here’s another page out of the neoplatonist playbook:

in the works of Proclus, and psuedo-Dionysus, who was evidently a student of proclus, (and did us all the favor of injecting platonism into early christianity, thus preventing the collapse of christian metaphysics into incoherent gibberish for about a thousand years) there’s a lot of concern with correct naming.

What kind of naming? Divine naming. The names one ascribes to god. Both proclus and dionysus give a tremendous amount of effort to making sure that people know how to correctly name and conceive of the creator.

Now, at first glance, it’s hard to imagine why this might be important. Especially for jaded post-moderns like us who instinctively recoil from arbitrary labeling and controlling of definitions on the part of ‘authorities’. But there’s more to this than one might realise.

Now let’s remember that in the platonic schema, intelligibility is the bridge between soul and god. That reason and intellect in the highest sense is how the individual personality can come to know true being. So having incorrect, incoherent, or contradictory ideas can be a real problem. And the higher the station that these incorrect ideas occupy, the worse the problem gets.

For that reason, according to plato, in the republic, the worst possible thing that a person can do is hold false ideas about god. Because when you’re talking about god, you’re talking about the nature of ultimate reality, and thus whatever ideas happen to occupy this position will influence all the others. If you have an idea of god as cruel, capricious, arbitrary, as having contradictory qualities, as embodying principles that diminish the good, or the one, this can only reverberate down through one’s whole being.

In a lesser way, having incomplete or inaccurate notions of the one ( the preferred platonic term for god) can also cause confusion. So proclus and dionsysus both describe a descending chain of titles and attributes, down from the most perfect one-in-itself, to the transcendent maker, the logos, the holy trinity and whatnot. Each of these has appropriate uses and implications that follow from those uses, and all subordinate in their correct order to the one-in-itself. Treating them as interchangeable, or worse, identical, is asking for trouble. Just like any other sophisiticated technical field, theology requires a precise language and terminology and that terminology has to be used in the correct way. Just as scientific jargon cannot be thrown around arbitrarily, so too with theology. If, that is, you want to get the correct result.

Not doing so can only result in the kind of muddled mess that we experience now where you have every kind of half baked theology and wrong headed conception of ultimate reality imaginable. What do you suppose the implications are for all these fundamentalist christians, who think of their god as an immanent, vengeful all knowing father figure who observes and judges them at all times, and is gearing up to scourge the world with fire? Or daft neo-pagans, who somehow equate spirit with nature, which even real old time ‘pagans’ didn’t do, so far as we know. If that’s your understanding of ultimate reality, or the highest creative principle, then how does that affect your self image, your sense or purpose or responsibility, your use of reason, your emotional and spiritual maturity? It’s serious. This is the kind of sickness proclus and dionysus in particular, saw latent in religion, and hoped to avert. Neo-platonic notions of god were adopted by the early christian church, judaism/ kabbalah, and down through islam, bahaism, and even the more exotic branches of esoterism like hermeticism, which all together spawned what we think of as the western occult traditions. In one form or another they’ve all adopted the idea of god as the infinite unmanifest principle that provides for all existence, in the same manner as the platonic good.

You can find the analogous theological principle in buddhism, which has the noble eightfold path, as the road to liberation. What’s the first one…? Skillful views. Holding correct beliefs, because what you believe will determine everything you do, or think that you can do. So again, what you believe are the highest truths of reality, or not, make all the difference.

42 thoughts on “Theoconceptor

  1. This is a topic where Platonic thought can be far more useful than most others.

    I don’t think you can characterize the fundie’s god as “immanent” because immanence implies omnipresence and ground-of-being, which is a lot like Emptiness or Luminosity. Daniel Ingram points to this with the concept of “God-free zones” being a big problem for an otherwise good model. Not much to add, save to say that many people seem to enjoy living in a world run by an at-best malignant deva named “Yahweh”. It’s been a while, but I always enjoyed how “Rex Mundi” ( i.e., “the lord” ) in the Invisibles showed up strictly to demand obedience and feed off terror. Now imagine billions of people walking around thinking they owe that thing obedience, whether it exists or not. You’ve taken an absolute truth and tried to force it into and onto the personality of a deva, or an alien overlord, or whatever. But dealt with all this ten years ago.

