Friday, August 31, 2018

My Explanation of Autism

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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Inner Meaning of Harry Potter

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the deeper meaning of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry is the *boy who lived.* What does that mean? He's the one who, despite all odds, faces pain, faces vulnerability, faces *death* head on. He doesn't hide from it. He bears the mark of trauma as a scar, a scar on his forehead, the place of consciousness, of sight, the prefrontal place where we are ourselves with others. He *is* this pain, he *is* this vulnerability, this weakness, and it is only because he does not "fly from death" that he is able to live, and moreover, that he is able to love. For love is what happens when you face death, and the dissociation is what happens when you flee from either.

And dissociation isn’t just something that happened to Voldemort. We each “fly from death” whenever we refused to feel the dull ache within, the trauma of our childhood that we’ve forgotten which nevertheless affects our gestures and our gait, causes us to repeat it endlessly and unconsciously. Evil, in fact, *is* the unwillingness to feel pain. And whenever we turn away from it, fly from it, He Who Must Not be Named shows up. Quirrel, the awkward stutterer, is the ungroomed recluse who you would feel scared of if he showed up to school in a trenchcoat one day. He is the abused who becomes the abuser, the one whose pain has become malevolent. And so Voldemort *naturally* appears in the back of his head-- the primal brain, the part that acts and doesn’t reflect, what compels, what addicts, what cuts and drinks and abuses -- not the forehead, not the Prefrontal Cortex, not the place where, in full consciousness, we feel our pain and our vulnerability. Harry suffers, suffers consciously, and so he can love. He loves, and so he can bear the reality of touch in a way that one who hides from their pain can’t.

This story repeats itself, in a different octave, in the second entry to the series. When Harry descends into the Chamber of Secrets, he faces the primal terror lurking beneath, what we refuse to look at, what will turn us to stone if we look at it, what inflicts the freezing motion that a rabbit, likewise, would undergo if it saw a fox. This paralysis is the unexpressed motricity of the fight or flight response that appears as muscle tension, what, whenever it occurs, is symptomatic of unfelt trauma. Our shoulders stiffen and never relax again. We try to calm them but feel ourselves, once again, drawn by an unconscious magnetism to the stiffening of a startled cat with an arched back. For trauma will repeat, will attack, in compulsive and ever-worsening ways until we face it, until we descend into the substructure of Being, of our own being, and rescue what it stole: the virgin, "Ginny," the virginal, soft, innocent aspect of our being that had long since been under trauma's thrall, our very own soul, our "anima." And that's not easy. You have to face the trauma, face the snake that slumbers in us, the Kundalini serpent in our nervous system that, left unexpressed in its depths, makes us destructively act out our traumatic experiences, and come out the other side. You have to die. The muscle tension in you, the seething panic in reptilian brain that hides and pounces and eats, must be felt for the pain that it is, not numbly, not as “ever-present,” but with the sharpness and intensity of the original pain. This is, perhaps, best expressed by the feeling you have when, crossing your legs in Zen meditation so that the ankles lie above the thighs, you feel a stabbing pain that is, nevertheless, only the habitual muscle tension in your legs turned up tenfold. Wincing, you relax them, and then you realize, that, wait, you *can* relax them, that *that’s* what peace feels like. You had forgotten, and it was only your capacity to face your pain multiplied to a visible caliber that allowed you to remember, to soften. This is killing the snake; this is rescuing Ginny; this is the birth of love, of touch, facilitated only by our capacity for death and rebirth, our phoenix nature, the human ability, which we all to often forget, to endure pain that feels like it will last forever and discover its other side.

Lastly, this last entry to the series narrates this same story transposed to its ultimate level. Harry must die. He must take the part of him that seethes against vulnerability, his microcosmic, inner Voldemort, his own “flight from death,” to the gates of death. He must shed the cloak of invisibility and bring Voldemort to where he won’t go on his own: to the brink of eternity, to the cosmic Kings Cross Station, the veil, that divides this world from the next. This is the place where you meet your higher self, what some have called the Guardian at the Threshold, where Voldemort, who flies from death, can only ever see himself as a dessicated husk who has wasted this life whose purpose *is* to die. But Harry, who is unafraid of death, lives again. And that is the great secret. Insofar as you die, insofar as you lose yourself, you gain yourself again, are resurrected. This is the truth of Harry Potter, what makes him *the boy who lived*: don’t pity the dead, pity the living. And above all, pity those who live without love.