Tuesday, May 16, 2017

States & Traits, Fleeting Sparks & Burning Bushes

Hmm, not sure what's going on with the new look. I suppose I updated the blog when I meant to update the template, and now there's no going back. Oh well. Must be sound reasons for the switch, or good King Google wouldn't have done it.

As always, it's a little difficult to pick up the thread when I haven't posted for a few days. It's like a musician stopping in the middle of a solo and then trying to finish it the next week. It's much more a matter of entering the frame of mind that was present when you left off.

No, that's not right. It's not the frame, nor the content. I can always continue with the same subject, but only in an exterior way. In other words, the problem is reentering the same "space" one was in. As such, a better analogy is waking up and then going to sleep the next night and trying to continue in the same dream.

That right there is a critical point, and it actually converges on our current theme of the futility of merely objective knowledge of God: objective knowledge without subjective experience is not only empty, but Kierkegaard would say it is false. Somewhere he -- or someone -- says, better to be a passionate sinner than a hollow believer. Or some orthopardox to that effect.

The point is, it's no use pretending to be who you're not, or pretending not to be who you are. After all, we're talking about God, who cannot be fooled. He knows exactly who you are.

In psychology there is a distinction between states and traits: "Personality traits are characteristic behaviors and feelings that are consistent and long lasting. Unlike traits, which are stable characteristics, states are temporary behaviors or feelings that depend on a person's situation and motives at a particular time."

You might say that states are more spatial, while traits are prolonged in time. It's as if various potential states are at a right angle to linear time.

For example, there is the well known distinction between sacred and profane time; last Saturday evening we went to church, which I simply use as an opportunity to enter sacred time. Or rather, it is as if sacred time enters me. That is, I just close my eyes and empty my head, and the Spirit takes care of the rest.

I recently read the fourth volume of Robert Spitzer's quartet -- now quintet and rising -- on happiness, suffering, and transcendence, The Light Shines in the Darkness: Transforming Suffering Through Faith, and... Period. That sentence was long enough. Anyway, in it there are some passages that precisely parallel my own experience of what I symbolize as (↓) and (---) in the book.

One common way (↓) manifests is through "little coincidences" to which we must pay attention and not dismiss. Really, it's just a different way of looking at the world -- a more right-brained way involving pattern recognition (or recognosis). Words may jump out, -- BOO! -- whether "on the printed page or on a television program." The Spirit "works with subtle increases in tone and volume, subtle coincidences and gentle proddings."

Pretty soon you discover you're inside a conspiracy of providence! This is when the Raccoon whispers the sacred mantra to himself: Can I buy some pot from you?

As the cosmic coincidences begin to pile up "in conversations, books, and other media," it may mean the Spirit is up to something. He -- or possibly She -- "gives us the 'clue' of what to look for, but we must be attentive to how that opportunity might be actualized in our lives." Is there a way to tell when it's a clue and not a red herring?

Spitzer says Yes: it is a "sense of peace" (---) that "persists and lasts." Conversely, "if discord and anxiousness occur, it could be a sign that the Spirit is moving us away from this particular external opportunity." Or, just say increased fragmentation, AKA (•••••) instead of (•). We are always converging upon Unity -- or fragmentation.

In reality, this is simply the structure of our psychic metabolism, which is a complementarity between the two: we chew our food into fragments so it can be taken up into the higher unity of the body. Just so, all day long we are immersed in "fragments of being" that it is our task to weave into the cosmic area rug that pulls it all together. Indeed, this seems to be one of the functions of dreaming, and why people who cannot dream soon become crazy quilts.

For reasons we won't get into, Bion symbolized this psychic metabolism (PS) <-> (D). Note the two-way arrow, for we are always falling apart and coming back together. It is a process, somewhat like a whirlpool, which maintains its shape even while the content is constantly changing.

Have you ever met someone who can't maintain the whirlpool, but is just a collection of disconnected fragments? I recently had a patient with that problem, which you might say is the Problem of problems. Conversely, there are people who are utterly stable but lifeless: instead of dynamic process-structures, they are static and closed structures that cannot metabolize novelty.

By the way, the peace referenced above is not a static thing. The dead are peaceful in their own way. But real peace is a presence, not an absence; it's a thing.

Or better, a person and a relationship. So it can be accompanied by inspiration and enthusiasm, only it will have a peaceful and not manic quality. This manic quality occurs, for example, when your baseball team has a walk-off victory, or when you just made a Big Purchase, or with certain kinds of rock music. There's nothing wrong with it, just don't confuse it with the more lasting kind.

Come to think of it, "the Evil One uses exaggeration to move fervent and enthusiastic people to discouragement or spiritual pride -- or both" (ibid.). For all intents and purposes, rock music used to be my religion. But even then, there was always something in me that saw behind or beneath or above it to something else. If not for that, I'd just be one of those pathetic aging hippies who haven't taken a new imprint since 1967.

In that regard, we'll be hearing a lot about the Summer of Love, being that it's the 50 year anniversary. It is the last word in boomer narcissism, so prepare to be nauseated. I was only 11 at the time, so don't blame me.

How does all this relate to Kierkegaard? Speaking of the Summer of Love -- and of drugs -- a coincidence: "Most people, through alcohol, drugs, the splendor of nature or perhaps through insight that arises from a book or movie, occasionally have experienced profound and enlightening realizations," AKA (?!).

But then they're gone. This is why our sad old hippies never stop trying to resuscitate this corpse. I suppose you could say it's a substitute for resurrection.

