Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Recovering the Point of Your Filmography Before it's Too Late

As I was about to say before I hijacked my own post, our films can get complicated because we obviously can't control all of the action, plus there are numberless other movies taking place simultaneously, with actors wandering on and off our stage. Remember, we aren't just acting in our film, but are probably the costar in others. Indeed, sometimes the whole point of our film may be to support someone else. Think, for example, of John the Baptist, and his important role in the Jesus film.

I think it was Adin Steinsaltz who said it -- here, let me find it -- can't find it at the moment, but it had something to do with how our souls are incomplete, and everyone is walking around with somebody's missing piece. No matter who you are, you are undoubtedly carrying a vital part that may mean nothing to you, but is everything to someone else.

Anyway, our films can get quite convoluted, to the point that they deviate from their original plot. In fact, Mouravieff says that a person most often enters the spiritual path only after his film has gotten out of hand. Therefore, true spiritual evolution "cannot occur except on the basis of the original film -- after all artificially added elements have been eliminated." This would apply not just to misbegotten relationships and activities, but more importantly, the mind parasites that have taken over your production.

This entails a return to what Mouravieff calls the "magnetic center," which we have discussed in the past. Here it is. I'll extract the relevant part. Well, frankly, I'm a bit short on time this morning -- it's Future Leader's fifth birthday -- so I'll toss in some irrelevant bits as well:

It is interesting that the human body bears the permanent mark of its own dependency and incompleteness, and its previous life in another dimension. The human form is so perfect, and yet, no matter how perfect the body, there is always this odd "scar" we all carry right at the very center of our physical being, the reminder of another mode of existence: "I once abided in the infinite, and all I got was this lousy belly button." [And yet, the body wouldn't look quite right without one. As far as I know, even Cher hasn't had her belly button surgically removed or enhanced, but you never know.]

To continue our navelgazing, what does this scar signify? Well, let's see. First, it memorializes our transition from life in a watery medium to life in a gaseous one. In this regard, life during our first nine months couldn't have been more different than life after the dramatic caesura of birth, as Bion called it. And yet, our watery existence is hardly irrelevant to what comes later, as more and more research is documenting the importance of our intrauterine experience and how it "carries over" into the next world, the fetal afterlife, as it were.

Now, in our case, we didn't just treat Future Leader as a human subject from the day of his birth -- with all the dignity and nobility to which any human being is entitled -- but from the day of his conception. I would guess that about a third of modern Western mothers do this, either consciously or unconsciously. The percentage is far lower in non-Western cultures, where children are often not treated with the dignity of an autonomous subject, but instead regarded as possessions, resources, or an extension of kin or cult. For that matter, it is a truism that the most dangerous place in the world for a black person to be -- or liberal, for that matter -- is inside their mother's womb.

Our preparation for extrauterine life takes place under circumstances that are quite different from those that will later prevail. From the vantage point of the fetus, intrauterine life appears to be a "thing unto itself," and yet, it is actually pointing toward something beyond itself. In other words, its reason does not abide in itself, but in a state that will only reveal itself later. The fetus cannot know that its intrauterine existence is actually a preparation for the "big event," which always comes as a bewildering and disorienting shock.

In this regard, our physical birth is not only a transition but a death, as are all births. It is the stark end of one way of life and the beginning of another. The navel is a reminder that we were once directly connected to the source of life, whereas now we must tolerate being separate from it and renegotiate a relationship with it. In fact, one key to early parenting is to try to foster the conditions of intrauterine life in order to ease the transition and make it less traumatic. Even though the baby has left the physical womb, he remains -- or should remain -- in an external one -- a womb with a view -- for some time, so that psychological "hatching" will gradually take place over a number of months.

Following the method of cosmic analogy -- as above, so below -- what can birth tell us about the spiritual life? It is interesting, is it not, that Christianity is so permeated with the archetypal iconography of womb and of birth? "Virgin," "seed," "conception," "born again," "Mother of God," "children of light," etc. Each of these has a deeply resonant archetypal meaning for the spiritual life.

Just like intrauterine life, extrauterine life is not merely a thing-in-itself but a preparation for something else. It too has a trajectory that points to its own end, although that end will come like a thief in the night and no one knows the hour or day. All the more reason not to waste time -- to work while it is Day, for the Night will come when no man can work.

Time is all we have in this life, so to waste time is to forego eternity. The First Thing -- all else pales in significance -- is naturally to avoid being an astral abortion. Odd, but there are abortionists everywhere who will eagerly help you end your earthly pregnancy. Many of them are called "professors."

If you should end your pregnancy, you will usually continue "living" -- occasionally an astral abortion ends in suicide -- but in the manner of a spiritual stillborn or "existentialist" whose existence no longer points beyond itself. For what has specifically been aborted is essence from mere existence -- or the spiritual seed from the womb of time.

While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.

Now, just as our physical body bears the scar of its incompleteness and separation, so too does our soul bear its own version of this. For it also has a "hole" at its center that we may spend our lives trying to deny or fill in inappropriate and ultimately fruitless ways. But the hole is there for a reason. It is actually a theomorphic and theocentric hole, and there is no way to fill it unless one is properly oriented to the source of one's being. We are connected to the source of our being by a vertical channel, or OMbilicus, through which energies pass up and down, in and out -- we call these energies aspiration (↑) and grace (↓) (the latter of which must be in-spired to become operative).

How to find that I-AMbilical cord through which we are spiritually nourished? Everyone is looking for it, and there are countless Spiritual Salesmen who will claim they can sell you one. But each of us must find the path of access that leads to the Way: For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

In other words, He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

We are either in the wilderness or on the path. But once on the path, there is no turning back. One cannot return to the wilderness but must continue pushing onward, inward, and upward. In other words, you cannot be a little bit pregnant: Whoever has put his hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.

As Boris Mouravieff writes, the world is constituted of "A" influences and "B" influences, and it is through the assimilation of the latter that our "psychic center" will grow. There are a number of ways to conceptualize the "A" influences, but let us say that they are horizontal, exterior, and ultimately random, canceling each other out and adding to the sum of zero, or the total entropy of both psychic and physical death. Most men are subject to the rule of the illusory "A" influences, chasing after one or another until falling into the abyss. This is the way of the Exterior Man who dwells in Flatland.

But the interior Coonman orients himself around the esoteric Center from which "B" influences enter the field of life. Unlike the "A" influences, these do not cancel each other out, but are all oriented in the same direction and are actually the only enduring reality. To quote Mouravieff,

"In life, every being is subjected to a sort of competitive test. If he discerns the existence of the 'B' influences; if he acquires a taste for gathering and absorbing them; if he continually aspires to assimilate them better; his mixed inner nature will slowly undergo a certain kind of evolution. And if the efforts which he makes to absorb the 'B' influences are constant and sufficient in force, a magnetic center can be formed within him."

If one is successful in forming this magnetic center, it will not just attract the "B" influences but actually deflect the "A" influences. I hope this is not sounding too esoteric or "gnostic," because it should be a common experience to most Raccoons in some form or fashion. It may be new to Kit Scouts, all the more reason to listen closely to your elders.

I have come to realize that one reason I enjoy blogging first thing in the morning is that I have unwittingly set up a situation in which I shut out virtually all "A" influences and instead attempt to gather and align myself with "B" influences. In so doing, I actually reinforce my own magnetic center, which then stays "strong" for the remainder of the day.

I thought of this yesterday in reading a comment Schuon once made to a disciple, emphasizing that

"What we do in the morning is very important for the whole day; it is good not to quit the morning japa before one is certain that it has determined our being and therefore also our entire day. The brain is a sponge that absorbs the stream of appearances [i.e., 'A' influences]; it is not enough to empty it of the images on which it feeds, one must also satisfy both its need to absorb and its habitual movement.... One must infuse into the mind, as far as it will carry it, a consciousness of the Real [i.e., 'B' influences] and of the unreal; this consciousness will provide the framework for the rest. The world is a multiplicity that disperses and divides; the divine Word... leads back to Unity [and] absorbs the soul and transposes it imperceptibly, by a sort of 'divine stratagem' into the calm and unchanging climate of the Absolute..."

Speaking of Schuon, Mouravieff also writes of the benefit of maintaining contact with those Real Men whose own magnetic center is stronger than ours. This is also the value of spiritual community -- including the Coonosphere -- for what is One Cosmos but a spiritual pediatrician's office in which we can all -- myself included -- talk to the other moms, make sure that we are getting the proper nutrients, and be reassured that everything is proceeding normally in our pregnancy, as we await our voidgin birth?

