Saturday, October 11, 2008

Monkey in the Middle

Time for your weekly rerun from 700 posts ago. This one was originally called My Theory, Which is Mine: The World is Intelligible at One End, Intelligence at the Other, and Human in the Middle, but that was too long for a title. The point is, man is the vertical being who bisects every plane of reality, from the lowdown downdest to the tip toppermost of the poppermost man on a flaming pie. As always, lots of new thoughts have been slipped in as they occurred to me.


Who knows where ideas come from, let alone ideas for ideas? But there was some sort of vague notion in yesterday’s post that was trying to get me to think it, but didn’t quite make it over the linguistic horizon. So let’s make another raid on the inarticulate this morning, and see if we can’t drag it across the phoenix line.

The main idea is something of a truism, even though few people seem to draw out its implications. And this idea that I have -- which is mine, by the way -- follows the lines I am about to relate. Ahem. This idea -- which belongs to me -- is as follows. This is how it goes. Ahem. The next thing that I am about to say is my idea, which is mine. Ahem. Ready? My Idea, by El Bob Gagdad. My idea is along the following lines. This is it. This is how it goes. Remember, it's mine:

Religion embodies specifically human knowledge aimed at the human world.

The reason why this is both controversial and axiomatic is that the human world is gradually being eclipsed by a non-human world that results from a human activity, science. Let me back up bit, and lay a frim framdation.

Let us stipulate that there is but one world, a noumenal world that simply is what it is (O), regardless of our theories (k) about it. In short, O = O. O ≠ (k).

O is like the ocean. It tosses up theories about itself like so many grains of sand on the beach. And then it washes them away like tsand castles in a tsunami. The little human monkeys that theorize about O often forget -- especially lately -- that they are as much a product of O as their theories. Thus, at best, their manmade theories can account for everything but the theorizer. Even if these theories approach the penumbra of this thing called Truth, they cannot account for this most shocking aspect of existence, which is not just that Truth exists, but that it permeates existence on every level. Very strange.

Although existence is necessarily One -- if it's not, then your theory has some 'splainin' to do -- it nevertheless discloses many seemingly irreconcilable worlds -- at least if we begin at “the bottom” of the cosmos and try to work our way up. For example, modern physics reveals a world “underneath” (whatever that means) ours that operates along shockingly different lines than the human world. I don’t want to go into all of the details now, but one of the major conceptual problems in physics is that even physicists don’t know what to do about the bizarre micro-world they have discovered, as it cannot be reconciled with the macro-world of relativity, let alone with any human world. It's as if macro existence floats on a swarm of the incomprehensible. And we all know how painful that can be.

And neither the macro-world of relativity nor the micro-world of subatomic physics has anything to do with the human experiential world, at least in the absence of a heroic dose of psilocybin. In fact, the quantum world is so paradoxical that it literally cannot even be imagined. That is, if we try to picture what goes on down there, the picture will most certainly be wrong. This is not to say that we cannot use quantum physics, which we obviously do. It is just that we cannot use it to understand our world, the human world. You cannot read a (post-classical) physics text and expect it to disclose any useful information about our day to day world.

Likewise, with regard to cosmology, the “big bang” undoubtedly conjures up a visual image, but the image has nothing to do with the reality, any more than you could imagine the square root of negative one. For it is not a human world.

Nor is the world of DNA a human world, or even a living world. From the standpoint of the human world, life is not a function of DNA; rather, DNA is a function of life, which is a total freaking mystery. As my son grows older and I pass on to him the eternal secret of the Gagdad way of life, I am not going to hand him a textbook on genetics or natural selection and ask, “any questions?” To do so would be absurd, but absurdity is no barrier to the tide of brain-dead materialism that continues to encroach like weeds upon the human world.

Consciousness too is a complete and utter mystery. You will often hear the cliché that you can learn more about human beings by reading this or that great novelist than you can by studying psychology, and this is often true. There are certain forms of psychology that most certainly do not touch the human world, behaviorism among them. I remember once, during one of my internships, getting into a debate with another intern. He was a behaviorist, while all of my training was in psychoanalysis, the most deeply human of all merely psychological (as opposed to anthropo-theological) theories. It wasn’t so much that he was wrong. Rather, he wasn’t even wrong, because his theory was so detached from psychic reality. Truly, it was like trying to explain to a blind man why he shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day.

Again, science is a wonderful human activity, but it does not disclose a human world or provide any useful information about the meaning of life or even about what it means to be human. In fact, science itself must be placed in the larger context of the human world if we are to avoid reducing humanness to some scientific abstraction.

