Friday, April 23, 2010

Promissory Gnosis in the Cosmic Treasury

For today's repost, I have selected an ancient and venerable blast from four years ago. I have edited it quite a bit, since the subject is rather tricky, and when I first wrote it, it was hijacked by a unifying thread of wordplay centering around money and banking, sometimes at the cost of fungible clarity. I've tried to better explicate the plain meaning, but probably haven't fully succeeded in backing up my promissory gnosis.

I was moving some stuff around my office and found an old post-it on the floor, under the desk. On it was written the marvelous sentence, I was beginning to sense that the night had written a check that the daylight couldn't cash. Those aren't my words. I lifted them from Lileks, who was quoting another writer whose name I can't recall. I found the sentence arresting enough to file away for future abuse.

In a way, that's the big question, isn't it? We're only alive and in the light for a brief period of time between two dark vaults of eternity. In that brief span of time, can we shed sufficient light on our murky past to comprehend it? Even scientists who are otherwise blinded by the literal daylight recognize that our origins are obscured in a figurative mystery that the worst of them only abuse in order to simplify.

After all, anyone can make a mystery go away by imagining what's in it. In this regard, scientistic fantasies are really no different -- and serve the identical function -- as the most primitive tribal stories of cosmic and human origins. We forget that "Big Bang" was originally a term of ridicule. Which it should be, if it is taken to be a sufficient explanation of creation in all its dimensions and modes, vertical and horizontal, exterior and interior.

So the question is, in being inexplicably conceived and burped out of the cosmic voidgin, has time written us a bad check that eternity cannot cash?

Looked at strictly temporally, our lives are a culmination, the detritus left by 13.7 billion years of meandering evolution, just the cosmic effluvia deposited along the banks at the terminal moraine of the now. If our existence were truly limited to this temporal line of credit, it would be nigh impossible to account for the miracle of the human subject -- not just that it is, but what it knows, for radical contingency could never know absolute necessity.

For really, all adolescent scientistic kidding aside, how, while drifting along in the stream of mere material shuffling, did the cosmic current somehow raise itself above the plane of matter, and awaken to a non-empirical dimension of immaterial space? That’s some evolutionary currency. The question is, is it backed by the full faith and credit of the Divine Treasury, or is it only a rubber check issued by the Bank of Darwin located in Fort Hard Knocks?

Some 3.85 billion years ago, the evolutionary stream defiantly wrapped around itself and created a tiny loophole amidst the greater whole. Up to that point, the cosmos was truly “one.” But it was a purely material one whose circumference was everywhere and center nowhere. With the emergence of Life as such, the cosmos now had a center, a center with branches in every living thing. In having a center, it now had a here and a now, whereas before, it only had a featureless everywhere.

For Life itself is not a spatial center but a hierarchical and therefore vertical center. Whatever else Life is, it manifests something that mere matter does not. To paraphrase E.F. Schumacher, it is more fruitful to think of matter as “life minus x” than it is to think of life as “matter plus x.”

This is why it is hopeless to defer to biology as to the nature of Life as such. As I mentioned in the book, a biologist knows no more about the nature of life than a watchmaker does about the nature of time. As I have noted before, although it is obvious to me that the cosmos manifests intelligent design, I do not rely on this to inductively leap the conclusion that God therefore exists. This is like proving the existence of time by studying watches.

Etymologically, the word evolution is linked to the word for “unroll,” as in the way an ancient manuscript was unfurled. On the one hand, we see that the unrolling tide of evolution has been accompanied by increasing novelty and complexity which is tucked away in that evolutionary data bank known as the genome. But where does the compound interest come from?

In other words, accompanying the horizontal course of evolution has been a vertical liftoff as well. As human beings, this is the only horizon we are really interested in. This vertical horizon is an area of increasing centration, following in the wake of that first declaration of vertical independence represented by Life. Life is that narrow slot we have all leapt through in order to have our precarious subjective existence, like a little eddy formed in the stream of time.

But instead of being swallowed up by the tide, that little primordial eddy grew in strength, widened, and gained increasing vertical centration. Still surfing atop the precarious flow of matter and information -- a little whirling dance on the knife edge between immaterial being and material non-being (paraphrasing Hans Jonas) -- mere animals eventually awakened to humanness.

And that is not all, for the centration and widening of vertical evolution did not end with that first proto-human primate looking around and thinking to himself, “Hmm. I’m alive. I am screwed.” Rather, it seems that, immediately upon awakening to his humanness some 35 to 40,000 years, our distinguished furbear pledged allegiance to the vertical order that had sponsored him. Admittedly, he sometimes did this in awkward and gruesome ways, such as human sacrifice, self-mutilation, and suicide bombing. But he also did it in some preternaturally beautiful ways, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux and Alta Mira.

Which raises an interesting question. Just what was this new subjective dimension that human beings had stumbled upon? Most mysteriously, why was it not an empty vault? In other words, why did it contain such riches as aesthetic standards? What’s the point of beauty? For that matter, why is the world that we awakened to so beautiful? Is it really beautiful? Or do we just see it that way? If the latter, why?

So human beings erected an altar. The purpose of the altar was to further “widen” that same little slot that was initially opened up by life. By widening that slot, human beings obtained increasing awareness of other inexplicable vertical characteristics, forces, and luxury capaxities: a sense of the sacred, the penumbra of holiness, love of truth, understanding of good and evil, refinement of the heart. Each of these represented a subjectively objective reality that was discovered, not invented.

