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.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Response: Why People Leave the Church and Never Come Back (With Weeping Angels)

So this is a fantastic article that you should read. It's devotional, upbuilding, and real. I had two sets of thoughts while reading it:

Why People Leave the Church and Never Come Back

First, I realized how perniciously focused we are as a church culture on how much either I or other people measure up to certain expectations, be they commandments or mere norms, and how much we equate both a) commandments and norms, and b) the act of measuring up to these expectations with the act of obtaining worth. This is wrong. Worth is not a function of following norms or even commandments. Worth is a way I conceive of myself that, if I adopt this conception as an assumption or an act of faith, will both justify that assumption insofar as I believe and act on it and lead me to follow commandments as an expression of love for He who loves me and whose love is presupposed and believed in with that assumption.

Second, I realized that I haven't experienced judgment from church culture for a long time, even though I used to, and even though I'm probably more unorthodox now than I was then. I wondered why this was, especially considering that others can and do experience said judgment. I came to the provisional conclusion that it's because I stopped considering *myself* as unorthodox a few years back. It makes me wonder how much of judgment from others is a function of self-judgment (as well as vice versa, which is also very true), since perhaps insofar as I treat myself as someone who belongs, the others in my group will treat me in the same way I treat myself. Judgment or the lack thereof, then, are maybe acts of of reciprocal "role-casting," where the role I/the group casts me in is the same role the group/I cast me in. This is a problem. How do you break the cycle? I'm not sure how I did it, and I don't know if it would be as easy for someone who, say, struggles with same-sex attraction. But here are some thoughts anyway:

To stop casting myself or others in a problematic way that reinforces itself cyclically over time, I'd need to realize that this cycle is, first and foremost, a way of organizing my being-in-the-world that gives certain elements of my being-in-the-world (me, you, the church, the bishop, that guy, that girl, God) certain significances. This is always true, and (crucially) it is objectively true across persons. I am "the one who is judged" both to me and to others. Since our motor, affective models of the world and our collective situation in it cohere together, reciprocally co-implicate, and depend on each other, affective "roles" for certain people or types of people will reinforce themselves across time. This is true politically: a liberal person is someone who is cast both by themselves and by conservatives as "the opponent of conservatives." That, funnily enough, is something that almost everyone agrees on across the spectrum, in this era of partisan politics: "That conservatives are the opponents of liberals and liberals are the opponents of conservatives." But I digress.

To heal from this state where these co-implicating significances rule ( like "I am an unorthodox person," say), we'd need to introduce not merely a new meaning but a new meaning-generative complex. That is, I not only need to reconceptualize myself (since this would use and operate within the same mode of conceptualizing; I'd just, maybe take a different role in the same generative system; I'd become someone orthodox, but then someone else would take the unorthodox role and I'd be the aggressor instead of the victim) but instead change my *method* of conceptualizing *and* reconceptutalizing both myself and the world. I'd need to *signify* in a different way.

This can happen in innocuous ways, like with me above. For instance, a mode of representing both me and the world can expire, and a new one can take its place. You can never will this, obviously (since the will would come from the old representative place), but it can happen incidentally. But you can pray, and not just to God. If you ask for a representative state to represent itself in you, it often will, without you knowing. These representative modes of beings are archetypes, gods, if you will, and can be talked to and acted from. And you can "fake it till you make it." In the same way that deliberate rhythmic breathing in bed will turn into sleep's deep breathing on its own, and in the same way that the Dionysian initiate would *become* Dionysus by mimicking him in the mystery center, if you pretend that you're orthodox, you eventually will be.

But, interestingly, *sin* is a generative, representative state like this. We are all born into this state. We can't get rid of it. But Christ can. Christ is the factor in me that not only gives me something to know or learn (i.e. a different way of seeing myself) but more importantly gives me a different way of knowing and learning. Christ does not operate within our modes of representation; he doesn't work with these reciprocal co-implications; he breaks them open. He frees us from the prison not only of our thoughts but of our systems for generating thoughts.

And how does this work? Not by our works (those works represent themselves, of course, from a mode of "working" that is itself sinful, is itself what Christ is here to save us from), and not by a mere verbal declaration of faith (which also comes from a sinful place). Instead, Christ's redemption and liberation comes by magnifying the sinful mode of working and speaking in us until, in a moment of despair that we can't plan and can't facilitate, we abandon the representative model at the lowest level of representation, of what precedes representations, words, or works themselves, on the level of *representing*. Why? Because it consummates itself and you don't go down with the ship.

Two parables to illustrate this point: first, if you do zazen in full-lotus pose with your ankles above your knees, and if (like me) you're not too flexible, it will hurt. But then you'll realize that the reason it hurts is because the regular muscle tension in your legs (i.e. what *situates* and *represents* your movements) has been exaggerated to the point of pain. So you relax them. And then you realize...wait...I *can* relax them. I can do that? Oh...*that's* what peace feels like. I had forgotten.

Second, the episode "Blink" of Doctor Who's third season ends with an almost insoluble problem: Sally and Larry (I looked up their names!) are trapped by weeping angels in the Tardis, but, oh no!, the Tardis is disappearing and the angels are surrounding them. They will die. It is certain. How could it not be? But in the Doctor's genius, the angels, who turn themselves to stone if ever looked at, are *looking at each other*. In the moment of despair, in the moment of hopelessness, is when evil destroys itself in its own crossfire (this type of escape is also, btw, a crucial plot point in Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary, which was written by the same guy).

So, in short, evil needs to be let out and allowed to self-destruct. The painful, sinful representative mode must exaggerate itself to the degree where the mode *as such* becomes apparent and not just what that mode represents. But you can't expedite the process. The only thing you can do is pray to God to do so, to pray to be surprised by the grace of despair and, thereby, by the freedom that flees despair's shipwreck, the Ark that survives the Flood.

