Read Johnny's "Metaphormorphic Book of Days, Dreams & Shadows"

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Metaphormorphic Book of Days, Dreams & Shadows

And now I will describe in a figure the enlightenment or un-enlightenment of our nature:

--imagine human beings living in an underground den which is open towards the light; they have been there from childhood, having their necks and legs chained, and can only see into the den. At a distance there is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners a raised way, and a low wall is built along the way, like the screen over which marionette players show their puppets.

Behind the wall appear moving figures, who hold in their hands various works of art, and among them images of men and animals, wood and stone, and some of the passers-by are talking and others silent.

'A strange parable,' he said, 'and strange captives.'

They are ourselves, I replied; and they see only the shadows of the images which the fire throws on the wall of the den; to these they give names, and if we add an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of the passengers will seem to proceed from the shadows.

Suppose now that you suddenly turn them round and make them look with pain and grief to themselves at the real images; will they believe them to be real?

Will not their eyes be dazzled, and will they not try to get away from the light to something which they are able to behold without blinking?

And suppose further, that they are dragged up a steep and rugged ascent into the presence of the sun himself, will not their sight be darkened with the excess of light?

Some time will pass before they get the habit of perceiving at all; and at first they will be able to perceive only shadows and reflections in the water; then they will recognize the moon and the stars, and will at length behold the sun in his own proper place as he is.

Last of all they will conclude:--This is he who gives us the year and the seasons, and is the author of all that we see. How will they rejoice in passing from darkness to light!

How worthless to them will seem the honors and glories of the den!

But now imagine further, that they descend into their old habitations;--in that underground dwelling they will not see as well as their fellows, and will not be able to compete with them in the measurement of the shadows on the wall; there will be many jokes about the man who went on a visit to the sun and lost his eyes, and if they find anybody trying to set free and enlighten one of their number, they will put him to death, if they can catch him.

Plato from the Republic

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As anybody who knows anything about the Unknowable well knows, "God" and "gods" are interchangeable. The exclusivistic patriarchal Jehovah/Allah freaks are not incorrect when they insist that there is but one Supreme Being and that "he" is immutable and absolute. However, neither are the wide-eyed inclusive pagans and primitives wrong when they recognize gods of fire alongside gods of rivers; honor a moon goddess, a crocodile spirit, and deities who reside in, among countless other places, tree trunks rain clouds, peyote buttons, and neon lighting (especially the flashing whites and greens).


{The Soul,} think of it as a kind of train…(a) freight train rumbling from generation to generation…it’s boxcars are loaded with sighs and laughter, it’s hobos are angels, it’s engineer is the queen of spades, and the queen of spades is wild…the trains destination is the godhead, but it stops at the big bang, at the orgasm, and at that hole in the fence that the red fox sneaks through down behind the barn.

Tom Robbins

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.
I had crossed the line. I was free: but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

Harriet Tubman

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are the Sun in drag, you are God hiding from yourself.

Remove all the “mine”— that is the veil.

Why ever worry about anything?
Listen to what your friend…knows for certain:
The appearance of this world is a Magi’s brilliant trick,
Though its affairs are nothing into nothing.

You are a divine elephant with amnesia,
Trying to live in an ant hole.

Sweetheart, O sweetheart
You are God in Drag!

(Interpreted by
D. Ladinsky)

Love is an attempt to change a piece
of the dream-world into reality.

Theodor Reik

There is no end. There is no beginning.
There is only the infinite passion of life

Federico Fellini

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Eristic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper that is the level of distinction making.

With our concept making apparatus called "mind" we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about- reality are mistakenly labeled "reality" and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see "reality" differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper that is the level of concept.

We look at the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids.

A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle.

Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.

DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like "relation", no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is "absence of female-ness", or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.

The belief that "order is true" and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.

The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered.

Reality is the original Rorschach.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In the Neolithic Age savage warfare did I wage
For food and fame and woolly horses' pelt;
I was singer to my clan in that dim, red Dawn of Man,
And I sang of all we fought and feared and felt.

