Philosophy and the Noble Life

Because the same One, who is begotten and born of God the Father, without ceasing in eternity, is born today, within time, in human nature, we make a holiday to celebrate it. St. Augustine says that this birth is always happening. And yet, if it does not occur in me, how could it help me? Everything depends on that. ~ Meister Eckhart

Thus, in the gospel He speaks through the flesh; and this sounded outwardly in the ears of men, that it might be believed and sought inwardly, and that it might be found in the eternal Truth, where the good and only Master teaches all His disciples. ~ St Augustine

Nobility and Nature

In the Convivio, Dante explained that

Nobility is the perfection in each thing of its proper nature.

Thus man speaks of a noble stone, plant, horse, falcon, whenever it appears perfect after its own nature. Thus, a man is noble to the extent he is perfect according to his nature. Unlike a stone, a plant, or an animal, whose nature is simply given to them, man, as a free and rational being, chooses to follow, or not, his nature freely. This leads then to the question of how one should live.

In Vedic teachings, men are said to be motivated by pleasure, success, or duty. These motivations should be clear, since all men have experienced them. Pleasure is restricted to sensual pleasure, success may take the form of founding movements, etc. Duty, is higher than the other two, since it is directed outward, yet it is ultimately insufficient. Kierkegaard, in Either/Or provides a detailed phenomenological analysis of both a life devoted to sensuality and the one devoted to the sense of duty, for those interested.

Beyond those three, there is liberation from all desire, the transcendence of one’s self and nature. However, the Western path of affirmation seeks instead to affirm one’s self and nature, i.e., nobility is the fourth motivation. How that is to be done was Dante’s path. That was philosophy which “has wisdom [sophia] for her subject matter and love for her form, and for the composition of the one with the other the practice of speculation.”

True Life

The Emperor of Suabia said that nobility requires “ancient wealth and gracious manners”, still commonly believed, but a definition that Dante rejects since lineage and money are not one’s own nature. Rather, he writes:

Life in man is the exercise of the reason; if his life is his being, then to renounce the exercise of reason is to renounce existence, and this is death.

Or better put, “the man [who rejects reason] is dead but the beast survives.” Do not be deceived. Many walking among you may appear to be gracious, to be of a good stock, to have fortune, success, or a glib, sophistical tongue, yet are mere “beasts of the field.”

Some even use the expression “life denying”—not a traditional notion—to refer to the path Dante describes. However, what is truly life denying is a life devoted only to sensuality, at least if you mean a man’s life and not a beast’s.

Law and Morality

Yet, the path to Sophia, or Wisdom, involves not just Reason, but also Love. It is not just a matter of thinking, but also of transformation. Dante writes, in a passage that may seem hard to grasp:

The beauty of wisdom is in morality; the moral virtues give pleasure which is sensibly perceived.

The dutiful life, such as that of Kierkegaard’s Judge Wilhelm, is not pleasurable. So what can Dante mean here? As a poet, he uses images, which can be “sensibly perceived”, to make his point. This Sophia is not an abstraction, but takes on the form of a woman, in his case, Beatrice. Thus the love for Sophia is more than intellectual. In this, he is not far from Boethius.

Evola often wrote that morality cannot be imposed from the outside, but must originate in the “I”. Dante cannot disagree, since morality arises from man’s nature. For example, the four pagan virtues of justice, wisdom, courage, and temperance follow from the very nature of the soul in its thinking, willing and feeling functions. Furthermore, the natural law derives from the very nature of man, so to follow it means not more than to live as a man. To reject it is to die.

Guenon complained that Christianity lacked a true law. However, pace Guenon, there is no need for a new law, since the Logos itself is the law. To live in accordance with the Logos, through whom all things were created, is the law. This is unlike all other traditions which have elaborate, and seemingly arbitrary, laws in regards to the regulation of daily life. These include dietary restrictions as well as things that make one unclean, and the rituals necessary to become clean again. What Evola always neglects to mention is that ancient paganism itself had many such laws, from how to keep the hearth going in one’s home to who a man could touch or not. Christ brought no such laws since uncleanness arises in one’s heart, not from the outside. Vladimir Solovyov writes:

The law of God’s being is no longer manifested a pure arbitrariness (in Himself) and external, compulsory necessity (for humanity); it is manifested now as the internal necessity of true freedom.

Nobility and the True Self

So by living a life of reason, developing the virtues, and acting in harmony with one’s true nature, a man becomes noble. But then something interesting happens, specifically the developing awareness of the Self. This is a topic we have previously discussed in relation to Otto Weininger. But it also explains why we draw on the likes of Julius Evola or Miguel Serrano; they came to the same understanding. Whether or not they ultimately took a wrong path is for the reader to decide. The point is that this is a path different from that of the East, and accounts for much of the dispute between Evola and Guenon. Evola wrote of the “Absolute Self”, which he claimed was a pagan notion, although I cannot locate a specific source. On the contrary, if we arguably take Plotinus as the highest expression of ancient pagan spirituality, we see that he is far from that notion and is actually much closer to the spirituality of the Vedantists of the East.

