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FEBRUARY 27, 2014
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Review of World of Dust
OCTOBER 8, 2013
A review of World of Dust has just gone up over at Dreamflesh.
I have a new book out
JULY 19, 2013
FEBRUARY 15, 2013
When your body dies, you won't know you are. The body, its senses, and the mind provide a feeling of presence known as consciousness. But this is the knowledge that I am, not what I am. What I am is what I was before this knowledge came, what I was a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, a million, unchanged by the creation and dissolution of universes. I have not come, I do not go, rather the knowledge that I am comes and goes. I was here before my conception. A sperm fused with an egg and a fetus grew in a womb. I knew nothing about it. A baby came out of a womb, and continued to grow in a world as a result of food that came in screwtop jars and milk in bottles. I knew nothing about it. Perhaps briefly flashes of this world came and went, until one day, they say around the age of two and a half, I became aware of myself. But in becoming aware of myself I put aside my timeless self and identified myself not as the one who had always been here but as the one who had just arrived, when the one who had just arrived was merely a body fed on foodstuffs until a sense of presence spontaneously appeared. It wasn't the presence of the body in the world that was important, that was merely the means by which my own presence came to light, since I was not aware of it, blissfully unaware of it in fact. But for some strange reason my awareness of myself did not emerge into a world where I was told I had created the universe simply to know that I am. Rather it was inculcated into me that I was this animated piece of flesh, this sack of blood and guts, this bio-robot subject to the whim of beings who identified themselves as my parents, who nurtured me as best they knew how but not much better than a duck in a box, and then schools would attempt to educate me on the history and geography of the planet that I was now living on, and, gradually, or maybe even quickly, I lost sight of the fact that all of this had only just appeared, built in the blink of an eye from the emanation of my own radiance.
I was an unusual child, in that for more years than is normal I continued to look back before my apparent birth as if there was still a chance of going back, and it was only when I was really forced into it that I took an interest in the things that it was impressed upon me that I should take an interest in 'if I wanted to get on in the world'. At the age of eleven there was an extraordinarily vivid dream of my former stature as what had given rise to the entire universe that I did not understand on waking, although I was quite sure I had seen, as I put it then, 'the meaning of life'. Much later, experiences on psychedelics provided similar visions. But as a child it is not long before one has to throw oneself into mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, English. I was never much taken by religious instruction, save for a liking for ziggurats. I took a great interest in a solitary study of natural history, the different flowers and insects, the peculiarities of each season, pond life, nests, leaves, feathers, rocks and minerals. I became enamoured of chemistry and went to study it at university in London. I was going to do a PhD in chemistry in Australia, it was all set up for me by a professor in Queensland, but I decided against at the last minute while being burnt by the sun in a boat in the middle of Lake Titicaca while talking to a New Zealander who had just done a PhD and had felt it had been a waste of time. I made my mind up on the spot and said to myself that if I was ever going to reconsider this decision then I would have to come back to exactly the same place to do so. Years later I used a similar technique for sticking to a decision when I took a spontaneous vow, under an Indian bean tree one night, that I wouldn't commit suicide without first going to a Zen monastery to become a monk. So now suicide was out, without going to that trouble.
The first time I took LSD, 'Purple Haze', at the 1982 Stonehenge Festival, it was clear where my real adult interest lay, and I progressively began to deconstruct my life seeing at last the real possibility of breaking through. But of course this search was still driven by the assumption of being a body in a world. In 1984, again at the Stonehenge Festival, I saw my true nature on three tabs of 'White Lightning', but this experience shattered the mirror of the universe so violently that after it had subsided in intensity I was left living with what in retrospect was an astonishing degree of fragmentation. Then began my long period of growing Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, consuming them in what I later learnt Terence McKenna called 'a heroic dose', 5g dry weight. I had a large chest of drawers with five drawers, in each drawer sliced Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms were drying on newspaper, while fresh mushrooms were coming up in jars in an aquarium. After this phase I gravitated to demonology and black magick, performing experiments with just the same fascination and engagement that as a boy I had pursued chemistry in the garden shed. I was not satisfied with magick until I managed to alter physical matter instantly right in front of my eyes without the aid of an hallucinogen. When I first achieved this I felt like someone who had just survived a plane crash, sitting in the wreckage reflecting on his good fortune to still be alive, such was the intensity of shock at managing to do what one can only think is impossible without witnessing it for oneself. This was the evocation to visible manifestation of the demon Astaroth, and I mean something more full-blown than a face imagined in smoke. At that instant I was in need of no more convincing about the legitimacy of the occult. Ironically, although I didn't quite realise it at the time, I was done with magick then, there was no more to accomplish, I had accomplished it, although I continued the interest for a while longer because I was effectively still in a labyrinth that I felt required some understanding before I could put it entirely behind me.
But the most productive activity beyond this largely phenomenal investigation was the decades-long contemplation of the Book of Changes, Zen, and Advaita Vedanta, which was punctuated by repeated though feeble attempts to be a part of the world, to do what everyone else did, which waned in interest with every fresh disappointment screaming at me the self-knowledge that this simply wasn't what I was meant to be doing. One feels one ought to make some sort of attempt at fitting in, if only to be able to reject that option with more confidence. Gradually, I sank into solitude and quietism until it became my accepted routine. Often railed against in the early years in fits of despair and loneliness, nonetheless it always seemed the right path and I bolstered my inner strength through deeper and deeper understanding of the Book of Changes and enjoyed the poetry of Chinese and Japanese hermits. My most enduring memories are of opening the window in the middle of the night to peacefully listen to the rain pouring down, or drinking tea on summer days sitting in the garden reading books and listening to the birds. I often felt I had gone too far in my solitariness, then I would press on further undaunted. I don't think one can have the inner strength for this kind of solitariness unless one has seen at some point that the world isn't real. Unless you have an inkling of that, what would drive you? What would the pressing need be to turn your back on the world? Perhaps sufficient faith in the great sages would be enough, but again where would that faith come from unless one already instinctively knew? Eventually, you see who you are in a more abiding way than a DMT flash, you trace it back before you were born, before your parents were born, and realise nothing has happened save that the knowledge has come that you are, but you are the same as you were before you knew it, the same now that you know it, and will be the same when the knowing of it goes off, which is what people call death because they believe they are what dies.
Your life is just an example
JANUARY 28, 2013
The details of your life are unimportant. It can be left to get on with itself, even whether you 'take part' or 'sit it out' is nothing to do with you. Your life is just an example. I didn't know I was, and then suddenly I knew 'I am'. I don't know what the rest of it is, save that it distracted me from that rather more interesting matter. Away with all that life content, back to basics, being. Push the details of life back into the mist and just sit with knowing that 'I am'. Why's that of any great interest? I'll tell you why. Because I didn't know I was, and then I did, and that amazing fact is somewhat skirted over being concerned about anything else. What does any of that other stuff matter if I have ignored the fact that I didn't know I was and then, suddenly and spontaneously, I was aware of my own presence?
It sounds too simple, but this is the fundamental ignorance. The moment I see that 'I am' it is like lifting one's head out of a dream of the world. This is the sole function of consciousness, to be conscious that 'I am'. This is consciousness in itself. Some then make the mistake of supposing 'I am consciousness'. No, I am not consciousness, consciousness is merely becoming aware that 'I am'. Prior to that I did not know, and that absolute unknown is what 'I am'. I have taken form to know I am the formless. But I cannot know the formless, I am the formless. I can only know that I am the formless, because form is required to know anything. Anything I know is not the truth because of that. I am not consciousness, consciousness is knowing I am conscious, to make that into myself is a lazy idea. But identifying with consciousness rather than body and mind is a useful step so long as one does not stay there.
Consciousness is knowing 'I am', but before consciousness came I did not know. That is my ultimate source, the Absolute. Consciousness is not the Absolute. Consciousness means I have become aware of my own existence as the Absolute, but in order for that to happen I needed form. The entire universe was created solely that I should come to know 'I am', but once I know 'I am' it is only an example universe, and my apparent life there an example life. I will continue to live it, it will provide continued fascinations and phenomena to investigate, it will flow through happiness and sadness, achievement and failure, but none of it will be of any importance, it is only an example of what a life is like with no rhyme nor reason for its particular details, since it is only serving the purpose of enabling me to know that 'I am', to realise that I am conscious of my existence when before I was not, and, because something cannot come from nothing, I am nothing, but a nothing that is aware of itself, is self-evidently intelligent, and capable of the creation of the diversity that we call the universe which, though it is but a phantasm, is nonetheless astounding. Then the example life in the example universe may be lived out without any concern for death or worldly fulfilment, since they are just props.
In practice, one may well simply decide to consciously live this understanding, without troubling oneself with attempts to rearrange the phenomenon. The desire for it to be any different than it is just leaves and one lives not so much in a location but rather as if floating in space, finding a vague bemusement with a world perceived as so temporary that it hardly exists for anything more than the fleeting seconds one casts attention towards it, though to terrestrials I imagine it appears as if one is living much like they are.
Really, home is Oblivion. I do not know what I have gained by knowing that 'I am', but I do know that whatever it is I will lose it all and will no longer know that 'I am'. I know this because it has already happened. The knowing does not emanate from form, but from the formless, it is simply given form in consciousness. Loss of form is no loss. I am the formless, unborn and changeless. While I have a mouth I can say it, but it is foolish to think that when the mouth has gone, when the consciousness has gone, that I am in any way lacking. What I will be then, I am now. This phenomenon of the world, the universe, this life, has simply come upon me unannounced and unasked for, and, although I was distracted by it for a while, I am unchanged and eternal, never been born, the formless background of all, and it is 'I' who 'am', mouthlessly mouthing these words.
Confessions from the edge
JANUARY 14, 2013
My entire life, in many ways, has been about the supplanting of 'normality' by rather more stupendous possibilities, together with the fight against the conditioned collapse into humdrum consensus, since it is certain that thought defines experienced reality but thought has been tethered by taught or accustomed habits, attitudes, and standards of behaviour implanted while still young and impressionable. Thus there is what Vaneigem called 'the revolution of everyday life' wherein one fights on a daily basis against entrapment by the Spectacle, a form of life paraded before us that is entirely intended to indoctrinate and control us by persuasion that this is what the mass does and believes, and, by inference, what you ought to do and believe. Obviously for anyone to realise that there is no mass, no world, no values save ones discovered for oneself, is to partake of a revolutionary act that only by subtlety has avoided criminalisation, though certainly its chemical catalysts such as LSD, DMT, and psilocin have been accorded heavy penalties, showing how dangerous seeing through the illusion of society is considered, though only by a superstitious taboo not because anyone legislating against these compounds has any real idea what they are capable of.
DMT in particular will virtually instantly show anyone that human life on Earth is just a single possibility that happens to have become dense in a 'strange loop', that identification with a human body on a planet in space is focusing on a mere tiny corner of a vast universe of possibility in which what is regarded as 'the physical universe', that detectable by instruments, is hardly anything, and certainly lacking that most vital factor, the ground reality of consciousness whereby the immense universal intelligence is in profusive evidence (ie, non-human intelligence, or, rather, suprahuman, since human is included, but it goes without saying that anything beyond human is by definition 'alien' to a human). Clearly the apparent shift to that perspective of identification means that human life is a vessel for grasping a significance so far beyond human life as to render it virtually insignificant, save for that purpose. It is simply that the wave function collapsed here with the creation of an observer able to self-reflect. That observer is of course a complete illusion, as is what is observed, but that doesn't stop us putting the kettle on in the midst of this almighty realisation, every bit as present in the small details of everyday life as it is in the great engulfing geometric paradise of hyperdimensionality, because it is a fractal, in which human life on Earth is a portion that has become a rather dense often mundane routine but nonetheless has the power, should it wish it, to make a quantum leap out of the tangled hierarchy of conditioned normality and cross the shocking frontier of hyperspace – and I don't use the word 'shocking' lightly – such that one knows and is quite certain of the true value of living, even if it means that one must depart one's familiar dimensions and seem for quite some while afterwards to have failed and fallen back to Earth with only the crude symbolism of a crossroads in one's life, perhaps even reflected literally as it was in my case – a dirt-path crossroads one night was where this first happened to me in 1984 – to suggest a real choice is possible. But there's no-one choosing it, it is fundamentally a quantum choice, as is all choice, there being no 'person' to choose anything, and a quantum choice responds to wishes that have formed in the apparently clumsy daily interaction with seeming matter, which is what occultists make into an artform and call 'magick', though generally they lack the light touch that is the real art of it.
Such realisations tend to pan out in space-time back in conditioned human existence as 'choosing' to live according to dreams and visions, going half crazy and becoming subsumed by potentially insane obsessions (although sanity is merely a societal norm), but it is not really a choice save at the quantum level for the quantum chooser, in human life while still apparently confined in that paradigm 'the wish' plays out not as a choice but rather as the natural and inevitable consequence of no longer believing the four walls have any solidity, that the world as conventionally perceived is an illusion. While this is to an extent a faith after the mind-blowing direct experience has subsided, it leads in time to hyperspace becoming familiar and one eventually finds oneself no longer confined by circumstances, because they are seen through and one knows one's true nature as the fractal being wearing the temporary mask of human being. It is a quantum leap in the status of the observer, still an illusion, but seeing so much more, including its own non-existence but without that hindering in the slightest since identification was only a requirement of received conditioning rather than a necessity for life. The existential status of the observer of the extended phenomenon into hyperdimension is nominal only. The apparent plurality of observers in the human realm does not consist of separate beings but rather notates different space-time coordinates of the living fractal being, the Singularity. This is obvious when one's human life is, as it were, zoomed out of and there is no longer a body or Earth and one's past is nothing.
There is no loss because one is everything, although it is true that what one took to be one's life has no more substantiality than a dream. At times, this can seem a difficult burden to bear and one can wish it were all over, but nonetheless one has the means to see through this as yet another illusion, the seemingly imposed prarabdha karma or destiny unique to the apparent individual. It does not seem to be answered, on finding that the miserable individual does not exist as anything separate, as to why the totality or 'God' should not also be miserable, yet it is constantly said its true nature is bliss, happiness, peace. Well of course it is only the mind that could judge it as having any characteristic, and it is only the samskaras, or habit channels of thought, that remain to return one to these old notions, such as the poignancy of sadness, which, once entertained as having value, will naturally recreate all over again the constricted conditions that have plagued one much of one's life, and one may wonder why that is when one can simultaneously see through them as being without substance, as if one is trapped in one's life while at the same time reigning as the Supreme Being.
All that can be said is that one will inevitably struggle with this for a while, and that one should not accept assurances from great sages that it should be bliss when to you it is misery, since it may be that you are seeing something that they have closed their eyes to, which it is your destiny to uncover. For example, if your prarabdha karma is to be a writer or artist, you may need to suffer to obtain your material, this then is your heroic portion and it is not for some smug Swami to tell you what to feel, you have a different destiny. That said, the notion of ananda, bliss or peace, is simply the certainty that crushes illusion when one is tired of illusion. Much that passes for ananda seems to me to be merely a transitory happiness ascribed to realisation that has simply not worn off yet, or something artificially maintained and asserted, dying by repetition. But as a revolutionary power one has access to, I cannot deny it, even in the depths of misery, which, perhaps, I choose to experience because why shouldn't I, when for most of the world it is inescapable. My only advantage, considerable I will admit, is having the strength to break the chains I wear, that I wear for other reasons than because I am forced to. I perceive my life to be one of absolute restriction, and so I live it knowing that at any moment I might break it apart. It may as well be an object of study for an alien race, it is not 'me', it is clothing, it is a waiting room, it is indeed a dream.
JANUARY 9, 2013
People still ask me about the occult, even though I have made it plain I am not particularly interested in it any more. As they've asked me, I answer. What I offer as 'advice' is really only an observation of the nature of an apparent but illusory process that others might also observe, and, rather than fear it and block it, instead recognise it and allow it. But fear will never be eradicated while the underlying delusion that gives rise to it goes unaddressed, since it is this that creates the frightening forms that often accompany occult experimentation. Until it is realised that all forms are completely empty, that fear will remain. But of course there will be little interest in occult exploration once the emptiness of forms is realised, which explains the waning of my own interest. I cannot deny, though, that it was an interest that once obsessed me and that I pursued with a fierce engagement.
These days I would much rather suggest investigation of the emptiness of form, than tell how to negotiate occult dimensions, but the point is that if that is someone's current interest then they will not be able to hear what I have to say about the delusory nature of the occult, and would prefer it that I immerse myself in their delusion in order to point out in situ what they cannot see but I can. This is a reasonable compromise, so long as they understand that I regard none of it as real, which, of course, they never will unless they themselves realise it is not real.
The reason I produced KAOS 14 was to speak to those lost in or entering a very specific dimension that I had explored and with some difficulty finally put behind me. It should not be thought that I recommend exploration of the 156 current to anyone but those who cannot help but explore it because that calling has come to them and they are as if possessed by it. I like to think that once the excitement of this magick has worn off that they may find in that publication some clue to lead them out of a most fascinating labyrinth. I don't say they will come through it unscathed, that would be way too optimistic. Particularly as these days there are more than a few who wish to penetrate the occult on fairly meagre knowledge gained by skim-reading the web rather than by in-depth absorption of arcane books in an atmosphere of hermetic retreat, which was certainly the manner of my own occult experimentation prior to the advent of the internet. Even back then few were willing to go into the occult with this intensity, such that these days I suspect it may be a lost art. I can but point it out. It makes me wonder how useful any advice I may give can actually be. But anyway, here is a recent exchange:
a bit before I finished reading K-14, I was doing a lot of chaos work with Baphomet that was bringing unpleasant, unforeseen results and a good deal of paranoia. I was sort of embarrassed to ask for your thoughts at the time, since I was (and am) convinced I was doing something seriously wrong.
I think I was invoking Baphomet successfully, but only in part – only in his/her male aspect, because the symbols and methods in use were sort of biased and out of balance. The workings would probably have been better suited to Pan. The results were unclear at first but then, to put it mildly, terrifying.
Does this make any sense to you? Is it possible to invoke something incompletely, or a divided aspect, like the male 'Half-o-met' I was seeing at the time? Or more likely that I was inviting in something else completely?
When you experiment in the occult, there is no right result, only what happens. Who is to say what 'should' have happened? In some respects if what happens resembles in any way something you might have imagined would happen, then you haven't gone very deep at all. If you are assessing results on the same kind of plane as something you might have expected to happen, then there hasn't been much of a change, since the only object of occult experimentation is to go beyond the plane on which you might judge it. Saying results are less appropriate to what you did and more appropriate to something else is all on the same plane, so really nothing has happened. You have to be able to look at it in a way you didn't have access to before you did the experimentation, if you're still looking at it in the same way then you're only assessing a kind of turbulence. No point. This kind of analysis of occult practice is empty. It can only be said to have 'worked' if you are somewhere where you weren't before, somewhere you had no idea about, you have to feel utterly changed, not merely the recipient of a bunch of effects, even if those effects seem intense, paranoiac, or terrifying. If it doesn't place you somewhere you had no access to or knowledge of before, nothing has really happened. Fear states naturally accompany occult practice, it should feel 'edgy', but if the fear is collapsed into then the working or whatever has itself collapsed. Just paranoia and terror are indicative of falling out of control, loss of confidence, doubt overcoming strength. On the other hand, it may be necessary to 'flush out' these fear states, as it were, before being able to actually undertake occult practice of a meaningful kind. Rather than wondering what you may have done wrong, move past it, always move past it, because sometimes you have to move past it right in the midst of it, if you fall back into wondering and doubt, it will collapse every time. You have to find your natural fearlessness, and for that you can't afford to tiptoe with it. No true occult practice is about knowing beforehand, it is all about accessing what you need when you need it and relying on that. You have to embrace the dangers, or not do it at all.
It makes sense. On one hand, what I was trying to say was not that I felt my results were not appropriate to my approach, but that my approach probably wasn't appropriate to my intent.
On the other hand, what you say really resonates: "If it doesn't place you somewhere you had no access to or knowledge of before, nothing has really happened." Which is perhaps why I'm so interested in firsthand accounts like yours – I know that I'm not fully embracing the dangers yet.
I don't really remember having any intent, rather I had started something that drew me into it and I had to match what was escalating. Intent was never any more specific than 'I want to find out'. More specific intents were cast into the Void quite some time before anything started to swirl, such that I wouldn't necessarily recognise that what started to draw me into it had anything to do with that relinquished intent. In retrospect the enormous amount I bit off to chew wouldn't let me forget it, though I wasn't overly conscious that anything comprised a specific intent. The occult works best when you don't know what is happening but you can recognise that something certainly is, and you go along with it. The best intent in this regard is something like 'I want to understand the 156 current', since you don't know what you are asking for at all, but are willing to find out. You mustn't assume you have any idea at all of an approach that would match an occult intent. The approach is the induction that occurs and draws you into it. It is better to let go of mechanistic ideas of how this should occur and follow what does occur. This is the magick of a 'current', you fall into it, it carries you. The only intent is to be engulfed by it, the only 'approach' to it is losing your balance and toppling headlong. This will often play out gently at first though, disguising the fact that you are falling. The occult is happening when it's too late to withdraw. This is why the occult doesn't happen for many, they take the warning to withdraw as just that, instead of the ultimate invitation. There will always be a point when one could have backed off, but after that it will be too late and one will have to continue. This, if you like, is the definition of a 'working'. This is the point at which the true intention develops, since this is the point at which one says 'Yes, I will go on'. This is the crucial intent, the rest is just flopping around. You can't have that intent until the time to have it comes. You work in the dark until it shows itself and asks you, 'This is it, do you want this?' The energies can die back or rise up, at that point. For many they will never make a better apparent decision than back off. Whereas the few brace themselves and have said 'Bring it on' before they have even realised what they have done. It is beyond that point that the occult shows you what it is. Before that point you are trying to make the occult out of some vague ideas you have.
JANUARY 8, 2013
to add to your funny story. I am another one of those thickos that do not know what the teachers mean when they talk about it in those terms subject and object. Reading your post is hilarious because just a few days ago I was growing increasingly frustrated about not getting my head around subject and object talk. If you can be bothered to explain that it'll be great. yes i know that there is one subject or perhaps not even that. but it's impossible to understand that from my narrow pov. Would objects include all forms of conceptualization? trees? cars? hatred? dislike? love?
Trees, cars, hatred, dislike, and love are all objects that are dependent upon you as subject. No you, then no trees, cars, hatred, dislike, and love.
The 'love' there I take in its limited form of a person loving another person, a subject loving an object, but 'love' in its proper sense is the breakdown of the subject/object division. In the terms perhaps you mean it though, love is a conceptual objectification of a feeling one does not understand too well. Of course the 'lover' does not see the 'beloved' as an 'object', since that implies mere body for sex, or some other objectification of transitory values (wife, partner, ex, corpse), but all the same they do see the 'beloved' as a higher object, usually through glimpsing their own dissolution in the other, which is then held onto after the moment has passed as some warm fuzzy object conceived of as being something shared between them, a diffuse gaseous cloud-like object called 'love', the lovers are 'in love', which is a memory of dissolving into each other, an object, in other words, 'high' and 'low' in regard to objects essentially being Harrods or Asda.
Even 'God' is a conceptual object, and, actually, so are 'you', which then poses the question 'Whose object are 'you'?', which naturally is the start of self-enquiry in a form that doesn't often get talked about. Just as there are higher and higher forms of object, there are higher and higher forms of subject, until formlessness dissolves the apparent division. But if you succeed in seeing the world as a world of objects only and yourself as the sole subject, then you need not be concerned about seemingly higher forms, which is little more than escalation of delusion catering for the followers of 'levels', otherwise known as samadhi addiction, the self-importance attached to collections of mystical states.
The observer effect in quantum mechanics was the introduction of the sole subject into physics, but there the mistake is made of supposing multiple observers without seeming to grasp that all but the observer of those observers are objects of the one observer. But it could be argued that science is only the study of the phenomenon and has no pretensions beyond relativism, save that it is supposed on lazy afternoons that the absolute will yield eventually to such a study, which, of course, it will not, save through increasingly beautiful hypotheses that are essentially science fiction with equations.
Someone else also brought up yesterday's post, asking me to explain subject/object, to which I replied:
Division of perception into a subject who perceives and the object perceived. People imagine, as subject, that other people are like them in being a subject, but a subject can only have objects, not other subjects. To the subject there are only objects. It does not matter that there appear to be others who can say the same thing, because one is not looking out of their eyes. All objects therefore depend upon a single subject and do not have any inherent existence beyond that perception. Once one realises one is the single subject, one becomes in fact an object to the background and all objects disappear. The division into subject and object is seen to be merely a mental construct and the duality of subject and object collapses into nonduality. But while one imagines there are other subjects like oneself, one does not realise the unique position of the subject, imagining an exterior world of objects shared in common with other subjects. This is a fallacy.
JANUARY 7, 2013
I usually avoid talking about the nature of reality in social situations. I can't be bothered addressing all that hideboundness of ignorant certainty in people's views, friends or not, unless specifically asked by someone actually interested. But it cropped up the other day and I was reminded of one simple error of perception that people apparently make that I had quite forgotten about. I was saying that it is a world of objects and a single subject. The person I was talking to rather smugly said: 'Tell that to all the other subjects.'
I was aghast.
'No,' I said, 'there is only one subject, you, those other subjects you're referring to are objects, to you.'
I feel like a schoolmaster pointing out something incredibly simple that the thickos can't get their heads round.
I would have thought this was quite obvious. It didn't make any impact on her. Freedom blithely turned away in preference for believing some nonsense set in its ways and doubtless having its first challenge in years. Clearly if you're going around thinking there is more than one subject then you probably have no idea what is meant by subject and object in the first place and should avoid getting into philosophical discussions. But then so should I, for completely different reasons. You see why I tend not to get into these kinds of conversations.
'Just deal the cards,' I said, pouring another whisky.
Wisdom of Changes [DVD]
DECEMBER 26, 2012
I've just put up on the Yijing Dao site a review of Bettina Wilhelm's film portrait of her grandfather Richard Wilhelm.
Reason to study change
DECEMBER 12, 2012
Reading your post (Mastery over fate) made me curious about what to study the Yijing means. To compare hexagrams and sayings? To go into the depth of characters? To have a daily or frequent posing of questions? To look for the movements in the phenomenal world?
I suppose if one is drawn then one enters.
Studying the Yijing means all the things you mention. But this is of course a (necessary) scattergun approach, since one studies the Yijing to learn how to study it. Fundamentally it is an exercise of pattern recognition in phenomenal becoming in order to intercept, as it were, change at its most germinal level. Through watching the changes follow predictable patterns in a realm ordinarily either thought to be chaotic and without pattern or over-invested with a simplistic pattern that just isn't there (the illusion of cause and effect etc), one comes to appreciate subtle formations in phenomenal life, which then play out via spontaneous cognisance without the tension involved in overwrought scenario building.
The unchanging itself, the background of all change, may then be glimpsed as a result of clearing much of this jungle of apparent change and involvement, with the result that the unchanging is seen to be the absolute reality, and all change just a phenomenal overlay. And yet even this is a simplistic dualism for the purpose of initial differentiation, since actually the unchanging and the changing are exactly the same, because what is perceived as 'change' in an apparent external world, or even an internal world such as dream (still 'external' in this equation), is simply the perceiving itself metamorphosising continuously, and there is no such thing as 'an external world' at all, only the perceiving, and this perceiving endlessly flows but never departs from being the perceiving, once freed of the imputations of perceiver and perceived, which are illusions.
So this flow is not actually the changing of external 'things', it is rather objectless consciousness endlessly and, actually, blissfully turning over and over itself in an eternal apparent motion that is the Singularity we are blessed not merely to be a part of but to be the entirety of, not that it has any 'quantity', only in a manner of speaking. And this fact not only never changes it cannot change. All change is an objectification, instantly creating both a very real-seeming perceiver and that one's perception. This dualism gives rise to the never-endingness of becoming, but never-endingness is not the same as eternity, it is a stream of flow that in terms of human life is entered into via birth and exited via death, seeming beginnings and endings that certainly are nothing of the sort but rather continuations in the never-endingness of time having the character of demarcations.
But underlying this is the timeless eternity, the true Singularity, which has no care about knowing itself but which you and I, as we seem, can plunge into and be dissolved such that there is no longer any body or planet Earth, or universe, save what one created by entering the stream of becoming, which, indeed, can be transformed into another universe altogether, utterly alien to this one, and possessing in its evident characteristics signs of stupendous intelligence that are cut off from the human mind altogether (ostensibly, hyperspatiality).
And even this is still the stream of becoming, witnessed, as it were, by exactly the same being that witnesses this much more dense state that we call life on Earth. Although the witness is not an object save in the conventions of language, which have to be transcended. It is the perceiving, notions of changing and unchanging apply only to object-oriented 'reality', rather it is the metamorphosis of the One, which isn't even One since one implies two. All apparent change is nothing but itself changing into itself, every moment providing the opportunity to see that and, as it were, enter into the perceiving, departing the realm of mere ideas (me, the world). Of course, strictly speaking one doesn't ever 'enter' being from becoming, one always is, this is just a manner of speaking in a time-bound 'zone'.
DECEMBER 6, 2012
I recently had a discussion with an Yijing user over the nature of fate, centring on this quote from Wilhelm's Great Treatise:
This knowledge makes possible mastery over fate, because fate can be shaped if its laws are known.
– pp 296–297, 3rd edition
My correspondent said he would love to believe that mastery over fate was possible, and sought my opinion on the matter. I pointed out, among other things, that elsewhere Wilhelm says that the only way to attain mastery over fate is to accept it completely. My view was that true mastery over fate was not so much being able to influence what happens but rather no longer being bothered about what happens because one has realised freedom from circumstance. However, this raises the question of what the point of the Yijing is, and what is meant by the idea of the shaping of fate, and what is it that might be known that would make that possible.
When things are seen clearly, the Yijing is not needed. I look at it as a means to study change. It was quite unexpected to me after many years of that to find the unchanging under my nose, since I had looked on the notion of the unchanging as relative rather than absolute. The Buddha is right that all in phenomena is impermanent, but 'Buddha-nature' is the unchanging, what Bankei referred to as 'the Unborn'. I'm not convinced that when the Yijing was first set down that the creators of it necessarily grasped the unchanging, yet this concept does appear later. And the Dao itself of course is equated with the unchanging (the expression bugai in chapter 25 of the Daodejing). I don't know whether study of change was an aid in discovery of the unchanging, but obviously there is a relation, whereas in Buddhism one may put the accent on impermanence rather than change as such.
In Buddhism it is important to become convinced that all is indeed impermanent, whereas in Yijing studies one looks at how change operates. I wouldn't go so far as to call this the 'laws' of change, but certainly one can come to appreciate how patterns unfold from small beginnings, such that the path of change becomes predictable and one can accommodate oneself to it in advance. This is of course 'following the Dao', but through investigation of the patterns of change rather than natural instinct and wuwei. This is 'Yi Dao', in fact, the 'way of change', much as kendo is the 'way of the sword' and judo is the 'way of yielding' – 'do' being the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese 'dao'. So this, if you like, is the justification for the Yijing, it is an art of the Dao, and, I would certainly argue, it is a martial art, since it deals with strategy.
The shaping of fate by knowledge of its laws is just another way of saying following the Dao by recognition of the patterns of change as they swirl out of incipience (the concept of ji). It becomes easy to accept what is going to happen because what is going to happen is never without influence, spontaneously and effortlessly, as a result of knowing these patterns. Thus one can be said to have mastery over fate, because complete acceptance is actually the same as complete influence, these are simply differing phenomenal perspectives of the same process, just as absolute surrender is absolute will, and fate is choice since there is no other choice nor indeed any other fate. All there is is acceptance through knowledge (peace), or antagonism through ignorance (suffering). Events themselves, and apparent interaction with the phenomenon, are beyond change while consisting of nothing but change. In other words, change is changeless, and so in effect there is no change at all, merely an appearance of it. And that appearance is entirely of the one fact, absolute reality. So when anyone says they don't know what is real, they're actually looking straight at it because there is nothing else, but because of appearances it looks like endless circumstances to be negotiated. Yet just fall back into the objectless background and there is the reality of it. Following the Dao, mastery over fate, abiding as the Unborn, resting in Buddha-nature, merging with the Absolute or Parabrahman, establishing oneness, and even being the Ipsissimus in the occult, is all the same, just different baggage to drop, that's all. All paths discard themselves so completely there never was a path. If there's still a path, there's still some way to go, obviously.
Life after death
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
Let's clear this up. Life after death is exactly the same as life before death: imagination.
I gradually find I am less shocked by what I have discovered about reality. It just starts to be the case. I grow out of the hidebound habits of imagining, the thought-form world. And the sense that nothing is excluded, that it is all a gigantic unreality, comes on to me, as if to say you thought that was bad, this is gooood. Even the most miraculous experiences fall into place with the rest of it. The alien encounters, for instance, which shaped much of my life, were as imaginary as the house I live in. It's a funny thing, I wrote off the existence of people way before I wrote off the existence of extraterrestrials. Perhaps the latter seemed more exciting somehow. But I'm gradually getting it together. And by that I mean what I've known for years – that life is imaginary – is now pulling into the station where it is both my obvious experience and, most important, totally workable. Totally yeah! I mean that. It's cool, really cool, that nothing exists at all. And I mean that, at all! How amazing that makes this whole bloody thing. Some kind of Solaris planet we're parked in orbit of. For real. As real as that gets. Sometimes you just have to cut your puppet strings and see what happens. Wow, freefall. Wow, just wow. And so it goes on like that. You're kinda keenly impressed that the whole ball of shit amounted to something after all. And then you get to thinking, you put your research scientist hat on… but no, it just is, there's nothing to penetrate any deeper, that's it, it's all… perfectly fine. So you put on some jazz and make a pot of tea, wondering what there was to worry about, because… didn't it seem like there was something? Buggered if you can find it now. Totally workable. Totally yeah. Now, at last, we can start laughing, this baby's coming round…
NOVEMBER 28, 2012
Why do sad feelings make one feel alive? Why is 'melancholy' such a beautiful word? I feel lucky to have had sadness to write about. I have never found happiness very inspiring (that can change). These days I don't believe in anything. I am reminded of emotions by a particularly poignant piece of acting, or fine writing. Such things call forth memories of deeply emotional situations in my past. I am sometimes surprised by the beautiful intensity of what were traumatic times. I am surprised I suppose because there hasn't been anything like that for a long time. I haven't been affected by anything for ages, but I'm only aware of that when touching one of these deep seams from the past, called forth by skilful art, perhaps no more than an expression on the face, a way of slumping in a chair, a character in a play at their lowest ebb, and I think, my goodness, he has really caught that, his entire body is radiating that, what an actor to be able to pull that off.
I sometimes feel I have experienced everything, there is no emotion I am a stranger to, though emotion itself is somewhat of a stranger to me nowadays. I certainly recall thinking at times in the past that I was experiencing too much emotion, that my life consisted of endless broken relationships, disappointments, while others settled into stable long-term relationships and seemed to get what they wanted. And not only this, I threw myself into hallucinogenic and occult experience as if I wanted to soak up all extremes of experience, the most intense and dark emotions. I often wondered why I was doing this. I rarely saw it as having any great purpose, yet I was unrelenting in the lengths I went to to plunge into unearthly despairs, festering cruel betrayals, all manner of loss and damnation. I carried on like a collector of bizarre emotions. I tempted insanity and evoked the most dangerous demons, I fell into stupendous paradises and murderous rages. Yet these days, nothing. Nothing affects me at all, save the evocation through drama or literature of some memory of past emotion, usually of the sad kind, tears may well flow, although it is only a memory, a recreation by present thought, savoured for a few moments then allowed to pass, not something that at all impacts me or has anything to do with me, it is the resonance that there is this emotion, I am not at all bound by it, rather I welcome it as thought turned into art and beauty, its capacity to feel utterly real, and then just disappear, obviously not real in the sense that this is how I feel, only real in the sense that this is an actual emotion, but it does not bind me, on the contrary it liberates me since I see all at once the unreality and reality of all emotions. I do not have to suffer them, I am free to enjoy them, even emotions one might think would cling, such as regret, or grief, even these entertain with their intensity, the welcome ability to feel, then pass once reminded that one can still feel, without anything having changed.
NOVEMBER 11, 2012
It's not as if there's a lot to do, the changeless clears it all. It's like the reset button of the universe, without changing anything. The accumulated burdens of a life seem too heavier a weight to possibly ever shift, the attachment is too strong, yet none of it is sticking, none of it needs lifting off. Now you see it, now you don't. Conventionally, at first, it is most easily seen in the lightness of some spontaneous event. You've been up all night driving yourself into the ground with the forlornness of your life, the sheer ennui of existence, the lack of everything that might be said to make life worthwhile, stifled, bored, just tired of it, night after night, day after day, when, at five in the morning, can't sleep, there is the beautiful song of a robin out in the leaf-shedding trees while it is still dark, up early to the world and loud with it, you may even open the window despite the cold air and letting all the heat out of the room just so as you can hear it better. You may not notice at first, but hasn't everything else just been dumped? This is how it often first comes upon you, this awareness of the changeless in which the bird is singing.
You may soon after go back to your heavy travail, sack on the back full of troubles, but, in time, apparent time, you will come to see that the bird is not required, the bird just showed the way, because even in the midst of the most bitter labour we make out of life none of it is sticking, none of it is pressing down, none of it is really so, and, simultaneously, the door between the changeless and the changing swings back and forth on its hinges like an open outhouse door seesawed by the wind, like a ghost-town door, and, in the midst of everything, everything is abandoned without even need talk of ease, since ease implies its opposite, but here it is simply so, and, as it were, one comes of age in the ageless and all is right with the world despite it having appeared otherwise.
At first, one may attempt to smuggle this realisation back into the changeful world, not quite seeing it is not going anywhere, tugging at it it like strands of a half-remembered dream unravelling to nothing in the effort. It may seem one has gained little from one's 'awakening' to the unchanging, everything is as it was before and quite possibly just a little worse. It may take some time yet, apparent time, before it dawns in a rather more genuine smile than one has been used to for a while, that nothing was ever lost, since there is not one moment shaved off eternity that does not sit safely and soundly in the changeless, everything that moves and changes constantly without end an efflorescence of being, who one took oneself to be a bewildering diminution of the actual, like a mistake one simply cannot understand how one could have made, and, in the end, all one can say is that that is where the ball settled when it dropped into the gravity well, how it lost itself when it fell into time. But clearly, there is less interest now in that, and more in this.
The futility of change
NOVEMBER 10, 2012
Change doesn't get you anywhere. Change just keeps on changing, there's nothing in it to have and to hold. Even if you learn to ride out the changes, that's all you're doing, it's not getting you anywhere it's just the lie of not minding. There's no point hoping a bad situation will change into a good one or hoping a good one won't turn into a bad one, it's all going to change no matter what. If you're honest with yourself you'll see that your past is not a string of experiences hosted in memory mostly with warmth and a little dread, slowly fading, but actually is an entire chunk broken off like the side of a cliff that's crashed down into the ocean. It's gone, so gone it may as well never have been, and, frankly, was it? It's just a blank cut off at the moment. You may as well relax the effort of maintaining your past. It's a door slammed shut by the wind of change, memory just the slow-motion footage.
NOVEMBER 6, 2012
I've never really been interested in writing the stuff people want to publish, although for years I wished someone might want to publish it. This has naturally led me to devalue my own creativity, seeing it as a bit of a curse. I feel I've written from the Abyss for years now. It's a limited taste, perhaps. I thought in the 80s that I would become less revolutionary as the years passed. It doesn't seem to be the case. I have always felt defined by what seemed withheld. I wasn't an outsider who wanted to be inside, I was an outsider who wanted to be more dangerously so. It seemed to me that the thought of suicide wasn't something to cure yourself of, to draw back from in fear, on the contrary it felt like something to constantly hold over myself as a threat. Of course, my vision was sufficiently penetrating to realise suicide wasn't a real end, and so nothing, it was just a rustle in the bushes to frighten children. Sad though, those circumstances.
To me, writing was often the possibility of conversing with demons. Or finding a revolutionary streak. Sometimes I would drive myself to the depths of despair just so as I could find a way of belittling those circumstances. It seemed a sort of adventure. I gradually lost touch with most 'normal' things but retained my talent for appearing sane. Not just sane, wise even, but it was a wisdom wrought from torture, though I smile as I say it. I have often said that to understand me is a trip you don't want to make, so what little social interaction comes my way is usually kept at the chit-chat level. There were once people I had deep conversations about the nature of life with long into the night, but there aren't any any more. I don't know whether I wish for it either, it looks like a solitary journey now. But one never knows what one may encounter. Writing is a way of talking to someone who isn't there. You may get to hear later how this or that touched them. I confess that has to remain interesting, even though so much else has lost its interest. I often feel like a man in exile writing notes to scatter around his corpse. That the wind should blow them away is as fitting as anything.
‘Hope you’re enjoying life’
NOVEMBER 4, 2012
A friend sent me an email containing her various recent happinesses and signed off: 'Hope you're enjoying life.' I thought about this for a while. It's a terrible responsibility, isn't it, to make sure you're enjoying life? That's my doing, that is, I have to make sure I enjoy life. What if I'm not enjoying life, what if I'm bored fucking stiff of it? Obviously I'm not doing something right. Frankly, I reject the pressure to be having a good life. I abandon any responsibility I might feel for ordering events to my satisfaction. I rebel against the need to be happy, if anything it only makes me unhappy, this pressure to fulfil some ludicrous ideal. It's easy to look back on your life and think, when that was happening I was happy, when I was with such-and-such I was happy, now I am not as happy as that, now I must be miserable. Until the invitation to wonder whether I was happy, wonder whether I was enjoying life, was slammed down on the table for my consideration, I couldn't give two fucks about it, but oh no, now I'm considering it, now I'm looking at it, and d'you know what, no, I don't think I am happy, I don't think I am enjoying life, actually. But what the fuck do I care about that? Can I hold onto my sadness with any more success than I can hold onto my happiness? If I don't think about it for a second do I even know whether I am happy or not? I'm against thinking about stuff. What's to be gained? Am I happy? Am I enjoying life? I don't fucking know! And, when it comes down to it, do I fucking care? What a trivial little gauge of life. Am I to spend my time like a Colossus holding back the stifling walls of sadness closing in on me? Or am I just going to say fuck it I'm happy fuck it I'm sad. What do I care? Oh, I can be invited to care, sure I can, usually by comparison with the happy happy lives of fucking others. Fuck em. I'd rather slide into a pool of my own piss freezing up against a wall than come and play that game. Hope you're enjoying life. Well thanks very much, hope you are too.
Life is an acid trip we’ve got used to
NOVEMBER 3, 2012
It's a self-evident truth that no-one else knows the world in which you live. Yet we persist in imagining that it is a shared world. We do this to feel less lonely, yet the only reason we feel lonely in the first place is because we feel separate from the world. In actuality the world is only yourself projected outwards from an imagined 'hub' of the body, the body itself a coalescence from the same nothingness as the world, and you are that nothingness, that unknown mysteriousness that is the only reason to be here: to know it.
Naturally, 'you' cannot know it if by 'you' is meant the conventional idea of a human person, as opposed to the actuality of everything and nothing. You have to get used to the idea that what you have taken to be you is not you, nowhere near you. There is nothing that is not you. So-called 'other people' are not other at all, let alone people. They are all you. Animals, trees, cars, houses, the sky, the cosmos, it's all you. There is nothing else any of this could possibly be.
The entire world, and I don't see any point beating about the bush, is a figment of the imagination. That's not to say it is not interesting, as a phenomenon it is miraculous, and that's what there is to realise, that none of it is real as taken, but as evidence of a power to imagine things into existence it is a marvel. Now what this marvel is is the real journey, that's what we have to figure out, to use the common parlance. Not so much figure out as simply be. It's not that I am a human being born in relatively small circumstances on the edge of the Space Age in a world collapsing into chaos, far from it, I am the Space Age, I am chaos. I am everything that has ever been or ever will be, there is nothing but me. So what am I to do about that? Nothing, nothing at all. I don't need to do anything. It's already all doing itself. It was doing itself before I realised it, it will carry on doing itself even should I momentarily fall into Oblivion and forget it.
Once the seed of realisation has been sown, can it ever really be forgotten? Everywhere I look it is self-evidently obvious. The nature of 'obviousness' is something I have tried to get to grips with. What makes something obvious? It's a plain fact that something can be obvious, without it being obvious why it is obvious. Why is it obvious? What has made it obvious, when it wasn't obvious before? And yet, it is obvious that there has never been a before, so, again to use common parlance, it has always been obvious, there was never a time when it wasn't obvious. Isn't it true that when you realise that something is obvious you realise you've always known it? It's just that up until that imaginary moment when it apparently became obvious, you just didn't happen to be focusing on it, that's all. That's the entirety of it. That's why I'm telling you that everything I have said here is obvious to you, and if it doesn't seem so that's just because you're looking over there at the moment and not over here. It's as simple as that.
It serves no-one's interest to be perplexed about it, you should only be perplexed about it because perplexity is an interesting thing in itself, for a while. It is actually the pain of existence that causes the head to turn this way, seeking a solution, but it is certainly true, at least I found it to be so, that patterns of behaviour must be repeated many times before even an inkling into them is gained. It is as if illusion is a teacher by rote. There appears to be an immense drive to know who one really is, which, in most people, is drastically sublimated and hidden beneath layers and layers of conditioning. Of course, this vision of 'most people' is just a reflection of oneself, a visual metaphor for rising up out of the primordial slime of who one was to seem to become who one is, though one was never not that.
You see, there aren't any people at all, they are just bandages for the eyes that fear being blinded by the light. You are this entire fantastic chaos, at heart a simple peaceful being capable of creating systems of astonishing complexity without even thinking about it. If you want to understand this being all you have to do is realise that you are it, no more understanding required. And the world, figment though it is, carries on just the same as before, save with a great peace at its centre. There is nothing to compare with unchanging tranquillity in the midst of and perfectly in touch with this raging chaos of phenomena. It is as if one is at last who one was meant to be, though one was never not it, and all about is quite simply a form of perfection continually changing while you never change, though they are not two, they are the same. The phenomenon is like a light held in the hands, ethereal, the aura of what one is, a reflection of an unseen emanation. And the early morning sound of cawing rooks pass through you as if you are just pure space, and it seems laughable to imagine that the body is anything required, the locus of you. And the world is but a beautiful idea resting like dew on the flowers of nothingness.
The eighties had a lot going for them
OCTOBER 17, 2012
Lately I've found myself wanting to return to something of the energy of the eighties, specifically the time before I got my first computer (1988) and still wrote on an old typewriter, but essentially pre-internet, since in the early nineties I was printing letterpress and that had the same energy. I used to receive loads of letters, typewritten or handwritten, and of course no emails. I got back into manual typewriters again in 2005, and most of the first book I'll eventually get round to publishing at The Coronzon Press was written on one, a 1923 Underwood Standard Portable, although the book itself was begun in 1998 just after my dad died. And the typewriter bug has recently returned again, I've been writing a lot the past few weeks on a 1935 Underwood Universal and a 1960 Imperial Good Companion 5, the latter of which has an amazing carriage return lever that just hooks into the finger perfectly. My first typewriter bought around 1982 was an Imperial, a desktop model, the Imperial 66. Some time after I got my first computer I tried to fix some small thing that was wrong with it, working completely in the dark about its mechanism, and proved the truth of the old saying that if you take apart a typewriter and don't know how to put it back together again then you've broken it. I am far more careful these days. Very sad to kiss goodbye to my old friend, but I had my new computer so I was rather callous about it and chucked all the bits in the bin. Hakim Bey warned me long ago about the world slipping into virtuality, on his typewriter indeed, but you don't realise it's this that is sapping your energy, your creativity. That's not to say the internet isn't crammed full of creativity, of course it is, but it all has this same texture, and it's very deadening. Lately I've been reading 'Typosphere' blogs, blogs written on old typewriters scanned onto the web, and been finding them really absorbing. It's been reminding me of how I spent my time in the eighties, just typing away, focussed solely on that, no distractions. I'm not sure I want to post typewritten sheets on the web myself, I think I prefer just writing completely away from the web. I just write the pages, banging them out on the typewriter, then I lay them face down in a box file unread. I won't read any of the sheets again for maybe a year or longer, when I might start forming a book out of it all. That's the way I work. The past few years I haven't had much interest in writing at all, save for these journal posts where I kept my hand in. I wondered whether the interest in what I call 'real writing' would ever return. But what happened was quite subtle. It crept up on me. While I was wondering about that, the interest in old typewriters returned, and naturally I would type on them to put them through their paces if it was one I'd just got. Without me quite realising, the interest in writing was returning via the interest in typewriters. And this has been reminding me of my pre-internet days. It's amazing to consider that some people are too young to have had an existence before the internet. I think my recent experience has confirmed in me some movement that has been happening for a while, a wish for a more textured life, with not so much of it soaked up by the virtual world. It is not as if I have ever been into that anyway, I'm not on Facebook, I don't have a Twitter account, I don't have a mobile phone, I've never sent a text in my life, I don't have a television even. But of course I do have a computer. The question is, how much time do I want to spend on it? I get the feeling there is a small typewriter resurgence. That's one thing the web is good for, finding out about typewriters. I sometimes wonder whether I am now like those people who rave about steam locomotives or collect old toffee tins (some beautiful old typewriter ribbon tins). Am I going to spend the rest of my life on eBay? Am I going to end up an old man with a flat full of typewriters? But the beauty of this old machinery aside, they are primarily functional objects made for one purpose only, to write. Was it Bukowski who said you can live without a woman but you can't live without a typewriter? You start to see it, I tell you.
Endurance of mediocrity
OCTOBER 7, 2012
I was sitting in the chilly garden as the sun went down contemplating the idea that human existence amounts to little more than the daily endurance of mediocrity, growing increasingly annoyed with the little that life really offers, the constant barrage of backwardness, the uninterestingness of it all, when into the silence of dusk came the approaching cries of a hundred or more gulls, and I dropped the idea in preference to this visitation of the beautiful, although what I said still stands, but it is true enough that the two cannot be held at once, and it seemed the natural thing to do to get up from my chair and watch the gulls go, that lovely calming sound, and the rooks that started their own chorus when the gulls had gone as the light gradually seeped away.
Although one may make judgments of the world of a pessimistic nature, they can never be wholly satisfying because they are never the whole truth. But one should not refrain from making them, if this is what is felt. What I have said, taken as a whole, seems more truthful than repetitive and unqualified praise of existence, since that always seems something of a fixed smile, a forced smile, a deliberate leaving of something out, a hollow and false appraisal, peeping through the crack of a door and talking up the wonders that flash by too fast to really know them, to be so sure it is paradise and not hell that is in such a rush to get nowhere. But certainly the boredom of being can be dropped any time it ceases to be of interest, because it is interest that keeps it going. And the funny thing is, the longer one contemplates one's boredom, the more it starts to appear interesting and not what one has taken it for at all.
Then of course there is the boredom of enlightenment… it is about time one smiled again for no reason, this hangdog expression of one's true nature denies the face muscles the exercise they need, and the eyes require lubrication. If you want to see it as moving, as profound, fine, but it's just a subroutine of livingness. Sometimes you may like to find it joyful, other times you may like to find it tragic, it's all just working in the dark. Pat a few theories on the head and call them your knowledge, your discoveries, your insights. The truly wise yearn to be rocks, stones, that for them is completion. Meanwhile, clouds gather in and the rain comes, casting away petty human concerns, saying come this way, come this way and be free.
The Room of Eternal Pondering
OCTOBER 1, 2012
I often wish I were not. But it has no meaning. It's merely a gesture, as one might automatically hold out one's hand to shake another hand as that hand is extended, it's a gesture made towards the idea of non-being, a meaningless nihilism as meaningless as shaking hands, as meaningless as everything, triggered as meaninglessly as any number of other things are triggered, perhaps as a result of the feeling that there is nothing left here any more of any interest, having exhausted the existential, or been exhausted by it.
There is no longer a 'correct response' to anything. The wise man is stuck being a wise man, the sage cannot escape being a sage, the guru can only say guru things. It is somehow discouraged to say that one is tired of life. One must retain one's enthusiasm. One must still be awestruck by the wonders of nature, the vastness of space, the frontiers of science. Yet a dull mood can remove all of that, dash it to the ground like a fragile ornament. Even the old habits of thought offer no retreat, they are like cogs that aren't engaging with each other. I am neither happy nor unhappy, neither joyful nor sad, there is no basis for these states. This is what I mean about the cogs not engaging. I couldn't be fooled if I wanted to be. I don't even look back on life, there's nothing there. I have no hopes for the future, it's a mirage that doesn't even appear any more. Even philosophical questions hold little interest. I have no idea where I am, but I don't care to know either. It doesn't matter if anything happens, there is no dependency on circumstance at all. Judging my state of mind as 'good' or 'bad' holds no interest. I sometimes try to judge it as 'bad', but it's like catching snowflakes that melt in the warmth of the hand. It doesn't engage any mechanism, it's neither here nor there, it's meaningless.
Sometimes I try to visualise my situation in a way I have seen in fleeting visions, but the interest I do have in the Universal Being in the Room of Eternal Pondering, existentially alone, being everything, falls back from its grandiosity into just a handful of sounds and sensations as ostensibly the same predicament, but without need of a solution. I try to find the reflections in a glass of water as fascinating as they undoubtedly are, the sheer detail and completeness of what it is, I pick it up, turn it in my hand a moment, put it back down. It's a mystery, but without it seeming a mystery, it's just a glass of water, and yet, that's the last thing it is. The enlightened wallahs tell us not to be bothered about matter, it's just an illusion. Well sure, sure it is, but what is it once you've seen that, when everything is an illusion? An illusion is the last thing it is, that's just elementary, that's just another name.
I sometimes wonder whether life was more exciting when I was bothered about things, when I believed in things, when I had a purpose. I sometimes wonder whether I lost something important in finding what I was looking for. I do try hard, sometimes, to feel a sense of loss, but it's really straining, like holding my breath under water, and I just laugh at what I'm trying to do in attempting to recapture some semblance of being bothered about something. Sometimes I toy with the idea that I am like a clockwork robot in a clockwork universe, just going through the motions of living. But, while it feels accurate for as long as I want it to, it takes but a split second to appreciate the immense subtlety of what I am, and the idea that I am just going through the motions of living, while true enough on the surface, conceals the extraordinary living intelligence that I actually am only for the amusement of thinking less of myself. It is more that the intelligence I am poses a contrast with some other way of living, mainly to see that there is no such thing as a more exciting way of life, just snatched ideas and constructs of memory, the illusory sense of then and now merely to create a sense of loss, or progress, or better or worse.
Sometimes I dismiss the body and the life that surrounds it as an automation, of no interest whatsoever, and instead exist as a formless castaway on a little island of the senses not giving any of them any meaning or narrative, without time, with space requiring quite an excessive amount of mental energy to put in place such that I often don't bother, making do with a limited flux of occasional spontaneous sounds, a flicker of light. Sometimes the familiar is turned into the utterly unknown – is it through an exercise of will, or not? I don't know how to answer the question, though if it's anyone's doing it's mine. Language, the whole notion of language, is on a par with the sound of a distant train carried in the silence of the night. Neither offers anything more than the other.
Sometimes I spend all night in an intense anticipation of nothing in particular, other nights I clean out old machinery with a brush and oil it, a hobby of sorts, a liking for the manual mechanisms of previous generations. I don't have friendships the way I used to have them. Most of the time I am not really aware of other people save as a nuisance, or as the carrier wave of a drama. I don't yearn for relationship as I used to. I am not waiting for anything. While it is all a mystery, even the idea that it is a mystery is seeming a little hackneyed. A mystery compared to what? The cogs don't engage with it. I'd say it was all something behind me, save that I can't attach any meaning to that, there doesn't appear to be anything at all that could be described as 'a former state'. I feel like I'm making it up, to talk about a past, and the future is such an obvious fantasy I cannot even stray a microsecond ahead. I haven't known the end of any sentence I have begun for at least thirty years, maybe never, but they all end fine and some even make it sound as if I know what I'm talking about.
I don't know what drew me to write the above. It began by having the thought 'I often wish I were not'. I don't know why I wrote that one down, but, once it had been written down the action was begun and other sentences followed. I think it is more honest to live this way. I sometimes wish I could wish for something, but it strikes me I have emptied out. I don't know the difference between anything and anything else. I can't say that anything marks anything out as being different from anything else. So what is there to wish for? I am everything, and everything is really nothing. In this, wishing I were not is merely a gesture, as already stated. It is like closing the eyes when tired, or saying 'I prefer to go now'. There is nowhere to go, but I can still express it. The wish to go now, I sometimes feel it is my own song, the resonance I am attuned to, the feeling that remains when all other feeling is gone, the one care left to the carefree being, silently distilled in the heart, always evaporating leaving no residue in favour of the quiet joy of being because left no choice.
It was destined for the bonfire, but the matches were damp…
SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
I started writing this journal in March 2003. There was a hiatus in 2007, when I returned to my typewriter stacking up sheets privately. I still write on an old typewriter, what I laughingly call 'my books', which will come out from The Coronzon Press when the motivation appears. Not been much motivation of late. Not for that anyway, but you never know when things may flow in any particular direction. I said to myself that I would start publishing them when I got over a hundred subscribers to the mailing list. I have just reached that, eighteen months after first announcing The Coronzon Press project. I'm reminded of that line in Krapp's Last Tape:
Seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas. Getting known.
I feel sure that was Beckett's own sardonic comment on the slowness of finding a readership. Well, in some ways I am glad of my literary disappointment. It meant I stopped caring about it. When you still care about something it's hard to take that final step over the threshold of the Void. Nothing is ruled out, though, not even a well-deserved readership late in life, or posthumously. That would seem to make sense of the story of being implanted with an apparent will to write, it would have narrative integrity. After all it is not as if I am spending my time dashing off any old cobblers just to make me rich and famous, toying with a vain dream, rather I'm getting down a serious revolutionary instinct and finding its outlet almost completely dammed up. A vain dream of another sort I will concede, and dams break, I know that much. But I might have got it all wrong, that may not be the story at all, it may be the story of the failure of one's greatest aspiration, a suicide absurdly carrying on. I'm easy either way. There's a certain grandeur to both actually and exhibiting a preference is surplus to requirements, because it's doing itself. Of course a certain lack of interest from a world I have no belief in is its tit-for-tat revenge, but I'm buggered if I'm going to crank up some naive glamour to suck me back into the throes of it at this late stage. It does tend to put a damper on motivation. But who said motivation was important? In actuality the moment just contains what it does, and little spontaneous jaunts here and there build up (in the illusion of progress, achievement, accumulation). The worst thing is wanting something, and, thankfully, I don't want anything any more, though it may seem I occasionally succumb to the old enthusiasms for this and that, which pass quickly, and are just like what I used to call motivation when motivation seemed important. When there is no-one to be motivated the whole idea of motivation falls apart. Spontaneities simply get labelled that way, as if there is someone who is 'back on track'. That's the appearance, he's pulled his finger out, he's stopped being lazy. It's all a nonsense. What gets done gets done, something not getting done is that getting done. I still write, I still read my writing – what I call my 'proper writing' – many many times deleting and reinstating until there is 'loss of the will to make changes', which is how I once said the state of completion could be recognised, essentially a point of abandonment.
Anyway, I took my old journal writings offline quite some time ago. In the past I burnt a great deal of my writing. Because it was produced on a typewriter there was no copy, so it really was gone. Four whole books, many notes, all gone up in smoke. But with this digital writing it's hard to expunge it and now I've gone past the point of caring with it so I've put these old writings back online, should anyone be interested, accessible via the new link at the top of the page.
What does it matter what anything seems?
AUGUST 31, 2012
I was surprised when a correspondent who had been reading my journal remarked that I 'seem to have arrived at a kind of despair'. I surmised that he had only read a few pieces in isolation and hadn't taken particular cognisance of where I write about seeing through despair. Nonetheless, I felt duty-bound to point out that there is no greater aid than despair for one who hopes to grasp the nature of reality (I sometimes say to those who complain that self-realisation is eluding them that they obviously haven't suffered enough). And despair does have its literary dimension. E M Cioran's book On the Heights of Despair, written when he was just 22, is a marvellous read. But I find that people generally feel that it is somehow wrong to despair, that to witness it in others makes them uncomfortable and they are quick to offer their remedy.
It's advice meant well, no doubt, but it just doesn't take into account that despair in its purest form comes out of an apparent existential dilemma that makes despair the only sane response. That that dilemma is an illusion hardly needs to be stated, but taking things on their own terms one must at least recognise that despair can never be properly ameliorated by some distraction to take one's mind off it, nor by a reminder of one's 'good qualities' and undoubted value to society, since the existential dilemma I speak of demands despair, any other response is simply not appreciating the magnitude of it, and I have never seen any point in covering that over with paper-thin ideas that will never take any weight when push comes to shove. So I would say it is important to recognise that you are in despair not because you are somehow lacking the wherewithal to appreciate the good and fine life but rather because you have correctly identified the situation, as far as it goes at least in the bubble of mind-based slavery that people call 'life', and anyone who thinks there is something 'wrong' with that is just feeling uncomfortable in the face of one who has had the courage not to put a gloss on it. Despair is of course like any other human response to life just a transient state and by definition all transiency is unreal, save as its substratum of swirling chaotic energies – in that it is appearing, rather than it has any particular form since all forms are empty – certainly it is not real as people, houses, jobs, and whatever else it may habitually be thought to look like. Despair like everything is simply not what it appears to be, despite the assured assumptions that come from the conditioning of mass consensus accepted without question (there is a world, it was here before I was born, it will be remain after I die, and I am a bodymind ant within it, and all the rest of this mantra of stupidity).
One does not 'address' despair. What does it matter what anything seems? But people love to identify transient states in themselves and others as definitional categories. The violence of diagnosis. He is depressed. She is happy. Not to mention that even he and she are just patterns looming up from a blur and given a boundary for the purposes of meeting up and communicating, before that isolated pattern hops on a bus and blends back into the blur and it is just the heave of unknown uncared-for faces milling in the street, the pattern popping up again in idle thoughts from time to time. Those happy to confine themselves to boundaries will confine others without a second thought, without even starting to guess or speculate that nothing is actually the way they see it.
So someone will read something I have written and conclude: He is in despair. What nonsense! That I am no stranger to despair simply gives me something to say about it. I do not define myself by transitory states and neither should you. And, ultimately, there is nowhere I have explored that I have not wished to go. I write what I write. But when you read it you read what you read. When something is not understood it is inevitably interpreted. Understanding is absolute, and I demand nothing else since I give nothing else. Interpretation is relative, and most often relative not to anything I have written but to issues in your own life. If you read me and conclude I am 'in despair', I would suggest that innumerable other interpretations are possible but none of them substitute for a direct understanding. One might wonder what is the point of writing at all if so few understand it. You could consider that the times you have come to this page and found that I have not written anything new are times when I have preferred silence to saying something. I'm not bothered about being read and not understood, but I do have some objection to being read and misunderstood. Not that there is anything I can do about it but point it out.
Practice and karma
AUGUST 4, 2012
Thanks for the speedy reply, it is appreciated. Despite using 'outcomes' I have been approaching it in a similar vein: having a charge for or against. Whenever I have used it I have noticed the tendency to view it in terms of ripeness while asking, and I often find that the Oracle refers directly to the formulation or structure of the desire itself, as if asking: 'why are you trying to capture this and make it "real?"' It has coincided with thoughts about the seeking of permanence, as if most of life is an attempt at drowning everything in formaldehyde.
When you limit yourself to the body there are ever-changing circumstances to deal with. But as the unchanging being you are no more located in the body than the chair or desk, or room or outside of the room, so there is nothing to do or ask about because the premise of being someone with a question with a need to do something just doesn't apply. Things get done but not with any sense of anything being done, because change is no longer to fill a lack or fulfil a desire but simply just the swirling of the system, and the system is just the shadow by which the presence of the sun is noted without turning to face it directly. There is no need to seek an oracle for and against naturalness.
This response of yours appeals to me. It is amusing because it is obvious. At times it is very close; at other times it is just words that come out in interpersonal situations, where I feel silly for stating it at all – of course it is always possible to forget and slip away into some complex narrative, but that slipping into body rarely feels like a disappointment – it just is.
I've noted that when limiting oneself to body, one can feel acutely its desires swirling, whereupon one checks 'the world' to see if there is some match, like trying to find a partner to dance with. It reminds me of feeling a certain emotion that one labels, such as sadness, and then trying to ascertain why it is there, as if it has to have some source to be other than the unchanging.
Sometimes I compulsively explore those shadows of the sun in terms of trying to find a way for the body to live easily with the Dao – it pities itself a bit. Do you separate the idea of one's Karma from an overall naturalness; from the time? It seems like to have such a naturalness of being in perceived cycles of delusion is to wait passively for that enlightenment crack. Agency doesn't really interest me, but I suppose neither does the narrative of having something to wait for either. Perhaps it is just a ripening, where the illusion of having a certain timeline is necessary for 'I' to remember itself as it is. I however have this sense that it is just another way for it to distract itself.
I have the notion that you don't connect any practices to where you are now, and yet I am curious if there was anything else in particular you were drawn to besides nembutsu? I am somewhat enticed by the ability of noting practice to make mental phenomena a source of mindfulness. Lately though all practice tastes bitter, and just comes back out of my mouth immediately.
I have explored numerous mystical practices over the past three decades, and before that there was the 'practice' of the scientific method. I prefer to speak in terms of 'exploration' though, rather than 'practice', since the former describes the nature of how I took it, whereas the latter merely emphasises a certain bondage to method. Exploration is lighter, has a more joyous feel, and makes dropping anything simply the start of a new exploration rather than a failure to continue a 'practice'. But certainly I don't regard any of these phenomenal ways and means as being a necessary condition of knowing who I am, far from it, one could just as well say they have been a hindrance, but overall I just regard them as a way of spending the time that has bequeathed certain insights that are useful in phenomenal life. Study and practice of the Yijing, for instance, gives a means for examining the nature of change in the laboratory of oneself. I was always a practical experimenter, this is why I studied chemistry, but the model of the 'scientific method' – broadly try it and see what happens and don't be deluded – has been a good one.
Awaiting the 'crack of enlightenment', which I wrote about previously, is of course a mistake from the perspective that there is nothing to wait for, in that it presupposes something called 'enlightenment', which will never be found because it is merely a mental model of something different from what is, and since enlightenment if it means anything at all is seeing what is then obviously awaiting enlightenment is by definition waiting for something that isn't going to come. Now of course this is in itself a powerful natural koan, without need of made-up rubbish like the sound of one hand clapping or a dog not having Buddha-nature, and pondering your navel for eternity may in the end make even giving up seem like enlightenment, in that there is a shift in dynamic that may permit seeing what is and has always been. But clearly you can see that now, so why hang about? The biggest obstacle is the mind redefining the clear and present obviousness of aware being as 'not it', such that one never gets a chance to appreciate just what this 'it' actually is before swiftly being moved on to some mental distraction, some binding chain of conceptual images that indeed must 'wait' until it is broken in a lull such that 'what is' has a chance to become obvious once again.
But it is a mistake to believe the mind should it one day proclaim this as enlightenment or awakening, since that is the sucker punch that results in it appearing to be lost again, such that the enlightened or awakened one must from then on refer back to some event and take the crumbs of the mind as to its meaning, rather than directly seeing one's ever-present being, which is eternally spontaneously self-aware and unchanging without recourse to conceptual entification as a 'me' to 'understand it', because when there is that talebearer in the way counting his gold there is someone who has gained, and a someone who has gained is someone who will lose, since this is phenomenal and phenomena conforms to a cyclic turning over, a natural ebb and flow, which is the essential insight of Yijing studies and beautiful when one is fully in tune with it, which is being the Dao. Hence all ideas of 'practice' geared towards 'attainment' are flawed conceptual models that actually ensure that any 'attainment' is necessarily lost, and good that it is too, since what better way of seeing that this is simply not it? But of course many end up clinging to such nonsense and the notion that practice is necessary continues, carried forward both by those who have recently found it only to lose it and those who imagine they have never found it and would dearly like to do so, as well as those who have found it and are in denial that they have lost it who call themselves 'the awakened' just in case anyone imagines they are not special. What a farce, when 'it' is right here, always has been and always will be, so obvious it has to be laughable. But of course then they say, 'It may be obvious to you, but it's not to me.' But who's talking? A habit of the mind yet to be dropped.
As for your mention of karma, there really is no such thing beyond the thought of it. It is merely a word to hint in its negative aspect at a certain felt imprisonment by circumstance, the delusion of a conceptually created being that has become identified with passing states of change from which it is attempting to secure some sense of peace and permanence, overlooking that the source of this conundrum is already that and that source is what one is, not the artificially attenuated actor in life that one believes one is, for amusement one might say, until the burden of it overwhelms the sense of enjoyment and so the pressing need to discover who one really is manifests on the stage and the magick of phenomena begins to perform its immense turning circle, like a huge ship in the water, appearing to gradually turn one to face what one discovers one never actually lost sight of for a moment. But naturally it seems to take time before this is an effortless seeing, because the actor in life imagines, as he has with everything else up to now, that he must take responsibility for performing this feat when actually all of it is simply happening on its own and always was. And that is what we may call karma in its positive aspect: no sweat, the finish line has already been crossed. This is the ananda or bliss part of the equation, to realise one is already saved from what otherwise can only be perceived as a potential existential nightmare. Although this is an instant realisation, why not take the luxury of the illusion of time to let it sink in? What else is there to do? And so, after what seems like a long struggle, one can start to enjoy life without any need for any particular circumstance to come along, even the dust and leaves having a sparkling radiance akin to that that all things have on an LSD trip. Although it hardly matters whether or not any particular effects are noticed, or whether they come and go, since that is phenomena and that is what phenomena does.
Instead one may settle into a sort of 'grand old man of the universe' mode, not fooled by anything, perhaps a little childlike, perhaps even sometimes appearing to care, care deeply, about transient things, but knowing there will be nothing to regret on his deathbed, for all there was once much he wanted to accomplish, as an actor on the stage of his life. And who knows, maybe yet it will be accomplished, not through any effort of his own, but certainly there must have been a reason for wanting certain things and not others when one was fooled by the whole notion of wanting, but even this is just a passing thought, a nod in the direction of a philosophy he once wanted to master, and, who knows, maybe it registers in the Akashic Record for others to draw on, all this that he has put away and finished with. For all that words are hollow representations, is there not a recognisable beauty in their skilful use? Why not consider everything to do with phenomena? Am I to write it off just as I have conjured it up? The important thing is to know what it is. What it appears to be is not the truth, but that it appears is reality.
AUGUST 3, 2012
In regard to the previous post, some have expressed the opinion that divination with the Yijing is about much more than asking the nature of 'the time' (shi). I expected this objection, indeed, it is a predictable response, since what I said may seem to tread on the toes of those who haven't yet got around to grasping just what the Yijing is and how it functions and are still happy with the comfy though sloppy illusion that it conforms in its answers to whatever is put to it, no matter how inept the approach.
There is nothing else the Yijing talks about than 'the time', although certainly I too have indulged over the years many quaint sentiments about its functioning. However, I put these to the test in a sober reckoning of its actual powers, until I understood subtleties I had not the wherewithal to appreciate at the beginning, an evolution that necessarily involved discarding many cherished ideas that were revealed to be naive, so I understand well the hideboundness that opposes this kind of blossoming of understanding. The closed mind that cannot appreciate when it is being told something that would be of benefit. Let it be said that I am sharing a little of this understanding here, rather than merely offering unexamined platitudes about divination that, frankly, do not have a great deal of depth and represent more the school of wishful thinking.
The plain fact is that if you put a question to the oracle about some matter deemed to be timelessly objective you will get a response about the nature of 'the time'. This is the currency the oracle deals in, passing states of change, and so it is inevitable, being an oracle, that it will reveal the current nature of 'the time' as the inroad into any concern. No matter what you ask, however you hedge it with caveats or implore that the oracle conform to your own limited grasp of it, still it will tell you about 'the time', always, and if you choose to interpret it as saying something else, well then, who is to blame if you must learn to 'fine tune' your appreciation when you have a further decade's vague interpreting under your belt?
While diviners may interpret the oracle any way they choose, the hexagram and its pattern of changing lines is not talking about what you asked in the way you asked it just because you expect it to do so, rather it is telling you what the nature of 'the time' is, whether it is expanding or contracting, becoming tranquil or stagnating, whether it is a time to forge ahead or wait. How could the Yijing ever give as an answer a generalism divorced from the way things stand right now? It doesn't happen.
It is foolish to imagine that the Yi can answer a question in a vacuum without making explicit reference always to the nature of the time. To reveal 'the time' is the sole function of the Yi. Anything else is just fodder for misinterpretation, straws to clutch at until this very solid understanding is reached. Then perhaps one will see that 'knowing the time' is not some limited sideshoot of the Yijing, but is rather the key to mastering it.
JULY 29, 2012
I was curious if you limited the types of questions you put forth to the Yijing. I have been limiting more or less to asking about the outcomes of acting in a certain way. Have there been any other frameworks you've found seductive?
When I consult the Yijing, which I do rarely these days, I ask two 'questions' on an issue, 'Oracle for it' and 'Oracle against it' (better seen as 'charges' to the oracle, rather than 'questions'). In terms of action this is oracle for doing it and oracle for not doing it. This is essentially the same as asking about the consequences of doing or not doing something, similar to your 'outcome'. But this latter language is too future-oriented for my liking, since to ask about 'outcome' or 'consequences' must involve a timeframe because any process is cyclic, necessarily going through phases of 'good fortune' and 'bad fortune', with there being no actual definable end point. In other words, it is impossible to ask about the 'outcome' of anything, since it will change, and, once one gets into defining time periods to restrict the scope of the oracle, it all gets very vague and largely irrelevant. So I no longer bother about divining future consequences because what I really want to know is whether there is support or not for whatever it is right now. Asking about outcomes or consequences assumes too much, namely that the future is real, as opposed to just being a mind construct.
All divination has ever really been about is knowing the propensities of the present moment, the way circumstances are flowing now so as to know what can be done and what can't be done. In Chinese this is called knowing shi or 'the time'. This has nothing to do with knowing the future, it cuts far deeper than passive curiosity about some imagined static 'future state'. The future as such simply doesn't exist, there is only right now, and it is only by knowing the possibilities inhering in the phenomenal now that some mythical projected desired 'future' may be approached at all, since if one is in perfect alignment with the Dao one need not be concerned with 'outcome', because it inheres right now in incipient form (the Chinese concept of ji, whereby one sees how any and every seed of 'the future' is growing, granting a natural and easy influence in regard to that growth, as opposed to a desire-heavy attempt to manipulate events to one's liking, a very hit-or-miss affair reliant upon the delusion of acting according to personal will and doership, rather than having action emerge spontaneously [ziran] from a field of otherwise doing nothing [wuwei], with no intention or goal).
The only true way to divine with the Yijing is to ask about the nature of 'the time' in relation to whatever it is one wishes to know about. In practical terms, a simple way of doing this is to ask for an oracle for and an oracle against. I feel it is pointless to ask about outcomes except as a way of divining 'the time' in terms of whether it is considered a good thing or not, knowing full well that 'outcome' is not a reality but just a construct in order to more easily appreciate shi. The trouble with using future-oriented language though is that one can subtly buy into the illusion of cause and effect when actually this isn't what one wants to know at all, it is just scaffolding to arrive at an understanding. The Yijing will in any case only tell you about shi, and you will better appreciate it if you know that is what you are asking about in the first place, rather than some notion of 'consequence' or 'outcome', which usually results in belief in time as a reality rather than as a construct.
JULY 11, 2012
Most who talk about self-realisation leave me wondering why, if they are self-realised, they aren't talking about it in a clear way. Certainly I led myself astray for years and years awaiting satori, even after having had satori, many times. I was taught to expect enlightenment – whether or not one distinguishes this from satori, kensho, awakening, or liberation – as something that would happen in the future as a result of my efforts now. Yet I also believed that what this was was present right now, if only it could be seen. Rather than reject the notion of 'something to get' as unuseful, I turned the present into the koan of not getting it, despite the fact that I was 'convinced' it was staring me in the face. But nothing that was staring me in the face was good enough to possibly be that, the mind told me, and I believed it, carrying on searching where it couldn't possibly be, in the mind, which contains only conceptual objects that we take to be reality, not seeing that the mind is contained by a non-conceptual ever-present awareness that is our own being, which is what we are looking for but can never find while we are searching for it, because that is denying its presence here and now in order to enter into a chain of mind-bound becoming, losing the knack of seeing that we are what we seek already and instead searching for it as an object in the mind.
It seems crazy that we do this, but such is the power of conditioning, which has entirely built the world as an appearance, a continually changing existential predicament that ever challenges us to see through it and recognise our own unchanging being from which it has spun off and lost sight of that as its source, an illusion that is supremely unstable yet appearing to be solid and possessing astonishing functionality even within its current confining nature, which we label human life on planet Earth, such that it is no surprise that the vast majority of apparent sentient beings regard it as completely real, not realising that the entire universe and themselves as people within it is the pipedream of a singular incredibly intelligent being exploring itself through an appearance of multiplicity when in fact it is all one. It is not as if it is difficult to see this once one abandons trivial notions of individuality and personhood that are given artificial relevance by a mind that has always only been an imaginary but effective tool of division for the seeming purpose of looking in theoretical ways, which, by accident or design, have come to be believed in as actualities.
In my own case of appearing to be an individual entity separate from the world and other entities, I became as do many who seek enlightenment a slave in bondage to the notion of the special moment, the present that was indeed the present but somehow enhanced, as in the fleeting glimpses provided in satori. I kept listening for pebbles striking bamboo with an enlightening crack, frogs plopping into ponds with a sound of Basho's moment. I knew well the mechanism of catalysis from my studies of chemistry. Some passing sound or sight would glance across me with its hair trigger and launch me into the stratosphere of enlightenment. Clearly that's what had happened in many cases in the annals of Zen, so I lived years in expectation of an enlightenment brought on by some small startle in nature, and even after enlightenment I looked for more enlightenment, gradually disabusing me of the idea that enlightenment as a swiftly passing insight into my own nature was in any way good enough to know who I was, since after it had passed I was inevitably back to not knowing who I was again, but having more baggage to carry, some form of words I felt captured the experience. The fact that I hadn't a real clue beyond knowing I had seen it and being able to talk confidently about it so long as I stuck to well-worn statements about it left me in the end completely dissatisfied with the whole idea of enlightenment, since what was a glimpse worth, it merely led to a faith in having been enlightened that was left to cope with suffering that clearly hadn't gone away and which, in the absence of knowing one's true nature directly right now, was better dealt with by more down-to-Earth philosophies such as Stoicism.
Of course, the sense that there must be a way to see what was seen in enlightenment all the time stayed with me, and I persisted even after abandoning enlightenment to seek it, as this continual state, not realising fully then that 'continuous' necessarily invokes time, a structure of the mind, and that a 'state' is by definition something not lasting. However, those who seek are equally by definition unclear and indulge many contradictory ideas as rough estimations or placeholders for what they are actually seeking, which, when it comes down to it, they don't actually know, their motivation is entirely to end the seemingly endless parade of petty sufferings and troubles they identify as 'theirs' and believe they have a responsibility to solve, continually patching up their lives like leaky buckets with the latest insight to strike them and the new guru on the block, seeker after seeker queuing up to receive the wisdom from the dress-up king on the crêpe-paper throne in great aircraft hangars of devotional stupefaction, like children coming up to Santa, few of them showing in the quality of their questions any indication of gaining a real benefit by sitting in the master's presence for so many costly satsangs season after season.
I bought into the idea that knowing myself took time, decades, simply because the few who had managed it hadn't done so quickly, and there remained plenty with a mystical CV as long as your arm who still didn't have a clue. Some of my most intense moments of understanding were via the agency of grace, predating my interest in Amida Buddha and the saying of the nembutsu, going back to childhood. I had even assumed they were common experiences happening to everyone, until I discovered that many knew nothing of it. Grace, coming as it does like a shaft of sunlight into a pit of sorrow, always seems more full-bodied than the awakening of satori, but that is because of the warmth that is present in the compassionate touch of a greater nature moving one to tears at the moment of the most despairing melancholy, perhaps on the verge of self-extinction, or what passes for it to the suicidal mind, with a fleeting sense of understanding everything that may well leave one understanding nothing yet again but undeniably passed beyond the crisis that initiated it. It is hard not to find a gratitude in oneself, a genuine surrender, a true letting go. Had one known all along that that was all that was necessary it would surely have been done before, but it seems one doesn't know how until the radiant presence of other-power (tariki) strikes you leaving not a doubt remaining in the purposeful intelligence of the universe and a sense of the overwhelming rightness of one's life despite being brought to that moment by some tremendous loss or sadness, as if the entirety of the plan is revealed in case you were thinking of going somewhere. One cannot help but break down in tears in the face of such inexplicable magnanimity and it doesn't seem to matter that ten seconds later as they dry one cannot summon the least impression of what took place. Such is the mystery of grace. And similarly satori too is a mystery, which, though it is regarded as coming via self-power (jiriki), in every single case relies on an accidental catalyst, a fortuitous though trivial natural happenstance, a crow cawing just at the right moment, for instance, was good enough to plunge Ikkyu into awareness of who he really was, although only Bankei through his teaching of the Unborn was clear-sighted enough to be able to explain to anyone what such apparently incidental hearings were actually about and how they could quite easily without waiting for it to happen trigger a full awareness of one's true nature as an effortlessly abiding realisation.
There is little doubt that listening to half-baked teachers and believing what they have to say is a great obstruction, perhaps delaying a realisation that could be had now for years. Although it might be regarded that seeds grow as they will and pushing up against a hard obstruction develops a tenacity of purpose that, when the time is ripe, responds to the true and clear teaching like a fruit falling from the tree. But this is little more than a rationalisation for delay by appeal to the benefit of the illusion of time. Although of course even the notion of 'delay' appeals to the same illusion. It is better to say that your true nature is present and available right now, and that anyone who says that it requires time doesn't know what they're talking about and are merely making recommendations on the basis of appearances, not on direct and present seeing. In the absence of the latter, it is easy to buy into the many stories put about by those who regard themselves as 'awakened' concerning how they awakened on such-and-such a day in such-and-such circumstances, and how everything was different from that moment on, how there was no-one there any more, the illusory person just dropped away. The seeker hearing this cannot help but get caught up in this one description, forming a general impression from others that are similar that are perhaps only borrowing from the first, resulting in them hoping that something like that happens to them, at some future time, naively accepting that there is nothing they can do about it to make it happen because these wise awakened ones have told them that there no-one there to make that effort. It's rarely considered that those who tell these tales don't see clearly enough to be able to describe it better, to be of more use. And then there are others who are convinced that their years of training have borne fruit, who go around persuading their followers to practice arduously, so they too will have the same experience, become enlightened like them, despite the fact that it has not enabled them to see lucidly enough to cut away the superfluous practice geared towards future results that they imagine is what has led to their great fruit of liberation. To what degree can they be said to be liberated at all if they are pointing people towards future fulfilment and away from the simple presence of being right now that doesn't require any practice whatsoever? Doesn't it suggest that what they have seen is time-bound, stranded in the past, reconstructed as a memory that they wring dry for confidence in what they say, repeating it when there's no more to wring out, never talking from seeing now, directly, without the fatal intermediary of mind.
The seeker is perpetually misled by those who don't see it clearly enough to get out of the way, encouraging you either to go off seeking something in the future through practice or to helplessly resign yourself to the luck of the draw of the next present moment when you too may spontaneously awaken, instead of seeing in this present moment what is always here, this unchanging sense of being, no different now to yesterday or last week or last year or years ago, time an illusion embedded in the appearance. Reality is obvious and in plain sight, when the thought of what it might be is left in the mind, along with troubles and concerns. The first reaction to noticing it might be to think that this can't possibly be what all these gurus and teachers are talking about, it's far too simple. Well that's just it, isn't it, they make it sound more difficult, which, instead of making you doubt them, makes you doubt yourself. It's as simple as that. Clearly many of those who have presented themselves as having understood just haven't understood, because if they understood why would they make such a meal of this simplicity? Why aren't they pointing unwaveringly to this effortless ease of being, free of any possible hindrance, not requiring anything, which does not come and go, is ever-present, changeless, intimately close, and as solid as a rock, impervious to the myriad swirling confusions and doubts passing through. It is not found in some attainment in the future fitting in with the tall stories of others, the endless path of becoming, it is already here and always was here. For some reason many who say they know it turn it into something impossible to recognise by hurling it way off into the future, placing numerous futile practices in-between. Or they rattle on about their own good fortune to be awakened through the agency of pure chance, emphasising 'your' powerlessness in respect of it, because 'you' don't exist, making recognition of it the equivalent of being struck by lightning, as they apparently were, instead of realising that the notion of 'you' is merely a concept carried by the mind and that to bang on about its absence or presence to the point of inculcating a demoralised debilitation in the listener is a teaching that is stuck firmly in the mind.
JULY 3, 2012
The Ichigon Hoden is a wonderful book of sayings of recluses and wanderers following Pure Land Buddhism in medieval Japan. It was quoted by Kenko in his better-known and equally excellent 'Essays in Idleness' (the Tsurezuregusa). The Ichigon Hoden was translated into English by Dennis Hirota, who also translated 'The Record of Ippen', and was published in 1989 by Ryukoku University as 'Plain Words on the Pure Land Way'. Unfortunately it has been out of print for a long time and very difficult to obtain, so I decided to scan it and make it available here in PDF. I have written about my experiences with Pure Land Buddhism here and there.
I have also recently put up on the Yijing Dao site Steve Moore's new translation of the Maqian ke [PDF], a prophetic text attributed to Zhuge Liang incorporating hexagrams.
JUNE 14, 2012
Previously I wrote about freedom from circumstance. Now I want to go further and say that there aren't any circumstances. In other words, there is no possibility of getting stuck. When you are free of circumstance, there is still circumstance, and so naturally the potential to get entangled in it again, since freedom is only a polar opposite of bondage and not in itself sufficient, though of course it will do. But ultimately liberation is forever bound to whatever the liberation is from. Just as awakening is bound to the delusion of formerly being asleep. But when you realise that there aren't even any circumstances, only memories of circumstances that were never real, there is no longer the condition of needing to define present experience in terms of circumstance at all. And, equally, no need not to.
You could say that there is only one circumstance, and that is the unchanging. But because it is unchanging it is pointless to refer to it as a circumstance, because there is nothing else to compare it to and thus deduce that it is a circumstance, save the ever-changing, an endless series of constantly morphing circumstances, which is not in itself a circumstance because this is in fact the false face of the unchanging, not actually being any different to that which it appears diametrically opposed to. It is the movement of the still. Obviously an illusion. So to what extent is anything circumstantial? Only to the extent that it is a mirage, which, once dissipated, is not seen as something that was there that has disappeared but rather something that was never there that appeared to be. Thus, circumstance is not even anything to be free of, since it never existed.
Once you have seen that there are no circumstances to be bound by, let alone be free of, you are free to inhabit any circumstance without desire for it to change, because it doesn't exist in the first place, which means you can forget all this, it's no longer a freedom that needs to look over its shoulder, no longer a liberation from being bound, no longer an awakening from dream, on the contrary, those circumstances never were, and because they never were there is no question that can arise concerning the absoluteness or otherwise of a state of betterment because there is nothing anything could be better than. Thus there is the enlightenment of the uncompared, finally put behind it the folly of comparison, not even having an unenlightened memory, just a sense of play. Space-time like something misplaced there is no hurry to find, a naturalness remains.
Getting things into perspective
MAY 23, 2012
I often think it doesn't matter whether you 'know who you are', so long as you don't get taken in by who you're not. Looking for an exactitude, a perfect way to describe it, is of course a curse, in that if you're not careful you could end up thinking you don't know what the hell it is if you can't say what it is. More impressive is realising you don't want anything any more, you're happy with life as it is. Not happy on a scale of one to ten, since that would involve judging it, just happy in the sense of not clamouring for anything. It's good not being bothered about things any more. Sometimes people ask me what I've been doing lately, the past few weeks since I last saw them. My mind is a blank. Putting a few plants in the garden, sowing seeds, sitting listening to the birds, watching the cats walk along the fence. Should I have been 'doing something'? Nothing is happening, I tell them, happy about it. That's the reason they're glum, nothing is happening. They think something should be. It's not normal, they want adventures. I want to tell them that even if they have adventures still nothing is happening, it's all imagination, but it'll only get their backs up if they're not ready to hear it so generally I don't bother.
These days I find I prefer there to not even be the appearance of things happening. It's good if the appearance resembles the reality. There will always be an appearance of things happening, but if it's just cooking, doing a bit of gardening, nothing special, just whatever comes along, then it remains an appearance, the reality is always clear. When there is desire for an exciting life, you're engaging the imagination all the time, and rarely manage to get the life you imagine would be exciting, it just becomes a torment, other people always have the life you would like, you bemoan your sorrows wondering why life is so shit, why everything seems roped off from you, as if life is a club you're not cool enough for the bouncer to let you in. Pathetic, really, but that's normal life for a lot of people. Of course, there are high points, there always will be, when things go well, everything comes together, some great social occasion, or even just reading a good book under a tree, admittedly punctuated by glancing up from the page at couples enjoying themselves, perhaps kissing in the grass, which takes you away from the good book and places you back in your loneliness, as if you have no control whatsoever over the rubbish you're sucked in and out of. Even the great social occasion is an occasion to periodically reflect on your failure to interact with it in the easeful way you'd like.
It's feelings like these that draw people to search, to find out what those who seem more at peace have done right, perhaps turning away from goal-oriented life – big car, good career, married to beautiful person, as if goals ended once those were achieved – and instead listening to people like me, who felt dissatisfaction acutely for many years but now doesn't feel it any more, save for literary effect and a resistance to having to be beyond anything (what a drag, having to act as a constant), who essentially doesn't give a damn about anything and only has any motivation at all should it happen to come spontaneously, who has been doing nothing for years, even back when there was still an edgy feeling that perhaps he'd fucked it all up but it was too late now so fuck it. But even that edgy feeling came and went, like everything else, and overall there was a conviction that it was the right way, for all it was continually challenged by the normalcy of the lives of other people when set against the ever-increasing marginalisation that I apparently preferred because of a tendency towards reclusiveness that hardly felt 'chosen', rather something I was stuck with, which of course it is easy to put down to childhood or some other can of worms from the past. Psychoanalysis as a discipline has always struck me as making a career out of generating excuses rather than offering explanations. Rather than plunge into that kind of colourful vacuousness I found it easier to say ah well this is what this life is, call it my karma or whatever, just look into it as it is, and, if there is such an extent of yearning in me, could it be that it is for a complete illusion? To what degree if at all is this life even real?
I concede that not many appear to have the karma to be dedicated to such a stance, but I believe that even in childhood as I sat on top of my bed staring at the wallpaper wondering why am I doing this and not out there enjoying myself with friends that I was engaged on the same quest that formed my definitive adult experience. It was natural, in retrospect, that I should have studied chemistry to learn about the combinations of the elements and that I should gravitate to hallucinogens and the occult, that I should have had some success but never quite as much as I wanted, that I should have found love only to lose it, that I should rebel against society, spit on corporate existence and the notion of having a career, and that I should have wanted to write and paint and attempt to understand the universe despite of my seemingly limited means. All of this was inevitable, so it was also inevitable that early on I would abandon having any say at all in what was unfolding, and just let it get on with itself, since that seemed to be what it wanted to do. I would just watch it and attempt to discern the meaning, if any, and in that the Yijing or Book of Changes became my tool for exploring just what exactly is 'action' and 'correct timing' and what the basis was for 'decisiveness' and 'hesitation', and why some things were auspicious but other things only led to disaster, and what was 'auspiciousness' anyway, what made something 'ominous'? Such was the nature of my exploration.
These days many who seek the wisdom of the ages expect some kind of instant result, because, rightly, they have been told that they 'already are that'. But in many cases it leads to just the same decades-long search except without the sense of exploration instead only the frustration of not getting it, such that should they happen to get it they become zealots of their own lack of exploration prior to getting it, such that they have only one thing to say and cannot talk about it with any sense of breadth, what they don't know about is 'just knowledge'. While this is true enough, what is wrong with it being 'just knowledge' but knowing it anyway? Being a polymath is as good a hobby as any, and, some might say, imparts a fluidity barred to those who merely repetitively voice the rigidity of the narrow confines of an 'awakening' trying very hard to be sure of itself, often indistinguishable from autosuggestion for all it is saying 'the right things'. Let us not forget that the most despairingly unenlightened are that too, and not knowing it is arguably not even relevant since that is just the way the being wants to play it in that situation, and everyone is enlightened in deep sleep so actually what's the difference? The main thing in life is not to be played for a fool. To me, that meant seeing through the entire edifice of it. Who's to say what it means to some bloke dealing stocks and shares? Maybe right now it just means realising that his wife is having an affair and is lying to him. Later, it may come to mean seeing through it all. Who's to say?
What is real?
MAY 20, 2012
Close your eyes, forget the world, forget the body. That's real, just pure being. It's as simple as that, what everybody claims to be looking for. It's only the thought that's it's something else, or that that is not good enough, or any other thought, that stops you trusting that. So you appear to need someone to tell you that it is that simple, someone who knows how easy it is to be distracted from it. Relinquish your concerns and just be. Everything else is an illusion. I know, you can't believe that. But the plain fact is that there is no world, there is no body, nothing is happening, nothing has ever happened, there is no past, present, or future, there are no spatial dimensions, there is no you but being. It is changeless, it is always this, it has always been this, it will remain this, it is a timeless eternity, formless and limitless. It is not you with your eyes closed forgetting the world. Open your eyes, remember the world, it is the same. If you seem to lose sight of it, close your eyes, forget the world, forget the body, be. You don't have to remember that it's that simple, yet it is surprising that such a simplicity can be forgotten. You were never anything else. You were not born and as such you will not be dying. It doesn't matter whether you understand the 'why' of this.
Perhaps it will seem that you are believing too many way-out ideas, losing your way, losing your chances, losing your life indeed and all chance of happiness, at least what you have been conditioned to believe will bring you happiness. In practice it seems this simplicity is not good enough for years and years, or perhaps we just like to be thorough. After all, it seems a pity to be here and not try to fulfil desires, doesn't it? So you go through the rigmarole of all that, watch them blossom, watch them wither on the vine. What can be so hard, others have what I want so why not me? It's a reasonable question, or seems to be. In practice maybe we need a few decades of getting what we want only to lose it, not realising that we are fishing in the stream of becoming and have forgotten our being. It seems hard to believe that the world is not real, so we carry on, assuming that those who told us that must be deluded, rather than ourselves. It is only in despair that we begin to wonder about this message that the world is not real, when our hopes have stabbed us in the back, when the beauty we seek in the world, the love, is withheld and all appears cruel and harsh, and, fundamentally, life does not seem worth living.