    I can give the neopagans some slack on the nature worship. I think it’s really just a mislabeling of the equilibrium of the five elements ( especially space or “spirit” ) to call it “nature”. It’s a step more advanced than apprehending always-present then ascribing it to a single being, but it’s still another busted-ass reification that will fold back in on itself.

    the surprising thing is how unconscious this process is. your average occultist doesn’t treat solar or saturnine or capricornic energy as the ground of being for any purpose other than to make manifest that aspect of being, though some probably get lost in the process

  2. I think the fundie conception of god has more in common with the gnostic demiurge than they realise. any religion that posits a god that participates and prowls around in the world in various forms, and that we should look forward to hearing from again, is really only one step removed from the Lord of Matter, creator of the black iron prison. the god who is insane becuase he’s trapped in here with us.

    and I’m aware of nature worshippers who reject any form of abstraction as ‘gnostic’ dualism, and hence spirit can and must only exist in nature. as if thinking about something besides the dirt under your fingernails is a rift between you and god. but it’s just another pre-formative contradiction.

    I suppose we can thank alan moore for reinjecting kabbalistic style neo-platonism into the chaos kiddie community.

  3. Is that a testable hypothesis? That fundies worship a God much like the demi-urge?

    Like for example while praying or meditating does the fundy amygdala light up, wheras when Buddhists meditate the true “god spot of the Brain” lights up?

    I think evidence would show that similar spots light up.

    As far as “objective” definitions of God, would these be definitions arrived at by experience only? Or would there be an elite cadre of mystics that others would accept “on authority?”

    Getting past these dificulties, say a true and objective definition of God could be arrived at. What would then be the best form of society to organize around this?


  4. in this case, I’m talking about the concepts as they are presented, and the cognitive ramifications of holding those concepts, not how particular parts of the brain do or don’t ‘light up’.

    any religion that treats god as an active character who responds to earthly goings-on in a characteristic way, is holding a much much different notion than, say the ain soph ur of the kabbalah, or the immutable unchangeable of the buddhists, or the one in platonism.

    it follows that if you treat ‘god’ as the ultimate reality, then whatever concept hold that ‘ultimate’ place, will have ultimate control over all others. that’s the point.

    and there’s nothing ‘objective’ about it. in wilberian terms it’s arriving at the most rigorous inter-subjective definition, or definitions, of god. each to be used in their appropriate context.

    without getting too far into how to organize society along religious principles, I would think that if you could dispense with some of the debased notions of a god that, for instance, ‘wants’ and requires war and death on the part of believers, we’d all be better off.

  5. Are you an ex-Fundy?

    I actually am and I don’t think its that bad. I went to Bible college that considered James Dobson to a be a liberal.

    Even then, though, in a fundy Baptist Bible College in the Nineties, people were getting suspicious of “dominion Theology” So, it wasn’t a “Jesus Camp” type school. But definately findy Christian.

    I think some of the implications of the Theology were bad. But I think one thing people don’t realize that if you go to Asia, Buddhists have some of the same cultural practices that Christians in the US have. No world Religion says its a good idea to sleep around and then maybe a live with a peron for a while and have a kid or two and then move on to someone else.

    All World Religions are conservative.

    But also beyond that though, I don’t think its wise to assume other people are worshipping the wrong God. know Fundies are the first people to be guilty of that. But I still thank that doesn’t mean its good to assume they are worshipping the wrong God. But from experience, the theology in the Churches and Bible colleges is not the right wing political stuff you see on t.v.

