The Forgotten ‘Third’

There is little doubt that Western infatuation with Eastern spiritual disciplines, ostensibly designed to transcend or extinguish the illusion of the ‘Ego’, has reached an impasse. Instead of offering an alternative way to transforming Western consciousness, these disciplines have been converted into subtle devices for enhancing its insatiable desire for light, power and control. Once again it is as in the old Chinese saying “If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means works in the wrong way.” In effect, it is the Western belief in the right method irrespective of the man who applies it that seems to be responsible for the impasse, because method alone, divorced from the psyche, only breeds the delusion of technical omnipotence.

What has in fact ensued from the artificial transplantation of Eastern values into Western soil is a kind of “spiritual materialism” — using “spiritual activities” in order to bolster and enrich one’s ego. We may call this phenomenon the hydra syndrome: like the mythical Hydra whose cut-off head is always replaced by two others, the adept’s ‘innermost self’, the perennially selfsame and boring ego, aching for transcendence, appears to reemerge, strengthened and solidified, as a direct result of the methodical attempt to cut it down to size. Another word for this sort of uncontrollable growth is hubris, misleadingly translated “pride.” Hubris is from the Greek hubridzo which means “to run riot.” Applied here it denotes that frantic search for new spiritual experiences issuing in “the mania of an ego’s vertigo, endlessly spinning about its own center.” In a larger setting hubris is the flaw of a grotesquely excessive masculinity and rationality.

From Roberts Avens, Imagination is Reality, p. 4-5

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What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar

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The Cost of Sin

“Good taste, if nothing else, requires the sinner not to make godly claims. This is, arguably, the worst feature of sexual and all other exploitation. It is cruelty, of a vicious kind, for when the victim is abandoned he or she will be alienated not only from the figure of authority, but also from the God for whom he presumed to speak. Terrible harm is done to a soul who was trusting.

“Terrible things happen: we must be “comfortable” with that. We cannot know to what depths of depravity another human is capable of sinking — it is always lower than we surmised. Yet we can know, with assurance, exactly what we have ourselves done, or intended; and we ought to know that forgiveness can come only from the Witness of all our crimes. For He is also the ultimate Victim.”–David Warren

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Bizarre and Inexplicable

“There is a theory that if ever anyone discovers what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced with something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory that this has already happened.”–Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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Heaven and Hell

“A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, ‘You’re nothing but a lout — I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!’

His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled ‘I could kill you for your impertinence.’

‘That,’ the monk calmly replied, ‘is hell.’

Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.

‘And that,’ said the monk, ‘is heaven.’

–Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

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Time Travel

This morning’s email of bargain e-books included one by Robert Silverberg–Hawksbill Station. The story line seems to be (it was written in the late ’60s) in the 21st century, USA has become a tyranny and dangerous political prisoners are transported to what will become the North American east coast in the late Cambrian era, where they can do no harm. With no hope of return and no women (they are transported to a different time) most of the prisoners gradually sink into catatonia or suicide. The most dangerous (i.e., the Alpha) of them retains his mental facilities as he ages and loses his physical powers. The action revolves around the Alpha’s flashbacks of Silverberg’s notions of how the late ’60s political unrest will evolve into open rebellion and vicious suppression, and the arrival of a new prisoner, who arouses suspicions somehow.

As familiar as Silverberg’s name is, I don’t remember reading anything by him, and after reading some reviews I’m not tempted to buy that book–even for $1.99. I did drop $0.99 for an anthology of his short stories published in the pulps, however. Continue reading

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Climb the Tree

“Chew on one thinker – writer, activist, role model – you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people the thinker loved and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go. Once you built your tree, it’s time to start your own branch.”–Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist

I have to say that is what I’ve been doing with Owen Barfield this past year, and still am. I just bought the only exhaustive biography to fill-in the “all about” part. And the year before, I did more or less the same about “Preston Howard”. So, when do I start the branch of my own? Am I doing that now with the War Story and the Foreign Country outlines?

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“To summarise: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarise the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarise the summary of the summary: people are a problem.”—Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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Uninformed Criticism

When I first prepared this particular talk… I realized that my usual approach is usually critical. That is, a lot of the things that I do, that most people do, are because they hate something somebody else has done, or they hate that something hasn’t been done. And I realized that informed criticism has completely been done in by the web. Because the web has produced so much uninformed criticism. It’s kind of a Gresham’s Law — bad money drives the good money out of circulation. Bad criticism drives good criticism out of circulation. You just can’t criticize anything.–Alan Kay, How Simply and Understandably Could The “Personal Computing Experience” Be Programmed?

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Something’s more interesting than this

“And now, that’s always true.

“Whatever you’re doing.

“No matter who you’re with.

“Something, somewhere, is more interesting than this.

“And it’s in your pocket. Continue reading

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