Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Remystification of the World: Amen for a Child's Job

I dreamt last night that I was mountain climbing, something I’ve never done in the 4D world. It looked like someplace in Germany or Switzerland. It was a rather sheer face with lots of vegetation and a green valley down below. I reached out to pluck one of the wild berries that was growing from the mountain side, as it looked like it must be the purest food one could imagine. But my guide cautioned me that it had been discovered that it was actually full of all kinds of subtle toxins. However, there was a pill one could take that neutralizes the poisons.

There are so many thresholds to the doorway of the divine -- to the intelligent and benign forces that surpass the ego -- and one of them is by way of the dream. Because once you begin taking your dreams seriously, you realize that you “inhabit” a parallel world that is every bit as real as the material world. It is real because you -- your ego -- in no way create this world. Rather, you are are just as much an “object” in it as you are in the material world.

In my dreams I have seen beautiful architecture and paintings that have somehow been produced in me but not by me. I have seen the most awesome landscapes that one would think only God could have created. In fact, perhaps the highly creative person is simply someone who is able to dream by day -- to trancelight a small fraction of the infinite creativity of the night and bring it out into daylight. It seems to me that all great art has something of the dream -- and therefore, magic -- in it.
What is so striking about dreams is not just that you can interpret them and that they contain a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. That is a given. The larger question is, as my colleague James Grotstein out it in the title of a book, Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream? Because whoever he is, he knows us much better than we know ourselves. He knows virtually everything about us, and wishes to communicate it to us through plot, imagery, character, and symbolism. Why? What are these mysterious messages from our Self to our self?

First of all, dreams are not structured in the way science understands the material world to be structured (scientists are actually only half right about that, but I don’t have time to get into it right now). Rather, dream consciousness is explicitly holographic, meaning that, like a great work of art, it is dense with possible interpretations, all of them more or less true. In the case of this dream of mine, I believe it was a commentary of our recent little sidetrack into the bloodless and devitalized world of atheism, for such a world represents the exact opposite of the dream, so dense with layer upon layer of inexhaustible meaning.

A person will literally go crazy if he is prevented from dreaming. Along those lines, it is a truism that there is a form of madness that involves losing everything but one’s capacity to reason. This I believe summarizes the dry and denatured madness of atheism.

Here again, please do not get me wrong: I do not intend to insult or belittle rank and file atheists who are simply indifferent to matters of spirit, Rather, I specifically address myself to the rank and foul, to those who make it their life’s work to demystify the unfathomable mysteries of existence, life and consciousness, and then to try to impose that morbid ideology on the rest of us.

For to drain the world of its irreducibly mysterious and dreamlike qualities is to create a nightmare. Even as a child, without knowing it consciously, I realized that this was the world of atheistic communism. More than anything I could have learned from the adults around me, it was this dark intuition of an unambiguous world devoid of dreaming -- in a child’s mind, perhaps the polar opposite of Disneyland, which to me was literally paradise on earth. Which world is more real, the objective world of philosophical materialism, or the “fantasy” world of depth, meaning and wonderment? Is sustained wonderment not a vital human faculty? Are we not more in touch with the world when we are full of wonder than we are when we are filled with the answer?

Philosophy is no different than music, in that one can tell in an instant when a musician or a piece of music comes from a merely technical or “mechanical” place as opposed to a spiritual source. This is what gives music its depth and richness, and allows repeated listening despite having heard a piece hundreds of times. It is not about the complexity, for if that were true, there would be no way to explain the magic of certain “primitive” blues musicians such as Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. I think it is fair to say that the person who is alienated from spirit cannot help seeing the world as geometry, when it is actually frozen music of the most exquisite kind.

One of the reasons I love the music of Van Morrison is that he is always at least trying to encounter the source of music. In reading his biography, I wasn't surprised to learn that a number of years back he actually organized a conference on the power of music to convey spiritual experiences and to bring about higher states of consciousness. He rarely does interviews, but when asked what effect he would like his music to have, he responded "Ideally, to induce states of meditation and ecstasy as well as to make people think." Based on my own experience, he clearly possesses an ability to tap into and convey these spiritual states through his music. As he has said, "If you say that we all have a basic purpose for for being here, then that's why I'm here. I've tried running away from it. I've tried ignoring it. I've tried suppressing it. I've tried everything there is to get away from this because at times its seems it's a hell of a big responsibility."

