I have written few poems of late. Falling Rocks was the latest and this came awhile before. Both are for my Lady. This is the nocturne, the kiss good night, the snuggle, the sigh, the whisper, Gracias mi diosa, this is the nuzzle against the still damp neck, the caress along the flank caress of hip, this is the wiggle off the wet spot. the whisper, Gracias mi diosa this is the endless inhalation, a woman's scent, this is a waning moon, the breast within the palm, a hand held hand This is the whisper, Tighter. This is the nocturne, the kiss good night, the sigh, the scent of hair the tangled hair. This is the tangle and the tangle of the legs and the hand that slips behind the back, below the hips, the gentle squeeze this is the inhalation, this is the giggle, this is the I love you said twice at once and said again. this is the whispered thank you this is the sheet pulled shoulder high the almost unheard murmur this is a whispered kiss along the spine, a kiss, a bite to the hand held hand and the breast again against the palm the sigh, the inhalation. This is the nocturne, the kiss good night.
to fall beside that well-walled hole to
make breaths short next drops again
to flaming gorge across the green where
no one hears us when we speak for all those
drops so no one cares nor can
they see that point of road where we have
crossed and made no sound that we’re
about with our no cares save only
that of knowing
we are on the road Picara we
are on the road.
This boat from Mitilini hits
Chios far too late at night but still
disgorges all those trucks flying
back past Agamemnon who
dances through brash MS dance while
Lesvos lady Macedonian lass dreams
forward of Agamemnon’s flinch his
shrugs the pirouette his wish to
die truck-crushed upon a Chios wharf
but Lesvos lady and I too care
not for dying in sight of Chios
Macedonian lass you Picara we
stay out to sea.
That snow flying low across the road so the
kid she says its like Kuwait save trading
snow for sand where desolation’s all
the same with pump jacks sucking
oil above to barren wind blown
grounds where both of us have once called
home as much as any other place we’ve
known so this road hides beneath the
but you know Lady Picara we
are on the road.
Halikas of the falling rocks and lookout for
those pirates and Halikas Papa where’s the
house that binds the Lesvos lady here on
rocks that watch the strait beyond the
strait to spy those bones of Hector but down
in Malyvos from falling rocks in Malyvos at
night where girls descend to sailers below
the rooms of Yannis and the Niki we fall
like falling rocks she knows this Picara we
always ride on falling rocks.
There is a phase of consciousness that is called Flow and every real mystic probably knows it well. It is the basis for my own idiosyncratic sense of mysticism, the sense of wholeness, integrity and integration and a corresponding sense of liberty. The last two paragraphs of the previous post are significant in the matter. Circumstances today reminded me of a short essay I wrote for a forum four years ago that needed a little update and a slightly different application. So I am posting it to Integral Liberties sort of as a node of awareness from which I can circle around. The following is the essentials of that essay.
I first encountered the Flow when I was 15 or 16 in a non-sexual spontaneous coming of age situation. I believe it was Loren Eiseley who once wrote that in a rite of passage, whether ritualized or not, “the boy becomes a man and the man sees god,” which would have been true if I had been habituated to myth. I was not, but nonetheless, the world changed in every way that could be perceived, and it has continued to do so with every subsequent experience. The texture of the air changes, as does the color of it all as well as the weight and dimensions of my body, the nature of sound and the velocity of time. And everything moves together with such precision that if I could distinguish any seams in the environment they were totally without significance. Those are just a fraction of the effects. Energy rises from just below the hips, firing up through the guts in surprisingly cool but dense flames that stretch the body, explode in the chest and free the lungs of all constriction so the next breath has infinite capacity. And those are just a fraction…
This is the place from where a shaman finds the shaman’s song. All of the current writers observing the shaman like to quote c interviews with Aua, the Eskimo Shaman. All of these shamanic overview authors pay Aua homage and weigh in with his story of how he learned his song. He seemed to have been in some sort of extremis one day when he saw a little shore bird called an aua, whereupon the man fell into an ecstatic rapture and spontaneously composed his power song. I could, as they say, relate to that.
Years ago as a teenage hobo I was hitchhiking west after visiting a friend on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The scene was a backwater crossroads in the middle of northern Nebraska, in the middle of October, in the middle of the afternoon when the heat was unseasonable but had no sharp summer edges and it eased the time by as if it were wide and deep. It was a recently harvested landscape with stubbled ocher horizon hills and yellow cottonwoods mid-distance. There I pulled myself up into the cab of an 18–wheeler and settled in. I had just scored a ride almost all the way home. The driver waited for some traffic to pass, dropped in both boxes and bore down on the fuel. The trailer was overloaded so the tractor fell back hard on the rear axles, roared and quaked, hammered against inertia and surged out onto the blacktop. All that power trying to propel all that steel vibrated up from the ground through me and out into the entropic universe and I went into an ecstatic trance. It was not the first time, mystic that I was even then. But it had one memorable feature, for rising with that power came a song that was being composed down around my root chakra. It had no coherent words, but it was full of words that I had never heard before. They sounded through my heart and I let them go just short of my tongue. I had just enough presence of mind to keep them to myself lest I raise some alarm in the driver. That song rolled along with me for 30 or 40 miles and then faded late into the afternoon.
