Sunday, September 17, 2017

Why Teal Swan is a Medieval Rabbi

So Rudolf Steiner wrote a series of books called Karmic Relationships, and it describes just that: how our relationships in the world are structured and marked by our “karma,” the effect of our past lives on the present one. Of course, I’m a Mormon, and I’m not supposed to believe in past lives. But the way Steiner describes these “karmic relationships” is so gosh darn interesting, revelatory, and fun that it tempts me more than a bit.

For instance, he tells us that Karl Marx was a Frankish warlord in his past life. He governed an estate, but regularly left it to go pillage other estates. But eventually it went badly, and when he came home, he found that someone else had usurped his estate and forced him to be a serf on what he formerly owned. Marx and the usurper, who later became Engels, worked it out in the spiritual world that they’d come back and work our their karma in a beneficial way. Hence the “specter of communism.”

This is fun, yeah? It makes sense more than a bit. I’m in a class about Marx right now (which is why I’m thinking about it), and Marx’s writing reminds me of warriorhood more than a bit. Every verb he uses is combative. It’s all about slavery and domination, and he never uses peaceful language even when he describes peaceful things. This isn’t necessarily an evil thing; it’s just the character of a warlord.

And that’s always how you find out someone’s “karma.” You don’t look at their big achievements or their career; you look at little things like the way they move their hands or the way they hold their pencil. You take those idiosyncrasies and sort of “squint your eyes,” using the eyes of an artist to elaborate those gestures and oddities into a living picture. That living picture, for Steiner, is the person’s “past life,” the character of the life that brought about this one as a way to fulfill its “karmic deficits.”

Like I said, I’m a Mormon. I’m not supposed to believe in reincarnation. But the idea of taking a person’s gestures and elaborating another person out of them is something that’s super interesting to me. I don’t necessarily think that you discover a person’s past life when you do this. Instead, you discover a life that is very bound up in that person’s “I.” And this makes sense to me: in the spiritual world, nothing is distinct and everything comes together by virtue of a shared “inner state” or common focus. You are a focus like this. You existed pre-existently, sure, but that pre-existence was certainly informed and inextricably tied up with lives that have already gone before. And that’s another thing: it’s not obvious how things are going on down there on earth when you’re in the spiritual world. You have to learn (though only in a sense) from people who have recently died to see how things work in the physical world. So you could imagine that Frankish Warlord dude coming up to the spiritual world meets pre-existent Karl Marx, which is always a kind of mind-meld, in a way that leads him to say “Gee! People can oppress other people like that? That’s so evil! I’m gonna fix it.” And this being a kind of mind-meld, it’s also Frankish Warlord Dude who is saying this, though it is only Marx proper who incarnates. He just has soul character from the Frankish Warlord by a kind of reciprocal sharing of identity.

So I want to do this! Will you stay with me if, for the rest of this post, I figure out a famous person’s “past life?” If you saw the title of this post, you’ll know who I’m going to pick: YouTube spiritual teacher Teal Swan, with whom I have a love-hate relationship.

Teal Swan is brilliant. There’s no getting around it. She knows the ins and outs of dialectic and the way opposites co-implicate each other. She moves in and out of logical arguments without getting too stuck. She tests you and pokes you by saying surprising and provocative things. But! In all this, you can see the character of someone who is very tied to the idea of being the person you are. She’s all about authenticity, self-love, self-help, etc. She speaks of “mergers” with others, but it is always in a way that is focused on the “self” being merged with. She always moves toward (a) self, never away from selfhood entirely. This is not a bad thing per se, but it does have consequences.

For instance, she sees no value in humility. In one of her videos, she describes how humility is merely the way society beats down someone and prevents them from being their authentic self. As such, it’s not surprising that she hates both Mormonism and Islam. She doesn’t seem to know the joy that comes from completely emptying yourself and, while in that self-emptied state, being filled with something bigger and brighter that is, nevertheless, not you. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” says Paul, which Teal Swan would never dream of saying.

For Teal Swan is fundamentally non-Christian. She is focused on self, and while selves can merge and blend with each other in a way that makes being together possible, she does not grasp the value of a self-emptying that leads to being filled. This is the Christian impulse: you’re meek, and you inherit the earth; you die, and you’re resurrected. For Teal Swan, death doesn’t exist; it’s always life upon life upon life. She’s always pushing, but always at the expense of receptivity. Meekness, humility, and grace are entirely foreign words for her.

