Monday, April 17, 2006

Vertical Respiration and Spiritual Asphyxiation

First, everyone should go and read Vanderleun's latest essay over at American Digest, Judas: A Saint for our Seasons. Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back....

It is inconceivable that one could find writing or thinking of this quality in the MSM. I mean imagine--imagine!--that our so-called newspaper of record even employs someone as dense, vulgar, spiritually perverse, and bereft of talent as Maureen Dowd, let alone elevates her to the status of "star columnist."

These are not serious people. Imagine paying millions of dollars to an airhead such as Katie Couric just for reading twenty-three minutes of liberal news to people too lazy to read it themselves? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for capitalism. But what is going on when you can get something of infinite value for free, but mediocrity is really going to cost you? Fortunately, that situation is not going to last--in fact, it's crumbling before our eyes.

It's the same way with the education establishment, and they know it. If vouchers were available, there would be such a mass exodus from the public education system that it would actually be dangerous, like opening the Walmart door on the day after Thanksgiving.

Metaphysics is the study of the real. It deals with truly perennial truth that is not subject to change--the objective principles that underlie this or any other possible reality. I have said before that I believe that religion, under the surface, is pure metaphysics. Although it is accessible to anyone, you certainly don't need to know about it to have a fruitful spiritual practice. Faith is entirely sufficient.

For me, powerful confirmation of metaphysical principles has come in the form of independently discovering them, only to later find out that many other people, both past and present, have discovered the exact same things. I now know why this is the case, but at the time, it was a shock. After all, for yourself, you're setting out on a spiritual voyage into uncharted waters, into the unknown. You come back with certain ideas, observations, experiences. Are they real?

I think one of the attractions of this blog is the joy (and relief) of finding other people who have similar intuitions or experiences of higher reality. Even--or perhaps I should say, especially--for me, the feedback I receive is a powerful kind of confirmation that this reality is "subjectively objective." We're both staring at the same thing, right above our I's.

People ask how one can prove the existence of God, and this is one of the ways: people who independently discover the same thing, with the same details, the same landmarks, the same stumbling blocks, the same fine points.

Anyway, back to Vanderleun's essay. In examining the motivations of what I call the secular fundamentalist mind, he writes of how they obtain "a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, 'stuck it' to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured."

For all I know, Vanderleun was merely being hyperbolic in deploying this extremely arresting and memorable imagery. And yet, metaphysically speaking, he was being absolutely literal. For human existence in exile from the divine is literally a state of spiritual asphyxiation.

Again, in the traditional view, human beings have a tripartite structure of body, mind and spirit. Because the modern world thoroughly conflates soul and spirit, much confusion results. One of the problems is that different traditions have different words for the same thing, or else use the same word, e.g. "soul" for very different aspects of our being.

For me, whatever terms you use, the easiest way to conceptualize the difference it is to say that we have a horizontal aspect of ourselves, the "ego," and a vertical aspect, or "spirit." The ego is an open system horizontally. It deals with human relationships, feelings, information, etc. But the spirit is--or should be anyway--an open system vertically.

Here is a perfect example of something that is simply true. You are free to argue why it is true, and you are even free to live your life as if it were not true. But in the latter case there will be easily identifiable consequences, just as there would be consequences if you decided one day to stop treating your body as an open system. In that case you would starve, or die of thirst, or literally asphyxiate.

Likewise, there is a common, well-know psychological type who attempts to live life as if the horizontal self were an emotionally closed system. For whatever developmental reason, the "schizoid" personality cannot form deep and meaningful relationships. As such, they cannot be emotionally nourished. They dry up from the inside out, becoming a shriveled husk of a human being. There are many examples of such character types in film and literature. Ebeneezer Scrooge comes immediately to mind.

Other people, "compulsives," often become closed intellectually. Terrified of novelty, they develop a small map of reality and never stray from it. New information is threatening, so they keep rediscovering the same thing over and over. They are not really alive, because only an open system is alive.

There are more horizontally closed people than you care to imagine. Next time you are unfortunate enough to get into a discussion with a leftist, observe the horizontally--not to mention, vertically--closed system that ensnares them. That is why it is pointless to talk to them, not because of this or that detail or disagreement.

Consider "baptism." There is a reason why spirit is spoken of in terms of water, of something that flows, that cleanses, that cools, that nourishes. But most critically--here again, I am sure you will know exactly what I'm talking about--it liquefies and dissolves the congealed, ossified, and hardened lower self.