Serrano is more honest about the source. In an interview, he refers to Carl Jung:

[Jung] told me something very curious, very interesting about what happened here in the Occident. Our world, our development went forward quite naturally through Paganism. It was interrupted by another civilization that imposed itself on the Pagan Occident and cut off its advance. Namely, the Roman Empire and Christianity with Charlemagne and all of that. This cut away the possibility of developing the Pagan civilization. Wotan was put away as something apart that could not be touched. This produced in the blood of the unconscious of this Folk a break by which another was imposed onto it and this dichotomy was an internal conflict. Catholicism produced this with the concept of sin.

Of course, the concept of sin arises from the failure to follow the natural law; this produced an uncomfortable friction in the pagan mind. In it, individuality was less prominent, so the pagan consciousness simply followed along with the group mind. Even today, among the neo-pagans and alt-rightists, there is the ever constant temptation to want to revert back to the racial mind. Thus they use expressions along the lines of “I want to get back to the psyche (or something similar) of my people.” This difference can be seen in the Swedish legend of the Virgin Spring in which the nobility is Christian and the lower classes still follow the old religion.

However, on the positive side, this friction:

allowed a great surpassing, something incredible that had never occurred before, perhaps unique in the universe, the awareness of oneself, the consciousness of the I, the Selbst.

That is, man becomes aware of himself as choosing to act in accordance with his true nature, i.e., against his sin nature. This is unlike a rock, plant, or animal which has no choice in the matter.

As the West has become de-Christianized, it has lost this idea of the Self. Thus it has reverted back to the group mind, as evidenced in political correctness, etc. To the extent the self is recognized, it is only insofar as it is in service to pleasure, success, or duty. None of these are viewed as threats to the system.

Theosis

At its highest level, then, the Self unites to the highest self, the Logos, or “Christ lives in me.” To avoid further accusations of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, we can now be quite clear what that means. Guenon correctly writes that liberation represents the actualization of all possibilities of the Being. However, that cannot describe the annihilation of the Self as he intended, but rather the divinization of the Self, or theosis.

For God, essence and existence are One, i.e., there is no potential in God, but only actuality. Hence, for a being to actualize all his possibilities, he is left without potential, specifically, this makes him the same as a god. However, there can be only one such God.

So we can say that one becomes united to God to the extent he manifests all his possibilities. Of course, we mean here his “real” possibilities, not the sinful or deviant possibilities he may be attracted to. More about this will have to wait.

20 thoughts on “Philosophy and the Noble Life

  1. RE: Cologero’s early comments regarding the change in the mentality of Western man, the criteria of the moral man being concerned about the “poor” and “hunger”…

    Chantal del Sol, a contemporary French critic/philosopher, addresses this in her book, “Icarus Fallen”, as well as her other work. I won’t go into it here, but her work may be of interest to some of you.

  2. Not sure if this exactly fits here, but I feel inspired to include it anyway. I remember hearing, some years ago, about these two American girls who could read Sanskrit from an early age, without training. If I understand and remember correctly, they are Christians. I had even found some songs about Jesus that they had composed in Sanskrit.

    A short clip about them

  3. “And we looked out at the world, like a movie theater
    At all the hippies, and the punks, and the skinheads, and the skaters
    And someday or other, maybe sooner or later, they’ll come to the realization
    That what’s important is whether you can carry on a human conversation
    It’s not what you wear on the outside,
    It’s how you think and feel on the inside.”

    ————————————

    Lewis isn’t naked, as he looks out at the world. He tells us that he still travels light, and his hair’s still long. Simply clothes are no longer the most important thing to him. They’re not a substitute for the character of the man wearing them.

    Similarly, religion, in the sense of “subscribing to this or that religion”, can itself be less important that who is wearing it. Who is holding it. The scalpel is held in the hands of both the qualified and the unqualified.

    That doesn’t mean that the external forms are meaningless, but they have to be embodied and lived, and made real. Not simply posed in. The old line is about how when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But I’ve seen people with what I consider to be the religious/philosophical equivalent of a laptop, using it for nothing more than hammering nails. And I’ve seen those with what appears to be the religious/philosophical equivalent of a hammer, using it almost like a laptop!

    I remember corresponding with someone who lives in a very, very poor part of Europe. Heart-breakingly poor. (But they have Internet cafes!) It shames and humbles me, to contemplate the differences between our day-to-day lives.

    Anyway, this person was framing their experiences, using the language and concepts, of what I see as a very crude and primitive, rural Protestant Christianity.