So if we look at a video of Teal, I want you to notice not what she’s saying but how she says it.

See that her eyes often are compassionate; she does want to help; she loves. And yet her facial expressions are firm, focused, direct. She often shows anger. And yet above it all, she is very playful in an ungrounded, airy way. When she’s excited, she often talks very quickly; when she’s most herself, she is flippant, provocative, and at home in her own skin in a way that’s a delight to watch.

So Teal Swan’s character is compassionate yet combative, ungrounded yet fierce. That character is non-Christian, and it is focused entirely on the idea of fullness in a way that excludes emptiness. And we find that type of person in a very specific place that may be surprising: religious Judaism.

Teal Swan was a Rabbi in one of her “past lives.” This Rabbi is caring and devoted to God and to others, even to God in others, but resents the idea of God becoming abject and common in Jesus Christ. God isn’t lowly; he’s grand, full of life, forceful! He will send his Messiah, and it won’t be some common rabble like Jesus of Nazareth but instead someone who will save the world from those hypocritical, self-abnegating Christians! This Rabbi, as Rabbis can tend to do, considers arguing about spiritual things an almost religious act. He looks forward to giving arguments and counterpoints about various points in the Torah. Above all, he is completely content in himself. Life is good; he don’t need no Jesus.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: Transforming the Soul: Vol. 1

Transforming the Soul: Vol. 1 Transforming the Soul: Vol. 1 by Rudolf Steiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The soul has three members in Rudolf Steiner's system: the lowest is the sentient soul, the bearer of our passions and desires; the next highest is the intellectual soul, what lets us be rational; and the highest is the consciousness soul, where the I grasps itself.

Each of these members is transformed by the I in its own way.

The sentient soul - the bearer of our passions, whims, and lusts - is transformed through anger. While anger bears the mark of egoism, it is only by going through the temptation to egoism that we can overcome it. If you are never angry or if you suppress anger, you are not selfless. Instead, you have not even reached the selfishness you must overcome. Without it, you are indifferent, complacent, and lack substance.

The intellectual soul is transformed through truth. Truth isn't an abstraction; it's what sets the soul free from itself. The soul is riddled with its own biases, prejudices, and opinions, but these lock it up inside itself. One must learn to love truth, and then you are set free into the wider world that all of us have in common. Still, the only truth that is really effective here is dynamic truth, truth alive with hidden activity, truth that works on you with more than meets the eye. Otherwise, truth is static and abstract. This dynamic truth is represented by Prometheus, who gives the soul the fire of higher worlds. But if you only receive that static, abstract truth, you're like Pandora: since your truth isn't active, it has no part in shaping the future; all that's left is to hope that it will turn out well. This static "reflective" truth is like somebody who wants to help in soccer by standing back and calculating what the best move would be. It doesn't have its head in the game.

The consciousness soul is transformed through reverence. In reverence, the soul comes to love the unknown, what lies beyond the known. However, it is very easy to lose yourself when you do this. So thought has to follow this loving devotion into the unknown, though the devotion comes first. Otherwise, you're basically sleepwalking. Moreover, while humankind has reverence toward God, God's reverence toward humankind is the might he gives to us. If we give reverence to him, he gives might to us. The element that is reverent is the "eternal feminine." The element that animates the reverence with the consciousness that keeps us from mere sleepwalking is the "eternal masculine."

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Use and Abuse of the Law of Attraction

