Monday, April 03, 2006

On Seeing by the Light of Darkness

By night, an atheist half believes in God. --Edward Young

This will be a threefold challenge, since I don't know what I'm talking about, have no idea how to express it, and am in no condition to do so. Regarding the latter, there is another baby bug in the house. Fortunately it is not of the GI variety, like the last one. Rather, it is of the sore throat-upper respiratory species. Still, combined with the time change, it takes something out of a lad.

On the other hand, a temporary, sometimes even willed, derangement of the senses can be the best approach to the unknown. It pushes you off the map of the familiar, to the threshold of the greater Mystery. People use fancy vacations, drugs, meditation retreats, etc.--anything to try to trick the nervous system and get around its tendency to erect a fence of routine and familiarity around everything.

For the majority of the time I was employed as a retail clerk between 1976 and 1988, I worked the graveyard shift. That's a good name for it, because there is no doubt that the still darkness of night is when the transdimensional spooks come out to play. I was generally sleep-deprived during those years, and might have been utterly exhausted by, say, 1:00 or 2:00am. But then, out of necessity, I would break through a sort of "wall," and afterwards be in an extended state of hypnopompic alertness until going to bed at around 9:00am. You might say that one I would close but another would open.

Interestingly, the Greeks had a word, psychopomp, referring to the conductor to the realm of lost souls. That realm is what we now call the unconscious. As a matter of fact, the "free association" of psychoanalysis is nothing more than an attempt to lull the ego to sleep, while the analyst is the psychopomp who will lead the search for the lost parts of oneself dwelling in the darkness of the unconscious.

Anyway, once I would break through that wall of fatigue, I would enter a very distinct state. Hard to describe, but it was as if the world were dreaming---which it was--and I was, so to speak, partaking of the same state. Only while awake. In the midst of this night consciousness, many ideas--call them "mythological" or "sacred" ideas--made perfect sense that didn't necessarily make sense in the unforgiving light of day.

The entire process was abetted by a certain radio program that aired from midnight until 5:00am. It featured lectures by various spiritual luminaries both high and low, everyone from Krishnamurti to Alan Watts to D.T. Suzuki to Timothy Leary and Ram Dass. I was especially influenced by the spellbinding lectures of the ethnobotanist, shamanologist, and mushroomologist Terence McKenna, may he rest in peace. He is a perfect example of someone who only makes sense at 3:00am. In that vein, I like to think of this blog as a sort of 3:00am dispatch from ther heart of the void: all the eternity that's fit to print.

You might compare it to how certain religious ideas might "resonate" more if you are standing in a 14th century European cathedral, each part of which is designed to carry your temporal consciousness upward and outward, to the contemplation of eternity.

It wasn't long ago that the world was a very, very dark place. I mean that both literally and figuratively. That is, before the invention of electric lights, the night was pitch black except for perhaps a small center of candle or firelight. People were aware of the darkness as a real and present entity, in a way that we are not. Modern people rarely live in darkness except when they are asleep. As such, the only time they have access to the dream world--and night consciousness--is when they are unconscious.

It is as if night consciousness is our "missing half" that would allow us to make sense of certain things that cannot be discussed or understood in the harsh light of day. Certainly this is something James Joyce realized in attempting, in Finnegans Wake, to tell the entire story of mankind from the standpoint of "nighttime logic." That is, he depicted all of human history as the restive and far-flung dream of a single sleeping individual in a single night.

In order to have a comprehensive understanding of ourselves, we must not only be familiar with the daytime part--the ego--but also the nighttime part--the unconscious. Likewise, I am of the belief that there is the mundane, horizontal "daytime history" of academic historians, but also a more vertical "nighttime" history of the human race that can only be discussed in ways entirely unfamiliar to the rank and file historian.

To cite just one example that comes readily to mind, take our founding fathers. One of the problems with secular leftist history is that it is increasingly a spiritually suffocating "daytime" history, to the point of absurdity. Thus we have books that will tell you that the founders were motivated entirely by economic self-interest, or that they were actually less elevated than we are, in that some of them were slave owners.

