Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jesus Presley and the Language of Achievement (1.05.10)

As I have mentioned before -- not merely for exhibitionistic autobobographical reasons, but to illuminate a principle -- I did not move through the educational ranks in the usual way. I could not have been less interested in school until I was maybe 23 years of age, when I returned to college after having initially dropped out in my junior year and spending two years on a blue collar job, a job I happily held for the subsequent decade, 12 years in all.

So I came to the academic world as an outsider in every way. As a result, I never came to learn the ways and customs of this world -- its dogmas, unwritten rules, its conventional wisdom, its many preconceptions. I also came to it without ambition or agenda, only sincerity and curiosity. But a person with no ambition and no agenda is always a threat to the establishment. Bear in mind that when I say this, I am not trying to elevate myself to some sort of romantic "outlaw" figure; rather, I am speaking purely generically of certain rules that apply to any established culture.

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion spoke of it in terms of what he called the "establishment" and the "messiah." The establishment -- by virtue of being one -- eventually becomes sclerotic, predictable, and rule-bound, and loses contact with the original impulse that brought it onto being. This happens in politics, in business, certainly with the Post Office, and even in intimate relationships. A marriage can become stale and predictable, with the two partners taking on utterly predictable roles that then seem to dictate and "contain" them. It is as if they are no longer free, but living within psychic grooves that guide every thought and action. Reality -- O -- is slowly eclipsed, often because we cannot tolerate the intimacy and openness of contact with O. Love dies on the vine.

Now that I'm on the topic, Bion also wrote about how the child functions as the messiah to the couple. The couple wishes for a messiah to save it, and places this hope into the child. Thus, the poorest people in the most abject circumstances always greet the arrival of a new child with a kind of infinite hope. The infant is a sort of psycho-spiritual poultrice that draws us out of ourselves and puts us in touch with the infinite. As I expressed it in my book, they give us "a touch of infanity." They are a means of escape from ourselves, back to ourselves -- who we were before we put on the mask and became a frictional character.

This is interesting, for it shows the dialectical nature of our humanness, which always revolves around the pole of knowledge and infinite mystery -- or O and (k). The reason I place the parentheses around (k) is to evoke this idea of containment and of tentativeness. Whatever little bit of (k) we possess, in the end, it is like two little parentheses in eternity. Or, imagine standing in the ocean and cupping your hands together, measuring the water between them. As we win a bit more (k) from the formless infinite void, the distance between our hands increases. But as compared to the ocean, our (k) is but a drop. And it is always tentative, on pain of being dysfunctional. In other words, the moment knowledge becomes saturated, it no longer performs the function of gaining more knowledge. It cannot be used as a stepping stone to vault one further into O. Rather, it is simply "dead" from the psychic point of view, like a dusty old book taking up space in your liberariam.

In formulating his model of the mind, Bion's entire task was to forge, as he called it, a "language of achievement." In short, he wanted to create a way to "think about thinking" that would spur creative advance into O, rather than merely being some sort of dry academic theory that one could memorize once and for all. This is why I say that Bion was not only one of the greatest psychoanalysts who ever lived, but one of the world's greatest philosophers, even though few people outside a certain subspecialty of psychoanalysis even know his name. Perhaps others have touched on the problems he addressed, but I just haven't heard of them.

Because Bion's is a "language of achievement" -- he is literally attemting to simultaneously formulate and demonstrate his ideas -- different people come away from his writings with quite different conceptions. In other words, Bion does not so much "teach" as "provoke." In my case, I felt that I had understood him perfectly, and yet, when I began reading the secondary literature, I soon realized that others did not necessarily share my understanding, or what Bion called "vertex." The vertex is the point at which an axis meets a surface, in this case, the point at which our (k) intersects O. Thus, in the end, you cannot be a Bionian. Rather, you can only become yourself through his writing. And if this or that aspect of my writing accomplices anycrime like the same thing for this or that Raccoon, then it will have achieved its uplaw purpose.

I am reminded of something that Dr. Grotstein once wrote. He mentioned that he had gone to hear Bion lecture for the first time. Now, from his side of things, Bion never spoke from prepared notes. Rather, he spoke "from O," as it were, meaning that each lecture was an adventure, a sort of fishing expedition in the formless infinite ocean. Let's just see what we can pull out! Grotstein said that he came away from the lecture not really understanding much of what Bion had said, even being a bit perplexed and annoyed. However, before he went to sleep, he furiously jotted down ideas for about five papers he was to eventually write. That is the language of achievement. It does not so much place content into your mind as little "depth charges" that generatively blast away at the existing framework.

Now, perhaps it will not surprise you to know that at this very moment, I am attempting to "write from O," as I always do. I have almost no idea what I have written so far, nor do I have much of an idea of what I am about to say. I'm just "following the music," as a jazzman might say. Does that sound strange? Most of you don't read very carefully, but for those of you who do, we are holding heads together in this very moment, unknowing where any of this is going to lead -- indeed, if it is going to lead anywhere. In the language of King Crimson, it may simply end in a "train wreck," which is the price one must pay for trying to collectively improvise within O. For if there is to be achievment, there must be the possibiliy of failure.

Bion called this open and expectant attitude "faith." Once again, as with "messiah" and "establishment," he is not using the word in any conventional "saturated" way, but in the most abstract way possible. Faith is simply a prerequisite for any generative encounter with O. Can you see why? If we come to O with too many preconceptions, we will merely be taking a plunge into the known, not the unknown. We specifically want to win a bit of (k) from O, not (k) from (k). When we do the latter, we are more or less in the conventional world that extends from cavemen to tenuremen. Obviously, there is nothing fundamentally retarded with that world. Far from it. It only becomes bad when it eclipses O, as in the case of scientism, or materialism, or atheism, or Marxism, which all superimpose an abstract, dead model onto the living O.

And please, I am not suggesting that only ideologies I reject can eclipse O. Far from it. Religion, which is all about the language of achievement, can obviously become as dead, saturated, and "contained" as anything else, mere "churchianity." For example, it is no insult to Judaism to say that Jesus arrived at a time when it had -- apparently -- become overly saturated, sclerotic, and rule-bound, in the same way that Buddha reanimated Hinduism from the outside. In fact, to set aside any possible charges of anti-Semitism, let us just say that the dialectic between Jesus and the "scribes and Pharisees" is there to teach us a more general lesson about the relationship between establishment and messiah.

A Jew can appreciate the underlying lesson no less than a Christian, for it is obviously possible to reduce the infinite Torah to some unmannamade dogma and puny show, when the whole point of Torah is to have a generative and living encounter between the word of God and the mind of man. Torah is a language of achievment par excellence. Oy vey, just consider the many possible interpretations of Genesis, each no less correct than the others so long as it has been genuinely realized and not merely "learned." The other day I was at the park, when I saw what looked like a rabbi and his teenage son sitting together at a picnic table, poring over a Bible together. I intentionally sidled over to try to adam & eavesdrop on the coonversation, for I imagined them wrestling with the text, father encountering the finite infinity of Torah again for the first time through the eyes of his son -- the messiah!

Now, it is equally clear to me that Jesus nearly always spoke the language of achievement. Think about it for a moment. So sophisticated was he that he fully understood the paradox that if he had spoken unambiguously of O, he would be misunderstood. Therefore, he spoke mainly in paradoxables that serve the purpose of vaulting the mind out of its habitual grooves. Thus he was also a messiah in the Bionian sense of saving ourselves from ourselves and providing us with a living language to talk and think about O. Yes, his words are "folly to the Greeks" -- which they must be if they are to bypass our hyper-rational interior Greek patrol.

And this is why sects and schisms are ineveateapple, because the infinite simply cannot be contained by any single container. Naturally, some containers do a better job than others in containing the "fullness of Truth." Nevertheless, it is somewhat analogous to trying to capture the "fullness of music." Whenever this happens -- whenever music becomes overly stale and predictable -- you can always be sure that a "musical rebel" will arrive on the scene to save us.

