Aphorisms, Invitations, and Provocations (III)

61. Concerning solitude: It is far more radical to withdraw from the personal ego than to retreat into it.  Ego-consciousness is the portal through which the Self passes into the world (via projection).  In deep meditation that doorway or portal is closed so that the Self abides in itself.  No pain.  No drain.

62. The Gnostics teach us (in their mythology-cosmogony) that the Demiurge—the Creator-God of Genesis—wrongly believed himself to be the highest being, the sole author of Creation.  And we are said to be made in his image.  This means that, as egos, we share this delusion of being the more or less autonomous creators of our microcosms, our ‘little worlds.’  Like the Demiurge, we are frequently unconscious of the fact that we and our worlds are dependent on the ‘hidden God’ (Deus absconditus), the true God—the silent, faceless presence behind all appearances.

63. In earnestly pursuing happiness we learn where our mental manacles are, since we necessarily pass them along the way.

64. Inversion. Spiritual development consists, among other things, in shedding the shells and accretions that have formed around the living core of the Self.  In meditation we work to ‘secure our losses,’ by which means we are able to keep our former ‘gains’ from recapturing the citadel.

65.  We are only as attached to others as we are attached to various aspects of our own egos.  And, lest we forget, hatred is an inverted form of attachment.

66. To the extent that those around us—and near to us—are unreflectively committed to and invested in mundane affairs and the acquisitive drives of the ego, our detachment and divestment from those same pursuits will often be regarded by them as a kind of betrayal and perhaps even as cowardly retreat.  What is of primary concern and interest to their minds will be of less and less importance to us, and vice versa.  For awhile, this deepening gulf between our divergent paths will be covered over by polite niceties and courteous half-truths—on both sides—but eventually there will no longer be any way of concealing the fact that our feet are planted in two very different countries.  These countries are not necessarily at war—but they are two very different countries with two very different languages, constitutions, and currencies, nonetheless.

67. What newcomers to the spiritual path cannot know beforehand is that when they spurn the world, the world returns the ‘dis-courtesy.’  The further we recede from our vanity mirror, the smaller our personal reflection becomes.  On the other hand, when our face is pressed to the mirror all we can see is our own face—and then, despite (or rather, because of) the proximity, not very accurately or distinctly.

68. Fait accompli: From the standpoint of atman—the truly ‘centered’ position that is inhabited during a successful meditation—all of those ‘acts of liberation’ that the ego believes it must accomplish before it can be released from desires, fears, hatreds, memories, and attachments that normally hold it hostage have already been accomplished.  Or rather, such mental acts have no place or relevance to the spirit, since it is by its very nature already free.  In other words, these feats of liberation only make sense from the (blinkered, deluded) standpoint of the ego.  This is why it is a ‘little miracle’ or an ‘act of grace’ each time we have an encounter with the spirit—when the ego is momentarily overshadowed by the spirit.  We have leapt from the muddy bank of the ego-standpoint into the sea of spirit which cleans us up—and holds us up, as well.

69. A short, but thick human life is more likely to bring satisfaction to all parties concerned than a somewhat longer, but pathetically skinny one.

70. We must not attempt to forcefully impose unity and consistency upon our inner lives—or upon Life as such.  Rather, we work our way through disunity and discord, the naturally-occurring fauna and flora of the ‘fallen’ condition.  We employ our will in the service of imperturbability—the gateway that leads to the balancing of the pairs of opposites—rather than in the futile attempt to force blue, yellow, and red to merge into white.  Paradoxically, this employment of the will is an inversion of the ordinary will of the ego.  Our way, therefore, may justly be called a via negativa.

71. Eros: Today I’ve got the urge to merge.  Tomorrow, I’ll feel the urge to purge.

72. ‘Thoroughly contented with his ignorance, he craves no enlightenment.’

73. A new geometry: There is no line emerging from the past and pointing toward the future.  At bottom, there is only a still, silent point.

74. Status quo. What if the degree of respect we owed to others was directly proportional not only to the degree of truth they grasp, intellectually, but the degree to which he or she is able to bring living expression to that truth? Those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge and to live by the truth because of their habit-reinforced drives and weaknesses seem to require the constant support of lies and self-deception: such persons, whether intentionally or not, contribute to the general catastrophe that always looms over humanity. In their passive acquiescence and conformity to ever-declining norms, they add to the fog of illusion that invisibly corrupts children and preserves the status quo. As far as I can tell, all of us must struggle to the best of our ability against the general calamity constantly posed by the status quo. Why? Bcause it typically functions more in the capacity of a suffocating sarcophagus than as a stabilizing container for the living, evolving process that is always underway within.

75. While there may not be a one-to-one correspondence between greed and spiritual cowardice, the connections are as old as they are tight: chapter of a study of the ‘unity of the vices’?

76. What looks and feels like sacrifice, loss, and irksome renunciation from the personal ego standpoint is experienced as a feeling of liberation and release from the standpoint of the true inner self.  One event—but two radically different interpretations—depending on which standpoint our deepest loyalties are allied with.  This same principle almost assuredly applies to the event of physical death: loss from one side, the gaining of freedom, from the other.  Non-attachment is the key to enlightened release.  Attachment is the doorway into ‘the world,’ the ‘valley.’