But in my "nighttime" view of the founders, I literally regard them as political avatars sent to earth with a divine mission. Again, literally--I see them as analogous on a political level to Jesus or Buddha or Krishna on a religious level. The more one immerses oneself in their spiritual and intellectual world, the more this becomes readily apparent. Just imagine if we were to gather together the greatest secular "daytime" minds of today and hold a constitutional convention. One shudders at the--ironically nightmarish--thought!

You will no doubt realize that our founders are still our primary benefactors and protectors from the onslaught of the daytime left. Despite 225 years of "progress," our founders still understand us better than we will ever understand them, in the same way that scripture, in its esoteric aspect, comprehends us better than any profane Jesus seminarian will ever be able to understand scripture exoterically. I would venture to say that the purely mythological beliefs that George Washington cut down a cherry tree, never told a lie, and threw a coin across the Delaware River are more true than the "sophisticated" idea that he was a greedy capitalist motivated only by self-interest. Indeed, how to talk about such greatness without resorting to myth?

You will also note that when you try to denude the world of its nighttime dimension, you actually do end up creating a waking nightmare: "the sleep of reason begets monsters." Another way of saying it is that (paraphrasing someone) there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything but one's reason. This is one reason why the secular left is such a fount of un- and insanity. Like a psychotic person, they dream while awake and call it reality.

But of course, they believe we are the insane ones. Thus, another dimension of the "culture war" is between those who can see in the dark vs. those who believe the darkness no longer exists just because we have electricity. For them, darkness is no longer visible. They see only light. But because their eyes have become insensitive to the dark, they see only by artificial light, not natural light--that is, the true light that lights the world.

I'm really rambling, but I guess that's part of the point I'm trying to make. I did not "intend" to venture down this path, but it was facilitated by illness and fatigue. I was going to begin a discussion of reincarnation, which several readers have requested. My point, before going into the discussion, is that reincarnation is clearly one of those topics that can only be understood by the light of night. We must imagine ourselves in total darkness, perhaps huddled around a small fire, allowing the night to whisper its secrets from the far side of consciousness.


Will said...

Bob -

"Night, like all things vast and cosmic, is heavy with contradiction. Night is both a presence and an absence, a fullness and an emptiness. Night both reveals and obscures. Night destroys image yet invites us to replace the lost image with visions of our own. Night separates us, nudges us into individual cells, while at the same time urging us to gather together. Indeed, there is no time when we sense and celebrate the presence of another than at night. Night conjures up romance as well as terror. Night is the time of our greatest thoughtfulness and sobriety yet it can also be the time of our greatest recklessness and abandon."

"Night is full of paradox - it is a romance, a terror, a simplicity, a complexity, a dream and hallucination, and a transcendent vision."

Those quotes are from somebody or another, I think his name is Lopez, on the subject of night.

Here's one from Baudelaire: "Twilight arouses madmen."

And from Rilke: “Who dares to lean his brow against nightspace as against his own window".

One thing us moderns tend to forget is that night is a lot more than the absence of day. (me)

Kahntheroad said...

Hey all,

I think we need a place to contain this blaze of ideas that Bob has kindled.

A few weeks ago I set up a group on Yahoo called . If any one is interested in carrying on some of these discussions over there click on my name for the link. You'll have to set up a yahoo account, and I'll have to approve your membership, but all are welcome (I just want to keep out moonbats and spammers).

Although, ideally it would be great to have a less cumbersome, more traditional forum. So, I'm open to ideas.

Kahntheroad said...

Er, the group name is actually

Which, I think, is a little less cumbersome than the one in my last post.

Kahntheroad said...

Cosmic Lauch. That's what it's called. Cosmic Launch.

Anonymous said...

Talk about your cosmic launch!

Kahntheroad said...

More like a Cosmic Lurch...

Hey, I never said anything about launching a web design career, Anonymous.

Kahntheroad said...