One of the effects of modernity, what with its emphasis on the individual self, on science and on empiricism, has been to lock people within their body and/or mind. In the words of René Geunon, "Modern man has become quite impermeable to any influences other than such as impinge on his senses; not only have his faculties of comprehension become more and more limited, but also the field of his perception has become correspondingly restricted."

The lower, empirically "opaque" horizontal world eclipses the metaphysically transparent reality that is revealed only through faith and vertical knowing. Hypnotized by secondary phenomena, many modern people become alienated from the primary noumenal reality. For them, life is lived at the fragmented periphery rather than the unitive heart of being.

Think of a physical analogy. What happens when you add water to dry dirt, which actually consists of innumerable individual particles? As it liquifies it becomes one. It is just so with spirit. Only the "waters" of vertical engagement can begin to dissolve and unclot an ego that has become hard as stone, and begin to harmonize its existence with a greater One.

In speaking of vertical respiration and asphyxiation, there is both an upward and a downward movement. The downward movement, or "inspiration," is called grace ("spire," of course, meaning both breath and spirit). The upward movement is called prayer, or ex-spiration. Prayer therefore connotes a state of inner emptiness, or "self-offering," so that one may then receive the oxidized blood of spirit. You cannot fill something that is already full of itSelf. You must exhale occasionally.

The essence of spirituality is vertical respiration, of exchanges that go on between "above" and "below." According to Valentin Tomberg, "Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practice some form of prayer; he who practices it receives vivifying benediction in some form." Furthermore, "respiration is the state of the soul that the apostle Paul designated as 'freedom in God.' It is a new way of breathing. One freely breathes the divine breath, which is freedom."

What spiritually in-formed person could say it isn't so?


I had also wanted to get into the topic of destructive and malignant spiritual envy raised by Vanderleun's piece, the "onanistic pleasure," the "dark thrill of denigration" that "has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming" horizontal man in his very own self-worshipping "Church of Zero." For it is an error to think of spirituality as "good" and secularism as "bad." Rather, there is merely good and bad spirituality, and, as I have written before, there are very specific symptoms that go hand in hand with the spiritually dry and asphyxiated state of secular alienation from the vertical. Perhaps tomorrow.


It occurred to me on yesterday's bike ride, while on top of the world lookin' down on creation, that the earth itself is a spontaneous prayer rising upward. It's the only explanation I can find. Especially in spring, after the waters have come.


Dan Spomer said...

There is a reason why spirit is spoken of in terms of water, of something that flows, that cleanses, that cools, that nourishes.

Just so. And why not? After reading your book and your posts each day, images of water come back time and time again.

The ebb and flood, the constant intermixing... it seems to me the the best way to visualize "the big picture" which I am trying to grasp here is as a cosmic current.

Whether near or far, even in the biggest of oceans, each drop of water is connected to every other drop of water, interacting with and influencing the larger motion. You may not always see this motion, but faith allows you to know that it is happening- at all times, in all places.

Either that, or I'm way off here and in desperate need of help and direction. Anyone?

Lisa said...

"In speaking of vertical respiration and asphyxiation, there is both an upward and a downward movement. The downward movement, or "inspiration," is called grace ("spire," of course, meaning both breath and spirit). The upward movement is called prayer, or ex-spiration. Prayer therefore connotes a state of inner emptiness, or "self-offering," so that one may then receive the oxidized blood of spirit. You cannot fill something that is already full of itSelf. You must exhale occasionally. "

This paragraph really spoke to me because I immediately thought of a double-helix strand of DNA. There are 2 directions which coded information can flow in & out of this strand. This DNA is our genetic blueprint and makes us not only unique but also similar.

Pilates also focuses on the breath. You would be surprised how many people hold their breath when concentrating hard to move certain muscles in their body. I have to remind people to breath so the movements will be easier. I always describe the breath as an intake of energy/oxygen that flows in 2 directions and both feeds and eliminates waste from each individual cell in the body. Each cell uses oxygen in its ATP process. Interesting to note that the exhalation point is the point that is easiest to engage your center (transversus abdominus).

will said...

Bob @ B'heads -

Re Judas as a co-conspirator: Can and probably will get worse. Here's my scenario for how it can get worse:

I'm sure just about everybody has seen F. Zeffirelli's film "Jesus Of Nazareth." The late novelist Anthony Burgess had a huge hand in the script - re the Christ/Judas relationship, Burgess inflected very interestingly and, ultimately, accurately, I think. Burgess's Judas is indeed a betrayer, but he betrays Jesus not out of sheer, naked lust for a little coin, but rather for sake of *the greater social concern."

In short, Judas regards Jesus as nothing more than the Perfect Revolutionary Leader, just the guy to rally the folks so that the Roman oppressors can be thrown out of town. Here, Judas is baffled by Christ's unwillingness to assume this role. I mean, the political reality is really the thing; all this talk about Spirit, the Father, the poor in spirit - silly superstitious distractions, the opiate of the masses, etc.

Burgess's was not an original view, but I have the feeling that it's dead-on with respect to the way it really happened. It's a very "modern" blasphemy: Take the Truth, strip it of its spiritual essence, shape it to secular means and ends, present it as the heartfelt, altruistic, humanitarian, real deal. (SEE "Liberation Theology")(oh, just cut to the chase, SEE Marx)

So - what's next? How about a version/interpretation of the Gospels in which Judas is actually greater than Christ, more compassionate, more "caring," a "martyr for the masses"?

According to its inner logic, there's no real treason in the so-called Gospel of Judas, not when Judas is fulfilling Christ's wishes. Of course, Mr. Vanderleun is correct in that, ultimately, Judas and his Great Treason are exalted - that is no doubt the real purpose of those who are behind the Easter release of the Judas Gospel. I'm saying, however, that we might expect a version of the drama in which the treason itself is acknowledged and regarded as a "good thing."

Well, after all, this sort of "good treason" has been in effect for a long time - it just awaits codification.

will said...

Right-on, Mr. Spomer -

The center is everywhere. It's a holistic universe.

BTW, I think faith eventually allows us to *see*, to "gnow" that it's happening everywhere.

Faith isn't blind - it actually amounts to a literal perception, I think.

Michael Andreyakovich said...


With great urgency I recommend you seek out Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Three Versions of Judas." His conclusions prefigure yours: If you commit to the heretical thought that what Judas did was necessary and therefore right, it leads one off into ever more blasphemous territory, until you arrive at the quite logical conclusion that - well, I shan't spoil it for you.

Leftists are to spirituality what oxygen is to plants: they output a great deal of it, but they don't take it in.

Plants intake CO-2, not O-2; in the same way, leftists intake only the horizontal - and just as plants output oxygen, they output some pathetic attempt at a vertical understanding.

Helene said...

"I think one of the attractions of this blog is the joy (and relief) of finding other people who have similar intuitions or experiences of higher reality."
To be able to speak truth to error, and to come from a place of truth and to include your vertical process in such an original way inspires.
Thanks for the link to that essay.
Also there was a poem there written in Kippahulu on his site at the tiny church where I was married.
And Dan, I also have images of water - soul surfing is a direction, preferably in Calif or Maui, not to seem too frivolous. . . also, faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Paul - Corrithians ?) seems to me something your have grasped.

will said...

Michael -

Yes, I mentioned that Borges story a couple of days ago in a posting.

Borges, in effect, predicted the Judas Gospel exactly, ie., Judas was the greatest disciple because of his self-martyring co-conspiring with Christ to fulfill Biblical prophecy.

I guess I'm a little surprised that it took so long for events to catch up with Borges.

Lisa said...

I understand why many Christians should be and are upset that the Gospel of Judas is being pushed onto the public the week before Easter. The Left will easily manipulate the story to fit their warped view of spirituality and doing the right thing. Just as they will manipulate any story to fit their modus operandi.

When I first heard about the Gospel Of Judas and how Jesus asked Judas to betray him as a part of God's Will, it didn't even dawn on me that the Left would claim that as a vindication of their worldview. I saw it in the exact opposite light. I came to the conclusion that Good and Evil are not always so easily understood and clear-cut in all eyes. I equated George Bush to Judas in the way that God has asked Bush to fight Islam even if most of the public does not agree with him. Sometimes the popular stance is not always the right stance. It takes more courage to do the right thing than it does the popular one. Bush has stood by his decision and proceeded even though people equate him to Hitler and think he is the biggest threat to the free world. Bush does not care so much about his reputation, even though I believe history will vindicate him as a great leader against real evil.

That's just my two cents and I'm sure some may disagree. I suppose interpretations through different perspectives is what makes life interesting. Granted, I am no expert on theology, so if my interpretation annoys or amuses people, so be it! I do see the flip side that concerns Bobbleheads and it should rightly so.

Anonymous said...

Will: Borges' protagonist goes even further. Although the narrator's carefully couched terms cannot hide his ambivalence, the theologian concludes, working entirely from logical premises, that Judas was the Messiah, and not Jesus. If God is to suffer for our sins, why should his Incarnation not be destined to suffer ignominy and hatred throughout history? An incarnation that was fully human, despite its also-total divinity, cannot leave out the uniting factor of all humankind: sinfulness. And since Judas committed a sin that no one dare commit, he became more human than Christ could ever hope to be.

