well? The essential point is that the wicked one doesn't just walk in uninvited. He's not a barbarian, but a man of taste and restraint. He is a flatterer, a seducer, a charmer. One must give off signals that he is welcome -- that he won't be turned away at the door.

Before we can enter the pneumatosphere, we must begin by clearly recognizing the fragmented, dispersed (or hardened) and fallen situation in which we find ourselves, and sincerely wish to turn it around. Everything else depends upon this first recognition, for this is the "gap" through which grace enters (interesting point today at American Thinker about how leftists are always looking for a replacement for original sin, most recently, man's Environmental Badness).

To re-cognize this gap is to realize, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to detach from the local ego (and all its compulsive reactions) and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery, from life to death.

Denys the Areopagite wrote that "the higher we ascend, the more our words are straitened by the fact that what we understand is seen more and more altogether in a unifying and simplifying way." As "reason ascends from the lower to the transcendent, the more it ascends the more it is contracted, and when it has completely ascended it will become completely speechless, and be totally united with the Inexpressible." From lower complexity to higher simplicity. True science - -including spiritual science -- is the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Have you ever met -- I'm sure you have -- a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, who doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?

Achieving this is actually an important part of the preluminary spadework of spiritual practice. You might say that it is both alpha and omega, because it is both cause and outcome.

To put it another way, it begins as an efficient cause but eventually becomes a final cause. You begin by pushing, but eventually you will feel yourself pulled (and not only that, for you will then discover that your pushing was really His pulling). What might be called the "spiritual dynamic" involves a combination of our own ceaseless efforts and the recognition that our unaided efforts will get us nowhere. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "without God's grace we can do nothing; but without our voluntary cooperation God will do nothing." Or, to put it in the most simple form possible: (↓) and (↑).

Here's one for you to ponder. Basil the Great, a fourth century church father, said "A mind which is not dispersed among external things, returns to itself, and from itself ascends to God by an unerring path." Was it not Matthew who wrote, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light"? Yes, if thine "I" be single, many felicitous things follow. Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page -- for the psyche contains many things that are unworthy of, and incompatible with, the divine purity. Consign them to the purifying fire now, or be burned later.

Just to show you how much overlap there is over the vertical horizon, I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Sri Aurobindo that have a universal application (and this is never with the intention of steering westerners toward yoga, but the more important point of demonstrating to westerners that there is no need to leave their own tradition for what they believe to be a more sophisticated "psychospiritual technology"): "What we are now, or rather what we perceive as ourselves and so call, is only an ignorant partial and superficial formulation of our nature. It is not our whole self; it is not even our real self; it is a little representative personality.... There is a secret soul in us that is our true person.... to unveil that soul and that self is one of the most important movements of Yoga."

The lower mind consists mostly of "a complex mass of mental, nervous, and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations." A person fixated at this level "respects what belongs to the domain of mind mostly for its utility for the support, comfort, use, satisfaction and entertainment of his phsyical and sensational existence." He regards the higher as "a superfluous but pleasant luxury of imaginations, feelings and thought-abstractions, not as inner realities...."

But, paralleling what Gregory Nazianzen said above, "Mind is a passage, not a culmination": "Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance.... But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma.... It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfillment."

In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare -- for inner vigilance, for watchfulness, for facing oneself, for separating from those things that separate us from spirit, for building the Inner Citadel and abiding in that silent slackatorium with the beautiful area rug that really pulls the room together. And there the dude shall abide.

One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires or an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit. --Sri Aurobindo

22 Comments:

Anonymous hoarhey said...

Amen. That narrow path.

3/10/2010 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

Loved the post. Very inspiring.

Question: where do phenomenon like PK, ESP, Clairvoyance, and procognition fit into the spiritual regimen?

Are they valid? Are they useful in any capacity? Or should they be bypassed as irrelevant?

This in the setting of someone who is simplified, transparent, with no agenda, and basically good spiritual raw material.

I put it out there for Bob and other Blog readers.

3/10/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

Consign them to the purifying fire now, or be burned later...

...In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare...


If I were to put today's fine post into visual terms, it wouldn't be far off from Kurasawa's The Hidden Fortress which I happened to cooncidentally watch last night. I hadn't intended to but was captured right away (Kurasawa does that to a person). It was a fine allegory of the inner rogue's gallery we have to contend with every day. Well, I do anyway.

The Song of the Fire Festival is sung at key intervals during the film and ties the movie together:

The life of a man
Burn it with fire
The life of an insect
Throw it into the fire
Ponder and you will see
The world is dark
and this floating world
is a dream

Bob's Unconscious is burning down the house lately. Good stuff.

3/10/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

f/zero,

I always liked Hidden Fortress, especially the festival scene. But my favorite is when Mifune rides down the guards on horseback while weilding his katana two-handed, and the subsequent spear duel. Brilliant athleticism (as is Mifune's hallmark). Anyway, thanks for the reminder, I may have to dust off my copy again. :)

3/10/2010 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

Black Hole,

Regarding your question on certain powers, there are claims (I have never experienced such things personally) that many monastic elders and starets gain such graces to assist them in doing the Lord's work, especially clairvoyance. I think the Russian film 'Ostrov' explores some of this theme. However, such gifts are never something to be sought out, because of the danger of delusion or prelest.

I also recall the oft-told story of Abba Joseph from the Desert Fathers:

"Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’

Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’"

3/10/2010 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

Bob, I love it when you get all Orthodox on us. :)

'Let thine eye be single.' Yep, good reminder especially now in the middle of the Great Fast (Lent). I'll leave with the Prayer of Saint Ephraim, which is recited during mid-week Lenten services:

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Amen.

3/10/2010 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

We begin to detach from the local ego (and all its compulsive reactions) and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare.

"A man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:36)

3/10/2010 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

They are tenacious little buggers, these viruses of the mind. And often excruciating to actually deal with. I was thinking early that we often seek to find the best cost/benefit between the pain of facing them and merely trying to minimize the havoc the can wreak on our lives and those around us.

But it seems to me that unless one faces them completely any cost/benefit decision will be merely a way of letting said viruses to remain unchallenged and "free" to cause trouble for us.

Hence the state of the world. Ever thus.

3/10/2010 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I loved this post, Bob, and I didn't even agree with every detail of it! (Quibbl-y stuff.) But the essential idea is so very, very true.

"Have you ever met -- I'm sure you have -- a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, who doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?"

Yes. I married him. Exactly what drew me to him. What you said is the way I've always described him to others: "He's the same no matter where he is." Authentic, transparent, grounded, organized around higher principles, serious/gravitas, whatever you want to call it. No games, no manipulation...all integrity. And yes, the result of the work of grace in his life. He's the first to cop to what he is "left to himself." Yet what a grace our lives have been together. Grace upon grace, even in difficult times... Just watching the way he faces down his own demons has inspired awe and respect in me. He's a rare one indeed, and I know how blessed I am.

"As a matter of fact, simple is hard."

"Take up your cross, and follow me." Sounds so easy, doesn't it?

"The essential point is that the wicked one doesn't just walk in uninvited. He's not a barbarian, but a man of taste and restraint. He is a flatterer, a seducer, a charmer. One must give off signals that he is welcome -- that he won't be turned away at the door."

This is very true, and that is why mindfully *renouncing* the invitation (in whatever form it was made) is so very important! And then *confessing* (saying "with God") the truth instead.

I know what you mean about people not being able to hear the truth. Scripture speaks of it as a literal deadness of spirit. The Spirit (which blows where he will) must awaken one's spirit. Yet, as you indicated, the mind must first be willing for this to happen.

I love the opening quote. Excellent!

3/10/2010 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"To re-cognize this gap is to realize, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to detach from the local ego (and all its compulsive reactions) and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery, from life to death."

This is another bell the post rang in me. Very good...warfare is a great term for it. Paul's spiritual armor comes to mind.

3/10/2010 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

P.S. When I say hubs is serious, I don't mean to the exclusion of the true Raccoon's hallmark: that mischievously playful sense of humor! :)

3/10/2010 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Finally, @black hole...I think that seeking anything other than God, apart from God, (especially power) leads to the demonic.

There are spiritual gifts, I believe, of which these phenomena you mention are twisted versions. Giftings are distributed by God himself and are used by Him to build up ("edify") others, not accrue power to self. I've heard it pointed out as well that they are not necessarily signs of the spiritual maturity of the individual displaying them (i.e., not the fruit of character, but pure grace giftings: charismata--an empowering by the Holy Spirit).

