Saturday, September 30, 2006

Jesus Chrysalis, Bob, Just Tell Me How to Caterpult My Buddhafly! (10.02.11)

I am often asked to provide specific advice on how one might begin to develop a spiritual practice. Most recently, a reader asked for “any ideas on how I can overcome my fear of myself as well as my pride in myself, and sincerely invite God into my life.”

I was under the impression that I had devoted a number of posts to this specific topic, but when I went back and looked, I realized that my advice tends to be scattered throughout the One Cosmos bloggereliquaruim. Better to keep the knowledge hidden that way, I suppose--only available to the sincere and determined seeker, safe from those barbarous hands that would greedily pry into God’s secrets and distort them for their own shallow ends.

Indeed, God should only be spoken of in a manner that “protects” and guards against the distortions and simplifications of the spiritually unqualified, while at the same time posing a challenge to the sincerity and intensity of the true seeker’s aspiration. This is not mystagogy. It is actually no different than in psychotherapy. A seasoned therapist will often know the exact nature of the patient’s problem within a session or two. However, it would serve no purpose whatsoever to prematurely blurt this out to the patient, for truth that is given is truth that cannot be discovered, and that makes all the difference.

Not for nothing did Jesus speak in paradoxables. When asked about this by his inner brotherhood of Cosmic Raccoons, he responded, “For you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Therefore, Jesus is identifying and highlighting a perennial problem with spiritual knowledge: many who hear hear it do not hear it, and many more who understand it do not comprehend it. It is an organic process, in which the seed must be planted in fertile soil, so as to actually transform the person. Again, it is absolutely no different than psychotherapy. Very early in my training I learned various ways to deflect the inevitable question, “Can’t you just tell me what’s wrong? Just give it to me straight, and I’ll work out the rest myself.”

A particular patient comes to mind who had great difficulty getting beyond the idea that there was some unremembered event from his past, and that if he could only remember what it was, he would be magically transformed. Also, being a narcissistic character, he was convinced that he (being a special person) could bypass the usual drawn out process, and that I would simply disclose the secret to him and send him on his way. But his greed for the truth was a symptom of his very problem. I constantly gave him truth in the form of "nourishing" interpretations, but he greedily swallowed them so quickly (without even chewing!), that he had no time to metabolize them, much less feel gratitude for them. And the absence of gratitude was one of his core problems. Do you see the dilemma? How can you “give” someone the “thankfulness” they lack, until they learn it in a real relationship?

Having said that, our civilization is in real danger of losing touch entirely with its wisdom tradition, and as the Kabbalists kabbalize, “it is better to divulge Wisdom than to forget it.”

In response to the reader’s question, I had a few thoughts off the top of my head: “For starters you need to either fall in love (easier with a human form) or be intellectually convicted, depending upon your personality style (bhakti vs. jnani). Only in that way does Spirit become the context, not merely the content, of your life.” Also, “Remember, the greater the struggle, the greater the realization. Everyone is a unique ‘problem of God,’ and the great project of your life is how the Divine is going to get himself out of this jam he got himself into.” I pointed out the unhelpful truism that “the seeking is the beginning of the finding,” and noted the importance of being exposed to the direct testimony of others whom one respects--in other words, community.

Speaking of which, many readers chimed in with their own helpful suggestions. Will recommended not becoming preoccupied with “the concept of ‘God.’ God exists and you don't have to ‘conceive’ Him any more than you have to ‘conceive’ the sunrise to know that it's there. The question is, how do you come to *perceive* God or at least His edges?”

This is exactly what I emphasize in my book, that while you may or may not be able to prove the existence of God to your satisfaction, what you can definitely prove is the existence of a part of yourself that may know or love God. It would be odd if there were no corresponding object for this subject, but you needn’t be troubled by that at the start. It’s like appreciating a painting and wondering if beauty really exists. Who cares? Just enjoy it. Religion provides a beautiful way to live and to think about existence.

Will added the importance of being patient, diligent, and developing the imagination. This is a critical point. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions in the past, there are two forms of imagination, one passive, hypnotic, somnolent, downward pulling, and ultimately destructive, another that is active, creative, and aligned with your highest aspiration. One drags you into the abyss, the other draws you toward the Center and Origin. Religious language (including rituals) is carefully honed imaginative language, a symbol system “designed” to facilitate intellection, or “thinking of higher things.”

BP made an interesting point, noting that in his “relationship with the living God I do not necessarily experience as much ‘pleasure’ as I did before, but don't seem to need it. For me, pleasures were always sought and indulged in as a form of temporary relief from my general dissatisfaction with myself. Now, though not necessarily satisfied with myself, I really ENJOY myself. Or better yet, I would say that I enjoy God's involvement in myself, sometimes to the point of laughing my ass off. As important, I also get to experience God's enjoyment and appreciation of me. Hard to explain until it starts happening, and it's usually pretty subtle, but when it does start happening it is pretty darn cool. Furthermore, as my enjoyments have increased in relation with God, I've started worrying less and less about when/how/where I will get my next fix of ‘pleasure.’”

I have found this to be true. If one were to look at my outward life, one might find it rather mundane and predictable. But this is not at all what it feels like on the inside. I am reminded of a novel I read some 20 years ago. I don't remember anything about it except that it conceptualized reality as a system of concentric circles around a center. But unlike normal geometry, the closer you converge toward the center, the “larger” and more spacious the world of each successive ring. Then, at the center, which should be the “smallest” area, you arrive at the most expansive and unrestricted space. The absolute center is, of course “infinity.” Sri Aurobindo never left his room during the last 30 or so years of his life, but what an expansive existence!

Frithjof Schuon, one of the greatest spiritual masters, wrote a short piece about spiritual practice entitled “Fundamental Keys.” In it, he emphasizes the importance of meditation, concentration, and prayer: “These three words epitomize the spiritual life, while at the same time indicating its principal modes. Meditation, from our standpoint, is an activity of the intelligence in view of understanding universal truths; concentration, for its part, is an activity of the will in view of assimilating these truths or realities existentially, as it were; and prayer in its turn is an activity of the soul directed towards God.”

I will further discuss these three modes of spiritual knowing further in tomorrow’s post.


Joan of Argghh! said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I was beginning to think that I was completely out of place here!

It's so tempting to project our experiential discoveries onto the Other, and yet, we've been given our "experience" whatever it may be, and is it really is all we have? Our context is wrapped in the Context of all being and... well, how is it that we just know our place in it? How do we even state the question without sounding incoherent?

I don't know why I've always had something beyond my "experience" that I experience. Perhaps I was born a mystic, and no matter the vulgarities of my upbringing, I took the disconnect of my Self and identified with the Other from a very young age. As I grew, I studied to understand the mystery and enjoy the Truth of God, being very, like the gentleman who posed the question a few days ago, aware of my greedy,needy insecurities knowing they made me insincere.

The whole mental chase left/leaves me exhausted. And somehow, in the middle of the night, I wake up changed in attitude and outlook. It's not all about thinking, I think! Someone greater is pulling me through... I cannot help but feel loved. I was grateful to see you speak of "falling in love" as a possible path, for it is the path that found me.

It's Saturday and the wind is calling me out. TTFN!

Joseph said...

"Theocentrism, inwardness, verticality: we may characterize man, "made in the image of God", and faithful to his mission, by means of these three terms.
To the contrary, we shall characterize fallen man by the following terms: egocentrism, outwardness, horizontality. Therein lies "original sin", the state of profane man; and it is this that explains and justifies the anthropological pessimism of religions and spiritual paths.
One must answer three questions. "To whom do we give primacy?" Answer: to God; this is the response of theocentrism. Ego centrism on the contrary puts the ego in place of God.
Second question: "Wherein lies thy happiness?" Answer: in the Inward; in the presence of the Divine within us; in the state of grace; in the remembrance of God; in a word, in our relationship with God. "The kingdom of God is within you"; this is the response of the perspective of inwardness. Outwardness on the contrary seeks happiness in the world, in this or that earthly surrounding.
Third question: "What is thine aim?" Answer: God, Heaven; this iis the perspective of verticality. Horizontality on the contrary aims at earthly, passing and illusory values.
Thus, one has firstly to give primacy to God, to submit to His Will, on the one hand by accepting it and on the other by doing it; secondly, to interiorize oneself, that is, to realize concretely that happiness lies in ourselves, in our life in God; thirdly, to live in accordance with the vertical dimension, thus to surpass oneself, to tend Upwards, to prefer the hereafter to the here-below, to live in accordance with fervor and hope.
The spiritual path brings about a fundamental regeneration of man; the first thing to understand is that this regeneration is necessary, and that without it, we are not truly man. In the profane world, one believes that man is all that he ought to be when he does no evil; which is false, for such a man lives below himself, and it may be that he will do evil; in reality, only he is good who surpasses himself, for God and in God." F. Schuon

Anonymous said...

Bob, fantastic post. I had never thought about falling in love, or being "convicted" by a truth, as doorways to God, but I can see in retrospect that these processes were a part of my own story, a part that I had discounted somewhat.
I had thought that destruction of the ego was the singular prerequisite for approaching God-i.e, that something "bad" had to happen to a person before they could come to God fully; that disease, jail-time, tragedy, business failure, depression, malaise of the heart and the like were "tickets to the God Show" that could not be bypassed, because they were the battering rams that crushed the ego-defenses down.
Now, I understand that a person my come to the Spirit path by less violent means, and this knowledge changes my perceptions of misfortunes, which I had previously come to believe were the love-taps of God courting a new seeker. Probably, this is not so.
To summarize, I still think that negative happenstance has a spiritual function, but now I believe it may not always be required to lead man to God.

Ben USN (Ret) said...

Heh! My comment disappeared.
Divine intervention?

Thank you Bob!
Could you please tell me what the difference is between concentration and contemplation?
If you are saving that for tomorrow,
then forgive me for jumping the gun.

Gagdad Bob said...


Either way, by Vishnu or Shiva, by water or fire, some disassembly is required. Can't have metabolism without catabolism.

looptloop said...

“for truth that is given is truth that cannot be discovered, and that makes all the difference” Bob, I look forward to your next book cleverly sneaking up on the leftist, or at least the more ripe moderate leftist, providing their acute narcissistic residue with an avenue to implode.

Jacob C. said...

God reminds me of the TARDIS - a time-and-spaceship the size of Windsor Castle crammed into a phone booth. God, too, is far larger on the inside than on the outside.

And re: given truth vs. discovered truth...

"The learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar - guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life."
--Charles Willson Peale

Big Possum said...

While reading this comment thread I received an e-mail from a friend "in the flow" with a link to a video that has conjurred up the soft tears in my eyes, and the odd sensation in my nasal passages, that I often credit as experiences of "Divine Love". I AM inspired to share.

I don't mind where you come from
As long as you come to me

I'll take you for who you are
If you take me for everything

I hear God in music lyrics. Sometime, when a song just pops into your mind, try googling whatever lines you know, followed by the word 'lyrics'. Once you pull up the song, if you read through all the lyrics, you might hear God speaking to you. Also, synchronicity often comes into play, as evidenced by the above lyrics which were brought into my awareness at the same time I was reading comments here about our opportunities to experience a love affair with God.


Will said...

On BP's point of the changing nature of happiness as one matures spiritually:

I've found in my own humble experience that a truly spiritual happiness correlates with a "sobriety", a spiritual clarity of mind, this as opposed to my former idea of happiness, which was indeed a pleasure-induced escape from clarity. Even a spiritual ecstasy - which does have it's place, at least initially - can become, as St John of the Cross warned, a pitfall in the spiritual process. One can simply become too attached to it.

I think that BPs statement "I enjoy God's involvement in myself" underscores the real essence of "loving one's self." Probably most people would contend that they love themselves, but I doubt this is true. Real self-love is a God-shared enterprise - the false self must be gotten rid of before genuine love can flow, inwardly, outwardly. I think it's helpful to remember that the Bible enjoins us to "love our neighbor as ourselves", with the implication that we can't love our neighbor until we truly love ourselves - loving our real selves, not our attraction/repulsion personalities, our moods, etc.

In this sense, loving our real selves is synonymous with loving God.

Gagdad Bob said...

Debass and Geoffrey, if you're out there--

Unbeknownst to me, my wife hadn't visited the PO Box in about ten days, so I will get your books out immediately via Priority mail. Apologize for the delay, but you've waited 13.7 billion years, you can wait another couple of days.

Van said...

Another fine post Gagdad.

After browsing through past posts here last night, I wound up at a semi-moonbat site deep in the throws of the leaked Nat'l Intelligence Estimate Bush Derangement Spasm, and what you noted today:

“For you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Therefore, Jesus is identifying and highlighting a perennial problem with spiritual knowledge: many who hear hear it do not hear it, and many more who understand it do not comprehend it." and "Having said that, our civilization is in real danger of losing touch entirely with its wisdom tradition..."

... sums it up well. They can have fact after fact shoveled before their faces - even into their faces, but they won't see that the dirt comes from a hole or a whole, so intent they are on what they want to fashion each lump of dirt into. If that hole winds up being their grave, they won't understand or realize it until long after they're buried deep within it.

If the Trols but had ears to hear, eyes to see, and a brain engaged between them, they might get a clue. They like to line up their impressive looking or pretty words into fine displays for all to see, but their words are just stuffed animals, their meaning gutted and replaced with fluff and no life left in them. They're like poor Hamlet ( as I just noted), endlessly pondering to the vertical heights, but never connecting his words to actions in the world - Trols take note, it didn't work out so well for Hamlet, and he had a way better speech writer than you do.

On the lighter side, both my kids won their football games in shut outs of 38 & 43 to nothing. Nothing like a little hard play to make reality stand out again. nTeen years ago they both looked just like the Gagboy - it goes so slowly and amazingly fast - and presto they're bigger than you are - same as they've been doing it over and over for the last 40,000 or so years.

You do your best to see that they are the few, rather than the "many who hear hear it do not hear it, and many more who understand it do not comprehend it.". When you look at your kids, and then at the seeming prevalence of the many who hear hear it, it almost yanks you down into the anxious and fearful horizontal plane. A good Gagdad post and a couple 38 & 43 to nothing shut outs can do wonders for your Vertical orientation!

