Saturday, March 11, 2006

Watch, Pray, and Don't Mention My Book to the Rank and Foul

Before getting into today's post, I would like to mention how gratifying it has been to receive some of the positive comments from readers, both publicly and privately. It means a lot to me to know that a certain class of readers has somehow managed to stumble upon the blog, because I wasn't sure that such people existed prior to starting it. I am not embarrassed to say that my book will never sell many copies. That isn't why I wrote it. My only hope was that it would somehow reach those people who might benefit from it, both now and after I'm gone.

Given its unorthodox nature, it still amazes me that any publisher took on the project at all, but it was actually published by the very first one I sent it to. And even they--bless their hearts--expressed some misgivings about publishing a book that started in mid-sentence with a little psychotic fairy tale, used different fonts at the beginning and end, and had no proper endings for the individual chapters. I guess I've never told the story of how the book came to be. If you will indulge me for a moment, I think I'll relate that tale here, before getting into the substance of today's post. I wouldn't do so unless I thought it was more generally instructive about the way things work. You know, synchronicity, and all that.

Again, I wrote the book without ever giving a thought as to whether it would ever be published and who might do the publishing. I then read a book that had been put out by my eventual publisher, Paragon House. It was actually published by a small subdivision, an imprint called Omega Books. I noticed that the editor of Omega Books was a man named John White. Where did I know that name? Ah yes! I went to my bookshelf and pulled down an old book of his that I had read many years ago, an anthology entitled The Highest State of Consciousness (since then republished as What is Enlightenment?), which I probably purchased in the early 1980's, but was originally published in 1972. Anyway, I opened the book and noticed that White had dedicated the book to A.L.P. and H.C.E.

I suppose that most people wouldn't know who A.L.P. and H.C.E. were, but I surely did. They are Anna Livia Plurabelle and Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker of Finnegans Wake, the former representing the universal archetype of femininity, the latter representing the universal masculine. Like me, this man White was a fan of James Joyce's incomprehensible masterpiece Finnegans Wake! And of higher states of consciousness! Plus the book has a chapter about Sri Aurobindo. Surely he will appreciate my book, in particular, the Joycean prologue and epilogue that are modeled after Finnegans Wake. To put it another way, if he doesn't get it, that will be a pretty good indication that no on else will either.

So I stuck the manuscript in an envelope and promptly forgot about it. Six months later I get a profusely apologetic phone call from the man himself, deferentially treating me like the reincarnation of James Joyce. Of course I'll publish the book! If Paragon doesn't want it, I'll find a way to do it myself! He explained that I had sent the manuscript to the main office in Minnesota, but that he operates out of New Hampshire. Somehow it had been hung up in Minnesota all that time. He had just received the package, and I guess it's safe to say that to this day he remains my most enthusiastic supporter. He specifically mentioned that he was determined to publish the book even if no one else besides he and I got the metaphysical humor. (It turns out that White was Ken Wilber's first literary agent, and managed to get Wilber's first book, The Spectrum of Consciouness, published after something like twenty five rejections. That book, of course, went on the be a massive success, and made Wilber the 800 pound gorilla of the far-flung--including some things you'd like to fling far--world of consciousness studies.)

I don't know. The whole sequence of events still strikes me as pretty odd. Now I just noticed another weird synchronictiy. I'm thumbing through The Highest State of Consciousness, and I see at the end of the introduction White writes, "Man appears to be constructed in the manner of Yeats' intersecting gyres or as a miniature model of the doughnut-shaped Van Allen radiation belt surrounding our planet. A local vortex in a sea of energy.... The aura of mystics and the stylized halo of saints is then explainable" as a visible manifestation of spiritual purity, of "their lack of interfering vibrations from confused thought processes." Remember my inexplicable post last Sunday, "Is the Cosmos a Fractal Torus?" Until today, I had no idea that Yeats and White also thought so. And I thought I was eccentric. I'm not even original.