But I lie. You *can* expedite the process. But not directly. Instead, you must give God something to work with. Every time you read scripture, you give the aspect of you that can and will liberate itself in this crisis tools to a) liberate itself, and b) to allow evil to condemn itself (a and b are the same). Good, or God, does not condemn evil; He and it disclose evil as evil and let evil destroy and condemn itself. God loves the souls in Hell (as we all are, to an extent) too much to do anything but expel it slowly.

Why Jordan Peterson Lives in the Signifying Present and Sam Harris Lives in the Signified Past

I just watched the first debate of Jordan Peterson with Sam Harris on YouTube. 

I haven't watched debate #2 yet, but I will. From what I saw so far, this debate displayed the following existential conflict: the capacity to order language and ideas across time, which operates and functions at the level of and functions in, though, and as the a priori, distinguishing, demarcating, meaning-creating centers of activity that precede, transcend, update, and unify meanings (displayed by but never explicitly stated by Peterson), vs Harris' capacity to (only) move ideas and meanings around, which relies on acts of distinguishing, demarcating, and meaning-creation which

a) he's unconscious of

b) were done by others in the past,

c) he doesn't understand the nature of,

and d) he will only admit exist with pressure. And he does (they both call them, I think unhelpfully, "intuitions")

Sam's big idea is that meaning is a function of accounts of what is (facts, in other words), but implicit in Peterson's point (as far as I can tell; he struggles to say this explicitly; I sure did too; English is not a language that lends itself to this kind of thinking) is that meaning is a function of activities that

a) ontologically precede accounts of what is, that is, facts (since it's not clear how an account of what is, which is an act that occurs at a given moment, can also give an account of that in what is that transcends said moment and only exists in, through, and as that transcendence, which is, itself, an activity that creates what is in its wake),

b) transcend accounts of what is (for the same reasons),

c) update accounts of what is (since an account of what is can be demonstrated as wrong by certain new accounts of what is, or facts, that become apparent to us, and since this "becoming apparent" is itself an activity that cannot be accounted for as fact, since it exists in, through, and as the act of transcending accounts of what is),

and d) unify accounts of what is (since this level of activity, as what exists in, through, and as the perpetual transcendence of the accounts of what is that occurs across time, is what allows us to posit that two elements of an account of what is can cohere in some meaningful way as the same account).
In other, much shorter words, Harris moves around elements of meaning that have been situated, whereas Peterson operates at the level of what situates meaning, of meaning (the gerund) itself.

This isn't arbitrary

a) because it's not clear how we can have meaning at all, to not succumb to nihilism, without centers of meaning that precede, transcend, update, and unify individual meanings,

b) because in order to allow one word to succeed another over time instead of another, I have to choose it for some generative, meaning-creating reason, to participate in an activity that privileges one value over another and thereby creates one meaning and not another.

c) because people have different such modes of letting words succeed each other in ways we can talk about and discuss.

d) because these centers of generative activity are, put differently, that which privileges one value over another in action (like speech or writing) are, therefore, what exists in and through meaningful action, are, therefore, what exists as the reason I choose that act over another, and are, therefore, the moral intuitions that Peterson and Harris both agree exist and can't be explained away

and e) because these generative centers, as what unifies a chain of signified meanings across time, is by definition *narrative," and we enjoy narrative as a culture.

TL;DR: Harris lives and works in the signified past and Peterson lives and works in the signifying present. Harris sees meaning as a function of facts, of accounts of what is; Peterson sees meaning as a function of the generative centers that precede, transcend, update, and unify accounts of what is, i.e., moral intuitions. Harris operates only using the logic of "meaning" as a noun, where Peterson also operates at the level where he can use "meaning" as a gerund. The former is trapped by what has been signified and can only see what precedes, transcends, updates, and unifies what has been signified as arbitrary nonsense. The latter knows that this preceding, transcending, updating, unifying activity is not nonsense but is a) the condition for any sense, and b) intelligible and something we can discuss.

Btw, I suspect that Peterson hasn't articulated this to himself, but this distinction seems to be at the heart of their disagreement and, more broadly, certain philosophical conflicts in general (like whether or not Heidegger is saying anything but nonsense).

Reuniting Nouns and Verbs: An Insoluble Problem and the Dream that Solved It

This post is a combination of two Facebook posts: one from yesterday, where I articulated a problem that's been plaguing me for a long time, and one from this morning, where I recounted a dream I had last night and explained how it solved that problem for me. This is a milestone for me, and it is not only because it is objectively a milestone, but also because I will *make* it more and more of a milestone by the act of subjectively taking up the belief that it is a milestone.

Post 1:

A huge, pervasive problem I see no one talking about:

As far as I can tell, most people assume that to be right is desirable and to be wrong is undesirable. Moreover, if that's the case, and if someone asserts a point of view that contradicts mine, to retain the desirable state of being right, I have to assert (either privately to myself or to them) that they're wrong. But this is to deny them the desirable state of being right (either in my consideration of them or as a possibility in their consideration of themselves) and is, therefore, something I do to benefit myself at the expense of other people. To declare either privately or publicly that I'm right and you're wrong seems to be selfish, unsocial, and immoral. In short, I can't see how you can have a) the peace and existential security of knowing you're right and b) allow other people who think differently that same peace.

I, for one, have always subliminally chosen b) over a). In arguments with people, I tend to (generally only privately) assume that they must know something I don't if they disagree with me, even if (to be honest) in the vast majority of the cases what *they* don't know vastly outweighs what I don't know. I choose to let them have the existential security of being right and deny it to myself; that, to me, is the only virtuous thing. But it wrecks my psyche. I am torn apart by people whom I respect and trust who disagree with each other. And respect everyone. It has made me mentally unstable at times. I need to find a solution to stay sane or even alive. This has driven my intellectual pursuits for the past few years.

A few potential solutions:

1) I could let you have your opinion and let me have mine. This seems doubtful and inconsistent. To posit a is to posit that not a is false. So even if I merely declare an opinion to myself, I'm asserting to myself that you are wrong and, therefore, in an undesirable state.

2) I could not tell x person that they're wrong and spare then the pain of lacking that desirable state. This is good for them but not good for me; there is a microcosm of them in me that suffers whenever I call them out even privately. This is another way of stating my "morality."

3) Have peace at the expense of virtue. No. I can't and I won't.

4) Change my idea of virtue. I can't. My "morality" is, really, the primeval togetherness of people where you are a part of me and I am a part of you. To be honest, this isn't a conscious choice but part of my tendencies as someone on the spectrum. I could maybe change that, and I'm trying, but it won't be easy. This doesn't mean, however, that I don't think it's *objectively* immoral to posit my opinion over yours. I do.

5) Avoid confrontation. A version of 3. I really want to, but I can't. I have too much to say, to many people to help, to privilege my own we'll being over others. Not only that, but avoiding places where there *might* be confrontation generally leaves me mentally understimulated.

6) Care more about what is the case than who's saying what is the case. A version of 4). This is valid in certain ways: if I don't know what's right, I could lack information that could help me later. That's fair. But this perspective also ignores that truth, as a correct representation of being, does not exist apart from a specific representation of being. The table over there is real, yes. Is it true? That's meaningless. "Objective" truth is as nonsensical an idea as a book that includes everything, including (somehow) itself and the media/conditions for the representation it is. There is no true representation or conception, or one that claims to be true, without someone to posit it. And as such it falls prey to the problems I've delimited here. Of course, there is the problem of information that doesn't fit my model and whether or not I ignore that information, whether it comes from others or from the world. I agree with Jordan Peterson on this point, who says that this act is the origin of evil. However, I wonder if to "posit" itself, as a representation, in a certain sense is to ignore what doesn't fit that representation. People seldom say "x, but x could be wrong," especially since this means to say "x" and then "not x." There's something fishy here.

7) Figure out a way to expose denotative language, logic, and the idea of positing "what is the case" as a fraud. This is my best, desperate bet, methinks. It's what I've been trying to make clear to myself at BYU. I suspect that "positing" is nothing more than a selfish, arrogant, left-hemisphere language game used to justify control, patriarchy, and conflict in rent way I've described here. Language doesn't have to posit; it can gesture.

Just figured out how to say this. Thank God. It's been slumbering subliminally for a while. Tell me what you think.

Post 2:

A (big, in the technical sense) dream I had last night that subliminally represents and solves the problem I articulated with yesterday's post:

I am at the theater, and a woman gives me (as Shrek) the grace of pushing me out of the boundaries of the theater before the theater and everyone in it is sucked into another world and goes beyond reach, beyond what can ever come back again. This is what is depicted in Avengers Infinity War: half goes away. I make it by the skin of my teeth. The worlds created by the split become split off and develop in parallel ways. In the original world, there is great mourning and sadness. This sadness is Terrence Mckenna's death. I am with a group of people who study Christian ideas under Terrence McKenna's model. In a dark passageway that *is* the Internet and the search for knowledge, I encounter him saying that the split in Avengers Infinity War was cosmically foreseen in the Bible; it is the split of Revelation, the "Rapture." In this group, I write (on a yellow sheet of notepad paper) my model for the world, the way I conceive of this tragedy, the way I process it, poetically. I wrote a lot (a lot of it was in an earlier medium and didn't survive, but I summarized it), and the arbiter there, Terrence Mckenna's friend and the head of it not only after he died but before he died as well (this bridges over his death), isn't too much of a fan of the bulk of it, a long rambling poem, but really likes the beginning summary even though I didn't see it at first, and even if I did, I didn't register its significance. The world that left inhabits a previously uninhabited world, one that starts over from the beginning, a green world, a world where a new civilization develops, a world dominated (sadly) by Trump and his cronies. This world itself is divided into two parts: a privileged class and an unprivileged class. The privileged class is constituted by those who inhabited "the head" of the theater during the split; the unprivileged happened to inhabit other, lower parts of its "body." This is arbitrary and totally unjust, but it is law. There is a kind of intelligent metal, one that grows and develops in adaptive, intelligent ways, that produces amazing things for the privileged class. It is barely used for the unprivileged class. The metal is a microcosm of cities, a city-ing, an adaptive, generative, intelligent producer of structure and order. There is the hint of an idea that we will overthrow the order. I pop into this world by free choice. I am met my brother's boss, a Trump, but a good Trump. I am here to overthrow order; I wouldn't have come otherwise. It's not clear I will succeed. at one point (I'm not sure when), the boy king/prince of this world speaks to his mother, who is immortal even if he isn't (she transcends the split between the worlds), and asks her what it's like to be a "Valkyrie." She says that it's like living 80, 180 (something like that ) years (almost to the end of the boy king's life) and still being the same age. There's something unnatural about it. This is related to Trump, the arbitrariness and absurdity of this split, of this world. This second world is brighter, greener, somehow. It is a new beginning, but one with a perverse streak. At one point, the part of me that inhabits the second world tries to go back to the first, an *impossibility*, but I manage it. I go back to the world that had cast us out. And there, Captain Hook, a version of Donald Trump that's only (if anything) "prior," inhabits this world alone to revel in himself. He is totally, perversely evil. This is the house, and it is empty, empty except for Tre, who is nearing the end of his life and is being trained by Hook for his purposes (including watching out for intruders). I go to Mom's bedroom, where Hook had remained, and I find his phone. My sisters are here with me; they came too. We look through his phone, find the state of the world we had left behind. But then he comes back, and I, in rage for the catastrophic split he inflicted for his own selfish, self-indulgent reasons, seize him. I want to dismember him, tear his head off, crush it, tear his limbs off, and I see the malevolence in his face, and I realize that, yes, he is pure, unadulterated evil, but if anything, that makes me realize that to kill him would perpetuate his evil. So I stop, and to prevent him from ever leaving, I condemn him to 600 years (I.e. a long, purgative time) of torture, after which he can be freed. Then I realize that, wait, it wasn't just Hook; the half of the world that remained is still here. I catch up on everything that happened on social media in the hundreds of years since Hook split the worlds. I see the Mutual matches I had missed while they weren't sure if I had been raptured. I see the other half of the Tinder announcement grieving this "Rapture," a parallel of what had developed on the other side. I see Instagram, Facebook, everything that I had missed. I/we are the first to cross back over. We will heal the split. 

