Thursday, August 03, 2006

Why Oh Why Didn’t I Take the Blue Pill?
Meditations on the “Spiritual” Life


“The bright and morning star that fell did not fall alone, it tore down everything else with it, including me. Part of my own being fell with it, and I am that fallen being now.”
—Philip K. Dick, The Divine Invasion

Two days ago I saw an inverted rainbow. Naturally I wondered what it meant, as signs go. The first thought that occurred to me, besides that it was beautiful, was that I had been seeing the world upside down, and that it was time to correct my perspective. Like a living paradox, I had been standing on my head to get God’s attention. Now God was doing the same. If we create our reality, that includes God, right?

We never left the Garden. We polluted it with our garbage and turned it into a Swamp. Good fruit still grows here, we just have to find it. Seek, you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you. Don’t seek, and you won’t find. If you don’t knock, the door will stay forever closed.

We have to take the initiative, here and now. God doesn’t come looking for us. Only the devil does that.

Some of the profoundest words I ever heard, I heard in a song, Leonard Cohen’s “Stories of the Street”: “You are locked into your suffering and your pleasures are the seal.”

There is a Buddhist hell, called the Hungry Ghost realm, in which the damned soul is surrounded by food, an enormous stomach and a pin hole for a mouth. These souls “can never fulfill their hunger, so they are always filled with craving and desire. They can never be satisfied.” My situation feels like the reverse, a tiny stomach that will not allow food to enter, and a vast, gaping mouth that wants only to devour but cannot; not, at least, without suffering the torments of the damned as a result. But in either case, the hell is a hell of craving. According to Buddhists, the source of all suffering. I can definitely vouch for that.

For those of you unfamiliar with my predicament, I was recently infiltrated by hookworm, microscopic razor-fanged worms that gnaw into the intestines and drink the blood. The prescription medicine I took seems to have killed the critters, but in the process done untold damage to my intestines. The result is a continuous sensation of being blocked, sometimes all the way up to my throat, whenever I try to eat something (and sometimes even when I don’t). I am currently confined to fruit, porridge, soups and purees, which as you can imagine, leaves a lot of room for craving. This is a situation that may continue indefinitely, depending as it does upon factors beyond my control or even understanding. Hence, I have no choice but to accept the suffering and try to find the “lesson” in it; to use this affliction as a means to confront and overcome whatever psychological/emotional tendencies have caused it.

What this means in practical terms is that, for the first time in my life, mediation has become necessary to my survival. I have to get my energy somewhere, and without a couple of hours a day meditating and deep breathing, I appear to be wasting away to nothing. With it, however, I am slowly returning to life. Of course, never has the idea of meditation been so utterly, profoundly filled with dread as when the body feels like this. I am discovering the power of true will.

None of this is half so grim as it sounds at first glance. In fact, it is a source of joy. By entering bodily into the private hell of my mind to confront my demons, I am becoming free. This way lies freedom.

I am sharing some of these mediations with you, for no good reason save that I felt like it. Actually, there’s more to it than that. I am reaching out to you all, from deep inside my private hell, because I feel so horribly alone here.

Lucifer’s temptation, they say, was that of spiritual pride. I can vouch for this. Lucifer whispers in our ears that we can be as gods, that we may overcome our lower natures, our petty, grubbing selves, through nothing but our own efforts.

As most of you probably know, this is a “party line” I have long advocated. But no more.

The truth is, our grubby lower selves can never hope to overcome themselves, no matter how much they may simulate their desire to do so. Can a man lift himself up by his bootstraps? This is the essence, not of the impossible (nothing is that), but of the absurd.

The inhuman efforts of such unwitting spiritual clowning have killed many a noble soul, tricked by the serpent’s whisper into aspiring after the unattainable. I have been in danger of becoming one of them.

The snake Lucifer, in the present context, is the intellect. The intellect has a special gift: it can “prove” anything to itself, no matter how absurd. Mathematically, for example, it may be “proven” that an elephant can hang from a cliff with its tail fastened to a daisy. Once all the equations are formulated, however, reality is still there. The daisy breaks, the elephant falls.

There is no way out of the prison-hell of self save by accepting, once and for all, that there is no way out. Spirit can only take over when self surrenders. Only when we are completely emptied of the world can we be filled by spirit.

In Tales of Power, don Juan tells Carlos that a warrior is a slave of power. He uses don Genaro as an example, stating that, since Genaro has surrendered to the design of power, he has no choice but to serve the spirit through his actions, for the rest of his life. If he tries to live like an ordinary schmuck, he will waste away and die in no time.

It is time for a confession. My friends, had I known beforehand what the warrior’s path (the so-called “spiritual life”) entailed, I would never have embarked upon it. Not in a million years. In the words of my friend and fellow sufferer, Lyn Birkbeck, “It is hard beyond our dreams.”