For proto-man to become mankind proper, it was a matter of assimilating more and more of what was discovered in the vertical, all of these traits and capacities that have no Darwinian utility at all. For vertical evolution does not involve becoming a better animal, but a better human. And the standard of humanness is not found in the horizontal world bequeathed to us by Darwin, nor by naive scientism in general. Mankind owes nothing to Darwin for those things that lift us above the tide of animal evolution.

For there are only two absolutes; or a relative absolute and an absolute Absolute. Everything else is a matter of degree and scale. At one end -- call it the lower vertical -- is pure insentient matter. The secularist Sons of the Earth have pledged their allegiance to Omnipotent Matter, Mother of All Mamafestation. This is Horizontal Man. He is indeed made in the image of that which he reveres and idealizes. He is king of the lowerarchy, a prince in hell.

At the other end of the spectrum, at the toppermost of the poppermost of the cosmic hierarchy, is the true Absolute, the Sovereign Good, the Alpha and Omega that radiates its All-Possibility down into the herebelow. This is the transcendent peak toward which Sons of the Light fix their gaze. For we are neither dirt nor divinity, but somewhere and someone in between.

And that is not all. For in a hierarchical cosmos, each created thing is superior to something below it and inferior to something above. As such, "ye shall be godless" is logically equivalent to the primordial lie, “ye shall be as gods." Thus, secular man is his own god, albeit the petty flatland god of an ontologically diminished horizontality. In his relativism he pretends to feel no better than anyone else, but in elevating his relativism to an absolute, he secretly knows that he is superior to everyone, especially God. He has no way of knowing his place in the cosmic scheme, his proper caste.

This represents a small triumph for darkness, the primordial darkness accompanied by belief in the serpent’s promise of horizontal self-sufficiency in the closed circle of animal existence. You may have noticed that the serpent has insufficient funds to back that check written in the cosmic dark. As such, there's no way to amortize your lifeloan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Secret Message of the Human Form

Short on time. A couple of rewordgitated laughedovers.

In a logoistic universe, everything is a symbol, and will therefore "refer" to something else. It is for this reason that concrete things are knowable in their abstract essence, and that essential things (archetypes) may take on a corporeal form. It is the reason why humans can communicate with one another, and why the world communicates with man, who is its "spokesperson." Everything carries a message, including the human form. The cosmos is made of language -- in fact, various languages -- that humans may decode and understand. This is the presupposition of both religion and science.

What is the message of the human body? It depends upon how well you can listen, and what your agenda is. If you are a biologist, you may be interested in the message of DNA, of the genes which encode various protein sequences. Obviously, this is a language. Or, on the macro end, you may be more interested in the form, the phenotype. For this person, the animal form will essentially be a "message" about the environment in which it evolved. For example, the thick fur of a polar bear is a message about the cold climate in which it evolved.

These reductionistic approaches obviously work in a limited sense for the lower animals. But they don't work for man; or, man clearly transcends any mere genetic or environmental explanation, if only because he is free to ignore his genetic "programming" (for example, he can choose to either pass on his genes or keep them to himself, which violates the whole point of natural selection), just as he can choose his environment (i.e., he needn't live in eastern Africa, where man evolved). You might say that if man comprehends natural selection, it cannot comprehend him. Or, if man understands his own genetic programming, he is no longer subordinate to the program.

Now, in the Coonifesto, I suggested that man is subject to two main programs or blueprints. There is the horizontal or terrestrial blueprint of our genotype; and there is the divine blueprint containing our "celestial archetype," so to speak. Any attempt to reduce the latter to the former is just plain silly. It accounts for the shrillness and condescension of reductionistic Darwinians who try to shout down their opponents with a "truth" that cannot be true.

The majority of scientists are not intellectuals properly so-called, but merely worker bees practicing a servile art on some micro-problem at the fringes of the ponderable or abstract Cosmos. We do not consult them for human wisdom, to say the least. Although a biologist specializes in "life," it would never occur to us to consult one to help determine the best way to live. Likewise, physicists specialize in the "material world," but it wouldn't occur to us to consult one to help us decide on the sorts of material objects we should use to decorate our house.

In short, the dispute between radical atheists and their opponents is basically a problem of knowing one's caste, or of material intelligence vs. spiritual intellect. Being that the divine plenitude results in a hierarchical, full employment cosmos, atheists surely have their (mainly catabolic) role and their place. It just isn't at the top.

The following is imperative: if we want to know the proper way to live, or understand the nature of beauty, then we must consult someone who is in touch with "reality," that is, human reality. Human reality is not found in mathematical equations or genetic programs, which are abstract, not real. The whole point of religion, properly understood, is to reconcile the human with human reality, or appearances with the Real. And the Real is not found "below," but above.

Equally important, this is not to say there is no "below." Obviously there is, since we are standing right above it. Religious people who deny the below end up looking just as silly as scientists who deny the above. If there is an above, there must be a below. Ultimately, as we shall see, man "refers" to God, and vice versa. This is the principle "message" of the human being, both in his objective and subjective states, i.e., body and mind.

As Schuon writes, "to say that man, and consequently the human body, is 'made in the image of God,' means a priori that it manifests something absolute and for that very reason something unlimited and perfect."

Here again, this is imperative: being the "summit" of creation, man transcends his animal form, even while having one. In other words, the human being is the quintessence of "earthly creatures, but also -- for that very reason -- the exit from their condition." Thus, "to see a man, is to see not only the image of God," but also a doorway that is open towards the "illuminating liberation."

To put it another way, we are the door or the lens through which God's energies are focused most intensely, a locus for the "inpouring" of grace into the world. But every entrance is an exit, so God's way into the world is our way out to God. Or, to paraphrase Eckhart, God's inflowing is our outflowing; or, God's outflowing is our inflowing. Same difference.

Now, among the human -- not merely genetic -- archetypes, are Male and Female (in fact, the genes are an expression of the archetype, not vice versa). Male and female, he created them. As maintained in Jewish thought, the Human Being as such is not male or female, but a complementarity of Male-Female, which is precisely why marriage is a sacrament, because it helps bring us closer to the divine archetype that transcends our individual and separative existence. And it does so through the unifying principle of love (not just Darwinian survival), which is only fitting. Even Darwinians get married, but one wonders why. In other words, why don't they just obey their genes and reproduce as indiscriminately as possible, like NBA players?

Again, if what we are saying is true, then we should see abundant evidence of man's deiformity. Here is an example that you will either understand or not (probably not if you went to graduate school), so I won't press the point. Being that God is by definition Absolute, he is necessarily Infinite. As Schuon writes, "the masculine body accentuates the first aspect, and the feminine body the second aspect." In other words, male principle = Absolute, female principle = Infinite (or you could even say 1 and 0, but I'd like to keep the discussion clean). This breaks down into further intelligible complementarities, such as the infinite compassion of Mother and the Absolute law of the Father; or Mercy and Justice; or "my baby's innocent!" vs. wait 'til your father gets home!

Culturally speaking, in the absence of the Father principle, there is only mercy and compassion, therefore the creation of victims, no matter how guilty. But in the absence of the Mother principle there is only rough justice for innocent and guilty alike, as in the Islamic world. Infidels and women get what's coming to them, even though they don't deserve it. But in liberal victim culture, no one gets what's coming to them, so no one learns, changes, or profits from experience.


If the human body carries a message, who's the messenger? Is it Darwin or God? Or some weird hybrid, like Dargod or Godwin? In other words, if the body is a reflective surface, does it only reflect the below, or does it also convey information about the above?

As we have discussed before, this is a problem science can't even pose, let alone resolve, because it excludes at the outset that which the scientist is not predisposed to believe. But for the believer, there can be no privilege higher than Truth, regardless of where it comes from or leads to. Science can only deal with a small subset of this greater Truth, and cannot even justify the existence of its own assertions, as per our friend Gödel.

Speaking of Gödel, now that I think about it, there were probably three or four singular intellectual developments in the 20th century that must be counted as being of the utmost importance to metaphysics, for they decisively undermined the entire metaphysical framework of reductionistic scientism.

In no particular order, these would be Gödel's theorems, which proved that any sufficiently complex logical system contains assumptions that cannot be justified by the system, but which are nevertheless true in the platonic sense (by extension, this means that a logical system can be consistent or complete, but not both).

Never forget Gödel.

Second, the nonlocality of the cosmos, as per the "experimental metaphysics" of Alain Aspect, which showed that subatomic particles are in instantaneous communion, irrespective of the distance involved.

Third, the emergence of chaos and complexity theories, revealing the deep fractal order of the cosmos at all levels, and how complex systems are governed by nonlocal attractors.

And fourth, the systematic mapping of the unconscious mind, showing that human thought results from a dialectical (or "bi-logical") synthesis of the asymmetrical conscious and the symmetrical unconscious mind.

Any attempt to comprehend the world without these deep truths will be feeble at best. As you may have noticed, religion has no difficulty accommodating these truths (indeed, it rests upon them), whereas they are highly problematic for any linear, atomistic, rationalistic, mechanistic, or reductionistic metaphysic. For example, anyone who has felt the real presence of a Great Soul who is no longer technically living, has no problem with nonlocality. I mean, I rely upon guidance from the "communion of saints" in the same way another person might rely upon wikipedia. I just take it for granted that they can speak to one in the here and now, across any spatial or temporal boundaries. It's not magic. Rather, it would be magic if they couldn't.

Nor does any religious person have a problem with the idea that science can provide no final answers to the quandary of existence. Rather, he is very comfortable with the provocative symbolism of revelation, which vaults the mind into a higher and deeper understanding, into the very dimension from which truth and revelation emanate like so many sparks from a central fire. Science can't do that.

And surely, no believer has a problem with the idea of mysterious archetypal attractors that seem to canalize or lure existence from a nonlocal phase space. Isn't this why we pray to do the Creator's will, to conform ourselves to the greatest and most attractive Attractor of them all?

And what sophisticated believer would be a big enough ass to think that mere logic is capable of mapping reality? Please. We thank God for the unruly symmetrical logic of the unconscious and supraconscious mind, for it is truly the Spice of Life. Without it, we couldn't have imagination, poetry, music, humor, mythology, and even the visionary leaps of the true scientist. If not for the unconscious (I should really say "transconscious" or "metaconscious"), bean-counting mathematicians would be the legislators of this world, instead of poets and prophets.

Now, as we were saying yesterday, the supreme principle breaks out into the absolute and infinite, or the male principle and the female principle. As Schuon writes, "each of the two bodies, the masculine and feminine, manifests modes of perfection by definition evoked by their respective sex; all cosmic qualities are divided in fact into two complementary groups."