This will seem off-the-wall, but I happened to read this interview with the laughably pompous and self-important Donovan, who was big in 1967. So big he refuses to leave:

... what we are listening to in popular music is really, from 1964 onwards, not only a revolution but a renaissance. The world must understand that the door that was opened -- and I kicked the door open first, it seems -- and the world was in deep trouble after the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and a Depression and nuclear bombs and the systematic destruction of the ecosystem. We were the change. They call it the new Age of Aquarius.

The world is still not out of trouble and what we brought in, the conscious songwriters of the ’60s, and all the things we did musically, breaking down all barriers... Donovan, Paul and Ringo and my wife Linda, we are still doing the same thing...

Wow. What a jackass! Despite Donovan's efforts -- and even a hand from Ringo -- the world still has some problems. I can't imagine why.

Pretty scattered post, eh? We'll leave off with this:

"[E]nlightenment is a moment-by-moment experience. Subjective truths are the living fruits of awareness that exist only in the burning fire of subjective experience -- when the fire goes out the truth becomes a lifeless, impotent, empty 'word husk'" (Watts).

Like Donovan. Except I'm uncomfortable with that word "enlightenment." The Light is coming in, to be sure, but it's because we're in relationship to a source that transcends us, not because we possess anything.


ted said...

For reasons we won't get into, Bion symbolized this psychic metabolism (PS) <-> (D). Note the two-way arrow, for we are always falling apart and coming back together. It is a process, somewhat like a whirlpool, which maintains its shape even while the content is constantly changing.

Must be a Filioque thing. :)

Gagdad Bob said...

D'oh! The day the evolution stopped:

"At the weekend seminar, I couldn’t shake the feeling that what we were participating in was thinly-veiled self-indulgence and little more.....

"Wilber was a baby boomer in the US through the 60’s and 70’s. He came up through many of that generation’s eastern spiritual movements. These movements were started by eastern teachers and subscribed to a dogma that an enlightened awareness could develop someone into a flawless individual, an immutable authority. "

Who does Wilber think he is, Donovan?

julie said...

Must be sound reasons for the switch, or good King Google wouldn't have done it.

Ha - yes, they probably figured out a new way to squeeze money from blogger without the bloggers knowing it. That or adding in wonderful new ways to monitor for "quality content," or who knows what else.

If you haven't backed up the blog lately, this might be a good time...

julie said...

These movements were started by eastern teachers and subscribed to a dogma that an enlightened awareness could develop someone into a flawless individual, an immutable authority.

There was - is - only ever One such. Maybe two, if you count Mary, but really her message is ever and always to listen to the One. We can hope to come close, but are reliably informed that "there is none good but God." Anyone else claiming immutable authority is a fakir.

Gagdad Bob said...

Where are the new age saints? They don't exist. Unless you count Wilber, Tony Robbins, Andrew Cohen, Adi Da, Deepak Chopra, and all the rest.

ted said...

Bob, you know what's funny, I was at that seminar. It was in Boston in 2006. Wilber wasn't there, but some his underlings led it. At the time, I was a little under the kool-aid spell, but I agree with Manson's take on it. It was right around that time I begun to wonder if this really was a club I wanted to be a member of?

ted said...

The new agers would say the new guru is the sangha: meaning, since they can't cultivate any individual saints, then they might as well rest on the collective. Sound familiar?

Gagdad Bob said...

Wilber seemed okay up to Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality, which came out in 1995. After that he really went off the rails. His spiritual diary gave me vicarious embarassment, and his "novel" was even worse. I even wonder if " RNase Enzyme Deficiency" is an actual thing, or just in his head -- like Joni Mitchell and her morgellons disease.

ted said...

Well, he has some health issue. If you see videos of him now verses 10 years ago, he has aged dramatically. He seems to believe he got his auto immune deficiency from some environmental release back in 80's, but I highly doubt that. I think his legacy would have been better if he stayed as a writer, but he was so determined to create an organizational structure around his theories and pseudo-meta-religion. And he was never good at picking the teachers that he aligned with. Just about every one of them has fallen from grace.

Gagdad Bob said...

Wilber has a health issue alright. It's called being 68.

Gagdad Bob said...

This Prager U video raises the question: how ignorant do you have to be before it becomes evil?

julie said...

Wow - toward the beginning, that guy has a bad case of sanpaku eyes.

Also, it's sad how few people understand that the slave trade is alive and well - in Muslim countries, and particularly along the routes various "migrants" are taking in the hope of finding easy living in Western countries. America is the antithesis of all that.

Unknown said...

The basic message of god is to look for him only and do not associate any one with him even the prophets themselves. This message will be futile if the humans are not programmed to subjectively have the ability to grasp their god, and there is no sense in sending so many prophets.The holy spirit and all angels are the Epestimic carriers betwwen god and his humanity and no one can claim ths sole privilge of such communication. The debatable last messenger points people to find their way to Him., because every one has his own unique way to Him. No one can claim to have objective knowledge of god and whoever claims that his claim as Kierkegaard said, is false. All knowledge is subjective and god take pleasure in receiving all the various understanding of his humanity. The different subjective knowledge of each human and that is exactly the purpose of creating humanity. If humans can obtain objective knowledge of the god every activity will come to standstill. The sufis distinguish also between the transitional spiritual contact which they call state and the standing contact which they call station. This only to prove the oneness of the universal spiritual experiences as Schuon and all great mystic advocate, the same universal spiritual approach the author of the blog tries to pursue. It is sad that some marginal issues steal us from addressing the basic issue of the blog.

William Wildblood said...

Wilber, like so many New Age type gurus, tried to have spirituality without God, i.e. on his own terms. It never works.