Soil Erosion (1/29/11)

Genuine works of art—like pregnant parables, myths and symbols—simultaneously reveal and conceal profound truths about human nature, culture, the soul, and the spirit. What and how much such works reveal depends, of course, upon the moral, intellectual, imaginative, and spiritual resources of the person on the receiving end. The impact of education is, likewise, substantially limited by the potentials already present in the student. And while education can help to actualize and to ripen these potentials, it cannot, by itself, instill such potentials. It cannot provide someone with these seeds. It can only assist in their germination and nourishment. I needn’t point out the fact that everyone’s ‘seed bag’ is a little (or a lot) different from everybody else’s—in terms of what and how much is packaged there.

In the ‘nature-versus-nurture’ debate—which stretches back at least to the time of Socrates and Plato—the extraverted, pragmatic, behaviorist, ‘can-do’ American outlook and educational system have generally come down on the side of nurture, while downplaying and even ignoring natural disparities in various forms of intelligence, inborn talent, and drivenness. For many of us here in the U.S., there is something deeply offensive to our acquired egalitarian principles (or presumptions) in the mere suggestion that nature has distributed her gifts unevenly. We are thus tempted to make socially and economically ‘advantaged’ persons assume all of the blame for these ‘inequalities,’ when, in fact, they only carry part of the burden of responsibility for them. Naturally attractive men and women almost invariably have doors opened for them that the rest of us who are ‘homelier’ can only pry open by other means. Where a smile or a wink works for the ‘beautiful people,’ a crow bar or a bribe is required by the unprepossessing and ill-favored who also ‘want in.’ Cosmetic surgeons are doing their level best to level this particular playing field. But when it comes to the less tangible assets and door-openers, external ‘doctoring’ and ‘implanting’ can only accomplish so much before life coaches, therapists, schoolteachers, and other ‘improvers of mankind’ are obliged to admit—if not defeat—only the most limited success.

It is widely assumed in this culture that a person’s moral character and values are learned or derived almost entirely from the models and exemplars in his/her midst—either through actual contact or through the TV, or a mixture of both. In America, we are not publicly or officially encouraged to believe that a fair percentage of persons are born with souls (i.e., with spiritual, mental, or ethical gifts) that are inherently superior to those of most others. And yet, it may be asked: can there possibly be a generally embraced delusion more ridiculous than this one—namely, that we humans are all born equal, when evidence to the contrary is as blatant and obtrusive as can be? It seems to me that there are two ideological sources behind this collective myth—the ideological egalitarianism and the slightly older, metaphysical myth of materialism, which attempts to reduce everything—including all distinctions of quality (moral, ethical, spiritual, aesthetic, etc.)—to matter or to quantitative material factors.

The naive egalitarian fantasy—defying indisputable counter-evidence afforded by actual life and genetics, which most Americans self-contradictorily (or schizophrenically?) regard as fate-deciding and inviolably deterministic—assumes that since our innate capacities (of the body, heart, intellect, imagination, spirit, etc.) are intrinsically equal and therefore equally deserving of all that society and the educational system have to offer, we are either advanced or held back by external or socio-economic factors. To be sure, as unwitting materialists we recognize that physical birth defects such as blindness or brain impairment thwarts and hobbles an individual at the otherwise fair and equal start of a race for life’s rewards and prizes, but as equally unwitting fantasists, we politely ignore actual differences and surrender to wishful thinking.

The peculiar myth of egalitarianism is founded upon a view of the human being that our shrewd forebears would have found unforgivably simplistic, one-sided, and reductive. The human being—or the ‘human animal,’ which sometimes seems more fitting—at the center of this anti-hierarchical, anti-traditional, anti-aristocratic modern worldview is, for the most part, no more than a biological machine or an economic unit that has been stripped down and purged of those faculties and virtues that were held to be most important by our ‘quaint’ pre-modern ancestors, but which occupy only a marginal, non-essential place in our mechanistic-materialistic modern world: soul, poetical or visionary imagination, spiritual inspiration, and a capacity for deep philosophical contemplation. Little wonder, then, that the barrenness and spiritual bankruptcy of our culture become apparent as soon as we direct our gaze away from the mesmerizing technological, economic, and engineering feats we (or, dare I say, our celebrated technocratic ‘betters’—i.e., Edison, Tesla, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc.?) excel at. We are skillful at manipulating matter because we pay an inordinate amount of attention to it. But I would suggest that just as we are doing with our rainforests, farmland, and once-teeming seas, we have simply trashed the rich, loamy cultural soil that is absolutely necessary to nurture a Plato, a Dante, a Shakespeare. Trees cannot rise to such great heights in such shallow, nutrient-poor soil. Thus, our egalitarian fantasy—always secretly siding with the mediocre, the tepid, the flaccid, the self-complacent—has become a self-fulfilling prophecy: those with the rarest spiritual-cultural potentials are necessarily malnourished and spurned under such unfavorable conditions, allowing the stunted and the dull to appear taller and brighter than they truly are.

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Sinking over Thinking (5/29/12)

Instead of imagining myself emerging from the nigredo each morning—and having to burn away the blackness in a daily renewed albedo—I hit upon an even better analogy yesterday. In this new version of what occurs in the cycle of sleep and waking, I am hurled by the daimon into some usually remote region (of the periphery of my psyche) during my sleeping hours. When I wake up, my task is to find my way back to the center before it is time to go to sleep again.

*****

Nowadays when I begin my day—in the maternity rocker bought from the Catholic Women’s Guild Resale Shop—instead of thinking, I commence to sinking. It seems quite accurate to describe the movement or psychic process I go through as a pleasant kind of sinking or descent into deeper waters of the psyche. I step off the plank of my automatically generated mental preoccupations, concerns, pressures, social-moral obligations, etc., and allow the natural force of psychic gravity to gently draw my consciousness downwards. Heraclitus told us that the way up and the way down are one and the same. I understand this to mean that when I meditate I am moving closer and closer to the center, where up and down become merged and, in a sense, meaningless, since all directions are comprehended in the center.

If the quality of the beauty, the unruffled serenity, and utter contentment of the state of centeredness were not so much more satisfying than anything the senses have to offer, then we would not be likely to make the serious effort required to establish ourselves therein. If the joyous resignation to this impersonal realm of experience did not feel more real, more permanent, and more essential than anything that even the strongest and closest merely human bond can offer, then it is unlikely that we would ever learn to let go of our human attachments and our natural anthropocentrism in order to surrender fully to the Heart within. From the stillpoint in the center, even the loftiest and most refined thinking is perceived as ‘noise’—or a kind of distraction—while the great bulk of ordinary mental activity is positively annoying.

Learning to become centered consists, for the most part, in learning to dissociate our attention from these various levels/intensities of mental-sensual noise. We are learning to trade off stimulation for serene composure, enthused engagement for unruffled rootedness in the source. I feel I’m being invited in—into a comparatively quiet interior space where it is not only rude to speak: it’s rude even to think.

Metaphysical Materialists and Storytellers (2/8/11)

Freud proposed the idea of a ‘death instinct’ (thanatos) which arises alongside the libidinal instinct (eros) for which he is more widely known. In Civilization and its Discontents, where he mentions but does not develop this idea beyond a very limited extent, it serves as perhaps the strongest single force opposing and undermining civilization as a creative process.

May we not recognize a not-so-distant cousin of this death-instinct in the habit of abstracting our attention from objects? This introverting tendency consists, at bottom, in the withdrawal of psychic energy (libido) from outer objects. This robs them of the power and vitality they would otherwise acquire from our steady payments of animating, reality-conferring attention. (These payments may be consciously made, or they can be ‘automatic bank-draft payments’ that we do not have to consciously attend to.)