This is just as the physicist Neils Bohr might have predicted. In fact, in my list of 20th century metaphysical breakthroughs, I should have mentioned the principle of complementarity. In your day-to-day life, whenever you are confronted with a seemingly unresolvable paradox, it's almost always a case of complementarity -- not "either/or," but "both/and" -- for example, time/eternity, form/substance, subject/object, matter/spirit, wave/particle, conscious/unconscious, male/female, science/religion, intelligent design/natural selection, tastes great/less filling, etc.

As it pertains to the complementarity of male/female, Schuon points out that there is naturally something anterior to this, which is "the non-material being that was the primordial androgyne," and "which survives in each of us." This is Adam Kadmon, the Cosmic Man, or divine blueprint for humans.

What this means is that the human form is a "harmelody," i.e., a complementary synthesis of vertical chords (the archetypes) and horizontal melody (or terrestrial plunge into time and evolution), and that we are of a nonlocal piece with the stars that gave birth to the elements of which we are composed. In other words, when a human being looks at a star in the night time sky, he is really registering photons from a long-ago event that might very well mirror his own cosmic birth. The cosmos is thoroughly entangled with itself in this bizarre manner, so that we can literally see our own cosmic past as it arrives at our doorstep.

And to say that we are but a fugitive dream within the deathless, sleeping what's-His-G-d-name, is simply to acknowledge that our life is a dream dreamt by the nonlocal Dreamer beyond name and form, a Dreamer that lives within our deepest Self. Yes,

The world of things that come to be and cease to be is a world of dreams. He who is asleep and dreaming (in the literal sense) in this world is in reality dreaming doubly; and when he wakes (in the literal sense), he is like a man who has been awakened from an "incidental" sleep, but has given himself up again to his "natural" sleep. --Hermes

So awaken to the great Dreamer who dreams the dream of this cosmos, and dream actively instead of being passively dreamt -- especially by the hypnopompous dreams of sleeping materialists.

I once had a dream. I dreamt that I, even though a man, was pregnant, pregnant and full with Nothingness like a woman who is with child. And out of this Nothingness God was born. --Meister Eckhart

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Searching for Absurdity in an Intelligible World

So, yesterday's post was just a roundabout way of saying that in order to take back control of one's film, one must first get back to Magnetic Center by eliminating the A influences and assimilating the B influences:

"The heart must therefore be pure, and if not already pure it must be purified. This is the sine qua non of success" (Mouravieff). You know, wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Or, unless you are coonverted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (which is, of course, within).

And when we say innocent, one must especially be innocent of lying, in particular, to oneself. Just this morning Mrs. G. and I were talking about how (cautiously!) pleased we are with how Future Leader is turning out, in that he is completely unrepressed and full of life, and yet, polite, compassionate, and well-mannered. All along, we've been working with the idea of not allowing the "civilizing process" to succeed at the cost of having to repress and deny critical parts of himself. When that happens, it sets the stage for secret lives, unarticulated agendas, psychic envelopes, emotional blockages, barriers to thought, attacks on linking, etc. Mind parasites.

Mouravieff points out that the admonition to be as little children has often been taken "as a restriction of the intellectual life," which is obviously an error of the first magnitude. Indeed, it leads to nonsense such as this: an atheist group calling for a "national day of reason" -- as if there is anything reasonable in not knowing the limits of reason. When Jesus said to be as little children, he certainly didn't mean that we should all think like childish atheists.

Paul clarified the issue when he said that one should be mature in intelligence, understanding, and judgment, but be "babes" in terms of malice.

Skipping ahead a little, Mouravieff makes a provocative point that "Our lives often resemble a well-conceived theatre play in which the roles are upset by a person searching for an absurdity; each of us is this mischievous or comic being." Emphasis mine. But why the emphasis? I think because this goes to the issue of mind parasites, which can almost be defined as a "(sub)person in search of an absurdity."

For what is a mind parasite, ultimately? It is a semi-autonomous bit of consciousness that has split off from the central self, and has an agenda all its own. This agenda is never rational from our point of view, but is usually rational on its own plane.

Take, for example, the routine case a girl who is sexually abused or traumatized in some way, and then grows up to think she is a "lesbian." Unconsciously there is a fear and rejection of men, but it comes out as a pre-oedipal attraction to women (in the pre-oedipal stage we are still merged with Mother). In other words, it is a movement back in developmental time to before men -- and sexual differences -- even existed (and with it, a confusion of sex and mothering).

But in any event, mind parasites are always seeking an absurdity, whether it is the fantasy of complete safety, escape from death, omniscience or intellectual certainty on the plane of reason (like the above atheist group), freedom from sexual differences, suspension (or reversal) of time, etc. Freud focused on the denial of sexual differences, but modern psychoanalysis has revealed many more.

And this also goes to what I was saying above about Future Leader. When it comes right down to it, we are trying to raise a child who is free of mind parasites, but who is also, and most importantly, good. Think of an extreme case, say, Tiger Woods. He had very "hands on" parenting, but what did it result in? An absurd compulsion to spend 16 hours a day seeking a kind of meaningless perfection that is impossible anyway, while spending the rest of his time living out the secret lives of his sexual mind parasites. He's truly a miserable, pathetic human being, an utter failure. And if I had a child like that, I would never recover from the shame.

