Sunday, April 04, 2021

Unhappiness Explained: On Vicious Vibrations, Spy-Being, and Other Impediments to Who You Really Are

[the following is a transcription of a talk given by Vernon Howard on March 12, 1988]

Unhappiness is very easily explained. And I want you to listen to the explanation of why you are jittery and nervous and have never come to rest, like the airplane that can’t find the landing field. You are unhappy because you are doing the wrong thing with your life.

Now you want to know what the right thing is. No you don’t. Because the right thing to do with your life has been in front of you all your life and you have refused it. I tell you in these classes, over the years, the right thing to do, which is to go against your habitual nature, and you don’t do it because you take it as a threat to your happiness, which you never had in the first place.

The first right thing to do with your life, in order to dismiss any form of anxiety and suffering and tears, the first thing to know is that you are in love with an image of yourself—and that’s it. You have clung to it throughout all the truths that have strayed your way. You’ve hung on to the picture of yourself, to your habitual reactions, you’ve hung on to those simply because you didn’t know any better. And after this talk you will no longer have any excuse for being unhappy.

If you refuse the lessons, again the lessons, if you refuse them then you are refusing the chance you have to transform your nature, a nature that you can’t live without and can’t live with. You can be happy when you have explored and gone to the very very very end of the fact that you can’t be happy at all. You have lived with you, which is the perfect abiding, clinging evidence that you as you are right now in this room can never be happy because you are the essence of unhappiness.

The only thing you can you, the only thing, the only thing you can do with this unhappy nature is not improve it a little bit, not to put a shield over it so the arrows can’t hit and wound you, the only thing you can actually do is replace your nature. And do you know that there is a little bit inside of you that wants to do that, but it doesn’t have a chance against the rest of you? You’re tired, and you know you’re tired, but then you spoil it all by falling in love with your weariness! Because to you it represents continuity, it represents assurance of your existence. It doesn’t.  You do not have a real existence right now, not a higher existence.

Now I am going to tell you what you do have. You have it in place of this new nature, the spiritual self, the godly being that you could have, and I want you to have it, and I want you to use this talk in order to have it, and I want you to get in love with the truth that you are hearing.

You must replace what you are now living from. That replacement comes by long hard work, for you to discover what you are substituting in place of authentic self-command, self-happiness, self-contentment. You know something? You are very afraid to get content. And I mean and I want you to see it. The last thing you want is to be satisfied, soulfully, spiritually satisfied. Because in your distorted thinking, peace, contentment, quietness represents something awful! “I don’t want to be peaceful, I don’t want to be quiet, I don’t want to be in command. I want excitement! That’s what I want. Don’t you dare, don’t you offer me anything but vibrations.” Welcome to them. You’ve got them. They command you, they control you, and they torment you. Yes. Try to get out of that. There is not one of you in this room that can even begin to get out of that because your own pain tells you that it is the truth.

Vicious vibrations. You know what it means to be vicious: wild, hard, cruel, aggressive. Vibrations: physically, emotions, always chasing somewhere. You, you – I’m talking physically now, I’m not talking about the spirit – you can’t even stay home and enjoy yourself, you can’t stay home, you’ve got to go out and go somewhere. Always on the run. You make up reasons for shopping, and spend money you shouldn’t have spent, make up reasons for calling on people, just going somewhere. One of the worst things you can think of is to stay home by yourself and confront what has happened to you. You can’t take it. Well you had better start and you better start now.

Back to vicious vibrations. You know what they are. See when I say that, what I did was give you two words that fit together very nicely and now you can use those words, you can use them to see that it’s quite an accurate description of your secret private life, the one you live all alone with yourself and even your wife and your husband, your brothers or sisters or parents or children, even they don’t know what’s going on, but you do. You know what’s happening inside of you. You know how you repressed that sarcastic remark that you wanted to say, you suppressed it, pushed it down, that’s a vicious vibration. Sorrow, sadness, just plain heaviness and gloom, that’s a vicious vibration, and you say, “this is great I’ve always got something to think about, which is my problems, don’t you dare take away those vicious vibrations or I won’t know what to do with myself!”