This is where religion comes in, because -- to restate my theory, which is mine -- it represents the most human of knowledge, aimed at human beings and the human world, which is to say the real world. Yes. This is something that truly needs to be emphasized: that science does not disclose the real world, but various abstract models of the world that humans -- and only humans -- may access, and only because of their humanness.

Thus, science is an extension of the human knower, but it can never explain the existence of the human knower. In other words, it is a small part of the larger world called truth to which humans have unique access. While animals are subject to the laws of the cosmos, the fact that we can know the truth of these laws places us infinitely “above” them (even if not beyond them, at least in the embodied state).

As I have mentioned before, religion often involves implicit metaphysics without explicit knowledge. What I mean is that embedded in any religious tradition are all sorts of exquisite metaphysical insights that are expressed in an obscure, ambiguous, symbolic, or mythological way. Thus, they have to be unpacked and understood. Well, not necessarily. They do their deepest work on a resonant unconscious (or supraconscious) level, but the nousy Raccoon wants to know why and how.

Metaphysics is the science of the Absolute and of the true nature of things. You might say that it is the science of the ultimate Subject, whereas science is the religion of the ultimate object. The purpose of metaphysics is to discriminate between the Real and the apparent, in order to align our will with reality, in a divine-human partnership .

Let us begin with two trippy stipulations, treating them not as religious statements per se but pregnant metaphysical ones:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,


In the beginning was the the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

What does it mean, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? As I have mentioned before, I believe that it has to do with the creation of the most fundamental duality of the cosmos. This duality can be viewed from many angles, but it can be summarized by saying that "in the beginning God created the vertical and the horizontal," for this duality subsumes the irreducible (irreducible in terms that can be thought about) categories of absolute and infinite, quality and quantity, interior and exterior, eternity and time, whole and part, implicate and explicate, subject and object. In each instance we are dealing with a "limit case" beyond which thought cannot traverse. In fact, the one side of the dualism necessitates the other and represents the conditions of existence and thought. Nothing "mental" can be made without the vertical/horizontal duality as a precondition.

Another way of saying it is that existence comprises two necessary and irreducible poles: existence and intelligence, which ultimately flow from the same Absolute source. This is why both “things” and “subjects” open out to the infinite. In the case of things, they radiate the divine presence in any number of ways (for example, beauty), while in the case of subjects, it is their very nature for the divine presence to inhere in them. It is why the world is intelligible to intelligence; to say one is to say the other, for if the world is not inherently intelligible, there can be no intelligence, and vice versa.

This is in accord with the second Omendment above: In the beginning was the Word, or Logos. Moreover, this Word was with God, or the Absolute, implying that it was there "before the beginning," before the great dualistic creative activity of the first statement. Indeed, if the Word is God, this can be the only logical conclusion.

This then apparently raises language -- that most human of capacities -- to a most exalted status. But clearly not if we merely look at it in the usual way. It's so easy to take language for grunted, when in reality we are dealing with something that is frankly magic, even divine. In fact, the very same Biblical passage cautions us about this, pointing out that the light of the Word "shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." Or, to put it in more coontemporary terms expressed in the Book of Petey, the weird light shines in the dark, but the dorks don't comprehend it. For truly, the weirdness was spread all through the world, and yet, the world basically kept behaving as if this were just your ordinary, standard-issue cosmos.

One additional point would appear relevant. From Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read "Then God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'.... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." We are particularly interested in how our capacity for creativity might mirror the primordial creative activity of the Divine Mind.

What is language, anyway? What is a word? As a matter of fact, a word is a very special thing, because only it has the capacity to bridge the dualistic worlds introduced by primordial creation. Apparently words can do this because they are somehow prior to the great duality and therefore partake of both heaven and earth, above and below, vertical and horizontal.

The literal meaning of the word "symbol" is to "throw together" or across, as if words are exterior agents that join together two disparate things. But the Biblical view would suggest that language actually has this "throwing together" capacity because it somehow subtends the world on an interior level: language is what the world is made of, so it shouldn't surprise us that with it we can see all kinds of deep unities in the cosmos. The unities are there just waiting to be discovered, and language is our tool for doing so.

For man possesses two types of intelligence, a horizontal, analytical, “dividing” mind, and a unifying, synthesizing mind. However, the latter takes priority, for the ultimate purpose of analysis is to synthesize. For example, to paraphrase Aldous Huxley, science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. And what is the final unity? Why, the same unity we started with, only transformed by the spiraling journey back to its unchanging self.

