Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grow Up and Behave Like a Proper Child!

I hope the bit about the demystification and re-mysterization of the world wasn't too obscure. As usual, it's meant to be quite literal and experience-near, but since no one talks about it, it can sound esoteric or goofy or cute or something. However, it strikes me as being at the heart of what we call "spiritual growth" or "religious maturity." For example, Schuon writes of how

"Gratitude is a virtue that allows us, not only to be content with little things -- this is holy childhood -- but also to appreciate or respect little things or big things because they come from God, beginning with the beauty and the gifts of nature; one must be sensitive to the innocence and mystery of the divine works."

One might say that gratitude is awareness of a kind of an ontological exchange that is always taking place, such that we are always receiving more than we give.

Elsewhere Schuon speaks of the rhythms (the spiraling thematic repetitions) and stages (the linear ascent) of life. From an elderly but still spry post:

"For Schuon, all natural phenomena are here to convey deeper lessons to us. Thus, for example, our lives are not just divided into day and night, but into seasons: the childhood spring of 'formation and learning'; the mature summer of 'actual and effective realization'; the late-middle age autumn of 'consolidation, reparation, and the directing of others'; and the old age winter of 'detachment and transcendence.'

"Alternatively, one could say that childhood is 'the paradise of innocence,' youth 'the time of the passions,' maturity 'the time of work,' and old age 'that of sadness' -- at least for the horizontal man. For the vertical man, 'the opposite takes place: age is an ascent towards another world.' Extremes meet, as paradise comes into view (hence the resonance between grandparents and grandchildren, who are on the Same Page)."

That would be page 265: "Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM." This nonlocal transcendent-immanent point of contact is precisely where "We'll meet again. Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by." Etc.

So, looked at developmentally -- and this I think is the experience-near part -- we obviously come into the world in a state of... mysticality, for lack of a better term. It's all a mystery, but this will generally be a pleasant or dread-full mystery, depending upon the quality of caretakers. Scaretakers are very adept at transmitting their own dread -- their own anxieties, impasses, conflicts, and dead spots -- into their children for processing.

The point is to cultivate -- or at least not pave over -- a ground of the personality whereby one is Alive Before the Mystery, one reason being that we can only pretend to make the mystery go away anyway. This latter is what I mean by demystifying the world, i.e., draining it of Mystery.

While looking up that first quote from Schuon, I found a number of relevant points from previous posts:

"Both Balthasar and Chesterton make much of the very idea of God-as-child. The former speaks of 'the eternal mystery of the childhood of Christ' flowing 'into the eternal childhood which is given to men: hope.'

"For if you think about it, hope is indeed the essence of childhood. Why? A number of reasons, but I was thinking of how children are always changing and growing. They are like little arrows that always point toward their own telos -- which is to say, perfection, or completion, or maturity. I would suggest that America is infused with this idea -- or rather, that the very idea of America is infused with Christian hope in the sense we have just stated.

"What I mean is that there is no reason for hope in a static society: things are as they are and will be as they will be because they have always been this way (and this way is decreed by the gods, so it is not for us to change it).

"Against the American ideal is the European import of Marxism, which both sees and creates static classes.... Just as the caste system tethers individuals to their societal place, thus depriving them of hope, multiculturalism seals people into so many boxes of petrified failure. The difference is that the leftist exchanges hope for envy, thus the crude appeals to race, class, sexual preference, etc. In other words, the leftist crocktrine of diversity

"'tends to freeze people where the accident of birth has placed them. Unlike the caste system, multiculturalism holds out the prospect that, all cultures being equal, one's life chances should be the same -- and that it is society's fault if these chances are not the same' (Sowell). So instead of hope for betterment, the left promotes resentment of the better off, accompanied by a demand for what they call 'social justice' which is simply envy with a truncheon.

"Now Jesus, of course, makes a point of counseling us to be as children, but surely he doesn't mean this in any pejorative sense -- i.e., to be as naive, credulous, and easily led as a Democrat.

"Again, what characterizes the child? Well, for starters, a child is what man uniquely is, in the sense that -- alone among creatures -- he specializes in immaturity because his neoteny never ceases.

"To say neoteny is to say neo-nate, which simply means 'new birth.' Thus, to say that man must be 'born again' implies that one must not conflate, say, biological and spiritual birth, in that the former happens just once.

"Now a child, just because he is constantly learning and therefore 'permanently immature,' is not thereby a little nothing. Rather, he is the very symbol of our own eros shot into the heart of the divine center. We are all as children growing toward our proper end."

End of Old Stuff.

What I'm trying to get across is this idea of recapturing and reviving that state of Mystery. I well recall how the Mystery gradually closed in my case. It reminds me of the worthy words of Wordsworth:

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

But then, don't you know, "Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy."

D'oh!

"At length the Man perceives it [the Mystery] die away, / And fade into the light of common day."

What I want to know is, can we avoid ebeneezing away the Mystery, or can we revivify it later on?

"Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only? Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

I suppose that is the point of this book, The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit. (Not sure if I can unambivalently recommend this one.)

Back to how the shades of the prison-house began to close on this growing boy. I suppose it became especially noticeable some time after completing graduate school in 1988 and picking up the spiritual practice in 1995. Seven years in the desert.

