Friday, June 29, 2007

One Flew Over the Cosmic Nest

I wanted to finish up my thoughts about Frithjof Schuon in commemoration of his 100th birthday. As I have said, I don't agree with everything he says, and in fact, I might even be in disagreement with one of his most unfunfundamental tenets, which is, to put it bluntly, that the world is in an inexorable slide toward dissolution and catastrophe, and that there's nothing we can do about it, at least collectively. In short, no one knows the day or hour, but we are headed toward apocalypse in a hand basket.

I say I "might be" in disagreement, because I'm no longer sure if the world is evolutionary and progressive, or whether mankind's apparent progress is not only superficial, but a kind of deodorant that covers up the smell of the rot. I am an optimist by nature, an attitude which is further exacerbated by a disposition that is essentially cheerful, sunny, and sort of jovial. But what if the universe is not cheerful, sunny and jovial? Then I'm distorting things every bit as much as the depressed and morbid person who sees life as one hopeless struggle, aren't I?

Obviously, when I wrote my book, I was unabashedly in the evolutionary camp. This was undoubtedly due to the influence first of Ken Wilber and then Sri Aurobindo, both of whom see the cosmos as a field of progressive spiritual evolution. A while back, I wrote that.... Never mind what I wrote. I was about to select a quote, but I couldn't pick just one, so here's the link to the whole thing. It is a reflection of the optimistic side of me, which again comes very naturally. But that doesn't mean it's correct, now does it?

Then again, the traditionalists such as Schuon all appear to me to be on the serious side, to say the least. I've almost read Schuon's entire body of work, and I don't think there's a single gag in the whole existentialada, except maybe the hollow and bitter kind, as Bertie Wooster might put it. In my more grandiose moments, I sometimes think that maybe I was put here to introduce a little levity into the gravity of religion. I mean.... somebody's gotta do it, right? Alan Watts was a pretty funny guy, but he was also alcoholic and had a spanking fetish.... not that there's anything wrong with that, but my point is that whatever seriousness he was able to convey through humor did not extend to himself, since he was a pretty frivolous character, and underneath the frivolity were some pretty dark currents. Thus, he was only superficially frivolous, whereas my goal is to be deeply frivolous.

Come to think of it, I have to say that all of the spiritual models I was initially drawn to were of that nature. Given my basic temperament, I just couldn't take traditional religions seriously. They were just too easy to make fun of. So I was drawn toward people like Watts, Ram Dass, Terence McKenna, and even a sociopath like Timothy Leary, since at least they all had a sense of humor.

Is my sense of humor just a giant defense mechanism? Here's where I think psychology can go too far. Yes, there are certainly people who use humor as a defense to cover up their problems. Just think of all the deeply troubled great comedians. Research has shown that there is a very high incidence of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, among great poets, but the comedians might even be worse. There are the completely self-destructive ones, like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and John Belushi, and a great many who clearly just use comedy to cover up an essentially bitter and angry personality, such as Bill Maher, David Letterman, or Rosie O'Donnell. Ironically, it is apparently rare to find a comedian who is actually fun to be around and happy in his private life.

At any rate, something in me caused me to reject all of the above "stand-up theologians" for a variety of reasons, even though I suppose I wanted to retain their playful attitude. As I mentioned the other day, if there is one adage I live by, it is to simply follow the depth, wherever it leads. This includes scientific truth, psychological truth, theological truth, and comedic truth. Is there any fundamental reason why ultimate truth can't be deeply funny, a guffah-ha experience, the joke than which there is no jokier?

Yes, I suppose so. First of all, if you aren't funny, you shouldn't try to be. Please, leave it to the professionals. And the professionals know that it is much more difficult to write good comedy than good drama. Even more difficult is to write good comedy that is simultaneously deep. Now that I think of it, my favorite films tend to be those that walk that fine line between comedy and drama, for example, Sunset Boulevard or One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

And now that I think of it some more -- and I'm thinking about this for the first time -- I can't even tell you how much I was influenced by the latter film. I was 18 or 19 when it came out, and it was sort of a.... religious experience. In short, I totally identified with the R.P. McMurphy character, who was quite transparently a symbol of the messiah. And when I say "messiah," I don't necessarily mean it in the Christian sense, but in Bion's sense as the person who comes along and injects a little life into the dead and sclerotic establishment. I even had the movie poster on the wall of my shabby little apartment back in the day.

