Friday, December 30, 2011

Spiritual Warfare, by Jed McKenna

A few quotes from this mostly impressive book.

“I have an intended audience… it’s people who know they’re stuck and want to get unstuck, not people who don’t know they’re stuck and just want to pass the time and pass judgment. . . The former would receive criticism with gratitude, and the latter as a personal attack. Awakening is a process of breakthroughs, and breakthroughs don’t come from incense and candlelight and inner peace. You look at spiritual aspirants as those most likely to achieve awakening, but Maya has them so bamboozled that those who seem the most advanced are simply the ones who are burrowing downward the fastest.”

“How can it be that we’re essentially the same now as we were at the most distant reaches of recorded history? Why does our outer environment change while our inner landscape stays the same? Because that’s the first rule of this club:

Always Outward. Never Inward.

So it follows as a matter of certainty that anyone who espouses any teaching or doctrine or philosophy is necessarily a member of the club. Any spiritual teacher who allows students to ask questions and gives them answers is a member of the Outward Only club; an unwitting—and thereby all the more insidious—agent of ignorance. The world is full of respected and beloved spiritual and religious teachers. People ask them questions and they provide answers; question and answer, question and answer, on and on, talk and more talk, more like spiritual therapy than spiritual warfare, but all questions, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, are really the same question, Outward?, and all answers, no matter how profound or wise, are really the same answer, Yes. The subtext of every question is, Am I making progress by asking questions and trying to understand the answers? And the subtext of every answer is, Yes, you are going somewhere while sitting here talking or reading. This is progress. Be at peace. You are progressing and well-progressed. That’s the obvious lie we want to hear and those who tell it most convincingly are the most respected and sought after."

“Our eyes are wide open and we see reality with perfect clarity. This is so obvious that it’s beyond any possible doubt. It’s also untrue. Our vision is so obscured by the mental and emotional flotsam and jetsam of selfhood that what we call stark reality is really just a soft glow seen through tightly shut eyelids; just enough light getting through to illuminate the internal dreamscape. It is owing entirely to our belief that our eyes are open that the spiritual quest is doomed from the start, and that so many who think they’re well along or finished have never really begun. No matter how unwavering we are in our commitment or how steadfast in our determination, no matter how much knowledge we amass or wisdom we attain, no matter what hardships we endure or what sacrifices we make, no matter what scriptures we adhere to or what deities we appease, it’s all just a desperate ploy to keep ourselves from doing the one thing that could make any difference: taking personal responsibility, thinking for ourselves. At the point where we begin our search, we have already overshot the objective, and every step takes us further away.”

“Parents tell their children that there is no such thing as the boogeyman, but that’s because they themselves have never thrown off the covers and turned on the lights. There is such thing as the boogeyman. He is out to get you, and he will. The boogeyman is real. He is the most real thing in the dreamstate, and real Zen, if there is such a thing, is about turning toward him, not away.”

“There are two emotions that inform and animate the human animal: fear, and a gratitude-love-awe mix that might be best called agape. As fear goes out, agape comes in. More accurately, a pure white light of consciousness hits the prism of self and splits outward to become the universe as we experience it. If the prism of self is gray and murky with ignorance, choked with fear, contaminated with ego, then so becomes the universe that radiates out from it. It’s that simple. As the prism becomes free of such flaws, then the whole universe changes with it. It resolves into clarity, becomes brighter, more playful and magical. Because we are the lens through which it is projected, we are participants in its shape and motion; co-creators of our own universe.

That’s Human Adulthood. Spiritual Enlightenment is just the same, except you take the final step in purifying the prism of self: You remove it.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ramsey Dukes' Response to "Serious Play"

I am coming to this thread very late, because of work pressure and other distractions. A lot of ground has been covered in the comments, more than I can respond to, so I'll mainly address the original posting even though it means risking repeating things that have already been said in the comments.

I will just add, in response to the comments about liver, there was an old joke: “is life worth living?". Answer: “it all depends upon the liver." I was also very interested in the discussion about Uranus, Pluto and Chiron, but had better stick to the main topic now.

Firstly, I'd like to correct any wrong impression about my views on magic and art. Kephas writes: “magic he said, is trying to bring about desired results or change, while art is simply creative release of energies, followed by getting to see how those energies bring about change, independent of our will." I have a problem with the word “simply", because I actually see art as something that goes beyond magic. The relationship between magic and art is reflected in the words “craft", a word often used for magic. Magic is indeed a craft, putting together a number of elements and skills in order to invoke a specific effect. So if you are designing a tarot card or magical image, it means deliberately placing appropriate symbols into the picture, or if you are writing a film script and deliberately inserting commercial elements such as car chases, gunfights, and love interest in order to make it a commercial success, then strictly speaking it is an act of magic or craftsmanship–you're making a talisman for commercial success. Art begins when the craftsman moves beyond such conscious deliberation and finds himself adding elements or shaping the whole according to a deeper impulse we might call "inspiration".

In that sense I totally agree with Kephas' summing up: "This is a key difference. It is the difference between letting a zeitgeist (spirit) move through one (without needing to understand it) and trying to move things oneself towards a desired end. For example, I might be writing this piece in order to persuade others of my point of view. On the other hand, I might simply be using words as a means to see what’s moving around inside, and coming through me, without any specific result in mind. In reality, it is a bit of both" Indeed there is usually plenty of overlap in practice.

The relevance of our conversation to the Anonymous movement is that, whereas most protesters are consciously doing things that they believe will work toward a specific effect, the actions of Anonymous seem less predictable, more open ended, more like casting a stone into the waters to create a splash, and therefore more akin to art than sheer craft.

I also agree with the warning that, by becoming an activist, one risks adding energy to the very thing you oppose; while at the same time the personal value of expressing oneself in protest cannot be denied.

On the other hand, I think the discussion focused too much on cause and effect, in the sense that the purpose of a protest action is to cause a specific change. I previously talked about magic being used to “invoke" a specific effect, rather than saying to “cause" it. Although we loosely talk about doing magic to make something happen, it's actually more about encouraging something to happen.

In the early 70s there was a call for ecologically aware people to separate out bottles and tins from their waste and bagged them separately so that they could be recycled. Critics of this pointed out that it was a waste of time, because most councils at that time had no separate recycling facility, so they simply chucked the whole lot into the same heap. But I argued that separating waste still had value as a magical ritual. Instead of feeling that nothing could be done, one was satisfying one's own need to pay tribute to the Earth by conscious attention. One was being mindful, and that in itself has value. One could also argue that, if enough people did this, it would eventually pressure the councils to offer a recycling service—but that is slipping back into a cause-and-effect argument.

So, in that sense, I do believe that taking part in a public protest does have significance as a shared ritual, a directed expression of one's feelings that does have intrinsic value. If the protesters could remember that as they take part, it might help them to avoid the sort of inflated expectations, and resulting sense of disappointment that K warns against. It also helps to get one out of it too simplistic cause-and-effect expectation. Invoking a group mind, Demon or whatever is a bit like voting for a politician: you make an informed choice of what you are invoking, but then to some extent surrender yourself to trusting it to do the right thing. Your protest is no more than a satisfying push in the right direction.