One of my favorite songs on tracking down that missing cast member:

Monday, April 19, 2010

When God Directs Your Lousy Film

Let's stipulate that our life is a movie. Why do so many movies turn into horror films, or ridiculous kitsch, or boring melodramas, or tedious soap operas, or gothic comedies? Why do we lose control of the plot and forget all about the theme? Or, even worse, why can't we give up the reins and find a good director to take control of the production when it's turning out to be an obvious turkey?

Well, for one thing, we are not only starring in our own movie, but usually costarring in at least one other film. And we are supporting actors in a few additional films, and extras in countless others. Every day we have walk-ons and cameos, and it is even possible for the outcome of another person's whole film to turn on our little cameo. (I am reminded of my own GagDad, who, in every cameo, tried to give the other person a chuckle.)

I have evaluated patients who swear this is true of me, although I generally have no way of confirming it, since I don't see them again (occasionally one has written me a letter confirming the ongoing transformation that began that day). At any rate, I can't tell you how many times a patient has said that the evaluation was a life-changing experience -- even (if they are religious) that providence must have been behind it. (I'm not referring to ongoing psychotherapy, in which the change is much more understandable.)

My response is always the same: that there is an old rabbinical saying to the effect that God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages. Once one is sensitive to this idea, one looks at the bit players who enter one's film in an entirely different way, for each one could be a vertical emissary bearing a critical message!

If you think about it, I'm sure you can remember "chance meetings" on which your life turned on a dime. When this happens, it is always because the person was central in allowing you to find and express a part of yourself -- or perhaps your Self, period. As I have mentioned before, one of the primary tasks of good parenting is to do this for your child -- not to try to make him into some preconceived image, but to help him articulate and develop his true self, whatever it happens to be.

The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas refers to it as finding one's "idiom," or one's unique language for expressing oneself. The bottom line is that we generally must first discover our "inside" on the "outside." At first it may seem as if it is entirely external, but as we grow and assimilate it, we realize that it was actually an externalized aspect of our deepest interior.

Indeed, some readers will undoubtedly have had this experience with the blog. At first it's just a nebulous but nevertheless vivid experience. Let's call it (?!), since its precise nature will vary from individual to individual. It can range from, say, feeling as if someone else is, for the first time, putting one's most intimate but unarticulated thoughts into words, to wanting to throw up, as was the case with Mrs. G. when she first met me in 1983.

Indeed, I can relate to the latter reaction, because this is exactly how I felt about Dennis Prager when I first began listening to him on the radio. At first we agreed on nothing. Not only that, but he really made me angry, which was an indication that something else was going on, since I couldn't stop listening.

Today, probably two decades later, we agree at least 95% of the time, not because he is an external influence, but simply because we are coming from the same "interior place," so to speak -- a place to which he introduced me. In fact, I would say that no one has had a bigger influence on me exoterically. Esoterically it's a different martyr, but the process is identical, i.e., stumbling upon people who were able to articulate my deepest self, and without whom I would never have been able to do so, e.g., Unknown Friend, Schuon, etc.

In this regard, these externalized influences function very much like midwives who assist you in the birth of yourself. The analogy is quite literal, and the metaphor of pregnancy quite apt. At first you might be spiritually barren, or indiscriminately promiscuous, or not interested in having children. Then you unexpectedly become pregnant when a Good Seed randomly falls into your soil. The embryo, at first exceedingly tiny and fragile, slowly grows inside of you. And even after it's born, it will require a lot of extra-youterine care before it can truly stand up on its own and find for itsoph.

Obviously the idiomatic language of the true Self is not limited to the written word. I'm thinking of, for example, Timothy Ware (the future Kallistos Ware), who wandered into an Orthodox church in his late teens, and in a flash, had a deep experience of being "home." Let's see if I can find it.... It's in The Inner Kingdom, an excellent book, by the way.

This is perfect: the title of the chapter is Strange Yet Familiar: My Journey to the Orthodox Church. On the one hand, the journey is "familiar," for what could be more familiar than oneself? And yet, the journey is surpassingly strange, because it touches on providential forces that seem to be behind the outwardly "random" event -- as if one's movie has been temporarily hijacked by God, so to speak.

Ware has a quote at the top of the chapter from a hymn that is sung on Christmas eve: Heaven and earth are united today, which goes directly to the idea of our little movie being aligned with the celestial drama, at least for a moment, the moment of "divine birth" (or, in Eckhart's language, the eternal birth of the Word in the ground of the soul; for this Word, when deployed in time, is very much active, not static, therefore, more like a movie than a photograph).

I'll just quote from the story, and italicize some passages that particularly convey what I'm trying to say: "I can remember exactly when my personal journey to Orthodoxy began. It happened quite unexpectedly one Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1952..." He happened to pass a dilapidated old Gothic church that he had never before noticed, and decided to wander in.

His initial impression was of darkness and emptiness. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he noticed the icons illuminated by flickering candles, a choir singing out of view, and a few other things.

"My initial impression of an absence was now replaced, with a sudden rush, by an overwhelming sense of presence. I felt that the church, so far from being empty, was full -- full of countless unseen worshipers, surrounding me on every side. Intuitively I realized that we, the visible congregation, were part of a much larger whole, and that as we prayed we were being taken up into an action far greater than ourselves, into an undivided, all-embracing celebration that united time and eternity, things below with things above."

Like I said, (?!).

Then, after leaving the church, "I was struck by two things. First, I found that I had no idea how long I had been inside. It might have been only twenty minutes, it might have been two hours; I could not say. I had been existing on a level at which clock-time was unimportant."

He also noticed the external world and sounds of the street, which "engulfed me all at once like a huge wave.... I had been in another world where time and traffic had no meaning; a world that was more real -- I would almost say more solid -- than that of twentieth century London to which I now abruptly returned." (Notice how the ?! is now transposed, so that it is the profane, secular world that shocks, not the spiritual world.)

Despite the fact that this had been a Russian Orthodox church and that he had understood not a word of the service, "as I left the church, I said to myself with a clear sense of conviction: This is where I belong; I have come home."

And here is the money quote, a good place to leave off for today: "Sometimes it happens -- is it not curious? -- that, before we have learnt anything in detail about a person, place or subject, we know with certainty: This is the person I shall love, this is the place where I need to go, this is the subject that, above all others, I must spend my life exploring."


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Laws of Cosmic Attraction and Nausea

For this repost, I've reached waaaay down into the arkive, four years back. It's pretty basic, but perhaps it will be of assistance to newer readers who have a mysterious attraction (or repulsion) to the blog but don't know why.

A few readers have asked me to expand upon my description of the "friendly nonlocal operators who always standing by, ready to assist you."

Contrary to popular belief, the divine does not govern by authority or force, but by attraction. If people would just realize this point, it would clear up a lot of misunderstandings.

For example, yesterday I heard a comment from one of the family members whose spouse died on 9-11. She said something to the effect that "my God died that day," because He didn't intervene to stop the planes from hitting the buildings.

But looked at from the Christian point of view, this is not surprising. After all, a central feature of Christianity -- indeed, it's a little hard to miss -- is that God himself is reduced to a state of powerlessness and is crucified within history. In other words, even God submits to the rules of the universe he made. However, in so doing, he becomes the very strange attractor who draws men toward him.

In fact, in the Christian view, this ultimate case of submitting to history is the very gravitational "center" of history -- it is what history was leading up to, and the luminous point from which all subsequent history flows. It is the mysterious axis around which the very cosmos revolves.

This is in complete contrast to, say, the Muslim god, which is in fact a god of power and force, if not in principle, then certainly in fact. No offense, but it is what it is. Everywhere it has appeared, Islam has been forced upon people through violence and coercion. In the case of Christianity, it spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire, because when people heard the story, they were mysteriously attracted to it. In the case of Islam, it spread because people were attracted to the idea of keeping their head attached to their body.

(Note also that the wrong type of attraction causes Allah to unleash earthquakes.)

According to our Unknown Friend, the worship of power is the source of all idolatry. Thus, let us not pretend that there haven't been Christian idolaters. It's just that the worship of power is a human flaw, not something intrinsic to Christianity. Jesus emphasized this point time and again: "the meek shall inherit the earth," "blessed are the poor in spirit," "turn the other cheek," "blessed are you when they revile and persecute you," etc.

Even Genesis emphasizes this point. At first, Adam lives in spontaneous obedience to the God-attractor. The fall represents an act of willful disobedience -- of turning to another center of attraction represented by the serpent, quintessential ssssymbol of the horizontal.

The difference between "dark magic" and "sacred magic" is that, in the case of the former, the individual attempts to arrogate spiritual powers to himself, whereas in the latter, the individual submits to powers that exceed himself. One is achieved through force of will, the other through purity of will.

