once begun, better to finish

paranoia

Well, I could probably take an hour or so and collect at least a dozen examples of occultists, yogis, meditators, alternative analysts, and esoteric investigators who evidence all the signs of chronic dark night insight cycles. Myself included, incidentally.

Now why would that be? The answer is quite simple actually. Once a particular person passes the threshold of what they call ‘penetrating the object’ in terms of investigating reality, they’ve essentially ruptured a dam holding back the sum total of ultimate reality, and from that point on, are engaged in a progressive process of death-rebirth, carried out at the basic sensory level on up.

That is, once you have the experience of knowing, not thinking, but knowing, that things are slippery, inconsistent, not as they appear to be, subject to definition or re-definition, fundamentally not satisfactory, or any number of other ways of experiencing the fundamental nature of reality, the mind is forced into a crisis of reorganisation that has only one real end.

The problem comes on two fronts: one is where people want to arrest the process of the mind in some final resolution, and the other is where people fail to reverse the figure/ground relationship of the mind to it’s object.

What I mean is, insight is, by definition, finding out something you didn’t know before, and that’s impossible unless you relinquish partial or incorrect perceptions in favor of more comprehensive and correct ones. That’s all well and good when it’s something trivial or with no personal significance, but nobody really wants to overturn their perceptions of self. This is akin, psychologically, to death. That means that the would be enlightened chronically either dig in and try to reify some view of what’s going on with them, or they focus too much on stuff out there, instead of looking inward at the sense of the observer.

You combine that with the ever intensifying sense of anxiety that I mentioned before, and you hve a recipe for all kinds of embarrasing flame outs, paranoid episodes, manic pronunications, manichean schema for interpeting reality, reversals and re-reversals of opinion, ecstatic bouts of relief from terror and confusion, and other increasingly desperate efforts to either arrest the process or redirect it from oneself and one’s deep sense of that self.

One of the most pernicious aspects is thinking that there is nothing else to do, nothing that can be done, or no way to do anything. Internalising the perception of impermanence means knowing that the mind is constantly reinventing and reorganising itself. Any section of belief or understanding that appears static is a delusion. The mind is a door that opens and opens and opens, forever. The moment it appears to not be opening in the slightest, is a sign that delusion has taken root. This is a hard thing for anyone to cope with, and especially for anyone who builds their self image around being enlightened or awakened. This is where the syndrome of the perpetual dark night basket case comes from.

You develop profound spiritual convictions or ultimate insights, but they’re always, always, unfinished. The part that can be finished is not the part that thinks, feels, or expresses itself. The self that has come this far must in turn be discarded. To actually finish this process requires that you let go of the exact thing that you’ve been leaning on up until that point, and most people can’t or won’t or don’t know to even do that. So you end up with a kind or relapsing sequence of near misses at true understanding. To make sense out of that cycle of being profoundly right, followed shortly by being profoundly wrong, requires a certain kind of deviant psychology that unfortunately infests the occult scene in general, and the occult internet, quite specifically.

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PS: if any of you deviant scum use twitter, I’m now parading my psychosis there as well.

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down the trapdoor

Right: so probably the simplest way to describe insight practice is that it revolves around a clear observation of sensations. Since everything a human can experience is sensations, a clear observation of sensations emanates into a clear observation of everything. The perceptual habits at the smallest microscale reflect those at the grandest macroscale. As above, so below.

Now sensations, by their nature, are empty. That is, they have no inherent meaning or interpretation built into them. They are essentially bits of static, which, when taken together, coalesce into a picture that we can project meaning upon. The early part of every infant’s life is learning how to decipher the ‘blooming buzzing confusion’ of the senses.

The thing you can say is that every sensation has similar features: each has a definite beginning, a definite end, and some kind of afterimage that persists in consciousness in the form of other sensations, which also have beginnings, endings and afterimages. Based on that, you might surmise that human consciousness is mostly composed of afterimages, with a minimal awareness of primary sensations. The fog of afterimages blends together to create the illusions of solidity and continuity that we tend to cling to so much.

The early part of insight practice usually revolves around clear perception of the beginnings of sensations, and this tends to be mildly interesting, moving towards a kind of profound euphoria, as we see how things appear out of nowhere. The underlying vibe, which not everyone can articulate clearly, is a kind of overwhelming abundance. There’s just more and more and it’s all just appearing out of nowhere and it’s pretty ecstatic. This gradually transitions into a a clear perception of the endings of sensations, and this is where it gets tricky.

At first it’s profound and liberatory: all the stuff that bothers you. limits you, and confuses you just vanishes. yay! …however, it quite quickly tips over into things that you’re kind of attached to. Sense of self, ego identifications, familiar body sensations, emotional resonances, all this stuff starts to take on a certain precarious tenor, as the underlying sensations just kind of drop out through the trapdoor and vanish. The best way I can describe it, is that your whole life starts to feel like walking on thin ice. The ice never actually breaks, but a part of your awareness is always tied up in the feeling that it might, at any moment, crack open and spill you into the same nothingness that’s seething underneath all your experience.

