Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Man Who Lived in Inner Space (1973)

I just finished the short novel, "The Man Who Lived in Inner Space," by Arnold Federbush. It's about a man who goes back to the Sea. I never could have predicted that what started as an environmental monologue about the beauty of the Ocean could end up embodying my deepest thoughts about the nature of cosmic consciousness, true knowledge and the unavoidable connections between every part of ourselves and every part of every other self. But then again, I also never could have predicted the ending to "This is the End," so maybe I'm off my game? It's true though. Take this passage from one of the later chapters:

"Time could not stop for it had never begun. This deepest part of the sea was beyond the grasp of all things by which time is perceived, the light and dark of days, the cold and warmth of the seasons, the shifting of the tides, and even the subtler changes that measure eons. There was only time outside time, the eternal night and cold, the chaos before Creation, akin to death.

But not quite death. In the sea there is no true death, for life is implicit in death just as death is implicit in life. Each thing lives from the day it dies just as it dies from the day it lives, part of an infinite chain that circles about and comes back to its beginnings.

The outer shell was dead, but there was an inner life substance, a spirit protoplasm that once related man to the beasts of the forest and made them brothers. It tied the smallest particles in the smallest drop of water to the universe in slow cosmic dance. It joined atoms to galaxies, molecules to stars, and for a long while in the outer life of this one particular shell it had been slowly unchained and it now began to stir in those great slow rhythms.

That spirit protoplasm touched the larger spirit that was once called Nephe, Naimu, Oannes, the Spirit of God upon the waters, or simply the sea. Then, stirred by that great force, in turn it stirred each tiny cell, each of the minute billions of creatures that together formed the wondrous small universe that was once called a human being, albeit a crippled, scarred, and imperfect one. Each cell obeyed and returned along the infinite circle to its beginnings until finally that dead outer shell stirred, responded, and returned.

It was warmed and nourished in the saline solution that is the cauldron of all the life-giving substances on earth, the bringer of rebirth in baptism, the worker of the most powerful magic, the most common element and rarest wonder. It bathed in the same sea as its ancient aquatic ancestor. Thus was present tied to past as time to timelessness, inner space to outer space, and oneness to allness.

And so a circle closed."

That is more than just a love of the Ocean my friends. That is a deeper stirring, the one that unites so many of us dreamers, if only in dreams.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Needleman's Truth

The concept of another reality, that exists and yet that we are unaware of except for hints and hunches, is one that resounds throughout this blog. I must elaborate that I do not support the concept of dualism. Rather, we create the dualism when we ignore the 'other reality,' thereby forcing us to call it just that. The goal (at least as I understand it now) is to unify the two realities.  Sometimes i just forget to think about those other things, making them the other. In fact a lot of the time. But so this non-other....Needleman summarizes its presence through human time quite nicely in his text The Heart of Philosophy, writing,

"Under the influence of the first stage of philosophy, man conceives of the world about him, the world revealed to his sense in space and time, as a tissue of appearances, more or less illusory. Beyond this world, inaccessible to ordinary knowledge and perception, lies another world, the real world of things in themselves; and the world we live in is at best a shadow, a reflection, of the real world. This idea, in many and varied forms, is the principal governing idea in the history of philosophy. Under one guise or another, its expression and development stretches from the teachings of Pythagoras through Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, the medieval epoch, the Renaissance, and the modern era" (146).

"The idea of a real self behind the appearances forms the central doctrine of every great teaching and tradition throughout the ages. It is always intimately related to the idea of a higher or absolute reality behind the appearances in the whole of nature. In Buddhism the Buddha-nature, enlightened Mind, is the true reality of myself and the universe. In Hinduism, Atman, the real human Self, is Brahman, the Absolute God-Creator-Destroyer-Preserver. In Judaism, the name of God is I AM, and Christianity reconstitutes this idea through the teaching about the Holy Spirit which is the ultimate Self (the "personal God," the Father) acting and suffering within all men...Pythagoras spoke of a central sun of the whole cosmos that was also within each man. Plato writes of the highest Being as like the sun within and outside of man, where reality and the Good are one and are the ultimate active, causal power - the soul in man, the power of which is to harmonize all the functions and appearances within individual human nature. In short, the idea

Saturday, January 7, 2012

H.G. Wells and the Idea of the Superman

So, I've been reading this H.G. Wells book. Most people assume it's one of the classics. But to be honest, like everyone else I've talked to so far, I had never heard of "Star-Begotten," released in 1937. I shouldn't be surprised, really, that this text discusses the some of the more philosophical points of religion and Nietzsche's Superman. 'Why not?,' you ask. Well, H.G. Wells was friends with that whole cliquey of philosophically pondering fantasy sci-fi writers from the early 1900's = C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, E.R.R. Eddison, (geeze dudes: what's with all the initials?) Olaf Stapledon, and others. So here I am, getting towards the end of the book, and I come upon the following passages:

"It banishes Thunderclap's nightmare of a lot of little active hobgoblins swarming and multiplying and desecrating our homes and everything that has made human life et cetera. In the place of that we have to suppose an increasing number of individuals scattered about the world, who, so far at any rate, never seem to have a suspicion that they are not just ordinary human stuff, but who find life tremendously puzzling, much more puzzling than other people do...As children, like any other children, they will have begun by taking the world as they found it and believing everything they were told. Then
as they grew up they will have found themselves mentally out of key. They will have found a disc[on]certing inconsistency about things in general. They will have thought at first that the abnormality was on the side of particular people about them and not on their own. They
will have found themselves doubting whether their parents and teachers could possibly believe what they were saying. I think that among these Martians, that odd doubt - which many children nowadays certainly have - whether the whole world isn't some queer sort of put-up job and that it will all turn out differently presently - I think that streak of doubt would be an almost inevitable characteristic of them all"

'You spoke just now of stale religion,' he went on. 'Such a lot of
things in life now are stale. Out of date.... I agree....'

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Life in the Matrix

So where exactly is this esoteric circle of ancient and primordial knowledge that is to be distributed among those who are willing and knowledgeable and prepared? Referring to it as the Matrix is probably a poor choice, but really they called upon thousands of years of historical and religious doctrine to write that script. The idea of another place, where one can truly see and know - this idea of enlightenment, nirvana - is actually quite an ancient one. And as is described in the film, it can seem so much easier to just ignore the esoteric circle and live in "the real world." Ignorance is bliss, as they say. Lots of different medias have attempted to convey the idea and process of enlightenment. In his text, The Crisis of the Modern World (1962 translation), the famous French metaphysicist René Guénon explains that,
"The Hindu Doctrine teaches that a human cycle, to which it gives the name of Manvantara, is divided into four periods marking so many stages during which the primordial spirituality becomes gradually more and more obscured; these periods correspond with the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages of the ancient Western traditions. We are now in the fourth age, the Kali-Yuga, or "dark age," and have been so already, it is said, for more than six thousand years, since an era, that is to say, far earlier than any recorded in classical history [ie The Fall, origin of consciousness]. Since that time, the truths which formerly lay within reach of all mankind have become more and more hidden and difficult to approach; those who have access to them grow gradually fewer and fewer and if the treasure of "non-human" wisdom that is prior to all the ages can never be lost, it becomes enveloped nevertheless in ever more impenetrable veils, which conceal it from view and beneath which it it is extremely difficult to discover it. This explains why there is to be met with everywhere, under various symbols, the same theme of something which has been lost, at least to all appearances and so far as the outer world is concerned, and which those who aspire to true knowledge must rediscover; but it is also stated that what is thus hidden will become visible again at the end of our cycle, which, by reason of the continuity linking all things together, will coincide with the beginning of a new cycle." (1)
So it's not really crude of me to quote science fiction. As I see it, those authors used a theme that has been in the veins of our species for as long as we have records, cave wall or otherwise. And a theme that old is certainly a powerful thing. Funny how a concept can seem so prevalent (ever heard of heaven?) and yet talked about meaningfully so infrequently in daily life.
For me, one of the most powerful depictions of enlightenment has always been Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that epic children's novel by Richard Bach. It's really quite a powerful novel to be feeding children, and it affected me quite profoundly in my youth. In case you haven't read it, the plot centers around a Seagull who decides to learn how to fly tricks instead of just flying to eat and get from place to place. In his enlightened state, he is invited to transcend to another world of even more profound flight. But this is just a transition stage as well, and so begins the cycle of reincarnation (of course, they don't say it like that to the kiddies...)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Esoteric Circle

So where does one find this secret knowledge that Ouspensky and so many others have hinted to in their writings? For Ouspensky, there is a secret circle of like-minded people who quest after this knowledge. This circle can range from secret cults and druids to monks, ashrams, the 12 apostles, etc.

"According to this idea, humanity is regarded as two concentric circles. All humanity which we know and to which we belong forms the outer circle. All the history of humanity that we know is the history of the outer circle. But within this circle there is another, of which men of the outer circle know nothing, and the existence of which they only sometimes dimly suspect, although the life of the outer circle in its most important manifestations, and particularly in its evolution, is actually guided by the inner circle. The inner or the esoteric circle forms, as it were, a life within life, a mystery, a secret in the life of humanity" (19).

More than that, Ouspensky believes that this inner circle, comparable to the fables of Dune, or The Giver, or even the collective unconscious, holds a quantity of secret of knowledge that has been passed down throughout all of humanity:
"The esoteric circle is, as it were, humanity within humanity, and is the brain, or rather the immortal soul, of humanity, where all the attainments, all the results, all the achievements, of all cultures and all civilisations are preserved" (19-20).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ouspensky's Secret Knowledge

"The idea of a knowledge which surpasses all ordinary human knowledge, and is inaccessible to ordinary people, but which exists somewhere and belongs to somebody, permeates the whole history of the though of mankind from the most remote periods" (11).

The idea of secret knowledge does indeed permeate the whole history of mankind, from the Holy Grail to the messages of the Gods. Science fiction novels and worship communities, fantasy films and archaeological conspiracy theorists talk about secret knowledge for as far back as there is written documentation. But what does this mean? Is this some sort of proof in itself? Or is it just evidence that believing in secret knowledge is a product of evolution? Perhaps a function of coping with our ability to project scenarios into the future?

For Ouspensky, history is just the beginning. The experiential, or the 'gut-feeling,' is also a powerful mode of evidence.

"Man is conscious of being surrounded by the wall of the Unknown, and at the same time he believes that he can get through the wall and that others have got through it; but he cannot imagine, or imagines very vaguely, what there may be behind this wall. He does not know what he would like to find there or what it means to possess knowledge. It does not even occur to him that a man can be in different relations to the Unknown....In this incapacity of man to imagine what exists beyond the wall of the known and the possible lies his chief tragedy, and in this, as has already been said, lies the reason why so much remains hidden from him and why there are so many questions to which he can never find the answer" (14-15).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What does it mean to be conscious?

Can a computer be conscious? How would you know?

To which animals do we attribute consciousness? And how is that different from human consciousness?