Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Visionary Activist Principles

Read this post on my new blog A Sea of Glass and Fire.

I regularly listen to The New School at Commonweal‘s podcast. The host Michael Lerner is one of the wisest, most sober men I have encountered, and the discussions about everything from Jung to Gurdjieff to Rudolf Steiner have illuminated me beyond measure. So I was a bit surprised when the March 20 podcast from last spring featured one Caroline Casey, a self-proclaimed visionary activist and professional astrologer. But when I actually listened to her, I was astounded. She is like a sacred comedian; she runs a website called Coyote Network News, subtitled “a mythological news service for the Trickster-Redeemer within us all,” which demonstrates a bit of her character. She is what she calls “reverently irreverent”: flippant, off-color, and hilarious in a way that brings us closer to the divine. You’d have to hear her to understand what I mean. And lucky for you, you can: she hosts a weekly radio show/podcast called The Visionary Activist Show, a discussion of current events, spirituality, and even astrology, which largely inspired my recent “Imaginal News” series of posts. Check it out.
I have come to adore Caroline so much that I decided to get her book Making the Gods Work For You on Kindle. After readin it, I’ve come to think differently of astrology than I used to, but that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I want to list her seven “visionary activist principles” that she gives at the beginning of her book and comment on them a bit. They’re profound and very needed, so I wanted to bring them to your attention.
PRINCIPLE 0 (ZERO). Believe nothing, entertain possibilities. Therefore everything hereafter is offered playfully. 
This is the crux of the matter, and it’s our culture’s redemption. I realized after reading this that I had thought this way for at least the last few years but that almost no one else does. When you think in terms of what could be in terms of what you think actually is, then the world becomes. No longer filtered through a fixed set of beliefs, you can meet things on their own terms. Life as a dance, not as an intellectual subjugation of the world.
PRINCIPLE 1. Imagination lays the tracks for the Reality Train to follow.
Imagination is the way the unseen manifests in the seen at all. As Sufi mystics explained, the imagination is a barzakh or medium through which the divine can connect with and inhabit the world of finite matter. As such, any imaginative act is an act of God, a preliminary act of creation. That’s not to say you can’t pervert this ability to your own ends; you can, and that’s what Caroline calls “black magic.” Instead of that, you should channel divine energies toward an end that works for both you and the whole. Instead of subverting an “perpendicular” impulse, you “spiral” it with your own.
PRINCIPLE 2. Better to create prophecy than to live prediction. What makes us passive is toxic. What makes us active is tonic. This is the difference between predictions, which make us passive, and prophecy, which is active co-creation with the divine.
Swedenborg once wrote that God doesn’t give us much knowledge of the future because that knowledge would make us either passive or paranoid. But you can get to the point where the divine  trusts you with prophecy, not as a guarantee that things will work out no matter what, but as a loosely guiding impulse that you can help direct. When you know the future, it’s much better to work with it than to fight it or slothfully submit to it. Again, a spiral of human and divine.
PRINCIPLE 3. The invisible world would like to help, but spiritual etiquette requires that we ask. Help is always available (operators are standing by).
The world which imagination manifests – the spiritual world, the world of divine love – cannot help us unless we ask. Helping without our asking would violate our free will, and it would also get us to shrink back from the spiritual in fear or annoyance. Prayer is a superlatively effective “asking for help” like this. When you pray, you go and ask for help from the root of all divinity, and that divinity plants a seed in you that grows into something that will work for both you and Him.
PRINCIPLE 4. The only way the gods know we’re asking for help is ritual.
When Caroline writes the word “ritual,” I take it to mean any physical action that incarnates a divine principle. Prayer is obviously a ritualistic action like this: you have to do something to pray, and the more you make it a physical action, the more powerful it becomes. But you can also use other rituals in tandem with prayer. Anything that symbolically corresponds to a divine quality can be used as a way to focus the light of that quality in your life. For instance, I do this with books: if a book symbolizes something meaningful for me at a certain moment, I’ll put it in my personal sacred space to reinforce the divinity trying to get through in that meaning. By doing that, I work with the god (the divine aspect) working in that situation.
PRINCIPLE 5. If something’s a problem, make it bigger.
This is very counter-intuitive, but it’s a true principle. If you struggle with something, there is something good in you trying to get out through that struggle. Evil is just our denial of the good that, without our help, comes out in ungainly ways. By making the problem bigger, you communicate to that goodness that you are willing to work with it. “Step out into the light,” you tell the good in your struggle. “Let’s see what you have to say.”
PRINCIPLE 6. We only possess the power of an insight when we give it expression.
Truths are great. You can read books for years and years and get lots of them, but it won’t be worth anything if it doesn’t lead to action. Swedenborg also says this. Without expression in “usefulness,” a truth is a dead, or better stillborn, thing. Only actions bring true insights to life.
PRINCIPLE 7. Creativity comes from the wedding of paradox. We aspire to be disciplined wild people who are radical traditionalists.
A huge problem today is that people can only think in extremes. And more specifically, they only identify with one of the extremes. But the issue really comes to light when you ask: “Who decided where to draw the lines in the first place? What makes it so everyone agrees on where the line is?” The reality is that we’ve all been duped. There is no ultimate liberalism or conservativism, no spiritual nor secular: conservatism wasn’t anything until liberalism came along, and neither was spiriutality until the first secularists. We rebel against these blind dichotomies by accepting elements from both sides. So doing, we can recreate the vibrant whole that existed before we divvied it up into sides.
That’s that. Practice these principles, and see the amazing things that result.

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