Obviously, this is why I was a default liberal in my younger days, since I identified "the establishment" with conservatives. But as I was mentioning to my uncomprehending brother the other evening, one of the biggest disappointments in my life is how my own generation has become the stultifying establishment -- conformist, narrow-minded, humorless, politically correct, authoritarian, fearful of change. I mean, Hillary Clinton is the very image of Nurse Ratched, is she not? From Wikipedia:

"Nurse Mildred Ratched is the head administrative nurse at the state mental hospital, where she exercises near-absolute power over the patients' access to medications, privileges, and basic necessities such as food and toiletries. She capriciously revokes these privileges whenever a patient displeases her. Her superiors turn blind eyes because she maintains order, keeping the patients from acting out... A cold sadistic, tyrant obsessed with her own power.... She has also become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of power and authority in bureaucracies.... When McMurphy arrives at the hospital, however, her dictatorial rule is nearly toppled; he not only flouts her precious rules with impunity, but encourages the other patients to follow his example. Her attempts to cow him into submission -- at first with threats and mild punishments, then with shock therapy -- are unsuccessful. If anything, they only make him more defiant...."

So back to my theological dilemma. In many ways, the question of whether the cosmos is evolutionary or degenerative comes down to whether God is a funny guy or more like the morbid fellow portrayed in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Yes, it's an extended quote, so skip it if you want, but it's pretty entertaining. Otherwise, this is the end of today's post.


The preacher's voice sank. He paused, joined his palms for an instant, parted them. Then he resumed:

-- Now let us try for a moment to realize, as far as we can, the nature of that abode of the damned which the justice of an offended God has called into existence for the eternal punishment of sinners. Hell is a strait and dark and foul-smelling prison, an abode of demons and lost souls, filled with fire and smoke. The straitness of this prison house is expressly designed by God to punish those who refused to be bound by His laws. In earthly prisons the poor captive has at least some liberty of movement, were it only within the four walls of his cell or in the gloomy yard of his prison. Not so in hell. There, by reason of the great number of the damned, the prisoners are heaped together in their awful prison, the walls of which are said to be four thousand miles thick: and the damned are so utterly bound and helpless that, as a blessed saint, saint Anselm, writes in his book on similitudes, they are not even able to remove from the eye a worm that gnaws it.

-- They lie in exterior darkness. For, remember, the fire of hell gives forth no light. As, at the command of God, the fire of the Babylonian furnace lost its heat but not its light, so, at the command of God, the fire of hell, while retaining the intensity of its heat, burns eternally in darkness. It is a never ending storm of darkness, dark flames and dark smoke of burning brimstone, amid which the bodies are heaped one upon another without even a glimpse of air. Of all the plagues with which the land of the Pharaohs were smitten one plague alone, that of darkness, was called horrible. What name, then, shall we give to the darkness of hell which is to last not for three days alone but for all eternity?

-- The horror of this strait and dark prison is increased by its awful stench. All the filth of the world, all the offal and scum of the world, we are told, shall run there as to a vast reeking sewer when the terrible conflagration of the last day has purged the world. The brimstone, too, which burns there in such prodigious quantity fills all hell with its intolerable stench; and the bodies of the damned themselves exhale such a pestilential odour that, as saint Bonaventure says, one of them alone would suffice to infect the whole world. The very air of this world, that pure element, becomes foul and unbreathable when it has been long enclosed. Consider then what must be the foulness of the air of hell. Imagine some foul and putrid corpse that has lain rotting and decomposing in the grave, a jelly-like mass of liquid corruption. Imagine such a corpse a prey to flames, devoured by the fire of burning brimstone and giving off dense choking fumes of nauseous loathsome decomposition. And then imagine this sickening stench, multiplied a millionfold and a millionfold again from the millions upon millions of fetid carcasses massed together in the reeking darkness, a huge and rotting human fungus. Imagine all this, and you will have some idea of the horror of the stench of hell.

-- But this stench is not, horrible though it is, the greatest physical torment to which the damned are subjected. The torment of fire is the greatest torment to which the tyrant has ever subjected his fellow creatures. Place your finger for a moment in the flame of a candle and you will feel the pain of fire. But our earthly fire was created by God for the benefit of man, to maintain in him the spark of life and to help him in the useful arts, whereas the fire of hell is of another quality and was created by God to torture and punish the unrepentant sinner. Our earthly fire also consumes more or less rapidly according as the object which it attacks is more or less combustible, so that human ingenuity has even succeeded in inventing chemical preparations to check or frustrate its action. But the sulphurous brimstone which burns in hell is a substance which is specially designed to burn for ever and for ever with unspeakable fury. Moreover, our earthly fire destroys at the same time as it burns, so that the more intense it is the shorter is its duration; but the fire of hell has this property, that it preserves that which it burns, and, though it rages with incredible intensity, it rages for ever.

