Thursday, October 23, 2008

Living on a Wound and a Prayer (11.03.11)

On to the Pope. This chapter seemed a bit convoluted to me. I mean, UF has a somewhat rambling style as it is, but this one struck me as more rambly than some of the others. As usual, I'll just highlight what resonated with me, Bob's Unconscious.

The main point is that this card has to do with "vertical respiration," or what UF describes as the double movement of prayer and benediction -- or of (↑) and (↓), respectively. Thus, if you ask why we pray, it's roughly the same as asking why we exhale. We do so in order to inhale. And live.

The ascending and descending energies are parts of a single movement. In fact -- in a manner of speaking, of course -- you could even say that we are the answer to God's prayers.

"The prayers of humanity rise towards God and, after having been divinely 'oxidized,' are transformed into benedictions which descend from above." In prayer, something "leaves" us, but comes back transformed. While this may sound abstract or unscientific, it really isn't, certainly not if you are aware of modern trends in developmental neuropsychoanalysis, which are confirming revolutionary ideas first put forth by the likes of Bion, Fairbairn and Winnicott over 50 years ago (cf. here). It's just a matter of applying the same ideas to the intersubjective relationship with our nonlocal progenitor.

The point is, as Schuon once put it, "prayer fashions man." In a way, man is nothing but a prayer placed in the middle of nowhere, a prayer which ascends to the heavens and links the above and below. Man's very verticality -- however conceptualized -- is a prayer, don't you see? And if there were nothing at the other end of our verticality, man as such truly would be a hopeless prayer, just a long bomb hurled by matter into the cosmic End Zone.

As I was mentioning yesterday, the cries of the infant are prayers to the Divine Mother. The intersubjective relationship between mother and baby is a "reciprocity dance" of mutual projection. When those prayers are systematically unanswered, the infant is ushered into hell -- into some version of autism, narcissism, or depression. An open, intersubjective system with others is not formed, so love cannot enter or escape. While they may "bond" with others, it's really a form of disguised mutual masturbation, of "exterior to exterior." Transferred to the metaphysical plane, you could say the same of scientism, which is entirely masturbatory. It must be oddly comforting, but still, a poor substitute for a relationship with living and breathing reality.

The latter is also a state of spiritual asphyxia: expiration with no inspiration. It is the creation of a dead world by dead and tenured souls. As UF writes, "Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practice some form of prayer; he who practices it receives vivifying benedictions in some form." There is a reason why the blue states are blue: no spiritual oxygen. When people have a "dead" relationship with the Creator, one must always inquire into what it is that the person is projecting into him, i.e., the actual source of the deadness. Suffice it to say that it is within the undead themselves.

Again, there is horizontal respiration, which is between the outside and inside; and vertical respiration, which is between the above and below. UF even suggests that death represents "the abrupt passage from horizontal to vertical respiration," which is why a spiritual practice is rehearsal for death. With enough practice, we may convert what is otherwise a sharp right angle into the more gentle arc of spiritual liftoff. That arc is ultimately a circle that returns us to ourselves, the circle being the perfect symbol of eternity. You might say that prayer is thinking within the curved space of spiritual reality, in such a way that the circle gradually expands.

UF points out that true intellectual or creative work is a prayer. It is fueled by the faith and hope that one's efforts are guided by an "end" that can only be dimly intuited at the start, never "seen." Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe! Blessed are those who tolerate the ambiguity of facts, that they may ultimately reveal principles, and that principles may reveal their Origin. When the world of facts embraces the world of principles, that is a prayer come true.

Prayer takes place at night and in darkness. Again, it is a complement to the wideawake & cutandry thought of the day. In fact, it is why we sleep, or more precisely, dream, for to dream is to metabolize the day and weave it into our psychic substance, just as to think and act during the day is to externalize the soul's dreams and visions. What is human culture but one big dream and/or nightmare? And what is the materialist but a sleepwalker, a man deprived of the vivifying dream of reality?

Blah blah blah yadda yadda, UF then goes into the critically important theme of the wound, and how it is only through the wound that the cosmos is entangled with itself, to such an extent that when we peer at a star (or the starlight penetrates into our eyes), we may be witnessing our own cosmic birth.

Until the appearance of life, there was only an exterior cosmos. But with the appearance of life, there was suddenly this new category, an interior. But in order for there to be an interior, there had to be an exterior with which to exchange matter, energy or information, and this can only take place through a wound.

This implies that there actually was no exterior to the cosmos prior to the emergence of life, being that exterior and interior co-arise. Therefore, there was just.... what? You figure it out.

UF notes that our senses are "wounds," and painful ones at that. Without them, the world cannot "penetrate" us, but sometimes the penetration can damage us. We feel, but as a result, we are aware of pleasure and pain. We see, but that gives rise to both beauty and ugliness.

It is through the wound that an otherwise closed system becomes an open one. In order to know the objective world, your mind must be "wounded" by it, by the "nails of objectivity." But to know God, your heart must be wounded, which is to say, a vertically open system.

When we wonder, we are exploring our psychic wound. When we think, we are trying to heal it. How did the wound get there? Animals don't have that particular wound.

And when we pray, we are exploring our spiritual wound. How did it get there? Why this wounded heart? Ouch!

I suppose so we can know we have one, so that it may be healed in love. God save the man without a broken heart.


Ray Ingles said...

UF notes that our senses are "wounds," and painful ones at that. Without them, the world cannot "penetrate" us, but sometimes the penetration can damage us.

Wounds are, by definition, always damaging. Senses aren't painful unless they are wounded. Poetically provocative, but if taken at all literally... a really disturbing category error. (How are other forms of 'penetration' conceptualized here? Brrrr...)

Anonymous said...

You see? Never doubt Bob when he speaks of "spiritual autism."

walt said...

" order for there to be an interior, there had to be an exterior with which to exchange matter, energy or information..."

Is the necessity of give-and-take -- an exchange between God and man -- discussed in Aurobindo's philosophy?

Perhaps the word "wound" is not technically correct -- but it conveys something, if only by the imagery: immediacy, exposure, suffering, etc. To just say "opening" would convey none of that. I prefer my descriptions of Reality to have a little flair, to be on a par with my experience of it.

For example:
"...a human being is nothing other than a "lens" where the vertical "collides" with the horizontal in the most intense way..." (GB)

julie said...

A cross between a riddle and a koan: When is a wound not a wound?

In a few minutes, I'll be off once again to a torture session of sorts, during which I'll voluntarily force my limbs into unnatural (for me) and painful positions, and cause a burning and aching in my muscles which indicates that, if I'm doing it right, the very tissues are actually tearing just so. But it is a sweet and most welcome agony, because it means that, by imposing my seemingly cruel will upon my reluctant flesh, I am making it stronger, more flexible, healthier, and more capable of dealing with whatever physical troubles may come along, and also doing my cognitive abilities a big favor.

Some things, some wounds, do indeed hurt so good.

ge said...

"Sorrow, suffering, and loneliness are the great builders of character. Man never becomes truly great until his heart is broken. That is the supreme test. Those who are deepened and broadened by their experiences rise triumphant from the ruins of their dreams and pass on to fuller destiny."

Manly P. Hall, The Way of the Lonely Ones

robinstarfish said...

There is a reason why the blue states are blue: no spiritual oxygen.

Better red than dead?

The wound discussion of Letter V is one of my most highlighted sections of MOTT, so practical in terms of how to see and who is seeing. When I look through a viewfinder and find that it is like a nail from outside nailing my will, I know I am at least somewhere in the vicinity of honest perception.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

By definition: Who made that definition? And shall we keep it or do we look deeper? Or did the great Webster set down his pick, and alas: The language was carved.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

The wound - Love is a wound that keeps you stinging for eternity. But it's the wound you love.

julie said...