To complete school and become a licensed Healer of Souls is to invert the world one had previously inhabited up to that time: instead of being on the receiving end, one is now on the bullshitting end. You go through a brief phase of back off, man, I'm a psychologist, but that fades, at least in my case. Fortunately, the psyche is a small thing compared to God.

Out of time, but I would end by saying it is far more interesting to be contained by the Mystery -- like an innocent child -- than to pretend to contain it -- like an obnoxious or even tenured child.

17 Comments:

Blogger swiftone said...

Thanks for reminding me of the Wordswoth. What a fitting name eh?

8/26/2015 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I loved the reference to grandparents and grandchildren being on the same page, in regards to vertical resonance. I never thought of it that way, although I have intuited it. It makes perfect sense, while the parents toil with all their mature demands of labor and parental responsibility.

8/26/2015 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Extremes meet, as paradise comes into view (hence the resonance between grandparents and grandchildren, who are on the Same Page).

Very true.

8/26/2015 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

"The point is to cultivate - or at least not pave over - a ground of the personality whereby one is Alive Before the Mystery..."

A few years ago I came across the old Dutch Reformed hymn 'King Jesus Has A Garden' (great a capella versions on youtube). It was so beautiful that it brought me to tears, but it was even better when I looked up the words. Jesus seeks to grow our hearts into a garden of virtue, unique to each one of us. Virtue overflowing in our lives becomes a blessing for those around us but just as importantly for us, too. When our hearts begin to grow into His likeness they become our private sanctuary, a safe and sacred place where we can meet Him intimately and uniquely. Perhaps, since we messed up our first chance at the Garden of Eden, the Lord now seeks to create a little piece of it in each of our hearts, where we can 'walk through the garden in the cool of day' with Him, The One Who loves us more than we will ever know.

What a terrible price the exterior man pays when he 'paves over' that 'ground of the personality'!

8/26/2015 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

...old age 'that of sadness' -- at least for the horizontal man. For the vertical man, 'the opposite takes place: age is an ascent towards another world.' Extremes meet, as paradise comes into view...

I well remember when my paternal grandmother was in her 90s; when we would come to visit, she would be happy to see us, but often express forlornly that she didn't understand why she hadn't yet been "called home." The ascent doesn't come easy, no matter how ready we are to reach the final summit (from this side, that is).

8/26/2015 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

So, looked at developmentally -- and this I think is the experience-near part -- we obviously come into the world in a state of... mysticality, for lack of a better term. It's all a mystery...

Speaking of children and mysteries, so today the boy began talking quite animatedly about his other mother, "Janey," who has yellow hair like his sister. He is quite certain about how she looks, but the rest of the details are about as clear as anything a resident of the dreamtime can call forth.

Notably, we don't know anyone named Janey.

We do suspect he has simply jumbled together recent and distant events, but still, it is... surprising... to hear your child carry on lovingly about a different mother one never suspected existed!

8/26/2015 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Marinacci said...

In my experience, the most striking contrast between vertical and horizontal people has been in my observations of old monastics and old political activists. The former, whether Christian or Buddhist, have been invariably kind, wise, and humble, slowly and calmly ascending into pure Spirit. The gray-haired "radicals", to a wo/man, have been angry, bitter, and cynical, silently (or not so silently) loathing humanity for not have delivered *The Revolution* that would have sated their appetites for power and revenge.

8/26/2015 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So true. Could be the subject of a whole post. Old radicals become seedy.

8/26/2015 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

About the other mother: it really sounds like a waking dream. Must be tapping into that creative source of consciousness, where elements are combined and transformed.

8/26/2015 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

The other mother is his angel, of course.

8/26/2015 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Swish!

8/26/2015 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

lol, Joan - the wistful way he talked about her, it certainly sounds that way! "She's so pretty. I really miss her!"

8/26/2015 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I would interview him and get it down on tape.

8/26/2015 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

There's a thought; if nothing else, it would be interesting to look back on.

8/26/2015 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

They say that you as a parent should talk to your child's angel... Leslie does.

8/26/2015 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I'd never heard that, but it makes perfect sense.

8/26/2015 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Michael said: "In my experience, the most striking contrast between vertical and horizontal people has been in my observations of old monastics and old political activists. The former, whether Christian or Buddhist, have been invariably kind, wise, and humble, slowly and calmly ascending into pure Spirit. The gray-haired "radicals", to a wo/man, have been angry, bitter, and cynical, silently (or not so silently) loathing humanity for not have delivered *The Revolution* that would have sated their appetites for power and revenge."

My daughter and I are working through a literature based homeschool curriculum based on The Chronicles of Narnia. We are a few chapters into The Magician's Nephew, and in it is a woodland in the in-between world. When the children were there, they were happy and cheerful, and felt safe, even though they could hardly remember who they were or why they were there. When the beautiful evil queen was there, she was no longer beautiful or powerful. She was cross and frightened.Her entire identity was wrapped up in her power. As I discussed with my child, her "real" self was shown, when stripped of her identity.

8/26/2015 07:34:00 PM  

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