--Our earthly fire again, no matter how fierce or widespread it may be, is always of a limited extent; but the lake of fire in hell is boundless, shoreless and bottomless. It is on record that the devil himself, when asked the question by a certain soldier, was obliged to confess that if a whole mountain were thrown into the burning ocean of hell it would be burned up In an instant like a piece of wax. And this terrible fire will not afflict the bodies of the damned only from without, but each lost soul will be a hell unto itself, the boundless fire raging in its very vitals. O, how terrible is the lot of those wretched beings! The blood seethes and boils in the veins, the brains are boiling in the skull, the heart in the breast glowing and bursting, the bowels a red-hot mass of burning pulp, the tender eyes flaming like molten balls.

--And yet what I have said as to the strength and quality and boundlessness of this fire is as nothing when compared to its intensity, an intensity which it has as being the instrument chosen by divine design for the punishment of soul and body alike. It is a fire which proceeds directly from the ire of God, working not of its own activity but as an instrument of Divine vengeance. As the waters of baptism cleanse the soul with the body, so do the fires of punishment torture the spirit with the flesh. Every sense of the flesh is tortured and every faculty of the soul therewith: the eyes with impenetrable utter darkness, the nose with noisome odours, the ears with yells and howls and execrations, the taste with foul matter, leprous corruption, nameless suffocating filth, the touch with redhot goads and spikes, with cruel tongues of flame. And through the several torments of the senses the immortal soul is tortured eternally in its very essence amid the leagues upon leagues of glowing fires kindled in the abyss by the offended majesty of the Omnipotent God and fanned into everlasting and ever-increasing fury by the breath of the anger of the God-head.

--Consider finally that the torment of this infernal prison is increased by the company of the damned themselves. Evil company on earth is so noxious that the plants, as if by instinct, withdraw from the company of whatsoever is deadly or hurtful to them. In hell all laws are overturned - there is no thought of family or country, of ties, of relationships. The damned howl and scream at one another, their torture and rage intensified by the presence of beings tortured and raging like themselves. All sense of humanity is forgotten. The yells of the suffering sinners fill the remotest corners of the vast abyss. The mouths of the damned are full of blasphemies against God and of hatred for their fellow sufferers and of curses against those souls which were their accomplices in sin. In olden times it was the custom to punish the parricide, the man who had raised his murderous hand against his father, by casting him into the depths of the sea in a sack in which were placed a cock, a monkey, and a serpent. The intention of those law-givers who framed such a law, which seems cruel in our times, was to punish the criminal by the company of hurtful and hateful beasts. But what is the fury of those dumb beasts compared with the fury of execration which bursts from the parched lips and aching throats of the damned in hell when they behold in their companions in misery those who aided and abetted them in sin, those whose words sowed the first seeds of evil thinking and evil living in their minds, those whose immodest suggestions led them on to sin, those whose eyes tempted and allured them from the path of virtue. They turn upon those accomplices and upbraid them and curse them. But they are helpless and hopeless: it is too late now for repentance.

--Last of all consider the frightful torment to those damned souls, tempters and tempted alike, of the company of the devils. These devils will afflict the damned in two ways, by their presence and by their reproaches. We can have no idea of how horrible these devils are. Saint Catherine of Siena once saw a devil and she has written that, rather than look again for one single instant on such a frightful monster, she would prefer to walk until the end of her life along a track of red coals. These devils, who were once beautiful angels, have become as hideous and ugly as they once were beautiful. They mock and jeer at the lost souls whom they dragged down to ruin. It is they, the foul demons, who are made in hell the voices of conscience. Why did you sin? Why did you lend an ear to the temptings of friends? Why did you turn aside from your pious practices and good works? Why did you not shun the occasions of sin? Why did you not leave that evil companion? Why did you not give up that lewd habit, that impure habit? Why did you not listen to the counsels of your confessor? Why did you not, even after you had fallen the first or the second or the third or the fourth or the hundredth time, repent of your evil ways and turn to God who only waited for your repentance to absolve you of your sins? Now the time for repentance has gone by. Time is, time was, but time shall be no more! Time was to sin in secrecy, to indulge in that sloth and pride, to covet the unlawful, to yield to the promptings of your lower nature, to live like the beasts of the field, nay worse than the beasts of the field, for they, at least, are but brutes and have no reason to guide them: time was, but time shall be no more. God spoke to you by so many voices, but you would not hear. You would not crush out that pride and anger in your heart, you would not restore those ill-gotten goods, you would not obey the precepts of your holy church nor attend to your religious duties, you would not abandon those wicked companions, you would not avoid those dangerous temptations. Such is the language of those fiendish tormentors, words of taunting and of reproach, of hatred and of disgust. Of disgust, yes! For even they, the very devils, when they sinned, sinned by such a sin as alone was compatible with such angelical natures, a rebellion of the intellect: and they, even they, the foul devils must turn away, revolted and disgusted, from the contemplation of those unspeakable sins by which degraded man outrages and defiles the temple of the Holy Ghost, defiles and pollutes himself.

