Spiritual Joy vs. the Mirthless Pursuit of Pleasure
But before getting into that, I want you to know that although the one you call Bob is taking another day off, I am not, since I never have and never will. Rather, I am no different than your heart, your liver, or your lungs. I'm always here, churning away in the dark, wideawake while you daydream and doing the vital dreamwork amidst your trivial pursuits.
Now, when you get right down to it, there are only a couple of clusterforks in the spiritual path, the purpose of which is to conform oneself to OneSelf, or to one's divine archetype -- to paradoxically "become who you already are," so to speak.
This requires that one grow in truth, wisdom and virtue, and thus close the annoying gap between accident and substance, or contingency and essence. Yes Virginia there is a real ewe, but until you remove the wool from your eyes, you're on the lamb from God. Timelessness takes time, and walking on water wasn't built in a day. We know this already.
Another way of saying it is that in the spiritual life we are specifically attempting to grow something that transcends time. That something is "you." This is not really controversial. For example, every living thing begins with an immature form that seeks its mature form. Something wills that babies become adults and that teatmilkers become meateaters, apaulling though that may sound. Cor, blindme!
But such morphogenetic growth doesn't merely involve changes to the physical form, especially as it pertains to human beings.
Rather, everyone who is anyone knows that real human change takes place on the interior plane, and that it continues well beyond the point that we have reached physical maturity. Two physically mature human specimens can have virtually nothing in common, whereas that is never true of other animals.
In fact, among all the animals, only humans can (and should) continue growing indefinitely, to the point of nous' return. A mind that has stopped growing is effectively dead, as it has become a closed system. And the most damaging closure is of the vertical kind. For when that takes place, one has become like a dead man walking or blind man gawking.
It is fair to say that someone who is not growing toward his nonlocal telos is effectively living as an animal. Thus, many people who imagine that they are not "spiritual" actually are -- for example, the painter or musician who seek beauty in their work, or the scientist who passionately strives toward truth.
In a less endarkened age, these activities would be seen for what they are, and could not have become detached from the greater spiritual Adventure of Consciousness -- or even become opposed to it, as happens with scientism or with debased "art" that has no spiritual direction at all (except down or away from the Light).
Now, if we, the transconscious mode, did not exist, then there would be no deep continuity in our lives, and thus, no actual entity that undergoes change through time. In other words, animals essentially exist only in space, in such a way that they basically mirror the narrow external world that they co-create.
But the human being has deep temporal roots that extend all the way back to his own conception -- and beyond, to the very Genesis of creation. The human being lives in time, but time isn't just a linear succession of discrete and disconnected moments, as the existence of memory and transtemporal vision prove. Rather, the past and future are entangled in the present, not just consciously, but transconsciously.
For example, most forms of mental illness are a result of some unmetabolized -- which is to say, unsynthesized -- aspect of the past intruding upon the present. A symptom exists as an unconscious part that needs to be integrated into the whole.
But other symptoms can emanate from the future, so to speak. This was the position of Carl Jung, who observed that much mental illness is actually a result of a spiritual stillbirth, or from the pain of failing to realize one's archetype. Such a person can ransack his past, looking for what went wrong, but he won't find it, because it's in the future, not in the past; or "above," not below. Call it a spiritual prepartum depression, or pre-emptive mourning-before pall, or a miscarriage of just us.
As alluded to above, there are only a couple of alternatives to leading the spiritual life. One of them is hedonism, which ends up doing violence to the temporal aspect of human existence, as it reduces life to the mirthless pursuit of discrete moments of pleasure, as if salvation consists of the accumulation of these disconnected experiences.
But the whole point is that these moments of sensory pleasure are inherently disconnected and can never surpass themselves, and in fact, usually diminish with time. In other words, the first time you do something is usually the most intense, and if you spend your life trying to achieve that level of intensity, you're just chasing your tail told by an idiot.
As Bob put it in One Cosmos, many problems are caused by trying to wring more pleasure out of something than there is in it. This can happen with food, vacations, sex, what have you, and is responsible for a lot of compulsive behavior. Anything that gives pleasure can become problematic if used in the wrong spirit.
As Bolton writes in Keys of Gnosis, the idea that happiness results from an accumulation of pleasures is pure illusion, since "each of its successive moments is in effect a separate world for experience." The bare moment "neither receives anything from, nor imparts anything to, any other moment, not even the next ones adjacent to it." Excluded from my transtemporal influence, the pursuit of moment-to-moment pleasure "does not allow the least possibility that any of them could be combined to make a total in this world..."
One can possess perfectly normal intelligence, even superior intelligence, and yet be destitute of spiritual wisdom, since the latter can only exist on a transcendent plane above the linear succession of temporal moments.
Now, this is one more reason why there is so little wisdom on the secular left, unless it is just accidental or parasitic on some other non-leftist source. Only religion teaches one the secret of converting momentary pleasures into something enduring, for example, through the joyful sacrament of marriage.
Bolton writes that "the greatest amount of pleasure of whatever kind can never exceed the greatest single instance of it, and likewise with pain." This is why, to quote Plotinus, to try to make multiplicity, "whether in time or in action, essential to happiness," is to try to put happiness together "by combining non-existents" (quoted in Bolton).
What does exist is the present, only it is not actually a "bare moment" on a linear scale. Rather, it has vertical extension, and this is where pleasure can actually be deepened in a meaningful sense, and this is what true spirituality endeavors to do. It is a way for the little daily pleasures of your life to actually accumulate and add up to One instead of Øne.