Friday, July 05, 2019

It's All Rotten: A Seminar on Pleasure



[Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Still Life with Ham, Lobster and Fruit, c. 1653]

It’s all rotten. I feel it in the air and in the people frightened and starving huddled in a crowd. But I believe that in the depths of rottenness there exists—green sparkling redeeming and promised-land—in the depths of the dark rottenness there shines clear and captivating the Great Emerald. The Great Pleasure. But why this desire and hunger for pleasure? Because pleasure is the height of the truthfulness of a being. It’s the only struggle against death.
– Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life

We eat food . . . to build up our body, and we engage in this process (of eating and body building) quite willingly and with great pleasure. Nor do we shed tears over that portion of the food which we throw out in the form of excrement, nark. Do we cry at all over the destruction of the food which we have brought about? Not a bit. Why, we never give it a thought, the very idea never occurs to us. Then why on earth should we shed tears and weep and wail when the body, which is merely food for the soul, is cast off at death?
– Meher Baba, Tiffin Lectures

But whether we choose life for the sake of pleasure or pleasure for the sake of life is a question we may dismiss for the present.
– Aristotle, Ethics

Pleasure (from *pl(e)hk- ‘to agree, be pleasant’) concerns what pleases, is agreeable, that which you like. Defined by Aristotle as “an unimpeded activity [energeia] of a natural state” (Ethics) and by Plato as the process [genesis] of restoring or returning to one’s “natural state” or “own true nature” (Philebus), pleasure is not any specific thing, just as “there is no one thing that is always pleasant, because our nature is not simple . . . inasmuch we are perishable creatures” (Aristotle, Ethics). Rather pleasure, ambivalently indistinguishable from the nature and feeling of being—”And what is natural is pleasant; and all pursue their natural pleasure” (Aristotle, History of Animals)—is a complex, manifold unity that bears a special connection to desire, the body, similitude, and decay. This complexity is reflected in the word like (from *lik- ‘body, form; like, same’), source of the adverbial ending -ly (whereas the Romanic languages express manner of action in reference to mind, -mente), which in Old English also signifies a corpse (līċ). Like likes like. Pleasure is something you naturally desire, something felt in a body (gross, subtle, and/or mental), something resembling something else, and something that passes away . . . that was great. This full likeness of pleasure seems as inescapable as oneself, as inevitable as death: “since everything like and akin to oneself is pleasant, and since every man is himself more like an akin to himself than anyone else is, it follows that all of us must be more or less fond of ourselves” (Aristotle, Ethics). So full—too full—and yet totally empty: “If you dive deep in the realm of thoughts and think seriously for just a few minutes, you will realise the emptiness of desires. Think of what you have enjoyed all these years and what you have suffered. All that you have enjoyed through life is today nil. All that you have suffered through life is also nothing in the present” (Meher Baba, Discourses).

What can we conspirators of pleasure (“the people frightened and starving huddled in a crowd”) possibly hope to find by diving deep into pleasure’s question, this so very ancient, decaying, and decadent question? What Great Emerald may be found there other than the Great Emptiness? Or is that the Great Pleasure? And what of our strange delight in the very question of pleasure, like a hunger feeding bittersweetly on itself, feeling and knowing full well that it will find nothing, or next to nothing, little else than whatever taste or saber (from *sep- ‘to taste, perceive’) which the wisdom and/or stupidity of the question’s own convoluted process might produce?

A well-known interchange between a wise slave and his philosopher master is instructive: “After dinner, his stomach troubling him, he retired to the privy. Aesop stood by with a jug of water, and Xanthus summoned him: ‘Aesop, can you tell me why, when we retire to defecate, it is often customary for us to look at our own excrement?’ Aesop replied: ‘According to the ancients, a sage spent so much time defecating for pleasure that he lost his wits. Since then people have been afraid of losing their wits and often look at their excrement. But do not worry, master, for you have no wits’” (Life of Aesop).

It is all rotten. And yet one prefers over and over not to accept pleasure’s emptiness, as the very idea and feeling of pleasure never ceases overflowing with a kind of despairing faith in the ultimate pleasurableness of everything. What to do then but affirm and negate pleasure at once, to go on believing in its infinity and disbelieving in the fullness of one’s grasp of it, to let our ignorance of pleasure—the pretense that we are even capable of it—decay ever further into whatever it will mean to love pleasure as it should it loved, to give ourselves over to pleasure without reserve all the while reserving pleasure for itself? As Meher Baba says, “Really speaking, everywhere in the entire universe is bliss. It is all bliss, bliss and bliss! But poor, ignorant mankind cannot enjoy it, as man does not know how to enjoy it.” Accordingly, this seminar will focus on the relationship between pleasure and decay, not to indulge in lamenting pleasure’s impermanence but in order to decompose the question of pleasure into a vaster rottenness still, the universal decomposition of an infinite still life wherein the endless love lurking in the life’s love of pleasure, like the most beautiful emerald of all, may spontaneously appear:

Baba’s mood changed and he then asked those present, “Have you ever examined what I defecate?” Some replied, “Yes,” and some said, “No.” But none could give a description which satisfied Baba. So he himself explained: “You have no idea what my feces contain. In the beginning of creation, I defecated, and all the suns, moons, stars and universes came out. They are all my excrement! But just imagine! When this dirty thing is so beautiful, how can you ever imagine my real splendor? You will lose your senses if you ever see even a glimpse of it.”




Schedule, Readings, Strategy

For each reading, the intellectual and interpretive strategy to be followed is to decompose the concept of pleasure away from its bounded determinations, above all its distinction from and opposition to pain. Who says something is not pleasurable? Who says something has the power to ruin your delight?  “Jesus and his disciples passed by a dog’s carcass. The disciples said, ‘How foul is his stench!’ Jesus said, ‘How white are his teeth!’” (Tanbīh al-khawāṭir). 

Proceeding chronologically, along the path of our decline—“The West: sweet-smelling rot, a perfumed corpse” (E. M. Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born)—we will read from an array of works in a spontaneous, messy attempt that might allow for some new forms to emerge, something other than the anticipated orders of pleasure, for as a sage once said, “Anything you look forward to will destroy you, as it already has.”

According to Plotinus, the teeming, seemingly spontaneous “products of putrefaction are to be traced to the Soul’s inability to bring some other thing to being” (Enneads). Rot is not privation or loss but the surplus flow or leakage of the One beyond number into forms whose vital unity has evaporated or passed away. Likewise, our essential task will be not to teach pleasure, figure it out, or tell its history, but to twist like a bookworm at every turn within one’s inability to grasp it, to eat texts of our ignorance of pleasure, digest them, and see what becomes.

What is that? A green ray?—“It is necessary to love—to love everything; even what is most revolting. Love is the cruelest, most difficult of all. Herein, however, lies the Mystery: that which is most revolting is more likely to melt into love than that which is only half revolting” (Ladislav Klima).

Texts to be read from include: Plato’s Philebus; Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Epicurus’s Leading Doctrines,  Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, Epictetus’s Enchiridion, Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, Aelred of Rievaulx’s Spiritual Friendship, Romance of the Rose, Hadewijch’s Letters, Dante’s Paradiso, Chaucer’s Former Age, Nietzsche’s Will to Power, D’Annunzio’s Pleasure, Leopardi’s Zibaldone, Meher Baba’s Discourses, Bataille’s “On the Ambiguity of Pleasure and Play,” Levinas’s Totality and Infinity, Weil’s Gravity and Grace, Réage’s Story of O, and Lispector’s Agua Viva.



... who kisses the joy as it flies ...








Friday, April 05, 2019

Seminario en Cali: El melodrama apabullante


"Mas qué queda realmente por decir, salvo que hay un abismo dentro de mí, un abismo negro, vasto y respirable… –el melodrama de aquello es apabullante" (Rasu-Yong Tugen, Baronesa de Tristeombre, Canciones de la luna negra)

El melodrama apabullante comienza en el umbral donde todo y nada queda por decirse, donde el pensamiento y el sentir, vacilantes ante su propio abismo, se sostienen a pesar de sí y avanzan musicalmente en todo caso, pálidos y encendidos. El melodrama apabullante pertenece a los afectos de inevitable imposibilidad, al sentimiento de lo que, a la vez, debe y no puede pasar, a la inteligencia que sabe que el miedo es solo el comienzo. Mientras los más oscuros afectos del pensamiento son convencionalmente situados dentro de las emociones negativas, el melodrama apabullante invita a seguir al horror de la filosofía hacia profundidades más oscuras del pensamiento positivo, las más ciertas y brillantes penumbras del amor y del romance.

Huyendo horrorizado de la seguridad del miedo, el melodrama apabullante ocurre en el mutuo empalidecer [paling] del afecto y el intelecto, en la caída del pensamiento ante aquello que no habrá de sentir y en la zambullida del sentimiento en eso que no puede pensar. En consecuencia, este seminario reflexiona sobre las intersecciones fenomenales entre música, amor y horror, se centra en torno a la gravedad del corazón como órgano de la desesperanza positiva que conduce, solo, a la mente más allá de sí. Como ha escrito Ladislav Klima, “En lo que la mente no cree, el corazón lo hace. Y, al final, el intelecto lo hace también. ¿Qué más le quedaría por hacer?”