--O, my dear little brothers in Christ, may it never be our lot to hear that language! May it never be our lot, I say! In the last day of terrible reckoning I pray fervently to God that not a single soul of those who are in this chapel today may be found among those miserable beings whom the Great Judge shall command to depart for ever from His sight, that not one of us may ever hear ringing in his ears the awful sentence of rejection: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels!


juliec said...

I must run, but I wanted to share a few thoughts.

That description of hell sounds to me rather like what the inside of a black hole must be like.

As to humor, all I can say is this: How do we know God is Beauty? Because we are surrounded by beauty. How do we know God is funny? Because we laugh. As above, so below: laughter is so good for us that it has positive physical effects. For some people, ecstatic religious experiences cause them to laugh almost hysterically. In many cultures, a baby's first laugh is considered almost sacred.

In the face of all that, how could God not have a sense of humor?

As to hell, I have said before and I believe this deep into my very marrow: if God is really so cold and vindictive that He would cast aside people who have spent their lives serving the Good, the Beautiful, and the True, even though they did not consciously acknowledge who they were really serving; if he would sentence to such a hell as described above virtually all of humanity, save for the few who were pure enough to be Chosen by Him, he would not, in my mind, truly be True, Beautiful or Good; he would instead be a capricious bastard, who would give his creations the opportunity and desire to experience joy in life, and then curse them for it.

But I don't believe that. Everyone I know is a sinner; there are no exceptions. Yet among those I know are many who are also, at times, filled with Grace, and I know they are loved by God. To be a witness to their lives is a blessing. For them to be cast into eternal damnation, the world would truly be upside down, and good would be evil. I would be forced, on my honor, to reject such a God, and suffer the consequences.

But like I said, I don't believe that; if it were so, what purpose would it have served for Him to send and sacrifice His only Son?

Gotta Go.

joseph said...


A deeply interesting post, and a self-reflecting one at that. I have searched high and low in your book and blog for the actual reason for your view of evolutionary progression, and the only one I could find was that you are optimistic and funny. Nonetheless, once you place yourself in that framework, it does seem to take account of many pieces of otherwise neglected evidence--like Junior Brown, Albert Pujols, the development of the guitar, and the founding of America, to mention just a few. For me, it continues to remain a conundrum, as Christopher Walken might say to trick or treaters (Trick or treat, what a conundrum!).

Privately, Schuon was very, very funny. For humor in his writings, I recommend his critique of Guenon.

It seems to me that David Letterman has become much less angry and much more soulful since his heart surgery and birth of his child.

Biker Lady said...

Thoughts about Schuon...
My thoughts about Schuon and your post today. I read up a little on Schuon and that got me into the time period of when he was young and reminded me of one of my most favorite authors, Grace Livingston Hill, who wrote stories from a Christian standpoint.
Those stories, over 100 of them, were placed mostly from 1900 thru 1940's. I have all most all of them and read them daily.
Grace Hill always gave glory to God and his saving grace in her stories.
Now back to Schuon and the time period of his youth, the time back then - "God was Dead" - Science was King - Einstein was trying to figure out time and space (parden me for making it all so simple. And, The Bible was a useless, outdate old book of no importance in the universities.
So here is Schuon with a great intellect compelled to use it in his way which resulted in his work/writings which Bob gives us from his writings.
Now, I don't know very much but I do know that we have to consider the times one lives in and their call from God to live up to what God has called them to do whether it is in art, writing, theology, whatever - they are called to make sense of their lives and the world we live in today. People from ages time past have been given the gifts of God to do so.
So, thinking back to that time, and one way to do that is reading works from that time (my way is to read the books of Grace Livingston Hill) we can get a picture of the lives of ordinary men and women, not just the important ones, so called, that we know of because they wrote books or did something important and why some people might have feared for our world and all involved.

Thoughts on what is literal in the Bible::To study and learn from the Bible whether we accept what may be literal, what may be meant by God to be hidden to some
- every part of it is written for our well-being.

So, some peoples living during those years from 1900 thru 1940's were greatly alarmed and thought sure the world was coming to a very bad ending and as students of the Bible why should they not think so because, contrary to the Scientists of the time, they believed that Bible, that the world would get worse and worse and then the end would come. They thought that because the Bible says so.
Except for our wonderful living standards and modern creations in this country, the world is in peril.
Some are just afraid to believe it.

And Bob, in thinking about Schuon, Grace Hill, their times, I thought hmmmmmm, does Bob have a footnote of Einstein in his book. Right there it was on page 40 of the first chapter. Now, when I tried to start reading the first chapter before it made no sense to me. Now I can understand it, sort of, I'm still reading and working through it.
How about that round a way of thinking!
So you wonder if we're out here thinking (what is thinking??) after reading your postings?
We're thinking, absorbing, grateful. Keep it up!

