241. Several times I have had the mental image of a man and woman, both of whom are overshadowed by two non-human, giant figures – like deities – who are channeling through the man and woman. The “possessed” human couple experiences a dramatic intensification of experience on a variety of levels, simultaneously. Both the man and the woman mistakenly assume that the source of all this intense, dramatic emotion and desire, fear, and insecurity arises from the human all too human level, when in fact – all along – it is coming from the impersonal, godlike creatures behind them. It is only with our acceptance and understanding of these daimonic or transpersonal “background” factors that we are able to let ourselves and others “off the hook” for words and deeds over which they frequently have little or no authorship or control.
242. Sex and Spirit: I have often suspected that the deeper psychological roots of my own rather mysterious and formidable erotic yearnings are bound up with the equally uncanny and stubbornly irrepressible craving for personal oblivion—for ecstatic and utterly blissful self-forgetfulness. Is there some subterranean link between this speculation of mine and Nietzsche’s aphoristic declaration from Beyond Good and Evil (75): ‘The degree and type of a person’s sexuality reaches up into the furthermost peaks of their spirit’? There is certainly the suggestion here that a kind of ‘grounding’ is afforded, if only momentarily, by such unreserved and abandoned immersions in the body—or in the euphoric coalescence of body with body in the transports of carnal congress. In such moments that critical-creative tension typically present in self-consciousness temporarily dissolves or collapses in the rapture of orgasm. Analogously, the experience—also typically fleeting for those of us who qualify for such experiences—of absorption in (or by) the spirit seems to dissolve the tension of self-consciousness. This mystical union—as Rumi, the Sufi poet, recognized—serves as a kind of mirror image or spiritual twin to the rapturous communion of sexual ecstasy. Are we then to conceive of these as two poles—somatic and pneumatic—and that the charged space in between these two poles is the ‘field of play’ for most of us most of the time we are alive?
243. Sleepwalkers. In imaginatively reflecting upon the habitual cues and inner directives that orient and motivate most of our behavior—instead of acting them out like obliging, unswerving meat-puppets—we add to the terribly limited supply of genuine freedom in the world, for to reflect is, in effect, to momentarily neutralize a compulsion—to forestall the literalization and materialization of a perfectly satisfactory image or mental phenomenon. When regarded from the relatively unencumbered and uncompelled vantage point of the educated imagination, much of what gets acted out upon the world stage reveals itself to be the work either of mad men or of sleepwalkers who do not know that they are asleep and dreaming. When human beings become entangled in the snares of literal events—and they either forget (or they never learned) how to step back reflectively and see these events metaphorically in an ‘as if’ manner—they resemble psychotic persons who mistake hallucinations for reality. Words of true and liberating insight are usually wasted upon such persons—for they fall upon deaf ears.
244. Unsponsored. It darkens my mood to reflect upon the fact that there is no merely human remedy or solution to the enormous spiritual conundrum we are in today. We got ourselves into the mess largely by collectively turning our back upon ‘the Gods,’ as I see it, and now the Gods have returned the dis-courtesy, leaving us utterly un-sponsored. In our desperation we cling to our merely personal relationships with other more or less blinkered and spiritually anemic humans, seldom getting what we inwardly yearn for. All our humanistic, technocratic, pragmatic, psychotropic, and scientific methods and ideals have proven to be incapable of filling the vacuum left by the vanished Gods. I am acutely aware of the inadequacy of even the staunchest bonds with the noblest and best human beings to permanently quench my transpersonal spiritual thirst. In my grave and sober moods—like the one I’m possessed by today—I am tempted to regard virtually every human I know as something of a child—perhaps a decent, obedient one or perhaps a selfish, bratty one, but a child nevertheless. Why? Is it because no one is rightfully entitled to be called an adult unless and until he/she has recognized the terrible truth about our spiritually isolated and unsponsored condition and who does not suffer the profoundest distress over this fact?
245. Whitest Spot in a White Space: Ramana Maharshi is, hands down, the most radical, the most challenging, and the most profoundly intriguing voice I have ever encountered—in print. When I set Jung and Nietzsche beside him, they both seem fettered by their individual egos. Plato and Shakespeare seem caught up in a web of complex cultural and political questions, while he seems to live beyond their reach. Ramana Maharshi stuns my personal will by exposing its innate waywardness, along with the seeds of its inevitable self-defeat. By repeatedly insisting on the sole reality of the Self—and the illusoriness of the ego—RM implicitly declares the ego-will to be illusory, as well. Only when it ceases, only then, does the Self rightfully eclipse the ego, or reabsorb it back into itself. I have, throughout my life, had intimations—episodic flashes—of this reabsorption by the Self. But the will, my carefully cultivated and coddled preferences, my earthly ‘path’—all return with a full head of steam—and willy-nilly, I find myself boring back into the world—following one or another trail, another ‘lost highway.’ As long as it is the ego driving—or being driven, repetition of the same basic scenarios is bound to occur, is it not? In being still, am I not attempting to dissolve or neutralize that will? Nietzsche certainly got things wrong, did he not? There is no resignation with him—Buddhistic or otherwise—is there? Only the attempt to dominate or to assimilate.
246. Getting Plastered: Established doctrines and dogmas may justly (and temporarily) be used as scaffolding by ice sculptors, whose private and public works stand erect and retain their distinctive shape for as long as the proper weather conditions hold out. Or they are like the scaffolding around a large sandcastle that excites our admiration until the tide rushes in and levels it to a featureless mound of sand. Like dogma, scaffolding interferes with our direct view—and therefore, our full appreciation—of the ephemeral ice sculpture and the sandcastle. At its best, dogma provides us with a temporary, provisional place to stand as we creatively employ the elastic, volatile prima materia of the imagination to sculpt figures that serve the needs of the momentary situation before fading away. Perhaps they are covered in plaster before they vanish. Words, icons, concepts (nama-rupa) constitute such plaster. Life is drunk with ceaseless transformation. It is, therefore, always getting plastered, one might say, in serious jest.
247. Particles and Plasma: It is becoming harder and harder to work up serious interest in this laughably soft no-thing that doesn’t really exist: inviolable and incontrovertible philosophical truth. At least it doesn’t exist in a reliably communicable and thoroughly intelligible form. Devoting one’s life and one’s best energies to its pursuit is like spending billions of dollars on a fully staffed cyclotron in order to produce a single, rare, subatomic particle that ‘lasts’ about a nanosecond. And there—just beyond the frequency range of this evanescent, extremely expensive subatomic particle is the utterly intangible, plasma-like imagination. There is no admission charge to enter the theater of imagination and it is open seven days a week for all comers. But I have lied. There is, in fact, an admission price. Everything rigid and solid has to first be deposited inside a locker just outside the entrance gate—and most persons simply cannot cram their hulking, bulky, balking egos into the locker. Then, assuming you get past the threshold, it is necessary to tip the three-headed dog that stands guard there. Only then do we truly enter the underworld that is always present slightly out of phase with this solid one that most of us are frozen into.
248. A Path towards Neutrality: One way of describing the macrocosmic return to a state of balance, or centeredness, is in terms of neutralization. Positive and negative charges are continually canceling each other out—acids and bases commingling in such a way as to arrive at a pH level of 7, that of pure water. From either extreme, or pole, this ongoing process of neutralization initially looks and feels like death—but from the centerpoint it is experienced as marriage—what the old alchemists called the coniunctio. Everything in or about us that is extreme or one-sided stubbornly resists marriage to its apparent opposite—to which it is nevertheless mysteriously attracted, as the moth is to the flame. That essence buried within us—that core which ceaselessly partakes of quiet, still centeredness—trusts in the justice and soundness of the marriage. The sparring, half-blind spouses have little besides passion to bring them together and bind them at first—but eventually, after much patient sacrifice and stretching on both ends, they learn to love one another so that, by and by, they die together in a tender embrace.
249. The Gnostic view of things: The world of everyday experience is the inversion of the true order of things as perceived from the spiritual perspective. Therefore, it only makes sense that from the standpoint of ordinary commonsense, spiritual truths often sound paradoxical and absurd. If the literal world of concrete experience is the inversion of the spiritual reality, then the same holds in reverse: the spiritual realm seems like ‘the world turned inside out.’ The more we adapt to the everyday world of commonsense experience—the more completely ‘at home’ we feel in its familiar or passionate or soothing embrace—the further we fall away from our true source, our first home. In a nutshell, this is why genuine spiritual experiences are typically disturbing to the uninitiated, and why ordinary religious experience within our ‘ordinary bearings’ tends to be counterfeit, spurious, and merely comforting to those who are as yet unfit to withstand the ‘world-subverting’ power of the spirit. Such ‘religious’ persons obviously need to be protected from authentic spiritual experiences—for genuine encounters with the spirit would be their undoing. Conventionally ‘religious’ persons talking about spiritual realities are like persons talking about Java and the Javanese after reading about them in a Lonely Planet travel guidebook, but who have never set foot on Javanese soil or conversed in Bahasa with a native of the island. The genuinely spiritual person is like someone who has been to Java, learned the language, coupled with a woman there, and sired a child. Later, he, the wife, and child—all bilingual by now divide their time between Java and the Western country where he works.
250. Terra Incognita: Even the dozen or so greatest contributors or benefactors to human culture and to our understanding of ourselves—and of what is possible—provide us only with discrete pieces of the picture. This ‘picture’ can never be finished, but is always evolving. Moreover, its frame is always shrinking or expanding. It is not fixed or inflexible. No single contributor or benefactor can provide a complete or exhaustive vision—and even if this were possible, how many of us are in a position to fully benefit from such a vision? No, it is the ongoing conversation—which all too frequently deteriorates into a feud or spat—between the divergent visions of these exemplars that carries human culture further and deeper than would ever be possible if only one or two sacrosanct, ‘authorized’ visions were singled out to orient and guide us. As soon as we become devoted advocates or proselytes for one or two of these savior-benefactors, we implicitly opt out of the conversation and forfeit the privilege of making a more original contribution to the unfinishable picture—the elusive gestalt longed for by the more curious members of our groping, hoping, moping, coping (and increasingly doping) species. It is always in those ‘gray areas’ of unfinished business and unexplored territory (lying in between the colonized positions articulated by one or another of the great benefactors and their scribes) that original contributions are to be made. And, oh, there is so much terra incognita!
251. Ultimate Privation: What if the ultimate—and, therefore, the most potentially creative—privation is the absence of God or the divine (transcendent) dimension from our life? Of course, in order to inaugurate the questioning, the probing, the deep inner exploration, the fervent and disciplined study of spiritual scriptures, this privation of God must be acutely, painfully conscious. The pain of this absence must be so intense that it exposes the comparative unimportance and frivolity of everything that the sensual, the social, and the conventionally religious ‘worlds’ have to offer. We are driven from within to pursue most avidly that which we feel the absence of most stingingly: sex, renown, the feeling of power, moral superiority over others, to be loved by others, money, aesthetic pleasure, God, peace, centeredness. We are, in a deep sense, defined by our driving and compelling privations. In other words, we are best known by what we are most fearful of lacking, since it is the pursuit of that particular object or state of being that reveals our trajectory—our daimon—our fate. What we want most—what matters above all else—is what we are known by and for, whether that is wisdom or blow jobs, offspring or celebrity, honesty or knavery.
252. S.C.U.B.A.: Imaginatively extricating ourselves from the ‘moral universe’ (or moral context) that we, along with nearly every other human being, typically inhabit is no guarantee that we will slough off our ingrained sense of being a moral agent. Functioning as a moral agent goes along with inhabiting a moral context in the same way that wearing S.C.U.B.A. equipment goes along with deep sea diving. Prolonged, deep-sea diving without S.C.U.B.A. equipment is suicidal, just as wearing S.C.U.B.A. breathing apparatus on land is not only superfluous, but extremely cumbersome and attention-drawing, as well. The lesson here? Beware of dismantling and shedding your morality—your sense of being a responsible moral agent—before you have developed lungs that allow you to function without artificial breathing apparatus in the very different, de-moralized realm of the imaginal psyche. The two realms—the undersea arena of moralized experience and that of non-moralized imaginal experience—must never be conflated. They must always be kept distinct in one’s awareness, even though the psychic realm, being the subtler one, permeates the literal, moralized realm of dayworld experience like a kind of perfume—or stench, as the case sometimes may be. The reverse is not the case, however. That part of me which is consciously established within the psychic underworld—the realm of the soul—is both inaudible and invisible to other human beings whose consciousness is confined to the bulkier, grosser level of dayworld (or ego-) consciousness. They can neither see nor smell me. Only those persons who have similarly succeeded in transcending the literalistic, egocentric realm of dayworld consciousness—and have attained a foothold in the subtler realm of soul—are able to see and hear me as I am. To everyone else, I must necessarily seem paradoxical, murky, unintelligible, and yawn-spawning.