This dream depicts a catastrophic cosmic event, an event that occurs in what ontologically precedes history, that is, what occurs perpetually, what repeats, in each of our lives in a way that we are totally helpless to and have forgotten. The dream, aided by my logical articulation yesterday, is an *imaginative* articulation of the same problem.

The "theater" (i.e. my folks' place) is, obviously, a stage, a place of representation, a place where representation is married to the things that represent it, where representation is plastic to the world that transcends representation, where the stage is permeable. The theater's "rapture" is what occurs when representation is severed from what transcends and updates representation. This splits the world into two: the world seen only as representation, as something fixed, something that can be updated, even if we're unsure how something that "updates" representation can exist at all if it's not represented, and the ("empty") world that lives in the act of representation, that is "representative." The world that leaves is the world of represented things; the world that is left is the world of representing things. The world that leaves is the left hemisphere of the brain; the world that is left is the right hemisphere of the brain. The world that leaves is the world seen as a collection of things, of nouns; the world that is left is the world as process, as verb. You can leave from the representative to the represented, go "downstream" (we do it all the time), but it's *so* rare to go from the represented to the representative, to go *upstream.* This is why you can leave one world and go to the other but (apparently) not vice versa.

What causes this split? The dream provides an answer: Captain Hook, i.e., the embittered old man, the act of refusing to update perceptions or, in other words, the fear of death. To consider representations merely as *represented* and not *representative*, then, is to refuse to update what is represented by the *representing* factor that precedes, transcends, updates, and unifies representations. It is an act of, by definition, evil. The dream also suggests that Donald Trump's evil is the *represented* effect of what the *representative* act of ignoring the act of representation (as a gerund) itself. He is the effect of what Captain Hook is the generative cause. Hook is upstream, damming the flow; Trump is downstream.

Other cool things:

Terrence Mckenna (i.e. the guy who teaches these ideas in his own way, the guy who wants to return to the primordial togetherness of nature with culture) dies as the theater raptures away. They are the same event. I.e. the world of Eden, where plants give life and where we are one with nature and what lies within and behind nature, dies when we distinguish the representative from the represented.
The represented world, the left-hemisphere world, the world of *effects*, is completely arbitrary in the sense that the things and people who populate it are grouped only by *already-made* distinctions, only by distinctions that were given by an act of distinguishing that's either unconscious, inherited, or done by someone else. We have forgotten that distinction isn't only something given but, actually and with more ontological priority, also something *done." We have failed to realize that distinguishing is something which precedes what it distinguishes, and so we are at the mercy of unconscious, arbitrary acts of demarcation. This is what is being described with the "classes" in the fallen world, the world that left.

The intelligent metal is interesting. It was entirely benevolent, in the dream, not unlike McKenna's machine elves, and it seemed like something both dangerous and awe-inspiring. It seems to me that this metal is something like the unconscious generative capacities that come about when we create in ways that are uninhibited by material limitations, i.e. the Internet. The nternet is an image of the spiritual world that occurs purely because a) we lack material limitations and can do whatever we want, and b) because the structure of what we want is the structure of mental state, and the structure of mental state *is* the spiritual world.

I'm sure you'll notice parallels to various cultural artifacts. Avengers Infinity War was a huge formative factor in the dream. Thanos' "final solution" is, in essence, the act of severing the world from itself by privileging ideology, intellect, and the effect of intellectual judgment over the *act* of intellectual judgment, of demarcation, of *action* itself. It kills half the world, though (as we all suspect) they're safe in some kind of cosmic hard drive. On that note, this also strongly parallels recent seasons of Doctor Who, which includes an episode (Heaven Sent) that has affected me very deeply as a mythical, affective description of my life. I am trapped in the Underworld (notice that I am cast out of the theater and that, when I return to the empty world, my dog stands guard there like Cerberus), a common theme in *many* of my dreams, and my job is to open a door. This is a theme you also saw in my play, if you know what happens. I (not just as "me" but as the totality of people nowadays who fill the same spiritual, affective role) am meant to open the door to the hidden remnant on Gallifrey, to the souls who have died by Thanos' hand, and rejoin the living with the dead. There are also, of course, lots of parallels with recent events in my daily life.

If you think this is an arbitrary and meaningless reading, it isn't. I wrote this interpretive essay when the continuous, unfolding, representative factor in the dream was still fresh, when it was still able to continue. This "continuation" wrote the essay. Also notice that the symbols in it cohere around a definite, very evident structure: an upstream world is split from a downstream world by malevolence. This essay is just an elaboration of that evident structure. I could have said a lot more, but the point is not what I say but the generative centers of meaning-creation that organize what I say. Not all such generative centers are created equal. To equate meaning with what is *generated* is what the dream equates with evil.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jordan Peterson's Bible Lectures and Swedenborg's Biblical Inner Meaning

So I've been studying the works of the 18th century scientist, theologian, psychonaut, and Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg for over at least five years. I find his works fascinating because his visions describe phenomena that are bizarrely similar to those of NDEs and people who take drugs like DMT (not to mention things like the Tibetan Book of the Dead and certain strands of Islamic mysticism). But that's neither here nor there.
What I find most fascinating is that he wrote a 10,500-paragraph-long exegesis of the inner meaning of Genesis and Exodus, and this spiritual interpretation is shockingly similar to Jordan Peterson's psychological interpretation in many parts. Let me give some examples.
For instance, I'm sure you're familiar with Jordan Peterson talking about how the snake in the Garden of Eden story affectively describes the factor in human evolution that gave human beings both self-consciousness and visual acuity. In essence, the snake is the thing in the grass that makes you look carefully, anxiously, and fixedly on the environment for threat - the factor that makes you "open your eyes" into a big stare almost permanently. Compare that with Swedenborg's statement about the snake:

"The earliest people did not compare various human traits to animals and birds but called them such. This was their manner of speaking...Snakes was their word for a person's sensory abilities. This is because sense impressions rise directly out of the body, just as snakes lie directly on the ground."

That is, snakes are a primeval word (an affective and not empirical description of Being, in other words) for the factor in human consciousness that regulates conscious intensity. Swedenborg goes onto describe how Eve eating the fruit is a symbol of human beings reveling fully in sensory consciousness and not participating in a more unconscious "participation mystique" where we paid attention more to the motor significance of perception than its literal content. Peterson's words from Maps of Meaning say the same thing, more or less: "The 'serpent' of the 'external unknown' works in concert, therefore, with the 'serpent' of the internal unknown: apprehension of the mystery which transcends the current realm of adaptation (that is, the permanent mystery of mortal limitation) produces permanent consciousness, at least in principle." I.e. the snake in Eden, for both authors, is the factor that "opens our eyes" to the factors in our environment that are permanently unsafe, what you have to scan for, the literal, sensory aspects of Being where you constantly have to watch out for the patterns of snake scales.
But that's not all. More impressive is their mutual treatment of the Cain and Abel story. For Peterson, as you know, Cain is the symbol of the embittered intellect, the intellect resentful of Being, a mind that thinks it knows better than God, a consciousness that has not accepted the price of Being (i.e finitude) and therefore learned how to love. Likewise, Swedenborg says this:

"Cain's offering depicts worship motivated by a detached faith while Abel's offering depicts worship motivated by charity."

For Swedenborg, charity and faith form a union like female and male and like the right hemisphere and left hemisphere of the brain (which, by the way, Swedenborg the lettered anatomist identified, respectively, with the affective and intellectual principles at least a good 150 years before anyone else did). To exercise faith (which he associates with the intellect) without charity (which he associated with the will or "affections") is the origin of evil, a state he says is depicted by this story. Likewise, here's Peterson in Maps of Meaning again: "Reason can serve health only when it plays a secondary role." This quote, by the way, is in a chapter called "The Hostile Brothers," where he interprets the Cain and Abel myth in way even more clearly in alignment with Swedenborg's exegesis.

There are other examples. For instance, in their treatment of Genesis 12 both Swedenborg and Peterson say that the actions of that chapter elucidate pedagogical principles; Peterson does this referencing the Future Authoring program in that lecture more than he does in any other Bible Lecture, and Swedenborg does it by explicitly saying that the affective meaning of Genesis 12 is used by angels in heaven as a kind of instructional manual for children there. But I think I've said enough.
The question is: why? I think, at the very least, these stories have a kind of inner feeling-logic, a method to their madness, a motor significance woven through the words, that can be distilled and explicated clearly. If so, geniuses like these two should come up with the same narratives. And they do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Book of Mormon, UFOs, and the Learned Man

The Book of Mormon origin story is admittedly hard to swallow. A guy from upstate New York uncovers a set of golden tablets conveniently located in his neighborhood, which he then translates with a weird breastplate-spectacle thing, and which he then conveniently loses. It's actually kind of absurd. But that doesn't stop millions (including myself) from believing in it. Does that make me, x convert from Guatemala, my ancestors from Copenhagen, Philo Farnsworth (the guy who invented the TV), and Mitt Romney idiots? Richard Dawkins has gone on record for saying so. But the situation is deeper than that.

For even if the Book of Mormon's origin story is absurd, that doesn't stop the alternative explanations from also being absurd. For even if we admit that the Book of Mormon has no historical evidence (something I'm not ready to accept), the *fact* of its text, just on its own, is an insurmountable mystery. It is remarkably consistent with itself. There is a coherent timeline, a coherent geography, and consistent voices throughout the text that often reference each other as if they had other texts in front of them while narrating. To create it on his own, #JosephSmith would have had to have charts, maps, and notes, but the witness reports we have to the translation process say he didn't. He just dictated, line after line, indefinitely, and picked up wherever he left off. This is a human impossibility (one, by the way, that has also occurred in other places, as with the book #ACourseInMiracles) And, of course, there are the witnesses to the plates themselves. You can believe that all these witnesses are part of a grand conspiracy, but that seems more like every other conspiracy theory when you think about how all these witnesses kept to their story even after some of them apostatized. This is a realm of study where the “rational explanation” isn't rational at all. There's nothing rational here, on either side.

And that, actually, seems to be the Book of Mormon's point. No one shall have it to get gain, in other words (and to paraphrase 2 Nephi 27), since as soon as anyone tries to grasp it rationally (apologist or skeptic) they leave gaping holes in their argument and lose it again. The Book of Mormon is slippery, something that can't be explained, a gaping hole in any rational account. More, it seems to *want* that. It wants to be unseen by those who wouldn't benefit from it. It wants to carry on its work in a way unchecked by rational skepticism, in a way that actually dismantles skepticism from within
This conceit of the Book of Mormon is, surprisingly not unlike the UFO abduction phenomenon. As the late #TerrenceMcKenna pointed out in his lectures, these accounts seem absurd, yes, they seem comical, clichéd, even inconsistent, but this absurdity is a mask that allows the rational skeptic to dismiss and therefore pass by them. These skeptics don't see, don't feel like they need to see, that abduction stories are common, *shockingly* common, and that even if we don't believe them literally, they need to be taken seriously. But, says McKenna, maybe they don't want to be looked at too closely, at least not by rational investigation. Maybe they want to demonstrate that rational science can't account for everything, to exaggerate the bias of scientism that would otherwise be invisible, to deconstruct its patriarchal, logocentric model at the core. And as McKenna points out, this is like what happened 2000 years ago at Golgotha. The early Christians were simple and naive, not the educated, cosmopolitan, rational cynics in vogue in Rome. Romans were materialists, remember, were skeptics, didn't believe in any higher power. But all of a sudden, their servants started whispering about a man in Judea who rose from the dead. These Roman cynics would have dismissed Christianity out of hand as sheer stupidity. They would not have seen that, within two centuries, it would be their state religion, and that within five, it would have deconstructed their whole empire. Christianity, like The Book of Mormon, like UFOs, hissed forth and did its work unseen, (often literally) underground, changing minds and moving souls in a way that rationality can't understand and therefore can’t confront.

For the book Dawkins rails against isn't the book I read. The book I read is a phenomenon of feeling and will, not of the dried-up, two-dimensional intellect severed from feeling and will. And this will-reality, this quality of feeling, seethes beneath the surface of rational consciousness like a root beneath a sidewalk. And it will break it open. It will dismember the numb intellectual husk we've made the world to be and reveal the gold of will and feeling buried under it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Spiritual Reason for Modern Violence

On January 1, 1919, Rudolf Steiner delivered a lecture about the underlying spiritual causes of World War I. He described how a new "revelation" was taking place from the spiritual world, that we had been immersed in a wave of spiritual life since the end of the previous century, and that this wave, when accepted and integrated into consciousness, would deliver human consciousness into a deeper, more mature level of spiritual evolution.

But we rejected it, said Steiner. We fight against it. And this battle against incoming spiritual life shows up as *intellectuality." The intellect, of course, is not real, not living. It *images* reality, yes, but this image is static, captures only one aspect of the dynamic organizing principle that brings reality into being. It doesn't present life, doesn't *perform* life, but instead makes shadows, specters, even corpses of life.

These shadows and specters, thoughts empty of life, thoughts that form a "ghostly web," were super popular then. Bertrand Russell was working on his Principia Mathematica, an attempt to define all mathematics logically (which Godel later proved impossible), and logical positivism was all the rage. "Everything is thinkable, logical, can be put into propositions, into a system, a web of facts," they all said. This system strives to be airtight, rigid, but this rigidity is the rigidity of defense, what occurs when you get a massage but never relax your muscles and end up feeling more tense and more exhausted than you did before.

But likewise, the world in 1919 was seething with rejected life beneath the airtight logical facade. Life is *not* logical - it is a world of difference, of dynamicity, of what facilitates the necessary connection between two things that even *lets* them oppose each other. You get hints of this in the culture and philosophy of the time. Joyce, Picasso, and Kandinsky were experimenting in the field of art, as were Jung, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger in the intellectual sphere. All of these (arguably) constitute an attempt to step beyond mere intellectuality, to embrace the new revelation of spiritual life, to add humility to thought. Heidegger, after all, had to create a new vocabulary to even articulate what he was trying to say, and Wittgenstein had to add a disclaimer at the end of his Tractatus to the effect that "if you understand what I've said here, if you got my point, you won't believe it, you'll throw away the ladder this book is after you've used it to ascend."

For the world yearns to step beyond this ghostly web, this web of thought, of *mere* thought, of thought-corpses. This is still true, more true, and the stakes are increasing. The ghostly web is breaking apart from underneath like a root beneath a sidewalk, and the "reality" of intellectuality is becoming more and more palpably absurd. The *world* is absurd; the world is a godforsaken Onion article. Donald Trump is president, school shootings happen every week, and intellectual debates are intellectual in name only. Soon, one way or another, we'll give up the intellect entirely.

But this can happen in a good way. To do this, we'd have to use a different kind of thinking, a thinking that is (to quote Steiner) "shape-producing; it gives separate pictures, rounded totalities; it gives contours, and through contours, color." This thinking *forms*, whereas the thinking still present, which we still stubbornly hold to, the thinking of the logical positivist ghostly web, is *dismembering*. If the right way integrates, sees things as wholes, knows the integrating and integrated character of the thing, the wrong way only separates parts from parts, only gives definitions. Positivism crucifies, whereas this new, dynamic thinking gives life, re-members.

For the secret, says Steiner, of World War I, and by extension the other wars of the twentieth century, and, moreover, the violence that pervades not only all school shootings but the present whole political climate, is this dismembering factor. When we reject the wave of life that comes with the new revelation and cling to our outdated positivist spider web, we fight that integrative factor with a force just as strong. We reject life; we have to reject life -- it's too powerful, demands too much, fills me more than I can bear. But if we don't accept it, if we turn ourselves away from it, we kill it. And murder like this can't remain implicit. Like everything we do with our minds implicitly, it will become explicit through deeds we all look away from. So, therefore, wars happen that we turn away from until it's too late, and we forget about school shootings within a week of their happening.