Man, it's bad enough that Dr. Bob is sick; now we have to go and make a mess of the comments section.

Sorry Bob :(

Gagdad Bob said...


I put your comment and June's response to it at the end of yesterdays post.

Kahntheroad said...


You're also welcome to join the discussion over at Cosmic Launch.

And it doesn't have to be about politics. As far as I'm concerned, anyone inclined to keep coming back to this blog has something interesting to offer.

Plus, I'm running things over there - so even Petey will have to behave himself. ;)

Petey said...


ben usn (ret) said...

Yor post brings to mind all those graveyard shifts I had in the Navy.
Even whenI retired I preferre graveyard shifts, for 2 reasons:
1. No bosses around to slow progress.
2. I've always liked being awake at night. It is less cluttered and chaotic than work during the day, and easier to think.
Thats the short answer, but it's more complicated than that.
One thing about being in the Navy, and probably all Services, is; you learn to breakthrough fatigue, day or night.
I thrived on it, actually, and you are correct, Bob, it is difficult to explain.
Now I'm rambling, but the esence of what I'm trying to say is that night time does indeed hold secrets, and it is possible to learn of them.
Especially on a ship, sailing a vast ocean, with the sound of the waves crashing against the hull, salt air, and a feeling of smallness etched in the corner of my mind, yet reassuring, with the realization that the hand of God is guiding you, and His gaze is upon you.
Feeling the spiritual battle that rages, between good and evil.
Beauty, peace and an inner joy.
The thoughts and feelings span the spectrum of the verticle...

Gagdad Bob said...

That sounds truly awesome. Probably about as close as you can get to a raw perceptual experience of the infinite. Bottomless ocean, endless night, no boundaries except the white noise of the waves, no time but the rhythm of the sea.

ben USN (ret) said...

Aye, Bob!
It is an experience that I shall always cherish.
A night in the wilderness is also awesome.
Be it the desert or the mountain or the valley by the river or lake.
The splendor of Creation gives us a glimpse of the Creator.

larwyn said...

ben usn(ret)
That gave me chills. I too like the night and have always been happiest when so involved in a project that their is no time and no weariness. It would only be ~36hrs later that I would be surprised that it was either light or dark outside.

One of the greatest blessings must be enjoying the opportunity of doing something you truly love.

As soon as I saw what posted, I emailed Robert and pleaded for mercy.

mikalm said...

Ben USN,

What a wonderfully poetic description of night at sea!

I've heard that quite a few people on the high seas couldn't take what Bob called the "raw perceptual experience of the infinite," and actually went insane when alone at night on shipboard.

Which reminds me of a haunting quote by alt-kultur author Jim Goad. Writing about the suicide of a woman after she spent several months in complete silent darkness at the bottom of a deep cave (it was an experiment in sensory deprivation), he said something like, "Down there, she brushed against something huge, dark and infinite, and it swallowed her." Goad is in many ways a self-aggrandizing a-hole, but he *can* turn quite a phrase.

jwm said...

Bob: You've mentioned Terrence Mckenna and his work a couple of times.
At the risk of veering into some questionable territory, have you looked at any of the writings by Daniel Siebert and his experiences with the Diviners Sage?


ben usn (ret) said...

Larwyn- I can relate to that. LOL!
It's a fond memory, that some folks would call crazy.

Mikalm- The sailors that had problems with isolation always formed their own groups, socializing to drown out the call of the sea, and the vastness of night.
A few did lose their sanity, I'm sad to say.
Storms at sea took on a life of their own, and storms at night could be truly monstrous.
I grew to appreciate even the storms, in a sense.
Timed just right, a step could be severely streneous, or liberatingly light.
The sea can seem hungry, and unforgiving, when you are slammed every which way, taking 30-40 degree rolls...the suspense is thick.
Yet it was exhilarating at the same moment.
I never had sense deprivation, but rather sense communion.
I only experience sense deprivation among a chaotic crowd of people.
Now thats scary. :^)