Friday, September 24, 2010

Christian Yoga: Different Yokes for Different Folks

Yesterday we spoke of the mystery of comm-unication, which is actually a reflection of the even deeper mystery of comm-union. I don't want to rehearse the whole argument here (see previous 1500 posts for details), but in our opinion "ultimate reality" is communion, and communion is another way of saying love -- not in some vulgar sentimental manner, but quite objectively and "scientifically."

Nature always transcends itself; or, we might say that the transnatural cannot but spill over the boundaries of the natural. Man is nature transcended, while religion is man transcending himself. And truth of any kind, whether sacred or "profane," rests on a foundation of love and communion.

Objects can know nothing of one another -- or of themselves, for that matter. Only the subject may know, and the subject may only know via participation in the being of another (whether object or subject). Either this participation is real, or it is not. If it is not real, then science is impossible. And if it is real, then science is intrinsically rooted in something that transcends itself.

This would be consistent with Abhishiktananda's experience, through which Christianity and Vedanta are reconciled in love. For him, the Trinity reveals Being as "essentially a koinonia of love" (SA, in (Oldmeadow). (Koinonia means "communion by intimate participation.")

Thomas Aquinas said that "the thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower." Thus, if we change the knower, then a different reality comes into view -- not, it should go without saying, a reality "invented" by the knower, but disclosed to him.

This disclosure -- or unveiling, ooh la la -- is a result of deeper communion and "in-timacy" (fr. L intimus innermost). Thus, truth is the innermost perception of the Real. Given these intimate circumstances, it should not be surprising that this disclosure is often accompanied by tears of joy and gratitude. Looked at impersonally, Truth is a very personal thing.

Now, yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of "Hinduism" (which I place in quotes, because there really is no such doctrine as "Hinduism"). The classic formulation of yoga was given by Patanjali, and for those who don't know, the Bhagavad Gita is a fictional account in the form of a conversation between Arjuna and the godman Krishna about the different types of yoga.

Now, the idea of yoga has some overlap with what we said above about communion, since the ultimate purpose of yoga is to obtain "unitive knowledge of the Godhead," not through ordinary learning, but through experience.

In fact, the word yoga is often translated as to "unite" with or "yoke" oneself to the Divine -- which immediately brings to mind Jesus' remark that "my yoke is easy" -- which it is, by the way, in the sense that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for us. This is very much in contrast to religions which require us to do most of the work, without the indispensable assistance of grace.

Thus, Christianity is often interpreted as a bhakti yoga. That is to say, yoga as such is an all-purpose pneumatechnology that takes into consideration individual differences. Because each of us has a different gift, a unique personality, a particular style of learning, and a different hat size, a one-size-fits-allah type religiosity will not do.

To take some obvious examples, there are emotional types and thinking types; extroverts and introverts; sensualists and intuitives; doers and be-ers, or men of action and men of contemplation; warriors and priests; sages and administrators; merchants and laborers; respectable people and Raiders fans; loons and Coons. So if you have just one religious message delivered in one narrow manner, it will inevitably be addressed to a particular "type," and thereby exclude and marginalize the others. There will be no testavus for the rest of us.

This is especially problematic for the tiny minority of Raccoons, who are "outsiders" but surely not "rebels." But one can well appreciate the chaos that would ensue if the religious message were addressed to the Raccoon population instead of the average mentality, for if that were to occur, there would be no Raccoons, precisely. Religion, in order to survive, must at the very least be addressed to man as it finds him, not the man already transformed by religion, for "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

I am reminded of something Schuon said, which is no doubt autobiographical but nonetheless true and not the least bit self-aggrandizing: "The pneumatic is in a way the 'incarnation' of a spiritual archetype, which means that he is born with a state of knowledge which, for others, would be precisely the end and not the point of departure; the pneumatic does not 'progress' to something 'other than himself,' he remains in place so as to become fully himself -- namely his archetype -- by progressively eliminating veils or husks, impediments contracted from the ambience [e.g., mind parasites] and possibly also from heredity."