Anyway, one of the reasons why I can't imagine my book becoming hugely popular is that it's not the sort of thing that can ever spread like wildfire from hand to hand and mouth to mouth. That is, even if one person gets a lot out of the book, it is quite likely that they will not know a single individual in their life to whom they could unreservedly recommend it. I personally wouldn't think of recommending the book to most of the rank-and-file (not to mention the rank and foul) earthlings I know, whether friends, relatives, neighbors, or coworkers. If it comes up at all, I actually dissuade most people from reading it, because it's just not meant for everyone.

I joke about it, but the blog actually does get many more hits when I post about politics. However, the people who are drawn only to the politics would eventually be alienated anyway by the esotericism. One of the reasons why I enjoy the feedback is that it is a relief to know that there are others of Our Kind out there. After all, we are an odd breed. Clearly we are strangers wandering the debased secular world of infrahuman entertainment and pseudointellectual philosophical materialism. And although sympathetic with them, we are not fully comfortable in the world of the other half, either--the conventionally religious (this is not intended as a slight, just a matter of affinity). But we are frankly creeped out by the untraditionalists, the born-again pagans of the "new age" world, which largely consists of a marketing scam for magical thinking and self-aggrandizement.

So where do we fit in? We are Mr. and Missfits, condemned to wander the lonely desert of cyberspace with only the occasional virtual oasis dotting the infinite mindscape. I don't know about you, but I am relieved to know that there is even one other person similar to me. Then, at the very least, it's a folie a deux. Or should that be deus?

Reader Will--who is a scary example of someone who thinks just like me--highlighted what is actually at the foundation of the ancient Christian approach to spiritual growth (although they surely wouldn't have flattered themselves by calling it "growth"), that is, watchfulness. Watchfulness is the key to everything--I believe it is the very last instruction Jesus gives to his disciples before he is yanked up by the Roman machine. In the garden at Gethsemane, he clearly and unambiguously urges them--not parable style--to watch and pray. This statement may be interpreted as the last exoteric statement made by the living Jesus, while It is accomplished may be regarded as his last esoteric statement. They are unified in his very last recorded words in the Book of John, You follow me.

Will points out that interior watchfulness "is the key regarding 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." Exactly. In this regard, esoteric Christian practices are extremely similar to Yoga and Buddhism, in that they aspire to achieve inner silence, stillness, and openness through the systematic practice of watchfulness. This actually represents true prayer according to Bishop Kallistos Ware:

"To achieve silence: this is of all things the hardest and the most decisive in art of prayer. Silence is not merely a negative--a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech--but, properly understood, it is highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness, of vigilance, and above all of listening. The man who has attained hesychia, inward stillness or silence, is par excellence the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his but that of another speaking within him." Or, as I cryptically expressed it at the end of my book, "he who hesychasts is lost," meaning that you--your ego--must become lost in the silence of God.

Will adds that we must also "imagine" ourselves "into spiritual increase." This use of imagination is a term of art, not to be confused with the lower, dreamlike imagination. This lower form of imagination is somnolent, passive, and present in beasts. It is the opposite of "watch and pray." Much spiritual warfare specifically involves the struggle against this hypnotic state in which most human beings will spend their entire lives. The noetic use of imagination is oriented in a direction diametrically opposed to this, and involves actively gathering and assimilating forces and influences emanating from a higher world, not the lower one.

Will further points out that "we can expect a firestorm of resistance, which is what happens when we pick up the cross, or in Eastern terms, 'activate our karma'." Mind parasites that were "hitherto happy to remain in the unconscious where [they] could make us dance to [their] tune, rise to the surface and give us holy hell in one form or another. Ego wants full control again and it will do what it can to dismay, terrify, depress, cajole, 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."

Yes. This reminds me of a remark once made by my best teacher in graduate school, the esteemed Dr. Panajian. Someone asked if he recommended psychoanalysis for something or other. Dr. Panajian responded that he would not. "I only offer psychoanalysis. I would never recommend it."

Likewise, I would never recommend spiritual practice (or my book, for that matter). If they are meant for you, you will know it.