I am a sensualist and I relish living deep in the world because to it I trust my life. When a nondual experience of this kind arises out of an intense earthly situation I trust it is giving me the consciousness of the most profound truth of my body and capacity and the ability to translate it simultaneously into the harmonization of time, place, action and identity. I know I have forgotten any number of these events but I can list a few: working 30 hours straight on a sculpture, losing myself in composing poetry, walking into a badly storm-torn sunset, stalking elk, running D.C. streets at dawn, realizing a guiding life-long truth—age 17–-hitchhiking west out of Flagstaff, sinking in meditation into an state of unconsciousness to everything except all-encompassing bliss, realizing the liberating value of my total insignificance while driving down a highway in southeast Wyoming, waiting for a gunfight, doing shamanic style energy healing that worked, the first time I heard Emmylou Harris sing Racing in the Streets, racing horses, racing cars, driving a much too tiny boat in profoundly bad water when one second finds me in abject terror of a standing wave I can’t see around, I can’t see over because I can see nothing but all that thick brown water and dirty white foam curling back down upon me. But the next second I am assured that I am immortal, that mistakes are impossible. I can read every molecule of water in that wave, time stands still and allows me to do everything I need to do with no effort at all…the world changes and all that happened three paragraphs above happens again.
The other things I trust explicitly are dreams. I have awakened with dream images perfect before my eyes and in full, ecstatic, non-dual awareness. In fact two such dreams and the awareness that arose from them prompted me to spend about five years (part time) trying to create a universal unified field theory not unlike Ken Wilber’s attempts to do so with his AQAL theory. I quit that fool’s errand when I realized with almost absolute certainty that the image I thought I was drawing of the universe was actually the image of my psyche.
I am a sensualist and not a thinker, nor a spiritualistic thinker. I do not hold with anything that has to do with any aspect of what could be called Spirit or The Divine or any of the other 10,000 names. I have no superstitions about these nondual suppositions. But I do have a theory. I am sure it is not unique and doubt if any of these conclusions are new and original and I have no authority on which to base them. But they have everything to do with integral, not the academic metaphysical/spiritual integral theories, but that which is material.
Until my participation on that particular internet forum compelled me to research Wilberismo and correlated tangents I had not read much except poetry for years. When I first heard there was a need for an integral philosophy and Mr. Wilber was slaving away, multi-media, to prove there was such a thing, I had to wonder why. Why develop a theory as to everything being integrated when anyone with half a set of senses and a shred of instinct left on how to use them could know for certain that integral reality is plainly, manifestly, there to be known and navigated? It exists on the leading edge of now when all that is within one’s sphere manifests into perception; when everything including the perceiver cascades into a spherical, dimensionless veil of the senses as a perfectly integrated pattern; an instantaneous, seamless legacy of 13.7 billion years (give or take) of uninterrupted cause/effect-cause. That this pattern is tumultuously dynamic does not change the fact that it has total formational integrity. I will call it manifest non-duality in the sense that the non-dual is not a static state but an emergent event. Like Whitehead said, everything is an event. And even though all the events are seamlessly bound and at once both cause and effect, this does not mean there is anything predetermined or intelligently designed in what I have perceived. (Both of those superstitions, I believe, are artifacts from dualistic thought and the desperate safety seeking of anthropomorphic projection.) There is an accidental and random quality to the patterns like the accidental and random quality of colored shards of glass tumbling past the mirrors and prisms of a kaleidoscope.
When an event cuts one loose from habituated conditioning that lead into a disorienting state, if the instincts for life outweigh the fear of living, the senses and instincts haul the consciousness into a much more complete alignment along the dimensionless front edge of now, manifestation and life. This is the only place I have found that is actual and whole, where integration is so complete that it is no longer of conscious consideration. Then the universe changes because one is no longer drawing back to observe it, but is pegged balanced and upright in one’s tiny, and totally insignificant vessel. That’s integrity.
It comes up from time to time when I think of Sri Aurobindo. Like I wrote in the first essay on this blog, I cannot relate well to the man at all except for the fact that he was mightily overtaken by the Spirit while in prison and on trial for his life. It is a common syndrom, the jail house conversion. I recall he sat through his trial in something of an ecstatic, non-dual trance. I cannot say I knew personally anyone who could make the same claim. Michael, who’s story I tell below, sat through his in a trance but it was not of the sort where the consciousness is overwhelmed in the ineffable apprehension of cosmic wholeness. Michael’s was induced to overcome some of the side effects of his conversion and to set him up…but to all of that soon enough.
Killing The Beast, I believe, was the name of a thread someone started on a now dead forum long ago. It was about rooting out evil. I wrote this piece for that thread and then never put it up. But now let’s consider evil, consider the Beast.
So we wonder at The Beast. I’ve been an artist too long so I tend to forget, I no longer remember to wonder each morning at The Beast. But today might be the time to be conscious again in this manner to see what we are trying to kill here and what we would be well advised to keep of The Beast. For 18 years, doing work as a p.i., I tried to keep people from going to jail, or to get them out of jail, or to keep them off the gurney that rolls down the concourse to the Needle. The Beast roams at large in that concourse and breathes in, breathes out through that slight steel tube. My client Michael was on his way there once.
Michael talked to the wall for a month, maybe more, after he turned himself in. He was a sweet young man, quiet and dutiful, with a wife and a baby a week away. He had a job and a car. The Beast rode in that car because he put the two young women in the trunk and took them out east of Albuquerque and killed one with his knife and the tire iron, but the other, with 17 stab wounds and two skull fractures got away. Michael’s wife helped him turn himself in and he didn’t talk to anyone except The Virgin who apparently finds a residence in the wall of many an institution. The Beast slept in the bunk while Michael no doubt spilled his life to Our Lady of the Psych Ward Wall and he probably talked of cars, his car, his mother’s car when he was young and Mom let her brother sodomize her son in the back seat on their way into town. Cars; it will be a long time until Michael rides in one for he will probably live out his life somewhere near the concourse where The Beast lives and breathes. The Beast breathed enormous doses of stelazine and thorazine into Michael while he was standing trial so that he wouldn’t get distracted into a chat with Our Lady of the Court House Floor because that would make him look insane and someone incompetent of committing a capital crime. And though he wasn’t competent and wasn’t guilty in the capital definition, the State liked The Beast’s breath because it made Michael look sane enough and sociopathic enough (Google “stelazine stare”) for a jury to want to kill him. And it worked. But we got him free of Death Row and his mother was touched with the work we did to save her baby, Michael, the good little boy she beat up on a few too many times.