  6. I’m well aware that there are pockets of less developed thinking in every religion.

    and there’s no moral judgment in it. certain beliefs have certain implications, and speak to certain characteristic flaws in one’s conceptual abilities. every religion has worked this stuff out already at the highest levels, it’s just pockets of backsliding that keep reverting to more naive and reactionary visualizations of the ultimate. which I guess ties back into the previous post: people hold ideas about the highest reality that reflect how they understand themselves.

  7. Well,

    Just remember that Rick Warren is probably more typical of the avergage Fundy Christian as Ted Haggard, because first of all Ted Haggard is no longer a Pastor. A lot of the controversial political oriented guys are dying out. Also, there really are few actual fundamentalists. The mega Churches aren’t actually fundamentalist. They are more broadly evangelical. Fundy churches are seperatist, almost like Amish people. Little churches spread far and wide.

    The real scary people are the Dominion Theologians. But anyway, I don’t think its clear what their theology proper is. I think they approach it more like wat is the proper practice of what Christians should do to redeem the World. What they do is Go to the Old testament and try to establish it literally.

    I really do think that most Christians are fuzzy on their theology proper and that it actually works out for the best that way.

    Because then they end up worshipping God more or less they way everyone else does. They pray and meditate, somthing might be bothering them, so they pray about it and then get some intuition as to what might be a good course of action. They work on”spending more time with God” in order to improve their relations with other people. This is called the “fruits of the spirit”

    My impression is that is more or less what all religious people do.

    I think God is better off a mystery in the fine details. I think its when people get real specific about it and combine it with some type of political program that people go off the deep end.

    But anyway,

  8. I think that god is a metaphor for self, and that your own personal views of what “the ultimate” is are really just the highest point we are capable of seeing. In regards to all this fundy talk, I think that if the fundy’s could accept their god as only one aspect of a great, more encompassing God, then we could all live together alot more happily.

    Just because someone sees the ultimate in one way, doesn’t mean that the ultimate is only that way. In order for it to BE the ultimate, it has to be definable in more than one way (the empty spoke at the heart of the wheel). Otherwise it is not greater than humanity, and therefore not greater than you or I. That is not a god I want to worship.

    My god must be greater than anything I can conceive of; it . This is the only way we can have an idea of an ultimate reality that also allows for personal growth; the idea of god needs to reflect back to us where we ourselves are at, otherwise it stiffles our abilility to become more than what we are.

  9. I have to disagree with the idea of God being definable in many equally valid ways. The whole aim of philosophy is the eradication of false belief and the realisation of genuine knowledge – a metaphysical process made of 4 stages: from ‘image thinking’ (ignorance) to belief to understanding to wisdom (knowledge) – and the more I get into this stuff, the more it becomes obvious that postmodern pluralism/relativism belongs in the belief stage. It’s a prejudice (which is the name for a belief that can neither be proven nor disproven). That goes for the poststructuralists’ ‘myth of the given’ too. For a wonderful exploration of the nature of relativity, see Grimes’ Is It All Relative?

    Grimes insists on the profundity of platonism for this very reason: Proclus defines God as ‘the one that cannot be hypothetised’, and explores the validity of this through the dialectic. It is the highest surviving conceptual expression of ultimate reality the human race has ever come up with (Nagurjuna more or less says the same thing, but he is forced to invalidate his position by admitting the canonical nature of Buddha so that he might teach).

    Although it is possible to experience enlightenment regardless of your concept of God, and without using reason as the method of attainment, what might it mean to actually understand enlightenment too? Again, platonism appears a more profound tradition as it reaches enlightenment through understanding, addessing both at once.

  10. On second thought, I do think Free Range has some valuable points. Most of the fundies I’ve known (and I’m from the South, so I know a couple) have a schizophrenic god-concept. One moment God is an impersonal force or field, the next God is an angry figure in history–this shift usually happens, as Ted’s pointed out, when discussing history or politics. To draw a parallel, Starhawk said that the “Goddess” is a metaphor for something “when i am strong” and “when I am weak, she is” a personal, actively interfering figure. It’s a little creepy, because there is conflation between god-as-ground-of-being and god-as-deva. It’s one thing to work with a deva, it’s another to think he’s the sole face of the ultimate rather than an (at-best) intermediary.