Truth, Love, and Beauty cannot be obtained through force. You cannot force someone to love you. Nor, for that matter, can God force you to love him. Why would anyone want to be loved through force, anyway?

In the realm of the vertical, attraction plays the same role as gravity in the horizontal. According to our anonymous friend, "the domain of our freedom itself, our spiritual life, shows the real and active presence of gravitation of a spiritual order. For what is the phenomenon of religion if not the manifestation of spiritual gravitation towards God -- i.e., towards the center of spiritual gravitation of the world?"

He goes on: "Now, the domain of freedom -- the spiritual life -- is found placed between two gravitational fields with two different centers. The Gospel designates them as 'heaven' and 'this world,' or as the 'kingdom of God' and the 'kingdom of the prince of this world.' And it designates those whose will follows or is submitted to the gravitation of 'this world' as 'children of this world,' and those whose will follows the gravitation of 'heaven' as 'children of light.'"

Now, one of the gifts you must cultivate in your spiritual practice is the ability to sense this "spiritual gravity." Just as your body has proprioceptors that help to orient you in physical space, we also possess spiritual receptors that help to orient us in vertical space.

If you develop an inner ear problem, you will become dizzy and disoriented in space, and probably get sick to your stomach as well. Likewise, if you have an inner eye problem, you won't be able to sense the spiritual attractors that allow you to make your way about the vertical, nor will exposure to toxic people such as Obama or Bill Clinton make you vomit (proof once again that some men are unfit to be ex-president). And please recall the importance of knowing when to vomit; it is one of our primary means of eliminating toxins from our body.

Imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if we lacked such organs of spiritual reception. There would literally be no figurative up and down, no high and low, no good and evil, no truth or falsehood. Think: the entire world would be like academia.

One hardly has to imagine this spiritually weightless, topsy-turvy condition. The world is full of horizontal barbarians -- sons of the earth -- who are not oriented around any attractor above their own passions. But they love making destructive and envious raids on the vertical, the only way they know of its existence (just as a barbarian has no idea what is "inside" a book, only that it is a good thing for burning).

An extreme case would be the Nazis, who worshipped a god of pure will, of force, similar to the religious fascists with whom we are presently dealing. In the case of the Islamists, just consider the god to whom they are attracted: it is a purely terrestrial god who promises 72 virgins and other valuable prizes to genocidal mass murders.

Consider their misuse of the word "martyr" as someone who, through the force of his perverse will, murders as many innocent human beings as possible. The Christian -- or Jewish -- martyr (which means "witness," not "suicide bomber") is instead an I-witness of verticality to whom we are drawn by their living testimony -- say, dancing and singing on the way to the lions. Such a person is halfway back to paradise, in that he is fully committed to the vertical reality that is our origin and destiny.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coming to a Planet Near You: The Invasion of the Anthropoid Puppets

I suppose it would be fair to say that most people are living and acting in pornographic films, if we understand pornography more generally as a production devoid of transcendence, irrespective of the subject matter.

For when a human loses contact with transcendence, he is no longer properly human. Or, you could say that a human is the animal that transcends itself. And if a human fails to transcend himself, he inevitably sinks beneath himself. Sorry. Way it is.

Transcendence is like a funnel that opens up from the now. Picture an upside-down triangle, with its point at the now (importantly, there is another triangle below, with its point at the now as well). To transcend is to move up the triangle, where the space is wider and a man can breathe free. It is also of necessity a structured, hierarchical space, but we needn't get into that here. (I kind of like the image at the right, because it implies that the now is actually a kind of hologram created by the ascending and descending tendencies. As one moves up into the transcendent triangle, one can see that the upward-pointing one narrows, which would be the result of the world in general and mind parasites in particular having less influence over oneself.)

When we are trapped in a bad film, it is again as if we are in the meaningless line (the Death Train) or the repetitive circle (Groundhog Day). According to Mouravieff, "esoteric evolution" (let's just say spiritual growth) "is impossible as long as the film can always be considered as turning in the same circle. People who perform in such a film are those we have called anthropoids, puppets, the dead who, in the words of Jesus, 'believe themselves to be alive.'"

But growth into the triangle -- or what a Raccoon calls the colonization of the subjective horizon -- "starts when a man, by his conscious efforts, proves to be capable of breaking the circle and transforming it into an ascending spiral."

Now, before proceeding further, I would like to highlight a most excellent comment made by Magnus Noorwegenkøønen in broad nightlight, which you daytrippers may have missed. Not only is it true, but it is the substance of Truth, and speaks to the ubiquitous availability of nonlocal operators to assist us in our cosmic ascent:

Another amazing effect in spiritual aperture science: When your present expands to give room for a bit of eternity, you begin to get in contact with those who lived in eternity, such as saints or enlightened ones who lived long ago.

When you only have the needle-point now
[think of the upside-down triangle], the words of the eternals either make no sense or some pretty weird sense, but once you are in the same dimension as them, it is almost like they are talking to you face to face. It is just baffling. [No, not really, so long as one remembers that image of the expanding triangle.]

I believe this to be the meaning of Lao-Tzu's cryptic comment "When you are ready, the immortals will find you," and possibly the popular Buddhist saying "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I expect Catholicism to have a similar concept, since it enlists the Christian saints on a regular basis.

You bet it does. In particular, this book I'm reading about Eckhart provides a kind of Meister key for understanding where he's coming from (which is literally noWhere and noTime). I hope to get into it in more detail in a later post, but the author's central insight is that Eckhart cannot be understood -- and can only be misunderstood -- if we attempt to grasp what he is saying outside the transcendent space from where he is transmitting.

(The book is challenging and somewhat repetitive, -- nor have I finished it -- so I can't give it an unqualified raccoomendation, especially for those who are not already somewhat familiar with Eckhart's thought; probably better to begin with McGinn's chapter on Eckhart in his Harvest of Mysticism, and then proceed to his outstanding The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing; the latter is also challenging, but at least it will help you determine whether you are Qualified.)

Put it this way. There are two ways to try to comprehend God, one of which is from man-to-God (↑), the other God-to-man (↓). These modes are quite distinct (though not separate), but in our day, people have tended to lump them together, as if God's communication will not be radically different from ours.

According to (my understanding of) Kelley, Eckhart is always speaking in the (↓) mode, and if we try to understand it in the (↑), we will only miss the whole point (which some unfortunately boneheaded Church authorities did when they decided to investigate him, and which contemporary liberal theologians such as Matthew Fox do when they try to convert him to some sort of Buddhist environmentalist neo-Marxist).

Back to Mouravieff. He says that "The spiral [which is obviously a kind of triangle if looked at in two dimensions] represents an intermediate state between the position where the human Personality is found to be trapped in the film, which revolves mechanically in a way hardly separated from the eternal plane," and one's true individuality (which again must partake of transcendence).

True progression in time -- or "spiritual evolution" -- does not take place until we convert the circle into the spiral, a spiral which never ends, since it begins in time but ascends all the way to eternity, i.e., the timeless. And once one touches the timeless, it is useless to try to understand it in (merely) human terms.

Here again, this is where Eckhart comes in, at least according to Kelley. He makes the same point in many different ways, -- again, the book is repetitive; for example, he quotes John Tauler, one of Eckhart's disciples, who said that

"The wonderful Master spoke of that pure knowledge that knows no form or creaturely way.... He spoke in terms of eternity and you (regrettably) understood [him] in terms of time." (This is clearly the error people make in imagining that Eckhart is not fully orthodox, or that he's some kind of pantheistic liberal wacktivist.)

Think of Jesus, who is the quintessential instance of (↓). Therefore, in order to truly begin to understand him, we cannot do so from the standpoint of (↑). Rather, in order to "imitate him," -- or conform to his Truth -- we too must enter the "descending" mode of (↓). The meek shall inherit the earth, the wisdom of God is folly to the world, become as little children, seek ye first the Kingdom of Slack, shunyada yada yada.

Now, having said that, it is by no means easy to do this. Eckhart is clearly not for everyone. But if one has the calling for this particular path, then, as Kelley says, "it opens up truly unlimited possibilities of insight." One reason for this is that Eckhart does not arbitrarily stop at this or that particular knowledge -- as every lesser theology, philosophy, or ideology must do -- but at knowledge (or Truth) itself, which is unlimited by any human constraint, for it is the Truth of truth, the Experience of experience, the Subject of subjectivity, the Is of every it and the I of every am.

To be continued....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting the Puck Out of the Way and Collaborating with God On the Movie of Your Life

Continuing with this idea of life as a movie, commenter Lance wants to know who wrote his particular screenplay. Did he write it? Did he collaborate with God? Is it written by the world around him -- which would be equivalent to fate and contingency? If the Darwinians are correct, it is written by the genes. But who wrote the genes? If Shenk is correct, we play much larger role in shaping our genetic expression than previously thought (and either Shenk is right or Toots Mondello is wrong, a doctrinal impossibility and intrinsic absurdity).

This is a rather large subject to tackle with my remaining 50 minutes of blogtime. Some might say that it's best if one manages to write one's own screenplay, but if that happens, it's usually a tragedy, because it really means that it was written by the ego, and the ego did not write (create) itself.

Rather, the ego is a portion of externalized subjectivity adapted to the external (i.e., family, culture and historical circumstance) and internal world. Even worse, it is possible -- if not likely -- for mind parasites to have a covert hand in writing the screenplay, if not dominating the whole process.

As for God's role in the process, I'm tempted to revisit Balthasar's five volume Theo-Drama, but I don't have time to skim through 2000 pages.

There are answers to all the above questions, but for now let's just get back to what Mouravieff has to say on the subject, since he's the one who got us into it. He says that "Each human being, then, is born with his own particular film. This represents the field of action in which man is called to apply his conscious efforts."

And "For reasons we have already mentioned, exterior man, who lives in the system of Future-Past [i.e., the temporal line], cannot embrace in a single moment the ensemble of his film, nor even the part that contains his immediate future."

Which is why so many people can't appreciate the elementary truth that if they continue on their present course, they're likely to end up where they're headed.

Again, the reason for this is that the exterior man is so affixed to the present moment; and the more exterior, the more fixed (e.g., single issue activists, MSM journalists, political "junkies," anyone who loses perspective and histrionically elevates the present moment well beyond its importance). More ominously, just like the stage magician, the Conspiracy encourages you to rivet your attention on the present moment ("misdirection"), so that it may perform its sinister magic outside your narrow gaze.

Remember, the now is everything. But for that reason, it can also be nothing. In other words, properly understood, it is a prolongation of eternity, our one and only access to O. Improperly understood -- i.e., horizontally and externally -- it is just a kind of fleeting nothing between two nowheres, like the commercial between two TV programs.

In any event, in order to begin seeing the film, one must "enlarge the slot of [the] Present." The first thing that comes to mind is the great athlete who is able to seemingly slow down the game in order to see and do things other athletes can't. Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Ted Williams -- all could open up seams in time in order to slow down events and then freely move around in the resultant slot. Perhaps you have to be a sports fan -- better yet, an athlete -- to understand how literal this is.

For example, I remember when I tried out for the high school basketball team. I was a very good player, but I was accustomed to playing by myself in the driveway, or one-on-one with friends, or HORSE, etc.

The first time I was inserted into an actual five-on-five, full court game, it was literally overwhelming, since I was indeed in the now, but there were so many things -- and potential things -- happening in the now, that I was mentally paralyzed. And it was all happening waaaay too fast.

It very much reminds me of jazz, in which the soloist is faced in each moment with an infinite field of possibilities that he must also instantaneously coordinate with the harmonic structure of the composition and with his fellow players. And no wonder why so many of those guys liked heroin, because few things are as effective in slowing down time. (Of course, Raccoons are content with our own Beer O'clock slackrament in order to dilate time.)

Baseball was much less of a problem for me, because there things more or less happen one at a time. Plus, I was a pitcher, so I could control the tempo myself. I never played organized football, but there too, most of the players have a very narrow responsibility on each play, and don't have to deal with the whole game, just the opponent immediately in front of them. But imagine how much the quarterback or running back have to slow things down in order to grasp what's going on and make and execute good decisions.

Interesting: Mouravieff says that if one is successful in widening the slot of the immediate present, it is as if a bit of the future slips in. This again makes sense to me in the context of sports; I think of Gretzky, who could pass the puck to places he just knew a teammate would be (and before the teammate knew it). Likewise, some goalies (Dominik Hasek comes to mind) just have a freakish ability to react to a shot an instant before the opposing player hits the puck.

Now, as long as a man lives in what Mouravieff calls the wilderness, his film "will unfold with mechanical inflexibility, and the Personality will remain entirely unchanged." To be truly "born again" signifies the move toward genuine individuality, which, of course, implies an original film: "By acquiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit appropriate to his nature, he progressively participates in real, objective existence, which finally characterizes his being. This is Salvation; liberation from the bonds of the film."

Importantly, unless one is liberated from this mechanical film, one cannot accomplish one's cosmic mission, being that one's real mission could only be a reflection of the true self. In other words, one's mission might be thought of as the horizontal prolongation of the true self within the field of time. Interestingly, this is reflected in something Paul said, (referenced by Mouravieff) in Romans 28-29:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom he foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

In other words, to address Lance's question, the second birth has much to do with abandoning the effort to write one's own script, and to begin collaborating with God. A Raccoon simply calls it O-->(¶).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Everybody's in Show Biz

From photography to cinematography. Mouravieff says that "Incomprehensible as it may seem, our life is truly a film produced in accordance with a script."

Okay, I'll bite. I mean, I live in a place where not only is everyone in a film, but everyone from my pool man to my Egyptian cabana boy is trying to sell a screenplay. Continue.

"Each human being then, is born with his own particular film" (italics not mine; Mouravieff just really likes to use them). Now, what he calls the exterior man (analogous to what Raccoons would call a Flatlander), because he lives his life in the two-dimensional line between past, present, and future, can never really be a witness to his own film.

Of course, this is my bag, since this touches on the task of the clinical psychologist, which is to discern the plot, recurring themes, conflicts, and major players in the patient's film, and share our film review with him. No thumbs for you!

This is why, as I have explained in the past, it turned out to be such a natural transition for me to go straight from film school to graduate school in psychology. Although I did not know it at the time -- for I was only just starting to critique -- and pan -- my own film, I was ultimately destined to be a film critic.

And of course, the sicker the patient, the worse the movie. Wait, I take that back. The sickest patients tend to live out films that are reminiscent of being in a funhouse. Everything about their lives takes on a kooky, surreal cast, which at times is hard to believe, for how can such weird or horrible things keep happening over and over to the same person?

I think it's just a matter of the person's exterior matching the interior, as every day, on a moment-by-moment basis, they are making choices and decisions based upon their own lack of a center, hence the failure to understand the film they're in and the role they're playing. In short, they create a surreal world because they themselves are one.

For example, what type of person marries Larry King? Or, just what kind of person does Larry King think would be willing to marry a decrepit ATM machine?

Schuon said something very interesting about the centerless man, who, by definition, cannot understand his own film, because it will appear so random, chaotic, or meaningless. Such people always ask why did this happen to me?, when they are precisely the type of people about whom it is unnecessary to ask that particular question. Imagine O.J., for example, sitting in his jail cell, asking Why me, Lord? Let us count the ways!

Anyway, in the aptly titled To Have a Center, Schuon discusses the type of people who live "on the fringe of themselves" and who therefore "give their blood to phantoms." The lives of such men will inevitably fall into a multitude of shifting "superficial idolatries" and "blind alleys leading to despair." Or, they will spend their lives trying to prop up the old idols or find newer and more exciting ones.

Such a person is immersed and dispersed in the impotent field of his own scattered subjectivity, and therefore "at the antipodes of the 'one thing needful.'" This is also why you are wasting your time arguing with such a centerless people, who have no knowledge of the dreary films they're living out. If such a person happens to be in the creative arts, their work generally "amounts to inventing aberrant stories in order to prove that two and two make five..." Michael Moore comes to mind. And if they are in politics or the media, their task amounts to convincing you that wrong is right and lies are truth. Michael Moore comes to mind.

A major problem for our culture is that, because its values are inverted, we often elevate the lowest caste to the highest -- hence, the production of a type of art that not only holds no appeal, but is disturbing to anyone who is remotely awake. The vile man not only likes such things, but is attracted to them precisely because they mirror his own disordered interior and therefore legitimize his sordid existence. People need Light, but if they can't see it, they will demand vivid Darkness instead (ironically, they call it "realism"). Gravity takes care of the rest.

The lowest caste, the chandala is characterized by a "decentralized subjectivity, centrifugal and without recognized limits" (one thinks of Tiger Woods). But in a deteriorating culture such as ours, the outcast becomes the in caste, the one everyone aspires to, for he seems the most "free." The centerless losers envy and idealize fellow losers such as Tiger Woods, just because the latter has the resources to live out the dreams and fantasies of his cosmic loserhood.

Of course, a centerless man appears "free," since he has broken free of his own -- and therefore God's -- axis. But the freedom is only illusory, for one only plunges into the waiting jaws of individual, collective, and cosmic mind parasites.