In keeping with the generally biological and extraverted biases of his theoretical standpoint, Freud characterizes this death instinct in terms of aggressivity, brutal destructiveness, cruelty, sadism, and masochism (when intermingled with eros)—and even with evil and ‘Satan.’ From a less literalistic, less behavioral, and more purely psychological perspective, the whole problem can be shifted onto a subtler plane, however. In this way Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are replaced by blissfully detached Indian yogis and serenely indifferent Taoist sages. Brutish outer destructiveness and barbaric cruelty are ‘sublimated’ or ‘spiritualized’ into a state of inner detachment that allows for a measure of conscious control over the direction and use of one’s instinctual energy. From ‘discharge’ to ‘take charge!’ From ‘acting out’ to ‘acting in.’

What Freud conceives as the struggle between these ‘opposed’ instincts—eros and thanatos—may just as legitimately be viewed as the continual array of transformations occasioned by the interplay of, say, ‘yin’ and ‘yang,’ or the positive and negative poles necessary for the generation of an energy field. By conceiving the interplay between the two as a war between a life-affirming and a pessimistic, life-denying morality (in Nietzsche’s philosophy, roughly speaking, this is ‘master morality’ and ‘slave morality,’ respectively), Freud runs into difficulties that I believe are subtly sidestepped (or perhaps leapt over) by Jung, the Taoists, and much of Indian philosophy. Metaphysical materialism seems to be implicit in Nietzsche’s as well as Freud’s ground assumptions, whereas Jung and the others maintain a discreet silence about matters that are deemed beyond the reach of human reason. Accordingly, this philosophical modesty on Jung’s part (or his dearth of philosophical arrogance and hypostatizing presumption) ultimately consigns his speculations about ‘final things’ to the realm of myth rather than to that of rational philosophy, but this very open-endedness sharply distinguishes his psychology from the deterministic (and generally mechanistic-reductive) psychologies in which the materialists (Nietzsche and Freud) risk becoming entangled by virtue of their own need to nail things down, or to reduce them to some ultimate set of axiomatic principles (infantile sexuality, the pleasure principle, the reality principle, the Oedipus complex, will-to-power, eternal recurrence of the same, etc.)

These principles function like ultimate explanatory principles for Nietzsche and Freud, despite their unconvincing attempts to suggest otherwise. Jung’s key concepts and paradigms are heuristic—sophisticated but provisional rules of thumb—and not ultimate explanatory principles into which all can be analyzed and resolved. Jung is, therefore, more of a storyteller and myth-maker than a scientist or philosopher in the traditional or strict sense. He is more of an artist, visionary, and (non-dogmatic) religious thinker, to my mind, than a resolver of human problems into irreducible terms or elements, as Freud and Nietzsche attempt to be—but fail to pull off in a convincing manner.

Life is change—and change necessarily involves the ceaseless death and transcendence of the status quo. Living conditions (and the contexts within which the events of life make any coherent sense) are continually undergoing subtle and sometimes momentous transformations—both inside and out. So far as we can tell, no dogmatic theology and no rational explanatory scheme can ever fully account for, or adequately represent, that protean mystery we call ‘life.’ Life can be experienced—if only through a glass darkly, and in non-lethal doses—but it can never be firmly grasped or explained by our feeble philosophies and by the imperfect lights of our minds. Our most eloquent and grave statements about life are no more than stabs by pocket knives into the thick folds of ever-metamorphosing flesh which enclose this elusive motherfather that has spawned our mind-body complexes. Such grandiose statements are impressive only to the foolish and virginal minds of persons who believe that these petty little pin-pricks penetrate the thick layers of opacity, reaching down to the bones and to the heart of life itself. I have certainly counted myself among such fools, but having persisted in my folly, I have gradually begun more frankly to perceive my folly for what it is. And how can I not here speak ‘in praise of folly’ when I know that wisdom which believes in itself with conviction immediately pulls the ‘wise man’ back to the start of the line, where he is forced to re-begin his steep ascents (and deep descents) behind more knowing ‘fools.’ But then, to know is to know that one knows not. Truly spoken words sound paradoxical. Flat statements fall flat on their asses.

Benefactors, Stewards, and the Lumpen Unresponsive (5/6/15)

(Heaven doth with us as we with torches do, Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch’d But to fine issues; nor Nature never lends The smallest scruple of her excellence But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines Herself the glory of a creditor, Both thanks and use.—Measure for Measure, I.i.32-41)

 

More than a few of us stumble upon rich underground veins and deposits of precious ore, but only a tiny handful of us cultivate the digging, extracting, and refining techniques that are required to move this potential wealth up into the light where it can be purified and introduced into the agora, or marketplace. Only there is it able to enrich the lives of those who are in a position to earn and to profit from this wealth that is brought into ‘circulation.’ Then, of course, there is a more or less permanent ‘underclass’ which consists of torpid souls who are neither extractor-refiner-producers nor disciplined laborers-assimilators who can make profitable use of this spiritual capital. If and when a member of this mass underclass receives a portion of this collectively accessible treasure, he typically misuses it so that its worth is wasted upon him. The reason for this is simple enough: he is ignorant—or contemptuous—of the higher or nobler uses to which such wealth can be put.

Those relatively rare souls on the mining-extracting end often produce far, far more wealth than they could ever use for their personal wants and needs—no matter how extravagant their spending habits happen to be. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, Croesus and Crassus, are such figures in the analogous realm of monetary wealth. Exceptional cultural wealth-producers seem to have been destined, from birth, to put new spiritual riches into circulation where they can be earned by, and distributed throughout, the ‘second tier.’ The larger and more stable this second tier is, the stronger and healthier the culture will be. The institutions of higher learning and of the fine arts are usually administered and supervised by this second tier. They are endowed with the wealth and the prestige that serve as attractive magnets and galvanizers for the noble potentials and yearnings of the young who are inspired by the loftiest exemplars. It is the acquisition and re-investment of our cultural capital, from generation to generation, which is responsible for the preservation of our inherited wealth. All it takes is for a few generations of careless and reckless spendthrifts to squander this precious capital to bring about an extended ‘Dark Age’—from which recovery is slow and difficult under even the best conditions. This is why stewardship of the liberal arts, of religious and ethical thought, of philosophy, history, and poetry is so urgently important to humanity’s general welfare. Even if all or most of the answers are not to be found ready to hand in this treasure house of traditional wisdom and knowledge, at least the well-formulated questions are to be found there—the very questions that can be relied upon to open a path towards those answers.

But what about those rare birds, the discoverer-suppliers—the crude and mundane shadows of which are Crassus and John D. Rockefeller? How may we justly characterize their preternaturally generative souls? I’m thinking of the likes of Plato, Socrates, Jesus, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe. There is something, it would seem, that is so insatiable and inextinguishable about the fire that blazes within the almost superhuman souls of such miners of wisdom—we can only behold them with the awe that is ordinarily reserved for deities and demigods. Such spirits shoot like meteors through our dark firmament, blazing into nothingness as they emit their mysterious light—by which we can chart their fleeting trajectories. And yet, as ephemeral as these trajectories are, they comprise the most enduring treasures that we so precariously possess down here in the cave.

 

Metanoia I (9/22/14)

A principal consequence of the spiritual ‘about-face’—or metanoia—is an incipient acknowledgement not so much of the reality of the psyche, but of the primacy of the psyche. Before the conversion crisis, one’s consciousness was still, by and large, directed outwards—as is normal among the great bulk of humanity—now as ever. After this transformation has definitively and decisively occurred, the initiate has struck the first serious blow against his enslavement and his puppet-like obedience to thoughts and beliefs that have been sovereign in his mind since earliest childhood.