In the coming years many ways of working with the symbolic world will become known to us. This is part of the knowledge of the coming era that is gradually being made accessible. We will have the opportunity to make our own relationship with our symbolic nature, discover its ways and allow it to teach us how to work with its energies. We will learn how to reestablish a symbolic consciousness through which all of life is an interaction with the divine, a meeting of the inner and outer worlds. What is important is the attitude we bring to this work, that we are in service to the whole rather than following our ego and imposing its desires. Working with the inner world requires listening, patience, and receptivity. One must allow the inner to communicate in its own way: watch, listen, and be responsive to the feelings that are evoked. This is the ancient wisdom of the feminine, which has been so repressed. Part of this deep wisdom is also respect. In previous eras it was understood that through our symbolic consciousness we are given access to the world of the gods.The gods should be approached with respect. We also need to bring an attitude of humility, because we are encountering a world as ancient as the universe which contains the wisdom of the ages. Interacting with the inner world, we are the ones who need guidance and help. The ego should not try to determine the outcome of such a meeting. Indeed there is a particular danger for those who approach the inner world without the “wisdom of humility.” Carl Jung called this “inflation,” when the ego identifies with the energy of the inner. It is easy for the ego to think that it is all-powerful, that it is a magician. The story of Doctor Faustus tells of the danger of using magic for the power purposes of the ego. The inner world is a source of unlimited energy and power. The ego can become attracted by this and try to use it for its own purposes. Entering the inner world, we are exploring a new dimension, and there is the potential for the wondrous and unexpected. But for this encounter to be fruitful, the right attitude is necessary. If one meets a unicorn one should not try to cut off its horn for its magical properties, but rather greet the wondrous animal with respect. Many fairy tales stress that the attitude with which we approach the figures of the inner world determines their response. The stepdaughter who greets the gnomes with kindness is rewarded with magical gifts, while the daughter who seeks these figures for greed receives a curse. In previous ages it was only the initiates who were allowed direct access to the inner worlds. Part of their training was a process of purification and testing to determine whether they had the correct attitude. The elders knew the dangers—not just to the individual but to the whole community—of interacting with the inner worlds with the wrong attitude. If we are to reclaim our relationship to the inner, to learn to live our magical nature, we need to take full responsibility for our attitude and our actions in the outer and inner worlds. What is not generally known is that many places in the inner world are as polluted as the outer world. Our lack of respect for the inner has corrupted its magical realms. Every time we access the inner with a desire to get something for ourself, we desecrate it. Like the base camps of Mt. Everest, now littered with the refuse of hundreds of expeditions, our quest for a spiritual “high” has polluted the inner realms. Decades of this desecration, culminating in recent new-age practices that seem to encourage visiting the inner for the sake of one’s own personal knowledge or gains, has left the inner worlds crowded with the garbage of spiritual materialism. The dense wasteland of debris created by our own egos inhibits light and energy from flowing to the outer where it can bring nourishment and meaning into life. Forces that should flow outward turn back on themselves, contributing to the darkness and negativity of both worlds. The shamans, who were trained to keep the inner dimensions clean, have mostly disappeared. Now the only way to help clear out some of this pollution and open pathways between the inner and the outer is to approach the inner worlds with deep respect and humility, in service to the whole, wanting nothing for ourself. - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Spiritual Power

Now the basic principle of all white magic is that no power can be gained without selfless devotion. When through such devotion power is gained, it flows from the common life force of the universe. If however we take its life-energy from some particular being, we steal this life-energy. Because it belonged to a separate being it densifies and strengthens the element of separateness in the person who has appropriated it, and this intensification of separateness makes him suited to becoming the pupil of those who are engaged in conflict with the good powers. For our earth is a battlefield; it is the scene of two opposing powers: right and left. The one, the white power on the right, after the earth has reached a certain degree of material, physical density, strives to spiritualise it once again. The other power, the left or black power, strives to make the earth ever denser and denser, like the moon. Thus, after a period of time, the earth could become the physical expression for the good powers, or the physical expression for the evil. It becomes the physical expression for the good powers through man uniting himself with the spirits working for unification, in that he seeks the ego in the community. It belongs to the function of the earth to differentiate itself physically to an ever greater degree. Now it is possible for the separate parts to go their own way, for each part to form an ego. This is the black path. The white path is the one which strives for what is common, which forms an ego in community. Were we to burrow more and more deeply into ourselves, to sink ourselves into our own ego organisation, to desire always more and more for ourselves, the final result would be that we should strive to separate ourselves from one another. If on the other hand we draw closer, so that a common spirit inspires us, so that a centre is formed between us, in our midst, then we are drawn together, then we are united. To be a black magician means to develop more and more the spirit of separateness. There are black adepts who are on the way to acquire certain forces of the earth for themselves. Were the circle of their pupils to become so strong that this should prove possible, then the earth would be on the path leading to destruction.  - Rudolf Steiner, Foundations of Esotericism

“Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?” Harry thought. Then he said slowly, “It shows us what we want . . . whatever we want . . .” “Yes and no,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible....It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that - J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

