UNDISCOVERED GENIUS

A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Call to Worship

Ecclesiastes 2:1-26:
"I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. …"

16 Happiness/Joy II

Last week's sermon was called "Happiness/Joy I". It was the first of a two part message, the first part being about happiness, and the second part, this one, to be about joy. In these two messages, I am making a distinction between the words "happiness" and "joy"; I do not know for sure if this distinction is even worth making, but I think it is always wise to examine our thoughts (our thoughts, after all, are made of words) to check for laziness or inaccuracies in our thinking--inaccuracies that could lead to wrong conclusions and spiritual errors. Last week I had many negative things to say about happiness; for instance:
"It appears to me that the word "happy" is a generalization for a spectrum of states of mind, of which many are not at all of the same quality or intensity. The word "happy" then, is such an ambiguous term that it has practically no meaning."

and:

"I truly hate my life, and pray for its ending at Jesus's earliest convenience."
I now admit that last week was as much an exercise in semantics as it was in anything truly useful, because it was a diatribe not against happiness, but against the use of the word "happiness". I made a case for equating happiness with the same ego fixity and redundancy that impoverishes all cliched thinking and doing. I also indicated that the signs of happiness are not necessarily the proofs of happiness, joy, or any other exalted spiritual mind state. I was busy putting down happiness as a temporary, a temporal state of mind that does not lead to higher spiritual attainment. The following quote from C. S. Lewis makes the same distinction between joy and happiness I am making here, and he is in basic agreement with my interpretation of the word--only in this case, he uses the word "pleasure" instead happiness:
“Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

This seems to me to be a powerful and worthwhile thing to say: in this statement, Lewis is reiterating my point that pleasurable experiences are not necessarily the proper index of joy, because pleasure may be manufactured in a laboratory of carnal creation, whereas joy only comes through the beneficent gift of grace. Thus, one may be happy, because one is without pain, or want, but this happiness may be the product of an alchemy of mundane materials the effects of which are destined to wither and decay with time. It is precisely because joy does not come from the physical plane that it can last forever.

Now, to get down to it: last week, I also indicated that joy wasn't necessarily pleasurable--that the fulfillment of one's duty to God did not necessarily have a residual effect on one's daily life, that it did not not uplift the servant when the servant was not actively serving; I basically said that sobriety of mind is not pleasurable, it is merely endurable; I said that laughing and weeping amounted to the same thing in this screwed up, sad, sad world: that was a load of crap.

I mean, let's face it, who could last an hour in a world in which the rewards of the spirit were only bestowed on you after you die? That's not what Jesus is saying--Jesus repeatedly incites us to partake of heavenly gifts here on Earth; here and now. Sure, Jesus wept, but to make Him into a Man of infinite sorrows is just dumb depressed balderdash.

And now that we're using the proper technical philosophical terms, its poopy-brained too! This is why we are sinners, because we can fall for this crap SOOO EASILY. True, there is a solemnity embedded in the middle path of life, the calm path, the devoted path; the path where we have chosen to be led, and are led, without our personal volition, into activities which are intended for the greatest good for the greatest number, are all inspired by a divine plan that is beyond our puny powers of understanding. There is peace and security in leaving all the big stuff to God. But remember our discussions about free will, and remember that we are always making little choices which add up to big choices sooner rather than later. Remember, too, something else I said last week--it was a comment on a quote from Ray Bradbury (who, by the way, just recently died):

"I laugh until I weep
And weep until I smile."

What is this smile? Where does it come from? Why do we smile when we are laughing, sometimes when we are weeping, and yet also smile when we are communing with the mind of God, the furthest thing imaginable from laughing?

Perhaps I am saying that joy, like everything else in our state of mind, is a CHOICE. I feel that joy is like a pot of simmering hot water under which we can choose to turn up the heat and bubble over, or keep on the back-burner for later. This is not the same thing as what I said last week:

"I don't feel any particular residual satisfaction; the feeling of usefulness does not bleed over into the down time."

In fact, this is not even sobriety of mind, it is simply behavioral reserve which may be appropriate and maybe not. I DO carry a feeling a satisfaction around with me when I am not doing my job, it's just that, like every other sinner, I forget to pay attention to it. When I pay attention to it, it fills me with blessings just as real and as potent as the feelings of accomplishment I get at the moment of doing my job. In fact, remembering acts of virtue can be an even more delicious way of savoring the blessings than actually performing acts of virtue.
So whassup wit dis?

"I sometimes think I am a marshwiggle--I don't have much of a positive slant on my personal life; I have no close personal friends, I have no social life, I never have any fun; in fact, I have a long list of things I say look like fun but aren't. I think there was a time earlier in my life when I did have fun, but when I think about it, I think it was having fun with my kids growing up--sharing in their fun--I can't remember the last fun thing I did that was just plain fun for me.

I am detached from most of the normal human emotions that people consider enriching, and which most people cannot do without: emotions like affection, sympathy, cheerfulness, anxiety, pride, regret, etc.. I'm not complaining, but neither am I exaggerating or bragging, but, rather, as you will soon see, am merely stating undeniable fact about my character: my sobriety of mind denies me access to many of the common pleasures that most people consider necessary components of something called "happiness", but it also gives me a higher level of clarity of mind that most people cannot claim."


These paragraphs are NOT downright lies, but they have caught me in a mood of forgetfulness--forgetfulness of the grace I enjoy every moment of every day. I apologize for the self-indulgence that coaxed those remarks out of me, and for the misleading tone they brought to the message. However, I completely affirm the remark,

"my sobriety of mind denies me access to many of the common pleasures that most people consider necessary components of something called "happiness", but it also gives me a higher level of clarity of mind that most people cannot claim."

I think this is absolutely true about me; furthermore, the storm of pain that  beached me on this shore of elevated consciousness was as real as anything can get, and the consequence of that beating by the shepherd's rod and staff totally did the job--my mind is still in traction, and gets around with a walker, but my eyes are definitely opened little bit wider. In short, I feel my heightened clarity of mind has been bought and paid for in full; what didn't kill me made me stronger, that's for darn sure, although many times I wish it had killed me. Ah, life!

Joseph Campbell advises us:
“Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Well, Joe, I'm working on it, but the joy and the pain are still battling out the race neck and neck, and I don't yet completely retract any of my negative statements about the absence of "happiness" in my life.

What I would like to recant is the implication that I feel, in any way, deprived or at a loss in regard to the happiness my sobriety of mind has denied me. The happiness I have lost has been amply replaced by the joy that simmers on the back-burner of my heart, waiting to be cherished when I have a moment, and shared when the time is right. John Lennon has advised us:

"You've got to hide your love away."

But this does not mean you don't ever let it out--it's more of a "pearls before swine" kind of thing. We have spoken, in months past, of the evils of proselytizing--getting in someone's face with your faith when they are not ready for it.

Ephesians 4:7-15 says this:

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:"

Thus, hiding your love away may not be as much an act of sobriety as it is an act of prudence--and selectivity.

Now let's review the original scripture that inspired this message:

John 12:25
"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
This whole business about hating your life was such a tempting expression to get into when I was in a depressed mood, and I took it in a direction I really don't think it had to go. The problem is with the word "hate". Just as with every other abstract word we use, it is easy to hear the word and miss the meaning. As Christians we are taught brotherly love, compassion, and tolerance, and are directed to steer clear of words like "hate", "wrath", "lust", and "despair", etc. However, the words "righteous indignation" will often spring to our lips when we get into a violent disagreement with somebody about---well, ANYTHING. Clearly, in a generation that can still remember people like Hitler, Stalin, and Sadam Hussein, it is not unreasonable to include in our vocabulary the expression "righteous hatred".

There are a couple of examples of righteous hatred, in the Science Fiction Trilogy of C.S. Lewis, that bear repeating. The first one is a speech from Out of the Silent Planet, spoken by a Martian "hrossa" about his natural enemy, the hnakra; this enemy is a fierce water animal that the hrossi hunt, much like whalers hunt the leviathan. Here the hross explains his complex relationship with this enemy:

"I long to kill the hnakra as he also longs to kill me. I hope that my ship will be the first and I first in my ship with my straight spear when the black jaws snap. And if he kills me, my people will mourn and my brothers will desire still more to kill him. But they will not wish that there were no hnakri; nor do I. How can I make you understand, when you do not understand the poets? The hnakra is our enemy, but he is also our beloved. We feel in our hearts his joy as he looks down from the mountain of water in the north where he was born; we leap with him when he jumps the falls; and when winter comes, and the lake smokes higher than our heads, it is with his eyes that we see it and know that his roaming time is come. We hang images of him in our houses, and the sign of all the hrossa is a hnakra.  In him the spirit of the valley lives; and our young play at being hneraki as soon as they can splash in the shallows."

The bearing this passage has on the idea of "hating your life" is this: there are on the mundane plane of existence manifestations of evil which are so contrary to the way of spirit, that they MUST be hated in order for them to be expunged from our earthly reality. There are simply some things that are NO GOOD, and we must hate them, as much as we love God.

The paradoxical part is that the hross says, "The hnakra is our enemy, but he is also our beloved." How does this apply to the subject of hating evil? Well, we don't really have to think too hard to be reminded that the carnal nature that falls so short of spirit and which he hate with a righteous hatred is IN OURSELVES--and we must hate that part of ourselves which is tainted by original sin, and strive in every moment to root it out of our nature, to cleanse ourselves of Adam's curse, and make ourselves free by the most energetic (violent) act of will possible. Thus, "he that hateth his life in this world", is involved in a cleansing process that must be carried out with the utmost intensity, and "hate" is not too strong a word to describe the devotee's relationship to his own carnal nature.