To summarise: if reality is nothing else, it is One. It is One prior to our bifurcation of it into subject and object, and it will always be One. We can throw out the Oneness with a pitchfork, but it will always rush back in through the walls, up through the floorboards, and down from the ceiling. The wholeness of the cosmos is ontologically prior to anything else we can say about it, and it is precisely because of its wholeness that we can say anything about it at all. In the miracle of knowing, subject and object become one, but the oneness of matter and mind undergirds this process. In reality there is just the one world that miraculously knows itself in the act of knowledge, as "the circle which opens in truth closes in beauty."

In the deep there is a greater deep, in the heights a greater height. Sooner shall man arrive at the borders of infinity than at the fulness of his own being. For that being is infinity, is God. --Sri Aurobindo

Friday, October 10, 2008

Improvisations on the Meditations (10.05.11)

I think it's time to delve back into Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism (heretofore MOTT). It is the most profound work of Christian spirituality I've ever encountered, and is so dense that you can't possibly read it just once and be done with it. Rather, it is one of those books that needs to be reread every year or so. The problem is, it would probably take a year to properly read, and much longer to actually internalize and assimilate.

I guess I've read it cover to cover maybe four or five times. I know this because I have two copies, each with different colored highlighting. And yet, each time I read it, I get something new out of it. I know this because new passages are highlighted on subsequent go-rounds.

Also, as I mentioned in a comment the other day, the first time I tried to tackle it, I got nowhere. It was just too difficult; we were both too dense. But by the time of my second attempt a year or two later, a transformation had taken place within me that allowed me to understand it. Indeed, it was like entering a vast cathedral, only this time with the lights on. In other words, without the Light, an infinite space can appear as a black wall, which is essentially the predicament in which the atheist finds himself. He imagines he's describing an objective wall, when he's really just disclosing his subjective darkness. It's difficult to imagine a worldview more banal.

There is a reason that all spiritual traditions speak of "illumination." The visible light we see with our eyes is an analogue and symbol of the light we see with our mind. In other words, the intelligibility of the world is prior to its materiality. The spiritual world is an intelligible world, but in order to see it, you will require the uncreated light of the awakened intellect, i.e., the nous. Without it, you will again be staring at a blank wall (or you will simply have to take someone else's word for it). Jesus will just be a community organizer, if he existed at all. Miracles will merely be statistically rare events instead of vertical lessons. The Bible will be a collection of "flat" or even silly stories instead of simultaneously urgent and timeless memos of infinite depth from the Self to your self.

A couple of important points before we begin. The book is not about Tarot reading, nor does it have anything to do with the occult. Rather, the author merely uses the twenty two major arcana of the Tarot as a basis to "riff." It's almost as if he free associates and uses the cards as unsaturated archetypes to explore his own incredibly fertile spiritual imagination. But his ideas are for the most part completely orthodox and intelligible to others, unlike, say, occultists, who may or may not speak truth, but clothe it in idiosyncratic and obscure ways that can be extremely difficult to decode.

While earlier in life the author (who was born in 1900 and died in 1973) was a follower of Rudolf Steiner, he broke with that group and converted to Catholicism at the age of 44. In fact, he was booted from Steiner's Anthroposophical Society for being too independent of Steiner (who died in 1925).

Here again this is interesting, because Steiner was an example of a spiritually gifted occultist whose fluid ideas then reified into an orthodoxy. This is a fine example of how the master ruins the disciples and vice versa. Importantly, this is a dynamic that afflicts virtually all groups, as Bion recognized in some of his early papers. Indeed, it is precisely what had happened to Bion's own field of psychoanalysis, as Freud the explorer became Freud the inerrant prophet of a pseudo-religious order. Bion himself was analogous to the "new messiah" or mystic who challenges orthodoxy, but only in order to return it to first principles.

One sees this pattern again and again, as it is truly universal. For example, a Ronald Reagan appears on the historical stage as a revolutionary, but only in order to reawaken the country to its first principles of classical liberalism. Likewise, although Buddha was a heterodox Hindu, he too was merely attempting to return to the original principles of the Vedas, only in their purest and de-ritualized form.

The author worked on MOTT in his 60's, and it was originally published posthumously in 1984 (in English in 1985). Although the identity of the author is known, he wished to remain anonymous, so we will respect his wishes and refer to him as Unknown Friend (UF), which is what he calls himself. As a matter of fact, this is one of the charms of the book, as UF truly is our friend, and a precious one at that. Not only is he our friend, but he will be the invaluable friend and guide of any serious spiritual seeker from now until the end of time. And it is very much a "brotherly" relationship, despite his obvious spiritual eminence. This is very much in contrast to Schuon, who is so forbidding that one cannot imagine being his peer. (I certainly hope that this blog can be someone's unknown friend a hundred years from now -- not just me, but the whole transdimensional community, or Raccoon clench.)

With regard to my post the other day about the person who was asking for spiritual guidance, UF is a fine example of how one may form a living relationship with a guru, saint, sage, or mentor, despite the person not being "technically" alive. The fact is, they are very much alive, but they will only come to life in the dynamic transitional space between you and them. But how is this different from any other deep friendship? For example, I naturally love my wife, but I also love the space we have created for ourselves. This can go unappreciated, but it is the background context of my whole life. It is the space in which I live and breathe.

By the way, I'm basically engaging in this verticalisthenic exercise for my own benefit, so I'm going to try and pretend you folks aren't here. This is because I'm getting sick of us. Therefore, it's time for Bob's Unconscious to take the helm, and Bob's Unconscious lives in its own Private Idaho, although, at the same time, this particular Idaho is a universal Wedaho. In other words, we all share the same deep unconscious, so the further away I get from you morons, the closer we are (and that includes you, Bob).

One thing I like about MOTT is its jazz sensibility, of which I have written in the past. I adopt the identical approach, in that I have tried my best to internalize and assimilate the major chords of spiritual truth, and then attempt to improvise over them in a spontaneous way. In order to accomplish this, you can't really "try," or it will become immediately evident. Surely you have heard a bad blues singer, who substitutes volume for depth of feeling? Compare a great blues singer such as Muddy Waters, who is always relaxed, to a Janis Joplin, who screams with great effort.

Although I undoubtedly play the occasional clam, this jazzy approach is the only way that I can personally make Spirit come alive. Yes, there is danger in this, in that it can lead to an excessive focus on the individual and to idiosyncratic or eccentric interpretations. But this is the value of tradition, in that I always try to stay within the structure while simultaneously playing "beyond" it, in the same way the jazz immortals use the Great American Songbook as a basis for their improvisations.

Louis Armstrong was the first great jazz improviser. Before him was Dixieland jazz, in which no one stood out from the ensemble. But to improvise means to stand up and play "over" the group. Importantly, to produce great jazz, one must simultaneously be a part of the group while transcending it. This balance is the key, and I think it embodies a general lesson, almost a koan. That is, Man is the group animal whose very groupishness is the matrix out of which his individuality emerges. To be an individual is to live on the surface of the group, so to speak, but with roots deep within it. A narcissist fails to appreciate the importance of the group in making the individual possible, as if he could exist without it. And yet, the group cannot be the the "end" of our existence, as leftists believe.

I suppose it's somewhat analogous to the body/mind relationship. You cannot have a mind without a body, but to reduce the mind to the body is to do away with the person and our very reason for existence. Or again, one could say that this reflects the exoteric/esoteric complementarity of religion. Although I am an esoterist, I do not believe for one moment that esoterism can exist in the absence of exoterism, which is what the new agers believe. Here again, this leads to narcissism and the kind of infertile and even satanic spirituality of the Deepaks of the world.

Anyway, we're just going to riff on UF's riffing, and see where it takes us, beginning with the Foreward. Here we are tipped off at the outset to the jazz sensibility of our unknown friend, who writes of his alignment with a venerable tradition that unites "a spirit of free research with one of respect for tradition." In so doing, his purpose is to "incarnate" his word within this tradition, or to make his own words flesh, so to speak. Again, it is this organicity that you must appreciate, as our Unknown Friend comes to life before us. He will not just evoke a link between us and him, or between you and the great community of spirits who have preceded us on this earth. Rather, he is tossing down a vertical lifeline that situates us at the cosmic center:

For the links in the chain of the tradition are not thoughts and efforts alone; they are above all living beings who were thinking these thoughts and willing these efforts. The essence of the tradition is not a doctrine, but rather a community of spirits from age to age.

So jump into the living waters of this great river, and prepare to meet your Ocean.


I guess this would be the book's most famous reader. That's the two-volume German edition at the bottom of the pile, right below the poems of Suzanne Somers:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Keeping Hopelessness Alive

I'm glad that some Raccoons are optimistic about the election. I'm not. I'm not pessimistic either. In fact, as I've mentioned before, I place no hope in politics to begin with, and pretty much lead a hopeless life, at least as it pertains to the World. This probably sounds like bitterness or cynicism, but it certainly doesn't feel that way to me, and I'm quite sure that no one who knows me would consider me embittered.