Joseph said...

I might recommend to you a great book on Shakespeare--"The Secret of Shakespeare" by Martin Lings.

Van said...

Will said..."I've found in my own humble experience that a truly spiritual happiness correlates with a "sobriety", a spiritual clarity of mind, this as opposed to my former idea of happiness, which was indeed a pleasure-induced escape from clarity."

I've found the same. I pretty much spent my 20's in the 80's in as pleasure soaked or chasing a lifestyle as it gets, traveling and jumping around stages with our band - but it all pales, and even seems fraudulent in some ways, when compared with the happiness that I find raising our kids, and contemplating Life, the Universe, and Everything in it.

Note I did NOT say pleasure, but Happiness. There are many unpleasant moments and even extended periods of unpleasantness that can be associated with raising kids (2-6 mo's, 2, 13, 16 & 18 yrs old come particularly to mind), but they are mere blips & momentary interference flitting over the core experience of happiness that comes from raising kids and learning from life. It isn't about me anymore, or what I want to do... but when you are forced to soberly confront what is Important, not fun, but important, you begin to get a clarity, a bead on value and truths, that tends to brush the rest of lifes distractions away like dust from a bookshelf.

Of course it also tends to put yourself into an incredibly unbelievable and bizarre state of mind, where you'll be willing, even eager, to come into contact with another persons boogers & even poop, in order to ... do what is necessary and right and... so strange to say - fulfilling - but priorities change, and new hierarchies of values are learned and understood. What may have seemed important before seems to imperceptibly flake off of your soul like so much spiritual dandruff.

And soon more is seen in the ordinary than you noticed was there before. Nothing flashy, but something profound and subtly compelling catches your attention in your sleeping Childs features, in the drops of dew on a leaf – or when you take the trash out at midnight, grumbling and wanting to go to bed, and as you turn from the curb back towards your house… something makes you stop and look up at the stars, and around at the night sky, a movement of a mass of air… and a whisper within that’s felt without.

Something… is.

As you seek after a grasp and understanding of Truth, Goodness and Value, you tend to be drawn not only to conceptual truths, but the sense that some ultimate Truth and perhaps even purpose underlies it all, and a sense that perhaps it is what ultimately everything flows from. More tantalizingly, I began to suspect that perhaps this ultimate truth has a connection with each of us (isn't it odd that we highly evolved moderns tend to come across this idea with the distinct impression that we are the first to discover it? "What? oh, really? Some old dead guy said that thousands of years ago? Oh, well, yeah, but that was part of a, uh... uhm,... a 'r-e-l-i-g-i-o-n'… surely that's different from what I'm talking about... um, er... right? That’s kind of like talking about -shhh-g-o-d… Isn't it?......wo...."), and there is something very satisfying, calming and grounding that flows from that.

Something… Is.

As much as my know-it-all secular self is aghast at the thought, there it is. And there it has been, patiently waiting for me to come along and notice.

Big Possum said...

That was beautiful Van. Eloquent writing but beautiful expression. Thank you for sharing.

LiquidLifeHacker said...

Hey Bob,
I just wanted to stop in after being gone for so long...I felt compelled to stop in here to tell you that today something special happened and I was able to respond with something you had equipted me with from months and months ago here on your blog. I just wanted to come back here and thank you for that and let you know that your words do ripple an effect.

P.S....I still pick up your book from time to time and get inspired.
Thanks for being YOU!

debass said...

"Debass and Geoffrey, if you're out there--

Unbeknownst to me, my wife hadn't visited the PO Box in about ten days, so I will get your books out immediately via Priority mail. Apologize for the delay, but you've waited 13.7 billion years, you can wait another couple of days."

I'm always here. You wouldn't believe the lengths I have gone through to read you every day. I just thought you were waiting for my check to clear. And what's a couple days, like you said. From an upright player to a guitar player, don't fret about it.

Squishy said...


Stoners have long since understood the catalytic nature of buds + music. Sometimes it needn't even be lyrical.

Headies and beasters and resin and salvia all can induce connections past our cultural firewalls and allow you to commune with the mystical truths of fractal Aretha Franklins, 1000-headed Cornel Wests and a melting Martin Luther King jr. Our brains can take the saturated cultural stuff that has soaked them and reconstitute it anew.

Its important to understand how this process is not unique to stoners, but they are among those who flirt with these unempirical truths. Sometimes these truths are manifest in the world of Halo or Fusion Frenzy but other times they are manifest in reflections on the nature of pizza ordering and a mysteriously hostile society.

Van said...

Thanks to Squishy for providing a real world demonstration of
“for truth that is given is truth that cannot be discovered, and that makes all the difference”