Most people experience that underlying vibe as various degrees of anxiety, terror, despair, disgust, depression, anger and hate, desperation, etc… as you consciousness ( hopefully) processes the awareness of the true nature of sensations that you built yourself up out of.

Bit rushed today, but I’ll get into my own mileage with this next time.

tipping the scales

So yeah, I took a pretty good shot at ‘letting go’ of attachment to relationships for a few days there.

It was partly an insight thing, as in ‘ this is inherently unsatisfactory, impermanent, and does not itself generate the state I’m looking for’ and partly a concentration thing where I was running a jhana state that was strong enough that I felt like I could happily renounce human attachments forever, at least at the time.

And then the tricky bit: because, when you get into states like that, the things you used to want, and let go of, frequently start showing up. Those of you who play on the sorcery side of the fence will be more familiar with this ( hopefully. provided you aren’t just a dark night basket case wanking over your star trek-based magickal paradigm) , and it’s basically the textbook buddhist style magick thing. ie; you rise to a  jhana state of perfect equanimity, exit it, and form an intention, then the intention happens. Or in my case, the intentions that you formed carefully before and then let go of start to happen. This is pretty much what uncle al meant by ‘avoid lust of result’.

Which is neither here nor there, but just shows that letting go can throw up it’s own kind of distractions, because you will be tested on whether or not you really are letting go, or just practicing sorcery. Not that sorcery cannot be used as a valid source of insight, just most people don’t do it that way. If you do sorcery as a means of demonstrating the emptiness and transitory nature of phenomena, or developing insight into cause and effect, then great. If you renounce boys/girls as a step towards making them appear in your life, this is sub-optimal, from a perfect realisation point of view, because it throws up all kinds of paradoxes in terms of intention.

The tension of using renunciation this way versus how you actually live can become quite abrasive, even if you’re doing it by accident. You might very well intend to renounce shit, and yet not be able to help getting caught up in it again when your sorcery skills keep drawing it to you. It’s kind of playing out the karma you set in motion. There’s a story about a murderer who became an arahat and people who recognised him threw pottery at him. He couldn’t figure out why being enlightened didn’t make people hate him less. Similar kind of thing.

So shifting topics,  dealing with that abrasive quality brings up a more detailed discussion of the dreaded ‘dark night’.

You gotta let me go…

Okay, so lets talk about ‘letting go’ for a minute, because it’s probably the most powerful tool in the box as far as rapid changes in conduct and insight go, and can have quite a bang for the buck when used as an object of concentration.

Now, you have to be careful talking about this because most people’s idea of ‘letting go’ consists of pretending they don’t care about something anymore, and doing their best to avoid having to prove it. Moving to another town to avoid your ex is not ‘letting go’. Neither is never going to the mall because you can’t help buying fried chicken at the local KFC. The two applicable words are ‘avoidance’ and ‘denial’.

Letting go means that it does whatever it wants to do and it doesn’t affect you, no matter how close or far away it happens to be.

The easiest way to do this is contemplate deeply the downside of all the things you really want, and understand that they always go together. Phenomena are always dualistic presentations. If you contemplated the negative as deeply as you did the positive, you’d have a lot more equanimity towards the whole complex, rather than chasing the head-side of the coin all the time and pretending there is no tail.

The truth of it is, that nothing ‘out there’ makes you feel anything. Feelings/emotions come from your brain and nervous system. You condition them to external objects and their behavior. And external objects will behave in a pretty inconsistent and taoistic fashion. Get a copy of the i ching. if you’re super skilled, you might get an object to behave in a way you are conditioned to ‘like’ about 70% of the time. And that’s pushing the envelope. If you’re a taoist master or anthony robbins, you might be able to ramp that up to a marvelously flowing 80% or 90%, but that 10% will be a motherfucker when it comes.

It’s really a lot more sensible to decondition as much of this stuff as you can, and learn to intelligently manage the rest. This is one of those macroscale applications of fundamental insights. If nothing out there is really a source and is not stable even if it were, then why is it leading you around all the time? and if you can see this, then what is the appropriate stance towards the external world?

The all star champion sweeping method for this is either to cultivate profound selfless love, or to meditate on your eventual demise for a long time. Both will have a similar effect of causing you to drop a lot of dead weight. It will also profoundly change the dynamics of your relationships for the better, without the nasty aftertaste of your neurotic attachments.

I’m sort of in the middle of a major experiment on this subject, so I’ll hold off until it’s a little more clear how it plays out, before I discuss it.

the tail of the snake

Things are going to get a bit less new-user-friendly around here, I think. If you get really lost, ask a question or do a search. It’s all here somewhere.

