Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Devil Made Me Do It the First Time, Second Time I Done It On My Own

I'm just thumbing my nous through The Spiritual Ascent -- which is a 1,000 page compendium of the world's spiritual wisdom -- for further confirmation of Father Rose's general account of the afterlife.

Beginning with the section on Judgment, Schuon says that our "transgressions" are not to be seen merely as sins, but as the absence of a positive quality, that is, privations. Just as virtue ultimately consists of consciousness of a plane of reality -- the only completely reliable guarantor of virtuous behavior -- sin must result from an absence of this awareness, more often than not self-willed (i.e., pulling the wool over one's own I).

Positive qualities such as wisdom, purity, courage, prudence, or strength -- which are real realities -- relate to some aspect of divinity. Thus, to be unaware of them, for whatever reason, is to invite their opposite. It reminds me of the truism that anything that is not explicitly conservative eventually becomes liberal. This is why virtually all organizations, from the AMA to the ABA to the APA to academia to the GOP and even to Christianity, devolve and descend into liberalism if the permanent truths are forgotten.

And not just "forgotten." Again, it is not a matter of merely "remembering dogma," although that may be an important safeguard for those who have neither the time nor the space for intellection. Rather, it must again result from consciousness of a plane of reality.

To cite an example that comes readily to mind, yesterday the children at my son's preschool put on their annual Christmas show in the school chapel. It is almost impossible to imagine a more vivid experience of innocence and purity than to hear these children -- who are mostly four and five years-old -- singing their Christmas songs. If one is conscious, it is literally heartbreaking in its purity. Now, contrast this attitude with, say, Richard Dawkins, who says that such religious brainwashing literally constitutes child abuse. One of us is insane, which is to say, out of touch with reality.

It is as if there are two "centers" or attractors, and man is situated roughly between them. However, only one of these is "real." The other one is a human creation which, by being "fed," grows in strength, just as any other dissipative structure (or open system at disequilibrium). This is how inclinations become habits and eventually vices -- you know, as brother Waylon taught us, "The devil made me do it the first time / Second time I done it on my own."

This false center then "illusorily opposes itself to the divine aspect that it denies." As Tiger Woods teaches us, "vice lives by the regular and somewhat rhythmic communication with the obscure center which determines its nature, and which, like an invisible vampire [read: mind parasite], attracts, clasps and engulfs the being in a state of transgression and disequilibrium." We create what eventually enslaves us.

Through this process, the unnatural becomes natural, and darkness is converted to a kind of obscure light one learns to live by, but which is really the heat of transgression in disguise. It continues until someone clobbers you upside the head with a nine iron, one way or the other.

If this alternative center didn't exist, then "a simple infraction would remain but an isolated case; but every infraction is by definition a precedent and establishes contact with a tenebrous center" (Schuon). As such, a large part of the spiritual adventure involves first identifying and trying to put some distance between oneself and the false center one has created or simply fallen into as a result of "culture."

Again, think of two sources of gravity, one pulling you down to the earth, the other drawing you up toward the sun. The latter is obviously infinitely stronger, and yet, the lower you go, the more the peripheral center can seem to dominate the higher. Often the person has to literally "hit bottom" and realize that there is no lower to go. After that one can only dissipate and fragment -- or, alternatively anesthetize and numb -- oneself to avoid the catastrophic but saving truth.

As Schuon goes on to say, this speaks to the necessity of periodic rites of purification, "which have precisely the effect of disrupting such contacts and and of re-establishing communication with the divine aspect, of which the transgression -- like its cosmic center -- has been the negation."

Now, how does this relate to our discussion of the afterlife? Let's toss it over to our reporter at the serene of the climb, Jakob Boehme, who has the story for us. Jake?

"Thanks Gagdad. The souls of this world who have lost their consciousness of the divine planes bear hell within themselves, but know it not, for the false world they have feverishly created hath cast them into a deep sleep, a most fatal sleep indeed. They distract themselves with their small pleasures and petty amusements wherewith they are intoxicated, so that whilst in this short life, they blot out the pain of hell, which groweth inside them like a demon seed.

"Ah, but when the body dieth or breaketh away, or when a wrathful viking chick goeth medieval on thine ass, the soul cannot any longer enjoy such temporal pleasures and take its delight in the elaborate but false world so created. Only then does the poor soul stand in eternal hunger for those objects it spent its earthly life pursuing in vain.

"Do you see the problem? Tiger does. The soul's inclination remains, but now there are no objects to fulfill it, which causeth it to be in a most grievous perpetual state of anxiety and a continuous rage of hunger for that which never existed to begin with. The itch remaineth, but no scratching be permitted. This is why we say that men can never get enough of what they don't really need -- as if one needs a stable of low-class bimbos when one is already betrothed to a hot Swedish supermodel! O, the folly of man!

