Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Physician, Get Over Thyself, and Learn Something from The Life of Brian

Lord have mercy. I pray I have given a good account.

As you know, yesterday's was a repost. Readers responded with an enthusiastic "tails up," so I decided to check out the comments on the original post from five years ago, not just to gauge the reaction, but to mine them for new material.

Some readers chimed in with their own advice, but one comment stands out. After a lengthy, detailed, and helpful deuscourse on the difficulties of the path, longtime reader Brian says,

Lord have mercy. I pray I have given a good account.

This summarizes my ambivalent reaction to any positive feelings generated by yesterday's post -- not "thank the Lord," but rather, "Lord have mercy on me, a winner!," because now I own it. It very much reminds me of an aphorism of Don Colacho:

No one should dare, without trembling, to influence anyone's destiny.

Or how about, Wisdom comes down to not showing God how things should be done.

And from the complementary perspective, another aphorism: Nothing is more unforgivable than voluntarily imprisoning ourselves in another's convictions, when we should be trying to break through even the bars in the dungeon of our own intelligence.

So if things don't work out, it's your own fault for believing me. Reader waives all liability. Unprofessional seeker on a closed course. Offer void if revelation is altered or not used in a manner consistent with divine instructions.

In response to my warning to off-road aspirants and freelance seekers who attempt to go it alone, reader Squishy objected that:

"I think you do a disservice to those who shun tradition and seek out their own paths. There are mystical truths to be had everywhere, and it seems there are modes of knowing them as numerous as there are discernible bits of human culture to concentrate upon and unify with."

Which brings to mind a comment by Schuon, that "there are no metaphysical or cosmological reasons why, in exceptional cases, direct intellection should not arise in men who have no link at all with revealed wisdom, but an exception, if it proves the rule, assuredly could not constitute the rule"; and "an accident does not take the place of a principle."

True, the spirit blows where it will, but not only where it will. Rather, there are cosmic weather patterns, areas of heat and light, land and water, fire and ice.

In response to Squishy, Brian suggested that "the historico-spiritual record flatly contradicts your thesis. I do not think there are one in a million people remotely capable of being a free-spirit and actually achieving theoria of an elevated kind without the support of a singular tradition. St. Anthony the Great had to escape Alexandria and spent 30 years alone in the desert before he finally 'got it' on his own -- 30 years of private struggle! And this in a time when hardship was the norm. And let's not forget Buddha spending all those years looking for his middle-way. What age did he finally achieve his satori? Do not think you can re-invent the wheel so easily.

"No, those who claim that just anyone can go off on their own and enter spiritual warfare without the support and guidance of an active and knowledgeable community, a tradition with experience in fighting those battles, is almost certain to only find delusion rather than theosis. Too many earnest monks (Christian, Buddhist, and others) have discovered that to their dismay.

"So Squishy, the very idea is an invitation to failure from the start, since it begins with the assumption of individual autonomy, and a severe lack of humility -- these are the very things that have to be fought before theoria can occur. It is like a boy-child thinking he can step into the ring with Rocky Balboa and prevail rather than being reduced to a bloody pulp -- not pretty.

"If you, or anyone, is truly serious about this stuff, do what all those who have actually 'been there done that' advise -- commit to a tradition which has a heavy emphasis on and support for ascetic disipline (I recommend Orthodox Christianity), find a spiritual mentor, and really really listen to what he says, and really really DO what he tells you. Enlightenment, theoria, and theosis begin with obedience and humility -- all traditions agree on that."

This is no different than when one is sick, or, as Cousin Dupree reminds me, when one is in trouble with the law. He is not the first self-styled lawyer with a fool for a client. And physician, get over thyself!

PSGInfinity commented that he would be delighted to see Squishy succeed, "but I'm not optimistic. [A] spiritual journey starts out as an apprenticeship, wherein you learn the ropes from more experienced (inner)spacefarers. Most human endeavors requiring an apprenticeship do so precisely because the apprenticeship process shortens an error-filled learning curve. So good luck, and beware the pitfalls of addiction..."

Another long-time reader, Alan, suggested that "The first step is to realize you are really asleep and not alive. The second is to work on remaining awake -- knowing that you are. Everything flows from those two steps."