    But the insights were VERY profound. Thought simple. You could see that this person was serious. A liver, not a talker. Not showy. You could feel in your guts that this person meant it. As they struggled to express themselves, their sufferings, their joys, their hopes, using whatever thought-constructs their Bible and the village church afforded them. Reading their words was like taking that first breath of air, as you just come up to the surface, after trying to swim underwater for as long as you can.

    It was a confluence of the character of this individual person, and their surrounding culture, which had not yet been poisoned in the same way that mine has. And yet most of them are desperately trying to get away from it. To go to the US, to go to wealthier parts of Europe. Anywhere that will take them. Anywhere where they can get work. To become us. To become poisoned by the same sickness.

    And I don’t blame them. I have it easy, and they live under extreme poverty. I would do the same. What’s the line from that Springsteen song?

    ————————————

    “They left their homes and family
    Their father said ‘My sons one thing you will learn,
    For everything the north gives, it exacts a price in return.’ ”

    ————————————

    Corresponding with this person reminds me of some of the precious internal things that I personally lost, gradually, as I came to live in the affluent West. Things that died in me, almost completely. They remain in me only as a small dull flame, under a pile of wet wood, in the fire pit. After it’s been rained on. Struggling to keep going. Existing in that small area of the fire pit, that, because of some fortuitous arrangement of logs, was not fully soaked.

    I came to the country where I am now, as a young child, along with my parents. On the one hand, despite any Traditionalist posturing on my part, I love the material ease and comfort that I find myself in. The peace, the “freedom”. The relief of it all. The stability. And on the other hand, I cannot deny that I live in a I truly disgusting, and soul-crushing, anti-culture. One that poisons me, everyone and everything around me. So instead, I engage in a sort of internal emigration.

    I don’t like M. Scott Peck, but he had this one snippet that remains with me. I must have heard it on an audio book. I can’t find it online, at the moment. But I can probably reconstruct it from memory, and with a little Googlemancy.

    Peck posited four stages of spiritual development. He called his lowest stage the “chaotic antisocial individual”. His second stage the “formal institutional individual”. His third stage the “skeptical individual”. And his fourth stage the “mystic communal individual”. So far, pretty pedestrian stuff, right?

    But what stuck with me, was that he spoke about knowing certain fundamentalist Christians, who were in fact fourth-stage mystics. And contrasted then with certain New Agers that he knew, who were truly no more than second-stage “formal institutional” types, despite their pose to the contrary. That all feels VERY familiar to me.

    New Agers, fake-Daoists, “monists”, all seemingly unaware of the narrow-minded and crippling dogmas that plagued their own “thing”. Or at least their own versions of it, how they lived it, embodied it.

    I’d put the paperback Dao, and other spiritual-fast-food of that ilk, in Peck’s second-stage category, without hesitation. They may not belong to any fixed church, but their thinking is just as naively doctrinaire. Just as blinkered. And they seem oblivious to some of the political roots, and political implications, of some of what they parrot. Aspects of it that masquerade as spirituality. To the inconsistencies between between what comes out of the mouth (or pen, or keyboard), and what is actually lived. In those ways, and in so many other ways also, they are like many a Southern Baptist.

    Except that “form” and “multiplicity” are their Satans. Mysticism and monism, are for them one-and-the-same. Full of cliches, and unacknowledged assumptions. They conflate gnosticism with esoterism. Etc, etc, etc.

    I don’t remember if Peck spells this out or not, as I didn’t find too much is his book that was memorable, but I’d imagine that many of us jump back and forth, between his four stages. Assuming that his four stages are a valid-enough model for us to use here. Like electrons jumping valence shells. (Do electrons even jump valance shells? I don’t remember. Chemistry was a long time ago for me. But the image springs to mind, nonetheless, as I type this.)

    And at the same time, there may be a general trend, in a particular direction, despite starts and stops, despite back-trackings.

  4. Hi August. I guess my throw-away line about baggy pants had more behind it then I first surmised. It’s always interesting to see what people end up picking up on.

    My consciously-intended point was that near the end of high-school, fashion took a back seat. As it does for some of us. Be it narcissistic/illusory thought-fashion (the paperback Dao). Or the cruder concern of what one should wear on one’s ass. Many things took a back seat. New concerns came to the fore, with an almost life-and-death sense of urgency.

    My current wardrobe? The comic book artist was born only a year before me, and he understands what happens to young men. Or at least young men of a certain type, as he talk-sings:

    ——————————–

    “and now to the eye
    I’m turning into another
    non-descript guy”

    (…)

    “I guess we don’t need our clothes
    for an identity crutch
    and we looked at each other
    and we didn’t look like much”

    ——————————–

    But your point about skinny jeans is important too. Thought-fashions come and go, and none of us live entirely in a vacuum. Some of us get swayed and influenced, especially in youth. Or maybe I should speak for myself: I don’t live in a vacuum. I have been swayed and influenced, throughout life. Sometimes less, sometimes more. For good and ill. There are always ideas in the air. The “paperback Dao”, for lack of a more accurate jargon, is something that pretends to be a sort of “philosophical Daoism”. Dishonestly calls itself that. It is much, much less.

