Thursday, September 20, 2007

True Hallucinations*

Where did we leave off? Oh yes, trying to express the infinite and eternal within the finite and temporal, i.e., struggling to find the words for God -- trying, as always, to channel the roaring torrent of O into the feeble stream of cyber-k. Science by definition cannot do this. But as Bomford explains, "the attraction of religion is that it attempts to speak of the transcendent, that which is beyond human knowing."

Achieving this is a tricky linguistic balance, because too much specificity and concreteness is incredible to modern minds, while too much vagueness and abstraction is simply uninteresting. What we need is a language that combines abstraction and concreteness, so that "transcendental experiences may be held in memory, meditated upon, ordered and made mutually coherent." What we need is what Bion called a language of achievement which can convert O into (n).

Now, if Spirit did not exist, we wouldn't even have a word for it or know where to begin looking for it. Nor would we know it when we had found it. Therefore, any talk of Spirit actually presupposes preconceptual knowledge of it, otherwise it is strict nonsense. A preconception is an empty category, a sort of blueprint that will be filled out by experience. Humans are born with many such innate, archetypal preconceptions, and Spirit is one of them. Everyone except an atheist knows this, but even the atheist uncoonsciously knows it because they can't shut up or stop thinking about it, no different really than the repressed hysteric who sees sexuality everywhere but within themselves.

For most people, it is not dogma that gives rise to belief, but otherwise ineffingbelievable transcendent experience that gives life to belief and leads to the effort to search out the means to make sense of, articulate, and give body to the effing experiences.

As we mentioned yesterday, a sense of the eternal can be evoked by the presence of the very old or the very new, the "everlasting" and the extremely transient. People can experience a sense of the eternal (including the "infinite potential") when they first see their newborn baby, which offers some insight into the focus on the baby Jesus. I am the alpha and omega, first and last.

The "first time" of most anything important resonates with eternity, which is why recollections of childhood live in a kind of eternity -- almost every day was a first of some kind. It was such a brief period of time, but childhood memories are charged with a kind of mystical intensity. This is one of the reasons liberals are still lost in the hypnotic mists of 1967. The mythical "summer of love" won't die until the last baby boomer croaks and takes this pseudo-Eden with him.

One of the purposes of rituals is to resonate with the mythological Great Time that abides deep within. You may notice, for example, that when you experience the Christmas season, it temporally resonates with all your past Christmases (time becomes "thick," so to speak), ultimately going back to the first one -- one that you never personally experienced, but nevertheless partake of. Likewise, when you rest on Saturday or Sunday, you are reluxing with the Creator, whether you consciously realize it or not.

Eternity can also be hinted at "by the last event in a series." Bomford cites the example of an aging travel writer who had visited a particularly beloved destination on many occasions. When he consciously realized that he was visiting it for the last time, it regained the freshness and vividness of the first visit.

"In the same spirit, the last words of the dying may be seen as a key to an understanding of the whole life. The last of the series completes the picture, ends the story, and thus hints at the instantaneous wholeness of eternity."

It is accomplished.

What is?

Everything. The whole existentialada. I just can't say it, because it's too literal. I have to hint at it. Language of achievement, don't you know.

Bomford notes that eternity is also evoked in "the uniting of old and new, or first and last... St. Augustine addressed God as 'Thou Beauty, both so ancient and so new.'"

Let us rejoyce:

I am passing out. O bitter ending! I'll slip away before they're up. They'll never see me. Nor know. Nor miss me. And it’s old and old it’s sad and old it’s sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms.

Here, in the dream logic of Finnegans Wake, Joyce fuses the old and new, birth and death, infancy and old age, time and eternity, river and ocean, earthly and celestial fathers, miles and moyles circumnavigation and circumcision....

My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I'll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff! So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now under whitespread wings like he'd come from Arkangels, I sink I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. Yes, tid. There's where. First. We pass through grass behush the bush to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee ! Till thousandsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the

Old and new, time and eternity, are fused as the book circles around to the beginning: riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us to a commodius vicus of recirculation...

This book by Bomford has finally helped me understand what Petey was up to in the merging of those barmy Cosmobliteration and Cosmogenesis sections of One Cosmos, that ensure that it will never sell many copies:

Cut me down to sighs. Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM. Brahmasmi the Truth. The whole Truth. Nothing but the Truth. So ham, me God. We'll meet again. Up ahead, 'round the bend. The circle unbroken, by and by. A Divine Child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes....

Words fall. But one clings. Still. You don't say. Emptiness! drowning the soul in its everlasting peace, an eternal zero, a spaceless and placeless infinite, supremely real and solely real, our common source without center or circumference, no place, no body, no thing, or not two things, anyway: blissfully floating before the fleeting flickering universe, stork naked in brahma daynight, worshiping in oneder in a weecosmic womb with a pew, it is finally...