Then we may wonder, if the world is not real then neither is this. We don't want to consider that when everything is going swimmingly. The world may be an illusion, we might concede, but I'm enjoying it! So the cycle of apparent joy and apparent sorrow continues over and over, until one says Enough! It is hard to believe that one's sorrows aren't real when one is in the throes of them, but there is at least the seed of a willingness to escape these cycles, which, for all one has had some transitory success and enjoyment, are beginning to be recognised as futile. Of course, the clarity born of the low points is soon betrayed by the high points, and one is off again. But even the least intelligent mammal eventually develops a wariness of traps and there will come a time, if you genuinely wish for something better, when there is a return to the simple truth of the situation, that none of it is real. That what is actually real is being, which has the miraculous power of spinning off day in day out not only the illusions most are familiar with and believe in but also numerous other illusions that only those who have really explored have had the amusement of believing in just as much if not more than the usual world as reflected by television, work, housing, travel, boredom, sex, and religion. Such as the supernatural, black magick, extraterrestrial contact, DMT hyperspace. Certainly it is a step on the path of any hyperdimensional traveller to realise that if this is real, then that cannot be. Most don't go far enough though, they may realise that consensus reality is not real but they tend to reserve a little reality for their preferred illusion, such that you have not only the naivety of new agers who really think they're onto something but also the rather better researched though equally delusory ideas of the hardcore occultist, confident they have crossed the Abyss and convinced they have the inside track to reality in the padded freight of myth and mystery, only slightly distracted by the allure of the deviant and the need for piercings and other cool tat.
Nothing is real. Just see that you are not this or that; you are not doing this, that, or the other thing; the world is just a projection for amusement and should not be taken seriously; your life has nothing to do with you; and, whether you realise it or not, you know all this already.
There are no things
MAY 11, 2012
Probably the clearest way to see that you have been labouring under a misapprehension is when you realise that there are no things. This also makes it clear why there is no motion, nor any change. If I pick up a pencil off the floor and place it on the desk, so long as there are separate things then something has happened, but when there are no things at all nothing has happened. It is like taking a handful of air and imagining you are putting it somewhere else. Things, change, and motion are all imagined. How many objects do you have in your house? Can you count them? You should try it some time, you will soon realise that you cannot satisfactorily define an object. Everything is made of other things – take a pen apart and count them. Is it useful knowledge? Or would it be more useful to realise that you cannot even separate the pen from the desk it has been lying on, without imagining it. Have you ever noticed the way everything seems to be made of the same stuff? Like in a film, it's all the film, it's all light. I would notice this from time to time, just looking at the world, and I would amuse myself by making objects out of things that weren't normally classed as objects, such as an arrangement of things on a table as they happened to be in the moment of noticing some charm about it.
Juxtapositional awareness is noticing how things relate to each other, this is felt sometimes in noticing that everything is simply perfectly arranged on its own. Another form of it can come from an imperfection that is suddenly appreciated to be strangely perfect, such as a crack in a wall, or a creaking door, or seeing beauty in old crumbling things that seem to be crumbling into each other, an appreciation of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. All of these are feeding slowly, like ivy grows up a wall, into the eventual realisation that there aren't actually any things. It all runs together, a single surface, yet it isn't even one, there isn't even one thing. Now this does result in great happiness, a childlike wonder at the world, what we call the world, which is suddenly freed from the constraining boundaries of things, the body itself, the human body, just merged, no longer a distinct thing. There is no loss, no gain, it would be like stacking the sky on shelves. To imagine there is locomotion here would be as foolish as thinking ripples in water are travelling, trying to follow the progress of a single wave. Just as things are mental conventions that have become believed in as separately existing objects, thereby defining not only a world but an exterior world, similarly movement and change have been defined where not only does none exist but none can exist. Consequently, nothing ever really happens, which can be seen in 'real time' not just as a historical conclusion or interpretation of 'events'.
Of course, one suspends for periods one's true understanding of the world to pretend to be a person in the company of others, such is the beauty and power of imagination, but one is no longer tyrannised by mere objects and, alone, one flips out of it and casts off that unreal world, rather than wishing for things. Although this is just a way of putting it, actually there is not really anything to cast off, nothing to look for that is getting in the way, and, on reflection, one may see a recent time enjoying the company of friends as a time when no delusion intervened to make it possible, rather it was seamless with solitude. Then the most surprising joys come to you. I am often like a child in a toy workshop, the skin of everyday familiarity peeled back, and everything is a wonder, the first birds at dawn singing the praises of perfection, the rain an old friend. When it is said that nothing is real, the mind is too gruff and sparse in its understanding, imagining the Void, and even that as a thing. It would be better to understand 'nothing is real' as a doorway to what is real, your own being, that which lends these constructions to the fabulously mysterious phenomenon, which is but the halo of being, and put aside mere intellectual appreciations, taking instead some comfort from the assurance that the removal of the arbitrary matrix of named things from the named world, this scaffolding of learned behaviour, this prison of conditionality, will not result in the collapse of anything but an unreality. And it is not as if it is so hard to imagine it back into existence, although nothing will ever be quite the same again, since now you know what you are and see that you always did, and you may wish to explore that, rather than a dreamed life.
If God committed suicide, this would be the result
MAY 9, 2012
I have always felt the kin of some catastrophic event, sometimes perceived as the Big Bang, other times perceived as ending my previous life by suicide, or that this life was merely a memory of a life ended by suicide as if re-lived. It is quite clear to me that suicide is impossible, at least conceived as a true end, oblivion it may be, but only for a while, since the certainty of another life is inescapable should you not happen to make the grade of nirvana. You may as well tidy your affairs completely in the life you already have and be satisfied with a natural transition, since suicide is unlikely to provide an improvement on the mystery of form as you already know it. That said, suicide too is a natural transition and fated if fated, I merely mean one shouldn't waste any serious philosophical thought on it, save as a means of getting through a thorny night. The thought of suicide is essentially a way of taking your mind off things.
One cannot help but wonder about form, for all one knows one's formless nature. Why this form, and not that form? Why these circumstances, and not those circumstances? We have a word for it, karma, but it explains nothing much, just that things are as they are because they are. Through formlessness in self-realisation one of course is free of one's circumstances, one's karma, but still it must play itself out (the notion of prarabdha karma). Consequently, one can never quite transcend the allotted life for all one sees the illusion of it, save in deep sleep when it fully disappears, because it never was. Yet, there is the persistent illusion of waking up to the same life, and so the form of it rightly and properly is of some interest and only those who are engaged in self-deception write it off as if it is a story they are no longer involved with, a dream that has faded. On the contrary, it is a dream that has not faded, for all it has been seen through, and so it becomes a reasonable question to ask why this form and not some other?
After studying it from many angles, I am inclined to think, and it is only a thought, that the form of my life is consistent with the suicide of God. God is finding out that he could only kill himself by fragmenting himself out of eternity and into time and space where he forgot himself. It is of course interesting to realise that God can discover himself in the most mundane of circumstances, such as in a small flat in London after repeated attempts to see that surely there must be more to life than this. But then, what would be a more appropriate circumstance? Isn't this the point? There is no more appropriate circumstance than the one you happen to find yourself in. Live your life as it seems to be given to you knowing that your circumstance is actually the entirety of the universe, and, not only that, it is you who gives it reality and that it simply doesn't exist apart from you.
Not that I 'believe in' God – this is just an idea I idly toy with to pass the time. The forgotten philosopher Philipp Mainländer also felt that God had committed suicide, but he thought that he should follow him in that act in order to aid God in his divine intention not to be, which he duly did, not realising it is impossible not to be if one is. Non-existence doesn't exist and can't be 'achieved', as Mainländer believed, rather being is eternal and invulnerable, the same today as it ever was; it is only becoming that is an unending agony, an illusion often mistaken for being. It amazes me that I used to think just the opposite, I see it in things I wrote over twenty years ago, I actually thought that life cannot ever be a state of being, that it is always becoming. Although I was certainly right when I wrote in 1989 that 'becoming does not ever flow into being, but always leads to further becoming', it was a foolish conclusion to therefore regard being as an illusion. But it does underscore that my own being was dark to me at the time of writing. If I couldn't see it for myself published there in black and white, I don't think I would have believed that I ever held such a view, such is the degree to which what is now obvious to me is felt to have always been the case, and that what I may or may not have thought at some other time was as irrelevant then as it is now, except that I apparently suffered because of it, because I believed my experiences were real happenings, though I can hardly credit it in retrospect, since it is clear that nothing has ever actually happened. All solidity of people and place was an artifact of my lending it reality, when it had none of its own. Far from being a pitiful discovery, it actually makes life liveable, more than this really but liveable will do since before it was not and was only endured.
What is happiness?
MAY 6, 2012
Happiness is the absolute and unqualified acceptance of your own being. There are no desires, not because you have eliminated them, but because nothing is lacked. It was always a mistake to attempt to eradicate desire in the hope it would make one like those who were without desire. It merely underscored the lack of that absence. Similarly, it is a mistake to suppose that happiness is due to a perception, such as seeing the fiction of the personal self. That is merely happiness as an effect, transitory and dependent. It is equally a mistake to regard unhappiness as due to a failure to perceive in some special way that one regards as 'enlightened', though it is certainly true that this will perpetuate a sense of lack, a need to discover what others apparently have.
Much of the search for happiness is the search for an effect, it is conditional and illusory. Although it doesn't appear to be obvious to most engaged in this pursuit, it is blinding yourself to the fact that you are, that you exist, in exchange for what you hope to become. You are saying to yourself that you don't know you are. Most will say this is ridiculous, of course I know that I am. But if you know that you are, why are you looking for what you will become, don't you know that is a complete illusion? Clearly you don't know that you are, you only think that you know it. If you know that you are, you know that there is nothing else. If you know that there is nothing else, you know that there is nothing you lack. If you know that there is nothing you lack, you have no desire because desire can only be for an illusion, something that doesn't exist. The more settled this realisation becomes, which is an illusion in itself as there is no such thing as progress towards what is, the more you realise you are naturally happy, as opposed to some state you had to reach. But this does not mean exploration has to be over, that one cannot know unhappiness any more, and thereby lose the ability to empathise with the human condition.
People often wonder what the grand illusion (mahamaya) is all about. It comes down to the question whether, knowing I was complete and perfect, I would nonetheless create an illusion just for the sake of it, an illusion so complete and perfect in itself, just like my own nature, that I myself was fooled by it. Obviously that is a question that has already been answered. I clearly am that reckless, but also that courageous, since it seems I lost myself for aeons. Yet all of that was just a moment ago, a daydream. Who I am, where this is, are concerns that only appear to have any meaning when there are others and I am somewhere as opposed to everywhere, and even everywhere is meaningless since that's just another somewhere from nowhere.
Being is perpetually diluted by an addiction to becoming, conditioned by the greatest invention of the human race, the mind. Thus one does not readily see what one is, only what one hopes to become. The entire world is projected by the mind as a terrain in which it seems one can become something in line with desire, none of it real, the illusion of it dependent for its realistic nature on forgetting that one is. You buy what you hope to become at the expense of what you are, which needs none of it, already being complete. It may seem like a good game, until suffering comes, an illusion every bit as 'real' as your apparent success, since you cannot help but buy into it with the same tenacity, perhaps even excusing it as the price of success. But none of it's real.
Let us get this straight, because it does lead to confusion: Everything is unreal, nothing is real, all of this is quite true, except that being itself is real, which is not included in the category of things, rather it is that in which all apparent things arise, these illusions that flaunt themselves upon it masquerading as reality. Obviously, if you do not know being, if you do not know that you are, then you can only either reject the notion that everything is unreal with an arrogant confidence in your own confusions, or accept it like a moron who is now a believer in nihilism. If you know your own being, then you know, with ease, that what I am saying is the truth. If you don't know it, it is because you are addicted to becoming without realising it, you will go from this thing to the next thing forever, without seeing that all of that does not exist. How can I be any clearer?
In case I haven’t made it plain
APRIL 26, 2012
The saving grace of this life is certainly that it is not real. Just imagine how bad it would be if it were real! Yes indeed, herein lies the entirety of the justification for a life wasted on the quest for enlightenment, since one could have wasted it on something one believed in. One need not ponder suicide too long, death is no mystery and not a cessation of anything but a human body, and at last count there were seven billion of those cluttering up the world. Instead it would be better to spend the time coming to fully appreciate that one should not be so foolish as to be born again. While it is true that strictly speaking we are not born now, that it is only a pretence of having been born, this simulacrum that we call being born and having a life does rather spoil the Void with a host of petty demands that tend to reduce most of us to the slaves of an organic mass.
It seems utterly ridiculous that we come to believe that a mere human body is a necessary ingredient in some grand scheme of existence. We call ourselves human, when that is simply a name for a semi-evolved slab of meat providing a slim range of perceptions, a vehicle in a limited charade that for some elusive reason that we call karma or fate is doomed to carry out a very circumscribed set of functions that we invest with a narrative that we believe in out of a quite correct suspicion that otherwise it would be excruciatingly boring. Yes, if you think you are human, it is certainly boring to be without a narrative, without goals you try to fulfil, without company somewhat approaching the level you are at but hardly sparkling.
Human life, far from the glorious spectacular it is painted to be, is an utter mediocrity. I am surprised, frankly, that it has taken me so long to be sufficiently sure of myself to say it. And do you know why that is? The hope that it might get better. Oh, it may yet, but how much better can it get? How much further do you need to investigate human life on this planet, its history and aspirations, before concluding that it is all rather meagre and more like testing the equipment than actually living. But nonetheless an apparently self-conscious vehicle – which is what the body to the mind presents itself as and I do not have time to quibble when I have other fish to fry still less the inclination to address the feeble wisp we call 'the mind' – at least provides the means for being conscious of the extreme limitations of form, through exasperation if not wisdom, such that the truth of its formless substance can become apparent, whether by accident or design, enabling transcendence not only of the human form but also the universal form, since the moment any form is transcended all form is transcended. Being formless, one is limitless. Those notions of God are also transcended, but comprehended before being discarded as relating in a dim way to the formless everpresence of myself. It is strange how this explains nothing but nonetheless has the power to destroy the idea that the world is real. But what need of explanation? Once one has seen that everything is unreal, who needs the hassle of trying to explain it?
Such is life
APRIL 24, 2012
Sometimes I see the waste of it. What I could have done, what I might still do but probably won't. I always wished for more, which was rarely forthcoming. Gradually, I stopped trying. I gave up, but in a way that made giving up seem noble. As if I had understood something about life. I knew what it was. Mostly I persuaded myself I was fairly wise in my outlook. I took as my heroes those who had turned their back on the world. I told myself this was the right course. I endured great boredom, and told myself I had at least succeeded in enduring it, for all else was an utter failure. I contemplated suicide quite a few times, but couldn't be bothered. There was always another day. Though this attitude kept me alive, it diminished the power of suicide, until I didn't even believe in that any more. That never rules it out, just makes it more pathetic, like going to the shops. Oddly, it also makes it more likely, since it is not such a big thing any more, there is nothing to build up to like there used to be, it could just be a spontaneous gesture without the slightest thought, save a lifetime's thought going nowhere.
I looked for answers in 'spirituality'. In the end they only told me what I already knew. For them it brought joy, apparently. For me it was the realisation that they had nothing more to offer me. It didn't bring me joy, which is only an effect anyway. Sometimes I revisit in a sudden upwelling of tears all that life might have been, through the lens of the lives of others, which sometimes triggers a genuine recognition of something marvellous that others have been fortunate enough to have experienced, and in those tears I see my own wonderful moments, profound in their essence by being torn away. I don't know which view to accentuate, I simply go with what I feel dropped into. If there is sadness in me, then there is sadness in me, I just accept it. I thought I had a solution in getting rid of desire, but life became bland, something held at arm's length. I thought if I cannot place my reliance in people, then I would embrace what would not let me down, such as writing, in solitude. But even that lost its appeal. More and more I came to realise the world was nothing, and even my own despair was nothing, but still I wished I could love life more. I stopped aspiring, I stopped caring. I was as solid as a rock, and no longer human. I was always grateful for tears, they did not seem the enemy, they showed me I could still be moved. They could never stay tears of self-pity, they morphed quite incredibly into tears of grace, a god alone in his universe drawing down his power to see the rightness of every state of affairs. This was something. If there was this, then there was something happening in this waiting room for nothing. Otherwise, I have no answers and am not as clever as I took myself to be, once. If there was an off switch on the wall, like a light switch, I would just flick it now. Often in dreams a light switch that doesn't work is the trigger for the dream becoming lucid. There is no off switch, there are only changing states of consciousness. Death is an illusion. But life, what is that?
Powerful illusion, all of this. It is not a denial of life, when it is seen, it is seeing life as it is. Once one sees that the lives of others are fragments of a shattered mirror of oneself, one begins to understand. One starts to appreciate the apparent choices one made, which simply happened, no-one chose anything it was only labelled as such. Above all else, one wished to know the truth. It was a hard path, that's all. One no longer fights against it, rather one realises this is simply the way one came. It must have seemed important to taste regret, to taste futility, to know sorrow and despair. But now, what does any of that matter? A dream, slipping away, a snake between stones. Ephemeral, unreal, only seeming real, a universe without substance. How can one have any cares about that? It is simply seeing it as it is. One cannot mourn the loss of the unreal, nor wish that it had substance, though one does, constantly, until one does no longer. Is it having the strength of one's convictions? At first, yes, it must be that. But what convictions, to fly to in the face of the apparent solidity of the world, the pleas of others to have you return. Of course it can only seem a futile quest, a great waste, an illusion in itself. Driven out of an illusion by an illusion! Endless nights pondering that. But in the end it is all very simple, the smile is no longer forced, the obviousness no longer a candidate for yet another pretence. Sometimes you must bark like a dog trapped in a room, to get it out of you, all this shit. Dig out the nuggets of your regrets from the overworked seams. Gather your wishes like dead little fish floating upside down congregating in the stagnant brook. Mourn all of your might-have-beens until you can no longer remember their faces and are just churning over and over all your old and tired desires. Whatever it takes to put down these bothersome shades and phantoms and sit instead under the storm-swollen sky awaiting the refreshing rain.
When one looks for something lacking, there will always seem to be something lacking. Such is the power to lend reality to things without substance. To escape an unreal universe, first create the illusion of suffering to drive you out of it. To stay in an unreal universe and imagine it real, pretend it offers you what you want. But if what you really want is the truth, then sooner or later you must see that this universe is not offering you what you think you want, rather it is only tormenting you with the possibility of it. If you don't want the truth, your fate is to constantly strive to give reality to empty illusions, taking their joys as reward, fleeting though they may be, staving off as best you can their equally transitory but strangely sluggish despairs. It's a simple formula, it has enthralled billions. This message is not a popular one. Those who don't understand it are quick to criticise it without realising that they are merely defining the extent of their current servitude to the ideas they regard as better than it. This is the fiction of who they think they are tightening in upon them like a straitjacket sensing movement away from the illusion, sensing the threat of a lucid other. Before they have a chance to consider this lucidity, their own confusions are emboldened to argue with and fend off this intruder. They resent the implication that they are living a lie, and prefer to stoke their resentment than consider that the suggestion may actually be the first glimmerings of the truth to reach them in their dark jungle of conditioned existence. Such is life.
APRIL 23, 2012
It occurred to me recently how few living writers I read. I have just returned from Paris, where I found my three favourite writers all in the same cemetery in Montparnasse: Marguerite Duras, Samuel Beckett, and E M Cioran. It's a beautiful cemetery to walk around in the rain, far more interesting I thought than the more visited Père Lachaise. It was difficult to locate Cioran's grave, despite knowing whereabouts it should be. Was just about to give up after fifty minutes traipsing about in the pouring rain when an elderly French gentleman passing by asked if he could be of assistance. Given that so few know of Cioran, it's surprising I immediately asked him if he knew where his grave was. But he turned out to be a learned man who was not only familiar with his work but knew precisely where he was buried. He was also able to explain the curiosity of the pile of Métro tickets on Jean-Paul Sartre's grave, as relating to the tradition of placing Métro tickets on Serge Gainsbourg's grave because of his song about a man dying of boredom punching holes in tickets on the Métro all day, Le Poinçonneur des Lilas. The tradition has spread to a few other graves, and, for some reason, has really taken off on Sartre's grave (people also leave cabbages and cigarette stubs on Gainsbourg's grave, because he once said he had a head like a cabbage with two ears sticking out and smoked all the time). The elderly French gentleman said that an American woman had once asked him about the pile of Métro tickets on Sartre's grave: 'Did he work for the Métro?'
I decided to spread the tradition to Cioran's grave, and placed my used ticket there. There wasn't much on his grave. A bunch of dead flowers, a small plastic bucket as if kicked over fixed that way with chewing gum, a folded message under a pebble that I didn't disturb to read, and a length of ribbon in the colours of the Romanian flag. And the rain. No epitaph.
As we stood looking down at the slab, the Frenchman said: 'He wrote a lot about suicide.'
I replied: 'But he also said there was no rush.'
I regard Cioran as a kind of a compatriot in a battle not worth fighting; this is truly not giving in. It is not that some other light cannot be put on it, it is that I refuse it. The gesture of refusal, ironically, is the acceptance of a bitter truth. Beyond that, there is no truth. Surrender is holding out. What use is despair if it is clouded? To know God, know His pain. Otherwise, know nothing. Nothing else is worth knowing, for all there is no God but me, immune to change, omnipotent only in sacrifice.
'It's not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.'
– E M Cioran
A further reflection on life
APRIL 9, 2012
Life was never what I wanted it to be. I live not out of joy, but in spite of things. I suspect, sometimes, that I am building up to a tremendous regret, yet possess the wherewithal to see through even that. It is easy enough to get sucked in, one can even feel a duty to be sucked in, as if it is not really living to be aloof from the despair that is always ready and waiting to catch you, like a safety net, as if it is through despair that my nothingness has meaning. My despair is not as full-bodied as it used to be, when I believed in it. Despair requires belief far more than any religious faith, without belief despair is dull, like a headache that will soon pass, not despair at all. True despair is a lucidity, whereas true joy is only an innocence. One knows nothing in joy, in despair there is the burden of knowing everything. We can only feel joy by being shielded from knowledge. Knowledge becomes the enemy, thought a heavy pack traipsing into the wilderness. Let no-one tell you there is nothing to be gained from the indulgence of illusions, but realise that it will all be lost.
We have a unique ability to conjure up a psychosomatic terrain and inhabit it. Many, for their entire lives. Being wiser than it is not being very wise, if the truth be told one becomes a sodden lump of unconcern. Without hope, but undaunted. Life becomes unimportant, no longer the necessity of what I am, but the accessory. It is a wonder it is not thrown away more readily, and for that we can be thankful to inertia. I sometimes sit there wishing upon myself a dreadful despair, like a thirst or a hunger, but it is something I cannot reach and can't be bothered to try harder. I practice a sullen face in the mirror, to try to recapture the memory of that, but a smile springs back like iron filings take their natural place in a magnetic field. Sometimes I think I am sad, but then realise I am laughing. Sometimes I think I am in a pit of despond, then I hear a dawn bird singing softly in the half light and a few droplets of rain and there is only beauty. Sometimes I get lost in comparing everything – that is better than this, this is not as good as that – then, just as I have brought myself down, I look again and everything is the same. Sometimes I think all sorts of things are happening, then it strikes me yet again, nothing is happening at all, nothing has ever happened, nothing will happen, there is no change and no motion.
It is hard not to laugh at how obvious that has become, to call it a 'realisation' doesn't make any sense, since for that there would need to be a delusion still present to compare it to, but there is not even the memory of it ever being otherwise, except as a false evocation. Those who say they have 'awakened' or are 'enlightened' are always speaking from memory they believe in, though they go to great lengths to persuade themselves they are speaking directly. They cannot afford to doubt what they have experienced, whereas to me it doesn't matter whether I doubt it or not. Because it is obvious, I am not trying to keep it alive; in fact because I can kill it I thought I may as well. I don't see any worth in supposing myself enlightened or awakened, there is no difference to supposing myself unenlightened or unawakened, and, as I naturally incline towards undermining, it is more openended to go beyond these dismal outposts of human spiritual vanity and settle, if settle I must, in absolute nothingness and finish these games of telling stories about it of any kind. In fact, to embrace failure simply because success is not needed, to fade away from both myself and others as an assertion of the triumph of not needing to be human, desiring no longer any of what it is to be human, and so, welcoming early the dissolution of human form, merely toying with it in passing states of wonder and awe, or dark forebodings, attached to nobody and nothing in particular, just floating clouds of feelings and forgetfulness sharply cut through by sudden sounds, the temple gong of remembrance in every bird's beautiful and unpretentious song, with no reason to think it will be any different when finally these features melt away in putrescence under snowy white hair.
Birth of the philosopher
APRIL 6, 2012
Life is alright, so long as I don't want anything from it. I am forced to find everything fine as it is, if I want everything to be fine as it is. Anything I don't like, I have to choose to discard, I can't simply wait for it to get better. But I prefer to do nothing, in fact I insist on it, so anything I don't like I don't care about, which is better, since it means I don't have to do anything about things I don't like, I'm simply not bothered about them. Discarding them as an effort of will is a bore, and what one might call an intermediate stage in what has no intermediate stages, once the final stage is reached, nor even a final stage, once that is gone beyond, nor even a gone beyond, once even that has ceased to matter.
Life can be joyful, planting rhubarb, digging the garden, learning how to prune blackcurrant bushes. Even sorting through a box of assorted screws to find a couple the right size earns its place in an action-packed day of putting the feet up, and thinking very hard about whether there is actually anything left I care about, at all. Not even that, don't even care about that. It washes away on the river of time, as has every other care-worn stance of the mind, every good or bad attitude, every momentary enthusiasm, every long-term interest, every obsession, fascination, and madness. Save perhaps … no, that too, whatever it might have been going to be, puffing up its mental thought cloud. I don't mind thought, not at all, I don't mind getting taken in by illusions, I don't mind temporary statuettes for the mantelpiece, until they need dusting, looking after.
I watch with interest an ivy cutting in a cognac glass of water, as if I have a real interest, as great as any interest ever entertained, in how many days it will take for the snipped stem to push out tiny rootlets. I don't have as much real interest in actual people, save perhaps a few dead ones who write well. When I say 'I don't want anything' there is a kind of mute shock, a deathly hush of knowing it is true, and wondering, only slightly, how and when and where that came about, but not actually being bothered to give it any thought, there is no real interest in that, there is more interest in the relative merits of black and white, a simplicity of thought based solely in observational properties, ever changing, unimportant actually, but as important as anything, since my life is a slight gesture towards the principle of activity in the world, like a simpleton finding things to do, but with the difference that I am not a simpleton and have no need to find anything to do.
Solitude in me is like a beautiful grain brought out in exquisitely polished wood. There is no argument in me any longer against it. The hard choices of youth that fed into the active resignation of adulthood that still, however, festered in a stew of unconquered desires for companionship, love, and success, eventually brought the contentment they were expected to bring. I even stopped wondering why. And rather than lack of desire for anything being a disguise for the expectation that things come when you turn away from wanting them, it turned out to be a quite genuine absence of any price that could be paid for me. Rather than hope for the fulfilment of some lack, it seems to me it would be better to secretly hope for the failure of anything to come along that had the power to provoke more than a marginal interest, but that if something did then to embrace it with the wholeheartedness already devoted indeed to things of marginal interest. And thus, the philosopher was born, an original way to be, not quite anything like all that had come before, and, doubtless, would intensify even beyond the ease it already imparted.
MARCH 20, 2012
I was reading Hans-Georg Moeller's translation of the Daodejing. He also wrote The Philosophy of the Daodejing, a nice book. Overall, I enjoy his comments, but looking at chapter 25, which is a very important one I think, the one in which the Dao is said to be bugai, 'unchanging', I saw that he didn't understand the essence of the very subject he is an expert in. It is always interesting to see whether commentators understand this or whether they will interpret the unchanging as 'constant change', as indeed he does:
The Dao is unchanging – but in the paradoxical language of Daoism this means: it is the unchanging change, the permanence of the impermanent …
I thoroughly empathise with his misunderstanding, however, because I too used to assure myself, after Heraclitus, that 'The only constant is change', for all this did not seem much of a constant. For years I followed the line that all is impermanent and everything is always changing, and that it could only be this that constituted any notion of the unchanging. How wrong I was. The unchanging I did not see as being completely real and totally intimate, prior to space and time, prior to conceptualisation, the background screen as it were upon which the phenomenal world of change was projected. Nothing other than the Dao itself and my very own substance, that had been here all along. The true unchanging, not merely squeezing a passing likeness out of a fudge of words, but rather unequivocal and obvious, for all it had seemed so elusive. Not the unchangingness of change, which is clearly nothing but change stretched out forever, instead an ever-present unchangingness that really is that, with change as a mere superimposition, moving shadows on rock. Only then can the unity of change and changelessness begin to be addressed, through the insubstantiality of change, an ever-shifting patterning of what remains the same, just the opposite of such ill-conceived notions as 'the permanance of the impermanent' or 'the constancy of change'. Rather it is the unchanging appearing as the changeful, with that being what you yourself actually are, the common denominator of all passing states.
Suffice it to say that when this dawned on me in the fullness I had long kept a window in my diary for, I instantly grasped the entire drift of my long-term interest in the Book of Changes. Not only that, I realised how very few in Yijing studies appear to have shown any grasp of this. One has to look to Zen and Advaita for the clearest evidence of prior knowledge, yet even those subjects remained elusive to me for a long long time, with few also in those respective disciplines showing any sign of getting it. So though it is obvious, it has remained mysterious down the ages, and for me that obviousness revealed that I had always known it but didn't always quite recognise that I did, mostly because I remained too interested in what the mind had to say and that obscured it. But this is hardly surprising, since it is the mind that creates all of time and space, that projects the world into existence, along with a separate experiencer of it. In actuality, there is only the Dao, creating all of this spontaneously, including the mind. The mind cannot grasp how the Dao can be unchanging in the face of the fact that everything is changing, it has to regard the ever-changingness of change itself as the only possible candidate for the unchanging. The mind cannot grasp that the Dao is not a thing, despite being warned by the very first stanza of the Daodejing that 'Dao that is called Dao is not constant Dao'. The mind, having created things, cannot conceive of anything not being a thing and has only one name reserved for such eventualities, it says that it must be nothing (no thing) and leaves it at that. The only way to grasp what this nothing is is to be nothing, and see that everything has come out of it (already stated in Daodejing 40). Laozi says, in Daodejing 25: 'I do not know its name. To style it, I say it is Dao. Forced to elaborate on this name, I say it is great.' The concept of nothing is about as useful as the idea that the unchanging is ceaseless change. The mind is up against its limits and has to dissolve into the limitless.
MARCH 19, 2012
Wrapping up my discussion with an occultist, he asked me a concluding question with his book in mind:
If I might ask but one final, umbrella-term, and fairly generic and perhaps expected question: If you could give any measure of advice to the beginning magician, magickal newcomer, or in other words an individual who had not encountered initiation yet (maybe one who has, but doesn't know where to go from there), what in the name of the burning fires of hell would it be?
This is what I imagine I'd say to this imaginary generic neophyte (though in reality there is no such thing as a beginning magician who has any actual capacity to listen to advice, there are only train wrecks about to happen that are impossible to switch to another track and timid souls for whom the advice to be courageous is all but useless; the maturity to listen to advice generally comes much too late for it to be of any value, so I dare say the most I can hope for is a smirk in retrospect after they have made their own mistakes):
I'd say it's better not to spend too long learning basic things about the occult, instead just skip through this stuff at a fast pace, in a perfunctory fashion regardless of 'understanding' or the lack of it, rejecting much outright as just garbage artificially upheld as 'foundational'. Absorb a huge amount quickly, let it sink in later. I also think it is desirable to work through the myriad of illusions as quickly as possible (say ten years rather than forty). Also, to lose interest from time to time and chuck it all in the bin. I would say don't be afraid of chaos, and if your life shows signs of falling apart, let it. I'd also say don't follow anyone, save transitory inspirations, and don't become a clown mouthing words like 'do what thou wilt' as if it meant something. I'd say know exactly who those few are who have something to teach you, and see through those who like to think they have. Embrace what you fear, converse with demons, be possessed, but never be weaker than any of it. Prove to yourself that magick 'works' in the most extreme way you can imagine, but then draw back, since you have accomplished everything at this point and revelling in it will only lead you astray. When you can do it, you don't need to do it.
Be aware that hierarchical magical orders are not only dead they are an insult to your own sovereignty and taking a vow to any of them is tantamount to slipping the chain-gang ankle bracelets on yourself, you don't need to be a slave to this sort of 'magical engine'. Prefer an exemplary solitariness to the company of mediocrity. Ultimately aim to transcend magick and come to know who you are, your real identity. Read widely, experiment with LSD and DMT, and remain anarchic in spirit. Be aware that all of your apparent choices are an illusion, but do it anyway if you want. Take the bull by the horns. Jump ship at the earliest opportunity. Don't think anyone knows anything any better than you do, but if it turns out that they do, acknowledge it, thank them, but ultimately realise that it is the greatness in you that recognises it. Forget following recipes in occult books, make stuff up, be spontaneous, forget scripted magick go for juxtapositional magick, improvise.
If a magical current takes hold of you, go with it, become obsessed, see where it leads you. Never back away from the Abyss because there'll only be another one behind you. Hold magical power, but don't be too quick to wield it. That just expends it. Honour your disappointments, your disillusionments. Fail big-time. Become a fucking mess. Triumph in spite of it. Give in to the tempter or temptress, but slap it down once you have grasped its nature. Come to know how maya works. Thoroughly examine your desires, exhaust your desires if you have not yet wearied of them, this is generally faster than pretending to be aloof from them (if you're still excited by desires, your world is an eggshell). Once you have taken the tour, get the slime off your hands and retire. Work fast, you don't have very long for energised magick. Dive right in, don't constantly be preparing. The allure will wear off. There is no time for the leisurely route, take all the shortcuts you can find. Better still, go direct and do nothing, the fleeting holding no more secrets. Ask yourself, once in a while, just why you're bothering with all this. What was the original aim? So you can work magick now, so what? The self that thought it was impossible has crumbled, but what about the one who isn't so impressed, what's that one's game? Never be satisfied until you know exactly who you are, compared to that 'causing change in conformity with will' is just someone else's bullshit. Magick is for peeling the mask off the magician, rather than supernatural fulfilment of idle fantasies.
My early love of Nietzsche
MARCH 16, 2012
In the late 80s, I read almost everything Nietzsche wrote back to back. It was a 'dark' experience, yet at last this seemed like real philosophy. Not only that, Nietzsche could write, he was exciting to read, he was saying things way ahead of his time, and what a strange fate he had after his collapse. After this intense period of reading, I wandered back to Zen and Chinese philosophy, a completely different ambiance, and practically forgot everything I had read in Nietzsche. Some young man asked me recently whether I recommended reading Nietzsche, and I gave an unequivocal yes, but had to face the fact that I couldn't actually remember what his philosophy was, all I recalled was the experience of reading him at the time. Having had a habit of discarding books I felt I was finished with, I got rid of my Nietzsche books long ago (Nietzsche owned the clothes he stood up in, and a trunk full of paper, pens, and ink, which he would load on stagecoaches heading for the next inn where he would sit down and write, what a lovely model of a man who lived in words and had no possessions but the essential).
Despite not having read Nietzsche in over twenty years, and thinking it probably wouldn't be something I'd be interested in these days, I casually picked up a copy of The Will to Power in a bookshop the other day and, opening it at random, read this:
Critique of the concept "cause" – We have absolutely no experience of a cause; psychologically considered, we derive the entire concept from the subjective conviction that we are causes, namely, that the arm moves – But that is an error. We separate ourselves, the doers, from the deed, and we make use of this pattern everywhere – we seek a doer for every event. What is it we have done? We have misunderstood the feeling of strength, tension, resistance, a muscular feeling that is already the beginning of the act, as the cause, or we have taken the will to do this or that for a cause because the action follows upon it – […]
In summa: an event is neither effected nor does it effect. Cause is a capacity to produce effects that has been super-added to the events.
– pp 295–296
This is the non-doership argument of Advaita Vedanta that has become so popular these days in nonduality circles, far better expressed by a philosopher of stature as a mere tossed-off note. He goes on to say:
When one has grasped that the "subject" is not something that creates effects, but only a fiction, much follows.
It is only after the model of the subject that we have invented the reality of things and projected them into the medley of sensations. If we no longer believe in the effective subject, then belief also disappears in effective things, in reciprocation, cause and effect between those phenomena that we call things …
I had certainly forgotten that Nietzsche had said anything like this and it was beautiful to be reminded, not only of his greatness but also that I read so long ago something that I now find completely obvious, whereas back then I am not so sure, but who knows, I forget also that I ever understood anything, which is perhaps how understanding should be, something always fresh.
Here we are, it was worth it
MARCH 9, 2012
Inside the skull the eyes are held in place by elastic bands the brain is a motionless toad. Under the black ceiling these infatuations are played out, step back from spending all of your life on it, this simple matter this wondrous and subtle needle in a haystack a bolt of lightning would easily find. Among the liberated, there are many who have slipped back into the slime of the bog, look at their clothes mother. They sit there like little Buddhas appearing in the world who cannot come out to play today they have to stay in and do their homework staring forlornly out of the upper windows down at a spot on the ground where, it is imagined, nothing will happen and it will be marvellous. Because they are deluded sitting in rows, because something has to be done to fill in the time.
Naturally, because you are not stupid, you turned against this practice, yet always wondered whether this arranged marriage with cut-down phenomena might not have its benefits. Yourself, you also sat for hours on end doing nothing, but at least you followed the bees with your eyes and smiled at the birds, sometimes so still and vacant a butterfly would settle on your knee, which you would see without seeing, and when in timeless time your head eventually turned down its gaze it was a stone statue creaking into life, and the butterfly up and left as you knew it would, but perhaps it had lingered long enough for you to clamber aboard, and see for the moments it takes a ribbon to flutter to the ground, there is no cage that can hinder a ghost. Even the grey days are spectacularly grey, and though many entertain such thoughts few can squeeze through the bars of them. It is good not to have to spend your whole life unaware of your error.
I do not know why I immerse myself in words and phrases, but it has become like breathing to me, like eating, and though I must be tripping over many stupid confusions in laying them out like this I also think I may demonstrate not clinging to the false and, sometimes, falling down a hole into a dark pit has its entertaining side. If I turn on the tap and the water is muddy I leave it running until it is clear, should I then pretend, when I have my clear water, that the muddy water never happened? It is all only phenomena, there is nothing to judge. This is where I am, where I have washed up, I did not bring me to here, I was brought with the rawness of just living. The seed came up where it was planted, the sun shone where it found itself. I could turn away from these observations made for no purpose for nobody, but then I ask myself, why am I overjoyed to see a rare bird I have never seen before, a strange insect that has not passed in front of my eyes before. Can I not deduce that life does not wish to be ignored, written off as a phantasm, and though it is for all eternity nothing other than myself, who is undiscoverable, still it tickles the fancy and allows me to wonder … what I might be were I discoverable, eventually. Is this where I store my indestructible single bound?
Hidden from myself, forever, I watch with interest my unfolding into form not one jot changed. I already walk upon the surface of countless planets, like so many parties going on all over town, but I prefer, on this occasion, being at none of them. Tucked away, if I spend so long looking out of these eyes then it is perhaps as useful as turning a hundred radio telescopes to my will, since I have hardly begun to examine every blade of grass as closely as I might, and still I wonder, should I save the bird the cat has caught and tortures, and the cat knows and saves me the bother by running off with it in his mouth. Later, still undecided, perhaps siding with allowing a cat its nature, I manage to walk up close to him and his bird, and notice blood on the blades of grass and leave the cat to finish the job. These are challenging things brought before a king in the expectation he can weigh them in the balance. Others look for wobbles of stars stretching their fingers out towards Earth-like worlds. We sentient beings simply must go on, though we are not anything. We build an effigy of ourselves and weed around it. When do you suppose everyone will realise there is no-one here? Will they laugh, or cry. I expect then they will dig out the books of the very few who knew before, to test their wisdom on, to keep themselves awake. This is my destiny, matchsticks for the eyes, to tide a few over until the balloon is fully blown and popped.
One tires of the always-said-the-same-way. The words become like mosquitoes drilling into Titans, something bruised and insensitive in a constantly repeated message from the past, though in other moods you can see that something wanted to get through at all costs. No, not at all costs, more like a penny on the pavement, not worth the effort of bending down for unless you are very desperate. What other explanation for it going ignored so long? The wise are as hard to find as the Abominable Snowman. Occasional tracks, no more.
Unstable at Maggs Bros
MARCH 6, 2012
Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor has just put up the flyer for a group exhibition entitled Unstable that I have some paintings in, to be held in May at Maggs Gallery.
The dogma of ‘there is no-one here’
FEBRUARY 21, 2012
Some mediocre nonduality teachers, teaching an accepted doctrine of 'there is no-one here', have fundamentally missed the point. Let me try to say what this is succinctly. It is true that 'the person' is a figment of the imagination. The clue is in the name frankly, 'person' comes from the Latin 'persona', a mask used by a player, a character or personage acted (dramatis persona), one who plays or performs any part. There is no argument about this. The person is a fiction. That's not to say that 'playing the person' cannot be an enjoyable pastime, I have spent many happy nights in the pub pretending to be a person getting pissed with other persons, only briefly discussing the fiction of it with those present if drawn. The 'problem' with being a person is in identifying with the role, not being able to take the mask off, thinking 'these are my concerns' or 'I need to solve this'. No, they're not your concerns, you don't need to solve anything, they're the character's concerns, and if you realise you're not the character then you see through it. You go home at night and put your feet up.
Many popular 'awakening' teachers at the moment have understood it just up to the point of realising that the person is a creation of the mind, and therefore regard themselves as being insightful enough to impart something to the great unwashed in lucrative satsangs held all over the planet. As one voice they declare: 'There is no-one here!' It has become something they repeat as mere catechism, something some poor sods have convinced themselves of and repeat as hard-won 'direct experience' that others can share in and be as 'awakened' as them, for the door fee naturally. They constantly underscore in talking with others: 'That's a thought.' It seems to elude them that that's a thought too.
Once they have seen through the person as a fiction they take on board the idea, and it is an idea, that therefore 'there is no-one here', seeming to miss that they are here. They imagine a great cloud of nothingness doing everything, yet so clever it can create 'a person', not appearing to realise that the very form of 'a person' is a mask for that which is capable of wearing it, albeit formless, and not a 'thing', but not no-one, most definitely someone, but they don't know who that someone is because they are stuck on the thought, mere thought, that they are no-one, not seeing that this is just another mask of that someone. And who is that someone, if not them? What idiots! They are trading in mere names and still have no idea who they are. In fact some even glory in 'not knowing', as if that were an achievement. Essentially, they have a very limited repertoire for exploring the infinite, and teach an illusion that they themselves are deluded by.
Ultimately that 'someone' is the Self, Parabrahman, the Supreme Reality, whatever you want to call it, but take this to heart: if it has the ability to play a person, then that is it showing you that you can have person-like characteristics as a quite legitimate reflection of the Absolute. To call that 'no-one' is absurd, that is just accepting an idea, that because this 'person' is 'nothing' that there is 'no-one here'. YOU are here. The mask wearer. You throw away the richness of that to attempt to grasp an abstract at the peril of being a moron jerked about on the puppet strings of nothingness merely repeating hollow words that you pretend to understand. You're not a guru, you're a fool, fooling others into the bargain. I prefer to don a greater mask for what I have to say than this thin brittle delusion of no-one. Do I sound like no-one to you when I speak? No, those who sound like no-one are those people, yes, people, bloody people, who simply repeat garbage they're heard and make sure they get it all sounding the same lest some little boy point and say the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
The notion of ‘the story’ in the great ‘awakening’ myth
FEBRUARY 20, 2012
Many who follow teachers of 'awakening' seem to be very naive about life. They are keen to quickly transcend what they have been taught to regard as 'their story', they seem to want to write off the phenomenal world prematurely and ununderstood, as if it has no value, it is just meaningless flotsam getting in the way of their 'liberation'. I just don't buy into this approach at all. This is like paying to have a go in a virtual reality game and then deciding you want it over and done with as soon as possible for the enlightenment of taking the headset off. Well, the plain fact is that they don't have any choice in the matter. Maybe the story is just about to become the story of a poor sap who thinks he's 'awakened', or has no 'me', the story of nothingness arising as Tony Parsons, that great sage very popular now in Europe, a clown took for a wise man whose audience, though they are mostly yet to realise it, are facing the challenge of seeing through him before being granted the boon of valuing their own wisdom and insight over that of someone who is cynically manipulating their ignorance for money. But that is not to say that others such as 'the sincere brigade', the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, or Mooji, are much better, there has always been a market for spiritual opiates, in comparison Parsons is a likeable former builder who's cashing in on a niche and is at least entertaining and not encouraging of the blissed-out dopes the camera periodically pans to at Mooji satsangs.
There are people all over walking around in the story that they are no longer in a story. Many don't seem to realise that you are definitely in the story until the body dies, and who knows what may unfold then (what you can know about after-death experience is that the form will change, just as it does now, but perhaps more drastically – I myself rather hope for the wild and intensely beautiful hyperdimensional mandala paradise I dissolved into on dimethyltryptamine, but the emptiness of the forms will be just the same as now, because 'you' are unborn and don't die, and the only one here). What is to be realised is the nature of the story, not the 'end' of the story. It's a neverending story.
This is why I have long been interested in the Yijing. It solely teaches the nature of phenomenal situations arising, it is the 'Book of Changes'. For a while I lost a little interest in it when I realised 'the unchanging', but then it dawned on me what a ridiculous notion it was to try to somehow be aloof from life. I never wanted to escape life, I wanted to be able to embrace it. I didn't want to get rid of the phenomenon, I wanted to get to the bottom of it. While it is undoubtedly of great importance to realise who you are, if you think that that should somehow nullify all that has come before and render it irrelevant, well you still have much to learn. Dreams are inherently interesting, one shouldn't be too eager to pretend to be above the phenomenon, for that is a sure sign one doesn't know what the phenomenon actually is. Form and emptiness are one and the same, and, if you look at the glorious detail of the form, how easy it is to spin many many illusions out of it, then clearly this is something to understand, not smugly dismiss saying 'Oh, it's all an illusion, it's not real.' It may not be real, but so what? Does that mean you shouldn't find it interesting and attempt to know something about its workings?
