Friday, June 15, 2012

Hopeless Nihilism, and Beyond!

Way out of time this morning. Therefore I dug up a partially decomposed essay from four years ago. Don't worry, it's timeless, so it doesn't smell too bad. It did have some gnostic edges that I have tried to soften, because it is not meant to imply any kind of "secret knowledge" or occult spiritual technology. Rather, it is intended to be blandly experience-near and phenomenological, just describing "what happens" when we give up and call it a deity. Or rather, dive into O and trust that something will keep us afloat and prevent us from being all wet.

The other day we spoke of the differences between (k) and (n), or of knowledge and experience. It's easy enough to have spiritual experiences, easier still to gain spiritual knowledge, but how does one make them "stick," or transform these from transient or surface states into stable and ensuring traits, i.e., (¶)?

Clown question, bro. We don't.

Nor could we ever do so, any more than we could construct a tree or grow a carrot or build a cake or cook even the most half-baked thought from scratch.

Philalethes: "The whole process which we employ closely resembles that followed by Nature in the bowels of the earth, except that it is much shorter."

That's right, shorter. Think of a baby who grows up into a normal civilized human being. In so doing, he is compressing 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution into 20 or 30 years. But why stop at normality? Why not go all the way?

Really, all we can do is create the conditions, and then get out of the way of the same energies that turned dirt into Dostoyevsky or mud into Mozart or shite into Shakespeare -- which is what "right living" is all about.

It reminds me of when people "try" to get pregnant. Often it only happens after they've given up. I've even heard it said that it's not uncommon for people to adopt a child, thinking they'll never get pregnant, only to become pregnant once they've given up hope.

I can't tell you how hopeless I am. No (temporal) ambition at all. No hope that things will ever change for the better. For one thing, how could things get better so long as I'm around to spoil them? I'm also pretty nihilistic, in that anything less than that tends to eclipse the Absolute. In other words, it's very easy to fall into idolatry.

And now that everyone is famous, anonymity is the new celebrity. "Let not him who desires this knowledge for the purpose of procuring wealth and pleasure think that he will ever attain to it" (The Sophic Hydrolith).

In my hopeless condition, I try my best to burrow more deeply into the present, and again, let the rest take care of the rust. Call it blind I-AMbition. Let the dead bury the tenured, and let the unBorn... let them do whatever they need to do to become born, but certainly don't abort them on the one hand, or feed them steroids on the other. Let supernature take its course.

I don't put my precogitated unBorns on a timetable. They'll arrive at their own pace, so long as I take care of my end, and patiently fertilize the present ground. There's more than enough experience to be had in the present, thank you, without seeking it elsewhere, in the past and future.

In fact, Christian hope paradoxically arises specifically from a kind of liberating hopelessness about this fallen world. To place one's hope in the world is to misplace it. Thus the intrinsic cosmic heresy of all those franciful schemes of leftist udopians.

I prefer to live as simply as possible, because a complicated life begins to place barriers between oneself and human (and therefore divine) reality, or between one's feet and the ground.

At the moment, I'm reviewing a section in The Spiritual Ascent entitled Integration, and it has many helpful pointers along these lines. Again, you will find that the insights therein are generally universal and Timelessly True, as invariant vis-a-vis the transhuman realm as the Platonic truths of mathematics are with regard to the physical plane.

For example, some guy named Hujwiri tells us from across the centuries that "the Sufi is he whose thought keeps pace with his foot, i.e., he is entirely present: his soul is where his body is, and his body is where his soul is, and his soul is where his foot is, and his foot is where his soul is. This is the sign of presence without absence."

Like so many similarly fractal passages in this book, this is the whole teaching boiled down to a single phrase. You could identify any number of biblical passages that convey the same thing in a slightly different way.

But it's one thing to "know" this, something else entirely to realize it. This is why the saints are so important, for they are the realization, or terrestrial fulfillment, of the celestial doctrine.

In turn, this is why we learn more by watching the good man "tie his bootlaces," so to speak, than from his words per se; or, bear in mind that their communications will always consist of "words and music," and that one must have an ear attuned to the latter to gain maximum benefit of the former. Or, put it this way: truth can be told in such a way as to become a lie, due to the unworthiness of the container.

Spirituality must not only take place in the body -- where else? -- but transform the body, i.e., recalcitrant matter, which is "resistant" to being spiritualized, so to speak, in the same way that dirty water resists the light.

Again, think of how easy it is to have a spiritual experience "above" the body. But when you come back down, you're left with the same unreformed physical being, i.e., certain dense and mindless patterns that seem "opaque" to the light.

It's much more challenging to be in this world and sharpen oneself against the rocks of adversity and even inconvenience. This is why we never trust "professional gurus" who not only don't have real jobs, but who are very likely unemployable due to the extent of their bloated cosmic narcissism.

Jesus was a carpenter. He worked with his hands and with natural materials. If you meet the Buddha on the road, first take a look at his hands. If you don't see callouses, or at least some dirt under the fingernails -- worse yet, if you see a manicure -- kill him. Buddha would be the first to do so.

In both Judaism and Christianity the focus is on embodiment. The point is not to "escape" this embodiment, but rather, to incarnate fully. Our incarnation is God's excarnation; or God ex-spires into us and we in-spire God -- which is how we oxidize the blood that courses through the arteries of the cosmos.

Real Men take their realization into marriage, into child rearing, into work, into the constant battle that is this world. The world is a test that never ends.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Here again, there is the upper vertical and the lower vertical, the celestial and the terrestrial, spirit and body, heaven and earth. It's easy enough for God's will to be done "above," where it is done "automatically," so to speak. The trick is how we allow it to be done in the herebelow, for there are many layers of influence between the top and bottom.

Again, it's more a matter of getting out of the way, isn't it? Benjamin Whichcote: "Our Conversation is in Heaven, according to the Measure and Degree of our present State and Condition.... When we set ourselves to do the Will of God here, then Heaven is come down into the World..."

We mustn't wait until we are dead -- or 'til the sun is down, when no man can work. Rather, it should begin "while the soul is in the body. I say more: while yet in the body a soul may reach oblivion of its travail not to remember it again" (Meister Eckhart).

In other words, there can be a kind of egobliteration and resurrection in this life, or at least its "first fruits." For any transcendence is evidence of all transcendence, which is to say the transcendence of all -- which is another way of saying resurrection, or at least rebirth.

William Law: "What could man have to do with the perfection of God as the rule of his life, unless the truth and reality of the divine nature was in him?"

The Russian Pilgrim: "It is possible for man to get back to that primitive contemplative state in which he issued from the hands of his Creator."

Why? Because you weren't issued in the past; rather, you are issued afresh each moment. You know, make your resurrections in advance, and don't forget your peaceport.... De-part and bewholed like in them seers' dialogues of old, then aim your eros for the heart of the world!

Hakuin goes even further -- it's not only senseless to wait until death for the climb of your life, but it is the most culpable negligence. It's a kind of philosophical malpractice. It's worse than a crime, it is a cosmic blunder.

Nope. "He that beholds the sun of righteousness arising upon the horizon of his soul with healing in its wings, and chasing away all that misty darkness" -- such a regular feller cares not "to pry into heaven's secrets, and to search the hidden rolls of eternity, there to see the whole plot of his salvation; for he views it transacted upon the inward stage of his own soul, and reflecting upon himself, he may behold a heaven opened from within, and a throne set up in his soul, and an almighty Saviour sitting upon it, and reigning within him.... It is not an airy speculation of heaven as a thing to come that can satisfy his hungry desires, but the real possession of it even in this life" (John Smith the Platonist).

Amen for a child's job! (And vice versa.)


mushroom said...

Again, think of how easy it is to have a spiritual experience "above" the body. But when you come back down, you're left with the same unreformed physical being, i.e., certain dense and mindless patterns that seem "opaque" to the light.

Ain't that the truth. One of the reasons I was drawn into Pentecostalism was because of the seemingly powerful, transforming experiences I saw people having. And I had those experiences, too, except they didn't really transform the way I thought they ought to. Tuesday I'd be as bad as I had been Friday.

For a while I thought it was just me, and I needed to go to more meetings and get a word from the right prophet and all that. But it turns out, the same was true for just about everybody.

I know now that the path is valid in so far as it goes, but even having transcendent experiences two or three times a week is not sufficient. You just have to live there.

And it is always good to see a William Law quote.

Magister said...

Yes to "living there"!

Yet, I'd like to spend a week in the monasteries around Mount Athos.

My wife, who is a smart cookie, asked if this could be a kind of spiritual tourism. I suppose it is, inevitably, since I don't want to live there. Walker Percy also had memorable things to say about mountain-top experiences and the depression that usually accompanies "re-entry" to ordinary life. I might come back, look around, sniff neither aether nor incense, and pine ever after for the heights of Simonopetra.

