Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rings, an essay

Furthering my ideas on ideas, I am looking at how we can use our daily thoughts and make something enduring of them. We think all the time, but all those thoughts add up to little, at the end of the day, unless we know how to use them and build something from them. It may sound especially theological, but that is merely a mode of metaphor.





            Theologically, we say the choice in life is between angel and god: either you worship some god, or what amounts to a god, and go on after this life to be an angel thereof; or you stand on your own two feet, reverence yourself above all else, and upon your passing ascend into apotheosis. Those religions most eager to make angels for a God put a curse on the pride of being something in and of yourself -- pride is especially foul to them, the greatest temptation. As with the Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism, the emphasis is upon serving a higher power, obeying it, and this includes obeying his command to love him; we are told to submit to his power and authority. Yet for Mormon theology, a distinction is made between those who enter plural marriage, or celestial marriage, and those who do not; those who do not go on to be angels who minister to those who do, who in turn gain their exultation as gods. The divine activity proper to a Mormon is to husband a large family. To an allist it is to create.

            Altering the theological frameworks provided, you could say that an American heaven would have no God, but only the angels, who collectively are the God; and men all go on to become angels in the next life, serving one another. This theologically expresses our democratic politics.

            Emerson, who is the wisest theologian on matters of the self, nevertheless errs somewhat in this register. He says, regarding the Oversoul, a sort of cosmic water that fills us all, insofar as we open up our self-reliance to receive it:


“A man is the fa├žade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear though his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breaths through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.”


            In this, Emerson reveals the one theological flaw in an otherwise pristine theology. To put his curse on the man who would be “something of himself” shows in the sense he could not escape the curse so thoroughly put on pride by the ancient Greeks and Jews. However, the error is slight, and well corrected by such a sentiment as when he summed up his entire literary project as expounding on the “infinitude of the private man.”

            Heraclitus said that the soul is a self-increasing logos. It is, properly, something in and of itself. It is everything, and the mind is nothing. More properly, the mind is nothingness, a vessel of selection, what we call “free will,” and this freedom is an absolute nothingness. To make the consciousness something of itself would be rightly called “the blindness of the intellect.” For the freedom of the mind is allowed and opened through the necessity of the self.

            Metaphysically, we say the self is the hidden sun, the secret name, an addition of matter into the universe; and the universal All, whom we call Mattria, does not know this name, what it is, what it can do, for it is an unconscious part of her body, the universe, nor can she guess it until it emanates its being in the form of additive energy. This unknowable self, uncreated, deathless, exists outside of the universe, and is that aspect which Emerson in his youth boasted of when he told the Universe, “you are no mother to me,” and said her galaxies would melt before he did.

            Moving past theology, past metaphysics, onto ethics, the mandala, or eight virtues, that Allism recommends, either verbatim or as a model for an analogous set, consists of four consecutive spheres. The central ethic is independence, or self-reliance, opening up one's unique necessity and its expressions, and this with the aid of solitude and reflection. Independence finds shape in the “soul” of the man, that part of him that mingles with the universe as a whole, where his difference is knit with the substance of Mattria, and by this we call creativity. Creativity finds expression through the circle of pragmatism, living daily life, practicality, getting on in the world, which is the blood of life, and this circle is balanced by the five “limb” virtues of direct honesty, repetitive study, simple order, intimate commitment, and optimizing optimism.

            A skeptic may have his doubts over talk of heaven, metaphysics, or moral systems; but I am not interested in skepticism here, but in exposing concepts, and using theological, metaphysics, and ethics to better expose them. The topic at hand is answering the question: when is an idea an idea? Since ideas seem to be universal, and yet seem to be created, understanding how created things can become eternal, or how ideas that arise in time can be timeless, can be seen through a perspective that focuses on the difference between fragment and whole. As a practical question, we ask when and how our fragmentary stream of consciousness exults into a full blown idea.

            The angels are fragments: they are emissaries of the divine. The divine is the circle, the angles are points on that circle’s circumference.

            Living in Mundania, this practical muddle of facts, with the pinching necessities to make a living and do our duties, we are, or so it seems, amphibians: divine beasts, godmen. The experience of eternity, the experience of the timeless, the everlasting, seems to come from above, from the “Oversoul,” and fills the world, or aspects of it. We receive it as a gift, not knowing it came from within, and not from without. The universe mingles her light with our own original emanation.

            William James imagined the pluralverse as an alternative vision to the universe. Instead of the One, whose body is the universe, and whose soul is God, and of which each of us is as a cell in the body, he imagines each man as is conscious, and mankind as a whole is like an Oversoul, or overmind, and the earth itself being conscious. God too is in the mix, but he is a separate intelligence, as Christianity sometimes imagines him. What is lacking is an allview, a summing up of all of them. The omniscient one extolled by Hegel and Spinoza is here lacking.

