Monday, November 19, 2018

Why Contradiction Will Save the World

The solution to world conflict? Work out contradiction in your soul and not in what you do or say to others. Become a contradictory creature. With continual references to Swedenborg, psychedelics, and the Stanley Parable.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My Endowment

When I was endowed last June, something shifted in me. The walls between me and the outside world cracked, and nothing has ever been the same. Especially after I return, I see others as extensions of myself. "Yes..." I say, "Of course I've always been them, just like I've always been them, just like I've always been me. Don't you remember?" Like the things you just know in dreams, the endowment kindles a memory that seems to come out of nowhere, that you didn't know before, but which you, nevertheless, have always known. We are all one. Tied together in God.

I distinctly remember looking at the brothers and the sisters in the room then, that June, and thinking "They are me, part of me body, just as I am a part of theirs." We surface into each other. Each one is my hand, my navel, my chest. All one, and the body is Christ's.

You walk through the world, afterward, changed. Everything gives a sense of nostalgia. You are home, home anywhere, everywhere. Love beckons. A light peeps out. Come on, they say, we have something to show you.

And this light, this Addams-Family hand, beckons you into another world. You see, now, yes...the world is more than you thought it was. Everything opens. Everything a veil, a veil now parted, which you can now see through. And there is light. And through the light, in the light, as the light, you are, all of you, each part of you, the parts of you scattered, in the things you see, in other people, in your childhood, all of you, all of you, now come home.

The world become beautiful again. The colors you knew in your childhood come back. You realize they were never meant to leave. The cartoons, the shiny toys, the grass, the trees, the apples, all of it, radiant as the first day, the first time, there in the Garden. You know who you are. You come home. And in that home, in that flesh, that first time, that primordial playpen, the corridors, nooks, and crannies of your primal, cosmic home, you remember, you remember, and nothing can ever be the same.

This is a time for play, a time for innocence, a time for trusting Father and Mother like you used to do. You've hidden, but you don't have to now. You can bear your scrapes proudly. Look!, you say, this is my scar, where I fell, where my body became mine. Where the blood came out. But now the blood is out there, part of the scar, no longer hidden, there for all to see. And so is everything. My face, yours, your eyes, mine, all linked together inextricably, unremittingly, all a circle, all, endlessly, a circle.

You see now! The scales have fallen from your eyes! The light comes back! Come out from hiding! I found you! No need to be afraid. Father and Mother have made lemonade, and it's time for us to go exploring in the woods out back. I'm excited: it's almost summer, and we have an eternity of worlds to explore. Come on!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Teal Swan's Most Powerful Video To Date

I've had a love-hate relationship with the spiritual teacher Teal Swan for about five years now, but this is the most powerful thing I've ever seen her do. She is emotionally "speaking from," first, the part of her that likes traditional gender roles, and, second, the part of her that hates them, in order. It made me want to cry. Please watch.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Christ in the Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas was always one of my favorite movies. Jack Skellington longs for something more, something he can't find in Halloween, something new, something different. He is just a skeleton, and he longs for life. He is empty, but he longs for fullness. So he goes into the wilderness, into the periphery, into the Underworld, and he finds a tree, a tree with a Christmas sign on it. And as he falls into it, he discovers exactly what he had always longed for.

Christmas is what we all long for, really. Christmas is what's real, the time when men open their shut-up hearts freely and give without restraint. Christmas is being free of oneself, being free of the burden of being oneself, of looking only to the other, of letting the other be born in you, of receiving the gift of the other. We are not the point, after all. We are just a frame, a canvas, where the other can be revealed, where the ultimate other, the ultimate point, God, can reveal himself, where he can be born in us, in our manger. We are skeletons, not the flesh, not the heart, not Christmas. Christmas is born in our ribcage, but we are not what is born. What is born is Christ, and Christmas is the gift of Christ, the grace of Christ, his birth and rebirth in us perpetually, the link of love that binds us together.

But we cling to it, like Jack Skellington. This year, we say, Christmas will be ours. And we ruin it. We clutch onto it with our bony fingers, we cling, we say "mine!," and the gifts no longer give. The bread of life, God's mess of pottage, we claim as our own. The flow is dammed. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head. But God is relentless. Though we have held Santa Claus captive, though we have appropriated what can never be ours, he will exaggerate our grasp until we can't hold on anymore. Until we give up. Until we say "God, I can't do it anymore. Take over. I will just be a skeleton, forever and ever. I am not You." And then we realize that "Yes, I am a skeleton! I am my body and its poverty. We humble ourselves. We don't raise our ambitions to God's throne, to Santa's sleigh. We become dust.

And in that moment, everything changes. No longer trying to capture Christmas, no longer appropriating, skeletonizing it, Christmas comes for the very first time. Christmas is a gift, after all, and gifts can never be demanded, never captured. Christ, the ultimate gift, is born in our hearts. Flesh begins to grow on our skeleton, a flesh that we aren't, God's flesh, on our skeleton. We are remade in His image. His face becomes ours. And though we have died, because we have admitted that we are nothing but death ourselves, we are reborn. We are resurrected. We fall upon God's neck, weeping. Christ is born. And Christ never stops being born.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Why Everyone is Miserable Right Now

An unlisted, experimental attempt at collective psychology:

I'm not doing well at the moment. Neither are many people I know. My friend said that he noticed how "everyone is miserable" right now. That got me thinking: if he's right, why?

