From the Vault-Doing Yoga, Getting Enlightened

buddha sukhothai siam 2 WQ

One of the nice things about having a substantial back catalogue, and having such a long hiatus between outputs, is that I don’t have to feel bad about curating some of my older stuff for a new/old audience.

At the moment my interests in meditation, yoga and enlightenment aren’t at the forefront of my Solve Everything podcasts. I say ‘at the moment’ because it will come back around to that in a fashion that I hope is fairly organic, but I’m sort of focusing on the  problems and contradictions in ‘baseline’ consciousness at the moment, just to set context.

But all that stuff is lurking in the background and you don’t have to dig terribly hard to uncover all kinds of my writing and recording on buddhism, yoga, meditation, various conceptions of enlightenment, and the daily practice involved in doing these sort of things as a lifestyle. I have always sort of straddled the line between occultist and monk, and now I sort of straddle those two along with being an academic philosopher, which in some ways is more like the former and in other ways like the latter.

So without too much further preamble, let’s just show off some of my shinier gems while documenting the path to yogic mastery and enlightenment. And by all means also look into the  links on my sidebar to exemplary practitioners like Shinzen Young, or Dharma Dan Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, or check out the meditation app showcased on Cutting Machinery, constructed in consultation with enlightened disaster swami extraordinaire Vinay Gupta, I believe.

If I had to pick the one longer-form project I’m proudest of, it would be Systematic for the PeopleThen and now there are always tons of ‘spiritual’ frauds and obscurantists, or just the genuinely confused, who never got beyond their first Ayahuasca trip or Robert Anton Wilson book, and are now lost in the wilderness of crumbling reality. This was my humble ( or as close as I get) attempt  at a compact treatment of the traditional limbs of hindu yoga, which, considering the functional core of western enlightenment traditions have mostly been irretrievably lost ( with certain qualifications) under layers of symbolism and code, has mostly taken over as the core of  what western tradition there is in the present, as Uncle Aleister was at pains to point out in his Eight Lectures on Yoga.

And, of course, it is often overlooked that Gotama the Buddha was an accomplished Yogi along these lines, and assumed most of his students would be too, to some degree, so if you’re banging your head against the dharma without effect, the lack of something like this might be why.

Once you’ve got some yoga under your belt then you can shift gears into my  short introductory essay on Buddhism itself, which is in some ways a simplified, and in other ways a re-oriented yogic path for the specific purpose of extinguishing  the fundamental delusion at the core of human consciousness.

And if you want some insight into how the Buddhist path links up with western esoterism or magick, then the three part finale to the otherwise rambling train wreck of my Augoeides series is pretty nice for that.

You can find any number of journals and practice diaries for my own progress of insight and enlightenment by using the search bar, and there are plenty of little gems I’m happy to stand behind now, but  my current most compact and succinct treatment of the metaphysics (or rather lack thereof) of enlightenment ( as opposed to the method of practice, which have evolved a fair bit) would probably still be found here , with some caveats.

That’s probably enough for now. Get woke, already! …Cough.

Solve Everything-Season 1, Episode 2: We (Still) Have to Talk About Trump (Voters)

Image result for trump your cat

Okay. Pressing onward through our post-traumatic election phase, in this episode we take up whether all the liberals and progressives and lefty snobs were just being mean to Trump voters, and if so, were they right to do so? This opens the deeper question of how anyone was even placed in the position of voting for such an abjectly unqualified person, which in turn brings up the question of social gatekeepers, and our somewhat fraught relationship with the concept of people who are supposed to decide what we see and hear. All of this culminates in the question of whether we really believe in such things as intellectual or moral virtue, and if we do, whether we’re willing to say that we do.

Listen here

or

Direct download: SE1.2.mp3

 

 

Solve Everything- Season 1, Episode 1: Coming Back For Everything

Hello friends, new and old. We’re back to stay, and we mean business.

Solve Everything is an ongoing exercise in expanding the mind to find solutions to the great existential problems of our time. And of course we start with the  American election of a proto-fascist president, and the deeper question of what this means to our psychological well-being, going forward.

Short answer: No more thinking short term. No more compromises on fundamentals. No more spurious false equivalences.No more half-hearted scare-quoted commitments to The Good, The True, and The Beautiful.  We tried happy fun time incremental progress with Barack Obama, and look where that got us. Internet trolls, 4chan nazis, and postmodern authoritarians now run the show.

Time to dust yourself off, and come on back to the table. And if you’re coming back at all, you better be coming back for everything…

Direct download: SE1.1.mp3

or simply listen here:

 

Perihelion

Image result for close to the sun

Everything comes back around, sooner or later.

In the summer, I first started contemplating starting my podcast up again for real, and one of the first things I wanted to talk about was Trump. At the time I was envisioning a sort of esoteric media analysis which, even though he clearly couldn’t win, would take apart why and how he got to the stage he was, of nearly (at that point) winning the Republican primary. But every time I started to firm up an idea, I had this creeping feeling that it was premature. I felt like I didn’t really understand what was going on.