Yea, I sang as now I sing, when the Prehistoric spring
Made the piled Biscayan ice-pack split and shove;
And the troll and gnome and dwerg, and the Gods of Cliff and Berg
Were about me and beneath me and above.

But a rival, of Solutre', told the tribe my style was ~outré~ --
'Neath a tomahawk of diorite he fell.
And I left my views on Art, barbed and tangled, below the heart
Of a mammothistic etcher at Grenelle.

Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full,
And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, "It is well that they are dead,
For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong."

But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: --
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!"

Then the silence closed upon me till They put new clothing on me
Of whiter, weaker flesh and bone more frail;
And I stepped beneath Time's finger, once again a tribal singer
[And a minor poet certified by Tr--ll].

Still they skirmish to and fro, men my messmates on the snow,
When we headed off the aurochs turn for turn;
When the rich Allobrogenses never kept amanuenses,
And our only plots were piled in lakes at Berne

Still a cultured Christian age sees us scuffle, squeak, and rage,
Still we pinch and slap and jabber, scratch and dirk;
Still we let our business slide -- as we dropped the half-dressed hide --
To show a fellow-savage how to work.

Still the world is wondrous large, -- seven seas from marge to marge, --
And it holds a vast of various kinds of man;
And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu,
And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.

Here's my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
And the reindeer roared where Paris roars to-night: --
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And -- every -- single -- one -- of -- them -- is -- right!

Rudyard Kipling

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Names are not important...To speak is to name names, but to speak is not important. A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying, "What is it like, this thing you have seen?" So he tries to tell them. Perhaps he has seen the very first fire in the world. He tells them, "It is red, like a poppy, but through it dance other colors. It has no form, like water, flowing everywhere. It is warm, like the sun of summer, only warmer. It exists for a time upon a piece of wood, and then the wood is gone, as though it were eaten, leaving behind that which is black and can be sifted like sand. When the wood is gone, it too is gone." Therefore, the hearers must think fire is like a poppy, like water, like the sun, like that thing that they are told it is like by the man who has known it. But they have not looked upon fire. They cannot really know it. The can only know of it. But fire comes again into the world, many times. More men look upon fire. After a time, fire is as common as grass and clouds and the air they breathe. They see that, while it is like a poppy, it is not a poppy, while it is like water, it is not water, while it is like the sun, it is not the sun, and while it is like that which eats and passes wastes, it is not that which eats and passes wastes, but something different from each of these apart or all of these together. So they look upon this new thing and they make a new word to call it. They call it "fire."

If they come upon one who still has not seen it and they speak to him of fire, he does not know what they mean. So they, in turn, fall back upon telling him what fire is like. As they do so, they know from their own experience that what they are telling him is not the truth, but only part of it. They know that this man will never know reality from their words, though all the words in the world are theirs to use. He must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. Therefore, 'fire' does not matter, 'earth' and 'air' and 'water' do not matter. 'I' do not matter. No word matters. But a man forgets reality and remembers words. The more words he remembers, the cleverer do his fellows esteem him. He looks upon the great transformations of the world, but he does not see them as they were seen when man looked upon reality for the first time. Their names come to his lips and he smiles as he tastes them, thinking he knows them in the naming. The thing that has never happened before is still happening. It is still a miracle. The great burning blossom squats, flowing, upon the limb of the world, excreting the ash of the world, and being none of these things I have named and at the same time all of them, and this is reality—the Nameless.

Therefore, I charge you—forget the names you bear, forget the words I speak as soon as they are uttered. Look, rather, upon the Nameless within yourselves, which arises as I address it. It hearkens not to my words, but to the reality within me, of which it is part. This is atman, which hears me rather than my words. All else is unreal. To define is to lose. The essence of all things is the Nameless. The Nameless is unknowable, mightier even than Brahma. Things pass, but the essence remains. You sit, therefore, in the midst of a dream.