And this, my friends, is why Elvis may not be God, but he is certainly a messiah.


River Cocytus said...

Yes, that's it-- we're Uplaws. Not INLaws, or OUTLaws, or God forbid, Downlaws...

(Though we have been known to Lay Down The Law...)

Or do we receive the pass, dribble the Torah, and swiftly Lay Up the law?

Sometimes we even lay out the law- like we're writing down design specs that aren't our own. Kind of like the world is an HTML page and we're 'In UR P4G3 St33ling UR Skr1ptz.'

And sometimes we just lay IN the law; deep meditation and prayer.

And sometimes the law lays into us! Ow.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm all shook up!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I fought the law and the law one!

dicentra63 said...

Look who made it onto Cute Overload!

(Sorry about the bad linky in the last post. Deleted.)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks! Truly, a post of achievement brewing at the OC.

I wrote about a beer garden today.
And the ocean.
Fermented language.

Aye think knot.

I have a spirited carbonated footprint.

Anonymous said...

Bob, this is a brilliant post, truly one of your finest. If this is what fishing in 0 produces, I'm going down the seashore myself.

Inspiring. I found the metaphor/image of the cupped hands in the ocean, representing (k) in 0, very clear and resonant.

The messiah principle I now understand better, in particular the ways in which people can use children as a vehicle for inner renewal.

This explains the perhaps unaccountable joy I felt when my daughter became pregnant out of wed-lock. My partner said "Shame on you--how could you feel good about this situation?"

I tried in vain to suppress my happiness (was I some kind of freak?) but perhaps it was the "messiah principle" at work in grandparent mode.

Anonymous said...

Continuing ben's line...some lesser know Elvis songs
Heartbrea(k)<- hOtel
dOn't Be (k)ruel
All ShO->(k) Up
A Big Hun(k)<- O' Love
Stuc(k)<-On You

Anonymous said...

Dear Leader,
Very yeasty, this post.
In my house, having read your book and re-covered your previous posts, we circle around your blog by studying-up on history, suggested links, daily discussions, and the books you suggest; most recently, we have approached Frithjof Schuon's writings, via James Cutsinger. And I admit, I have been REALLY struggling with it, as it is speaking from a level I am not used to. Yesterday, I nearly had tears in my eyes over my inability to grasp some of what Schuon was trying to communicate: vital data, that I couldn't seem to receive! Last evening, we continued to discuss it, and I just shook my head; I was not 'getting' it, and I felt thick, like a brick. But this morning, about the time you were writing today's post, phrases like "as above, so below" and "in the image of God" suddenly came alive to me - "and much more", just like advertisers promise - as well as many things you have talked about in your posts.

So here's my point: You wrote today about Bion, that he "does not so much place content into your mind as little "depth charges" that generatively blast away at the existing framework." Well, Dear Leader, we'd like you to know that One Cosmos has had that effect on some of us as well; and thank you, kindly.

River Cocytus said...

Oh, that poem I wrote back a month ago or so (in the Nightmares of a Tenured Cipher post) became today a full verse.

The Boarding Call

I came anon to the land of the free
Not sooner than a score anon
A land of confusion
The best of all man
Could offer but derision
For the work of his hand;
Between the shining sea
And cities and cities beyond.

They say a city on high can not
Be hidden as under a bowl
But as I grew I learned
And found this true
For the envious have spurned--
The old becomes new
That same sickness is what
Justify the loss of their soul.

For True freedom is never
License or perversion or lust
To simply move about
Without one's chains
Is Liberty's redoubt
Its truth wracks their brains
Can be it controlled?-- never
For the essence of freedom is trust.

So 'free' I went to find
Those ends, so right, sublime
To make the story short
I found them not
But envy's cohort
Greed is what
And desolation of spirit and mind
In the accuser's fetters of rime.

For dear faith had left long ago
And with her revelation
The shining towers
Towers of alabster and stone
Empty all hours
Full but no-one's home
Left but a temple to their master, ego
But never our God's creation.

With faith gone hope had no reason
To stay, no reason at all
And left in her wake
A waking nightmare no less
For all men awake
and asleep in their mess
Pretense provided hope for a season
They are what make us stand tall!"

But where chaos lies there is
Lies and lies for all who ask
For I too found
Truth to be true
To this earth we are bound
Each day anew
I almost bought the lie, was it this?
Only in your inner light shall you bask!"

Emptiness there as with the things
So that love soon departed
For rings of gold
And promises
Become just old
How sad is this?
Envy and greed came on wings
A fool and his future are parted.

And despair I did and mourn
But still I travelled on
Until I saw a ship
Bitter and soiled
Her stern did dip
Her gears not well oiled
The masses were thereto borne
For the boarding-call was anon.

'Board her!' said the first mate
Of the sinking vessel there
The last crack in her hull--
The last had begun;
The ticket read remit one soul
to the Progress One;
'Come before it is too late--
We will all dream of the air!'

And so stood I in shock and in awe
Terrible, tingling and dumb
As into the sea
By chains on their hands
The men of the free
Relinquished their lands
And now forgotten, was their law
For virtue and power are one.

Gandalin said...

Bob, with all due respect, I think you're mistaken about the state of the Jewish religion during the earthly lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth. There were many vibrant Judaisms in the early Roman period, in the Land of Israel, as well as Babylonia and even Alexandria. The range of expression, from the Therapeutae and the Essenes to the philosophy of Philo is at least as wide as anything in the Jewish world today. Moreover, there is nothing in the "Sermon on the Mount" as recorded in Matthew that a Pharisaic preacher or any mussar-oriented Jewish preacher wouldn't be proud of saying; which isn't surprising since the "Sermon" was preached by a Jew to a Jewish audience. There is very little if anything in Jesus's teachings that departs very far from Pharisaic Judaism. (The theology of Paul is of course another matter altogether.)

River Cocytus said...

Gandalin: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, yea, very God himself.

How is that in line with the pharisaic tradition?

River Cocytus said...

Oh, sorry. Looking back, Gandalin, you're right, I think-- Jesus' public preaching did not directly espouse his Godhood.

However, he did do much that was against the Pharisaic traditions, if only in letter.

NoMo said...

RC - What about John 5:16 ff (just as one example)?

Gandalin said...


The Gospels protray episodes in which the individual Jesus came into conflict with (other) individual Pharisees, but such disputations are quotidian matters in Jewish life, and indeed the entire Talmud is nothing but the record of such disputations.

We could go through the "Sermon on the Mount" line by line, and you can tell me when you think something that Jesus said is in conflict with Jewish teachings, and I will find you the same or similar ideas and statements in throughly orthodox Jewish sources.

But then I think that Professor R. Travers Herford has probably already done that.

Gandalin said...


There is no stricture against healing on the Sabbath. Indeed the Sabbath must be profaned by the healer if there is any chance that the sufferer's life may possibly be in the slightest danger. Hence I must respectfully doubt John's account. His Gospel is the most anti-Jewish of the four that were canonized, anyway. At any rate, the words of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, do not depart from the broad mainstream of normative Jewish thinking in any substantial way.

Anonymous said...

The anecdote re: Dr. Goldstein and Bion might illustrate a metaphysical dynamic that can occur in the teacher/student relationship (I mean of the genuinely spiritual sort) - that is, the actual substantive *presence* of the teacher can spiritually "open" the student, can create for the student a window of gnosis, if only for a short time. It's not that the words, the lesson itself do not matter, but that they are secondary to the actual transforming presence of the teacher. The lesson itself may not be understood on the conscious level, yet because the student is awakened, however temporarily, by the presence of the teacher, a lesson is imparted.

I think this is one of the things that distinguished Christ from other spiritual teachers of that time. In many cases, they may have taught essentially the same spiritual lessons, yet the very radiating presence of Christ may have had an awakening effect so that many of those who heard his words were able to comprehend the message in a much deeper way than would have usually been the case.

