Friday, January 06, 2012

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Quinquagenarian

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a waltblog trundling down the digital highway and this waltblog had a passage by Franklin Merrell-Wolff which elaborates on what we were saying yesterday about manifesting one's destiny or becoming oneself, which you'd think is unavoidable but it is:

"I find that, as the days go by, there is a re-organization and consolidation of life about a new center. The thrill of new Awakening, that at first so dominates and sweeps personal consciousness, gradually becomes a quiet steadiness on a level of new confidence. I cannot say I feel any regret for the old life. I do not find any inhibition that would restrain me from dipping into any phase of old experience if I desired and found it convenient to do so. I do not feel the restless urge for outer adventure that formerly I felt so strongly."

The thing about real spiritual growth -- like any real growth -- is that it brings changes that one wouldn't necessarily have willed, any more than, say, a pre-pubescent child wills puberty.

Or, to paraphrase George Costanza, just when you get used to puberty, here comes middle age and all its attendant changes. I was finally comfortable with being uncomfortable with myself, and now I'm back in high school again, a freshman quinquagenarian. Hope I don't get hazed by the sextagenarian, septuagenarian, and octogenarian stalemen!

Likewise, sometimes, or perhaps usually, spiritual change can be rather disorienting, as the old interests that once oriented oneslife "drop away" and one reorganizes around a new center. This "unexpectedness" is one of the hallmarks of real change and growth -- a kind of seal of authenticity -- and it is again the exact opposite of that which is typically promised by the new agers and integralists, such as this appalling gobshite:


Look at that scheming visage. Would you pay cash money for used or even new karma from a guy like that?

If one attempts to will spiritual change from below, one generally ends up with a bloated and vainglorious ego, not any kind of genuine spiritual transformation, which requires surrender and then acceptance, even resignation, not to mention trials, pop quizzes, and a final exam, before anything is accomplished, let alone It.

But if you know ahead of time that you will simply be granted whatever your wretched ego desires, what kind of change is that? This will not redeem the ego, but further harden it by fostering the illusion that it can have perfect happiness on its own terms, in its spiritually fallen state. Schuon expresses it well:

"We must tend towards Perfection because we understand it and therefore love it, and not because we desire that our ego should be perfect. In other terms, we must love and realize a virtue because it is true and beautiful, and not because it would become us if we possessed it.... One must realize the virtues for their own sake, and not in order to make them 'mine'.... Moreover, it is not we who possess a virtue, it is a virtue which possesses us."

A state sponsored (via PBS) schlack peddler such as Dyer would be out of business if he spoke the dire truth, which is more like Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God. Dyer is practicing the satanic arts (I mean that literally, not in a polemical or insulting manner), in that he is simply employing such commonplace modes as seduction and hypnosis over the spiritually untutored and unchurched, who will believe "anything." Like Schuon, he would sell few books if he were to convey hard spiritual truths such as

"Much is said about the subtle illusions and seductions which lead the spiritual pilgrim astray from the straight path and provoke his fall. Now, these illusions can only seduce him who desires some benefit for himself, such as powers or dignities or glory." But he who "seeks nothing earthly, so that he is indifferent to being forgotten by the world," "such a man possesses true poverty and nothing can seduce him."

This is what I meant the other day in my comment about being "beyond cynicism." These vulgar atheists imagine that they are the cynics, but I went through that phase by the time I was ten or eleven years old. To put it another way, people like Dawkins and Harris, or ex-people such as Hitchens, are speaking from and to ten year old rebellious cynics. Done there been that.

Me, I'm am also beyond nihilism, as I've circled back round to the great Nothing-Everything that is its source and ground. For "In true poverty, there remains only existence pure and simple, and existence is in its essence Being, Consciousness and Beatitude. In poverty there remains nothing more for man than what he is, thus all that is" (Schuon).

It is not that matter or sensation are shunned -- perish the thought! -- but that our priorities are straight, and we have the proper balance between inner and outer, celestial and terrestrial, I and Thou. The point is not to deny the exterior, but "to remove oneself from its seductive tyranny" (Schuon). In real spiritual transformation, the inner takes precedence over the outer, through which the latter becomes "enriched" in a compensatory manner. The converse can never occur -- that is, enriching your exterior will never result in an interior transformation of the spiritual substance, only in a dying sack of tool's gold which you'll be forced to take with you.

To put it another way, you cannot will your destiny, at least until you have truly recognized it. And even then, once it is recognized, one mainly senses it in subtle ways, such as a sense of "being on the right track."

