Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Power of Love and the Love of Power

It sounds like reader Stu has begun to experience a mild influx of holy guacamole into his existentialada. For example, he writes,

“Some higher realms have been readily accessible. Like that inner-space where time stops and the uncreated part of my being opens up into infinite pureness. And the state-of-being where thoughts and events effortlessly reveal their hidden meanings. And the quiet confidence that comes with knowing, feeling and experiencing, without a shred of doubt, that God is.”

So far, so good. However, at the same time, “while accessible, these spaces have also been very confusing, overwhelming and exhausting. The realizations that come from these realms have been difficult to understand and have, frankly, overloaded my mind. So much so that I have been unable to retain much of the imparted wisdom or put it into practice. But what I just realized is that I am trying to pull God down to my level instead of elevating myself to God’s level.“

He fears that this “will result in overload to attempt to experience divine revelation from a rational/emotional perspective. These lower human faculties are valuable and serve important functions. In fact, the divine can be interpreted and channeled through these more base forms of self.... But my self has been highly conditioned to filter my experience through reason and emotion. I experience modes of higher consciousness, but I do not possess the proper faculties to meet these experiences at the level they come from. I don’t even know what form such faculties would take. So I translate the experiences down to a consciousness I am comfortable with.”

“Perhaps the world has been given to us as a forum to develop these higher aspects of self, whatever they may be.... So I’ve discerned the problem. But what next? How do I identify and cultivate these ‘higher faculties?’ Any suggestions would be appreciated.”

There’s a lot here to chew on, so let’s break it all down. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo asks Gandalf the Grey (interestingly, grey is a mixture of black and white) why he doesn’t simply return the ring to the volcano himself. Gandalf responds with words to the effect that if he came into possession of the ring, he knows that he would become intoxicated by its power and and misuse it to control others. In other words, the power of the ring would meet his own impurities and become a force of destruction. Implicitly, this means that there is a form of power that is higher than power, which is relinquishing power. (This in itself is food for thought as it relates to kenosis, both our’s and God’s.)

As a brief aside, this is why, technically speaking, we shouldn’t even be openly discussing some of the things we discuss here, because it has always been understood that esoteric knowledge should only be given to one who has undergone the moral preparation. Because to the extent that you haven’t, the influx of forces -- or so we have heard from the wise -- is going to either 1) fry your circuits, 2) inflate your ego to monstrous proportions, or worse yet, 3) inflate a mind parasite or sub-personality that you have identified with. Don’t believe me. Just look around, both now and throughout history. It happens all the time.

However, as the kabbalists say, it is better that the knowledge be misused than lost entirely, so here we are, the first generation of human beings to discuss these delicate matters in cyberspace.

The power we seek is ours only to the extent that we do not identify it as ours, but receive it with graciousness and humility. The moment we begin “pulling” at it, it becomes contaminated with ego. Another story comes to mind, this one from Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis. Perhaps you are familiar with it. It almost spooks for itsoph:

“I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life.

“The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath, in vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

“That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the external rhythm.

"I sat on a rock to absorb this New Years's thought. Ah, if only that little butterfly could always flutter before me to show me the way."

The caterpillar, the cocoon and the butterfly are such apt symbols of the spiritual journey that it almost seems as if they must have been created by an other-wordly intelligence for heuristic purposes. Because spiritual growth -- just like any other growth -- is an organic process that obeys its own rhythm. And the rhythm will be different for each person. You cannot force it, but you can -- and must -- provide it with the appropriate environment and “food” that it needs to flourish, whether it is meditation, prayer, ritual, lectio divina, etc.