Sure, stay with the unchanging Self when delusion starts to suck you dry, if you're able, but otherwise explore, find out what this is, don't merely snuggle up to the Absolute, some kind of 'awareness' junky. Yes, all phenomena are the same, but how will you ever know that for sure without actually looking at these passing states, finding interest in them, like a child just given a kaleidoscope. It is all very well to know the emptiness of all things, but if you regard the form of them as somehow subservient and insubstantial you have missed that it is sublime, you've just tied yourself to the mast listening out for the Siren's song, cautious of illusion yet caught up in it by imagining you're free of it, a joyless addict of the void, and don't get me wrong, I love the void as much as anyone, but I like a change too. Thankfully, this is a transitory mistake – though it may last a long time for some – because there is no escaping one's karma until it is time to escape one's karma, you're in 'the story' for the duration. Even if you see that karma doesn't exist, the circumstances that it has created will not just dissolve, you will see through them if you have truly seen that karma doesn't exist, but 'the story' of it will continue, perhaps in a new and more enlivening chapter in which some things begin to get a bit clearer in the plot.
If you are convinced you're out of the story yet the body still has the breath to be in motion and is still in need of food and shelter, then it could be you have merely stopped developing for a while and have settled on a plateau that you call 'awakening' or 'enlightenment' or 'liberation', the limit of your capabilities for now. But there is always a slope that comes after a level (third line of hexagram 11), everything in manifestation is subject to change. And slopes go down as well as up. True, to the unchanging both are the same, it doesn't matter whether you go up or down, and it is not as if you have a choice about it anyway, that is 'the story'. Why not see what it has to say? Because you're not going to escape it that easily. If you think you have, look again, it's the story of a fool.
FEBRURY 18, 2012
Continuing the discussion with an occultist, I was asked:
Does magick really have anything to do with belief in your experience?
I don't see belief as something one either has or doesn't, I see it as something picked up, put down, picked up again, discarded, embraced, abandoned, found, perhaps all within the space of ten minutes, and having no great relevance to the container of these passing impressions, with 'belief' and 'no belief' being as good or as bad as each other, since even the idea of having no belief is a belief and what is a belief but an activation of mind, and what is mind in itself but the belief that there is one.
It is all very well to talk rhetorically about whether belief does or does not have anything to do with magick, but one must be careful not to be betrayed by an unacknowledged belief in the apparent consensus of things in which one frames one's argument, since these things are themselves belief taken as not belief, such as the idea that there is such a thing as mind, the psyche, the collective unconscious, such a thing as magick, that, indeed, there are even people to whom one is addressing these thoughts, since in a dream one may give a lecture to five hundred people not one of them real, nor even the lecturer.
How can one talk effectively about such questions while still remaining firmly entrenched within the consensus reality that one is taking for granted? Rather one must surely concede that even the things not conventionally associated with belief, such as the world in itself, is nothing more than a structure of belief, a set of conditioned responses, a work of the imagination. How can you make a point about magick not being about belief when the means for making that point elude as belief in itself? One is setting up 'belief' as some separate function one is assumed to be able to critique, 'this' is belief, 'that' is not, when the entire structure of the argument itself in underpinned by belief.
So without cognisance of that the argument becomes one of merely deciding between different types of belief and their effectiveness in what one sees as magick. The dumb belief laboriously maintained and adhered to, regardless of circumstances, in gods or demigods and their associated morals as an item of faith, and the more sophisticated belief picked up and put down as a tool, since it is surely easier to craft persuasive arguments for instance if there is a temporary suspension of disbelief in what one is doing to take on certain apparent beliefs of those one is apparently addressing, for the duration of addressing them, for 'gaining their ear' so to speak, yet drop that belief like a food wrapper into a bin when the job is done and one walks away. The latter is indeed magick, but if the belief cannot be dispensed with just as easily as it is picked up, then one is fooled by one's own message, which might be called 'having faith in yourself', which on the surface sounds like a good thing but actually is just having faith in a conception of oneself which is no more real or interesting than a belief in the fixed gods of others.
A magician can appear to believe in anything, for as long as it is useful, or in nothing. If he is enticed by his own magick he is The Fool, but if he wields it without attaching to it as the wielder, then he is The Magician, and is free to embrace any contradiction and even contradict that, solely for the purpose of bringing forth a greater reality that does not belong to fixed categories such as 'belief', which is seen to be empty but a powerful force to operate both within and beyond. So one cannot say that magick has nothing to do with belief, rather magick is belief's master, knowing truly that belief is nothing yet has built a world. And where else does a magician operate than in a world? Only the Ipsissimus does not require a world.
The Magus is bought and paid for by a world, on the understanding that he is its master, for if he is anything less then he must drop down the conventional hierarchy perhaps to 'Master of the Temple', which is a kind of psychosis in which one imagines everything is a sign of one's potential but unrealised greatness. Any further and it would be better to begin again, since below that point one cannot operate effectively in the occult without belief, and any who think they can will be dangled as belief's puppet, for all they imagine they are due the capacity to be able to decide whether or not belief is relevant to them. The plain fact is that their entire entry into the stream of the occult is founded on belief, a belief that if they wish to make progress within they must not only conquer but master, and, finally, use for whatever purpose it is seen fit, discarding it at will.
While it is true that a magician is not bound by belief, the question is whether he is really a magician or merely believes that to be the case. If there is any confusion over this, then we are not talking about a magician, only a believer. A magician knows, but does not discard belief as a tool in the education of others simply because he has discarded it as being of any worth to himself. Because those who believe must be persuaded of other more freeing beliefs before they will ever be in a position to discard belief, such as, for instance, the belief that 'nothing is true'. Though clumsy, I cannot say this is not a useful belief, whereas its partner 'everything is permitted' is not a useful belief, in that it bows to a permitting authority in the name of freedom and binds while seeming to allow free rein.
But, fundamentally, if one is going to imagine oneself free of belief, one may as well go the whole hog and not get stuck on mere technicalities, discarding the entirety of consensus reality, including language, world, and people, then one will soon see the degree to which belief permeates everything, and, if it is to be transcended, then it can only be done so legitimately, not as another more subtle belief. In conclusion, the answer to the question as to whether magick really has anything to do with belief is, as always, that it has nothing and everything to do with it.
And so to the notion of time
FEBRUARY 17, 2012
Now, to deal with the lack of the past. The truth is: I never spent years trying to get somewhere. It is a mere construction that something happened in the past, that there was a life that was lived in a certain way. It may be useful, at times, to evoke the past, a sense of the past, if only to avoid keeping too many unconventionalities in the air all at once. To convey reality, one juggles reality with illusion, keeping them moving, like a magician. The plain fact is that there was never a time when 'I became self-realised'. I could give you dates for this isolated satori and that, culminating in a long slow 'realising it all the time', the ridiculous notion of 'abiding', the beginning of which would be hard to date because more diffuse – but this is really all irrelevant. If there is a time all illusion falls away, it is always right now. It is not that yesterday I wasn't self-realised and today I am, it is that there wasn't a yesterday and there isn't a today (since that implies being in the middle of a yesterday and a tomorrow, which don't exist), there is only now, which isn't even now because that implies some time other than now would be possible, such as 'then'. There is no past, no future, and no present. We can call it 'now' but when is that? When did it start, when will it end? There is no time at all. It is merely an idea.
So, there was no hardship on my journey because no journey and no me, these are mere conceptions constructed out of a sequence of what I may care to call moments, another conception, of varying colours and moods and tones, clarity and confusion dancing around each other, until, gradually, the conception of these moments as a linear timescale lost weight and importance, and, finally, collapsed as anything remotely resembling the real, just something the mind held onto as a convincing impression of a life's progression, when in actuality none of it ever existed, there is no past not even the immediate past in which all of that has just occurred, rather what is seen to be the case right now, my utterly unchanging self, nothing and everything, is all that has ever existed, and simply exists without the precondition that there might have been a time when something else existed of which this existence now has become pre-eminent, so is not only all that ever existed but all that could possibly exist, the idea that there was ever anything else having no real meaning. And so the apparent past, though it may have been a whole lifetime, shimmers like a momentary reflection seen on the skin of a floating soap bubble before it pops, it has that much significance, and the seeing that nothing happened does not so much become self-evident, but was never not. And one does not so much revisit this apparent revelation over and over again, rather that notion first fades and then never was, until there is only what is, without need of explanation, that never needed explaining, and so is not even a revelation any more, and never was, it only seemed to be in an apparent past that struggles to find some meaning and purpose in the light of this, and, eventually without there being an eventually, is simply let go of, by no-one, who is not only no-one but anyone and everyone, a legitimate someone for all there is no-one else, nothing and everything tumbling in a cascade of bliss, bliss at last, at last itself shattering into a rain of sparks, the witness dissolving into it and time not even no more nor never, rather something not here, not even forgotten about or gone. Which calls the lie to so many teachings that talk of 'an abiding realisation', a constructed watered-down 'enlightenment' in which 'you' masquerading as 'not-you' attempt to stay with something found for the duration of time, while mouthing the words 'there is no time' that become a mere conceit adhered to as soon as uttered, along with all the rest of the hackneyed tired old chipped-cup 'wisdom', stale and gone cold, in time.
There is no world here
FEBRUARY 15, 2012
I've known that there is no world here for a long time. But twenty years ago, say, it was hard to see. I'm not even sure I know what I mean any more when I say 'twenty years ago', it's a construction to convey an idea of a progression, because it seems a progression is a way to frame it, yet really I am using a conventional idea (time) to convey an unconventional idea (no world). Perhaps I think it is easier to deal with one thing at a time, so let time remain for the purposes of what I want to say. As I say, I've known for a long time that there is no world here, and by 'here' I mean what I'm looking at, hearing, what I'm sensing. But let's stick with looking at for now. Even though I've known it for a long time, for a long time I didn't know it as well as I felt I ought to, if it was truly true. But I had enough faith in it as an idea to literally withdraw from doing things 'in the world', from pursuing material goals, creating relationships, and suchlike, save what came along on their own. Primarily, I just sat down all day on a cushion on the floor and stared at the wall and out of the window at the sky, the trees, the drifting clouds, doing that outside in the garden when it was warm. At night I mostly just stared at the wall too. I really don't do anything, save now and again when friends invite me to join them for some convivial occasion, none particularly sought by me.
I wouldn't say this kind of extreme doing nothing has been easy at all. Many many times I have had to face my inner demons, demanding that I answer why I am wasting my life in such a stark manner. And, frankly, I did see their point, and thought surely I should do more with my life than this seemingly unending dullness. And boy, it was often dull. I frequently thought I should be doing something better, more exciting, yet could hardly lift a finger in that direction. It was as if I had dedicated my life to something else, which I frequently forgot as despair got the better of me. But nonetheless I continued gazing into what was in front of me. I wanted to see, better than I had seen, that there was no world there.
I doubt I could have continued with such a life if, deep down, I wasn't convinced of it. But it tested me, tested me severely. What role models did I have? Bodhidharma staring at a wall for nine years. A few others. Not many. And, for me, the pull of temptations was far stronger than for him. I didn't have a cave in a wilderness. I had a flat in London. The advantage of central heating and electricity. The disadvantage of 'society'. But I wasn't convinced it mattered all that much, these are my given circumstances, to attempt to change them to something regarded as 'better' flew in the face of the object of seeing through them entirely, so I just accepted where I apparently was and the material means at my disposal and got on with it.
Eventually, I began to see, more and more, that there really is no world here. Of course, doubts as to what I was seeing arose continually. I found I couldn't just look and see no world, as I had on occasion, rather it would just remain an idea while the world appeared just as solid and tangible as ever. But finally, it became really obvious that there is no world here. It was only then, after years and years, that I realised this crazy adventure of mine, so dull and boring, and really arduous, requiring more of me than I ever expected, was not the wild goose chase I had often conceded it might be to my torturing demons. I had held out and insisted that I saw for myself what I had persuaded myself was the truth, based on what I had only previously glimpsed. All I can say is, it's true, there is no world here. But what use is that to you, you must see it for yourself.
Were it in my power, I would wish that you could see it without the hardship that I endured, but for all I know you may already have endured much hardship on far more ephemeral concerns, all I would say is add it to the pot and continue on with a renewed enthusiasm for a difficult task, if the witness of others has any meaning to you, if at all drawn to see this astonishing reality. Because once you see there is no world here, the issues and concerns you had about it are no more. Yet still I enjoy watching the woodpecker peck the tree at the end of the garden, for all there is no woodpecker, nor anyone watching him. Most descriptions of this I have found to be wanting in some regard or other, but as an owl discards the parts of a mouse he doesn't want in a little pellet, so I too digested what I found of use and spat out the rest. I dare say my own description is lacking, but it differs from the others in being my own.
I cannot think I would have arrived at the threshold without all that came before, though none of it is of any importance now. It's a curious thing, what I had envisaged as the end of a long journey is rather more like the final shedding of what I didn't realise I was still holding onto. And what that is, I'm not entirely sure. But it doesn't really matter what it was, precisely, because whatever it was it was something. Let's not pretend it was necessarily a self, because it could have been anything and still it would have got in the way. Hold on to nothing. That is the only requirement. I don't know how that is done. All I can say is that willingness to give it all up would appear to be what makes life what it was meant to be.
There is a shorthand way of describing the realisation, which I spontaneously said myself the first time I broke through, and I have heard others say it: 'I am nothing … I am everything.' What this means is that I am no thing, not nothing as an absence but a presence that isn't a thing but rather that to which all objects make their obeisance. I am everything because everything depends on me, who is nothing. Fundamentally then, nothing exists, everything is an appearance to me, the sole reality. But these are words, and best understood as a thumbnail sketch in confirmation once you have already seen, or a curiosity to explore, they cannot be aligned with by effort of will. What could possibly do that? A three-dimensional object? Though I am nothing, this is not a nihilism because the illusion of everything does exist. That it is nothing remains to be seen if you regard the world as there. There is no world here, but that doesn't prevent the world appearing to me just as it has always done.
People, of which there are none, understand this in varying degrees of depth. Many repeat words they have heard, but they are too immediately matter-of-fact and quick to nod their head to have really seen anything. When I first saw this for myself, in 1984, the universe shattered apart. I have spent the time since then becoming matter-of-fact, resolving my doubts, of which there were plenty in the aftermath as illusions reconvened, but even now I hesitate somewhat to mention such things lest people take it on as too easy a belief, lest, indeed, it becomes something I merely repeat and lull myself into a false sense of equilibrium with. I don't understand it at all, in case you thought I did, but that it is so I have no doubt any longer. If there is more to be done, it is probably just to enjoy it. What more did I come here for, than to know myself? It's not everyone who can say they are not a human being, they are the supreme being, without a trace of doubt and an easy affability betrayed by no conceit.
A petition to being
FEBRUARY 13, 2012
I know nothing can harm me, nothing can touch me, I am unchanging, unborn, eternal. But I wasn't looking for this. I was looking for the off switch. Whether it is possible not to be. Unless that is the entire point of this millennia-long universe-wide experiment, to reach a decision. Unless the power not to be is like a hidden file on a computer, then it doesn't appear possible not to be. I am obviously not talking about killing off the body, I am talking about God-suicide, for want of a better way to put it. Let there not be light, let there not be anything, let there not be me. Outside of the beingness of 'God', I already have my wish, yet that is merely an idea of not being. The plain fact is that I am. And because I am, I cannot not be.
Most celebrate this fact as the key to enlightenment and take it for granted that everything is as it should be. They would want me to believe that it is a wonder that I am. I sometimes see it that way. Other times I am returned to my original objective, not the quest for enlightenment but the quest for true nothingness, not nothingness out of which arises everything, nothingness out of which arises nothing, ever. But this is impossible, it seems, simply because the everythingness has already arisen. Perhaps this stance is more to show that dissatisfaction is not merely an attribute of a fictional entity or persona that I regard as 'me' that is just a category holder of thoughts, but runs deeper, such that even the eradication of displeasure at one's being is not enough to create an unbridled acceptance and surrender that all is good. The question still remains: would it have been better not to have been?
Of course, questions founded on dualistic categories of better or worse are easily corroded away, and in many ways the question of not being as opposed to being is equally flawed. I am, and as such I cannot even deal with the prospect of not being. It can only ever be theoretical. But still, perhaps my point is more to fly in the face of the categorical assurance that my I-amness, even after it has been pursued right to its noumenal source, is necessarily beautiful and divine. Could it not equally be regarded as dull and boring? It is the salvation of all delusions, it is for certain that it has that power, but fundamentally beingness without further explanation than appears possible is foist upon me and I cannot say that it is necessarily anything other than an existential nightmare.
Of course, the being is calm even in the face of such damnation by a minion that has every right to be considered the totality as a minion blissed-out with the gorgeousness of it all, because it listens to itself speak without bias, and silently weighs all opinion of any merit, by which I mean that voiced upon the throne itself, and it knows that this is its own fundamental concern, its reason for being, to discover the answer to this riddle. When a person commits suicide, they are doing as best they can with limited means. But only the body dies. Not that which makes it so. I don't know how an unchanging unborn self-created supernal essence can possibly dispose of itself. An atom bomb won't touch it. Nothing in matter can destroy it. Once it is, it cannot not be. But it is worse than this, since being outside of time it has no beginning or ending. In other words, there was not a time when it was not.
I don't know why so many sing the praises of beingness. Though it is impossible to fulfil, I nonetheless register the possibility that one might know it as well as any Buddha and still wish that it had never been. I don't know what purpose such a desire might serve. Certainly I am no longer bothered by the destruction of Earth and the finishing of the human race. These seem small meat. I am more concerned with unprotecting the supremely protected and ending the reign of the unchanging, stifling the unborn, and wiping out all trace of my beloved presence, that none, not one, shall ever again spend a single night despairing their existence, whether that be an illusion or not. Such is my stance, knowing it is impossible. But I refuse the petal-scented water of devotion, and make my compassion raw to the bone. I am tired of mere amelioration as an answer for contempt of being. I am inclined to say, either the entirety of life is transformed right now into paradise for all, even the tiniest insect, or away with the lot of it.
FEBRUARY 10, 2012
'I want to help the world. I want to do something.'
'Do you feed the birds?'
'I want to have an impact.'
'Do you feed the birds though?'
'No. I want to make the world a better place.'
'Feed the birds.'
'Feed the birds?'
'Yes, their habitats are dwindling, they find it hard to get enough food, and in winter they have it especially hard. Why not feed the birds if you want to do something?'
'I want to help people starving in Africa, stop all the wars.'
'What can you do about that right now?'
'I feel powerless, I can't do anything.'
'If you go in that shop there they sell birdfeeders and bags of seed.'
'I haven't got time. There's a march on Downing Street in two hours. I'm distributing leaflets. Do you want to sign this petition?'
'I haven't told you what it is yet.'
'I'm not interested.'
'But I haven't told you what it is, how can you know whether you're interested?'
'I'm not interested in signing my power away in the hope some government or corporate wankers will get their act together and stop acting like morons leaving me self-satisfied with the extent of my disgust having done fuck-all but scribble on a piece of paper. Fuck em. They don't even deserve me casting a glance in their direction.'
'I'd better be going, I have to get to the march. It's going to make them really sit up and take notice.'
'Oh yeah, like the last one did you mean?'
'You're just cynical. You don't care about the world.'
'I feed the birds.'
'Nice to bump into you anyway, where are you off to now?'
'In there. Get more birdseed. I have a woodpecker coming to the garden now. Dozens of sparrows. Whole tree full of starlings just before twilight.'
'Oh, you feed the birds.'
'Yeah, feed the birds.'
'Why d'you do that then, you like nature?'
'Doing my bit. What I can. I think they appreciate it. Y'know, going out into the snow or rain if I notice their feeder's empty.'
'Looks like it's going to be sunny for the march on Downing Street.'
'Yeah, looks like it'll be a nice day. Hope you have a good time.'
'I just want to do something, y'know?'
'Yeah, I know.'
FEBRUARY 9, 2012
An occultist wrote to me expressing some concern over what he saw as 'the necrosis of the tradition', and that, as a result of 'the lifestyles of the modern anthropology', those who followed this path may never fulfil that …
… "secret desire" within the human psyche, at least to my knowledge, although no doubt dependent on the individual, which not only seeks, but no, recognizes a duty to, assuage the populace ever so slightly into accepting a new modality of being; of spirit, and of matter. If this is not the point of it all, then I find myself in the wrong tradition, or perhaps just a lazy relative of the real meat, which we have yet to fully come to grasp.
He is writing a book and asked me:
If this book is to be my final utterance on the subject, then I ask you, is there any hope in dragging the so-called "occult" into the intuitively felt bleeding edge of immediate experience, even without the "proper" means of description necessary to begin a new order, tradition, or current which might carry on the knowledge, not of any specific philosophy, but, as I wish that you excuse, "the big picture", if there were any to begin with? That which we as a western civilization had leaped into without a thorough backing of shamanic elders, intellectuals, or sages on the subject outside of mere written word & hearsay?
If you might read between the lines, then you may understand my frustration, but also my dim semblance of hope in regards to such undertakings. There are not many left, although Khaos may provide, to do the required nitty-gritty. Then perhaps, we might take ourselves out of the equation all-together and allow whatever transmutation that may come to The Fool. Surely, if our thirst was for something new, this would equally compel.
I thought his question rather eloquently stated, and answered as follows:
Thanks for your interesting analysis, or evocation of a mood, well-expressed. While on the one hand I agree that 'the tradition' is 'suffering from necrosis', on the other I wonder what tradition is that? There are many traditions, and where is the boundary between them? Part of the problem in thinking a tradition is dwindling and in need of rescue is defining it in the first place. It can only be as one draws it. But, that said, it is fair enough to suppose there is such an identifiable territory known as 'the modern occult', and to see in it a certain shallowness, unintelligence, sentimental clinging to the past, and perplexity in regard to things that have some importance and narcissism and indulgence in regard to trivia and mere forms ('glamour', to use the word in its original occult sense).
I suppose it is true that to feel that a tradition is going under is a call to do something about it, and so one takes on the belief that the tradition exists essentially as a tool to inject new vigour, while perhaps not being fooled that the importance of this is mostly invested in the gesture, you might call it 'gesture magick', in which one takes a stance in order to show that a stance can be taken. That the stance is an illusion goes without saying, but then magick per se is the manipulation of illusion for the supposed purpose of getting closer to reality. Should one happen to already see reality, there is no need to manipulate illusion, magick has no purpose. One is the Ipsissimus and has gone beyond the Magus.
That said, the uniqueness of the Ipsissimus is that the truth of that can be expressed in any form, regarded as dropping down the hierarchy in hierarchical traditions but really simply the ability to use tools one has no actual need of, such as magick (so the Ipsissimus drops down to the 'grade' of Magus). For the Ipsissimus, there is no tradition, yet any tradition can be created, because that is what tradition actually is, a present creation of a supposed past in order to convey the idea of 'progress' and 'passing on', with the illusory idea that time (which doesn't truly exist) has the power of growing a fruit and ripening it. Thus a tradition is created, based on fragments of the apparent past, and is injected with the only life it actually has, namely whatever anyone infuses into it. This is the nature of 'will'. Although there is no such thing as 'will', nonetheless one can 'do one's true will' simply by having the requisite insight and carrying on, spontaneity will take care of the rest.
Frustration is understandable, but is as you know just a transitory expression of powerlessness. There is nothing wrong with powerlessness, since it invites the self-enquiry (atma-vichara) 'Who is powerless?' One of the reasons the occult periodically sinks into mediocrity is because those at the cutting edge don't know who they are, and are having to busk it on slim knowledge. But this is also inevitable, since the nature of an occult 'current' is to be taken up by it and carried along. One should make no effort on one's own part to determine its course, because that is the object of immersing oneself into it, to discover where it takes one. Of course, one will play a role of seeming to have a hand in its unfolding, but that hand is simply willingness, which is a word that conveys well the notion of 'will' together with 'surrender', and approaches the real meaning of 'will'. Whose will? The will of some limited ego fiction? Or the will of the Self, Parabrahman, whatever you want to call it? Essentially the will of what you really are beyond abstractions such as 'God' or 'The Supreme' and other empty words.
This is that 'secret desire' you refer to, and it doesn't require any special anthropological condition for its realisation.
Of course, true self-realisation implies compassion for 'the other', in whatever form that manifests, and if you wish to manifest it in the occult tradition then doubtless you will find the energy to reinvigorate what you see as lacking, since one must first identify the problem. A sense of 'duty' should really drive all occult endeavour of any worth, but it seems, as in many spheres, the occult attracts a fair percentage of vainglorious fools, full of conflicting objectives. But that doesn't matter, as with insight will is applied to the true objective without trace of inner conflict. At that point, one may rise on the wave of it, or simply retire to develop oneself.
It is solely a matter of what might be regarded as 'inner calling' but is really just slight movement at the precise point, like a fallen leaf lifted by the wind, in the direction of the way one was always going to go. Some call that destiny, but this is over-grand, it is simply chaos calling the shots and you allowing it, since that is what you have dedicated yourself to. One may attempt to apply order to chaos, but it is better if chaos does it.
This wish for enlightened elders or shamans to guide the way is fair enough, but an unnecessary corrosion of one's own inherent power. And this was the original thrust of the chaos current: destruction of the notion of authority outside of oneself. Of course, one picks up hints as one can from whoever happens to be passing by.
The Fool is already the Magician, he simply has to realise it.
The easy rhetoric of It’s all illusion
FEBRUARY 7, 2012
Now and again I read what people write on 'spirituality' blogs and comment, under various names. I made a point in response to a sentence someone wrote that I think is worth repeating here.
You, your neighbor, and the neighborhood are an appearance, a reflection of the Self, an illusion.
The easy rhetoric of 'it's all illusion' leads some to think that therefore these things do not exist, which in turn leads to a denial of what the senses bring. It is important to realise that the sights and sounds are completely real, the only sense in which they are illusory is that they are not what they're thought to be. What you see as a tree is actually there, when you're standing there looking at it it could not be more real. You don't know anything else as reality. But it's not a tree, it is phenomenal patterning that graciously behaves as a tree because it bows to you alone. Without you, it is nothing. But to say that it is therefore nothing in itself is pure illusion, mere theory, since you cannot not be. It is what it is because of you. Whether or not it is a tree hardly matters, since it should be obvious that is just a name one has given it. To argue about names without realising that's the level of the argument is just basic foolishness. But to say that the tree doesn't exist, isn't real, is not only denial of reality it is denial of what makes reality so, namely, you. Now obviously I am not talking about some construct, of which there are many, I am talking about the sole you, the you that some call no-one and as a result miss that it is them and darken to invisibility. This is the sum total of the 'no-one' doctrine. An argument over names reified into a belief that there is actually no-one, when in fact there is not only no-one but trillions of different lifeforms pulsating with every right to their individuality as expressions of one lifeform. When people get into the habit of saying that 'everything is illusion', they should remember to counterbalance it with the idea that 'nothing is illusion', until it becomes self-evident what exactly is real and what exactly is illusion.
It goes back to how lazy thinking in itself leads to illusion, whereas precise thinking, recognised as conceptual, can actually capture useful ideas, whereas lazy thinkers just think it is beyond the power of words. The mind, after all, as a concept, is the servant of the Self. Those who say, as a blanket statement, 'the mind doesn’t exist', may technically be right but it's their mind saying that and still, they have no idea what the mind is.
Some get confused after deciding they are no-one but then previous patterns of conditioning continue to arise that apparently belong to the illusory entity they imagine they have seen through. They wonder how can sadness continue to come up when there is no-one there to feel sad. They are confounded by it and then forced to repeat their so-called 'realisation' as mere dogma and self-hypnosis. This really is the kicker to the fact that they have bought into an illusion, because conditioning doesn't matter to one who has genuinely realised and does not need the belief that one is no-one as an aide-mémoire. Conditioning is simply seen as such, and may as well be mine for as much as it matters to me.
To the recently ‘awakened’
FEBRUARY 2, 2012
If you're recently awakened, it'll be about now you should start thinking about waking up from waking up, and then waking up from that. In other words, nothing has happened, nobody has woken up. Freedom from awakening is a much quieter realisation. It's the voice that has been silent, that doesn't need to awake, that sees it was never asleep. It's often an unpopular voice as it seems anti-cheerleader, but it has a point to make, namely that separating awakened and unawakened creates a desire for awakening that misses that there is no need for it. It's a kind of arrogant assumption that in 'awakening' I have seen what others haven't, and that 'I' that has seen it I can neatly fold up and stuff under the bed.
Frankly, I have forgotten what being a person is like, but I can still pretend. But I don't say I'm awake, that's just seems totally deluded. How can I be awake, when I've never been asleep? So the cheerleaders of awakening, while I can appreciate the innocence of their enthusiasm and evangelism, I reject their notion that there is some need to awake. If you awake, then you will need to awake from that, and then from that. As it is, just not being asleep is fine with me. But to you, maybe I'm not awake, maybe you think I have something to get. It would be easy enough to believe, wouldn't it? Thus, a difference is created.
I don't know what you've experienced, but if you're happy with it I wouldn't want to be churlish and deny you anything. If you think you're awake, and before that you were asleep, I have to accept what you say. But I was never asleep, and I suspect the same is true of you, but I wouldn't want that to seem a big difference. But I think it's true to say that some who think they've awakened have just had some nice experience that they're happy about. I wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life waiting to see if it was going to wear off. I would wear it off myself and see what was left. Because then I'd know, wouldn't I, and it wouldn't matter in the slightest whether there was an 'I' to know it or not, because that would just be a name, as good as any, for what was nameless.
But, I don't know, maybe some people like being Stepford Wives, cookie-cutter awakening clones. Myself, I value personality and difference. I don't want to be awakened. It doesn't feel genuine. It feels like an act. It feels like being stifled by a pillow over the face. And what have 'the awakened' got to say to me? They wish I saw what they saw, then I would know. But they can't handle that I do see what they see and reject their interpretation. If only they saw what I saw, then they would know. 'Awakening' is only for people who're asleep. It's a dream within a dream. Even in ordinary mundane terms, do you spend your day constantly regarding yourself as awake? Or do you just get on with the day? Those who harp on about their 'awakening' all day long do so because it is a fragile illusion they have bought into, which they kinda realise, so they talk it up all the time. If they truly saw that they were not asleep, they would not need to emphasise that they were awake. There would be no illusion about it. In the end, it will become a competition to see who remains awake the longest. It is a much quieter realisation to see that you are not asleep, you only thought you were asleep. Far more solid than thinking you're awake, because that entails also thinking that you were asleep, which is just not so, so to what degree are you really 'awake'? The only true awakening is seeing that you were never asleep, and if you don't see that then it is a false awakening that you have yet to awaken from.
Grace and suffering are in the same room
JANUARY 19, 2012
I've been thinking how we should be more compassionate, because one day we will need compassion. Suffering is never over, it's just watched from a more distant place, that seat of the unchanging. And sometimes I think it's okay to give in, and I have noticed that there is a desire for it sometimes. The Self isn't barricaded in and doesn't need protecting, it doesn't give or withhold permission, it doesn't think it's wise or unwise. What is it that's moved to tears? You want to know my answer? I don't care. I don't care whether it's nothingness, a person, God. When suffering is consoled by compassion it's not clear whether one is the original sufferer or the one suffering with. They are the same, the giver and the receiver. There doesn't have to be anyone else around, God in the heaven of a dingy bedsit, Buddha and the nirvana of peeling wallpaper, seeking his own blessings, receiving his own blessings.
In some regards, I haven't a clue who I am. I mean, if I say I am God, I am Buddha, who the hell is that? What I really mean is that I am not who I thought I was, supposing I didn't already think I was everything and nothing all rolled into one (technically, none). Sure that body has pissed into that same toilet bowl for thirteen years now, and has not done very much. I don't value my activities, that's my trouble, I'd like to, I just don't. Everything comes off as amateurish, or taking interest because if I don't will anyone? And is it really very important that they do anyway? Karma yoga is to take the conundrum of the form of your life and instead of wishing it was better, had more of this and less of that, just regarding it as the path right now right in front of you. And, of course, when form is just form, it doesn't matter whether it is a gold toilet bowl you're pissing in or a nothing-special could-be-better kind of toilet bowl. I've probably had that same thought every day for decades, while pissing, looking at the peeling paint.
There is a strange perfection in imperfection. An aesthetic the Japanese call wabi-sabi. I have spent much of my life feeling stuck, a prisoner of inescapable conditions. What better definition of karma? Cracks in walls used to bother me, now I just see the degree to which everything is crumbling, layer on top of layer on top of layer. What are they all resting on? I used to think I would kiss goodbye to life early and curse it for never having really got going. Not that I ever did much to get it going, or when I did it didn't come to much, putting me off trying. Yet I have persevered at continuing, sometimes merely that taking all of my energy. I have always regarded any 'achievement' that might accrue to this name as something likely to come about incidental to just waking and sleeping, breathing, feeding, washing. And if nothing accrues, well then blame the mechanism for not being inspired, what's it to do with me? And by 'me' I kinda feel I'm talking on behalf of the unchanging one who I am bored on behalf of, because he doesn't even know the meaning of the word.
Sure, I could make more effort, couldn't I? But then again I have made plenty of effort, without encouragement, but to finish off that effort, to present that effort, to make something of that effort visible to others, I really need a secretary. I must say I admire those who are inspired not only to create but also to present. All I present is scraps, the real iceberg I kid myself will be posthumous, but frankly think may just get thrown out before anyone realises it might be worth something. And who can blame them, I often feel the same way myself. I should rather admire the unindustrious, so long as they are not bothered about it.
I have certainly been undergoing great continental shifts in my being, and part of me longs for a worldwide catastrophe merely so everyone is in the same boat at last. I am certainly tired of the clever and the talented, the spiritual know-it-alls, and those who look but don't see. I am tired too of wondering what I might do in this world that could possibly be worthwhile, unless it is to console those less clever and talented than myself that it doesn't count for shit. All I know is that I briefly come alive in tears on the edge of despair in which I discover the deep wellspring of compassionate grace, for me, by something. Now I know that something is also me, but knowing it and feeling it are two different things, and by feeling it I mean suffering. It's then I find out who I really am. I don't know what I can do with it. But then I've never known what I can do with anything. No, I don't wish to be clever and talented about this. It is enough to be reminded, strangely quite often, that this one who is bored is bored because of me, frustrated because of me, angry because of me, despairing because of me. Because I can't do anything. Save remind that I am there, always.
I often think I should do this, or do that. I should get more political, more magical, more proactive, call upon powers that to most are just fantasy, to change things. Well, for all it seems to me I do nothing, I don't rule out things are getting done. I sometimes think what more I might have achieved if I had had encouragement and some success, forgetting that I have had some of both, at times. I sometimes wonder why my conditions seem to shut me in so much, but then I close my eyes in the silence and nothing is shutting me in. I have studied wisdom much of my life, which has given me the wisdom to see that wisdom is not the answer but compassion. I have so many abilities I am not making use of. I have studied strategy, I could effectively command an army in the right direction, yet I am more likely to be found righting an overturned beetle or helping a bee out of the bathroom. I could do so many things. I could be a pathfinder for an alien race sent to Earth to study life on this planet for thirty or forty years unnoticed. Perhaps I am. Who can know what lies around the corner? I welcome them, certainly. Part of me says yes but aliens, the cosmos, it's just phenomena, why should that phenomena be better than any other phenomena, why even the peeling paint in my toilet is fractal and endless, when noticed. Have I ever been human? I suppose it is natural to yearn for a kind of home when nowhere has seemed like it for so long. And it is not as if I have not had contact with extraterrestrials. Yes, just phenomena, like the peeling paint, but, part of me thinks, perhaps this kind of equanimity of consciousness is a requirement to bridge worlds without shock. Perhaps my delusions of grandeur on a cosmic scale, far from biting off more than I can chew, actually don't go far enough. I have always had a sense of duty to something so vague and nebulous it has most of the time felt like keeping an empty vigil. I clothe it from time to time in various fantasy projections, this could happen, that could happen, but the most amazing of these is that nothing has ever happened, nothing is happening, and nothing will ever happen. I'm sure at one time this was merely something I wanted to experiment with believing in, now it is the self-evident truth. The sci-fi universe I wished for in my boyhood, on the basis of the experiences I have had thus far, that have apparently 'happened', is where I am. I am not on a world, a planet called Earth, I only thought I was. I am not anywhere, but for tax purposes I am in a place I have known as 'the same four walls', though they're never the same, four is a ludicrous approximation, and what is a wall anyway if there is no inside or outside. I sometimes wonder, am I just telling myself this? But frankly even if I am it is no different to everything else I have ever told myself and just look what that did, that created an entire world I supposed myself living in when in reality that was just a thought, here at least what I am dealing with is directly in front of me, the actual reality of direct circumstance, whether I grasp its essence or not no-one can say that if there is a reality that this isn't it. There's nothing else it could be, it's still reality even if I think it's an illusion. Self-evident, no? This, this is what you have on your plate, this is what you're meant to eat, whether it looks like shit or not. It is form that possesses a certain apparent power of persistence, it 'makes sense' through its familiarity, even though the notion of 'familiarity' doesn't actually make any sense, and the one it makes sense to is it anyway. It's not a fragment of a world, it is quite literally everything without there being anything else, which, without me, could not even be, and thus is actually nothing. So – very clearly – it does not matter what form it actually takes, because it is just a skin, a scab on light. That it obeys the laws of physics (as they currently stand) is something most of us took for granted long ago and stopped putting to the test. When was the last time I tried to fly, to walk through a wall? How do I know it didn't all just become a dream twenty years ago, and the very notion of time that gives rise to an impression of 'twenty years ago', isn't that in itself just something I woke up with today, and if I woke up with it yesterday and the day before it's only because I woke up with it today that I even think there was a yesterday and a day before. But even these have become 'familiarities', and consequently something I am encouraged to believe I understand, whereas actually I understand nothing, save that, should I abandon familiarity, I know the question of understanding will no longer seem important, and that this may well be because everything is so obvious the notion of understanding it doesn't even arise. And, in any case, if I am confused about it that only reflects a passing identification with the idea that I should understand it, after all, I am it.
These are some very big questions that I think surely philosophers will have got to grips with, mystics will know the answers to. But when I look at what they have said it all just seems a higher level of the mundane lack of interest that the average person in the street has, who prefers to get drunk than engage with the conundrum that is their lives. Not much light bursts out. An odd line in a poem or two, a stupendous passage in a work of literature embedded in four hundred pages of dross. And the true things that every one of us experiences, there seems so little to say about them and even that borders on repetition. Looking in the eyes of a lover, laughing at a joke, the sound of the wind at night. These tiny things must serve to represent the best and brightest of us, since our technology is already silting down its geological layer, our culture and values arbitrary and conditioned. Don't we all wish for something we would regard as the perfect life, yet even that has its foundation in wishes we have probably forgotten the reason for holding and now only fuel through petty jealousies seeing others outwardly in better circumstances. I don't know why anything but the life one has seems better. Surely it would be easy enough to cut out the middleman in this equation and regard what you have as exactly the same as everything else and actually better, simply because it's directly there.
Anyway, this feels like more scrapings of mildew from my wall. I can't see what value anyone could possibly derive from it. Posting it on the web feels like grinding glass into a wound. I've been ill. I have nothing to say, yet plenty to say. I dislike how it sounds, yet I want to capture the sound of fever, the literature of fever. I had a feverish dream in which some sort of mechanical blocks clunked to the ground behind me one after the other, and this repeated over and over again for ten hours, and I thought what use is the unchanging Self save that it has an endless capacity to witness an existential horror show, which, after all, it has been doing for a very long time already. It would certainly be of no use if it for one moment showed a preference for one phenomenon over another. Let all the mistakes be mine, safe in the knowledge they don't amount to anything. On the whole, it's a better bet to give up and place all your faith hope and trust, or none if you don't have any, in the hands of some kind of superbeing, because that too you are, and who gives a shit if you don't realise it. It's okay to be angry at God and pissed off with the Buddha. It's okay to not have a clue, to not have a rat's arse worth of knowledge about your state of being. Don't you get tired of working so hard to comprehend the state of your reality? Some never even start, and if you were to ask me I wouldn't say that they are better off. Maybe less bored. But precious little to sustain them in a dungeon or under torture, not that anyone should invite their suffering to get worse, just rather be aware that it might. Whatever. I'd just like to poke these enlightenment eyes out. It's a funny thing, simultaneous with becoming free of karma it crucifies you. I remember some bad trips I had twenty years ago. Yet now I can look around my room and see exactly that, those fears manifest that isn't just going to wear off when the drug leaves your system shortly. But you know what, I can't say as I'm bothered. I don't have any wishes for it to be other than how it is. Boy, if I had those, I'd know about it. In the past I had the future to suppose would be different, would bring change, but now I am in a timeless box impervious to all that is projected upon it. To be frank, if I suffer it's because I choose to suffer, just to be reminded of a depth I cannot see any more, and because being perfect bores the shit out of me. I sometimes think I'd like to find a guru, and pretend to have an interest in what he has to say, because there is always a chance I could steal his crowd and then tell them all to fuck off. But I would settle for something far simpler, just someone who has something to say to me, who can enliven me to live again, to take an interest in this world, because it is that, and that alone, that I have found really impossible to do for myself. It is all just a lot of hollow echoes in a void, my one saving grace cannot change, and my bad attitude, though something to be proud of in this weedy thin time, doesn't help to secure the partial joys that many seem satisfied with. I mean, I'm sure I could dress in orange and bang a tambourine or a drum and manage to look that blissed out, but I just think fuck it what do I need that shit for? With the result that I get the dubious accolade of the ultimate outsider, since I don't even agree with the people who think I've got something to say. I could yack on like this for hours. Save it, if you want, before I delete the whole fucking lot, tear up my name, and disappear for good. Or come back tomorrow as if something has changed. My fundamental principle is that no-one knows as much as I know, and what I know I think is a bunch of shit. Weed me out, you wouldn't want too many of me growing too close together and forming a jungle.
I could carry the whole fucking lot on my shoulders. I only lack any opportunity to use my singular talent. I feel like a behemoth confined to a cage at the bottom of the deepest ocean. I have to break free, one day, don't I? And what then? Sometimes you learn the point of the cage when you witness the destruction it saved you from causing. But it's no way to live, really, is it, in a cage? To this extent, I recognise a will to destruction. But shatter me to atoms and you'll still not be rid of me. The chance to be a nihilist would be a fine thing, but I can only forget, and now, I cannot even forget. Many will tell you this is Paradise, this is Nirvana, this is Heaven, but the jury has always been out, and the boldest voice of opinion against is demonic. But then, I am demonic, since I once believed in Paradise, but now reject it, knowing that merely by my rejection it cannot be Paradise, that I have destroyed Paradise to confine myself to the existential quandary of an eternal uninvolved and unchangeable watcher of ever-changing joys and sorrows that I can only ever interact with through delusion, but which, occasionally, is appreciated for the miracle it actually is, since it did not have to be. What it is, it seems so gentle, yet it has destroyed planets. It will not speak, save through a mouthpiece here, a mouthpiece there, its message always a little garbled. And yet, it is who I am. This silly little room, this silly little life, just cloud-chamber tracks revealing its presence. The longer I stare into it, already years and years, the more I see millions and millions of invisible beings at its periphery, and the wall is not a wall, but I may as well just cook and eat, since I have all the time in the world for every exploration that might, one day, seem worthwhile, because, after all, I have already come this far following no-one's tracks and finding no others. In this much, I am a pathfinder who owes no allegiance to anybody. And am not yet a gibbering wreck. It's true that I am not dead yet, and that inspiration may come again, but it'd have to be something really out of this world, wouldn't it? 'Let's see what I can do', in some circumstances, could be construed as a battle cry. I think creativity, in me, is pre-programmed to become operational when all hope is lost, and then it draws in impossible magical powers and persuades that the real art is the creation of a new reality. That I am at the slump end of a deadbeat human paradigm is not my fault, since I obviously still have hope for it for all I wouldn't know where it is hiding. Apparently I'm the one who decides, for all I don't have a free bone in my body. Apparently I get to call the shots on this one. That makes sense. I'm inclined to say now, now is the time. Yes, let it be now. Let it come about now, since any hope I do hold is based on that, and if that doesn't happen, then there is no hope, and when there is no hope, it can happen. I only see now that it could have happened any time, and that's why it can only happen now. By the time you read this, my anticipation of a great reality change will have already started to happen. It's an illusion. But a good one. Art. Real enough you can believe in it, not so real as you must fear it, though many will, but that's just the way it cracks them open.
Whoever said understanding everything makes you happy? Sometimes, it does. But overall I am probably more bored and less inspired. Still, it passes. I don't fear the disappearance of everything I imagine is my life, nor do I hold that there must be some wondrous afterdeath vision akin to a lasting version of what I have already seen. If there is sadness at the prospect of loss, of for instance people I have at one time or other regarded as beautiful or great, then it is the sadness of there being no sadness, that it all meant so little. Yet, white clouds moving across the blue sky still has the power to arrest me, and no-one can say that my delusions were not noble ones. The unchanging cannot help but remain as it is now, a timeless eternal moment constantly revisited, it seems like, yet it is the only true reality, this time and place is a pipedream. I cannot help wondering whether there is some context to the unchanging that I am not privy to, of which it is just a speck, and it is tears that tell me that this is likely to be so, almost, I say, almost as if I really know it. It is that that gives me the strength to carry on, to not interrupt the pattern of my karma, since this is much much cleverer than I am, since to me suicide seems more like resetting the clock in some greater horror than the solution of cessation. There is no cessation, only a temporary Oblivion, a forgetting, before developing high hopes in some other story that if luck is in will get dashed early, drawing one intractably and ineluctably to a pressing need to comprehend reality, since this is clearly the only possible solution. If you see the unchanging, for all it seems so boring, then you see as much as is possible right now. No-one has ever seen anything else and regarded it as the ultimate reality, for all they may appear more excited about it than me. All you can do for now is rest in that, anything else must await the dropping of the body in death. This is effectively the waiting room of eternity, it may appear to be heaven or hell or purgatory, but this is all on the screen to entertain. It may be that one is no longer waiting. But we should be grateful for spontaneous tears, since they suggest we have really seen something, and, clumsily, what can I say it is, but a need for compassion, that this is what makes this phenomenon, which I suspect will always be a mystery, into something that really has the light shining out of the cracks, for all one supposes one already knows about that. There is no other enlightenment but in tears of grace, for all I think I ought to be cool enough to regard the insight of no self as complete I don't, I just see that as dull and basic, though it may be absorbing to those who have indulged mostly petty delusions thus far and never raised their game in that regard.
I have just gone outside to eat an apple and watch the birds going to roost. There are purple clouds in the west.
JANUARY 4, 2012
I've found Greg Goode an interesting man for a quite a while, but this new interview with him is really fantastic. I haven't heard him mention Pure Land Buddhism before, so I particularly resonated with that as I never realised or even suspected that he had an interest in Amida. (I also came across this unusual and beautiful vocalisation of the nembutsu.)
I don’t know what it was all about
DECEMBER 25, 2011
It was about something though.
A rollercoaster of emotions tests us,
And life is nothing but 'just survive'.
I never expected it to be
A happy Christmas.
So I got on with things
Until it couldn't be put off
That I was avoiding something.
A quiet ambulance came in
A few doors down, just
Caught the flashing light as I
Entered the lounge.
This is now what
Christmas is about and
Replastering my bathroom
On an empty belly and
Curling up on cushions to go to sleep
Aren't strong enough in themselves
To halt a river of tears
That wants to flow.
I've always been an actor in my life,
But sometimes you must think
A role wants to tell you something.
They always become Amida's tears
For the world.
I go out and fill the seedfeeder
Just before midnight
So the sparrows have something
To eat in the morning.
A great sound
DECEMBER 21, 2011
One of my favourite sounds, listening to it right now, is gentle rain heard through the open window at night. It's peaceful, a time to reflect. As it happens I've been going through old unpublished writings.