In other words, wake up and stay that way. You know, watch and pray. Alan reminds us of Jesus' words, that "The thief comes but to steal, and kill, and destroy. I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

Brian was unusually frisky that day. He writes that "There is a paradox in spiritual learning. The further you advance on the path, the more you realize how far you are from the goal. This has been the most humbling realization for me, the knowledge that I can never graduate and get my sheepskin from the 'U. of the Most Holy.'"

Amen to that. If this weren't the case, then I should have pretty much finished arguing my case a million words ago, but instead, I've apparently just cleared my throat.

Brian continues: "You can never stop and enjoy the view, because the moment you do, you fall into pride, and the fall is all that much greater the more you have actually progressed -- one mistake can be literally (and eternally) fatal. So I say to you, you know not of what you speak. Spirituality is a life and death game, the teacher is not books and universities but rather life and death themselves. It's a hard lesson, especially for those who are most intellectually talented."

I would respectfully modify that somewhat, because I believe there is a complementarity involved, of simultaneously "enjoying" but never being satisfied. We eat for today, but that doesn't mean we don't have to work for tomorrow's harvest. There is both "movement" toward the center, while abiding in it.

Brian warns of reducing God to a manageable concept, or of trying to contain Spirit within the boundaries of reason, O within (k):

"The Logos that can be named is not the true Logos. Squishy, with all due respect, your wish-fullfillment fantasy is to make the spiritual intellectual, because then the endeavor seems manageable, achievable, something you can do on your own in the privacy of your own home. I know this because I've been where you are (as have many many others), and even now there is always a strong temptation to reduction, just as scientists constantly battle their temptation to reduce everything to physics. That is your block (and perhaps your permanent cross to bear), the temptation to reductionism, and your pride in thinking you can do that without consequence.

"Listen, the history of spirituality [demonstrates] that transmission of teachings is easy, like any human discipline. However, realization of Truth and then living that Truth is a wholly different matter. The followers of Christ and Buddha, for example, were invariably blockheads, no matter how many ways they received the teaching. The Apostles, for example, didn't get it until Pentecost, until after Christ had shown the way by His life. You are called to follow and abandon blockheadedness -- we all are.

Not sure why Brain is a reader, since he already gets Bob: "There is an absolute and divine Truth. It is a necessary precondition for all logic, morality, and intelligibility -- it is Logos. An aspect of this truth is that we are all blockheads who keep thinking we can 'forge a path anew' and expect to arrive at the same place -- this is the hubris of the philosophers. There is no bootstrap solution -- we are fallen creatures in desperate need of outside assistance. The good news is that we have received that assistance. Descartes was all wrong when he started with himself cogitating. God is precogital."

I say -- and Brian would no doubt agree -- pre- and post-, Alpha and Omega, ground and destiny, source and goal.

Brian concludes by invoking the need to "Begin with humility -- pray for it -- empty yourself of pride, for this is the spiritual method at its core. Only then will there be space for the spirit to begin working within you. This is the first step, and the second, and the third, until the day you die, and beyond...

"Lord have mercy. I pray I have given a good account."


A genuine vocation leads the writer to to write only for himself: first out of pride, then out of humility. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

Related: Why is it So Hard to Become a Better Person?


Van said...

"No one should dare, without trembling, to influence anyone's destiny.

Or how about, Wisdom comes down to not showing God how things should be done."

Two messages, which if taken to heart by most, or even just understood... would solve so much.

But then... what would we be doing here then?

wv: wingslab
Hmmm... wing-slab... seems counterintuitive. wings-lab? I don't think McCartney is up to it anymore... oh well.

julie said...

Lord have mercy. I pray I have given a good account.

Apropos, I almost linked this video yesterday. Not my usual fare, but worth any raccoon's time, for the music no less than the dance. (Just don't click on Vanderleun's link in the comments there if you value your sanity or your job.)

No back to reading

Rick said...

Put me down, if you must, for fully injoying today's and yes!terday's posts.

Thank you, Bobtender, I'll have another.

julie said...

If this weren't the case, then I should have pretty much finished arguing my case a million words ago, but instead, I've apparently just cleared my throat.

Heh - I was thinking something along those lines after seeing Cond's comment from yesterday: "I obviously am a Newb"

As are we all...

We eat for today, but that doesn't mean we don't have to work for tomorrow's harvest.

