Tuesday, March 28, 2006

All Along the Watchtower

Perhaps we should pause here a moment and reflect on the notion of "ascending into your watchtower" and pondering "how and whence the robbers try to steal your grapes."

Ah, but the grapes! That's where I had the mind parasites cornered. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with cold geometric logic, that a duplicate key to my watchtower did exist. And I'd show you that key if they hadn't bribed Petey. I know now that he was trying to protect some light-fingered hobgoblin from the vertical world... Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory...

What? Where was I....

Oh yes. Our fall is literally (that is, metaphorically) a fall into horizontality, from eternity into time, from unity to multiplicity, from concentration to dispersion. It therefore follows that "ascending" is synonymous with undoing or reversing each of these things.

As Hieromonk Damascene describes it, "The spirit is immortal being and thus partakes of time-transcendence; while the lower soul is tied to earthly time. The spirit, in experiencing eternity, abides in stillness; while the lower soul is involved in action that is bound to time."

He goes on to say, "As we repeatedly catch ourselves descending to the level of thought (the realm of action in time), we can call ourselves back to the level of spirit (the realm of stillness in eternity). Later, through continual practice, we will be able to watch the thoughts coming, trying to gain admittance into our minds by stealing our attention."

The parallels with what Sri Aurobindo teaches are almost exact. For him, the fundamental approach to building your watchtower involves 1) aspiration, 2) rejection, and 3) surrender.

Aspiration may be conceptualized in different ways, but if you are a Christian, it would involve constant recollection of, and opening to, the divine grace--sitting calmly and quietly and literally (that is, literally) drawing upon that energy. Depending on your personality, you may concentrate inwardly, in the heart center, or upwardly, above the head. Some people may think of the heart as a throne where Jesus resides. Or you may think of the spirit "descending like a dove" from above.

"Rejection" is a form of discrimination. Ultimately it involves discerning between reality and appearance, between truth and maya. But at first, it is simply the mundane task of driving a wedge between ourselves and our lower thoughts, of realizing that what you think is none of your business.

As one of the greatest authorities, St. Theophan the Recluse, writes, "Little by little you will separate from your thoughts” and “find that you have strayed far from your first-created image." He further points out that the lower mind does not "steal our grapes" in a straight forward manner, but usually through thoughts that then give rise to other desires and passions.

Thus, St. Theophan recommends that we do not attempt to get involved or argue with these thoughts, because this will simply bind us to them.

In this regard, Hieromonk Damascene writes that "Struggle against thoughts is vain and futile. It is enough simply to observe the thoughts as they arise," and to "let them go without reacting to them or following them.... A thought cannot exist long under the light of direct, objective observation. If we do not align our will with it, it naturally disappears." In short, "resist not evil" means not struggling against thoughts but rising toward our Source, where they cannot reach.

When Jesus says "take no thought for the morrow" or "without hating your own life you cannot be my disciple" he is talking about the need for the ego to commit cluelesside. "What adults often consider happiness is in reality the emotional excitement of the ego; while a lttle child's happiness consists in the simple, selfless joy of being alive.

When Jesus told each person to 'deny himself' and 'lose his life,' he was not saying to obliterate the conscious mind. Rather, he was saying to purify it by casting off the ego that has grown on it like a parasite."

The ego has a kind of "external coherence" that is held together through things such as status, desires, possessions, a few ruling ideas, and other circumstances. But building your watchtower involves achieving a kind of "internal coherence." It is easy to tell when someone is speaking from the external ego vs. the interior Self.

Most of the politicians, pundits and talking heads you see on TV are of the former variety. Their minds are like little tape libraries that play only prerecorded messages. It is an entirely different experience to be in the presence of someone who is speaking from a deeper and more coherent center of the Self.

Any authentic guru or spiritual teacher will naturally be of the latter type. Think of it this way: there are causes that exist within the horizontal realm and causes that exist within the vertical. Horizontal causes are the "wisdom of the world," but each of these causes is counterbalanced by causes moving in the opposite direction. It is a world of exciting "heat" rather than elevating "light," but most people apparently take this world for reality.