El seminario se desarrollará en las tardes y noches de los días 23, 24 y 25 de abril.

Día 1. Música: Maravillosa armonía.
Día 2. Amor: Emocionante romance divino.
Día 3. Horror: Espantosas vociferaciones.

El programa, en las tardes, consiste en la lectura comentada de textos de Agustín de Hipona, Dante Alighieri, Meher Baba, E. M. Cioran, Hadewijch de Amberes, Ladislav Klima, Clarice Lispector, H. P. Lovecraft y Tomás de Cantimpré. En las noches, se presentará y serán discutidas, películas de Dario Argento, Darren Aronofsky, Panos Cosmatos, Amat Escalante, Jonathan Glazer, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Joël Séria, Douglas Sirk y Andrzej Żuławski.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

APPALLING MELODRAMA I.3.A (Marvelous Harmony: On Christina the Astonishing: Sounding)


[Aura Satz, Spiral Sound Coil, 2014]

I.3. Sounding   

sonabatque proinde inter guttur et pectus ejus, quaedam harmonia mirabilis, quam nemo mortalium vel intelligere posset, vel aliquibus artificiis imitari. Solam flexibilitatem musicae et tonos ille ejus cantus habebat; verba vero melodiae, ut ita dicam, si tamen verba dici possunt, incomprehensibiliter concrepabant. Nulla interim de ore ejus vel naso vox vel anhelitus spiritalis exibat, sed inter solum pectus et guttur harmonia vocis angelicae resonabat. [Then a wondrous harmony sounded between her throat and her breast which no mortal man could understand nor could it be imitated by an artificial instrument. Her song had not only the pliancy and tones of music but also the words—if thus I might call them—sounded together incomprehensibly. The voice or spiritual breath, however, did not come out of her mouth or nose, but a harmony of the angelic voice resounded only from between the breast and the throat.]

In this third stage of Christina’s astonishing activity, the sounding of wondrous harmony from her quieted body corresponds to the state of the lover in the mental sphere where “love expresses itself as complete resignation to the will of the Beloved.[1] In this state, while still subject to the abyss of duality separating lover and beloved, “selfishness is utterly wiped out and there is a far more abundant release of love in its pure form.”[2] The increased purity of love in the mental sphere is seen in the fact that here “only about one-fourth of the original lust of the gross sphere remains, but it remains in a latent form without any expression . . . not . . . even subtle expression.”[3] Here one is free from the “possessive longing . . . which is typical of the lover in the subtle sphere.”[4]
            To clarify the continuing synthesis of love and action in this third stage of the saint’s movement, listen to the resonance between its renunciative musical release and the three criteria of true action defined above (specularity, intelligence, musicality). First, Christina’s sounding is specular in the sense of being a reflection of something deeply beyond-within herself, just as the voice, conveying the verbo-musical image of divine intelligence, reflects the specularity of angelic being: “The angel is an image of God. He is a manifestation of the hidden light. He is a mirror.”[5] She sounds as mirror of the angel, who is mirror of God, and thus in the act of reflection the selfsame mirror. The wonder of this harmony is not simply a matter of her becoming its medium, but of the medium of her body and spirit unfolding into being what is communicated. Such is the moment of sounding, of her limbs singing all of a sudden from the depths of their own stillness: membris omnibus quiescebat sonabatque proinde . . . [she became quiet in all her limbs and hence there sounded . . .] Likewise, action is not only grounded in the agent’s need for self-disclosure, but in the necessity of spontaneously discovering that one indeed already is—as per the Nietzschean imperative to become what you are—whatever one’s action is seeking. As Dante says in the Convivio, “chi pinge figura, / se non può esser lei, non la può porre” [he who paints a form, if he cannot become this form, cannot portray it].[6] And this means not knowing or surrendering all ideas as to what you are, following the whim of the universal dialectic whose movement is the essential activity of creation or the universe: “‘Who am I?’ . . . ‘I am God’.”[7] As Nietzsche says, “To become what one is, one must not have the faintest notion what one is.”[8] God is the name of the unknown one who is the only answer to the question of itself. “There was a man. That man had no name, for that man is God.”[9]
            Second, the act of Christina’s sounding is intelligent in the sense of being a freeing of itself from itself. As “all life is an effort to attain freedom from self-created entanglement,”[10] so is the wondrous harmony an effect of letting-go the effort which brings it forth, a loosening of involvement with her own members. Everyone is familiar, in one way or another, with the interpenetration of attainment and surrender, the arrival of striving into its inverse which forms the moment of fulfillment. Or as Dante’s Virgil explains, “Questa montagna è tale, / che sempre al cominciar di sotto è grave; / e quant’ om più va sù, e men fa male. / Però, quand' ella ti parrà soave / tanto, che sù andar ti fia leggero / com’ a seconda giù andar per nave, / allor sarai al fin d’esto sentiero” [This mountain is such that it is ever more difficult at the bottom, at the beginning; and the further up one goes, the less it gives pain. Thus, when it shall seem so easy to you that going up will be like floating downstream in a boat, then you will be at the end of this path].[11] Intelligent action proceeds through imitation and habituation only to arrive into the inimitable and spontaneous.
            Third, Christina’s sounding is musical, not only aesthetically, but by virtue of being a beautifully unbounded release of the formless into form, as per Meher Baba’s definition of the only thing ultimately worth doing: “To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing, in the world of forms, truth, love, purity and beauty—this is the sole game which has intrinsic and absolute worth. All other happenings, incidents and attainments in themselves can have no lasting importance."[12] Similarly, the saint’s spinning appears literally to drill into that transcendently immanent depth of another world (this one), secreting thereby not so much some thing—and not not a thing seeing as we still talking about it—as the openly secret truth of its own reverberating presence. So true action results, not only in concrete results (objects and services) but in something seminally unforecloseable, “the beatitude . . . of a potentiality that comes only after the act, of matter that does not remain beneath the form, but surrounds it with a halo.”[13] Likewise in the sphere of political action, what “the State cannot tolerate in any way” is not the protest of fixed identities, but “singularities form[ing] a community without affirming an identity,”[14] in other words, the shared action of persons who are exhausted of themselves, who refuse the separative or non-non-dual form of identity on which political parties are founded and which makes individualism and collectivism equally intolerable.[15]
            In sum, the third phase of Christina’s spinning shows forth the circular nature of action as search (circle, circus, search, fr. PIE *kikro, ‘to turn, bend’), the shape of its place within the universal gravity of this whole cosmic carnival which moves us “sì como rota ch’ igualmente è mossa, / l’Amor che move il sole e l’altre stele” [like a wheel being moved evenly, by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars].[16] And whom do you seek? “Every creature in the world is seeking happiness, and man is no exception. Seemingly man sets his heart on many kinds of things, but all that he desires or undertakes is for the sake of happiness.”[17] But happiness is not a thing, it is a being. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). And being is a verb, a spontaneously breathing kind of musical word. “I’ mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo / ch’e’ ditta dentro vo significando” [I in myself am one who, when Love breathes within me, take note, and to that measure which he dictates within, I go signifying].[18] Something born without whence or whither. “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). A sounding and a hearing—that which each other is of. So Christina’s song, the music of an amorously panting spiritual breath [anhelitus spiritualis], like that of the Psalmist’s panting hart—“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1)—releases the essential fragrance of action as the search for its own source, a finding found in the exhaustion of agency, as per the beautiful Indian fable of the Katsuri-mriga or musk deer:

Once, while roaming about and frolicking among hills and dales, the Kasturi-mriga was suddenly aware of an exquisitely beautiful scent, the like of which it had never known. The scent stirred the inner depths of its soul so profoundly that it determined to find its source. So keen was its longing that notwithstanding the severity of cold or the intensity of scorching heat, by day as well as by night, it carried on its desperate search for the source of the sweet scent. It knew no fear or hesitation but undaunted went on its elusive search until, at last, happening to lose its foothold on a cliff, it had a precipitous fall resulting in a fatal injury. While breathing its last the deer found that the scent which had ravished its heart and inspired all these efforts came from its own navel. This last moment of the deer’s life was its happiest, and there was on its face inexpressible peace.[19]

Where are you going? If there is one thing I want the remainder of this commentary to achieve it is the abolition of achievement, the erasure of the entire illusory realm of determinable results. Life, reality, everything, whatever you want to call it, is infinite and anything which has the nature of an intended result, other than that infinity itself, is in the end only another dead end or stepping stone to something new. In the end (and beginning and middle) one simply attends forever to this unlimited tendency:       

since that which human nature seeks and toward which it tends, whether it moves in the right or the wrong direction, is infinite and not to be comprehended by any creature, it necessarily follows that its quest is unending and that therefore it moves forever. And yet although its search is unending, by some miraculous means it finds what it is seeking for: and again it does not find it, for it cannot be found.[20]