The purpose of your life here on earth is to NOT know what you are doing with yourself. So that you are absolutely delighted to let the traumas and the griefs and the weepings and the pride fall away and not vibrate you anymore. Isn’t it – come on, what word would you like to use? How about ‘wackedly weird’? Not a bad one, right? It is wackedly weird for any man or woman – I’ve already told you you are included, it is wackedly weird for any man or woman to just like carelessly, ignorantly, and dangerously, dangerously – you don’t now what danger you are in, but you sure sense it. You are worried at the next, evil, vicious thing you are going to do to yourself, aren’t you? Yes you are. You listen to this talk and that’ll clear that away.

Why would anyone be so weirdly wacky, wicked as to use emotional outbursts, uprisings of aggressiveness, hatred, why would anyone choose to settle down in that sort of a horrible life in which you give to your spouse what you are and you are not even ashamed of it! You are not even ashamed of it! As a matter of fact you’re proud, you’re glad! You men, you get a sense of power, don’t you, over the way you treat that woman. You get a sense of being a man. You’re not a man. You are miserable wretch for what you do to her and she knows it. She has her problems too and she can’t understand them. I’m talking to you men and especially right now.

Vibrations. Why do you have them, live with them? I will tell you why, and you men listen to this. Because any lazy human being can submit to being controlled by vicious vibrations. No work involved! Since you were a little kid you picked those up down at the playground, at grammar school, picked them up, everybody else did the same thing, everybody throwing rocks at each other, tattling on each other, hurting on each other. By the time you were five years old you looked around, “well, this is the way of life, this is the way it is.” Of course no one ever told you any different because no one knew any different, your parents didn’t know any different. Religionists didn’t know any different. Nobody knew any different, cause you even sensed those adults, those big six feet tall men and those women, all the teachers and all the adults around you, you knew they were in trouble and that scared you, because you had no good guide to look to, you were thrown back on yourself so you took the only course of action you had, which is to fall into the trampling parade, the mob marching down the street, everyone out of step with everyone else and poking at each other, criticizing each other, and taking neurotic pleasure out of it.

Why would – the question, for about the fifth time now – why would anyone choose to remain, as miserable as it is, remain sitting back and being a grand critic of life, feeling superior, and then the next second feeling inferior, and not understanding either one? I’ll give you the answer to the question now. People live with this kind of an interior storm, hurricane, they live with it because it gives them an illusion of going someplace and doing something. The space is filled up. You are in it. You are it. The easiest, weakest, thing that you could do, among other weak and sick things, is just let wickedness and vicious vibrations do what it wants to do with you, and it does.

See, you know as I am talking to you I am watching my own mind, watching my own reactions, listening to my own words, and I know what happens when I make a statement like that, that you just like to sit back and let wickedness rule and ruin your life. I know first of all that it is an absolute fact and I also know that you know it is an absolute fact. Not that you’ve faced it. But you know it is, because you are the sufferer. And anguish is a pressure, isn’t it? When was the last time, would it be ten minutes ago, when you lashed out at someone, with your tongue or in your mind? Mostly in your mind. When’s the last time you blasted someone? When’s the last time you made someone feel nervous and uncomfortable? When’s the last time you caused pain in another human being, because you are a neurotic human being? I am asking you a question, an extremely practical one. Because the pain that you give to that other person is the pain that you, that you first feel, experience, and suffer from. Whatever you give to the other person you have first given to yourself.

Now I ask you the question, why would you endure it? You endure it because you don’t know anything better, and in this talk today you will hear something better and again you’ll have no excuse, you will never again have any excuse for being cruel to anyone, for making those little smart remarks, those arrogant glances. No more excuses for anyone after this talk. Don’t take excuses. You make a right choice for what you are going to do with what you are hearing.

Now I’ll explain more about vicious vibrations. When you are troubled, either attacking someone else or attacking yourself, which is what anguish and agony is – agony is self-attack. Now look at it that way for a change, instead of glorifying it, instead of blaming someone for hurting your precious darling feelings. Grow up and take responsibility for the way you feel because you are responsible. Any violation of that law and you will be punished as you have been. Now is the chance to break the punishment by no longer violating the law, the law that you are supposed to be a good person and not a bad person.

When things are all jumbled and clashing and smashing inside, you take a false sense of I/self/me/identity, you take that and connect it to the emotional upset. Someone disappoints you, someone lets you down, someone betrays you, you get an emotional impact from it. Oh it hurts, heartache, you wanna blab to someone, you want to put your troubles on to them, which you always do, because you have no conscience. You won’t bear it alone, you’ve got to dilute it, which means that you’ll never get rid of it, you’ll never get rid of it in the right way of getting rid of it, because that’s part of your pleasure to pass it on, “oh see how much I suffer.”