There was another guy who was talking in those days to Our Lady of the Cell Block Wall. They called him Weepie. Weepie and a man with the last name Chavez killed Joe A. in the Cell Block 3 (Maximum Security) exercise yard where The Beast was working out while the two stabbed Joe A. 47 times before the guards got him free of his handcuffs. Weepie needed that kill for some inside credibility and I think that when Ricky issued the contract on Joe A. he picked Weepie as a favor. Ricky looked out after his people that way. Weepie needed someone like Ricky to front for him because Weepie was the skinniest guy in the joint, he had that wretched name because he still had his tear-drop tat from his juvie days, and worst of all he looked just like Olive Oyle. Chavez had wanted to kill Joe A. on his own and he didn’t want to be in trial with Weepie because Weepie was just Weepie and that was a bad drug on the Chavez image especially now that Weepie had religion and was enjoying long and fruitful exchanges with Our Lady of the Protective Custodial Wall. The Beast was all round that morning while Chavez was telling me this. I was working for the widow of Joe A. in her civil rights and wrongful death suit against the State of New Mexico. Chavez, whose business with the A. Family had been successfully concluded, hoped she could loot the State for all she could carry away. And, indeed, she made out alright because it wasn’t hard to prove that the Warden knew and the Captain of the Shift knew and the Lieutenant for Cell Block 3 knew, and the Assistant Warden for Security knew and even the New Mexico State Secretary of Corrections knew that Joe A. was going to be killed if he went into the exercise yard that morning and they did nothing at all, nothing, to stop it. The Beast had been busy all around.
Ricky was already on Death Row the morning they killed Joe A.; sent there for having killed that other Cell Block 3 prisoner from Las Cruces and the new guard with one week’s tenure, both at the same time, both of them in the middle of Cell Block 3 where no two prisoners were to be out of their segregated cells at the same time. (Ricky was a wizard.) At his sentencing to The Needle, Ricky looked the new guard’s mother in the eye and apologized for killing her son, but the kid had, in effect, committed suicide when he tried to stop Ricky from doing what he needed to do which was to kill the guy from Las Cruces.
Ricky laughed when he told me this, but then he said he meant it and he genuinely felt sorry for her, sitting there in court looking like just another sorry assed Anglo woman with the thinnest kind of blood and the weakest sort of will.
Quite often when I went into that prison to chase the facts around I would have them bring Ricky in from Death Row so the two of us could kick back in the legal interview room, Ricky would drink the Coca Cola I brought him while I told him why I was there and then he could pass the word on his way back to his cell that it was alright to talk with me. It was like a courtesy call.
Ricky and I were hanging there one morning when into the adjacent room the guards ushered a fat, middle aged, red faced White guy who was doing life for a couple of psychopathic motivated murders. He had spent almost his entire sentence in protective custody because he was “mental,” a freak, and as such wasn’t tolerated well in such close confines. But some months before, due to overcrowding, the administration had farmed him out to a county jail in an end- of-the-world kind of hamlet called Estancia. He behaved himself so well there the Sheriff made him the office dispatcher on the night shift. Three nights before we saw him there in the next room, the fat man had walked away from the dispatcher’s desk and caught a ride to Albuquerque . The night after that he hired a cab to take him to a restaurant and on their arrival had killed the cabby and had been hauled down by some bystanders and witnesses when he tried to run. He was back in custody within 10 minutes and back in prison almost as soon. When the guards brought him in to see his lawyer, Ricky’s blood went up. He forgot I was in the room, forgot perhaps how to talk. His focus froze on the Fat Man and we sat there for almost five minutes without words. I said nothing, just listened to Ricky breathe because the Fat psychopath was a loose cannon, loose on Ricky’s watch and he wanted the Fat Man dead because Ricky had more power in that prison than the warden and a responsibility to keep it orderly. Ricky was not a psychopath, he was a warrior from a cultural substrate with alternative values, and perspectives, and economies that generally ran totally counter to the norm. His sentence to The Needle was commuted to Life the same time Michael’s was, along with five others. We cleaned up that day; it was on a Thanksgiving.
The County Sheriff who used the Fat Man as a dispatcher lost his job the next election, it was no big surprise. A few months later he and I were sitting around a vacant jury room in the court house in a town called Los Lunes. It was a criminal trial. I was working for the defense and he was a witness for the prosecution. He asked if I had heard what had happened that morning in Santa Fe. No, I had not because I’d been away from home for a couple of days. So he told me the story of a man named Andy who had been charged with first degree murder. Andy’s lawyer, a few weeks prior, had pled him to the lesser charge of second degree, and the previous day the judge sentenced him to seven years in prison with the obligation to pay the former wife of the man he killed $100,000 restitution to make up for the child support she would no longer receive. Early that morning Andy went to the former wife’s mobile home and shot her dead. He then went to the court house to take the judge hostage while he made his break for god knows where. But the judge was late in coming to work and that screwed Andy’s plan. He tried to run and a deputy sheriff, a Santa Clara Pueblo Indian named Naranjo, brother of a friend of mine, shot him down. Naranjo put a pistol full of bullets into Andy in the lobby of the Santa Fe County Court House where The Beast was all around. I thought, as I listened to this story, of how I had less than six months before sat at Andy’s kitchen table and talked with his wife and son and him about how the man he killed, the uncle of his son’s wife, had been threatening his son, threatening Andy too. One day the word was out that the uncle-in-law and another family member were going to make good on the threat that night. The son went out looking for the pair. Andy, out of his mind with worry, went out to find the three of them. He confronted the uncle in the drive way of the mobile home where his former wife lived. Andy thought the man was reaching for a weapon that was said to be always close at hand. Andy pulled a pistol, shot twice, hit once and drove away. The Uncle walked across the driveway, sat down on the steps to the former wife’s front door and bled to death with The Beast lounging there beside him.