"So leave that black rose alone, for in so chasing after it, you are forging your own fetters, not just in this round, but more importantly, for the 19th hole."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Making Your Way Through Vertical Middle School

A few more specific details about your post-biological itinerary. Again, none of this is for the sake of argument; rather, it's just for the sake of discussion. For whatever reason, Rose's general description strikes me as plausible. It makes sense to me, even though, on a more superficial level, it obviously makes no sense. Which is why there is no point in arguing about it, because mere mechanical reason doesn't extend to this plane.

I found this one particularly intriguing: "the dying person's spiritual vision often begins even before death." Again, it is as if the "other world" begins to interpenetrate this one. But immediately after death, the soul "remains close to earth for two days before moving into other spheres."

Then, "on the third day it experiences the Particular Judgment while passing through the aerial toll houses," which are very similar to the bardo planes described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and feature various temptations and snares to which our soul is inclined. Penultimately, "on the fortieth day, it is assigned to the place where it will await the Resurrection." Finally there is the Last Judgment, when "the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven will dawn, and all departed souls will be joined to their resurrected bodies."

Father Rose specifically rejects as heterodox the idea of a "soul slumber" between death and the Last Judgment, and now that I think about it, his view seems to be entirely in accord with, say, the detailed vision of Dante. Rose points out that "the whole Orthodox piety and practice of prayer for the dead surely presupposes that souls are 'awake' in the other world and that their lot can be alleviated." Furthermore, the "calling on the saints in prayer, and the saints' response to this prayer, is unthinkable without the conscious activity of the saints in heaven."

I am especially convinced that the latter takes place, and that one can forge a living relationship with a departed saint. Their words are infused with a transformative grace and power that are clearly not of this world. Moreover, they manifestly want to help. As I've said before, friendly nonlocal operators are always standing by, ready to assist you. One is free to argue over why this is the case, but that it is the case, I have no doubt. My own work, such as it is, -- whatever it is -- would be inconceivable without this assistance.

Just for fun, let's look at what some other reliable sources have to say, starting with Benoist's The Esoteric Path. Regarding the "intermediate realm" between heaven and earth, he describes it as a region "of struggles, temptations, testing -- in a word, the realm of duality." It is where one may encounter, among other things, "energies of non-human entities, the influence of powers of the earth," and various "elemental spirits" variously called "gnomes, water sprites, sylphs, salamanders, djinns, demons, etc." Interestingly, these "obscure forces" include "residues of long abandoned cults," and "mingle with authentic angelic powers and with wandering influences... to constitute a strange, fascinating, and dangerous world."

Frankly, it very much reminds me of the realm of the unconscious, except instead of being situated between the human and terrestrial, is between the human and celestial. It is also where "ideas take shape, languages become organized, influences are transmitted, and souls form unions."

Again, all of this strikes me as intuitively true. I mean, if true ideas don't come from above, from where do they come? Likewise, if anyone imagines that the miraculous gift of language could have resulted from material processes alone, they just haven't thought about it deeply enough.

A key point is that the value of this intermediate realm "is highly variable according to those beings who are manifest in it and who manifest it to us, for it is the meeting place of humanity and divine inspiration." It may be thought of as "the lowest part of the heavens," just as the human mind may be thought of as the highest part of earth. Try as we might, mind alone cannot penetrate this realm unaided; rather, there must always be a descent (↓) to meet our aspiration (↑), otherwise life really is an absurd bridge to nowhere, which simply collapses to the earth at death.

I am also intrigued by the idea that this realm contains the "residues of long abandoned cults," for this surely accords with human experience. For example, what is Islamism but a revival of the pagan cult of human sacrifice? Perhaps this even explains the weeping and hysteria that accompany the climate change cult. I was discussing this with a friend just yesterday, and we were trying to understand the source of their strange cultish energy that is so far beyond reason (even while absurdly couched in their pseudo-reason). It must be that they are plucking a face from the ancient gallery and tapping into one of these archetypal pre-Christian cults.

It is also important to point out that this is the realm where human imagination intersects the divine planes, i.e., the realm of healthy imagination, without which it would be impossible to understand religious symbolism or "see" spirit. But it is also a realm of dangerously unhealthy imagination, for when the human imagination merges with an obscure or elemental force, it can produce monsters, something that Unknown Friend describes in MOTT (probably in the Devil card chapter, which I believe discusses the creation of mind parasites and the generation of demons).