There is no escaping the inconsequentiality of consequences, no permanent not laying down the endless burden of requiring results. “There can be no realisation of Infinity through the pursuit of a never-ending series of consequences. Those who aim at sure and definite results . . . have an eternal burden on their minds.”[21] Eventually the inexpressible peace of falling into finding that there is nothing outside of oneself to seek simply takes over—the divinely fatal destiny of a most glorious futility, one which renders all efforts worthlessly worth it: “Man cannot escape his glorious destiny of Self-realization, and no amount of suffering that he passes through on the way to it can ever be too much.”[22]
            In the breathless sonic outcome of the saint’s desperate spinning I hear a form of oppositionless protest song against the presumption of results, a music refusing via surrender whatever forms of will would claim to force themselves into reality. As “love and coercion can never go together,”[23] Christina’s harmony embodies the canticum cordis or “song of the heart [which] cannot be forced,” [24] whose unforceable power goes on sighing and singing regardless of outcomes and before whose faith the intellect, eventually “so staggered by the vastness still beyond it that it will be forced to admit the hopelessness of its quest,” [25] is finally constrained without coercion to bend. As Klima says, “But what the mind does not believe, the heart does. And in the end the intellect does, too; what else is left for it to do?”[26] And Bataille: “the human being arrives at the threshold: there he must throw himself headlong [vivant] into that which has no foundation and has no head.”[27] And Leopardi: “What is life? The journey of a crippled and sick man walking with a heavy load on his back up steep mountains and through wild, rugged, arduous places, in snow, ice, rain, wind, burning sun, for many days without ever resting night and day to end at a precipice or ditch, in which inevitably he falls.”[28] Everyone surrenders—you already have. It is too late ever to have not. Far too light-speedily late even to have ever been!
            Headlessly singing straight through the heart, Christina’s uncanny instrumentality speaks the horizon where surrender and expression converge in a manner pointing theory and practice into the hopeless necessity of their shared freedom from consequentiality. Here we hear with ears cut off from our noisy mass hallucination of mastery over, or condescending supposition of determination of, results. Yes, results follow and do not follow acts, but the only kind of action which does not ruin either is one that constantly says no to, that never stops letting itself go into letting go of, their eternal burden. “I never make plans, never change plans,” said Meher Baba, “It is all one endless plan of making people know that there is no plan.”[29] Like the final happiest moment of a life fearlessly wasted in search for itself—all the time.   

Inimitability
           
What is this sound which cannot be imitated (imitari), this definitely indefinite quaedam harmonia mirabilis coming from the saint’s body? How does its know-not-what quality correspond with the nature of action as it moves according to the spectrum of love through the gross, subtle, and mental spheres? The answer to these questions lies in the unitive convergence of state, place, and experience in the process of love-ordered action, a convergence which in turn discloses the nature of inimitability as the spontaneous intersection or fusion of these categories. The inimitable wondrous harmony of true action is just this, phenomenologically not some supernatural sound, but the musical synthesis manifesting where one’s state, one’s place, and one’s experience converge without reduction, opening via each other into higher unities. “There was not a single star left, and I married every one of them with greatest spiritual pleasure. Then I married the moons.”[30] Here in the moment of movement’s fulfillment—as glimpsed in the purity of a gesture or peak experience wherein the separative boundaries of self, body, and world are broken down without obliteration—there is found that intensive self-sufficient oneness which fulfills Augustine’s definition of music: “the science of moving well, such that the movement is desired for itself and because of this delights through itself alone” [scientiam bene movendi; ita ut motus per se ipse appetatur, atque ob hoc per se ipse delectet].[31] This is why “music alone gives definite answers,”[32] because it per se echoes the infinite unclosed definiteness of divine reality, the natural truth, knowledge, and bliss of the one who perfectly is its own free activity (actus purus), just as “the just man serves neither God nor creatures, for he is free, and the closer he is to justice, the closer he is to freedom, and the more he is freedom itself.”[33]
            Music per se—definitely not just any music! Here inimitability is not a problem of deficient skill, not a question of potentiality. Everyone knows how to be crucified or spin as well as anyone else. What potentiality does not do (don’t go there) is do it the way the one who does it like that does (Christ-ina). Meaning that the inimitable concerns this utterly as if too-ready-made aspect of a being whose experience is its place and state, whose state is his experience and place, whose place is her state and experience. “O marvel! a garden amidst fires! / My heart has become capable of every form.”[34] Now we are back in that most mystical sphere of potentiality, not doing what you can do (activity), nor not doing what you can do (impotentiality), nor doing what you cannot do (miracle), nor not doing what you cannot do (stasis), but something more astonishingly inimitable and bewilderingly simpler than all of these: doing what you cannot do by not doing it.[35] Singing what I cannot sing by not singing it.
            Meher Baba explains how places, states, and experiences are “interlinked in the gross world as well on the inner planes.”[36] In the physical realm, the distinction and relation between the categories is clear in the way a “change of place brings . . . a change in the state of mind and both of these result in a change in the nature of experience felt.”[37] On the inner planes (i.e. where the soul identifies with its subtle or mental body and is consequently aware of subtle and mental worlds), the boundaries become less discernable but remain, as intimated in dreams “where the place, mental state, and experience with which a person is confronted . . . do not have the same externality or separateness which characterize them in wakefulness.”[38] Similarly, “in the divine hallucinations of the subtle planes, as well as in the spiritual nightmare of the mental plane, there is a growing tendency towards fusion of the experiences which are normally separated from each other in gross wakefulness.”[39] But on the seventh plane of self-realization, where the soul “now knows itself through itself and not through the mind,”[40] “the integral fusion . . . is so complete that there we cannot have any places, states or experiences. Life there is lived only in its indivisibility.”[41] Integrity of place, state, and experience is of the nature of Reality, just as purpose (there being somewhere to go and something to achieve) is of the nature of illusion:

Purpose presumes direction and since Existence, being everything and everywhere, cannot have any direction, directions must always be in nothing and lead nowhere. Hence to have a purpose is to create a false goal. Love alone is devoid of all purpose and a spark of Divine Love sets fire to all purposes. The Goal of Life in Creation is to arrive at purposelessness, which is the state of Reality.[42]

Arrival at purposelessness coincides with realization of the indivisibility of place, state, and experience, the erasure of their imaginary relationality, the reflective vectors through which the whole shifting mirage of goals make its appearance on the life-horizon of inherently purposeless reality. The relative separation of places, states, and experiences familiar within the material domain is actually a product of imagination. For it is precisely through the imagination of places and states that mind experiences its own experience: “Mind is subject to imagination. It imagines and experiences imagination through places and states which imagination creates . . . Just as in the gross world there are places, states, and experiences, there are imaginary places, states and experiences on the subtle and mental planes. Yet in both cases they belong to the illusion created by imagination.”[43] The imaginary nature of experience via imagination of places and states is clear, for example, when you see an image and conceive of it as being there, the object of your subjective experience, when in fact it is no more there than not. A dark room is not black, and not not, and so on.
            Now consider how thoroughly one’s sense of purpose and attachment to results—the whole field of thinking and feeling that someone, individually and/or collectively, is going somewhere and getting things done (or not)—is entangled with the mutual contingency of place, state, and experience as opposed to their integral fusion. Everywhere we are bound in thinking that the achievement of one requires or results from the other, perpetually forgetting the immanent reality of their unity, alienating one from the other exactly so as to maintain the illusion of control over and/or culpability for results, in contradiction to the ancient common sense: “You have a right to your actions, but never to your actions’ fruits. Act for the action’s sake. And do not be attached to inaction. . . . The wise man lets go of all results, whether good or bad, and is focused on the action alone.”[44] Imagine Christina taking credit for her inimitable harmony or being disappointed if it did not sound! Imagine whatever the hell you want, anything you think has the power to make you happy or unhappy! In reality no one really cares how things turn out the way they think or claim to. One is simply watching the whole thing, bound by identification with a largely self-created drama without which you would seemingly have no place, state, or experience, nothing to be and nowhere to go. “As a witness, the soul remains aloof from all events in time, and the results of actions do not bind it. All this has to be experienced and not merely thought of.”[45] Because no one really knows what to do—because one really does nothing:  

As Soul, it does nothing, it merely IS. When the mind is added on to the soul, it appears to think. When the subtle body is added onto the soul with the mind, it appears to desire. When the gross body is added onto all these, the soul appears to be engaged in actions. The belief that the soul is doing anything is a false belief.[46]

Bodies (material, subtle, mental)—all move and feel and think like puppets of a master who never lifts a finger. Seeing that, how much labor, work, action is actually grounded in the fear of doing nothing, of one’s identity with purposeless existence, of being a soul who merely is? How much investment in results is really the perverse confessional performance of this essential inability to plan anything properly speaking? How much so-called responsible action is simply the illusion it maintains for itself? The fact is, as Meher Baba explained during the Fiery Free Life, “intellectual planning turns out to be a planning mostly in name, containing in it only as much truth as is necessary to justify the players in feeling that they have had a real share in the entire game.”[47] Nothing works out—everything.
            Our mass hallucination of mastery over and/or slavish dependency upon results may be termed the great human or ME peace plan—a plan placing oneself in the middle of everything by permanently insisting on conjoining these irreconcilable principles, as illustrated in an anecdote about a man who visited Meher Baba in 1937:

            “Now tell me, what do you really want?”
            The man answered, “I want to serve my country, but a disappointment in a sad love affair frustrated my plans. I want to fulfill my plans and have peace of mind.”
            “Plans and peace! These two can never go hand in hand. Where there is peace, there is no plan; and where there are plans, there is [turmoil]. Either give up plans and have peace, or have your ‘plans’ and give up thoughts of peace. You can’t have both. That is impossible. People suffer because they want the impossible, the unattainable! You want to stand in the fire and at the same time do not want it to burn you. You want to build a house in a graveyard!”