    A sort of post-Death-of-God, post-60s, zen-Daoism. For recovering modernist-materialists. Having little in common with either true zen, or true Daoism, as they were, and perhaps in some places still are, actually lived. Laden with all kinds of aging-hippie and New-Age-bookshop baggage. It was a mind-trend of sorts, back in the days when I would angrily leave the house, and try to land kickflip varials, on the street where my friend lived.

    The “paperback Dao” egregore was born before I ever put on those baggy pants, and it still hasn’t died out, still being fed.

    I was never into Hardline during the 1990s. Luckily, I didn’t even know it existed. Had I known, I would most probably now have yet another thing to look back on romantically, and chuckle at, with genuine warmth and embarrassment.

    These days, when I find some of the old Hardline publications online, in pdf format, and skim them, I see that they were influenced by the same goofy fake-Daosim that I was clinging to. Reading these guys, they seem just as filled with idealism, curiosity, self-righteousness, self-assurance, as I felt back then. I could have almost written some of those articles.

    We were looking for something. A way to frame our experiences and aspirations. A navigator’s map. And of course, something to make us look like wise Gandalfs. Our growing and developing minds, not yet able to fully appreciate nuance. And this roughly during the same time-period. Not only age-wise, but during the same years, the early-to-mid-90s.

    During my adolescent phase of exploring religion, seemingly like some of the Hardliners, I became enamored with a monistic view of Ultimate Reality. Seeing it as the sword for cutting the Gordian knot of the “problems” associated with religious pluralism. “Problems”, which in our age, are used as justification for pushing God further and further out of the public and political spheres. And with Him, pushing out traditional ethics and morality. In retrospect, I wanted a machete. One that allowed me to clear some of the modernist-jungle in my own thought-life. To make at least a little room for the Transcendent.

    I felt socially embarrassment about my belief in God, and kept it to myself. But I honestly couldn’t be an atheist. I tried it on for size, once during late adolescence, and I lasted maybe fifteen minutes. Maybe a bit less. But I could be a monist for a little longer. And a little more publicly, a little more openly.

    Incidentally, as it did for many Hardliners, Islam also became interesting to me at that time. I guess for similar reasons. And for me, it was an Islam that was seen through the lens of fake-Daoism. Perhaps closest to a sort of fake-Sufism-as-conceptualized-by-an-angry-adolescent-fake-Daoist. I suspect that for certain Hardliners it may have been similar. But I hesitate to speak on their behalf.

    And of course I didn’t dare label myself as anything, back then. No sir. I was so far “beyond words and labels”.

    I’m throwing around the word “fake” a lot. But It’s deliberate, and deeply felt. I remember finding a great line on Urban Dictionary, some years back: “white hippies with a hard-on for all things non-European, or rather the commercialized version of what were once non-European cultural artifacts”.

    That’s fits the paperback Dao.

    Fake, light-weight, fast, easy, superficial, arrogant-and-ignorant, “post-modern”, non-nutritive, microwavable-corn-syrup-for-the-soul.

    Back to the story.

    A few kids of a certain type were drawn towards the Islamic themes found within a certain flavor of late-80s militant rap music. A scene that dies out, just as the 1990s are being birthed. The music had an angry, righteous, upright, and at times even martial, quality to it. And it certainly felt more authentically masculine, to certain guys-on-their-way-to-becoming-men, than the glam metal of that same time period. It was a natural choice for me. No contest. And it made room for God, within a small sliver of popular culture. It was only a marginal and short-lived manifestation within the greater pop culture. But in the desert, you take your oasis where you can.

    Of the three Abraham faiths, Islam also felt “the most monotheistic”, to adolescent anon. With lslam’s idea that form and image somehow “limit” the Absolute. That kind of stuff resonated with my high school monism.

    I’m also very visual. And I spent a lot of time drawing, throughout childhood and adolescence. So I deeply relate to the doodler’s struggle to capture, with lines on paper, what is there inside, existing as only a feeling, or as an abstraction. Writers struggle similarly, I would think, trying to capture the butterfly of thought, in their word-nets.

    So, for a time, I could deeply dig on the meme that to speak about God, or to make God concrete, to represent God with form and image, was to somehow limit God. To make God small, and to “make Him in man’s image”. I believed that God could be experienced, but certainly not represented. At least not in fullness.

    But that idea has gone the way of baggy pants for me.

    I no longer value the abstract over the concrete. Just as I never preferred modern non-representational art, to the old-school stuff.