The imagination is an "organ of perception," without which the artist could not function. But notice how common it is for the imagination of the spiritually untutored artist to be hijacked by other forces. In our day and age, it is almost the rule, not exception -- you know, "all the lousy little poets tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson" (Cohen), to say nothing of the creepy safe school czars trying to outfist Robert Mapplethorpe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Lucky Man Who Made the Grade

That's not something you see every night. I dreamt I was the goat of game one of the World Series -- mental errors, failing to cover, bouncing pitches, throwing to the wrong man, etc. Afterwards a sportswriter asked how I felt about my performance. "I'd give it a B+... Also, let's not forget the mess I inherited from my manager. After all, he was foolish enough to put me into the game, and how do you expect me to recover from a mistake of that magnitude?"

Let's finish up with Father Rose's account of the afterlife. Much of what he says will no doubt provoke the Jesus Willies in some readers, so I will take the liberty of translighting it into plain coonglish, in a manner he would no doubt disapprove of. As always, the Sons of Toots have no place to rest their heads. The folks we like don't like us, and the folks we don't like do. Oh well. That's why we have each other.

Father Rose notes that one way to distinguish contemporary near-death experiences from actual experiences of heaven, is that in the case of the latter, "the soul is always conducted to heaven by an angel or angels, and never 'wanders' into it or goes of its own motive power," like you can into a White House state dinner.

Similarly, in the near-death literature, one is often said to have the choice of movin' on up or "returning" to earth. But in real life -- or death -- this is apparently not the case. Rather, "the genuine experience of heaven occurs not by the choice of man but only at the command of God, fulfilled by his angels." In contrast, the typical out-of-body experience does not involve angels, being that it really "takes place right here, in the air above us, still in this world."

It reminds me of all the strange experiences available to a fellow who ingests a bit of psilocybin. To paraphrase Terence McKenna, there are whole parallel worlds teeming with activity, just a few chemical microns away from this one. But these are just subtle, or less material, aspects of this world, similar to the unconscious. All kinds of crazy stuff goes on down there -- see the dream above -- but that doesn't make it "heaven." These alternate worldspaces are still very much a part of this world.

Father Rose did say that there seems to be an increase in the occurrence of occult experiences these days. Why is this? In fact, Schuon made the same point, and felt it had to do with the law of "cosmic compensation" that -- and I'm paraphrasing here from memory -- makes up for the general spiritual deterioration of our culture with a very focused infusion of grace for the sincere seeker.

Thus, truly, it is the best/worst of times, an irony of which I am constantly aware. That is, never before in human history has the perennial wisdom been so readily available, and yet, never before has it been so devalued or just ignored by the masses. True, there is in a sense "more for the rest of us," the living remnant, so we got that going for us. Nevertheless, no sane person enjoys peacefully sitting in Upper Tonga while watching the world go to hell in a handbasket.

For Father Rose, "the marked increase in 'other-worldly' experiences is doubtless one of the signs of the approaching end of this world." This kind of statement is easy to misinterpret, but when he says "end of the world," I take it to mean something similar to what has happened in the past, when one world violently ended in order to give birth to another.

This has occurred on many occasions, and it is always a wrenching experience -- say, the end of the Roman Empire, or the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy. People casually talk about the "information revolution," as if they know what it is. But we may have only seen the tip of a world-historical iceberg with extremely far-reaching and fundamentally unpredictable consequences -- as unpredictable, say, as the acquisition of literacy among the masses instead of just a handful of elites at the top.

We don't yet understand the consequences of the internet, and of "every man his own journalist," so to speak. FDR was the first president to capitalize on the new medium of radio, while JFK was the first to exploit television. We haven't yet reached the tipping point at which information becomes completely decentralized with the eventual death of the MSM -- which clearly does not provide useful "information," but a kind of top-down stability, a common mythology for the under- and overeducated. No one has any idea what will emerge from the complex and a non-linear system that results from the extinction of the state-controlled media.

When a system enters a chaotic phase, I think heaven (and hell!) is "closer," so to speak. Father Rose says that "as the present world approaches its end, the world of eternity looms nearer.... The end of the world merges with the beginning of eternal life."

This makes perfect sense if you apply the principle to your own life. Think of death, for example. When a loved one dies, you are plunged into a very different space; or, it is as if this one is infused with, or interpenetrated by, another. It's the same with psychoanalytic therapy, which facilitates a "willed breakdown," so to speak, so that a new consciousness will spontaneously emerge from the rubble. But it is an intrinsically dangerous process, because one really doesn't know what will emerge. Any therapist who promises outcome X is simply fooling you and fooling himself, because complex and non-linear systems just don't work that way.

Which, of course, speaks to one of the root fallacies of the left, the belief that you can tinker with one aspect of a complex system in order to arrive at the preferred outcome. Have you ever wondered why the very same people who believe in state control of the economy also believe in the pseudo-science of climate change? This is the reason why. Their minds are pre-programmed to believe that the world is as linear and predictable as their models of it, and that it is possible for the human mind to master the literally infinite amount of information in a system as complex as the economy or climate.

