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MD's Sacred Space


Now that the semester is over, I feel as sense of relief; I am temporarily free from working on assignments against my will and now have the time to indulge in whatever interests me. I hope to get some reading done over the break.


Maybe I should reflect on what I've learned about the sacred while in this course. I wouldn't say that I experienced any kind of revelation, but rather an expansion of what I vaguely knew in my heart all along. One of the things that we learned is that the sacred is everywhere, in everyday things and events. It is about making the ordinary special, transcending ordinary chronos by experiences temporary moments of kairos. These are, or can be, moments of insight, where we catch a glimpse of something ultimately mystifying about our existence. