Posts Tagged ‘ mysticism ’

Thomas Merton from Raids on the Unspeakable

“And to have the will to be saved, must one limit oneself very carefully to a few select things that are taken seriously? And must everything else be ignored? In other words, to be saved is to exclude from consideration the possibility that one might be damned?

To take that possibility of damnation seriously is, then, to be lost?

But how do anything else? How not to take it seriously?

(Think of the unspeakable triviality of popular religion which consist in not taking the possibility of damnation seriously anymore!

To be saved, is then, to be rescued from all seriousness!

To fall into the ludicrous and satanic flippancy of false piety, kitsch, Saint Suplice!–or the euphoria of busy and optimistic groups!)

So, unless you can falsify and dominate reality with will, you are lost–and if you can impose your own obsession on reality (instead of having reality impose itself as an obsession on you) then are you perhaps doubly lost?

The question of this book, the deeper question, is the very nature of reality itself.

Inexorable consistency. Is reality the same as consistency?

The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

There is, above the consistent and the logical word of justice, and inconsistent illogical world where nothing “handing together,” where justice no longer damns each man to his own darkness. This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

The world can only be consistent without God.

A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of “things to be taken seriousely” because they “save,” because they are “his affairs.”
(Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency.)

The Cross is the sign of contradiction–destorying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy! This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved–while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.”


The Purest Wine

God has given us a dark wine so potent that,
drinking it, we leave the two worlds.

God has put into the form of hashish a power
to deliver the taster from self-consciousness.

God has made sleep so
that it erases every thought.

God made Majnun love Layla so much that
just her dog would cause confusion in him.

There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.

Don’t think all ecstacies
are the same!

Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley.

Drink from the presence of saints,
not from those other jars.

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.

Be a conoisseur,
and taste with caution.

Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,

the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about “what’s needed.”

Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it’s been untied,

and is just ambling about.


Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi

On this day, 802 years ago, one of the greatest poets and mystics to ever live was born.  To celebrate, here are some of his powerful quotes:

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

“Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more – more unseen forms become manifest to him.”

“You are quaffing drink from a hundred fountains: whenever any of these hundred yields less, your pleasure is diminished. But when the sublime fountain gushes from within you, no longer need you steal from the other fountains.”

“Reason is like an officer when the king appears. The officer then loses his power and hides himself. Reason is the shadow cast by God; God is the sun.”

“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

And a poem:

I’ve said before that every craftsman
searches for what’s not there
to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting you net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it “death”,
that which provides you sustenance and work.

God has allowed some magical reversal to occur,
so that you see the scorpion pit
as an object of desire,
and all the beautiful expanse around it,
as dangerous and swarming with snakes.

This is how strange your fear of death
and emptiness is, and how perverse
the attachment to what you want.

Now that you’ve heard me
on your misapprehensions, dear friend,
listen to Attar’s story on the same subject.

He strung the pearls of this
about King Mahmud, how among the spoils
of his Indian campaign there was a Hindu boy,
whom he adopted as a son. He educated
and provided royally for the boy
and later made him vice-regent, seated
on a gold throne beside himself.

One day he found the young man weeping..
“Why are you crying? You’re the companion
of an emperor! The entire nation is ranged out
before you like stars that you can command!”

The young man replied, “I am remembering
my mother and father, and how they
scared me as a child with threats of you!
‘Uh-oh, he’s headed for King Mahmud’s court!
Nothing could be more hellish!’ Where are they now
when they should see me sitting here?”

This incident is about your fear of changing.
You are the Hindu boy. Mahmud, which means
Praise to the End, is the spirit’s
poverty or emptiness.

The mother and father are your attachment
to beliefs and blood ties
and desires and comforting habits.
Don’t listen to them!
They seem to protect
but they imprison.

They are your worst enemies.
They make you afraid
of living in emptiness.

Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in that court,
remembering your mistaken parents!

Know that your body nurtures the spirit,
helps it grow, and gives it wrong advise.

The body becomes, eventually, like a vest
of chain mail in peaceful years,
too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

But the body’s desires, in another way, are like
an unpredictable associate, whom you must be
patient with. And that companion is helpful,
because patience expands your capacity
to love and feel peace.
The patience of a rose close to a thorn
keeps it fragrant. It’s patience that gives milk
to the male camel still nursing in its third year,
and patience is what the prophets show to us.

The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains.

Friendship and loyalty have patience
as the strength of their connection.

Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates
that you haven’t been patient.

Be with those who mix with God
as honey blends with milk, and say,

“Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets, is not
what I love.” else you’ll be like a caravan fire left
to flare itself out alone beside the road.

Free Will

I kind of made this up as I went.


How I’ve come to view free will (keep in mind the specifics are still developing in my head):

To me, free will has nothing to do with what choice you eventually make. Determinism doesn’t harm the dignity of a person. You are ultimately going to make the choice that is determined by who you are and what you’re presented with, and that is a good thing. Otherwise, your choices wouldn’t make sense!