One way of describing the initiation experience is to speak of a decisive shift in one’s psychic center of gravity. The hub or center of consciousness is more deeply interiorized. There is a distinct sense of being relocated further upstream, psychically—closer to the source of all mental activities and processes. It is this liberation from the muddy delta into the clearer, purer ‘source-waters’ of one’s stream of consciousness, that activates the initiate’s innate capacity to see external events, behaviors, and formulated thoughts as effects rather than as causes of intrapsychic factors. This capacity must, of course, be developed and cultivated if it is to be turned into a reliable and trustworthy faculty. If the capacity is not cultivated and disciplined, it will not be able to elevate the initiate to the next rung of spiritual development.

This next level of development generally pertains to breaking the spell of enchantment and attachment to the sensual world and its contents. The initiate has fashioned the instruments or the means of his release and now he must put them to proper use. The insights and powers he has earned through the initiatory process can be improperly used for selfish purposes—since they give him certain advantages that are not enjoyed by those whose consciousness is more or less exclusively confined to the world of effects. Compared to these non-initiates, he is like someone who is equipped with X-ray vision that enables him to see through masking surfaces into the hidden realm of causal factors—a realm that is inferable, but invisible, to the uninitiated. Therefore, unless and until the initiate’s ethical and spiritual maturity matches his powers of intellectual or psychological penetration, he is likely to be of more harm to himself and to others than a force for good.

This is why it is necessary for the initiate to undergo the ‘death of the world’—or crucifixion—ordeal before he can truly be trusted not to abuse his powers for selfish ends. Only after the world and its varied enticements have been ‘seen through’—and their hollowness thoroughly acknowledged by the initiate—only then is he fit to perform the proper task of awakening and assisting others along the steep path of inner freedom.

What we find, then, is that the fate-altering shift in one’s psychic center of gravity—a momentous transformation of the initiate’s mental bearings—must be accompanied by an equally momentous change of heart, or a transfigured will. St. Augustine clearly understood the importance of this two-pronged conversion process. His early and earnest embrace of Platonic and Plotinian philosophical reflection—or mental inspiration—flooded his intellect with the light of higher illumination, but it was not, by itself, sufficient to transform his will. In the language of Christianity: for this ‘conversion,’ it was necessary to press beyond intellectual-philosophical to spiritual redemption of his corrupt will.

Such ‘terms and conditions’ have fallen out of favor in our post-Christian era. But regardless of whether we approach this initiatory experience from a Christian, a Sufi, a Buddhist, or Vedantic perspective—each tradition possessing its own distinctive terminology, formulas, figures, and so forth—the underlying esoteric spiritual principles remain identical, regardless of the peculiarities of form, inflection, and emphasis that exoterically differentiate one path from the next.

What the World Thinks of Us (3/23/13)

What we suppose the world (of others) thinks about us: how does this supposal constitute one of the greatest stumbling blocks to our inner freedom? To what extent do we betray our own higher possibilities in allowing these (often unconscious and unexamined) assumptions to govern or to interfere with the course our life takes?

Of course, what I mean here by the phrase ‘what the world thinks about us’ extends far beyond the voiced judgments, expressed opinions, and explicit reactions of persons we know. All of us have a general notion of what ‘the world’ expects of us as members of the society we are part of. Our family, friends, and the other members of our culture/society are all carriers and more or less devoted upholders of these collective norms and ideals—even when they have trouble adhering to them. These norms apply to every aspect of life: how we should think, how we should dress and behave, who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out.’ In their raw state, these collective norms are oftentimes so general as to be nebulous—but they usually allow for a certain degree of fine-tuning and articulate clarification, if one is willing to do the necessary work. It would seem to me that unless and until we have actually made some effort along these lines—to clarify and to make explicit these norms and ideals that are often vague and implicit—our hands are tied if and when we seek to break the hypnotic spell they exercise over our minds. It is a whole lot easier to contend with clearly-defined, substantial adversaries than with a poisonous cloud or a soporific gas!

