Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Only Dead Men Know

Letter XIII, our old frenemy Death. What to make of his sinister and persecutory silence? How to unscrew his inscrutability without having to actually meet him?

Silvio / I gotta go / find out something only dead men know. --Dylan

Death is one of those existential parameter thingys that the mind can never contain, but rather, contains us -- like time or space or truth or sexuality or desire. For example, if a man manages to completely contain his sexuality -- his id, as it were -- it can only be because he is dead in that area. More generally, the life force obviously contains us, not vice versa.

Sex and death are intwomately related, for if we didn't sexually reproduce, we wouldn't die, at least for any biological reason. Rather, we would live endlessly, except that it would be a horizontal endlessness, which is not to be confused with eternity (which is outside conventional temporality).

Furthermore, without the boundary of death, we couldn't know nothing, which is the beginning of knowledge. In other words, not knowing must precede the acquisition of knowledge -- which is why, for example, Obama doesn't know anything. He's way too full of himself -- okay, full of shit -- to ever tolerate the state of patient emptiness required of intellectual -- or spiritual -- curiosity. I mean, sometimes one has to wander in such bewilderness for 40 days or even 40 years before seeing the light.

Animals can only know something, but even then, they don't know that they know, because they don't know that they die. Only man can know that he he doesn't know, and thereby clear a potential space for knowledge. Out of this deathly silence will grow words and ideas of various kinds.

Tomberg says the serpent promises only a purely biological pseudo-eternal life when he tells Adam and Eve they "shall not die." Thus, technically he wasn't lying, because a vertical lie may well be a horizontal truth (and vice versa), as our trolls never stop teaching us.

In our bʘʘk, we wrote of the extreme unlikelihood of anything resembling human intelligence evolving elsewhere in the cosmos, for human intelligence isn't just a matter of "big brains." Far from it.

Humanness emerges within the trimorphic space of an immature and incomplete nervous system in dynamic rapport with an "empathic" mother and "protecting" father (and when we speak of "mother" and "father," we are doing so from the infant's archetypal perspective, wherein the early experience of empathy becomes mother, and is directed into that preconceptual archetype or "empty category"; in this view, mother emerges from baby, and then father from mother -- more on which below).

Tomberg writes of the connection between, on the one hand, sleeping, forgetting, and death; and on the other, waking, remembering, and life.

For example, psychoanalysis has long posited the idea that chronic insomnia can result from an inability to die to the day. One lives by day, but then must let it dissolve and scatter into the easeful death of sleep, only to be resurrected comeday morm or come to mournhim (Joyce).

For other people, they cannot die to the unconscious because of the monsters that lie there in in wait and haunt the interior world. This is a routine result of a traumatic childhood, of things that happened -- and more commonly, what didn't happen, in the form of a secure relationship with the maternal environment/container.

A "monster" is always an indiscriminate mixture of the categories of life and death, resulting in a grotesque entity that has no proper archetype. All the classic monster movies share this feature of a living death or of death living: Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy.

Perhaps this provides a clue about death -- that it isn't so much the opposite of life, but a dark form of it. One might say that Easter celebrates Life amidst death, while Halloween commemorates Death in life. Probably no coincidence that this unholy-day has become much more popular with the increasing secularization of our culture, i.e., the culture of death (which is at root a culture of journalistic sleeping and academic forgetting).

I remember reading an interesting book -- here it is, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality -- which suggests that most funeral rites evolved around concerns of making certain that the dead stay that way -- that the corpse isn't merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

So, to sleep is to forget the day and awaken to the world of the Dreamer: "One forgets, one goes to sleep, and one dies." In turn, "One remembers, one awakes, and one is born" (MOTT).

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that from a developmental perspective, one may turn Genesis on its head and see the infant-Adam as the creator of God and everything else.

In fact, from a certain perspective, this is how it must be, and to the extent that one fails to understand this distinction, one may well fail to appreciate the difference between God and infantile omnipotence.

(Funny, it reminds me of a song I heard yesterday by Peter Green, called Corners of My Mind: And darkness was around / and he could not hear a sound / no, there wasn't any light / no day or any night / then thunder came from lightning / and the thunder brought the sound / when I opened up my eyes / beneath me was the ground.)

Unfortunately, not only is this conflation commonplace, but it might even be the norm. Certainly the Islamist god is indistinguishable from an enraged infant, while the infantile dreams of the left are suspiciously similar to those conjured by the omnipotent and implacable gods of the nursery, whose incessant demands are few: I WANT!, MORE!, and AGAIN!