            That is the fatal flaw of William James’s vision. He said “either pluralverse or universe,” when, in fact, clearly, it can be both. The Universal All has a mind of her own, which may not be omniscient, but it is the widest reaching; the cells of our body have a consciousness of their own; each man has his own mind, and every group he is part of has a group mind, so that the United States has a shared consciousness, and so does the church he attends, and the corporation he works for, as well as mankind entirely, as well as the animal life of earth itself, and the earth, as a globe, all the way on up. In each of these rings, there is autonomy, or the selfish part, that exists for itself and not for any others, and there is also the part that emanates to the higher spheres, so that, yes, properly, the universe learns through us, learns philosophy through us, and yet there is something in it that means something to us that it doesn’t to her, as it means something to her is can't to us. These spheres of consciousness are created all the time, are created between associations of men and women, are created through organelles in the brain, through tissues, through cells. Correcting this fatal flaw of James’ system is like correcting the fatal flaw of Emerson’s system; it was the one thing lacking, the one fissure in the mirror of the infinite mind.

            We say that Mattria’s upper lip is God and her lower lip is Satan and that the chip in her tooth is the crucifix; that the Tao is her blood, Karma her nerves. To return to common sense and out of theology, we can say that the perfect circle is not the complete circle, but the incomplete circle. The spiral that grows outwards is the perfect circle, whereas the circle that simply ends where it begins is closed off and limited.

            Human perfection is not therefore a matter of arriving at a final form, but only arriving at the final form of infinite growth. Once we have made that one easy choice, have truly made it, the rest follows forever. Perfection is easy. It was not a matter of leaping impossibly to the brightest ideal our imagination is capable of: that imaginative speculation is utterly determined by our needs and frustrations. What we imagine as the best of all possible worlds never could be, if achieved. Perfection is imminent. The choice is in choosing to close the circle, thus no longer being a mere angel, a mere good Christian, good Buddhist, good American, part of some larger mind, but not something in himself. He must effectively close off his own independence. The one great threat, they call it “Being Saved” is to separate your conscious mind from your necessary self, to divorce freedom from necessity to end suffering. They sell their soul to get to heaven. This quasi divorce between mind and necessity, which is called “coming to life,” or “conception,” when our necessity and freedom broke apart, when our need and mind broke in two, is when we ceased to exist as all nonliving things exist, in a state of eternal bliss. We came to life, and want and satisfaction were separated. That separation is the incompleteness of the circle, or perfecting the circle into a spiral, a cycle, an eternal growth. If death is eternal bliss, then life is eternal growth; and growth is a cycle of suffering and satisfaction. This distinction between growth and pleasure makes the basic choice of life, a choice we mythically call “the kiss of Ama,” when the Goddess kisses our brow and we are made to choose between angel and god, a choice between growth and pleasure. Different religions would use different terms, but mean the same thing by them.

            These events happen within and through the ordinary choices we make each day. To merely imagine a thing is to commit it. All we do builds into our brains, and though our brains decay, the ideas they create endure for both the self and for mankind. Imagining a crime is committing it. We enjoyed the idea and are implicated by pleasure, and hence by guilt. Love is crime. A true act of love, its inception, is to upset the status quo, the power system. This daily dalliance is rife with life and implications. This divided attention makes up daily life – we commit ourselves to a dozen spheres in all we do. Shared pleasure, laughing at an obscene joke, having taken pleasure in it, you did it, you are implicated. The lurid allures us. All which resonates with us shares a world with us. In all we create we create a heaven for ourselves, and live in it now, and how we live in it now determines in part how we will live in it henceforth.

            The mythosphere of stories, which illustrate these ideas, is peopled by personalities. A personality is something that happens to a set of ideas. The ideas resonate to each other and make a system. That system is a personality. But the personality is the epiphenomena of the ideas, the facts, yet is a phenomena of itself once the facts, or material substrate, is removed. Theory justifies itself in application. Only work pays its way. By thinking impossibly we arrive finally at solid common sense. Common sense is the cash by which we make a living. The mythosphere is in the mundane sphere.

            This creative womb, this metaphor mind, by which the mind harnesses fragments and bends them, makes them submit and sends them in missives like so many angels, with each nerve firing our brains like a haloed angel, through which we are able to comprehend and process all the world, the events, the people, the pains, sufferings, and indignities as well as the triumphs and exultations, and so being composite we become a simple circle through acts of integrity.. Masked and inverted, what was once repulsive comes to please us, all the world must find is shape to our pleasure. Form is function, but forms can be transformed; what matters is making a space to think, a nothing room in which to play out impossible freedoms to work through these ideas. We create in this fantasy-board a calculus, a set of coordinates. This is thinking, creative thinking, this  is the adventure of ideas. The competitive collaboration that is partnership with the world requires also time for reflective solitude. We study art, or appreciate art, or enjoy art, or are entertained by art, depending on what we are after. Works of art are formulate a situation – simplifying a world. Art exposes strategies for playing the game of life. What does art mean? A meaning is the desire it inspires. With interpretation, and perhaps a set of values by which to impose meanings on anything, art can come to mean a lot of things. Style sets character; voice leads to action; art inspires life. And each of us, alienated by our pain and alone to it, have a canvas by which to create and triumph. Pain is a space. It is ours to convert God. Certainly we need our time away to “absolve me to myself.” Solitude empowers. Power tests truth. But what is power but distance, control over distance? If I waste my energy fighting off social vices, private vices, then let me bend my vices into a circle, let the vices cancel each other out. Fragments pain us but wholes relax. My fragmented day is whole when I impose a pattern and place things.