Andy was a shy, pleasant, worried, round little middle class lath and plaster contractor who had an acute brain disorder triggered by fermented barley. They found out about that one too late and the judge would not let it be admitted into evidence at the sentencing where The Beast was watching from the back row.
The next night I left Los Lunas and headed south to a mountain town with a cowboy dealer who had hired me to help his lawyer make 24 ounces of cocaine, thirteen pounds of marijuana, two and a half gallons of crystal meth, a couple blocks of hash, and 1,200 tabs of LSD legally disappear because to all involved the FBI had obviously lied on the sworn affidavit for the search warrant, an act that should make those pharmaceuticals inadmissible as evidence. After I had spent several days finding witnesses to the fed’s big lie, the cowboy came around and told me that the next day he had a meeting with Another Busted Dealer and they were going to be talking snitches and rats. But the two men didn’t know each other, or each others friends, or each others enemies, or anyone’s real name and neither knew where the other one stood on the issues of a high-rolling cattleman dealer who always got busted but never was charged, or the guy who got his product wholesale along the border in guns-for-drug deals and who had been busted a few weeks before and might have been the one who had rolled over on them. When the feds searched the house of the gun runner they found an original Yoko Ono piece hanging above the couch. It had once been stolen in a burglary at the Dakota Hotel and god knows The Beast hung there. The gun runner told the cowboy and me that he had always thought the piece was a copy. We’d had our meeting with this man on foot along a dirt road that ran through the hills, his call. And we had every reason to believe that he had a second who wasn’t all that far away with a rifle because things can turn funny-shaped suddenly when strangers are talking snitches and rats. That was why the cowboy asked me to be in place to take up his slack if the meeting went sour with the Other Busted Dealer.
I was the first one at the 7-11 parking lot, site of the rendezvous. The cowboy had rented for my driving pleasure and general transport a Lincoln Town Car and this was where I was topping off the tank. The Other Busted Dealer and his side-kick showed up next. I knew them for their Jeep CJ and their ski clothes, the two guys I was going to start shooting at, if and when… They went inside and I went in behind them. One bought a candy bar and the other one jerky. I paid for the gas and bought a newspaper to cover my pistol that lay between me and The Beast in the passenger seat. The Cowboy showed up last in his pickup and the Other Busted Dealer, quick like, climbed in beside him and off they drove. I slipped the Lincoln out onto the highway behind them just ahead of the sidekick in the Jeep. The trick was to stay three cars back and still make all the same lights. They drove into the hills on a winding road and pulled into the back lot of a time-share complex. I drove past, around a hairpin switchback and pulled to a stop on the wrong side of the road right above the pickup and watched the animated conversation through its rear window.
I had time then to take what seemed like a leisurely inventory of my life to that date and I found that I could not have been more pleased with where I had been, where I sat now and who I was. Robert Service once wrote: “The world’s a jolly good joke to him, and now is the time to laugh, ” so I did. And I found a familiar heat rising up my spine, radiating into the viscera, infusing my heart with delicious longing, doubling my lung capacity, forcing into my throat; if I had then anything to say it probably would have been spoken in a language that no one else had ever heard either. When it reached my ears all the white noise within miles became harmonized notes in the perfect overture to this highly localized little celebration. And then I saw all into eternity turn crisp and glowing, and despite the vividness of shape and color, eradicate all boundaries and all frontiers, and fuse with me into an indivisible totality; shipped straight back to the non-dual again…in a clumsy Lincoln Town Car with only a newspaper, a pistol, and The Beast.
Everything seemed straight between the Cowboy and the Other Busted Dealer who got out of the pickup and strolled across the lot to a time share. I drove down past the driveway just before the Cowboy pulled onto the road to show him I was still around and still on the clock. I don’t suppose given all the events that The Beast was too disappointed…there was after all a little commonality with the Sri.
She obviously was not Fox Mulder, but she did have two posters that read, “I Want to Believe.” The two were scrolled, tubed in cling wrap and tucked side-by-side into her large linen shopping tote. I could not see if they pictured hovering alien spacecraft but I doubt if they did. The background to the declaration of her desire was done in soft, sylvan, ethereal colors. There was nothing glaring, nothing to flaunt membership in a fringy sub-culture or devotion to a passe TV potboiler. There was another line in a language I did not recognize printed in soft gold ink above the English “I Want to Believe.” I figured is was a repetition of the phrase and assumed there were others in a list. Somewhere within the scroll would be the statement in Spanish “Yo Quiero Creer.” That would be the one that best expressed this woman’s wish that, if I had to guess, had nothing to do with chasing UFOs and aliens from far afar. She hardly looked the type—middle-aged, well-off, traveling with her husband in first-class. She joined us in the holding paddock that fronts Gate D40, Miami International, we were bound for Caracas Simon Bolivar. With carry-on items as she possessed, she might have just shown up from the Integral Mall.
I Want to Believe and I Want to Believe. One expression of need for her wall, the other for a friend’s or perhaps the wall of a daughter, or maybe both were gifts. Where the posters would eventually hang was incidental…the point was the woman identified with the desire and I wondered why. Is Belief the place Jeremiah called Gilead? Does its possession promise to heal or soothe? Is it the source of peace or the mint that coins the mantras that out-wear the mind? Or is it the admonition from the slightly mean spirited elder to remind us that in the end there has to be an end to the fun—believe for the sake of your doomed soul, or at least for the comfort of those who worry about it…take your place in the community of believers who are responsible for those who might not. Join the team, believe. “I want to Believe”…does it mean “I haven’t gotten there yet”? Are such posters unconscious (conscious?) pleas for some help in believing? Surely there are coaches in the Mall here who can help; spiritual coaches and therapists and philosophers who can advise one on how to devise a structural template, a conceptual kaleidescope of sorts, through which they can view the world and rest easier knowing they’ve bought tools from stores of their superiors.