I would compare it to a kind of vehicle that is guided by a nonlocal morphogenetic field. It is like trying to learn how to steer within this nonlocal field, and one must be quite sensitive to do this. I imagine it is somewhat similar to how certain animals have an interior guidance system that allows them to migrate back home, only transposed to a higher key. We all have this spiritual homing device as part of our standard equipment, but it is not like a two-dimensional map, much less a linear train track.

This oming deivoice allows us to apprehend ever so subtle indicators that our idiom is near -- in abook, aperson, amyth, avision, adaydream, anobject, anandithing. It is as if we project it slightly ahead of ourselves, and respond to the projection. To have "no direction" is the quintessence of the spiritually alienated state. One of the most painful consequences of the hellhounds of clinical depression and anxiety is that they rob the person of spiritual direction, and therefore meaning.

On the other hound, depression can be a sort of "divine gift" if one uses it as an occasion to reclaim one's spiritual destiny and get back on the right track. Indeed, I would imagine that most Raccoons have at one time or another been shown their fate in the form of depression, despair, meaninglessness, etc., which was then a jumping off point for rediscovering their destiny.

The fated person, as Bollas writes, "is fundamentally interred in an internal world of self and object representations that endlessly repeat the same scenarios," and "has very little sense of a future that is at all different from the internal environment they carry around with them. The sense of fate is a feeling of despair to influence the course of one's life." Not for nothing is Groundhog Day considered one of the more profound spiritual parables ever to make it to film.

"A sense of destiny, however, is a different state, when the person feels he is moving in a personality progression that gives him a sense of steering his course." It is as if the future is able to "reach back" or down and touch the now, whereas the fated person is trapped by the past reaching forward and strangling the present:

"Instead of feeling the energy of the destiny drive and of 'possessing' futures which nourish the person in the present and creatively serve to explore pathways for potential travel, the fated person only projects the oracular" -- by which Bollas means the oppressive and mystifying voice of the dead and unalterable past. As a result, they "repress" their own living future, as it is just too painful to contemplate what might have been if only it could have been.

Sometimes, such a person will wallow in their fate as a way to compensate for the loss of their destiny -- like amor fati, minus the amor). Here again, one thinks of the victim culture of the left. But this is a real sin, for man has a right "to suffer from an injustice in so far as he cannot rise above it, but he must make an effort to do so; in no case has he the right to sink into a pit of bitterness, for such an attitude leads to hell" (Schuon).

Mother.... prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels. Amen. So be it! Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. --Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

24 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

Anything except hair.

1/06/2012 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"It is as if we project it slightly ahead of ourselves, and respond to the projection."

I do this all the time with the book. Write a chapter say 30 chapters ahead. Then write the ones in between. Actually, I don't know how many in-between chapters it will take. I leave the projected one in that "out of order" position. Because that's the original "order" -- an order in itself. Since I'm not trying to hide the ending, and most times the ending is not the point, so I give it up right away.
If an out of order book is not valid, we would only need to read the Bible once and understand all of it.

1/06/2012 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, I came this close to crying here:

"On the other hound, depression can be a sort of "divine gift" if one uses it as an occasion to reclaim one's spiritual destiny and get back on the right track. Indeed, I would imagine that most Raccoons have at one time or another been shown their fate in the form of depression, despair, meaninglessness, etc., which was then a jumping off point for rediscovering their destiny."

And you are right about surrender (the "be in it, not of it"). One of the most important things my doctor kept repeating to me was "So what." He'd ask me what I was so worried about. I'd tell him. And he'd say, so what. We went right down the list. Eventually it got in.

1/06/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Great post!

I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob.

1/06/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Like physical pain, spiritual pain tells us what to approach and avoid. Without it we'd be dead from the skin in.

Which reminds me of a funny but true story. When an employee is injured in California, there is a form they fill out, with a blank space for the body part involved. This one covered all the bases, writing

Skin and contents

1/06/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"Quinquagenarian" has to be one of the funnier sounding words. One of my other favorites is "cumulonimbus."

1/06/2012 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I made the first comment before I read the post in detail. Which is good because I'm like Rick except I really did start crying. Another day I'm glad I work from home.

1/06/2012 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

that is, enriching your exterior will never result in an interior transformation of the spiritual substance, only in a dying sack of tool's gold which you'll be forced to take with you.

Speaking of which, Mushroom had some similar thoughts the other day...

1/06/2012 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the words, agreed. "Cumulonimbus" rolls around the mouth so delightfully, it would lose its meaning if it didn't sound like what it is.

Re. depression, I was going to comment on that bit but Mush and Rick beat me to it.

1/06/2012 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

"We must tend towards Perfection because we understand it and therefore love it, and not because we desire that our ego should be perfect. In other terms, we must love and realize a virtue because it is true and beautiful, and not because it would become us if we possessed it.... One must realize the virtues for their own sake, and not in order to make them 'mine'.... Moreover, it is not we who possess a virtue, it is a virtue which possesses us."

