Monday, December 20, 2010

Pounding Red Pills in the Matrix of the Soul

Forgetting, sleeping, and deathing are all somehow related -- or so we have heard from the wise. The first two -- forgetting and sleep -- are reversible, although the process is working a little slowly in me this morning. Or is there something actively opposing my rebirth? Better get out the forceps.

Thoughts fall like dead leaves into the unconscious, where they are worked over and composted by the night logic of the unconscious, only to releaf with arising on our morning wood. If this weren't the case, then thinking -- or the joys of the interior life -- would be a rather modest thing, even if thine own.

In fact, this may be one of the evolutionary purposes of sleep. We know that it plays an important role in both memory and cognition, but no one knows exactly what or how (as far as I know). It may well be that it is an intrinsic aspect of deep thought, without which it would rapidly become saturated and reach its limit. Thanks to the Dreamer, there is no end to thought, so each thought becomes verticalizer for the next.

If we reverse-imagineer the mind and try to imagine what it would be like without sleep and forgetting, it is clear that we couldn't function in the human sense. We don't stop thinking at night when we fall into our dark forgettery. Rather, all sorts of vital pitch-blacktivity is going on -- sorting, connecting, assimilating, contextualizing, rejecting, strengthening, categorizing, synthesizing.

This is why "sleeping on a problem" is often so beneficial. We cannot see or know what our mind is doing with the problem, any more than we can see our digestive system at work, and understand how it ultimately weaves exterior matter into our very substance. We are only privy to the visible effects. We only pretend to understand how sunlight transforms into vegetation which our bodies assimilate and use to produce thoughts about sunlight, vegetation, and thinking about them.

Tomberg writes that "when the to-and-fro of forgetting and remembering is disturbed, i.e. when one cannot forget, or is unable to call something back into memory, then it is a matter of an abnormal state." He likens the former situation (the "fixed idea") to Ahasuerus, the mythical wandering Jew who must eternally walk the earth and cannot die, the latter ("partial amnesia") to Orpheus, who cannot bring Eurydice back from Hades.

Likewise, insomnia is the state of being unable to forget and ultimately fall into the embrace of death, while amnesia is analogous to narcolepsy, i.e., being unable to stay awake and alive.

Now, it is human beings who draw these sharp distinctions between asleep vs. awake, conscious vs. unconscious, and life vs. death. In reality, they are all on a single continuum and are a function of each other.

For example, there is actually no bright line -- or any line at all -- between the conscious and unconscious mind. Rather, the whole idea of the "unconscious" is really just a heuristic device, a way to "think about thinking," which is otherwise invisible and inaccessible.

If we take our model too seriously -- i.e., if we begin to confuse the abstraction with the reality -- then we end up in the situation of the global warming hysterics who assured us a few years ago that we could say goodbye to snow in England. Their models have failed, so they reject reality. Who are you going to believe, Al Gore or your freezin' ass?

Back when I was in graduate school, I could see that many psychoanalysts reified their models, and then saw an abstraction instead of a person. But we can never see or know the unconscious directly, only insofar as our conscious thoughts, feelings, and acts are imbued with unconsciousness.

There is a reason why I can only do these posts first thing in the morning. They could never be produced in the wideawake and cutandry consciousness of the day. It is said that "dawn is the friend of the muses," the reason being that we are still close to the night time forgettery of death, where ideas go to die and be resurrected in a new form.

Tomberg notes that we all routinely have the experience of going to sleep in one state of mind, only to awaken in another. A change has taken place, a transformation, a process of consciousness "whose results and fruits one finds upon awakening."

For example, one may go to sleep in a state of dysphoria, or doubt, or uncertainty, but awaken with lightness, or conviction, or certainty. Not only has the night womb "given birth," but something else has been "extinguished" -- or at least transformed -- in the process. Thus, sleep is also a kind of chrysalis gift into which we caterpulter and out of which we get the butterflies for free.

What can any of this tell us about death? People routinely say that we cannot know anything of the post-mortem state, since no one has come back to tell us about it. First of all that's not quite true, and therefore not true at all. Secondly, as indicated by my example about the unconscious, we routinely employ analogies and models in order to deepen our understanding of realms and dimensions that are strictly beyond our ken, like thy wilber done, for example.