Essence dreams it a dream of form. Forms pass, but the essence remains, dreaming new dreams. Man names these dreams and thinks to have captured the essence, not knowing that he invokes the unreal. These stones, these walls, these bodies you see seated about you are poppies and water and the sun. They are the dreams of the Nameless. They are fire, if you like.

Occasionally, there may come a dreamer who is aware that he is dreaming. He may control something of the dream-stuff, bending it to his will, or he may awaken into greater self-knowledge. If he chooses the path of self-knowledge, his glory is great and he shall be for all ages like unto a star. If he chooses instead the way of the Tantras, combining Samsara and Nirvana, comprehending the world and continuing to live in it, this one is mighty among dreamers. He may be mighty for good or for ill, as we look upon him—though these terms, too, are meaningless, outside of the namings of Samsara.

To dwell within Samsara, however, is to be subject to the works of those who are mighty among dreamers. If they be mighty for good, it is a golden time. If they be mighty for ill, it is a time of darkness. The dream may turn to nightmare.

It is written that to live is to suffer. This is so, say the sages, for man must work off his burden of Karma if he is to achieve enlightenment. For this reason, say the sages, what does it profit a man to struggle within a dream against that which is his lot, which is the path he must follow to attain liberation? In the light of eternal values, say the sages, the suffering is as nothing; in the terms of Samsara, say the sages, it leads to that which is good. What justification, then, has a man to struggle against those who be mighty for ill?
The answer, the justification, is the same for men as it is for gods. Good or ill, say the sages, mean nothing for they are of Samsara. Agree with the sages, who have taught our people for as far as the memory of man may reach. Agree, but consider also a thing of which the sages do not speak. This thing is 'beauty', which is a word—but look behind the word and consider the Way of the Nameless. And what is the Way of the Nameless? It is the Way of Dream. And why does the Nameless dream? This thing is not known to any dwellers within Samsara. So ask, rather, what does the Nameless dream?

The Nameless, of which we are all a part, does dream form. And what is the highest attribute any form may possess? It is beauty. The Nameless, then, is an artist. The problem, therefore, is not one of good or evil, but one of esthetics. To struggle against those who are mighty among dreamers and are mighty for ill, or ugliness, is not to struggle for that which the sages have taught us to be meaningless in terms of Samsara or Nirvana, but rather it is to struggle for the symmetrical dreaming of a dream, in terms of the rhythm and the point, the balance and the antithesis which will make it a thing of beauty. Of this, the sages say nothing. This truth is so simple they have obviously overlooked it. For this reason, I am bound by the aesthetics of the situation to call it to your attention. To struggle against the dreamers who dream ugliness, be they men or gods, cannot but be the will of the Nameless. This struggle will also bear suffering, and so one's karmic burden will be lightened thereby, just as it would be by enduring the ugliness; but this suffering is productive of a higher end in the light of the eternal values of which the sages so often speak.
You may ask me, then, 'How am I to know that which is beautiful and that which is ugly, and be moved to act thereby?' This question, I say, you must answer for yourself. To do this, first forget what I have spoken, for I have said nothing. Dwell now upon the Nameless.

From "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All is Truth

O ME, man of slack faith so long,
Standing aloof—denying portions so long;
Only aware to-day of compact, all-diffused truth;
Discovering to-day there is no lie, or form of lie, and can be none, but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon itself,
Or as any law of the earth, or any natural production of the earth does.

(This is curious, and may not be realized immediately—But it must be realized;
I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest,
And that the universe does.)

Where has fail’d a perfect return, indifferent of lies or the truth?
Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire? or in the spirit of man? or in the meat and blood?

Meditating among liars, and retreating sternly into myself, I see that there are really no liars or lies after all,
And nothing fails its perfect return—And that what are called lies are perfect returns,
And that each thing exactly represents itself, and what has preceded it,
And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just as much as space is compact,
And that there is no law or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but that all is truth without exception;
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.

Walt Whitman

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There is no great and no small
To the Soul that maketh all:
And where it cometh, all things are
And it cometh everywhere.

I am owner of the sphere,
Of the seven stars and the solar year,
Of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain,
Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakespeare's strain.

The world exists for the education of each man. There is no age or state of society or mode of action in history to which there is not somewhat corresponding in his life. Every thing tends in a wonderful manner to abbreviate itself and yield its own virtue to him. He should see that he can live all history in his own person. He must sit solidly at home, and not suffer himself to be bullied by kings or empires, but know that he is greater than all the geography and all the government of the world; he must transfer the point of view from which history is commonly read, from Rome and Athens and London, to himself, and not deny his conviction that he is the court, and if England or Egypt have any thing to say to him he will try the case; if not, let them for ever be silent. He must attain and maintain that lofty sight where facts yield their secret sense, and poetry and annals are alike. The instinct of the mind, the purpose of nature, betrays itself in the use we make of the signal narrations of history. Time dissipates to shining ether the solid angularity of facts. No anchor, no cable, no fences avail to keep a fact a fact. Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even early Rome are passing already into fiction. The Garden of Eden, the sun standing still in Gibeon, is poetry thenceforward to all nations. Who cares what the fact was, when we have made a constellation of it to hang in heaven an immortal sign? London and Paris and New York must go the same way. "What is history," said Napoleon, "but a fable agreed upon?" This life of ours is stuck round with Egypt, Greece, Gaul, England, War, Colonization, Church, Court and Commerce, as with so many flowers and wild ornaments grave and gay. I will not make more account of them. I believe in Eternity. I can find Greece, Asia, Italy, Spain and the Islands,--the genius and creative principle of each and of all eras, in my own mind.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is faith?

Is faith necessarily a matter of belief in God, or in religious doctrines? Is faith by necessity in contrast to, or divorced from, reason and rational thinking? Even to begin to understand the problem of faith one must differentiate between rational and irrational faith. By irrational faith I understand the belief (in a person or an idea) which is based on one's submission to irrational authority. In contrast, rational faith is a conviction which is rooted in one's own experience of thought or feeling. Rational faith is not primarily belief in something, but the quality of certainty and firmness which our convictions have. Faith is a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief.

Rational faith is rooted in productive intellectual and emotional activity. In rational thinking, in which faith is supposed to have no place, rational faith is an important component. How does the scientist, for instance, arrive at a new discovery? Does he start with making experiment after experiment, gathering fact after fact, without having a vision of what he expects to find? Rarely has a truly important discovery in any field been made in this way. Nor have people arrived at important conclusions when they were merely chasing a phantasy. The process of creative thinking in any field of human endeavor often starts with what may be called a "rational vision", itself a result of considerable study, reflective thinking, and observation. When the scientist succeeds in gathering enough data, or in working out a mathematical formulation to make his original vision highly plausible, he may be said to have arrived at a tentative hypothesis. A careful analysis of the hypothesis in order to discern its implications, and the amassing of data which support it, lead to a more adequate hypothesis and eventually perhaps to its inclusion in a wide-ranging theory.

The history of science is replete with instances of faith in reason and visions of truth. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton were all imbued with an unshakable faith in reason. For this Bruno was burned at the stake and Spinoza suffered excommunication. At every step from the conception of a rational vision to the formulation of a theory, faith is necessary: faith in the vision as a rationally valid aim to pursue, faith in hypothesis as a likely and plausible proposition, and faith in the final theory, at least until a general consensus about its validity has been reached. This faith is rooted in one's own experience, in the confidence in one's power of thought, observation, and judgment. While irrational faith is the acceptance as true only because an authority or the majority say so, rational faith is rooted in an independent conviction based upon one's own productive observing and thinking, in spite of the majorities opinion.

Thought and judgment are not the only realm of experience in which rational faith is manifested. In the sphere of human relations, faith is an indispensable quality of any significant friendship or love. "Having faith" in another person means to be certain of the reliability and unchangeability of his fundamental attitudes, of the core of his personality, of his love. By this I do not mean that a person may not change his opinions, but that his basic motivations remain the same; that, for instance, his respect for life and human dignity is part of himself, not subject to change.

In the same sense we have faith in ourselves. We are aware of the existence of a self, of a core in our personality which is unchangeable and which persists throughout our life in spite of varying circumstances, and regardless of certain changes in opinions and feelings. It is this core which is the reality behind the word "I", and on which our conviction of our identity is based. Unless we have faith in the persistence of our self, our feeling of identity is threatened and we become dependent on other people whose approval then becomes the basis for our feeling of identity. Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to. Faith in oneself is a condition of our ability to promise, and since as Nietzsche said, man can be defined by his capacity to promise, faith is one of the conditions of human existence. What matters in relation to love is the faith in one's own love; in its ability to produce love in others, and in its reliability.

Another meaning of having faith in a person refers to the faith we have in the potentialities of others. The most rudimentary form in which this faith exists is the faith which the mother has toward her newborn baby: that it will live, grow, walk, and talk. However, the development of the child in this respect occurs with such regularity that the expectation of it does not seem to require faith. It is different with those potentialities to love, to be happy, to use his reason, and more specific potentialities like artistic gifts. They are the seeds which grow and become manifest if the proper conditions for their development are given, and they can be stifled if these are absent.

One of the most important of these conditions is that the significant person in a child's life have faith in these potentialities. The presence of this faith makes the difference between education and manipulation. Education is identical with helping the child realize his potentialities. The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of faith in the growth of potentialities, and on the conviction that a child will be right only if the adults put into him what is desirable and suppress what seems to be undesirable. There is no need of faith in the robot, since there is no life in it either.

The faith in others has its culmination in faith in mankind. In the Western world this faith was expressed in religious terms in the Judaeo-Christian religion, and in secular language it has found its strongest expression in the humanistic political and social ideas of the last hundred and fifty years. Like the faith in the child, it is based on the idea that the potentialities of man are such that given the proper conditions he will be capable of building a social order governed by the principles of equality, justice and love. Man has not yet achieved the building of such an order, and therefore the conviction that he can do so requires faith. But like all rational faith this too is not wishful thinking, but based upon the evidence of the past achievements of the human race and on the inner experience of each individual, on his own experience of reason and love.

While irrational faith is rooted in submission to a power which is felt to be overwhelmingly strong, omniscient and omnipotent, and in the abdication of one's own power and strength, rational faith is based upon the opposite experience. We have this faith in a thought because it is the result of our own observation and thinking. We have faith in the potentialities of others, of ourselves and of mankind because, and only to the degree to which, we have experienced the growth of our own potentialities, the reality of growth in ourselves, the strength of our own power of reason and of love. The basis of rational faith is productiveness; to live by our faith means to live productively. It follows that the belief in power (in the sense of domination) and the use of power are the reverse of faith. To believe in power that exists is identical with disbelief in the growth of potentialities which are as yet unrealized. It is a prediction of the future based solely on the manifest present; but it turns out to be a grave miscalculation, profoundly irrational in its oversight of the human potentialities and human growth. There is no rational faith in power. There is submission to it or, on the part of those who have it, the wish to keep it. While to many power seems to be the most real of all things, the history of man has proved it to be the most unstable of all achievements. Because of the fact that faith and power are mutually exclusive, all religions and political systems which originally are built on rational faith become corrupt and eventually lose what strength they have, if they rely on power or ally themselves with it.

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern-and to take the jump and stake everything on these values.

This courage is very different from the courage of which that famous braggart Mussolini spoke when he used the slogan "to live dangerously." His kind of courage is the courage of nihilism. It is rooted in a destructive attitude toward life, in the willingness to throw away life because one is incapable of loving it. The courage of despair is the opposite of the courage of love, just as the faith in power is the opposite of the faith in life.