    It’s also very obvious that people of all beliefs go through spiritual progress in a pretty predictable way. I’ve known Xians who’ve run into the psychic powers under a different moniker; there was a fundie radio announcer a friend knew who pretty much kept his shit together on the air, but was prone to swinging from manic spiritual experiences (usually angels and voices) to severe despair. And the Pentacostals and charismatics are going on kundalini rampages every Sunday.

    So in one way, Awakening is an equal-opportunity thing. At the same time, i tend to think that a tradition or model with a more nondual or ground-of-being focus will do better at this overall, possibly merely because the model is more consistent, to the extent that it is a practice tradition rather than a belief/belong tradition. Christianity isn’t a practice-oriented tradition so those people who are, knowingly or not, practicing are a little hard-up.

  11. Yeah, Thats my eperience too. You talk to different fundy Christians about their religious experiences and you lots of different things.

    I think people with a more intellectual bent end up leaving eventually, to some other type of Christianity, more liberasl or more esoteric.

    Plus one things to remember, and I know this can be cnstrued as demeaning, is that a lot of them are, well.. red necks.

    And if you know many rednecks, Christianity favors a lot of them. You may find tee totaling and chastity kind of severe, but a lot of people are drunks.

    So they look around at their “unsaved”friends and relatives, getting in bar fights and DUIs and having kids out of wedlock and it kind of reinforces them as being on the right track.

    I think the political stuff though, is just that. Politicians taking advantage and manipulating them in relation to various issues.

    Its very easy to push their buttons

  12. I think this is what it is:

    Its easy to manipulate rednecks in general. The Fundy rednecks are just more wrth the political pay off of investing the effort, because they organize in groups and vote as a block.

    once again it sounds kind of bad but its true. They are really patriotic in a knee jerk type of way and kind of xenphobic, plus loyal.

  13. Its the same way with the black churches on left wing political issues. These are the black people that vote and work towards things.

    I don’t think its the theology so much. Because the theology of various so called “black churches” isn’t so different from predominantly white fundamentalist churches. Plus pentecostal churches are usually really integrated. I know a lot of black churches are into “liberation theology” but not all and I am not sure its easily articulated frm the pews. Just like the Jesus Camp types can’t articulate the difference between dominion theology and dispensationalism.

    Another thing too is that some churches are a lot more political than others. The political ones have a different spirit about them. I noticed it as a Christian. I attended Randle Terry’s Church once. He started “operation rescue”

    interestingly he disgraced himself with an extrmarital affair also. Not quite as badly as Ted Haggard though.

  14. Free Range, I think your point on rednecks and the reason Christianity is important to them is an example of what I mean by God being definable in many equally valid ways. The beginning of the movement toward God, or genuine knowlege (that is, the ground of being, not a deva) must be from within a context. You have to start from within your subjective experiance. Alan, as you say when talking about with the 4 stages of the metaphysical process for reaching genuine knowledge, this is only the first step.

    However, I have to disagree that genuine knowlege/enlightement/whatever is something that can be best known through reason. Reason can be used to reach it, as Plato (or Socrates) did, but I think that reason must be put aside at the door of enlightenment. It is a vehicle to get you there, just like any other. And once you are there, you can use reason as a means of discussing/practicing/sharing it. But the actual experience of enlightenment comes before/beyond reason. Platonic reason is just another path, another way of moving in the direction of god. But like all paths, it is one you have to stay on if you want results. The longer you are on a path, the better you become at traveling it. And the better you can travel a path in the direction of god, the more genuine knowlege you can reveal.

    If Platonic reason has any advantage over other paths, it is only that it is the basis for a lot of western culture (as in Zac’s “it’s just a myth” podcast), and that perhaps it is the best way to spread enlightenment quickly within western culture. At the same time though, if Platonic Reason is such a great path, and is the ideal way to reach enlightenment, how come there aren’t more enlightened Platonists out there?