And that pattern kept repeating for another four or so months, and that podcast kept on not starting. And now here we are. Turns out I was more right than I knew to hold back a final judgement of Trump’s prospects, even if I couldn’t admit to myself at the time what it meant. That’s the thing about blind spots, though, isn’t it? In retrospect, part of me knew the crisis narrative that Obama inherited couldn’t possibly end well. And now it has ended, and not well. So it goes.

It would be narcissistic, even solipsistic, to imagine my contributions could have made any difference to where we’ve seemingly ended up over the last few years.  Still, what is true of  the one is not true of the many, of which the one is a part. It is completely clear now that an awful lot of people have misplaced their priorities rather badly for a long time, or else we wouldn’t be in this predicament now, and it would be a little too easy to let myself off the hook, just because I happened to be a typically overwhelmed student. I was content to pretend for quite a while that the winds of history were more or less at all of our backs, I suppose. But things rarely move in straight lines, and that bit of pretending is clearly over now.

The Bad Old Days are here again. Time to get off the bench.

What to expect:

My aim is to do at least 2 podcasts a month, indefinitely, sometimes more when I feel like it, or support/demand justifies it. I have a new patreon page up and running, so if you feel moved to support what I’m doing with a few coins a month, in whatever fashion, that would be excellent. Spreading the word to others would also be excellent. I will, as ever, strive to make it worth your while.

I have four episodes of the new program, which I have titled Solve Everything, in the can already and  the first of those will come out probably by the end of the week. Some of it is just working out the trauma of the election at first, but we quickly transition into more interesting philosophical territory, like Platonic theories of knowledge as applied to contemporary democracies, and meta-ethical treatments of things like genocide. I’m hoping to lay something down in the next week or so that is a McLuhan-esque analysis of political  regimes as forms of media. Should be a good head-scratcher.I have a very long game in mind for all this, and Solve Everything will be centrepiece. It won’t be totally obvious what it is at first, but those of you who have been around for a long time will have some inkling of what I’m about.

I’m also working on finishing my first novel. I will be making it available online  in the first half of this year. Those of you who have been around for awhile might find it in keeping with the slightly unhinged satirical tone of some of my more bad-mood-ish writing. In my more whimsical moments I think of it as a cross between Catcher in the Rye, Fight Club, and some really unhinged japanese anime like Ninja Scroll or Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It is an unending source of gratification that many of my original audience have done well and in many cases gone on to do interesting thinks of your own. My thanks to everyone who threw kind words and encouragement my way during the Great Academic Hiatus.  My brain simply wasn’t set up to do this and that at the same time. But  that is done, at least for the time being, so now it’s time for this, again.

I have changed in many ways, but the thing at the core is beyond changing. It does what it wants with me, always–when I’m not too messed up to pay attention, that is, which is rather often, alas.  Sometimes I feel like my entire life is one long shamanic ordeal. I can only hope it’s all for a good reason, which is just another way of saying I hope I eventually succeed at giving it all a good reason.  I’d like to think the intervening years have left me improved and not diminished, at least not very much, so I must be doing something right. For now I’m back, I’m healthy, and feeling strong.

The sun goes down and always comes back up again. Someday we all go to live outside of time, where there will be no more sunrises, but  that day is not today, at least not for me.

…and so, to the Work.

 

 

notes from occupy: 2011

 

I sat on this for long time, because I was frankly embarrassed by some of my conclusions and loss of objectivity during the heyday of the occupy movement.  Looking at it again, there is a lot of merit in the theoretical side, so I’ve decided to let it out.  Try to appreciate my flawed predictions from the time, and I’ll bookend this from my current perspective with new podcast sometime soon.

Podcast page HERE

Direct download: OCV2011.mp3

two years since my last released recordings? yup.

Forgetting to Remember

If nothing else, this site and all the work on it, serves a very important purpose: it is a snapshot of my mind at its best and worst moments, all my best ideas and best thinking preserved, in some kind of context, a kind of a lifeline to lead me back out of the occasional blind alley. I suppose that is one of the points of having a journal in the first place. Even deeper though, I have come to think of this place as a concrete manifestation of a guiding spirit. It is odd to be able to go back and hear my own voice telling me things I ought to know, and once did, but forgot.

If human history were just a matter of us learning things once and moving on, of a painfully slow yet incremental and one way ascent into the light of understanding, things would be drastically different for all of us. But of course, they are not that way at all. We receive lessons, then forget them, then struggle bitterly to win them back again, time and time and time again, until the world around us bears enough marks of the lessons that they become burnt into the very landscape, and we simply live in the space that has been carved out, whether we have ourselves actually understood anything or not. In a very real sense, it is not people who learn, but the world. It is the lessons embedded in the world that shape our behaviour.