The second C.S. Lewis quote comes from Perelandra. In this scene, the hero, Ransom, is preparing to do battle with an earthling who has become possessed by the powers of Satan (it never says if it is Satan himself). Once again, he hear the idea of a "joyful hatred", but the main point of the section is summarized in the last line:

"Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him--a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred. The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner form the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood. What was before him appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself to which will was attached only as an instrument. Ages ago it had been a Person: but the ruins of personality now survived in it only as weapons at the disposal of a furious self-exiled negation. It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came finding at last what hatred was made for."


Thus, it is the flaw in our own carnal nature, the self-limiting attitude of self-importance, the Satanic ego-mania, that puts ego first, ahead of the larger spiritual perspective--that vision of life that sees reality not through God's eyes but from the flawed, distorted perspective of our own human eyes. Remember we read a couple of weeks ago we read some remarks by Boethius on the subject of Wholeness:


"And here I conceive it proper to inquire, first, whether any excellence, such as thou hast lately defined, can exist in the nature of things, lest we be deceived by an empty fiction of thought to which no true reality answers. But it cannot be denied that such does exist, and is, as it were, the source of all things good. For everything which is called imperfect is spoken of as imperfect by reason of the privation of some perfection; so it comes to pass that, whenever imperfection is found in any particular, there must necessarily be a perfection in respect of that particular also. For were there no such perfection, it is utterly inconceivable how that so-called imperfection should come into existence. Nature does not make a beginning with things mutilated and imperfect; she starts with what is whole and perfect, and falls away later to these feeble and inferior productions."

Thus, Boethius insists on the existence of a perfect world created by a perfect God; any departure from that perfection is the consequence of a departure from wholeness into a partialness, a privation of perfection. The villain in this scenario of "feeble and inferior productions" is the EGO. It is the Ego that attempts desperately to maintain psychic stability by creating "empty fictions".

Carlos Castaneda has this to say about self-importance, and the cosmic sadness that accompanies it:

"Self-importance can't be fought with niceties.
In the life of warriors it is extremely natural to be sad for no overt reason. Seers say that the luminous egg, as a field of energy, senses its final destination whenever the boundaries of the known are broken. A mere glimpse of the eternity outside the cocoon is enough to disrupt the coziness of our inventory. The resulting melancholy is sometimes so intense that it can bring about death. The best way to get rid of melancholy is to make fun of it.
      There is nothing more lonely than eternity. And nothing is more cozy for us than to be a human being. This indeed is another contradiction--how can man keep the bonds of his humanness and still venture gladly and purposefully into the absolute loneliness of eternity? Whenever you resolve this riddle, you'll be ready for the definitive journey."

Now remember, last week, I said this:
"To be sure, in the moment of doing that thing, completing that task, my life has meaning, and I would not trade my state with kings; but I can't say I get any lasting pleasure out of what I do: by this I mean that when I'm doing my job, I feel alive, filled to overflowing with spirit, and possessed by a personality of all goodness and joy--but when I'm not doing my job, I don't feel any particular residual satisfaction; the feeling of usefulness does not bleed over into the down time." 

The mistake I made in writing this paragraph was this: to think that the job, my life's commission, ends with the specific task I think I have been assigned, is to ignore the fact that THE JOB NEVER ENDS. It is easy to point out specific things that I have done, specific things I have been put here to do, but what I need to remember, at every moment, is that these specific tasks are merely the peaks of an endlessly rolling plain of peaks and troughs; the peaks are more visible than the troughs, but it is quite an arguable point to say that they are more important; in an eternal moment, it is the essence of being now that says to the universe, "I AM."

I herewith include a collection of Biblical quotes about joy that mostly speak for themselves, although I couldn't help sidebarring a few of them:

Mathew:

25:23"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.
        You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you
        over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord."
Luke:

6:23 "Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward
        is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing
        to the prophets."

[Sidebar: Here we have a reiteration of basic typical spiritual/economic  (karmic) principle at work: do good works, and ye will be joyful.]

In the following quote from Luke, the joy of spiritual reality is said to have dominion over evil spirits:

Luke:

10:17"The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons
        are subject to us in your name!"

In light of this, I have to ask myself: might my own feeling of depression and detachment be the voice of Satan whispering words of discouragement in my ears? Both the feeling of depression and the feeling of detachment have a comfortable emptiness that fits snugly over the surface of each; but when I look closer, the emptiness of the depression is a bottomless pit, while the feeling of detachment has an object and a degree which is subject to change, and, to an extent, control; true detachment is a quiet moment in a cell bounded by raucous hilarity which I can reach out and touch, from the center, any time I want. I can see, now, that it would be easy to mistake that feeling of calm detachment for yet another of Satan's ploys to disassociate myself from myself. It just goes to show, once again, how people can do and say the completely wrong things for the right reasons.]

John:

3:29    "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of
        the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly
        because of the bridegroom's voice.  This, my joy,
        therefore is made full."

[Sidebar: Here we have a few more of those joy/sorrow paradoxes that seem inextricably bound together in the larger cosmic paradox.]

16:20"Most certainly I tell you, that you will weep and lament,
        but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your
        sorrow will be turned into joy.
16:21 A woman, when she gives birth, has sorrow, because her time    
        has come. But when she has delivered the child, she doesn't  
        remember the anguish any more, for the joy that a human being is 
        born into the world.
16:22 Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again,
        and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy
        away from you."


17:14 "I have given them your word.  The world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."


2nd Corinthians:

2:1" But I determined this for myself, that I would not come to you
        again in sorrow.
2:2 For if I make you sorry, then who will make me glad but he who
        is made sorry by me?
2:3 And I wrote this very thing to you, so that, when I came,
        I wouldn't have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice;
        having confidence in you all, that my joy would be shared
        by all of you.
2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you
        with many tears, not that you should be made sorry, but that you
        might know the love that I have so abundantly for you."

[Here, the joy overflowing is represented as a tangible ACTIVE force in life, and is love not hidden away, but paraded through the provinces. One wonders WHAT provinces, but the general tone of the interjection is clear: if you walk in spirit, you walk in joy--maybe not 100% happiness, but 110% joy!]

Galatians:

5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
        kindness, goodness, faith,
5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there
        is no law.
5:24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its
        passions and lusts.
5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let's also walk by the Spirit."

Colossians:

1:10 "that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in
        all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing
        in the knowledge of God;
1:11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory,
        for all endurance and perseverance with joy;
1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit to be partakers
        of the inheritance of the saints in light;
1:13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated
        us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love;
1:14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins;
1:15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn
        of all creation."

James:

1:2 "Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters", when you fall
        into various temptations,
1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
1:4 Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect
        and complete, lacking in nothing.
1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
        who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it
        will be given to him.
1:6 But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts
        is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.
1:7 For let that man not think that he will receive anything
        from the Lord.
1:8 He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
1:9 But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in
        his high position;
1:10 and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower
        in the grass, he will pass away."

["Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." That seems to say it--yeah, there is pain and suffering, yeah life is sad, but endurance not only leads to perfection, endurance supports the traveler on his journey to perfection. Hoo-Yah! Furthermore, we see, once again, a link between the mind state of joy and the mind state of faith; we (I) MUST REALIZE THAT FAITH IS THE ARMOR THAT DEFEATS ALL THE ATTACKS OF SATAN'S WEAPONS OF DEPRESSION, DOUBT, AND SADNESS!!

1 Peter:

4:13 "But because you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice;
        that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice
        with exceeding joy.
4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed;
        because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
        On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified."


Mr. Anonymous leaves us with this lovely thought:

"Joy is the flag which flies from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there."

In conclusion, we must reiterate the fact that the ups and downs of life create a rich mix of delights and sufferings, which can be dealt with in a variety of overt and covert expressions. In our struggles with the mind state dominated by language, we will constantly stumble over fluctuating levels of significance, and battle confusion and paradox at every turn. However, let us constantly call to mind the reality of joy that resides on the back-burner of the heart, always ready to be mobilized into activity by egoless affirmations of faith.

For today's benediction I have chosen a song from Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, Book 3, Song 9: Let us Pray:

    "Oh, grant, almighty Father,
    Grant us on reason's wing to soar aloft
    To heaven's exalted height; grant us to see
    The fount of good; grant us, the true light found,
    To fix our steadfast eyes in vision clear
    On Thee. Disperse the heavy mists of earth,
    And shine in Thine own splendour. For Thou art
    The true serenity and perfect rest
    Of every pious soul--to see Thy face,
    The end and the beginning--One the guide,
    The traveller, the pathway, and the goal."

Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happiness/Joy I : Confession

This sermon is quite purposefully entitled "confession". A literary confession, like a literary apology or apologia, is not necessarily the same informal emotional scene as spilling your guts to the D.A., or even a priest, since there are certain formal constraints which apply, just as in any literary genre. Nevertheless you can count on a literary confession to contain more personal stuff than a more objective document. The dictionary definition of "confession", is the following:

"in literature, an autobiography, either real or fictitious, in which intimate and hidden details of the subject’s life are revealed."

Now, this is not the first time I have used myself as an example of some virtue or vice, but this time it will be a little different, because I intend to address more directly, than ever before, some of the psychological challenges I have suffered because of my Asperger's Syndrome condition. I will say some things that may sound paradoxical, or just downright untrue, but please know that I have thought about these things for a long time, and this all comes straight from the heart; furthermore, there is a larger point to it down the road.

There is a character in C.S. Lewis's Narnia novel, The Silver Chair, named Puddleglum: Puddleglum is one of a species of talking animals called marshwiggles. Marshwiggles are known for their sobriety of temperament: they all see the worst in everything, and expect the worst to come out of every situation; marshwiggles are a drag because they constantly rain on their own parade and everybody else's. Yet, the marshwiggle becomes the main hero of the story because it is this sobriety of mind that enables him to resist the magical wiles of the evil witch, and bring the adventure to a successful conclusion. As the witch attacks the party of Narnians with her hypnotic powers, it is the pessimism of the marshwiggle that supplies  him with an emotional distance; it is this emotional objectivity that, in turn, allows him to keep the big picture in focus while everybody else's vision is becoming blurred and seduced by the feelings of the moment; at the crucial instant, it is the mental clarity of detachment that gives Puddleglum the presence of mind to rise above the situation, defeat the witch's magic, and save the day. Thus, a pessimistic attitude toward mundane existence, and a faith in the existence of unseen realities, are, somehow, not mutually exclusive. It is precisely the ability to transcend the thralldom of petty emotions that empowers Puddleglum to triumph over the dark energy.

I sometimes think I am a marshwiggle--I don't have much of a positive slant on my personal life; I have no close personal friends, I have no social life, I never have any fun; in fact, I have a long list of things I say look like fun but aren't. I think there was a time earlier in my life when I did have fun, but when I think about it, I think maybe it was just having fun with my kids growing up--sharing in their fun--I can't remember the last fun thing I did that was just plain fun for me.

I am detached from most of the normal human emotions that people consider enriching, and which most people cannot do without: emotions like affection, sympathy, cheerfulness, anxiety, pride, regret, etc..  I'm not complaining, but neither am I bragging OR exaggerating. It has been noted that I often act out these typical feelings, sometimes with more vigor and demonstrativeness than normal people, but you have to understand that when I do this there is always a part of me that is detached from the feelings on display--it seems like they never really touch me. I think I learned these acting-out behaviors from models I chose to emulate in early childhood, and have continued to emulate them, out of habit, bad habit, even after I have come to understand their vapidity and hypocrisy. In fact, often, when I perform one of these behaviors, I can actually see the person I learned it from driving my antic disposition to its antisocial conclusion.

This is difficult to explain, but there is a musical analogy that might prove helpful: around 1600, there used to be a system of harmony associated with the so-called "affective humours"; every key was associated with a different feeling. One, in particular, the key of d minor, was associated with "Human Tragedy", the kind of visceral, bleeding heart, screaming your guts out tragedy; the key of e minor was associated with "Classic Tragedy"--tragedy of the mind, tragedy seen from a distance. The difference between these two types of tragedy might be summarized like this: d minor says, "I feel terrible!", while e minor says, "How terrible this is." Few people can tell the difference, but there IS a difference.

For years and years I was a neurotic mess and acted out lots of temper tantrums--I thought these tantrums were a central component of my personality, and to sacrifice them would be like giving up my spontaneity, my freedom. A few years ago, I realized that these emotional displays were merely self-indulgence, and really had nothing to do with what was actually going on inside me. I still have a tendency to talk too loud in public, state my opinions in emphatic terms, and physicalize emotional responses; BUT I assure you, these demonstrations should not be interpreted the way you would interpret the actions of a normal person, because Asperger's Syndrome has shaped and sculpted these responses into meanings that are unique to me, and may not mean to me anything like what they mean to you.

What I am getting at, is that, in spite of all appearances, Asperger's has given me a natural tendency toward a sobriety of mind that denies me access to many of the common pleasures that most people consider necessary components of something called "happiness", but it also gives me a higher level of clarity of mind that most people cannot claim.

This does not mean there is no laughter in my life, far from it: one of the notable features of my rehearsal style is that I am said to have a good sense of humor--I keep my rehearsals light through the use of humor, mostly of a bizarre, twisted kind, that is funny because it depends for its effect on unexpected turns of phrase, rather than the more normal situational kind of humor that most people are good at. Still, I can't say that this type of humor is a reliable indicator of FUN, per se, and it certainly doesn't imply happiness. The following are a group of quotes that point to the dark side of humor, the side that dominates most of my sayings:

Lord Byron, Don Juan (1821), Canto IV, st. 4.

"And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
'Tis that I may not weep."

Pierre de Beaumarchais, Barbier de Séville (1773), Act I, scene 2.

"I hasten to laugh at everything, for fear of being obliged to weep."

William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, "Lecture I: On Wit and Humour" (1819).

"Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be."

Friedrich Nietzsche in The Will to Power [Der Wille zur Macht] (1888).

"Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter."

Ken Kesey, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962).

"You have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy."

Ray Bradbury, in Christ, Old Student in a New School (1972).

I am the dreamer and the doer

I the hearer and the knower

I the giver and the taker

I the sword and the wound of sword.

If this be true, then let sword fall free from hand.

I embrace myself.
I laugh until I weep

And weep until I smile."

Indeed, there is something so exquisitely sad about life, it sometimes seems sacrilegious to violate its solemnity with anything so trivial as a joke. Material existence sometimes feels like a burden so heavy, and yet so paradoxical, it is beyond our power to bear it; we feel, with Adam, the pain and loss of our expulsion from Paradise so keenly that our tears flow like rain, and our limbs sag with the futility of it all. Indeed, at the scene of Lazarus' tomb, Jesus wept; Jesus, possessed of all foreknowledge of the resurrection, all divine love and grace--Jesus, who already knew the end of the story, was so overwhelmed by feelings of sympathy with the people suffering around Him that He wept with them. Ah, life!

And yet, it is hard to imagine the face of the compassionate Jesus without a smile on His face. Witness the very interesting line from Ray Bradbury quoted above: 

    "I laugh until I weep
    And weep until I smile."

What is this smile? Where does it come from? Why do we smile when we are laughing, sometimes when we are weeping, and yet also smile when we are communing with the mind of God, the furthest thing imaginable from laughing?

Now, remember, the title of this sermon is Happiness slash Joy, so I must be trying to draw a connection between happiness and laughter. I purposefully mentioned the word "fun" a little earlier, because I once worked for a minister who was fond of saying, "There are two words that are not in the Bible: fun and luck." Well, imagine my surprise when I found THIS out: I downloaded the entire Bible last weekend intending to do a word search for "Happiness", and found out that the word happiness does not appear ONCE in the entire Bible, and the word "Happy" appears only seven times in the Old Testament, and and not once in the New Testament.

These first four Old Testament quotes use the word "happy", as you would expect it to be used--to describe something good:

Genesis 30:13
    Leah said, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me happy."
        She named him Asher.

Deuteronomy 33:29
    You are happy, Israel.  Who is like you, a people saved by
    Yahweh, the shield of your help, the sword of your excellency!
        Your enemies shall submit themselves to you.  You shall tread
        on their high places.

1st Kings 10:8
     Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, who stand
        continually before you, [and] who hear your wisdom.

Psalms 128:2
     For you will eat the labor of your hands.  You will be happy,
        and it will be well with you.


Starting with Job, though, we get into more sinister connotations of the word "happy":

Job 5:17
    "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects.  Therefore do
        not despise the chastening of the Almighty.

The idea of being corrected by God would seem, on the surface, to be  GOOD thing, ("Thy rod," ow, "and thy staff" ow, ow, "they comfort me," OW), but if we think about Job for a minute, I think we can tell this correction might not be "FUN".

And this next quote from the Psalms, the one that laments the captivity of the Israelites, practically equates happiness with suicide or infanticide:

Psalm 137:8-9
    Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, he will be
    happy who rewards you, as you have served us.
    Happy shall he be, who takes and dashes your little ones
        against the rock.

And this quote from Malachi uses the word in an extremely sarcastic or ironic sense:

Malachi 3:15
     Now we call the proud happy; yes, those who work    
    wickedness are built up; yes, they tempt God, and escape.'


You can see from just these few examples, that the concept of "happiness" is not free of negative resonance. Furthermore, it appears to me that the word "happy" is a generalization for a spectrum of states of mind, of which many are not at all of the same quality or intensity. The word "happy" then, is such an ambiguous term that it has practically no meaning. In the main, however, I think that "happiness" is not unlike the state of ego fixity we have been discussing in previous weeks. I think that, above all, happiness means: no waves, calm seas, no movement in the fields. It also seems to me to mean something TEMPORARY. We can be happy with our apartment, happy with our car, happy with our salad, but can we really be happy with our lives? Doesn't being happy with our life mean there is no forward motion? And if there IS forward motion, how can we settle into a state of satisfaction? Dynamic states are not satisfying because satisfaction implies completion, and at least cadencing--a life motivated by spirit can never be happy because it can never be static--it's not over till (uh)  the fat lady sings.

The original scripture that inspired this message was this:

John 12:25
"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."

I thought it was such a significant expression, "he that hateth his life in this world", mostly because I carry around, most of the time, this feeling of apathetic detachment from my life, and would just as soon lose it as live it-- except for the fact that I feel convicted by a sense of commission: that I have been commissioned by God to do a certain thing, and my life cannot be over until I have completed my task.

To be sure, in the moment of doing that thing--completing that task--my life has meaning, and I would not trade my state with kings; but I can't say I get any lasting pleasure out of what I do: by this I mean that when I'm doing my job, I feel alive, filled to overflowing with spirit, and possessed by a personality of all goodness and joy--but when I'm not doing my job, I don't feel any particular residual satisfaction; the feeling of usefulness does not bleed over into the down time. In other words, my life "in this world" is basically flat and boring, and I fill up the time with pointless TV and novels. True, I am always trying to improve my mind by listening, in the car, to hours and hours of classic books on tape and lectures, and new music; but, you know, I don't get the kick out of improving my mind that I used to. I'm sixty years old now, and have spent a lifetime exploring the world of higher mind; and the loose ends I've lately been cleaning up, the act of finally listening to philosophers and writers I'd always heard of but had never got around to reading, is not so much the thrill of discovery, as it used to be, but more like a person cleaning up his apartment before moving out. It seems to me that of the point of life were to be happy, I would get more out of every second of my life instead of just the work part. Sometimes I feel like I am simply drifting from one task to another, and the only point to it all is that the next job, the next task will be here soon, and then I will be alive again.

I'll be even more honest: when I first came to Alaska, I suffered the worst personal tragedy of my life. It may be that the pain of this tragedy was so intense it deadened me to the world; but I would like to think that the pain of that personal experience was a gift: I think it created an atmosphere of redundancy, and functionally fixated stasis that allowed some psychic catalyst to kick me up into a daily mind state that was, and permanently will be, of a higher vibratory level than had hitherto been normal for me. I think the trauma sling-shotted me up into a mind state in which ALL the offered pleasures of mundane existence became dross. I feel that I am living on a higher plane than I ever have before, but also I feel that I have been robbed of something that normal people take for granted.

Thus, John 10:10 says:

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Is my life more abundant because I have have executed my duties? Well, I certainly can claim, with full assurance, that the armor of God has protected me, continually, from the strifes that attend the lives of many people living outside the fold of Jesus the Shepherd's protection, and I want for nothing--nothing the lack of which would hinder me in my work. But, as for the rest--I truly hate my life, and pray for its ending at Jesus's earliest convenience.

Perhaps I overstate the case. Let's look at some other commentary on this subject:

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
"He that loveth his life shall lose it,.... The sense is, that whoever is so in love with this present temporal life, as to be anxiously careful of it, and takes all precautions to secure it; and rather than to expose it to any danger, chooses to deny the faith of Christ, and desert his cause and interest; as such an one shall not long enjoy this life, so he shall come short of an eternal one:
and he that hateth his life in this world: on the other hand, whoever seems careless about it, and not to consult the safety of it, but is unconcerned about it; yea, as if he was throwing it away, as of no great moment and significancy, rather than do anything to preserve it, which would be scandalous to himself, and be dishonourable to his Lord and master; he shall keep it unto life eternal: he shall be preserved in his temporal life, in a remarkable manner, until he has done the will and work of God, notwithstanding all attempts upon it; and he shall appear to have that spiritual life, which is the beginning and pledge of, and which springs up unto, and issues in eternal life; and that he shall enjoy in the world to come. This Christ said to let his disciples and followers know, that they must suffer and die, as well as he, though not on the same account, and for the self-same reasons; and that their sufferings and death in his cause, and for his Gospel, would turn to their advantage."

This quote seems to be saying something like, "Pay now, enjoy later." If you take pleasure in your temporal life now, you will be denied the joys of eternal life. If there is anything in this mundane existence that is powerful enough to distract your attention from the eternal, that distraction will cost you your soul. This is not unlike how all business is transacted, except at the credit union; it is like the Faust legend where Mephistopheles offers Faust a trade--his soul for one moment of true earthly happiness; Faust wins, because the Devil is unable to come up with ONE eternal moment.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Did our Lord mean to exclude Himself from the operation of the great principle here expressed-self-renunciation, the law of self-preservation; and its converse, self-preservation, the law of self-destruction? On the contrary, as He became Man to exemplify this fundamental law of the Kingdom of God in its most sublime form, so the very utterance of it on this occasion served to sustain His own Spirit in the double prospect to which He had just alluded."

Of course, Martin Luther has something to say:
Sermon for the Third Sunday after Easter; 1 Peter 2:11-20
A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil.

1 Peter 2:11-20

"11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward (wayward-perverse).
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."


"Observe here, however, Peter teaches that the lot of the sharer in Christ's kingdom is quite the reverse of what he once imagined. "0 beloved Christians," he would say, "who are called and baptized into the royal and priestly kingdom of Christ, I have now to tell you things quite different from the ideas and dreams you and I used to entertain. We are, it is true, citizens, counts and lords in the kingdom where Christ reigns supreme over all earthly kings and lords, and where is only eternal riches, peace and happiness in every form; but the life of that kingdom is unlike that of earthly kings and dominions. You are not, be it known, lords and noblemen in a worldly sense; neither is Christ a king as the world regards kingliness, and the kingdom of the world is not in harmony with his. Know, then, you must regard yourselves strangers and pilgrims in the kingdom of the world."

[Sidebar: Boy, can I relate to that! I have ALWAYS felt like a stranger and a pilgrim passing through a strange land! I have always felt the melody of my soul to be in disharmony with the world. I'll tell the story of the idiot tuba player in a minute--let's finish the Luther quote:]

"Therefore, I admonish you that, having now become Christians--brothers in the eternal heavenly kingdom--your manner of life should be such as becomes them who are no longer of a worldly kingdom. Regard this earthly life only as the traveler or pilgrim regards the country wherein he journeys, the inn where he procures a night's lodging. He does not expect to remain in the city, to be mayor or even a citizen. He finds there his food, but his thoughts are cast beyond its gates, to the place where home is. So, Peter says, must you look upon your earthly course. You did not become Christians with the prospect of reigning here on earth, as the Jews fancy they shall reign and be established. The dwelling-place, the citizenship and the authority of Christians are to be found in another direction, not in this world. Therefore, think of yourselves as pilgrims on earth, directing your attention toward other possessions and another country, wherein you shall be lords forever, and where no discord nor misfortune such as you must endure in this earthly harbor shall ever enter."

Now, an old Russian folk tale once told to me by my first composition teacher:

The Village Idiot and the Band Leader

     Once upon a time, in the outlying provinces of old Russia, there was a village idiot.  In these days, as in many cultures around the world, the village idiot was considered to be sacred and was allowed to do anything he wanted.  This idiot loved to play the tuba in the town band, which he was allowed to do because he was sacred.  The band leader always attempted to lead his community group in popular walzes and light opera tunes of the time, but the tuba player always ruined things by showing up and playing a shower of random grunts and farts on his tuba, "Hoo, hum, hoo hum, blat, hbpth."

    The band leader tried various ploys to get rid of the tuba player: by hiding the village idiot's tuba in abandoned mines, by locking the village idiot in attics, and by attempting to hold secret rehearsals in the basement of the church, etc., but all his efforts failed.  Invariably, the moment he raised  his baton to begin the music, the village idiot would miraculously appear and begin playing passionate grunts and farts on his tuba, "Hoo, hum, hoo hum, blat, hbpth."

     Now, this band leader was a very talented fellow, and deplored his fate as a no-account, nobody, country musician.  He had visions of one day being discovered, of traveling to St. Petersburg to conduct the great orchestras there—to be celebrated, and applauded, and appreciated in that great city.  However, he was denied the clear opportunity to display his talents because that darned tuba player kept showing up and farting all over his conducting.  The band leader hated the village idiot for this, and daily plotted to rid himself of this evil impediment to his success.

     The band leader's one-chance-a-year to draw attention to himself was at the the county fair held every spring in his own little town.  Country bands from all over the district gathered there and played for the gathered crowds in a kind of battle-of-the-bands competition situation; the best band won a little gold-plated cup, and got to travel to a bigger town to compete against other bands from a much wider area, eventually, you guessed it, performing in the great St. Petersburg Amphitheater. The band leader pinned all his hopes on this event, because he was sure his band would win, if only he could get rid of the tuba player, if only he could get rid of that ghastly "Hoo, hum, hoo hum, blat, hbpth."

     The crucial day arrived. Early in the morning, the band leader seduced the village idiot into the back of a wagon with toast and jam, and while the idiot chomped and grinned merrily with strawberries all over his face, the band leader drove him out into the country.  When he felt he was far enough away,  he pulled the idiot off the wagon and chained him with strong chains to a tree. He tied the idiots hands with rope, and covered his grinning face with a burlap bag. He tore apart the tuba and smashed it into flat sheets of brass, and scattered them over the plain. Then he left the fool giggling under the burlap bag, and drove off exulting in his heart, almost tasting the acclaim of St. Petersburg.

     His moment had arrived. The expectant crowd had gathered and he raised his baton to lead the group in an arrangement of the quartet from Rigoletto that he had created himself especially for this occasion. Who should appear at that precise instant climbing up over the back of the bandstand, crumpled tuba clutched to his breast, but the smiling village idiot who began without a cue to gayly "Hoo, hum, hoo hum, blat, hbpth!" before the assembled multitude.  The band leader was crushed, mortified, enraged. He lunged  through the clarinet section at the village idiot with the intention of plunging his baton into that irrepressibly beating heart.

     Suddenly, there was a change in the atmosphere—a breeze, silvered with snow, whispered a solemn silence over the crowd. All eyes turned to the sky. Above, battalions of white clouds parted, like a curtain, to reveal choirs of angels singing hosannahs in the highest, a great lofty music. They descended upon the scene, shining eternal light onto the bandstand and onto the upturned face of the idiot tuba player, transformed, now, with a beatific smile of divine intelligence, an idiot's grin; and the band leader and all the people heard in a flash that the tuba player was playing in tune with the heavenly host.

Moral:
     Many of us get into battles with ourselves, with our self-imposed ego definitions, about how good we are.  We listen to the radio, to our favorite CDs, to the guy sitting in front of us in the band, and think, "I'm really no good, nobody wants to hear me." And so we hang back, hiding behind the other players, muffling our sounds with a self-deprecating veil. This is a wrong thing to do, because music doesn't have to conform to some objective standard we can carry around in our little brief case of verbal consciousness—it can be a spiritual emanation which is pure and truthful only when we give our best.  No one has any right to pass judgment on your best, no matter how much it sounds or doesn't sound like everybody else. If you're doing your best, playing with joy and conviction from your heart, you can be sure that on some plane of existence you are playing with the angels.


Clearly, the idiot tuba player was not living with his mind on earthly things--he was wholly taken up by heavenly song, which went unheard by human ears. And yet the fruits of his labor were there to hear once the proper context was provided. Did he play with more joy before of after the angels came down? Was there a difference? Will the second coming be like that? Or must we live the second coming every day in the privacy of our secret hearts?

Habakkuk 3:17-19

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." 


We shall speak more of this next week, and I will reveal the true error of my ways.