Back to the seeming closeness of heaven and earth in these troubled times. Father Rose writes that "never before has mankind been given such striking and clear proofs -- or at least 'hints' -- that there is another world, that life does not end with the death of the body, that there is a soul that survives death and is indeed more conscious and alive after death." But what do people do with it? Most seem to simply become more confused. It reminds me of the gift of literacy. What do most people do with it? Basically just waste it on garbage and trivia.

Now some intriguing details. Father Rose says that "the dying person's spiritual vision often begins even before death," apparently because the two worlds are drawing closer together, so to speak. It is as if the other world penetrates and infuses this one with a peculiar but distinct energy, something most people can experience when in the presence of the dying loved one.

Since premature death was so much more commonplace in the past, I wonder if people were much more aware of this space, or even lived in it most of the time? For them, the security we take for granted was an extreme rarity, if it occurred at all. People were not secure in their person, their health, their food supply, nothing. Thus, perhaps it was much easier for them to acknowledge the one true source of security in the Absolute.

This again speaks to the historical irony of contemporary man, whose increased security causes him to hold on that much more tightly to those very things that moth and rust doth corrupt, except a bit more slowly. Again, for this reason, spiritual progress is simultaneously easier and more difficult than ever before. Nevertheless, I give myself a B+.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Life and Death Are Like Night and Day

Addendum at the beginum of this postum: Please consider this post entirely speculative in nature. I don't normally like to engage in idle speculation, but in certain matters of the night, one hardly has a choice. So this is just Bob's unconscious, riffing off the top or possibly bottom of his head, depending on your point of view. It is anything but dogmatic, just a bed-time story made up on the spot... or maybe like fumbling around for your shoes in a dark closet.

It just popped into my head that perhaps there are two paradises -- a night paradise and a day paradise. This would be one sensible way to reconcile dualism and non-dualism, the former corresponding to the eternal daytimelessness, the latter to the endless nighttimelessness, when everything merges into one. If this were the case, it is definitely something I could live with, because it would be just like life.

I mean, I love my days, but by 10:00, I've had enough. I'm ready to let myself go, die to the day, and blissfully dissolve into the sweet darkness of the underworld. But then in the morning, it's like a brand new creation. Really, life would be unendurable without the gift of sleep, no matter how good the day. It's like rebooting your computer.

Thanks to the sleep/wake cycle, life isn't an endless line, but an inward spiral. I always feel a bit sorry for people who say that they sleep as little as possible because they want to cram as much living as they can into their short life -- as if one isn't alive when asleep! Most such people actually have a fear of the unconscious -- of falling into its world -- and defend against it by staying "awake." But that just ends up being a wake, as Joyce knew. These types are usually pretty boring, the superficial "excitement" of their lives notwithstanding.

In fact, the whole structure of Finnegans Wake revolves around the sleep/wake cycle, both on a macro and micro level. It's fractally constructed, so that nearly every page reflects the death-rebirth (or sleeping-waking) motif of its overall circular structure. In the end, the dreamer flows into the ocean, only for the ocean to evaporate, form clouds, and resupply the river. We can isolate one part, but it's obviously a total process, like systole and diastole.

It reminds me of psychoanalytic training, during which the candidate undergoes analysis four or five days a week. One of the reasons for this is that material that comes out during the session is worked over at night, so that the dream material becomes grist for the mill in the next session. Just as there are times that heaven and earth are brought closer together, e.g. the "sacred time" of religious ritual, it is possible to bring the worlds of the conscious and unconscious "closer," resulting in a more creative and harmonious life.

There is no question that the unconscious is "feminine" while the conscious is "masculine"; the same can be said of night (female, lunar) and day (male, solar). Can it then be said that non-dualism tells us something about the feminine side of God?

Oh, I think so. Christianity is an explicitly solar religion, and yet, since it is a full service faith, Mary plays a prominent role, even if it is not necessarily articulated into a coherent metaphysic by most of the faithful. Nor does it need to be, for that is part of the whole point: to "understand" Mary with the wideawake and cutandry logic of the day is like trying to r**son with your w**e when s*e's in one of those "m**ds." Can't be done. You just end up in a deeper hole.

Now, let's suppose that since man is in the image of the Creator, the sleep-wake cycle does indeed reveal something of what goes on inside the godhead. As it so happens, there are those who maintain -- and I believe Bolton would be one of them -- that creation itself follows this pattern. In other words, it is as if, on the macro scale, creation itself is the "day of God," so it will not and cannot last forever. Someday it will all end. The cosmic sun will set. But that is no more the end-end than to sleep is to die. An awful lot of stuff goes on at night on every level -- mind, body and spirit.

