On Deathworks And Humanism: My Letter To Peter Limberg

In my letter exchange with Peter Limberg, I explore how humanism is a producer of deathworks.

The second section begins as follows:

A confession: I am, have become a psychotechnologies wildman.

Each day I sit down and meditate 3 times for about 3 hours. The meditations, varied in nature, are contemplations of my true nature. Additionally, I’ve begun exploring energetics to understand experientially how subtle energy flows; Tantric yoga and Focusing to dissolve pain bodies; chanting, prayers, and recitations before meals; reading sacred texts (such as The Upanishads) (cf. lectio divina) to deepen my felt understanding; and dream yoga to extend this felt understanding into the dreaming and dreamless states (or rather to realize that there is but one seamless reality whose modes are the dreamless, dreaming, and waking states). Then too for many years there has been many experiments in contemplative philosophizing whose point is to see that one is the heart–and to listen and speak therefrom. Soon I’d like to start taking courses that help me focus on specific knots or tangles; one on Zen and shadows looks especially illuminating.

Reading this, someone might think any number of things. Such as: “What is he seeking?” (Or: “Does this guy ever work?”)

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

 

In The Land Of Ur…

In the Land of Ur, long ago it was decreed that no couple shall give birth to a child unless they have first received a blessing from the Elders. It was thought that the Elders, being wise, would know whether the child would live a life of unspeakable torment or one of radiant splendor.

If they saw that the child would be miserable, they would not give their blessing to the couple. No amount of handwringing and browbeating by ignorant parents could persuade the Elders to submit, for they knew that the child’s sorrows as intimately as they knew their own thoughts. And they could do no more than weep for the unborn child.

If, however, they knew that the child would someday shine with her true nature, then they nodded toward the parents, granting them their blessing while quietly rejoicing in their hearts. This they did even when they knew that the child, so often riven by travails, would nearly take her life before discovering the path of knowledge. For the Elders knew miracles well.

Some parents, feeling rebuked by the Elders and filled with selfish desire, fled Ur and in exile bore children. No one knew where such parents went, but some say that they went to a place called Earth.

Must We Kiss The Toad?

Is it true, as Advaita Vedanta teacher Rupert Spira suggests in one of his yoga meditations, that thought arises as an avoidance of the seemingly unbearable now?

I don’t know. Let’s see.

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See whether there is some physical sensation labeled “pain” or whether there is a feeling labeled “suffering.” In the first case, there may be an itch or there may be the experience of a stiff back. In the second case, there may be the experience of sorrow, grief, anger, etc.

Once you attend to the particular sensation or the particular feeling, what do you notice?  According to Spira, the mind (we might say) takes flight: it goes in search, via activity undertaken in time, for what will alleviate the seemingly unbearable or intolerable sensation or feeling.

Yet if he is also right, no thought on its own can actually alleviate the sensation or the feeling. But is he right? For don’t we think that we can make sense of (say) grief and, in doing so, we can come to rest, to peace?

Perhaps. Yet perhaps–take anger–we had better distinguish between the felt understanding of anger and a mere conceptual understanding of anger. I’ve seen that the former can dissolve anger, yet that discussion goes beyond the scope of this post. The latter, surely, will not do. The energy behind the anger may temporarily subside the more you immerse yourself in other activities (such as thought), yet does the impulse or tendency to get angry when X or Y is the case go away? See for yourself that it does not.

Therefore, consider what he suggests. If most forms of thought anyway are avoidances of (for example) the unbearable dullness of this situation, then what? Are we doomed to suffer? A Tantric Yoga approach of the kind he recommends involves asking,

  • What is this feeling? (Say, anger.)
  • Can I get closer and closer to this feeling, or can this feeling be brought closer and closer to me? (Feel, sense, and/or imagine coming closer to anger.)
  • If I can still give it a name or if I can still label it, then let me draw it closer still. (Come to see that there’s no difference between you and anger.)
  • Once it loses its separateness, can I caress it, kiss it–in short, love it? (See whether you can. See whether you can surrender yourself to this de-labeled energy.)

Then see that there is just rest after this. Just dwelling. Just abiding as what one truly is.

If the mind, accustomed to being unquiet and therefore agitated, takes flight after another feeling or sensation seems to it unbearable, then one can ask about this feeling, draw it closer, de-label it, and love it. Then rest.

Spira calls this yoga meditation “Kissing the Toad.”

Plotinus’s Living Cosmos

Cosmos as Living Organism

For Plotinus as for other ancients, the cosmos was a living organism.

The One, or the nameless absolute, is reality when it is laid bare of every form. It is like the void that precedes all forms, all acts of creation. Yet the One is not nothing nor is it nothingness. It is life itself accessible, Plotinus averred, only through mystical vision.

The One’s first emanation, Nous, is what provides the cosmic blueprint for the many (see here David Fideler, Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature’s Intelligence). Next, the World Soul is an emanation of Nous. The World Soul is the site of eros; it is the “soul of the cosmos.” Finally, we discover the Sense World, or Nature, where space and time exist.

What’s important to underscore, here, is that this spiritual map is not meant to represent individual, disparate parts. Rather, the One is reality, and the One expresses itself in and through the creation of forms of the kind conceptualized as Nous, the World Soul, and the Sense World. And yet, the latter are, in truth, nothing other than the One; nothing other than that which participates in and cannot be understood as even remotely apart from the One.

Plotinus & Infinity

Credit: Neoplatonism and Infinity

Relevance?

The first thing that is relevant to note is that the cosmos is One-All: it is unified, ordered, and total. In this sense, it differs considerably from the disenchanted world that you and I inhabit since, for us, it appears in our phenomenal experience as if the universe we vaguely know about through modern physics bears no genuine or intimate relation to homo sapiens. The universe is “out there” and we are irrevocably “in here.”

Secondly, the Plotinian cosmos is made of the same stuff that human beings are made of. It has Intelligence and we have intelligence. It has eros and we have eros. It has Sense Perceptions and we have sense perceptions. From a mystical perspective, then, it stands to see that we can transcend the limitations of being human should we denude ourselves of our own limited understandings: that we just are sense beings, that we just are intellectual beings, and so on. Thus, we can see how the upward assent in Plotinus is a path of transcendence. Like the Upanishads, therefore, Plotinus’s Enneads are really just pointers to our True Home.

Thirdly, it becomes clear through actual mystical experience that Infinity and Eternity just mean “outside of space” and “outside of time” but not “outside of (call it) ‘non-egoic experience.'” To be sure, about union with the One, one can say absolutely nothing since there is, when one is One, no separate witness or awarer of the nameless One-All.

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It has been noted that Plotinus studied Indian philosophy. How wonderful to see how he synthesized Platonism with Indian philosophy! You can really see it here, and if you have a meditative practice, then you can take the above as nothing but one spiritual map (among others), this one intended for the Plotinian student eager to step foot on the path of introspection.

The Logic Of The Heart: My Discussion With Johannes Niederhauser

In my second discussion with Johannes Achill Niederhauser, I discuss the role of the “logic of the heart” in the epoch of Total Work. It is an epoch scarcely knows otium, or genuine leisure. Among other things, we ask, “What could be a way out of this situation?”

During our discussion, I believe I mentioned my love for Johnny Cash. It turns out that Johannes is also a singer/songwriter, who has been influenced by Cash. Listen to his music (under the stage name John Vouloir) on YouTube:

Also on Spotify: