Before we move on, a couple more points on the last installment relating to concentration: why it works, how it works and why it’s hazardous.
It helps to think of the mind as a kind of ecology full of all kinds of conflicting impulses, beliefs, concepts, and emotional perspectives on things. This whole ecology is sustained more or less by the attention/energy you give it. In practice you can treat energy and attention as the same thing. In truth one follows the other so closely they might as well be the same.
Now attention has ( at least ) two aspects to it, and they can both be trained. Breadth and depth. Most of us have no problem with a extremely wide and diverse breadth of attention. We maintain views on the whole universe after all. Or we think we do anyway. Most of us have a lot less practice maintaining attention in depth. To do that requires holding the focus in a single place for long periods and if you’ve not had a lot of experience with that, it can be highly uncomfortable. The thing to remember though, is the depth of our attention is also the depth of the well of energy we can tap. Very shallow very superficial attention = very shallow and superficial supplies of energy.
So, going back to our ecology metaphor. We tend not to notice the contradiction and conflicts in our mental ecology because we rarely, if ever, probe deep enough into it to notice them. That, and since the supply of energy is so shallow, nothing in that ecology ever really gets big and fat enough to cause problems in the whole system. With deeper concentration that can change fast. You may find that tapping into a much larger supply of energy can feed some or all of your weird internal aberrations to grotesque levels. This is why I recommended highly that you consciously and deliberately direct that deepened faculty of attention into things you enjoy, and useful skills. That, combined with the mental housecleaning in the other parts should keep you out of trouble provided you are mostly sane and stable to begin with.
What you do not want is to turn your new willpower that can crush diamonds and use it to probe the tattered edges of your self esteem, or nurse old grudges, or tear apart the last remanants of your existing ontology. At least not until you’ve taken the time to craft a new one. Feeding those subjects a massively increased fund of energy will send you round the bend right quick. I’m willing to bet most of you have had difficulties in this area already, even without the help of intense mind power. So it helps to exercise a little restraint, and to have a nice durable map to guide that new wand of yours with.
Now there are no shortage of maps these days, and no shortage of fodder to make new ones. This is the gift of postmodernism after all. We have the god given right to shred anything placed in front of us to expose it’s inherent flaws and contradictions. It’s unweildly excesses and unverifiable pronouncements. We feel good and calm in the act of doing this. We feel the rightness of it.
But I’m here to tell you, that sometimes, ripping a map apart is entirely besides the fucking point. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.
We think we’re defending the holy right to overturn dogma and ask ‘the tough questions’ as if no one had ever done that before. What you need to understand, particularly under the circumstances I’ve described above, is that you really will benefit from having a map that doesn’t get shredded. At least not by you.
The nice thing about abstraction, is that it permits us to compress the whole gamut of phenomena into a manageable and internally consistent system of symbols. And believe me, when concentration states are overloading your brain and nervous system, you will definitely want a solid backbone to hang your ontology on, even if you don’t feel the need to subscribe to it unquestioningly.
We tend to have this neurotic thing about the ‘real truth’ as if nothing is acceptable except the naked reality of things. Problem is, if that’s all you’ll settle for, you’ll most likely end up chewing your wrists open in short order. For the time being, you need to learn to suspend your ruthless cutting apart of the ground beneath your feet and use a model of reality, not because it’s the ‘real thing’ but because it works. And you need to learn to filter things through that map. Not all the time, but when you have to, because sometimes you will have to. Sometimes you will need to to have a framework there to interpret something, or you will freak right the fuck out. The rest of the time you can happily just sit in the unknowingness of the grand mystery of whatever the popular buzzword is these days, as long as you have a nice serviceable symbolic order to fall back on.
There is a part of your mind that really really needs to be able to define and encapsulate your relationship to the word around you, as a means of handling stress. It doesn’t need to be all that convincing or comprehensive a definition, it could be patently absurd. But having a good definition, one that leaves you lots of room to maneuver, to make revisions, interpretations, even to rip out and replace chunks, is a lot better than simply assimilating christian theology as a subconscious safety net, which is probably what a lot of you are doing right now. If it’s not that, it’s gonna be something. The problem isn’t being stuck without a net. The problem is being stuck with a shitty net that you’re not consciously aware of, that won’t take the strain of what you’re doing, and will rip under pressure. If that happens, then my friend, you are truly FUCKED.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of a symbol system to fall back on. Even if on some level, you know it’s arbitrary. It’s better that way, anyhow.
Homework: pick a symbolic map of the universe. Four that I recommend highly would be the I ching, the kabbalistic tree of life, and norse runes. My personal preference is the crowley thoth tarot, which incorporates the tree of life as well as the tarot symbolism.
Not only are all of these fairly flexible, but they provide avenues for divination practice, which is coming up. But suit yourself.
DON’T immediately start questioning and subverting your new model. Use it. Play with it. Interpret the things that happen around you through that lens. When you get bored with that, set it aside and come back to it later. Resist the urge to pick it apart. Save that shit for CNN and the drudge report.
On a related note, start examining yourself for contradictions and internal conflicts. Your list is a good entry point. Looking at the why and what and how of your goals, I’m sure you’ll find that some of those things don’t mesh. You’re doing one thing at the expense of another thing, you’re moving in one direction here and another there, you’re stressing here and chilling there, you hate this and love that. You believe totally here and question ruthlessly over there.
These are the fault lines in your psyche, and as you progress in your practice these fault lines will open up in a big way. Most likely you will suppress the conscious knowledge of these chasms in your mind as they widen, and simply experience it as intense levels of stress. You might think that these are harmless usages of the mind, as if going in two totally divergent directions entails two different minds. They don’t. It’s one mind. Your mind. Think about this carefully.
Eliminate as much of the conflict and contradiction as you can right now. Quit fighting yourself. If it means narrowing your focus and scope of activities temporarily, then do it. If not, you’ll almost certainly wish you had done it, later on.
next; PRIMORDIAL FUCKING CHAOS!! CTHULHU FHTAGN!
…or, like, reading your tarot cards, and shit. or both.