In a memorable passage, Schuon describes the man who exhibits "a tendency to realize those psychological possibilities that are excluded for others; hence his proneness to transgression; he finds his satisfaction in what others reject" and "exhausts those possibilities which no one else is willing to touch."

Such a person may be "capable of 'everything and nothing.'" I think of someone, for example, like John Lennon, who, if he had not been successful in music, would have likely ended up in jail or worse. He was completely ungovernable, least of all by himself. And yet, this is hardly to say that he was without talent. Indeed, as Schuon goes on to say, such a person may even be "protean if he is gifted," but in my experience, the productivity is short-lived before becoming repetitive, exhausted, or trite -- as indeed occurred with Lennon.

Another fascinating observation by Schuon is that, through the law of inverse analogy, such a person can actually resemble certain saints, and can you think of a celebrity who was more sanctified by the boomer generation than John Lennon? I well understand the impulse, because I happen to be one of those people who venerated him in my youth, as if he had anything useful or important to say beyond rock on! Which is not nothing. I still listen to his immortal version of Twist and Shout on a regular basis.

Still, a little perspective is needed in order to place the legitimate urge to rock in the proper context. It cannot be a way of life, or one ends up at the farthest fringes of the cosmos, like Bruce Springsteen or Courtney Love. Fortunately, most of these people also live in gated communities, which at least affords us a little protection from them.

Oops. Out of time. To be continued....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Swingin' Affair With God

While we're discussing Boris Mouravieff, I should point out for those unfamiliar with the name that he was an Orthodox Christian with a Gurdjieff-Ouspenskian (Fourth Way) slant, somewhat similar to how Unknown Friend is a Catholic with a hermetic slant.

As it so happens, I first bumped into both gentlemen in the same book, Inner Christianity, the latter of which also led to Robin Amis' A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought. It is fair to say that all of these books were central in helping me to get over my Jesus willies once and for all, being that they present Christianity in terms a Raccoon can sink his mischievous claws into.

Not to say that I agree with everything Mouravieff has to say. To the contrary, much of what he says strikes me as overly occult, gnostic (in the pejorative sense), and frankly unOrthodox. He maintains that he was not copying Ouspensky or Gurdjieff, but that he was dealing with the original sources found in esoteric Christianity, of which Gurdjieff's work was a partial reconstruction and sometimes fabrication.

Either way, when people start talking about "secret knowledge," it's time to hold onto your wallet. Yes, there is secret knowledge, but there is no real need to hide it from others (elementary discretion and propriety notwithstanding), since the secret is quite capable of protecting itself from the unworthy.

It is no more secret than, say, quantum physics, which is available to any intellectually qualified and sincerely motivated individual. You don't have to hide quantum physics to keep it secret. Indeed, promiscuously disseminating it in the manner of a Deepak to people with skulls full of mush involves the grossest distortions imaginable (on both ends of the exchange; in reality, Deepak is just propagating his own mind parasites in a worldwide jerk circle).

Look at me, for example. When I write an over-the-top political hit piece, I get three or four times the traffic. But newcomers almost never return more than once, because the very next post will likely be full of openly secret knowledge which is of no use to them. It is either inaccessible, an affront to their existing faith (or lack thereof), or just too kooky to be of any practical use. In reality, it's just another routine instance of the kosher pearls protecting themselves from the pork people (the porcinners!).

Regarding Mouravieff's unorthodoxy, Schuon once made a very important point about people's spiritual experiences. He of course had had many such experiences, but he did not wish for them to be the source of any doctrine. Rather, he wanted Truth to stand on its own merits, and to be understandable and independently verifiable within the awakened intellect (hence, to be universal). He would never dream of saying, for example, "I had a vision of the Virgin Mary (which he did), therefore she is real."

Rather, he maintained that "if one wants to impart mystical certitude to another, the import or message should be capable of being coherently expressed" (Fitzgerald). Along these lines, Fitzgerald quotes a poem by Schuon (translated from the original German):

You may often keep silent about a certitude, / But if you wish to impart it, you must support it / With clear logic; for those who hear you / Want to see a meaning in what you are saying. / You must not say: I am certain of this -- / And then withdraw in proud obscurity. / Finally: what is of no use to anyone, / You are not obliged to preach in the streets.

Not only that, but all of the traditions agree that it is a breach of spiritual protocol to blab on about one's experiences to any- and everyone. Such experiences (?!) always have an aura of sanctity that makes one circumspect about sharing them with the unwashed bipedal primates.

Rather, Fitzgerald quotes another student who recalled Schuon saying words to the effect that "When a man experiences a spiritual state or favor, or when he has a vision or audition, he must never desire this to happen again; and above all he must not base his spiritual life on such a phenomenon, nor imagine that the happening has conferred on him any kind of eminence. The only important thing is to practice what takes us nearer to God..."

In short, (?!) is, yes, a gift, but even more fundamentally, it is a sacred obligation, for ultimately you are obliged to follow it back up to its source and to conform your life to the conditions that make the grace flow more readily (which primarily include Virtue, Truth, and Beauty).

For this reason, Schuon insisted that his "message" was contained in his books only, not in his peripheral function as a spiritual master for a particular group. The latter function was not unimportant, but it was nevertheless a prolongation of the former, not his central concern or legacy to the world.

But as it so happens -- at least for me -- Schuon's books are jam-packed with his barakah, or spiritual perfume, or transformative grace, or sanctified mojo, or just plain (↓), for which they are the occasion, not the cause. (↓) courses through his words, not from them.

Of this I am quite certain, but my certainty is of no use to another, except perhaps as a suggestion to try my brand and see for yourself.

Analogously, I am equally certain that Frank Sinatra is the greatest pop singer who ever lived, -- for it would be an absurdity and intrinsic error to believe otherwise -- but here again, this means nothing to the person who's never even listened to A Swingin' Affair and heard the musical truth with his own ears.

I am also quite sure that I am the only person who has ever placed Frank Sinatra and Frithjof Schuon -- and for that matter, Ferrell "Pharoah" Sanders, another favorite F.S. of mine -- in the same paragraph. And that the Shaykh would be none too pleased about it.

Now, back to Mouravieff. Nah, it's too late. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Seven Dimensional Analogue Photography

I see that much of this post may be obscure to those who haven't read the book of the sane gnome. I'm not trying to cloak my woolymindedness in an toxic haze of seductive mystagoguery, a la Deepak and the rest.

Rather, I'm pressed for time and have to run, so I can't necessarily flesh things out as much as I'd like. But I'm quite certain that at least one of you will understand what I'm talking about. Alternatively, you can think of the post as an unsaturated memo that you can use to arrive at your very own meme of O. (Also any gifted shutterbugs out there such as Robin may feel free to correct and clarify my metaphor and explain what I was actually trying to say.)

Continuing where we lifted off yesterday with Mouravieff's discussion of the additional dimensions of time, we spoke a few days ago of how the line of time pierces the plane of all-possibility and becomes realized in the now.

To put it another way, the now is not strictly speaking in time, but is actually a "portion (or prolongation) of eternity," so to speak. In this regard, Plato was quite correct in characterizing time as the moving image of eternity. I can't think of a more literal description.

This is why eternity is always -- and only -- accessible in the now, for the now is like an ever-present rabbit hole back to the Source. Your personal f-stop accounts for how much Light you allow into your aperture in any given moment. Obviously, the wider the aperture and the lower the f-stop, the more light.

But also bear in mind that this aperture is a two-way street, if you will forgive the mixed metaphor.

For example, if one is in the presence of a person with a particularly wide aperture (or low f-stop), one will be aware of the Light that emanates from him (just as he permits more Light into himself). This two-way camera eye is precisely what Eckhart was talking about when he said that "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me." Like Plato, he was being quite literal. And Eckhart was a great photographer, to put it mildly.

In other words, there is only the one Eye, but everyone's personal camera is adjusted differently. Some have such a narrow aperture or fast f-stop that they might as well live in the dark, while others are so wide that they over-expose the world, which can result in actually devaluing it.

Was that clear? There are mystics, for example, who are exposed to so much Light that they can't take a good pneumagraph of this world, and therefore cannot appreciate its beauty and its value. f-stops are important. Too slow, and and you can only take pictures of God. And it's the same picture over and over, just a white blur.

A big part of the spiritual path involves slowing down one's shutter speed in order to allow more of the now in; which, practically speaking, is to dilate time -- and which is none other than Slack.

Moving right along, "As for the sixth dimension, this is the Time of the Universe; due to its volume it not only contains the possible, but the accomplishment of all the possibilities of each moment -- a complete cycle of all the lines of Time."

"Lastly, there exists a seventh dimension which is a dot; a dot situated at the same time in both Space and Time."