A life without prayer is analogous to trying to breathe with a plastic bag over your head. Even if the bag is huge - say, so big you could live in it for quite a while, months or even years before you notice how stale the air is - you're pretty much just recycling the same stuff you breathed out: all the toxins your body can't handle, all the things which don't nourish you. Eventually, this might even provide a feeling of youphoria (but that's just your brain dying, nothing to be alarmed about). It doesn't change the fact that, trapped in your little self-contained membrane, the air is stagnant. The membrane must be pierced (preferably with extreme prejudice, but then again that tends to cause a rather abrupt shift in pressure, so prepare to hang on for a wild ride ;), in order to let in the freshness and nourishment required for healthy development.

Another way of looking at the wound is to consider being in love - complete with agonies sweet, sharp, aching, lingering... and it's utterly marvelous. For the true bond to be made, you must be pierced down past the bone, past the heart, all the way to your very soul. There's a reason people have layers upon layers of defense mechanisms built up - if the wrong entity sneaks in, it can wreak havoc at the deepest levels of our being. But we still need that O-pening, or we'll suffocate. Better the sweet agony of connection than the dry euphoria of stagnation.

Anonymous said...

Old Sufi schematic of spiritual progression:

(1) Lord, use me.

(2) Lord, use me, but don't break me.

(3) Lord, I don't care if you break me.

I think willingness to accept the spiritual wound is the clearest indication that one is a genuine pilgrim and not simply in thrall to New Agey narcissism. Or for that matter, an EZ pass-style Christianity.

walt said...

Uh, don't mess with Texas?

Niggardly Phil said...

Wounds? Did someone say wounds?

julie said...

Tazers don't work on raccoon? Better not tell Dupree...

Rick said...

Advance to 6:40.

mushroom said...

I usually try to give Ray the benefit of the doubt -- that is, I assume he just has a pitifully inadequate sense of humor and is trying to be funny. However, in this case, I have to say -- with all due respect -- that is a contender for the stupidest thing anybody except Joe Biden has said this month.

"Obama: McCain Will 'Endanger'" might be dumber, but it's too close to call.

I have two very noticeable scars from old wounds on my torso. The smaller one nearly killed me. The larger one saved my life. As Julie pointed out, muscles only grow when they are "damaged".

Anonymous said...

Ironic that someone so unwounded by God can be so damaged by it.

Anonymous said...

The chorus and final verse from an amateurish song/poem I wrote... seems appropriate for this post...

My five wounds held me to the tree
The tree of knowledge not life
But I showed you how to be free
By living and dying truly

Now my five wounds are signs on the tree
That show you that we can all be free
By walking all as one to Calvary
By dying and living truly

Anonymous said...

Carving up somebody's face is pretty disturbing. I would think that goes a little beyond the typical political violence and would say the man is just plain crazy. People keep going nuts, but it's still pretty uncommon and from both sides so I wouldn't necessarily point it to just politics invoking violence, but people who are already edgy.

NoMo said...

There are wounds that heal,
and there are wounds that heal.

How's that for a "category error", Ray?

Anonymous said...

"God save the man without a broken heart."

Lev 2:9 And the priest shall take from the meat offering a memorial thereof, and shall burn it upon the altar: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Niggardly Phil said...


I would agree, I didn't mean to imply that Obama had sent this man to do that, nor that it was more typical of the left, none of that. I actually think McCain ordered this so that the right would be enraged and solidify around him.


NoMo said...

Aussie - Throw another shrimp on the barbie! God loves a good bbq.

Seriously - I like your OT style.


NoMo said...

Whether or not you like Pat B, he sure nails joe and the media in this one.

Ray Ingles said...

Wounds leave scars, or even kill. Exercise makes tissue healthier. Fundamentally different things. I'd say the pains of love are lot more like exercise than injury... or you're not doing it right.

Surgery causes wounds, but the minimum necessary, and they keep working to minimize even those (e.g. arthroscopic surgery). A perfect surgeon wouldn't cut anything but diseased tissue. We don't have any perfect surgeons available, so we make do with what we have.

(Oh, and if you haven't heard by now, the woman appears to have admitted she faked the attack. One clue: the "B" was backward, as if it had been done in a mirror...)