So one must ask - how much of the presence of Bob (POB) via the OC posts gets through in terms of a transforming effect? The internet phenom is relatively new, and it surely has its meta-implications. I think it's very possible that, considering the internet's near-instantaneous electrical/electronic exchanges, something more than words are being transferred over time and space. There could very well be something of the soul-essence of a gnosis-ed individual - in this case, the POB - that leaks through the transmissions to the point whereby it actually has an awakening effect.

Okay, this is a sci-fi scenario, but the very phenom of electricity is a great mystery, and never before has electricity been utilized in the manner of the internet. I suspect that all kinds of energies, from the highest to the lowest, are being exchanged on the net.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the achievement of language:

I think this same way about Jesus' exhortation to be Light and Salt. Everybody understands the "light" part, some shining it directly into the poor darkened eyes of cave-dwellers. Then they wonder why there is a shriek and instant rejection. That is why, although we must be Light to our world in our proclamation of Truth, we need to have a care with our fellow travelers.

It would seem far better to start with offering up tasty tidbits, pretzels of thought that twist up the brain and yet leave it thirsty for answers. Then that's a good time to point them toward Truth. When the Sun starts to rise in their own thoughts, it'll shine just as brightly.

(Note to Van: It's why it's no use wasting time with trolls. They come here for other reasons. They're not thirsty and they're not wanting answers.)

Will: Long before the intertubes or electricity:

"If that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwell in you, it shall quicken your mortal body."

Powerful stuff, communication.

NoMo said...

Gandalin - IF Jesus WAS the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (as he claimed in Matthew 5:17), I would expect perfect accord -- whether or not I fully understand it what it's supposed to look like.

I previously pointed to John 5 as an example where Jesus put himself as equal to God.

Not arguing here, just pointing at things I see.

robinstarfish said...

revelator john
singer of the (--) voice
do re mi fas O

NoMo said...

rockin' robinstarfish
master ha i ku
trinity all in three

Anonymous said...

Joan - >>Long before the intertubes or electricity:

"If that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwell in you, it shall quicken your mortal body."<<

Yup. At a certain spiritual juncture, though, individual in-the-flesh Teachers, I believe, become necessary, particularly since the "quickening of the mortal body" can be quite devastating.

I was really musing on how the internet might play a role, if any, on this aspect of the Teacher/student relationship. If it does play a role, it would be a completely new way in which higher info is exchanged.

MikeZ said...

Another "Christlike" figure in the news:

Tom Cruise

Yep - ol' Tom:

"High-ranking Scientologist David Miscavige is convinced in years to come Cruise, 44, will be worshipped like Jesus all over the world as he becomes a prophet for the religion."

The article puts things in a little bit of perspective with the last paragraph.

Anonymous said...


For your future hiaku reference, the syllables per line are:


NoMo said...

I assumed it would be obvious I'm just a pretender havin' a little fun. Definitely don't mean to diss the art.

River Cocytus said...

it's haiku...
hiaku = 100 (actually, it may be hiaaku.)

Anonymous said...


Would Tom be the first or the second coming? ;)

Anonymous said...

Nike is the Second Coming, silly.

Anonymous said...

And it's another reason to loathe the current state of pro basketball, as if there weren't enough reasons already: the second coming.

Anonymous said...

>>it's haiku... <<


Anonymous said...

I apologize. I have posted under anonymous several times without really investigating the content of this blog. Having just spent a couple of hours going back into the archives (noticing, for instance, blogs and posts that refer to Dawkins or Chomsky, etc.), I realize that this place is entirely different than what I initially assumed and, again, I most sincerly apologize for having posted on your site and I thank all who took the time to respond to anything I wrote. It was a misunderstanding on my part. Enjoy your cooning.

Gagdad Bob said...