Unless we have already attained an exceptionally high level of spiritual-psychological development, or maturity, ‘what the world thinks about us’ will assuredly play a decisive role in the guidance and motivation of our personal lives, even if—or especially if—we decline to take part in the system while resentfully accepting its designation or judgment of us as ‘failures,’ ‘fringe dwellers,’ or ‘misfits.’ If we happen to be a movie star or a prominent politician, we will easily be able to find out what the world thinks about us—by means of the swift public response to our latest speech, our most recent movie performance, or what have you. If our circle of friends, family, and acquaintances is much smaller than this, we can still rely on ample evidence of where we stand in the eyes and opinions of this much smaller audience. But even if we have retreated into the forest to live the austere life of the solitary hermit—the norms, ideals, and judgments of the world (of collective consciousness) will pursue us like the furies and overtake us.

As the lonely hermit in his humble hut soon learns, the world of norms, judging voices, and compelling moral-social demands are not only out there in the form of actual shaking fingers and disapproving glances—or their opposite: back-patting approval and vocal praise for living up to others’ expectations and ideals. All of this—and more—lives and breathes within our own complicated, multi-level souls. We have brought the world, the ‘audience,’ the ‘public mind’ into our little forest-hut. It has infiltrated our precious solitude. We are surrounded by the ‘world’ (and what ‘it’ thinks about us), and we are compounded with it (psychically) as well.

On Prejudice (5/4/12)

A properly trained and respectful anthropologist would not attempt to alter or interfere with the primitive tribe he was observing while conducting his fieldwork. His aim would be to take his ‘material’ as it comes—as it presents itself. He would do his level best to understand his subjects within the context of their own culture—to understand them as they understand and experience themselves. In his effort to be as fair and as unprejudiced as possible, he will try to avoid imposing concepts and categories (derived from his own cultural-educational background) upon his subjects, who experience life and themselves from within their very different scheme of acculturation. Of course, before he can do this he must first be clearly conscious of what he brings to the table from his own background. As long as these acquired concepts and categories of understanding are unconsciously assumed—and not critically objectified through careful self-analysis—they will invariably be incorporated into the mental lens through which he beholds his subjects. In doing this, he will see much, but of course what he sees will be distorted and colored by the unconscious terms and conditions of his own informing worldview. In short, everything about and from them will be instantaneously translated into the terms native to his cultural/educational background.

How can I view my psyche without the distorting and coloring prejudices that I have acquired through study and cultural conditioning? Even thoroughly unconventional and provocative texts by Nietzsche, Jung, James Hillman, Chuang-tzu, Ramana Maharshi, Schopenhauer, Plato, Ibn ‘Arabī, Emerson, and dozens of others which have helped me to become conscious of my own ‘Western’ assumptions, have nonetheless contributed to my interpreting spontaneously generated psychic phenomena in less than a ‘naïve’ or ‘innocent’ fashion. In fact, it is a wonder that I can experience anything freshly or purely (from the psyche) without immediately classifying and evaluating that raw content in some set of borrowed terms or another. The structural frameworks, the value-laden terminology, the theoretical and symbolic materials that have been incorporated into my mental viewfinder—my thoroughly informed attention—go at once to work upon whatever presents itself to my mind, forbidding any ‘raw’ material to remain raw for more than a nanosecond before it is either assimilated into my already existent intellectual context—or unconsciously filtered out, precisely because it does not already have a designated compartment or pigeonhole to get swallowed up by.

Roberts Avens’ little book (The New Gnosis) made much of Heidegger’s quiet campaign to ‘let things be’—a proposition that appears to speak to this conundrum—this near-impossibility of viewing or experiencing anything without immediately assimilating it into our pre-established mental context. In other words, unless the presented phenomena can be conveniently assigned to some pre-designated place on the ‘map’ always in the back of our mind, it is irrelevant or only partially intelligible to us. It is difficult or impossible to assign any sort of fixed, reliable value to a content that remains unintelligible or stumpingly opaque to us. The more comprehensive, subtle, and flexible our ‘working map’ happens to be, the greater the range and variety of contents that can be plausibly ‘placed’ there. But then we run once again into that old familiar dualism—the ‘map and the territory.’ They are not one and the same.