    Though no longer a monist, and not a Muslim, I nonetheless maintain a warm spot in my heart for Islam, a respect. Much more so than for the paperback Dao. As Lawrence Parker schooled me, those many years ago, rapping at me through my yellow plastic Walkman’s headphones:

    ———————————-

    “I’m not a Muslim but I do support them
    My Father in heaven taught me and taught them
    I’m not a Christian, but I won’t diss em
    I’m not a Jew, I don’t practice Judaism
    I’m not a Buddhist, but Buddha’s a master
    I don’t eat beef pork nor Diet Shasta”

    ———————————-

    Influenced as I was, in no small way, by a New Age-ified three-way marriage of higher-level physics (which I didn’t really understand, anyway, but simply took on faith), Buddhism and Daoism. Charmed by the idea of a Perennial Philosophy. I was convinced that I had found the way, the truth and the light. I had finally found my reconciliation with God. Within monism. And I was for a time, a true believer.

    The eternally seductive idea of a supreme Oneness, behind all the variety. Quantum mechanics, and the mystics of the various traditions, all saying the same thing!! An underlying unity under the multiplicity of forms.

    I would borrow “The Tao of Physics”, “The Dancing Wu Li Masters”, “Turbulent Mirror”. And other such religion-for-scientists paperbacks. Skim the books, try to read them, pretend to understand, and then give up. But with a feeling that I was on the right track. It gave me peace.

    Until I tried to actually live it. To actually embody it in some real and honest way. To walk the theory.

    How can I say this without sounding like an asshole? Probably I can’t, but I will say it anyway: I outgrew monism.

    It became part of the story, but no longer the whole story. Nor the most interesting part of the story.

    The variety within Divinity itself became the attraction. A multiplicity of Divine forms, and understandings of the Divine. And an almost endless collection of multifarious ways of relating to IT. Different forms bringing solace and inspiring devotion in different persons, depending on their natures, desires, hopes and inclinations. And even gradations within Divinity. Gradations and variety within Transcendence itself. All of that is much higher in my eyes now, than any Oneness. Which I no longer see as being underlying or supreme, but simply as another manifestation, suited to a particular taste. And sadly no longer suited to my taste.

    Have I simply replaced the philosophical equivalent of baggy pants, with that of skinny jeans? Well, obviously, I don’t think so. Or I wouldn’t be doing what I do. But I can’t transfer my own deeply subjective internal experience into a blog comment, so I don’t mind if others see me as simply swiping one trend for another. And so it goes.

  5. As for ultra-baggy pants, if their place in the wardrobe is later taken by tight jeans, it is an ill omen.

  6. Hello all, and friendly wishes for the new year.

    Anon, interesting comments. My thoughts are general:

    You say that the “paperback Dao” turned out to be “not enough for navigating the realities around [you],” and that “New Age-ites…try to force the facts to fit the theory, in that (sometimes) well-intentioned quest for essential principles…”.

    You are fighting the battle, may it be good for you. Keep in mind that there is really only one Reality and one Principle, and every *thing* else is an intrusion. The degree to which one courts such things is his matter.

    ^^^

    “Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
    Alert, like men aware of danger…”

    “Misfortune comes from having a body.
    Without a body, how could there be misfortune?”

    Once a man has a sufficient degree of internal control, the remaining problems are clear. I have a body I did not create, nor can I entirely control it. It is a grave vulnerability.

    Can I eradicate it and its future equivalents in other worlds without eradicating myself?

    Will the way to wholeness all my own be made clear, sooner or later?

    A kind of faith, in addition to effort, is necessary insofar as one does not have omnipotence or omniscience.

    Nor is there any point in straining to study the details, especially through the physical senses. The best contemplation is fast, all at once, in darkness.

    The lessons that one must attend shall find him.

    “Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.”

    Naturally, these words are not for the underqualified.

  7. Yes, I think you’re right, JA. Assuming that I’m correctly grasping your intended meaning. Seeing as how “unite” can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Though, I’d guess that most of us aren’t consciously aware of what, at root, I believe that we’re really trying to achieve by our actions, by our striving.

    And from a more down-to-Earth perspective, sex also, often enough, gets used as a run-of-the-mill painkiller, like any other consciousness-altering substance, or practice. And life hurts, it hurts real bad. Hence, the widespread appetite for distractions, especially potent ones.

    I’m responding to you, JA, though I’m not sure if your post was specifically intended for me. Perhaps it was more like a general question to the various posters and readership of the blog.

    Anyhow, as the brainwashed-asshole-cult-zombie, and vocalist, correctly (in my opinion) observed in the mid-90s, in the song linked below…

    ————————————————————-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrQXFyztcok

    “Just see he uses love for sex
    And sure she uses sex for love
    And they’re both hoping for the best
    I also have the dream you’re thinking of
    We place a blindfold on our eyes
    Iron and gold appear the same
    It’s intense hope that makes us try
    So we go on and play the game

    “And once again we get attached
    We think we’ve found the answer”

    (…)

    “We’re hoping she will be the one
    But we never learn from our mistakes
    Based on beauty love soon dies
    Then we make our move to separate
    Yes iron and gold appear the same
    But one is costly to obtain”

  8. every time a human being makes love, he or she is attempting to unite him/herself with God………….love is the law, law under will ?

