Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Circles that You Grind, in Darkmills of Your Mind

A post from May '06. But remember, each weekly reflux is edited for the first time, with bolus gagging inserted for the alert eater, so chew carefully!


It is fascinating that in the near future, this whole musical realm may be a ghost town. All the beauty of generations will still be there, but no one will be able to appreciate it. There are probably spiritual paths that have been similarly deserted. Portals closed forever, once opening into rich, elaborately carved realms of the soul. There the faithful would receive blessing and wisdom, but now only silence and dust reigns. Even the paths to the timeless may be lost in time. "Use it or lose it." --Magnus Itland

The best ideas are so deceptively simple -- for example, complexity theory -- that we can fail to properly appreciate them. As such, they must be repeatedly discovered, lest one continue mindlessly searching after truth. The lower mind -- I have problems with the word, but let’s just call it the ego -- doesn’t really care about truth per se. Insofar as its cognition is concerned, its function, as Sri Aurobindo noted, is to grind. Put anything in front of it -- a TV screen, a cereal box, or worse yet, a newspaper -- and it will simply grind away like a... like a grinding vacuum cleaner.

But in order to truly think productively, it is necessary to throw some timeless truth into the mixMaster. Perennial truth is like the yeast that allows the bread to rise, or the axis around which our mind orients itself and spirals upward. It is clearly of a different order than the limited truths available to our natural reason.

For example, when I get my taxes done, I try to remind my obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive accountant -- who clearly understands the dreary mathematical truth -- that there is a higher truth which he must always keep at the forefront of his mind: that my taxes are too high, regardless of what his unforgiving calculator says. "Steve, it's not all black-and-white. You and I must creatively work together, left brain and right, to find the true amount I owe to the wasteful and inefficient government."

Many people -- many very smart people -- spend their entire lives searching after truth, even after they’ve found it. For some reason, truth alone does not satisfy the ego. It enjoys the horizontal chase, not the vertical plumbing of its depths. But since ultimate truth is not found in the horizontal, predictable consequences arise for the vertically exiled ego in its dark journey Down a hollow to a cavern / Where the sun has never shone.

Because we all long for Truth. Human beings are intrinsically epistemophilic and are clearly as driven to acquire transcendental truth as they are to obtain food, sex, and slack. It is what makes us human. But if you foreclose the vertical, you will attempt to find ultimate truth in the horizontal, which is strictly impossible. You will simply create a “graven image,” a horizontal substitute for the real thing, such as materialism, behaviorism, scientism, leftism, atheism, etc.

For example, a person who describes himself as a “political junkie” is usually just that, someone who greedily partakes of the 24 hour “all you can eat” news buffet of buffoonery, which only results in mental bloating and spiritual flatulence.

Now, the mind literally metabolizes truth, both in its horizontal and vertical sense. The analogy with digestion is fairly exact, something emphasized by Bion. Our minds are first of all open systems that exchange information (and affect, which is a kind of subtle or gross information, depending) with the environment and with other minds. But believe it or not, there are mental anorexics, people who refuse to take anything in, since they value control over truth, and want to "be their own breast." This is actually one of the main impediments to growth in psychotherapy.

Even that word -- growth -- have you ever thought about what it implies about the mind? What exactly grows? What is it made of? Does it just get bigger? Or more differentiated? What does it need in order to grow? What are the vitamins and enzymes it requires? Are certain things toxic to it? Is the growth predictable and built in, like a biological organism? What and where does it grow into? In other words, does it have an edge? What’s on the other side of the edge? Can our minds objectively discern the difference between a mind that is “grown up” vs. one that is immature or stunted?

Psychotherapy -- and the possibility of mental/emotional growth in general -- cannot really begin until the mind has become an open system and the patient can “take in” the relationship with the therapist. For when our emotional or intellectual (not to say, spiritual) growth is blocked, it is almost always because we have become a closed system in some form or fashion. I believe it was Winnicott who said that in order to be cured, we must first cure ourselves of our own attempt at self-cure -- in other words, we must go from being a closed to an open system, with particular emphasis on openness to emotional truth in the case of psychoanalysis. In the case of spirituality, we must become an open system with you-know-who on the vertical plane.

But once we allow truth in, we must also chew, swallow, digest and metabolize, so that it may become woven into our very psychic substance. I think you can see the problem that arises if we are immersed in a world of falsehood, either partial or total -- say the horizontal world of the secular left or the reverse vertical world of Islamic totalitarianism. In those cases, our minds can be open systems, but what are they open to?