It doesn’t matter if you understand how cars work, how electricity is generated, why slavery and child labour are immoral. Those lessons are carved into the social economic and even physical landscape. You are surrounded by cars, you use electricity and there are no slaves. Similarly, it doesn’t really matter how often you think you understand something, it isn’t until you reprogram the environment, that your actual behaviour changes in a lasting way. We are only weakly creatures of rationality, and very strongly creatures of instinct and habit. the best use of our fleeting rational faculties, of our transient willpower, is to change the world around us, to make into a manifestation of understanding. To make the world into an extended mind. Our guiding spirit.

Once you begin to see this, it is utterly clear why few positive changes get much traction, and what does happen appears often to be utterly inexplicable or orthogonal to our intentions. If all you do is think of choice and action, and the childish democratic calculus of getting everyone to think the same ideas as the only way to improve our situation, you will miss the way the manifest conditions override even the largest electorates. Millions of people protest the second iraq war before it even starts, net effect? Zero. Design a cellphone cheap enough that everyone on earth can own one? Sooner or later everyone will.

Philosophically speaking, I am closer and closer to be a thoroughgoing monist: whatever is going on here is all one thing, one fundamental substance. There is no point talking about matter and mind as separate things. In a very real sense, if you want to change enough minds, and it’s abundantly clear that is what we need to do, then it’s all about moving the right kind of material stuff around in a way that our collective extended mind has finally learned something in a way that sticks. Instead of letting ourselves get lost in mere rhetoric about justice, peace, freedom and evolution, while embedded in the material assumptions of corruption, warfare, coercion and stagnation, maybe we should struggle always to remember that justice will only be guaranteed when injustice becomes physically impossible. We should remember to ask ourselves what a manifest justice looks like, the same way we are often asked to visualise a ‘free market’.  We should remember to ask what we look like in the mirror when our lessons are written in our very flesh, and the world itself has been transformed into our guiding spirit. The ‘true will’ only matters if it strong enough, for just a moment, to move us closer to that.

broken links II

 

so, continuing the theme of wayward links and sundry fellow travellers, it’s good to consider the dimension which we might call ‘spiritual’, which I increasingly think is an obscurantist and unhelpful term and perspective, or the meditative/cognitive, which is not tremendously better, but at least more clear. As a ridiculously quick yet at least somewhat cogent aside, the more I study western philosophy, the more I get the horrible sensation that a lot of the western discourse on enlightenment, as imported in the form of buddhism or vedanta, is badly recapitulating the work of early modern philosophers like david hume, and getting utterly mired in the ditch of metaphysics and cognitively meaningless gibberish. I defy anyone to read something like hume’s treatise of human nature alongside almost any enlightenment text you care to name, and see which one describes our moment to moment experience more clearly. Much of what’s being peddled out there, is the would-be enlightened getting lost in the weeds of what are known as the corruptions of insight. From Plato on down, western culture has been grappling with questions more devastatingly real and obvious than most gurus or teachers would dare tell you, we just don’t do it consciously that much.

Which I suppose actually leads me back on track, because what I wanted to talk about was the toll taken in the form of what I will call ‘insight casualties’ to coin another category to go with our ‘doomer fatigue’ from last time. In some ways they are actually sides of the same coin. If they are not the same thing, they are at least closely related. Insight casualties are more from introspection than outward premonitions of doom, and tend to follow a characterstic pattern best described in the stages of insight of vipassana, but appear in similar forms in many traditions, even something as banal as kubler-ross’s stages of grieving. It’s about how the mind processes and eventually transcends identification and loss of identification with its own contents, or all of our experience basically. The doomer tends to experience this as outward instability and the insight casualty as inward destabilization of the sense of self. One can easily see how these can go together and often do. The main difference is that doomers are often at least partly grounded in a hard analysis of objective facts, and this is what brings on the distress, while the insight afflicted get into trouble from a reflective self-observation that many doomers will simply lack.

The other main difference with the insight casualty is that there is an explicit exit to this situation, or at least, periodic exits that come from fruitions, paths, or peak enlightenment experiences. That is, if your practice is well-articulated enough for you to find the exit, which it frequently isn’t, often for the reasons I’ve described above. I cannot tell you how many chronic dark night meditators are wandering down blind alleys of impenetrable bullshit and deepening in the identity of spiritual basket case, or even worse, projecting their inner disorientation and distress onto the world, but it’s a lot. There is the odd person who manages to find their way out of this rat maze and if their internet presence was tied into their period of rat-mazery, one can easily see why these folks would just as soon drop that shit and move on. So whether you’re up and out or down in the ditch and simply non functional, I’m willing to bet this accounts for more than a couple missing voices. Since some of these I would consider my friends and collaborators, I will tactfully not name names, but you know who you are, and you probably even know which category you’re in, better than I do, anyway.