We end with another comment left by reader Rorschach regarding a painful relationship with an atheist friend of long-standing. As I have mentioned before, it is wrong to think of atheism as a non-spiritual belief system. In point of fact, obligatory atheism is definitely a spiritual state. It is nothing more and nothing less than a frank confession of ignorance of the higher planes of being. It serves no purpose whatsoever to get into an argument or debate with such an individual. They do not know because they cannot know. Just take their word for it and move on.

Rorschach points out that "He is not insane or evil; purely rational and honorable as a human being." No doubt true, but there is a particular form of madness that involves losing everything but one's reason (I forget who said that originally). Rorschach says that the essential dilemma is "fear falling in his esteem if I admit to honest belief in God." Here I can only refer you back to what was said above regarding watching, praying, and achieving inner silence. It is relatively easy to do this privately, much more difficult to maintain this zone of silence--the impregnable Interior Monastery--while in the world. This is what you must be able to do in the presence of your friend--to have a spiritual force field that simply repels his energies that will perpetually try to provoke your own mind parasites. He is an occasion for you to learn inner silence under in vivo conditions, while real bullets are flying.

Actually, we conclude with reader Sal, who made the excellent point that "sanctification is a lifelong affair--with the purgative, illuminative and unitive stages recurring cyclically." This is such a good point that I will probably have to leave it until tomorrow to expand upon, but this is exactly right. All spiritual practices may be ultimately reduced to the trinity of purification, illumination, and union. However, it is a mistake to think of it as a linear process. Rather, like that other trinity, it is a fractally recurring, upwardly spiraling pattern with each part inside the other parts. If you want to know the truth, if you could somehow represent it visually, it would look something like Yeats' intersecting gyres or as a miniature model of the doughnut-shaped Van Allen radiation belt surrounding our planet, something I didn't know until about half an hour ago. I'll explain more tomorrow. If anyone is still out there.


Finding Fair Hope said...

Got to say this is the most interesting blog I've ever stumbled onto. Running a blog myself I always say nobody ever stumbes on a blog, but I did. Got to say also that much of what you write is just a tad over my head, but I'm gonna bookmark you and check you out frequently to see if I get better at it with time. You might be slightly interested in my mundane blog, or the one started by a friend of mine, much closer to your state of mind Mendacious Mouse. We're both at

Sal said...

Yes - didn't mean to suggest that these states took place only one at a time. They're all happening at once, but one state is usually more to the fore than the others. That's what I meant to say.

I consider myself conventionally religious. I run whatever is posted here thru my theology filter and either discard it or use it as a starter point for further thought. More often than you might think, I go "Oh,yes. He's talking about _____, but he's describing it as _______."

So, don't sell your appeal short.

Hoarhey said...


Thanks for having this blog as a place to come daily to take focus off the world and a as reminder of what's truly important.

June said...

I'm going to link to your blog from mine. I just stumbled on it. I'm not even sure how I got here.

I'm like you in one clear way: I'm a seeker, wanting to solve this big riddle. Unlike you, it seems, in that I haven't picked a clear path yet, and I don't know if I want or need to. For the moment, I am content to keep exploring.

As Homer simpson said, "Facts schmacts. You can prove anything you want with facts." I'm not sold on the idea that one consistent theory is necessary. I get the whole science approach and it's nice to have a beautiful theory, but I wonder if a messy hypothesis without neat equations might not be more accurate. Maybe we just can't ever totally get it. But it is nice to find such theories and such thinkers to contemplate.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Bro. Bob,

I am now putting my socks back on, for you knocked them off! Many years ago my son, then a university student, went to some sort of event that included John Cage seated outside behind a card table signing books. My son, with book in hand, got in line, and upon arriving at the front, Mr. Cage asked to whom he should sign the book for. My son threw a curve (if it is possible to throw a curve to John Cage) and simply asked, "Could you write your favorite word?" Whereupon Mr. Cage turned to a friend seated nearby and a quick exchange of words were made, then Mr. Cage quickly turned his attention to the book and printed the following:
With that he smiled and returned the book and my puzzled son thanked him. It was only later that I was able to decipher the enigma for my son.

Gagdad Bob said...

An obvious case of sockronicity.

Will said...