    Oh, and when I say “in the direction of god”, I mean to imply that god is a direction, not that god is something existing separately from ourselves.

  15. “if Platonic Reason is such a great path, and is the ideal way to reach enlightenment, how come there aren’t more enlightened Platonists out there?”

    well, you could make a strong case that because pretty much all early christianity is basically platonism in drag, all the canonical catholic saints were practicing platonists. by the time the catholic church knew enough to dump the ‘paganism’ it was already to tightly ensconced in the fabric of catholicism to ever be separated. and we’ve seen that without the rational structure that platonism represented, the protestant branches have basically imploded into raving lunacy.

    that, and judaism is so heavily tinged by platonism after the hellenistic period, you can pretty much say that enlightened jewish rabbis and whatnot are also practicing platonists.

  16. Fair enough, that’s a good point. Allow me to rephrase then: why aren’t there more canonical saints out there? Or enlightened jewish rabbis?

    I did not mean to imply that Platonism doesn’t work, just that I think we lost a lot of it, or the key points anyway, at some point. At what point did the experience of enlightenment stop in the western tradition, and what caused that to happen?

  17. who’s to say it’s more common in the east? there’s no flashing sign over the head when you get enlightened. they also tend to throw titles around in asia a bit more than they do here. you got thousands of reincarnated lamas, tulkus, arahants, bodhisattvas, yogic ‘saints’, avatars, rishis, roshis, and god knows what else, and there’s no guarantee that any of them could enlighten their way out of a paper bag, except what they demonstrate, and even that is not airtight evidence, depending on what standard you use.

    a lot of people have the experience here and without the cultural context, they just go on about their lives, none the wiser.

  18. My new goal in life is to enlighten my way out of a paper bag.

    I didn’t mean to imply that the east had it any better or worse. I just wanted to focus on the Platonic version of the enlightenment experience as something that had worked in the past, whatever the religious or non-religious framework, but was subsequently dropped from the western cultural context.

    If Platonic reason is the foundation of most/all western enlightenment systems, why do we no longer have it as a cultural context within which to frame the enlightenment experience? Yes, it was pre-empted by the Catholic church, and it worked as a part of that system for a time, as you point out. It was also used in Jewish mysticism, and probably Sufi mysticism as well, or anything else along these lines.

    But at some point we lost it from our culture. These systems are all still here, and they are studied, albeit mostly academically, but they have lost their aspect as a context for the enlightenment experience. I guess I am just wondering why we no longer have a cultural context for enlightenment.

  19. “So enlightenment is an experience and you can have it and not know it?”

    well, calling it an ‘experience’ in the normal sense is a little tricky, but yes, you can have it happen and not know what it was, only that some thing is changed after words. in the buddhist vipassana traditions, some fruitions can be measured in fractions of a second, or the pause between in an in/out breath. the huge lights and visions and shit come at an earlier phase of practice, and some people don’t even get that.

    yoda doesn’t show up when you have your first fruition. a lot of people just kind of go back to whatever they were doing.

  20. “Enlightenment” is bad terminology. I agree with Thanissaro Bhikkhu in that it’s all too easy to conflate “awakening” with the Early Modern Era, Renaissance, and 18th Century Enlightenment values and ideals. When you consider that of the figures who were driving that movement were themselves pursuing spiritual development as well via alchemy, freemasonry, or whatever, it becomes even more problematic… look at how much paranoia that created and you can see how complicated it is.

  21. Like in the East, mystical traditions persisted in monasteries and among the forest yogis, but whereas monasteries in the East were independent, being tied to the community rather than a formal institution, and largely dedicated to mystical practice, monasteries in the West were beholden to a central authority. The Church had a tendency to persecute monks who got too far from the party line: St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, etc. That is just basic institutional behavior: first, preserve the institution (“the purpose of a system is what it does”), then, address the institution’s mission. If your organization is on some far-out platonic trip, but some members aren’t paying their dues, the project your boss gives you that week is to collect the dues, or else, not to explore some aspect of platonic philosophy.