When mind parasites hijack the script, "Life then takes on the character of perpetual compromise with oneself," causing "changes in the intellectual center due to cheating and lying; heart disease if the emotional center is sensitive and still aspires to the truth," other diseases of "obscure origin," and a general "accelerated aging" and premature death. Living a lie takes its toll, as there can be no peace within the self, only temporary cessations of hostilities.

The works of Allan Shore -- and I'm not necessarily recommending them, as they are more for professionals; for a more popularized but still sound presentation, try this -- describe the cascade of neurobiological changes that take place in the child exposed to stress. If the stress is chronic, it leads to permanent changes in the brain. It is as if the mind parasites are etched into our nervous system.

What is so fascinating about Schore's work is that it actually documents the existence of mind parasites with hard science, and even pinpoints the main areas where they take root and affect in the brain. For example, the deepest mind parasites are contained in the preverbal right brain, since it develops ahead of the left brain during the first two years of life. But since this hemisphere is nonverbal, this helps to explain why these mind parasites are beyond the reach of language, and can live out their dramas in such puzzling and self-defeating ways.

This is an extreme case, but many years ago I evaluated a man with a shoe fetish. In fact, he even wore a pair of women's hi-heeled shoes during the evaluation -- which was quite a sight, since he was a bearded, grizzled elderly man otherwise attired in a pair of soiled overalls.

I don't have time to get into the details, but it turned out that his mother had died when he was three or four years old, and that in order to cope with his grief, he would snuggle with her shoes. Quite sad, but a vivid example of "searching for an absurdity."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Recovering the Point of Your Filmography Before it's Too Late

As I was about to say before I hijacked my own post, our films can get complicated because we obviously can't control all of the action, plus there are numberless other movies taking place simultaneously, with actors wandering on and off our stage. Remember, we aren't just acting in our film, but are probably the costar in others. Indeed, sometimes the whole point of our film may be to support someone else. Think, for example, of John the Baptist, and his important role in the Jesus film.

I think it was Adin Steinsaltz who said it -- here, let me find it -- can't find it at the moment, but it had something to do with how our souls are incomplete, and everyone is walking around with somebody's missing piece. No matter who you are, you are undoubtedly carrying a vital part that may mean nothing to you, but is everything to someone else.

Anyway, our films can get quite convoluted, to the point that they deviate from their original plot. In fact, Mouravieff says that a person most often enters the spiritual path only after his film has gotten out of hand. Therefore, true spiritual evolution "cannot occur except on the basis of the original film -- after all artificially added elements have been eliminated." This would apply not just to misbegotten relationships and activities, but more importantly, the mind parasites that have taken over your production.

This entails a return to what Mouravieff calls the "magnetic center," which we have discussed in the past. Here it is. I'll extract the relevant part. Well, frankly, I'm a bit short on time this morning -- it's Future Leader's fifth birthday -- so I'll toss in some irrelevant bits as well:

It is interesting that the human body bears the permanent mark of its own dependency and incompleteness, and its previous life in another dimension. The human form is so perfect, and yet, no matter how perfect the body, there is always this odd "scar" we all carry right at the very center of our physical being, the reminder of another mode of existence: "I once abided in the infinite, and all I got was this lousy belly button." [And yet, the body wouldn't look quite right without one. As far as I know, even Cher hasn't had her belly button surgically removed or enhanced, but you never know.]

To continue our navelgazing, what does this scar signify? Well, let's see. First, it memorializes our transition from life in a watery medium to life in a gaseous one. In this regard, life during our first nine months couldn't have been more different than life after the dramatic caesura of birth, as Bion called it. And yet, our watery existence is hardly irrelevant to what comes later, as more and more research is documenting the importance of our intrauterine experience and how it "carries over" into the next world, the fetal afterlife, as it were.

Now, in our case, we didn't just treat Future Leader as a human subject from the day of his birth -- with all the dignity and nobility to which any human being is entitled -- but from the day of his conception. I would guess that about a third of modern Western mothers do this, either consciously or unconsciously. The percentage is far lower in non-Western cultures, where children are often not treated with the dignity of an autonomous subject, but instead regarded as possessions, resources, or an extension of kin or cult. For that matter, it is a truism that the most dangerous place in the world for a black person to be -- or liberal, for that matter -- is inside their mother's womb.

Our preparation for extrauterine life takes place under circumstances that are quite different from those that will later prevail. From the vantage point of the fetus, intrauterine life appears to be a "thing unto itself," and yet, it is actually pointing toward something beyond itself. In other words, its reason does not abide in itself, but in a state that will only reveal itself later. The fetus cannot know that its intrauterine existence is actually a preparation for the "big event," which always comes as a bewildering and disorienting shock.

In this regard, our physical birth is not only a transition but a death, as are all births. It is the stark end of one way of life and the beginning of another. The navel is a reminder that we were once directly connected to the source of life, whereas now we must tolerate being separate from it and renegotiate a relationship with it. In fact, one key to early parenting is to try to foster the conditions of intrauterine life in order to ease the transition and make it less traumatic. Even though the baby has left the physical womb, he remains -- or should remain -- in an external one -- a womb with a view -- for some time, so that psychological "hatching" will gradually take place over a number of months.

Following the method of cosmic analogy -- as above, so below -- what can birth tell us about the spiritual life? It is interesting, is it not, that Christianity is so permeated with the archetypal iconography of womb and of birth? "Virgin," "seed," "conception," "born again," "Mother of God," "children of light," etc. Each of these has a deeply resonant archetypal meaning for the spiritual life.