But genuine vertical influences operate in a topdown manner, and do not cancel each other out. From what we have heard from the wise, building your watchtower involves gathering and assimilating these vertical influences until a sort of "magnetic center" begins to grow. It has the dual capacity of both deflecting the horizontal influences and drawing upon the vertical.

Living your life in this manner is something like riding on imaginary rails, a sort of subtle magnetic field that can't be seen but can be felt. I can only reemphasize that it is critical to have some kind of daily contact with a person--whether living or "dead," it doesn't matter--of the vertical type. In reality, you must form a relationship with such an individual. Why? Because they have a "magnetic center" that is stronger than your own and draws you toward it, into their harbor.

Me? Yes, I have formed such a relationship with a vertical being who only just recently fell to earth. This little fellow is trying to teach me everything he doesn’t know, before he forgets it.

Like the difference between dogs and horses:

Or the bottle right in front of you is always the best one:

And getting into someone's drawers can be entirely innocent fun:

(photo cropping courtesy dilys)


Anonymous said...

Say, you DO like old movies, don't you? "The Caine Mutiny" is a favorite of mine as well....

Lisa said...

Do people who fail to ascend their watchtower get sour grapes?

I am also fascinated by the Tarot card, The Tower. Some say it usually denotes a catastrophic upheaval in some way that leads to enlightenment or rebirth. It reminds me of an addict who hits "rock bottom" before he/she can overcome the addiction.

Will said...

. . . princes kept the view . . .

Bob, the other day you mentioned the changes one experiences over time as one continues on the Path.

In my own experience, I had and continue to have the growing perception that many, perhaps most, of my thoughts are *not my own*. That could sound a little bizarre. Let me attempt an explanation.

First, I think that as one does acquire a certain detachment, random thoughts, images, etc., are literally distanced from core consciousness. Second, as they are distanced, there comes the perception that random thoughts do come from *without*. They, of course, assume the coloring and image of one's personal experience, but often their real origin - or so I sense - is the great pool of collective mind-soot that exists as a kind of sick archetype.

You know all the talk about "Gaia", reputedly the benevolent nature goddess. Gaia is not some recent concept, actually used to be called the Anima Mundi or the Spiritus Mundi, which is, in some sense, a secondary god, the soul of the planet. It's plastic in nature, conscious in a way but not self-aware. Because it is plastic in nature it does reflect and magnify human moods, attitudes, thoughts - moreover, it can become and obviously is infected.

I think at the point when one senses that one's thoughts are not entirely their own, one is actually becoming more aware of the reflecting, manipulating, power of the infected Anima Mundi.

People should really think about being a little more circumspect before they start praising Gaia.

And yes, I realize that much of what I just wrote is going to sound utterly crackers to many.

But hey - I'm just sayin'

Lisa said...

I tend to agree with you, Will. There does seem to be some sort of "communal thought process". Bob also summed it up nicely in this post by talking about how he gathers up the verticality of different ideas and religions to create a magnetic center. Taking the best aspects from each and combining them to form a hybrid view. We are all connecting to this magnetic center coming from our own uniques experiences. It is quite comforting to know I am not alone in my search.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes. I actually first encountered this idea in my psychological training. It was an axiom of the psychoanalyst W. R. Bion, one of my chief influences, that thoughts are in search of a thinker that will "entertain" them, so to speak.

Bion is responsible for many cryptic comments, such as:

"Provisionally, we may consider that the difference between a true thought and a lie consists in the fact that a thinker is logically necessary for the lie but not for the true thought. Nobody need think the true thought: it awaits the advent of the thinker who achieves significance through the true thought. The lie and its thinker are inseparable. The thinker is of no consequence to the truth, but the truth is logically necessary to the thinker. His significance depends on whether or not he will entertain the thought, but the thought remains unaltered.