Actually, it's much more of a Zen thingy, except that I don't have to actually practice Zen to be this way. I can't really claim credit for it, because it's just my nature. However, there was a time that I tried to fight against it and be like The Others, and it's not always easy to explain it to people who don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about.

For example, I tried to explain it to someone at that family function I attended last week. The person actually took sympathy, as if I were depressed or somehow missing out. Perhaps I should point out that this side of the family is Jewish, but only in a deeply secular -- which is to say, materialistic -- sense, so that my way of living is basically incomprehensible to them. The conversation revolved around my relatively late fatherhood, and I made the comment that if a man hasn't more or less seen it all by the age of 40, he's sort of pathetic. Being that I'd seen it all, I wanted to have the one experience I hadn't had, fatherhood. His response was, "noooo, why do you say that? Life isn't over at 40!!!"

But that wasn't at all the point I was attempting to make. Rather, what I meant is that for most people, they have had all the usual worldly experiences by the age of 40; they know what it's like to get drunk, fall in love, have some good meals, make some money, go to Disneyland, see their favorite team win the World Series, have some nice vacations, see their candidate become president. But then they merely try to either perpetuate the same things, or ramp it up and try to wring more pleasure out of these things than there is in them. In this man's case it was a new career and a younger wife, but it's really just the same wine in a new bottle.

That way of living is fine and appropriate for the first half of life, as the sun moves toward its zenith at your personal summer solstice. But to try to hold the sun there as it gravitates back to the winter underworld is again just sort of pathetic. One way or another, the purpose of the second half of life is to make a decisive turn toward the interior adventure, not to cling to the exterior one.

In my case, I'm fortunate to be living this life of radical novelty at an age when things are usually just repeating themselves. The presence of Future Leader assures us that every day is the same, and yet never the same. We are totally rooted in the moment, which is quite liberating. Specifically, we are liberated from the tyranny of linear time. Again, this always came naturally to me, but now it is simply heightened.

I believe it was in How To Know Higher Worlds that Rudolf Steiner makes the point that it is critical to pay attention to organic growth in all of its modalities, whether it is flowers blooming in your garden or watching children grow.

The operative word is life, and there is nothing so alive as a child. I can never be alive in the same vital sense that he is, and yet, I feel as if I have transposed that vitality to a higher key that is appropriate for my age. Extremes meet, so they say that old age is like a second childhood. I'm only 52, so I'm not there yet, but I feel as if I am starting to get there in spirit -- to let go of the world and to allow the others slowly learn the same lessons or fight over the scraps. I'm too consumed enjoying the present.

Anyway, one reason I live this way is that I can then be pleasantly surprised when things turn out well. If you always imagine that things are going to go well, then you are going to experience disappointment and frustration on a continuous basis. I've heard Dennis Prager discuss this same idea, and although I haven't read it, I know he writes about it in his book Happiness.

Also, I think you have to be aware of historical irony. That is, events that look bad constantly lead to good things, and vice versa. You can't just take one abstract "time slice" and decide whether something is good or bad. It's always a mixed bag. I think this is the deeper meaning of "God's will, or that we cannot know the plan of creation. Whether or not you believe in an activist God, it's out of our hands. You just do what needs to be done in the moment.

In fact, there's a famous old Taoist story about a man whose horse runs away. His sympathetic neighbors comment on his bad luck, and he responds, "we'll see." The next day the horse returns with three wild horses following behind. Now his neighbors rejoice and congratulate him on his good luck, but he remains noncommittal: "We'll see." The next day his son is thrown while trying to break one of the horses, and fractures his leg. "Such bad luck." "We'll see." Then the next day the military officials arrive to conscript his son, but he's laid up with the broken leg, so they pass him by. "What luck!" "We'll see." Etc.

So I think this is the deeper meaning of "giving no thought for the morrow." I do everything I need to do in the present, and then just forget about it. The present moment is the field of karma that one is constantly tilling. We are always planting little seeds that have varying timelines of development. Eventually, when something bad or good happens, it's easy to tie it to a proximate cause, much more difficult to relate it to its ultimate cause. I mostly worry about not planting any more lousy seeds.

I never imagine that my life will change in any fundamental way, no matter what happens. I realize that the environment I live in is in my head, and that the only way to really change things is to change my head. Here again, this can be confused with solipsism or narcissism, but it's quite the opposite. I just mean it in a very concrete, experience-near sense. You must be very, very careful about the ideas you allow to take up residence in your head, because they will end up sharply limiting your ability to know the Real, which always transcends any idea you have about it. Life is impossibly rich, with hundreds of little daily pleasures that will pass you by if you do not heighten your awareness and hone your ability to appreciate them. Never imagine that getting what you want will satisfy you so long as you cannot appreciate what you have.