  9. Damn, this comment of mine is long. A whole lotta nothin’ about nothin’. But what the hell, as Skiba sings:

    ——————————————————–

    “Lost…lifetime ago it seems
    you gave up on your wildest dreams
    but I refuse to let mine go
    I took an oath, you can find me here
    with an open heart and ears
    refusing to surrender
    I can’t believe they don’t remember
    what it feels like to be young”

    ——————————————————–

    What was I looking for in Daoism? When I wasn’t chasing after girls, trying to look cool, or struggling with math, there was a part of me that sincerely wanted to understand the world around me. The idea that there could be correct action, over and above the mental jungle of opinions and trends and politically-motivated self-deceptions. So many religions and philosophies and ideas. Pulling in all directions. How should one live? On top of that, we were fed so much lies and poison, through school, peer-group, and TV. It’s amazing that many of us are still standing.

    Looking back on it now, years later, battered-and-not-all-that-much-wiser, what was the core in Daoism that drew me in? Partly, I felt out-of-control. The world around me spun in a million seemingly nonsensical directions. Sometimes, life came down on me like a rain of fists. Answers I encountered didn’t set my heart at ease.

    To carry a principle in your hand, like a sword or shield, against the pain of life. Something that gives you the illusion of understanding the world. And thus gives you the illusion of control. This brings peace. Ugh, not really. Physicists wet-dream about reducing reality to an equation that can be put on a t-shirt. And so it was with me and the Dao. Simple, succinct, and just woo woo enough for my taste.

    But there was something else. Anyone who’s played around with koans enough, or experimented more seriously with meditation, knows that there is a state that is different from thought. It’s not the same as no-thought. I don’t believe in that, not anymore. But it’s something like a state of receptivity. Clear openness. Buddhi above manas. The internal satellite dish is pointed in the right direction, so as to receive the HGA’s conversation. The mental clutter, like so much signal-distorting static-noise, is at a minimum. The K&C of the HGA comes through clear enough to receive. The clearer the signal, the more spontaneously the actions flows from it. It’s weird, it even feels significantly more “karma-less”, as funny as it feels to type that.

    I remember watching a seminar by a Hawaiian psychiatrist. Only a few years back. It was a New Agey affair, attended by middle-aged, chubby, tired housewives, naively hopeful “entrepreneurs”, and other broken souls. As we all are. He would talk about mental clutter as “data”.

    Watching the vid I imagined his “data” as a sort of hailstorm-veil. Obscuring the actual nature of the HGA, the world around us, and the people that we interact with. And obscuring our own nature. He talked about the “data” as memories. Call them imprints or samskaras. Be they old memories, or very recent, they interfere with the process of hearing the HGA, and spontaneously acting on the basis of that true inspiration. Of course, he didn’t mention HGAs or samskaras or any of that stuff. I’m projecting my own “data” onto him. And, of course, he had his own unacknowledged “data”, as did the foundation of his entire self-help system. But this post is not meant to become an infinite regress. Or am I choosing the wrong term? No matter.

    It’s all an oversimplification, because not all “data” is equal. Hell, not all data is “data”. There are eternal names that can be named.

    The Hawaiian psychiatrist would talk about erasing data. He had a whiteboard and a dry-eraser. He would put his ideas down on the board with his marker, as visual aids to his talk, then erase them, as the seminar progressed. Again and again, driving home his idea about “clearing data”. He would erase the words, making room for new ones. Dig it. His idea of “clearing data” was to get to a point he called “zero”. A fleeting moment, one that is always slipping out of your grasp, a point without “data”, where one is acting fully from the basis of inspiration, rather than from the basis of memory. Requiring constant maintenance. A book he name-dropped during his talk was Tor Norretranders’ “The User Illusion”.

    Like Daoism, the psychiatrist’s schtick was simply an emotionally-potent oversimplification. One geared towards a different crowd. But there was something real there as well.

    I can almost visualize the cover of a book that I remember seeing so many years ago, at the local New Age bookstore, back before it closed. Some title like “Dharma and Dao”. But is the Dao really dharma? Or is it God, like my early guide liked to say, with that self-satisfied smirk plastered on his face? Is it the Logos? Is it the Christ? Is it all of these things and none of them at the same time? Shall we say, like some Buddhists, that these are questions that do not lead to quietness?

    There’s that annoying tendency among Jungians, New Age-ites, Baha’ís, and others, to try to whitewash away real differences. To distort what is there. To try to force the facts to fit the theory, in that (sometimes) well-intentioned quest for essential principles, supposedly hidden somewhere beneath the multiplicity of forms. I sympathize, of course. The world is a big scary place, and the illusion of understanding makes it seem just a little less demon-haunted. Been there, done that. Hell, I’m still doing it. I won’t claim to pretend to know what the Dao is. But I can tell you what functional role my monkey-level understanding of the Dao plays in my life today.