    Likewise, for whatever reason, Christianity never formalized mystical practice the way Buddhism did with monks and with forest yogis (you can look to the history of Thai Buddhism and see that even there, the forest yogis, who are the dedicated mystics, took a lot of grief from the monasteries and the government). Maybe this happened because Christianity gained ascendancy by political fiat (Constantine) during a time of imperial decay and collapse, making it the only surviving structure, so it had to focus on cohesion and maintenance, not practice.

    So it’s not that hard to see how the narrative lost the thread. Groups in the West focusing on spiritual development are largely resultant of a spontaneous movement (e.g., the Brotherhood of the Free Spirit) or reconstructionist (e.g., the Freemasons, the Neopagans) or both, and are rare. Even today, most Buddhists are only that in name. If you doubt that, spend a week or two at a major retreat center. By about day five, you’ll realize after a Q&A session that more than half of the people there aren’t even meditating.

  22. Thanks, that breaks it down for me pretty well.

    So in the way you discuss here, there has never really been a strong centralized social institution/context for Awakening before, where the primary focus of the institution was the enlightenment of it’s members and community. Maybe you can go back to Buddha’s Sangha, or Socrates’ school, but that’s a long time ago…

  23. More on-topic, it’s clear that Christianity took on much of Platonism, especially in its theology. But it also had the old Zoasterian combat myth, as well as the teachings of the cynics and stoics and Rabbi Hillel all w/r/t morality, as well as some blatantly esoteric components (“Blessed is the lion which the man shall eat, and the lion become man; and cursed is the man whom the lion shall eat, and the lion become man”) that fell by the wayside as the Church canonized the Passion gospels but discarded the Sayings gospels.

    How, though, does this relate to “theoconception?” Is someone who operates from a non-dual model of ultimate reality going to necessarily navigate reality better than someone who thinks they must appease some angry figure part of the time? What if you are playing a shell game about “the Grand Architect” who turns out to be just another spirit, Jahbulon? My suspicion is that the actual impact this has on one’s life is commensurate with the energy an individual puts into it; at the same time, there does seem to be a safety net in place.

  24. I went to a Buddhist retreat and everyone was meditating their asses off, and bowing and doing all kinds of shit.

    There are hard core Buddhists out there. These were Koreans. None of the people at the retreat were Korean, but that is where this branch started.

    But anyway, I didn’t fit in. I am too anti-authority. Maybe that is why I like Socrates. I think it becmes all about pleasing the Zen Master. The idea is he has smething you want and is showing you how to get it and will let you know if you are hot or cold.

    So everyone acts like a little puppy dog. Does whatever he says.

    I have never ever been to a Christian fundamentalist church that was that hierarchical and authritarian. Its about salvation, not enlghtenment. Once you are saved, you want to grow and a Pastor is there to teach and encourage, cheer lead etc.

    So now I don’t any longer believed I am saved from hellfire. But I am reral skeptical of enlghtenment. It seems to simply be a cultural thing.

  25. I guess what I believe in is personal development. I have weird spiritual experiences from time to time and hopefully I am growing as a person.

    I have been researching “the false self” and I think I am figuring it out, but I think a lot of nondualists have it wrong. maybe even backwards.

    If enlightenment is an actual thing that can happen outside of a formal religious structure, I think I am as close as anybody.

  26. teacher-based systems always have that element of childlike dependence and groveling. very few people want to take responsibility for their own learning.

    protestantism partly sprang out of wanting to shed dependence on clergy, but it also lost the intelligible basis of the spiritual practice, what little there was by that time. so it’s pretty much the lunatics running the asylum, so even if you were dedicated enough to study something, nobody knows anything, except whatever jacked-up interpretation of the new testament they’re going with.

