Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Dream about the Book of Mormon and a Wedding

On the night of September 25th, I accidentally fell asleep on the couch in my family's TV room. Though I spent an uncomfortable night on it, the upside about sleeping on this couch is that--for some reason--I always have vivid dreams there. That night I remember a single dream that hit me with a train of spiritual insight, and I want to share it here.

The dream

Here's the dream as I wrote it down immediately afterward. Note that the names have been taken out so as to not embarrass anyone I know who might read this post:
"In my parents' theater, my professor is there, and some peers from college say that they've returned my quadruple combination. I get mad at them, saying that my professor wanted to read the Book of Mormon, but that she couldn't because I didn't have it with me. I give it to her, and she says she's at 2 Nephi 16, and I ask her what she thinks of the first part of 2 Nephi, implicitly referencing the philosophical parts. She's about to talk about the part referencing the Lamanites becoming "as flint," but then she has to go teach a class. I read a passage in a blue James Hillman book where he quotes a non-member scholar about the Book of Mormon: "The Book of Mormon 'exploded' into the world, feeling through the world to where it could best fit, from outside of time." I look up the source for the quote, and he says that the Book of Mormon is like an appetizer (milk/toast) that so enthralls the eater that they don't pay attention to the rest of the meal, even if it's better. This is the atonement/testimony that gets you to stay. I'm so taken with this idea that I try to find my professor to tell her. No such luck. I go upstairs and I see a young woman from my singles ward in a wedding dress about to go onstage for a final performance of The Diary of Anne Frank, where the relatives of the cast can come to the audience if they couldn't at the beginning of the run. I contemplate telling this young woman that we met before this life, that we were together before this marriage, but she already knows this, and it's inappropriate for this situation."
It goes without saying that dreams like this strike the waking mind as odd. But from my perspective, dreams are only odd in this way because of a "translation error" that happens when you try to think of it in waking consciousness. After all, the tired mind isn't abstract and doesn't think in rigid categories--it's instead wholly concrete and associational. A broad principle like "loneliness" will be represented by a particular, concrete instance of that loneliness (like a crying child, for instance), and different instances of the same principle tend to blend and merge into each other.

Knowing this, I've read that it's best to "interpret" the dream while you're tired. That way, you approach that dream in the same state that made it, letting "like" go unto "like." So I'm very lucky that I was able to quickly pull up my iPad and record what the dream's remnants themselves told me about its meaning. I'll paraphrase what I wrote in the rest of this post since I think it's significant not only for me but for anyone who values the Book of Mormon and its spiritual "ground."

What the dream taught me

My dream was about linking together things that are still separate. If the Book of Mormon "exploded" into the world and flowed into its cracks and its crevices, this dream exploded into the subtle fissures in my life--its reality adapted itself to what I needed to hear. The young woman in the wedding dress is thus going to a wedding of times, circumstances, and people, which both the Book of Mormon and my dream are instances of. This is an example of the ajna principle, or that of the Third Eye Chakra, where everything acts as a face of everything else, where all separate things weave together.

This wedding is a way that a pre-perceptual, pre-conceptual unity of time and places can come into my awareness. It brings together the things that were already together pre-existently, letting the invisible togetherness become visible. The Book of Mormon is a major way that this reunion of people, times, and places can come into the visible world. It reveals the ties that already exist between them. The Book of Mormon--as a wedding--concretely actualizes the bonds that had already existed in potential from eternity.

The atonement as it's manifest in the Book of Mormon is then like an appetizer of milk and toast--like "milquetoast," it's unassertive, unassuming, and timid. In other words, the atonement as at-one-meant of separate things presents itself first, but in a way that doesn't demand my attention; it hides in plain sight, waiting to be seen. If you eat it, it captivates because it's primal. As an appetizer, it's what you knew first, primarily, before anything else.It's a priori.

We should be together without having to do anything. I shouldn't try to assert or force that togetherness, since it's already apparent from eternity--as the atonement, as the appetizer of milk and toast, as the Book of Mormon. I am together with them from before I came here. I shouldn't try to force that togetherness on others, since it's already there between us, and that togetherness itself brings about the wedding.

The young woman who got married in the dream had recently (that is, in "real life") talked about how she isn't married yet. This reminds me of the "woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when [she] wast refused" of Isaiah 54, whom I've often felt like. Not only haven't I been the most successful person in romantic encounters, but I feel like I've been "left at the altar" of all sorts of unions with the inhabitants of the world. I've often noted that I've felt separate" from the people and things in the world, almost as if I weren't just romantically single, but left out of all intimacy with the wonders of life itself. But if I'm to believe my dream, the wedding of all things with all things is coming. Maybe it's always here; maybe I just have to recognize it. Maybe I just need to learn not to "force" the issue, meaning that my wedding with the world will happen when I stop trying to make it happen. After all, the groom isn't supposed to see his bride on the wedding day, much less talk to her. I should thus let us (I and any person or thing I want to come together with) each find our way to the altar. This happens at any moment in which I give up the "chase" after union or satisfaction, and let the union come to me. The union comes to me in the very moment I stop seeking it, since it has existed pre-existently and will exist to eternity.

I wrote that the final performance of the play staged here--the "telos" or end-goal of eternity not just at the end of time, but in each moment--will be witnessed by the relatives of the actors there. We as mortal human beings are all actors on a stage, getting ready for the wedding. The wedding of all things with all things is coming, and we're bringing it together from all times and all places. The relatives are those people who have left the stage but are still watching to see how it turns out. These are the Dead--not just the literal dead, but all the people, feelings, thoughts, and ideas that have exited life's stage for the moment. They watch with an eager eye to see how things will turn out--they have a "stake" in the wedding. They too will be wedded to everything else here, since they too are together with them pre-existently.

In this consummation of being, the tangle of relationships that had existed invisibly from eternity becomes visible. In a sudden moment of belonging, I see myself as a part of a whole--continuous, an extension of everything else, loved by all things. I've had these moments before (like this one time on the bus), and though they are few and far between, it isn't just reserved for the "end of the world." The wedding, as the marriage of all things to all things, exists forever in potential and is ready to pop into our awareness as soon as we stop grasping after that union.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How to Get Personal Revelation from Books

So, I have a thing for books. I typically read four to eight books at a time, and the bookshelves in my room are so full that I regularly have to take less essential junk out to make room for new books. Here's a picture of my non-fiction shelf, if you're curious:

I've read so many of these books that I make it a goal to revisit the ones I've already finished. To that end, I'll thoroughly annotate books I read to make sure that I know where my eyes should "fall" when thumbing through them. But a year or two ago, I began noticing an odd pattern: the books I revisited and the insights I remembered from them seemed to be exactly what I needed in that time of my life. It wasn't by deliberate action that this happened, of course; my decision to pick up a book that would later prove helpful came just as a spur of the moment impulse, a thought like "wouldn't it be nice to read that again?"

But as time went on, I started to observe my thoughts and feelings leading up to choosing that helpful book. I discovered that helpful books "call out to me." Whether it's the color of the spine or feelings I associate with the book, my mind will "catch hold" on something it signifies to me and make it seem more interesting that it normally does. It's almost like the book is "glowing" with significance, whereas others just seem the way they are by default.

Experimenting with this process, I discovered something else: if I let my unconscious mind take over when thumbing through the book, I'll usually land on the page that helps me the most. Here my habit for annotating comes in especially useful: if I flip to the right page, the underlines, boxes, and notes in the margins point me to what's most significant in that general area.

Realizing the potential in this phenomenon, I decided to use it consciously. For the past few weeks, I've begun most days by going over to my bookshelves, seeing which books have started "calling to me," and bringing them over to my desk. There, I thumb through the books, glean what it is I'm supposed to learn from them, and write those ideas down in an electronic notebook. To give you an idea of what this process is like, here's a brief excerpt from that journal:
The Qur'an: The alternation of day and night is a lesson to learn from God for those who have eyes to see. Night invariably follows day, but day invariably follows night. Night and day--sadness and happiness, pain and pleasure, etc.--are always together. Reference Heidegger, Hillman and Angels on heaven and hell. / The Crucible of Doubt: This life's uncertainty and estrangement is actually a salvation, one from the eternal stasis of Eden. This life's absurdity is what I need to grow, but not only that--it is what manifests the joy. Reference the above Qur'an quote and the Magician chapter of the Red Book on magic. / Emerson: Nature embosoms us all--she nourishes us and gives a new day to us every time we fall. We are continuallly in her womb. Poetry and philosophy reveal the truth and beauty behind the world, which are really one and the same. Truth and beauty are two sides of the same. / What We Talk about When We Talk about God: God is bigger and better and more awe-inspiring than we can comprehend at any moment. We need steps to open our minds to it. This is the day and the night, alternating so that I can be freed by each night.
What was amazing about this particular use of my technique--and has been happening increasingly often--is that it all centered around a common theme, in this case how opposites and duality clearly manifest the whole. I came to the conclusion that some power is using these books to communicate certain ideas to me that I need to know. And I don't doubt for a minute that this power is God.

The point I'm trying to make is that this practice is really a method of personal revelation. I go to God with a question (either conscious or unconscious), and He uses the means at His disposal to communicate the answer to me. As Nephi says in the Book of Mormon: "the Lord God...speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding," and I can't think of a language I speak better than the one used in the books I love reading! I sometimes wonder if God "led" me to this practice by giving me the impulse to buy all my books and to annotate them. But one thing's for certain: it's now a huge blessing in my life.

In conclusion, I'd encourage you to look for ways God can speak to you, especially those unique to you and your interests. Who knows? Maybe He'll speak to you in the words you pick up from others' conversations as you walk through a public place. Maybe He'll speak to you through the lyrics of songs that get stuck in your head for no apparent reason. I think all of these things and more are possible. Anyway, thanks for reading! I'm off to do some reading of my own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Time Unfolds

Recently, I've started to see time in a very different way than I used to. Before, I thought that time was a line, a series of causes and effects that--while perhaps able to go in different directions--is just one-dimensional. But that's not how it is at all. I've come to see that time is more profound than most think it is, since most of time is actually below the surface of our awareness.

Meaningful Coincidences

Let me explain what I mean by appealing to some concrete events as examples. In the past year or so, I slowly began realizing that crucial events in my life--meeting people, encountering books, or learning about opportunities--came at exactly the right point when they needed to come in order for me to get the most benefit out of them. For instance, there's a teacher who I first had in middle school whom I've kept running into, first in high school and then in college, each time without either of us deliberately seeking the other out. It turns out that he's a great friend and that he has become one of the most powerful influences on my personality. Events like these are shocking, and they're happening with increasing frequency in my life. And their frequency got me thinking: how do these events "work?" What is the metaphysics behind these meaningful coincidences, what Jungians call "synchronistic events?"

Events as Seeds

Pondering on this, an intuition slowly dawned on me. I came to the conclusion that these weird coincidences weren't "caused" by past events as if past events determine what will happen in the future. No, I realized instead that it's quite the opposite: the future determines the past. To put it differently, my meeting with this teacher had always been going to happen; the event itself "gathered" the circumstances it needed to happen for it to occur, and the event made them occur so it could come into existence itself. I guess you could say that this process is like the growth of a seed: a seed is planted imperceptibly in the ground, and there it invisibly grows until it reaches the surface of awareness.

This idea has a few interesting consequences: first, it means that the circumstances leading up to a coincidental event like my meeting with my teacher had a goal or a telos in them; they came into being in order to usher yet another event into being. Think of that--if I'm right, the actions you perform today might have a goal in them you yourself aren't aware of! Random impulses to pick up a book, chance meetings with a stranger on the street, or even freak illnesses might be the initial sprouting of a seed which will mature into something magnificent.

Second, it means that there might be any number of "goals" that are unfolding in a situation. My decision to pick up a book on my shelf might be a way that three or four significant events come into fruition (I think my first encounter with Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell in April 2013 was like that). This idea also suggests that future events could "fight" for temporal "real estate" by trying to determine which one of them gets precedence over the other in their unfolding.

Third, my notion of time leads me to think that, just as we know the way a seed unfolds into a plant, we can theoretically figure out the way these event seeds unfold into actual events. Assuming that there are only so many different "species" of event, if you notice the way a situation is beginning to unfold, you could use your knowledge of events' temporal "growth" to discern what will tend to happen in the future. Thus, this notion of time gives a metaphysical foundation for both divination and prophecy. Visions of the future from John the Revelator to Nostradamus to Joseph Smith then don't need to be exact; aside from the heavy use of symbolism inherent in communications with the divine, seeing the seed of an event that's just beginning to grow doesn't rule out any number of variations on how that seed unfolds. Thus, depending on what other events or "seeds" interfere, I imagine that the "end of the world" could turn out in many different ways, despite the fact that the prophecy remains essentially true.

The Science

Finally, I don't think that there's any way this necessarily conflicts with any science. As far as I can tell, most science assumes that time progresses from the past to the future; it doesn't often stop to consider the possibility that the future can affect the past. Though I'm not a physicist, I've heard that some there are some surprising conclusions drawn in quantum physics that support the idea of a past being "caused" by the future.

That's it for this post! If you're curious about these ideas, check out the I Ching, a Chinese oracle text. The theory behind it influenced a lot of my conclusions here.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

3-D Truth: A Doctor Who Parable

Guess what, everyone? Doctor Who, my favorite TV show on the air, premieres its ninth series tonight!

Partying aside, I think it's the perfect time for me to write a post I've had stewing in my head for a long time: a blog post about the nature of truth, using an episode from Doctor Who's last season (the one called Flatline) as a metaphor.

Invaders from Flatland

The basic premise of Flatline is that a race of aliens from a two-dimensional universe (think Flatland) has invaded our three-dimensional universe. Though it isn't clear at first, they're pretty nasty, and they mean business.

See that red design on the wall there? The Doctor explains that it's a human nervous system, taken from a human being the 2-D aliens have "sucked" into the floor, "flattened," and dissected. That's not a way I want to go. But ignoring the macabre details of what must have happened, I think that these 2-D aliens have a profound lesson to teach us, and that's because I think they're a metaphor for us.

On 3-D truth

What do I mean? Well, in a way we're two-dimensional beings. When I look at a tree, I can only see a 2-D "snapshot" of one side at a time; I can only ever intuit the tree's 3-D nature by walking around it and looking at all the angles. But here's the thing: that means we never see the tree as it actually is. In fact, we never see anything as it actually is; whether it's a toad, a spoon, or my grandmother, I can only ever see one "face" of a 3-D thing at time, and so its complete nature is hidden from me.

That doesn't stop us, however. Like the aliens in Doctor Who, we stumble into a higher-dimensional world trying to capture it, to dissect it, to "pin it down." Whether in technology, business, or science (especially science), the human protocol for the last few hundred years has been to a) assume that--if we try hard enough--we can know anything, and b) poke, prod, dissect, and disassemble everything in that pursuit. But the whole effort is completely misguided. Like the famous story about blind men examining an elephant, no one perspective of the way things are is ever true. Period. What looks a certain way from one perspective looks completely different from another perspective. So if we try to develop a grand "theory of everything," we're then doing exactly what those 2-D aliens were doing: violently trying to subject three-dimensional reality to our two-dimensional perspective.

What should we do, then? Simply be content to "circumspect" reality, to circle around it enough that you can intuit its nature without ever being able to "say" how it is. And what happens when you do this is amazing--you realize that seemingly contradictory ideas don't have to exclude one another; they can both be true at once. Just as Joseph Smith said, "by proving contraries, truth is made manifest," we can know real truth once we learn to think on both sides of a contradiction, to leap those boundaries with ease.

Anyway, that's it for my epistemological rant. Happy Who-day!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Scripture in You

A long time ago, I wrote a post that said there are two Books of Mormon--an "outer," literal one, and an "inner" one, closer to both God and your life. I want to expand on that point today, and I'll do it by talking about one of my favorite Book of Mormon chapters, 2 Nephi 27.

Waking up hungry

This chapter is famous for being what Book of Mormon scholars call a "Midrash," a Hebrew literary form that weaves together a sacred text and a commentary on that text. In this chapter, the sacred text is Isaiah's prophecies on the latter days (Isaiah 29, specifically) and Nephi gives the commentary. Isaiah talks about how darkness and apostasy will cover the earth in the last days, giving this poetic description:
"And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion" (2 Nephi 27:3)
When I came across this verse doing a recent pass-through of the Book of Mormon, I realized that this describes me pretty well, at least at times. But I think it describes all of us to one degree or another--who hasn't wanted something with all their heart, only to find that they didn't feel any better once they got it? I was this way with video games all through junior high, for instance. I would anticipate games like Spore or Fable II for months or even years, only to "wake up" dissatisfied--like a hungry man dreaming of food--when I finally got to play it. You can also see this in politics a lot: people look forward to electing a candidate who they think will solve all the country's problems, but find out when he gets into office that he was average at best.

To put a long story short, the earth isn't heaven, an idol isn't God, and muladhara isn't sahasrara. No matter how much we want an earthly thing or person to satisfy all our desires, it won't make the cut; only God can do that. As I see it, Isaiah is saying in the above verse that many will realize this in the last days, coming to know only after great turmoil that they lusted after something ultimately empty. I think that this idolatry works as a definition for all sin. Whenever we sin, we want infinite satisfaction from a finite source, something that can obviously never happen. The only way to be happy is to see all things as means to God, Who is the source of our being in the first place.

Your inner Book

But Isaiah and Nephi aren't done. Nephi puts a twist on Isaiah's prophecy when he writes what happens after the world has gotten to this idolatrous state:
And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.
This passage outwardly talks about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the book written by those "slumbering in the dust," crying from the ground of the long past. But how can we liken this passage to our lives? Because it talks about a divine book that had been "sealed up" to come forth in the latter days, I'll suggest that we read it as commenting on our divine nature, hidden in us like treasure in the ground. So when Nephi says that the Book--which was also hidden away--will come forth, we can liken it to us by saying that the latent divinity within us will eventually express itself.

This can happen whenever we run into something that touches our hearts and opens our spiritual horizons. When we read a piece of scripture, a book, or even an internet article that "shows forth" more than it literally contains in its text, we can be sure that the Book in us has come out. The physical text in front of us then becomes a mirror in which that Book can see itself, a way for us to "translate" that Book into our everyday awareness. It becomes a window to divinity itself, but not just God; my being as it exists in God--my divine potential--actualizes itself through that process of reflective "translation."

