Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Lazy Man's Way to God

Speaking of Little Big Self, a coincidence -- in the Leonard Cohen bio, his Zen teacher, Roshi, summarizes the doctrine in six words: "Destroy particular self and absolute appears."

Well yes, I suppose. I don't want to knock another fellow's merchandise, but is there a less... austere way? It reminds me of an aphorism:

I do not want to conquer serenity, like a Stoic, but to welcome serenity in, like a Christian. --Dávila

I might have said "like a lazy man," but I like the way Dávila puts it. It elevates my indolence to a virtue. Besides, I don't know if it's really laziness per se, more like an appreciation of the magnitude of the enterprise. How many birds on fire for Zen actually cross the phoenix line?

Analogously, if I don't become a nuclear physicist, it's not just because I'm a slackcentric gentleman loafer. There are also questions of aptitude, passion, and sustained will. It's hard to pretend to be interested in something that disinterests us, even if it's in our interest to be interested.

Now I'm reminded of the whole question of self-power vs. other power. Zen might be the quintessential case of the former. This is from a previous post on the subject:

The “power of oneself" is "that of intelligence and of will seen from the point of view of the salvific capacity which they possess in principle," such that "man is freed thanks to his intelligence and by his own efforts..."

Conversely, "other power" "does not belong to us in any way," but "belongs to the 'Other' as its name indicates... in this context, man is saved by Grace, which does not however mean that he need not collaborate with this salvation by his receptivity and according to the modes that human nature allows or imposes on him" (Schuon).

So, even the lazy man must cooperate with the Other, which, ironically, is more difficult for a certain type of person. Some people just don't like to submit or surrender to or even acknowledge a higher power. Others can't help it. Yokes and folks. Vines and branches.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Me? I gave up long ago. Of his own, Lil' Bob can do nothing. I wouldn't give him the slightest attention.

Getting sidetracked. I suppose this whole line of thought was triggered by a passage in an essay called The Two Paradises:

[T]here are in man two subjects -- or subjectivities -- with no common measure and with the opposite tendencies, though there is also, in some respect, coincidence between the two.

On the one hand there is the anima or empirical ego, woven out of objective as well as subjective contingencies, such as memories and desires; on the other hand there is the spiritus or pure Intelligence, whose subjectivity is rooted in the Absolute, so that it sees the empirical ego as being no more than a husk, that is, something outward and foreign to the true "my-self," or rather "One-self," at once transcendent and immanent.

This mirrors the primordial distinction between Creator and creation, or Absolute and relative, in that man has a subject (or subjectivity) corresponding to each. In the book, I symbolize these two subjectivities as (¶) and (•); the former relates to -- and is ultimately a prolongation of -- O, while the latter takes "the world" as its object.

Thus, in a broad sense, we can say that the dialectic between (•) and world is the realm of science, while that between (¶) and O is religion. The image of the first is concentric circles around a point, while the latter is the domain of continuous radii from the same central point.

So yes, Roshi is correct: destroy (•) and O appears. In other words, eliminate the concentric circles -- via self-power -- and only the Absolute is left. But there is always the other path of simultaneously radiant and attractive grace drawing us upward and inward, toward Celestial Central.

Along these lines, in another book Schuon says that "humility" is "awareness of our metaphysical nothingness," and that "to have a sense of the sacred is to be aware that all qualities or values not only proceed from the Infinite but also attract towards It (emphasis mine).

Back to The Two Paradises. Schuon notes that "pure Intelligence exists," and "its nature is to tend toward its own source."

Indeed, what is the alternative? Either the intellect is a prolongation, or radiation, from and to that central point, or it can do no more than chase its tail in one of those concentric circles. This latter is a vertically closed system from which the purpose of religion is to save us.

To be continued...


julie said...

Along these lines, in another book Schuon says that "humility" is "awareness of our metaphysical nothingness," and that "to have a sense of the sacred is to be aware that all qualities or values not only proceed from the Infinite but also attract towards It (emphasis mine).

Studying Psalms, in the middle of 39 David sings,

"Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days,
that I may learn how frail I am.
To be sure, you establish the expanse of my days;
indeed, my life is as nothing before you.
Every man is but a breath."

(In this context, the word translated as "breath" means something more like irony, noticing the difference between perception and reality)

As I read this, it strikes me as a plea to remain humble. David had plenty of reasons to develop a swelled head, but of course the danger of becoming full of oneself is that there is no room left over for God. Remembering our frailty and smallness in the face of the Absolute allows us to become more intimate with holiness.

julie said...

In completely unrelated news (or IS it??), it turns out the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment - and thus any conclusions one might draw from it about group dynamics and the basic nature of man - was a complete lie. In fact, a lot of famous studies are turning out to have been either fabricated at worst or impossible to replicate at best.

The Bible as a guide to understanding humanity looks more accurate with each passing day...

Gagdad Bob said...

It reminds me of how homosexuality was removed from the DSM. It was a total fraud perpetrated by activists.

Gagdad Bob said...

A cause and consequence of the Trump era is the rottenness of most institutions and the stupidity and incompetence of our elites, from the FBI, to the major political parties, journalism, academia, etc. The field of psychology is a swamp, just like all the others. In fact, I just had an image of one giant swamp. Like the Trinity, it has distinctions but is one substance -- the substance of the left.

Van Harvey said...

Another study turns out to be a study in lies. Makes you wonder about the psychology of liars. It also makes you wonder why those who desire to be seen as 'wise'(seeming bring preferable to being), want the rest of us, to perceive the rest of us, as nothing more than brutes.

Unknown said...

“I do not want to conquer serenity, like a Stoic, but to welcome serenity in, like a Christian. --Dávila”

Well yes, I suppose serenity can’t be conquered even if one has a mind to.