Eventually, the cry of this life will be heard, and it will become physically, tangibly real. Whether this life is mass murder or an integration of what the intellect has crucified depends on us. Will we remain within the shadows of the intellect or, facing our discomfort, step into the reality of will?

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Book of Mormon as Conversation

So the Book of Mormon is written entirely in first-person. Never is there the anonymous, omniscient "and God said" of Genesis, Leviticus, and Job -- you always know who the author is, and it advertises that fact on the very first page, in the first words: *I, Nephi* wrote this record.

And this goes deeper than pronouns. Anyone without an ideological agenda can tell you that Mormon sounds different from Nephi, that Nephi sounds different from Jacob. Mormon is the historian, as cut-and-dried as David A. Bednar's bullet-pointed, thoroughly organized General Conference addresses. One can imagine Mormon putting his styluses in obsessive-compulsive rows before he uses them to engrave the plates. Nephi, on the other hand, is more involved. He reads more introspectively, more emotionally, than Mormon's dispassionate spiritual history. Jacob seems almost bitter at times. Alma the Younger is the most intelligent author in the text. Moroni seems more otherworldly somehow.

To me, this first-person character implies that the Book of Mormon is a kind of conversation -- with itself, with Joseph, and with us. The book itself is a gift, a gesture, what occurs when one of numberless concourses of angels gives you a book to read, when your father bestows the sacred records to your keeping, when you dig up ancient golden plates, when a couple of nineteen-year-olds show up on you doorstep. This invitation is an irruption, a rip in the fabric of what makes sense, an opening to heaven. It's a challenge: "Read it! I *dare* you." And we respond to this invitation, participate in this conversation, by accepting that challenge, by reading the Book, by letting the Book change you, change your world.This is a chain, a system of concatenated strata, formed by invitations to read and acts of reading. The Book becomes itself through those levels, through Mormon, through Joseph, through *you*. Always becoming different, always blossoming, always transfiguring. It doesn't lose itself this way. It *is* this blossoming, this perpetual re-visioning in and through the reader. It's what lives through death. It's *resurrection."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Second Coming

There is an old and powerful idea that, when Christ comes again, He won't come like an alien in a spaceship (contrary to popular belief) but in our hearts, in what our hearts are then able to see in the world, and in how we then act in that world.

An anamorphoscope

Swedenborg, for instance, insists that the Second Coming will take place "in the Word," or, in other words, as He appears to us in it. When he "comes in the clouds of heaven," these clouds are the way truth appears to our senses, the literal narrative of scripture, things that are good and true but seem disconnected and arbitrary, i.e. not just scripture but the physical world itself, and when He appears in them, He is the divine life that will then animate it like my soul shines out from the sinew and pores of my face. The Second Coming, in other words, is when those sinew and pores don't matter anymore: when the arbitrary physical details of this life fade away, like when, in good conversation, you don't hear the sounds or even the words someone is saying (even though you do) but only the ideas that animate them from within. The Second Coming is liberation of Being

Scripture, all truth, and the world itself, like an anamorphoscope, will resolve itself into a living image of He who lies behind it like I lie behind my nose and mouth. His countenance will appear in the Word, in the world, to you, to me. He will animate us, animate the world, not controlling us any more than we control our arms when I decide to move it. For I don't say: "Arm, move two inches to the right. Good job, arm!" The arm moves itself, and I live through that movement. Likewise, when He comes, we will all be individual, distinct, free agents in and through whom Christ appears, in whom Christ's body builds and feels itself, where his countenance is engraved. It will all be a great spontaneous dance, effortless divine choreography, resolving itself into an image of Him who lives in and through its movements. Our gestures will be divine; each movement a sign and a token; life will be sacred again.

Then we will see the truth of the statement in the Doctrine and Covenants that "I am in your midst and ye cannot see me." He has *always* been here, appearing in the eyes of one who loves you, in the words you desperately need to hear from scripture, in the sudden, subtle light that pours over a sacrament meeting when the speaker begins to speak words you need to hear. This is not something that will come violently. It won't be scary. Instead, it will be like late in Genesis when Joseph comes out of disguise and we, with startled eyes, wonder how we could have ever *not* recognized him.

And this isn't something I'm just making up. Not only does Swedenborg think so, not only do many Sufis speak of a divine figure who will appear in the very countenance of this world, but many people who take psychedelics (with their mind intact the whole time) talk about how they can't imagine how they could have *not* seen the faces there in the walls, the childlike divine intelligence weaving the world into Being, the love that *is* the reality of existence.

This love will disclose itself. It will appear in the clouds of heaven. It, no, *He* will animate the world and the world will remember what it is for the first time in millennia. It will remember its song, and it will sing again. The colors will return to the air, and magic will return to life. We have forgotten, but we will have remembered. And all will be well. And all manner of things will be well.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Medical Marijuana and Facebook Emotional Baggage

So I know next to nothing about the medical marijuana proposition on ballot in Utah, the one that the Church has recently decided to urge its members to vote against. However, lots of people have been posting about it on Facebook, and I want to tell you what I've noticed about those posts and what *they* tell me about the situation.

But first you need to know about the effect *baggage* has on writing. Baggage is a word Stephen Harrod Buhner uses in his book Ensouling Language to describe an emotional center of gravity in a text, a kind of black hole, that affects the word choice and sentence structure. It focuses on one thing a little too much and not enough on another. There are gaps, little bits of displaced, diverted attention, which let you know there's something the author doesn't want to spend too much time thinking about. It's like how the closeted gay guy in church laughs a little *too* hard if someone makes a gay joke - everything around that black hole is emotionally distorted. There's a feeling of "don't look here!" but one that, too the right eyes, is all the more suspicious.