Or, are they? If we are unable to assign a mental impression or ‘content’ to some part of our working map, then—technically speaking—we have no way of talking about it. It is ineffable. Whatever it is, or is not, such a hypothetically un-mappable and un-nameable ‘X’ belongs to the realm Kant called the ‘noumenal’ or Jung called ‘the psychoid’—and must be regarded as irretrievably unconscious. It is perhaps unsurprising that Hillman—no mean epistemologist himself—was uncomfortable with both of these terms. For him, archetypes ‘make sense’ only in their phenomenal aspect. As ‘noumena,’ they are effectively irrelevant since they can signify nothing already on our maps.

To ‘let things be’—to allow them to speak or present themselves to us in their own, native light—in their own strange voices—what would that be like? This could only happen if we managed, somehow, to forestall or to silence altogether the quietly dictatorial voice inside our own heads that tells the beings what or who they are before we’ve actually heard from them.

I am acutely aware of this paradoxical, contradictory quality to my ‘map’—my acquired and developed understanding of…well, just about everything! Everything, that is, which I deign to acknowledge or to grant a place upon the ever-expanding map. The problem, of course, is that my learning is continually getting in the way of my having any sort of ‘raw’ experience. I have begun to wonder if it is possible for me even to have ‘raw’ experience. It’s not that there is not a lot of rawness out there (and in there) for me to open up to. The problem is that almost all of it is automatically filtered out—as I immure myself within the protective, insulating walls of my foreknowledge. I call it ‘foreknowledge’ instead of ‘knowledge,’ pure and simple, because it functions very much like a pre-judgment or pre-digestion of whatever beats or bangs against the sturdy walls of my foreknowledge-fortress. OK, I’m deliberately being hard on myself just to press the point, but I don’t think I would be drubbing myself this way unless some part of me was becoming fed up with this arrangement—and wondering what I can do to lower—or even relativize—these insulating and isolating walls of foreknowledge.

One would have to be blind and/or dishonest not to see the will to power lurking behind these cartographic and fortress-building campaigns. The moment I actually begin to lower my walls and really open myself up—imaginatively, sensitively, cognitively, compassionately—to persons and other beings in my midst, I begin to tremble like a leaf in the wind. It’s not all fear and trepidation, mind you, but my apprehensiveness is definitely ratcheted up a notch or two. In truth, a welter of emotions and imaginings that span the whole gamut from dread to bliss awakens with my recovery of just a fraction of that sensitivity (to the ‘Thous’—as opposed to the mere ‘Its’—of the world) with which I seem to have been blessed from sun-up to well after sundown as an imaginative, young child. This sensitization perceives living, squirming images instead of fixed, formal concepts. It encounters archetypally-infused presences instead of tediously familiar fellow cast members, while natural settings are translated into Edenic gardens. ‘I’ am no longer experienced as a disengaged, Cartesian cartographer who is greedily sizing up a soulless ‘external’ world of merely functional (or dysfunctional) persons or objects. ‘I’ melt into an ensouled and protean poetic drama that simultaneously enfolds and surges through me. The will to power under such sensitive and (dare I say it?) sacred conditions is like Hercules in Hades. He made quite a mess of things in the underworld precisely because he viewed the intangible shades through the literalizing, combat-ready eyes of his own personal hero-myth. It may be the case that considerable courage is required of anyone who dares to ‘lower his walls’ of foreknowledge and earnestly amassed presumptions—but it is not quite the courage typically displayed by self-glorifying heroes on the battlefield, on horseback, or in the cockpit. Isn’t it closer to the courage displayed by despised martyrs and scorned heretics who endured flaying and blazing bonfires—the purging, initiatory thresholds that must be crossed en route to terra incognita? The rest of us piously toss faggots onto the fire in the public square—‘innocently’ assured of our place in the heavenly hell our heretic is now on the verge of actually experiencing as we ‘spirit’ him away in our benighted zeal.