The Book of Mormon breaks through history

When I realized all this, I came to an amazing conclusion: this is what the literal Book of Mormon does best. As a revelation of hidden spiritual wisdom, the Book of Mormon is the perfect mirror for our inner Books to reveal themselves. And that's what we do when we read it: the Book of Mormon transposes itself to our life and circumstances--it becomes the Book of Christian, the Book of Daniel, or the Book of Eliza. Through this translation, the Book's story and my life's story become one. My flight into the wilderness is my flight from comfortable bad habits in dating; my "War Chapters" are my fight against temptation's wiles; Christ's coming is the peace that comes after I've been painfully refined by divine fire.

And then I realized something even more remarkable: if the Book of Mormon is supposed to make its stories "at one" with the stories in my life, then it's really manifesting the spiritual in the physical. Mormon scholar Joseph M. Spencer (whom I once met) wrote perhaps the best possible explanation of this idea:
"Any enclosure of the Book of Mormon within a totalized world history amounts to a denial of the book’s unique claim on the attention of the whole world. In the end, then, to take the Book of Mormon as either historical or unhistorical may be to miss the nature of the book entirely. Both positions in the debate about Book of Mormon historicity—-whether critical or apologetic—-are founded on a common, backwards belief. The historicity of the Book of Mormon is not in question. Rather, as Alma makes clear, it is the Book of Mormon that calls the historicity of the individual into question."
The Book of Mormon isn't enclosed within history, and so it's wrong to say that it's either a history or a fiction. And that's how it should be: when we're bound by our bad habits and our past successes or failures, what we're bound by is history itself. Pure history, in a sense, is Satan's plan--our being entirely determined by the past without hope for an irruption into it from eternity. But that's what is needed, and that's exactly what the Book of Mormon gives. The Book of Mormon acts as a bridge from history to eternity and back again; by likening our lives to it, it shows that our lives aren't just the effects of past choices, but instead grow out of seeds from eternity. To read the Book of Mormon is to follow that seed back to its heavenly tree, where we can finally eat from its fruit. So doing, we bring together history and the eternal, even to the point where they're no longer opposed. In fact, I might dare to say that, by reading and likening from the Book of Mormon, we also accomplish something far greater than personal salvation: we help bring about the redemption of the world.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What do Feelings Look Like?

In one of my chastity posts, I quoted a book by the late psychologist Wilson Van Dusen. He's great: as an interpreter of Swedenborg (and an associate of Alan Watts), you can't get much better. In his books, he uses ideas from Swedenborg and other mystical teachers to show his reader "the way to the experience of God," or how to see God as He manifests himself in life. He's a mystic through and through, and he explains many different ways to connect to the divine. But in this post I'm going to focus on just one of them--using "feeling imagery," mainly as he taught it in his book The Natural Depth of Man. (Here's a link to the book's Amazon page)

Van Dusen's big idea here is that fantasies and daydreams aren't evil--far from it. He says over and over that daydreams are actually just the "embodiment" of feeling, ways for feeling to see itself in a mirror. By extension, this is true of all thought; thoughts are just images that reflectively correspond to emotional states.

Most parts making up our experience of life are based in feeling; what I want, how I think, where I'm going, my mental illnesses, and even my mannerisms all spring from feeling's "gentle root." This means that--if I want to learn about my "inner nature"--there are few better ways to do it then by willingly daydreaming. Van Dusen says this: by calming my mind and letting emotions "come up" as feeling images, I can learn about and even change my feelings, moods, and compulsions.

Use your feelings to get over a mood

Van Dusen gives a good explanation of how this process works when he tells the story of someone using it:
"[When caught in a mood,] one should then stop, dwell on sensations, and allow them to amplify into a fantasy. A man is driving home from work with a headache. Having time while driving, he allows his physical sensations to speak up. When he dwells on it, the headache is more a stiffness down the back of the neck or shoulders. To grasp its meaning he portrays this stiffness. He holds out his arms stiffly on the car's wheel. His shoulders and neck are rigid. His face feels as though it were in an angry scowl. The scene amplifies. He is on a battlefield. He has been mortally wounded. He is holding onto a tree stump. If he hangs on someone will come by and notice him and help him."
Here the driver with a headache uses fantasy to "amplify" his discomfort; he takes his scowl and turns it into anger, in turn making his stiffness into a wound on a battlefield. By letting his imagination "unfold" his situation in this way, he starts to understand his emotional state more deeply. When he realizes this, the man decides to fix the situation:
"The martyrlike hanging on the image seems a bit humorous to the driver. In the image the wounded man smiles to himself and says, 'Hell, an injured man is supposed to fall down.' He relaxes, sits back in the car seat with his elbows in his lap. The man on the battlefield relaxes in the warm earth. He leisurely examines little plants springing up nearby out of the ruined earth of the battlefield. The driver concludes he has rigidly forced himself to do everything expected of him, secretly hoping someone would notice his plight and take pity on him. He notices himself, takes pity on himself, and allows himself to relax. Some stiffness in neck and shoulders remains. He concludes that next weekend he will take his family to the state park they want to visit."
When you use fantasy to expand your situation, you can "interact" with that situation in your mind's eye. Like the driver did by letting himself relax, you would put yourself in the scene as an actor, doing with it whatever you think would be best. At this point, the daydream qualifies as "active imagination," a technique coined by Carl Jung where a patient uses fantasy to bring about inner change. And it can go pretty far. You can get to the point where you have whole conversations with inner figures in your head, letting the other person's side of the dialogue spring directly from your unconscious mind.

Use your feelings to understand other people

There is another use for this "feeling imagery," though. While it works for sensations or moods you're trying to understand, it also works to help figure out other people. Van Dusen explains this point, saying:
"At times I find it very difficult to describe what I feel in a woman who is a stranger to me. I have a lot of vague unclear feelings. I allow these to elaborate into a fantasy. I'm going to have a date with her. Let's see how the date should be handled. In one woman I feel I should be very modest about amorous advances. It would feel best if we visited a museum, went to dinner and a concert, and had much chance to talk of our ideas first. For another woman I feel we should go to a dance, be active, live it up. I've shared these fantasies with women in groups usually to find that they are amplifications of accurate perceptions of them."
Just by taking tiny hints--normally under the conscious radar--and expanding them through fantasy, you can know much more about another person than you would otherwise. This tip is especially useful for autistics, many of whom have excellent imaginations despite having poor social skills. Moreover, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the root of "ESP" phenomena: through fantasy, the body and its presentation become a clear window to the mind and spirit within.