My answer: we're all responding to a collective Ur-event that would integrate the parts of us we don't want to look at, but instead of letting those parts in, we're rejecting them, and we're becoming exaggerated caricatures of our conscious attitudes.

This could be projection, but I suspect it's not. Anyway, I give a solution to the problem that, if I'm right, could fix it. Watch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My Testimony (Why the Book of Mormon Opens History)

An attempt at a testimony:

I could have left the Church a long time ago. I have more than every reason to - I went to Westminster as a philosophy major, for heavens sake. Statistically speaking, I *should* have apostatized. I also know about all the skeletons in the Church’s closet, and I know firsthand the injustices that can be perpetrated by church leaders both local and general. But I’m still here. And the *reason* I’m still here has to do with my understanding of history and covenant.

What is history? Is history what *really* happened, what *factually* happened? Is it *only* this? If you think so, you share in a bias that westerners have held that, put under scrutiny, is not only not very old, but is also inconsistent. For one, most (if not all, I’m open to exceptions but haven’t found any) indigenous cultures do not treat history as something that happened in an irrretrievable past. The past is something that we can return to, something we can act out and accomplish. Ritual, for them, is an attempt to return to *first* time things were done, to do things in the same way that the mythical ancestors did them for the first time, and so make action something that isn’t only a function of something “discovered” in the past tense but a present-tense, repeated, ongoing “discovery.” The past isn’t dead but repeats itself whenever we return to it in ritual. If you’re noticing parallels to the temple, this isn’t an accident, but I’ll hold off of that for now. To assume that history, however, is merely something that happened factually in the way we naively assume today not only ignores that this seems to be the default setting of human beings but also ignores the fact the all-seeing eye of history is purely hypothetical, never has, and never will exist. Though we can retrieve accounts of the past, artifacts from it, and though this is very very useful and sorely needed in many ways, it has the drawback that (like all modes of knowledge nowadays) it assumes it can understand something without at the same time *enacting* something in it. History places no demands on the historian to act in a certain way. Of course, history demands good historiography, and the study of history can demand good action from what you learn there. Not contesting that. Instead, I mean that the historian (like the chemist with his test tube or the biologist with her dissected animal corpse) assumes wrongly that she can understand history from the outside, by *describing* it, and not by acting it out. If this *were* the case, the study of history would be sacred ritual. But it isn’t.

To summarize my point so far, you can only ever understand something completely by *putting it on* and *acting it out*. To describe from the outside, and to assume that description can suffice, is to confuse motricity and perception, to confuse time with space, to confuse verbs with nouns and the present tense with the past tense.There is no all-seeing eye, no view from nowhere. For if there were, it would not be able to see the conditions for its own seeing, the lens of its own eyes or the back of its head, in the same way that a book which purports to include everything can’t exist because if it were to include everything, it would have to include itself, which would then include itself in this itself, and never get to the point but only regress indefinitely. This infinite regress that happens when you represent representation, by the way, is not only what you see when you face two mirrors against each other but also what happens when you take psychedelics and you see the mandalic flower tunnel that leads off into infinity. Sight is cracking under the perception of sight and reality (i.e. The participative, self-transcending, motor factor that precedes sight) is making itself clear. But that’s neither here nor there (literally...ha!).

So when I hear things like how the Book of Mormon has little to no historical evidence (open to correction here) or how there were no horses or wheels in ancient America, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The Book of Mormon is still true even if it has no evidence, even, crucially *if it didn’t happen in history*. Why? I’ll put it a few ways. First, to paraphrase Joe Spencer, it’s not because its history or lack thereof is or ever was in question or, really, the point; it isn’t; its point is to call *your* history into question. In other words, the Book of Mormon is an act of updating history as a closed system, and history is closed, as I talked about above, because it posits an object without a subject. The Book of Mormon gives you no such luxury. Like no other book from the time period, it *addresses* and *challenges* you. *You*, the reader, the one who then has to either accept or reject its challenge and who, thereby, is cast in and acts out a role *that the Book of Mormon itself put you in.* There’s a reason the church’s exoduses parallel the journeys in 1 Nephi, Mosiah, and Ether, a reason why missionary accounts are often so similar to stories from ~Alma 20, even a reason why the typical ex-Mormon claims (this is just confirmation bias; you lay clergy are, somehow, after our tithing money) parallel Korihor’s soliloquies: these people are all responding to the Book of Mormon’s claims about itself in ways that make them, unwittingly, cast as types of people in the Book who were, likewise, also responding to scripture. The Book is a call to action, an action *itself*, that not only describes the action it is but also furthers it. I.e. It is proprioceptive: it not only describes, not only acts, but, in acting, describes itself, and in describing, acts itself out according to its description of itself. This, like the psychedelic tunnel with perception, is a window out of and into history that, crucially, *remakes history in its image.* You don’t have to believe in it to help accomplish its project in this way. You just have to read it. Your reactions will do the rest.