Just like intrauterine life, extrauterine life is not merely a thing-in-itself but a preparation for something else. It too has a trajectory that points to its own end, although that end will come like a thief in the night and no one knows the hour or day. All the more reason not to waste time -- to work while it is Day, for the Night will come when no man can work.

Time is all we have in this life, so to waste time is to forego eternity. The First Thing -- all else pales in significance -- is naturally to avoid being an astral abortion. Odd, but there are abortionists everywhere who will eagerly help you end your earthly pregnancy. Many of them are called "professors."

If you should end your pregnancy, you will usually continue "living" -- occasionally an astral abortion ends in suicide -- but in the manner of a spiritual stillborn or "existentialist" whose existence no longer points beyond itself. For what has specifically been aborted is essence from mere existence -- or the spiritual seed from the womb of time.

While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.

Now, just as our physical body bears the scar of its incompleteness and separation, so too does our soul bear its own version of this. For it also has a "hole" at its center that we may spend our lives trying to deny or fill in inappropriate and ultimately fruitless ways. But the hole is there for a reason. It is actually a theomorphic and theocentric hole, and there is no way to fill it unless one is properly oriented to the source of one's being. We are connected to the source of our being by a vertical channel, or OMbilicus, through which energies pass up and down, in and out -- we call these energies aspiration (↑) and grace (↓) (the latter of which must be in-spired to become operative).

How to find that I-AMbilical cord through which we are spiritually nourished? Everyone is looking for it, and there are countless Spiritual Salesmen who will claim they can sell you one. But each of us must find the path of access that leads to the Way: For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

In other words, He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

We are either in the wilderness or on the path. But once on the path, there is no turning back. One cannot return to the wilderness but must continue pushing onward, inward, and upward. In other words, you cannot be a little bit pregnant: Whoever has put his hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.

As Boris Mouravieff writes, the world is constituted of "A" influences and "B" influences, and it is through the assimilation of the latter that our "psychic center" will grow. There are a number of ways to conceptualize the "A" influences, but let us say that they are horizontal, exterior, and ultimately random, canceling each other out and adding to the sum of zero, or the total entropy of both psychic and physical death. Most men are subject to the rule of the illusory "A" influences, chasing after one or another until falling into the abyss. This is the way of the Exterior Man who dwells in Flatland.

But the interior Coonman orients himself around the esoteric Center from which "B" influences enter the field of life. Unlike the "A" influences, these do not cancel each other out, but are all oriented in the same direction and are actually the only enduring reality. To quote Mouravieff,

"In life, every being is subjected to a sort of competitive test. If he discerns the existence of the 'B' influences; if he acquires a taste for gathering and absorbing them; if he continually aspires to assimilate them better; his mixed inner nature will slowly undergo a certain kind of evolution. And if the efforts which he makes to absorb the 'B' influences are constant and sufficient in force, a magnetic center can be formed within him."

If one is successful in forming this magnetic center, it will not just attract the "B" influences but actually deflect the "A" influences. I hope this is not sounding too esoteric or "gnostic," because it should be a common experience to most Raccoons in some form or fashion. It may be new to Kit Scouts, all the more reason to listen closely to your elders.

I have come to realize that one reason I enjoy blogging first thing in the morning is that I have unwittingly set up a situation in which I shut out virtually all "A" influences and instead attempt to gather and align myself with "B" influences. In so doing, I actually reinforce my own magnetic center, which then stays "strong" for the remainder of the day.

I thought of this yesterday in reading a comment Schuon once made to a disciple, emphasizing that

"What we do in the morning is very important for the whole day; it is good not to quit the morning japa before one is certain that it has determined our being and therefore also our entire day. The brain is a sponge that absorbs the stream of appearances [i.e., 'A' influences]; it is not enough to empty it of the images on which it feeds, one must also satisfy both its need to absorb and its habitual movement.... One must infuse into the mind, as far as it will carry it, a consciousness of the Real [i.e., 'B' influences] and of the unreal; this consciousness will provide the framework for the rest. The world is a multiplicity that disperses and divides; the divine Word... leads back to Unity [and] absorbs the soul and transposes it imperceptibly, by a sort of 'divine stratagem' into the calm and unchanging climate of the Absolute..."

Speaking of Schuon, Mouravieff also writes of the benefit of maintaining contact with those Real Men whose own magnetic center is stronger than ours. This is also the value of spiritual community -- including the Coonosphere -- for what is One Cosmos but a spiritual pediatrician's office in which we can all -- myself included -- talk to the other moms, make sure that we are getting the proper nutrients, and be reassured that everything is proceeding normally in our pregnancy, as we await our voidgin birth?

One of my favorite songs on tracking down that missing cast member:

Monday, April 19, 2010

When God Directs Your Lousy Film

Let's stipulate that our life is a movie. Why do so many movies turn into horror films, or ridiculous kitsch, or boring melodramas, or tedious soap operas, or gothic comedies? Why do we lose control of the plot and forget all about the theme? Or, even worse, why can't we give up the reins and find a good director to take control of the production when it's turning out to be an obvious turkey?

Well, for one thing, we are not only starring in our own movie, but usually costarring in at least one other film. And we are supporting actors in a few additional films, and extras in countless others. Every day we have walk-ons and cameos, and it is even possible for the outcome of another person's whole film to turn on our little cameo. (I am reminded of my own GagDad, who, in every cameo, tried to give the other person a chuckle.)