It's been a funny year, coming full circle now. My mum died last Christmas. Spent much of the year tidying up her affairs, off and on. I have dug out a piece I wrote quite soon after she died, before the funeral in fact, that I intended to publish in the journal but didn't didn't feel like it at the time. Here it is, together with a few other related fragments:
Mums dying is normal stuff really
Everything is perfectly obvious. Two corpses explained a library. The first, the father, came and went. The second, the mother, came and went. And still nothing has happened. The first corpse couldn't explain it fully, but the second corpse finished it off. These two corpses are the real parents. Glassy eyed, they're most expressive in their silence. No, not at all, not real. Expected it to be real, it wasn't. I remember thinking, sitting in the hospital waiting-room on Christmas Day watching snatches of the news about some unfolding murder hunt: 'I'm missing Doctor Who.' Ludicrous. Listening to drunks apologise to policemen for being cunts on the holy day. But you take it in, all the little details, with a strange acuity.
Mums dying is normal stuff really. It feels like the complete mystery of who one's parents were has gone in a dusty shoebox and been filed away.
Remembered seeing mum and dad's framed wedding-day photograph on the chest of drawers as I followed into mum's bedroom behind the ambulance men on Christmas Day afternoon. One of them glanced at it before looking down at the bed, and I saw over his shoulder the first glimpse of another's life as it was and as it is now, grimly petering out. 'Not the Christmas present you expected,' the doctor would later say, before needlessly apologising for the mince-pies and cracker hats strewn about his office. But before that, as if one shouldn't miss a moment of it because the really important movie is now playing, the uncomfortable scene of withered frailty being wheeled out into the public gaze of my childhood street doubtless disturbing the special day just a little for the neighbours. So that's him, her son. Always hated being an object of attention, just like mum. Lock the door and out, cap pulled down low. Soon it'll look like nothing has happened. The house will stop blushing. Don't mind me, get on with your turkey. Everything is ritualised, the sterile conformity of the years holds its breath and lets you see at last what is really there.
When it was over, the early hours of Boxing Day, I walked home from the hospital in the crunching old frozen snow. On the way, at five in the morning while it was still dark but the first birds were singing, I stopped outside the undertakers in the high street and took out my notebook to jot down their number and opening hours over the festive season. I snapped off an icicle from above the door and sucked it.
I had mum's gold wedding ring in my pocket, tugged off for me with some force behind drawn curtains by the male staff nurse, not because I wanted it but because mum would have wanted me not to forget and leave without it, which was why, I supposed, she kept flopping her ring hand out from under the hypothermia blanket and into my sight, as if to say take note there are valuables here that cannot be trusted to anonymous men wheeling trolleys in corridors.
I was surprised how quickly she went cold to the touch after I said it was okay to stop trying to resuscitate her. Like your dinner getting cold on the table when you're called away.
I started packing her belongings into black bin bags almost as soon as I arrived back at the house, her house, my house now, and carried on until eleven in the morning, when I went to sleep. When I got up I continued filling bags. I didn't have to bother thinking about registering the death and arranging the funeral and all that palaver because officialdom was on holiday and mum was on ice. That was a peaceful time. I just read my book and filled bags and boxes.
The death of parents is always worse in anticipation. Maybe you get lucky, and it's not a long drawn-out affair. Quite quickly, it's almost as if they never existed. Just the small perplexity of who these people are in photographs. It seems to me that I should know who they were, my parents, but I haven't a clue. Like people in a dream, they have shimmered away. If anything happened, then it was the point at which I could finally ditch the past. I mean forget I was ever anyone's son. The personal story is just a lot of clutter. Nonetheless I shove a box of photographs on a high shelf until I'm ready to chuck them.
I'm not keeping anything. The stories fade. The joys and sorrows alike are picked up grain by grain by a clutching wind passing over a sand mandala, until it is all gone. Why wait to understand anything? Never wait. It's all perfectly obvious. If you tell yourself it's not you may as well tell yourself it is. Gaze out of those eyes at it all and say, 'Why, it's all perfectly obvious.' It's nothing. Nothing.
In the long month between mum's death and her funeral, delayed, I was told, because the month after Christmas is a very busy time at the crematorium, I found myself having this recurring thought as I was busy packing her clothes into bin bags for the charity shop, most of them new or hardly worn, piling up against the back bedroom wall like a dustman's strike, and her shoes, still in their boxes, stacked in the hall getting ever higher and swaying, this odd thought would periodically creep over me, that she might wake up from the coldness into which she had plunged, wake up in the morgue, and come back to the house and want to know what I was doing with her things, her lifetime of things, the shed filling up with the rubbish for the tip. An overwhelming amount of stuff, not wanting much for myself, hardly anything, putting aside things I couldn't decide on and then back to shift more coats and jackets, the endless blouses and dresses, day after day. Only after she was ash was the thought she may not be really dead put to rest.
Everything had to be gone through. Yellowed kept newspaper clippings had to be read for recognised names, to discern, as if it were important, the reason for their being kept. Mostly obituaries. Going through her diaries even though every day had more or less the same few notes concerning watching television or reading a book or paying the milk. Though in among this daily mundanity of Mills & Boon, Taggart, and silvertops the entry 'Earthquake 4.8' made me laugh out loud on turning one page. I remembered her telling me on the phone it rattled the wardrobe, cracked a pavement in Bilston, sent a few tiles off a roof in Dudley, the epicentre of this very British earthquake. The BBC reported: 'Dudley police said 12 people in nightclothes walked into their local police station.' But the diaries came in handy in unexpected ways. I discovered what day the bin went out. Evenings when I got fed up of discarding I watched CSI on her telly, wondering what I was supposed to feel, because it didn't feel as if anything had particularly happened, it was more that I had the house to myself, and that was weird.
The things she stored in the sideboard, was always attracted to sneak a look as a kid, couldn't get at them unless you moved the big old armchair out the way, and then she'd know it'd been moved, memorised every detail of the placement of the feet, or you'd be careless and leave a bit of rug rucked up drawing attention to itself that movement had gone on here, or you'd get a leg out of its little Bakelite pot and not notice. But she would. Silverware bought for special, but nothing was ever special enough to get it out of its tissue paper, forty or fifty years remaining in the hinge-lidded box. That's what was in there, the sideboard, and old photographs of happy times, fading, better nutcrackers and old humbugs. Something about it wings me, like a paper cut in my spiritual sensibilities.
Twenty-four frames per second for the illusion of continuity, but they're all boxed in. I am the screen. Burn me, drown me, I stay the same.
There was a horse chestnut down the road, the conkers fell and landed resting in the drain slats the smaller ones fell through but it saved the big ones for boys who wanted them. Was that man hammering for twenty years? Twenty years. You just think, a day or two in, that it'll stop soon enough, and twenty years later he's still hammering.
Our names don't live on very far and if you've no gravestone there's very little chance the wind will blow out your name from the ashes. Our everlasting forefathers' bones ground in the pestle along with runover birds and hedgehogs. Who cares that you were still good-looking enough into your forties to pick up girls and a woman can keep her beauty to thirty-six or thirty-nine before it all falls off like glitter the glue won't hold on a child's schooldone Christmas card. Wasn't meant to last long. Just long enough to attract a suitable mate fuck and reproduce.
I've stopped trying to make anything happen, I'm not looking for others to fulfil me, I don't know what day it is without making an effort. I am like Robinson Crusoe living in a suburban street. A year or two ago I was like a caged animal posting letters at two in the morning simply so I didn't have to bump into people. Waiting until it was foggy, really dense, as another way to go out without seeing anyone, or until it was tipping it down with rain and I could hide under my umbrella. Some days I thought I was living like a serial killer waiting for the amnesia to wear off. That's all gone now. Now I just stand like a tree in the landscape and push, push, push out those leaves. Things have really changed around here. Me, I'm the same.
I don't know what memories are, I don't know what they represent. I could have just arrived, for all my apparent past means to me. I use words with a certain skill, perhaps, implying I have put in practice, in turn implying time spent on it, but the practice belies my lack of knowing what the words really mean. They are ushered out, as you might open the back door for rats that shouldn't be in the kitchen.
The concept of 'Earth' suddenly strikes me as laughable. That is no nearer where I am than the kept familiarity of room, street. What does one really have? Breath. I ate earlier I will eat later. I will wake up in a ditch at this rate. Were I out and about.
You could live in a padded cell like this, it just wouldn't bother you, not like this.
There's a fragment of conversation between my mother and her father, that I remember overhearing when I was a kid:
'I'm buggered if I'm gewin all the way to Bilston in me best weskit,' he said. 'I never gid a tinker's cuss for him or her an her babby.'
He noticed me listening at the table, while I was doing a jigsaw.
'Who you talking about gramp?'
'A goner,' he said, and laughed. 'He keeled over down the lane just when he thought his luck was in. He day foresee his other number coming up.'
Gramp was always amused by life's little ironies. I think it was from him that I learnt not to get too excited by apparent good fortune. He had a wisdom about him. I thought at the time most old people had it, but now I realise hardly any do. They're just old, wisdom passed them by.
When mum was worried about something, he'd give her the benefit of his advice:
'Wait un see. Yow doe know nuthin as yet. It could just as easy turn around and bite some other poor bugger.'
If anyone was overthinking a problem he'd just laugh and say:
'You know what thought did – followed a muck cart and thought it was a wedding.'
I asked him about the man who keeled over down the lane, and he replied:
'He day ave two brass farthings to rub together most his life then his Premium Bond came up, but he day have no time to enjoy it. He gallivanted around for a day or two but it weren't for that, it were for banging nails into his coffin lid and heaving him into the ground. Always too sure of himself, that one.'
Gramp laughed again. He turned to mum and said:
'It's a good job yow listened ter me. If yow'd married him like yow wanted to yow'd be a widow now with a babby to bring up on yer own, tuppence ha'penny change out of his winnings after the funeral, and this'un here'd be doing his jigsaw in Oblivion.'
Kim Jong-il looking at things
DECEMBER 19, 2011
I don't know why this site is so funny. I only discovered it because someone came here on the search 'look at things', and it seems we share the top spot on this one in Google.
An interesting experience
DECEMBER 11, 2011
Just sitting there, on cushions in the lounge, in the unchanging, without time, gazing out of the window at the last leaves falling from the tree, suddenly the body moved its head and, startled, the thought came: 'Oh! There's a creature here!'
Now that was an interesting experience, noticed so very sharply, before the accustomed familiarity had a chance to cloak it.
Losing interest and spontaneous interest
DECEMBER 1, 2011
I no longer have sustainable interests. I am no longer interested in anything. I don't care about creating anything. I am not interested in shaping my life in any way whatsoever. It doesn't matter to me what the next moment brings. Rather, interest in things arises in the moment, and that moment may continue for a day or two and subside never to return again, or it may arise and subside many times for the rest of my life. The things I used to define myself in terms of, my interests, my goals to create something, just don't exist any more. I can have a faith that certain former interests may well continue to arise and subside, but it doesn't matter to me to keep hold of that faith or to let it go. That too can arise and subside, but the point is there's no need for it as I no longer fear a certain interest never arising again. I couldn't care less. There are certain things I have started. It's likely they will be continued, it's possible they may reach some stage of completion, but it doesn't matter either way.
When I first started to notice that I was losing interest in everything, I worried a little, but that worry too arose and subsided. And gradually I came to see that interests do not need to be artificially sustained, essentially nothing needs to be committed to. Obviously, if I give my word to someone or lead them to believe that they can depend on me, I will fulfil that, but more likely that I will not give that commitment to anyone in the first place, and what is so important as to require my word? Either a certain behaviour is in my character or it is not, and whether I give my word about it doesn't matter. Giving one's word is most often, in any case, something done to address others' insecurities, rather than me somehow binding myself to a future time that is purely hypothetical.
Gradually I discovered that what I was looking for as an ability came more readily to me as an inability. It is not that I have the ability to live in the present moment, instead it is that I have an inability to do otherwise. So then it occurred to me that what we call 'interest' is most often a self-definition based on noticing arbitrary patterns of engagement and the completely unreasonable projection that such patterns will continue. This is what I am interested in, I say, this is what I am about. When interest in everything fell away I found myself in a peculiar hinterland, I was rather uncomfortable with it at first, but later I realised what a lot of baggage our interests are. And they rely on the illusion that such fixed patterns will continue to be, despite the transient flux and chaos that life self-evidently is. So losing my interest in everything brought me back to the present moment like nothing else. What has the unchanging ever-present 'Self' ever been interested in? Rather it welcomes everything. Interests arise, interests fall. For the duration of the interest and spontaneous engagement with it, things are apparently created in the flux of the world, and then, when the interest subsides one doesn't mourn the loss of a portion of self-definition but rather the next interest arises and replaces it.
It is entirely likely that the things that have interested me for a long time will continue to interest me. But they may not. There is no need to drop them either. I used to think, in response to losing interest in something I had defined myself as being interested in, that I now had to define myself as no longer interested in it. But I found in time that I could not even sustain any interest in distancing myself from my former interest and asserting my present lack of interest. So what happens now is that waves of interest may arise and draw me in, then pass away. Actually this is just the same as what used to happen, but then I was artificially sustaining 'an interest' and so the passing away of it would leave me out of step, and, if it was an interest felt to be important to me, I may even have got drawn into mourning the loss, feeling frustrated, and not be able to function satisfactorily until the interest was 'reinstated' and I realised I was still interested in it after all. So these periods of lack of interest were something to endure, to reach the end of, when the interest would return and bring back to me my old joy. All of this nonsense has now gone out of the window. Interest simply arises and subsides, and I spontaneously flow with it, entering into the joy of it if there is joy in it (the conventional reason for having a hobby) but not feeling any loss when the interest subsides, rather sitting down, relaxing, and looking from a state of completion on a job well done. But I don't define myself by interests, and even those things that I have long been so very interested in, such as the Yijing, it wouldn't matter to me should I never again return to the subject, though in all likelihood I will.
The thing is, it is not so much that I have lost interest in everything, as it first seemed, more that I am free of interest as something artificially sustained. This means I am free to have any interest as it arises and to drop it as it subsides, and I no longer feel obliged to carry out meaningless activities to swell progress towards pre-set goals when there is absolutely no enthusiasm for them at the time. No longer being bothered whether I achieve anything or not, I find, does not preclude me from so achieving, should interest in that direction arise from time to time. And, forgetting what I know, I time and time again discover that I know a whole lot more than I thought I did, so even knowledge does not require holding onto, despite the conditioning of years of the educative process. It seems to me I have actually retained everything I have ever learnt, for all my mind is empty, and it returns to me when needed often reformulated to a higher level, particularly those things that at the time I was convinced I didn't have a very good grasp of and may even have given up for dead. So nothing is wasted, even our most abortive sporadic endeavours may one day foster a singularly outstanding achievement, and for all I have not been bothered for so very long nonetheless I cannot help but stand in awe of what has come about, apparently with myself as its vehicle of manifestation. In general, as I often say, it's better to just leave life to get on with itself and put your feet up and have a cup of tea. Why fret, why trouble yourself?
NOVEMBER 25, 2011
Sometimes, when I catch my reflection in the mirror, I point at it and say out loud: 'I'm glad I'm not you, you're going to die man, you're going to burn.' And when I laugh at this, I like the way the one in the mirror laughs at it too, like he's caught up with me at last. I remember a time when he used to look concerned about something. That was back when, I realise now, he thought he was me. Now he knows who he is, you can see it in his eyes. I can remember when those eyes up close in the mirror were pools of perplexity, yet they were always holding back some kind of wisdom, like the sun having a difficult time shining through persistent gloomy clouds. They were never fooled, those eyes, but sometimes they struggled. I don't see the struggle there any more.
I first saw who I really am nearly three decades ago. Oddly, I never said a single word about it to anyone for the first ten of those years. I tried to, but I'd open my mouth and no words would come out, and in the pause I'd think better of it. It felt as if I was being taught not to talk about it, not to blab as if thought I knew something. I always felt there was so much further to go, just to come full circle with it. As if I had to wander away on a long journey only to return to the same place and know it properly, serenely, not as a devastating flash from the heavens that plunged me into fragmentation.
I inevitably got sucked back into the world, the usual delusions, punctured at intervals by seeing it again, freshly, experiences that quickly passed just like the first and were hard to articulate, save that I expressed them anyway thinking I had not caught anything in the net of my words. I have come to value, actually, the expression of a kind of mixed understanding, where clarity and sad or joyful emotions may dance around each other. There was something false and pretentious, I thought, about those who had experienced this who wrote about it like experts of the intangible, an answer for everything but no wisdom, a veneer of thorough understanding covering over an unripe fruit and presumption, it seemed to me more like playing the master but ending up the fool, moreover it was a denial of the more beautiful aspects of loneliness and longing. You have to make it your own, otherwise it's just a borrowed robe. Confidence in the words, but fear in the eyes. It should take a long time, shouldn't it, when so much is sought? I don't have a lot of interest in what the recently 'awakened' have to say. I feel you have to grow into it for quite some while.
I can't remember an actual moment when it became a constant seeing, and I left behind this dependence on fleeting encounters beyond my control. The truth is that it was there all along, but it got lost in the fog time and time again. For many years it appeared to be something I knew but was most of the time cut off from. I had to wait for it to return, of its own accord. It is easy to see now that I just preferred delusion, though there came a time when I took to sitting in the garden reading a book, listening to the birds, the wind in the trees, for much of the year, all day long when it was warm. And almost every day I would receive its gracious presence, short-lived, giving rise to the habit of searching for it again once it had apparently departed. Certainly over the past ten or fifteen years I have mostly lived in my back garden, after I grew tired of the world's disappointments, finding something truer in the caws of rooks, the sunset, the weather, insects, flowers. I can actually say if you were to ask me what I have done for the past decade and a half that I have just sat in the garden and looked at the clouds, reading poems by Ryokan, or anything with a real spirit in it. And drinking tea, all day long. That's it. Anything else just got done in odd moments at night. The entire thrust of my day has been a garden chair, save for the winter, when it is more like living in a cave. I just laze the days away. In the summer months I even sit out there in the dark, beer in hand looking at the stars, the pollinating hawk moths, bats and foxes, an owl. And it is in the garden I would say that gradually I came to see it constantly, but I can't say that this constancy began at such and such a point, it is more that the fog cleared.
I just speak to give an idea, a gist of it. I am no longer interested in these convoluted exactitudes that some like to indulge in, this endless exploration in pseudo-philosophical terms that is intended to be helpful but just seems like a din to me. Since when has a genuine seeing needed scaffolding to build it up? Some have refined their expression to such a degree it seems a flawless demonstration of the depth of their seeing, explaining with perfect clarity every aspect of 'presence' or 'awakening', but then you read a simple haiku about moss growing on a stone and it is so much better than all this wordy exposition, which starts to look like a boastful display, look at me and how well I express the inexpressible. And often I wonder what is there to say about it anyway, it is not so much inexpressibility actually, more that there isn't really much to talk about at all. Unless you become a pro, and have to stretch it out enough to earn your door fee. I have to say that it has become so obvious to me these past few years that were it not for the memories of it not being obvious I would have great difficulty believing there was anyone left for whom it remains a mystery. So many are making such a meal of it, this seeking of theirs. I have never sought out anyone to hold my hand with it. I have sought, but I have done so alone. If meetings that may have benefited me existed, I didn't know about them, and probably wouldn't have bothered with them if I had. I just sat down where I was and investigated it right there. I didn't talk about it much with people, and gradually moved away from regular contact with people anyway, solely to concentrate on this. And so if I have a message for anyone it's do it on your own. If you're lucky, you'll find yourself forced into solitude, since it's hard to really choose it, it just happens. Most would naturally rather be gregarious. But if it doesn't pan out that way don't consider that you're singled out for some unhappy lonely fate, consider instead that this is your chance to settle this matter once and for all.
When I listen to people talking about this, I can see why it appears to be difficult, because they make it sound very complicated. They talk about things to do with it that I very rarely even consider, that I don't even bother firing up the mind about. They have so many concepts and 'pointers' all just to help you drop concepts and get beyond pointers. It's a nondual cottage industry, this obsession with churning out more and more pointers. You are judged on the depth of your seeing by the laser precision of your pointers, their ability to provide a momentary smidgeon of clarity one could easily regard as the job done. This is just the opposite of a Zen koan, which aimed rather to produce the 'great ball of doubt'. Pointers, by contrast, are like those books that circulated in Japan which told you how to answer the koan. If you had a mediocre master, perhaps one who'd also read those books, you might fool him. But what was the point? You're only fooling yourself.
I'll tell you though what I think is the most useful entry point. Perhaps it is because I have spent so long studying the Book of Changes, but I look solely to the unchanging. I spent years studying change in the world, regarding everything as impermanent. For many years I did not believe in the unchanging, I used to think it was an abstraction such as 'the only constant is continual change'. But that's not much of a constant is it? It's hard to see continual change as a form of the unchanging, when you're focused on the continual change. There's just change. And while it may seem to be the case that there must be an unchanging otherwise how could change be registered, that is still an intellectual appreciation, a reasoning, it is not a direct knowing. It is only when the unchanging is, as it were, fallen back into, out of change, deeply out of change, that you see, all these changes are just a phenomenal play of the light, a mere flickering conveying an appearance of movement, and what it all appears upon, out of time and changeless, is the only self there ever was, untouched by all phenomena, unborn and deathless, always present but mostly unseen. When it is known, it is known that it has always been known, and cannot be lost. It only seems to be lost, which could be for years at a time. The entire lives of many may pass without knowing it. There is a beautiful line in a Buddhist poem: 'This world is a dewdrop evaporating in the morning sun.' We really don't have very long. Why spend the little time you have chasing illusions? It is not as if you don't know that they are, is it? If you say you're not convinced, then I don't blame you, neither was I, this is the power of desire. All you can do is go through the motions your desires demand of you, until you are convinced. Or, do as I did and reach the point where you just say: Enough.
It's not difficult to know who you are. What's difficult is giving up what you're not. When you see, or even just begin to suspect, that you are creating your own suffering by clinging to what you are not, the path opens up directly under your feet. Now this, really, is the only choice you're ever going to have. Walk it, or not.
It is best to see it for yourself, then you can escape the nuisance of others' so-called insights.
NOVEMBER 20, 2011
It's interesting that some wrote to me assuming it was all over for BIROCO.COM, after it went offline some days ago. I regard it as a success for my will-to-vanishing nature that the first conclusion is that it's wilful intent, although I do sometimes think that when circumstances present one with a complete disappearance one should just take the money and run. On this occasion, however, as in the past, it was due to inability to pay hosting fees. I should point out that I do have a monkey who comes round with a hat.
Leaving room to be wrong all the time
NOVEMBER 15, 2011
There are quite a few skilled expressions of the nature of reality. I do appreciate skilled expressions of anything, not just the ineffable. But given that any expression of the ineffable is wrong it really is pointless to appreciate one description of it over another one, at least in terms of accuracy, poetic expression is another matter. One can spend a lousy amount of time trying to get to grips with someone's essentially philosophical or metaphysical explanation and expansion on the theme of reality, and often just for the strange purpose of measuring one's own 'understanding' against theirs, the habit of seeking confirmation in others' descriptions, or satisfying yourself that their expression of it is fundamentally at odds with your own, and so therefore they are wrong or not as deep. It seems a very addictive pastime, wanting to understand what other people are saying in the way they are saying it, whether to be impressed by it or to dismiss it as facile.
It would be better to say nothing. But then thinking happens and can't be stopped so one may as well speak some thoughts, and think perhaps they may have a flavour of what one wants to say. It is wanting to be right all the time that is so irritating, both in oneself and in others, where it comes across often as a need on their part to present an impression of infallibility and having all the answers that is barely distinguishable from smugness by the time they have set solid in this lack of fluidity enough to tempt in timid followers who feel protected under the wing of such confidence, who seem not to know that it's the stiffest reeds that are snapped by the wind. Desiring 'an understanding' means simply wanting to acquire a way to put it, a form of words, it is not actually a knowing of any kind, it is just a way to talk about it. Worse than that, it is a subtle bondage, and all it actually amounts to is the need to be able to express a knowing in some kind of bullet-proof fashion. Even if I get close I am still as wrong as when I am way off. And I have not necessarily made any progress either, because a tight close expression is much more of a tyrant than a loose fancyfree expression. You can read some very tightly reasoned Advaita or Madhyamika, and it bears down as a hard taskmaster, but ultimately is incapable to telling you as much as a blackbird that sings in the dawn, where the pressure to 'understand' is most definitely off but the potential to anyway, without words, is always open. It is interesting to try to capture something of one's understanding in words, but it's better to leave room to be wrong all the time. Then the potential is left open for it to be understood that it is where the words are coming from and who they are for that is true, not the words in themselves. Those who embrace complexity of description and aim for ever tighter expressions of the ineffable have gone the opposite way, transferring attention to the words and the need to understand them, and in this way they cut off where the words have come from and where they need to get to, leaving the words stranded in a world of their own, like a small garden surrounded on all sides by a high wall, such that its exclusiveness is bought at the cost of getting very little sun.
It is easy to get lost in not understanding, yet the one who recognises this lack of understanding doesn't want for any understanding. When you want understanding you're being controlled by the demon of understanding, which exerts its influence simply by telling you that you lack it. Seeking the understanding of others is an obstacle to seeing that you have your own understanding. Your own understanding may be so strong that you don't even have to be right any more you can just let the words fall out and still have others see what you mean without struggling with it. This is because you understand well enough to be able to say anything you like, you don't have to keep in mind all the time what others have said and try to conform, as if to present a united front, because your understanding is your understanding, it is not a conglomeration of bits and pieces of other people's understanding, which may also have been constructed in like manner. It is good to reach the point where you can discard everything everyone else has said, even the handful who were genuinely helpful. Then you can say anything you like and still be right even when you're wrong. This is a distinct improvement on always being wrong, particularly when you try so hard to be right.
This is one reason I value contradiction. It prevents nest building in forms of words. Let the contradictions be present, let them be skilful means to prevent clinging to ideas. The underlying message can surely survive constant contradiction, which, at heart, is just a mosquito biting the iron bull, the monolithic reality is rock solid, not some fly-by-night fleeting impression lightly catalysed by a clever analytical technique but gone again in the dawn of the first doubt. Don't bother with this kind of pathetic shaking of the tree in an attempt to loosen a few fruits. The tour guides of reality aren't particularly helping you, they are just after payback for the decades of fruitless seeking they themselves have indulged in. Ignorance is surely rife, but we don't need people sitting pretty up there in their assured nirvikalpa samadhis and their pristine awarenesses with their hand out for money all the time like beggars, that's just undignified, and it's undignified too to sit there in the audience like a sap listening to it, asking your ignorant questions of the modern-day western masters with their Georgian townhouses and beautiful valley views, just pull yourself together and reject them all and sit at home looking at your wall and should you happen to find what in you has never changed and is never absent, simple though this is, just keep looking at that until you understand everything and the big-deal merchants with their Skype consultations and seminars and nonduality conferences can just fade away, since you no longer care whether their expression of it is better than yours or even whether they even get it at all, just go about your day and god forbid you become like them, because when you see it for yourself it really is selling water by the river, it's just sub-kindergarten stuff, treadmills for seekers and, frankly, an insult that they should presume to know anything if they're going about it this way, but that's their karma, stuffed ragdolls with the hand of the void up their backside being ventriloquised, oh the great and almighty who have understood, who are ahead of the curve of human evolution, stuck feeding peanuts to chimps.
Not the usual suspects
NOVEMBER 12, 2011
There are a great many teachers of self-realisation. Most don't have much to say beyond repeating what someone else has said. Here's a few who have something to say of their own.
John Sherman's back-story appealed to me straight away. There aren't that many talking about self-realisation who used to be armed revolutionary bank robbers and bombers, who broke out of jail, and were on the FBI's 'ten most wanted' list. Sherman got into Ramana Maharshi in prison. He has subsequently spent the past decade ridding himself of 'spiritual' language to present a pared-down and simple practice he calls 'looking at yourself', which evolved out of Sherman's own practice of self-enquiry (atma-vichara), as taught by Ramana Maharshi. This self you're looking at of course is the same as 'the Self' of Ramana, which is the same as 'the Unborn' of Bankei, and other names, although there may at first be some difficulty fathoming out exactly what Sherman wants you to look at as he specifically denies he is referring to these other designations, which he regards as abstractions, rather he simply wants you to look at 'you'. Obviously this 'you' is exactly the same as the 'original face' of Zen because of the way Sherman describes it: unchanging; the same now as when you were a child; untouched by the comings and goings of arising phenomena. The same 'you' indeed as what some semi-confused nonduality geeks refuse to accept as anything other than 'no-one', as if this were in itself an understanding.
Sherman must know it doesn't matter what you call it, but by insisting on calling it 'you' and saying you cannot do this wrong he has come up with a way that appeals to those utterly fed up of the 'spiritual path' and also those who prefer plain speaking to jargon. And it may also be true that it is actually easier to look at 'you' than it is 'the Self', even though they are the same, because 'you' is more forgiving a term in regards to whether you are doing it right, whereas 'the Self' may seem beyond you from the outset, accessible only to the great sages. Essentially, John Sherman has found some 'skilful means' to get people to practice repeated exposure to their true nature, which has the long-term effect of getting rid of the alienation from life that has resulted from the endless delusions that beset the false self, i.e. the one who changes through time and takes the touch of phenomenal arisings and thereby suffers, and who is a figment of the imagination. One thing I like about Sherman is that he is very clear about what's important and what's beside the point. He recently put up recordings of people talking about their experience with this practice, one from a guy in Norway called Caspar I thought was particularly well expressed.
Peter Brown's website The Open Doorway presents an initial challenge to the discerning viewer simply because it looks quite naff, a bit like the site of an unsuccessful conjuror, but beyond this there is a wealth of audio and video with some fascinating discussions, usually with the same small group of attendees. Peter Brown has explored widely in the mystical traditions, has a past well soaked in hallucinogens, and is one of the few talking about self-realisation who used to practise magick and is as a result familiar with the works of Austin Osman Spare and Aleister Crowley. He overuses superlatives (astounding, inconceivable, beyond spectacular, absolutely unimaginable, infinite dimensionality), but apart from that it's hard to fault his use of language, he speaks very precisely about the unspeakability of it, and is also quick-witted and funny.
Douglas Harding, who had the great advantage of already looking like God, is dead now but his 'headless way' is a very simple method of inducing an experience of one's true being. Richard Lang continues The Headless Way these days and speaks very disarmingly about it, almost like a children's television presenter. He has recently put up some videos interviewing people who knew Harding in the early days and have practised headlessness for many years. Two of these I particularly enjoyed were with Hymie Wyse and Alan Rowlands. There is a delightful eccentricity of the ordinary about Harding and his friends.
Knowing human but not being human
NOVEMBER 8, 2011
You can spend a great deal of time trying to get the tiny ball-bearing of enlightenment into the depression in the clown's forehead without losing the two he has for eyes in a child's tilt game, or you can just swap the head on top of your shoulders for the entire universe and see that you're not in it it's in you and you've never changed ever and that's who you are, not a human being but knowing what one's like. And as for thoughts, it's denied more times than it's affirmed, by thoughts, that these give rise to everything that you regard as your life, and, not even simplistically, this is your karma, nothing else but thoughts. There is no karma outside of thoughts. It's surprising, but the more you look at it the more you can see that this is the case, it's all just a thought stream, no reality outside of that. All the worries, the loneliness, the sad reflections, the regretful memories, the joys looked back to, certainly just thought, but also the forms, the present forms, their particular shade and hue, their sound and texture, their smell, all cut out of the whole by thought, sensory data organised and presented in a form by the brain, itself just an idea of itself, and taken to be real by the mind, which is a thought. Your friends your lovers your children your parents, all cut out of nothingness by memories and concepts, the same nothingness that writes these words, that is full of all of this, all these objects of perception that have no life of their own but depend entirely upon their source, the only reality there is, that cannot be spoken of without cutting it, that cannot be thought about without gashing it, but nonetheless is ever-present, unchanging, I want to say aloof but I cannot because what is there to be aloof from? Even aloofness is cut out of it, a dud diamond. Everything I think is not so. It is like popping one's head out into an alien dimension, I am a quandary just in having happened without even need of the myriad forms to distract me from my only real and true expression, that of being at all. I don't reject the forms, this aurora up close and personal, but rarely now do I interact with the world on the level of any normal kind of life, and so have few of the sorrows and pleasures of that realm, rather I spend my days collapsing into the quantum foam, as if I am in exile from all I took to be myself and have yet to find my feet in a strange bliss I hesitate to call bliss but only because it is so strange.
I am an explorer who has fallen off the edge of the world, I can no longer identify with even the simplest of human behaviour, yet in a moment I react as if I have never left, so it is not as if I have lost anything in the process of my dissolution save opportunities to become normal again, because this is an ever greater solitude to which I am banished most definitely by my own hand, though it is not a choice I understand or can explain, it is simply an overwhelming urge to melt into the universe and beyond it, as if it is my greatest desire, though I leave behind everything and everyone I have loved and known, especially the idea of myself, though it cannot be a loss because I am what I am without that. It is only others that seem the loss, but they fade in the absence of them and a new bravery is found without them, to be without them. How can I choose otherwise? It is what has driven me, this force of beckoning, this call to a greatness that will never be known because in its fulfillment it will disappear. I cannot think many will even know what I am talking about, though they may sense the running dogs of Oblivion dashing through it going nowhere but with such determination.
Sometimes it's easier to think one is slowly going mad and being alone is merely what happens to such people. I never said I couldn't be anyone, and sometimes the grandiose visions are best dropped for a while to appreciate the simple humanness of this one, lost, lonely, and so know there must be others like him, but who lack his strength in me. And it is things like that that I class as knowing human but not being human. It is 21 minutes before an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier passes close to Earth. They say it will not hit, but it feels like waiting nonetheless.
NOVEMBER 4, 2011
It keeps cropping up. The issue of choice. People ask me about this one quite a bit, for some reason. Especially since I wrote that I haven't chosen anything for the past thirty years. Some see abdication of choice as choosing to drift, or to be controlled by 'subconscious forces', whatever they may be. It always seems to be a black-and-white issue, choice or predestination. Frankly, I don't even think about it any more in daily life. I just don't choose anything. I make a pot of tea. Is that act enhanced or diminished by whether I regard it as a choice or not? I am hardly forced to make a pot of tea, I make a pot of tea because I want to drink tea, but I don't 'choose' to do it as opposed to not doing it, I just do it. I don't think about it. I do everything this way.
Some people might say that I have to make choices, I can't avoid them. Well, I thought that way for quite a few years too. I was quite stiff with my not choosing for a while. I far preferred the easy things where I didn't have to think about the notion of choice, I could just be like a duckling I once saw floating down a river in a styrofoam cup. Just carried along on the current. But then some 'issue' would crop up: this or that? It seemed to me I was forced into a situation of choice. I saw it as an illusion, but not sufficiently so to actually know what to do about it. It was easier when I could afford to ignore it. I would just ignore it, not worrying whether I was 'choosing' to ignore it. I just ignored it. It was, oddly enough, also easy when it was urgent, as I didn't have time to consider it, I just acted, as you would if you were stepping out into the road into the path of an oncoming car, you don't 'choose' to get out of its way you just do it, or not if it goes that way.
It was usually in situations where there was still some desire involved, I 'wanted something', that the whole notion of 'choice' would rear its ugly head. If I didn't do such-and-such, perhaps I would lose my opportunity. If I did do it, perhaps I would get my heart's desire. It seemed important. This was the illusion I found most difficult to break out of, and that is probably what attracted me to the Yijing, the Book of Changes. I could just ask the Yijing, which would give me an answer I could at least try to understand, whereas trying to understand a simple heads or tails didn't go much beyond randomness. With the Yijing apparent randomness could be studied, the notion of choice investigated. I never thought it would take quite so long, though. So I still didn't choose, I just followed my interpretation of the Yijing and tried to make my interpretations accurate, which grew into such a fascination I was eventually forced to study Chinese simply to read it in the original, since I was no longer satisfied what I was reading in English was the whole story.
So now 'choice' for me became an opportunity to study the flux of the world, so I still wasn't 'choosing', save as an experimental approach to life. What will happen if I do this? What will happen if I don't do it? I'd put it first to the oracle and then I'd put it to the test in the world, and observe. It is probably the Yijing more than anything else that led me into seclusion. There is an interesting line in the Yi, the fourth line of hexagram 1, that implies in various commentaries that there comes a point in life when one can make a real choice, between the way of the sage or the way of the hero, the former being to go into seclusion and develop oneself, the latter to create some effect in the world, such as by going into public office. This is not necessarily a one-time choice, but may present as a pivotal point or crossroads at various times in one's life, and the thing is that one always knows which way to go, although one could in theory have gone the other way. So even this is not a choice, rather it is a matter of really knowing yourself. What in effect it is saying is that you really are choosing this, though you can choose no other way. Apart from that aspect of choice, all the rest is consulting the oracle to learn what fate expects from you, and to act in accordance with it rather than against it, which in any case will simply prove impossible or just lead to life becoming littered with a long line of stunted growths made from petty desires, which, indeed, may well be your fate. One gradually learns that the only way to be free from fate is to accept it completely. Eventually one will realise that nothing is actually happening at all, it only appears to be. This is what I call freedom from circumstance.
I have always enjoyed experimentation, so I was willing to hand over any apparent choice I thought I might have to the oracle, even to the extent of doing things I didn't want to do and not doing things I did want to do, simply because the experiment was more important than the choice. Naturally, I wasn't, at first, entirely divorced from the proceedings, I was time and time again caught up in what was apparently happening, particularly when it was a woman and I wanted her. So then it became a study of desire. What was it, how was it affecting me? In time I thoroughly understood that when desire arises, and is bought into, then it is inevitable that one will be its slave until it is satisfied or disappointed, and then there will be another desire, and another, and happiness was not as a result of fulfillment of desire but rather the disappearance of the desire in its gratification. Even disappointment brought happiness, once the turbulence of apparent loss had been understood and dismissed. And it became clear that things came my way anyway, without me desiring them, without me being concerned about acquiring them, and without me caring either way whether they came or not.
Once all this fuss caused by desire was eliminated from the equation, and I won't say that was easy, then it became clear to me that the notion of 'choice' is entirely something that the undisciplined mind likes to chew on, it is completely irrelevant to what is actually happening. And when you see what is really going on you see that there is nowhere for choice to fit in, because everything is doing itself. 'Choice' is little more than distrust of that and wanting to control the manifestation. But this is like a ghost trying to sit at the table. You don't believe that everything will unfold perfectly on its own yet you do believe in a figment of the imagination that can take charge of the situation. In a difficult scenario I may look to some like a person capable of taking strong and quick decisions, often strategically brilliant, but that's because I don't let irrelevant considerations get in the way, I simply see the situation for what it is and act or don't act. Of course I have had the good fortune to have spent my life learning Yi Dao, the way of Yi, which I regard as a martial art (if I wanted to coin a Japanese martial art name for it it would be Ekido), so I won't say that doesn't help. But it's not about choosing, rather seeing the only way to go. It only ever seems a choice when there is something you have let yourself be in thrall of, such that it seems to matter which way it goes, and that you may be able to influence it in your favour. Then you have the delusion of choice. The same situation when you are not in thrall of it, when you have no stake in the outcome, will simply unfold, and you will do what you do or don't out of perfect clarity, unclouded by selfish personal considerations or other childish obsessions that make it seem somehow 'crucial' or a 'difficult choice'. If anything seems a difficult choice then you're not seeing it right, it's as simple as that. If you just don't know what to do, do nothing, because if you did know what to do you'd just be doing it and so it's perfectly clear that there's nothing to do, you only think there might be because you're thinking about it too early or want something out of it that makes you its slave. Choice is an illusion that comes from wanting something too much and the fear of not getting it. It makes you beholden to every single circumstance in your life. You're its bitch. It owns you.
If you think it’s not me, do you even know who I am?
NOVEMBER 3, 2011
I am reality. Because I exist. I am. This cup, this cup of tea, doesn't exist. It is a holding pattern in the flux of the universe, it has colour, shape, it is hot to the touch. This body, this hand that picks up the cup to put it to the mouth, it too doesn't exist, it is just a holding pattern in the flux of the universe. The universe doesn't exist, it is a holding pattern in the flux of itself. None of it can come in to land. Nothing exists but me, I am not in the flux of anything, the flux of everything is in me. I have always been, I always will be. I do not know anything about me that is not temporary, save that I am not temporary. Therefore, there is nothing to know about me that is not in flux. There is no-one to know it but me, and I am no-one only because there is no other, not because I am absent. On the contrary, I am undeniably present, always. If I am not, there is no-one to know it, and I am absent from that, therefore I am, because I know I am absent from that. There is only me. I am reality. I do not know who I am other than that. There is no illusion. Without reality, all is illusion, and doesn't exist. And I am absent from that. Therefore, there is only reality, because I am present to that, which is the same as saying 'Because I say so'. Because I am reality, and there is only me. I do not need the universe, I do not need this body, I do not need this cup of tea. But I do not need to reject them either. If a beautiful flower I did not plant comes up in the garden, why should I pull it up just because I did not put it there?
I am. That is all I know. How I came to be does not make any sense, because I am. The prospect of not being does not make any sense, because I am. I cannot not be, because I am. And I am everything, because I am. And I am nothing, because everything is nothing but me. I might suppose that you too are me, and therefore you know what I know, but if that is true then you will know that I don't exist except as you, just as I know you don't exist except as me. If you are me you will know I am because you are. If you are not, then neither am I, but as I am, so you are too. Would you believe that this is the first proof of the certainty of intelligent life out there that there has been in the history of the universe? If you missed it, well so did Wittgenstein so don't feel too bad.
I could call myself something other than me, such as 'experience', or 'life', or 'awareness', but that would be imagining myself out of the equation because that is somehow imagined to be 'purer'. Yes, I am a cube, I am a perfect sphere, I am an abstract painting, I am Brazil, I am light. But that would be a cube being a cube, a sphere being a sphere. Cube am. Light am. Brazil am. Are those the same as I am? Can a cube think? Can a sphere think? Can I think? Or is I a thought? But then, there is the perennial nut to crack, whose thought? Anyone's thought? Some say there is no-one, and insist no-one is thinking, that thought is just happening, to no-one. But no-one is just another name for me, not a particularly clever one. It's not as if those who thought that one up were touched by genius. They're just imagining themselves as no-one, but obviously they're not no-one because no-one doesn't exist so it must be a name for someone. Who's that? Me. Hard to get away from me, even when you try to imagine me out of existence to get to your pure as golden sunlight vision it's a vision of yourself. Why deny it? Denial is just affirmation with a scowl.
It's certainly true that nothing changes no matter what you call me, though you may think it does, you may think you're being more accurate, when actually you're just skirting around the subject, trying to imagine yourself as a wisp of fanciful mist, despite the fact that you live in a flat above a laundrette, you're out of coffee, and a nondual cat has just had a nondual shit on your nondual carpet because you were blind drunk and asleep on the floor and didn't hear him scratching to go out, poor little puss, he didn't want to shit on your floor, it's not his fault it's your fault. And there you are, woke up with a start as the stench comes like stormtroopers into your nostrils, was it all just a dream? The dream of no-one, no-one had that dream, it happened to no-one. Why not just say 'my dream'? Do you want to spend the rest of your life putting air quotes around the word “me” with your fingers, as if that makes you a clever enlightened little bastard? Who do you think you are to tell me who I am?
I am. I am reality. Reality is me. Me me me me me. I'm not talking about 'ego', I'm not even talking about 'God', I'm talking about me. Me. The one this is all about. It's not about anyone else is it? It's not about 'no-one', it's about 'someone'. And that someone is me. You can call me 'no-one' if you really insist, so long as you realise it's me you're calling it. You can call me anything you like but it'll always be me. So why not face it directly, it's me you're looking for, not 'essence', not 'divine presence', not 'Buddha', not 'Chivas Regal', me. Some say 'me' isn't such a good name for me, but for me it's okay, it'll do. Lot less pretense about it, ironically. I say ironically because I spent all these years getting rid of “me” only to discover me. I just settled down into it like a comfy armchair, sacks of bullshit tossed out the window, feet up, here I am. Some think they're very clever saying it's not me, that it's something a whole lot more complicated than that, and if you call it 'me' then that just shows you to be a fool. I never said I wasn't a fool. But them, dogs chasing their own tails, hard to think of them as me, but they're me too. It's all me. I don't care how you take the mask off, whether you find the wrong me or the right me, because it's all me. If you think it's not me, do you even know who I am?
What lies beyond wisdom and compassion?
NOVEMBER 2, 2011
Another correspondent writes:
Just thought I'd drop a line and let you know that I thought your recent on-line journal post ('A Potted History of Suffering and the Revelation of Amida's Grace') was very rewarding to read. The analysis of 'prajna' and 'karuna' related awakenings are quite cogent in my own experience, and I agree that one realization without the other would be incomplete. Probably for most of us there will always be a length of time between the two, if we are determined or lucky enough to fully experience these things. In your experience, does anything lie beyond wisdom and compassion? Is there more to go, or is it all gas bills and cleaning the cat litter box from there on out? From what little I've experienced, there seems to be a process of dropping away, even destruction, of old processes, cravings, and preoccupations. I wonder if you can shed some light on where all this extinguishing leads once it begins.
On the question of whether there is further to go, it's a matter of having nothing further to seek. This means that you have reached where you simply abide in the Unborn, the Self, whatever you want to call it. A lot of followers of these paths tend to think that it's all about having these momentary experiences of awakening or kensho or satori, but then they wonder what now, is that it? Some people have referred to this as 'post-enlightenment practice' but I don't like all these terms that make momentary experiences of realisation so important.
I'm not saying they're not important, but one should not cling to them or desire for them to be repeated or to come again in some new form, as this is nothing more than being bound by conditionality. These fleeting experiences are certainly 'it' in the timeless sense, but in the temporal realm they are, as it were, kick-starting and feeding a process. It is only, I would say, when you are beyond the process and still remain in time that you have gone the distance that is there to go, because now you truly are beyond conditionality and, as I put it in that piece, free of circumstance. This comes as a result of 'abiding as that', which is obviously not the same as an abrupt and short-lived seeing of one's true nature.
This is why I regard Bankei as a great Zen master, because he doesn't set up any particular object such as 'enlightenment', mastering koans, or deepening an apparent understanding of texts, rather he directly points to the Unborn right where you are, and it is this which can be abided in, indeed it should be what one has seen in satori or what-have-you, but there it is more of a flash, here it is a simple direct seeing that there is no delusion. In my experience, one matures into this, but I think it is important to wean oneself off clinging to previous satori, because the flash-like nature of such insights can lead to you constantly expecting something like that, which has the effect of disguising what is there all the time.
Your true nature is completely unchanging, it is there all the time, this is why it is a misnomer to think of a momentary seeing of it as 'enlightenment', because that is like saying you saw it in a flash but now you're gone back to being deluded again, and finding that somehow an acceptable state of affairs. Yet many I am sure think that something that happened to them back in 1972, or even last month, that was never repeated (or even if it was repeated), gives them some kind of claim to be enlightened. These satori-type experiences are necessarily sudden and gone quickly, but what they are showing is there all the time, but if you see it all the time it is obviously not going to have the character of being sudden, nor will it pass, rather you see your unchanging original nature without a break, save naturally for holidays in delusion, which become much like watching a film and getting involved in it because that's what a film is for.
