In our everyday lives we are in flight from space – space being something that we really don’t want to know anything about. The thing about fleeing from space however is that we are at the same time fleeing from consciousness – ‘consciousness’ and ‘unconditioned space’ being two terms for the very same thing. As we flee from space we immediately forget what it is that we are fleeing from; our situation is therefore that we are fleeing but do not know what we are fleeing from, our situation is that we are fleeing but don’t know it. We think that it’s something else we’re doing, something more ‘autonomous’ than fleeing…
We are fleeing from space but the moment we start fleeing from space is also the moment we forget that there ever was such a thing. We flee from space the realm of space to the realm of form, and the realm of form is the graveyard of consciousness. This is the living death, spoken of by the Mystics. It has the appearance of life, but his death. As we read in Revelation 3:1 – ‘You have a name that you are living but you are dead.’ Or as Heraclitus says, ‘Life has the name of life, but in reality it is death.’
When the phoenix rises from the ashes then this is the reverse of the process in which consciousness gets soaked up by structure, the reverse of the process in which spirit descends into matter. We are familiar with the motif of the phoenix (or the Hawk resplendent rising gloriously in the open sky, as we see in representations left to us by ancient Egypt), but we’re not at all familiar with the other side of the coin. We don’t celebrate it in the same way!
The spirit Mercurius descends into the prison of matter and becomes a worm or a snake, a legless and wingless creature that crawls around in the dark where there is no fresh air. As the old Chinese saying has it however ‘Do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?’ The worm is Mercurius, the snake is Mercurius, the dragon is Mercurius, and so too is the hawk resplendent, rising up into the sky. The alchemical approach to suffering comes across very nicely in these verses from Verus Hermes (1620)
A weakling babe, a greybeard old,
Surnamed the Dragon: me they hold
In darkest dungeon languishing
That I may be reborn a king.
A fiery sword makes me to smart,
Death gnaws my flesh and bones apart.
My soul and spirit fast are sinking,
And leave a poison, black and stinking.
To a black crow I am akin,
Such be the wages of all sin.
In deepest dust I lie alone,
O that the Three would make the One!
O soul, o spirit with me stay,
That I may greet the light of day.
Hero of peace, come forth from me,
Whom the whole world would like to see.
Structure (or ‘form’) is made up of repetition, nothing more – structure is made out of basic modules that are repeated. Structures are regularities – it’s always a question of ‘more of the same’, just like a polymer. Once we understand the basic rule, the basic formula, all we have to do is keep on following it, keep on applying it. Whatever possibilities come up, we can be sure that all of these possibilities are going to be ‘lawful outcomes of the rule’. Our attention is bound to the domain of possibilities that are mapped out by the rule, therefore – our attention is bound to the World of Form. We can attend to nothing apart from what has officially been given to us to attend to and it is this automatic ‘obedience’ that so effectively keeps us so prisoners.
When our attention is stuck in this way to the closed domain of specially-indicated possibilities which makes up the World of Form we have no immediate sense of being bound, no immediate sense of being held captive. We flee from the unlimited expanses of space, which contains all possibilities, whether they have been specially indicated or not, and in this fleeing we lose sight of that from which we flee. We are no longer able to realise that there can be possibilities that haven’t been positively defined by logic, that haven’t been positively emphasised by thought. We’re unable to contemplate such a thing.
Space is the ‘uncontrived situation’ – it is the situation where all possibilities are equally allowed, rather than the situation where ‘just those possibilities that are permitted by the rules that govern the system are allowed’. When we fall into the arms of the ‘consciousness-extinguishing physical universe’ then we lose the capacity to relate to anything that has not been defined for us, specified in advance for us; we have transitioned from ‘open’ to ‘closed’, from ‘Dreamtime’ into ‘Linear Time’, from ‘reality’ into ‘the simulation’, and having made this transition we are in a position where we can no longer have any relationship with openness. We can no longer know what ‘open’ means.
In the Closed World, the Realm of Structure, everything is coercive – everything that happens is directed by rules, by instructions that we cannot help being led by. This is so natural trust that we think nothing of it; we never notice the coerciveness that is operating on every level of our lives. We’re so used to being directed (to being pushed here and pulled there) that that we no longer perceive this to be what is happening. We experience ourselves as being fully autonomous. Our attention is directed towards the designated possibilities and thus – rather than thinking that something suspicious is going on and getting curious about what that ‘something’ might be – we give the matter no attention at all. We look only where we have been told to look, we do only what we are supposed to do, and that’s all there is to it. There is absolutely no insight into the unfree nature of this situation.
The World of Form conditions our awareness so that we can only register what the system tells us exists, what the system highlights for us as ‘being real’. Our attention is always being shown what to attend to and what we don’t get directed towards we won’t see. What we don’t get directed to (what doesn’t get shown up to us, or highlighted for us) simply doesn’t exist for us and the fact of its non-existence is something that we never give any pay any attention to. We’re not directed to pay attention and so we don’t, and this is how the Closed World comes into being. Our unconscious or unreflective obedience to the rules that are being imposed upon us is what closes us down. This is ‘Cosmic Forgetting’.
When we fly from the open-ended expanses of incomprehensible space (which is not governed or determined by any rules) into the cold embrace of the Closed World, in which there is nothing that has not been determined by rules, then this is our fate – to be shut down. We’re fleeing from openness, so of course our fate is to be shut down, of course our fate is to be limited without realising it. That’s what we want, that’s what we – in our great fear – are seeking. Nothing could look more attractive to us, in our terror, then that situation in which space has been shut down, that situation in which space has been completely forgotten about. This situation is not just ‘attractive’ to us, it’s overwhelmingly attractive, compulsively attractive – it’s a magnet we can’t resist, a candle flame can’t help ourselves from flying into.
What seems like the solution when all we know is terror, and all he wanted to flee from the awareness of the infinite, to flee from the awareness of our to flee from around very night shot, turns out to be anything but however. The world of form is a place of uninsurable suffering, suffering which we are all the same obliged to endure, since we have turned our backs on the one thing that can save us namely freedom. We read in Genesis that the unceasing suffering which is our lot following our eviction from Eden is the result of disobeying God, which is clearly something that is going to carry some sort of serious penalty with it. We become susceptible to disease, old age and infirmity, and we are obliged to crawl in our bellies in the dust, just like the serpent which tempted Eve.
This is a ‘garbled tale’, however. We are told that the Fall occurred as a result of us disobeying the rule that the Creator had made us subject to; our future happiness depended upon the obeying of this rule therefore, but the story is that we went ahead and broke it anyway. It is taken for granted in this account that obeying rules is the basis for things being ‘as they should be’. Rules are only to be found in the Lower (or Determinate) Realm however – the idea that our well-being can be best served by observing all the rules and regulations the rules is the essential bit of the misinformation that is provided for us by the Diabolic Principle, which is the Principle of Deception, or the Principle of Falsehood. The matter has been turned into a mere morality story telling us about the importance of obeying the Creator; the story serves no function other than reinforcing the hierarchy, in other words – it serves to reinforce the established social order, reinforce the idea that we should always allow ourselves to be controlled by ‘the proper authorities’, and that there is no worse sin than the sin of disobedience.
This is a version of what’s really going on that has been very heavily ‘stamped on’, therefore. the process of falling descending into matter is a naturally occurring process, a process that has nothing to do with any notions of right and wrong, obedience and disobedience. Fleeing from freedom and then somehow finding our way back again is the ‘out-breath and in-breath of Brahma’, the rhythm of the universe and to say that ‘the universe becoming manifest’ (cosmic exhalation) is right and ‘everything returning to the One’ (inhalation) is wrong (or vice versa) is absurd. As Alan Watts says,
As there is no woven cloth without the simultaneous interpenetration of warp and woof, there is no world without both the exhalation and inhalation of the Supreme Self. Though the image of breathing, as distinct from weaving, makes the two successive rather than simultaneous, nevertheless the one always implies the other. Successive in time, they are simultaneous in meaning that is, sub specie aeternitatis, from the standpoint of eternity. Beginning and end, birth and death, manifestation and withdrawal always imply each other.
The fall happens as a result of an impulse arising within us, which is the impulse to ‘run away from openness’; once we start going down this road, then ‘running away’ is the only logic we can understand. We don’t even know that we are running away – we think we’re ‘progressing’! What appeals to us when we are ‘in flight from freedom’ in this way is the prospect of having the freedom which we fear being substituted for by rules and regulations, by systems and structures which we can gratefully conform to; from this point of view living in a world that is made-up entirely of rules seems like the perfect solution. The marriage is arranged in a great hurry therefore, and before very long we find that we’re locked into a situation that we didn’t see coming. Rules aren’t unproblematic in the way we always assume they are – it may look to us that if we obey the rule then ‘all will be well’ (and that we will have found out relief from the compulsiveness of the rule in this way) but that isn’t the case. That isn’t the case because rules are inherently self-contradictory, just does James Carse says that all finite games are.
What this means is that when we sign ourselves over to ‘the world that logic made’ we are doing a deal with the devil, and the deal that we have secured for ourselves as a result is – of course – inescapably jinxed. Life in the Determinate World means that we are forever chasing the phantom of freedom; the phantom of freedom is all there is in the Determinate World so that’s what we have to make do with. We do all the mechanical stuff that we have to do (so that we can ultimately get what we wanted or get what was promised us) but all we do get is yet more rules to conform to, and the rules keep on getting tougher, they keep on getting ‘harder to satisfy’. The toxic bureaucracy of thought sets in and before very long it becomes overtly malignant. Eventually we reach the point at which we get instantly punished for doing what the rule tells us to do, forces us to do, but at this stage autonomy is long since gone and so there’s nothing for it but to keep on obeying the glitched, suffering-producing mechanical rules. We are the authors of our own misery in this way, but there is nothing we can do about it.
This is the ‘Neurotic Hell Realm’ therefore – it’s a ‘hell realm’ because the only way that we can react to the pain that has been inflicted on us as a result of our actions is the same way that caused this pain in the first place. Because of our shortsightedness, we are obliged to keep on trying to cure the problem with the very thing that caused it in the first place, which is of course a familiar enough idea to anyone who has been through this mill and has – as a result of submitting to this process – gained this crucial insight. The basic idea is put across very well in the following meme:
The mechanical process takes us deeper and deeper into the horrors of neurotic hell until we reach the point of the ‘turnaround’, which is where things get ‘spelled out’ to us so clearly that learning starts to take place. ‘The only way is up’ once we hit rock-up in this way: ‘The earth upon which we fall is the same ground that we raise ourselves up from’, says Daisaku Ikeda. It’s not that the suffering of the neurotic hell realm gives us the necessary punitive ‘kick up the ass’ that we need in order to ‘cop on and stop being such a loser’ and strive successfully to free ourselves from our predicament (since the struggling and striving is our predicament) but rather that we learn – on a very deep level – the utter futility of forcing, since forcing or enacting rules is how we fell down is the hole in the first place. What we’re looking at here as we’ve just said is a natural process, i.e., one that happens all by itself, whilst it is our resistance to this process which prolongs and perpetuates our suffering. Our resistance to this process is our attempt to maintain the status quo, which is the root cause of all the trouble. ‘Growth’ is not a result of our intention or effort, in other words – intention and effort are what keeps us stuck.
It’s not the case that the ego or self has to be punished because it has disobeyed the higher authority, but rather that our flight from freedom gives rise to the situation where there is ‘obeying versus disobeying’, where there is ‘one who can either ‘conform or not conform’. This is a subtle point however, and one that we are completely unable to appreciate when we are under the thumb of the oppressive autocracy of logic, which recognises only ‘polarity’ – which is to say, ‘one thing against another’. If it’s not ‘one thing against another’ then we have no comprehension of it! If it doesn’t ‘involve winning versus losing’ it’s just ‘not a thing’ as far as we’re concerned. There’s no punishment because there’s no one there to punish – having someone there who is to be the punished or rewarded is an artifact of polarity and polarity is ‘the error which we can never see as such’. Polarity is the ‘distorted viewpoint which we automatically project upon the world’.
Instead of punishment (which equals ‘ putting us back in our place’), what we have is a situation where we find the conditions that are necessary in order for us to learn that all rules are self-contradicting, that all purposeful activity rebounds back viciously onto itself, that the will of the self or ego is a conflicted will, a ‘will that is against itself’. Learning on a gut level that purposeful or directed action is always secretly working against itself (i.e., that personal will is inherently self-sabotaging) is also to learn that the notion of the self is empty, no matter how important or absorbing that notion might be for us.
It’s not that our driving motivation is ‘the motivation to escape from the pain’ either; if that were the case then we would be acting so as to perpetuate the source of the pain (since the source of the pain is ‘the one who wants to escape’). Wanting to avoid pain (or wanting to attain satisfaction) is the motivation that creates the pain. What propels us on our way (so to speak) isn’t the desire to achieve the goal (or escape the bad outcome), but an actual genuine interest in what’s going on, which is such a remarkably simple and uncomplicated thing, as well as being something that we practically never come across. The most difficult thing for us isn’t ‘achieving the goal’ – however lofty that goal might be – but having no agenda. What could be simpler than this? And yet – at the same time – what could be harder for us to achieve? It’s hard to achieve because the more set we are on achieving it, the more we think that this is a good idea, the further away from it we are.
Art – Kraser, streetarcities.com