Friday, March 10, 2006

Autoexorcism, Neurosimplicity, and Seeking With One I Open (3.11.08)

Rather than get into an academic discussion of Eastern Orthodox practices, I think I'll just present my own understanding of spiritual warfare and show how much overlap there is with ancient Christianity. I've noticed that I tend to dry up when I don't just wing it and speak or write from my own experience. In fact, the decision to simply report my own uncensored thoughts has been instrumental in making blogging a much more enjoyable experience for me, while having the added benefit of driving readers away. Therefore, if I write something stupid or embarrassing, fewer people will know about it.

Plus, I don't intend to sound elitist, but frankly, the kind of spiritual practice we're talking about is plainly not for everyone. The Mysteries aren't intended to be vulgarized and dispensed to any yahoo with an open hand and empty head, regardless of merit or sincerity. And they certainly weren't meant to be eagerly groped and pawed over by the grubby fingers of new age barbarians who reduce the most sublime knowledge to its ego (or usually sub-ego) level equivalent.

History is littered with caricatures of spirit. I have in my hand a hideous but typical example, in the form of a catalog I received in the mail a couple of days ago from company called Sounds True. I bring this up not just for valid purposes of mockery and ridicule, but to emphasize that there is actually great spiritual danger in treating these matters so lightly. Explore Higher States of Consciousness with this In-Home Audio Training Series (do not try at home). The Mandala Healing Kit: Spark Your Sacred Geometry (for people who can't spark euclidean geometry). Loveland: Music For Dreaming and Awakening (Dreaming or awakening? Make up your mind!). The Advanced Manifestation Program: Upgrade the Way You Think--And Live (upgrade only works if you start off really stupid). Take Charge of Your Life at The Quantum Level (since you obviously can't deal with reality on this level). Explore Non-Ordinary Reality with the Wisdom Tool of the Shaman. (Bend over for that last one.)

The hucksters who propagate this debased nonsense have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic spirituality. They are poseurs and flatterers pretending to be as dense as their followers so their followers can feel as clever as them. A real teacher is more likely to drive you away than to make outrageous promises and ask for your money. This is why I usually recommend that people work within an established religious framework. Sure, it's less glamorous, like indexing instead of trying to find some exotic or risky way to beat the stock market. Yes, there are some people who can do that, and there are some spiritual practitioners who are able to operate outside the lines. But doing so requires an abundance of caution--not less discipline, but more. As Bob Dylan sang, to live outside the law, you must be honest. You must know your own limitations, because Reality will eventually bring you to heel. Me? As I have mentioned before, I flunked out of business school. Almost all of my investments are in index funds.

Ronald Reagan once said words to the effect that "the solutions are simple, but not simplistic." As a matter of fact, simple is hard. Complexity is easy. Most people are very complex, especially the intelligent ones. Their intelligence just gives them more skill at pulling the wool over their own eyes. People are full of unconscious wormholes, psychic envelopes, secret lives, hidden compulsions, ulterior motives, and auto-hypnotic delusions. They appear deep, but deep down they tend to be very shallow. For mysticism is nothing more than the art of living with one's whole being at a deeper level.

Macarius, a fourth century church father, discusses the problem of mind parasites weaving their way into the unconscious in a most vivid and arresting manner: "When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not in hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God?"


Before we can enter the pneumatosphere, we must begin by clearly recognizing the hopelessly fragmented, dispersed and fallen situation we find ourselves in, and wishing sincerely to turn it around. Everything else depends upon this first recognition. It is, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, to realize that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery.

Denys the Areopagite wrote that "the higher we ascend, the more our words are straitened by the fact that what we understand is seen more and more altogether in a unifying and simplifying way." As "reason ascends from the lower to the transcendent, the more it ascends the more it is contracted, and when it has completely ascended it will become completely speechless, and be totally united with the Inexpressible." From lower complexity to higher simplicity. True science--including spiritual science--is the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Have you ever met a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, and doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?