77. A paradox: As long as the ego seeks the bliss of nirvana for itself, it will never retain it.  Only as the flame of ego-consciousness is blown out will the flame of bliss ignite.  For the little ego to usurp the sovereign place of the Self is like the little angelfish trying to swallow the entire ocean.  The only way to nirvana is for the little light (the ego) to be absorbed by the greater light (the Self).  Only through loss of self is Self attained.  Our dealings with other persons, therefore, must be conducted with a perfect blend of compassion and detachment, for otherwise we will be imprisoned by our expectations concerning our relationships with other ‘little lights.’  As long as our hopes for happiness are attached to little lights—others’ or our own—we will be blinded not by but to the larger light of the Self, which is always present.

78. When relationships and interactions do not penetrate beyond the persona level, what we have, in effect, is no more than an interchange between masks.  The only suitable name for such a state of affairs, once it becomes normal, is a masquerade.  This observation is valid even when—or especially when—such dealings are conducted with utter sincerity, since then we are less likely to acknowledge the theatricality, vanity, and hypocrisy that are unconsciously afoot.  Thus, the biggest fool-ers are at the same time the biggest fools.

79. Against Irenaeus: Orthodoxy is generally conducive to stultification, laziness, and soulless conformity, while heresy tends to be imaginative, bold, and full of life.

80. One of the principal virtues of the imagination (insofar as our spiritual liberation is at stake) is its ability to melt the rigid, confining walls of those literalistic dogma-closets that can hold our minds captive.  To the extent that we instinctively genuflect before the usurped authority and doubtful pedigree of such dogmatic principles and beliefs—to that extent we nail ourselves to them and mount ourselves, as it were, upon a cross.  A few well-aimed drops of the liquid imagination dissolve those iron spikes, helping us to drop down from our crosses so that we may at last go in search of spirit.  It is the water of imagination that rapidly rusts and softens those iron nails, mind you—not the airy spirit.

81.Every morning when I crawl out of bed I am not who I really am.  Like Gregor Samsa, I am a large cockroach.  When I meditate I realize that this cockroach has been there—crawling out of bed—for decades.   Who knows?  Perhaps for centuries or even millennia.

82. What is underway within me is a ‘regime change.’  This is very much a matter of inner politics.  There is no violent rebellion—no siege upon a fortified city.  The Taoist says ‘a path is formed by walking (on it).’  By simply paying more and more attention to the Self—by spending more and more time in a state of meditative communion with the Self—a gradual relocation of my center of gravity is occurring.  Perhaps eventually, it will be as if the ‘false self’ were to expire peacefully in its sleep.

83. The desire-driven ego naturally tends to think in terms of ‘freedom to…’ while the quiet, onlooking spirit is always about ‘freedom from…’

84. Analogies are rungs on a ladder that leads from the base to the summit—or from the periphery to the center—of reality.  Man—far from merely occupying one or two of these rungs—appears to be uniquely fitted to travel up and down, in and out, across the full spectrum of this encompassing scale, as Pico della Mirandola told us in his famous ‘Oration on the Dignity of Man.’  The vehicle in which he travels?  The analogy or metaphor.  The glue that binds him to one rung or another—hampering his imaginative-speculative mobility?  The inflexible dogma, the intractable prejudice, the fixed habit.

85. If man is viewed principally as the ‘consuming animal,’ then—God forfend!—the present-day world is the very pinnacle and consummation of this peculiar creature’s destiny.  If, however, we raise the bar of our expectations and view man as the ‘child of God’—as the most dignified of creatures in the known universe—because of his creative and spiritual potentials, contemporary man is situated close to the nadir—the very sinkhole of iniquity—an obscene squandering of potential, a lamentable travesty unworthy of democracy, undeserving of science and modern technology, a blinkered and rapacious monster of insatiable cravings before his invisible, retreating creator.

86. The hero expands; the quietist shrinks.

87. Neti, neti, neti:  Authentic spiritual praxis should offer the mind no place to park—only catapults and slingshots, cannons and crossbows, from which it may be fired towards its proper targets.  The Zen masters seem to have understood this best, while the early pharisaical Jews and the ecclesiastical Christians understood it least, being great lovers of arks and chalices, bones and popes.  Thus, the great creative spirit is at the same time the most subtle destroyer.  What is destroyed, of course, is everything that weighs down the spirit—which ultimately turns out to be just about…everything.

88. Alas, compassion does not gush from my heart in a constant, unwavering stream; instead, its volume is decided by the particulars of each case.  For the helpless and incapable, it flows.  For the capable who are beset with misfortune brought on largely by their own recklessness, intemperance, and stupidity, it trickles—grudgingly.  I recognize this as merely a personal prejudice of mine—one that I must strive diligently to overcome.  For, in the end, isn’t every benighted ego equally deserving of our compassion?  I have begun to suspect that those persons who appear to be the most capable are often the most deeply mired in ignorance and self-deception—and so, therefore, require particularly violent wallops from life in order to snap them out of their deluded condition.

89. More often than not, really getting close to and getting to know another person is like opening (dare I say it?) a can of worms.  And this is doubly or triply true if that person happens to be oneself—since, once they’re out, there’s no fleeing the scene.

90.  The ‘sacred’ and the ‘holy’ can scarcely draw a breath in the foul, toxic atmosphere of the present anti-culture.  As a consequence, most truly sacred phenomena have died off–from suffocation and ‘toxic shock’–leaving behind only their corpses, which, of course, are worshipped everywhere by clueless and unwitting idolaters.
















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