Good afty, Bob -

Hey, re your vortex/torus matter, certainly you are original,just as Yeats was being original when he intuited the same thing. You discern a certain Universal Truth (the Oneness) and you then describe it in your own terms, with your own individual colorings(the Multiplicity). That's the astonishing beauty of it all. Each part of the crystal reflects/refracts the One Light in its own way.

And speaking of synchronitiy - even as I picked up on your blog as you began your discourse on evil - and even as your blog is now experiencing an apparent influx of like-minded readers/pilgrims (dare I say that we all feel a bit of the quickening in the wind in the past week or so?) - I had my own little illuminating encounter with evil. An acquiantance of mine, a woman who is obviously very psychologically disturbed, revealed herself to be chillingly, cold-bloodedly,self-obsessed. No suprise there but I think there is always a tendency - in my case anyway - to lead with the heart, to try and help, to hope, if not expect, that such a person will see their way to grasp at a helping hand before they go under. With this, I suppose, comes the notion that perhaps the person really is a victim of circumstance, that perhaps some long-ago trauma or some present-day hyper-sensitivity has indeed "victimized" the person. In any event, what was revealed to me was that which I already really knew, of course - that the ultimate source of this person's problems, that which presented itself in such a jarring array of pitiable behaviors, was ego,utter self-love. I'm talking Black Hole here. Gravitational field deluxe, no light escapes. Done deal, signed, sealed, delivered. This is the kind of person many of the American Indian tribes would have, without too much contemplation, exiled.

No biggie here, pretty obvious stuff. But for me, it was thrillingly liberating. Sometimes we need the obvious staged right in front of us in full theatrical colors. Time to shake off the dust and move on. Let the dead bury their dead.

BTW, who is "Petey" Is he anything like "Lopez"?


Gagdad Bob said...

You don't know about Petey? Around these parts he's a household gnome.

Benedict S. said...

The lady who calls herself "finding fair hope" sent me your way. I'm that mendacious mouse fellow. She says we are a lot alike. Perhaps. I'm a Spinozist and am convinced -- more or less not at all -- that everything makes sense at some level. We're make more sense of objects that obey physical laws, but since "without God nothing can be or be conceived," the spiritual world must also make just as much sense. The apparatus we have for processing the signals sent by physical objects work so well at doing what they do, we're lured into believing that the inner world of intuition is of only secondary importance. But as my main man says, "the order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things," so if there's an order in "things" there must also be an order in ideas.

But nowhere and no way do the same sorts of relationships that exist among things apply verbatim to the relationships among ideas. There is no Rosetta Stone containing ideas and their physical counterparts. The world of associations and inferences cannot be translated from even a complete knowledge of the connections and causal relationships among dendrites and axons. Your adventures in the esoteric must certainly relate to some "thing" about you and your experiences, but because we are all parts of what passes for an infinite One, we participate with and behave as its integral parts. So-called religious experiences happen to people everywhere, even thos atheists you spoke of. Those experineces may not reveal the details of the the infinite, but at least, when wee return from "over the rainbow," we'll no longer doubt that there is a meaningful difference between the objects of sense and the objects of deep knowing.

Keep up the struggle. But please, don't it out that it's the ultimate high. There just may not be enough to go around.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Well Mr Bob, I purchased your book yesterday, (I paid the full price because Petey wants his cut)and I do want to add, that when the book was tossed onto the counter while the purchase was ka-chinging, I smiled over at the bookcover. The way the light was bouncing off it made the gold have a twinkled shimmer to it and at first glance I thought (without touching it) that it seemed to have a transparent layer added to the cover; an overlay with the actual type... so I thought, "Wow...Nicer than the visual via the net" Then when I picked the book up and I really liked the quality of paper that you chose for the cover itself and that's when I realised that it was the "light" that had tricked my eye concerning the type and it wasn't an added transparency. I was impressed with the look and feel. I am glad that you didn't go with the spiral edged binding concept, as it would have been annoying to the hands when holding to read it, because, although I haven't read the book yet, I did lay back and thumb through it all to get a "feel" for what is to come from the inside. I was being all superficial soaking in the outside first! (Ha Ha)
In my hands, it had that "manual" feeling. I was actually thinking how cool it would have been had you attached a dvd/cd inside the book so that the reader could "load up" the "software"
(Ha Ha) Oh well...maybe the next book huh?