In my book, I think you can see that I struggled to reconcile east and west, dualism and non-dualism, naught and deity. My "solution" is found in its circular structure, which, in a way, harmonizes dualism and non-dualism through the metaphor of birth. In the womb we are at one with the cosmos, floating weightlessly in a watery medium, all our needs spontaneously met before we are even aware of them. Indeed, to be aware of "need" is to be aware of self; this is what Bion meant when he said that the infant's experience of "no-breast" was the dawn of self-consciousness.

For that is when you "realize," however inchoately, that you are not the source of life, able to magically feed yourself, but in relation to it. So the birth of the self is also the breakthrough of relationship into being. It also puts the kibosh on narcissism; or alternatively -- if something goes awry at this stage -- cultivates the soil of narcissism, which ultimately comes down to the delusion of primitive self-sufficiency, even while one needs to surround oneself with two-dimensional others -- who are just props in the narcissist's psychic fantasy -- in order to support the delusion.

To cite a vivid example, the narcissist is always masturbating, even -- or especially -- during sex. But sex itself is just a metaphor. The narcissist is also masturbating while, say, delivering a lecture on climate change, which is why Copenhagen is truly an international jerk circle.

Let's return to Father Rose's account of the after-death situation. We've been greeted by the two angels at the terminal, who grab us by the astral body and conduct us... where? Why, to court, of course. Everyone is entitled to deus process and their deity in court, even terrorists and other mass murderers.

Rose quotes St. Ignatius, who wrote that "A judging and distinguishing are required to define the degree of a Christian soul's inclination to sin, in order to define what predominates in it..." Here, the elaborate veils of self-deception and self-justification are stripped away, and your true motives revealed. In that sense, God doesn't even have to say anything, for the problem becomes obvious: "Oh. I get it now." This is very painful, the pain depending upon the distance between the lie and the Truth, rationalization and Reason.

Interestingly, Father Rose acknowledges a striking similarity between Orthodoxy and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, what with its account of various "bardo planes" one passes through. These correspond to neither heaven nor hell, but depict "the aerial world of the under-heaven where fallen spirits dwell and are active in deceiving men for their damnation." It is actually an "invisible part of this world that man must pass through to reach the truly 'other' world of heaven or hell."

Father Rose discusses the intense feelings of peace and tranquility people reportedly experience during near-death experiences, but here again, these could be deceptive. He points out that these could be more or less "natural" sensations that occur as a result of being liberated from the body. To paraphrase Ram Dass, death is like removing a tight pair of shoes. Father Rose says that "When separated from this body, the soul is immediately in a state more 'natural' to it, closer to the state God intends for it.... In this sense, the 'peace' and 'pleasantness' of the out-of-body experience may be considered real and not a deception."

However, deception enters the picture if these transient feelings are considered ultimately real, "as though this peace were the true peace of reconciliation with God, and 'pleasantness' were the true spiritual pleasure of heaven."

Father Rose contrasts this with various saints who have had the experience of the "space of heaven" breaking into this world: "more important characteristics are added in this experience: the brightness of the light of heaven; the invisible presence of Lord, Whose voice is heard; the Saint's awe and fear before the Lord; and a tangible sensing of Divine grace, in the form of an indescribable fragrance. Further, it is specified that the multitude of 'people' encountered in heaven are... the souls of martyrs and holy men."

To be continued...

Why Frank? Why not?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is There Life Before Death?

No, I'm not going wobbly on you, but I'd like to try to weave together the book we had been discussing -- The One and The Many -- with Father Rose's discussion of the soul after death.

Why? I don't know, just a little glass bead parlor game I like to play, that is, putting two random things side by side and seeing how they can be reconciled into a higher unity. For one thing, it helps me vault myself into the unKnown, beyond the edge of the subjective space I've already colonized. You might say it's my hobby. I mean, if you really only want Father Rose's take, you can always get his book.

Remember, all science -- including the science of God -- involves the reduction of multiplicity to unity, or in apprehending the unity underlying the multiplicity. But also, I feel as if I'm actually learning something if, instead of just rewordgitating someone else's work, I let the ingredients macerate in my own crockpot. I may well end up saying the same thing, but at least it will have my own grubby soulprint on it. It may be a crock, but at least it's my own.

As a matter of fact, much of this morbid discussion comes down to the question of whether the soul exists. If she does, then I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that she is nonlocal (both in space and time) and that she could under no absurcumstances result from a strictly blind material process. Therefore, the soul must continue after the event of biological death, or it's not much of a soul, now is it?

Before we veered in this new deadly direction, Bolton was just about to get into this. He notes that Descartes affirms the existence of the soul, but then diminishes its significance by equating it "with things the Scholastics would have called its accidents," that is, mere thoughts. This is in contrast to Aquinas, who maintained (correctly, in my opinion) that the soul must be an individual substance which determines "the nature of the whole person, independently of the conscious phenomena of thoughts and sensations they may entertain."

Now, most any person infected with the soul-killing virus of postmodernism will say that Aquinas is not only wrong, but that he cannot possibly be correct, since he is making an "essentialist" argument, and we all know that essences do not exist. There is no enduring self; rather, it's just a side effect -- a persistent illusion -- that is recreated on a moment-to-moment basis by brain activity. Thus, not only is it not unchanging, but it is always changing, until you croak. Like your body -- or better yet, like a whirlpool -- it is a function of its own activity. At this very moment we're all circling the drain, and soon enough we'll all be down it.

But for Aquinas, the soul is the form of the body; or, body is the substance of soul. The soul is its "immaterial type and causal principle," which is precisely the opposite of the postmodern view that insists the soul is the accidental expression of the body.

There are so many insurmountable problems with the latter view, that it could only gain traction in a world that has lost any sense of the wisdom and truth at its own origin and center. For to say that all is accident and contingency is to say that nothing can be known by nobody, and that there's no earthly reason to pretend to know it anyway.

This is a strictly insane worldview, which would make sanity a kind of insanity, since there would no ontological basis for any kind of stability or continuity, much less post-biological continuity. (Here again, the conservative project of honoring and conserving the "permanent things" is another word for sanity in a world gone mad with relativism and nihilism.)

I think this little preface is helpful, because it lays a foundation for some of the things Father Rose says, which otherwise might sound implausible. We left off with his account of the two angels who meet the newly reposed, like a couple of taxi drivers waiting down at the terminal when you disembark from the plane. I can see them now, holding an improvised cardboard sign saying GOODWIN. (People always add in the extra O.)

By the way, Father Rose makes the important point that while angels are immaterial in relation to us, they are material in relation to God; this accords with the idea of the "ray of creation" extending from the cosmic center to the periphery, and which becomes increasingly material the further it extends from the center. You will have no doubt noticed that as you develop spiritually, you become "lighter" and more "transparent," so to speak. You may become especially aware of it during a religious service, while meditating, doing hatha yoga, etc.

Father Rose next discusses the "visions of heaven" that are sometimes seen by dying people, and which are possibly false and misleading. Often, "these visions are not spiritual, but worldly. They are so quick, so easily attained, so common, so earthly in their imagery, that there can be no serious comparison of them with the Christian visions of heaven..." One immediately thinks of Islamist visions of the afterlife, -- the 72 virgins, and all the rest -- which are pure demonic fantasy disgorged from the primitive unconscious.

In order to provide some additional context, Father Rose next discusses "how man, having originally been capable of the sensuous perception of spirits, has generally lost this capacity as a result of the fall." Interestingly, "by a man's own means," he "can enter into communion with fallen spirits; but he cannot enter into communion with angels except by God's will."

Now, I don't think it matters whether one regards the Fall as literal or metaphorical, for the more important point is the perennial truth it conveys. And it is surely true that, for whatever reason, as a man develops spiritually, it is as if he recover a capacity to discern the spiritual world.

In a way, this is no more mysterious -- indeed, probably less so! -- than what happens to an infant. One of the first things I noticed about having a child is that it is literally like watching someone miraculously age in reverse -- like a person recovering from a crippling stroke. At first he's paralyzed, nonverbal, and incontinent; he can't walk, feed himself, or auto-regulate his emotions.

But it's not just a "physical" recovery. Rather, day by day, he enters the nonlocal human realm and discovers -- recovers? -- himSelf. And I believe -- no, I'm convinced -- that this is a lifelong process. That is, in a very real sense, life is the process of "becoming who you already are." Only someone who is profoundly and tragically alienated from himself is incapable of sensing this.

I might add that this is one of the seals of authenticity in genuine mental illness, e.g., a real depression or anxiety disorder. One of the most difficult aspects of depression is the loss of one's self, as it causes a kind of profound ontological -- and therefore spiritual -- disorientation. Everything that connected oneself to oneself and to the world suddenly goes dead -- as if someone cut the lines. All the signposts of meaning vanish, so that the world becomes flat and empty.

To me, that is death. In other words, "death" is not something that could occur "after" life, only "within" it. It's like they say -- the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. To lose one's soul is to be dead, whenever it occurs.

To be continued....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hey, What Happens When We Die?

After all these years, Walt finally reveals his agenda: forget all the peripheral stuff, "I want to hear more about the Person [and] the (real) individual." In short, what about Walt?

But you know what they say -- something to the effect that one letter to the editor is equivalent to maybe a thousand or so others who feel the same way. Just yesterday I was telling Mrs. G. that I really object to spiritual teachers who go wobbly at critical points, and evade the issue with gauzy platitudes -- or, at the other extreme, come up with some eccentric BS to paper over the gaps in their spiritual knowledge base. I can't tell you how often this happens. Or maybe you already know.