You have the hurricane going on inside of you because the world didn’t treat you the way you demanded that it should, didn’t get the raise, didn’t get this or that. And when this comes, the neurotic self-deceitful mind sees an opportunity. It sees the opportunity to join a partner in crime. Guess who is the victim of the crime? You are. Because you are careless with your mind. When’s the last time you sat down and said, I am going to understand how my mind works? Never, never! You are 30, 80, how old are you? You have never once sat down and said I am going to understand what’s going on up there! That’s the problem. And that’s why you have a problem.

You are going to have to get a lot smarter than you have been. You are going to have to allow an affection for your own life to enter. If you don’t have affection for your life it’ll just stay the way it is, only get worse. You won’t make a turn in the opposite direction.

So you have the shock, tears, anger, rage, you have that, and the mind says, hah here’s a chance for me to remain in charge of this person. See, there’s so many things – every point I make something else has to be explained. For example, the absolute domination of evil spirits straight from hell over the multitudes of human beings on Earth. You can at least take that little one and connect it with what I am going to say next.

Evil forces, which are hurtful forces, which want only destruction for mankind, and for you as an individual, when they see you being so shallow, so immature, so childish, so self-centered, as to want to get a thrill from life, one thrill after another, one vicious vibration after another, when they see you make that choice, they rejoice. I’ll tell you, there’s rejoicing both in heaven and there is rejoicing in hell. In this case, down there in the hot place, they ring the bells down there too, “we’ve got another sucker, he’s fallen for it again.” And here’s what that means.

It means that you have a mere belief that you are you. You’re not that physical self. See, the real you can endure, permanently, throughout eternity. The physical self isn’t. You don’t want to be your physical body all the time, do you? It doesn’t work that way. It works in another way. And I am telling you about that other way.

Misbelieving, calling yourself a great man or a failure or a sinner or a saint, this becomes a point of identity, of you telling yourself who you are. And then, when troubles come up, the hurricane strikes, and the marriage goes shaky, the friendship, the love affair falls apart, the security program dissolves, when that happens, the false me, the false I says, “ah, this man, this woman isn’t going to have a chance to use this to wake up, which he could do, because I am going to fool him. I am going to tell that man, I am going to tell that woman, that when they suffer, that is a marvelous experience.” And you – c’mon do a little work – look how much he cares, all that balling, see how righteous he is for that social cause, how he wants only betterment for everyone on earth.

Don’t you think – please agree with this – don’t you think you’ve fallen for it once too often? Don’t you think you should have stopped it a number of years ago? Why have you wasted your life? Don’t you go out of here and waste it again now.

Point: when you combine neurosis in the mind and neurosis in the emotions you get an enormously powerful point, a false point, a false power. You get something – o don’t miss this. The combination of two sicknesses combining in criminal conspiracy, the two of them give you a feeling of existence, cause you’ve said, I am experiencing great pain, I am the victim of other people, on and on and on and on. This gives you a false sense of security. You have chosen a false sense of security because now what you can do to keep yourself going, which is false to begin with, what you can do to keep yourself going is to put yourself in a position where you will be persecuted even more. That woman who has been battered by four men in a row, she is looking for the fifth man who will batter her. You have got to look, and I suggest you do it now, for your favorite neurotic tricks and traps whereby you feel secure in sin, feel secure. “No questions. I’ve got all the answers. It’s a vicious world out there, and I’ve got to fight it. I’ve got to protect myself from it” – and get this for the maximum of neurotic psychopathery – “I’ve got to correct that sick world out there, that world with all its neurotic vibrations, I have got to do something, I’ve got to become a leader of society, I’ve got to write best-selling books that’ll straighten people out.” I, I, I.

No wonder you live from one anxiety to the next. And I am going to give you something awful simple, but you had better take it as profound: If you don’t continue to hear more about what you are hearing today, if you go out of here and neglect it, or refuse it, you will simply have guaranteed for yourself a life of horror. And I’ll tell you something worse than that: if you don’t listen, absorb, and want to come here, yes here – you’re not going to hear it anywhere else; they are all going to lie to you out there, they are all going to lie to you, and if you prefer lies you can go there and be lied to – unless you come here, you will never never ever really truly know what it means to have communion with God, you will never know what it means to have an authentic spiritual life.