This is a potentially dangerous and destructive doctrine, and one can well understand why wholesale religion could never express itself in this manner, for if the message is assimilated by the wrong type -- especially disreputable ones -- soon enough he will be deepakin' the chopra in the most egregious and self-serving ways imaginable.

So to even say "Christian yoga" in the wrong company is to invite either suspicion (from the fundamentalist type) or absurd self-flattery (from the new age type). Nevertheless, it is clear that the Christian message may be tailored to different psychic types, who in turn will practice it in different ways, e.g., bhakti, raja, tantra, gnana, karma yoga -- or the yogas of devotion and prayer, meditation and contemplation, virtue and good works, etc. In truth, each yoga not only contains the others, but the practice of one form should nourish and bring the others forward.

Which is why we can say, for example, that the highest knowledge is love, something that the bhakta already knows intuitively. But Raccoons are just a little slow. Oh well, bhakta the drawing board...

to be continued....


Blogger walt said...

Cooncur. Fine post!

Recognizing 'types,' like realizing the influence of 'capacity,' brings clarity to a lot of issues.

In reading about "outsiders" (not rebels), it's claimed they represent 3-5% of any population group. In that percentage are the alpha males (leaders), geniuses, Sages, criminals, artists, psychotics ... and Coons (truly a remnant). And then there's the masses of people that more or less adjust well to culture. So many types!

But I think a person can get clues to one's own by observing one's own behavior, and what attracts.

I think it was Mark Steyn who wrote:
I believe it was Jean Giraudoux who first said, "Only the mediocre are always at their best."

9/24/2010 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Reminds me of something Oscar Wilde said: "The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people the Anglican Church will do."

9/24/2010 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

According to this post it would be imprecise to say, "What Walt said."

Even though I want to.


(Hey Walt!)

9/24/2010 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

We're kind of like Holy Ghost Marines.

if the message is assimilated by the wrong type -- especially disreputable ones -- soon enough he will be deepakin' the chopra in the most egregious and self-serving ways imaginable.

I often thank God that I was raised Baptist before I got stoned and read The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment.

Of course, if I were like Chopra I might be lounging by a pool in my mom-glasses instead of working sixteen-hour days.

9/24/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jason T. said...

What I have found interesting in recent days is the notion that these husks, veils, mind parasites, mechanized unconscious patterns, when brought into the light of Objectivity, are literally doorways into the past. They truly are manifestations of things that happened to the human individual (i.e., me) at some point in space-time and are in a kind of suspended animation, a closed circle of sorts. From this insight, whenever a moment of fear or suffering arises within, I have been spontaneously recognizing that I am looking into the past.

Interestingly, while I see that my personal fragments are symptoms of harsh treatment at the hands of my parents and others in my early years, I realize that their reactivity was set in motion by their parents before them, and their parents before them. Hence, to witness my personal suffering is to witness a transmission of unconsciousness that stems way, way back into the prehistoric mind of the animal-human.

Another clue is that, when in a state of relative waking-sleep as infant-toddler, there are moments of shock which triggers a fragment of the psyche to contract and stay in that semi-conscious state. My recent work has been trying to re-inhabit and identify with these still sleeping aspects, soul retrieval style in the shaman's verse and chapter.

A descent into hell, really, is a nothing more than a descent into one's own past which has wrapped itself in apt imagery.

Anyway, thanks for keeping at it Bob. The posts keep me concentrated...

9/24/2010 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...


Tilt-Shift Van Gogh

9/24/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick - what a cool effect. Thanks!

9/24/2010 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

You're welcome!

9/24/2010 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

You referenced Schuon:
"...the pneumatic does not 'progress' to something 'other than himself,' he remains in place so as to become fully himself -- namely his archetype -- by progressively eliminating veils or husks..."

This expression struck me as very organic, as in, describing a natural unfoldenment in the organ-ism that is aligned with God. Stuck with me all day.

9/24/2010 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger SippicanCottage said...

...respectable people and Raiders fans...