Use your feelings to deal with unwanted desires

Finally, you can use this process to work through compulsive thoughts and desires. For instance, Van Dusen writes:
"Once in a small class on phenomenology a young woman implied that she had a dreadful fantasy that coming back. When I asked her about it she implied that it had to do with suicide. She didn't want to talk about it. I encouraged her to try it in the safe environment of the classroom. She was reluctant. She felt if the fantasy were allowed to express itself she would become actively suicidal. Finally she consented. In fantasy she got away from people and walked in the snow. She saw a deep snowbank. With fear and trembling she contemplated crawling into the snow to freeze to death. I encouraged her to go ahead. In her mind's eye she caved out an enclosed cavern in the snow. I asked her what it was like inside. She said, 'Quiet! I hear no sounds of people.'" 
He explains that the young woman had had "too much of people lately," and that the snow was a symbol of her own warmth, her desire to rest comfortably in a small, confined place. To think that this woman could have actually committed suicide if she had refused to let the fantasy fully speak to her! Literalism can thus be very dangerous, not least because seemingly nasty things are often symbols for the benign.

Another example of this use of feeling imagery follows:
"One woman was afraid she was homosexual because she wanted to look at women's figures. I suggested that she look all she wanted in fantasy. The inner wish to look went from legs to breast to her being cuddled like an infant by an older woman. She had been raised without a mother and really wanted the experience of being mothered."
I think that--at least in part--our culture's sexual liberalism is actually a sexual literalism. Here, a woman who thought she might be gay used fantasy to discover that she really just wanted to be mothered. But society today--both conservative and liberal--discourages this introspection. The one side asks you to repress fantasy, and the other side encourages you to act it out without reflection. Both are wrong. Instead, if you have a desire you find morally wrong, consider acting it out in fantasy; don't hold in or act out; act in. Fantasy is safe; if society has considered it dangerous, it's only because it has assumed that fantasies necessarily leads to action. But of course, they don't.

I encourage all of you reading to try this process. As Van Dusen says, it is "perhaps the briefest effective therapy one can do for one's self."

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fire within Being

I recently decided to revisit one of my favorite books ever, The Poetics of Reverie by Gaston Bachelard, and I discovered something that I found remarkable. So obviously I decided to make a post about it!

In the chapter called Reverie and Cosmos, he quotes an extraordinary passage by an obscure French writer named Henri Bosco. Speaking of fires burning in a hearth, he writes:
These fires have such a power over our memory that the immemorial lives dozing beyond the oldest memories waken within us at their flame and reveal to us the furthest countries of our secret soul. Alone, on this side of the time which presides over our existence, they brighten days previous to our days and unknowable thoughts of which our thought is perhaps often only the shadow. In contemplating these fires associated with man by millenia of fire, one loses the feeling of the flight of things; time sinks into absence, and hours leave us with no jolt. What was, what is, and what will be becomes by founding for itself the very presence of being; and nothing else in the enchanted soul distinguishes it from itself except perhaps the infinitely pure sensation of its existence. One affirms in no way that he is; but there still remains a faint gleam that he may be. Would I be? one murmurs to himself, and he no longer holds to the life of this world by anything but this hardly articulated doubt. The only human element that remains within us is warmth; for we no longer see the flame that communicates it. We are ourselves that familiar fire which has been burning at ground level since the dawn of the ages, but from which there always rises a living point above the hearth where the friendship of men keeps watch."
When I read this I was dumbstruck by its beauty. What's more--it makes sense, though I can barely explain why! But I want to try explaining that passage here, even if I don't do it justice.

Sometimes I feel like I'm just the echo of something far more real than I am. I get "glimpses" of that reality, mostly just the hint of a thought that intimates far more than it actually "says." These thoughts paint a picture of a life beyond life, one that is nevertheless nestled within life like a walnut in its shell. And what is this life like? It is warm; it is bright. Like a fire, I get the impression that it sustains life from within, linking things together as they share in its warmth. And I can feel that warmth anywhere. When I read a fiction book, for instance, I get a sense of the characters' presence, a distinct "feel" about them that I can't explain in any meaningful way. It's like the sensation of a color, but more the way the color--or a sound--makes you feel. Maybe I could explain it better by saying that what I feel in these books is their emotions, but it goes even deeper than emotions. I feel what the emotions grow from.

I guess the best way to explain it is to simply say that what I feel is fire--a warmth emanating from within everything: people, animals, books, ideas, or even inanimate objects. It comes through especially strong in scripture, almost as if the words there were an open door to the fire's heart. And I find that if I let this fire "lead" me--that is, letting it teach me where to go by what it shows me--I find the ideas I need to find and meet the people I need to meet. I sometimes wonder if the fire is simply leading me to the parts of my being "scattered" throughout the world, almost as if the fire has been "gathering" me.

And the fire also contains wonders. I get impressions that there are hidden universes dozing in even the most mundane things, that the fire in a book or a flower could open up to worlds beyond worlds, and forever on ad infinitum. And when I lose myself in that book or meditatively contemplate that flower, the fires in our depths meet and mingle; it becomes one flame, one depth.

Then I get a thought: could the fire which "reveals the furthest countries of my secret soul" be something we've all heard of before? Could it be that this flame--concealing worlds within even the most mundane things--is actually what we Mormons call the pre-mortal world? I think there's good reason to think so. I believe that when I gaze into the eyes of a loved one, I see into the deepest parts of their soul. In that warm intimacy, our co-mingling depths experience that which those depths spring from: the being of God Himself, the fire from whom all our flames spring.

And there's lots of precedent for this in the writings of spiritual teachers. Emanuel Swedenborg taught that God appears to the angels in heaven as a bright sun, illuminating that whole spiritual country with its warmth of love and its light of truth. But he also taught that human beings have a microcosmic version of that same sun: the aura:
"The angels went on to say that all angels have this kind of aura around them because the Lord does, and that the aura around the Lord is similarly derived from him. This aura is their sun, or the sun of the spiritual world."
Basically, the physical world shines out from the spiritual world and ultimately from God. From this perspective, auras are just the evidence we feel of that eternal fire's warmth and light of that eternal fire as it shines through the people and things we encounter in the world.

The philosopher-esotericist Rudolf Steiner also said something like this. He writes in his Foundations of Human Experience that what we see through our perception is the "reflection" of life as it was before birth. In other words, the things we see in the world are the evidence of something that existed "prior" to their existence, and he writes that when we see them we're using our will to bring them into the actuality of something "after" our life. Think of that--perception as resurrection!

I guess that if this "fire within being" means anything, it's that we get to our origins not by going into the past but by going into our depths. There is a fire at the heart of being, one which opens up into life before life, life within life. So I think that perhaps the pre-existence didn't happen chronologically before this life; maybe it rather exists within this life as the flame expressing itself through our thoughts, actions, and perceptions, that of which we are perhaps only a shadow.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Liahona's Second Spindle

I just realized something about the Book of Mormon, and I'd like to share it with y'all. It's about the Liahona, that "round ball of curious workmanship" that guided Lehi's party through the wilderness to the promised land.

Here's the verse I'll try to explain my idea from:
"And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness."(1 Nephi 16:10)
For those who don't know, the Liahona was basically an ancient GPS system. Of the two spindles, one of them pointed the way they should go to get to the better parts of the wilderness on their journey to the land of promise. But reading this verse a few nights ago got me thinking: what about the other spindle? If "the one" pointed whichever way they needed to go, what was the other doing there in the first place? If it didn't move, did it have a function at all?

That's when I remembered the "type" Alma the Younger applied to the Liahona in Alma 37, where he compares the Liahona to God's word:
"For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land." (Alma 37:44)
The scriptures are like the Liahona in that we can get direction in our lives by consulting them. I've been noticing this a lot lately--by pondering how the chapter I'm reading applies to my life, I'll get a subtle influx of revelation pointing me to where I need to go. But the key is that this revelation isn't in the Book of Mormon itself; it's only what occurs to me when I read the text, what "shines through the pages."

So I thought: could this have something to do with the two spindles? And then it hit me. I realized that if "the one" spindle corresponds to the way scriptures point the way forward in our lives, the stationary one must correspond to the actual, literal text. In that way, the Liahona is a lot like my experience of scripture-reading: two meanings pointing to something else, one that always stays the same (i.e. the literal meaning), and one that changes to fit our needs (the scriptures' meaning as I liken it to my life).

And then I realized something else: if the literal meaning is what stays the same between the many directions/meanings the Book of Mormon gives us, that means that the Book of Mormon's literal meaning is the pattern or archetype for events in human life. I can successfully liken Lehi's flight into the wilderness with my dating life, with family, with my church calling, with temptation, or even with metaphysics; thus the actual story told in the Book of Mormon is what lies in common between these events, their common "form."

So I guess you could say that the Book of Mormon is a collection of archetypes for human events, representations of ways that human behavior unfolds again and again. To paraphrase a description I've heard used for the I Ching, the Book of Mormon is a periodic table of human life. All the elements for our life's story are there. You just have to look closely enough, and you'll see your life in it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 as a Symbol

Today is September 11th. Fourteen years ago, I woke up to my mom telling me "something terrible has happened," and when I went to my third-grade classroom, the news footage was on the class's TV. I don't remember much from the next little while, except the fact that 9/11 dominated the news channels for the next few weeks.

I think we all struggle to understand 9/11's meaning. Though we know who did it and for what reasons, we still long to know: why? Why did it happen? How does this ultimate tragedy fit in our picture of the world? Though not sufficient to solve that riddle once and for all, I'll try to help answer the question in this post. Specifically, I'll use the writings of psychologist James Hillman to show how 9/11 manifests ancient and long-established archetypal themes. 9/11 isn't a meaningless tragedy--it "shows forth" symbols that have existed since that dawn of time, and, knowing this, we can understand what good can spring and has sprung from its ashes for our culture.

I do this with the utmost respect for the event's solemnity and the lives of those who died there. By re-interpreting it, I don't mean to disrespect them; I want to instead show at least part of what those deaths could mean.

From the dawn of human history, mankind has built towers. In ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, towers like the ziggurat and the pyramid were representations of "the cosmic mountain," symbols of the human desire to reconnect with heaven on earth. The biblical Book of Genesis, however, warns that these attempts at architectural transcendence are too literal--those who built the Tower of Babel thought that heaven could be reached by their own effort, that only a literal tower made of literal stone could get them high enough to know God. Let's then read the confusion of languages at Babel less as a punishment than as a mercy. God confused their languages to spare them the suffering that inevitably comes from reaching above the mark. Instead of climbing so high on the ladder that you fall, God confused them so they could return to the streets and soil of everyday life. Instead of climbing above the common, God tells us to find Him in it. Immanence takes the place of transcendence. Variety replaces hegemony.

Though likening 9/11 to the Tower of Babel may sound offensive, that comparison can help us understand the deeper meaning of the tragedy. It's a fact that western society tends toward idealizing unity, often to unhealthy levels. James Hillman compares this point to the Tower of Babel story when he writes:
"If, as Genesis eleven says, unity leads to hubris, then we must be wary of all attempts at unification--unified field theory in physics, single explanations of evolution in biochemistry and biotechnology, one true religion and one way to practice it, one interpretation of Holy Texts, one global economic system, one astrophysical explanation of the origins of the cosmos, one definition of democracy or of justice, and above all, one system of measurement by means of numbers for assessing value....Each attempt at unity arises from ambition and results in inflation. The desire for unity expresses the latent hubris of rational anthropocentrism, attempting to conquer with the human mind the powers of the invisible world which the Bible calls 'Heaven.'"
America--with its Manifest Destiny and its "melting pot"--has been teetering on the ladder of literalized unity and transcendence for centuries. Without saying that God caused the crash Himself, let's say that God tried to bring the good out of this tragedy, as He always does: after 9/11 "those exemplars of the top, the big shots, celebrities, executives, professionals, [and] politicians" became less important; attention returned to the common. Focus turned away from our gaze on progress and ascension and turned toward the beauty and love of the everyday. Says Hillman, "the soul of the city emerged, the soul that inhabits the streets, the public servants, the common gritty language, the down-to-earth gravitas of Mayor Giuliani." With 9/11, at least for a while, we stopped climbing. We came together as a people--not through literalized ascension, but by our ties to each other as family, friends, and citizens.

There was fear, of course, and anger. But disorientation and a desire for retribution always follow a "fall." Take the famous "fall of Adam," for instance--when Adam ate the fruit, he blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. This passing of blame manifests our longing for some kind of explanation, an existential security that would prevent us from further falls. So no wonder the angst after 9/11 turned into vengeful xenophobia--the fall disoriented us, and we turned our confusion into spite for those who brought that angst upon us.