I remember a patient of mine who was contemplating an affair. One reason I don't do therapy anymore is that I constantly blurted out things that therapists aren't supposed to say. In his case, I said words to the effect of, "why do you want another woman when you have no idea how to appreciate the one you have?" My professional training prevented me from adding, "you narcissistic bastard."

A little over four years ago I was diagnosed with adult onset type I diabetes. Such bad luck! Yet, I have never for a moment thought of it that way. It just is what it is. While it has certainly changed my life, I can't even say that it has been for the worse. As soon as the diagnosis came, I merely decided to be the best diabetic in the world. I work out at least once a day, always keep my blood sugar in a normal range, and keep my blood pressure and cholesterol even better than the normal range. Even so, you just never know. No matter what the state of your health, you can only try to tilt the odds in your favor, but there is always a random element, or at least an element that is so multifactorial and non-linear that there's nothing you can do about it.

One thing I do sometimes wonder about is the ticking time bombs that might be hidden in plain sight. For example, for a number of years we had a beautiful Great Dane named Finn. We got him from a rescue, so we didn't know much about his background. He had occasionally been a little aggressive, but it was nothing we thought we couldn't control. However, in 2005, out of the blue, he basically tried to eat me. I was pulling his bed from the living room to the bedroom, and he took it as a grave offense. He came at me like a grizzly bear, and if I hadn't been wearing a bathrobe, he probably would have severed an artery in my arm.

Long story short, all the dog trainers agreed that this was not something that could be trained out of him. It was more like a rage seizure that was totally unpredictable. In hindsight I realized the truth of this, because he would get this far-off look during these episodes, and appeared dazed and out of it for a few minutes afterwards. So with great reluctance, we had to put him down. It was very sad, because he was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen, and most of the time he was quite endearing.

Such bad luck!

But then along came Future Leader a few months later, and I still almost swoon when I think of what might have happened. There is no doubt that he would have innocently crawled into Finn's bed, and then.... well, you probably would heard about it on TV.

So, what have we learned today? I don't know, I don't have time to reflect.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On Finding Your Celestial Parent

I'm still cogitating on the question of "where do I begin?" It's difficult for me to answer, because it's very much analogous to asking "how do I fall in love?" You can get all kinds of advice on the matter, but in the end, it will probably just catch you by surprise. Some things you can't arrange, only allow.

In my book I tried to discuss it in as abstract and universal a manner as possible. Once you are convinced that there is a higher reality -- whatever you wish to call it -- then naturally you will want to be in communion with it. It's as simple as saying that there is O and there is (¶), and we want to establish an open system between the two. Once the open system is established, then "evolution" may take place.

I'm thinking of puberty. All of a sudden, it dawns on you that girls exist. Then, you say to yourself, "I want one." How can I establish a relationship with one of these mysterious creatures? What do they want from me? Why does it seem so easy for others? Why can't I have that one?

There is an adage to the effect that disagreement between the sages is a divine mercy. Perhaps God has given the different revelations -- or even the different inflections within each -- because not everyone can fall in love with the same one. For some, it's love at first sight. For others, more like an arranged marriage, in which you marry first and fall in love later. Many people only pretend to be married, with no real passion at all. How do you maintain a passionate marriage?

That's a different question. But is it? I have mentioned before that when Bion saw a patient, he didn't want to know anything about them up front, for example, whether or not they were married. Rather, he wanted to decide that for himself. You see, many people are married, but not really, not in the deeper sense of the word, only in a conventional sense. My parents were "married" for 40 years, but not really, certainly not the way I am. Or, to the extent that they were, much of their bond revolved around what I would call (-p), or "minus passion," the same way our scientistic jester is married to this blog. He's not here to love us, but to argue with us, which is every bit as "binding" as any other passion.

This is not to say that my parents didn't love each other. They did the best they could with the material at hand, but it's very obvious that mind parasites with agendas all their own were also married to one another, in a mutual dance of projective identification. Bion noted that there were three main links between subjects, L, H, and K (or love, hate, and knowledge, plus their "minus" versions). Obviously, in approaching the Divine, we want to do so with the links of L and K. In contrast, the obligatory atheist has just as passionate a relationship to O, only it is through an H link, or often a -K, which accounts for their invariably foolish metaphysics, which only other atheists believe -- and which they believe in order to maintain the passionate H or -K link.