As for the "Don't mention my book"
From someone that can't actually give a review of it as of yet, but has had the advantage of reading your words here via your blog...
Once people become familiar with Finnegan's Wake, they will truly "get it" and start to understand what dock you leaped off and how you are sharing your "roundtrip" discoveries with all of us! Remember...waking up from a deep sleep can put one initially into a "groggy state" but pretty soon we all become more alert and attentive with the motivation of hunger!

Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

Do not despair of the conventionally religious, they too have their place. Many is the time, while I was in the religion business, that I was brought up short by being forcibly reminded of the value of each of these souls. It never fails that as I bemoan the state of the world it is made clear to me that there is more going on than I know of. And just occasionally some word forks lightning for an unwary hearer, and for that individual all is changed. Not everyone will gyre in the heights, very often it is a victory when a face is raised from the dust.

Will said...

Bob, I,for one, hope you don't stop writng occasionally about politics. You don't need me to tell you that you will continue to do so,if and when the Spirit moves you. In any event, I suspect there's people out there, some, feel a spiritual call and who, for the time being, can only relate to it in terms of politics. That is, they have s spiritual inclination, they just don't know it as yet. Same with many who are attracted to various forms of art - they may also hear the spiritual call and don't know how to relate it to anything but art. Of course, there are those who are attracted to art only because of the aesthetics, the sensuality of it all; and there are those who dote on politics simply because of the mind-play - which is also a form of sensuality. For those who flee at the first breath of the esoteric, ah well, you know, shake the dust off, right?`Anyway, Dr Sanity likes it when you post political.

Me, I see everything in meta-terms. Everything dovetails, down to the fine print. For example: Ever notice how much`Iran's Ahmadinejad actually looks like a demon? Have to factor everything in here, you know.


larwyn said...

Dear Robert,
You're not listening to some of those calling upon you and needing you.

When you and Petey apply your esteemed POV to matters or events "political", the very originality of your work, the meshing of the "spiratual" into the "political" allows we fans to present links to those essays on sites far and wide.

If 30 have looked in due to the "Liberal Ghost Dancers" or 50 for "THE PATHETIC LAST CHILDREN OF NIETZCHE'S PITIABLE MAN" and
only 1 stays with you and begins a true spiritual journey, you have accomplished much.

Please do not throw us aside so easily. I appreciate knowing why I know that certain issues in the political arena are tied to my "spiritual knowing" even tho I would be considered a "fallen away Catholic".

In the lyrics of Tim Rice copyrighted in 1969:

"If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation

Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication

Robert, you have the Internet, give us a few bones to throw out there a few times a months.

Bet Petey will agree with me!

Bryan said...

A little off topic, but since politics got mentioned, I'd be interested someday to hear your thoughts on the proper place of politics in the life of a spiritual seeker. I studied with a Hindu Tantric guru for a while who advised us, "Ignore the world, and practice Sadhana," which at the time seemed to me good advice, but he frequently offered his opinion about current events, so he wasn't following his own advice, which didn't motivate us to follow his advice on that point, either.

Still, though, it often seems like good advice, because I find a tendency in myself that when I pay too much attention to politics, it tends to stir up a lot of feelings of anger or anxiety or vindictiveness, which spiritual practice tends to reduce. So I was wondering what you thought about that.

Off topic, but just thought I'd ask.

anybody said...

I found your blog through one of the usual suspects (either Shrinkwrapped or Dr Sanity, can't remember which) and liked your take on things political. Having not really given the spiritual world more than a glancing thought thus far in my life (I'm an engineers kid), I was surprised to find myself returning to your site more and more often seeking what I find to be your unique insights into the "vertical" world as you so interestingly put it. I read your book and was left with the feeling that maybe I've been missing something in plain sight. My spiritual gears are pretty rusty but your ideas and the way you present them make me want to apply a little cosmic grease. Maybe.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Did you guys see this?

A DePaul University graduate student sold his soul to the highest bidder on eBay. Hemant Mehta calls himself an atheist.

He posted an unusual item on eBay: a chance to save his soul for a price.

The winning bid was $504.

The man who bought Mehta's soul has invited him to attend 10 to 15 different church services and then write about it.

So far, Mehta has concluded that church is "not such a bad place to be."

John Hinds said...


With your permission.

I went for a walk today after reading your piece. It was a beautiful, though somewhat warm, late winter day. There was a mountain laurel on the path. I can't fathom why it is called that for there are no mountains within a thousand miles of here. But this laurel was in full bloom and literally humming with life. There were thirty or fourty butterflies of several varieties, honey bees, bumble bees, and a delectably tiny, no larger than the end of my little finger, hummingbird. It was black with a yellow band across it's abdomen. All were feasting on the deliciously smelling nectar of the divinely blue flowers of this plant. Bye the bye, in times past I have had the distinct pleasure of having hummingbirds fly up to my face and hover there. Also, last year, a bird landed on my head. It was a finch of some sort. Astonishing! I need to move more frequently, you think?

Anyhow I gave the creatures and the plant plenty of room as I passed, and pondered bringing out my camera for some close up photos. Maybe later.

A quick aside speaking of close encounters. You have heard perhaps of Ram Bomjon the 15 year old "new" Buddha. He has been bitten by two snakes as he sat under his pipal tree in Nepal (reportedly for 10 months sans food). If I was meditating and a snake crawled on me....Well, that's it, I'm sorry. End of quest. I CAN take a hint.

Back to my walk. A stiff wind was blowing out of the southwest with gusts of maybe 20 miles per hour so it was not without effort that I trudged up the hill towards the front of the property. Keeping an eye out for rattlers, allusion to environs of Bro. Bartleby, I nonetheless ran over in my mind the recent encounters with the dialougues, or should I say coliloquies or even "blogiloquies", of Gagdad Bob. The idea of the horizontal versus the vertical regions continue to pull at my mind among many other points touched on in the stream of consciousness approach of Bob and readers to the pursuit of answers to age old questions aimed at finding meaning or salvation.

I had been reading Plato's Republic besides Bob's Blog. Socrates is there expounding to Glacon, "the owl eyed one", and comes to relate the parable of the cave in which we see man chained to a perspective in which he can only observe the shadows of experience with the unaccessible light source coming from behind through the mouth of the cave. Were the chains to be broken one could turn and go towards the light, "vertically" ascending from the horizontal bondage of mundane experience.

OK, get to the point! Well, simple. The parable of the cave is "fractaled" into christian salvation, into Buddha's enlightenment, into Bob's horizontal versus vertical juxtaposition of consciousness.

My heart swells with joy as I ponder that the touchstone of truth can be rubbed so many times over so many millenia and yet there it is shining forth in all the glory of a beauty which should mortal man have the great fortune to be brought suddenly and without proper spiritual preparation face to face with the underlying diety thereof he would surely die for mortal man cannot look directly on the face of God for that beauty reflected in the frost white felicity of a simple rose is of such a terrible, terrible magnitude that to look on it one would surely, surely die. So, in a sense, to wish to see God is to wish for annihilation. Better to love him through worship and wait for the day that he bestows on you an eye capable of beholding his glory.

The focusing of the mind is the sine qua non in godwardness endeavor. A mantra, a ritual prayer, the bringing to the mind again and again a certain sound; likewise a yantra, the bringing to the mind again and again a certain image. These are some tools with which one can cultivate "watchfulness" and suppress the modifications of the mind. In the ensuing stillness....well, discovery is the action of the unknown, as everybody knows.


John Hinds

Rorschach said...


Issues with your definition of atheism as 'those who do not or cannot know.'

Atheists in my experience DO know. What they know, however, is 180 degrees away from our point of view. To say they do not know God exists is incorrect, because inaccurate. Would be more correct to say they "know" that He does NOT exist.

Offer here a paraphrase of Penn Jillette's formation: "I will not say that I do not believe there is a God. I will say that I believe there is no God."