I have evaluated patients who swear this is true of me, although I generally have no way of confirming it, since I don't see them again (occasionally one has written me a letter confirming the ongoing transformation that began that day). At any rate, I can't tell you how many times a patient has said that the evaluation was a life-changing experience -- even (if they are religious) that providence must have been behind it. (I'm not referring to ongoing psychotherapy, in which the change is much more understandable.)

My response is always the same: that there is an old rabbinical saying to the effect that God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages. Once one is sensitive to this idea, one looks at the bit players who enter one's film in an entirely different way, for each one could be a vertical emissary bearing a critical message!

If you think about it, I'm sure you can remember "chance meetings" on which your life turned on a dime. When this happens, it is always because the person was central in allowing you to find and express a part of yourself -- or perhaps your Self, period. As I have mentioned before, one of the primary tasks of good parenting is to do this for your child -- not to try to make him into some preconceived image, but to help him articulate and develop his true self, whatever it happens to be.

The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas refers to it as finding one's "idiom," or one's unique language for expressing oneself. The bottom line is that we generally must first discover our "inside" on the "outside." At first it may seem as if it is entirely external, but as we grow and assimilate it, we realize that it was actually an externalized aspect of our deepest interior.

Indeed, some readers will undoubtedly have had this experience with the blog. At first it's just a nebulous but nevertheless vivid experience. Let's call it (?!), since its precise nature will vary from individual to individual. It can range from, say, feeling as if someone else is, for the first time, putting one's most intimate but unarticulated thoughts into words, to wanting to throw up, as was the case with Mrs. G. when she first met me in 1983.

Indeed, I can relate to the latter reaction, because this is exactly how I felt about Dennis Prager when I first began listening to him on the radio. At first we agreed on nothing. Not only that, but he really made me angry, which was an indication that something else was going on, since I couldn't stop listening.

Today, probably two decades later, we agree at least 95% of the time, not because he is an external influence, but simply because we are coming from the same "interior place," so to speak -- a place to which he introduced me. In fact, I would say that no one has had a bigger influence on me exoterically. Esoterically it's a different martyr, but the process is identical, i.e., stumbling upon people who were able to articulate my deepest self, and without whom I would never have been able to do so, e.g., Unknown Friend, Schuon, etc.

In this regard, these externalized influences function very much like midwives who assist you in the birth of yourself. The analogy is quite literal, and the metaphor of pregnancy quite apt. At first you might be spiritually barren, or indiscriminately promiscuous, or not interested in having children. Then you unexpectedly become pregnant when a Good Seed randomly falls into your soil. The embryo, at first exceedingly tiny and fragile, slowly grows inside of you. And even after it's born, it will require a lot of extra-youterine care before it can truly stand up on its own and find for itsoph.

Obviously the idiomatic language of the true Self is not limited to the written word. I'm thinking of, for example, Timothy Ware (the future Kallistos Ware), who wandered into an Orthodox church in his late teens, and in a flash, had a deep experience of being "home." Let's see if I can find it.... It's in The Inner Kingdom, an excellent book, by the way.

This is perfect: the title of the chapter is Strange Yet Familiar: My Journey to the Orthodox Church. On the one hand, the journey is "familiar," for what could be more familiar than oneself? And yet, the journey is surpassingly strange, because it touches on providential forces that seem to be behind the outwardly "random" event -- as if one's movie has been temporarily hijacked by God, so to speak.

Ware has a quote at the top of the chapter from a hymn that is sung on Christmas eve: Heaven and earth are united today, which goes directly to the idea of our little movie being aligned with the celestial drama, at least for a moment, the moment of "divine birth" (or, in Eckhart's language, the eternal birth of the Word in the ground of the soul; for this Word, when deployed in time, is very much active, not static, therefore, more like a movie than a photograph).

I'll just quote from the story, and italicize some passages that particularly convey what I'm trying to say: "I can remember exactly when my personal journey to Orthodoxy began. It happened quite unexpectedly one Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1952..." He happened to pass a dilapidated old Gothic church that he had never before noticed, and decided to wander in.

His initial impression was of darkness and emptiness. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he noticed the icons illuminated by flickering candles, a choir singing out of view, and a few other things.

"My initial impression of an absence was now replaced, with a sudden rush, by an overwhelming sense of presence. I felt that the church, so far from being empty, was full -- full of countless unseen worshipers, surrounding me on every side. Intuitively I realized that we, the visible congregation, were part of a much larger whole, and that as we prayed we were being taken up into an action far greater than ourselves, into an undivided, all-embracing celebration that united time and eternity, things below with things above."

Like I said, (?!).

Then, after leaving the church, "I was struck by two things. First, I found that I had no idea how long I had been inside. It might have been only twenty minutes, it might have been two hours; I could not say. I had been existing on a level at which clock-time was unimportant."

He also noticed the external world and sounds of the street, which "engulfed me all at once like a huge wave.... I had been in another world where time and traffic had no meaning; a world that was more real -- I would almost say more solid -- than that of twentieth century London to which I now abruptly returned." (Notice how the ?! is now transposed, so that it is the profane, secular world that shocks, not the spiritual world.)

Despite the fact that this had been a Russian Orthodox church and that he had understood not a word of the service, "as I left the church, I said to myself with a clear sense of conviction: This is where I belong; I have come home."