“He is with me wherever I go,” said Quirrell quietly. “I met him when I traveled around the world. A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it. . . . Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to be very hard on me.” Quirrell shivered suddenly. “He does not forgive mistakes easily. ..." J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign . . . to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.” -  J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The case herein is this. With him who does good from the heart, there inflows from heaven on every side, good into the heart and soul of him who does it, and by inspiring inspires it; and then at the same time the affection of love for the neighbor to whom he does good is increased, and with this affection a delight which is heavenly and unutterable. The cause of this is that in heaven the good of love from the Lord reigns universally, and constantly flows in according to the degree in which it is practiced toward another. The case is similar in respect to evil. With him who from the heart does evil to another, there inflows from hell on every side evil into the heart of him who does it, and by exciting excites it; and then at the same time the affection of the love of self is increased, and with it the delight of hatred and revenge against those who do not submit themselves. The cause of this is that in hell the evil of the love of self reigns universally, and constantly flows in according to the degree in which it is practiced toward another. When this occurs, the punishers are at once present, who ill-treat the offender; and thereby the evil with its delight is restrained. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 9049

THAT IT IS MAGICAL TO WILL TO MAKE ONE'S SELF GOOD FROM AN EVIL END. To will to become good, nay, to make one's self good, when good is intended, this is good, though it is not known that it is from the Lord; for thus there is received a celestial proprium. But those who wish to make themselves good for an evil end, as of ruling others, of destroying others, and so forth, to these it is magical; the former is from heaven, the latter from hell. A certain one given to magic willed to become good from himself; he hit upon the plan of drawing to himself certain good spirits, and of having them about himself, that they might make him good; but this was turned into hell to him, for his end was to do evil by that means, thus to do what was yet more magical. He was then depressed yet lower, [to a place] whence he could not elevate himself. Hence it is manifest that such a thing is magical; I spoke concerning it that such is its character. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Spiritual Diary 4414

Why Spiritual Life is Fast

Our prayers and spiritual aspirations call down the grace that creates a container of protection on the inner planes to help us do our work in the world safely. But protection is also given through the dynamic of speed. On the spiritual path the wayfarer is “speeded up.” Darkness is denser than light; greed is slower than love. Selfless service moves at a quicker vibration than patterns of desire. The Self is much faster than the ego. The speed of our devotion protects us from the slower energies of ego-desires because these denser energies do not stick to us. We are not so easily caught in their negative patterns. If something is spinning at a certain speed it throws off negative or denser thought-forms, emotions, or other energies that might stick to it. The speed of our inner vibration creates a vortex of light and love that in itself protects us. This vortex is always around us, and it increases when our devotion is more focused, when our heart is more full of longing. Speed allows us to avoid many of the pitfalls that surround us: we are moving too fast to be drawn into their negative vortex. Speed also enables us to change directions more quickly when we encounter situations or energy patterns that could distract or damage us. It enables us to be more flexible and less rigid, less identified with any pattern or form. Through an awareness of life as a dynamic flow of energy, we can see the importance of speed: how it can enable us to move from situation to situation more quickly and be more fluid in our response to any change. The energy patterns of life are continually changing, and the quicker we are able to respond to their changes the more dynamically we can participate in life. Through our inner effort and the practices of the path, we can free ourself of many of the burdens that slow us down: the unnecessary possessions that cling to us, the attachments that sap our energy. Most people are unaware of how their accumulation of possessions burdens them inwardly, draining their energy. Unused or unnecessary possessions are a particular burden; they are like a dead weight. The physical plane is the most dense and slow-moving, and if our attention is focused on this plane by too many possessions, we become inwardly constricted. Our attachments always draw our energy. - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Working with Oneness

But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat of it you will surely die. Taken with those that precede them, these words mean that it is allowable, by means of every perception obtained from the Lord, for anyone to discover what truth and good are, but it is not allowable to do so from self and the world, that is, to probe into mysteries of faith by means of sensory evidence and factual knowledge. If he does the celestial in him dies. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 126

The Lord is seen as a Sun, not in heaven, but high above the heavens, and not directly overhead or in the zenith but before the faces of the angels at a middle height. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell 118

In the spiritual world everything is in continuous, mobile activity, ceaselessly creating. A state of rest, a remaining in one place, as in the physical world, do not exist here. - Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy

Some people will say “slow down and smell the roses.” This idea is true, but it is only a half truth. In fact, it’s probably only a quarter truth. The reality is that, if you want to smell the roses, you can maybe best do it by speeding up. For the smell of the roses is too quick, too high of a vibration, to ever appreciate with the everyday speed of day-to-day thought. For reality is fast. That is, spirit is fast. The more you slow down, the more spirit passes you by. Speed is divinity itself. Motion is what keeps reality alive, full of the bright energy that makes it life. If it were to stop moving, it would die just as surely as a plane would crash if it slowed down too much.