For instance, take this passage from a book called "The Forgotten Pollinators", analyzed in Buhner's book:

I took a swing at an extremely fast-flying gray blur of a bee, but missed. It was a male digger bee. It was an old friend to me: a big gray Centris pallida female, a harbinger of spring. In fact, I began studying the mating habits of this species with another friend, entomologist John Alcock, nearly 20 years ago. . . . I then swept up as many kinds as I could capture that day, recording their nectar sources and periods of activity. Back at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at day’s end, I dumped my catch onto a piece of notebook paper and sorted the pile of now quiescent bees into groups to show Gary. . . . In all, during just a few morning hours, I had collected solitary and primitively social native bees belonging to 6 families, 20 genera, and perhaps as many as 50 different species. . . . The possibility of nabbing something new to science—by intensively sweeping our nets through the canopies of even the most common tree—was not an unrealistic expectation for the day’s bee hunt." 

Notice the words he uses to describe his "bee hunt": "took a swing," "swept up," "dumping a catch onto a piece of notebook paper," and even "nabbing." The bee is an "old friend to me." As Buhner puts it: "The way the material is written conveys a picture of a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, just hangin’, knockin’ back some brewskies, playin’ a little badminton with the guys, and catchin’ some rays . . . and a few interestin’ critterz, too." By compositional sleight-of-hand, he's diverting attention away from the fact that he killed the things. There's a counterbalancing, concealing shift in emotional weight that tries to hide that grim truth (which, as he knows, the reader may not understand) with a carefree, chill persona.

This thing happens all the time. Richard Dawkins is an expert at using hidden baggage: once, when asked if religion could fulfill a human need for belonging and purpose, he responded that "Well, there may be a profound need to *understand.*" Of course, understanding is *not* beauty, is *not* meaning, is *not* purpose, but Richard Dawkins (who only felt "slightly dizzy" when he tried on the "God Helmet," by the way) doesn't want to even come close to considering the role of irrational factors in human well-being, and so he always shifts attention away from the biological significance of religion, affect, and value whenever they come up. Those topics clearly make him uncomfortable, but he probably doesn't even admit that to himself. He'll just sneer and glare at you if you bring it up.

And it shows up online. Whenever there's a pithy, vaguely witty appeal to a clichéd ideal or moral imperative, you can tell that someone feels insecure about their position and wants to shout down doubt, to clarify their position to themselves with a shareable image macro. It happens on both sides of the political spectrum, of course: quotes by general authorities and John-Wayne-esque "I can't believe how stupid these millennial pansies are" posts are just as common as vacuous New-Agey, feel-good mantras and any excuse for SJW outrage (I'm realizing just now that I have a diverse friend group, haha). In each case, someone with ill-defined opinions, someone who knows how they *feel* but not what they *think*, is relieved when they find a post that they agree with, which tells them how to express what their feeling intellectually, and with a surge of dopamine, they click share.

And this, in a more subtle form, is what's happening with Proposition 2. People against it generally fall into 2 categories: 1) people who just share the email or LDS Living links without comment, and 2) people who try to defend the church's controversial actions. The first might not know about the controversy at all; they are just doing social media missionary work like general authorities encourage us to do. They're trying to help, and even if they don't, their heart is in the right place. Don't get mad at the widow for her mite, guys. The second are aware of the controversy and try to defend the church's position. They tend to look at the nuances of the bill, from what I've seen, partially because the Church has also taken a nuanced stance (apparently they're *for* another medical marijuana bill) and partially because it's hard *not* to look at nuances if you want to defend a controversial political decision by the church.

However, from what I've seen, those for the bill and who criticize the church tend to lack any and all nuance. The sentiment seems to be something like "The Church is violating the separation of church and state" or "Medical marijuana is obviously good, and the church is against it, so it must obviously be bad." I haven't yet seen a post by someone for the bill and against the church that addresses the nuances and technicalities that the apologists point out. Of course, they almost certainly exist, but I'm not trying to say they don't. I *am* pointing out that, by and large, there's some baggage in these anti-church posts. They're not calm or reasonable. They have the air of mob mentality. Not thought, but feeling *masquerading* as thought, thought animated by unconscious feeling-baggage, is what's talking.

Of course, I could be wrong. I could be the victim of my own confirmation bias, my own baggage. I could be seeing things.  I suspect not, though. And here's one reason why: most of these people are ex-Mormons. I have long said something that, although not entirely accurate, names a trend and allows us to see it: that you can never stop being Mormon, that if you try, you'll only ever prefix it with an "ex-." ex-Mormons of a certain (common) type are the most religious of folks, even if they're atheists. They care as much (if not more) about the Church now than they did while they were members. A self-aware, beloved ex-Mormon friend of mine once satirically impersonated the r/exmormon subreddit by saying "Guys, did you know Joseph Smith didn't even prophet?? ... I *know*, right???!!" The whole subreddit is a vile, self-indulgent cesspool where people revel in their (valid) trauma instead of trying to process it. But, as all trauma tends to, it repeat itself unconsciously. Just as the abused often becomes the abuser, the persecuted tend to become the persecutor. The Church fits that bill, as does Christianity at large and (dare I say it) the LGBT movement. Each hasn't given up its defensive mentality even when it's in political power. And so it makes new enemies, which, themselves, go on to make new enemies in time, and so on ad infinitum until the world drowns in a wave of strife.

Can we just process our traumas without trying to eke revenge out of those who did them to us? That doesn't solve anything; it traumatizes others and ends up re-traumatizing you. Get off Facebook and go see a therapist.