You don’t like to be cheated out of money, do you? You don’t like anyone to cheat you in repairing your car, or repairing your home. You don’t like to be cheated in anyway at all. You want to get work for the money you paid, right? And yet you are seated here in this room on a Saturday afternoon without the slightest realization of how you have just sat back and dozed in the chair of life and allowed yourself to be cheated out of everlasting life.

It is really incredible that you have settled. Now you will snap out of it!

You are not going to snap out of it on your own, you don’t want to snap out of it. You want to go out of here and find reasons why you shouldn’t pay attention to what you are hearing in this talk. I know you. I know everything, I know absolutely everything everyone of you is going to do when you go out of there. To one degree or another. Some of you are more receptive than others. But if you have been fighting for your vicious vibrations, loving them, when you go out of here, that is what you have chosen for yourself for the future and really you will never ever know what you could have had.

How could know what a peaceful land is like when you have deliberately chosen to live in the hurricane country, when you like the excitement, the movement, you even like to get wounded, and picked up and carried away, cause then you can say to yourself, “Isn’t life exciting.” That is a very sick statement to make. It is not exciting, it is tragic. You are allowing yourself to be carried away by the flood waters, dreaming that you are being carried to the top of the mountain, where you are going to be happy.

Only the complete replacement of all your delusions are going to put inside of you a new desire, a new way, a new nature, which is a lot smarter, a thousand times more smarter, than what has been putting things over on you. You know something? You don’t know something. What you don’t know is that evil magician on the stage has been playing all sorts of skilled tricks on you, entertaining you, while picking your pocket, and you thought it was a lot of fun. Just wait. After spending an evening in the horror theatre, with all those wicked magicians, which is life, just wait ‘til you get home and take a look at your wallet, and your purse, ladies. It’s going to be empty. It’s empty now. It’s empty because you have been very careless.

Would you please, right now, as a work project for yourself, define, each of you – c’mon this is something I want you to do now – I want you each to yourself to define the word, two words, ‘stupid arrogance.’ Would you respond, you can do it and still listen to me, define, explain, what you think the phrase ‘stupid arrogance’ means. OK? Now, second part, do you think by one chance in a billion it might be referring to you? Now that part you don’t like so much. You don’t like truth to get personal with you. That’s why you love error and falsehood because it never gets personal, that is, it always gives you the stage performance that you prefer. You think any wicked magician is going to tell you that he is picking your pocket while he putting on the act? No, he is going to divert your attention. Your attention has been diverted by stupid arrogance.

Oh, how many of you have a best friend? How many have a worst friend? Either one of them knows a load of things about you that you don’t know about yourself. And you know one thing that they know? They can define your stupid arrogance. Not that they even want to think about it, having lived with it for thirty years. See, I think the word ‘stupid’ alone should get special attention, don’t you?

How many of you have ever had an experience, I hope I can see a few hands on this, where you – c’mon be very careful now and don’t be tricked by your interpretation of this – how many of you have ever understood something, really, that you thought you had already understood? Ever have that? I’ll tell you, that’s spiritual. Even if it’s only mental, it’s a spiritual start. You trusted that friend, you trusted that plan, that set of aggressive ideas, you trusted that dream. Something came along and tripped you, and you fell down, and it hurt bad and your cried, right? You were aware of your stupidity, which is intelligence. And isn’t life, come to think of it, just a series of one awkward sprawling painful trips over something, one after another? Guess – easy question. You are head of me, I know. Guess who trip over. Yourself, trip over your own feet, walking along, thinking you are dancing! Crash. And the music stops and you look around and go into your usual sad act.

You’re uncomfortable because you are like a spy. You’ve seen good spy stories, haven’t you? What’s a spy do? You’re a spy. Your outer behavior, even the way you dress, is different from the kind of a person you are inside. You want people to believe in the outside, don’t you. But you know you are different inside, up and down, the distance between the two states. A spy puts on fancy clothes, he is going to steal the secrets of another country, and he is getting paid for it. You think that you are going to get paid for being a spy. No no, you are going to be betrayed by the people who hired you.