Again, the normal mind will hungrily take in whatever is around it, and it will even grow, after a fashion, in the same way that a palm tree might grow near the arctic or a pine tree at the equator. In the case of the mind, since it can’t get what it really needs, it will demand more of what it doesn’t need in order to make up the difference. But one is not enough and a hundred is too many when you partake of the satanic eucharist. Or so we have heard from Petey, the wise, the merciful!

This is why we have so many fools with Ph.D.s (in the case of the West) or demons with theological training (as in the Islamic world). Since Truth is either rejected (in the case of the former) or unavailable (in the case of the latter), these hungry ghosts end up with a very bad case of spiritual malnutrition. They know something is wrong. But their prescription is more of the same.

So you can spend your entire life in a bloodless and irony-poor acadanemic setting pursuing “women’s studies,” or “queer theory,” or “behavioral psychology,” or “analytic philosophy,” and never come into contact with Truth. Rather, you just bore tunnels within tunnels in the windmills of your mind.

In fact, the most important Truth -- the Truth that makes lesser truths possible -- is generally not even permitted on college campuses. Or at least it is never discussed openly, except perhaps in a substitiously cynical manner. This makes most conventional education a corrupting experience unless one has a bulwark of Truth within -- a preexistent, uncreated framework within which to “think” about lower things, not just intellectual things but aesthetic and moral things as well.

Otherwise, once your life's education is "complete," you'll sadly ask yourself -- but of course it will be too late -- Why did summer go so quickly? Was it something that I said?

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind
--The Windmills of Your Mind (Bergman/Legrand/Bergman)


Van said...

"a “political junkie” is usually just that, someone who greedily partakes of the 24 hour “all you can eat” news buffet of buffoonery, which only results in mental bloating and spiritual flatulence."

Oh! Bloating, flatulence and ISS all together - Good Morrrrningggg One Cosmossss!

Van said...

The concept of "Now, the mind literally metabolizes truth, both in its horizontal and vertical sense. ", I particularly find helpful, and the anorexic, bullemic or morbidly obese analogies that easily follow from it.

What do you mentally eat, is it nutritious? Wish there was a way to view your mental waistline, step on the ol' Psychic scale... there is of course, but you have to open your eyes to see yourself in the mirror, and you have to step up onto the scale to check your weight.

And of course you have to adjust your diet and exercise plan and actually follow them.

Words and actions - is anything really digested properly without both?

QP said...

>>"Now, the mind literally metabolizes truth, both in its horizontal and vertical sense. The analogy with digestion is fairly exact, something emphasized by Bion."<<

Certainly seems to be a time for coonspiracies at work in the qp.
Why just this morning, over at FFW, I left this comment[bracketed words for OC clarification]:

"....extreme seekers will, by necessity, become "Hooked on Hunting". I've had interesting encounters with rattlesnakes [mind parasites] - thought I could cage them, even trance them. Eventually, after some rather nasty bites, I found slaying to be the way to go, [tell the truth, it's sets you free] not a pleasant task, but after the digestion cycle completed, I noticed a sense of actually having been nourished; blessed by heaven, so to speak."

Petey said...

Yes, be careful with mind parasites. You are what eats you.

QP said...

Forgot to include my other comment in my tale:

"Those hydras have been known to multiply and lay in wait, that's when hunting skills, if honed kerrectly, do facilitate righting one's balance.

Gagdad Bob said...

I swear, I just opened the Spiritual Ascent and my eyes immediately fixed on the following:

Seeking by food to obtain Immortality
Many have been the dupe of strange drugs
Better far to drink good wine
And clothe our bodies in robes of satin and silk.
--Old Chinese Proverb

Petey said...

Ananda chance to sat down at the last resort and enjoy a little moksha (or maybe some bhakti) at somarise. Sorry, menyou only have one taste. Whoops, where'd ego?

Bob said...

The parts of this piece that spoke so eloquently to me were the parts about closed and open systems, mental anorexia, and choosing to suckle on one's own breast. I have incorporated your thoughts into a post at my blog this morning. More importantly, your words helped Colleen and I look at our frustrations in a new light, which you do quite often. Thank you.

rabid said...

"suckle on one's own breast"

America's got talent?

Smoov said...

I hope there wasn't any snakemeat in that butterflied shrimp I ate on Wed in Toronto...

julie said...

Snake is actually pretty tasty, rather like lemony chicken. You can get it as an appetizer at a place or two here in Phoenix.