Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Autobobography of a Yogi

How, you might ask, did Bob get mixed up with yoga? Easy. I began reading Ken Wilber from the time of his first book, the Spectrum of Consciousness. I guess I was in graduate school at the time, and I suppose it was the first book that really opened me up to the expansiveness and the possibilities of religion (even though Wilber has greatly revised his thinking since the time of this book). I'm guessing that my book will do the same thing for some people who stumble upon it -- that is, if it just succeeds in inspiring a few people to take religion seriously, then it will have accomplished its purpose.

One thing Wilber always emphasized is that one must follow a tradition and stick with it. You can't just dabble or avoid real commitment, in part because commitment is one of the things that begins to change you. But there's a Zen saying, "chase two rabbits, catch none," which is why it's best to follow one path down the rabbit hole.

At the time, there is just no way I could have chosen Christianity. Actually, I was initially drawn to Zen, since it seemed the most free of dogma, and it also has that counter-cultural vibe that is the mother's milk of adultolescent liberalism. It's cool, and I just wouldn't have had any interest in an uncool religion. Remember, this is the mid-1980s. I'm a liberal with a full-blown case of Reagan Derangement Syndrome. It's embarrassing to admit, but I was no different than today's crazy liberals who are afraid of the "Christian-fascists."

But I really didn't get anywhere with Zen. When you come right down to it, it's pretty austere. Basically you 1) sit and 2) wait for enlightenment -- all the while knowing that very few people actually experience the state, often not even the teachers! So it amounts to "faith in enlightenment," which, now that I think about it, is what I actually had. I knew that I didn't know, but I knew that some people knew. No, I had never actually met one of these people who know, but I knew they must be out there. Knowing that someone was once enlightened served the same functional purpose as knowing that someone was once resurrected.

So let's see. I only finished graduate school in 1988. At the time, I was still working in the supermarket, where I'd been since 1976. My dissertation wasn't exactly spiritual but it was definitely visionary, and capacious enough to allow for a spiritual view of the cosmos. It's full grandiose title was Psychoanalysis, Post-Modern Physics, and the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution: Toward a Rapprochement of Mind and Nature.

The word "rapprochement" was actually a bit of wordplay, since it is a psychoanalytic term for the period of early development when the child is ambivalently working out his independence from the mother. If you look at evolution on a cosmic scale, it's as if consciousness was teased out of the maternal matrix of nature, eventually resulting in the proud two year-olds of the Enlightenment who imagined that they were completely separate and autonomous from mother nature. In other words, the dualistic view causes us to imagine that there is this sharp divide between mind and nature, in the same way that the two year-old begins to think he's completely separate from the parents.

But I wanted to show that, based upon the findings of modern physics, there was no avoiding the conclusion that the universe was conscious, and that this consciousness was thoroughly entangled throughout -- like cream hidden within the milk, as some enlightened guy once said. I ended up publishing two papers out of the dissertation in 1991 and 1994. A Raccoon recently read the one from 1991, and can testify that I am indeed Master of the Universe and that I discovered the Key to the World Enigma almost 20 years ago now, even though only he and I and Josephine Bernstein know it.

What, might you ask, does this have to do with psychoanalysis? Well, first of all it was a theoretical dissertation, which relieved me of the burden of relying upon facts, data, or reality in general. As I said, "visionary" -- perhaps not as visionary as the art of Yoko Ono, but in that realm.

But what I was trying to demonstrate, gosh darn it -- here, let me dig out a copy of the paper from 1991 -- it's called Wilfred Bion and David Bohm: Toward a Quantum Metapsychology -- well, first of all, it starts with a little quotation from one of the great physicists of the 20th century, Werner Heisenberg, who says "The same organizing forces that have created nature in all its forms, are responsible for the structure of our soul, and likewise for our capacity to think."

Sounds like nice rhetoric, doesn't it? But this guy believed it. Like so may of the pre-eminent physicists of the 20th century -- Einstein, Schroedinger, DeBroglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, Eddington, the Professor on Gilligan's Island -- their explorations of matter led them to the conclusion -- more or less -- that matter not only had mind-like qualities, but that the discoveries of physics were entirely compatible with a mystical view of the cosmos -- which is probably how the professor was able to make a transistor radio out of a belt buckle, some seaweed, and couple of coconut shells. Wilber put out a helpful book that contains the mystical writings of these men, entitled Quantum Questions.

But where these eggheads were vague, I wanted to be specific. So that's what my dissertation was about -- showing the exact parallels between metaphysics and metapsychology. That paper from 1991 "explores the relationship between the order of the universe and that of the mind," the purpose being "to forge an interdisciplinary dialogue in which modes of thought from these apparently divergent fields might integrate and enrich one another, in contrast to our present state of affairs in which physics and psychology are basically irrelevant (if not antagonistic) to one another."

So where's my Nobel Prize for this fact-filled guessathon of experimental non-fiction? Where's the recognition for this logical and coherent absurdity, fully loaded with all the optional equipment?

There was recognition. It was called the Dr. Josephine Bernstein Memorial Award for Research and Dissertation Excellence. So I definitely had one supporter, one kindred spirit, but she was dead. Now what? In an early post I mentioned that I had to give a little speech at the graduation ceremony. I still have a copy of it tucked away in my dissertation. The speech goes a little like this:

“This dissertation is really a reflection of my own personal obsession, which happens to involve the mind, that is, the subjective internal world, and its relationship to the objective, physical universe.

“In our time, we are in the midst of a dramatic shift in the manner in which reality is to be understood. In the three hundred years since the onset of the scientific revolution, science gradually came to regard everything in the universe -- including ourselves -- as mere machines.

“In this way of looking at things, the mind is completely superfluous, roughly analogous to the smoke emanating from a steam train.

“But there is within science a growing movement which is beginning to mount considerable evidence for the notion that, rather than thinking of material reality as fundamental, it is the evolutionary process which is the foundation of reality.

“What is so interesting is that these patterns of process seem to be woven into the very fabric of the universe, fractally recurring and cutting across all of the various levels we study -- including human mental development.

“In other words, we are gradually seeing the picture emerging on every level of scientific inquiry -- from physics to chemistry to biology to cosmology -- that the mind is not some sort of accidental intruder in the world, but rather, the nonmaterial organizing principle supporting the whole enchilada.

“This general endeavor is called the Evolutionary Paradigm, or synthesis, and my study was simply an attempt to fully integrate psychoanalysis within this new framework.

“The appearance of life itself forces us to reconsider all of the reductionistic schemes and artificial boundaries we have invented to divide various domains such as mind and matter, animate and inanimate, physics and psychology.

“The great physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote that ‘The same organizing forces that have created nature in all its forms, are responsible for the structure of our soul, and likewise for our capacity to think.’

"I believe that the evolutionary synthesis is nothing less than a grand new myth for our age, through which we may understand our place in the universe, our relationship to the totality."

“With our new understanding, we can truly say that the development of the cosmos culminates in an unbroken fashion in the thought of man.

“Anything short of this view, I think, ignores the irrefutable testimony of Life and Mind, and is unworthy of our true stature.”


So that was 1988. Right after that I finally quit the supermarket to try to establish a career as a psychologist, despite the fact that being a retail clerk came much more naturally to me. So I thought, well, I guess I should start to try to publish some papers. That's what people do to get a reputation and not perish, right? So I did that, even though I couldn't help concluding that, in the words of John Lennon, "no one I think is in my tree."

Then, in 1994, at my wife's grandmother's funeral, I met a strange man who was to change the course of my life. Of all things, he was what you might call a "conservative mystic," and yet, he wasn't a nazi. In fact, he was Jewish.

Well, I'm flat out of time. To be continued.

And good night Dr. Josephine Bernstein, wherever you are.


gumshoe said...

another fritjof,hey bob?

fritjof capra - wiki

"Tao of Physics" (1975)


lol...the way in is the way out.

Ricky Raccoon said...

“A Raccoon recently read the one from 1991, and can testify that I am indeed Master of the Universe…”

Well, almost. That’s the funny thing about being a member, it is to not be a member. Only one Master and He is not the Bob. Both insist on this as the most important rule.

But I can testify for the right price.
(Just kiddin’)
But seriously, it was a great read. I understand you have a few copies left.
Maybe you could charge for the trouble to send copies to interested Raccoons…
Or post it here somehow if it is electronic…
Just a suggestion.

By the way, I can’t wait to read about the strange man…

Van said...

(plompft - a cloud of dust is seen to rise far below...)

cosanostradamus said...

Yeah, hey, cliffhangers belong to USS Ben!

Robin Starfish said...


i rise each morning
greet the rays of brother sun
thank you for my life

... a friend from afar said...

Clever title and great read.

I had a good chuckle when all those less esteemed scientists were mentioned in the same breath with the great Professor from Gilligan's Island.

Will the next chapter be titled Bobaji, The Conservative-Mystic of Modern Rio-Lindia?

J/K...Looking forward to the sequel.

hoarhey said...


Would you say that genius/revelation is a function of the ease at which one is able to align themselves with reality?
The achievment being all the hard work put in to discovering how easy it is.

Robin Starfish said...

paper or plastic?
checker bags a doctor's script
paper or plastic?

juliec said...

Cosa, I was thinking the same thing :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Well, Bob is really He-Man, and in that role he's master of the youniverse (or was that Skeletor? I dunno).