Is there anything to be practiced about faith and courage? Indeed, faith can practiced at every moment. It takes faith to bring up a child; it takes faith to fall asleep; it takes faith to begin any work. But we all are accustomed to having this kind of faith. Whoever does not have it suffers from overanxiety about his child, or from insomnia, or from the inability to do any kind of productive work; or he is suspicious, restrained from being close to anybody, or hypochondriacal, or unable to make any long-range plans. To stick to one's judgment about a person even if public opinion or some unforeseen facts seem to invalidate it, to stick to one's convictions even though they are unpopular-all this requires faith and courage. To take the difficulties, setbacks and sorrows of life as a challenge which to overcome makes us stronger, rather than as unjust punishment which should not happen to us, requires faith and courage.

The practice of faith and courage begins with the small details of daily life. The first step is to notice where and when one loses faith, to look through the rationalizations whish are used to cover up this loss of faith, to recognize where one acts in a cowardly way, and again how one rationalizes it. To recognize how every betrayal of faith weakens one, and how increased weakness leads to new betrayal, and so on, in a vicious circle. Then one will also recognize that while one is consciously afraid of not being loved, the real, though usually unconscious fear is that of loving. To love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith and whoever is of little faith is also of little love. Can one say more about the practice of faith? Someone else might; if I were a poet or a preacher, I might try. But since I am not either of these, I cannot even try to say more about the practice of faith, but I am sure that anyone who is really concerned can learn to have faith as a child learns to walk.

The Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm from The Art of Loving

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Early man possessed extensive knowledge of the sky and clouds, the plants and animals, the rocks, springs, and rivers, among which he lived. He derived from his senses much factual information about nature around him, which enabled him to cope effectively with the external world. Very soon in his social evolution, however, perhaps at the time of becoming Homo sapiens, he began to search for a reality different in kind from that which he could see, touch, hear, smell or otherwise apprehend directly. His awareness of the external world came to transcend his concrete experiences of the objects and creatures he dealt with—as if he perceived in them a form of existence deeper than that revealed by outward appearance. He imagined, though probably not consciously, a Thing behind or within the thing, Force responsible for the visible movement. This immaterial Thing or Force he regarded as a god—calling it by whatever name he used to denote the principle he thought to be hidden within external reality. Even in modern times, the people of tribes that have remained in a Stone Age culture imagine deities everywhere around them and tend to regard gods and goddesses as more real than concrete objects and creatures. The conceptual environment of primitive man commonly affects his life more profoundly than his external environment. And this is also true of modern man.


Now, however, the human species wishes to add deeper significance to their endeavors. Realizing that true fulfillment escapes them, they have begun once more to search within themselves for a kind of satisfaction they have not found so far in their conquest of the external world. They know that they can find biological happiness by achieving adaptation to their physical and social environment, but they realize that this form of happiness is as limited in scope as the contentment of the cow. The best-adapted populations certainly experienced physical contentment, but their lives were probably deficient in other ways since they have produced chiefly what Toynbee called "arrested civilizations." Modern Humans are not yet resigned enough to be completely satisfied with purely creature contentment. They still hope that they can discover a philosophy of life that will be as creative and emotionally rewarding as that of classical Greece or of Western Europe in the thirteenth century.

Our greatest blessing, says Socrates in Plato's dialogue Phaedrus, comes to us by way of madness—mania. In this arresting statement, Plato does not mean mania as a disease, but rather as a state during which man experiences a kind of self-revelation occurring through the emergence of a powerful spirit from the depth of their beings. Poetical words, tones, and gestures, and even prophecy are the expressions of enthusiasm—the god within. Apparently certain drugs can help in generating this inspired state. But Plato traced inspiration to the primeval forces that Greek mythology symbolized in the form of deities, especially Dionysos.

The Microbiologist René Dubos's from “A God Within".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me
beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one.
May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.--Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.

The atheist, Socrates, from Plato's Socratic Dialogue “Phaedrus


What we think is less than what we know: What we know is less than what we love: What we love is so much less than what there is; and to this precise extent, we are so much less than what we are.