In fact, we analogize in this way so often that we don't even know we are doing it. There are a number of fundamental "limit cases" that our unaided human consciousness cannot ultimately understand -- human consciousness being one of them. No scientist has any idea what consciousness actually is; rather, there are only models and theories which are a product of consciousness. I dare them to develop a model of consciousness that doesn't depend on human consciousness. Thus the necessity of revelation, which informs us of realities beyond our horizon of knowability.

Likewise, no physicist knows what Energy is, no biologist knows what Life itself is, and no historian knows what History is. History is only known by the telling of it, but the telling is not the thing in itself. It's just a magical theatre. Nevertheless, we must insist that history exists, unless we have swallowed the blue state pill of deconstruction and relativism.

Raccoons pound the red pills like candy. Some people even say that Toots and Herman accidentally invented the red pill in Toots' tool shed while seeking a cure for the common hangover, but that's another story. If it were true, Petey says I can't talk about it anyway.

Now, all realigions agree that human beings possess something like an immortal soul-thingy. Before we dismiss such assertions out of hand as primitive mythology or wishful thinking, let's first stop to consider how much preternatural wisdom is embedded in scripture and revelation, just who speaks it, and to whom it is spoken.

I've now surpassed 1,600 posts, probably 75% of which deal with timeless wisdom that was somehow -- we know not how -- possessed and encoded by peoples that were quite primitive by our standards. "How did they know so much?" is a question we often ask ourselves. "How does scripture know so much more about us than we can ever know about it?" is another. Therefore, if scripture provides a model of death, or a fruitful way to think "beyond the horizon of life," who are we to reject it outright?

Alternatively, what can the modern philosophies of materialism, or positivism, or empiricism, or scientism, or existentialism, tell us about the subject? Each of these closed-minded pseudo-philosophies dresses up assumptions as conclusions, thus becoming a graveyard of dead answers rather than a garden of fruitful questions. As Schuon has commented, there is more Light in a good question than in most manmode answers.

The latter are analogous to the behaviorist who spuriously eliminates the unconscious by insisting that only behavior is real, or a feminist who makes her own persecutory sexuality go away by insisting that there is only culturally conditioned "gender," or a leftist who magically eliminates human evil by chanting "war is not the answer," or the greedy econmen who pretend to reduce poverty by confiscating wealth. Blue state pill poppers one and all.

13 Comments:

Blogger SippicanCottage said...

...human beings possess something like an immortal soul-thingy.

I think you put your Soul Finger on something there.

12/20/2010 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I dare you to pull it.

12/20/2010 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

The Red candidate pointed his finger at the Blue:

"The Blues are a menace to humanity. Their Godless philosophy of materiealism will despoil the human spirit and degrade us back to the dark ages or worse. They sap the economy, accentuate poverty and misery both internally and externally, and lie about global warming to delude the weak-minded into believing their creed. They champion a decrease in human numbers and will even kill in the womb to achieve the downfall of human beings. Down with the Blues, the Blues must cease."

The Blue candidate in turn points vehemently to the Red:

"The Reds are a menace to humanity. Their God-centered philosophy whores out Nature for the ravishment of humanity, with no thought for the consequences. And those consequences could kill us all. They believe God has decreed all of the Earth is served out for their pleasure and so it is fine to be fruitful and multiply until the world is encrusted with cement and groaning with human souls. After we foul our cage like so many breeding rats then the few survivors may as well wish they were dead. Enough! The Reds must repent before all is lost!"

The Moderator stands. "Now, then, switch and argue the oppositions position."

In unison the Red and Blue candidates stated "We'd rather die!"

The Moderator sighed and walked away. "People. Can't live with them, can't live without them...."

12/20/2010 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - some things are eternally funny, at least when they're not expected.

12/20/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Should be obvious, but that was in reference to the first two comments...

12/20/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Back to the post,

Thoughts fall like dead leaves into the unconscious, where they are worked over and composted by the night logic of the unconscious, only to releaf with arising on our morning wood.

Raccoons pound the red pills like candy.


Apropos, though I didn't notice at the time, this past weekend's gentle and mostly extremely pleasant adventures began with a not-so-pleasant parable.

Two families piled into their cars, loaded with food and gear and dogs, for a little weekend getaway. Nearing their destination, they found the route was blocked for an indefinite period; there had been a fatal accident, just minutes before.

Consulting the oracles of GPS, an alternate route was noted. It was longer, but at first I, being one of the drivers, was all in favor of taking a more leisurely turn on the road less traveled. Saner minds prevailed, however, and it was noted that half the alternate route was a dirt road. It could take hours, the other car was a minivan, with kids in tow it would be unwise. We could get lost, or stuck in the mud. The kids and dogs and grownups would be stressed-out and miserable. To my warped mind, it had all the makings of a grand adventure. Acknowledging that my idea of "grand adventure" tends to be other people's ideas of hellish torment, I happily agreed that waiting in a restaurant until the road was clear was the best thing to do, and that's what we did, and had a different sort of grand adventure, featuring a guest appearance by the SS.

What never occurred to any of us at the time - never crossed my mind until this morning - is that while the alternate route was an unknown, except that it was surely rugged and thus greeted with fear, it was the known route, the "safer" and "more reasonable" passage, that was in fact, a fact we forcibly had to acknowledge when we drove past the blanket-covered remains, deadly.

Coming home yesterday, I couldn't help but notice the high number of white crosses adorning that "safer" stretch of road, unseen in the darkness of a misty Friday night.

We didn't take the road less traveled, so I can't say what it was like. Probably, it would have been just as bad as we feared. We made the right choice, I know.

And yet...

We fear the unknown. So much so that we ignore the obvious and known dangers ahead of us if only the way seems to be safer. Those red pills, sometimes they're pretty tough to choke down...

12/20/2010 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"No scientist has any idea what consciousness actually is; rather, there are only models and theories which are a product of consciousness. I dare them to develop a model of consciousness that doesn't depend on human consciousness."

Lol. During a discussion with a co-worker over his comment "No such thing as consciousness, just an illusion", I made the asnide "Cool, then you won't mind if I work on your requests while I'm unconscious."

It was fun watching him work that one out, he was so annoyed he didn't even make the obvious comeback. Couldn't keep his mind on the matter I suppose. yuc-yuc-yuc.

12/20/2010 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thoughts fall like dead leaves into the unconscious, where they are worked over and composted by the night logic of the unconscious, only to releaf with arising on our morning wood.
...Thanks to the Dreamer, there is no end to thought, so each thought becomes verticalizer for the next. "

I really like the image that conjures up. Just one morning, I'd like to be able to watch that process, sneak out and help tug those green shoots up out of the ground... and that's probably just how well it'd work, too... drat.

Oh well, at least I get to watch some cool movies for free.

"Raccoons pound the red pills like candy."

What do you mean 'like' candy?

12/20/2010 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

History is only known by the telling of it, but the telling is not the thing in itself. It's just a magical theatre.

As now becomes then, with the aid of the dreamer and the mythologizing mind, History is born in the form of parable, tale, and meaning. It is rare that the hidden depths of everyday are known as they happen; usually it takes a potent mixture of "forgetting, sleeping and deathing" to begin to understand.

12/20/2010 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"..human beings possess something like an immortal soul-thingy."

You sure it's not the other way 'round?

12/20/2010 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

For example, one may go to sleep in a state of dysphoria, or doubt, or uncertainty, but awaken with lightness, or conviction, or certainty. Not only has the night womb "given birth," but something else has been "extinguished" -- or at least transformed -- in the process."

Now that's somethin' I don't hafta
sleep on, although I will.

I pound red pills like beer...or like I used to pound beer.
But I can currently pound skittles, especially the red ones...which, serendipitiously are representative of the red pills. :^)

12/20/2010 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie said:

We fear the unknown. So much so that we ignore the obvious and known dangers ahead of us if only the way seems to be safer. Those red pills, sometimes they're pretty tough to choke down..."

So are red skittles...when I'm full. Coincidence? I think naught.

Seriously, that was a timely comment, Julie. Thanks!

12/20/2010 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...

"I dare you to pull it."

I pulled a Soul Hamstring once.
Okay, more than once. What can I say?
I'm a glutton for pun-ishment.

12/20/2010 10:40:00 PM  

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