Thursday, July 13, 2017

Intimations on Autism

Without a kind of marriage, nothing ever exists or is produced. In the very organic forms of man, both composite and simple, and even in the most simple, there is a passive and an active, which, if they were not coupled as in a marriage, like that of man and wife, could not even be there, still less produce anything, and the case is the same throughout universal nature. These incessant marriages derive their source and origin from the heavenly marriage; and thereby there is impressed upon everything in universal nature, both animate and inanimate, an idea of the Lord's kingdom. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 718

The love of recognizing objects, from the love of being circumspect and defending one's self, has the sense of touch, the pleasures whereof are titillations. That the love of conjoining one's self with one's consort, from the love of uniting good and truth, has the sense of touch is because that sense is common to all the senses and hence takes tribute from all. That this love brings all the above-mentioned senses into communion with itself and appropriates to itself their pleasures, is well known. That the sense of touch is dedicated to conjugial love and is the sense proper thereto, is evident from its every sport and from the exaltation of its refinements to the supremely exquisite. But the further pursuit of this subject is left to lovers. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Conjugial Love 210

"The Lord God said: it is not good for man to be alone." - Genesis 2:18

Autism is the separation of intention and form, of feeling from thought. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Happiness, sadness, pain, heartache, love, tears, joy - this is all there, but the body does not respond. Fire is inside, but it cannot inflame the body's form. The body is obstinate, unwilling to cooperate.

Why? It doesn't know how. There is no bridge, no intermediate principle (link) between the fire of intention and the heavy, plod-plod body that would carry out the intention. There is no water slide, only the precipice and the abyss below. There is no ease; only the abrupt transition from above to below. Everything is collision; nothing is ease-y. Everything is hard.

There is a consolation: the autistic person, if they know feeling, know it more purely than anyone else. Whereas the woman moving with smooth gestures and the man holding his head up with a well-defined presence may think they feel, they don't. For they have confused intention and form. They are one for the socially adept. If they have never been separate, how could they be seen as different? The autistic individual, with the locked-in obsession, the tense muscles, and the abrupt motions, may not move their hands like ripples on the water or walk with well-tuned rhythm, but they don't have to. The water and the rhythm are there, pure, in the spirit, untainted by bodily coating. Autism is spirit distilled from matter.

And yet there is a possibility for change. A remote one, a delicate one, but a glimmer that is nevertheless there: courting. The autistic spirit must court the non-responsive body. For what is it that happens in any developing relationship? The one must see his spirit in her spirit. See the courting couple! See the way the man leans on the table and how the woman, mirroring his gesture, unconsciously responds. See smiles light up between a group of people like a wildfire, no one aware of what he or she is doing. This is unconscious, but it is the same unconsciousness that the hand has when it picks up an object on the table. When we court, we become organs in a single body. Your body is a marriage, and every marriage is a body.

So too with the heart (the intention) and the head (the organ of form). For Joe Blow on the street, they are a happily married couple who have slept skin to skin for decades. For the toe-walking, stiff-gestured autistic, the two are apart. They fear and hate each other. For how could you trust thought when it distorts everything and pins everything down? How could you trust feeling when it has no place to be? And yet they are both mistaken. Thought embraces feeling; feeling gives warmth for thought. And despite the fear, despite the terrifying plod-plod of the form that is the body, despite the open abyss that is emotion, they can unite. And it is wonderful.

The beginning is sight. The spirit, the feeling, intending fire in the heart, must see the form of thought and body. They must simply look at each other. They stand in front of each other, tentative, unsure, afraid. But then they notice: we are not that different, you and I. Like in the scene in Disney's Tarzan which can only be described as bespeaking a deeply spiritual reality, feeling says "I have hands, but so do you." And they touch. And then the relief comes. And then the tears. The dam breaks. The hand reaches through the mirror. The eyes soften and let in the world.

And in that moment, the autistic person says this: "I am not alone. I never was. The warmth in me, hidden, distilled, pure, had forgotten the taste of touch where, through form, warmth discovers itself anew in another. And while this was not without value, it was exhausting, and I deserve rest. This rest is reincarnation through touch; resurrection through matching palms. I can have me and you at the same time. And this grace is only discovered where the oneness of warmth, of feeling, of intention, of verbitude (link) realizes that it can slip, warmly, comfortably, under the covers with definition, with body, with thought, with form, with nounitude. This light is possible. You can have it. And it is seeking you. Just let her reach out and touch her palms to yours.

1 comment: