Friday, June 17, 2011

The Imaginal is All For You


Here's a mini essay I just posted at RI.

Strieber (like Castaneda) had some profound personal encounters with Imaginal forces. When I read his books (and Castaneda's), the accounts resonated, profoundly, with my own, forgotten or fragmented experiences with the Imaginal. In a word, I recognized "truth" in them (I use "'s because I'm at RI, normally I wouldn't bother).

I am and always have been a very credulous and impressionable person, and as is my wont, I took both these authors' accounts literally, at face value - as they themselves seemed to - even knowing (at least later on) that Imaginal experiences aren’t "literal" so much as metaphorical (but then, so is ordinary reality once we scratch the surface, right?). Point is, Whitley's and Carlos' experiences were filtered through their individual psyches and written out in linear (literal) language, so those are the versions of Imaginal reality which we got “fed.” And then, insofar as we are left-brained and literal-minded creatures, we can only take them at face value, or reject them in the same way. (For the left-brain something is either true or false, it cannot be both/and. First mistake.)

The point is that these writers share their truth, not the Truth, but as readers, if we identify with and relate to the stories (while taking them at face value), we are going to try and make it our truth – more or less in the same way that people who follow gurus try to twist themselves into the right shape to match their guru's truth. If we do this, then sooner or later we are going to get disillusioned – as soon, in fact, as we realize that the other guy’s truth, however good it might have seemed, it’s not gonna be our truth. Why? Because it’s not our experience of the Imaginal, divine, or whatever. Sooner or later, something in there is going to “not fit,” because the only reality that fits us is, you got it, our own. So that’s the test and the opportunity of every “guru” - and every literary genius or rock n’ roll idol or whoever we look up to & whose ideas or work we follow, whose path we wind up trying to walk down or whose “being” we want to emulate. It never works.

The test and the opportunity is to save the baby and toss out the bath water. If we wind up rejecting everything about the person, IMO, we’ve missed the opportunity and flunked the test – maybe (I don’t want to impose my version of reality on anyone, but for me that’d be true, though God knows it’s tempting). True skepticism is learning to discern truth from delusion, starting with our heroes or teachers, and ending up with our own. The “believer” swallows the story (aliens, sorcerers, democracy, whatever) whole, gets drunk on it, becomes sick, and then the “skeptic” comes to the rescue and tries to vomit everything back up and swears never to touch the stuff again (but usually he finds another vice). This isn’t skepticism so much as cynicism, overcompensation for feeling like a sucker. It denies whatever is in us (or in Strieber, or whoever) that responded to truth, and focuses only on the part that managed to turn a little bit of truth into a great big delusion. It’s not lies that fool us, IMO, it’s truth taken too literally, or too quickly to heart. It’s truth which we invest in and build a whole edifice of delusion out of.

Imagination – that’s the key, but not in the way most people think of it, as a polar opposite to reality, so much as what underlies all of our experience. Keats compared the imagination to “Adam’s dream: he awoke and found it truth.” Blake believed the imagination was “not a State: it is the Human existence itself.” These guys weren’t slouches. They were as rigorous as they were intuitive. Personally, I’m willing to take their word on that.

Like Castaneda, Strieber got abducted by his own unconscious, whether it was aliens or elementals, angels or demons or govt mind control operatives. Whatever the agents that “came for him,” that’s not a desirable state of affairs. What’s desirable is for us to venture willingly and open-eyed into our unconscious, exactly like the Poets did.

I admit (I already did) that I’m a credulous person. (That's why I'm an odd fit with RI.) There’s no way to be open-minded without being credulous (or if there is, I haven’t found it). I am susceptible to the spells cast by other people’s convictions - and/or delusions - ask my wife if you don’t believe me (rhetorical suggestion). But the alternative to being credulous isn’t being cynical (which is what most skeptics are, IMO), because that just amounts to being closed-minded. The solution is to learn discernment about what we let all the way in and take to heart, what we take as our own truth, as opposed to what we let flow through us and out again, checking it thoroughly on the way. To quote Keats again: “The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.” That means to believe without believing, to disbelieve without dismissing, to make up one’s mind about nothing. In the words of Whitley, it means we get to “Learn to live at a high level of uncertainty.” (Bleh)

Who the hell wants to do that? In this world, certainty is power. We’re taught and bred to make up our minds about everything, and dismiss anything we can’t make our minds up about. The trouble is we are also told, subtly, which conclusions to reach (drink Coca Cola), so then, when we make up our minds, we’re really giving them over to someone (or something) else’s influence. :cthulhu:

For me that’s the proof that Strieber’s doing something that’s worth paying attention to: he raises a lot more questions than he provides answers.

That, and I have a big soft spot for the guy.

20 comments:

silent at last said...