Achieving this is actually the preliminary spadework of spiritual practice. You might say that it is both alpha and omega, because it is both cause and outcome. To put it another way, it begins as an efficient cause but eventually becomes a final cause. You begin by pushing, but eventually you will feel yourself pulled. What might be called the "spiritual dynamic" involves a combination of our own ceaseless efforts and the recognition that our unaided efforts will get us nowhere. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "without God's grace we can do nothing; but without our voluntary cooperation God will do nothing."

Here's one for you to ponder. Basil the Great, a fourth century church father, said "A mind which is not dispersed among external things, returns to itself, and from itself ascends to God by an unerring path." Was it not Matthew who wrote, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light"? Yes, if thine "I" be single, many felicitous things follow. Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page.

Just to show you how much overlap there is, I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Sri Aurobindo: "What we are now, or rather what we perceive as ourselves and so call, is only an ignorant partial and superficial formulation of our nature. It is not our whole self; it is not even our real self; it is a little representative personality.... There is a secret soul in us that is our true person.... to unveil that soul and that self is one of the most important movements of Yoga."

The lower mind consists mostly of "a customary crowd or round of sensations, desires, hopes, feelings, and satisfactions." Such a person "respects what belongs to the domain of mind mostly for its utility for the support, comfort, use, satisfaction and entertainment of his phsyical and sensational existence." He regards the higher as "a superfluous but pleasant luxury of imaginations, feelings and thought-abstractions, not as inner realities...."

But "Mind is a passage, not a culmination": "Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance.... But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma.... It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfillment."

In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare--for inner vigilance, for watchfulness, for facing oneself, for separating from those things that separate us from spirit, for building the Inner Citadel, more on which tomorrow since I'm out of time.


Bryan said...

Beautifully stated.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

I truly believe that God put eternity on all of our hearts. A seed is planted within each of us!

That evil force that works nonstop to decieve us is the father of all lies. When it achieves in us the ability to decieve sits back and watches it's own evil seeds grow! So when we open any 'decieving door' and at the same time close down the "eye" or "I" that we should be seeing with, thats when we surrender our lives to darkness and when we trap ourselves and continue to do so, we shut out the light that we need and is sufficient for the growth of the original seed which God put upon our hearts. I see alot of spiritual warfare a fight for the "seeds" because if one can rob the soil of the seed then when the time to reap the harvest comes...there will be empty fields. For those that try to push up through the ground are denied their nurturing sunlight then they will many times wither and die or strong wind and trauma will do more than bruise the tender growth!

Alot of people see spiritual warfare as the active battle between good and evil on all dimensions. Once a person starts to realise that there are real battles of principals, which sometimes we cannot see with the naked eye, but are just the same going on every second of the day and night, but it's when we open our eyes to it that we can start to become aware that there is a force out there with it's army that wants to snare us at every decision making turn we have! Thats when we wake up and we become actively alert! In the bible when reading Peter, I am reminded about this, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world"

So yes...the adversary is looking for any "open door" in our lives to enter!

I believe that it's true war. I believe that this dark force started a war in heaven and got himself cast out and then in it's rebellous fury started again with an out and out war against Jesus! So this war has been going on for a long time! We can read the bible and see how this force worked to try to stop the gift to mankind! When Jesus overcame all it's effort to stop the good news and when He resisted all the snares of temptation here on this earth and on the third day He had victory thats when the evil force licked his wounds and started to change his game plan! Jesus's victory really steamed the effort of the adversary, but all that was left for his army, which is against our maker, was to turn it's warfare tactics onto the "seeds" that are here on this earth ...the seeds within each of our hearts that are meant to grow in the light of God! The war is now directed to each of us here on earth that are trying to seek our way home! This war is fought every day and the more we all wake up and open our "eye" or "I" to it...thats when we can start becoming empowered to help fight it! Each of us have the responsibility to protect our seed and help it to grow by letting the light shine upon it!