Across the frontier from Integral Province, I understand that Daniel Dennet would have said the phrase should read, “I want to attribute agency.” I think that’s a little narrow, there are more needs out there than just that one, and it says more about the structure of his faith and his own necessity to tell the more fascinating story than it does about a sylvan colored, multi-lingual poster, listing phrases for…
The need to believe…
Marianthi posted this comment on one of the blog posts below.
Quoting here one of your ´contexts:
‘I have found in a few rather rare instances people whose autonomy of mind is as well developed as their level of self-awareness. They seem not to have any need for belief. They seem whole in both heart and mind.’
Would you tell me more about this WHOLENESS of heart and mind? Is that the instance when one is not divided against oneself but knows, feels, un hesitantly- but something else as well? Is it total conviction or fullness of instinct or all of the above?”
She has been urging me, with more insistence of late, toward an answer. She deserves the best…
No, it isn’t the instance when one is “not divided against oneself” or not divided against The Other for that matter if we want to take Wholeness into the illusive dominion of Nondualism. Unless one is seriously schizophrenic some internal division is advisable to provide the effective dynamism of consciousness that distinguishes the human psyche from that of a slug. By this I am not suggesting that the behavior of nondual practice should be equated with the behavior of a slug unless in a given situation such an equation is unavoidable. I suspect that possessing a nondual consciousness is not necessarily apart from a psyche possessed of a little internal division—how would one know if they were possessed of nondual awareness unless aware of another kind. I suspect that much because I suspect that nondual consciousness is a psyche-op and if one has the ability, for example, to visualize all sides of a Henry Moore sculpture or one of their own in the making without closing their eyes, one should be able to phase in and out of the nondual op at will whenever it suits the purpose at hand. Nondual is just one aspect of true, multi-faceted Wholeness and one that could illegitimately rub-out all other, often more mutually supportive facets, if it is promoted as a superior therapeutic or spiritualizing operation. Unfortunately nondualism is too often coupled with spirituality, which like the sciences, is reductionistic and ultimately anti-wholeness; thus it contains no reason to believe.
“Is it total conviction…?”
No. Conviction is belief. Somewhere I read a piece by Allan Watts in which he wrote that the original and still reigning significance of “belief” is more like a “fervent preference or hope” and less a profession of faith. I once spent almost an hour trying to follow-up on Watts’s entomology and got as far as learning that he might have been right given enough room for substantial equivocation. However if one pursues the history of “conviction” they will find a word that is actually stronger and more direct in its meaning…so a paraphrase: “They seem not to have any need for conviction.” (I considered at this point making a bad pun with the word “acquittal” but thought slightly better of it.)
“…or the fullness of instinct…”
I like that phrase and the fact that it is present in the question tells me that Marianthi knows a lot more about this Wholeness apprehension than she might be letting on and it makes me wonder if I am not a student in her class. Instincts are not high on the praise list for most folks from a culture with a background in the desert religions. Alternative journalists often make good use of the word if they are not the kind to take themselves too seriously. Human Behavioral Ecologists like it too and they seem to be such delightful subversives that I will gladly give them a plug whether or not they know of what they speak. More respectable civilians, those with spiritual inclinations or at least transcendental leanings prefer however a marginally near miss in the word “intuitive.” Butter would not melt in their mouths…but it appears that I digress.
Fullness of Instinct.
Instinct is informed by experience. This seems fairly obvious on watching the hunting strategy of an old cat…it appears to have what it needs to achieve its ends wu wei; seasoned but unconscious calculations of odds against exertion and factors of distance, terrain and cover, when to stalk, when to pounce, when to just sit back bemused and wash the face. Old cats have no need for beliefs for they have all it takes to live well without them. There is an age when they pass being needy. Marianthi and I have talked of the informing of instinct to make it full.
So how does one know there is no need to believe. “How do you know when,” she asked me last week and hinted she already knew.
It is without doubt when one catches themselves preening a little like an old cat, looking that way at the world, catching the taste of a sense that no matter how long the delicious free falls through the abyss that come the bottom, if it comes, one will land on their feet. Will it hurt? Who knows. But its safe until then.
The tourist brochures that are endlessly pumped on-line from Integral Province are clear that most of the natural charm of this map-created territory is the willingness of the Provincials here to lend their spirits to the kosmic course of healing and evolution. They give the known universe an integrated voice in the repetition of Emil Coue’s 19th Century mantra, “Everyday, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” They take their texts for this teaching from a literary genre that can be called The Levels of Human Development Theory: works of Gebser, Maslow and his student Graves and Graves’s students Beck and Cowan, and Lawrence Kolhburg, Carol Gilligan, Jane Loevinger, Robert Kegan, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, Michael Commons, Susan Cook-Greuter and others. Theirs is an all inclusive look at human psychophisiological to cultural processes that, for those readers not familiar with the above congnscenti, in its shortest, most basic form says “first you walk and then you run and then you grow always onward and upward.” The theorists generally like to think that since running (for the short form example) is based on and grows out of walking that it is therefore “higher” and maybe even better. They’ve taken a lot of post-modern flack for their penchant to always order the ranks by gradation and quite often with more than just a slight hint of “to know an Alpha one must be an Alpha” sensibility showing; but it’s all part of the charm of this earnest little province where vanity has never been deemed a sin because: “Who knows? Maybe it has been earned, perhaps she’s evolved.”
I don’t have any problem with the grades and gradations and the continual academic renaming and fine-tuning of the obvious, for indeed—first you walk and then you run. To find various other ways of reaffirming that affirmation is always good academic work if you can get it. And even better yet are the corporate consultancies in which one can advise management on how to parse the workers developmentally to obtain more cheerful productivity at pre-parse salary levels.