Let us pray: Jesus, we depend on your guidance when we seek to derive meaning from anything. Please have mercy and lead us to the high places--at your convenience, of course. Amen

Sunday, June 3, 2012

14 In the Service of the Ego-II

John 6:27
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

For the past three weeks we have been attempting to describe more and more specific techniques we can use to reliably distinguish between the meat that perishes and the meat that endures forever. Today we will go deeper into some established concepts from the field of psychology, to see if we can find in them connections that will be helpful in sharpening our perceptions of and sensitivities to spiritual truth.

Last week we discussed the unhappy fact that many, many people use what ought to be spiritual food as fodder to feed their famished carnal nature. The language of spirituality, or, we might say the jargon of spirituality can deceive us into thinking we are being spiritual when, in fact we are being merely mindless monkeys parroting back empty words. As Julian Jaynes has reminded us, consciousness consists, in large part, of the language with which we express experience--and if our language is corrupt at bottom, our expressions will convey no truth, only noise.  As we mentioned last week, this is why, even when we seek the spiritual truth of the Word, so that we may transcend the natural propensities of our sinful flesh, we so often fall short of this potential, and remain sinners; we discussed how sometimes, even with the purest of intentions, our literal consciousness mistakes truthful virtue for just another kind of sin in sheep's clothing.

It goes without saying, that the things our literal consciousness, the ego, needs to function well in daily life, and the things our higher consciousness, the soul, needs to experience HIGHER reality, may not be the same things. This is the problem: we need to learn to distinguish carefully between the qualities of our various experiences, and, as Rainier Maria Rilke says:
"Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”
As Chogyam Trungpa says:

“Enlightenment is ego's ultimate disappointment.”

Deepak Chopra says:
“The ego relies on the familiar. It is reluctant to experience the unknown, which is the very essence of life.”

The aggressive dogmatist is always ready and spoiling for a fight over some semantic detail, not because the idea  is significant, but because clinging to the familiarity of the concept gives him a false sense of security. Like the youthful RFT, he wants truth that stays the same tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

As Joseph Campbell says:
“How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.”


I found this quote in the medieval work Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. In this statement, Boethius is proposing the idea that the perfect good (God) exists and manifests as a unity, and that any expression that falls short of a perfect unity cannot be true:

"And here I conceive it proper to inquire, first, whether any excellence, such as thou hast lately defined, can exist in the nature of things, lest we be deceived by an empty fiction of thought to which no true reality answers. But it cannot be denied that such does exist, and is, as it were, the source of all things good. For everything which is called imperfect is spoken of as imperfect by reason of the privation of some perfection; so it comes to pass that, whenever imperfection is found in any particular, there must necessarily be a perfection in respect of that particular also. For were there no such perfection, it is utterly inconceivable how that so-called imperfection should come into existence. Nature does not make a beginning with things mutilated and imperfect; she starts with what is whole and perfect, and falls away later to these feeble and inferior productions."

Thus, Boethius insists on the existence of a perfect world created by a perfect God; any departure from that perfection is the consequence of a departure from wholeness into a partialness, a privation of perfection. The villain in this scenario of "feeble and inferior productions" is the EGO. It is the Ego that attempts desperately to maintain psychic stability by creating "empty fictions".

Last week we reviewed Freud's theory of the three-level structure of consciousness: the Id, the Ego, and the Super-ego. In this theory, the term "Id" refers to our most base carnal impulses--impulses which are totally self-centered, animalistic, and which demand immediate gratification; the term "Super-ego" refers to man's highest, most civilized states of consciousness, such as patience, tolerance, and forgiveness--consciousness states which clearly reside on the borders of the world of abstraction. The term "Ego" refers to the state of mind which acts as a buffer, a mid-ground between the base carnal nature, and the higher moral nature.

Clearly, it is not difficult to translate Freud's terminology into Christian language:
1. the Id is man's fleshly carnal nature,
2. the Ego is the human nature, the state of consciousness which, deceived by the false truth of mundane language, is still victimized by origin sin, but which is gradually becoming aware of the spiritual dimension of its own existence, and
3. the Super-ego is the born-again, combination Son of Man and Son of God.

Last week we heard the following from Rudolf Steiner:

"By overcoming the dictates of both our 'lower' and 'higher' sources of experience, by orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience, we find the freedom to choose how to think and act.

Freedom for Steiner thus does not lie in uninhibited expression of our subjective nature, but in the conscious unification of this with the objective constraints of the world.

Steiner coined the term moral imagination for the inner act which results in free action. He suggests that we only achieve free deeds when we find a moral imagination, an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation. This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed. This radical ethical individualism is, for Steiner, characteristic of freedom."

The idea of "orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience" is the crux of the matter; becoming conscious of how man's subjective nature can achieve unification with the objective constraints of the world is the whole problem; in order to evaluate experience as either spiritual or carnal we must develop the powers of discrimination which allow us to distinguish between the spiritual and the carnal. Easier said than done, to be sure. We must learn how to take the various levels of experience in hand (expressed, made conscious, largely through the medium of language, remember) and reconcile them into an integrated gestalt (which can only take place in the domain of the heart). Indeed, the relationships between, or, rather the FLOW between the Will, the Spirit, the Word, and the Language, is the subject of this discussion. The linking of the higher to the lower ground is a miracle, but it is not beyond our powers of description, a description which may prove useful in developing the sensitivities of discrimination mentioned above.

Steiner, coins the term moral imagination, to represent this meeting ground of the higher and lower nature; however, what is lacking in Steiner's lecture is a precise description of the actual structure of moral imagining--he doesn't say HOW--he gives us no blueprint of the process by which is made possible "an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation". What is it that kicks the mechanism of moral imagination into operation? We will get there.

At this point, we will take a closer look at a mental process called "Regression" and hopefully this will provide us with a rationally articulate, step-by-step process for reproducing in ourselves, as in a spiritual laboratory, this experience of moral imagining that brings the carnal ravings of the Flesh and the Heavenly resonance of the Word together into an harmonious synthesized state of mind. It will be noticed right away that this regression of which we speak is intimately linked to the idea of Epiphany, of which we have already spoken at length, but let's tuck that idea away in a corner for awhile, and come back to it in a minute.

The following material exposes and develops the concept of psychological regression. This not a new idea for us, since I have previously mentioned it as one of the key stages in the process of epiphanic re-centering: in simple terms, regression is a state of mind in which clarity of verbal thinking disperses into a more basic, experience of primitive physical impulses, a sinking into the Id, you might say. The psychological consequence of regression is a reduction of emotional tension.

The following is taken from the Psychology Wiki: Regression in Service of the Ego:
"This was a phrase developed by Ernst Kris during his work in ego psychology indicating the creative benefits of regression.
He felt that the aims of the ego were sometimes enhanced by the ability of people to regress and use the irrational processes of the unconscious and the Id to develop alternative ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. While this is of obvious advantage to artists he was thinking too of the wider benefits of such flexibility."

This is from Healthy Regression, by Mark Sichel, LCSW:

"We discussed regression in somewhat negative terms in Regression. The important thing to realize is that not all regressive behaviors are bad for you. Regression, like the flight/fight response, is universal. Every one of us has times when we regress. There are many regressive behaviors that are actually healthy and adaptive. Below you will find behaviors which clinically are considered regressive, however, they are what psychologists call "regressive in the service of the ego."

Psychologists define the ego as the part of our psychological makeup which functions as the executive in charge of our psyche.

Regression in the service of the ego consists of activities and behaviors that help us to repair from the stress of life, and replenish ourselves in order to continue to function well."

The following is taken from The Myth of Sisyphus: regression in service of the ego, written by aldussault:

"The egoic presence is a warrior ever standing guard and waiting for the moment to engage.  It is forever scanning the world to look for something to judge badly and by so doing think that it has the upper moral hand. The ego, the part of me that I mostly know by my first name, Al, is confusing what it needs to stay dominant, with what my organism needs to stay content and peaceful.  The ego grew with the same pace as my physical development.  It was the perceiving, organizing, protecting, defensive aspect of me that kept me safe, that is, kept my identity safe.  As the chore of keeping my identity safe became confused with the chore of keeping my organism safe, my ego developed its current practice of keeping my identity, my thoughts and emotions and opinions safe from encroachment.  

In other words, it became engaged in keeping my ego identity safe and forfeited the job of keeping my organism safe  There is a phrase we use in psychoanalysis called, “regression in service of the ego.”  This phrase was developed in 1952 by a then prominent psychoanalyst, Ernst Kris.  Essentially he talks about a feeling of elation that is used as motivation in the creative process.  He speaks of this sensation as feeling as if it comes from outside, from an as outside agent.  His thought was that this was some kind of psychotic regression to some pre-egoic condition.  I have a different take on it. My feeling is that it feels like it comes from outside the self because it is coming from the wider consciousness that is actually outside the prevue of the ego…Or, I might say it comes from the soul of the self rather than from the rational ego."
[Sidebar: As we will see, momentarily, this "wider consciousness" spoken of here may go by many names. In Jung we hear of the "collective unconscious", in Tielhard de Chardin we hear of the "Omega Point" (the gathering together of all human minds into one great over-arching cloud of consciousness), in Boethius this perfect wholeness of consciousness is simply GOD. So many labels, so little time! Oy vey!]

Back to aldussault:
"There are many folks who feel a need, so desperately, to keep their identity intact that they lose all contact with the higher principles of peace and contentment and happiness.  The ego in its uncanny fashion differentiates  itself from the wider sense of self and  diminishes the value of contentment in the face of maintaining its own righteousness and place of permanence in the psyche."

[Sidebar: Hence a primary drive of the ego is to simulate a feeling of stability by "maintaining its own righteousness and place of permanence in the psyche." To me, self-righteousness is the most pernicious psychological attitude I can think of, and yet, it is the hardest to recognize in ourselves. We all want to feel right, we all want to feel like we have the truth in our back pocket, but it is so hard to feel right about something without:

A: feeling prideful about it, and
B. feeling that anybody who disagrees with us is wrong.

