121. The Greatest Threat of all: From the standpoint of ego-consciousness, perhaps no thought is more threatening or horrifying than the idea of the essential oneness of reality, or the Self. Why? With the return to oneness—the return to the one source—the distinction between the Self and other is dissolved. No more subject-object distinction! And, of course, every thing and every person the separate ego lives (and may be prepared to die) for hangs upon the thread of this mental ‘illusion’ of duality. Hence, oneness, or the ultimate unity at the source of all creation, is the scariest thought of all to mere human egos. Far more menacing than Nietzsche’s ‘eternal recurrence’ idea! What is experienced as supreme bliss and utter peace from a perspective just beyond the ego’s is dreaded with horror by the ego—and perhaps understandably so, since it must repeatedly pay the ultimate price in order for the Self to emerge into consciousness. It must get out of the way!
122. It is almost certain that we grow into our individuality in a manner that resembles the downloading of a bittorrent—where a large file is broken up into many pieces, and the pieces gathered from multiple sources, as they become available. Then, as these fragments are gradually accumulated, they are assembled into the coherent file that we eventually open and experience as a more or less coherent movie. But then, this is an ideal or best-case scenario, is it not? Are all the pieces of the whole file—the whole life—ever finally gathered? This is highly doubtful. What is certain is that the path to wholeness is never a straight line, but a crooked, zigzag, up-and-down journey that is never the shortest distance between point A and point B. It is an episodic, picaresque journey that regularly detours from the straight way. Sometimes the expedition comes to a complete halt for long stretches of time before resuming in a fresh direction.
123. The individual most emphatically does not become a microcosm—or miniature replica of the cosmos—by accident or without effort, any more than Plato’s Republic or Goethe’s Faust wrote themselves. The ‘whole’ or complete individual is every bit as much a work of art as he is a child of nature. Perhaps the dismantlement and transcendence of individual consciousness similarly requires a high degree of art—the art of liberation?
124. Taking the Middle Road between Scientism and Christianism Today: In view of what has degenerated into a spiritually barbaric feud between shallow, doltish, moralistic ‘fundamentalist’ believers and secular, science-friendly skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, I refuse to align myself with either side—as these populous sides are presently constituted. Interestingly, they both suffer from similar infections: literalism, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, psychological superficiality, smugness, and a lamentable lack of (bridging) imagination. Because the adherents to either side of this generally hostile cultural divide are almost invariably the animated mouthpieces for affectively-charged, dogmatic opinions, rather than exemplars of multifaceted wisdom and psychological nuance, much heat and little light comes from the war between them. I’ll have none of it.
125. Instead of announcing (to anyone who might be interested) ‘This is where I stand’ (on some particular philosophical or psychological issue), I now find that it is more honest and accurate to proclaim, ‘This is where I currently swim on this matter!’
126. Oscar Wilde’s great genius (and his superior humanity) consisted in his exceptional ability to see through the generally misleading, hypocritical, and shallow surface level of social behavior and conventional morality and make his findings amusing instead of scornful (after the manner of a Cato or Pascal—and even Mark Twain in his last years), enlightening rather than merely chiding, humanizing instead of misanthropic (as with Heraclitus and Nietzsche, now and then).
127. In a quest for clarity and airtight certainty, perhaps far too many of us willingly accept a tiny plot of well-guarded turf where we unwittingly insulate ourselves from vast swaths of perfectly experienceable reality—all those possible experiences that we will never actually have. Upon our tiny-tidy plots of well-fortified turf we become so familiar with every square centimeter that any chance of surprise, shock, or inconvenience is assiduously reduced to the barest minimum. But, as with any closed-off and cramped enclosure, access to fresh, vitalizing air declines in direct proportion to our ascending mastery over the last few remaining leaks in our systems. Nevertheless, our self-suffocation usually progresses so gradually that we lose consciousness long before we actually die.
128. Inland mines. These days, I shy away more and more knowingly from all unitary systems or explanatory models. No One—except that mysterious and incomprehensible whole which forever eludes all our cartographing and conceptualizing—can possibly do justice to the continually transforming drama that is life-and-psyche. Better, I find, simply to give “thick” descriptions of those fleeting moments of epiphanal insighting—encountered like randomly placed, time-delay, land mines designed to blow off the legs of any lazy settler who would presume to stand and plant himself instead of continuing on his way.
129. The enlightened mind is inclined to perceive everyday events—along with the actual opinions and behavior of human beings—as manifest symptoms or effects of (usually unconscious and invisible) causal factors. There is recognition of the extremely narrow limits within which preaching, shaming, cajoling, and exhorting are able to work. It is well understood that mere changes in behavior or in one’s prejudices do little to reform or to regenerate one’s will. And the will always secretly governs or steers one’s actual, innermost beliefs as well as one’s actual, as opposed to feigned and rationalized, behavior. Because the enlightened person ‘gets’ this—because the truth of it has sunk in—he knows to expect little from preachments directed to the unready, the unripe, the ‘defended’ or insulated soul. The mind, then, appears to wait upon the will—in some fundamental way. It is the will that must be ripe for change—for moral-spiritual transformation—before the mind can open up to the truth that is always present or within easy reach. The truth is always available precisely because it is not ‘information,’ but an alignment between the quieted mind and reality. But none of this simple and timeless truth can be properly registered unless and until the noisy mind—full of inherited untruths and half-truths—settles down and submits.