Robin Starfish said...

Light House Keeping

salvation helix
candle beam comes round again
ship turns to starboard

uzyzw: ulysse's cuz?

River Cocytus said...

I'm with the Orthodox on this (and Julie.) It seems to me that hell is a spiritual place; all too inescapably real to those it afflicts. As above, so below - Hell is eternal only because people can choose to eternally separate themselves from God. God forgives all, but not all men accept this forgiveness. Anyway, I wrote something along these lines today: Come Lately.

The reality of it is we speculate; and do not truly know what the afterlife will be. We look and listen for clues, but it is elusive. And for good reason, I'd imagine.

Anyway: Look at this: (Revelation 22:14-15)

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

ximeze said...

Seems to me you've set up a false choice.

Why must it be 'this' or its opposite?

Are we not just playing a dualistic human-type game, and when we choose: so what?

If we posit the O is gnoable but not knowable, because of His infinite nature, choices based on 'timelines' seem kinda silly. What, we're gonna sleep better 'cause we choose & mebbe we're right?

Makes more sense that if O is ALL, then our only choice is BOTH.

hoarhey said...

Ahhh, Hillary, the woman who can't even straighten out her own family is going to "fix" the good ole U. S. of A. Now THAT is funny.
No doubt there will be some R.P. McMurphy acting out if she gets the nod.

Joan of Argghh! said...
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Joan of Argghh! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bgalbreath said...

I just happened to come across an author who claims that belief that the Bible describes everlasting torment for sinners is based on a misinterpretation:

Perhaps all are reconciled in the long run, even the Hitlers and the Stalins find their way back to the source from which they ultimately sprang.

Joan of Argghh! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van said...

Best case for the necessity of a sense of humor:
The picture you used of Hilary (a little cold hearted of you around lunchtime, but we'll let that go for the moment).

If you had to face that on a daily basic, you'd either develop a very ironic and wry sense of humor - or experience hell on earth in the here and now.

wv:ioouwn - Cool!(eh... just what did I win?)

ximeze said...

bgalbreath said:
"even the Hitlers and the Stalins find their way back to the source from which they ultimately sprang"

Spawn of Satan, may you roast for all eternity, as is your due.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Wow. Beaglebreath created a blog just so's he could post here!

However, I won't go as far as outright dismissal of a certain idea posited. (I know, Ximeze! Even I'm amazed!)

Geo.MacDonald presents something similar (tho' not nearly as outrageous) in his writings. I found it curious when I first ran across it, because it seemingly runs cross-current to everything a good Christian is taught.

MacDonald says, and not with any pretense of finality or authority, "God will have us good," when speaking of a wayward son. In the context of the loving father of a large family, GM projects insight into a Father's heart, not necessarily the Order of the Cosmos as created by said Father.

Somewhere in that averred surety, "God will have us [be] good," is a mysterious small voice of hope for those whose struggle is mostly with themselves.

I don't know that it extends to those who have surrendered their humanity. I would think such beasts are subsumed into the earthen material they sprang from and preferred. Truly unevolved and therefore unable to ascend, it makes them unfit to dwell in the Light; for such have chosen, against all importunity, to be left in the dust.

River Cocytus said...

Ironic is probably the best descriptor I can think of... If Stalin et al are there it will be in Eternal Torment -- for they will return to whence they came -- Perdition.

Heaven is the light of the fire without the burning, and hell the burning without the light.

(Learning Dvorak Keyboard Layout is tough -- typing this comment took 10 minutes....)

NoMo said...

FWIW - A scholarly work that best represents my own view of hell is The Fire That Consumes, by Edward W. Fudge.

From a summary:
"This exhaustive volume examines every biblical text on the subject and shows that hell involves the everlasting, total destruction of both body and soul. It also traces the development of the traditional view of unending conscious torment, from the early church fathers to the 20th century."

Since hell is total separation from God, I think annihilation does the trick.

Hope that doesn't make me a heretic.

Bob F. said...

Get out of the house and into the sunlight; dig in the yard; you'll feel better. (and stop thinking so damn much.)

Bob F.

bgalbreath said...