By speeding up, we come to appreciate the reality that, in reality, nothing faces backward. In the bright center of everything’s spirit, everything faces forward, and even when two beings face each other there (in this brightness), they both face the common center. They never hesitate, never check, never even reflect. If they do think, itis thinking as an activity, not as a double take. There are only single takes in heaven. For without this factor, everything devolves into a paranoid “checking” to see if saw or thought before actually is true. “Did I really see that?” “Am I sure?” “Could I have been mistaken?” These questions are entirely fruitless. What is is. All things go. If learning and correction happen, they happen by an adjustment in forward movement, not by a complete U-turn. In this forward world of spirit, everything is activity. Everything is circular. Nothing is at rest, and yet there is never unrest. It is complete reset in motion; stillness in perpetual activity. It is quite circular.

You can experience this state if, when thinking, you never pause to “check” what you’re thinking. “Did I really think that?” “Am I sure?” “Better look at that mental image to see what I’m thinking!” No! You always think what you think. You never don’t think what you think. When you realize this, you close the gap between your thoughts and your consciousness of those thoughts. Your awareness can be of the thought process itself, not of the mirror that needs to reflect it. Consciousness becomes pure activity, pure thought. This pure activity, this speed, work in a forward, gyrating movement in everything you see. Every bit of matter, every pair of eyes, every tree, every piece of lint is a pure vortex of spiritual activity that never pauses to ask “what am I?” It knows because it is; it is because it knows. When you too reach the coincide-ence of being and knowing, you can become one with the chair, the table, the plant just by looking at it. Your gyrations run together. You don’t need to turn back; there is only a perpetual motion forward to the center that all things circle around.

This forward movement is the reality of all things. It is energy; it is relationship; it is love. It is what moves without stopping; what becomes without ever being; what is relation without ever being related to. All there “is” is the “is,” the pure reality of “is-ness,” the perpetual motion that belongs to no thing but weaves between things, making relationship itself possible. Indeed, relationship “is” the reality of spirit. Every “thing” slows it down. As such, it is rather lonely. In this perpetual forward movement, there is oneness, but there is hardly the togetherness that comes when we face each other. There is no touch. Touch comes from stillness and density. Touch is the sign of form, of two beings meeting each other as concrete tokens of what they are. At this point, instead of dwelling within the endless movement of pure spirit, they are now static, fixed, still. But this is very necessary. Without it, we would be caught In the circle, going around and around, forever, never standing, only ever flying. You can have an inkling of what this is like if you’ve ever been desperate to wake up from a dream. You seem to wake up and find yourself in yet another dream. You silently wonder if the solidity of reality is just something you imagined. To finally wake up is to say “Ahh. Here I am, standing, solid, firm, secure. I am whole.” This “woke” security is the purpose of physical life. Without it, we would dissolve in the circular hurricane of spirit. With it, we can dip our toes into stillness and rejuvenate our exhausted souls.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Everyday Bodies of Spiritual Beings