3/10/2010 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Spiritual gifts that are not consecrated to the divine will become demonic.

3/10/2010 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Mind parasites are deadly serious. A senior partner at the corporate law firm I often deal with steered his car into an oncoming 18 wheeler last week. The man was buzzing with dozens of rogue subroutines at all times, it seemed.

Having had (and have yet) my fair share of these parasites myself I feel relieved only in the knowledge that only God can remove or attenuate these, and more importantly that He will do it if as Bob says you work with Him.

3/10/2010 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

It seems to me that to be in the light, one must be "in Christ." As he himself said, he *is* the Light.

Not to be in Christ is to be "occult," or hidden (from oneself, even). Seeking occult, or esoteric, power is to seek darkness, in my view.

What he said: "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

3/10/2010 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff bob-dude:)
T

3/10/2010 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I've long felt that there was a unalterable progression in musical expression that mirrors a theme from today's post.

We start learning to play an instrument and if persistent we are able to start making quasi-musical gestures e.g. think a nine year old playing the opening "Smoke on the Water" riff. This is the stage of the "simplistic". The mind and body has only just begin its movement into musical space (as it were).

A good number of people (not all or even most, mind you) move through this into the "complexity" phase. This is where the budding musician discovers a wealth of materials with which (generally) to show off their abilities. Strange scales, altered chords, asymmetrical forms, odd time signatures are often the hallmark of this phase. It is a competitive, essentially egotistical phase, where playing faster, louder, "more than" others. This may or may not be an essential stage in the process as there are those transcendent musicians who work through limited technical means.

Finally for a very select few the experienced musician enters the "simple" phase. It's not that they necessarily eschew complexity, but can use complexity as the situation calls for it (or even the use of very simple gestures--it is the transcendent *appropriateness* of the gesture that is crucial).

And for the rare musician that continues deeper on the path of the simple...it is obvious where their music is coming from (at least for those with ears to hear) i.e. that whatever means they use is solely at the service of the music and less and less about the ego (though sometimes, alas, this simple approach can end up co-habitating with some serious mind viruses).

I think that is what John Coltrane was pointing to when at the time of his spiritual awakening he "humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.”

The gate is narrow.

3/10/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Jack, that was lovely!

Bob, this whole blog-moment is another level up on the spiral. Awesome stuff.

3/10/2010 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

Susannah,
I was so moved by what you wrote about your dh. And I love your website with all the pix of your family :)

Thanks so much for sharing about your marriage,
Mrs. G

3/10/2010 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Thank you, Mrs. G.! He's a keeper. Like yours, as I know you'd say. :)

3/10/2010 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous NickB said...

To be fair to Sounds True, they do some very nice and rare recordings of Alan Watts, the self confessed 'spiritual entertainer'.

3/11/2010 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page -- for the psyche contains many things that are unworthy of, and incompatible with, the divine purity."

Contradictions, non-sequiters that have no place within a sound mind, dis-integrate who you are and arrest who you could be, and of course the most difficult thing about them isn't that they repulse you (at least not at the onset), but that they attract you,

"He is a flatterer, a seducer, a charmer. One must give off signals that he is welcome -- that he won't be turned away at the door."

No one is tempted towards evil by repulsiveness... it is always welcomed in the door as with a Greek bearing gifts. Odysseus made the Trojan Horse to be hugely desirable to the Trojans vanity and pride, but only just a little, teensy-weensy tiny bit too tall to fit through their gates. After ten years of warfare the Greeks still couldn't breach those gates, but wily Odysseus knew that the Trojans own desires, pride and vanity could, and he designed the tool of their destruction to appeal to them.

When, as with the Trojan Horse, some 'little' part of an alluring virus won't quite fit past our moral gates, it always requires you to 'don't worry about it', 'loosen up', 'let it be', urging you to 'enlarge' your gate so the Trojan Horse can pass into you. Our failings, our shortcomings, always have an appealing leading edge which we welcome in... and then feign surprise its wedge splits us apart, even as we drive it further in with the sledge hammer of our desires - the more we welcome and indulge it, the more dis-integrated we become.

Gotta remember to look further than appearances... the devil is within the details... and they'll come out at night and burn your city down.

"Consign them to the purifying fire now, or be burned later."

Not to mention being consumed by them in the here and now.

3/11/2010 08:04:00 AM  

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