As CS Lewis says:
“If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.”]

Back to aldussault:

"Creativity and sensitivity to one’s experience of freedom and joy are activities that are built, or discovered, outside the agency of the ego.  In that way we often hear people talk about channelling another source, or being inspired by a muse.  In fact the source of creativity is the self, but the self that lives outside the ego.  The ego need not be dismantled in order to tap this source.  It is just that one needs to learn to NOT rely on old egoic positions and instead be ready to capture ideas that are free floating and less tied to convention. The source is the divine in us.  It is the great “I AM” of creation and we exist as co-creators.  It is not up to the universe to bring us joy.  It is our task, indeed our purpose in life, to bring joy to the universe.  We live in the paradise that we create by flowing down stream, or we are condemned like Sisyphus  to be rolling the bolder of life  forever uphill."

Now, we need to introduce the terms "redundancy"and "functional fixation", since they are linked, in turn, to the idea of regression. The following is from from my Doctoral Thesis Article, On the Improv Mind State. Remember, that this article was written not only:
 1. to affirm that there is just such a meeting place, as Steiner suggests, between spirit and flesh, but also that
2. the directions to that place can be mapped out with some rational precision.

The fact that, in this case, the links in the chain of thought which leads to a re-centered end condition of repose, (an intuitive or epiphanic response), are forged using the language of music does not lessen the relevance of the psychic event as it applies to prayer; as you have heard me say, many times, the language of music and the language of prayer are quintessentially the same.

The main source of the psychological background for my thesis came from a book called Intuition, written by Tony Bastick.

"Bastick also explores the importance of redundancy to intuitive thought:

"The Theory of Intuitive Thought describes intuitions as the highly redundant responses conditioned to an emotional set, responses made conscious by an awareness of the feelings accompanying the increase in redundancy. The redundancy is increased by the combination of emotional sets to produce this terminating emotional set."

Thus, by measuring the degree of redundancy, we can trace the effects of recentering; in a musical context, we can observe the influence of intuition on the flow of musical events as they move towards an ultimate state of emotional repose. We can observe this activity because familiar musical patterns, idiomatic expressions associated with historical and personal styles, provide us with literal signposts."

[Sidebar: Remember that a musical cliché and a literal cliché are invested with equivalent emotional charges, so this discussion of musical recentering applies with equal validity to the verbal recentering involved in problem solving.]

"We can also observe (though perhaps not as easily) the recentering process which transforms clichéd concatenations of musical events into anomalous (original) progressions, progressions which provide both satisfying subjective feelings of relationship and logical connections between elements.

Intimately associated with redundancy is "functional fixation," the tension- reducing effect of the use of familiar material. Bastick explains how a fixation on familiar linguistic structures may inhibit the flow of intuitive responses:

"When an object is shown in its common use, this inhibits novel ideas for other uses. The subject loses flexibility because he has a course of action that is plausible. In experiments by Duncker, K. (1945), repeated by Adamson, R.E. (1952), this process is called 'functional fixation'. This is related to field dependence . . . functional fixation acts in opposition to recentering.

Functional fixation as it is used in problem-solving is explained here as the possession of a solution that reduces any tension that might otherwise give intrinsic motivation to find another solution."

[Sidebar: In other words, the ego feels better (less tense) when it thinks it already has a solution, than when it is still out there seeking one. This is why people fix on one set of dogmatic truisms, rather than leaving themselves open to the vicissitudes of change.]

Back to the thesis:

"Functional fixation is essentially the converse of originality, that quality with which most musicians strive to infuse their work. In effect, familiar musical material, whether momentary or extended, may inhibit the generation of intuitive responses, and therefore suppress the manifestation of original ideas. The use of familiar material is an attractive, safe, alternative because it provides a tension-free, literal-minded solution to a musical problem—a solution in which very few intuitive choices are made."

[Sidebar: This is exactly like the ego clinging to dogmatic religious truisms because they are familiar, stable, and comfortable, not necessarily because they are true. I find truth to be consistently unstable because truth is DYNAMIC--it is always moving ever closer to the the face of God, and changing with every change in me.]

Back to the thesis:

"Because functional fixation reduces the likelihood of an intuitive response the mere parroting of stylistic clichés, or other literal material, will not engage the collective mind in the creative process. Adherence to textbook examples of harmonic progressions, for instance, will not challenge the mind to seek an unfamiliar end-condition, so the emotional tension necessary to produce an intuitive response will be lacking. However, the reduction of tension by the use of clichés, results in another condition which Bastick calls "psychological regression."

[Sidebar: My doctoral thesis mentions the introduction of archetypal material as the catalyst for re-centering. We have already observed that the rhythmic acceleration of mental constructs, as they strive to achieve a projected end condition, leads to a regressed consciousness state, a functionally fixated, pre-conscious state, which constitutes the final state immediately preceding the miraculous moment of epiphany.

At the moment of epiphany the redundant collective expression is suddenly, instantly transformed, by a charge of Heavenly energy, into an anomalous spiritual entity--a finger of God extending into the physical dimension with pointed power and clarity at man's paltry literal understanding. The surface features of the THING become radiant with spiritual light, and the familiar (as a paradigm, a category) becomes new and singularly unique, an anomalous now. As Steiner says:

"This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed."

As C. S. Lewis says,

"Aslan is not a TAME lion."]

Back to the thesis:

"In psychological regression, consciousness turns back—regresses—to a more primitive state of awareness. The regression itself may well produce a momentary
lapse in attention or effort, typically associated with the use of clichés; but it is precisely at such a moment that the mind is open to new possibilities for recentering and originality. Bastick traces the evolution of his notion through several previous writers:

"Rothenberg, A. (1970) in a study of "inspiration, insight and the creative process" says that "Ernest Kris applies his term 'regression in the service of the ego' most particularly to inspiration" (p. 173).

Pine, F. and Holt, R.R. (1969) use Kris's (1952) idea of "regression in the service of the ego" as " . . . a momentary and at least partially controlled use of primitive, non-logical and drive-dominated modes of thinking in the early stages of the creative process" (p. 370) which agrees with what we have already seen in this section, namely that the early stages of the creative process are intuitive.

Hartmannn, H., et al. (1947) consider primary-process thinking as regressive and productive modes of intuitive thinking which give rise to novel and creative ideas (p. 320)."

Creativity being a primary process is supported by Hammer, E. F. (1973) who says that creatives have to be " . . . attuned to more primary thought processes while maintaining touch with reason and reality." This also necessitates control of change and constancy of ego state."

[Sidebar: This principle of becoming "attuned to more primary thought processes while maintaining touch with reason and reality," is central to the conclusion at which we will very shortly be arriving.]

Back to the thesis:

"There is an interesting paradox here. On one hand, functional fixation (via redundancy) causes a decrease in tension; by imposing familiar, clichéd solutions, it works in opposition to recentering. On the other hand, the psychological regression resulting from functional fixation ultimately leads to a state of accelerated thinking, or at least some kind of highly compressed synthesis of material, with a concomitant increase in tension. It follows, then, that fixation on musical clichés, with the resulting psychological regression, may be precisely what is needed to call the collective mind into operation, to open the individual mind to a "primitive," preconscious state, and to allow superpersonal material to surface. Perhaps it is the paradigmatic, archetypal character of these collective expressions that is the most profoundly human aspect of art; perhaps the content of these expressions crosses the line between material reality and spiritual reality."

[Sidebar: But there is still one more step.]

Getting untied from a conventional truism has got to be the most difficult task the mind can perform. It is a very big deal. People tend to make vast mountains out of molehills. Contrariwise a molehill can sometimes command a truth of infinite space. Many times, a largely magnificent intuitive response can be triggered by a single physical event or a trivially small associated thing. Many great works of fiction use a simple small THING as a symbol for a larger thing; I could give hundreds of examples:
the handkerchief in Shakespeare’s Othello, which comes to symbolize the fidelity of his wife Desdemona;

the little bauble the hero of James Joyce’s Araby fails to buy, thus losing his chance to attract his young love;

the signature that the hero of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible refuses to sign, thus losing his life; and, of course,

Judas’ kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Small actions can have big consequences—small things can symbolize very large things. The trick is to use our moral imagination to tell the difference.

Once again, what is it that triggers the "moral imagination"? It has to be something literal, because it influences our thoughts and actions; and yet it can't come from the ego, because the ego is only interested in a quick fix--anything to give us a sense of repose, whether it is the truth or not. Through all these labyrinths of psychological terms and functions there has been one word lurking in the back ground waiting to spring forth and clarify the situation with its divine simplicity: the word is Faith. Faith is absolutely a verbal expression in the mind, because is is always relative to some THING, faith in the future, faith in the affections of our loved ones, faith in the weather, etc.; but faith always points away from what can be scientifically proved to something that can only be believed without laboratory justification. Faith is an inner image of what ought to be if God is just--hence, MORAL IMAGINATION. Faith forges the conjunction between the Will and the Word by catalyzing the process or reentering. Faith is the ACT that accelerates mundane concepts into their epiphanic mode. And it is FAITH that is the armor of God that can protect us from the savage attacks of Satan with his repertoire of false truths.

Last week I repeatedly mentioned this:
it must be admitted that some things have only carnal value, while other things have only spiritual value--but sometimes the same THING can be possessed of both carnal AND spiritual qualities, depending on where the attention of the devotee is directed. Verily, verily I say unto you, the temporal or eternal value of a thing is determined not by the inherent quality of the thing itself, but, rather, by the attitude of the observer towards it; the spirituality of the observer transforms a thing from one consciousness state to another by an act of will. 
An act of faith is an act of will because it forces our consciousness out of the redundant ego-serving track into virgin territory--a territory in which miracles not only happen, but which are the region's stock-in-trade.