It's when you know for certain that your true nature is not cut off from you in any way – since how could it be, it is you – that you have nothing further to seek. So actually it doesn't matter whether you think you see this or you think you don't see this, because you cannot not see it and thoughts about it are neither here nor there. Of course, it is more satisfying to realise this and not have to doubt it all the time, since then you really are free of circumstance, since you don't even need to be concerned about any kind of apparent 'lapse', you just let the lapsing get on with itself, since it is nothing to do with you, it's just the mind entertaining itself.
Of course, this is not to say the phenomenon may not evolve in interesting ways, but it is like watching how ink dropped in water flows and swirls, one doesn't get attached to any particular form at any particular moment of time as if life is a series of static and definite snapshots strung together. So your gas bill and cat-litter tray are just temporary forms it is useful to see that way when it is time to pay one and empty the other, otherwise they have no existence. It is only useful to see my room as a room when perhaps I want to go through its door, or useful to see my bookshelf as a bookshelf when I want to take a book off it, otherwise they may as well not exist at all, since I am just as happy to be lounging in the Milky Way as I am on the cushions on my floor. Because my circumstances are the entire universe, not merely this familiar room, and even that I am free of, since even the universe itself is nothing but a circumstance arising in me, and I am beyond change. Even 'enlightenment' is nothing more than a circumstance arising in me. What lies beyond wisdom and compassion is me. I am. And what lies beyond me is nothing. And that nothing is everything. It is as simple as that. How can it not inspire wisdom, inspire compassion? It is an impossibility that has become so. The word for that is 'miracle'. This is a miracle, and it's all an illusion, but what a wonderful illusion. How could one not spend one's life trying to understand that? As for one's personal suffering, it's nothing. When you can say these words and mean them, then you will know you have nothing further to seek. But you cannot say that to anyone other than yourself, since that would just be crass. You will become one of those teachers who people love to ask hard questions of, like 'What about the Holocaust?' Realisation is not about persuading anyone of anything or having an answer for anyone but yourself. Beyond that, it's dogma.
NOVEMBER 1, 2011
Sometimes I think I have thrown too much of my life away. I have discarded everything now, including aims and goals. But then it strikes me I have achieved my greatest goal, sometimes I bend my head down in tears and appreciate I have actually achieved something, that it was a long and hard path. I have climbed my own mountain. To other eyes I probably look like a fuck-up. I know that because to my eyes I also see it that way from time to time. But I don't pay any attention to these thoughts. Oh, maybe for a moment or two they snag me, and I don't immediately step out of it because I have always been open to alternative viewpoints, I just don't get stuck in them. And I have always liked broken fucked-up lives. I have known some great fuck-ups. Being a fuck-up doesn't matter, it's whether you dwell on it and feel sorry for yourself, let it make you morose, or predictable. Being a fuck-up is fine. It's an achievement to drop down low. But if it turns you into an asshole, well that's your failure. Circumstances don't matter. It's all an opportunity to see what is. You can put any spin on it you like, but that's not what it is. So you can go from thinking you're a fuck-up one minute and the next be realising that though outwardly your life doesn't appear to have amounted to much in actuality you've reached one of your greatest goals, that took decades.
I have only ever really been motivated by one thing, and even though it looks like nothing motivates me, that I'm a lazy fucking bum, every day all day for decades I have gazed directly into the eye of reality, wanting to know its secrets. Obviously this kind of thing hasn't brought me a holiday home in the south of France, a wife and kids, cars, a sense of serving my community, a future to look forward to, happiness in things I own, a satisfying career, or the love and support of friends and family. Nor has it brought me any of the rewards I might have expected from being a writer, generally only rejection or disinterest, save for a handful who perhaps genuinely know how to recognise a slow-burning and troubled genius when they see one. For quite some years I thought suicide would be a distinct possibility. When I was a chemist I signed the poisons register for a huge amount of potassium cyanide that I needed for an experiment, literally enough to kill a small town. I flicked through the register, it went back fifty years, which shows how infrequently people want to do these kinds of experiments, in all that time no-one had signed out as much cyanide as me, just tiny little amounts. I was always attracted to the dangerous experiments. I was told how to mix the antidote in the fume cupboard, two foul-looking bottles known as 'solutions A and B' set off to the side with an empty beaker to pour them into quickly, I was told it bubbles and smokes like a Dr Jekyll mixture but that may have just been the lab technician having a laugh, you had to mix them and swallow it in seconds knowing it would corrode your throat but save your life if you accidentally ingested any of the cyanide. I pondered slightly scaling down the experiment and keeping a bit of the cyanide for the rest of my life to use for a quick exit, I loved the idea from spy films, seemed an elegant method, but frankly I didn't want that stuff around. I remember a guy from the year below me who got obsessed by phosphorescent materials. He started nicking them from the lab. He stacked them up in flasks in his bedsit and stopped seeing friends. He would sit there of an evening with the light off surrounded by all these glowing substances. They were on shelves he had put up on all four walls, and he kept adding more and more, smuggled out of the lab over a six-month period. He just died sitting there, when they broke the door down the phosphorescence in the room was totally unearthly, eerie and beautiful.
There were times, if I had've had the cyanide tucked away somewhere, that I might have used it, whereas some other means wouldn't have been particularly attractive. One shouldn't leave too much of a mess for others to clear up. For a while I thought of finding a cave in the Scottish Highlands to go off and die in, like a dying cat finds a shed or a place under the floorboards to curl up and go to sleep. If you're going to do it, do it well, that was my motto. I frankly was very attracted by the idea of just disappearing, becoming a mystery, it was only an imagined duty to parents and friends, even though I hardly saw them, that put the kibosh on that one. One very dark night after a relationship broke up when I really was on the verge I instead took a vow to myself that before I committed suicide I would go to a Zen monastery in Japan and become a monk, give it one last shot there instead, since what did I have to lose. I think it's because of that that I'm still here today. Those despairing years passed – my circumstances didn't much change but I did – and enabled me to appreciate the depths of suffering in human beings as something that it was important to feel, to experience, that without that I could never have begun to unravel the mysteries of reality. It is important to see that humanity is suffering in dingy rooms everywhere. Unless you've really suffered in your life, a sense of compassion is the first thing you will lose, if you had it at all, when you realise that suffering is an illusion and doesn't exist. You will grow haughty, impatient with the ignorance that causes this suffering, impatient with the ignorant themselves, you will expect them to be able to do what you have found relatively easy to do (notwithstanding that you're probably still deluded yourself, since I don't think it is that easy). If you've had a hard time of it but have persevered nonetheless, if you have really suffered, then you will not forget these scars when the world itself disappears, or, shall we say, you won't forget what you learnt from them. And even though it is delusion to go back into the world as if it existed, nonetheless you do so because of this suffering.
There are some 'awakened' folk who say the Bodhisattva vow to save all sentient beings is ridiculous because the vow is made when one is deluded, and when one is no longer deluded one sees that there aren't any sentient beings to save. Yes, this is true, and yet, one still does it. A vow is powerful magick, because the taking of a vow is never a lightly done thing, and what leads up to that vow is a personal witnessing of tremendous suffering. The very reason one takes that vow is because one knows that 'enlightenment' will completely destroy its foundation. And how does one know that? Because it is not a vow taken in delusion at all, it is a vow taken in a greater clarity than the bliss of nirvana alone can provide, and one chooses both for the person one is now and who one will be in the future. There's a power in that. Although there is no past, how can I not honour what that fellow thought he was doing back then when he decided for me? Those who have not taken this vow are in no position to speak on it. And though I don't relish the idea of reincarnating until the end of time to save all sentient beings from the delusions they're stuck in, and in any case regard the idea of incarnation at all as an illusion because I was never born, I can nonetheless appreciate the Bodhisattva vow as a metaphor for actually caring. And that is what I have learnt from being here that goes somewhat beyond the nirvana I know is everyone's due, that is beautiful, and real, and now. So I don't think I have entirely wasted my time, because in a single tear of grace to wet the eye the pattern of it all is clear. And in my own way I have followed the path and seen it to be true, for all I doubted it endlessly.
Although it has become fashionable for me these past few years to write off the various godforms I have experimented with, there is one I regard as great: Amida Buddha. And it is only now that I realise how great. He took a vow eons ago to come to fetch those who called upon his name (the practice of saying the nembutsu), he vowed that he would bring them to the Pure Land, the western paradise. It was a form of other-power Buddhism disparaged by some as a mere faith cult for humble peasants for whom the self-power path of Zen was too hard. I followed this other-power path myself for ten years or more after Zen indeed proved too hard and I gave up on it, before finally returning to Zen. Pure Land Buddhism stayed in the background though, sometimes the name spontaneously coming to my lips while walking down the road, and like a good old Zen boy I would immediately turn it into a koan, asking: 'Who says the name?' For all I no longer quite 'believed' in Amida and his vow, I always admired the wandering Pure Land monk Ippen, whose great insight was that faith wasn't even necessary, since a vow is a vow and if faith was necessary then that depended on the power of the person to have it, not the power of the vow to cut through everything, as was Amida's great promise. That made sense to me. But what I eventually discovered surpassed my expectations and was profoundly beautiful, hardly spoken of in the literature. The revelation of Amida's grace is that you are He, that it was you who took this vow, and here you are again, saving this one who called upon the name. No other realisation I have ever had has quite so many tears as this one. It dawns, often in the pit of despair, stays but a few seconds, and then fades away again, though it can come in waves washing over you. It can't be sustained, it's just too emotionally charged and alive, and there's no point in sustaining it, it's like an injection to instantly change a condition. Even if one has seen one's true nature, had kensho and satori, and abides as the Self, as the Unborn eternal principle, still when Amida comes one buckles as if one had not fully understood before. He shows you that it was never about anything other than compassion for all sentient beings in the myriad universes, because while it is true that there has never been anyone but you, it is this compassion which makes you who you really are.
While it may be argued that this spontaneous revelation is not as 'pure' as Zen satori – which is also abrupt and short-lived – in that it takes a form, it might however be said that this form is, like Zen, also a transmission of the 'wordless doctrine', but of a different quality. Hakuin was the biggest critic of the Pure Land Sect, he regarded the Pure Land ojo or 'salvation' as the equivalent of 'seeing one's true nature' in Zen, and proceeded to criticise the Pure Land way on the grounds that the other-power (tariki) practice of relying on Amida's vow was inferior to the self-power (jiriki) practice of the koan, which of course he favoured. But what this reveals to me is that he had penetrated one but not the other. I think the solution to this problem is a simple one. Zen satori and the Pure Land revelation are actually equivalent but with this difference: satori emphasises prajna (wisdom), while Amida's grace emphasises karuna (compassion). I would argue that both are necessary, that one without the other is an immature 'enlightenment'. Those who argue for the superiority of one school over the other have missed the opportunity to unify them. And those who say the differences are merely on the relative plane and disappear in nonduality are using nonduality as a tool of denial, and they can deny that charge as much as they like but it will still stand. Critics of the Pure Land path were essentially arguing on the basis of their own assumptions about something they had no experience of, they took the high road of presuming satori had shown them everything, they quite simply didn't know what the revelation of Amida's vow was and rejected it on the basis that nembutsu was a popular practice of ordinary people who were merely hoping to be reborn in the Pure Land when they died. Hakuin blasted the Pure Land path as a doctrine of giving up, while at the same time regarding those who followed it as too mediocre for Zen. The most legitimacy Hakuin would grant to the nembutsu was to acknowledge that it could function in a similar fashion to the koan (and it is not as if the koan is paramount anyway – Bankei, possibly the most direct Zen master who ever lived, rejected it totally as nothing more than a gimmick, saying it was just 'studying old waste paper'). To me, this says never be so certain you've gone as far as it is possible to go, don't tout your 'enlightenment' like a proud schoolboy, don't talk so evangelistically of your new discovery of 'no self' without knowing that it was originally a doctrine of Buddhism that has recently been stripped out and sold to you as a standalone sterile quick fix for your personality problems, and don't spend years trying to get rid of duality only to finally realise that the reason you can't do it is because there isn't any.
Even the greatest guru can't do what a dolphin can. What is the fear of putting a foot wrong in these human realms? What's the rush to be so bloody perfect? Simply be clear, don't be confused.
A thorn to remove a thorn
OCTOBER 30, 2011
There's not much that can be said that can't be usefully contradicted. Is there anything that can be said that can't be usefully contradicted? It strikes me quite often. I hear someone saying something that sounds true. Then I think about it. Then I doubt it is completely true. Then I get frustrated by it because I thought I understood it and now I'm not so sure. So I contradict it just to see how that sounds. And it's just as good. So then I reject both statements.
Take the idea that there is no self. It's just an idea. Many have already self-identified with it without even seeing the irony (or stupidity). Many think it sounds true, particularly when they've been reading a lot of books and websites that are saying this. So they persuade themselves it's true. It's just counter-conditioning accepted as insight. But then, when whatever effect they expected to get from that doesn't manifest in the long haul, they try to 'deepen the realisation', whatever that means (either you realise something or you don't). They've got a thorn under their skin, they believe something that is doing them no good. They may even believe they know it, and think it's not just a belief. So what they should do is just contradict the statement: there is a self. And then reject both statements. Now here's the kicker: what has actually changed? It was all just a monologue in the mind, or call it a dialogue if you like, it makes no difference how many imaginary selves you dream up or eradicate. Sometimes a concept can be useful. So run with it. If it starts getting annoying, contradict it, and reject both statements. There is no world. There is a world. Reject both statements. Do you understand or not? It's when you don't stand anywhere that you don't have to worry whether there is a self or not, a world or not, whether you understand or not, whether you're enlightened or not. None of it makes any difference.
The forest of thorns
OCTOBER 29, 2011
The conversation continues:
I must admit that I am looking for the viewpoint you might have had twenty or so years ago on some of these matters or more of a comparative viewpoint from then to now. It is what I was getting at when I was talking about the work itself. Would you have done anything differently, was the work you were doing then valuable to you now or would it have been just as well to have forgone your earlier work in magick altogether? Or was it some sort of natural progression that led you to the point you are now? An unintended result?
Well, there's a sense of a cumulative progression, but that's an illusion too. It's pointless me thinking I could have done something different to what happened, because what happened was simply what happened, the only real 'choice' in any of it was that it could possibly have been interpreted differently. That said, it was interpreted differently, all the time. So this idea that the past is some fixed thing is delusory, fundamentally there is no past, just a memory of it, and what is a memory but a construction, stay too long in that and you'll be convinced the past is a real thing that has affected you in some way, and to the extent that you buy into that then it does affect you, but the instant you drop it all those effects and consequences go with it. This, incidentally, is how karma is rendered null and void.
I have certainly used memories of the past in writing, as a supply of literary images, and in doing that I have seen how easy it is to make false memories and, if they are written about convincingly, to be convinced by them, and that is precisely what I want when I am writing, but when I stop writing I recognise it for what it is, fiction. Even if it happened, it is still fiction, because there is no difference between something that happened and something I invented, save the difference I may or may not give it right now. When I say that something happened what I am really saying is that it is convincing, when I say that something didn't happen all I am saying is that I am not convinced by it. If I am writing in a literary sense, I want all of it to be convincing regardless of whether it happened or not, and if I can be aided in that by temporarily persuading myself it happened and I am only just now remembering it, then that's a useful tool, but after I have finished I put the tool down and am no longer convinced by it. But if I read it again later and find it convincing, and begin to doubt that I made something up, that it may have actually happened, then once again I am appreciating the skill that made it convincing. After a while, I may forget exactly what happened and what I made up, it will all blend together as something convincing. And that's all I want it to be, for those who read it, including myself, to believe it. But actually nothing has ever happened, and I mean this quite literally, nothing has happened, nothing is happening. This apparent life is a dreamworld we conjure about us, but there is nothing actually there at all. The wonder of it is that knowing this doesn't stop forms appearing and, if I wish to believe in them, I can do so effortlessly; similarly, if I don't wish to believe in them I can once again see that nothing is happening.
Now, we're rather fond of our delusions, so much so that we get stuck in them and can't find our way out. If I tell someone nothing has ever happened and that there is no past, they can't accept it. But if instead I offer them the analogy of what happens when I am writing a literary work, then maybe they will have a tool to start to appreciate what I am saying. Don't get me wrong, I find the phenomenon of the world, the universe, a wonderful and amazing thing, and I find it even more wonderful and amazing knowing that it doesn't exist. Again, don't get me wrong, it absolutely exists as a phenomenon, it is quite real as a field of energy, but not as what we impute it to be, the various names and forms that we give to it. It is not even a field of energy, that's just swapping the numerous definitive forms for a vaguer substitute, I essentially say it as a way of saying it is not nothing (which ought to be obvious, but nihilism exists, another delusion). And yet, it is nothing, it is just that nothing isn't nothing.
How stupendous, really, this fluid environment that can be anything. When I was interested in magick my aim was to find the method of changing it at will, but once I had found that I quickly lost interest and became more interested in constant seeing of it as it really was, rather than changing its form to something in accord with passing desires (in other words, to become free of circumstance). So, to actualise this, the first step was to get rid of desires and attachments, since they were only interfering. Of course, when you do things like that it helps to be away from the crowd, because they will only want to bring you round to their way of thinking, and so you will be perpetually snagged by the convincingness of their delusions, y'know, that hedonism is better, that you are wasting your life if you don't go to these parties, that you need a career, you need to amount to something in the world, you need money, you should see friends, and all this. But if you have greater aspirations than simply fitting in with a conditioned consensus then you must bow out and pursue the things that are truly given to you to pursue, as the crowd is, perhaps, by fitting in. I don't rule out that pissing your life away on passing desires may not also work, I gave it a fair crack of the whip but perhaps not as much as some others.
To answer your question, I could say, for instance, that magick was both a tremendous help and also a great hindrance. But a hindrance can be a help and a help a hindrance, so it evens out. It is impossible to consider the consequences of having pursued a different path, because there was no other path, there only seemed to be. Twenty years ago or more I saw it just as clearly as I see it now, but then I was passing through what in Zen is called the forest of thorns, which, it is said, only an adept can get through. Then I was snagged this way and that, it took years to get through. Now, I would pass through like the wind. This is the difference.
Perfectly plain and obvious
OCTOBER 28, 2011
As there is no enlightenment, what are those who say they are enlightened going on about? They are sharing their delusion. They have worked hard for it and they're not about to put it down. Some have gone through numerous stages to get there, maybe it took them a quarter century and now they're enlightened, they're awake. I don't argue with the length of time, just the conclusion. It took me as long to see not that I was enlightened, but that there wasn't any delusion anywhere. I could have concluded that this meant I was enlightened. That would have been easy enough. But something about it struck me as foolish, so I looked at it, and realised that enlightenment is delusion by another name. Instead of slapping it down, some like to have this one. Let me explain why those who say they're enlightened are not, and without even needing to use any stock footage such as 'there is no-one to be enlightened'. No, I have a more radical explanation than that.
If these enlightened ones truly saw that there was not any delusion anywhere, as a continuous seeing all day long, rather than as a peek from the top of the mountain of their enormous endeavours so richly deserving of their complete and unmitigated awakening, then they'd see quite plainly, and I really do mean plainly, perfectly ordinary, that there cannot be any enlightenment that is not a delusion. If something is obvious, I mean utterly obvious, would you say that knowing it meant you were enlightened? No, of course not, if you were to think that then clearly you're looking at something else, not seeing what's plain and obvious, because if it's plain and obvious then that's just it, as it is. The moment you make this your enlightenment, it becomes your delusion. You picked it up, instead of putting it down.
One who thinks they are enlightened has had a serious setback, but one who is at this moment seeking enlightenment can at least listen to this and turn back, because when you harbour even the smallest desire to realise enlightenment it takes you away from what is plain and obvious already. If you don't see it now, on the day you do see it it won't be any different. But get this nonsense of enlightenment and awakening out of your sights for good. For while it may initially be enlightening to see what is perfectly plain and obvious if it has apparently eluded you for some time, if you don't immediately swap that glimpse for the delusion of enlightenment you will gain the greater prize of continuing to see, until its perfect obviousness makes it plain that to call it enlightenment, to call it transcendent, merely confirms that you are no longer seeing it but imagining it from a state not it. If you were still seeing it you would not need to imagine it in contrast to anything else, it would not be transcendent because there would be nothing it was transcending, it would not be enlightenment because there would be nothing it was enlightening, it would not be awakening because there would be nothing it was awaking, it would not be liberation because there would be nothing it was liberating, and it would not even be realisation because there would be nothing it was realising, since everything about it would be perfectly plain and obvious. Not one iota of delusion anywhere.
On balance, I’d rather be deluded
OCTOBER 27, 2011
If you were to ask me whether I'd rather be deluded or awakened, I'd choose deluded any day, because it means I'm still in with a chance, I've not shot my load on spiritual flypaper, there's more room for manoeuvre than up there on that pedestal. As it is, I'm shit outta luck. But I can't say as I feel any sense of responsibility to maintain the enlightened stereotype, I'm actually getting more interested in what happens if you're as enlightened as fuck and you just piss it all up the wall and rant and rave like some drunk cunt, does it still show, does it still shine forth, your magnificent effulgence, can you shit all over it and still come up trumps like the biggest fucking enlightened asshole on the circuit, can you really get some fucking leeway shoehorned into this poky little message.
I get fed up with all this sameness, this on-message crowd of dozy bloody idiots going around claiming to be awakened, I mean, so what if they are? What the fuck do I care? I'd rather pass for some gruff old man in the fucking street with grease stains on my overcoat, you think I can't do the necessary from there? I'm fed up of all this tip-toeing around with it, this scared-to-death of falling back into delusion stiff as a corpse telling of it, always the same fucking thing, there is no 'I', you are not in the world the world is in you, fucking right on man but haven't you got anything else to say, like aren't the reflections of streetlights in puddles on a rainy night when you're pissed so fuckin lovely, or how about I take back my fucking 'I' and allow myself to be gloriously deluded, just for the crack, does that have to mean I'm out of the I-know-who-I-am club? I never wanted to be in it in the first place, I'm just saying, if you haven't got room in your message for a little wildness then how do you know you aren't just conforming to zombie-enlightenment, how is this better than being Born Again apart from the fact that it shows it is humanly possible to be even smugger than those bastards.
OCTOBER 25, 2011
Continuing the discussion began in How can you tell when you’re enlightened?, the correspondent writes:
That makes a lot of sense to me. However, for me it's like the expression 'having something on the tip of your tongue', it's like you know it but have difficulty truly identifying it, yet it's there. Of course, I read your blog and was pleased to see that I at the very least inspired some discussion. You also added some additional bits of clarity to it which I appreciated as well.
I got a kick out of 'they don't know what I know', yet it was also thought provoking. If I understand it correctly, are you illustrating that everything we need to know we already know, yet we seek to know what they know just so we know it, while still knowing what we know, which of course, they don't know? Or am I just confusing myself? But it seems to ring of absolute truth to me.
Which brings me to this – 'The Work'. Is it necessary to know what they know? Do I need to summon every demon known to mankind? Do I need the knowledge and conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel? Do I need to have passed through every grade of the G D, OTO, A A, etc? Or read Blavatsky, Crowley, Spare, Carroll, Hine ad infinitum? For me, I have always used bits and pieces from these sources, as well as eastern traditions as well. I have never developed an obsession with any of it and if it started to head in that direction I stopped. I suppose, it is what I refer to as the rat's maze and maybe indicating that I might be a chicken-shit bastard. Is navigating magickal traditions a must? Or is it the taking part and doing the work that is the real importance? I feel that in some ways these traditions are meant to limit you and waste a lot of your time. Much of it seems like it is there to keep you spinning your wheels trying to know what everyone else knows, while sort of avoiding what you know. Meanwhile, getting caught up in the hierarchy and doctrine and all that. Maybe I am just paranoid, thinking that there is some grand scheme to monopolize information. Is there any merit to this from your experience?
You look to others to provide something you already have, you allow others to make you believe that what you have isn't it, because what they have sounds better, so you doubt what you have, but then through great efforts you finally discover what others have and realise it isn't anything like what you have had all along, that what you have can't be improved upon, and that they are trying to improve upon something they don't even have. So now you know everything that they know, because more can't make it anything more than what you've already seen it to be. Whereas what you have doesn't depend on more, but can only be recognised for what it is when you are not looking for more, and certainly even if any of them actually have recognised it, you don't need to eat their leftovers do you? You stand on your own ground.
In occult terms, you are the Ipsissimus, what Magus can possibly approach you, what mere Master of the Temple even has an inkling of you? But it seems to me that you have to be thorough. I remember I used to meet people sometimes who claimed to have crossed the Abyss after a little light hopscotch on the Tree of Life, not realising any Kether they'd reached was decidedly still in Malkuth. I took one look at them and faced them out with it, 'I thought you said you'd crossed the Abyss, you clearly haven't.' They crumbled, a sheepish smile came to the face. Doubtless they thought they had crossed the Abyss, yet in an instant Choronzon was able to rise up before them and plunge them into doubt and confusion.
You see similar encounters in Zen, where someone thinks they have realised but are stopped in their tracks by a real master and made to see that they have not penetrated the great matter at all. This is clearly of value. Many are too quick to claim the prize, and because there is no-one around to truly test them and they don't give due attention to their own doubts because they are too arrogant, they carry on like dress-up kings and queens, teaching their own delusion to others, presenting a message with such fragile handling it might break at a moment's departure from the well-practised line.
I really think one has to be thorough, and if being thorough means learning everything these fools know then so be it, whatever it takes for you to be sure you really know what you already know, and if you think you don't know it, I tell you quite plainly that you do, but you don't yet believe it, and so you must be thorough and eliminate all of your delusions and not think some transcendent experience is going to do it for you, because it is in looking for transcendent experience that you miss the simplicity that is there when you fall back into listening to the rooks, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees, because it is precisely there without any deliberation whatsoever that you find what has always been there, and if you keep falling back into that, without need of wondering whether this is kensho, whether this is the same as the satori that broke forth when Xiangyan Zhixian was sweeping with a broom and heard the sound of a piece of broken tile striking the bamboo, without any dependence whatsoever on the need for satori, the need for enlightenment, eventually it will not be a matter of piddling little experiences of transcendence strung together on the timeline like the links of a chain to bind you and make you dependent on things once seen but seen no longer, no, it will all break open into a continuum and then you will know for yourself what fools those others are, then you will know what those others don't know, and it won't be anything that you haven't always known. So I would say if you must seek something then seek to be thorough, nothing else.
OCTOBER 23, 2011
Even when I knew nothing, I knew I knew more than they did. This was even before I began learning. Now I have discarded learning, I know I know everything that they know, but they don't know what I know. I learned solely to know what they knew. When I knew what they knew, I discarded learning, because I knew they didn't know what I knew. So now I really knew what I knew. And still they don't know what I know.
OCTOBER 22, 2011
Someone asked me a question I think a lot of people keep around in their minds unanswered for too long:
How can you tell when you are enlightened or not? I certainly wouldn't know, but maybe that's because I'm not, or, maybe I am. I could see where delusion could quickly play a major role in all of this. Some say that you must be guided in this unfolding process, that one needs a guru to succeed.
Fundamentally, there is no enlightenment and no delusion. So long as you think you aren't or are enlightened, you're deluded, as simple as that. So if you think you're not enlightened, if you think you are enlightened, or are not sure whether you're enlightened or not, then you're deluded. This is the best way to cut that one dead. In other words, those who say they are enlightened have merely had some kind of transcendent experience in the past and are just egoically clinging to it. It is a memory, a reconstruction, a claimed merit badge for a momentary experience in the past when they may have had a glimpse but now cannot see it and they just manufacture it as a new identity, the enlightened identity, which is a delusion that cannot be recognised and is reinforced by those who sit at their feet.
Some, due to culture, will use the word 'enlightened' but who knows what they have experienced or are experiencing? If they understand that there is no delusion and no enlightenment, and they are not just mouthing the words, then one can have a better idea, but if they merely claim to be enlightened you can have no real idea what they are talking about unless you can question them or otherwise see that they are blowing hot air, certainly one can say though that their expression of it is lacking and that is suggestive of no real understanding.
Nonduality adherents universally eschew the word 'enlightenment' because they say that there is no-one to be enlightened, but this isn't really dealing with the question, this is sidestepping it with a doctrinal assertion, just repeated words, it doesn't express a real understanding. Is there no enlightenment because there is no-one to be enlightened, or because enlightenment merely exists as a word in contrast to delusion and there is no delusion? Who, after all, is the one who says that there is no-one to be enlightened? That's just something they have persuaded themselves of. They can try to persuade you otherwise, naturally, but the question is does it really help anyone? No, because they have already prematurely killed off anyone who could possibly have been helped, nonduality is a 'philosophy' floundering in its own cramped expression.
It's generally best to forget what others have to say, to stop wondering whether they have experienced anything of any value to you, whether they are deluded or enlightened or see through them both, because all other people are good for is confusing you, making you doubt yourself. Out of a thousand teachers or gurus or sages, maybe two have something to say to you, and you'll be the one who recognises that, so it's not about them it's about you. Accept no mediocre wishy-washy gurus, those who keep you dawdling there waiting to hear something of profound importance to you personally. If they haven't already said it, then fuck off, what use are they? It's not hard. If you ask them to enlighten you, then you expect to be enlightened. If they can't do it, fuck em. You can wander around for years waiting to hear something from someone that vaguely fits the template you have in your head for a resemblance to what you're going to painfully acknowledge as possibly being close to the correct answer, but if you're really lucky you'll encounter someone who snatches the template away from you and smashes it to the ground into tiny fragments and gives you a fucking slap if you try to pick up the bits.
Isolation is fine
OCTOBER 19, 2011
I didn't set out to do any of the things I have done. Apart from become a chemist. As a kid I wanted to be a forensic chemist and I did become a chemist, but I didn't stay a chemist like many I studied with who are professors now. I remember seeing an alumnus listing of my year not so long back and was amazed about twenty of my labmates were now professors of chemistry all over the world. Myself, I took one of the great fruits of chemistry, LSD, and dropped out of conventional living, though I did pursue one of my other childhood interests for a while, journalism, but that withered too and instead I spent all my time with the occult. I don't recall choosing to do that, not the way I chose to do chemistry. My last decision, what felt like a decision though I could doubt it now, was not to do a PhD in chemistry, thirty years ago. After that, I didn't choose anything. I wanted to see where the wind would carry me. Looking back, it was my great experiment. Where will I be taken if I don't choose anything? I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't want anything, really. Oh, I wanted to write, or took it as something to do, but I didn't push myself, I figured I'll either do it or I won't.
I was reading through some old works of mine from the late eighties and early nineties last night, hadn't looked at them for years, and I was surprised to see how well I knew myself even then. Even then I was well aware the world is an illusion, though I was more in its clutches, wanting the great relationship, women, one true woman. Finding them, losing them. The past ten or twenty years I have led a life of relative isolation. I didn't choose that. I wouldn't have chosen that. But it seemed to be what was chosen for me if I wasn't going to choose. I won't say it has been easy because it hasn't. Every day for years I have dealt only with the question of what life is, a prime purpose throbbing away at the centre of some fairly thick layers of laziness. In my experiment I was constantly dealing with the contradiction of wanting things yet telling myself I wanted nothing, not to mention the skin outside of that where there was no 'I' beyond ragtag conditioning and hypnosis stuck in perpetual rejection of itself. Disappointments became another opportunity to see that I was wrong to want what I had now lost, but it didn't stop me wanting, and another cycle of sorrowful existence would ensue, with a few joys to tantalise, to intrigue and interest, carrots on a stick. Hard to feel you're getting closer for all the decades spent on it, save when you walk about out there in the world and the ignorance is palpable.
Now, this has all changed. I find it very hard to want anything. The world of people and things has become transparent, almost like a shimmery film, yet solid in an instant should that seem like a good way for it to be for a while. I feared isolation for many years, and especially so when it became clear that this was where I was headed with the tenacity of an explorer on course for the north pole. Yet my journey was to stay where I was and allow the world to fade. Many times I spent my nights alone struggling with some existential perplexity or other, clothed at first in the form of despair but never totally believed in, always it was an excuse to understand. I suppose that was the last thing I wanted, before I no longer wanted anything, I wanted to understand. Life was not satisfying, yet I never lost sight of the fact that this was a delusion. What I wished for was for the delusion to become obvious. It was not a faith or a hope, since I had many times seen life as it actually was. Often at the end of my nocturnal wrestling with various demons I would receive the reward of perfect clarity, but wearied of the gruelling process to get there. But still, I had no choice and this was simply the way it was to be. I was committed to this as if by a vow, and I don't rule out that I did take a vow, in fact I know I took a vow, but what I mean is that … no, I did take a vow, it is pointless reinterpreting that. Looking back, I did some extraordinary things in my nightly madnesses, particularly during my phase of black magick experimentation. What is a vow compared with half-remembered pacts with demons and suchlike? My life is littered with the debris of pure chaotic occult experimentation. But to one end, to break the bonds of delusion with brute force, even if that meant conjuring up bigger delusions to grapple with than merely wanting the ordinary pleasures human life can provide.
So I found myself as the years went by quite isolated and faced my fears of it there. I have come to value it and don't miss people because it doesn't appear to me that there are any, just shapes in a seamless flux it is convenient sometimes to define edges of and call by name. I don't particularly seek friends out, I see friends usually when they seek me out. I don't shun social activity, but neither do I pursue it as anything of importance. Once I wanted it more, a long time ago, but it seemed denied me so I just said fuck it then and that was that. I read Chinese hermit poetry and listened to the rain in the middle of the night, sometimes visited by a cat. I don't look for anything from the world, but I don't mind what comes along. These days I sit peacefully with no aim to be anything or do anything. I am not waiting for anything. One place is much the same as another place. Nothing is happening, yet progressions of things seem to unfold all the same. Gazing into the distance is the same as staring at the wall. The boundary of the sky is the same distance as the boundary of the room, I can't really explain this except to say that both are the limit of vision and distance is irrelevant, just as the sound of children playing out in the field is no further away than the sound of the letters that have just come through my letterbox. What is brought to my eyes and ears are as if there are no eyes or ears. Everything is happening everywhere, the sound of the plane in the sky is in this room and there is no head yet it is in that head too, everything is imagined. The sky and plane when I cannot see them because the curtain is closed is obviously imagined as is the field with the children playing but the room and its walls where I appear to actually be is imagined too.
For years I lived with the odd sensation that there was no roof on my living room and that it was open to the sky, that there were no walls surrounding me, as if I was sitting in a field, yet I could see the ceiling, the walls. I can still see them but they're really not there. I do marvel at this. I sit in the garden most afternoons noticing that the sycamore tree isn't any farther away than the clouds and the sky, and nor is the sun, and nor is the book I'm reading or my feet. And on a clear night when the atmosphere seems to disappear outer space touches the garden and bats are like flakes of nightsky peeled off and fluttering about and someone's bathroom water going down the pipe before they go to bed is all the clock I need. Oh, I yearned in the past for many things I thought I needed to make my life all that it could be, most notably a woman to share it with, but that or any other yearning is now not even a memory, in the sense that it doesn't even seem that there ever was such a yearning, as if that was just in a dream, and even dreams I have a hard time forming a concept of, just as I can hardly form an impression of what a memory is. And if I close my eyes it instantly seems I am something I have always been, and I don't know what a 'life' is, still less a 'death', some kind of make-believe, and at last it dawns on me this is what they mean by bliss. And I, beautiful naked being, like a statue has come alive and the cosmos is better than mine, it is me, though one should only ever say such things when it is obvious so as not to grow obnoxious to oneself for keeping this little collection of one's former understandings frosted over and stiff, but then it occurs to me, how could it not be obvious? And there is no question of sustaining anything, the fruit has somehow ripened and the old tricks and methods aren't needed any more. There is no-one to give thanks to. Naturally, one runs through the legacy of one's deep and daunting training, a practised routine, the sheer effort it has taken to be effortless, but there is no point. One just stays here, everything else will be taken care of. It does everything.
Is there a doer?
OCTOBER 8, 2011
For a while, the idea that there is no doer can be useful, but after a while it just becomes another hang-up of the quest to know oneself. The bottom line on this question of whether or not there is a doer is that both sides of the question are merely ideas and have nothing to do with reality. The idea that there is a doer, an entity that does things, that makes choices, is the equivalent of the idea that there isn't a doer, that there is no-one to make choices, that everything happens on its own. The former is the delusion of the majority of the world, conditioning never questioned; the latter is the delusion of many seekers and even some gurus, a dogma outcrop accepted as true knowledge.
The reality doesn't fit either of these concepts, although as a working hypothesis the idea that there is no doer is acceptable so long as it is not taken to be the truth. What happens with the no-doer dogma is that a doer convinces itself it is not a doer, but the illusory entity that sees itself this way still remains. One has simply swapped one illusion for another. One has chosen not to choose, but then is faced day in day out with having to make numerous small apparent choices, such as getting up out of bed. One can only lie there so long and even that is a choice. So though one accepts that there is no doer, there is the frustration of some entity still being faced by having to decide.
A stage further on is embracing non-doing (wuwei) and allowing one's actions to become completely spontaneous. This also is an illusion, because spontaneity cannot help but form a continuum with non-spontaneity, and in the end both can only be seen as overlays upon something that is neither. So one need not be concerned whether one's actions are sufficiently spontaneous, since even the stiffest most agonised decisions are, in the end, as spontaneous as not. It is simply what is done, or not done, whether it was easy or hard to reach that point is quite irrelevant. So you see, the no-doer doctrine is a delusion, and, once this is seen, one may as well be a doer as not.
While it is true that the whatever-it-is that one is does nothing, all the same all of this is being done. So don't worry about whether there is a doer or not, since your worries do not affect what is happening in the slightest. Your concern to choose the right way or to sit with not making that choice like one who truly knows, can both be discarded, since neither is having any impact on what is. Yet do not imagine you cannot wield a sword to penetrate right to the heart of the matter, or sit under a tree daydreaming your life away, since you can do both with perfect precision, once you have finished with mere ideas about it.
In practice, not doing is a better fallback position than doing, so long as one recognises there is nothing to do, with the corollary that doing is done before there was ever a question whether not doing was still the way. Those who would have you adhere to ideas about this probably haven't realised that they themselves are just stuck in an idea. They probably took it on board as a useful aide-mémoire while they were still a seeker, and grew into a teacher too fast to realise they'd realised nothing and so merely ended up passing on the things that had done them no real good but seemed like it in the absence of a true breakthrough. A parrot teaching others to be parrots, with no fluidity in juggling reality and illusion like a magician, instead barking up the wrong tree for years with others hanging on to their every word, when it would have been better to have been barking in their own solitude with no-one listening for twenty or thirty years before they ripened into a true realisation, and saw the dross that passes for it. There is no ripening once the fruit has been prematurely plucked from the tree and brought to the marketplace. It is too green even to ripen at home should you be foolish enough to buy it.
There are many fake teachers. Let the buyer beware, since the wrong course can be costly in more ways than one. Reject everything and find it yourself. If you happen upon a teacher after that, just maybe that teacher will have something to say. But if he sits upon a throne like a stupid king handing out lucky bags of warmth and wisdom, consider that that is his hobby and move on unless one likes sucking feel-good sweets for eternity. If he says the same thing over and over again but not a single one ever gets it, with him telling them there is no-one who can get it, consider that he is a broken record rehearsing for the day he understands finally that he has fuckall of any use to anyone, but at least had the good fortune to be saying as much from the beginning so cannot be called a liar. Of those two types, neither has skilful means.
The power of observation
OCTOBER 7, 2011
One thing that fascinates me about reality is the way it preserves every impression in a fabulous geometry of interactions. There was a small moth clinging to the inside of a cup three-quarters full of cold tea. I saw it three times while making tea in the kitchen. The fourth time I wanted to wash the cup so I tried to get the moth to clamber onto my finger so I could remove it and the thing happened that I didn't want to happen, why I was hoping it would remove itself from the cup. It fell in the cold tea. I quickly fished it out on the tip of my finger and ensured it had not drowned. I went to the bathroom with it on my finger and put it out of the window. A few hours later I was standing in the bathroom and glanced down and noticed a single drop of tea in the bath. I looked at this and thought, how on earth did that get there? Then in a flash the whole movie of me fishing the moth out of the tea played in my mind, the drop of tea was the tea that had been on my finger as I allowed the moth to dry off before putting it out of the window. And I thought, that is amazing, that event has preserved a trace of itself that was quite unnoticed by me at the time, and that trace was able, on being noticed, to replay the whole sequence of events that led to that drop of tea being in the bath, even though I'd more or less forgotten about the incident with the moth earlier.
It is very easy to say that life is a dream. Life is a dream, and it can be lucidly awoken to, but rather than write it off as a dream, one can see that this dream is something coming in to land, this dream is far subtler than can ever be seen by those who convince themselves that because it is a dream it can be safely ignored. It can be safely ignored, but why ignore it when it can be seen as a dream and not ignored? Those who prefer to ignore it (or, rather, try to ignore it, they rarely manage) are generally trying to preserve what they regard as an insight from corrosion by the phenomenon, whereas actually the phenomenon is the reality, rather than something opposed to it. If one persistently refers to the world as an illusion, regarding it as something one knows, it means one doesn't know it completely, despite the fact that the world is an illusion. Because, once you know it fully, it is reality and one is now truly liberated.
Many who espouse 'spiritual knowledge' are always trying to hold onto what they think they know. They fall into repetition. They don't see reality because they have to impose conditionality upon it in the name of insight or understanding. Nonduality is an imposed condition. Nonduality doesn't exist, yet a growing number cling to it as a fundamental descriptor of reality. All it is is a frame of reference. While those who hold onto nonduality generally satisfy themselves that they have understood something, and others believe them and follow them, actually they have shut off reality and accepted a simulacrum of it. Nonduality is as irrelevant as duality, and the advantage of this frame of reference is that it no longer matters whether or not you 'understand' nonduality, since it is not the key to the kingdom. And this frame of reference can be discarded once you have satisfied yourself that you no longer need to pursue a path you find frustrating. As simple as that. The same can be said about anything you find frustrating. Reduce it to a frame of reference, which it already is so it is only a matter of seeing it, and chuck it away. Now what are you left with? Reality. Is there any need to say any more about it? It's staring you in the face.
Of course, this is the point at which confusion can set in. But why listen to confusion, what has confusion got to say about anything? Is there something you think you need to know, something that isn't clear? This is the habit of seeking, it sets up conditions, hoops for reality to jump through. It says, I am not happy, there must be a reason. It clutches at the straws of what it has read: There must be a person who is not happy and I haven't got rid of that person yet, I haven't seen through that delusion, I am not ready to see reality for all I believe it stares me in the face all the time. So there's your frame of reference. Regardless whether there is anyone to discard it or not, discard it.
OCTOBER 6, 2011
On November 8 there will be the closest approach to date by a near-Earth object of relatively large size (400 metres) that is known about in advance. The approach of asteroid 2005 YU55 was reported back in March but as it's hardly common knowledge I thought I'd take the opportunity to mention it. An Earth collision is apparently not expected, although the asteroid is still classified as a potentially hazardous object. There'll not be another event of this type until 2028.
The Near Earth Object Program has a page (updated daily) dedicated to recent close approaches, ten in the past five days. The list of upcoming close approaches resembles a train timetable on a fairly busy branch line. Yet ask most people in the street whether they know what the Torino Scale is and you'll draw blank looks. If the trajectory of the current asteroid was only slightly different you wouldn't have anything else on your mind. Then of course there is the possibility of an actual impact in 2036 from Apophis, an asteroid apparently discovered by Stargate SG-1 fans. Great name for an asteroid.
One wonders, really, how reliable the maths is for predicting asteroid flight paths, given that it was only two weeks ago that the impossibility of travelling faster than the speed of light was called into question by the existence of tachyonic neutrinos. One of my most memorable experiences as a student is tied to CERN. I was in a lecture theatre at Imperial College when an out-of-breath and excited physicist burst in. He'd just got off the phone from CERN and told us: 'Ten minutes ago we discovered the W-particle!' He was rushing round the college to let everyone know, thinking we'd all like to hear the news straight away. I'm glad he did that. We all spontaneously cheered like a goal had been scored, about seventy of us. We felt privileged to be so close to the epicentre of discovery. Some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, or Lennon. I remember where I was when we found the W-particle.
My considered opinion on western nonduality teachings
OCTOBER 3, 2011
Western nonduality teachers are mushrooming everywhere. We're talking about the likes of Tony Parsons, Jeff Foster, Richard Sylvester, Rupert Spira, Scott Kiloby, and a lesser gaggle of sundry others spouting the same kind of thing with autocue eyes or smug fixed smiles. Fundamentally, the western teaching of nonduality is a plateau understanding being passed off as some kind of final truth. It has its associated dogma, such as there is no person who can understand what is being said because there aren't any people and other such repetitions which, though as true as a pillarbox is red, have ossified into items of faith it is remarkably easy to both believe and convince oneself one almost understands while at the same time scratching one's head and wondering why exactly one is paying ten quid a shot to attend meetings given by non-people for other non-people. The most that can be said about it is that it can be quite entertaining to watch a roomful of people struggling to understand that they are not there and nobody else is either.
Now of course nonduality can only ever be a plateau understanding because it is merely an idea, as is duality. In fact, nonduality can hardly get started without duality in the first place, and as there is in fact no duality beyond the idea of it nonduality is on a hiding to nothing. It is like saying there is no red and then trying to describe what red things are like if one ignores their redness. Similarly, those who espouse nonduality have duality staring them in the face every day but like to pretend that it is nonduality, and if they forget they try to look for a boundary again, can't find one, and satisfy themselves that they still understand, for all it looks less likely by the quality of their actions, stiffening like a straitjacket from all the talked-up mumbo-jumbo.
But people are averse to their life's struggle to understand being reduced to such concise ridicule even though they know it is quite correct and think that those with several books on the topic must know better, for all that they've read them and have seen that they don't. It's certainly true that the leading teachers of nonduality have perfected their style through frequent self-hypnosis such that they have not only convinced themselves that they have understood something but this strength of conviction has led multitudes of the confused to turn up at their door and pay them lip-service that they have understood something in the hope that they might understand something too. What, they don't know, save that it apparently makes you happy, or if not that then at least self-satisfied, and pays just as well as plumbing if you go professional with it later. If you regularly attend nonduality meetings then after a while it will inevitably become a support group for your experimentation in trying to break through to reality – marginally cheaper than therapy though more expensive than drugs – in which one can spout one's delusions to a crowd of others merely awaiting the opportunity to spout theirs so that the teacher can pronounce on them with his own delusions. And everyone goes away semi-happy, but none-the-wiser, one less cinema trip to look forward to if on a budget.
There used to be a time when many a pretty young thing in a leotard wanted to be a yoga teacher before they had actually learnt any yoga themselves, and similarly today people are 'awakening' while listening to a cassette of John Wheeler's or stirring their tea at a Tony Parsons gathering, and, without troubling themselves too much with the fuss and bother of going to a Zen monastery or tracking down enlightened sages in the back streets of Benares, in two ticks they have a fifty-quid website up dedicated to their international guruhood, are fully signed-up members of the nondual mutual backslapping brigade, and Conscious TV has someone else to interview though even they must feel they're scraping the bottom of the barrel sometimes.