When I posted that some universalists bite the bullet and hold that everyone will be saved in the end, even the worst monsters that history reveals to us, I wasn't necessarily presenting my own view. I have no idea what will happen. I remember a report by a holocaust victim who survived and told of a time when he witnessed a large line of naked women and children being machine-gunned into a mass grave. He called upon God to stop what was happening, thinking, "This is against you if anything is." and when the slaughter continued, he concluded that there was no God. The only way I can think of to avoid that gloomy conclusion is to accept the seemingly pollyannish contrary, that seeming evil does not really triumph and that even the worst of us will ultimately find his or her way back to the God who created us. Eventually Satan will give up his envy and rebellion and be reconciled with his better. That may take an extremely long time, but not an eternity. As I say, these are the alternatives that my feeble mind comes up with. There may well be others that I am not yet in a position to understand. The impetus for my remarks was Gagdad's seeming to shrink from his characteristic sunny optimism toward something more gloomy. In his book he seems to subscribe at times to the lila theory, that this is all the absolute's playful manifestation, a game it is playing by tricking itself into believing it is a multiplicity of limited beings rather than a single, unlimited one. That play would be cruel if the seeming suffering of we seemingly limited beings were never revealed to be a mere appearance.

By the way, I didn't just create a blog, but updated a blogger file from several years ago. I have never had a blog and still don't, but I couldn't figure out any other way to post a comment than to update that old thing. Also, I'm sorry that I couldn't post the URL link properly because I can't figure out how to do it.

Susannah said...

I'm one of those who shouldn't attempt humor. :) <----
These smilies are the best I can do. I really like funny people, though.

I think I tend to be a pessimist in some ways, but I'm not convinced that's a God-like thing. It could be a mind parasite. Most of the people I know who are full of faith are very sunny and optimistic and happy and thankful. I admire them and desire to be more like that. "More than conquerors through him who loved us..."

And then, there are temperamental differences, too. I believe God makes us different so we'll be forced to recognize our need for balance. Passive "phlegmatics" like me who are easily influenced *need* to be around sunny, optimistic, energetic, faith-filled people.

As for the eschatological sense, I think we are indeed headed for bleaker times, but that glory is the ultimate end. I do sense a "quickening" in that people will soon be forced to a decision. Scripture's pretty clear about "winnowing" and "separation" and "works burning up" and the like. You're either sincerely seeking the vertical or you are self-seeking. I don't know how many sincere seekers will be included in redemption. Obviously, as a Christian, I believe faith in Christ is the criterion. Yet I also believe I may be surprised to discover who has really trusted in Christ and who will hear "depart from Me, I never knew you," despite all the God-talk. Thank goodness, I'm not in charge of all that. :) I'm just in charge of me (and my little charges).

So yep, I think joy is inextricable from faith, and joyful people tend to have a good sense of humor...but then so is being sober-minded. Apparently, sober mindedness and joy are not mutually exclusive?

Sheesh, sometimes I think it'd be better if I didn't comment at all. I sure can take a lot of space to say very little.

Paul G said...

I really like Lewis' imagery of Heaven/Hell in "The Great Divorce". Heaven itself was so real as render the lost souls who entered nearly invisible and almost completely permeable by the smallest mote of dust in the heavenly realm. Blades of grass cut like knives, pebbles were too heavy to be lifted, and the sun's rays penetrated completely through their bodies. Lewis took great pains to convey the agony that Heaven was for the damned that entered. His overall narrative metaphor aside, I have always thought that it was very insightful that Heaven and Hell should be described as being the same place.

It's not really so far fetched, if you think about it. For example, I consider this country (America) to be one of the most amazing, free, and downright heavenly places I have ever had the pleasure to live. To others, Hell's flames are a cool breeze compared to the roiling cauldron of evil that this country represents.

If someone is determined to see Hell when they look at Heaven, I don't think there's really much anyone can do about it. Can't make the horse drink if he doesn't want to...

ximeze said...

Susannah said:
"Apparently, sober mindedness and joy are not mutually exclusive?"

Of course not. See Joan's comment regarding C.S. Lewis. I find G.K. Chesterton very funny. The late Dr Gene Scott could be at his funniest while talking about the least frivolous of subjects.

Somehow the bursting humor makes the messages more memorable. Prosy, pedantic bores are just that: bores. Even when their message is 'worthy', who the heck can remember any part of it.

In other words said...

I love ‘gloom and doom’ and the ‘world coming to an end’ theories as much as the next person but perhaps there might be another way to look at this “quickening”…….. I agree with Will that a great many things seem to be coming to a head. Energetically and spiritually I think we all feel it. I see the two primary energies of this world, love or the Holy Spirit, and fear with all of its attendant names. Dualistically speaking there will always be a balance. It appears to be the nature of the game.

Internal peace comes from knowing yourself and having core values. the most peaceful, happiest people are people of Faith. In the last 40 years we have seen what amounts to a lapse in Faith resulting in more people, unsure of themselves and their core values breeding discontent and falling prey to the call of the darker forces.

The fear side of the equation is in full blossom and I would venture that the quickening we all seem to be experiencing is the need to get back on board and find the spiritual balance by returning to Faith. I'm not talking about Raccoons who might be said to be driving the ship but about the vast ‘middle of the roaders’, the sacred moderates we hear so much about.

Blind faith, believing some things simply because your parents believed it, has taken the world to a certain point in time where as it now seems that a resurgence of newfound faith will be a faith of a much higher and stronger vibration. That's why I see all of this as being an exciting time to be alive.

Blogs such as this, with the people who so graciously give of their time and insights, illuminate the faith in ways you just can't get from the pulpit. I believe this is integral to Western Civilization regaining the offensive. Anyway, that's what occurred to me while reading Bob's post and all of your comments.

And Bob, stiff upper lip buddy……… it's the pioneers that take all the arrows and you are allowed all the time you want to regain your optimism…… we've got your back!


Van said...

I don't have the time to hunt the qoute & link, but Aristotle claimed that it was wrong to think of Happiness as simply pleasure, wealth, and honor. Rightly understood, happiness will be the activity of the soul exhibiting the best and most complete habits of excellence and virtue.

It's a process, an everchanging process of integrating idea, habit and reality.

We've often mentioned here, as with the recent Matahorn/Monument metaphor, that the Vertical is always somewhat skewed when overlayed upon the horizontal - just as when we attempt to represent the spherical earth upon a flat paper map we find Greenland nearly as large as all of North America. Some aspects of it, position, directional relation, etc to North America are correct... but somethings such as size are just way off - it is both true and untrue at the same time.

What has that got to do with it?

Some of the best of humor seems to me to do the same thing. Watch Cosby, or read about Bertie Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse's stories - some seemingly sensible thing becomes warped into an unexpected situation through a seemingly logical chain of events - and you bust a gut laughing about it.

Contemplating the facts and relations of our proper mental & spiritual integrations, produce warm sensations. Humor involves correct integrations with some relational feature skewed upon the horizontal. Sound and unexpected, but pleasureable, even instructive, all the same.

Discovering new and unexpected integrations give us the "Aha!" experience which releases a jolt of good sensations and excitement, Humor releases extremely pleasureable sensations because of that slightly skewed mental integrations - the point being, that making & contemplating, reinforcing, our integrations of fact, habit, knowledge and spirit produce pleasant mental sensations. The opposite is also true, mis or disintegrations, produce anxiety, fear, and various mockeries of the positive sensations.

But as things in nature seem naturally fall apart, things in mind seem to naturally come together - what else does a child do all day long but make new, and reinforce newly made, integrations and understandings out of an otherwise chaotic world.

Bad things are out there, but they are abnormal, the metaphysically unnatural - which will eventually be corrected and overcome with the right, sensible & metaphysically natural connections (Truth). I am extremely optimistic that eventually our understanding of & close familiarity with the evil, will seem to future generations as the filth, disease and unsanitary living conditions of cavemen seem to us. Out of fashion, undesirable and downright out of the question as a lifestyle.

Optimism and humor are the metaphysically natural and good, flowing from The Good, the Beautiful and the True.

My seeming polyannaism is quickly killed, gutted, stuffed and mounted upon the wall of wierd by my expectation of when 'eventually' will come to pass. Barring interplanetary colisions, the earth has still got several millions of years left on its clock. That's a long time for 'eventually' to come about. It may see Western Civilization become bare whispers of tales, just as tales of Mycenean culture are to us.

Thankfuly, that's not our problem though. We just need to concern ourselves with our culture and ourselves. And a good sense of humor is definitely a major aid in that task.

BTW, IMNSHO, Hell? We don't know, can't know anything about what comes after life. Probably a feature purposefully implemented by the Deisigner. What we can know, is that life here and now can become Hellish, if you attempt to make mockeries of the Good, the Beautiful and the True. Don't do it. Make your activity of the soul exhibit the best and most complete habits of excellence and virtue, and happiness maybe yours.

A few good laughs are also garaunteed to follow.

Time to go home.

Magnus Itland said...

The fallacy, it seems to me, is that thinking the end of this world is a bad thing. That is only the case if this world is good, which it is not.

By "world" in this case I mean the human society composed of people suspended between their brutish primate nature and the yearning of the spirit. Since late in the Ice Age, some 40-60 000 years ago, we have been in this painful position. But since the dawn of recorded history, and probably some time before, visionaries have foretold the end of this ordering of things.

It is no wonder that the pictures they have used have been of the greatest disasters they could think of. More often than not, it seems, their words have also been picked up by others who may have embellished or interpreted them. When the mystic says that all of mankind as we know it will cease to exist, those who listened must surely have thought of disasters like flooding, fiery volcanoes and other catastrophes, only magnified immensely.