Ephesians 6:10-18 says this:
"Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...." 

Christians have the advantage over other seekers after Truth, because repeated acts of faith make the whole armor of God stronger and stronger. Still, in developing the sensitivity to spiritual truth, we have identified, above and beyond the protection of angelic entities, several clear rational signposts that will give us the confidence to be sure that what we think and say is Truth that will actually endure, and not fade to nothing as the transitory ego identity shifts with the tides of time.

These signposts are:
1. redundancy as a starting point--sure, gimme that old time religion, it was good enuff fer my mother and it's good enuff fer me;
2. acceleration as the experience of the expression begins to gather momentum and mass; and
3. transformation--the expression begins to resonate with unstable but radiant Heavenly light.

An act of faith is necessary to kick this mechanism into gear, but once the process has begun, the Light will be visible to us through grace and nothing else; it will be clear, and bright, and accompanied by music.

Let us pray: Jesus, it is so easy for us to betray ourselves with the language of verbal consciousness. Strengthen our faith in our own ability to create divine meaning out of inert verbal structures. Give us the skill to recognize the true from the false, and, having recognized it, grant us the grace to dwell in the radiance of the True Word. Amen.
13 In the Service of the Ego I

Last week I promised to discuss the methods by which earthly food may become spiritual food. I admit this was a bold promise, and, indeed, this week, I find that I still couldn't get it all in--we'll have to have one more installment of this next week. The problem is especially difficult and large because one of my main problems is a negative--for years, I have been impressed (or depressed) by the fact that so many people use what ought to be spiritual food as fodder to feed their famished carnal nature. Yes, we all fall short of our potential, we all are sinners, and we all seek the truth so that we may transcend the natural propensities of our sinful flesh; but sometimes our literal consciousness mistakes truthful virtue for just another kind of sin in sheep's clothing--so we MUST find ways to catch ourselves when this happens.

Today we will review some basic principles of psychology in order to approach this subject in a rational manner; the main villain in today's scenario is the ego.

For now, let's begin where we left off last week:

John 6:27
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Last week I repeatedly mentioned this: it must be admitted that some things have only carnal value, while other things have only spiritual value--but sometimes the same THING can be possessed of both carnal AND spiritual qualities, depending on where the attention of the devotee is directed. Verily, verily I say unto you, the temporal or eternal value of a thing is determined not by the inherent quality of the thing itself, but, rather, by the attitude of the observer towards it; the spirituality of the observer transforms a thing from one consciousness state to another by an act of will. In other words, if some big-shot priest writes a large treatise on some religious subject, full of highfalutin' righteous-sounding jargon, designed to justify some dogmatic proposition or other, but he composes it not in the service of higher truth, but rather in the service his own the ego, this treatise becomes merely an earth-bound bauble, sounding brass, one more pitiful evocation of carnal nature; meanwhile the humblest peasant meditation on a lily of the field, in all its spiritual glory, may be of infinite value, and may resonate throughout eternity.

What this tells us is that even when we are seeking God, our seeking can go astray.

C. S. Lewis wrote:
“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way.”

Asking God to give us what WE want when WE want it, because WE have figured out that HE owes us what WE want, is what I call living in the service of the ego. The ego is this mass of attitudes and memories and concepts that define our conscious appreciation of ourselves. We could not exist without it--that is to say we could not exist on the material plane without it; so many physically real things are part of our daily lives, that to deny their existence might be spiritually liberating, but I'm afraid it would liberate us right out of this world, and into a discarnate state of existence. Good, fine, but don't forget God put us here for  a reason, and dealing with the mundane world is one of our tasks, like it or not. Therefore, the trick is to deal with the world, but not be OF the world; not to buy into the world's illusions of substantiality, ESPECIALLY what appear substantialities of truth. The primary proposition of this address is that there are ways to distinguish the spiritually true from the spiritually untrue.

This problem has been a constant obsession with me, all my life, because determining where real spiritual truth is, is one of the primary tasks in evaluating art. I have spent my life developing a truth meter in my head and heart in order to tell when a piece of music is telling the truth and when it is bearing false witness. I used to be much more rigid about it, and I used to much more clear about what was a great piece of music and what was a crummy piece of music. Indeed, I used to mistake my own prejudices and opinions for ultimate authority, and it gave me great pleasure to announce, with pompous dogmatic pride, that this is a great piece and this is not a great piece. I was very full of myself, and worked hard to acquire virtue in the service of my own ego.

The following is an excerpt from my auto-biography which reviews how, as a young man, I perceived musical truth:
"I had always craved the real— the intuitive stuff from higher dimensions that transforms the mundane into the heavenly—the REAL real, the durable truth, the lasting truth. And I was no lazy hypocrite either: I worked hard, searching inside myself for the "truthful resonance" of every sound I heard in my head. From the very beginning of my musical life, I weighed every written note on a delicate inner-balance meter—a "truth-meter" which examined every phrase, every sonority for naked, unadulterated statements about the way things really are. I ruthlessly subjected myself to the strict rule of the truth-meter, cutting out, with burning laser beam, every false detail of my own inner image. My need for a perfectly sequential chain of logic, (that characterizes the Asperger mentality), could not tolerate the least lapse in connectivity between one musical thought and the next. It was the linking between ideas that legitimized the gestalt; without the inner connectedness of the material, the sounds were rusty artifacts, broken bottles with nothing inside. When the ideas followed one from the next, in perfect order, the life force that flowed through the whole shone into the world with the living energy of higher intelligence. It was this higher intelligence I craved, since music was the only language that made sense to me, and I would not speak half-truth gobbledy-gook to myself. I was hard on myself, and I was honest with myself. I had no choice—I have never been able to lie.

    Of course, my white hot truth-meter was equally scalding when I turned it on the music of other composers—it was a false statement detector, scanning every moment, of every piece of music I heard, for saliency, authenticity, humanity, spirit; and it was never fooled by the cleverness, or the depth of pedigree a of a musical statement. I had so thoroughly sensitized myself, in my private inner discipline, to see through the appearance-value of a thing to the heart of the thing, that my hunger for truth was only satisfied by musical statements, from myself or anybody else, about the way things REALLY are. The affirmative power of music was my only reliable comfort, when I stood alone on the pale horizon, facing the vastly inscrutable paradox of existence.

    I rejected the idea of general truth in favor of personal truth; I understood that only from the personal orientation could the literally-articulated-self diffuse into the collective self. Other people might possibly be able to jump from the experience of the collective artifact straight into the collective consciousness, but, for my Asperger brain to ascend to a higher mind state, I had to take all the steps in their proper sequential order, i.e.; I had to start at the center of my conscious self and move outward, through a series of quantum leaps, to the higher mind, the collective mind. I measured every note's relationship to the heart in precise increments. To me, the innermost heart was the only true origin of music. Truth was ancient, and grand, and glorious, and would not fit on the covers of the tabloids."

You can see from this that even as a youth I was craving the spiritual food that does not perish, but it may also be seen that I was attempting this from the most puritanical of perspectives, and was very caught up in serving the ego at least as much as searching for imperishable truth; at that time, imperishable truth only meant truth that would not squirm around and shift and change under close scrutiny.

Deepak Chopra says:
“The ego relies on the familiar. It is reluctant to experience the unknown, which is the very essence of life.”

I wanted truth that would remain stable like a rock, a haven in stormy seas, unassailed by movement or evolution. To me, ultimate truth was truth that stayed the same today, tomorrow and forever. I wanted to be born again every time I heard a piece of music, but, all too often, my literal consciousness was definitely blocking avenues to higher dimensions by rejecting the possibility that the truth of higher dimensions might not be the same tomorrow as it was today. I had not learned the lesson from Dante that I, now, never tire of quoting:

"Not that there was more than a simple appearance
In the living light which I gazed upon
And which is as it has always has been;

But my sight grew stronger
As I  looked; and so the static face of God
Transformed itself with every change in me."
  
I had not yet learned that spiritual truth evolves as I evolve, and that I was evolving all the time.

Well, I've grown up a lot and am a lot more tolerant than I used to be, but I WASN'T wrong--there IS a border between truth and mediocrity. I tell my students about the quantum leap all the time: if enough energy enters an atom to excite an electron to go faster and faster until it reaches escape velocity, the electron will jump into a higher orbit, and it will never fall back; this is called a quantum leap. We have talked about the moment of psychological re-centering when an intuition restructures our experience in a flash of time. These moments do happen, and it would do us good to learn to generate these moments in ourselves through acts of will, and to recognize them when they happen spontaneously through grace.

Much of the following deals with some basic terms from psychology, many of which were coined by Sigmund Freud, so I thought it would not be amiss to provide a review of Freud's basic model of the mind since we will be referring to it for the rest of the sermon.

Freud's Division of the Mind by David B. Stevenson '96, Brown University:
"Freud understood the mind as constantly in conflict with itself, and understood this conflict as the primary cause of human anxiety and unhappiness. . . Freud's investigations into internal conflicts such as this led him to an eventual division of the mind into three parts, three conflicting internal tendencies, the well-known id, ego, and super-ego.
This division, it is important to note, is not the separation of the mind into three structures and functions which exist in physical partitions in the brain; they are not even truly structures, but rather separate aspects and elements of the single structure of the mind. Although it is convenient to say, for example, that the id "demands" immediate gratification, the mind has no three distinct little men who engage in a constant fisticuffs of conflict. The personification of these elements merely serves as a convenient guide through a complex psychoanalytic theory.

The id, the ego and the superego function in different levels of consciousness: indeed, Freud's theory of the mind hinges upon the ability of impulses or memories to "float" from one level to another. The interaction between the three functions of the mind represents a constant movement of items from one level to another."