If I have a problem with the ever developing genre of Development, I find it rooted first of all in another charming and typically Provincial level of its own; a late adolescent, post-first-samadhi, arrière-goût among the Provincials that manifests in a deadly serious regard for Levels Literature, which in turn makes the lit itself not only humorless, fusty and over-precious but partial to the point of trifling, especially as other synthesizing litterateurs in the Integral Province are attempting to bootstrap Developmental Studies and Theory past the Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny Fallacy, through higher orders of Spiritual Darwinism into a self-prophesying new Kosmic order. It ironic because the entire effort seems to leave out half of the final equation and so I must wonder why as much effort hasn’t been put into Degeneration Studies and Theory, Death Studies and Theory, Decomposition Studies and Theory, or Dissipation Studies and Theory because the absence of all of that seems manifestly counter-Integral. As balance I propose:
Integral Dissipation Theory
About 30 years ago two men boarded a plane in Washington, D. C. Each was unknown to the other at departure, but they had two things in common beside their destination: 1) Knowledge of which row of seats in that generation of 727s had the most leg room, and 2) A close acquaintance with a well respected physicist named Dr. Charles Hyder, the now late crusading environmentalist and conservationist who at that time was in the middle of a 217-day public fast in an alley off Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. He was calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide before he broke the fast or died. The first of the two men’s commonalities put them in the last row of seats on the plane’s port side and the second sparked the conversation that is the basis of this essay.
I was one of the two, a young radical investigative journalist working out of Albuquerque, NM, USA, and D.C. The other was Dr. Stirling Colgate, an internationally known nuclear physicist, astrophysicist and later one of the several co-founders of the Santa Fe Institute. It was not long into the flight before we learned that Hyder was a mutual acquaintance, and on that point Colgate began a disquisition. He told me that he and Hyder had discussed Hyder’s environmental/conservational missions at great length—particularly his efforts to close down the coal burning power plants and gigantic strip mines in the Four Corners region. Colgate had given up on the man who would not be convinced that his scientifically based crusades to preserve the planet were not only bad science, but flew in the face of over-all evolutionary process and one of the few natural laws on which every scientist in the world can hang their hat: The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
I never had much interest in science—it was school work as such and I generally found it boring and void of good stories. But Colgate gave The Thermodynamics Story a compelling spin. What he laid out was essentially Erwin Schrödinger’s 1944 “What is Life?” lecture series and book which coupled the Second Law with evolution by proposing that open, self-organizing, ordered systems (including living ones) created gradient equilibrium, not by falling into disorder themselves (as would be the case in a closed system like a steam engine) but by generating disorder (entropy) through feeding off the negative entropy (free energy) available in their environments. (In this study Schrödinger also proposed the existence of a living complex cell with a genetic code for replication, a proposal that inspired the research that led to the discovery of DNA.)
Based on that background, Colgate stated his argument against Hyder’s position: Every since it came into existence the Earth, everything on it, and its every process from the core to the outer edge of the atmosphere has been undergoing a catabolic dissolution in the re-cycling flow of energy from the sun’s heat to the chill of deep space, a dissolution absolutely enhanced with the inception and advance of ever increasingly complex forms of life. He said that from the replication of the first living cell to the highest levels of humanity’s technology and culture only one thing about evolution has remained constant: with each higher level of evolved complexity there has been a concomitant increase in the earth’s overall efficiency in generating entropy. In fact, Colgate told me, it is the only consistent and reliable evolutionary result that can be observed not only on Earth, but in the local solar system and the entire known universe. Or, in other words, everything in the Kosmos is working to burn itself out; it is The Law—from the smallest known, shortest lived particle to the largest ongoing process. (Colgate was in a position to know because his proposal to the U.S. State Department (circa 1960) to monitor the ban on nuclear tests in space through the use of gamma ray detecting spy satellites led to his pioneering research into the mechanisms of supernovas and hypernova phenomena.)
Point: The supreme function of nature is nihilistic and all its life, all of Earth’s living systems, all of our humanity, every breath we take, is an integral part of that function.
The essence of Colgate’s argument to Hyder was that any well organized effort to save the planet would be accompanied by an equally efficient degradation of energy feeding the organization. Hyder’s public fast proved a micro-case in point. During the 217 days, he degraded away over half of the 300 plus pounds he weighed going into the fast. Additionally he caught the attention of thousands of people around the globe (the fewest of whom were in the USA) who sent him hundreds of pounds of mail which came into existence and organization through the degradation of energy from the fuel for chain saws, bull-dozers, logging trucks, pulp mills; diesel, gasoline and jet fueled transports, electrical lighting systems, printing presses, broadcast facilities, not to mention the nutritional energy spent by the manpower that went into making all those things work. It was an equation that equals the nihilistic irony of the Universe. If one wanted to ascribe consciousness to the Kosmos one could imagine that it had structurally guided Hyder into his fast not to end nuclear proliferation (which a conscious Kosmos would resist since nuclear is its energy of choice and which Hyder’s fast failed to do) but to speed the rate of its own degeneration—which it did.
I should point out that open system thermodynamics are much more complex than what I am sketching here. In any given system, such as eco-systems found and studied habitually in national parks from border to border in the USA, free energy circulates and recirculates throughout, like cash in a micro-economy, generating complexity and new organization. But nothing is free. Each time through the organizing energy generates the equalizing disorder in the system’s supporting environment until that environment is dissipated into generalized weakness and eventual death.