"In contrast, the lie gains existence by virtue of the epistemologically prior existence of the liar. The only thoughts to which a thinker is absolutely essential are lies. Descartes's tacit assumption that thoughts presuppose a thinker is valid only for the lie.

.... The lie is peculiar to a relationship between the host mind and the parasitic mind and destroys both."

Will said...

>>I can only reemphasize that it is critical to have some kind of daily contact with a person--whether living or "dead," it doesn't matter--of the vertical type. In reality, you must form a relationship with such an individual. Why? Because they have a "magnetic center" that is stronger than your own and draws you toward it, into their harbor.<<

I'm convinced the same principle applies on a universal level. If enough individuals can anchor the Light, the entire planet can be magnetized, pulled toward the center - ie.,earth transformed.

It might be that the "144,000" in the Book of Revs refers to the number of Light-anchoring individuals required.

Bob, I do hope that one of these days you will address the Dark Night as an integral part of the process. That's another aspect of the journey that can be applied universaly, I think. Possibly we're entering into a universal Dark Night now. I don't mean to sound gloomy about this - it's just that it is a necessary passage, and one should be under no illusions re the tasking involved. I think there is always the tendency to regard the spiritual quest as something of a vacation from reality whereas it's really a full embrace with such.

Gagdad Bob said...


You might well be correct. If I have a dark side, it's my inveterate tendency to see the bright side of things. If this really is the Kali yuga, I might be the last to find out. D'oh!

Will said...

lolol, Bob -

Actually I think to acknowledge the Dark Night really is to see the "bright side". Only in the Night does the Light appear.

And the whole process, Dark Night and all, is upbeat, far as I'm concerned.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Bob, you know, after reading this today, I was wondering why you don't have your own column somewhere! (besides here in your blog) I was thinking how so many newspapers and mags are crammed with gossip and opinion columnist that drag out the same old stuff and I was just thinking...your stuff is so enlightening! Has anyone approached you on ever doing something like that?

BTW....I love it when ya add a picture!

Will said...

LiquidIntake -

Bob is too modest to say, but fact is, most news organs - actually all of 'em - are far too removed from any kind of real vision to recognize the real worth of Bob's stuff.

The day that a newspaper picks up Bob as a columnist is the day I sprout wings and fly because the Parousia would have arrived.

Bob's stuff is the kind that, for now, goes out to nourish little enclaves of Light.

Tusar N Mohapatra said...

The epoch-making work of Sri Aurobindo on Vedic mysticism is of immense import as far as hermeneutics and psychology are considerd. It is the most original contribution of Sri Aurobindo to the modern knowledge systems. To the reader of this work, Indra is no longer a mere mythological deity, but the master of his own 'indriyas', senses, with whose active help, it would be easy to win new frontiers of awareness.

Varuna is not simply the lord of the sea but the highest psychological state of oceanic vastness, light and purity into which we all must aspire to surge forth. By this simple exercise of replacing the connotations, one turns with profit the Vedic text of great antiquity into an excellenct self-management treatise. The Veda is no more prisoned in rituals and conventions but becomes a handbook of self-culture.

As a result, thematic unity between the Veda and the Upanishads has been restored. By addressing the most primordial existential issues besetting human life, the Veda is a univesal testament, and Sri Aurobindo has delivered it from the confines of a particular religion.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Will--The day that a newspaper picks up Bob as a columnist is the day I sprout wings and fly because the Parousia would have arrived.

It could be an online magazine though Will (which there are many with alot of different flair) or for that matter even as an opinion columnist 'via alumni' for a university,(not sure which Bob attended) but no doubt could reach alot of young readers but no doubt there are other venues, it doesn't have to be a local or national "newspaper"

Lisa said...

Not that Bob needs any help with subjects for this blog, but I do hope that he expands on the Dark Night theme. The title could be "Purple Haze"!

Petey said...

That's, er, good news about Indra and Varuna. They're just as big as ever. It's just the temples that have gotten smaller.

Lisa said...