[Sidebar: The idea of "floating from one consciousness state to another relates directly to my idea of the multi-dimensional character of the human personality,  which we have discussed several times in the past; in particular, it pertains to the idea of conceptual re-centering of the intuitive response, or, as we have referred to it before, the EPIPHANIC response, a psychic  event which we will review momentarily.]
"Id
As the baby emerges from the womb into the reality of life, he wants only to eat, drink, urinate, defecate, be warm, and gain sexual pleasure. These urges are the demands of the id, the most primitive motivational force. In pursuit of these ends, the id demands immediate gratification: it is ruled by the pleasure principle, demanding satisfaction now, regardless of circumstances and possible undesirable effects. If a young child was ruled entirely by his id, he would steal and eat a piece of chocolate from a store regardless of the menacing owner watching above him or even his parents scolding beside him.

The id will not stand for a delay in gratification. For some urges, such as urination, this is easily satisfied. However, if the urge is not immediately discharged, the id will form a memory of the end of the motivation: the thirsty infant will form an image of the mother's breast. This act of wish-fulfillment satisfies the id's desire for the moment, though obviously it does not reduce the tension of the unfulfilled urge."

[Sidebar: In this case we are using the term "wish-fulfillment in the same sense as the term "end condition" as it applies to intuitive re-centering. Both terms refer to a mind state projected into the future at which our mental efforts are attempting to arrive.]
"Ego
The eventual understanding that immediate gratification is usually impossible (and often unwise) comes with the formation of the ego, which is ruled by the reality principle. The ego acts as a go-between in the id's relations with reality, often suppressing the id's urges until an appropriate situation arises. This repression of inappropriate desires and urges represents the greatest strain on, and the most important function of, the mind. The ego often utilizes defense mechanisms to achieve and aid this repression. Where the id may have an urge and form a picture which satisfies this urge, the ego engages in a strategy to actually fulfill the urge. The thirsty five-year-old now not only identifies water as the satisfaction of his urge, but forms a plan to obtain water, perhaps by finding a drinking fountain. While the ego is still in the service of the id, it borrows some of its psychic energy in an effort to control the urge until it is feasibly satisfied. The ego's efforts at pragmatic satisfaction of urges eventually builds a great number of skills and memories and becomes aware of itself as an entity. With the formation of the ego, the individual becomes a self, instead of an amalgamation of urges and needs.

Superego
While the ego may temporarily repress certain urges of the id in fear of punishment, eventually these external sources of punishment are internalized, and the child will not steal the chocolate, even unwatched, because he has taken punishment, right, and wrong into himself. The superego uses guilt and self-reproach as its primary means of enforcement for these rules. But if a person does something which is acceptable to the superego, he experiences pride and self-satisfaction.

The superego is sub-dividable into two parts: conscience and ego ideal. Conscience tells what is right and wrong, and forces the ego to inhibit the id in pursuit of morally acceptable, not pleasurable or even realistic, goals. The ego ideal aims the individual's path of life toward the ideal, perfect goals instilled by society. In the pursuit, the mind attempts to make up for the loss of the perfect life experienced as a baby."

Having reviewed the basic Freudian vocabulary I now want to shift our discussion to a more spiritual plane. We begin our examination of some of this source material with Steiner. This is from a Wikipedia article on his most famous book, ‪Philosophy of Freedom‬:

"Overview
Steiner observes that the key question concerning the existence of freedom of the will is how the will to action arises in the first place. Steiner describes two sources for human motivation: our natural being, our instincts, feelings, and thoughts insofar as these are determined by our character - and the dictates of conscience or abstract ethical or moral principles. In this way, both nature and culture determine motivations that play into our will and soul life. Overcoming these two elements, neither of which is individualized, we can achieve genuinely individualized intuitions that speak to the particular situation at hand. By overcoming the dictates of both our 'lower' and 'higher' sources of experience, by orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience, we find the freedom to choose how to think and act.

Freedom for Steiner thus does not lie in uninhibited expression of our subjective nature, but in the conscious unification of this with the objective constraints of the world."

[Sidebar: The idea of "orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience" is the crux of the matter; the whole process of evaluating experience as either spiritual or carnal depends on our ability to distinguish the spiritual from the carnal. How we take the various levels of experience in hand and reconcile them into an integrated experience is the subject of this discussion, and must be looked at closer and closer if we are to derive any meaning from these comments.]

"Steiner coined the term moral imagination for the inner act which results in free action. He suggests that we only achieve free deeds when we find a moral imagination, an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation. This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed. This radical ethical individualism is, for Steiner, characteristic of freedom."

[Sidebar: We remind you that the intuitive epiphanic response cannot be "predicted or prescribed." Unlike the ego, which depends on rigidity of thought--stability of literal meaning--spiritual truth defies all the devotee's efforts to control or direct the direction of the information stream. People determined to pin down the sayings of Jesus into neatly contained, fixed little boxes, will ALWAYS fail, because spiritual truth cannot be controlled by the literal mind--it takes the language of the heart to accomplish this. What Steiner calls the "moral imagination" is just another way of referring to the mysterious working of the heart on mundane issues and realities. Furthermore let me remind you that the conclusion arrived at by the heart are nearly always a surprise. It must be noted that staunch dogmatists HATE surprises.]

"We become aware of the outer nature of the world and its inner nature in radically different ways: our sensory perceptions inform us about the outer appearance of the world, while our thought life penetrates its inner nature. This division is particular to and defines human experience. Steiner suggests that we actually have the capacity to overcome the dualism of experience by reuniting perception and cognition. When contemplating our own thinking activity, we are perceiving that which we are thinking, and thinking that which we are perceiving. Steiner suggests that freedom arises most purely at this moment, when free ideation arises out of ego activity; this is, for Steiner, spiritual activity. . .

Steiner seeks to demonstrate that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our perception, which reflects the outer appearance of the world, and our cognition, which gives us access to the inner structure of the world. He suggests that outer freedom arises when we bridge the gap between our ideals and the constraints of external reality, letting our deeds be inspired by the moral imagination. . . "

[Sidebar: Thus, it may be seen that Steiner wants us to USE the ego to motivate higher cognition, therefore creating imaginative realities whose purpose is to synthesize or integrate the energies of both flesh and spirit into each other.]

"Steiner emphasizes that thinking is unique in our access in it to the true inner reality of the world at least in one corner. We can be conscious of our thought processes in a way that we cannot be of our feelings, will or perceptions. Because of this, we can be sure that our thoughts are truly what they seem. Naive realism could be said to be true of them. Our feelings appear still as percepts whose interpretation is not a matter of perception. Furthermore, we correct our perceptions (for example, when these include perspective distortions) through our conceptual framework. Thinking is thus necessary if we are to properly interpret our perception."

[Sidebar: The idea of "perceptual distortion" must be sufficiently appreciated by the devotee such that he is constantly on guard against it. We must watch out literal expressions like a hawk for the corrupting intimations of ego.]

"Steiner also emphasizes that modern science depends upon these same two elements of perception and thinking. Perception alone is not science, but is at best the gathering of data. Only when we group and analyze a mass of perceptions can we obtain scientific clarity about it. On the other hand, mathematics is a kind of thinking in which thought itself forms the perceptions; no sense-perceptions are needed to form a basis for mathematical principles. Mathematics could be said to be a science of the inner side of things, in which we need not know anything about their outer appearance."

[Sidebar: Mathematics is a systematic entity that exists as an identity only in the abstract world, the world of ideas; it therefore offers a good example of how the spirit world is interrelated to the physical world. For instance what is 2? Well, we certainly can tell 2 shoes, or 2 eyes, or 2 tiger tanks, but what essentially is 2? In order for 2 to exist in our mundane world it must act on some THING in our mundane world. Likewise all kinds of other abstract entities (or shall we say, “energies”?) only exist for us when they act upon or, shall we say, interact with, physical entities.]

"Though our experience leads us to the illusion of dualism, in reality we are experiencing two sides of a single phenomenon when we perceive it and think about it: two sides of a single, unified world. There are limits beyond which our understanding does not presently go, but both our perception and our thinking can be extended beyond their present abilities. The telescope and microscope offer us radical extensions of the range of our perceptions; we can look to extend our powers of thought as vigorously as we have extended our powers of perception. Steiner thus challenges the philosophy of his (and our) time: it is not enough simply to define the limits of possible knowledge; it is necessary to work to extend these as well."

The “extension of perception” is what I mean when I invoke the discipline of ATTENTION.  I think of the WILL as a force that can act on any entity, physical or spiritual, on which it focuses its attention. Therefore, when I have spoken these many, many times about ATTENTION, I have been speaking, indirectly, about the WILL. Thus, when we “pray unceasingly”, or work to generate an epiphany, the operative energy is the WILL directed by ATTENTION in the direction of whatever end condition is foreseen. By “extending our perception” we are exercising our will to raise mundane realities into spiritual realities. Steiner is agreeing with the proposition  I have made, many times, that we must work to keep our perceptions at a high level of sensitivity so that we do not mistake merely convoluted verbal expressions for divine truth.

So, having arrived at a halfway point, I have NOT discussed very much how earthly food may become spiritual food, but merely emphasized the mechanism by which earthly food may NOT become spiritual food. The ego and the id, those twin whining babies who constantly crab at us for immediate gratification, attention, and, most of all, stability, are the sources of all our failed attempts to rise into the spiritual plane. We know they are there, and we know they try to deceive us--but there is one one more person who knows this--Satan knows this, and he will try his damnedest to use them to mislead us and confound us, while at the same time filling us with a sense  of false virtue. Next week we really will take a look at some of the mechanisms we can use to don the whole the armor of God.

Let us pray: Jesus, we admit the perils that accompany the flesh in which we must reside day after day. Give us the patience and the discretion to recognize the white water of self as it churns us toward the precipice of false truth. Throw out the lifeline of your Word, and let us bury our faces in its comfort and security, even as we move ever upward. Amen.