"Line of Time; Eternity; and All; these are the terms of our current language which correspond to the fourth, fifth, and sixth dimension. The term Zero corresponds to the seventh and last dimension, which should perhaps be considered as the pre-initial dimension."

I would prefer to say that the sixth and penultimate dimension is •, while the seventh is O. Put them together and you get ʘ, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Dot and circle. At first glance these would appear to be opposites, but upon deeper consideration you can see that the dot is simultaneously zero-dimensional and all-dimensional, in that an infinite number of lines may pass through it. Likewise, O can be thought of as possessing zero dimensions from within itself, as all things are simultaneously co-present within it.

Thus, to become ʘ means to establish a harmony between the dot and the sphere, so that the unthinkable plenum of O may deploy itself in time and be read out from moment to moment.

Note also what Mouravieff says about the Zero (O) being both the last dimension and the pre-initial one. This is why my book both begins and ends with that big fat nothing that is simultaneously everything. To us it is nothing unless we learn how to approach and assimilate it. Then it is everything; or, everything emanates and returns to it via the round-trip of the human station. God pours himself into the cosmos in general and human beings in particular, and our task, if you will, is to return the favor by returning each moment to its rightful Owner.

The notion of Zero plays a large role in esoteric philosophy. It is not the void. It is the seed and the end, the Alpha and Omega of all that exists. --Boris Mouravieff

Children are still so close to the Source, that it's difficult to miss the brightness. And they always give back more light than they receive:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great God Almighty, I'm Free at Last! Now, Who Stole My Chains?!

This will be a short post, just to get us started. It's an early day, and I gotta get out of here.

Here is the full text of what Mouravieff says about the higher dimensions of time:

"For the moment, it will be sufficent to say that Time possesses not one but three dimensions, and that these dimensions are strictly analogous to those of Space."

Okay, I'm with you so far: in Euclidian space there is line, plane, and sphere. This must mean that there are analogies to these three in Time. Please continue.

"We shall limit ourselves to saying that we know that the waking consciousness, that of the 'I' of the personality is extremely relative and is able neither to grasp nor directly observe these two higher dimensions of Time, nor their effects."

Rather, the local ego, or what a I prefer to call (•), "confuses them with the fourth dimension, in a single perception of the ensemble which is the Line of Time."

In other words, dimensions Five and Six get lumped in with Four, which is reminiscent of Bion's "attacks on linking," which I have described as a kind of "dimensional defense," in that the primitive mind is easily able to render null and void meanings that only exist in a higher dimension by fleeing into a lower one.

This is what unifies psychological defense mechanisms as diverse as regression, splitting, denial, and acting out, in that each of these, in its own way, is analogous to seeking refuge in the Circle for fear of what lurks in the Sphere.

Or, as in the case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), one might flee the Circle for the Line. With OCD, the person's existence is quite literally reduced to a line in which they go back and forth between anxiety and its temporary dissipation in the ritual of the obsession or compulsion. Thus, it is actually a kind of circular line, but a line nonetheless, as one always ends up back where one started -- A to B and then back to A.

But this also renders a kind of false eternity, doesn't it, perhaps analogous to the hell of Nietzsche's eternal return? For at the ground floor of all human striving -- including of course intellectual striving -- is the desire to know the Absolute, i.e., God or O.

Now, one easy -- and all too human -- way to do this is to reduce the Absolute to something more manageable, by, say, washing one's hands hundreds of times a day, or devoting one's life to a political candidate in the belief that he will change one's existence, or placing one's faith in a two-dimensional scientific theory such as Darwinism in the belief that this linear scheme explains the Sphere.

Perhaps a clinical example will better explain my meaning. Not too long ago I evaluated a person who was crippled by a lifelong case of OCD. In fact, the OCD had been present for so long that for him it was normative. He knew no other way of existing. Furthermore, his obsessions and compulsions -- his various physical and mental rituals -- gave him comfort in the same way that one can obtain comfort from food, or sex, or companionship, or a scientific theory, or God, whatever.

This individual eventually became depressed, which is inevitable, since OCD is originally put in place to protect a vulnerable self, but ends up depriving the self of what it needs to survive and grow. In other words, the person's life revolves around his rituals, so that he cannot metabolize sufficient Love, Truth, and Beauty to remain intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

Anyway, this person ended up being prescribed an SSRI for his depression, but it had the added benefit of eliminating the OCD (which his doctor hadn't even known about, since the patient didn't see it as a "problem" and therefore hadn't even mentioned it).

Long story short, he ended up discontinuing the SSRI because he missed his OCD. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that he was literally lost without his rituals, in the sense that he was now naked in the infinite Sphere without so much as a figleaf of compulsiveness to help him cling to the finite line. He was suddenly "free," but for him, this actually meant terror -- quite literal terror, Pascal's eternal silence of these infinite space -- as he was now face-to-face with the very reality which his OCD had been implemented to protect him from in the first place!

Now, could we make a gratuitous comment about how this is analogous to what the leftist -- I mean the true believer, not merely the clueless Democrat -- does with the terror of his God-given political freedom?

For what is the Nanny State but a gargantuan two-dimensional plane that we should all cling to in order to protect us from the infinite Sphere of Life?

And what are all of the thousands of useless laws and agencies they put in place, but a kind of collective OCD, in which we always end up back where we started? In other words, trillions of wasted dollars later, we have the same poverty, the same violence, the same stupidity. The same Mankind, frankly, only worse for the systematic neglect of man's true nature.

And the leftist does not wish to be cured, any more than the above patient did. For to be cured is to realize that one's life has been wasted in meaningless rituals. And that's a depressing thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On the Cosmic Inevitability of Boneheadedness and Butt Ugliness

Little chaotic around here. Gardener putting in new sod yesterday put his pick through the water main called his cousin "the plumber" who was here until midnight working on the problem still not fixed yada yada yada.

In short, no time for a new post. Instead, a slacktory refurbished and fully guaranteed old one.

Who, looking at the universe, would be so feeble-minded as not to believe that God is all in all; that he clothes himself with the universe, and at the same time contains it and dwells in it? --Gregory of Nyssa

To say that one believes in the self-evident truth -- and it is self-evident to the Self -- of "intelligent design" is really to say that one believes in intelligence, especially human intelligence. For intelligence is less than nothing if it cannot know truth, and no random shuffling of Darwinian evolution could result in truth-bearing animals. Please.

Rather, because the cosmos is logoistic, we should never be surprised to find traces of intelligence on the one hand, and truth on the other, wherever we look -- or, in other words, in the objects we perceive and in the subjects to whom they are intelligible.

The absurdity of neo-Darwinism -- and it is an absurdity to the interior Self, not necessarily to the externalized ego -- posits an absolute contingency capable of knowing absolute truth about itself. If it can do that, then it is no longer merely contingent, but participates in a transcendent absoluteness for which it can never account. Obviously there is relative truth in natural selection -- only a false absolutist could insist otherwise -- but surely not absolute truth.

Instead of "intelligent design," one might just as well say "beautiful design." For example, underneath the temporal flux of the cosmos, we apprehend those beautiful and elegant mathematical structures that seem to abide in a sempiternal platonic realm of their own.

Or so we have heard from the wise. We only got up to trigonometry, in which we received a gentleman's D, in part because we were distracted by the more beautiful Susie Campbell in the next desk. Still, although we did not know it at the time, the geometry of her form revealed something essential about our cosmos.

Yes, ugliness -- even butt ugliness -- "must needs be," but we can only know it because it is a privation. Only in the postmodern world "has ugliness become something like a norm or principle; in this case, beauty appears as a specialty, even a luxury" (Schuon). But this ugliness is merely an exteriorization of the tawdry souls who produce it, e.g., {insert contemporary example}. It requires no talent, since it takes none to produce ugliness and barbarism.

Rather, it requires the exertion of will to arrest and reverse the entropic movement away from beauty. To put it another way, some butts are quite beautiful. Still, if it is a full time job just to be beautiful, then your life is clearly out of balance. ($2302.29 per day on one's hair? I'm not sure if I've spent that much in my life.)

It seems that our decline into the postmodern cult of ugliness began at the other end, with the aesthetic movement of "art for art's sake." But this was an aesthetics cut off from its transcendent source. Once that happened, then gravity took care of the rest, and down we went on a wilde ride to the bottom. Idolatry of the beautiful is still idolatry, which is why the modern art museum became a kind of church for irreligious sophisticates. It is also why so much modern art is ultimately "empty," because it has been drained of any transcendent reference. In the absence of transcendence, all art is merely decoration on our prison walls.