130. Belated Ruminations on some Inflated Expectations. When I was young I often found persons, ordinary activities and emotions, schoolwork, and much else offensive on what I now suspect were aesthetic grounds. There was much about myself, my ‘culture,’ and my surroundings that I instinctively regarded as boring, crude, shabby, sloppy, and shallow. At around the age of sixteen or so I began to seek refuge in literature, in ‘philosophical’ ideas—and in the life of the mind, generally. Now, well into my fifties, I am beginning to see this refuge as a kind of (posh) prison (for the spiritual equivalent of white-collar criminals). So much of what used to excite and entice me now feels rather like a luxurious (and pricey) distraction. The costliness of these (fairly exclusive and by no means popularly embraced) distractions pertains to the years of care, study, and reflection that were required to cultivate my appreciation for these exquisite intellectual and aesthetic snowflakes that melt so easily into irrelevant nothingness in the presence of the far more noble and satisfying silence from which they have distracted me for decades.
131. On Leisure as a Need. Isn’t a serious thinker’s need for leisure tied up with the demand that he slow down before he can be granted even a fragment of wisdom—that commonly undervalued wisdom distilled by those bygone, “pre-modern” races of tradition-bound humans? Wasn’t it precisely the constancy and the slowly turning rotisserie of human drama that allowed such wisdom to cook and to cure—like photographs that require long exposure to faint light before the negative can capture the full richness and delicate shadings of the photographed object? Isn’t this why clever, “successful” persons in the modern world are seldom wise and—vice versa—why wise persons, scarce though they be, are seldom clever and successful by the warped standards of modern civilization? The one demands the utmost from the versatile and mercurial learning capacity, while the other necessarily reaches down below that surface intellect into the older resonances of the intuition and the archetypal imagination, neither of which answers to the clock or the watch.
132. When in purgatory, purge. Don’t binge.
133. Where there is no such thing as time, there is no time to waste. Or…there is no time to waste in our efforts to get to the place where there is no time to waste?
134. Alchemical fable: What happens when we begin not merely to view, but to experience, the concrete events and personal relationships in our daily lives as the ore, or the raw material out of which the precious, but immaterial meaning is painstakingly extracted? A strange thing happens. As soon as essential meaning is grasped and digested—assimilated and incorporated, as it were, into the soul—it is as if the concrete remnants or ‘leftover’ material becomes devoid of gripping significance. The formerly projected value and meaning has been recollected, reabsorbed into the soul from whence it sprang, and all that remains before us are the gorgeous or grotesque shells and husks of our former life—which turns out to have been a kind of enthrallment, a captivating, coagulated dream from which we have miraculously awakened. This may sound like a sad fable to some ears, but it should be remembered that in undergoing this dis-enchantment, we recover the lost or neglected meaning of our lives. We have awakened and in our wakefulness we are offered protection against hypnotic ensnarement by the siren song of the world—and perhaps this is to be rejoiced in, not lamented.
135. “The greatest gift that the guru can offer the disciple is to show him that he is nothing and that he does not matter.” “But,” you will ask, “who are you referring to—the guru or the disciple?”—to which I will wryly reply: “How could it possibly matter?”
136. Few endeavors provoke more inner noise than the strenuous effort to be still.
137. When the Allies defeated the Germans and the Japanese, power without a myth (unless it was the ‘myth’ of freedom) triumphed over power from myth (of…racial superiority).
138. Contemporary America: We can only hope and pray that Blake was divinely inspired when he wrote: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
139. It is always helpful, I have found, to remember that ‘ego’ is not a thing or an entity, but a mode of consciousness—rather like dreaming is not a thing or an entity, but a mode of consciousness.
140. If, in this world, there are builders and destroyers, it would appear that I am every bit as much a destroyer as I am the other. Genuine freedom pertains to the dissolution and smashing of binding, constraining forms that the indwelling spirit has begun to outgrow—so freedom is necessarily bound up with destruction. The kinds of forms that the spirit willfully destroys (or dissolves) are mental forms—thoughtforms—but once these have been overhauled or dispensed with, results are bound to follow on the emotional and physical planes.
141. Just as vulgarity and the obvious will often pass unnoticed by rare and exceptional souls, so the subtle is reliably lost upon the gross.
142. Youthful enthusiasm is inseparable from youthful ignorance, while adult enthusiasm depends largely on a talent for forgetfulness.
143. Meditation is not a waste of time. It is a taste of timelessness.
144. What are we left with after all the self-canceling opposites have cancelled each other out? Are we canceled out, as well, with the collapse or neutralization of that sustaining tension?
145. First I am a sinker; then, I am a thinker (logos from the bathos?).
146. Rooting out radicals in our midst: My guess is that not a few of my countrymen—were they to read some of my cultural criticism—would label me a ‘radical thinker.’ But I would contend that any person who thinks long and deeply about being human in a world of other desiring, fearing, deluded, and deluding humans necessarily deserves that title—‘radical.’ Radical comes from the ‘root’ word radix which, not without exquisite irony, means none other than root. So, rooted in his delving thought about the roots of what his humanness consists in, a thinker becomes radical by a kind of necessity—by fate. Or at least by etymological reduction!
147. It was not our destiny to maintain the pretense of a friendship that was based solely upon sentimental attachment to earlier versions of one another that we both gradually and decisively outgrew.
148. So long as we recognize a center, we must also acknowledge a periphery. The move (in consciousness) from the periphery towards centeredness is a qualitative move towards greater stillness—towards silence and detachment.
149. Even at its best, mundane human life is little more than a Navajo sand painting.
150. Cassandra was not among the cheerfullest of ancient mythological figures.