The Neanderthals have already passed utterly from the Earth, and at what time? At the dawn of the time of opportunity. At the very end of the Ice Age. The flawed race we are today still went far, far beyond what the Neanderthals - and also our own ancestors 60 000 years ago - could have imagined. It was a new world that arose, and the old passed away.

I believe it will happen again. A change as dramatic as the one that gave birth to the current human psyche. The end of all things ... and the beginning of all things anew.

walt said...

Bob, your post made me think all day about the "place" of humor in relation to metaphysics. This evening, I recalled something you wrote last Sunday, the post entitled Follow the Depth, which might pertain.

You were talking about Schuon: "Metaphysics...offers "humanly crucial openings, which is all the more important in a world wherein the abuse of intelligence replaces wisdom." In my book, I compare these openings to the vertical springs that dot the horizontal landscape."

Doesn't that describe how you use humor?

The people you chose as examples were all slightly crazy with creativity, but they also let some light in. One of their co-conspirators was Stewart Brand; a cohort of Richard Alpert, Watts, and Ken Kesey, he became famous for The Whole Earth Catalog (now he's a proponent of nuclear energy). He had a very interesting sense of humor; this, from a recent article about him in the NY Times, illustrates:

"Mr. Brand got his first look at the big picture one afternoon in 1966 while sitting on a roof in San Francisco at what he calls an “altitude of three stories and 100 mikes,” meaning micrograms of LSD. He contemplated the skyline and decided the buildings weren’t parallel because he was seeing the curvature of the Earth.

This reminded him of Buckminster Fuller’s theory that people abused the environment because they thought of the Earth as flat and infinite, not as a finite globe. The next day the Earth looked flat again, but the 28-year-old Mr. Brand had a new cause. He printed up buttons asking, “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?”

So I am just suggesting that perhaps the place for your humor is found in "humanly crucial openings" which let us dive deeper into your posts.

River Cocytus said...

Sometimes we just need a sign, some kind of sign, that things will turn out alright. Our knowledge and perspective are limited so we're often limited in how much faith we have. Faith and Hope are good, but they must be in something true, and this is the trouble.

There times when it is truly time for a prayer.

I'm personally 50/50 on the whole prospect of 'the end times' being literal; as in, things in all ways wax worse and worse until the end... are not the end times in Judeo-Christian tradition always beginning-times too?

God did call this creation good when he first made it. I guess in the end, we'll find out what that all means-- because evil certainly is here, too.

I'm going to be entering a 'battle zone' of sorts soon perhaps, starting maybe tommorow. Please remember me in your prayers, I'll need all of the help I can get.

Thanks as always, Bob, for dropping the good word here while you can. I heard a good jazz number called 'Bob's place' - which I'm going to have to find out more about.

juliec said...

River, may God be with you in your upcoming battle zone. If you can, remember to follow the depth :)

Bob, whatever the cause for your dimmed optimism, I hope you and your family are alright. I don't know if you need it, but I'll be thinking of you all in my prayers tonight, too.

In fact, it's been a strange day capping off a strange week, so I'll just expand that to all raccoons, wherever you might be. May Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Humor keep you all company tonight.

Van said...

Just a thought that maybe too interpretive... but hasn't the world come to an end before? The Romans certainly thought so when the Vandals swept through, the Byzantines thought so when the Muslims sacked Constantinople, the Brittish & Irish thought so when the Saxon's & later the Viking's came through, and the Saxon's when the Normans crushed and enslaved them... and on and on and on through to Napoleon & Hitler & Stalin & Mao...

Perhaps we'll be the ones to listen to history in time... perhaps not. If not, someone else will have a go at it in a few hundred years. The world is always coming to an end, and being reborn again, from Winter to Spring, Father to Son, diapers to dentures. Your world will end. Mine will end. Will you make it worth a curtain call?

Worry about what you can properly do in your own life and the lives of those who live with you. Worrying about what you aren't prepared to do or is beyond your abilities is like giving the vampire outside your window a long long straw.

I won't pretend that I don't have some moments - often a string of them - that make India Ink look like flourescent markers - but even then it only goes down so far & no further.

And I'm not all that convinced that those dark moments are all that bad - they help to clarify & put things into perspective.

There is an I inside of me, and it knows the pull of the Good, the Beautiful and the True, and how to laugh at straw toting vampires.

The rest is just another Dei.

wv:yosalky - Skully, I think this ones for you...

Van said...

River, like JulieC said - follow the Depth... I'm sure that the Good, the Beautiful and the True will have your back.

Ricky Raccoon said...

“Hasn't the world come to an end before?”
Been thinking the same thing.
Something wonderful may be coming to set it all straight again.
It will be that much greater compared to the bad that draws it down as the vacuum builds between the two.
I can only look forward to the wonderful part.
What else can we do?