Are these the only options, though? I've never been on a "retreat," so I don't know. I suspect that the experience at Athos will be similar to seeing an unforgettable movie, which takes on an iconic function. I suppose that's it: I think it would be helpful to have the experience of a particularly memorable *living* icon. Not as something to consume and discard, but to internalize as a vivid standard.

Have any of you goon on pilgrimages?

River Cocytus said...


Hopefully you get some gifts to bring back. That's what really sticks with ya.

Sometimes the gifts are spiritual. Beards count!

julie said...

Yes, this whole post is right in line with some thinks I've been thunking lately. It's easy, in a way, to get all caught up in the exciting stuff, whatever form it may take. Much more challenging is just getting through the ordinary days, every day in the herebelow, and remembering that this is the stuff that matters.

It's like the idea of "quality time." As opposed to what, exactly? It's all quality. Even the stuff that seems like crap.

Magnus Itland said...

Good as new! Getting out of the way while being fully present, eh? I am currently trying to stare at myself until I disappear, so it seems eerily relevant.

EbonyRaptor said...


I've had similiar spiritually soaring experiences - singing hymns with hundreds of thousands of brothers in Christ at the Promise Keepers rally in Washington DC in 1997, Lutheran Lay retreats, and other such events. For as wonderful as those experiences were, they don't stick. The radiant heat disipates and the core cools.

I think, in a way, it must be similiar to a soldier returning to "the world" after experiencing combat. Or, in another way, being an Obama sycophant at a 2008 "yes we can" rally. The feeling of being part of something greater than oneself and the inevitable crash of seeing the same guy in the mirror the next morning.

The thrill need not be gone, we just have to be attune to letting it find us in the herebelow.

Gagdad Bob said...

Lines I wish I had come up with: Obama's speech "tried the patience even of the most doting court eunuchs."

EbonyRaptor said...

Mark Steyn - always a good read.

ge said...

court eunuch

julie said...

ge- oh, my eyes!

Bob said...

Here's to mastery, free will, complementarity, and higher human nature! Linked your post here:

Bob said...

Obviously, I was linking your June 14 post, not June 15. Sorry!

ge said...

'...the President’s rhetorical strategy that I’ve have been calling Calculated Deception: deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture. That has been a central Obama practice not only throughout his entire presidency, but also as the foundation of his 2008 campaign strategy, and actually throughout his whole career....'

Van Harvey said...

"...The point is not to "escape" this embodiment, but rather, to incarnate fully..."

Indeed. How else could you possibly hope to become Real men?

Unknown said...

{In his “Saggi sull Idealismo Magico” (“Essays on Magical Idealism”), Evola relates this Hindu story:

A disciple asked his spiritual teacher, while they were bathing in the river, when he would finally be able to realise Brahman. The teacher, instead of answering, pushed his head under water and held him down until, feeling himself drowning, the student freed himself and re-emerged. The teacher then explained: “When the desire in you to realise Brahman ecomes as intense and deep as how you were just driven to reassert your physical life—only then will you achieve satisfaction.”

Evola goes on to explain:

That expresses the whole of magical development: as long as the will and the desire to realise oneself remains in mental shadows, as long as it does not equal, by penetrating into all one’s being, the intensity of that obscure and irrational power that is asserted at the core of our organism, there is no point in expecting any concrete result. With some justice, Jacobi noted that man cannot improve himself by means of ideas or reasoning; what he needs is to be organised and therefore to organise himself.

What follows is the opening paragraph to chapter V of the essays:

The Essence of Magical Development
I said, “You are gods” ~ John 10:34

What distinguishes magical idealism is its essentially practical character: its fundamental requirement is not to substitute one intellectual conception of the world with another, but rather to create in the individual a new “dimension” and a new depth of life. Certainly, it does turn into an abstract opposition between theory and practice; already in the theoretical and cognitive as such—and therefore in that which only be given to be revealed to a reader— it sees a level of creative activity, therefore it holds that such a level represents only an outline, a beginning of an effort in respect to a phase of deeper realisation, which is that of magic or practice properly called, in which the former must be continued and fulfilled. The lowering of the “being” of ontology and gnoseology to a “having to be” and the development of the activity of the judgment of value, into which the same theoretical judgment is accordingly transformed, until the judgment of existence, to a cosmically creative act of faith, such is the essence of the present doctrine. Whoever therefore does not know how to convert the principles of magical idealism into power agents in his interior being, to profound needs that impel him towards a concrete and living realisation, he kills that idealism by the tritest rhetoric. The one who can truly say to himself: “If magic didn’t exist, today I must create it by myself”, is rather welcome here.}