But there is a better way. Because it still lingers in our memory, let's commit to keep remembering 9/11. Let's see Ground Zero as a "wound" in our collective psyche, one that opens up new ways of being. 

Says Hillman,
"A wound is a break through the surface, below superficiality. It is an opening of heightened sensitivity, like an eye that looks and an ear that listens differently, less blithely, more acutely, and like a mouth that speaks the language of vulnerability. The wound at Ground Zero has opened into the depths below usual life."
9/11--though a tragedy--functions as a call to the common, a way by which the luster of everyday life can show through. Wounds check our inflated ambition; they remind us of our limitations and our humanity. So let's make sure the scar in New York never fully heals. While "Ground Zero" means the site of an explosive tragedy, another of its definitions is "the starting point or base for some activity." From that perspective, 9/11 is a purging of our over-ambitious ascensionism; it burns up our transcendent fantasies and gets us to start anew, close to the ground. For, says Hillman, "the devastated earth in the depths of 'lower' Manhattan is the zero Ground of Possibility..."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Keeping the Law of Chastity (Part 3): Practical Tips

For this third and final post in my chastity series, I want to give you all some practical tips. In contrast to the general principles from my alchemy post, these are all things you can do right now to make it easier for you to be chaste:

Cold showers

Cold showers might seem scary at first, but when you get used to them they'll become one of the best parts of your day. It's true that warm showers are comfortable in the same way that a blanket or a hot bath is comfortable, but that kind of comfort lends itself to unchastity. Cold showers do the opposite: at first they make you uncomfortable, but that discomfort becomes a visceral sense of embodiment and physicality. In other words, cold showers have made me feel more physically there, figuratively letting "sulfur" express itself.

After you finish your cold shower (and it doesn't need to be long), you'll feel refreshed, alert, and alive. There are some Redditors on r/NoFap who say that cold showers increase testosterone levels, which both mimics some parts of sexual release and leaves you feeling better and more confident. I'm not sure if that's scientifically true, but I've definitely noticed those effects.


Exercise has pretty much the same role as cold showers in fighting the temptation to be unchaste: it physically embodies you and externalizes the "sulfur" that would otherwise get out through bad behaviors. As for the scientific question, I think it's pretty much a given that exercise causes good hormones to be released. So exercise is also one of the best things you can do to be chaste since it simulates the good parts of sexual release while leaving out the inappropriate parts.

When I exercise, I've felt more at peace (more "silvery,") since the sulfur bursting out within me had already "done its thing." I feel less anxiety and have fewer worries. Moreover, it lets me feel more energized, more awake, and more confident in myself.

Mindfulness meditation

I've been doing mindfulness meditation for about a year and a half now, and it can be a wonderful thing to experience. If you just sit and let your attention rest on your breathing, eventually you'll get to the point where any agitated thoughts and feelings calm down. You'll feel like everything is "permeable," as though "airy passages [were] built between all opposed things, light smooth streets [leading] from one pole to the other" (the quote is from Jung's Red Book). More simply, you'll feel at peace--both "brighter" and more calm.

As far as chastity goes, mindfulness meditation trains you so you can recognize impulses to unchastity a mile off. You "step back" enough from your feelings and thoughts to see them clearly, and you can say to an upcoming temptation "I see what you are, and I'm not falling for your tricks."

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga is probably the most powerful tool on this list. If you picked a few meditations to do every day--like the Sat Kriya and the Addiction Meditation, for example--you could perhaps get entirely over a porn addiction in a matter of months or even weeks. Kundalini Yoga teacher Felice Austen, whose blog I link to in the sidebar to the right, has seen this happen.

For your benefit, here are some video instructions on helpful Kundalini meditations from her YouTube channel:

First, the Sat Kriya, which I personally find the most powerful (it's the one I alluded to in the first post in this series):

Second, the Arcline Meditation, which is designed to--among other things--reduce your susceptibility to anxiety and temptation:

And finally, the Addiction Meditation, which I'm told can work wonders:

Mind hacks

There are a few mental tricks or "mind hacks" you can do to overcome urges and resist the temptation to unchastity.

First, urinate. If you're at the end of your rope, urinating can cause a release that can simulate the experience of sexual release just enough to get you to "hang on." Second, simply imagine sexual release. Oftentimes simply an imagined orgasm can give you enough mental comfort to lessen the urge, or even get rid of it altogether.

Here are some other YouTube videos, this time from the channel "Sacred Sexuality Project," on this topic. Note that he can be a bit candid sometimes, but know that he's a really good guy:


Prayer is a subtle but crucial tool in your arsenal against temptation. In the midst of being tempted toward unchastity, try praying to God to ask Him lessen your compulsive feelings. Or even better, try consecrating those feelings to Him, effectively saying "I give this energy to Thee to do with as Thou see fit."

The anonymously written medieval book The Cloud of Unknowing describes another way prayer can help someone who struggles with temptation:
"If it happens that particular sins which you have committed are always inserting themselves in your awareness between you and your God, or any new thought or impulse concerning any other sin is, you are bravely to step above it with a fervent impulse of love and tread it down under your feet. And try to cover them with a thick cloud of forgetting, as though they had never been committed by you or any other man. And if such thoughts often arise, put them down often; in short, as often as they arise, as often put them down."
This works for both new temptations and temptations to despair over past failures. And that brings up a crucial point: always try to fight against temptation as though you're doing it for the first time, "forgetting" any previous failures or triumphs. If you don't do this and instead act from those failures and successes, you'll just go onto a roller-coaster or see-saw between righteousness and sin. Act from God; don't try to reach God as though you were separate from Him.


Well, that's that for my chastity series. I hope I've been able to help people out there; I have an inkling that I have, since these posts in particular have gotten more views in a shorter time than most other posts. Just know that you are loved and that you are worthwhile, whatever your struggles and whatever your past. Sin and subsequent repentance are refining fires, and often you'll emerge better off than you were before the sin.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Keeping the Law of Chastity (Part 2): An Alchemy of Desire

In this next post on chastity, I'm going to connect the experience of sexual feelings to something you might think is odd: alchemy. Alchemy was a medieval practice of manipulating various kinds of matter, one that ultimately morphed into chemistry. But before it was a science (or at least science as we know it today), alchemy was as spiritual and psychological art. The alchemists assumed that something called "the doctrine of correspondences" was true--the idea (which also appears in Swedenborg's writings) that spiritual realities "appeared" in physical things--and so they talked about things like silver, salt, or sulfur as though they were spiritual phenomena. So while the physical side of the alchemists' studies has been disproven, the spiritual or psychological side hasn't. This leaves the field open for any number of psychological interpretations of alchemical texts, which psychologists like Carl Jung and James Hillman have done quite a bit.