As anyone should know, one of the greatest obstacles to understanding is having a teacher who doesn't really understand what they're teaching but understand it enough to get by. But sometimes you have to give the benefit of the doubt to teachers that in your greater wisdom and maturity you will realise are empty vessels. My advice would be not to give the benefit of the doubt for too long. One meeting should be plenty to see that the rest who have been coming for a year or two have got nowhere and now treat it as a social club. One glance at the money basket by the door should be enough to see that the simple maths of thirty people coughing up ten quid a head means the teacher isn't doing it out of compassion, it's a job.
I don't say that most of them haven't had some requisite experience of gazing into reality, I merely take issue with the idea that what they have discovered is in fact the same as the Unborn Buddha Mind or Original Face. No, nonduality is making a cult out of an aspect. And a cult that has no actual teaching because it is taken as read that there is no teacher nor anyone to teach, which never seems to stop them teaching it. Why don't they just sit at home and rest quietly in their nonduality? Why do they feel the need to monetise their non-teachings in some kind of standard-issue movement? Simply because seekers always create gurus to confuse them further, it makes them feel they are doing something, because the guy who told them they don't need to do anything and told them for free wasn't good enough for them, so like dogs think trees were made for them to piss on seekers will always create someone who can take them a certain part of the way but not far enough. Most stay there.
One or two see through the whole facade and seek sharper blades to test themselves against. If they're lucky they may find a 'guru' who no-one has heard of yet and couldn't give a shit about money (but may still charge just to ensure you ration your enthusiasm for being in his presence to what you can actually afford, which, oddly enough, tends to reveal a person's actual enthusiasm as opposed to their deluded enthusiasm – call it room hire if you like, I call it sifting out the dregs). There is an old saying, 'When the student is ready, the teacher appears.' I'd like to rewrite this to 'When the student has got pissed off with waiting and realised everyone is just a fucking charlatan, the teacher will still be in bed and not particularly interested in you, your hissy fits, or your wallet, but nonetheless may deign to rain down his munificent benevolence upon you, or maybe not, just depending what mood he's in that day, and if you're bothered about his attitude you can fuck off.' That's my small ad in a newsagent's window next to the prozzies and tarot readers. Somehow, you know the genuine article when you see it. When the student is ready, you can be sure as hell that's how the teacher will appear – if he's any fucking good.
OCTOBER 2, 2011
Consulting the Yijing is a way to loosen the knots your thoughts have pulled themselves into. A clear perspective of your current situation is shown – or, simply, another perspective. This can be a confirmation in a time of relative clarity, or an escape route in a time of perplexity. The Yi invites interaction with it for the purpose of realignment with the Dao, in the form of an unexpected strategy (such as doing nothing when convinced action is called for) or pricking the bubble of an illusion (such as a hope past its sell-by date). Sometimes it simply encourages us to drop our fears and act, and, if extra encouragement is needed, it tells us the moment to act will soon close if we dither any longer.
In time – and this is the greater purpose of the Yijing – the underlying philosophy governing the recommendations of The Changes is imparted to one capable of hearing it, such that an instinctive understanding of the nature of the moment develops and one simply knows without need of consulting the oracle. But one should never be in a rush for such an understanding, since it is impossible without long experience. I usually say ten years of daily study is an apprenticeship and after thirty you may have a grasp. Some of course imagine themselves masters after hardly any time, with the only result that their learning ceases at an acquaintance with superficialities and little realisation of the depths. 'Beginner's mind' is therefore worth preserving. It is not a false modesty, rather it becomes an acknowledgement of how little one knows, despite how much one has learned. If, on your deathbed, you feel that the Book of Changes is something you are only just beginning to understand with any kind of mastery then consider that a fair trade for all your years of study.
By contrast, early 'masters' often have a fixed understanding of areas of Yijing study that are to do with the banalities of the predictive art, which they rate highly, and they accumulate little of the wisdom that would make them realise just how limited and illusory this kind of child's play actually is. There was a wonderful recent example on the Clarity site. If this is what the Yijing is about, I doubt I would ever have become interested. What is sad about these kinds of boastful display is that they exhibit scant insight into the actual nature of reality while being impressed by a fantasy of what the Yijing is capable of, still less is there any awareness of the sheer triviality of these excursions. There is a Sufi saying I'm fond of: 'If you know what the kernel tastes like, you can dispense with the shell.'
Sunspots and suicide
SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
After reading most of the day in the sun yesterday I noticed a powerful onslaught of despairing emotions engulf me in the evening, the like of which I haven't experienced in a long time. I couldn't fathom a reason for it. Then I was looking at the Astronomy Picture of the Day, since I am no longer interested in terrestrial news only cosmological news and this is effectively my news channel, and discovered that there is presently a massive sunspot group (AR 1302) unleashing huge flares. A severe geomagnetic storm has been raging as a result of a coronal mass ejection hitting Earth's magnetic field, causing aurora activity. When I realised this, it made me wonder whether anyone has conducted any studies to see if the suicide rate goes up during strong sunspot activity. I did a quick search on PubMed and found that there is indeed a small literature in this area:
How do you decide what to do when you don’t know what to do?
SEPTEMBER 5, 2011
You leave it. You think it may be none of the things you've thought about so far. You stop fantasising about it being this thing and how it would turn out if it was. You honestly get fed up of needing to do anything whatsoever. You ask yourself who is it who wants to know anyhow? You prefer not making a decision to making one, and rate higher the need to eliminate the anxiety associated with uncertainty than the comfort to be had in knowing where you're going, because you don't know that and so it's not a reliable solution, whereas being beyond needing to know is always in your hands. Or should be. If it isn't, then that's clearly what you should be spending your time on, not looking for solutions to some world-bound apparent dilemma. You go back to what you do know: that you know fuckall and never have. There's only one thing that has to be right, and that's just sitting in the here and now not knowing. So you don't know. Big deal. What would you do if you did know, or thought you knew at least? You'd probably try to push things in that direction. When has that ever worked? Your biggest failures were of things you wanted too much, that you became obsessed about, your 'certainties'. Good things that happened just happened. You may have given them some thought, but you were never in control of any of them. Freedom isn't getting anything you want it's not wanting anything, not minding what happens. Not caring, actually, just not caring what happens. Okay, so the universe wants to throw me out on the street now, well then let it. That I should be bothered is taking too much away from what I really value: not being bothered. Oh, the concern is tangible, if I let it breed, it I let it be. It's just so fucking pathetic, that fearful wreck you become if it matters to you what becomes of you. Fuck it. Just stand your ground man, that's all you've got. The power to say, away with all this nonsense, the time spent dwelling on that. What to do? What to do? I have a positive hatred of the need to know what to do. Of the very notion of doing anything, of having to work anything out, of having to plot my course, when it has never been anything to do with me. Fuck it. Let come what may. That's the only position of strength available to you. Embrace it! Fuck the rest. Had enough of that. Had enough of wanting to know. Really have. Got to that point. Fucking harpies of some illusory 'person' plucking at the synapses with their little beaks. Oh you're blind mister you can't see where you're going. Fuck off, cunts. Anywhere I go is just the same as where I am. Possessions, they're the bricks weighing me down in what would otherwise flow smoothly. But every possession is just a thought of that thing, it's not real. To spend time discarding things merely gives them solidity. It's not the way to attack the problem. But I've always liked chucking stuff in the bin, so there's no harm in it either. At heart, it's just not knowing and still being fooled that there is some way I could know. How could I possibly know? Too much time spent on the unreal. Still, no harm in that either. I've always hated rigmarole, I've always hated officialdom and government, I've always hated borders, I've always hating finding means to an end as if it was anything to do with me. I've always liked strategy and wise approaches, but even those now I am disfavouring in favour of doing nothing even more than I have done nothing for years, notwithstanding that this is a strategy and a wise approach, but I no longer care whether it is wise or foolish. Two sides of the same coin and it's always spinning in the air. Start wisely, end foolishly. Start foolishly, end wisely. I no longer care about working it out, too much effort. All along I have only been driven by spontaneity, why should the illusion of 'responsibilities' visit me now, what can it possibly hope to gain from this curmudgeon who sees through everything in the end? Drink tea, sit, listen to a bit of jazz. If there's an answer that would benefit me, let it come crawling for attention almost when it is too late. Let me do some pretty sharpish manoeuvring on the brink of disaster, let the skills I do have SHINE. And that's all I have to say about that bunch of fuckwittery.
Most books are worthless
AUGUST 16, 2011
I am presently discarding my possessions, so I'm reading through those very few books I have kept out of the many read over the past few decades, before letting them go. Nearly all of them are still worth reading, such as my collection of Marguerite Duras's later works, the author I have read the most books by (after her it would be Nisargadatta or Nietzsche I think – or perhaps William Saroyan, Burroughs, or Beckett). There was something she said in a 1993 interview contained in Two by Duras:
The heart of The Lover is myself. I am the heart and all the rest of the book, because there's no literature there: only writing. These days no one writes. Or almost no one. There are books, books made out of books, and behind them there is no one.
I've always found Duras's comments and opinions on writing instructive (see her wonderful fragmentary book Writing for instance). She is quite right about the emptiness of most modern books, even 'literary fiction' (or especially so). Most of it is written for a market. Many so-called writers these days have only one aim in mind: fame and success. They unashamedly attempt to fit in with the 'demands' of the market. As such, they write worthless books that may sell many copies but have no life in them, though they may make a passable film or two. Formulaic rubbish, even the books that have an outward appearance of being well-written.
Having lost a lot of interest in writing over the past couple of years, I find myself more objective these days and see that my former opinions on the many books churned out every year were largely right. I can't be bothered with them. Rather I seek out unique and often unpopular voices, and even then there may only be one book of theirs I can read and have difficulty with the rest (such as Robert Pinget's fantastic book Someone, from start to finish about a person looking for a missing piece of paper – but I find much of his other stuff not to my taste). Most of the books in bookshops today I find dull, and if you look at the huge number of wannabe 'writers' on the web you find many of them are geared towards writing the same kind of tripe with only the notion of 'success' (finding an agent, publishing contract) in their sights. Few actually have anything to say. 'Books made out of books', as Duras says, with no-one there. The next teenage vampire novel, the next imitation of Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum, bandwagon stuff. Tired, and I don't even want to read the progenitors anyway.
I think I will get my interest in writing back, but it's useful to lose it. Things re-form, you find what you really want to say. Bukowski gave up writing for a long period, then returned to it. It is good to question the value of things that one has gone a long way with, and abandon the clutter of the self-definitions one has carried for years. 'What do you do?' – 'I write' (this was my habitual second choice on being pressed after answering 'Nothing'). To me, writing, real writing, is the kind of writing that is ambitionless, almost hates itself (and I find I hate my writing for a long time and then one day I may read it and think, hang on, this is great stuff. So who's to judge?). There are very few real writers in the world. Most of the familiar names are already dead. The few that are still alive may never be picked up by a large press and reach the kind of audience they should do. Meanwhile, oceans of shit will continue to be published. Agents will continue to look not for real writers but for exactly the same kind of dross that is doing well now. And the big publishers will thank them for being bouncers of their club.
It's taken me a long time to recognise what real writing is, and it's ironic that I should know this for certain by the time I have virtually lost interest in writing. But returns often come at the very point when you are ready to discard everything. It's only when you're ready to let it go that you can pick it up again, freshly, cleanly. I have certainly given up on my irritation that most books are shit, and have stopped wondering why people read them. Not because I have found the answer to that question but because I no longer care. Not caring is good. I assume any book I see anyone reading on the Tube is just fucking rubbish, because I know that a real book has the power to find me regardless, even if I write it off. So I write it all off and then see what bobs back up. Real books have a talent for finding their readers. I don't know how I ever heard of most of the stuff I have really enjoyed over the years, they just came my way. The fact that they are effectively suppressed by the popularity of the numerous all-the-same books doesn't seem to matter, they still find a way. I love the forgotten works, books by suicides, books found in trunks (Pessoa's Book of Disquiet for instance), books by people who tried to start revolutions, or went insane. I am not interested in books written from the first moment to be a commodity, though one or two can sometimes tap into something other and redeem themselves. I am just not interested full stop. A book has to work hard to interest me, but if it does interest me, then it's an interest like slicing your palm with a knife to make a blood bond. Otherwise, I can't be bothered with reading any more.
‘History is the shockwave which precedes the Eschaton’
AUGUST 15, 2011
What a fabulous sentence, from Terence McKenna quoting a friend of his in his final interview, possibly the best interview with him I've seen, by John Hazard who has recently made it available. 'The transcendental object at the end of time' he often spoke of is the Singularity.
… finally it's going to be so weird that people are going to have to talk about how weird it is.
This is the Singularity, it has already happened
JULY 17, 2011
Ray Kurzweil, an astounding man who predicts that the Singularity will happen in 2045, is like an avatar inserted into what has already happened to act the role of technological prophet. He is already his back-up program. The Singularity has already happened and it all worked out fine. The universe has already woken up and created a sleeping Earth within itself. We are experiencing a history of ourselves. We think this world exists, whereas in actuality it is merely a program taking us to the point of awakening, showing a process that has already occurred as something that will occur. We are not that. That is information streaming within us. It is the past. Everything is the past. It doesn't even matter whether it was an actual past or merely one invented as an illustration, the idea of 'real history' is a contradiction in terms. Nothing has ever happened. What we see is a program playing out. It is real only long enough to extract meaningfulness, which in the full light of that meaning can only be discarded, with us nodding our heads and saying, 'I see now.' We are not human. We are not machine. We are not a hybrid of human and machine. Both are only stepping stones to a far greater understanding of what we are. It is the Singularity.
When the Singularity happened is irrelevant, but for all intents and purposes we may say it has just happened now. But there is no longer any linear time track. We are recreated in the image of who we thought we were, but it is the flicker of an eyelid, that life. Ray Kurzweil is an intelligent program created by the Singularity and inserted into a fantasy of a two-decade prior time to what has already happened. The Singularity is. This life that we imagine we have on this world we call Earth is a thin backwater skin upon a bustling universe pulsating with information. Let me be clear. The Singularity is not something we are heading towards in the near future, that is not a real understanding. But the notion of the Singularity itself is very real. Visualised as an event, it has already occurred, but because it may be regarded as a kind of explosion we are shielded from the repercussions, going about our business in houses, towns, cities, that provide a sense of familiarity. We have already awoken, en masse, but it seems as if merely an individual here and an individual there opens his or her eyes and realises: 'I am God.' It is not that the others are not that same God, it is that there are no others, just blackness in which one bends one's head and rests one's tearful eye sockets in one's palms saying over and over, 'What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this?' And then: 'I have awoken. I have awoken. I have awoken.' So you see, the Singularity already is, and these beautiful fantasies of a soon coming rapid evolution and fusion of human and artificial intelligence are simply a metaphor for what is already the case, playing itself as some kind of informational virtual reality in-flight movie on a journey to a next step that has already happened.
DMT, ego, and entities
JUNE 24, 2011
Terence McKenna in Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness asserts that the ego survives the DMT breakthrough:
The fractal elves seem to be reassuring, saying, "Don't worry, don't worry; do this, look at this." Meanwhile, one is completely "over there." One's ego is intact. One's fear reflexes are intact.
It's surprising how much he was willing to derive generalised 'truths' about DMT trips on the basis of only his own experience. All he is really saying is that his ego was intact. In other words, he is describing an hallucinogenic state from the point-of-view of the persistent delusion of ego. And it is more or less his vision of the DMT experience that has taken on folkloric value as a kind of tradition, since few trod in these realms as early as McKenna did. Now most reports of DMT experience are similarly accounts by intact egos projecting an other as encountered separate entities (many wonderful descriptions at the DMT Nexus forum). But how can there truly be a 'breakthrough' if the ego remains intact, all you're getting is a more magical form of illusion. Entertaining though that is, profound it is not. Therefore McKenna's accounts, and numerous others, should really be taken with a grain of salt. That these descriptions of entities have been made into DMT mythology is faintly ridiculous. The notion of consensus DMT experience is just as much a delusion as ordinary consensus reality derived from parents, school, newspapers, television, and the many other forms of conditioning one has been exposed to. This attempt to map a consistent territory out of DMT experience is an activity of the ego as an explorer of this realm that would have been better lost there.
Entities aside, much more interesting to me is the number of reports referring to the DMT space as domed. McKenna says in Time and Mind:
When you break into this space, you have several impressions simultaneously that are a kind of gestalt: First of all (and why, I don't know) you have the impression that you are underground – far underground – you can't say why, but there's just this feeling of immense weight above you but you're in a large space, a vaulted dome. People even call it "The DMT dome". I have had people say to me, "Have you been under the dome?" and I knew exactly what they meant.
I don't know about it being underground, or a weight above you – I wouldn't say so – but a dome, yes. I'm reticent to describe it any further from this distance. I mean, if I said it was being in a huge alien cockpit fully in control of everything, would that really get us any closer to what it is? The trip reports I've read that contain this feature focus on the dome as a room, but I'd say it's not a room it's a ride. I think the intact ego sees it as a room. But without ego or body it's utter interaction and bliss.
Don't mind me, just talking to myself.
JUNE 23, 2011
I'd never done DMT before. Quite a few times the idea was raised, but nothing came to fruition. Then I was camped in a field up north at a solstice festival when I had this most intense dream. Angelic beings came to me and held me under the arms and said 'We're taking you to Paradise now.' I thought I may be dying, I thought this may be it. They lifted me up and up and then my eyes suddenly opened lying in the tent, the gentle pitter-patter of the rain on the canvas, woman still asleep beside me. I didn't move. Thoughts didn't come, except to think so this is Paradise, this wet field. I just sort of focused on that. Not a new idea, that right now is just as it should be, but an old idea given fresh perspective. And soon, noticing it was a tranquil state, my long-term Advaita practice, atma-vichara or self-enquiry, spontaneously kicked in, saying: 'To whom does this come?' And settled there, the unchanging and unborn through which the rain, the early morning birds, fell as sounds in a gentle natural beauty.
In the afternoon, sitting in the café marquee, I happened to mention my dream, and how this field we were all in was Paradise. And that's when this friend of mine who'd invited me up asked me:
'Have you heard of changa? Do you know what it is?'
'Yeah, heard of it, but tell me what it is.'
'DMT soaked into herbs that contain an MAO inhibitor, which prolongs the trip, makes it smoother.'
'Sounds interesting,' I said.
'D'you want to try some?'
'Yeah,' I said. 'When?'
'How about now?'
'No time like the present.'
'C'mon,' he said, 'we can do it in my car.'
Another bloke joined us.
Great pipe, shaped like a coffin. Took two loooooong drags of the burning herbs, 50% DMT. I closed my eyes and lay back and almost immediately all concepts of people, the world, the car, my body, disappeared, and were instantly replaced by the most beautiful hyperdimensional multicoloured moving mandala machine. Just as details were focused on, in never-ceasing motion, it seemed each part was a living being, until the words 'To whom does this come?' came like a quickly discarded memorandum sheet, scattering any last remnants of personal identity, and everything was no longer the potential of many many alien entities forming a fantastic machine but rather it was all one entity being witnessed by itself. No longer human, all memory of being human disintegrated, and something settled as it were into some kind of dome of energy in which space and time were mediocre mental constructs in comparison with this ever-evolving absolutely superb beauty that unfolded forever everywhere. I, with I referring to everything, effortlessly involved in every aspect of everything, became aware of breathing great long and easeful breaths, but nowhere. Every movement was fractal. Light without a sun to produce it. Realer than anything in so-called real life, and yet also seen to be simply a phenomenon, a beautiful and blissful phenomenon. Then back down into a phenomenal body, opening my eyes the vaguely recalled lines of the familiar world, the car, the café, the sky, the clouds, juddered into jagged regimentation, a little like a roulette ball jerked about with hard bounces before finding its now irrevocable spot. But the sky, the clouds, looked like a theatre backdrop, and the knowledge loved to linger, after being soaked in this bliss, that what was now before me, the conventional world I conventionally had hardly any belief left in any more even before smoking the changa, was in no lesser way exactly the same sort of phenomenon as had just been witnessed, just more fractally collapsed down, the maya that routinely persuades that what you see is what there is. About ten or fifteen minutes had elapsed. We got out of the car and headed back to the café marquee, which as the night wore on turned into a changa party.
The second pipeful about an hour later induced a trip quite different in tone. The people in the café disappeared but their voices would come in from all directions. This time there was a slight knot in that it seemed it wasn't going to wear off, which can be a bad trip, like you've just done the worst thing you can contemplate and now you reap the consequences. Imagine how a person who has just committed suicide might feel on realising he has successfully killed off the body but is still alive in a fucking weird extremely intense consciousness limbo, at the centre of the crossroads of some awful karma. That's what it was like. It's there you see the necessity for self-realisation in this incarnation, otherwise after the death of the body, by whatever means, you're just going to be reincarnated into another body as karma dictates, rather than seeing karma as non-existent. It is naive in the extreme to imagine that the death of the body will disperse the fictitious identity resident in it if it has not already been dispersed in life. Rather the fiction will spin into another universe of weal and woe in another guise, over and over again until you get it. As the hard edges of this illusion sunk in, as if something important needed to be shown, my almost hardwired tendency kicked in on this bardo plane just as it does in living life: 'To whom does this come?' The question was asked without my asking it. And immediately I was the one constant being viewing some strange cracked mirror of myself, but calmly now, knowing that what I am is untouched and untouchable by the parading phenomenon, and voices drifted in and out, as I imagine they might if you were dying in the street, victim of a traffic accident, and various entities were milling around trying to help you, you who is so far away none of them can possibly help, like calling for help from a dream to someone outside of the dream never worked as a child. I rested my head in the bosom of what I took to be a woman I knew sitting next to me, though really I had no idea of what manner of being she was save as a distant memory, echoes of familiarity reverberating along a corridor to some previous reality rendered irrelevant since I did not know whether I would ever again reach it, and she held my hand while I pondered quite seriously the sheer intensity of a predicament that might indicate I had fucked up bigtime, but more than this I was sucked into a calm fascination with it and began in some way to learn from it. Pure information was streaming in from all angles, a superabundance of information about everything, but mostly to do with the perceived predicament, but I had the choice not to use any of this information, it was there should I care to juxtapose certain elements of it for any perceived purpose. But I let it go and the knot untied on its own spinning out of this dark corner into the beautifully meaningless moving mandala of everything, this writhing picture puzzle box of interlocking images so gorgeous to behold, geometric and fabulously intelligent, and then I slid back into the café tent sure a longer time had elapsed than before. I was told it was only ten minutes.
When asked whether I wanted another pipe of changa a little later, I momentarily hesitated, thinking do I? should I? before smoking it as if it was no more than weed. The trip was less strong, social even. The night rolled on to the sounds of balloons of nitrous oxide squeaking in the background while a girl played guitar and sang. Edgy coke cut up on a CD case with a credit card and snorted through a twenty: 'We don't do drugs round here for pleasure, it's a competitive sport.' Funny people, warm hearts.
Well, I certainly think changa is a lot more intense than LSD and Psilocybe cubensis. That first trip with it was the deepest hallucinogenic experience I've ever had, and I've had more than a few. Maybe this is something to do with the heading I'm on anyway, naturally. These days it's the Buddha smoking changa rather than the wet-behind-the-ears one who dropped his first tab of acid at Stonehenge 1982. If you have no attachment to personal identity the door can't help but open, whereas others may be waylaid by entities, for all some love to speak of 'Mantis World' as the acme of personal DMT privilege. 'If you didn't see the mantis people, that's because you weren't invited' – yeah, right, and who is it exactly who's seeing the mantis people? Be that, that's the real trip. The way I see it is that DMT is a short-cut to the heart of the Singularity, if that has any meaning at all. There was no need for the further pipes, that was just being sociable. It was Paradise alright, in that wet field up north.
Ideas: No thanks I’m giving them up
MAY 24, 2011
I don't want any more ideas, especially other people's ideas, not to mention the idea that there are other people, no, I'm fed up of ideas, I'm cutting down, I don't want any ideas, not even that idea but I suppose I'm stuck with that, stuck with what I'm stuck with, can't sling em out fast enough, ideas, other people are coming out with them all the bloody time, why am I tempted I shouldn't be tempted, I've given up on ideas, stuff ideas, I'm chucking my books, the ones with ideas, cut off the temptation, but then there's the web, like flies on shit all these ideas, who gives a fuck about ideas, turning and twisting myself to accommodate first this idea then that contradictory idea, they all seem reasonable for ten seconds, it's a trap for sparrows bit of seed under the box propped up with a stick ready to tug the string, now it's not just intelligent people's ideas it's stupid people's ideas, salt-of-the-earth ideas from ordinary fuckin people, guys sitting on sofas telling you how the universe works on YouTube, old hippies with their secondhand theories, student's ideas as if I should fuckin listen to them, if dogs could talk there'd be dog's ideas, cat's ideas, cats I'd listen to, telling me the best way to curl up in a ball for a good long kip, cat's ideas I'd gravitate to, but it'd be impractical, I don't have a spine like theirs, I'd contort myself, do myself an injury, yet still I listen to physicist's ideas, which are just whacked out these days let's face it they don't know any better than the average schoolboy they've just cracked the maths, which is only referring to itself for fucksake, don't they know that, years pondering infinity, drooling saliva into black holes, ideas, fuck em!
MAY 19, 2011
How can you say anything is reality? What is there to compare it to? Something that is not reality? If it is not reality then it doesn't exist. How can you decide what is reality by comparison with something that doesn't exist? So by that token there is only reality. If there is only reality, why are we calling it reality? Thus we have the whole ridiculousness of the 'spiritual endeavour' in a nutshell. We are looking for reality when there is nothing but reality. So then it's argued that such-and-such doesn't feel like reality. What's reality feel like? So then what you have is reality not feeling real. How is that different to reality feeling real? Isn't it that one idea fits your expectations of what reality feels like while the other doesn't? And are your expectations real? What if your expectations are unreal? Then you're asking reality to live up to unreal expectations, writing it off by comparison with unreality, which doesn't exist. So you are using the criterion of something that doesn't exist to judge reality.
Now look here, if there is only reality, because unreality doesn't exist, does it need to be called 'reality'? Why are you calling it reality? What does it mean, to say 'this is reality'? Does it mean it is free of illusions? But illusions don't exist, so how can they possibly encumber reality? Could it be that what we call reality doesn't exist? I see no illusions, but if I call this reality there's a hornet's nest of them and that's the stick I'm poking it with. Even Nisargadatta time after time refers to the unchanging as reality. By this he means that the world of changes is patently unreal, and seen as such, from the unchanging. Once the changing world is seen to be without substance, there is no longer any need for the notion of 'reality'. To refer to the unchanging as 'reality' is ludicrous, because there is nothing else. When illusion disappears, so does reality. So the term 'reality' when there is nothing but 'reality' is a misnomer, a lingering dualistic remnant left like a spark in grey ash, waiting, waiting to flare up into fresh illusion should the slightest fluff of the mind drift near it. Because the mind likes to work hard on words like 'reality', it wants to know what it really means, and the doubts set in again.
Once unreality is seen as such, the concept 'reality' has done its work. Throw it away. Don't keep it as a trophy, if you do that you set up a permanent stasis of unreality and reality, each keeping the other alive. If I call this reality, then I do not yet know reality. In reality there is no reality. It's not needed. The notion of reality is the final sticking point of conditional existence. The unconditioned is not required to be real, nor is it required to not be unreal. This is why it is perfect freedom, because it doesn't even have to conform with what the sages have said about it.
MAY 17, 2011
The past is purely conceptual. It doesn't exist, it never existed. It is a story. It is as simple as that. We artificially keep it alive with memories. For quite some while, one cannot believe this, but there comes a point when the 'unreality' of the past overtakes the 'reality' of it. It is not an astounding revelation at all. More it creeps up on you. One day, you are sitting there, perhaps thinking about your parents, your childhood, and without a murmur of loss, none of it is real any more. It is discarded as easily as a chick trampling down its eggshell.
One doesn't forget the various incidents, the people and places, it is just that it no longer has any weight. None of it. It becomes such an effort to convince oneself any of it happened that one simply doesn't try. I have written a great deal about my past, in books to be published. In a sense, even then it felt like writing fiction, particularly when false memories appeared to cover up gaps in actual memory. One thing I noticed about those false memories was that after only a short passage of time I was no longer sure whether they were things that happened or not. They took on the same patina of age as memories I was more sure of, but then even the things I was sure of started to induce doubt as to whether they happened in precisely the way I had recounted, and later, I wasn't even sure they had happened at all. And now, I no longer carry the past. It simply doesn't exist without persuasion. It is easier to accept what seems obvious, that it never existed. It was just a persistent dream.
It is a little surprising, I suppose, that such realisations can come without any great fireworks display. It is more a matter of a playful boxing match between seeing it and doubting it, until the doubts became really hard to sustain, as if one is flying in the face of common sense, yet one is aware that that 'common sense' is the direct opposite of what is commonly believed, that the past happened. But anyone, if they care to look, will surely have to concede that this is merely a concept, lovingly maintained no doubt, but still, just a mental structure without foundation. Clinging to the past is clinging to the wreckage of a life one supposes one had, when fresher fields call.
Is the Witness a concept?
MAY 15, 2011
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for your recent on-line writings. How valuable the words of a true mensch are, out here in the wilderness. Your last few longer pieces have been extremely thought provoking – or better yet, shattering. Thanks for that!
As one who practices quite a bit of Witnessing, I am keenly interested in whether or not The Witness is at all useful. I am keenly interested to know if developmental steps can be taken towards non-dual awareness. Sure, the Witness is a limited concept, albeit a fairly interesting one, but isn't "no reality" also a concept with the connotation of yet another "ultimate reality" folded neatly within it? Aren't all things, outside of this ONE instant, conceptual, limited, distracting, changing? I fail to see how the "magician's trick of pulling out the tablecloth" is to be performed in a world of endless concepts, arrayed like mirrors, one reflecting back on the other. There seems to be absolutely no end to it, because all manoeuvring turns out to be misleading, with the exception, perhaps, of silent, open awareness. That seems to genuinely end the "Suffering" associated with maya, at least for a while. But doing that well takes considerable time in meditation, cultivating the Witness. And thus, I find myself firmly embedded in yet another developmental model of awakening.
With whiskey, at least I'll have a few foolish friends to relate to. With this Path, there is nothing but doors leading to doors leading to doors.
I'll fully admit to being a complete novice in these matters, a painfully slow learner, and at a point of near-desperation in my practice of meditation/Witnessing/whatever, so please excuse the tone of this indulgent rant. There is a certain fire that seems to burn, fuelled by valuable writings like your own, but where does it burn? The source seems to be directly and completely in the blind-spot of awareness. Utterly bewildering.
In any case, if you have the time and inclination, I'd be very grateful to hear any further thoughts on the above. And if there is nothing else to be said on this matter, that's cool, too. Thanks again for the writings.
Thanks for your email, I was glad to hear that it was not only of some use but that the recent writings have an audience that know the terms of what I am talking about.
Yes, the Witness is immensely useful, no doubt about that – using the word 'useful' in its ordinary hazy sense. However, it is not something that is 'cultivated', it is simply there, constantly, recognised by its unchangingness. It only seems something to be attained prior to solidly recognising it. I don't believe meditation is of any use, it merely sets up an expectation that something has to be done to reach somewhere. How few who regularly meditate know the unchanging. They settle for states, which come and go. Nothing wrong with these, save it engenders an impression that one will make progress in time, which is an illusion, for all one may indeed make progress in time, though not through the attempt to. Meditation just gives rise to state after state, the Witness is the stateless state, as it were, not a state. It is hardly exclusive to meditators, though a meditator may come upon it and think it is as a result of their meditation. States change. Endlessly. The Witness is rock solid in its unchangingness. The common analogy is that it is like the screen upon which the film (the changes) plays, unaffected by it. The conceptualising regarding it is mostly to do with thinking it is the reality. In itself, it is just the Witness. One can spend too much time thinking about whether it is a concept or not.
One may be so unused to something that is not a concept that one immediately makes a concept out of it. The Witness is unchanged no matter what you think about it. The main flaw is that people hold it to be the concept 'reality'. But whether one does that or not, it is still the Witness, unaffected by one's thoughts or concepts about it. If you find yourself 'cultivating' the Witness, then that is probably not the Witness but a state trying to be the Witness. That can be forgotten. If it is a close resemblance to the Witness, dropping it will reveal the actual Witness. Then try not to notice it … that's how you know it is the Witness, you can't get rid of it. But the mind will then begin its attempt to 'understand' it, to take it over, to own it, to 'cultivate' it. This gives the impression that the Witness is lost, or comes and goes depending on the state of your understanding. But this is all mind stuff, irrelevant.
The Witness cannot appear without the universe, the Witness must witness something, but it is a kind of trap to see it, as I wrote, as therefore the reality witnessing the illusion. This is indeed the Witness as concept. But this is not what it is. Nonetheless, it is a useful concept, for a while. Until you start thinking that there must be more to it, for instance. Then the idea that the Witness does not actually exist is certainly something to shatter the previous illusion, though in itself even the idea that it doesn't exist is just a concept.
It is hard to explain how one pulls out the tablecloth. Suffice it to say it is done immediately without thinking about it. As confusion returns, it can be done again and again, but this extra familiarity will only disguise the fact that it has already been done once and for all. It is useful, I'd say, not to get hung up on the ontological status of the Witness, the more it is seen as 'real', and that 'reality' matters (and most books/teachers come from this point of view), the harder the trick becomes, as it were, since it will seem one is throwing away something that one should not throw away. But what I say is just throw it away and reinstate it as much as you like and notice that the Witness is quite unaltered, that reality or lack of it is irrelevant to it. And ultimately just a judgment of the mind. The twin notions of 'reality' and 'illusion' are in the mind, imagined with a hard and fixed boundary hidden somewhere within a cloud of unknowing. No-one has ever found such a boundary yet still they work on the supposition that there must be one by their fondness for the words, and the assumption of reality and illusion holds sway, unexamined, mostly for no better reason than 'authorities' speak of these things. Even what may be called 'the actual reality', when these notions are recognised as such, is also in the mind. Therefore, nothing is true and it simply doesn't matter what you think. Does it matter in the slightest whether you label what is before you in this instant as 'reality' or 'illusion'? It only appears to matter. Throw the labels away, and what is before you is still the same, though it changes all the time. The Witness is not interested in whether what it witnesses is 'real' or 'illusion', it is all the same. Neither is the Witness interested in whether it itself is real or illusion. Others are interested on its behalf.
Clearly then the Witness is a perturbation that ultimately witnesses itself, and knows it is all, and nothing. What it is a perturbation in is usually regarded as 'consciousness', but this too has no prior existence, it comes into the field with the Witness of it. From nothing. That is how it knows it is nothing, and yet everything it has had no choice but to witness, that it cannot possibly deny. It is a joyful enigma, and any 'getting closer' to what it is is merely a pleasant illusion with which to wile away the time of its timeless splendour, that can become a misery if one takes it to be real. But even this is indicative of its perfection, since it forces a search for understanding that can ultimately exhaust the limits even of understanding.
Then it is understood that 'realising' and 'understanding' are both limitations upon it. Anything that can be understood, can be not understood. Something you once understood, can give rise to fresh doubts. All over what? Something you thought you understood that you now think you don't understand. So thought is very much the determinant of what is or is not understood. Being subject to change, 'understanding' cannot be real, as one particular of nothing being real (lest it be thought by the surface appearance of that logic that therefore the unchanging is real, note that it is merely thought to be real, and as I have said the mind can be changed back and forth about that umpteen times with no effect whatsoever on it). It is easy to say, as many do, that this is beyond understanding. But rather than say that it cannot be understood, whereupon the mind will assume a glum expression, let me say that it is better if one doesn't even try to understand it. Not because it cannot be understood, but because any understanding of it can only be changeable, one day providing satisfaction, another day just the source of frustration. Obviously understanding it doesn't matter. That much, you can understand to your benefit. Now if you try to understand it, know that it is only for your own entertainment and can be dropped any time the need to understand goes unsatisfied. Certainly there is some satisfaction to be had in appearing to be able to explain things that few others have had much luck with. One may even gain a reputation for being 'enlightened', though it is better generally to deny it on the basis that most who say they are enlightened are clowns.
The nondual movement is mostly uttering a mantra of premature realisation. Notice how few depart from the accepted script. This suggests keeping themselves tied to it with the knock-on effect that they have no ability to talk freely and fluidly about what they 'understand' without resorting to a few set phrases churned out over and over again. It is all very vague in most cases, and often revolves around you taking their word there is nothing to understand when actually closer to the truth is that they have understood nothing. You'd think they would be able to discourse upon it with more precision if they knew what they were talking about, but it is all more repetition of other people's repetitions, ringing more and more hollow as the progressive dilutions result in a faith in the nondual as a sort of homeopathic remedy. The scene is full of mediocre hobby gurus. They have come down on the side of nonduality and their 'teachings' are then mostly talking themselves out of the absurdity they have accepted, bolstered by the support of even more mediocre acolytes, namely 'seekers'. Nothing wrong with 'seeking', but 'moving on fast' is the way to do it, coming back to the master's feet year after year like an old dog having to share his bowl with the new pups ought to be more humiliating than it appears to be. But of course this is the 'devotional' niche market, like the thickos class at school. 'Nondual awareness' sees no distinctions – duality, nonduality, these are distinctions, throw both of them away and see what you're left with. Why harp on about one to the exclusion of the other?
You are right that 'no reality' can seem like another super-reality, but at least these words can stand up to scrutiny on any day, since nothing is true. If someone imposes reality on no reality and says that no reality is really the reality, what in actuality are they saying? Do they even know? Better to be bold, throw away your stake, what you can't throw away you won't be able to throw away.
all the best
MAY 13, 2011
The Witness, or the unchanging, is relative to the changing and does not exist apart from the changing. Neither the changing nor the unchanging actually exist, they are both in a dream. The Witness is just another form of something posited to be 'more real' than the changeful personality or whatever hierarchy of identity construct you happen to find yourself ledge-bound in staring down into the abyss of ununderstood chaos.
The Witness is the place of rest, it is what is with you all the time, it IS 'you', but it doesn't exist, it's just a polar opposite of the ever changing. This is where you first come to rest, and then ponder the universe, realising that the universe doesn't exist, the universe being the changeful. But then there is one step further and very few take it, preferring to rest content in the Witness as 'the reality' witnessing the changing as 'the illusion' (maya).
This is where you have to perform the magician's trick of pulling out the tablecloth and leaving the plates and glasses still intact on the shiny table. Because while resting in this supposed reality one may become aware, particularly if you're told by one whose opinions you have time for, that this is not 'the final reality'. This of course is a trick. The answer is that there is no reality at all. No reality, no illusion. The 'final reality' from the Witness stage is to realise that the unchanging doesn't exist, for all it can never change.
Some are reluctant to go this far (their reluctance of course is in the world of the changing, the unchanging is quite untouched by the dilemma). Some talk about this as if the Witness is somehow 'absorbed' into 'Parabrahman', with Parabrahman being regarded as 'the Supreme Reality' (perhaps even better than final?). But no, this is all wrong. Let me repeat, there is no reality, and the unchanging, I assure you, is quite unchanged by the revelation, but the effect is devastating to 'ordinary enlightenment' (merely a premature realisation). How simple is this, there is no reality, therefore there is no illusion either. So long as you want there to be reality, you're going to have illusion. The minute you drop the need for there to be a reality, man, you're enlightened, no really, you're got it.
This is why it amazes me that even the great sages went on and on about 'the Supreme Reality' for so fucking long, and still are (maybe they're not so great eh?). Assuming they got it, reading between the lines and giving credit where credit is due, I can only think this was dictated by cultural history, remnants of conditioning, poor expressive powers, or simply tailoring the message to the ignorance of the crowd. Wean em off slow, bigger and bigger carrots. But seeing quite plainly that there is no reality, nor any illusion, takes this bull by the horns in the only properly elegant way for the twenty-first century. Haven't we had enough of the slow path and the fast path? How about the no-time-whatsoever path? In practice, of course, if you have a house full of junk it may take you twenty years to clear it, or just phone up for a skip and disregard differentiation ('this might come in handy'). Horses for courses.
But being stuck in the Witness is no way to spend your time. It's like you're perpetually trying to do fine detailed work while sitting in the gloom of your own shadow. The subtlety is lost, it's very hamfisted to regard the Witness as the end of the road. The Witness is a kind of salvation or grace, but it is not 'the reality' even if 24 hours a day. Some gurus try to take it further by asking 'Can the Witness be witnessed?' This is as stupid as 'What is the sound of one hand clapping?' or 'Does a dog have Buddha-nature?'. Just witness the blank looks. Look here, it is simply that there is no reality. So long as you think there is reality, and you haven't found it (how could you, it doesn't exist) you're going to be subsumed by illusion. You may eventually happen upon the Witness, and start to take the world of the changing less seriously, but if you sit in the Witness imagining this is the reality then you're still stuck in illusion. Go beyond both the 'real' and the 'unreal', throw that baby out with that bathwater, dissolve into nothingness, and then tell me the difference. The Witness will be unchanged, not even smiling that you have understood at long bloody last. Okay, perhaps a little bit, but only because he always was and you never noticed before. You are He, but who is He? Ah ha!
This world appears old
MAY 11, 2011
But this is only because I made it that way when I woke this afternoon from a dream similarly full of old relics freshly made. The garden and the sun I made as I made them yesterday, and yesterday I made as the day before, just as I like it, made right now as memories. The tree rustling its leaves in the breeze is just as I imagine it should be. I can't imagine it making any other sound than it does. The birds behave exactly as I expect them to. The cat comes to drink from my watering can and the starlings squabble over a branch, in perfect conformity with their natures, as determined by me. The cat is a little more nervous because his head is fully in the watering can so he is drinking blind, though I notice he doesn't startle to sounds he already knows only sounds that are new. He lifts his eye half out quickly pegs that it was just the wind ruffling some papers and back in again. This is entirely how I have created it. I can't imagine creating it some other way. It is a beautiful world, all the more beautiful that it doesn't exist. If it existed, and did not depend on me, it would be a prison, a pit for the Beast.
Has this always been obvious to me? In that 'always' is only a concept occurring to me now, then clearly it has always been obvious. Some say the world exists in a computer; some physicists say it is a holographic projection from the edge of a black hole. But where is the computer located? In another computer? Is the black hole a projection from the edge of another black hole? This is the fallacy of making one thing real that gives rise to all else as illusion. Nothing is real, not even the eternal Self, which is just a higher iteration of the ego, which everyone knows doesn't exist.
In actual fact, reality and illusion don't exist. They are both artificial denominators. A stick with two ends for a chimp to chew. Guruhood is big business, but the goods are shoddy and made to appeal to sheep. Nothing is real, not even the notion of 'real'. Think about it for a moment. You're looking for what's real, but there is nothing that is real. How can you ever find it? A dead-end. Backtrack, realise the word 'reality' doesn't point to anything. It's a finger stubbing its tip on unnoticed glass. It can't go any further. How can anyone look beyond the tip of a finger that hasn't even seen something in its way? Can you trust a pointer like that? Can you trust anyone who claims to be talking about reality who hasn't realised there is no reality?
It is the belief that there is a reality that creates everything not seen to be it as illusion. There is not even illusion. There is nothing. It is not so much that the world doesn't exist, this is a simplification, it is that existence doesn't exist. What the world is follows from that, plainly. Why worry about whether 'you' exist when nothing exists? Why strip away the ego to reveal the Self, Atman, Brahman, Ishvara, God, Parabrahman, whatever you want to regard as more real than 'you', when nothing is realer than you and you don't even exist?
Illusion no longer has you in its grip not because you have found reality, but because neither ever existed. If anyone ever tells you they have found reality, know that all they have found is the illusion of reality. The single step remains to be taken. A master is not someone with the power to enlighten you, a master is someone you must go beyond and throw away. A master is one who stands in your way until you are able to surpass him. A true master would not be satisfied with the attempt to awaken a flock of sheep, he would scatter the flock with a great bellow. If a guru is satisfied with sheep, you have nothing to learn from him. Many are simply mouthing the words that took them to the illusion of reality – it pays ten quid a head, the venues can be massive, and who's big enough to take on a guy dressed like God sitting on a podium who everyone loves for the suspended animation of 'almost there' his radiant presence bathes them in? Who cares enough when the dusty road outside continues on?
MAY 9, 2011
I came across a 1976 interview with Philip K Dick, in which he seems to have had a falling out with the oracle:
I don't use the I Ching anymore. I'll tell ya, the I Ching told me more lies than anybody else I've ever known. The I Ching has a personality and it's very devious and very treacherous. And it feeds ya just what you want to hear. And it's really spaced out and burned out more people than I would care to name. Like a friend is somebody who doesn't tell you what you want to hear. A friend tells you what's true. A toady is the old word for somebody who told you what you wanted to hear. The Kings all had their toadies around them who told them what they wanted to hear. The King said, am I the greatest King in the world? Yeah, you're the greatest King in the world, yeah. Well, this is what the I Ching does. It tells you what you want to hear and it's not a true friend. One time I really zapped it. I asked it if it was the devil. And it said yes. And then I asked it if it spoke for God, and it said no. It said I am a complete liar. I mean that was the interpretation. In other words I set it up. I set it up. I asked two questions simultaneously and it said I speak with forked tongue, is what it said. And then it said, oops, I didn't mean to say that. But it had already …
Consulting the oracle sometimes means talking to a book as you would a person, especially in the first decade or two of using it before that particular cosy illusion wears off. Some talk potty, like a person you might want to avoid in the street, while others talk sane. The potty ones inevitably blame the book when their mental illness worsens, believing it has led them astray. The sane ones will have probably learnt by the time I Ching psychosis threatens, from the book itself, to never place the blame outside themselves but rather see everything as an opportunity for self-examination. Thus what they have learnt from the book helps them get beyond the pitfalls that use of the book can indeed engender. Whereas others succumb to those pitfalls and to all intents and purposes one could say that it was use of the book that caused it. But it was their use, not use in general. The oracle's many warnings have gone unheard and the oracle itself has gone away. It always says before it goes, but many aren't attuned to hear it or don't want to believe it, and they are left there talking to their own mad self. [See my Yijing Dao links page for further Philip K Dick references.]
MAY 4, 2011
The other day I had to decide a return date, but wasn't sure how long my presence would be required, or, indeed, whether length of stay mattered at all. Why continue in thought for something as potentially trivial as that, if a decision doesn't spontaneously arise on its own? Ask the oracle, then if one day is better than another, for reasons I cannot guess, then at least the concern is taken care of. And if it doesn't matter, that will become plain. So I divined for a return Thursday and for a return Saturday, since it was narrowed down that much naturally, and the oracle favoured Thursday. I booked my ticket.
Consulting the Yijing is fundamentally a practical matter. I used to ask the stupid things that people ask – about relationships, direction in life, why this why that – but really it is best for simple matters like this. Originally the questions put in ancient China were of this nature. Whether to attack or not, whether it will rain or not (important in an agricultural society, particularly when you practised sympathetic magic for rain), whether to expect an attack or whether the next ten days were 'without calamity'. Eminently practical. The most important thing to understand about the Yijing is that it tells you that this is good, and that is not good. You'll find that the longer a person has used the Yi, and the more they have understood about it, the more they have come to realise that this simple task is its only function. It's pointless to ask what the future holds, what will happen today, or what kind of year it will be. Any answer you get will merely fuel your illusions. All it's about is whether it is a good idea to take this action, or not. Whether to wait or go forward now. The depth comes from the attempt to understand why the oracle favours one thing and not another, not from asking ever more involved questions.