    I still agree with the Buddhists that life is suffering. But it’s a question of degree. I still suffer constantly. Dukhalayam asasvatam, right? But it’s significantly dialed down. So much so that I can think a little, that I can act a little, with some degree of what appears to be freedom. I pause, chuckle internally, as I type that last word. Self-deception? Freedom is an illusion. Isn’t it? And yet it isn’t. I can feel/hear the HGA, to some degree. My life now, would have been inconceivable to my high school self. Though it isn’t what he would have wished for himself, then.

    Just now, as I search for something else online, Google takes me to a version of a 1971 book. “It lies beyond our power of discernment”, the words stand out from the rest of the sentence, from the rest of the page.

    Logic, thought, memory. These things are maya? Ugh. My high school self would have loved to spew that type of shit. It was impossible to speak about ultimate reality. Or so I thought. So instead I would try to (clumsily) act on the basis of it. Or on the basis of what I thought it was. At root, for me, an attempt at self-deification, disguised as a pious-er-seeming self-annihilation/self-forgetting. But hell, who was I kidding? I would try to speak about it also.

    Trying to capture concepts using neologisms. Broken speech. Words tripping over each other, but still trying to sound deep and iconoclastic. In retrospect, not unlike the TOPY-ites. What we do, has been done before, more skilfully, and by better men.

    There I was, speaking in abstractions-upon-abstractions, worthy of a ponderous 19th century German, sitting alone in his room, his bookshelf filled with thick and heavy tomes. But I was doing it over the phone, to a girl from my English class, who was flirting with me, and I was kind of flirting back. And what tomes did I have on my bookshelf? A worn paperback copy of Hesse’s Demian, a Koran that I got at the Saudi Arabian embassy. I even had the invocation memorized at one point. Oh yeah, and Burroughs’ “Junkie”.

    Talking Dao at the bookish and self-conscious English class girl.

    What was I thinking? I guess it’s true that it really doesn’t matter what words you say to women. They don’t really listen to the words. Any line will work as well as no line. The line that can be named is not the eternal line (chuckle). Or do they listen? What do they listen to? To your words AND to your whole being? Unconsciously, instinctively, listening to the Dao behind your words, like a bat using sonar? Or do they only listen to that for which they have the Velcro, as we all invariably do? That for which we have the receptors. Do only those words really stick? Do women mostly feel INTO you, into your energy? Or are too many of them they too superficial for that? At least too superficial to do it consciously? And perhaps this is why God and Nature equip them with intuition, with buddhi. As a tool, a shield, a weapon, a substitute for reason, and a sensor. Which of course takes us back to the Dao. Or maybe they multi-taskingly pretend to listen to you, while internally imagining what you’d be like in bed. Good, meh, great, so-so, or horrible. In the same way that dancing with you, informs them about it. “Why isn’t he making his move yet? I’m ready.”

    Or all of these at once, and none of them at all? But I generalize, and I’m neither a saint nor a PUA, so I won’t pretend that I have the answer for you. Here, truly, these are questions that do not lead to quietness. Not for me, anyway. I’m neither a tantrik nor a shakta. Lets move forward, out of this swamp. Shall we?

    Logic, thought, memory, form, name, concept. Are these things really like the Hawaiian psychiatrist’s “data”?

    Yes and no. “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right”. I remember the line from a mail-order catalog of that insufferable folk singer. Teenaged girls, and young-adult women, who thought that they were smarter, deeper, and ground-breaking-er, than they really were, liked her. Back when I was green and new. But to me, she was just a broken and in-your-face shrew, such as have been with us always. Differing only in age and politics, from that crude, dumb(ish), pushy and self-satisfied grown-up woman-child village-girl, who works at the local European Deli. Though, like all of us, doing her best to navigate this dark age, equipped with her own “data”, with her own buddhi.

    In adolescence, the Dao was my hope for a pithy, grand unified theory of life, philosophy, religion and action. Today, I see the Daoist sages, like the zen thought-snuffers, as striving to live and act on the basis of buddhi. Or some approximation thereof. That consciousness-place, from which action has an almost magic(k)al quality. A deep knowing-and-not-really-knowing-how-it-is-that-you-know. Because you’re not the one doing the knowing, you’re only a receiver. Drsyair buddhy-adibhir drasta? To strive to live in that place. To bring the mind back when it wanders. Ultimately, to anchor it there, if such can be done.

  10. I had quite the ego-fetish for a dumbed-down version of Daoism, back in high school. Being inspired therein by an early guide of mine, to borrow jargon from Boisen.