In this post, I'll mainly rely on interpretations in two books by Hillman, called Alchemical Psychology and The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World, though I'll also borrow some insights from Renaissance thinker Jakob Boehme's Signature of All Things.

Fire and furnaces

What does lust feel like? Experience tells us that it's a kind of heat, or to put it better, a fire. And fire is just what the alchemists would have called that feeling. Fire is "an invisible heat," my inner sense of burning lust for life in all its forms. You can see that fire in any kind of desire: the fires of sexual passion, my compulsion to get some new possession, and even my love for God (a "burning in the bosom") are all ways that I experience that inner flame

But there is a danger with fire--it's easy to lose control of it. From an alchemical perspective, that's why the fire needs a furnaceFurnaces correspond to a system in place that keeps desire under control, that contains that fire and lets it flare up within limits. Says James Hillman, "rules are made to keep the fire in bounds." If you have trouble controlling your desire's fire, ask yourself: do I have a furnace that's designed well enough to keep that fire in check? This means discipline: perhaps following a rigid schedule; controlled ways of letting the fire flare up; or saying "no" to some activities that are too much of a "fire hazard."

But even if this is hard for you, know that one of fire's main alchemical purposes is transmutation. The intensity of desire we feel in this flame is what melts ossified, leaden moods and brings about psychological change. If you feel like you're suffocating in flame, know that that fire is a sure sign that the Opus, or the alchemical work to realize divinity in matter, is well underway.

Sulfur's extraversion

The flammable chemical called "sulfur" was very important to the alchemists, as it--with salt and mercury--made up the alchemical trinity of primary substances. They thought of sulfur as the life-principle of all things, what caused the fire of life to erupt in anything and everything. Jakob Boehme writes that "[Sulfur] is the [will to manifestation] of the Light, or the Liberty, which longs to Manifestation, and it cannot otherwise be effected but through Fire," implying that sulfur is the way the invisible "freedom" at the heart of Being becomes manifest, or the means by which the invisible becomes visible at all. Sulfur is what gives things "body;" it moves "outward" into the world so it can more fully manifest the spiritual in physical things.

So when you "burn with desire" for a person or a thing, the alchemists would say that the sulfur in you is drawing you outward to the world through that desire. As sulfur is flammable, it ignites desire's fire to get you to make the internal external, to "extravert" yourself. So another piece of advice the alchemists can give us is that--as sulfur has an innate extraversum or outward-turning--a way to stop that sulfur flaring up against my will is to let it flare up willingly, in a way that goes with my values. So, get out into the world! Exercise, socialize, take risks; by thus extraverting myself, I let the the sulfur of my innate tendency toward bodily manifestation "get out." As Hillman writes, "compulsion becomes will through courage."

Sulfur and silver

The alchemists thought of silver as the metal of Luna, the moon. As such, it had a traditionally feminine association: passivity, the internal, and self-repose are all its correspondences. Like mirrors made out of silver, silver also corresponds to reflection--it acts like a mirror removed enough from the physical world to reflect that world into itself, to internalize coarse, literal matter as it becomes subtle matter. If you read my post on Kundalini Yoga, you'll know what I mean when I say that silver corresponds to visuddha or the throat chakra--a state of being where everything physical is seen as spiritual, where all things get etherealized into image and word. As such, silver has an important role in the alchemical Opus, since the operation called the Albedo that "whitened" other things into silver purified them of coarse imperfections so as to become more of a subtle matter.

You'll recognize silver in self-content daydreams, in meditation's peace of mind, and in the still peace of mind that comes when reading poetry or literature. I myself am particularly prone to "silvered" moods. But as anyone who's tried to pick up a fried egg with a silver spoon knows, silver gets easily scorched by sulfur. In other words, those light, airy moments of peace and well-being have an innate tendency toward sulfuric passion in them, and if that dichotomy between heat and coolness is left alone, you'll enter a seesaw between the two. What do the alchemists suggest as a remedy? That silver and sulfur temper each other, to where silver becomes "hotter" and sulfur becomes more reflective. This means, first, seeing my desires (i.e. the fire from sulfur) as images and thus taking them not literally but imaginatively. Second, it means letting my airy reflection harbor passion and heat without getting out of hand. So don't be afraid of your fantasies, even if they are "racy." Take them as images, ways that sulfur can embody itself in silver's "white earth" and not in the coarse earth of literal matter.

Sulfur and salt

As any cook knows, salt brings out the flavor of whatever you sprinkle it on. Salt thus corresponds to the principle that reveals the specific, particular natures of things--showing us the nuances of ways in which things are different. Moreover, it gives things "fixity"--it makes things "sharper," more definite, more real. When we say that you should "take something with a grain of salt," we mean to use the salt of your common sense to discriminate the real nature of the thing. When we say that you're "worth your salt," we perhaps mean that you're living up to the essential nature that salt lets us see.

But salt, as the essence of experience, isn't experienced as pleasant. Like the principle of Necessity in my tabletop role playing post, salt shows us things "that are what they are," which comes as a stinging awareness of my world's and my life's necessary limitation. You taste salt when you see yourself in your true colors and no longer hidden behind pretensions, as you do when you say "oh gosh, I really was that stupid, wasn't I?"

But salt's stinging realization has a really positive purpose: it kills sulfur's fire. Just as salt can't catch fire, the bitter taste of regret and harsh reality is immune to desire's compulsion. So if you find yourself about to do something stupid (i.e. be unchaste), pull out some salt. Get an awareness of what it is you're really doing; remember the suffering you felt in similar past situations, and imagine how you'll feel when the unchastity is done. By adding salt to the situation in this way, you add salt to your own being. Thus, you yourself become more "essential," as you get more of a sense of "you-ness" of "how it feels to be you." Salt builds mental body.

Anyway, that's about it for this post. Check back soon for part 3!