Naturally you have a certain practice in order to distinguish dream images from reality and to observe this distinction precisely. But then you come to the point of recognizing that something is there around which everything else is gathering. Normally (I am trying to speak precisely) the situation is that this one thing in the middle of all others can appear in a certain sense paradoxical, even absurd. This situation is that something remarkable, something very strange, appears in a sequence of images of this sort - which is otherwise so beautiful, so magnificent, so powerful. - Rudolf Steiner, Inner Reading and Inner Hearing
Suppose a patient has an unusual dream of being threatened by, say, the waves of the sea, or a lion, but on the outside only complains about the boringness of life and having a headache. You can say that the unconscious has announced an archetypal emotional constellation, an X, but one could not yet say that it has been constellated on the outside. You make a mental note and the analysis goes on for three-quarters of an hour, but all the time you have the feeling that the tremendous drive, the libido of the lion, has not yet been constellated in outer life. Then one day a charming man turns up and asks the woman to go out and have an aperitif with him; the husband makes no objection and they have a very nice time. The headache gets better, the husband dreams about a traffic accident, she dreams of burglars, and now the thing is constellated! One always knew t hat she was looking out the window for an adventure, something wanted to create heat, a conflict and adventure and life. I would say that the problem of the lion, or of the waves of the sea, hitherto latent, becomes constellated. To understand the dream six months beforehand would be to know the germs. A bit of the biography of the woman is now constellated. When she had the dream, it was ahead of her and far away, but when the earthquake comes it is actually constellated. - Marie Louise Von Franz, The Feminine in Fairy Tales
Applying an Agatha Christie approach, the person would look at the [synchronistic] event as a potential meaningful coincidence, asking “Is it ‘commenting’ on an inner situation? Is it a metaphor for something going on in my life? If we accept the idea of synchronicity, every unusual event invites us to pause and reflect on it. This attitude of seeking the possible meaning or potential significance can be applied both in ordinary life and in psychotherapy, to dreams and to synchronistic events. Both are events in which t he collective unconscious is manifested in symbolic language. People often overlook or forget them and first need to notice and remember such events and dreams. Then they can consider the potential meanings by thinking about the symbolic elements and by wondering whether these elements seem analogous to anything currently important or troublesome. - Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self

In a dream I had a few days ago, I had a cool intuition. I wrote it down afterward, but like most thoughts I have while I’m still “dreamy,” it is otherworldly enough that I’ll need to explain it:

There are centers of activity moving through accidents of space and time, for which the accidents of space and time are either more or less relevant depending on the intentionality of those centers of activity. The correct way to speak to spiritual beings is in the way you read a face: some things are directly indicative of the affection, and some things are indicative only insofar as they are the periphery of the direct indications. It would be a mistake to see all parts as equally indicative. The difference between the parts is based on the intentionality of the centers of activity.

When you look at someone’s face and discern their emotions, you don’t do it by looking at their ears. You do it by looking at their eyes. The eyes are the most direct indication of a person’s inner nature, and any other part of the body is only an indication in a more peripheral sense. Talking to someone, you look at them in the eye, and if you notice their mouth, you only notice it in a secondary sense. The hands are also very directly relevant in the way. In short, some parts of the body manifest a person’s inner nature much more directly than other parts.

Notice that I use the phrase “inner nature.” This is what I meant in the above quote by a “center of activity.” For a person, there is one center of activity that manifests in the whole body. However, imagine (if you can) that there were many such “centers” of activity that showed in the body. That is, what if the hands said something different from the eyes? This is that nature of the relationship between the spiritual and physical worlds.

The world is a body for spiritual beings. Like the eyes are for you, there are places in the world that are a more direct manifestation of a spiritual being than anywhere else. And just as the periphery of the eyes show your inner nature in a more peripheral sense, the “periphery” of these places manifest those spiritual beings in a less direct sense.

I mean this very literally. Have you ever seen 11:11 on a clock, repeatedly, perhaps every day for a while? This is a classic sign that a spiritual being is present. It is a manifestation of that spiritual being in the world. However, this example is fairly weak. A more profound example comes from my friend, whose story I hope he won’t mind me telling. He hears, over and over, and in the most bizarre circumstances, the word “Ozymandias.” It became a sign to him, a message that catches his attention over and over. Once he was sitting in a movie theater, thinking “I haven’t heard the word Ozymandias for a while,” when, suddenly, a character in the movie started reciting Percy Shelley’s poem that goes “I am Ozymandias, king of kings…” This is an example of a spiritual being manifesting as a single “center of activity.” The word “Ozymandias” is his “eyes.”

But this doesn’t need to be so theatrical. If Swedenborg is right when he says that this world is a “theater representative” of the spiritual world, we should be able to read the world like a spiritual detective novel, picking up on clues to discern the actors in a given situation. Notice themes in your life. Do certain moments tend to have similar characteristics? Are there repeating patterns? This can even go so far as noticing that you attract the same type of person in relationships.

Finally, if you really want to see this in action, see it while you’re dreaming. Dreams show this vividly and without hiding it. Everything in a dream is merely a “face” for the centers of activity moving through it. When you learn to “read” the dream this way, it’s no longer a chaotic mass of images. It’s a conversation between spiritual beings.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: The Nonexistent Knight (And Autism)

The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount The Nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone with autism, I can say that the character Gurduloo from the Non-Existent Knight is a perfect metaphor for what it's like to have autism. You first see Gurduloo pretending to be a duck as a group of soldiers walk past, but immediately afterward, Gurduloo pretends to be an acorn. Gurduloo has no self-concept: he is whatever he happens to see. If he's with ducks, he's a duck. If he's with acorns, he's an acorn. If he's drinking soup, "all is soup."