As I recall, the story's protagonist goes mad after writing a book on the subject.

Gagdad Bob said...


One tradition--I don't know where it comes from--maintains that Judas was "in on the fix" in order to deprive satan the immense satisfaction of deicide.

will said...

Anonymous - thanks for the refresher. It's been a long time since I read the Borges story. It did leave an impression on me as an example of Borges's gnomic, Escher-like, off-kilter, perspective. I've got the story somewhere around here, will see if I can find it.

Lisa said...

Is Satan separate from God or is Satan just gods un-self?

jwm said...

As a former surf-bum I know it well. I am reminded here that the water in a wave does not move forward. If that sounds odd, then consider- (I'm trying to come up with a non-surfing example for those without access to the ocean)- consider a bobber on a fishing line. As a ripple from a boat wake, or a wind wave passes the bobber will rise and fall as the ripple passes under it, but it remains in the same spot in the lake.
A wave is energy passing through water. The water does not move forward, but rather rises up and becomes animated for the short interval that the wave energy passes through it. Just as the dust and water of our physical bodies are the medium through which the energy of life passes.

Bob recently made reference to the fact that the atoms that compose our physical selves are being exchanged daily, so that it can truly be said that we do not have the same physical bodies that we had but a few short years ago.

Life itself is energy flowing through water.

I am reminded too that most of the water in the universe is either gas or ice, neither of which will sustain life. The planetary conditions that will allow for liquid water to exist depend on a precision that is utterly mind boggling. I recall in the One Cosmos book the number ten to the 123rd power, reflecting the precision with which the cosmos itself is balanced.

Atoms exploding in the sun bathe this planet in energy. The energy is aborbed by water exchanged through water, and translated into the weather machine that regulates the temperature of the earth. Storms are by products of that exchange. The storm transfers the energy into wind,which translates the energy into waves.

At the moment you paddle in and connect with a swell, you are on you feet gliding over the water, and for a moment you are part of the cosmic rhythm. Is it any wonder that time seems to stop while you ride?


will said...

Lisa - you're not exactly tossing softballs today.

As some traditions have it, Lucifer was an angel, one of the first manifestations of God in Creation. A number one creation, in fact.

Lucifer willed himself out of God's Light and thus became Satan, the anti-Creationist, he who wishes to reverse the process of Creation. I guess it's fair to say that Satan is now separate from God, but it was a voluntary separation. We all have that choice.

JohnR said...

I walked into my friendly Borders book store on Sunday. I was confronted by a huge display at the front of the store with Judas books and Di Vinci Code foolishness. Happy Easter.

Then I walked back to the religion section to see if something I had read on the blogs was true. It was. I looked up to see the top shelf of the section reserved for copies of the Koran, above and separated from the other texts.

How then shall we live?

jwm said...

The existence of Evil brings up the question that God must be either all good or all powerful, because how could God be both if there is Evil in the world?

It doesn't seem to be an overly taxing problem with regard to individuals. We can see how a person can be tempted to do garden variety small 'e' evil, ie: theft, rape, murder. These seem to spring from the seven deadly sins, in these cases: Avarice, Lust, Envy, or Anger.

What is puzzling is the large "E" evil: Nazism, Communism, contemporary leftism, islamism, (or just plain islam)

None of the 'ism' type evils seem to satify any aspect of the lower nature in us. Yet they achieve the purpose of thwarting the spiritual growth, and destroying the souls of entire nations of people at a time.

To what end? Just to bedevil God?

If you haven't been over to Little Green Footballs today, Charles posted a picture of the latest paleonazi suicide bomber that (yes, "that", I know my pronouns) murdered nine people in Tel Aviv. It is the very portrait of soulessness. Worse- it's just a kid.


will said...

jwm -

I would think the "isms" embody all of the Big Ugly Seven.

Pride, most of all.

ben usn (ret) said...

Love requires freedom of choice.
Having that freedom means we can also choose the opposite.
The same applies to any virtue or sin.
Since Jesus was without sin, it was impossible for him to order Judas to sin (betray), let alone accept payment for it.
Why does God "allow" evil?
That's a possible consequence of freedom, if we so choose.
It isn't God's will,
it's ours.
We can also choose to repent, or not.
I believe the Angel's have the same choice.
If God decided to simply eradicate evil, then he would have to eradicate freedom, which means we could not love Him.
We would be, essentially, spiritual robots.
Why would an Angel, or human choose evil/death?
Rebellion; to become your own god,
or follow another.
To do that, one must reject Love/Life.