Looked at in this way, the human baby's shocking discovery of Adam and Eve -- or of a Mother and Father separate from the baby, with wills, desires, and interests of their own -- is an insult to one's omnipotence. How dare Mommy and Daddy exist separate from my magical wishes!

Therefore the baby-god banishes them from the infantile paradise, where the infant restores his "oneness with God." No coincidence therefore that the way back to paradise is blocked by a contingent of battle-seasoned cherubs with flaming swords.

To fall asleep is not just to give up "everything," but to do so in the faith that things will somehow be cleansed or purified and transformed when we are reincarnated and reborn in the morning. So sleep again has this digestive or metabolic property; which implies that death and forgetting do as well.

And in fact, one doesn't have to comb very far through the esoteric literature to discover this idea, that the initial postmortem state is very much analogous to the metabolic function of dreaming, except that it will range over our entire life, so that whatever was "inessential" is consigned to the flames, while what is essential lives in eternity.

Speaking of which, I just stumbled on this interesting looking book that I may order, called Life after Death according to the Orthodox Tradition.

Out of time...


Gandalin said...

Thank you, Bob. This is a very rich post. I would like to add that in some of the traditional ("Marseille") Tarots, this card is not "named" --as in the example you show -- and it is sometimes referred to as the nameless card.

julie said...

How dare Mommy and Daddy exist separate from my magical wishes!


And how dare they try to sleep!

Gagdad Bob said...

And then, when they discover Mommy is separate -- boys, anyway -- they compensate by saying, "okay then, but she's all mine." In other words, the Oedipal situation.

I think it's healthy to get this out in the open and joke about it. Tristan used to like to provoke me into pretend anger by snuggling with Leslie and taunting me with "hey Dad, look, I'm hittin' on your woman!" Probably save him thousands of dollars on psychotherapy in the future.

julie said...

Ha - yep :) the "MY mommy" game.

L is going through a big phase right now where only mommy is allowed to help him (when he's "injured" or needs something). If anyone else tries, he completely loses it. Depending on circumstances, I have him apologize once he's calmed down, and it seems to be helping. He lets daddy help him without too much fuss now, which is a nice change.

Rick said...

"To fall asleep is not just to give up "everything," but to do so in the faith that things will somehow be cleansed or purified and transformed when we are reincarnated and reborn in the morning."

So prayer is akin to falling asleep.

Speaking of kin and other revelations, I've taken to reading the Bible out loud alone in the morning. Just for 10 or 15 minutes. It's a whole new thingy, just as, if you've noticed, it's a whole new thing listening to it read to you vs reading it yourself in your melon.
By alone of course I mean no local operators are standing by.

Gagdad Bob said...

Ah, I remember it well -- being slightly contemptuously reduced to some pathetic eunuch consort of the fairy queen.

Interestingly, that eventually goes through a kind of reversal, when the boy identifies with the father's masculinity, at which point he will sometimes express a kind of healthy contempt for all things feminine -- the fanaticism of the newly converted, as it were. One can play with that as well....

Gagdad Bob said...

When you think about it, the Bible was spoken LONG before it was ever written, and hearing is a very different medium from reading...

mushroom said...

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word.

julie said...

Rick, that's a great reminder, thanks. I have trouble sleeping occasionally, between feeding the baby and bouts of restless leg syndrome, and the last couple of nights I was trying to think of what to read. It won't be out loud, but reading it at all will be an improvement... :)

Rick said...

Well, prayer and sleep seem to be similar in that they push the world out of your own private IandO.

Sweet dreams!

ge said...

great sleep aid: California Poppy drops [tincture].
0 side effects i can feel---just squirt a part-filled dropper on yr tongue, then pretty quick to zzzzz; repeat during night if fitful

River Cocytus said...

As for the book, you should also look for anything by Hierotheos Vlachos. That guy is a genius.

Rick said...

Update on the reading out loud:

It is easier to be imprecise when reading in your head. Reading out loud you. notice. every. word. -- in that if you flub it sounds weird. Plus, you hear when words sound similar (they may be identical) a bit more than if using only your eyes (which are forced to keep moving). The words that sound similar last longer (as if your ears have a better, lingering memory than your eyes). Like lyrics in a song flow from your memory with no effort (because of the music which almost draws them out).