Autism is a lack of self-concept like this. We don't extricate ourselves from the world and the things in it, so we assume that everything in it is a part of us, and that we are a part of everything. See this in how autistic people get "lost in" obsessions and how they tend not to like change. For if you're identified with whatever you're doing, to switch tasks would, literally, be death. Moreover, like Gurduloo does, you can lose track of who's supposed to say what, or even who is who, is a conversation. Gurduloo says this to Charlemagne, for instance:

“I touch my nose with the earth. I fall to my feet at your knees. I declare myself an august servant of your most humble majesty. Order and I will obey myself!” He brandished a spoon tied to his belt “And when your majesty says, ‘I order command and desire,’ and do this with your scepter, as I do, with this, d’you see? And when you shout as I shout, ‘I orderrr commanddd and desirrrre!’ you subjects must all obey me or I’ll have you strung up, you first there with that beard and silly old face.”

People with autism are identified with whatever they're doing. This has a good side and a bad side. It's good because there is an ecstasy that comes from completely losing yourself in your surroundings, as the Knights of the Grail show in this book (and the late autistic author Donna Williams shows in her book "Autism and Sensing: The Unlost Instinct"), but it's bad because we therefore end up being "prisoner of the world's stuff." We are beneath everything. So sometimes we try to have a distinct identity, and often (though hopefully not always, it tends to be devoid of the life we otherwise completely lose ourselves in. So we are either like Gurduloo, who exists but doesn't think he does, or like the Non-Existent Knight, an empty suit of armor that fights in battles, who doesn't exsit but thinks he does. The first is the stereotypical low-functioning autistic person. The second is the Big-Bang-Theory Asperger type.

Existence is nice, but so is non-existence.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Scripture is Powerful

But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another; But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof. And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth. - 2 Nephi 27:9-11
Some departed prophet and seer of your own island has left, tattooed round the circumference of your flesh, a spiraling revelation, a promise of forgiveness, a complete theory of repentance, a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth, a riddle in your own proper person to unfold, a messianic text inscribed in your flesh. This prophet came and went long before you arrived.The tattoos are meant for you; they are a kind of story of your life inscribed within your life, but—here’s the trick—you're going to have to die young in order to read them. Order your coffin, lay the length of it and let your life end, die to this world, and then remember that you've forgotten to wash a dish or kiss your wife or sweep the porch or read to your child.Then leap from your coffin and return in earnest to the work of washing and kissing and sweeping and reading, sure and fearless in the time that remains. - Adam S. Miller, Early-Onset Postmortality
Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. - 2 Nephi 32:2-3
When you read scripture, you're reading the thoughts of God.  That is, you're reading the thoughts of people who - because they were close to God - were able to say that (at certain moments) His thoughts were their thoughts. By writing these thoughts down, they channeled divine light into a fixed form that, instead of dulling it, gives it the unique quality that makes that work of scripture needed. Works of scripture are different because people are different.

And yes, that does mean that people outside the Church can write scripture. The Bhagavad Gita is a very powerful divine work in this way. So is, funnily enough, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. The Qur'an goes without saying. These differ from each other in what they teach. However, both Swedenborg and Steiner say that thoughts do not remain after death. What makes Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity distinct disappears in the other life, though that does not mean that Muslims stop being Muslims or Christians stop being Christians. To use a metaphor: the cakes have been made, so we no longer need the molds that made them differently shaped. But though they may have a different "timbre," the brightness in each is the same.

This brightness is divinity itself. As such, it is your divine nature. Ever wonder why, when reading the Book of Mormon, you can learn about your own life in a way you can't elsewhere? It's because your divine nature, your heart of hearts, is laid up for you in the book. It is the "sealed portion" to come forth. It's what "retains its brightness."

As such, when you read scripture, you become aware of the spiritual center of your being. Moreover, you become aware of the spiritual center of the world's being. By receiving the brightness of God,  you start to see things from His perspective. You wake up from the sleep of the natural man and, like a contagion, spread that wakefulness to everything else that has forgotten its divine nature.