The Psychiatrist R.D. Laing

~ ~

Pan's song, because it served no purpose,
because, indeed,
it transcended the yoke of human purposes,
was, above all

It was music beyond the control
of the player's will, or the listener's will;
the will, in fact, dissolved in it... was the aural equivalent of the rope trick:
a giddy ascent up a shaky coil,
to arrive in a place of mystery,
where the sense of all-encompassing oneness with
the natural world
and the sense of the absolute aloneness of the individual
coexist and commingle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ranzai’s disciples never got the Zen message, But I the Blind Donkey, know the truth: Love play can make you immortal. The autumn breeze of a single night of love is better than a hundred thousand years of sterile sitting meditation…


Bliss and sorrow, love and hate, light and shadow, hot and cold, joy and anger, self and other.

The enjoyment of poetic beauty may well lead to hell.

But look what we find strewn all along our Path:

Peach Blossoms and peach flowers!



The wise heathens have no knowledge;

They just keep their mind continually set on
the Way.

There are no big-shot Buddhas in nature,

And ten thousand sutras are distilled in a
single song.

Ikkyu Sojun translated by John Stevens in "Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu"

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To Have or to Be?

As an introduction to understanding the difference between having and being modes of existence, let me use as an illustration two poems of similar content that the late D.T. Suzuki referred to in "Lectures on Zen Buddhism." One is a haiku by a Japanese poet, Basho, 1644-1694; the other poem is by a nineteenth-century English poet, Tennyson. Each poet describes a similar experience: his reaction to a flower he sees while taking a walk. Tennyson's verse is:

Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Translated into English, Basho's Haiku runs something like this:

When I look carefully
I see the nasuna blooming
By the hedge!

The difference is striking. Tennyson reacts to the flower by wanting to have it. He "plucks" it "root and all." And while he ends with an intellectual speculation about the flower's possible function for his attaining insight into the nature of God and man, the flower itself is killed as a result of his interest in it. Tennyson as we see him in his poem, may be compared to the Western scientist who seeks the truth by means of dismembering life.

Basho's reaction to the flower is entirely different. He does not want to pluck it; he does not even touch it. All he does is "look carefully" to "see" it. Here is Suzuki's description:

It is likely that Basho was walking along a country road when he noticed something rater neglected by the hedge. He then approached closer, took a good look at it, and found it was no less than a wild plant, rather insignificant and generally unnoticed by passerby. This is plain fact described in the poem with no specifically poetic feeling expressed anywhere except perhaps two syllables, which read in Japanese kana. This particle, frequently attached to a noun or an adjective or an adverb, signifies a certain feeling of admiration or praise or sorrow or joy, and can sometimes quite appropriately be rendered into English by an exclamation mark. In the present haiku the whole verse ends with this mark.

Tennyson, it appears, needs to possess the flower in order to understand people and nature, and by his having it, the flower is destroyed. What Basho wants is to see, and not only to look at the flower, but to be at one, to "one" himself with it—and to let it live. The difference between Tennyson and Basho is fully explained in the poem by Goethe:


I walked in the woods
All by myself,
To seek nothing,
That was on my mind.

I saw in the shade
A little flower stand,
Bright like the stars
Like beautiful eyes.

I wanted to pluck it,
But it said sweetly:
Is it to wilt
That I must be broken?

I took it out
With all it roots,
Carried it to the garden
At the pretty house.

And planted it again
In a quiet place;
Now it ever spreads
And blossoms forth.

Goethe, walking along with no purpose in mind, is attracted by the brilliant little flower. He reports having the same impulse as Tennyson: to pluck it. But unlike Tennyson, Goethe is aware that this means killing the flower. For Goethe the flower is so much alive that it speaks and warns him; and he solves the problem differently from either Tennyson or Basho. He takes the flower "with all it roots" and plants it again so that its life is not destroyed. Goethe stands, as it wore, between Tennyson and Basho: for him, at the crucial moment, the force of life is stronger than the force of mere intellectual curiosity. Needless to say that in this beautiful poem Goethe expresses the core of his concept of investigation nature.