Gagdad Bob said...


Good points. Extending the agrarian metaphor, there are many stages where the hostile forces may intervene to prevent spiritual growth. The horizontal world doesn't even want you to know about the seeds. But if you do manage to plant them, there are forces that will try to deny them water, fertilizer, and light. Plus you have to give equal rights to the weeds. And if you must harvest, please confine it to behind closed doors. And especially, don't ever cross-pollinate! That'll get you arrested if you try it in a public school.

Will said...

Hi Bob -

I'm really enjoying your posts, glad I found your site. Yes, I think interior "watchfulness" is the key re the primary fight against evil. The New Testament, particularly Matthew, is replete with references to "staying awake", which certainly in one context could be taken as a rejoinder to remain self-vigilant. That and continually "imagining" (in the Blakean sense of the word "imagine") ourselves into spiritual increase. When we do so, we can expect a firestorm of resistance, which is what happens when we pick up the cross, or in Eastern terms, "activate our karma". All that ego, hitherto happy to remain in the unconscious where it could make us dance to its tune, rises to the surface and gives us holy hell in one form or another. Ego wants full control again and it will do what it can to dismay, terrify, depress, cojole,flatter, even sympathize with us in an effort to seize the reins again. And at a certain point in the process, I think, we have to begin dealing with evil as universal archetype, not merely as a personalized set of failings. Any would-be pilgrim who harbors a romanticism re this quickening process is going to be 100% disabused of the notion.

The ego, I think, is extremely subtle - I mean extremely. Spiritual pride is, of course, one of the more subtle forms of ego. I think it's a life-long battle, at least on this side of the divide. I once read where mystic/saint Padre Pio admitted to agonizing over his own ego, which surfaced - as he perceived it - during his most altruistic, seemingly selfless acts. And this was in his later years when his spiritual advancement was probably nonpareil on earth at that time. So, yes, the struggle against evil/ego is a long and winding (Beatle quote for you, Bob) and often bitter road. But it's the only road home.


LiquidLifeHacker said...

"equal rights to the weeds"
Oh crack me up!

*off to get a starbucks coffee and pick up your book since they called and said it came in today*
Woooooooooooo Hooooooooooooo

Rorschach said...

Cannot dismiss voice of friend merely because he is atheist and I am not... he is oldest friend still extant. His complaint against religion not related to disbelief in Something Higher, but to perception of widespread hypocrisy on part of religious organizations and individuals.

Yet as far as he knows, there is no vertical. And we have had several conversations wherein he attempted to convince me of rationality of this theory. Should have known from beginning that it would come to no good; first in-depth discussion of subject led to my suffering hysterical nervous breakdown in road outside his house, almost on level of identity crisis. Took him better part of twenty minutes to calm me down. I should have taken that as a sign.

He is not insane or evil; purely rational and honorable as human being. And yet his derision is still thing to be feared. Doubt that I could ever convince him that openness to possibility of Vertical is beneficial, not after all the unpleasant circumstances his family have endured. Bitterness earned, expressed as denial.

Dilemma most simply expressed thus: Am aware he denies the Vertical. Fear falling in his esteem if admit to honest belief in God. Will not accept facile assurances that Vertical vastly exceeds unbelieving friends in importance. Refuse to abandon long and fruitful relationship for petty reasons of philosophical difference. Have believed in him far longer than have believed in God.

Sal said...

This is a "must-read" site, thanks to Bob and his commentors.

Re: DIY mysticism: Again, it is a vocation, not a choice you make.
And, in the Christian tradition, one's gifts are for the good of the community, not oneself. Though these gifts, properly used, result in, I'm not sure what the correct term you'd use is, self-actualization? Integration? You lose your life to save it, iow.

Yes, sanctification is a life-long affair - with the purgative, illuminative and unitive stages recurring cyclically.