Do you know? Maybe you don’t know whose been hiring you and who is going to give you counterfeit money at the end of your arduous painful miserable service. You are going to get paid by hell. There’s no better word than that. Hell is symbolic of everything that is hot and undesirable, that’s condemning. That’s what you’ve been paid for, that’s why you get hot all the time, cause that’s where you are living. You can rise at least one foot above the floor of hell during this talk.

But the spy, he goes to the foreign country and of course the minute his airplane lands there and he starts walking around, oh, you come into the room here, you go to work, you go anywhere, you go to the party, when you go into the room, aren’t you conscious of everyone looking at you? A lot of people look at you, you come in, and then you interpret what they look like, “I got my rose on upside down, shoes on the wrong feet.” No wonder you fall down you’ve got your shoes on the wrong feet. So he goes to the country – we’ll make this a good story, a revealing story, I’m talking about you, you’re the spy, your spouse sees through you of course, and you know it’s a conspiracy between the two of you to keep it between the two of you. You have got, listen, when you stand before judgment day you stand all alone. And judgment day is every second, every second in this room that you have been here is judgment day for you. Anyway, the spy goes to the embassy and to his great dismay he is placed at the big dining table, big fancy embassy – the government they can spend all the money they want for their big fancy balls and banquets – and the spy is set between to colonels. Uh oh.

I am giving you symbolism of your daily excursion into the world. And while he is chatting amiably, one side and then then other, and smiling, playing his role to perfection – he’s been briefed, briefed? he’s gone to spy school, and some people have their own inner-built spy school, in which they plan what they are going to say, how they are going to appear to someone else. Have I hit home on that one? Yes I have. He comes, and he is sitting between the two men and he plays his role. All the time he is nervous, he is nervous because he is a fake.

You are uncomfortable because you are unreal. And sometimes the situation gets out of hand, worse than that, gets out of foot, gets out of everything. You flop. Here’s what happens – this is symbolic, but you know what happens – the moustache begins to slip, didn’t put enough glue on it, so he’s pretending he’s rubbing it a little bit, he’s pushing it back, finally gets it on a little, crooked moustache, a moustache doesn’t grow that way. Oh and this will hit home, he says something in a casual conversation that he shouldn’t have said. He’s gives away a little bit of information about his home country that only the country that he is in now understood and knew about and therefore how would he a citizen of this country even know about that. He slipped. He gave himself away.

And oh have you had this experience, as a matter of fact most of you have had it while this talk is going on, if you could have seen it. He makes the slip, and he freezes with horror at what he heard himself say. How many have had that experience? Could I have done that? It may have been so awful, so utterly stupid, that you didn’t even want to see it at the time, you wanted to put your hands over year head and sink through the floor and get away, right? But it persisted all the way home from the party you were at and finally when you get home it hit you with all the magnitude of its horror. How could a nice, dignified, pleasant, cultured person like me have ever blurted that out? That self-questioning could be used. Did you? It’s up to you to answer whether you used it or not. But you get home and you suddenly remember what you said.

Now I am going to go in a certain direction at this point, because I know how you are tormented by thoughts like that. And I am going to tell you how to be free of them. I could tell you 50 ways how to get free of them, but we have time for only just a couple.

The next time you blurt out something that only a dignified person would say, I don’t want you to do what I explained much earlier in the talk about getting an emotion, a disastrous feeling of wounded thought and mood, I don’t want you to have a painful experience inside and then bring yourself into it. It didn’t happen when you get home, it happened back there. You have to understand what it means to leave the experience back there and not take it home with you. But you want to take it home with you and suffer from it and have a sleepless night because now you can be the center of your own life and the center of your own life is the center of the entire universe! How marvelous! Look who I am, surrounded by myself. Surrounded by as many mangling moods as I want to enter in, I can always believe in myself. You are not believing in yourself. You are believing in something that has no existence at all.

And oh what a dangerous enemy the word ‘belief’ is. You put that down somewhere and consider the grief you had because you believed in something. You don’t have to believe in anything. You just have to get the facts, such as you are doing right now.

But the spy is there, jittery – oh here we go again, we are going to bring you into the talk again – jittery and wondering when he is going to get exposed as the faker, as the spy that he is. You are worried, aren’t you? The reason you are worried is because you are a spy. The reason you are a spy is because you are spiritually infantile. And the reason you stay spiritual infantile is because you won’t dedicate yourself to understanding yourself, your mind. You can understand why every single disaster happens to you. If you don’t understand it they will continue to happen. If you do understand them, that begins to break, shatter, their power. And what takes the place of their false power is the true power of your true nature.