As with marriage, it hardly needs to be emphasized that many people who claim to be religious are not, at least as far as I am concerned. What then are they? Well, it's not just confined to religion. Most people aren't anything, not in any coherent and consistent way. There is no real "center" to them, except perhaps in the vital sense. They have a lot of appetites and sentiments, and that is the arbitrary and shifting center out of which they operate. And even then, "center" is the wrong word. They have a "middle," but no true center, because the latter implies a dynamic, self-organizing interiority which they lack.

Religion very much involves locating your center -- which resonates with the ontological center of being -- and living out of it. In so doing, it becomes more "robust" while becoming both deeper and higher (which amount to the same thing). But again, it can only take place in dynamic rapport with O. One must have a living relationship with the nonlocal order, not merely a "formal" or conventional one. Prayer, meditation, lectio divina -- again, all of these are merely the means to establish and deepen the link to O.

I suppose this is where I part ways with the traditionalists, as my main concern is not so much with maintaining strict fidelity to authorized forms of spiritual transmission, but with establishing the transmission "by any means necessary," so to speak -- although great weight is given to established doctrine, and for most people, this will be their best bet.

As a matter of fact, my doctoral dissertation touched on this subject, as did the second academic paper I published back in 1994 (seems much longer ago -- like several lifetimes). That paper was entitled Psychoanalysis, Chaos and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure. It demonstrated the striking parallels between Ilya Prigogine's theory of dissipative structures and Bion's theory of mental development, or "evolution in O."

In hindsight, one can often see the same recurring "deep structure" in the work of a scientist, artist, or thinker. Now that I look back on it, this would obviously be one of the central threads that runs through my work. In a way, it is as if I had a number of "realizations" in 1985, and the rest has involved working out the implications.

It is a cliche -- but nevertheless true -- that our wounds are often the portals through which we may exit ourselves. In the lead is the gold, as the alchemists used to say; our defect is often a gift (just as every gift carries a curse). In my case, I was aware from the earliest age that something was amiss between me and my parents. No, they weren't abusive in any sense of the word, nor was I materially deprived in any way.

However, it was clear to me from the age of five or so that there was a lack of chemistry. Quite simply, they did not understand me, not in any deep way. It was as if I had landed in the wrong family. They still "related" to me. They weren't at all withdrawn. It's just that it wasn't "me" to whom they were relating. Thankfully, I never became that person. Many people do become the person to whom their parents relate, and then go to a psychologist to fix the problem when they reach adulthood and can't figure out why something is lacking in their life. What is lacking is their true self. Fortunately, I found other ways to identify and develop my true self, but it wasn't easy.

In one sense, I can't say that I blame my parents, as it would have required very unusual people to understand me, and that itself might have had its own downside, as eccentric people often have a lot of baggage. I'm running short on time, so I don't have time to go into all the details, but because of the lack of connection to my parents, I have a heightened awareness of this whenever I experience it in life, which is quite frequently. Indeed, I can now see that one of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with other people who are "like me," and who share the same idiom (idiom being a psychoanalytic term of art that has to do with the people, ideas, and objects we require in order to articulate our true selves).

In any event, if we transpose these ideas to the key of Spirit, we have to imagine God as a good father who -- being good -- wishes to establish an open system with us, in which we connect at our deepest level. In this regard, I can see how different my relationship is with my son, as compared to my father's relationship with me. In the case of my son, from the very start, we have been very aware of his unique subjectivity and idiom, and have tried to respond to him in such a way that he won't feel that sense of alienation that occurs as a result of being unable to locate an "interpersonal world" that corresponds to our deepest self.

Back to the question before the house. O is like a multifacted jewel. It is one, but has diverse modes that correspond to the deepest nature of those who approach it. Locate your center -- your psychic being -- which is "behind" the empirical ego, and is the blueprint of your true self. It is like a bead on a celestial string that descends from God to you. Find the divine language, the logos, that speaks to this true self; in a sense, the two cannot be separated, for to find the idiom is to locate the Self and therefore God. Then it's just a matter of deepening the conversation.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Bewilderness Adventure: Where Do I Begin?

Good news and bad news. The good news is, with no one else in the house, I slept 10 hours. The bad news is, it's 7:30, so this post is almost over.

I occasionally get emails from people asking for specific spiritual advice or direction, but it's generally difficult to know what to say except that you have to proceed as if your hair is on fire. Normally, this kind of enthusiasm cannot be manufactured, which means that the Raccoon approach pre-selects for a certain kind of person whose hair is already on fire. My job is just to pour on more gasoline.