I was tricked. I tricked myself, and now it is too late. There is no “Cypher option,” no blue pill, unless it be suicide: another absurdity, since we all know, deep down, that there is no such escape clause. We take our personal hells with us, wherever we go.

Although I still only have red pills to peddle, my advice to you all now is this: if at all possible, take the blue pill! The empty pleasures of our illusory personalities and tawdry desires offer sweet solace indeed, solace that is forever left behind once we embark on the warrior’s way. All that is then left are the obscene challenges of erasing the self, and of “serving spirit.” We become slaves to power.

Yet serving the spirit does not mean grandiose acts of selflessness. It is not what we do but how. And it all comes down to one simple feat: getting wholly into the moment, and staying there. The holy moment. Contemplate the boundless mystery of creation, every moment, and live, and do what thou wilt, and enjoy it to the full.

Give a starving man a bowl of rice. Invite a wealthy glutton to a ten-course meal made up of every imaginable delicacy. Who will enjoy his food more?

The simple life is the good life. The more we have, the less we appreciate what we have.

We can learn to enjoy what is there in front of us, however much it falls short of our desires. Or we can get everything we desire, and be unable to really enjoy it. Which is better?

Another wise trickster (A. Crowley) once wrote, “Only those are happy who have desired the unattainable.” I cannot vouch for this. Some day, perhaps. But not today.

I have for many long, hard years desired the unattainable, in the form of spiritual perfection, and mostly, it has made me miserable at the inescapability of my rank imperfections. It is far too late for me to go back, however. My yearning after abstracts has taken me so far from the ordinary, everyday pleasures of animal existence that I no longer find much solace within them (though God knows I try).

So be it. I accept my fate. I accept the indigestion, the craving, the daily torment, as necessary and true to the path I have chosen. But to wish it on another, to encourage it as The Way? This can only be basest folly. I begin to fathom poor Lucifer’s secret intent, the reason behind all the subterfuge. Is it anything else but sad desire for some company in His misery?

Here is the simple truth. The higher we aspire to “spiritual” goals, the harder we strive after them, the greater the toll will be upon our all-too-human selves, the worse the wear and tear on our lives.

There is no red pill. There is no blue pill. Such simplistic dualities only exist in movies.

There is no spirit. There is no matter. Such simplistic dualities only exist in books.

The means to attain joy in this life cannot possibly be by striving for another life that is “beyond.” More bootstrap pulling.

The pleasures of this world in front of us, the many-colored fruit for the picking, are pleasures that nourish the body and enliven the soul. They are here in the moment, where we belong, ever inviting us to partake of the Garden. This is not a test, this is a gift.

The pleasures of this world that are out of reach, the shiny baubles of success and happiness, satisfaction and spiritual perfection, our fond and endless anticipation of every next meal, next perk, next acquisition, these are but distractions. They are not promises, they are temptations, chimera to confuse the mind and keep it from focusing on the task at hand: cleaning up that swamp, and finding what fruit is still left, in our poor, neglected Garden of Delight.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, unto God what is God’s. Man does not live by spirit alone. Bread is also life.

If you honor the body, you serve the spirit. Neglect the spirit and the body will pay the price.

There is no “War of Opposites,” between light and darkness, body and soul, good and evil, warrior and gatekeeper. All just tricks of the imagination.

There is only a confused mind that has forgotten how to dance. Forgotten how to let the body do its thing, forgotten to enjoy life as it once did: as children at play in the Garden. Here in this Garden where there is only one thing God or Goddess ever wanted from us.

Our delight.

Go ahead and take the blue pill if you want to. Just be sure and enjoy the illusion.

“How you have fallen from heaven, bright morning star,
Felled to the earth, sprawling helpless across the nations!
You thought in you own mind,
I will scale the heavens;
I will set my throne high above the stars of God,
I will sit on the mountain where the gods meet
In the far recesses of the north.
I will rise high above the cloud banks
And make myself like the Most High
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the depths of the abyss.
Those who see you will stare at you,
They will look at you and ponder.”
(Isaiah 14:12)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hope you get well soon Jake. I'm only halfway through reading it, but excellent post so far.

Anonymous said...

That sounds awful. Your post really syncs up with the lack of updates to other 2012-centric sites to give the impression that the mondo-2000, early internet cyberpunk optimism gnosis era is over.
I only disagree with two things about your post - suicide. I think it probably works pretty well: "we" disappear in deep sleep pretty thoroughly -- I doubt we're much more durable than our neural configurations. And there's a second "T" in "meditation".
Just to nitpick -- your earlier dismissal of Woody Allen's scientifically unbacked nihilism says he ignores "Tao of Physics" type stuff. I don't think those books/theories really disagree with nihilism, they just entangle it with our subjective states. You know, meaningless spasms of mind/matter instead of matter. Anyway -- good luck.

nic said...

shit Jake...tell me you dont really what the blue pill...Ignorance is only Bliss if your scared of the truth....right ?