It was in the context of a discussion of What Happens When You Die?, which, when you think about it, is functionally equivalent to What About Walt?

I remember how it got started. In just the last few days, Tristan has been asking questions about death. He's certainly seen enough of it, since he's so obsessed with superheroes, and those guys leave an awful lot of bodies in their wake. I mentioned to Mrs. G. that the most clear, compelling, and unambiguous account I've ever read is by Father Serpahim Rose, who wrote a controversial book on the subject.

Two things about Father Rose's account: first, he pulls no punches, and is extremely straightforward. However, unlike the occult and paranormal new-age types who appear on Larry King, his is not an eccentric account that cannot be reconciled with tradition and collective experience. To the contrary, he undertook a careful study of the matter, from the earliest desert fathers to more recent luminaries such as Theophan the Recluse, in order to put forth a rather detailed vision that is surprising in its specificity, and yet, does not overreach and spookulate in the manner of new age pneumapaths.

And although his vision is undoubtedly "fantastical," all I can say is that it intuitively reasonated with me on a level beyond sense. It has the ring of Truth and Fire. He writes with a great deal of authority, and yet, like Schuon, I wouldn't call him "authoritarian." In fact, this is a common misconception in dealing with an enlightened or realized person.

Yes, like Paul Anka, their wisdom slices like a hammer, but the point is not to hurt but to help you -- to help break up knots, impasses, and blockages that are interfering with your inward mobility. If and when Cousin Dupree comes at you with his flame thrower, do run away. Even so, he never takes a corrective action merely for purposes of insultainment, but for inneratunement. The wise troll understands this and says thank you sir, may I have another?

Jesus himself came after people with a big ol' sword, and for you etymologists out there, you know that science is related to cut -- as in to cut reality right down the middle, between Truth and error, or Life and Death. Thus, any number of scientists are cut by their own sword, since they have no celestial idea of how to properly wield it. Like Charles Johnson, they grasp the wrong end, using it as a blunt instrument while bloodying their own soft and girlish hand.

I hope that all people, materialist and religious alike, can agree that if one confines oneself to this world, one will have a pretty paltry existence. Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- also lives on "the other side," for you couldn't do otherwise and still be human. In other words, heaven and earth -- the celestial and terrestrial -- clearly intersect, and humans spend most of their time at this intersection.

For example, the most materialistic scientist, if he has a passion for truth, actually has a passion for heaven. He is trying to enter that spherical realm that transcends and circumscribes the earth, and to understand it from a godlike perspective. To the extent that pursuing truth gives him "pleasure" -- which it surely does -- only a true moron would conflate this more subtle type of pleasure with lower types of merely hedonistic pleasure. Otherwise, why not eat pizza and ice cream all day instead of developing string theory, or working on the genome?

So Christianity merely takes this a bit further, into the first principles that also reveal our last ends. As Father Rose put it, it "tells us about what we are going to be doing in eternal life. It is to prepare us for something eternal, not of this world. If we think only about this world, our horizon is very limited, and we don't know what's after death, where we came from, where we're going, what's the purpose of life. When we talk about the beginning of things, or the end of things, we find out what our whole life is about."

As Damascene explains, one purpose of Father Rose's project was to present false teachings as clearly -- and fairly -- as possible, in order to expose their errors. One cannot say of him that he didn't give the devil his due. In fact, he begins with a survey of the contemporary "near death" and "out of body" literature, which surely has something to it, but is twisted and misunderstood by scoundrels who merely wish to sell books, not save souls.

Whatever else you can say of them, I don't think there is any serious question that people have had these experiences (their interpretation is another matter). Indeed, my own father had one after suffering an abdominal aneurysm, and my father-in-law -- who is and remains a devout atheist -- had one at the time he underwent a very risky open heart surgery. In his case, he was very aware of having a choice to "drift away" or "come back" at the conclusion of the procedure. Of course he chose the latter, just for spite.

Just kidding. But I can say that I don't think I've ever met anyone with such a fierce will to live.

As we all know, people who undergo these near death experiences often report roughly similar experiences of encountering "beings of light." Father Rose analyzes this evidence in light of Orthodox experience and doctrine -- both written and oral.

An important point: much of what Father Rose discusses is empirical, or at least phenomenological, nor could it be otherwise. This is true in studying any human reality, for example, what it feels like to be in love. In so doing, you have to take people at their word. You cannot study love "from the outside." Nor can the scientist who presumes to educate us about Man really have any idea what he's talking about unless he's at least kissed a girl. But enough about Charles Johnson.

As mentioned above, Father Rose does not equivocate. He does not patronize with warm platitudes. He does not go wobbly just when things are getting interesting. Thus, Tradition affirms that "the newly deceased is usually met by two angels.... The mission of these angels is to take the soul of the newly reposed on its journey into the afterlife. There is nothing vague about them, either in appearance or action; having a human appearance, they firmly grasp the 'subtle body' of the soul and conduct it away."