In actuality—“you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16)—this plan turns out to be only the cover its own shadow, the non-plan of its own endless plan B, which is to fret over things going or not going your way, to remain lifelessly living in the burning graveyard of reserving rights to results. I have a reservation! That is, the great ME peace plan is in truth the means of the opposite of both, the bad spontaneity of a status quo where inner and outer turmoil—worry and war—are maintained as ever-present indispensable immediate options. Such is the plan whose diurnal installation results in the self-destructive world of all-too-imitable action—the omni-result which it is precisely never too late not to produce: “Anything you look forward to will destroy you, as it already has.”[48]
            Here the inimitability of Christina’s harmonic spinning throws ME full circle into a horrifying—and hopefully for that reason most happy—intuition: that the “savage torpor”[49] of the human sphere of inharmonious activity, the world which fails to fulfill true action’s three criteria (specularity, intelligence, musicality), is the direct result of one’s own personal misuse of action per se, a misuse which is the intimate opposite of the saint’s hyper-useful whirling. For, as Vernon Howard has explained, the nature of false action is to generate not wondrous harmony but a distracting noise within and without oneself, not the repose of surrender but the perpetuation of movement for its own sake, and not insight but intentional blindness to action’s essential nature. [click for AUDIO]

It is called action without intelligence. It is called action without understanding. It is called action for the sake of creating a whirr in the mind, a noise, a vibration, so that you don’t have to see, you don’t have to see what you don’t want to see about yourself. And let me tell you, as if you don’t already suspect it, let me tell you that the world is hurtling forward with unintelligent, destructive action for the sake of action alone, and no wonder that it is in the condition that it is in. . . . And everybody in their shallowness praises movement!—political, religious, educational, social, in the family: Let’s do something, let’s go somewhere, let’s act—as if action is salvation instead it is ruination. Where are you going to find one human being, where are you going to find one man or woman who will say, Just a minute! What are you talking about, praising physical, mental, emotional movement as if it is a virtue in itself? I will repeat the question: where are you going to find someone who will question it? Nobody wants to question it, because if they did, they would have to give up their foolishness, they would have to give up their pretense. And do you believe what I am going to tell you next? They would have to give up their self-destructive hurtling downhill. The cry, the wail of the human mind is: Give me something to do so that I won’t have to think intelligently about what I am doing. Give me something that has a lot of bells to it, a lot of trumpets, a lot of noise, a lot of headlines, a lot of racket. Now let me ask those of you right here now, and watching and listening to this, would you have the courage to begin to slow down your life, so that you can begin to question where you are going and what are you are doing? So that eventually something would come to you that you can see as clearly as you can see the sky, clearly see that you have been moving along without any thought at all about where you are going.[50]

[De heilige Maria Magdalena, Marcantonio Bellavia, after Annibale Carracci, 1660 - 1680]