So it's a bit like asking how to be a professional basketball player. Easy. First, grow to 6' 6". Next....

One of the inevitable problems is that religion (at least in its presentation, not in its essence) is geared for the average mentality, not the exceptional. It's very much like the educational system, which, in order to reach as many people as possible, surrenders depth for breadth. Of course, it didn't used to be that way. Until relatively recently, education was restricted to a class of intellectual elites. Now we have the idea that everyone should go to college, which is one reason why a college education is so meaningless now.

The left was at least clever enough to realize a generation ago that college serves mainly the social function of prodding this herd of intellectual mediocrities to think the same way. This is the reason why your average professor has the identical thoughts as your average MSM journalist. They are the modern day equivalent of medieval peasants who all believed the same thing about religion. Thus, the more "educated" you are, the more likely you are to believe in all sorts of nonsense, from global warming to the redefinition of marriage. Is anyone thinking of global warming today, when we have an actual crisis on our hands?

But the comparison between college and religion only goes so far, as it excludes the element of grace, which is a necessary condition for any spiritual growth. While I am happy to report that grace is everywhere, nevertheless, it is highly focussed in some areas, which is one of the primary purposes of a traditional religion: to serve as a "channel" or focus for grace to operate.

I was just reading about this yesterday in a book about Guenon, who wrote that there is a "spiritual presence" that is activated through the collective work of an initiatory group. You know, "whenever two or more gather in my name," etc. This is obviously a real phenomenon, and is one of the exciting possibilities of the internet. We don't want to trivialize it, but the point is, there really is a Coonosphere, a sort of morphic space that opens up as a result of all these individuals around the world vibrating at the same spiritual frequency.

Rooth speculates that perhaps this presence "manifests in some way at the point where the 'lines of force' between the participants intersect, as if its 'descent' had been summoned directly by by the combined effect of these 'forces' at this particular point providing it with an appropriate support."

So in a way, it is analogous to building a radio tower to pick up the radio waves. We aren't creating them, merely receiving and amplifying them. Obviously, all rituals are intended to accomplish this, as are meditation and prayer.

Well, out of time. I'll just reproduce some of the letter, and toss it out to the community, as I am sure there are many of you in the same boat. It's no one you know, but I think I'll omit some of the identifying details anyway:

"I find myself at a crossroads in my life... I’ve been reading your blog now (as I did your book!) for some time, and I’ve even started reading more Schuon (among others) in an attempt to make sense of what I 'feel,' at least in comparison to what (intellectually) I know to be true… But I must say, it’s not always a pretty picture, and I’m hopeful that with your kind indulgence, I can posit a question or two as to where a lost raccoon might find a warm spot in which to rest his weary bones….

"I’m *** years old, and am in the process of getting divorced after a rather difficult marriage of nearly *** years… In that time, my growing interest in spiritual matters has actually contributed to the schism that exists between me and my (soon to be) ex… And although I’m certainly sad and somewhat depressed at the breakup of the marriage, it is an opportunity for me to more freely explore that 'itch' that has been growing within me for many years now…

"I consider myself an intellectual, but that only means it’s probably harder for me to understand and accept the role that (a lack of) faith and belief have in my (lack of) personal spiritual experiences… In reading your blog and the writings of Schuon (et al), I’ve come to realize that I need more specific tutelage in the esoteric traditions that I’ve come to 'feel' are true in my heart… My question for you then, is how does one go about finding a 'master' willing to take me on as a student???

"There are several Eastern Orthodox churches in the area -- do they offer the best path towards my salvation??? Or is the road I’m on now, one of more individual learning through my readings and subsequent ponderings a more fruitful approach??? I was raised as a Catholic, and have some inner distrust of the main organized religions for some reason -- I’m worried that any organized church will welcome me as a 'paying customer,' but not really welcome a 'raccoon,' who is after personal enlightenment/transcendence, rather that joining the congregation in solving world peace (maybe I’m being selfish here, but I’m trying to save myself first, then I’ll worry about the rest of the world!)…"

"Anyway, I’m hoping that the experiences in your own life may help me answer some of the questions that I have in mine…

"Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work on the blog -- it truly has been an inspiration to me in terms of helping me more clearly understand what I’m looking for in life…"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Play Date

Mrs. G. decided to take a mini-vacation with Tristan, a friend, and her daughter. Tristan and his young lady friend wasted no time in checking out the hotel bed:

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