Then again, Debass says he has proof that Bob is really Doctor Who.

So who really knows? Masters of the youniverse tend to be different things to different people, which, incidently, would make for a really cool dissertation, for all you undergrads out there.

I'm just the master of the cliffhangerTM, but that would not be if it wasn't for Bob (or He-Man, or Skeletor, or DR. Who. Whatever).
Which one has the sword? Actually a time machine is cooler, so mebbe Debass is on to something.

Anyhow, or therefore, I have no problem with Bob using the cliffhangerTM.
Just as long as I maintain the comic book rights of the cliffhangerTM, that is.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van, Van, Van, (shaking head in dissappointment).
Shades of Wile E.!
It's poof! With a little donut ring cloud of dust.

I just know these things.
Part of the blessing (or curse) of bein' master of the cliffhangerTM.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Robin Starfish said...
paper or plastic?
checker bags a doctor's script
paper or plastic?

Ha ha ha!
Another victim of ISS(TM)
Now I got ho-ho goo stuck on the monitor!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Uh, is it cool to eat ho-ho's when doin' the yoga thing?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Cosa and JulieC-
Hear hear!

Master of the funny cliffhanger(TM)

Or is that (C)?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Yo Skully!
Quit usin' my nic!
Stupid pirate privateer!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In case y'all missed it, Magnus, our Viking brother under the pelt,
said "y'all" in yesterday's comments.

Extraordinary! WTG Magnus! :^)
BTW, I did eat sushi in Japan.
I also ate kimchee in South Korea.
Just sayin'.

Johan (cosmic swede) said...

Bob said:
"I'm guessing that my book will do the same thing for some people who stumble upon it -- that is, if it just succeeds in inspiring a few people to take religion seriously, then it will have accomplished its purpose."

Mission complete Bob, mission complete! It was a direct hit. The inner "Death Star" of my mind/soul is, maybe not exploading, but it's definatly breaking apart... and pieces are now vapourizing in inner space. Let's head back to cooncamp and celebrate this victory!

Acctually I don't know what it was that got me on the hook and actually buying that book from the beginning. Maybe it was just the fancy title? Actually, I think it was the subtitle... "...unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit". That sounded like really something.

Only bad thing now in that my "Whish List" on Amazon is expanding beyond my boundaries of budget-space and reading-time. Oh, well... I guess that is the price you have to pay.

And about the mystical mystic-man... It sounds almost like a "Paulo Coelho experience", who claims to have met a "mystic man" that changed his life. But he refuses to give away who that was...

Anyway, what's the opinion about Coelho around here? I've read a few of his books, and enjoyed them very much, even found them quite spiritual even if it was before I was even interested in any spiritualism. Is there any depth in his writings or is he just a phony? Maybe I should read them again later and see if there is any difference?

Skully said...

It wasn't me Cap'n!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Johan said-
"Mission complete Bob, mission complete! It was a direct hit. The inner "Death Star" of my mind/soul is, maybe not exploading, but it's definatly breaking apart... and pieces are now vapourizing in inner space. Let's head back to cooncamp and celebrate this victory!"

Good analogy Johan!
I'm ready to celebrate too!

Skully said...

How much?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That was a klind thing to say.

Johan (cosmic swede) said...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said:
"Good analogy Johan!"

Thanks a lot! :)

"I'm ready to celebrate too!"

Here is some fitting music!

Jacob C. said...

Apropos of nothing, a phrase which usually means "apropos of everything in some subtle way that only the author seems to get"...

But, apropos of nothing, what's the OC COllective's opinions on Papa Ratzi's motu proprio encouraging expanded usage of the Latin half of the Roman Missal? Personally, i see it as a step towards rectifying the situation that I think really caused me to drift away from organized religion... when there's too little organization, there's too little religion.

In retrospect, I think the thing that caused me to fail to engage with the version of the Mass with which I grew up was that it had too much Time and too little Eternity.

juliec said...

speaking only personally and as one who no longer goes to any church, much less Catholic Mass, I think it's wonderful. I went to one or two Latin services as a ute, sung by the priests, and there is a Holiness in such services that is, well, lacking from the regular services.

"...too much Time and too little Eternity."


These days, I don't think I can be Catholic for the simple reason that I could not devote myself properly to it - as I've said before, I'm a little too contrarian to really be a member of any church right now. It would still be a joy, though, to sit in on a more traditional service now and then.

NoMo said...

OK, I'm not going to ruin the suspense of the cliffhanger, but I believe I met the same strange, conservative mystic Jew...and it definitely changed the course of my life.

NoMo said...