When I was young, I could not have understood that if I read it straight and bare.

The other day I realized that Amazon had stealthily pushed _The Way of Perfection_ up to second place on my Kindle recommendations. This amused me greatly. In part because I believe it happened after I bought a science fiction novel for kids by Madeleine l'Engle. But in part because when I was young, I sincerely thought I was well on the way to perfection. And now... Well, it looks more like perfection has been chasing me for a long time while I have been running for my life.

1/06/2012 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Linda Murphy said...

I am stepping out from the lurking shadows momentarily because I, too, was struck by "rediscovering destiny" and making conscious decisions on moving forward.

For years and years, I have battled major depression during holiday time. This year, I felt it creeping in over Thanksgiving...but I consciously tried to push ahead...exercise, read, play and not allow it to define another season.

Then, as children often do, my 7-year old son was creating a detailed list of the gifts he was going to handcraft for his loved one and the materials needed. He chattered on happily and reminded me that Christmas was about giving, like the Wise Men gave to the baby Jesus. He created some of the best presents...with special consideration for each and every person on his list. He didn't worry about his own lists of wants and being a saver, tried to use things that didn't affect his precious bank account.

And like that, I realized that the very best gift I could give my son was the gift of being present, alive and unfettered to enjoy these moments together. And with that evening, I shifted my focus and while the claws of depression were and probably always are pawing at me, they never sunk their teeth in this season.

So, I felt attached your post and thank you.

1/06/2012 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

...depression can be a sort of "divine gift" if one uses it as an occasion to reclaim one's spiritual destiny..." etc...

I picture a biplane at an airshow that climbs as high as possible, willfully shuts down and spirals back to earth trailing smoke, pulls out, and does it all again. It works because it's all previsualised, and the crowd loves it.

1/06/2012 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
"Quinquagenarian" has to be one of the funnier sounding words. One of my other favorites is "cumulonimbus."

One of my favorites has always been Lake Titicaca.

Oh, and murgatroyd (I used to think it was spelled with an "i"). It was actually a surname in late 1300's England.

"Lord Murgatroyd I presume?"

The term "Heavens to murgatroyd" was first made in the 1944 film Meet The People with Dick Powell and Lucille Ball, and it was used often in the Snagglepuss cartoon after that.

Then there's scuttlebutt and gedunk. The Navy has a lot of interesting venacular.

Great post Bob! :^)

1/06/2012 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Rah rah, ha ha for "Lake Titicaca"!

Funtastic post Bob!

1/07/2012 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

does that 'Quinquagenarian" 'make' you a capricorn Bob?

1/07/2012 04:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No, scorpio with feces rising.

1/07/2012 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

If you get so full of it your eyes turn brown, you may want to get that checked...

1/07/2012 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

What Magnus said.
I must confess that I ruined a fair amount of my life by desiring the right things for the wrong reasons.
Once I recognized that my intentions needed purifying and surrendered to that, a great burden fell off, life re-ordered, etc.
Nothing that I thought should happen, happened. But that's okay...

These last few have been outstanding, Bob.

oh, and
Congrats, Julie!

1/07/2012 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Sal sez:

"I must confess that I ruined a fair amount of my life by desiring the right things for the wrong reasons."

Yes! Me too. I just hope there is enough time left to get on the right path and walk it a bit.

I think the problem started by watching the TV series "Kung Fu" at an impressionable age.

1/07/2012 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Look at that scheming visage. Would you pay cash money for used or even new karma from a guy like that?"

Ni! Best get the karmaFacts report on that one!

I remember watching one of his videos, or infomercials... maybe a 'special' on HBO or something, years ago... he was even creepier than Tony Robbins.

1/07/2012 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

John Lien said...
Sal sez:

"I must confess that I ruined a fair amount of my life by desiring the right things for the wrong reasons."

Yes! Me too. I just hope there is enough time left to get on the right path and walk it a bit."

There's always enough time, or rather eternity once one becomes aware. :^)

1/07/2012 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

a different-- maybe much preferable -- century might have unfolded had this missive not gone unresponded to!

1/07/2012 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Moreover, it is not we who possess a virtue, it is a virtue which possesses us."

That is so well put. Especially in regards to education, having learned the facts, the details, is only to possess information about them. Habituation of them begins to internalize them, but it's not until they move from a habit you do, to something which possesses you, almost... not quite the right word, but consumes you in that area...you are still outside of it... you are still at the level of using the virtue as a tool, rather than submitting to it as that which is good, beautiful and true.

1/08/2012 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sal - thanks!

1/08/2012 03:51:00 PM  

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