9/24/2010 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - I missed that one. Raiders fans are descending upon my house this weekend, to go to the game on Sunday. I'm kind of glad I'll have to skip it...

9/24/2010 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

btw, Sippi has the first essay of a new series up over at Right Network...

9/24/2010 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

"If you can't get people to agree on which car is best, it's unlikely you'll get the to agree on religion."
(Paraphrased from Blasphemous Tax-cutting Buddhist.)

Of course, even with the best car you may still drive to a place you are not going to like. That's my real worry these days; not that my religion is not good enough for me, but the other way around.

9/25/2010 03:04:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

That's the downside to boldly going where no Starship Magnus Itland has gone before. It's a good ship, but man o man those asteroid belts.

9/25/2010 04:50:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Just got Mahavishnu Orchestra's "The Inner Mounting Flame". I probably haven't heard it since I was 17 years old. Sometimes McLaughlin's playing just seems *too* virtuosic and "virile" (hmmm? is there a etymological connection between these words? Interesting...) for my tastes.

But this is *good* stuff. I've been listening to his playing with Miles and particular on "In a Silent Way" which is a much more yin approach overall. But he really was *en fuego* on "The Inner Mounting Flame". Yowsa.

9/25/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Also got my hands on the "Complete In a Silent Way Sessions". Particularly telling is the evolution of the title track, a Zawinul tune.

It moves from being a fairly straightforward (though more electrified than usual) version complete with a relatively larger palette of chord changes to Miles suggesting the melody be played using just one chord (an open E major chord on the guitar I believe).

But one chord tunes where not unheard of in Jazz (Coltrane's "Africa" comes immediately to mind). It's really Producer Teo Macero's *editing* that had, imho, the most dramatic impact (editing being the dirty secret of a lot of studio recorded Jazz).

According to Wikipedia he incorporated elements of Sonata form...which makes sense in a Theme to a contrasting development section back to a restatement of the theme. Supposedly Miles wasn't happy with it all at first, but soon changed his mind.

But up to that point--with a few exceptions like the suite like forms of Mingus and Ellington--Jazz pretty much hewed to a "revolving form" meaning one played the same changes throughout the tune. This is an example of ane "evolving" form--again like Classical music. This changed the nature of group improvisation...or definitely encouraged it in a different direction.

9/25/2010 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's a great collection. I also have the one that leads directly up to it, the complete quintet recordings from 65-68, with Hanckock, Shorter and Williams. It provides even more insight into the gradual evolution of the music, as electric instruments are introduced. George Benson and Joe Beck are on some of the tracks just before the In a Silent Way sessions....

9/25/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...


Wow. Yes, I would surely like to get my hands on that one! Funny how it wasn't too long ago that my Colrane-centric view of Jazz blinded to me that the second quintet was in many ways a GIANT leap beyond the first. I have since seen the errors of my ways.

I have a good portion of the standard released recordings from that period i.e. leading up to "In a Silent Way". I also hear good things about the complete "Live at the Plugged Nickel" from 1965. But is hard to justify money wise. Though I could just pickup the highlight disc...that's cheap enough.

9/25/2010 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I really didn't "get" the Plugged Nickel box. Sounded to me liked rushed and repetitive versions of his old repertoire, with somewhat thin fidelity. Too much of a mediocre thing, in my opinion, so I traded it in.

The 65-68 group is very abstract, angular, and uncommercial, so it took awhile for me to get into it. It helps to focus in on what Tony Williams is doing, because he's the real engine.

9/25/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Tony Williams is astonishing...his playing leaves me speechless. Though there are suggestions that he was so worried that Miles was going to try and "steal" McLaughlin that Tony Williams held back on his playing on "In a Silent Way"--a lot of repetitive hi-hat playing that's for works, but not his usually exuberant playing.

Larry Young was supposed to play on IASW but Tony sent him home as soon as he arrived--or so goes the story.

Either way, I'm not sure I would have trusted Miles much either...

Thanks for the headsup on the Plugged Nickel recordings.

9/25/2010 10:31:00 AM  

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