Tennyson's relationship to the flower is in the mode of having, or possession—not material possession but the possession of knowledge. Basho's and Goethe's relationship to the flower each sees is in the mode of being. By being I refer to the mode of existence in which one neither has anything nor craves to have something, but is joyous, employs one's faculties productively, is oned to the world.

Goethe, the great lover of life, one of the outstanding fighters against human dismemberment and mechanization, has given expression to being as against having in many poems. His Faust is a dramatic description of the conflict between being and having (the latter represented by Mephistopheles), while in the following short poem he expresses the quality of being with the utmost simplicity:


I know that nothing belongs to me
But the thought which unimpeded
From my soul will flow.
And every favorable moment
Which loving Fate
From the depth lets me enjoy.

From Erich Fromm's "To Have or To Be?"

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Conceptual/Perceptual environments

Responses to the environment involve in addition many factors that were almost universally ignored a few decades ago. Animals have been shown to receive information through many unfamiliar ways, such as ultrasound waves for bats, infrared waves for moths and pit vipers, and the substances known as pheromones (or exohormones) which many organisms excrete into the external environment. Recent discoveries indicate that human beings are sensitive to radio waves and magnetic fields and that their autonomous nervous system, blood-clotting mechanism, blood pressure, and other physiologic processes are affected by changes in the weather. It is legitimate to assume that human beings, like other organisms, also use exohormones for certain types of subconscious communications. Parapsychologists have indeed suggested that extrasensory perceptions should really be regarded as ‚“crypto-sensory responses.” Various channels of communication, so elusive that they were once dismissed as nonexistent and indeed thought to be impossible, thus enable us unconsciously to acquire valuable information from the physical and biological environment and from our fellow men.

Although we perceive more of the external world than we realize, we ignore certain aspects of it which are obvious to our most immediate neighbors. The phrase, “perceptual environment” thus has highly subjective overtones. The perception of racial or national characteristics differs from one social group to the other; the statement common among Caucasians that all Chinese look more or less alike certainly has its counterpart among Orientals with regard to Caucasians. The perception of social inequalities and inequities also differs from person to person and from time to time. Social justice may be a universal concept, but in practice the awareness and exercise of it are conditioned by highly personal experiences.

In addition to the aspects of the total environment that are outside of us, in the external world, there are others that exist only in the individual mind and therefore constitute a person’s private conceptual environment. The environment of a primitive population living on a Micronesian atoll includes of course the sea, the land, and the sky, but it also includes a host of spirits that lurk everywhere. Although the spirits of the Micronesian conceptual environment do not have concrete existence, they nevertheless affect profoundly the inhabitants of the atoll. They become malevolent when not properly treated and elicit behavioral responses that may be more dangerous than wounds inflicted by sharks or poisonous eels.

Nor is the conceptual environment of less importance in industrial societies. Whether sophisticated and learned, or primitive and ignorant, every human being lives in a conceptual environment of his own which conditions all his ethical and social attitudes, such as his opinions concerning the nature of progress, his view of man’s place in the cosmic order of things, the attributes that he associates with the word God. Both the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and the theologian Harvey Cox have made it clear that the concept of deity, and the names by which it is designated have evolved with man’s view of the cosmos. It is because the perceptual and conceptual environments are so highly personal that each one of us lives in a private world of his own. As civilization becomes more complex and exacting, moreover, the conceptual environment acquires greater and greater importance because it acts as a mediator in all aspects of the interplay between man and the rest of creation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin


Because we are so very beautiful...we are so beautiful and live so little against the greatness of time, and yet we can celebrate ourselves. And that is what makes us Malandro’s, what makes us so different...They pretend that they are important, that what they do matters. While we know that the only thing that matters is our beauty and passion, the song of a single cycle, and then it is gone, and it is all gone with us.
S.N. Lewitt from “Songs of Chaos”


And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

Socrates (The atheist), from Plato's Socratic Dialogue “Phaedrus

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Fox’s secret in “The Little Prince”
by Antoine de Saint Exupery

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


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