But I, for one, want to be on the right side of (this rip in) history. And that’s where the covenant bit comes in. The Book of Mormon is a covenant in the sense that, if I believe it and act in the way it commands me to act, I will then receive blessings in the way that it decribes: i.e. I will receive a witness that it is true, will speak with the tongues of angels, will become sanctified in Christ. The Book of Mormon is, then, an “If-then” statement, a proprioceptive if-then statement, a description of a chain of events where it and its effects on me are among those events. I want those blessings, I want to speak with the tongues of angels. Moreover, I want the world that the Book of Mormon promises is possible: a world without contention, a world with centuries of peace, a world where the daughter(s) of Zion arise from the dust and put on their beautiful garments. So I try to follow the commandments, and I try to obey the covenant.

This is how I see the Church at large. It seems out of its depth at times, it reeks of hierarchy and senility, but it is predicated not only on the opening into history that the Book of Mormon (and prayer, patriarchal bessings, and the temple ceremonies, etc.) is and are, but also on the continual capacity to revise and update based on that opening. The brethren are mortal men cast by the Book of Mormon, God and their encounter with both in certain ways, and they are trying to act out those roles with unwearying (if sometimes uninformed or tactless) diligence and faith. And it shows. General Conference talks have a profound effect on me often *without regard to what the speaker says.* It’s because something in it speaks to me from that place before, above, and within time, reminds me of the covenants I have made, teaches me how to be me in God’s way. I will not apologize for my faithfulness in and to the Church. God is at the helm, and what this means is that we are each cast in a role based on our reactions to the divine impulse in the Book of Mormon and everything that came from it. We will transform the world if that Book has its way, and I intend to assist in that process, the way it hisses forth from generation to generation, the way Zion strengthens her stakes and enlarges her borders forever and ever, the way God transforms history.

I say these things, as I occasionally do online, in the name of Jesus Christ, my savior. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Response: The CES Letter (Why Jeremy Runnells is Halfway to Neckbeard)

Just re-read Runnells' CES Letter. A few troubling things about his approach:

1) He assumes that the only valid mode of viewing the world is one of western rationalism from the last few centuries. Never mind that this point of view is a historical aberration compared with the vast swathes of human history and pre-history (tens of thousands of which were unchanged in shamanic, tribal systems). Never mind how this rational aberration is associated with western imperialism and is, arguably, its root. Never mind how talking about "magical thinking, superstitious, inconsistent, and treasure digging men" as Runnells does uses the same kind language that we *could* use to describe, say, indigenous tribes in Africa or the Amazon in ways that we would find deeply offensive and subject to imperialistic bias.

2a) Along the same lines, he assumes that a vision can only ever be "imagination." Not only is this part of a centuries-long act of making the imagination, the psychic factor, into an enemy, something that can't be real (part of the above rational-imperialistic factor), but this attitude ignores that imagination is a) something *very* real, at least subjectively (ask someone suffering from schizophrenic hallucinations), and b) is arguably real in a way that is ontologically primary. There is no encountering the world *without* imagination (that's not a couch; that's a bunch of quarks).

2b) Moreover, I consider that part of the essay nonsense because I and many other people I know have had super-sensory experiences (i.e. visions) that are both difficult to explain scientifically and self-evidently real to us. You can say visions are *mere* hallucinations, but (in the words of Swedenborg, who not only had visions, but had visions that told him things he shouldn't have been able to know) "by all this I am not deterred, for I have seen, I have heard, I have felt."

3) He just skips over the fact that the Book of Mormon is remarkably self-consistent and the witness accounts to the translation process (some of them by enemies) that say he just dictated, line-by-line, sometimes picking up mid-sentence from where he left off. He also ignores that the Book of Mormon's history has a remarkable internal consistency (both in terms of time, geography, internal reference, and narrative voice, though, to be fair, he gives an explanation of the Book's geography that could explain it in that realm). This is a human impossibility. That didn't stop it from happening, however, not only with people like Joseph Smith but also with Helen Schucman, the one who received the book A Course in Miracles and (no doubt) others.

4) And, the piece de resistance, this work is about history and historical weirdness and inconsistencies. He seems to only be concerned *about* history. Never mind the problem of gay marriage or about the dysfunctional sexual complexes acted out and perpetrated in the church at large. If there's going to be a problem in the Church, says Runnells, it's going to be the fact that Joseph Smith was a treasure seer. I *like* weirdness, everything New-Age and woo-woo, and the fact that Runnells sees it as something *self-evidently* worth rejecting is symptomatic of not only Runnells' biases but also the biases of the people swayed by the letter. I have no patience for people who leave the Church because of history. None. Leaving for political or present-day practical issues - I respect *that*. It means you care MORE about the living than the dead, more about people than ideas. But if you're going to leave because of dowsing rods and peeping're halfway to neckbeard, bucko.