It seems that this scenario tends to create certain levels of depression and denial throughout the citizenry. Inspired from Schrödinger’s seminal lectures, far more people have taken up careers in genetics than in biochemical thermodynamics. Research funding has followed the same trend. There is only one generally available book semi-geared to the layman on the thermodynamic side of the coin: Into the Cool by Schneider and Segan and one fairly comprehensive web site maintained by Rod Swenson. Evidently people don’t like to be reminded of death and decomposition on such a macroscopic scale, so I will try not to dwell on it further, besides, the end result—total entropic stasis and the literal Death of Time—is not so much the subject of this essay as the getting there, the process.
This is a “process theory” though certainly nothing like that of Alfred North Whitehead in that he was a god-fearing fellow who took these things earnestly and seriously and I’m not and I don’t. So for my requisite philosophic grounding as to process theory I’ll backtrack past Whitehead to Nietzsche’s revelation of the obvious that all perceptions pivot on perspective. All writers have to follow this advice if they want credibility here in the death watch for Modernity. Bonnitta Roy was careful to do so several years ago in a Process Theory article that appeared in the on-line Integral Journal published by ARINA, one of the many up-the-management consulting groups that are headquartered in Integral Mall. The article put forth a process theory of integral for consideration by academia. The work’s abstractions no doubt brightened the eyes of many, though they tended to glaze mine over; however, the article does start off on more or less the right foot:
“I hope to tease you, the reader, into a pure process orientation. This requires adopting a certain attitude—allowing one’s mental framework to release its grip on thinking in terms of things, and following me into a world of process or flow in a field of dynamic forces. It requires you to suspend structurally based perceptions to allow for new ways of orienting perceptions.”
What Roy failed to point out or follow up on, was since perceptions are perspective dependent, a process perception is almost impossible from the habitual perspective of a well educated, post-1945, Euro-American point of view in as much as most of the pilgrims trekking through that category (those who would be reading articles such as hers) are not used to observing large-scale energetic and creative movements, day in, day out, or being in highly energized environments. By these I don’t mean simply frenetic places like PR firms that are now beginning to pimp the presidential candidates for 2012, but the ones that really count for the benefit of entropy—like the turbine galleries deep in Grand Coulee Dam or the raving chaos of a 20–man, steel fabrication shop anywhere in the third world, or huge railroad salvage yards where cutting torches are seven-feet long, scrap-steel shredders never slow down and neither do the magnetized front-end loaders that are three stories tall and careen through the waste to the peril of everything shorter. These aspects of existence have to a large degree been mediated for the sake of comfort out of the lives of Integral Journal readers. Theirs is not a world of high voltage flow or industrial strength fire, or bedlamized heat—entropy on demand—but of static structures that aim to render low energy, mediated calm. Roy’s readers had no point of reference from which to suspend habitual perceptions simply on the suggestion that it might promote understanding; so, because media brought the reader to this point, I will turn to it as a source for a few pointers toward generating those “orienting” perceptions.
A few years ago there was a TV commercial for Subaru Automobiles choreographed to the tune of the old folk-rock song “Dust in the Wind.” One sequence showed a semi-truck load of competitor cars literally decomposing and evaporating into the trailing draft; the air pressure gradient field created by the motion and heat of the carrier. That is the perceptual analogy from which, next, to settle down into a perspective from a Hubble-like telescope adrift in the Andromeda Galaxy. The mechanism is zeroed in on the Milky Way. Got it? Cue the time-lapse photography and there go Mercury, Venus, Earth, the rest of Sol’s little system, and then Sol, and then the galactic mass itself dissolving into the mega-gradients of temperature, gravity, velocity and who knows what other forces. And there are no celestial Subaru plants out there minting new big-bang alternatives, just smaller and smaller models as the free entropy cycles through in ever weaker waves. Things will never be the same…again.
An optional media perspective is from the audience point of view on a sci-fi cliche confection wherein the curse of immortality is lifted from the support cast starlet who transmutes (transcends?) through the miracle of energy hungry Special FX from maid to middle age to crone to corpse to skeleton to calcium lace to dust to dust in the gradient draft. And like the well-deserved release of that world-weary, fictional soul we, everything within us, everything around us is on the move, flowing outward, changing, disappearing. Everything is in the flux, even the illusion of structure. Everything is caught within a gradient, all the mythical turtles that go down, go up or go across flow in the currents. All the holons that the Holonic Nothing Butters say the Kosmos is nothing but are to open system gradients what Fun with Dick and Jane (anonymous)is to Thomas Wolf’s Of Time and the River; an analogy chosen not only for its disparate levels of complexity, but the words in the title.
Time, from the perspectives where the sense of process rules, is the flowing mirage created by joining the perception of movement to a supporting, secondary, open system process called memory. If one can imagine doing away with memory but keeping consciousness then coherence is totally lost, but then expand the span of memory from there at 0.0 to 0.5 seconds and coherence can be regained. (This is a meditation. Try it. It’s a kick) The sense of a moment is total and the perception of process is phenomenally acute. All is born, becomes integral to the perspective, the perception, the perceiver, and then passes into oblivion in 0.5 seconds. It is the integral moment: it is the omni-dimensional and all but dimensionless point where fuel integrates into fire, all the currently available and integrated potential degrades to waste, the universal razor thin rubber hits the universal, razor thin road, and the perceiver is riding on and integral to the absolute front edge of their life; nothing else is playing.
Who can ask anything greater of integral? All other models soon have to start incorporating into their concepts of The Whole deengergized, dissipated and disintegrated scraps, dregs and feces; litter, weight and inertia from a time that is no longer viable. Such a model might be entertaining to the mind but it isn’t actual or evolutionarily effective. It is a model built of dead ashes from a cold fire. It is only media, maybe even “Integral” media that can be trade marked and sold by the byte-size to expand the entropic moment into a marketable illusion of control.
Living at large in the entropic moment is not for those who need much control over, or security from, the occasionally furious wash of ravaging integration around them. But if the perceiver knows that inner security and control are the only kind there are, who knows that the concepts of external coherence and structural integration are probably best seen as projections from within, then such a moment is the perspective of choice; one is reconciled to the ride, comfortable in the heat, set for any event, and could give a rat’s ass if anything different is taught in the schools or pitched on the net.