It seems that Petey thought of everything in his absurcular attempt to evoke eternity: unbroken circles, the fusing of alpha and omega, childhood and old age, darkness and light, yes and no, God and man, whole and part, birth and death, nothing and everything....

Hallucinations. Is there anything they don't know?

*With apologies to Terence McKenna


Robin Starfish said...

”The "first time" of most anything important resonates with eternity, which is why recollections of childhood live in a kind of eternity -- almost every day was a first of some kind. It was such a brief period of time, but childhood memories are charged with a kind of mystical intensity.”

I remember a particular event from my early childhood, maybe 4 years of age. I was playing in my sandbox, creating roads and imaginary buildings, an activity I loved doing for hours. This particular day something happened. I stood up and walked towards our willow tree and suddenly felt something change. I instantly “forgot” everything. I knew that just 10 seconds ago I had full knowledge and remembrance of everything past, and now it was gone. And I knew the loss was permanent, which filled me with sadness. The memory of that step into linear time has stayed with me my entire life.

The sandbox was never the same after that, although I still enjoyed it. The sandbox I play in now is no different – lots of activity but the knowledge that it’s just sand drives me nearly crazy sometimes. The sadness I felt at 4 is still with me, transformed into longing, but which carries with it an ambition to search out eternal truths. Fortunately, I get the occasional taste, enough to know that my sojourn through time is worth it, that the beginning and the end is the same reward, and worship is the path between.

Beautiful post today, Bob. Thanks.

one way ticket please
can't go back this way again
new identity

Gagdad Bob said...


I know exactly what you mean. I have my own story of entry into the stream of time that I'll tell someday.

Certainly you can think of Genesis in this way, as the fall from eternity into time: Don't touch that apple, and back away slowly, and nobody gets hurt!

The trick of life is indeed to reconcile time and eternity. It is apparently why we're here. It's a hard job, but somebodies have to do it.

Petey said...

From the eternal
sandbox to sands of timebox
O, circle that square!

dilys said...

I'm almost afraid to read the Bomford book, fearing it cannot live up to Petey's exegesis.

eternity is also evoked in "the uniting of old and new...
This is the best explanation of the numinousness found in a conscious apprehension of the function of memory in Remembrance of Things Past, in Swann's teasoaked madeleines and the rising scenes of Combrai...

A recent Wall Street Journal offers a young professor's "last lecture." Something about the elegaic as eternal, a note in Robin's path of affirmation between the beginning and the end.

Also wanted to cite the theologian John Macquarrie, a discussion not yet available at First Things:

Dr. Macquarrie wrote that all language about God was symbolic and not to be taken literally. But it must be taken seriously. To him, what separated believers from nonbelievers was that believers ad experienced the revelation that the creation and its existence are good. 'Faith's name for reality is God,' (Paths in Spirituality).
That should not be dismissed as liberal vacuousness....Whether or not one uses the word God, we are all engaged in a discussion about the nature -- the ultimate nature -- of reality....
Religion has to do with human beliefs and behavior that are as riddled with nonsense as any other human enterprise...
Now, if Hitchens and co. want to talk about God, i.e., Reality, that would be a most welcome discussion.

This from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, frequently ridiculed as "too conservative."

And, to finish out and balance my recent thinking, a compelling essay from Francis Porretto about not exempting ourselves from religious observances: when undertaken sincerely and humbly, they strengthen us against the temptations we're guaranteed to face lifelong.

Taking religion for the treasure it has safeguarded, shaking off the dust that accumulates. What actually constitutes integrity in buying the field? Not easy answers in these hereabouts...

Gagdad Bob said...

I also think of how this is the most intense time of my son's life, but he will not consciously remember a thing of it! Instead, this intensity is being experienced by us, i.e., Mrs. G and I. Therefore, it seems that one way to access and live out the intensity of your daze in preverbal paradise is to do it through proxy. Therefore, being old is the only way to recapture your youth for the first time.

Noid said...

The first 'modern' jazz album I ever bought (on vinyl, then later on CD) was "The Best of Blue Note", most of which was featured on yesterday's playlist.

Also on that list were selections from "Art Blakey Live at Birdland", which features what I consider one of the most transcendent moments in jazz: Clifford Brown playing "Once In a While". I've listened to that song hundreds of times in the last twenty years, and it still gets to me.

Gagdad Bob said...

Clifford Brown is amazing. To think that he was only 25 when he died.... The speed and precision of his attack were just phenomenal. I believe that some of his solos could be transcribed as stand-alone works of art. And to think that they were spontaneously composed.... What a beautiful mind.

James said...