Schuon is very difficult for most people, so I would never recommend him as a general rule, only to certain individuals who are drawn to his spiritual force and who have a feel for esotericism and metaphysics. If these things do not come naturally to you, it's going to be a struggle. On the other hand, you never know unless you try. I do my best to make some of his ideas accessible to a broader audience, but even then, I sometimes wonder if I am expressing them in a way that he wouldn't approve of. In fact, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't. Oh well. Someday someone will trivialize my ideas, and we'll be even.

Anonymous said...

Anagrams for TOM CRUISE:




NoMo said...

Will - Is that a haikruise?


Van Harvey said...

Will said... "So one must ask - how much of the presence of Bob (POB) via the OC posts gets through in terms of a transforming effect? The internet phenom is relatively new, and it surely has its meta-implications. "

Not to get all synchronistic, but I
posted on this just now, because of a depth charge Gagdad helped set off in me earlier last year, and which came up and bit me yesterday in a comment here when I blurted out my decades old tried & true "... doesn't apply to me, I'm not religous..." and realized that while perhaps technically true, it doesn't fully apply to me anymore - and it plagued me all night and day today.

I have been somewhere to the agnostic side of being an atheist for many years, but hanging out at One Cosmos has... opened that space from a whisker to a ruminatory expanse - a positive mental/spiritual space, which I hadn't fully recognized until just recently, by way of Fearless Leader and we Racoons kicking up the dust within.

I tend to discount the electrical aspect (as least in that which we define as electricity), but attribute far more voltage to the ideas Gagdad conveys through One Cosmos's prismatic mirror, and through the unexpected effects which the blog-versation we Racoons engage in, which manages to amplify into high-wattage mental depth charges.

It really is remarkable. It manages to unite community, conversation and the written word - I seriously doubt that any of us have grasped the long range affects this new medium will have on the world.

Joan of Arrgghh!!! said "(Note to Van: It's why it's no use wasting time with trolls. They come here for other reasons. They're not thirsty and they're not wanting answers.)"

-I know you end up being right on this Joan, it's just that when someone asks a question, it takes me a while to realize that someone could actually, on purpose, not be seeking to understand what they are asking about, and so I'm easily yanked around until I see that they are just chasing dust. At that point I finally brush them off, but... many words are spent getting from here to there.

I've about gotten to the point that I realize it's pointless debating with trolls, but I haven't quite gotten to the point of giving up a questioner as a Troll... at least not untill they beat it into me. It's a flogger thing.


robinstarfish said...

bite the hand that feeds
creatures under the bridge know
there stands no mountain

NoMo said...

V -

Hear your words He does
Vulnerability there
Close now, very close

Anonymous said...


I think if Bob were writing for a magazine or newspaper, the effect of his words would be the same. (POB wise) He has the ability to convey spirit though language or should I say he has mastered the ability to be used as an O > k conduit and use the language to convey meaning.

Even with his description of politics, the spirit behind the political philosophy/manifestation is communicated. That, I find, is rare in todays political pundits and writers. Bob produces a 3 Dimensional O effect to the usually flat k language of other writers.

And to balance out this post, I'm not much for jazz. ;)

Anonymous said...

Did we lose another Chomskyite?

Anonymous said...

Hoarhey: don't forget the development of the receiver to a close enough level to that of the communicator so the message is received... not to take one bit away from Bob but to point out the level of many of the people hear.

Anonymous said...

But the receiver is useless without the transmitter.

Hmmm, somehow, in my mind, that statement again proved the existence of God. One of those "of myself I can do nothing" moments. ;)

Magnus Itland said...

What a delightful entry. Now that it is obvious that this blog is not meant to be Wikipedia, perhaps people will stop trying to edit it to get the facts right.

Also, pigs will fly! (Only during tornado season, though.)

Anonymous said...


River Cocytus said...

Bob, a few thoughts.

Is there any correlation between
(in your view?)

My brain always does this number-matching routine while I'm driving.

Also-- Paul talks about the Jews and the Greeks. You talked about the 'internal greek patrol' -- is there also an internal rabbi, do you think? (sembolically of course.)