When you’re dealing with the interlocking nature of prajna, sila, and samatha, the question arises; which one first? Which is preeminent? Of course, the answer is situational, and not really linear, in any event.

True, it’s pretty cut and dried that you need a baseline level of conduct to achieve a baseline level of concentration which is needed to achieve any kind of stable insight. But beyond that rudimentary level, it gets complex quickly.

To get stable changes in behavior or conduct usually requires some kind of insight into one’s situation to really make definitive change. To hold those changes requires concentration. It’s hard to make real life changes when you have the mind strength of a crack baby raised on kraft dinner, and the psychic hotline is your idea of ‘insight’.

Likewise, although jhana practice isn’t exactly an investigation-intensive enterprise, you do from time to time have to make certain observations that will fine tune your understanding of the object that forms your concentrative focus. It’s quite possible to take a very dry perception based approach to jhana, but I don’t recommend it, as it’s very abrasive. Feeling your way is best, generally, but even so, you do need to occasionally peek your head out to survey the terrain.

So really the whole process feeds backwards, forwards and sideways. The best bet is to work on the one that complains the most, or gets in the way the most. When in doubt, do some mindful investigation and if you immediately start crying, or your nervous system feels like uninsulated wiring sizzling in the rain, you might need to do some emotional housecleaning or chill in the second jhana for a bit.

For my part I’m dealing with lot of relationship stuff right now. There’s all this deeply rooted rubbish relating to self worth, loneliness, love and being loved etc. It’s very tempting to look for a solution to all this, particularly an external one, but 9 times out 10 when it comes to emotional stuff, looking for a solution is exactly the wrong thing to do. There isn’t one. There never will be one. Looking for solutions to emotional problems is how you perpetuate the mindset that creates emotional problems. It’s pretty much exactly like a gambling addict: you keep wanting to double down at the table, in hopes that it will all come up even in the end, but it never really does. There is no break even, there is no winning these games. They were never meant to be won. When you figure that out, and why it’s true, you’ve got some real insight going.

Emotional stuff all flows out of species of attachment. You can dress it up in any number of ways, but the end truth is that you have these emotions because you are attached to the phenomena they relate to.  Anything you do in relation to that can only reaffirm the attachment. It’s like one of those monkey traps. The only way out is to let go of the thing and pull out your hand. Full Stop.

Enough of This

furnace

I want to get things moving again here, so let’s pare it down to the basics:

I’ve done tons of commentary, tons of investigation of obscure topics, tons of speculation and meandering observations. Maybe it’s time I settle down to what I know I’m best at, and what I know my best contribution is.

So for the time being, this is a personal practice blog, and a related q&a. Nothing else . Fun is fun and ideas are ideas, but after awhile it’s just ashes in my mouth if I know I’m not towing my personal line. The best thing I can do for myself or anyone else is to achieve a perfect and complete realization and equip other people to do likewise, the best I’m able.

I can’t fool myself anymore that I’m ever going to be ‘normal’ or I’m ever going to be able to have ‘a life’ in the commonly used sense.  I’m not sure I ever really wanted that in the first place. I’m not lying to myself anymore. and I’m certainly done lying to anyone else.

The world has no use for another dark night basket case, or another near miss at true understanding wrapped in half baked platitudes.  I know what I’m capable of, and it’s more than that.

I really cannot believe it’s been almost seven years since I glimpsed into the heart of ultimate reality and knew exactly what the end of the path was.  Since then I’ve wavered around like some kind of drunk, whining and flailing about in some kind of convulsive attempt to avoid the work involved in living up to it.

I’m tired of looking people in the face and trying to explain to them  that there’s an inferno raging behind my eyes, in some way that’s not going to make them uncomfortable. I’m tired of acting like any of this scripted sitcom existence is actually real.  I’m tired of trying to ‘relate’ to these ‘people’. They aren’t people. They’re pieces of machinery. They’re butterflies flapping around inside a furnace, trying not to burn. They are lies that walk and talk. I know what they will say before they do, and I have no further business with them.

and yes, yes, I can already see the well meaning souls lining up to tell me it’s not that bad and no need to be so hard on everyone, or myself, but really, Bullshit.  Bullshit.

I really don’t think what we need right now is another hug session and hold each others hands and say yeah it’s perfectly alright that we’re stunted parodies of humanity and we dance and hug, and smoke more joints and play video games until we get composted back into the biota. It’s not alright. It never was alright. It will never be alright. That’s not why we were given our lives. Does anyone seriously think that’s why we were given our lives? So we can shuck our responsibilities, and ignore our own light, and avoid the pain, so we can pass the buck to someone else?

Nor does it mean you can vent some tepid self loathing, mouth some convenient self recrimination and go back to doing the square root of fuck all and screaming at other people for not doing what you don’t do either.

There is work to do.

If you don’t get that, then we have nothing to talk about.

otherwise, I’ll meet you back here tomorrow.