Something about your comment really strikes a cord with me. I feel like I've been hit over the head, but I can't put my finger on it. Sometimes in dreams I remember that timelessness and wake up weeping. It's like there is this other place that is really home. It's so weird to ache for something you can't even remember.

Bob F. said...

What we need is a language that combines abstraction and concreteness, so that "transcendental experiences may be held in memory, meditated upon, ordered and made mutually coherent."

What's the matter with the one we've got? (See below)

"Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon; all I want is having You and music, music misic..."

Robin Starfish said...

Continuation of a thought…

I heard an excellent discourse by Andrew Fellows recently entitled “Building Cathedrals Within Time” in which one of the themes in a little book called The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was teased out.

I have not read the book; it’s on the way from Amazon, so at the risk of misinterpreting him, here is what I think I heard in Mr. Fellow’s lecture (and I apologize in advance for dumbing it down so I can grasp it):

Time and space are strange bedfellows. Space and its dimensions can and do exist independently of Time and have no inherent need for it for their being (apart from their initial creation, perhaps). Time, however, is the ultimate space invader, causing all sorts of interesting conundrums as it intersects or collides with space, including drawing things to life, sort of like the breath of Aslan awakening the frozen statues at the White Witch's castle in Narnia. Things that become alive then necessarily are embarked on a journey from no-thing to no-thing, but with lots of action in between. Time as we know it, therefore, has a need for space in order to be manipulated. Time plus space becomes creation.

So while space, although fine on its own, requires time in order to become a Story, Time must transform itself by dying a little in order to enter dimensional space, becoming limited, shackled, a temporary prisoner which only appears to have forward and backward motion to the viewer within space-time. It’s not an entirely ‘successful’ marriage; planets collide and stars explode, along with babies being born to ecstatic parents who later grow bored and divorce. Prime Time though is eternal, one, the I AM, spaceless (and not to be confused with the 7 to 10 PM slot on weekday television).

Because eternity has been placed in our hearts, we hear a distant echo of the holiness of Prime Time from time to time; we remember. And to enhance and encourage that remembrance is the purpose of the Sabbath, the day of rest which invites us to step out of space and into the Cathedral of Time. The Sabbath allows us to break away from our man-made and artificial chronos-based time, and back into contemplation of Time’s wholeness. We are not out of time, not running away from time, but reintegrating the I AM of Time back into our worship.

We have been given this gift, an innate desire and ability to worship the One God who abides in the wholeness of time. The Sabbath is a set of instructions for entering that intersection with Him. It’s the old wisdom and what compelled the builders of the great cathedrals from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, in the time before our self-enslavement to worldwide clocks. One hundred years to build a church? Compared to what?

This is making a difference in how I engage in worship; instead of (or in addition to) carving out a few hours in my week to go to a building to sing, pray, and listen to a pastor, priest, or rabbi (all edifying, certainly) as well as private reading and devotion, my personal worship can take place in a fresh yet orthodox context, a contemplative cathedral where Holy Time abides. I am also curious to see if this approach will make a difference in how I live my daily life, working at a desk surrounded by idiots, shopping at the market for inferior produce, driving my car through miles of belching traffic. Time will tell.

Maybe this is true: Time is the breath of God upon us and the true evidence of his Presence here. If not for that breath we would be frozen statues.

tsebring said...

I'm reminded (as I often am) of Lord of the Rings again, at the end, where Frodo returns to the Shire but no longer feels at home there; the wound he recieved from the Nazgul never really healed, and he realized then that his real home was elsewhere, not where he had been born and raised. Is it just human wanderlust that always keeps us wanting to be somwhere other than where we are, or is it a deep longing for a place that we can't even describe or define; one that lies beyond the horizons of even our furthest memory? The old negro spirituals spoke of that home beyond home many a time; for the slave toiling in misery, such a place just had to exist. But even those who live lives of obscene excess like Paris or Britanny cannot seem to find happiness and fulfillment in that, and often end up turning to spirituality of some sort to attempt to fill that hole.

I'm also reminded of when Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples, he told them to drop their fishing nets and follow Him. Another time he told a would-be follower to forget about burying a relative and follow Him. Apparently, Jesus was keen on not looking back but going forward ("for the joy set before Him He endured the cross"). This is a them we see over and over again in all religions and even in psychology (except for the excrable kind that insists that patients dwell on the past in order to come up with some quackish diagnosis like "it's your mother's fault").

"Sail away, away
Ripples never come back
They've gone to the other side
Ripples never come back
Dive to the bottom and go to the top
To see where they have gone
They've gone to the other side"


Ricky Raccoon said...

That was beautiful, Robin.

debass said...


Arturo Sandoval on "I Remember Clifford" plays arrangements based on Brownie's solos.