I was just blog surfing and came across a blurb about "aliyah". Most people are familiar with the term when used to describe Jews that return to Israel to live. The literal translation of aliyah is "going up". I thought that was kinda neat and related to the discussions of verticality and just wanted to share it with all of you.

Will said...

Liquidee -

You're right. I think Bob could easily get published in Parabola or that Brit glossy, What Is Enlightenment?

Who knows, maybe negotiations are under way as we speak!

Anonymous said...

Lisa - re the word "aliya"

I think I commented a while ago something to the effect that Israel is symbolic of the spiritual aspirations of all humankind. That "aliya" means "going up" makes sense. Someday, all will return to Israel, all will go up.

Will said...

sorry, Lisa, ditzed again - I meant aliYAH -

and I meant to sign my name, Will.

But I have an excuse - Pilates instructor was super taskmaster. Most vigrous excercise I've done in . . . well, since last summer.

Gagdad Bob said...


Funny you should mention. I'm being interviewed by What is Enlightenment? on Friday, part two of a lengthy interview last December. It will be in the next issue, which will focus on "evolutionary spirituality."

They also reviewed the book last fall. Still, I guess they're not sure what is enlightenment, and want to ask me again. I suppose if I come up with the right answer, that will be the end of the magazine.

Will said...

Bob - I actually think I have that issue reposing somewhere here in this wilderness of print I call a condo unit. I'll initiate an Official Search.

Meanwhile, maybe you just oughta work around the edges of enlightenment so nobody loses a job.

Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, it was the Dec 05 - Jan 06 issue.

Lisa said...

No problem, Will. You are just discovering the hidden and usually unwanted streak of sadism behind many pilates/yoga instructors!;0)

Trying to channel the streak in a positive way!(hopefullly)

Kahntheroad said...

Possibly we're entering into a universal Dark Night now. I don't mean to sound gloomy about this - it's just that it is a necessary passage, and one should be under no illusions re the tasking involved. I think there is always the tendency to regard the spiritual quest as something of a vacation from reality whereas it's really a full embrace with such.

Will, oh, I have no doubt we are headed full speed into the darkness. But I also will guess that it is the darkness that brought most of us here.

This morning, bored at the office, I flipped open a little passage-o-the-day booklet someone handed me on the street. Today's quoted Paul: "Indeed there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine."

It then comments: "In the midst of division and dissension we discover our agenda and purpose under God."

Not only on a political level did the evil I saw on 9-11 (and since) change me. On a personal level the clarity I have gained from watching these horrors unfold, and the responses to them, has ignited my passion, driven me on a spiritual and creative journey I'd never have imagined a few years ago. It has forced me to reexaimine every aspect of myself and the world (obviously, on a horizontal level that sounds self-centered, as it's terrible to think that my personal growth would benefit from other's suffering).

Anyway, I won't say that I'm always right - but I am at least convinced that I am sincere. Furthermore, whether my views today are correct or not, I firmly believe that these times and what is to come can only lead us towards clarity. I only endevor to stay on the path towards Truth - wherever it leads.

Lisa said...

Elegantly stated Kahn, thank you! Ditto!

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Oh how fragile we all are...
the hope is the strength inside us
Oh how safe we are when we find it!

Hey Will...
I am keeping a list of all the ways you say my name! Hahaha

P.S. I loved the last photo Bob! What a precious face!

Lisa said...

Your son is so precious! What a smile!

LiquidLifeHacker said...

kahntheroad--"In the midst of division and dissension we discover our agenda and purpose under God."

I really wanna comment on this, because in this thread anonymous, which seems to always end up being Will! Hahaha, said,"Someday, all will return to Israel, all will go up"

One of the ways that helps me to discover my agendas and purpose is to share with one others and see where those things both same and different take me. For example everytime we share it's a testimony. I just don't think alot of people realise how powerful that is. I am always thankful when you guys open up and let go! Seeds flow all over the place! For example, when Bob shares...we pick up alot of what he says here and sort it out in our heads, using what we can and after that our hearts start to shuffle the contents around. I don't have to agree with everything but I get alot of daily type of good feedback from most of it. Each post that Bob gives here is to me part of his own testimony. I get a glimpse into his journey and respect how open and willing his spirit is at sharing. I appreciate it and when others comment here I get connected to their words and appreciate that too! I can't say enough about who might be reading today or tomorow something that we say here and how it might influence.

I remember when Lisa (I am gonna use you as the example girly hope you don't mind you know I love ya)made a comment on how some of my quotes about Jesus kinda freaked her out, then she added how it made her a bit uneasy but how she coped with it *bless her heart* but I truly want to say here that I do not mean to freak anyone out when I share "my" testimonies. I am sharing.

For example, to me, Jesus is and was a Jew! Yeppers, and I say it all the time that MY BEST FRIEND is a JEW! For me the whole bible story is a Jewish story! I think for us that are Christians, that we are blessed and grafted into the whole "Jewish" story and that we were born within and have grown out of Judaism. I am grateful for that. How do I say this...ummm, I guess the best way to explain it is that for me, I wasn't born a Jew but following Christ and being Christian is "my" Judaism, because for me, it all starts and goes back to Jesus and the 'whole' Jewish story, Think about it...centuries and centuries of following Jesus has influenced and drawn people to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is the God of Israel! So we are suppose to redig the ancient wells because that is where the living waters are.

Will said...

Kahn - I agree with Lisa, that was an elegant statement of yours.

One of the stories I read about 9/11 concerned a guy who just missed getting crushed by the falling rubble. He was stumbling away, covered in dust, when a cop offered to take him to an aid station. They guy replied, no, I'm OK . . in fact, I've never felt so alive.

Point being there really is nothing callous about your response to 9/11. It really does usually take a trauma to wake us up. It certainly did in my case.

This makes me wonder if, on some higher level we can't, for the time, comprehend fully, 9/11 was not somehow "designed" to wake us up and that the souls who perished on that day knew - again on some higher level - that they were voluntarily sacrificing themselves for the rest of us.

Will said...

liquidity -

Yours was a pretty elegant statement too.


jwm said...

Oh yes. Much to say but too tired to say it now. manana


dante alighieri said...

Something that applies to the last few posts:

"They showed themselves to you here not because
this is their sphere, But as a sign for you
that in the Empyrean their place is lowest.
Such signs are suited to your mind, since from
the senses only can it apprehend
what then becomes fit for the intellect."

Paradiso (IV,37-42)

Laete said...

the famous "drawer photo" - more precious than anyone deserves to be!

jwm said...

Khantheroad and all:
On the dark epiphany of 9/11.

On September 10, I would have told you that we have more to fear from our own government than from any so-called terrorists.

I would have told you that the greatest threat that our society faces comes from right-wing fundamentalist Christians who want to make the Bible into law.

I would have (and did) give the finger to anti-abortion protestors.

I would have told you that the LA Times was a pretty straightforward news source that 'tells it like it is' without any agenda.

I would have stood on top of the hills in my region, looked out over the sea of Los Angeles stretching from the mountains to the beach, and seen, not a magnificent city, but unbridled greed- rampant development that destroyed a beautiful coastal plain for a buck.

Odd. It's only as I write this that I realize I've not only made a 180 degree turn on this handful of attitudes, but that this list is just pocket change. There's much much more. Synchronicity at work that I'm sharing it here with you all.

On to the day.


Kahntheroad said...


I can echo that.

On 9/10/01 I was a hardcore libertarian, I knew nothing of international affairs.

I was a devout atheist, slugging through an existential crisis, completely at a loss for how to apply my intellect or where to go next.

I can still remember the blows to my psyche in the following days (I was in DC, living next to the State Department - 4 blocks from the White House). Just little issues like having to reconcile my dogmatic belief in limited government with the security I felt knowing that all commercial airlines were still grounded.

Man, all of that seems like such a long time ago.

Kahntheroad said...


I think that last photo is a nice visual of a (?!).