And here is the money quote, a good place to leave off for today: "Sometimes it happens -- is it not curious? -- that, before we have learnt anything in detail about a person, place or subject, we know with certainty: This is the person I shall love, this is the place where I need to go, this is the subject that, above all others, I must spend my life exploring."


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Laws of Cosmic Attraction and Nausea

For this repost, I've reached waaaay down into the arkive, four years back. It's pretty basic, but perhaps it will be of assistance to newer readers who have a mysterious attraction (or repulsion) to the blog but don't know why.

A few readers have asked me to expand upon my description of the "friendly nonlocal operators who always standing by, ready to assist you."

Contrary to popular belief, the divine does not govern by authority or force, but by attraction. If people would just realize this point, it would clear up a lot of misunderstandings.

For example, yesterday I heard a comment from one of the family members whose spouse died on 9-11. She said something to the effect that "my God died that day," because He didn't intervene to stop the planes from hitting the buildings.

But looked at from the Christian point of view, this is not surprising. After all, a central feature of Christianity -- indeed, it's a little hard to miss -- is that God himself is reduced to a state of powerlessness and is crucified within history. In other words, even God submits to the rules of the universe he made. However, in so doing, he becomes the very strange attractor who draws men toward him.

In fact, in the Christian view, this ultimate case of submitting to history is the very gravitational "center" of history -- it is what history was leading up to, and the luminous point from which all subsequent history flows. It is the mysterious axis around which the very cosmos revolves.

This is in complete contrast to, say, the Muslim god, which is in fact a god of power and force, if not in principle, then certainly in fact. No offense, but it is what it is. Everywhere it has appeared, Islam has been forced upon people through violence and coercion. In the case of Christianity, it spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire, because when people heard the story, they were mysteriously attracted to it. In the case of Islam, it spread because people were attracted to the idea of keeping their head attached to their body.

(Note also that the wrong type of attraction causes Allah to unleash earthquakes.)

According to our Unknown Friend, the worship of power is the source of all idolatry. Thus, let us not pretend that there haven't been Christian idolaters. It's just that the worship of power is a human flaw, not something intrinsic to Christianity. Jesus emphasized this point time and again: "the meek shall inherit the earth," "blessed are the poor in spirit," "turn the other cheek," "blessed are you when they revile and persecute you," etc.

Even Genesis emphasizes this point. At first, Adam lives in spontaneous obedience to the God-attractor. The fall represents an act of willful disobedience -- of turning to another center of attraction represented by the serpent, quintessential ssssymbol of the horizontal.

The difference between "dark magic" and "sacred magic" is that, in the case of the former, the individual attempts to arrogate spiritual powers to himself, whereas in the latter, the individual submits to powers that exceed himself. One is achieved through force of will, the other through purity of will.

Truth, Love, and Beauty cannot be obtained through force. You cannot force someone to love you. Nor, for that matter, can God force you to love him. Why would anyone want to be loved through force, anyway?

In the realm of the vertical, attraction plays the same role as gravity in the horizontal. According to our anonymous friend, "the domain of our freedom itself, our spiritual life, shows the real and active presence of gravitation of a spiritual order. For what is the phenomenon of religion if not the manifestation of spiritual gravitation towards God -- i.e., towards the center of spiritual gravitation of the world?"

He goes on: "Now, the domain of freedom -- the spiritual life -- is found placed between two gravitational fields with two different centers. The Gospel designates them as 'heaven' and 'this world,' or as the 'kingdom of God' and the 'kingdom of the prince of this world.' And it designates those whose will follows or is submitted to the gravitation of 'this world' as 'children of this world,' and those whose will follows the gravitation of 'heaven' as 'children of light.'"

Now, one of the gifts you must cultivate in your spiritual practice is the ability to sense this "spiritual gravity." Just as your body has proprioceptors that help to orient you in physical space, we also possess spiritual receptors that help to orient us in vertical space.

If you develop an inner ear problem, you will become dizzy and disoriented in space, and probably get sick to your stomach as well. Likewise, if you have an inner eye problem, you won't be able to sense the spiritual attractors that allow you to make your way about the vertical, nor will exposure to toxic people such as Obama or Bill Clinton make you vomit (proof once again that some men are unfit to be ex-president). And please recall the importance of knowing when to vomit; it is one of our primary means of eliminating toxins from our body.

Imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if we lacked such organs of spiritual reception. There would literally be no figurative up and down, no high and low, no good and evil, no truth or falsehood. Think: the entire world would be like academia.

One hardly has to imagine this spiritually weightless, topsy-turvy condition. The world is full of horizontal barbarians -- sons of the earth -- who are not oriented around any attractor above their own passions. But they love making destructive and envious raids on the vertical, the only way they know of its existence (just as a barbarian has no idea what is "inside" a book, only that it is a good thing for burning).

An extreme case would be the Nazis, who worshipped a god of pure will, of force, similar to the religious fascists with whom we are presently dealing. In the case of the Islamists, just consider the god to whom they are attracted: it is a purely terrestrial god who promises 72 virgins and other valuable prizes to genocidal mass murders.

Consider their misuse of the word "martyr" as someone who, through the force of his perverse will, murders as many innocent human beings as possible. The Christian -- or Jewish -- martyr (which means "witness," not "suicide bomber") is instead an I-witness of verticality to whom we are drawn by their living testimony -- say, dancing and singing on the way to the lions. Such a person is halfway back to paradise, in that he is fully committed to the vertical reality that is our origin and destiny.

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