[1] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.179.
[2] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.179.
[3] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.179.
[4] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.179.
[5] Pseudo-Dionysius, Complete Works, 89.
[6] Dante Alighieri, Convivio, trans. Lansing, https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/text/library/convivio-italian/.
[7] Meher Baba, God Speaks, 139.
[8] Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vintage, 1989), 254.
[9] Meister Eckhart, Complete Mystical Works, 192.
[10] Meher Baba, Discourses, I.113.
[11] Dante, Purgatorio, IV.88-96.
[12] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.110.
[13] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 55.
[14] Agamben, Coming Community, 85.
[15] “In social life the recognition of the spiritual infinity of the Truth will mean a challenge to individualism as well as to collectivism. It initiates a new way of thinking in terms of an indivisible totality and it discards all the relative values of comparison in favour of the recognition of the intrinsic worth of everything” (Meher Baba, Discourses, I.171). “Political parties are organisations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice” (Simone Weil, On the Abolition of All Political Parties, trans. Simon Leys [New York: NYRB, 2013], 16). Note in this respect how the scene of Christina’s spinning, a repeated occurrence among the nuns at St. Catherine’s near St. Trond, is at once individual and collective. In togetherness, her ecstasy is both singularly her own and as shared, the ecstasy of each. “The height of selflessness is the beginning of the feeling of oneness with all. In the state of liberation there is neither selfishness nor selflessness in the ordinary sense, but both of these are taken up and merged into the feeling of selfness for all” (Meher Baba, Discourses, I.31). After the harmonious sounding subsides, Christina was “restored to her former self” and “rose up like one who is drunk,” calling the nuns to her who “greatly rejoiced in Christina’s solace,” after which they all sing the Te Deum laudamus together (Life, 61). The movement of musical, transpersonal participation via a ‘felling of selfness for all’ is completed when the saint, the subjective center of all the activity, only “knew what had happened from the tales of others” (Life, 63).  
[16] Dante, Paradiso, 33.142-5
[17] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.160.
[18] Dante, Purgatorio, 24.52-4.
[19] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.193.
[20] Eriugena, Periphyseon, PL 122:919, translation cited from Bernard McGinn, The Growth of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the 12th Century (New York: Crossroad, 1994), 118.
[21] Meher Baba, Discourses, I.133.
[22] Meher Baba, Life At Its Best, 50.
[23] Meher Baba, Discourses, I.24.
[24] Joyce L. Irwin, “The Mystical Music of Jean Gerson,” Early Music History 1 (1981): 196.
[25] Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, 56.
[26] Ladislav Klima, Glorious Nemesis, 64.
[27] Georges Bataille, “The Obelisk,” in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 222.
[28] Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 1809.
[29] Meher Baba, quoted in Lord Meher, 1839.
[30] Abdul Qadir Husaini, Ibn al-‘Arabi: The Great Muslim Mystic and Thinker, 6.
[31] Augustine, De Musica, I.2, http://individual.utoronto.ca/pking/resources/augustine/De_musica.txt
[32] E. M. Cioran, Tears and Saints, trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 80.
[33] Eckhart, Complete Mystical Works, 130.
[34] Ibn Arabi, Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, trans. Reynold A. Nicholson (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1911), 67.
[35] “Where potentiality is the power to do something, and impotentiality is the power to positively not do something, like the active silence of someone who can but wills not to speak, apotentiality here means more than a lack of power but a power as it were more powerful in its lack, a third form of potentiality altogether: the power to do something at once without the power to do it and without the doing of it, without act. If doing what one properly cannot, what is impossible, connotes a miracle, this positively inactive apotentiality is a species of negative miraculousness, the mystery of doing what you cannot by not doing it. Where freedom or the ability to do as one wills is ‘to be found in the abyss of potentiality’ and ‘is […] to be capable of one’s own impotentiality’, mystical sorrow points to a freedom beyond freedom, a freedom free of its own free will, a freedom free of itself that is freedom” (Nicola Masciandaro, On the Darkness of the Will [Milan: Mimesis, 2018], 53).
[36] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 83.
[37] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 84.
[38] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 85.
[39] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 85-6.
[40] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.172.
[41] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 86.
[42] Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, 62.
[43] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama, 86.
[44] Bhagavad Gita, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: Three Rivers, 2000), 2.47. 50. Cf. “One must try sincerely to do his duties, but results must always be left to God. Worrying about the results is not good; it’s of no use. If one wishes to do anything for others, one must do it sincerely, and having done it, should not worry about the results. For results are not in human hands. It is for humans to do, but for God to ordain. It is not difficult, but men don't try. Just because it is human nature to think about the results doesn't mean one should worry about them. One may think, but must not worry” (Meher Baba, quoted in Lord Meher, 1599).
[45] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.157.
[46] Meher Baba, Discourses, III.146.

[47] “Without beginning and without end, the caravan of evolutionary creation marches on from the Immeasurable to the Immeasurable. Most persons on the way get caught up in the transient immediate, and evolve by conscious or unconscious reactions to it. Some can detach themselves from the transient immediate. But since their detachment is only intellectual, they enjoy freedom only in the realm of the limited intellect, which now tries to comprehend the past, or anticipate the future, as best as is allowed by the limitations under which it works. They try to shape the present in the light of their knowledge of history, as well as in the light of their insight into the possibilities for the unborn future. But the limited intellect is not competent to grasp quantities which are beginningless as well as endless, with the result that the purely intellectual perspective, even at its best, inevitably remains only partial, sketchy, incomplete and, in a sense, even erroneous. The intellectual perspective is workable, and even indispensable, for planned action. But in the absence of the deeper wisdom of the heart or the clearer intuition of the spirit, such intellectual perspective gives only relative truth, which bears upon itself the stamp of uncertainty. The so-called planned action of the intellect has behind it many mighty forces which have not even come to the fringe of consciousness; and it also actually leads to many valuable unexpected results which are entirely beyond the range of vision of the so-called planning. In other words, intellectual planning turns out to be a planning mostly in name, containing in it only as much truth as is necessary to justify the players in feeling that they have had a real share in the entire game” (Meher Baba, Lord Meher, 3193-4).
[48] Vernon Howard, audio recording.
[49] William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, ed. W. J. B. Owen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 160.
[50] Vernon Howard, audio recording