But you must always -- always -- include moral preparation, not just because virtue is its own reward, but also because doing so will help illuminate those parts of yourself that will either resist or misuse the powers that are coming down. And when they do come down, you must never say “it’s about time,” but ask “why me?” It is a good practice to immediately ask oneself how one may help others with it, and to meditate on what you can do to repay a debt that can never be repaid.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the classic gospel song by the great Shirley Caesar, No Charge. A couple of weeks ago, when our dear secular liberal atheist friend was visiting, I bet her that I could give her the gift of tears in three and a half minutes. I put on the song. It starts with the recitation of a story:

“My sister's little boy came in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece paper he had been writing on. And after wiping her hands on an apron, she took it in her hands and read it,
and this is what it said:

“For mowing the yard, five dollars.
And for making up my own bed this week, one dollar.
For going to the store, fifty cents.
And playing with little brother while you went shopping, twenty five cents.
Taking out the trash, one dollar.
And for getting a good report card, five dollars.
And for raking the yard, two dollars.
Total owed $14.75.

“Well she looked at him standing there and expecting, and a thousand memories flashed through her mind. So she picked up a pen and turned the paper over and this is what she wrote:

“For the nine months I carried you, holding you inside me no charge
For the nights I sat up with you, doctored you and prayed for you no charge
For the time and tears and the costs through the years, there’s no charge
When you add it all up, the full cost of my love is no charge

“For the nights filled with grey,
And the worries ahead,
For the advice and the knowledge,
And the costs of your college, no charge
For the toys, school, and clothes,
And for wiping your nose,
There's no charge son
When you add it all up, the full cost of my love is no charge

“Well you know when I think about that I think about the day that Jesus went out to Calvary and gave his life as a ransom for me. When I think on the words ‘If Any Man be in Christ He's A New Creature," I like to think about the very minute that he shedded his blood, my debt was paid in full.

“And I want you to know today, when you add it all up, the full cost of real love is no charge.”


Yes, our friend was indeed "misty with the old unshed," as Bertie Wooster once put it, even though, interestingly, she found that last bit of the song off-putting. There was a time that I too would have found it off-putting, but it’s the whole point of the song, for it does address that nagging existential question: where does all this inexplicable love come from, anyway? Now, you don’t necessarily have to accept sister Shirley’s answer, but at least she has one -- one that is certainly more plausible than such pseudo-explanations as “evolutionary psychology” or “sociobiology” -- i.e., a trick of the genes.

In fact, in my book, I pointed out that you needn’t regard scripture as merely literally true when you imaginatively enter its world. If you are just a little too Greek to get past certain apparent follies, don’t worry about that. Don’t let it stop you from letting it engage your spirit, any more than you stop yourself from enjoying a great book or movie because it isn’t real.

As it so happens, some things are just too beautiful not to be true, but don’t concern yourself with that now. Just enjoy the beauty, and soon you will find yourself wondering how the world can be so arranged that butterflies are symbols and symbols are coccoons for caterpultering one's coconsciousness into a buddhafly.

We’ve only scratched the surface here, so this will probably be a multi-parter. We don't want to open this chrusallus presence too quickly. Time takes time. Let alone, eternity.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Bob. I can't understand where the other commentators are on this one. Have they gone to the other web site?

cousin dupree said...

Yes, Bob and the merry gang of cosmonauts have left the building, so to speak. However, he's leaving this site open for his enemies to hurl abuse at him. He left me in charge to hold down the fort and deal with the riff-raff, but also to identify any promising candidates who can contribute to the metaphysical hijinks at our undisclosed location.

sehoy said...

Babette's Feast

sehoy said...

Are you saying there's an inner ring?!


Dean Douthat said...

Test post

Is the URL for the new site a secret?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I wish I could express my thoughts so eloquently. This post is incredible.

Jeff Wilson said...

P. D. Ouspensky says in his book "The Fourth Way" that, in the end, for true understanding (illumination?) we must be able to "verify everything" and "accept nothing on faith" because he believes that relying on faith allows the mind to avoid "work." "Instead of TRYING to know," one can simply "believe."

I think Ouspensky has a point here. I think we should be able to understand everything that happens to us - even spiritual experiences. And we should make sure that we do understand what has happended before we proceed (to the next spiritual level?).

This is extremely important with regard to spiritual or so-called spiritual experinces because cults rely on their members NOT thinking! That's how they are able to take advantage of their members!

I see nothing wrong with opening your heart, but after, take the time (on your own!) to think about your experience.

And you most definately should have already thought long and hard about the person or people who are "showing you the way."