253. Dayworld/Nightworld: Today I prefer an evenly distributed inner light—and not the focused beams of incandescent thinking. The diffuse, subdued luminosity of the imaginal realm allows new phenomena to emerge from the shadows—shapes and delicate impressions that are thoroughly washed out by the bright light of ordinary rational-ego consciousness. These are nocturnal creatures that begin warily to slither and tiptoe from their dens only after dusk. These I desire for my new friends and allies—these owls, bats, lynxes, and sloths of the nightworld of the psyche. Aside from dreams, reverie is perhaps the most suitable doorway through which to enter this ‘twilight zone’ where the shades of the underworld reside—unseen and unheard by everyone confined to the surface dayworld, where the bright solar light and the loud city sounds blot out all evidence of the souls that surround and move through us—as if we were the insubstantial ghosts. There would seem to be a kind of inverse relationship between the solar light of the dayworld and the crepuscular light of the underworld—or, if you prefer, between the focused, gathered light of the heroic ego and the unfocused, diffuse luminosity of the soul. For one to wax the other must wane. This truth is hinted at in Plato’s allegory of the cave, where the liberated prisoner must undergo a significant ocular adjustment both in exiting and in re-entering the cave. Plato warns us that the liberated prisoner experiences disorientation—and accompanying ineptitude or clumsy judgment—at both transition points. It would appear, then, that we must have successfully crossed and re-crossed this threshold, or border, between the dayworld and underworld many times before we can become adepts, someone who quickly recovers his bearings when crossing from one dimension into the next.
254. Advice to ‘New Age’ writers: in your works, instead of providing umbrellas to shelter and shield the fallacies in your readers’ minds from the ‘acid rain’ of truth, INVERT those umbrellas so that they become baptismal fonts wherein their ‘half-truths’ may be dissolved—and their hidden ray of light released.
255. Genuine, solid sanity is devoid of hype, hoopla, and hyperbole. Why, then, are our presidential campaigns pumped up with so much hot air? Or is it nitrous oxide? Aren’t good government and good leaders free of giddiness and glitz, bombast and braggadocio? And when these vices and vagaries hijack political discourse and become the new norm, might we not assume that sanity has left the building?
256. The unparelleled conservatism of those ancient Egyptians (in their artistic conventions, traditional customs, religious beliefs, etc.) was a splendidly fertile stupidity on a monumental scale—for which we are obliged to feel boundless gratitude. Nearly 3,000 years of minimally interrupted barnacle-clinging to static motifs, styles, rites, dogmas! The very epitome of adaptors to materially beneficent conditions, equipped with a cultural system that fit snugly—like a well-tailored glove—upon these optimal material circumstances. Perhaps Plato had such a bodily and mentally conservative culture as Egypt in mind when, in Bk. II of the Republic, he had Socrates fabricate the ‘city of pigs’ as a first attempt at an ideal city—one that is immediately rejected by the spirited and ambitious Glaucon. Little wonder that the Gnostics viewed Egypt as the dark apotheosis of the Fallen World. Even (or especially!) all that treasure and artful obsessiveness squandered upon the mummification of bodies merely underscores the point here. How different from Indian culture of the time—where such things are burned. And how different from the Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian) cultures—where everything moved and was continually being renegotiated. In Egypt, the ‘I-am-the-body’ idea takes deep root.
257. In their soliloquies, Shakespeare’s fictional characters can safely be relied upon to tell us what they think and what they’re up to. However, we would be foolhardy to mistake such candor and honesty for the truth, pure and simple. For even the most honest and candid character cannot simply be presumed to possess a self-understanding that is complete, unprejudiced, exhaustive, and therefore fully truthful. No doubt, even Shakespeare was denied such a complete and exhaustive understanding of himself and his extraordinary characters. And are we not in the same boat? Are we not also constrained by the ‘necessary fictions’ that we have come to believe implicitly about ourselves—and about most of those around us? And how continuously we make this false, untenable equation between mere sincerity, or honesty, and the truth, when often they are as different as the sun and the moon!
258. Life feeds upon life. Mind, too, upon close inspection, appears to be a self-consuming principle or entity: thesis provokes anti-thesis, and in the ensuing conflict syn-thesis consumes and transforms both into something else. Thus, the temporal process of continual transformation and self-consumption goes on and on and on—unless and until, miraculously, a point of absolute changelessness—of perfect stillness and peace—is revealed. This is a game-changer—or rather, a game-ender.
259. Stillness is far more closely linked with spirit than with soul, since soul—as it has been traditionally understood—is mercurial, shifting, and infinitely malleable. Thus, it is only with the quieting of the imaginative faculty that sattvic stillness is realized.
260. As psyche deepens we are quite naturally nudged towards myth, metaphor, and poetry (understood as pregnant, polyvalent, densely packed language—and not merely as ornate language)—not only in our thinking, but in all our modes of expression. We move away from prose, which seems anemic by comparison.
261. It is not so much in the acquisition as in the transcendence of knowledge that we divine its ultimate meaning and worth.
262. Another way of saying ‘all that is born must die’ is: ‘every thing and every state or condition eventually encounters its opposite and is thus canceled out.’ Let the truth of this sink in and relax your grip on all desired things, states, and conditions—and from this detached, quiet stance be content with your freedom from all change and perturbation. Take no more than is necessary to sustain life and be at peace with those around you.
263. It is very much in the interest of ruling elites that the majority of Americans who are capable of serious thought remain cynical when it comes to politics, society, and the prospects of cultural renewal. The reason for this is plain. With cynicism, the moral-spiritual will is weakened, if not poisoned, into more or less complete impotence. It destroys community spirit and throws the isolated individual back upon his own meager resources—to fend for himself, his beleaguered and isolated little self.
264. The many can indulge their hatred for political/warmongering villains like Tamerlane, Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler, and Pol Pot—while conveniently forgetting the fact that none of these monsters would have made the slightest bit of difference in the world if they hadn’t managed to raise armies of men who were (more or less) willing and eager to follow them. And so, when I indulge in my deep feelings of antipathy for those two key founders of the modern world—Bacon and Descartes—I cannot lose sight of the fact that their writings seduced the minds and the wills of self-serving, spiritually undiscerning intellectuals who remade the world according to the Baconian-Cartesian blueprint—slowly choking the soul and the mythical-metaphysical imagination to death in the process.
265. Papuan communities have traditionally staged ‘mock battles’ against one another, using blunt javelins as spears, so that when one person died, the battle would be over and a time would pass before a retaliation attack would occur. This went on for centuries and then a pirated copy of the film Rambo was introduced, along with semi-automatic rifles, and it has been a snowballing catastrophe ever since. This faraway instance shows, in miniature, what has happened in the modern, ‘developed’ world since WWI and the emergence of mechanized slaughter. ‘Man’ hasn’t changed a bit. He’s as much a savage as ever. Only now we possess the means to channel that savagery down much more effective paths of mass destruction as soon as living space and/or precious resources become limited. It is fairly easy to envision the course the future will take.
266. His mind is like a luxurious Swiss watch: accurate, intricately designed and tooled, overpriced, and small enough to be snugly attached to the wrist of a vain and worldly man who believes the watch tells far more than the time!
267. Combating one elaborate fiction with another elaborate fiction gets us no closer to the ‘absolute’ truth—to unequivocal, non-perspectival reality—which transcends all mere fictions. We must learn to regard all thinking ironically, as Ortega y Gasset teaches us, since thinking, in generating concepts, can only beget fictions. Scientists and philosophers and theologians are all wont to forget the fact that they are trading in fictions—so when ‘trade wars’ rage between scientists and theologians or between philosophers and scientists, it is worthwhile to remember that the final ‘winner’ is not reality or the truth, but the most seductive and elaborate fictions.
268. Caesar and Christ: Like the ‘sword in the stone’ of Arthurian romance, genuine authority can be claimed only by those rare spirits who are destined from birth to carry man and history from ‘A’ to ‘B’ (and then get out of the way, as Nietzsche would have added!) so that humanity and history can keep moving by ever-renewed light.
269. Marriage (in the Twilight Zone): Subtilization of consciousness develops out of the gradual marriage or reconciliation of those contraries which most distinguish and define our individual nature. At first, the subtler forms of consciousness are likely to seem a bit boring when compared with the dramatic interplay and conflict of contraries that have defined our lives up to this point. We now have delicate shades of gray to navigate through, instead of dramatic oscillations between light and dark, action and torpor. But eventually, as our inner eye adjusts to the crepuscular light of the conjunction, where the subtle mingling of polarities is stabilized, the thought of going back to our former condition is odious to us. Instead, we desire only to delve deeper and ever deeper into the ‘marriage of heaven and hell.’
270. Idolatry: Rather than regard the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso as actual locales with metaphysical validity, I approach them as topoi within the imaginal realm—as Dante sees them. This final qualification is crucial, since Dante’s underworld is different from Vergil’s (in the Aeneid) or Homer’s (in the Odyssey), or mine (as I read others’ accounts or make my own visits and report my findings). Tradition collects and preserves significant works of literature, poetry, painting, myth, religion, etc., as repositories and collectively available ‘mappings’ of the imaginal. These works are bequeathed to us by individual artists, philosophers, visionaries, historians, and so forth—but they become collective possessions. They become the (usually disorganized) furniture of our minds—as inheritors of our tradition. For many persons these inherited works are regarded as sacrosanct—as still, today, many regard the stories of the Bible or chapters from the Koran. This is a kind of idolatry.