  27. yes, the element of child-like crap that goes on, as well as groupism, can be absurd. it’s going to happen even in a very laid-back environment, even when teachers discourage it. Zen can be very bad with this–look at what happened to Suzuki Roshi’s dojo after he died.

    but obviously a tension exists. As has already been stated, without authority, you can end up with wingnuts who believe that Scofield’s footnotes are the gospel truth because the only accountable authority is the long-dead editor, who thought that God is feeding us crap piecemeal.

    What is “the false self”? And how do “nondualists” have it wrong? What aspects of “enlightenment” are cultural?

  28. In response to laboritorian’s comments to my last post, I think that a non-dual view of the divine is preferable to a dualist version, in that a single divinity encompasses more than dual divinities. As to whether or not this non-dual god is a “Grand Architect”, I think that labeling divinity in such a way means that it therefore can’t also be not-the-Grand-Architect, which traps you back in the dualist perspective. The divine monad has to be beyond labels in this way, because words are meant to divide. It’s the Tao that can’t be spoken of that is the eternal Tao.

    Which is not to say that it doesn’t take on various forms or masks, various concepts by which we know it. And I am sure there are better ways than others to organize these concepts to aid in understanding of divinity. But to mistake any one of these labels for THE divinity is to miss the point, I think. Know the male, conceptualized form, but keep to the female, the all emcompassing monad which we can’t know. Because the true divinity is both these things at once.

    Also, I have begun to think that this applies to the self as well as to the divine. I haven’t really worked that through very much though.

    But I’m interested in this “safety net” you mention. What exactly do you mean by that? I’ve noticed it as well, I think.

    And Zac, thanks for the link to that specific Grimes lecture. I watched a different one that didn’t really do anything for me (involving “Manny” and his relationship with “Sarah”…), but I am glad to have one that applies to what you’re talking about here.

  29. yeah, every time I look, pierre, or whoever is working on his behalf, has re-organized the lectures, and most of them have no titles. but if you’re clever you can get many many hours of complete topics on google video, you tube, and his site. the dreams stuff is a bit tedious after a while, but if you were to apply it to oneself it gets more interesting.

  30. I think the false self is a socially constructed personality.

    I think it acts as a shell compartmentalizing a person’s true essence and alienating part of themselves from the rest.

    I think when non-dualists talk about the “ego” they talk about this but alternately talk about the person’s actual essence.

    I think what they have backwards is thinking the “space” created by the false self is God in some sense. A void. Like an emptiness that is a good thing.

    I think most people more complicated and screwed up than that.

    I think ones true self is part of the underlying benevolent intelligence of the Universe but it is a portion that has taken on the limitation of incarnation. Like kenosis. People have each a unique shape this fills.

    So anyway, this void is the good void. The void that gets cut off and fills the false self is not. Its an artificial space that has been created.

    I don’t think nondualists know what the ego is. They get it confused with the person’s true self and they get the void inside the false self mixed up with the infinity inside the true self.

    Plus hierarchical structures and conformity reinforce acting from the false self.

  31. the clearest definition of the ego I know of , is that it is the image of self, as opposed to “the” self. when one is living from the perspective of the self-image, rather than the immediate experience of one’s own existence, this is ego in the bad sense. but to an extent we need that picture to communicate with people who also think in images, and words.

    the various socially constructed shells grow up around that.

    but, of course, this is all a kind of mask over the fact that there’s really nothing there, just an image, and some constantly shifting sensations. when we can come to grips with that basic voidness, and relax into the larger reality that overflows the picture we think is us, then we start to transition into the experiences that are talked about as enlightenment, or awakening.

    any underlying benevolent intelligence the universe does or doesn’t have is still only a manifest phenomenon, and bound within time and space, and thus not the ultimate reality. it’s similar to thinking that ‘god’ is nature, but on a cosmic scale. god is no more ‘inside’ the universe, than it is ‘inside’ the earth. as you progress farther into awakening you dis-identify with that as well and open into the void that comes when you drop attachment to the senses, or the mind, altogether.

