Monday, December 27, 2010

Spiritual Joy vs. the Mirthless Pursuit of Pleasure

Here's another clue for you all -- that is, all you four-dimensional flat-cosmos types who imagine you can exclude the unconscious (or more properly the "transconscious" or "supraconscious" in order to avoid conflation with the exclusively lower unconscious studied by psychoanalysis) from your shriveled little weltanschauung.

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger Mizz E said...

In his work, "The Harmonies of the World," book five, Kepler stated: "O, Almighty God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee!...The book is written, to be read either now or by posterity, I care not which. It may be well to wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer." 
 
 In comparing celestial orbits of the planets with polyphonic harmonies in music, Kepler wrote: "Holy Father, keep us safe in the concord of our love for one another, that we may be one just as Thou art with Thy Son, Our Lord, and with the Holy Ghost, and just as through the sweetest bonds of harmonies Thou hast made all Thy works one . . . and that from the bringing of Thy people into concord, the body of Thy Church may be built up in the Earth, as Thou didst erect the heavens themselves out of harmonies."

Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
 
~ 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NIV)

12/27/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."

Lot of people racing around in that demolition derby... it sure can drive you nuts.

12/27/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm already explaining this to the Boy, what with the preachable moment of the inevitable post-Christmas letdown.

12/27/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

A mind that has stopped growing is effectively dead, as it has become a closed system.

I'm reminded of an old, dried tree stump, with a few withered branches. Or more apropos, a vine. For all intents and purposes, it is dead, and yet to the practiced hand and eye of the master, a few cuts in the right places, to open the closed system and let outside air, water and light work its magic, what seems dead may yet bear fruit.

...many problems are caused by trying to wring more pleasure out of something than there is in it. ... Anything that gives pleasure can become problematic if used in the wrong spirit.

I would add only the observation that even spiritual experiences are not exempt from this truth. That is why many of our wise furbears say that one should not try to chase spiritual experiences; in doing so one is looking simply for the high and missing the point of the highest.

12/27/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

This is one of those posts that sneaks up and whacks you with the clue bat, the type where the gong builds and thrummms louder and louder with each moment, rather than fading away... it wouldn't leave me alone but the babbling that's been knocked loose from my noggin might be a bit too fractaled to fathom... sorry, but I'm compelled to blurt it out anyway.

As I read along I was gathering too many quotes into my notepad to use, might as well have reposted the full post, but I think this one gonged them up well,

"...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 none."

Chasing those moments, as if collecting and jamming them together would somehow produce more than their moment or momentary thrill...is nuts and nutifying... they're trapped in the flattened temporal moment, one inaccessible to the next, and the memory of them, because they are only of the physical moment, they are (if un-imbued with meaning) made only of physical materials and sensations, and those occur and are affixed to that moment, just as much as an echo is to a shout, diminishing from start to finish. The experience if spawned and left referencing only the momentary thrill, is left forever isolated from YOUR experiencing them again.

The only way to lift them up, is if they sought to engage in the timeless to begin with...the individual note attains immortality only through inclusion in the song.

An experience itself is of time, you (to the extent you are not living as an animal) are of the timeless, they can be brought into you, you cannot be brought into them, but only if they had something more to offer at the time they occurred, only if they had meaning to begin with, can they transcend time, and become re-membered.

What is sin, but an attempt to bring you into them, to compress the vertical into the flattened and amputated instance?

But with the vertical extension... if the moments are drawn to reach for, touch and include the vertical, then they can amount to something more, then they can attain to meaning, which alone is timeless (at least as such is available to us here and now to know).

When the moment is enabled to touch on that which is not contained by the moment, meaning, the instant can attain to timeless extension.

When even seemingly inconsequential actions are performed with attention to meaning, time travel can occur, not forwards or backwards in time, which would be pointless (or pointified), but upwards and inwards into eternal timeless meaning. It's that attentiveness to meaning in each moment, which maybe can, not square the circle, but sphere the spiral.

Ok, the fit is passing, back to work.

wv:toong
Indeed.

12/27/2010 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Kepler also felt akin to Egypt:
It was eight months ago that I first saw a ray of light; it has been three months since I have seen the light of day; finally, a few days ago, I saw the sun of the most admirable contemplation. I am abandoning myself to my enthusiasm. I want to challenge mortals by the ingenuous confession that I have plundered the golden vessels of the Egyptians in order to furnish a sacred tabernacle for my God out of them, far from the borders of Egypt.

12/27/2010 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

So we have to open the present, in order to open the future and even the past.

After all, what is all these various "spiritual practices", if not the opening up of the present.

12/27/2010 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

After all, what is all these various "spiritual practices", if not the opening up of the present.

Or Presence ;)

12/27/2010 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos, A First Christmas:

"I’ve been to seven churches in all, as well as one synagogue. Since I was raised very secular, without the religion, I had never been to temple before.

These holy places have brought the most heart-warming and stirring experiences. Attending services has literally changed my life. I’ve also realized what I’ve been missing all these years."

12/27/2010 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

In this post you write that something permanane acretes in life.

"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."

You are talking along the lines of the "psychic being" which is au currant in the philosophy of A and the M.

If you eat this sandwhich completely you are not free to roam in the doctrines of the single life.

You should know this...it is the Rubicon. Make up yer mind, Pilgrim.

12/27/2010 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

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."

Outstanding post, Bob's Supraconcious!

Lots to digest, including the comments by my fellow Raccoons.

True joy is not dependent upon material conditions, and true joy lasts, endures, and is not fleeting nor empty like hedonistic ecstacy.

12/27/2010 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie makes a good point about seeking out spiritual experiences, or, to be more concise the feeling one has as a result.

Because joy, serenity, peace, love, etc., should be present no matter how one feels.

Feelings can be addictive, and they ought never be in control of our minds and hearts.
They become addictive when we seek them out rather than growth in God: nous, truth, goodness, beauty, etc..

In essence, seeking out spiritual "highs" is a form of spiritual hedonism.
And this creates a closed heart and mind that cannot grow.
Because it ain't spiritual crack that feeds our minds, hearts and souls, it's God Himself, His presence to us, and within us.

When we have realizations like these
Ordinary Miracles
we gno we're growin'. :^)

12/28/2010 01:00:00 AM  

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