Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Pledge Allegiance to the United States of Mind

The hard part, of course, is transmuting temporary spiritual states into permanent traits, which I suppose is what the religious life is all about. Interestingly, this also happens to be what distinguishes a neurosis -- or what is called an Axis I disorder -- from a personality disorder, or Axis II.

An Axis I condition is analogous to a person with, say, a cold or flu. It is presumed to be something "added on" to the personality, something either isolated from the rest (like a simple phobia) or temporary and time-limited, like certain anxiety or depressive disorders; you might say that that Axis I conditions are limited and bound, either in living-time or in psychic space.

But a personality disorder involves the whole person, and affects every area of functioning -- relationships, thinking, perception, emotional stability, impulses, self image, the whole existentialada. (And it's not an either/or division, more of a continuum.)

One can draw the same distinction with regard to spiritual development. For Symeon, what begins with gratuitous divine ingressions is gradually assimilated into the "whole person," so to speak: from states to traits; from Axis I disorder to an Axis II spiritual order. Of note, some degree of dis-order usually must precede the order, i.e., some disassembly required: creative destruction, order from chaos, spontaneous emergence, yada yada.

The Axis II spiritual condition is one "in which the experience of God as light is no longer a transient irruption into the everyday, involving 'altered states of consciousness,' but a total transformation of the mystic's perception of reality" (Matus). And that is not all; for "the contemplative then becomes a 'theodidact,' one taught by God" in such a manner that the "knowledge" therein "transcends words and concepts," but not completely.

Again, no experience of any kind can be communicated directly, but a linguistically -- or musically or artistically -- gifted person can communicate more of it than others, just as a poet can transform and transmit the everyday into something sublime.

Symeon writes that one goes from "experiencing" the Light to being united with it, "but not as if he were in a continual state of ecstasy." Indeed, ec-stasy implies "standing outside" oneself, but this is the opposite movement. It is the Deep Within, except that it radiates outward, illuminating everything: "persons and things are perceived as they really are in God" (ibid.).

Importantly, this is not just personal theosis -- the realization of God -- but cosmotheosis, a word apparently made up by the enigmatic One Cosmos author. It is the fulfillment of the very order of existence and even beyond, for it is "ordered to an eschatological fulfillment beyond this life" (Matus). It is "a foretaste of eternal glory here and now."

This brings to mind Paul's lament about the "futility of creation," and how it "has been groaning in the pains of childbirth until now." Who is the child and what is this birth?

For Symeon, the penetration of the Divine Light isn't only a matter of psychic transformation, which would be too superficial. Rather, Christianity doesn't separate soul from body, and treats the former as the form of the latter. Therefore, Symeon "insists on the penetration of the transforming light into our consciousness and into our very flesh." Again it is not an explosive ecstasy but an implosive in-stasy, so to speak.

In the One Cosmos book, the author refers to such individuals as divine "fleshlights," each a kind of saintly newborn testavus for the restavus, illuminating the Way. Without them, each person would have to reinvent the wheel of karma.

The archetype and necessary condition of this union of light and flesh is, of course, Christ, without whom our own (↑) would be futile. He is the "inseparable union of the two energies and two wills," i.e., (↓ ↑), only in one continuous open circle (a kind of discontinuity-within-deuscontinuity).

In reality, it is this divine spiral into which we leap when we take that leap of faith. Looked at in this way, it is not so much our own (↑) that is efficacious, but (↑) within the context of (↓ ↑), so that "we have only to cooperate freely and actively with this work" (Matus).

In other words, it must be emphasized that the human "struggle for virtue" doesn't "imply on our part an ability to produce the light. It is always God, in his perfect freedom, who dispenses his grace" (ibid.).

[W]hereas the material sun rises and then sets, giving way to darkness, God must become an ever-rising sun in the believer, who himself then becomes, in the world, like an ever-new dawn.... This rising dawn... is also the descent of the divine sun on or within him. It is this descent which makes him ascend in the spirit.

11 Comments:

Blogger swiftone said...

!

9/28/2011 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, what Dilys said™. It's a very rich post.

This may be a bit of a digression, or maybe not, but I was just thinking about the nature of relationships and how pretty much any relationship necessarily transforms the people involved, in greater or lesser ways. For instance, the way that the child is the progenitor of the parents. And of course, the deeper the relationship, the more transformative it usually is, but even the most casual and fleeting encounter may sometimes have life-altering effects. Given that this is true between human subjects, how much more so when the inter-action is (↓ ↑)?

In other words, to say "relationship" is to say "transformation."

9/28/2011 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

O! I like that new bit at the bottom of the header (new to me, anyway; could have been there a while...):

∞ ... Truth Is Symphonic... ∞

:D

9/28/2011 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rather, Christianity doesn't separate soul from body, and treats the former as the form of the latter.

I think a lot of people miss that. Jesus healed many and the focus is usually on the miraculous restoration of right functioning in the body, but He is first and foremost the Great Physician of the soul. Jesus is a soul-Man.

Now I have Sam & Dave playing in my head. It could be worse.

9/28/2011 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

Relationships are everything.

Keep in mind though that "hell is other people."

Puts one in a bit of a bind. Not to worry Julie you are naturally good at it.

Its the gentlemen that should worry; many can't seem to make it work.

The problem has been well delineated by Bob, a desire to regress to unity with Mother.

The solution is to progress to unity with God.

How to effect this? That is the question.

9/28/2011 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Having been taught from childhood to flee official saints like the plague, I was unaware of the origin of the phrase "to see the Light". It seems I have some Symeon reading to catch up to.

9/28/2011 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Esther said...

"The hard part, of course, is transmuting temporary spiritual states into permanent traits, which I suppose is what the religious life is all about..."

GB, is it fair to characterize Christianity as bhakti-yoga (of a sort)? Devotional heart-path leading to theosis? Or is this too simplistic?

9/28/2011 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"In other words, it must be emphasized that the human "struggle for virtue" doesn't "imply on our part an ability to produce the light. It is always God, in his perfect freedom, who dispenses his grace" (ibid.). "

We perceive, not conceive, the Truth (Word has it that that's been done already).

9/28/2011 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

Sorry, did it again. Above was me.

9/28/2011 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Esther:

Good question. I used to think that, but came to realize that Christianity is a full-service religion: bhakti, karma, jnani, raja, tantra, etc. One might even say that it is an "integral yoga," a la Aurobindo, in that it unites body, soul and spirit.

9/29/2011 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And of course, depending upon one's temperament, one can enter it through any of these portals, although most people -- especially Protestants -- do seem to follow the bhakti path.

9/29/2011 06:14:00 AM  

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