JulieC - The NoMos are in a similar boat, but have been lately considering checking out a local church associated with what is called the "convergence movement". I would appreciate any input from any fellow raccoons who may be in the know.

wv: xmaopfte (jeez, I hope not)

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Bob,

Scientology is commercial Zen.

Why do they ask paper or plastic?
Because baggers can't be choosers.


enemy at the gates said...

Somewhere, somehow, Bob must have been denied tenure. I can't wait to find out when, where, how and why.

cosanostradamus said...

Do we have fun out here in God's country or what?

River Cocytus said...

Never was a Roman Catholic, but I can understand the effect of the Latin Mass.

Scientology = commercial Zen? You mean they 'zap' all of the 'nonvoid' out of you to gain 'enlightenment'? Skip the 2000 bucks or whatever and just find an old dude with a stick to beat you until you fight back. That's enlightenment.

I found 'enlightenment' by doing and being taught by God & nature what I was doing wrong. The thing about Zen is, the meditation is only a wee little part of the whole experience.

Now, I'm no expert, but I'd imagine there are few Koans that end with 'and so and so meditated and was enlightened..'

The meditation just prepares the vessel, puts it in the 'attitude no attitude' state so that it might be enlightened. Prayer as you describe it is actually meditation (repetition done for the sake of focusing & emptying, I suppose) and has a similar feature, methinks.

Scientology is to Zen as 'Recovered Memory Therapy' is to real Psychotherapy.

That is, we're talking apples and oranges, or at the very least rotten apricots and oranges.

wv: wycrgpl? Don't cry, GPL!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

enemy at the gates said...
"Somewhere, somehow, Bob must have been denied tenure. I can't wait to find out when, where, how and why."

Yet another offering from the jalepeno suppository of realityness.

River Cocytus said...

A friend from college is bloggin' go give him a visit. Good story, too.

wv: sdkbalv? SDK Ballmer V? Microsoft is invading!

NoMo said...

Ben - Now slowly...just put down the jalapeno and walk away.

alan said...


I think Scientology could also be called Commercial Roman Catholicism where (a) the offerings are mandatory, (b) the key sacrament is confession while attached to stress-measuring electrodes, and (c) the whole church hierarchy has access to the written notes of your confessions (and use it against you when you don't do enough (a) and (b).


What is interesting is seeing many in the RC church react to the Motu Proprio as if they were the devil and it was holy water ;-)

For those who have never been to a Latin mass, it is well worth it, IMHO, and I would also recommend partaking in a well performed Easter Orthodox mass. Solemnity can have a whole new appeal.

Sal said...

My goodness, what an interesting life you're having, Bob.
Thanks for the comment on commitment- I didn't have time to reply to ximeze yesterday re: horizon broadening by checking out other traditions.

/pedant on/
Actually, the official language of the Novus Ordo, or the 'new mass' of 1969 is Latin.

Vernacular translations (exactly like those on the right column of any Missal, so please call bullshit on anyone who says they didn't understand what was going on) were allowed and became very popular, to the point that nearly forty years later, only a few places celebrate the NO in Latin. Plus, the NO can be celebrated with all the bells and whistles one associates with the other. See JPII's funeral, for an example. That it usually isn't is a holdover from the sixties and the misappropriation of Vatican II.

The motu proprio concerns the Rite of Pius V, aka the 'traditional' Latin Mass. Since it was no longer the mandated version, a priest needed permission to celebrate it post 1969. (Though there is some extremely hair-splittingly argument about that.) Various remegade groups split off from the Church over this, in a remnant kind of way. I am sure the Holy Father hopes this blanket permission will help reconcile those folk.

As a pastoral gesture to those attached to the TLM, JPII authorized a couple of orders of priests to celebrate this Mass exclusively in the late '80's.
/pedant off/

I went to one such group's Mass here for nearly a decade.
I left b/c of the Ghost Dancing atmosphere, which to their credit the priests worked hard to counter.

And, too, I found I simply preferred a rubrically correct NO.
My one liturgical criticism of the TLM itself is that over the centuries they kept putting things in, but never taking anything out. So, it got rather bloated and top heavy.

So, for those who have prayed and worked long and hard for this, I am very happy. If one of the results is a renewed sense of reverence in liturgy for everyone, that will be great, too.

However, in spite of what some people may try to tell you, God doesn't have a 'favorite' Mass.

Alan said...

Sal said "However, in spite of what some people may try to tell you, God doesn't have a 'favorite' Mass."


Van said...

Ben said "Yet another offering from the jalepeno suppository of realityness."

Oh my - wrong in so many ways. I'm finding it difficult to sit....

Roy Lofquist said...

Scientology - I grabbed those tin cans 40 years ago. I think they got twenty bucks from me before it dawned on my hippy brain that these guys were serious conmen.