The two, hour-long videos of Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins and Harris talking on atheism are making their way through the Integral Province. I made a short comment on them at Open Source Integral and was asked to expand on the thoughts. One of the main reasons for pursuing the matter further was it gave me the chance to quote this essay by the late Richard Rorty called Universalist Grandeur, Romantic Profundity, Humanist Finitude in which he deftly stated some cultural perceptions that parallel my own. He wrote:
Philosophy occupies an important place in culture only when things seem to be falling apart-when long-held and widely-cherished beliefs are threatened. At such periods, intellectuals reinterpret the past in terms of an imagined future. They offer suggestions about what can be preserved and what must be discarded. The ones whose suggestion have been most influential win a place on the list of “great philosophers”. For example, when prayer and priestcraft began to be viewed with suspicion, Plato and Aristotle found ways for us to hold on to the idea that human beings, unlike the beasts that perish, have a special relation to the ruling powers of the universe. When Copernicus and Galileo erased the world-picture that had comforted Aquinas and Dante, Spinoza and Kant taught Europe how to replace love of God with love of Truth, and how to replace obedience to the divine will with moral purity. When the democratic revolutions and industrialization forced us to rethink the nature of the social bond, Marx and Mill stepped forward with some useful suggestions.
In the course of the twentieth century there were no crises that called forth new philosophical ideas. There was no intellectual struggle comparable in scale to the one that Lecky famously described as the warfare between science and theology. Nor were there any social convulsions that rendered either Mill’s or Marx’s suggestions irrelevant. As high culture became more thoroughly secularized, the educated classes of Europe and the Americas became complacently materialist in their understanding of how things work. In the battle between Plato and Democritus-the one Plato described as waged between the gods and the giants, they have come down, once and for all, on the side of the giants. They also become complacently utilitarian and experimentalist in their evaluations of proposed social and political initiatives. They came to share the same utopian vision: a global commonwealth in which human rights are respected, equality of opportunity assured, and the chances of human happiness are thereby increased. Political argument nowadays is about how this goal might best be reached.
This consensus among the intellectuals has moved philosophy to the margins of culture. Such controversies as those between Russell and Bergson, Heidegger and Cassirer, Carnap and Quine, Ayer and Austin, Habermas and Gadamer, and Fodor and Davidson, have had no resonance outside the borders of philosophy departments. Philosophers’ explanations of how the mind is related to the brain, or of how there can be a place for value in a world of fact, or of how free will and mechanism might be reconciled, do not intrigue most contemporary intellectuals. These problems, preserved in amber as the textbook “problems of philosophy”, still capture the imagination of some bright students. But no one would claim that discussion of them is central to intellectual life. Solving those very problems was all-important for contemporaries of Spinoza, but when today’s philosophy professors insist that that they are “perennial”, or that they remain “fundamental”, nobody listens. Most intellectuals of our day brush aside claims that our social practices require philosophical foundations with the same impatience as when similar claims are made for religion.
Rorty was a little more diplomatic here than I would have been. If asked, “How do you feel about religion?” “What is your stand on the forced hegemony of science?” My reply would be: “Ask me if I care.” “Well then, in what do you believe?” “I don’t.”
Context: I have found in a few rather rare instances people whose autonomy of mind is as well developed as their level of self-awareness. They seem not to have any need for belief. They seem whole in both heart and mind. Next to their qualities, belief appears to bespeak a failure of self-reliance, a failure of will. But that is just the accumulation of experience from my preferred perspective. From another I can see where the faculty to believe is the highest human sensibility.The two are an ambiguity that I have neither the time nor interest to resolve for myself. I embrace the former of the two because its a lot more fun and save for the fun of it, why stick around?
But looking at the 4 H’men video, I see a great deal of true belief and maybe some superstition. Dawkins, for example seems to possess a militant belief in Science. (And Dennett to a lesser extent.) To me that is like believing in a wrench, but I have known people who do actually have faith in Science like it was The Savior, that it has some numinous aura and requires all of our subordinatiion. I would write further on this phenomena but such people need our understanding; their lives must be bleak enough as is without the addition of my ridicule.
And Sam Harris is an interesting case. From something akin to Rorty’s perspective he appears as the troglodyte militarist trying to revive the flames of a long-dead war. On some site he is described as believing that “religion creates divisiveness…” Now that’s a revelation. Who would have ever thought? But is he against all divisiveness, even that which certainly can be caused by the placement of an attractive, ovulating young woman in the presence of a group of lusty young men? Is Harris also in favor of eliminating attractiveness or lust or ovulation?
Reflecting on that last riff, I seem to have detected a puritanical streak running through the 4 H’men conversation. It isn’t quite as pronounced as the drearily earnest puritanical streak that is present here in the Integral Province, but that is probably because of Hitchen’s cynical and dissolute kind of influence in the video discussion. True belief, whether among the 3 Scientistic H’men (Hitchens is a journalist) or among the civilians of Integral, appears often to create this puritanical aura. But I have written enough of that elsewhere. Speaking of Hitchens, he seems to be the most vocal of the four in pointing to world terrorism and saying “look at the damage that superstitious belief can create” as if thinking that the elimination of belief can eliminate violent conflicts, or hatred or fear. I think there is some illogic at work in such a contention.
My final thought—at least for the time being—on this expansion of comments is that all of the 4 H’men are considered part of the “Brights,” though they are not entirely in favor of that name. The name Brights was proposed to describe those who are members of the “naturalistic” (as opposed to the supernatural-istic) persuasion in a public relations campaign to habilitate the Non-Belief Option to the point where non-believers (whatever their subcatagory) can successfully run for public office. How sweet. I wonder if the really Brights would even want to.