I can well understand the latter concern, because, unlike most artists who simply play their "greatest hits,” I have personally seen how Morrison enters a sort of altered state in concert, bringing the audience along with him. In this regard, his music has some connections with jazz, since it is improvisational, but it is improvisational in a different way -- almost as if he's being led by a spirit into some other dimension and "singing in tongues." But that's not something you can turn on like a light switch. It's is a grace, which is not self-generated but comes from elsewhere. And when it's not there, the music becomes "merely human," so to speak. Nice craftsmanship, but missing the element that vaults you into another dimension.

Many of Morrison's songs are about the "natural mysticism" of childhood. Apparently as a child he had many unprovoked mystical experiences in which the veil that separates our world from the deeper mystery surrounding it was rent away--often when listening to music. I can totally relate to this, as I had similar experiences as a child. But as we age and increasingly ingest the “food of the world,” something happens to that childlike (but hardly childish) sense of wonder, unless we are very careful to nurture and preserve it. Is there a pill we can take that can undo or neutralize the pneuma-toxins of the world?

One fatuous charge that is frequently levelled against theists is that we are frightened of life and therefore drawn to “fairy tales” of the hereafter. I can only speak for myself and affirm that I personally don’t give much thought to what happens upon our physical demise. Rather, for me, religion is a much more intense way of being in the world, not just spiritually, but intellectually, philosophically, aesthetically, interpersonally, creatively, and in every other way.

My son, who is 18 months old, is so full of life that it is as if his little body can’t contain the ecstasy involved. Yesterday he stood up on his little chair and began dancing, trembling, laughing, stomping his feet and shouting with joy. He would become rigid one moment--sort of like one of those body builder poses--only for the energy to course through him like lightning exploding a statue. It was absolutely contagious, because he could look at us through his eyes and transmit the energy. Soon we were all laughing, and our laughter simply amplified his energy. It only happens every day. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation for this transmission of shakti. Which explains precisely nothing.

The child of whatever age remains close to the paradise not yet fully lost. “and it is for that reason that childhood constitutes a necessary aspect of the integral man: the man who is fully mature always keeps, in equilibrium with wisdom, the qualities of simplicity and freshness, of gratitude and trust, that he possessed in the springtime of his life” (F. Schuon).

In Song of Being a Child (a poem by Peter Handke), Morrison recites,

When the child was a child,
[It] wanted the stream to be a river and the river a torrent
And this puddle, the sea
When the child was a child, it didn’t know
It was a child
Everything for it was filled with life and life was one
Saw the horizon without trying to reach it
Couldn’t rush itself
And think on command
Was often terribly bored
And couldn’t wait...

When the child was a child berries fell
Only like berries into its hand...
Atop each mountain it craved
Yet a higher mountain... And still does
Reach for the cherries in the treetop
As elated as it still is today

Morrison improvises here:

And on and on and on and on
And onward with a sense of wonder
Upon the highest hill
When the child was a child
Up on the highest hill
Shhhhhhh, shhhhhhh
Are you there?

Yes, I think I was. In my dream last night.


Anonymous said...

Is this why unless you come as a child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God?


Petey said...


dloye said...

Just started reading Eckhart Tolle... hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I just love Van Morrison, but have never articulated Why as well as you did here. Nice job.

Here are some other great lyrics from his song "Into the Mystic":

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the Mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the Mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it
I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float into the Mystic

Anonymous said...

I'm also a huge Van fan. Have his complete catalog on vinyl. His material from the 90's on has been spotty so I haven't indulged as much. (Also, marriage and three kids has cut into my music budget.)

I wanted to call your attention to the greatest album review in rock history. The link that follows is a Lester Bangs review of "Astral Weeks". LB is trying to grasp the ungraspable ethereal spirit of that album and comes as close as humanly possible. Check it out.


Anonymous said...


Here's the whole link.


sehoy said...

Absolutely beautiful post.

I remember once when I was not more than five, standing in the side yard and suddenly I felt like I had woken up or that some light had turned on in my head. Everything was suddenly beautiful and clear as crystal. Angel trumpet flowers were hanging from a plant in the yard.

I had that experience again, as an adult, not far from where I sit right now. I rounded a curve in the road, and suddenly everything went crystal clear and intensely colored and every thing was alive and had personality. And it was Spring that I was seeing, even though it was in the depths of Winter that I saw this.

Those two incidents, and two more: one very dark and one very beautiful, have changed me. Because of them, I can but only see a world with God in it.


I had always suspected that dream life was a parallel life. I'm really glad to know that that is not just wishful thinking.

richard_223 said...

'The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.'


There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore; -
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.