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debass said...

Was this named after Jaco Pastorius?

Van said...

Gagdad Bob said... "I also think of how this is the most intense time of my son's life, but he will not consciously remember a thing of it!"

It is frustrating, but like you said, then comes the proxy moments. The moments such as when your baby was laying on your belly, struggling mightily to lift its head with that wobbly little neck, and the absolutely ecstatic joy and triumph as he successfully raises his head and locks his eyes into yours... gurgles and coos, and then plops back down onto your chest, his body flexing and wiggling into a full body smile...Or the first steps ... or all those goofy 'games' & stories...

It's disappointing that they don't remember you being their buddy & hero... but I do remember realizing, as a new parent, that my parents must have had the same moments with me - and the sitting up with fevers, and the endless colicky football carry around and around the couch, the realization that I was as he is, and they were as I am...

"otherwise ineffingbelievable transcendent experience that gives life to belief and leads to the effort to search out the means to make sense of, articulate, and give body to the effing experiences... a sense of the eternal can be evoked by the presence of the very old or the very new, the "everlasting" and the extremely transient. "

The next neat thing is when is when you begin seeing shades of that googly grin on your belly in face in sports, and moments with friends, and girlfriends, and graduation, and you start seeing a timelapse in the back of your mind from then thru now superimposed on the moment, and you realize that while he doesn't remember - now - you are in there with him, behind the smile, and that at some point in the future, the moment will come when he's carrying his colicky baby, your grandchild, around the sofa, and realizes....


The eternal moment.

Van said...

I think you should contact vera from the day before... she can probably find a use for your rooms rentals... um... I assume they're available by the hour?

jwm said...

I finished the Torah, and now find myself somewhere around the ninth book of Judges. But back to the start- Biting the apple. That story is a metaphor for the whole book. Once you take the bite you can't go back. And one of the first things you get disabused of is the the notion of a touchy feely God. Ask Aaron's sons. God is love. Tough love. (I understand he mellows somewhat near the end of the book. ;) )
And you get disabused of the (ridiculous)notion that people are basically Good. We are a tough breed of critter. We are a tough breed of critter with an ineffable longing for the sacred. That longing is the needle of our inner compas. That needle must be rightly aligned with the will of God in order for us to acheive the potential God put in us.

Left to our own with no God we are stuck in Egypt. The instinct to worship will be exploited by other men, and become a closed system, the covenant of death...
But I think the point I was starting to make is the discovery how at once the first five books of the Bible are the story of a people, the chronicle of the Creator's ingression into human history, and a metaphor for Everyman's life to an incredibly intimate depth. And I know I'm just scratching the surface. I have to put the brakes on here. I did the night shift tonight. It's late and I'm cross-eyed tired. I've had this stream of thought going for weeks now, and I haven't shared much of it with anyone. I could ramble, but I'm going to sleep instead.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Hallucinations. Is there anything they don't know?"

A hallucination is a visual rambling.

Well said (I speak fluent ramble, although I don't always know what I'm sayin')!

NoMo said...

JWM - I love that story.

Boy meets girl in beautiful garden. Have great time. Start planning family. Commune with God. Enjoy many tasty fruits, even from tree of life - but not from tree of knowledge of good and evil. Looks tasty too, but God says no. Feel really good living forever. Serpent shows up, acts all nice, tells lies about forbidden fruit. Not knowing about lies, boy and girl bite big bad one. Pretty quick they try stage coverup. It fails. God very upset. They not die, but life turns to crap. Must leave garden. No more communing with God in the cool of the day. Must live apart from God. Right away no more fruit from tree of life. Not dead, but not alive. Spiritual zombies roam the earth...but that's the beginning of another story.

terrence said...

Hmmmm, it seems that I am not the only one who had the experience that Robin so clearly and poignantly outlines. I could not describe it to any of the other four or five older kids I was around at the time; I was about four years old at the time, too.

Before that “passing”, I knew everything about the universe; it was a wonderful, endless, deeply, deeply fascinating place. Then for an endless, but very brief time, I was fully aware of all that I knew; then, poof, I no longer knew it. I had a memory of it, and when I tried to describe it to the other kids, they just looked at me as if I was babbling nonsense. The memory has lingered; but it is ONLY a memory, and not the full meal-deal; and it is NOT as satisfying (just as I love the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, I have NEVER found a cup of coffee that comes close to it). Is heaven like that lost knowledge? I hope so. I could be fascinated by it forever.

I read somewhere that no one remembers anything prior to about three years of age. Too bad, I think, maybe. But it does linger...

terrence said...

Oh, yeah, Robin, thanks for the memory. I can hear Bob Hope crooning off in the distance; but what is distance? Does it involve space and time? Oh-oh...