            Power is geographical. Mystics talk about lands having powers. As always, we should take metaphysics as rhetoric. We can charge locations with power by telling stories of them. A king is a king be being taken for a king; money is money be being respected as money; a location has power by imposition. We require a language to empower us, to charge our possessions with value. The symbol of the common enemy rallies a group, makes them able to love each other. The story of shared heritage stokes souls. And though facts and fictions are both manufactured things, stories told about the world, spontaneous forms are the most compelling; you can’t fake inspiration. Some say the divine inspires us, “the Muse,” or as Whitman said of his poems, that they are all inspired by the “holy spirit,” -- and pragmatically it is so: inspiration is divine. Not that inspiration is enough. We must edit for efficiency. “Soap is not sold in a trance,” said one literary critic, and ideas must be packaged and sold. We must materialize the spirit, we must spiritualize matter. This ADD vision of the world from media, the medley of images we receive each day, solidifies into a worldview. One unifying style must make it cohere. The person who is to create this world religion must be free from money, a prophet without profits. For him, the world is a mirror, and he seeks to create a morality to help us work. What if heaven were not a fantastic place, but living this life, as it is, only being happy doing so? Morality is a set of attitudes. What is our actual morality? Not the pretty sentiments of sermons, but the pragmatic morality we actually live by. A failed hero can compel, a failed saint suggests the morality is worth following, but in fact the failure is the morality, the ideal always a lie. Failure is a proof of success. That something is worth failing at suggests it’s worth seeking. Pragmatically, failing at the impossible is dignified.

            This is why people are as sick as they can afford to be. We fail as much as we can get away with. We must learn the truth and forget the suffering, just as we learn a word only by forgetting its context. When we can break off an experience, and name it – by naming it, we give it a beginning and an end, make it a circle – then does it resonate, then is it something in and of itself, and produces a spontaneous energy from its inner soul. When we, as its Oversoul, pour our own energy into it, our care, our crea, our creative attention, it mingles with its emanated energy and makes a soul for it. That soul, animated by its necessity, becomes an engine. It can give us precedence for other experiences, new ventures. It is something in and of itself, autonomous, self-sufficient; it has auto-erotic integrity, and yet can be wed to other autonomous beings to create a more complex whole.

            Thus is nothing wasted in life, no experience, no drudgery, no daily indignity, so long as we can name it, can disentangle it from its world, using interpretation, and so transform it both into a resonant sphere, by which to serve us, or perhaps into an increasing spiral, to grow alongside us. This ring that we create, that is autonomous, growing, resonating, can be a circle of friends, a motivational cluster, a satellite of ideas, a spread of related virtues. The essential is born of the proportional. Early American optimism produced a literature, produced the soul of Optimism, and of the American Oversoul, Emerson is the mind, and the being of it we call Ama, America. Your soul asks a question: my name is the answer. This art form that fascinates you presents your world to you. You lived it, you knew it, but you could not comprehend it, could not see it simply. The group dance symbolizes society. Your occupational psychosis, seeing all the world in terms of your job, was a start, was closing the circle, and making a ring, making of work and its unfreedom a playful art -- for play is the ultimate in freedom. Social patterns require artistic symbols. We need simplicity to use a thing, to make a ring of it, to speak it, to use it. Humor relaxes our duty, and being humiliated wakes us from our larval feeding, reminds us that the spiral of growth is perpetual graduations of apotheosis. With each new godhead we assume, we gain a new set of wings.

            Mastering your day, your life, is being able to pattern your experiences into consecutive rings, to let them resonate to, let them inform and conform each other, to make a name for themselves, to be something of themselves, for when an experience becomes utterly selfish, then it is utterly useful, and you can build thereon. Lacking a center, it is a mere fragment, a mere angel, and would require a legion of angels to balance out around you, to be your missives towards the world. Structuring all this together and fitting it into the growth of yourself, your loved ones, your world, is the exultation of being, the game of life, and it is the same Game played by Mattriama, the glorious all, as it is to the smallest atom in the infinitesimal of your being.

            The ring of our initial existence becomes the spiral of our coming to life. To settle for any one God's heaven is to become a ring again, losing our necessity and adopting a new necessity, a new center. The choice in life is to spiral infinitely greater. And this we do simultaneously when we pick up our daily ideas and experience, fragmentary and dying, and make circles and spirals of them. Making rings of our ideas, we give our life resonance.


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