Art is obviously a form; but the form must skillfully convey something of the nonformal; it is the real presence of the infinite captured within, or radiating through, the finite. Schuon wrote that "beauty is the mirror of happiness [I would say delight] and truth." Without the element of delight, "there remains only the bare form," and without the element of truth, "there remains only an entirely subjective enjoyment -- a luxury." Then we are stuck with a decadent aestheticism instead of aesthetics, which is as desiccated intellectualism is to the ever-moist and chewy intellect, just a meretricious counterfate worse than death.

In this regard, to say that there are no objective standards of aesthetic value is to insist (to paraphrase Schuon) that myopia and blindness are merely different ways of seeing instead of "defects of vision." Stupidity is not just another form of intelligence.

So why should we call formal ugliness art, especially when it aids and abets the hijacking of man's spirit down and away from its source? This is a quintessential form of demonism, of black magic, a "revolt of the darkness." Obviously it doesn't "elevate," since the broken elevator of the postmodern mind can never ascend from the ground floor to begin with. But curiously, it can nevertheless descend. It can do this because this is where they locate the "real," in matter. And this is why their vision is so hellish.

Now, what does this all have to do with the human body? Again, man is said to have been created the image and likeness of the Creator. It is the Raccoon position that we will therefore find traces of this deiformity in both our subjectivity (e.g., our capacity to know truth, to will the good, and to love beauty), but also in our material form.

This is not a new idea, but an archetypal one that belongs to the religio perennis, or the Religion of which religion is an expression. As the Orthodox Christian Olivier Clement writes, "There is no culture or religion that has not received and does not express a 'visitation of the Word.'" For "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17).

Quoting from Manly Hall's sometimes kooky, sometimes helpful Secret Teachings of All Ages, he writes that "The oldest, most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body. The Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and Hindus considered philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an indispensable part of ethical and religious training."

In this approach, "the laws, elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution," so that "everything which existed outside of man had its analogue within man." An outgrowth of this was the notion that God is a "Grand Man," while man is a "little god." Thus, "the greater universe was termed the Macrocosm -- the Great World or Body," while man's body, "the individual human universe, was termed the Microcosm." As above, so below. Placed in this context, the idea that "the Word has become flesh" is perfectly comprehensible, even inevitable, given the nature of the Sovereign Good.

And in fact, even the secular scientist believes in this ancient formulation after his own fashion. To cite one obvious example, how is it that human beings are uniquely privileged to have access to the abstract formal system that rules the heavens? In other words, the quantum cosmologist "contains" the cosmos just as surely as it contains him.

But this is what the Christian has always believed; it is the materialist who cannot account for this mystery: "Understand that you have within yourself, upon a small scale, a second universe" (Origen). "Man, this major world in miniature, is a unified abridgment of all that exists, and the crowning of divine works" (St. Gregory of Palamas). "Man is the microcosm in the strictest sense of the word. He is the summary of all existence" (John Scottus Erigena). "All things in Heaven above, and Earth beneath, meet in the Constitution of each individual" (Peter Sterry).

You will often hear reductionistic Darwinians refute design with reference to certain "ugly" realities in the world, say, the mosquito, or man's windpipe being too close to the esophagus, or Keith Olbermann's wide ass and ferret-like eyes. And yet, such quibbles actually "praise God," being that there is an implicit recognition or "recollection" of perfection in apprehending its abence.

But again, the manifestation is not the Principle, otherwise the world would be God. Nevertheless, as Schuon points out, "the world is fundamentally made of beauty, not ugliness.... and [it] could not contain ugliness if it did not contain a priori far more beauty." Likewise, contingency and randomness necessarily exist, but they are ultimately harnessed by a higher ordering principle to achieve newer and deeper syntheses. There is no metabolism without catabolism.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit of God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.... Thus, to contemplate the smallest object is to experience the Trinity: the very being of the object takes us back to the Father; the meaning it expresses, its logos, speaks to us of the Logos; its growth to fullness and beauty reveals the Breath, the Life-giver." --Olivier Clement

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time, History, Apocalypse, and Buggery

I think we have time for a Saturday bonus post on the topic of those additional cosmic dimensions. At this juncture I am prepared to affirm without hesitation that there are seven cosmic dimensions in all, based upon sneaking suspicions, revealed hunches, hand-selected evidence, and some scattered notes scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin by a certain disembodied household gnome.

Now, we all know about the first three dimensions. Throw in time, and that makes four. But time itself -- i.e., the time of physics -- is mere quantitative duration, with no qualities or substance at all. Therefore, I think that profane history begins to touch on the fifth dimension, since it attempts to reveal a kind of unity -- or at least interconnectedness -- beneath the flux of seemingly disconnected events.

For example: 313, 476, 1066, 1492, 1620, 1776, 1865, 1914, 1917, 1929, 1939, 1945. This is not just a random list of numbers, but a random list of dates that everyone would agree are of world-historical importance. These are dates that every schoolboy once knew (but which college students probably no longer know) -- even a cloud-hidden lad as distracted as I was. In my case, I was much more concerned with baseballically sacred numbers such as 714, 56, 382, 61, 1.12, etc.

In any event, not all dates are created equal. If they were, then the practice of history would be impossible, for there would be no way to determine what in time is "important." History doesn't end, but begins, with the selection of what properly belongs to this higher -- which is to say, transcendent -- dimension we call History (which I will capitalize in order to distinguish it from the mere existence of a past).

But why is anything in time important, being that in the long run we're all dead? Again, this goes to intuitions about the very purpose of human existence, a purpose which must by definition be transcendent if it is to be a purpose at all. In other words, to say "purpose" is to have lifted oneself from the raw facts of time, even if one's purpose is totally whack, as in the case of the left.

Now, since we in the Judeo-Christian West are so embedded in a certain view of history, most people don't notice how odd it is to be situated in this kind of time. But no primitive culture knew of history. They still had time, of course, but their lives were primarily spatial, not temporal. That is to say, they were rooted in a timeless archetype which provided the culture with its sufficient reason. Time was regarded in wholly degenerative terms, as a kind of entropic flow away from the source -- very much like the physical aging that inevitably ends in death. Although I'm working on that.

Therefore, the sacred rituals of primitive cultures all had to do with arresting time and undoing its corrosive effects, in order to bring the culture back to its pure spatial archetype -- like a collective case of OCD. Usually this required a volunteer from the audience in order to engage in a little human sacrifice. True, the volunteer had to be led kicking and screaming to receive their honor, but this at least added a little drama to their otherwise monotonous lives. It also conferred a temporary unity on the culture; or, to be precise, unanimity minus one. See Bailie for details.

By the way, this obviously touches on one of my core disagreements with Schuon, who venerated these primordial cultures. In my case, I do not condemn them, for it would be absurd to apply Christian ethics to a pre-Christian world that was simply doing the best it could with the available materials. The fact that all primitive groups engaged in animal or human sacrifice (cf. Burkert's Homo Necans) must mean that it was effective in accomplishing what it was supposed to accomplish, and that failing to engage in it was actually the more destructive option, since it would have meant dissolution of the culture. And man needs culture in order to be man, otherwise he is just another animal.

Now, where was it.... One of our Raccoon Fathers speaks of the different temporal dimensions.... Here it is, letter XX of Meditations on the Tarot, if that's the one I'm looking for. Let's see. He discusses...

Hey, wait a minute. I don't have to reinvent this wheel of karma. I can just review my previous commentary on MOTT, which we did back in 2008. Here it is.

Well, that was a waste of five precious minutes. What a copout!

Besides, that's not the schematic I was looking for.

Wait -- this might be it -- chapter XII of Mouravieff's Gnosis. He's a man that wasn't afraid to speculate. Nevertheless, much of his speculation has the intuitive ring of truth, such as "All that exists in Time, until the day when the Seventh Trumpet will sound to announce that the work undertaken by the Absolute has been achieved (sic). Then the Kingdom of the World will become that of God and his Christ, the Alpha and Omega of manifestation."

This accords with my own intuition about what we might call the "seventh dimension" of existence, in which the "heavenly kingdom" is currently under construction, so to speak (but don't quote me on that).

Later in the chapter (p. 125), Mouravieff discusses the three dimensions of time. It first appears as a simple line between future and past. Again, this would correspond to the pre-historical time alluded to above.

I'll just quote what he says next: "The fifth dimension represents the geometrical locus of all the possibilities of a given moment, of which only one is realized in Time -- while all the others remain unrealized." Now, the first thing that occurs to me is again the work of the historian, which would not be possible if time were not pregnant with different possibilities.

For if time were linear or mechanistic, then it would be absurd to say that any time was more important than another, or that any choice was more significant than another.

Also, this would be much closer to the Muslim view of each moment of time being directly caused by Allah, with no intermediate realities or human contribution. Rather, the "book of history" is already written, which goes to the dialectic between Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia, if you were paying attention.

For Prince Ali, history is already written, whereas for Lawrence, the book of history is largely dependent upon man's free choices. There is one point in the film when Lawrence succumbs to the temptation of imagining that he is not subject to the vagaries of time, which ultimately results in his getting buggered by a Turkish general. So let that be a lesson to you.

Mouravieff compares the fifth dimension to a kind of temporal plane of possibilities that is "pierced" by a single line of time, which transforms it from potential to actual. Kind of reminds us of the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics; or, of the flow of O which can result in only one explicate manifestation at a time. Or of art, which is the attempt to convey the boundless within boundaries.

And with that, we'd better stop. Need to catch up with my work down in 4D. I don't get paid for the higher dimensional stuff.

Friday, April 09, 2010

New Keys for Old Doors

I'm reposting this baby from several years ago, in order to see if my thinking on the subject has evolved at all. It has to do with Schuon's solution to the problem of the existence of more than one valid religion. (By the way, anyone who is interested in him ought to check out the new biography, Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy.)

For if there is only one valid religion, then all the others are wrong. But if they're all true, how can any of them be? I'm sure I have some subtle disagreements with Schuon -- although I'm equally sure that he wouldn't regard them as subtle; he was a my-way-or-the-highway sort of guy, for which I don't blame him at all, being an unquestioned spiritual genius and all. I don't really believe I've earned the "right" to disagree with someone of his stature -- in the same way that, for example, lost, malevolent, and God-hating souls have no intrinsic right to criticize the Catholic Church.

Well, I suppose it's not to that extreme, since I genuinely mean well, and I place Schuon on the highest plane of spiritual attainment. But since I am aware of the distance between us, what gives me the right? My preliminary answer is that Schuon is literally a man out of time, so that some of his ideas are unworkable in practice in our day and age. But troubled times call for a trouble man.

I mean, I'm just not prepared to write off the modern world, although one is at times tempted. I'm sure part of it has to do with his witnessing of the apocalypses of World Wars One and Two from the European perspective. Life looks very different from the standpoint of genocidal or cowardly countries who got their asses kicked vs. the one nation that kicks ass and saves others from getting their asses kicked. I don't think Schuon could conceive of the providential role of the United States, without which his life and work would have been impossible (although ultimately the same providence accounts for both).

This hardly means that one compromises the truth in order to make it compatible with the passing fashions of the day. Rather, as Schuon himself wrote, it is not a question of promulgating "new truths." Rather, "what is needed in our time, and indeed every age remote from the origins of Revelation, is to provide some people with keys fashioned afresh... in order to help them rediscover the truths written in an eternal script in the very substance of man's spirit" (emphasis mine). So just think of me as an unlicensed groksmith.

It seems that this was a much bigger problem in the past, when people first discovered the existence of Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, and other faiths. The first impulse was to devalue them, if not vilify their practitioners. Today it's not such a big deal, but that may be due to the fact that our elites don't take religion seriously anyway. Rather, it's just a part of culture, and cultures are different, that's all.

But now that I think about it, it is odd that the multicultural left elevates culture to a kind of sacred, pseudo-absolute, even while devaluing its grounding in the true Absolute, i.e., its religion. All culture is rooted in the cultus which is its origin, ground, and justification.

Anyway, on to the post:

Schuon has written something to the effect that most people, in order to get a sense of the Absolute, must imagine that their particular belief system is absolute, instead of being an expression of the Absolute. This misunderstanding has caused all kinds of mayhem down through the centuries, and is obviously at the basis of our war with Islamist idolaters who make a god of their religion.

But it is also the basis of the left's deeply irrational jihad against religion, since they believe that belief in absolutes -- which is to say, belief -- is the problem. Therefore, no beliefs, no problems. But this simply leads to the kind of spiritual nihilism we see in a supine UK that cannot rouse itself in the face of absolutist Islamist barbarians who mock the hypersophisticated moral paralysis of the neutered EUnuchs.

Schuon's position is rather nuanced, and generally will not appeal to most religious people and to no irreligious people. First of all, his metaphysics affirms the Absolute, which puts him completely at odds with any form of postmodern secular leftism. However, he situates the Absolute beyond form, which naturally makes conventionally religious people uneasy, since people believe in and practice this or that religion because they believe it embodies absolute truth. If it didn't, they wouldn't believe it. No one practices a religion because they believe it is false, partial, or the feel-good hit of the summer.

You might say that Schuon noticed the same thing that secular extremists do -- a seeming clash of irreconcilable absolutes -- but came to the opposite conclusion. That is, the secularist rejects and even ridicules religion on the basis of its different forms, whereas Schuon observed that religions only clashed outwardly, but not inwardly -- just as there can be no real "clash" between Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings, despite the fact that each attained the aesthetic absolute. Better yet, the existence of blue or green does not clash with, but verifies, the fact of the white light of which each is an expression.

Inwardly, orthodox religious forms represent differing views of the Absolute, and in that sense are absolute. They are the highest form of the absolute that can be known and expressed on the relative plane. As such, they are "relatively absolute."

Given the necessarily hierarchical conditions of existence, the relative absolute is something which must exist, i.e., "there is none good but the One." Conversely, the "absolute relative" is an intrinsic absurdity -- and even monstrosity -- that is at the heart of all secular misosophies (i.e., hatred of wisdom).

Again, I realize this makes people uncomfortable, because when they hear the word "relative," they equate it with the relativism of the left or of the new age integralists, but Schuon would be mortified at such a conflation. Again, he affirms the Absolute, which must exist. Or, to put it another way, the Absolute cannot not be. But since it is absolute, how do we think about it? How do we engage it? How do we make it more than a philosophical abstraction, mere pseudo-intellectual deism by another name?

We do so through real religion, which you might say is the "first fruit" of the Absolute, or O. Now, you will note that there is nothing in this point of view that prevents one from personally believing that one religion does a more adequate job of expressing and reconciling us to the Absolute. This is indeed the official position of the contemporary Catholic Church, but it was affirmed as long ago as Augustine, with his crack about how that which is known as the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist; from the beginning of the human race until the time when Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed began to be called Christianity.

Again, this is very different from how the secular leftist deals with the same "problem." Such individuals have a pseudo-tolerant attitude (at best) toward religion because they don't take it seriously; I, on the other hand, have a genuinely tolerant attitude because I take it so seriously.

In the absence of its relative form -- which partakes of the substance of the Absolute -- there is no ponderable Absolute on our side of manifestation. These forms are efficacious and ontologically real in a way that mere objects or ideas from the relative plane can never be; contemplation of them will change you. As Schuon wrote, they "leave durable traces in the soul, to the point that we are no longer the same man as before; they remove one from the world and draw us toward Heaven. And there is a kind of vision or inward presence that remains."

They leave durable traces in the soul. Is this not obvious? This is why scientific and philosophical ideas come and go, but Western man -- so long as he remains man, which is a fifty-fifty proposition -- will always be haunted and shadowed by the Incarnation of the Word, which speaks to a part of us that transcends time and place. It is why the Jew -- assuming he is a Jew, and not just a Democrat -- will always be haunted and shadowed by the Torah, by the very notion of the absolute Word of God, an absolute Word that inoculates against the errors of relativism.

I could go on, but you get the point. We are either permeated by a sense of the Absolute, the Infinite, and the Eternal; or we are condemned to a horizontal teenage wasteland of relativism and materiality, and a timebound tyranny of mere existence with no essence.

It therefore seems that there are ultimately only two metaphysical positions one may take: a belief in absolute supraformal truth embodied in diverse religious forms that complement and do not fundamentally exclude one another, at least a priori; or a belief in relative truth, which ultimately redounds to the subformal intellectual blob of nihilism, given enough time. Is that clear? Perhaps not.

Let's put it this way. As my friend Joseph says, if someone -- especially someone with the wrong motivation -- wants to pry into his exact religious beliefs, he tells them this: I am a believer. For in the final analysis, there are only the Believers and the unbelievers, Absolutists and nihilists; one is the upword way of faith leading to real knowledge and salvolution; the other is the downward path of manmode ignorance and superstition leading on an individual basis to spiritual sclerosis or dispersion, and on a collective basis to cultural decadence and exhaustion.

Update three years later: I personally find that the Judeo-Christian tradition -- especially the strand that leads to and from Denys to Eckhart to Unknown Friend -- perhaps spiced with a little neo-Vedanta, furnishes me with the most adequate vocabulary to think about, discuss, and assimilate the Absolute. But that's just me. More importantly, the true Believers need to stick together in this age of malevolent stupidity.