And again, a similar thought this morning, and now I'm not even sure of the context (must have been the same nonlocal attractor...): You can't just exercise one time, no matter how hard or well you do it, and call yourself fit. Same goes for all of the little necessary things we do each day; we don't do them in order to be done with them once and for all, but rather because if we don't, everything falls apart. And of course, as above, so below.

Re. Brian, he's a good egghead. Virtually and in person, too. I hope he's doing well.

John Lien said...

"Reader waives all liability. Unprofessional seeker on a closed course.." (Heh!)

Don't sweat it Bob. We (using the royal "we") hang around because you are saying things that resonate within us. Your disclaimers have been heeded.

Open Trench said...

I have a discomfort regarding the words of Brian.

Perhaps I am evil. Let me speak my piece.

The Lord may enjoy a little rambuctiousness and rebellion.

Get humble,purified, concentrated, perfected, and you may be recalled Home, with an endorsement:

"Congrats, you're done."

But that's not very fun. You'll have to be replaced.

Why not seek out your dark spots and see what can be discovered therein? That is entertainment.

Your dramatic combat with the worse you can offer yourself is on the program for the enjoyment of the Master in the Audience.

So, if you're doing spiritually quite well and on your way to perfection, be sure you have brought your whole kingdom under your dominion, lest you leave some merriment un-reveled in.

Go among the serfs and ask them "Do any among you want to challenge the King?"

There is insubordination, unrest, and sedition brewing everywhere. Count on it. Find it. Destroy it.

mushroom said...

How often does a journey go awry when somebody says, "I know a shortcut we can take"? The shortest distance between two points might be a straight line, but it's never the point you want to get to. The quickest way to the summit is usually the longest slope.

And the one that used to keep me awake at night, James 3:1, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Gagdad Bob said...

I am always relieved when a reader turns himself into the proper authorities.

mushroom said...

If you wanna get to heaven, you got to raise a little hell?

I really don't think the Daredevils meant for that to be taken any more seriously than "Chicken Train".

Open Trench said...

I retract my previous comment. Upon reflection, it is absurd.

I'm sorry to have wasted your time.


Gabe Ruth said...

You are one prolific individual. Thank you for the re-posts, they have helped me understand where you're coming from a little better. The one from Friday really got me thinking in some interesting directions that I didn't have a chance to put down, but I'm sure if they were worthwhile they'll come up again.

I am usually distrustful of evangelical ecumenists, but I really like your willingness to take on all comers and integrate what they have to say.

Good transpersonal breeding: this is a very good phrase that I think should gain currency. Despite it's confusing literal meaing, I knew exactly what you meant when I read it.

Gagdad Bob said...

Hey, I don't like the idea of people following in my footsteps, but I'm happy if they want to borrow the light.

Gagdad Bob said...

Anybody else have experience with kidney stones? Mrs. G. seemed to have one yesterday, and was in excruciating pain. Better today, but still being evaluated....

julie said...

Oh, ouch - poor Mrs. G! I never had kidney stones, but if it feels anything like gall stones she has my deepest sympathies. Worse than childbirth. I hope she gets some relief quickly!


You are having way too much fun with these profile pics. If you're going to keep switching, at least keep the resolution high enough so we can see what they are if we want a closer look. I'm pretty sure that's not a poodle in pack-mule gear, buts it's hard to tell... :)

Van said...

"Anybody else have experience with kidney stones?"

Nooo... and no experience desired, hopefully no applications are being taken within either.

Our sympathies to Mrs. G and hopes that it's resolved soon. I suppose that the most appropriate words here are 'this too shall pass'.

Gagdad Bob said...

The profile pic is one of the things you end up with when you google "raccoon trickster." Seems to be a native American in a Raccoon outfit.

julie said...

Oh. Cool! That makes much more sense.

Rick said...

I really like the one of Uncle Leo in war paint you used earlier today.

Gagdad Bob said...

That was, of course, lead singer of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

John Lien said...

Crazy World.....clickety click...

Oh that's who did FIRE. The local, one-man, gospel preaching, rock station out here in the boonies plays that. I thought it was the Doors.

Learn something new every day.

Cond0010 said...

"So if things don't work out, it's your own fault for believing me."

No worries, Bob. Maybe have them click on an E.U.L.A. agreement before entering your website.

Besides, Religious/Philosophical people are funniest when they are most seriousest:


Riff on, Dude!


PS: I'm no Beta, I'm an Omega. You'll see. :)