    I (secretly) thought I was so above everyone else. So woo woo. Big metaphysical stud, who had it all figured. With all that “name that can be named is not the eternal name” bullshit. But I got over it. Life made sure of that. First slowly, then violently. Chipping away at my previously-held convictions. One by one. And then the mind-idol of the paperback Dao no longer seemed an adequately accurate lens. Not enough for navigating the realities around me. Oh well, so it goes. I don’t wear ultra-baggy pants and skateboard shoes anymore, either.

    Anybody here ever read Hieromonk Damascene’s “Christ the Eternal Tao”? I’ve toyed with the idea a number of times, over the past few years. Being neither a Daoist nor a Christian, and being faced with the idea-explorer’s dilemma of too many books, and too little time, I’ve indefinitely put that plan on the back burner.

  11. Yes, Avery, that is the point. “Tao” is used to translate “Logos” in the Chinese bible.
    If all things are created through the Logos — and thus can be “named” — then the Logos cannot be found among the 10,000 things.
    The Logos is “known” through gnosis, not as an object (Christ liveth in me).
    When there is not distinction between essence and existence, there is free expression and spontaneous action — non-acting acting

  12. I think the key here to discovery of the elitist nature of the Catholic religion is to understand the nature of mystical theology – through our faith in Christ combined with our good works, we all can achieve theosis after our death. However – some (read elite) have been given a gift by God to achieve theosis while in the mortal body. Unlike modern teachings which say any bum can become enlightened, Catholicism teaches that only God can choose whether or not we will see Him in this life, all we can do is devote ourselves in the prayer and hope that God will so bless is with this most wondrous of events.

    the error that all can achieve theosis without the special grace of God is what leads to egalitarianism.

  13. Thanks for the clarification, JA. Full disclosure: I had read a couple of Shariati’s works on this subject but wasn’t aware of his full spectrum beyond being involved in the revolution. That said, I don’t see anything unkosher about the quote I have in and of itself, provided we interpret it correctly. Perhaps others would be willing to critique it if they do.

  14. For the record, Ali Shariati was a Marxist who opposed the Persian monarchy as well as the legitimate clergy of Islam, he called himself a red shiite in one of his works ! His version of Islam, and also that of his contemporary and ally Khomeini is a Mohammedan version of communist liberation theology.

    I am not an expert on Islam as I am a Catholic by baptism, ancestry and Faith, but I respect Moslems such as Seyed Hosein Nasr who was btw an advisor to the late Persian Shah.

    I will comment on the article itself tomorrow when I have had more time to meditate – this is really good and crucial stuff Cologero has given us here.

  15. Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly, I think that Jung contributed to the confusion of values by considering one-sidedness the greatest sin and not bothering to distinguish higher possibilities from lower.

  16. Synodius, I think the idea isn’t to ignore the sensual part of man, but rather to develop it in accordance with the higher nature, rather than the reverse. Dr. Ali Shariati, an Iranian Muslim thinker, wrote that “…in Islam Satan is not standing against God but against the divine half of man. And since man is a two-dimensional creature who is kneaded of mud and God, he is in need of both. His ideology, religion, life, and civilization must all be capable of satisfying both of these dimensions.” The nobility produced culture and art in order to uplift man on the sensual and physical plane, whereas much in modern culture tries to bring down the spiritual plane to the basest elements of the physical one.

    The moment that the lowest passions of Man were judged to be as legitimate and equal and beyond judgement as the highest possibilities, the moral lauding of the poorest and most deprived parts of human society was followed naturally. I see a lot of people, even within the Catholic Church, who go beyond lionizing those who help the poor and ascribing a sort of dignity and virtue to poverty in and of itself. St. Francis may have found a nobility of spirit by subjecting himself to poverty, but the fact that it was meant as a struggle for the soul should tell them all it needs to.

  17. “To live in accordance with the Logos, through whom all things were created, is the law. This is unlike all other traditions which have elaborate, and seemingly arbitrary, laws in regards to the regulation of daily life.”

    The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao…

  18. ” So we can say that one becomes united to God to the extent he manifests all his possibilities. Of course, we mean here his “real” possibilities, not the sinful or deviant possibilities he may be attracted to.”

    Jung’s ideal of becoming whole seems to lack this distinction and he saw the lack of development of these inferior possibilities as a symptom of spiritual sterility.

  19. Furthermore, the ideal of a moral life has changed. No one today would call that ideal “noble”, perhaps because it seems so prideful. No one, or hardly no one, today would talk of the virtues in the same way, or even acknowledge that man has a certain nature. No, nowadays, the virtuous or moral man is someone who is concerned about the “poor” or the “hungry”.

  20. Does anyone find it striking that some, or perhaps most, men are described as beasts by Dante? We find a similar idea, including the life of reason as the moral life, in St Anthony. He also describes irrational and immoral men as “inhuman”.

    Nowadays, however, everyone is described as a “child of God”, no matter what. Hasn’t something significant changed in the mentality of Western man over the last several centuries?

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2008-2013 Gornahoor Press — All Rights Reserved    WordPress theme: Gornahoor