Jason

This reflection has less to do with Strieber and more to do with the sentiment of your article, as I perceived it.

What came up for me was a deep insight into my own process around NOSTALGIA. There are certain media forms that soften me up every time I make contact with them. If I lose track of a part of my soul, it's likely that I can return to these books, songs, movies and remember.

I wonder - is it possible to open up deeper levels of heart-knowledge through mental analysis of media that touches our heart?

If nothing else, your text felt like a tribute or shrine to these influential books in your life, and I enjoyed sharing in that energy of Honoring what you love.

Jason Kephas said...

"I wonder - is it possible to open up deeper levels of heart-knowledge through mental analysis of media that touches our heart?"

"Mental analysis of media that touches my heart" would be a good description of several books I've written - whether writing them has opened up deeper levels of heart-knowledge I can't say with certainty but my guess is that it has served that purpose, even if it wasn't conscious. Certainly it helped me to discover why those works meant so much to me which may have allowed me to "own" whatever it was in me that i was using them to mirror back at me. (Same way people use gurus & celebrities, provided they evolve beyond the worship stage.)

Eos said...

I've been in a warm state of in-between lately. Knowing both (or more) sides of any story, or person. Opening spaces for perpetual contradiction, or trying to.

Anyway, great essay, I connected, and I connect also with these comments. I've been watching a few movies I watched in youth again, this time while high, and so... young again. Also, I revisited family I haven't seen in years, and neighborhoods I haven't seen in even longer. It was all a dream! And the dream still unfolds. I took a road trip across most of the country, through mountains and plains, etc. There were some very dreamlike moments along the way.

I've helped a little (accidentally, of course) in undoing a Guru Twist in someone close, now they're chasing their own ghost...

I still have a reaction internally as I suppose it's a little depressing in some ways that my imaginal experiences can't be fully shared with another. I don't know if we're totally alienated islands in that sense yet, but I know we might be...

Maybe the truth is somewhere between each of our individual experiences and beliefs. Perhaps we need to study Voltron!

My word for word verification is 'fibled'.

Jason Kephas said...

Hi again Eos - a very timely reappearance, may I say!

there is one way those islands can meet - go deep enough down where it's just one land mass.

Alternatively - get abducted together! (or maybe that's the same thing?)

isn't that what we are all yearning for with every cell of our bodies and why sex is both the prison that traps us and the key to freedom?

pueokeokeo said...

dude, you tell me where and when we'll get abducted together and I'll be there.

Jason Kephas said...

Ewww.

Married couples only!

Eos said...

The prison and the key...yes! Perhaps there's no escape from that process, especially if that is the only *material* key, but is it? I sometimes think the same way of psychedelics and meditation techniques, both a prison and a key...

But then, what is escape anyway? Is it ultimately inevitable?

Yesterday I was looking through some old pictures and came across some photos of a room that hosted one of my more bizarre, and 'sober', imaginal experiences. I felt a little fear and anticipation just looking at the pictures. I didn't expect that. But was the anticipation I felt an awareness of the inevitable resolution and integration, while the fear was a brace? Is the same true of the buzzing felt before a psychedelic encounter? The nerves before sexual encounters?

Isn't every reappearance, or even every appearance, timely?

So going deep enough so that it's one landmass would enable us to know that we are all each other and that every occurrence and experience is synchronous because everything is dynamically one...constantly becoming one?

:)

Eos said...

Just now got around to reading some of your stuff on Strieber (mostly the RI posts), really compelling. I hesitate to venture into that territory though. Why (I don't really know)? I feel a strange gravity pulling on me and, in the interest of not neglecting daily affairs, I resist. I keep feeling the crest of resolution, the allure of integration, but I'm not sure it can be found outside of myself...

I'm tempted to create an RI account, but I don't really know if I have anything to add, as it seems self-interest is behind that temptation.

I like everything you're saying though, and it's good to read something I can actually relate to again!

Would it be blind of me to ask what, exactly, makes my 'reappearance' so timely to you?

Jason Kephas said...

Hi Eos, glad you posted again as I meant to respond to your last one. Is this really you? It's a very different "voice" to the one I got used to, but maybe I've changed too (no doubt about it) and so I am picking up a subtler and soft signal?

It wouldn't be blind to ask, why would you know what I'm talking about? I didn't mean to leave that out there as a tantalizing tidbit either. Things are morphing so fast I have to really think to remember what I was referring to; it related to a dream I had of my brother, the night before you showed up, and the context that fell into, which was to do with my putting certain "warrior" tendencies to rest in my troubled soul.

I'm also in two minds about encouraging you to join RI, remembering how voluminous your posts tended to be! I'd say, FWIW, that if it'll help you work out stuff that's causing tension in your psyche, go for it; but if it's just to join the intellectual debate, don't bother. I try and follow this advice myself - and fail, of course.