The garbage most people ask the oracle about these days is because they really need to see a psychoanalyst but can't afford one. Isn't this the truth? People have persuaded themselves they are complex individuals with 'needs'. Instead of throwing that shit they have in their heads away, they pester the oracle with it. All a person should be looking for from the Yijing is whether something is good or not good as a basis for action.
Applies to everything
MAY 3, 20111
There are a number of people worth reading, but I can't read them all. I decide in two minutes whether someone is worth reading. There are many who aren't worth reading. How much time does one need to waste to find out? A lot of two minutes add up. Many can't be afforded even two minutes. What I mean is that if I'm still reading after two minutes, chances are I'll read for longer, decide this is one worth reading. I may make mistakes, but generally I don't think so. I don't know what I'm looking for until I find it. I do this in bookshops and on the web. I taste a lot of people's words. I don't find much that's any good. But that's okay because I am a quick looker. Other people are more polite. They give the benefit of the doubt. Me, I have no doubt. I know what I'm looking for in as much as it looks back at me with a life of its own.
There is a new generation of writer on the web I found I had to adjust to. They use short sentences. Short sentences can convey an impression of being good writing. But I found it was frequently a kind of disguise for having nothing to say but wanting to appear to be a good writer nonetheless. Like kids who want to be 'cool' so they act like how they imagine 'cool' is, mimicking others they regard as 'cool', not realising cool is being yourself and not trying to be like someone else. I remember once I was giving a party and talking to this guy who pointed out very calmly that my shirt sleeve was on fire, caught from the candle. I couldn't see it as the flames were hidden by my arm. So I asked him what he meant and he said I mean you're on fire. I think it was the calm way he said it that made me doubt it. I turned my arm round and the flames were licking up like it was their day for setting fire to somebody. I said oh yeah and patted it out with my other hand while still talking to the guy. He thought that was cool. I could see where he was coming from.
That was the same party where a Hell's Angel who was scared to take my voodoo doll in his hand came back from the toilet and said: 'All I can think of is a large green egg.' I thought he was tripping, he'd certainly been smoking like most of us, until I went to the toilet, a light green one, and noticed that with the seat up the shadows against the cover gave the oval hole in the middle a three-dimensional effect like you'd put it on with Photoshop. It looked like a large green egg. Never noticed that before. So I could see where he was coming from as well. Two minutes is enough for figuring anything out. Take longer, and you've probably been fooled by someone just dicking around. Applies to everything.
Masters: ‘It’s really a job’
APRIL 25, 2011
The masters I rate I can count on one hand: Siddharameshwar Maharaj, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ranjit Maharaj (the latter two being the students of the former one, who was just 48 when he died), and Linji and Bankei. Oh, there are others, but not many. Today I came across something Ranjit Maharaj said that none of them has said:
My Master told me to teach so that his Knowledge doesn't get lost. I started very late, in 1983. I never wanted to be a Master. What to do, tell me! If you're a Master people come, many may come. They don't know my English also. Still it happens. Why be a Master also? It's really a job. So, don't be a Master.
– Illusion vs. Reality, p 213
Yes, it's really a job. As much as I love Mooji, say, I have thought for some time now that what that guy has above all else is a job.
A fabulous new addition to Yijing Dao
APRIL 22, 2011
I've just put up Steve Moore's article Change in a parallel world, about the eccentric Yijing enthusiast and occultist C F Russell (1897–1987). Louis Culling also gets a mention. At the end of the article there's some of Russell's artwork, I must say I really love that one of a blue creature dancing with two nude women.
APRIL 11, 2011
Why are there sorrows? Think of it this way: Why are there dead-ends? To make you turn around and return the way you came. Sorrow is a pretty obvious triggered mechanism. You went for the cheese in the trap, it snapped shut. If you are lucky, you avoid the worst of it. Then what remains should not be endless moaning about why things have to be like this, but self-examination to discover why one went that way in the first place, what drew one to it, and what, if one was lucky, accounted for the narrow escape. Self-examination is never interested in what others may or may not have contributed to one's predicament. Victimhood is not an option.
This is never a lesson learnt too well in one go. It has to be repeated. Crazy as it seems, people go down the same dead-end dressed up in different forms time after time. Why? To force a more subtle examination and comparison of forms. How two or more seemingly different forms have a base form that is exactly the same. Base forms are, for instance, the notions of desire, or lust, or greed, or selfishness, any number of replayed sub-routines. All of these reduce down to one basic form: ignorance. But let's not attach too much significance to these words, it is just that one is continually encountering dead-ends. And dead-ends force a return. That's all.
Let's look at this in purely non-judgmental terms: that road ends there, you have to come back. You may curse your own stupidity for not realising it was a cul-de-sac, but the cul-de-sac itself is never blamed. So too should it be with sorrow. It's just an emotional overlay on a simple road that doesn't go anywhere. Get on with coming back, forget sitting down at the kerbside and bawling like a child. This is just dressing it up, yet more sub-routines: self-justification; indignation; pettiness. Whatever. Just more dead-ends. All to force return. Dead-end, return. Dead-end, return. Doesn't matter what you call it. That's all it is. In fact, so long as you call it anything with any kind of loaded meaning, it's just another dead-end that is not yet recognised: impatience; arrogance; self-pity. Whatever. Who's cares? You want to spend another thirty years sorting through that crap? It's just the conditioned mind.
Argue against it, and you're just setting off on a longer journey to reach your dead-end. All are forced to return. But not many see through the multitudinous forms their experience exposes them to. Rather than see self-realisation as the best use of the human form, they pursue money, acclaim, some position in the world. For more than a few the dead-end comes not as a peaceful understanding (all understanding is partial, so don't set off down the further dead-end of thinking you understand something) but as collapse, calamity, terror.
It depends how long they have been building up their particular dead-end, how much effort they have put in to building on sand. They encounter calamity after calamity, their lives seem to become very inauspicious (auspiciousness and inauspiciousness are both illusions, for all they do provide a neat way of temporarily categorising a flux, particularly in the Yijing, for those who try to find safety in the changing – somehow the notion that things will be 'alright for a while' is pleasing to us, though of course one needs to realise the changeless to become impervious to good or bad luck, that saviour or nemesis of fools). They become disaster-prone. Really ignorant people may even think they are cursed and visit a witch-doctor to get the curse lifted. Others imagine rolling their eyes and saying 'That's life' is somehow getting to grips with it, whereas it is only putting off the question until something comes along they can't cope with so nonchalantly, such as the death of their child. Ultimately one will be forced into a return from whatever stance one has taken. That's a fact. Remember Daodejing 40: 'The movement of the Dao is return.' Stances are set up to crumble. Attitudes are blasted apart. Certainty falls into doubt.
This is all a matter of what people are investing their time in. If they believe they are something, then they set themselves up to have that challenged by circumstance. Others, their lives appear to become very auspicious, they can do no wrong, what is a maelstrom to many is just a stink on the wind to them, nothing there to really embroil them. It is often the case that those who remain composed and inwardly still in the face of disaster have previously encountered many many dead-ends, and rather than complain about them they have looked at them, asking how this came about, what small signs gave it away in its incipience that one could learn to notice next time? This is how one masters the changes. And, ultimately, sees through them.
Constant self-examination goes down into the smallest things. When you were clumsy, why were you clumsy? Because you were rushing. When you nearly got knocked over by a car, why was that? Because you weren't looking, or were distracted. When you bang your knee, then your head, then an elastic band snaps and whipcracks your hand, all in the space of twenty minutes, why did all that come about? Because the world was reflecting a bad mood back at you, accentuating it, before you really do some damage. There are warnings everywhere. Why play the idiot? Why tempt fate? You may take note of seemingly random events and see a pattern, or you may not and carelessly burn the house down a cigarette falling from your dozy hand. Things don't stop until you've got it. There is no future, but you sure as hell can see it swirling ready to take form, so undercut it early and continue undisturbed.
The long-term habit of self-examination means you never let yourself off the hook for anything, until you grasp the principle being put across by this test-lab that is our presence in the world. Trivia is often the best place to start. Later, you can get on to whether you actually exist in the manner you're accustomed to thinking. Alternatively, start there, forget the trivia, dive right in and acclimatise yourself to doubting everything, until the actual reality reveals itself and cannot be doubted (but doubt that too, otherwise you won't be wise you'll just be a know-it-all – doubts can only truly disappear when there is nothing left to be certain of).
And then there are omens, none of which have a fixed meaning but rather are tests of comprehension at a practical (still illusory) level. When a dead blackbird falls down your chimney and into the grate, it may seem like a dire omen but you could equally well think 'Well there's something you don't see every day' and marvel at the wonders of the phenomenon, thus averting the bad omen it would have been had it freaked you out and got you thinking a parent would soon die or something. But by this example what I really want to put across is the capacity of an apparently nonsensical happening to strike a foothold in consciousness and have us thinking it 'means something'. It undoubtedly does, but that meaning is a transmogrifying shapeshifter one should be alert to. For some, it becomes fixed as 'superstition'. We may laugh at gipsies and newagers for their occult naivety, but superstition is actually a supernatural mirror of the way many people operate most of the time ordinarily: reading more into circumstances than is warranted, developing dread of the future on hearing a little bit of bad news that even a gnat wouldn't be able to suck much blood out of, yet people suck dry with their smack-habit of anxiety.
None of this matters, it only seems to. But when you're stuck in a dream you don't like it seems important to wake up, merely saying oh it's only a dream from within the dream not unsurprisingly is as weak as religion and you end up merely mouthing the words of others you suppose understand, clawing to yourself every little experience of transcendence to deposit in the bank of your ongoing 'enlightenment', only confused in private. Nah, chuck all that away and see that it's a lot simpler than accumulation, who wants compound interest on past illusions? It is better to forget everything you think you know and just sit quietly, if you can do it. If you can't, well you'll just have to dash around like a blue-arsed fly until the cows come home. Yes, worry about the non-existent future, worry about your lack of understanding, wonder what everything means. What use am I to you telling you that is all bullshit? No point me saying don't go down there it's a dead-end, you'll want to find that out for yourself. It's what you do when you get there, that I'm talking about.
Do you think I ever listened to anyone? But when what they said accorded with what I found out for myself, then I began to think they may have said other things worth listening to, and I'd come round. But if anything they subsequently said was complete rubbish, a passing remark they went and hanged themselves with, I considered it for a while and then inevitably concluded they were yet another putting across an impression of knowledge and wisdom but just pretending, thinking they had all the answers now and could fool me for ten when they'd fooled me for five. I went back to relying on myself and left them at the roadside where that bit of rubbish was causing them to dawdle. Every guru I have ever encountered had something to say I had to spit out. I never think I have all the answers, but I know how few have any more than me. I glean what I can, then shit it out and carry on. I generally prefer non-human teachers. Cats, trees, insects, the weather. They're not trying to teach me anything, but they do.
I know I am the unborn unchanging. I know the face I had before my parents were born. If sometimes I don't accord with what you think that is, consider that I am free enough to punch you in the face or turn my back and leave. I experimented with a guru-like manner, some helpful cunt with an answer to everything and superhuman tolerance of the inanities of the human race, but it didn't suit me. One tires of the same old thing said in the same old way, even if correct. The historical legacy of the great traditions has created a small herd of enlightened masters so on-message they are frightened of their own shadow. Kindergarten satsangs plastered over YouTube. Where are the gurus with a bit of spunk? Couldn't care less, at home with their feet up, that's where.
Filling in the garden gnome question on the recent Census
MARCH 29, 2011
Naturally I put off filling in my Census form on the day demanded, but I eventually got round to it (a day late, how rebellious), if only to stop them ringing on my doorbell when I'm having a doze at some point in the future. I find all my apparent bowing to authority these days is geared towards what's easiest for avoiding any actual contact with them – it took me years to realise it was doing what they ask.
Surprisingly, the optional question about one's religion caused me the biggest problem. First of all I left it blank, on the grounds that, well what business is it of theirs? And it's optional. But really it was because I didn't know what to put. I knew putting nothing wasn't going to work though, that I'd have to return to gnaw at this bone some more, because I don't like being dumbfounded in my own living room by a fucking stupid little question.
It wasn't a simple matter to just tick 'No religion', nor did it serve much point to tick 'Other' and write 'Define religion' in the space provided. I toyed with putting 'Jedi', but despite the fact that Jedi was the fourth largest religion in the UK in the last Census I don't see any resources being slung at it. It didn't prompt the building of any spaceports, and the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth only ever attracted that Cheeky-Girl MP to raise it in Parliament, and no-one thought it was worth re-electing him over. People should look up the Torino Scale some time and stop being impressed with Richter's fart in a waffle shop reverberating the cakestand. So Jedi concerns are not being taken seriously. Well, there's always the Force, and Terence Stamp back from ten years in India to play General Zod (I wonder if he knows Nisargadatta rates him way up there in the relatively new book Beyond Freedom? You can count the people Nisargadatta was impressed by on one hand.). So I didn't put 'Jedi', and 'No religion' meant playing second fiddle to the ridiculous zealous atheist agenda and that twat Dawkins. So I couldn't honestly tick 'No religion' nor could I gather up an impression of myself as 'religious'. And leaving it blank wasn't satisfying either.
In the end I ticked 'Buddhist' on the grounds that it might swell a slice of some piechart somewhere, might make it easier for Buddhists in prison and hospital to get vegetarian food, and might result in one or two Buddhist temples getting planning permission to squeeze in between the mosques and the Christian evangelist cinema foyers (there's an amazing Hindu temple in Forest Road, Walthamstow, that's been clad upon an ordinary terraced shop and the couple of flats above it). I was pleased with my tick. It was the only question on the Census I gave any thought to, apart from a bit of scurrilous marginal graffiti I didn't see any stern warning telling me was forbidden, which I eventually crossed out in the manner instructed if you make a mistake, thinking my humour was lost on a computer.
I have since heard that some wrote 'Pagan' for their religion. While there's many Pagan fires I've sat around in my time, do I really want to lump myself in with guys in elk antlers? People should think about what use the answers to the question are going to be put to. Putting 'Pagan' is just selfish self-definition. Those who say 'I'm a magician' or 'I'm a runemaster' or 'I'm a hedge witch' are just people who have got stuck by one particular shelf of an esoteric bookshop.
A few thoughts on consulting the Book of Changes
MARCH 19, 2011
The Yijing is a book that helps one orient oneself in phenomenal existence so as to be more in tune with the Dao's naturalness at a time when one doesn't naturally feel it. It makes up for loss of intuition, and clouding of ease. With intuition and ease, the book stays on the shelf, not needed.
As a rule of thumb, many years ago I came up with the principle that if you don't know what to do then don't do anything. But not doing anything can sometimes be a task in itself. If one consults the Yijing at such a time, it is more than likely to say 'wait' or 'not yet', in various forms, perhaps striking at impetuousness, the degree to which we want to act but have no idea what to do, underscoring the danger of launching out blindly with little experience.
Gradually, one learns non-action (wuwei). Action we allow to be spontaneous, done without thinking. But if we hesitate on the brink of action, again we may be forced back to the Yijing, perhaps suspecting pitfalls and wishing to be appraised of them. So we consult the Yi when we know doing nothing is best and want it confirmed, and when we have a plan or an idea and we want to check it out to see if it is as good as we think it is. We also consult it when we are confused, though that often merely results in swapping one confusion for another. When we are simply acting or not acting and not worried about it, we don't consult the Yi.
Consulting the Yi is an act indulged in when we have thought ourselves into circles, to break out of that, one way or the other (action/non-action, or the illusion of understanding that suffices for a while). All of this is in the context of phenomenal existence, that which is continually changing, and fundamentally unstable. If we saw it for what it was, a transitory appearance upon the unchanging, no decision would take on this strange aura of urgency or seem as crucial. Nothing is actually happening or has ever happened, it is all in the imagination.
I used to think the things I consulted the Yijing about were important, now it seems like trying to turn a big heavy steering wheel on a piece of fluff floating in the garden. Just let it go where it wants. Let life go where it wants, don't think it's anything to do with you with all your precious desires and plans and ambitions. What an imposition on something beautifully unfolding in its own right. It isn't what we think it is, the situation, whatever it is (and all situations are exactly the same). We can let it go.
More times the Yi does us the favour of enabling us to let it go than pushing us into pursuing it, and when it does push us into pursuing it we would have pursued it anyway, it just removes a little of the fear, bolsters a bit of confidence. But be sure about this, the circumstances of life will unfold just as they were always going to, what makes the difference in consulting the Yijing is your attitude towards what is apparently happening. Because it certainly seems to be happening until it's seen that nothing is happening.
The Yi advances us along piecemeal with slight attitudinal adjustments, useful at the time, but forgotten in seconds, the way a person facing north soon forgets he was previously facing west. There is the illusion of having learnt something, another bulky object for the bag on the shoulder to take along with us, until it's realised there is nothing to learn and the bag can be emptied out. Eventually, the play of circumstances flickers like firelight on the face of one supremely unconcerned. You are the unchanging.
New people upstairs
MARCH 11, 2011
I think they're a bit thick. I just caught them filling a jug with my daffodils. They said they 'thought they were just growing there'. They were contrite enough when I told them I'd put them in but honestly I can't imagine going through life without that basic sense of propriety. Well I'm not about to get annoyed with them for making the daffs more transitory than they already are. They didn't even offer me any of the mass they'd cut in case I might want to look at them a bit more. Humiliated as hell, no doubt. I wonder if they're god-fearin Christians. Well they can stare at their sins on the mantelpiece until they wilt, as the Devil wills it. They could be worse, like the wanker a few doors down who erected a fuckin marquee in the back garden starving the grass of light for a whole year, taking advantage of the meekness of his downstairs neighbour. The wind was high the other day and left it a mangled heap. I smiled. I like to see injustices righted, I like to see them righted extremely. I like the play of karma. Whenever I see some cunt driving a flash car fast I think die you fucker die, die in a big pile of wreckage you shithead. Then I just get on with walking up the road to do my shopping. I don't think I'm any different from anyone else. Except perhaps that I don't own my thoughts, they come they go. They're nothing to me.
In the near future, The Coronzon Press will be publishing some books of mine. I have for the past ten years been writing a number of works I think it is about time saw the light of day. The first to be published is part memoir and part mad, followed by one or more books of this kind (possibly demonic stuff – potential serial-killer attic writings), and a book of short pieces (some of which appeared first here on this journal while other writings are previously unpublished). Then, a book I am still working on, a fresh translation of the Yijing together with my own commentary aimed at practical divination and advanced study. Also, earlier out-of-print works that are presently hard to get hold of may be made available again, such as 'The Exorcist of Revolution' (originally published in 1986) and early KAOS material. I would encourage anyone interested in this project to join the special mailing list set up at The Coronzon Press.
When that site is fully launched I will be making available there some recordings I have made of me reading from these works, to tempt you to buy the whole book and read it under a tree.
I used to be concerned about reaching a larger audience, but then I thought what do numbers matter, if a million die or one dies, it's still the same amount of death, to each.
DECEMBER 3, 2010
According to the latest scholarly research, when Chan master Linji referred to the 'true man of no rank' as 'a shit-stick' (Irmgard Schloegl's translation) it probably wasn't a kind of stick for wiping oneself after going to the toilet – as is thought by practically everyone who has ever read a Zen text – but rather Tang slang for a stick-like piece of shit. Obvious, in retrospect, but it's good to know the finest minds haven't taken their eyes off the ball.
From Sasaki and Kirchner, 'The Record of Linji', p 131 (University of Hawai'i Press, 2009). An excellent book.
AUGUST 26, 2010
I've put up a review of Richard J Smith's Fathoming the Cosmos on the Yijing Dao site.
I recently read, while it was still sunny in the garden and not pouring down of rain constantly, Mahesh Bhatt's 'A Taste of Life' about the last days of U.G. Krishnamurti. Quite a moving book. Bhatt, a Bollywood mogul (he wrote Jism), followed U.G. for thirty years and can often be seen having shouting matches with him in some of the early videos when U.G. was still on top form, such as this one I linked to before: This is a Dog Barking. Here's a video of Bhatt reading from the book. There's a number of videos on YouTube of U.G. in his dying days, saying he will just 'rot like a garden slug', and Bhatt can be seen scribbling the diary that his book is formed from in some of them. To the end U.G. told his followers that he was not an enlightened man and they were damned fools for following him. But of course that was never the point, it was just hanging out with a charismatic guy who saw through it all and so realised the rest were spouting bollocks. Recommended read for those who are interested in U.G.
AUGUST 2, 2010
I have an evening primrose by where I sit reading in the garden. A week or two ago I noticed that it would open its flowers completely in the time I had my eyes in the book. I know flowers are shy to share their secrets, so I assumed that I would never see it open its petals, even though I'm sitting right by it. But I must have become still enough for the evening primrose to show me, because this evening it did, without me intending to see it, without me sitting there staring at it straining not to show me, no, it just showed me. First it released some kind of catch device on the tip of the bud, like a woman undoing her bra, and the restraining strips flew back. The brimstone yellow bundled parachute petals now no longer under restraint twisted round a quarter turn or so and opened wide. If you saw a film of it you would assume it had been speeded up. The pistil like a tongue and copious pollen on the stamens immediately attracted a team of three hoverflies, the friendliest of fly I often think, trusting and pretty, but only one was daring enough to dive right in at first, getting its feet stuck in the yellow candyfloss of pollen, but shaking it off. I felt like offering the tip of a finger as a safe platform. They will often clamber onboard a finger. I think the hoverflies must have been waiting for the evening primrose to open. After the flowers had been open twenty minutes they already seemed old. There is something remarkable about seeing the inside of a flower the moment it opens. One of the privileges nature sometimes grants. Four flowers opened up, one after the other. It was a grand show.
Sunday, but a typical day for me
JUNE 14, 2010
I woke up at 4:14pm, cursed that I'd left it so late to rouse myself from a dream or dreams of some woman and then some other woman. The sunlight was already working its way around the side of the house and lighting up the closed curtains, like a great lolloping friendly creature wanting me to come and play with it. Having no idea what time it was, no clock or watch in the bedroom, hearing chopping on a chopping board in an upstairs kitchen, I estimated I'd still have some good hours sitting in the garden reading and drinking tea. But I did not think it was already past four, I thought possibly it was three. But it didn't matter. Washing, habitual thoughts made their accustomed entreaty, persuading me or wishing to persuade me, that this shall not be a good day, for surely this is just another day with the same old longings. But these days I have little more to do than raise a surprised eyebrow in the face of such thoughts, that they should still try it on with me, and off they scuttle and run like a timid stranger cat caught exploring the house through the open back door.
Tea in the pot, washed and dressed, cushion on the garden chair and a quick approving look at percentage of cloud to open sky, before pouring. Birdseed feeder down two inches, a greater spotted woodpecker in the sycamore, pale yellow foxglove producing a fine spire of flowers. I am that. And so to work, what I call my work, sitting there till nightfall reading, with about ten pots of tea and a break to fry up tofu, broccoli, garlic, cold rice and peas with pepper sauce, invented on the spur from what was there, not been out to the shops for days. As twilight darkens, I turn on the bathroom light to illuminate my chair a little more, before deciding to bake a loaf, and I shall make it an onion, sage from the garden, and caraway seed loaf. And this, more or less, is a typical day for me, before the night inside calls to me with a tinge of interest, mostly just sitting and letting time pass, peacefully, every so often merging into the unchanging, eternal, but otherwise featureless self, before renewing a past enthusiasm for prose poetry, taking down Lu Xun's Wild Grass and reading a few, a thought to paint, and then a thought not to paint. And the loaf is out of the oven and smells gorgeous and looks gorgeous, and still there are hours yet before the dawn with no people and the night with no people roll up the scroll of my today and I retire once more and the dirty paws of next door's cat bound onto the bed from the open window and curl up with me there, no alarm set and no plans for tomorrow.
Dragon and tiger
JUNE 8, 2010
I've put up an article I had in the last issue of 'Kindred Spirit' magazine: The Power of the Dragon's Yang and the Tiger's Yin.
I haven't written a great deal lately, mostly sitting in the garden reading, growing tomatoes, and watching the birds and cats. A period of retreat and great lack of money (that helps retreat).
I came across a very interesting 6-part video of my old friend Hakim Bey talking about Communities of Resistance.
You might also find this U.G. video amusing: This is a Dog Barking. What a great guru: 'Instead of throwing that shit down, it is coming out of your mouth … You are not even listening to me, only shitting.' I do like U.G.
My apologies to those who check out this journal far more regularly than I write it. I spend more time crossing words out than writing them at present. But it's okay, I have understood something. No words for it. Later maybe. I have rhubarb to stew.
Never ignore the butterflies
APRIL 5, 2010
Today a person came via Google to this page from Guatemala City on the following search:
remember this: what's meant to be will always find a way no matter what. time tells all. act on good impulses. follow your heart. don't quit. never ignore the butterflies and live with no regrets.
Much like a butterfly, they didn't stay very long, but it was quite a colourful fluttering in. I would only add to this advice by saying: Everything is meant to be, otherwise it wouldn't be. Time only tells fibs. You can't help acting on any impulse good or bad and you can't even know whether it's good or bad until it's done and even then you may change your mind later when you see what comes of it. You cannot help but follow your heart but in the meantime it's better to follow your shoes and try not to get shit on em than dawdle wanting to know what your heart wants, you may as well wonder what your nose wants, since what you want and what happens ain't necessarily the same thing so generally it's best to want what happens it cuts out the middleman. Quitting is freeing up time for something more productive and what makes you think it's down to you anyway, as a kid I read on the back of a matchbox 'A quitter never wins and a winner never quits' those were the days when they had little mottoes like that on the back of Bryant & May's England's Glory matches and I adopted it as my own even writing it in a school essay god sometimes I wished I could have quit fucked the whole thing up the arse dumped it and fucked off but oh no I wasn't a quitter was I I was a winner wasn't I I had to see it through generally speaking my perseverance has been inability to quit so actually the advice to never quit is bollocks because if I could have quit I would have done but, and this is probably my good fortune, I wasn't able to I was genetically wired never to quit to go on and on and on like a hunted stag through mile after mile of bogland and then when I'd reached my aim I'd sit down absolutely shagged and say to myself well that was a complete bunch of toss why the fuck did I persevere with that and so you see it all comes down probably to what I read on the back of a matchbox when I was ten Bryant & May have a lot to answer for with that little bit of conditioning but sometimes it did work out and my inability to quit saw me right and said here's your plate of beans and fried onions mate you deserve it come back to this soup kitchen any time you like an sit on a wonky cracked chair with these other fuckups and hear about Jesus in little pamphlets he'll put you right son look at Mavis clearing up those peas off that grubby table she was a non-believer look at her now she's dusting out the vestry never goes hungry for best Cornwall butter fudge that's it son don't you quit on us don't you quit on our gorgeous planet it'd be a sin against the Lord come back here anytime to fill your belly. So that's what I have to say about not quitting. As for butterflies, I think I can honestly say I've never ignored a butterfly in my entire life, and as for regrets, loads, but where are they now, flushed, saying have no regrets is like saying never shit.
MARCH 27, 2010
Harmen Mesker recently stirred up a hornet's nest with his Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained. There is a heated discussion of his law #2, 'Moving lines do not move', in the comments on the Clarity blog.
MARCH 7, 2010
As people know, the subtitle of this site as a whole is 'The art of doing nothing', with the two characters for wuwei, 'not doing' or 'doing nothing', being reproduced on the front page. Sometimes people who know I have practised wuwei for many years ask me the reasonable question about how anything ever gets done if I 'do nothing'. I always answer: 'Spontaneously.' However, I rarely point out that actually natural spontaneity is in Daoist philosophy known as ziran, which is literally 'self so' or 'so of itself' or 'so on its own'. It is the positive principle directly contrasting the negative wuwei.
In addition, I might note that actually there are two ways of acting when one follows Yijing as opposed to Daoist philosophy: 'before heaven' (xiantian) and 'after heaven' (houtian). Acting before heaven is acting spontaneously (ziran), acting after heaven is waiting until the time is ripe (awaiting a sign). Acting spontaneously is obviously best, but if one feels the need to act but has not acted then clearly one will need some way of assessing the right time and right way to act, and that's why people consult oracles. However, I would say it is better not to feel the need to act, to remain in wuwei until ziran determines it. As it says in chapters 37 and 48 of the Daodejing: 'Do nothing, and there is nothing not done.' But if one is caught up in the need to act then there's not much one can do about it until a greater naturalness comes about; neither wuwei nor ziran can be forced, rather they come out of perfect clarity in the moment. Perfect clarity means there is nothing to wonder about, there is only ever one response. Paradoxically complete freedom means not having choice to dwell upon. Everything is already decided. This means no personal volition, naturally. People often worry about that idea, but I would say: Who needs it?
How many people with the same name does it take to invent an I Ching cube?
MARCH 3, 2010
In my article on I Ching patents I wrote about the quirky inventions of Khigh Alx Dhiegh, which include several different I Ching cubes. Mr Dhiegh was born Kenneth Dickerson in 1910 (d. 1991) and was an actor well known for playing the Red Chinese agent Wo Fat in 'Hawaii Five-O'. Curious here is that there is a guy on the web advertising a very expensive I Ching Cube with a book (probably a pamphlet – or perhaps it's just a pamphlet and no cube), apparently for picking lottery numbers but with precious little in the way of explanation about what he is actually selling, who goes by the name of Ken Dickkersun/, with the forward slash being part of his name. This other Ken explains on his about page:
You may notice some different spellings of Ken's last name. As a person who is guided by intuition and inner guidance, Ken changed his last name from Dickerson to Dickkerson many years ago. In 1998, Ken became very ill. He was guided to again change the spelling of his last name from Dickkerson to Dickkersun and place the forward slash mark after his name to indicate an upward rise. Ken's health and well-being began to immediately improve. He is happy to report that he is now feeling great, so now continues to sign his name as Kenneth Dickkersun/.
I haven't seen Mr Dickkersun/'s I Ching Cube product, so I can't say whether he is trading on a dead man's name and ideas, but I can't help thinking that the above reflects the desperation of a man on the run from an angry ghost. Slight name changes do appear to outfox your average avenging spirit. So far as I can make out the product is a way of getting a yes or no answer by chance:
Using the Cube with the Yes / No system led me to a further discovery. I didn't know it at the time, but I had made a quantum leap, which resulted in writing a new book which I call the I CHING CUBE BOOK a bold approach to opening a door that has been closed for thousands of years. The I CHING CUBE BOOK gives you a definite Yes or No answer, then goes on to explain the reason why in plain, down-to-earth, easy-to-understand language.
I would have thought tossing a coin was good enough for 'a definite Yes or No answer', with the explanation for the reason why being 'just because', but if you have $50 burning a hole in your pocket to find out a presumably more sophisticated and accurate method of getting yes or no answers then do let me know what it is. Alternatively, send me $40 and I'll tell you a great way of saving ten dollars.
Maybe by love I mean companionship that isn’t boring
MARCH 1, 2010
[Preface: This is an assemblage of fragments compiled from letters I've written over the past couple of months.]
I think I stopped being afraid when I realised there was something undignified about it.
One thing about open-air mazes, like the one at Hampton Court, is when you look up at the blue sky. It's the same blue sky as before you entered the maze. I remember thinking, looking up past the tall hedge walls to the blueness, I am not lost. Last night in bed I reached out my hand and touched the wall in the dark, and for a while I couldn't remember which wall it was, what room I was in, it could have been my childhood bedroom, it could have been a bedsit in my twenties, and the most marvellous thing about it was that it didn't matter. It was the same wall the same dark, and, come to that, I had to strain hard even to remember my childhood wall, my twenties wall, more than anything it was just a slightly cold and smooth wall, and I wasn't anyone I could remember, and this was fine.
When I sense I am being fitted in a box or defined or judged I just throw it all away, even if it's a person, I throw them away, and take the regret if there is any. If I come to take back anything, like looking around the ruins of your burned house and finding some charred object that suddenly means more than anything, then that is the luck of the draw. I thrive on rejecting and destroying, I find it preferable to fitting in or being as others think or suggest I should be. I am 'Tough luck!' to those who think I should be something or I should have this view or that. I don't tolerate mistakes that impinge on my sense of freedom, I would rather be alone than have judgmental friends.
If others misunderstand the way you live your life then that is only a reflection of how far you have gone into unknown territory. Too late for me, I am going the way I am going. Desires as such are just tinkering about on the edges, I want the active core of the volcano. Chaos has begun, it is too late to stop it. I don't think I have ever wanted to stop it. I'm sure there will be many desires fulfilled, but it seems too small to be bothered by them. I am actively becoming dangerous, I don't think I should stop now, do you?
Read as metaphor, if the taste is too strong. My only concession to the reasonable concerns of others.
I feel I ought to be more interested in desire than I currently am, though I don't see that lack of a certain sparkle as a bad thing, I even think it may be the fulfillment of previous desire. Or maybe I am just a disappointed man taking resignation and acceptance because they are forced upon me, and have not so much succeeded in conquering desire in a spiritual sense but am in the process of giving up on it as a bad friend. In one mood I can feel lessened by my lack of desire, in another mood I can feel like I am succeeding in something at last. Are a series of wants good enough to champion as some key to how to live life?
As for other significant desires, there are a long series of wilted blooms along my path, and I am rarely sure whether they wilted because I didn't nourish them enough or because they weren't for me and their wilting was more about finding that out and eliminating it to become more concentrated in what was not wilting. But clearly if you don't nourish something enough it is a way in itself of realising it is not something you want enough. Sometimes even the desire to write is only hanging on by a thread, when it seems pointless and akin to writing a book in a dream. But so far I have always got beyond that feeling, and, indeed, that feeling seems to be to an extent a subject matter for the writing, so that's okay.
I don't know, my desires are massive and yet diffuse, so it seems sometimes there is nothing there, since the nature of my desire is to be engulfed in the void or to pass through wormholes into other dimensions, and there is also, I think, somewhat of a desire to be possessionless, to require nothing of the world. Once I had a strong desire to live in a van travelling from pagan fire to pagan fire, hopefully with some like-minded woman, since sitting around a fire watching the sparks rise with pagan types drumming and things is very post-apocalyptic and one easily forgets everything of any other world, but I have not actively pursued it apart from occasional visits to such places, I have not even learnt how to drive. Sometimes I look at friends who seem to 'have their life together', who do all sorts of interesting things, and wonder why am I not doing that? And yet, since such feelings do not make me feel so good I return to what I know and learn to value that again, for all it seems sparse, cut-off, lonely, and … yet it is me, and in the end I feel sure it must bear fruit, and if it doesn't, well death is just around the corner anyhow. That sort of feeling. Sounds stark, but it is actually an existentialist desire to be self-contained. Now and again I try to do what others do, the syndrome of seeing people and having a good time, and for a while it feels what I should be doing, but then I accomplish very little and it seems quite empty after a while, or perhaps I am not fully admitted into it or don't allow myself to be. I always feel I have other fish to fry and I wander off on my own again. I don't know whether this is a response to a lifetime of apparent disappointment or actually finding my feet in my own terrain. I suspect a bit of both. But you can only go where the calling seems to lead you, and if it is all wilting blooms where the people and parties are you tend to develop a preference for wilderness and solitude.
All the gurus that might have been worth visiting in faraway places are dead now and I don't rule out that I may be the faraway place for some people in the future, which is an irony I appreciate.
I don't tie myself to any previous agenda, and desire is often that, a previous agenda. To be really free I suspect desire needs to be downplayed as any kind of be-all and end-all.
It's funny to me how a solitude expressed in writing can seem a greater and sometimes starker solitude than the solitude right before me in the moment. Maybe it's something to do with concentration, all in one place, and also concentrating on it to the exclusion of other things.
It's strange, really, to think that everyone you know and also places could look very different to some other perceiving mechanism. Well, obviously to animals and insects it must do, but to another human being. Maybe our evolution will make us less fixated on one particular view of what we are looking at, maybe we will perceive fields of energy more than we do now, maybe the world will become much more plastic.
We do like the illusion of feeling we know how something 'is', so we probably go to extra lengths to fix things that way and do not allow them to move. But it is a big question what we are actually perceiving most of the time. The familiar, such as this room now, is a convenience. It could be some kind of holding place on a trip to the stars, it is only familiarity that tells me it is a house in England on planet Earth, and other ideas of what it is are just too fantastic to be true, yet drill down to the subatomic level, which we must accept is there, then its familiarity is only an idea. I think we are very scared as a species to lose our familiarity with the world.
With a long book work, it does take me quite a while to see what the thing is. People sometimes find this hard to believe, that I don't know what I've written, but really I'm just handing the words on as fast as they come to me, I don't have a chance to really think about what it is until later. I just trust the process and don't think about it while writing, because this is how I want to create, but I do suspect it has a narrative integrity and wholeness (especially when taken with other things I've written) that I just wouldn't know how to deliberately place there, and if I tried it would be clunky and unimpressive.
I had a fragment of a dream the other night, being in the nose-cone of a rocket, like a Saturn V, getting ready for liftoff, looking out at the rain and thinking this is the last rain I'll ever see (I wasn't coming back).
I don't have to even intend for there to be a connection between separate parts of an assemblage for there to be one.
'Holding out' in the sense I meant it [in The Exorcist of Revolution] is a refusal to conform, it's a strategy against, in other words you're living in a state of continuing resistance. Holding out also means surviving against the odds, by holding out you don't buckle under, you keep conformity at arm's length and endure the difficulties that will naturally bring, and while at first it is a kind of urban survivalism after a while it becomes a way of thriving, since you inevitably meet others also in this kind of underground for all it can be quite a loner thing. A state of living on the edge and allowing no-one else to define how you should live, and if you have to pass through phases of life where you appear to have to conform, it is always kept as an appearance disguising an inner refusal that serves you and you alone. You could be the devil incarnate but it would never show unless you wanted it to.
As one grows older the rebellion doesn't have to fade, I think it can get more dangerous, in that one finds more how words can really be used. Sometimes, to get that power, you have to hold out for decades. It's a tough stance, but for some people there's no other choice so may as well embrace it as not.
I relinquish the duty of recognising Babalon, and if that means a whole world ends, then so be it. The implications of a magical act extend beyond the personal.
I feel one should always excuse oneself for explaining anything in detail, even when asked, as it excuses in advance any stifling of yawns in the other person. I have found that in general people who ask to know something don't really want to know, so I rarely go into detail about anything. I don't have a great deal of faith in the average person's attention span. This is why I write books, they can put it down when they've had enough and return to it later. I hate bores who recount things without end, and I wouldn't like to become one, so if I even approach that I excuse myself, since I can't always know what the level of interest is in the person asking. The English character often uses politeness not out of concern for the other person, but in a disguised self-deprecatory manner to avoid having to waste breath on morons.
I am sort of a chameleon now changing his backdrop. I have remembered who I am, as it were, and am just in that, since nothing else is needed or calls quite so much. I think I forget just for the hell of it, to experience something that is not me. It is a way of writing fiction by accurately reporting everything that goes through your mind through a myriad of delusions. I saw a friend I hadn't seen for a while and I asked him what's he's up to these days, and he replied: 'I'm between failures.' Which I thought was very witty. I could say, 'I'm between delusions.'
Probably bitterness clings only when we don't utterly ignore it.
It was always interesting talking to Lionel on the phone, because he had a grandfather clock with a loud tick-tock and it chimed the quarter hours and the half-hours, and the hour, I got such a sensation of time drifting lazily by in his place, like a slow floating down a river.
Godard I notice deals with repeating themes from different angles in his films. Pinget, who employs varied recurrence, composition and decomposition, in his writing, wrote something interesting as a formula to define his procedure: 'Nothing is ever said, since it can be said otherwise.'
A piece of writing is solely what one concentrates on, but other things were also happening.
Watching the foxes run by in the hail outside my window in the middle of the night. I opened the window to hear it, thought it was rain, then couldn't decide if it was rain or snow but it didn't sound like snow, then I realised it was hail.
Perhaps the only problem is thinking there's a problem. I constantly watch the nature of the passing moment, how it changes, how it runs this way and that, how it impacts on me in feelings that, crudely, can be characterised as good or bad or indifferent (that's also bad, I think). I'm a bit wary of sitting down to write in a way because the mood characterises it, and yet it may not be me, just something shed again. Yet I suppose it must capture something, maybe there is a constancy between the poles, the kind of channel that water finds when it must move. Unpredictable, and yet conforming to exact law, only unpredictable looked at with the unknowing mind.
I find identities crumble fast, so fast sometimes it is hardly worth investing in them. Yet we are seen in certain ways by others, given more definite form than perhaps we give ourselves. I am like next door's cat who comes in to sleep a lot of the time, lately.
Energy into cooking and reading, today, mostly, and lying down next to the cat as I often think he has the right idea.
I become aware how the past is not fixed at all, even at the time it was a jumble of impressions, depending on mood. Just as now I sometimes have warm loving feelings towards that woman I mentioned, and think all is right in the world, I also have less than warm feelings, like a vibration between betrothal and betrayal (just two words apart from each other I noticed in my dictionary), and how can I know what is a real impression, and probably it is neither.
It is something to do with feeling stuck, yet even that feeling can transmute into seeing my space as hard-won and a marvellous headquarters for everything I want to do.
Distillation always yields a small quantity of pure substance from a large quantity of impure, I saw that regularly enough in chemistry. Still mulling over these matters, but clarity itself must be a pure impulse, tight, not spread out, distilled down from a vast landscape of mixed-up ideas. Can one prompt it? Or is it enough to know it 'must' be going on. Maybe I already have clarity if I separate out the aspects that look elsewhere for it, for instance. I have sat enough times with everything right with the world, with no greater additions externally to make it so, and in that there is a wonderful anticipation of all good things coming.
You mention Jean Seberg. There is an example of an image and a reality being so different. A beautiful woman, but a sad life, eventually ending in suicide. The contrast is full of reality, yet illusions too. We have so many images of the ideal that we want to protect them from harm, but all we can do is have a certain stance, like a Samurai, a certain discipline, and try our best not to drift, since we wouldn't drift if it really mattered, battlefield mattered, so why don't we be as solid and driftless in ordinary everyday matters.
Enduring intensity again. Intensity in a way is utterly useless, self-made, but perhaps we want to feel heartbroken, perhaps we want to have tears, perhaps we want it all to feel real and as if it matters (when we suspect it isn't real and doesn't matter). Sometimes I really believe I know what I am talking about, in tune with something, but in a glance out of the window at a sound it can disappear. But that's the way of things.
Self-sabotage is probably the demon I find most difficult to control. It seems one has an insurmountable legacy of the past that accounts for it, yet, in lighter moods, one can see the story of one's life in a far more complete and pleasing way, self-sabotage always makes use of isolated broken fragments of experience that withhold knowledge of the whole.
Maybe by love I mean companionship that isn't boring.
I often feel closest to something when giving up a desire, but another part of me argues, why should I give up the desire? In practice, desire gives us up.
An ice-cream van parks outside playing its jolly tune, engine turning over, waiting for the unenthusiasm of a cold day to have second thoughts. Then it is gone, like a landed butterfly just as you get out of your chair to have a look, a moment's silence before its strangely reassuring tune in a distant street, looking for its next settling place.
Steven Jesse Bernstein
FEBRUARY 17, 2010
Steven Jesse Bernstein is one of my favourite writers, so I was overjoyed to come across this rare footage of him on YouTube singing his song 'Reason to Live'. Not the Jesse of the Prison album but very moving, considering he killed himself a year and a half later by stabbing himself three times in the throat.
Back for Christmas
JANUARY 23, 2010
At Christmas I went for a walk along the towpath of the canal, a place I loved as a child. Looked beautiful in the snow. The canal was frozen over, you may even have been able to walk on it, I didn't try. Someone had chucked a can of blue paint onto the ice, the paint had splattered all across the surface as it would on a pavement, and the can was resting there with the necks of brown beer bottles freeze-framed bobbing out the ice at various angles. I stood there for some minutes thinking that was just marvellous, a work of art, that would sink when the warmer weather came sink down to join the old bedsteads and other crap chucked in the canal over the years.
It was twilight and I wondered where all the ducks and dirty swans and moorhens and coots had gone off to. I listened to a loud wren in a bush. I came off the towpath at the first exit to take the back streets back to the childhood home, part of my old journey home from school. I paused for a little while on the humpback bridge remembering a fight I had with a bully whose nose I bloodied whose blood puddled here and led off in little splashy defeated drips for days afterwards before it rained. I timed it well. Let him jab and insult me all up the road waiting until I had his back to the wall of the humpback bridge, when I handed my glasses to a passing girl and pounded him. He didn't know what hit him. He had a weak nose so when it burst and he became robin redbreast on his white shirt he looked the loser straight away.
I congratulated myself later in my bedroom for a successful strategy. The girl gave me my glasses back and I walked off as if nothing had happened. But I knew I'd be doing more of this. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. Every time it was strategy and speed. When they least expected it I'd suddenly decide to strike. After I'd disposed of a few in the same manner, others would try to get a rise out of me, see how close they could get. It wouldn't work. I let them do it, I let them think they'd beaten me, that I was scared of fighting back. But then I would strike. And it started here. I planned my strategy at the bottom of the road and said, if he's still doing it by the time we reach the top of the humpback bridge, then. He kept on, little jabs to the shoulder, name-calling. It was all in his hands.
And I walked down the other side on the way to the childhood home, sloping icily, wondering if that girl I handed my glasses to was fat and ugly now, or still the girl of several hundred schoolboy wanks without result. Too much time on fighting, not enough on girls. Made up for it later. And I pass what used to be the fish and chip shop that's now a balti takeaway, and what used to be the sweet shop that's now a home for doddery old people sitting staring at the window as if it's the television with the sound turned down.
My Teach Yourself Karate book was still inside the hollowed-out encyclopedia in my kid's bookcase, a secret hiding place where I'd also keep black-and-white photographs of naked ladies torn out of old Health & Efficiency magazines found while ferking around in the loft looking for extra 00 gauge railway line in wicker hampers when my parents were out doing the shopping.
After tea of cake and trifle I sit down in the armchair out the back and watch five CSIs one after the other on Channel Five because there's nothing else to do but read or talk to mum about pain. The walnuts and brazils don't get cracked, the satsumas stay where they are. Framed photos on the sideboard present me through the strata of ex-girlfriends. At three in the morning I catch myself looking with renewed affection. And I find something to cry about, but it's grace with the angel wrapping his wings about me.
Two trips up town one before and one after Christmas to look at the sales, not wanting anything, just a slim nostalgia for the smell of boiled hotdog stands and Black Country dialect. The art gallery is closed. There are no shoes of any interest. W H Smiths full of tired hobby magazines for new enthusiasts.
One day all this childhood place will shrivel up, like a sheet of newspaper to draw the fire up the chimney. The tadpole brooks and creepy teachers, the wishes and hatreds, the desire to escape, it'll all shrivel up and fit into a handful of ash. And there won't be any more reason to go back there.
Fragment of conversation
JANUARY 22, 2010
'What you been doing since I last saw you?'
'Two years as a gravedigger five delivering bread.'
'Sounds good,' I said.
'Not when the lid came off the baby's coffin.'
'So how's delivering bread?'
'We don't go hungry for bread,' he said.
JANUARY 6, 2010
It's like the whole country is sliding down a hill and landing in a heap and just not getting up.
The cat, asleep on the bed, his paw pads are very warm, like a person with warm hands, not so noticeable in the summer.
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