Then you can go anywhere, not as a spy anymore, but as someone who is real. You don’t have to try to get things from other people, you don’t have to impress them, you don’t have to figure out just how should I talk and behave in order to make a good impression on them, you don’t have to do that at all. You can just relax and be real, because you’ve got everything you want from the heavenly world, you don’t need a single thing from that world. That is what it means to be in command of the whole world. Because God is in command of himself. God is in command of heaven. He sends a bit of that heaven down to you and you become in command of yourself. Nothing lower than that heavenly command can come up and thwart you or hurt you anymore.

Be who you really are. There is a way to do that. Spend all the next days and months and years in discovering your real nature. That’s all you have to do. It can be done.

Good afternoon.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Waiting to Wait


[T]his whole time, which to us seems so long while it is rolling along, is really a moment [punctum]. Whatever has an end is not long.

– Augustine, Ennarationes in Psalmos


And since it seems a time for waiting [aspettare] . . . All our troubles, if we carefully seek out their source, derive in some way from not knowing how to make a proper use of time.

– Dante, Convivio


Wait. I can’t wait. Thank you for waiting. The common experience and concept of waiting falls on its sense of being something that you, oneself, must undergo. The gravity of waiting (the wait of being) presents itself as something to be borne, undergone, avoided or endured. Whatever or whoever one waits for, however patiently or impatiently, selfishly or unselfishly, purely or impurely, it is hard to shake the feeling that it is I who waits, on behalf of me, for myself. Yes, we wait for, with, and are asked/made to wait by, others, but it seems that it is always we who wait, the ones waiting. There is a good dose of pretense, dishonesty, and perverse pleasure in the weight of waiting—performance of imposition, fear of silence and/or time, refusal of self-reliance, need for attention/distraction, resentment and restlessness of all kinds. Why can you just wait? And there is also space for joy, as when what is waited for is so great that you might be in heaven waiting forever. But whether you cannot stand waiting or are too happy to, one is still waiting. There seems no way around it. And yet . . .  


I would like something different, a kind or degree or waiting that starts by escaping the boring/excited me-ness of waiting, an order of waiting that offers at once the best and the worst way to wait, as per the three-fold meaning of my title, which carries: a) the flat sense of superadded waiting, waiting only to wait more, where to refers infinitively to the activity one is waiting for; b) the intensive sense of waiting as means of its own end, where to signifies the instrumentality of action (in order to, so as to); and c) the paradoxical sense of waiting that does not wait at all precisely by deferring or postponing it, that waits to wait, waiting yet not yet. Waiting to wait in this triple way is conceivable as a form of eternal waiting, keeping in mind the word’s double reference to the timeless and the sempiternal, now and forever. Tying together, like head and tail of the ouroboros, a waiting that never ends and a waiting that never begins, eternal waiting unites the opposite senses of waiting to wait around the middle sense of the present moment of waiting per se. As the anagogic sense of medieval exegesis proverbially gives a ‘foretaste [praegustus] of paradise’, finding in the suspended moment of reading the palpable presence of a truth or reality that is non-futurally to come, so do I anticipate this waiting to wait, not as something that need ever arrive from anywhere else, but as the direct elevation of simple waiting, a flight of the ground where waiting waits.

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.”

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).

Day 1: Naturaleza Muerta

Plato, Philebus – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, books 7 and 10 – Epicurus, Leading Doctrines –  Epictetus, Enchiridion – Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, book 2 – Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, book 1

Day 2: Jardines de la Delicia

Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, book 1 – Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose, part 1 – Hadewijch, “The Garden of Perfect Virtues” – Dante, Purgatorio, cantos 17-31 – Chaucer, Former Age

Day 3: Rosas Desgarradas  

Leopardi, Zibaldone, 165-91 – D’Annunzio, Pleasure, chapter 1 – Huysmans, Saint Lydwine of Schiedam – Meher Baba, “The Problem of Sex,” “The Conditions of Happiness,” “God as Infinite Love,” Discourses – Bataille, “On the Ambiguity of Pleasure and Play” – Weil, Gravity and Grace – Levinas, Totality and Infinity, II-A – Lispector, 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.   

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,
[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,
[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