  32. Well,

    Zac I totally disagree with you. But it feels refreshing to have effective communication and be able to spell out exactly how we disagree.

    And that’s exactly how.

    You think there is nothing there behind the false self. I think there is something there, but mybe not inside the false space created by the false self, but within the true self, that gets cut of from consciousness when the false self is created.

  33. Actually, I don’t think you guys are in agreement. Free Range’s model is about subjectivity and relative self; Zac is addressing the delusion of a permanent, separate self as it relates to the absolute aspects of each moment. I’m also not unsure that an underlying benevolent universe–a “Big Self” if you will–could exist at the still relative, but very subtle level. The problem is where we start confusing gross, fine, subtle, and absolute.

  34. If there is truly “nothing there” I don’t see why having the right name is so important. So maybe I don’t understand.

    But I think we came close to agreeing about smething.

    Basically what annoys me about nondualists is that they seem to think that the false self is all there is in terms of having a seperate identity.

    I think something gets bifurcated on top of that. That people get this little bubble of a false self that cuts people off from operatingn the basis of their true self.

    I thnk there is more of true self acting like a holon of God basically. I think you can get in touch with that and begin to live out your life purpose.

    See what I am getting at? The false self is not a holon. The true self is. So if you are acting on the basis of the false self, you are not a holon.

    To say that getting beyond the false self, there is nothing, I would disagree.

  35. I think hierarchical societies are assembled from people organizing on the basis of their false selves. Its like everyone is a complete holon unto themselves. So its hard to make a pyramid that way.

    So what you have to do is create a bunch of fractured incomplete selves and then they can be built into a pyramid.

    But all the parts suffer because they are alienated from their true selves and thus alienated from the infinity within themselves.

  36. from the sounds it’s somewhere in formless jhannas. the loss of boundaries is 5-6, the sense of nothingness or merger with objects is 7-8

  37. I don’t feel qualified to judge the progress of that guy, but I think that link is definitely worthwhile. His descriptions line up with those from other traditions, which I think is one of the key markers of valid spirituality. Compare, e.g., St. John of the Cross and the Burmese Theraveda.

    The question I have is, what does “mystical contemplation” refer to? It sounds like a specific practice for this guy.

    It’s worth understanding that there is a longstanding (like fifteen hundred years) old debate about where exactly subject and object lie in relation to “cosmic awareness” or the nondual or whatever… Some schools say that it’s possible to dwell in the “being bliss” of pure subject but that this is not the non-dual, others say that it is the ever-present subject awareness like that of deep sleep somehow sitting on top the nondual, others will say that it’s just the realm of infinite space or infinite conscious, which some people have a natural proclivity towards. I have only minimal experience with the formless realms via insight, and I can’t deny the validity of the “constant subject” theory since my own experience (informal) with the “natural state of mind” suggest there’s something there, so this is beyond my ability, and at the limits of my intellectual ability to comprehend theoretically. Maybe dude has a proclivity for the formless realms and managed to achieve enlightenment in them because of a proclivity towards insight. On the other hand maybe he’s just hanging out in the formless realms. Or maybe he is dwelling in the “sky-like awareness”.

    That, and because some people spend their entire lives in an unconscious delusion, there’s a tendency for people to confuse the very lowest stages of insight with enlightenment. I don’t think that’s what this guy is doing, but it’s worth keeping in mind. And many “insights” feel really important and rich when they first arise, but the next time are just quotidian.

    “Yet finding confirmation of this experience in the Christian literature has not been easy…. To say that it is natural, for example, does not in any way imply that it is not also an experience of God.”

    That, I think, falls in line with the earlier discussion: you can get lost without a good model.

  38. Wow – again this has really taken off! lots to catch up on!

    I am supposing that logos and names are important, if code/language/model is to get us anywhere …

    perhaps all mysteries are contained in a single breath(?)

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