And then....

Damn! I hate to go wobbly on you at a critical juncture, but I'm flat out of time. To be continued.....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Verbicide and Thought Control: If You Strike At the Word, Make Sure You Kill Him

How about a little Sunday Sermon at the Wee Church of Perpetual Slack, out on the edge of the vertical frontier?

The poor old cogitio -- I think therefore I am -- takes a lot of abuse, both from materialists and non-dualists, but Descartes was really just affirming a banality that is impossible to eradicate and live to see it: that the cleft between the exterior/objective and interior/subjective worlds is the most fundamental datum of our existence.

Monists at both extremes -- the materialists on the one hand, and the non-dualists on same one -- eliminate the duality, but at the expense of all qualities. For the materialist, the most sublime human virtues and qualities are secondary reflections of meaningless and impersonal electrical and chemical processes, while for the non-dualist they result from the deceptive play of maya.

But Bolton asks the question of whether the mind/matter or soul/world duality is "simply a falsehood, or is it a truth which is open to abuse?"

Good question, because most "heresies" -- including especially secular ones -- are not so much wrong as imbalanced or out of context. Often an error is merely an overemphasized but partial truth. For example we are surely material; but are we only material?

Likewise, mankind is indeed "one." But this hardly justifies socialism, since he is also -- and more fundamentally -- an individual. Similarly, it is surely a self-evident truth that human beings are "created equal." But contemporary liberals convert this to a lie in their tyrannical efforts to enforce their notions of material equality.

It is also common -- for it is one of Obama's primary rhetorical devices -- to convert an unwanted truth to a preferred lie by distorting it beyond recognition. Thus, people who support free enterprise are "greedy," or those who are skeptical of the pseudo-science of climate change are "anti-science."

Truly, there are many liberals who will never be forgiven for what they have done to the divine gift of language, for to abuse language is a kind of slow-motion genocide -- to say nothing of deicide; when you abuse words, you abuse the Word.

Nor can one harm language without damaging oneSelf. Often psychotherapy comes down to reconnecting words to emotional and psychic reality. It is fair to say that any psychopathology involves some significant disruption in the ability to mentalize experience through language. Sick people always have an unglishable secret life that is cordoned off from the reach of words.

Just remember: if you smite a king, you'd better make sure you kill him. And if you abuse language, you'd better make certain that you kill it dead, so that it is no longer possible to even think or say truth. Only if things no longer make sense can nonsensical things be forced upon you by the left.

This diabolical project is nearly complete in academia and the mass media, where the Lie reigns supreme. Dog around with these liars and you wake up fleeced. But the problem with any totalitarianism -- whether in its hard or soft forms -- is that any truth threatens the whole structure. It's like science, in which a single black swan disproves millions of observations that only white swans exist -- which is why in science, "consensus" is conformity and one man makes a majority.

There is something in the heart of the leftist that longs to be swaddled in certainty. Here again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, just a truth corrupted. For there is nothing more certain than the Absolute. Problems arise when human beings suppose that the Absolute abides on our side of creation. If it does, then man is God.

And historical experience reveals time and again that Man is a jealous god, for he doesn't like to be reminded that certain things are fundamentally outside his control, like, oh, let's say, the climate, or the economy, or the media.

It's so simple, really. For example, it only takes a single instance of something that defies the totalistic explanation of metaphysical Darwinism for it to be untrue. And there are any number of things that are not, and can never be, explained by Darwinism. Not only is ours an empirical argument, but a principial one. For example, a single instance of man knowing a transcendent truth falsifies the entire structure of materialism, whatever form it takes, both in fact and in principle.

Now, knowledge of any kind presupposes a relationship between knowing and being, or mind and essence. In other words, to say "knowledge" is to say "mind in communion with being." And not just communion, but union-in-difference, for only in difference can we "read out" what is implicit in the communion. (Not for nothing are knowledge and intercourse coonflated in Genesis; which is why the worst knowledge is still pretty damn Good.)

Here again, this is what I symbolize as O --> (k), which is not actually an abstraction, but as concrete a description as it is possible for human beings to have.

For this is actually a complementarity between whole and part, or a kind of spiraling vector flow of the former into the latter. Clearly, the one would be inconceivable in the absence of the other -- in other words, we couldn't know truth if we weren't at one with it, and yet, we also couldn't know it if we weren't separate from it.

Just as in the case of Love, it takes three to tango. Knower-Known-Knowledge is as irreducible as Lover-Love-Beloved. In each case, it is One for Three and Three for One.

You don't know me from the wind
You never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder
--Leonard Cohen, The Future

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