Just the last post I made today (the longer one), I had to edit to remove a pompous know-it-all tone that had crept in. The format of forums (or maybe RI esp?) seems to subtly encourage it, at least in me.

Man, is is only me or do you get tired of being forever reminded of your incapacity to ever be really, truly authentic?

Eos said...

I am always and constantly tired of that incapacity to be truly authentic! Words simply don't permit it, and neither does my ego. For instance, right now I feel a sort of blossom, tempered by a feeling of being on the verge of tears, not only of despair but of union. And even as I type I become slightly less aware of it...

And it is me, and me has changed as well, so it's probably a combination, hence tears of union. Some husks and scars and facades have fallen away...

The main reason I want to join RI is to ask questions rather than run my mouth-fingers to the bone! The self-interest I speak of is more like a self-obsession since I'm not certain I can resolve my inner tensions in that way. I actually find myself really bored with the idea of any prolonged intellectual debates. I'm a lot more interested in...basically what SWEDA was! I know it may not have seemed like it then but I took a lot away from that experience and I thank you for that!

Also, for what it's worth I definitely noticed a difference in your writing as well (at least from what I recall, so the difference may have been there all along)! It's more like you're laying down in the sun while you write rather than sitting hunched over a glowing screen.

I don't have too many more worldly pronouncements to make, or at least I don't have a strong desire to do so. I have begun to confront the emptiness of myself and the fullness of that emptiness. Now I just have a longing for communion, which is also pretty fitting.

I'd like to know more about your dream and how I relate, and I'd like to ask some questions and share experiences and ideas...

I have worldly matters to take care of though and have procrastinated long enough as it is!

Thanks for being welcoming, I appreciate it.

Jason Kephas said...

Namaste, soul-brother

I'll send the dream to your yahoo email

Knight of Ascension said...

I had a few remarks to share responding to Jason's original post. I hope they don't sound too stark in the midst of all the warmth and personal insight that's being passed around. 

I also don't mean to succumb to the "pompous know-it-all tone" referred to above. 

Just hoping I could offer something of value or, at the very least, of interest. 

I think Jason's remarks about the imaginal are well put. It's as though the light of higher reality must pass through the kaleidoscope of one's psyche. 

But, as Kant demonstrates, the problem is much broader than that. The whole nature of the world as we experience it is dependent on the mental and sensory apparatus through which we perceive. 

Consider the consequence: if all experience is given shape by the mind's subjective structures, then we can never know what reality is like in itself.  

On this basis one is tempted to conclude that, like a perpetually receding horizon, the goal of final knowledge lies forever outside our reach. 

And yet, The Master of The Key promises that "a fully self realized being understands the whole creation, for it is completely present everywhere." 

He makes the extraordinary claim that "anyone can become God," explaining that we are withheld from doing so by the imperfections in our "vision." 

Interestingly, tibetan buddhism takes a similar view, both of the potential inherent to every sentient being, and of that which holds us back.

On this view, we are prevented from achieving a god's eye perspective on reality by what are called "obstacles to omniscience" - subtle predispositions in the mind that force us to divide reality into the phenomenal and the noumenal, the relative and the ultimate. 

So, although tibetan philosophy makes a considerable effort to articulate the problem of appearance and reality, it concludes that this distinction only pertains to unenlightened beings, and that it can be surpassed by any sufficiently dedicated practitioner. 

The imperfections in our vision are innate, in the sense that we have them since birth, but they are not inherent, in the sense of being permanent properties. 

The point I'm driving toward is that it might be misconceived to say we can only ever access our truth, and that we cannot hope to access the truth. 

If we label our personal convictions as a species of "truth" on the grounds that all reality is interpretive, then we create a false equivalence between different epistemic strategies.

The way Jason's employing the term "truth" makes it difficult to distinguish between the degrees of truth present in opposing pictures of the world. 

Knight of Ascension said...

"Because it’s not our experience of the Imaginal, divine, or whatever. Sooner or later, something in there is going to 'not fit,' because the only reality that fits us is, you got it, our own."

Many of the most important truths don't fit personal experience. Relativity and quantum mechanics are profoundly counter intuitive, they make claims about the nature of reality that contradict the entire range of mundane human experience. 

There are certainly cases where a teaching doesn't fit because it is false, or because it isn't right for us. And yet, there are other cases where what does not fit reveals where we ourselves need to expand and evolve. 

Even our own reality may never fit in this way. Every revelation contains the seeds of it's own contradiction; that contradiction is the doorway to a further revelation. 

The Master of the Key says "there is something missing in all of us" and that "what is absent within, is God." 

As I read the text, this doesn't mean that God is absent, but that God is the absence. God is a radical incongruity, an irreconcilable mystery. 
And it's precisely because our innermost questions have no final answer that we continue to evolve toward the infinite. 

"The “believer” swallows the story (aliens, sorcerers, democracy, whatever) whole, gets drunk on it, becomes sick, and then the “skeptic” comes to the rescue and tries to vomit everything back up and swears never to touch the stuff again (but usually he finds another vice). This isn’t skepticism so much as cynicism, overcompensation for feeling like a sucker."

This reminds me of a wonderful passage from Nietzsche. In it, he gives eloquent expression to the state of mind you describe, but goes on to cheer the aspirant forward. 

"Alas, I knew noble men who lost their highest hope. Then they slandered all high hopes. Then they lived impudently in brief pleasures and barely cast their goals beyond the day. Spirit too is lust, so they said. Then the wings of their spirit broke: and now their spirit crawls about and soils what it gnaws. Once they thought of becoming heroes: now they are voluptuaries. The hero is for them an offense and a fright.

"But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throwaway the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!"


Anyhow, it's good to see you folks in virtual space again! 

Jason Kephas said...

"The point I'm driving toward is that it might be misconceived to say we can only ever access our truth, and that we cannot hope to access the truth."

I didn't ever say that, or if i did, I didn't mean it.

But I think we need to have a pretty firm grasp on what our truth is before we are ready to speak with any authority about The Truth - or to distinguish between our conditioned imprints and our unique soul's eye vision.

If becoming One with God meant that we all see things the exact same way, what would be the purpose behind fragmentation?

pueokeokeo said...

JK said:
If becoming One with God meant that we all see things the exact same way, what would be the purpose behind fragmentation?

Cuz teasing is too much damn fun, you jack-nugget.

Becoming One with God probably means that we all get see through things the exact same way -- with the singular "I" still there as clueless as ever and adorable as ever, but now more forgiving than ever knowing that there is at least One other seeing things through -- the exact same way.

Jason Kephas said...

which would make a multitude of slightly different perspectives together forming a unified perspective - which would never remain the same for even an instant, because that multitude is constantly moving, changing, and evolving through its interactions?

Eos said...

So, to unify (?):

"So going deep enough so that it's one landmass would enable us to know that we are all each other [i.e. God] and that every occurrence and experience is synchronous because everything is dynamically one...constantly becoming one?"

"which would make a multitude of slightly different perspectives together forming a unified perspective - which would never remain the same for even an instant, because that multitude is constantly moving, changing, and evolving through its interactions?"

"On this basis one is tempted to conclude that, like a perpetually receding horizon, the goal of final knowledge lies forever outside our reach.

And yet, The Master of The Key promises that 'a fully self realized being understands the whole creation, for it is completely present everywhere.'"

And thanks for the dream Jason. Very fitting for me now as well, including the comments...more on that later!

pueokeokeo said...

If there is a unified perspective then wouldn't perspective die leaving a "never the same" like a flickering flame -- ever the change within "ever the same". There would be no One to blame. There would only be sadness and grace. I could drink to such a unified perspective. ;)

I have felt a unifying of perspectives happening within the inner community -- the inner multitude. Boundaries are still crossed and there are still flare ups in that inner world but there is a natural return to balance when the unifier of the perspectives (the I) steps in and lays down with his scrub brush and works without asking questions. That I (which is the unifier) is no longer the mediator or peacekeeper, as he inevitably dreams and wishes himself to be at times, but simply a dude with a scrub brush willing to clean until perception dies.

Jason Kephas said...

Put down that beer and get scrubbing!

Qozle said...

I recognize this response is rather late, but, timely appearances, right?

I read a majority of the other comments here and something Aoelus said seemed fruitful to capture and reanalyze:

"If becoming One with God meant that we all see things the exact same way, what would be the purpose behind fragmentation?"

I think this is particularly fruitful because I think it's representative of a prevalent misunderstanding of the nature of reality (not to say that its author is): "dissolving into unity", "killing the ego ("slaying the slayer")".

It brings to mind an appropriate mahayana saying, a sort of koan: "Nirvana is samsara".

This is where enlightenment happens. One doesn't shed the ego upon enlightenment, one very skillfully speaks and acts and looks through it (from what I've discovered), so that the light of awareness shines through it like through glass.

To answer the question of the original quote, I would say: there would be no fragmentation, and there would be no point! I feel that was the sort of rhetorical answer the question demonstrated.

The alternative might be a sort of unified differentiation. Two individual hemispheres of the brain; one conscious experience. Many individual words (any one of which whose individuality harkens to the sum total of an infinite dictionary); one overall message. Many individual organs; one human body.

Maybe what would be unified in a society of people who are one would god would be a focused attention towards the ascension of complexity, subtly, consciousness, and a celebration and appreciation of differences.


Great blog, I look forward to future entries discussions.