You can always look back and try to think about what your motives were for a certain action, and there are always motives. You never do anything without reasons, even if you don’t take the time to make a mental list of what those reasons are before you do the action.

So I’m not going to focus on *what* decision you make, but the conditions under which you make it. Having more than one option isn’t what makes us *feel* free. What if someone is holding you at gunpoint and you can choose between telling them vital information or allowing yourself to die? Does that seem like a free decision? You *do* have more than one option, right?

I think that simple example is enough to show that our freedom is not based on the options, but based on the conditions. As such, I drew up a little continuum of free will, where the left represents no free will, and gets progressively more and more free as you travel to the right.

<–restraint/force—-marketing—-egocentricity—-authenticity—-harmony with God/the universe–>

Starting on the left, you have examples like the one I gave above. Where some outside force is forcing you to do something. The decision of whether you do what they say is still up to you, but the presence of the coercive force alters the situation quite a bit and makes you feel bound, regardless of how metaphysically free/not free you are.

Next on the scale we have marketing and consumerism. The whole art of creating needs in the people rather than trying to fill pre-existing ones. They’ve done quite a number on us. People think that their identity is tied to what clothes they wear and how they decorate their houses. Men and women are convinced that the only way for a man to show his love is to buy the girl jewelry. We think that our monthly income and what we’re able to buy is what determines our worth…and if not that…then how we look. Such a way of living life and making decisions is definitely not free or genuine in any respect.

Now we come to the ego. This is possibly one of the harder concepts to understand, but we’ve all felt it at some point. Most of us have felt at some point that our actions weren’t really coming from ourselves. Perhaps our emotions seemed to cloud our judgment, or we just got trapped in the heat of the moment. Or it can be even more subtle…as it is a continuum. Perhaps you listen to Switchfoot’s This is Your Life, and you feel saddened. Maybe you *aren’t* who you want to be. Maybe you chose a job that keeps you dead inside, and you long for something more. Maybe you’re just going through the motions. Maybe you’re avoiding really looking at yourself and who you are. Whatever it is, it keeps you from acting out of your genuine self, and in that sense, you aren’t all that free.

If that’s true, then the next step is obviously when you act out of who you are deep inside. The times when the whole of your energy and passion light you up and threaten to set you on fire. Your heart feels like it’s about to explode and you’re just so *present* to the moment. The decision seems clear, even if it means consequences that you don’t really like. Our actions, when they stem from our deepest self, are motivated by love, devotion, and self sacrifice. It’s as if everything inside you is screaming at you to make the decision, and you can’t help but do it. Notice that here, there really *is* only once choice that you can make, but it feels exponentially more free that the first time, when you had more than one option.

But most of us don’t live like that all of the time. Usually we just catch glimpses of that feeling here and there. But if we work at it, and keep ourselves aware and open, we eventually can come to the last stage. This one is more of an ideal than anything else. Imagine that you are genuinely yourself at all times. At some point, making decisions comes as naturally and as freely as breathing. You don’t need to control yourself, you just act. You don’t need to limit yourself, you don’t need to think about morality or law because at this point, whatever you naturally do is in complete harmony with the universe and with God’s will. You’re acting out of a place that is so rooted in unity, in God, in the entire natural order that you just become part of it. You join the dance, and dance spontaneously and beautifully in the complete and utter oneness of everything. Nothing can harm you, at least mentally and spiritually, because you know that every move is part of that dance, and that the dance itself is beautiful. Every action is pure joy.
Most people live somewhere between the marketing phase and the ego phase. When I look at the general population, it just saddens me, because so many people are caught up in this, and are unknowingly slaves to consumerism and their own egos. Those who have just broken free tend to look back and hate the system, and show quite a bit of contempt for the people still chained to the wall. But I can’t feel anything other than sadness and compassion for them. It makes me want to spend my life working to help them, to break their bonds and help them become the people they really are inside.
Reply from subtle seem the stars:

“I’m not sure how i feel about the possibility of interfering (i can see the appeal/compassion from the high level person’s point of view, but not really vice-versa especially if the person is not feeling miserable/desiring of any more), but i just thought the example was relevant to the idea of looking back from the more advanced phases onto those in the lower ones.”

Yeah you can’t just interfere and tell someone they are miserable and can’t see it. You have to kind of taunt them out of their mindset slowly but surely. You have to find a way to get them to look inwardly without insinuating that they currently suck. Basically, you have to write songs like Jon.

The other thing that is worth pointing out is that you *can’t* progress on your own. Like you said, people who aren’t feeling miserable and who don’t desire anything more won’t budge, they’ll just continue being what they think is happy. Something has to happen that comes from outside of you that makes you realize what is going on. And it’s not necessarily an easy process. It can be downright painful, even.

In that way I don’t really want to think of the more free person as “higher” than someone else. In a sense, they are actually lower. They didn’t do it themselves, and they only got to where they were by grace of a number of falls. The other people are just the same as they are, but they haven’t had the fortune to have suffered enough to break down the walls that surround their heart.

So for me, when I look at a close friend, or anyone really, who’s having a really tough time…half of me is drenched in compassion (co-feeling), and the other half of me is shouting for joy. Because every glimpse of pain is an opportunity to move deeper…it’s up to us if we decide to take it or not.

As far as how I interfere…I don’t really. Most of the time is just spent being patient, letting them work things through on their own…but being there as a guiding voice to try to get them to think in such a way as to help them open up, rather than close themselves off and rebind themselves again. Life does the work for me…I just try to guide them in the right direction when the going gets tough.

The Diamond Takes Shape

The Diamond Takes Shape

Some parrots

Have become so skilled with
The human voice

They could give a brilliant discourse
About freedom and God

And an unsighted man nearby might
Even begin applauding with
The thought:

I just heard jewels fall from a
Great saint's mouth,

Though my Master used to say,

"The diamond takes shape slowly
With integrity's great force,

And from

The profound courage to never relinquish love."

Some parrots have become so skilled
With words,

The blind turn over their gold
And lives to caged


                                  -Hafiz, Sufi Master


So many people can be fooled by empty words dressed up as wisdom.  Though the parrot might say true words…is there really any substance to them…anything real?  What good are the words alone?

Why blame the people for following the parrot?  They are blind, how could they know?  The only way they'd learn is if they could see…and you can't force someone to see, only shine the light in their direction. 

And the parrots?  Are they to blame?  How could they be?  They are just parrots, just trying to earn the treat they get whenever they impress people.  They are just as blind as the people who follow them, or even more so.  Not just blind, but bound. 

Do you see the blind people? Do you see the parrots?  Chances are, there are more than you think.

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I bought four more books.

The first is Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity by Richard Smoley.  Smoley is pretty well known for his writings on the more esoteric and mystical side of Christianity.  The only thing I've read from him is the introduction to Annie Besant's book Esoteric Christianity.


Though love is a perennial topic for writers of all kinds, much of what
is written about love is simplistic and unsatisfying. In Conscious Love,
Richard Smoley—an expert on the esoteric traditions of mystical
Christianity—incorporates insights and wisdom about love from noted
thinkers in literature, art, philosophy, sociology, cultural criticism,
and even neurology. This remarkable book offers a blueprint for
infusing conscious love into human relationships.

What Is Called Thinking?

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger is up next.  I've been meaning to get into him, seeing as he's one of the more popular (though dense and difficult to read) of the existentialists.  I particularly think his affinity for Being will appeal to me.  We shall see. 

This book, What is Called Thinking? is supposedly one of his later books that sort of attempts to revist a lot of the material he wrote in the beginning of his philosophical career, mainly Being and Time.  It seemed like a good place to start, because thought I really want to own a copy of Being and Time and I want to read it….it's a little intimidating to be honest.

Next up, B. Alan Wallace's Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness.  Wallace is actually a rather popular writer on Buddhism, and I've noticed a few quotes from his books floating around in my Vox neighboorhood.  What he attempts to do in this book is show how Western Science and Eastern Spirituality converge into one beautiful strain of thought.

From an review:

The question is this: Can quantum mechanics tell us anything useful
about the nature of reality in the observable day-to-day world? …. how do Einstein's theories of Relativity tie in with
our day-to-day experiences and with quantum theory?

proposes that three fundamental problems are all related: first, the
problem of measurement in quantum mechanics; second the problem of time
in quantum cosmology and third the so-called "hard problem" in brain
science that tries to explain how consciousness can arise form
apparently inanimate matter.

He comes to the conclusion, rightly, I believe, that consciousness
does not emerge from the brain but is conditioned by it. Furthermore,
that the entire Universe of mind and matter arises from a fundamental
non-dual reality.

Last but not least, a book on Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton.  I always enjoy Merton's style and I've been meaning to learn more about Chuang Tzu. 


"Working from existing translations, Thomas Merton composed a series of
personal versions from his favorites among the classic sayings of
Chuang Tzu, the most spiritual of the Chinese philosophers. Chuang Tzu,
who wrote in the fourth and third centuries B.C., is the chief
authentic historical spokesman for Taoism and its founder Lao Tzu (a
legendary character known largely through Chuang Tzu's writings).
Indeed it was because of Chuang Tzu and the other Taoist sages that
Indian Buddhism was transformed, in China, into the unique vehicle we
now call by its Japanese name — Zen. The Chinese sage abounds in wit,
paradox, satire, and shattering insight into the true ground of being.
Father Merton, no stranger to Asian thought, brings a vivid, modern
idiom to the timeless wisdom of Tao. Illustrated with early Chinese

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New (old) books!

Went to the used bookstore in Santa Cruz with my sister.  Walked out with …5 books.

Freedom, Love and Action

This Light in Oneself


A Scanner Darkly

Practical Mysticism - Evelyn Underhill

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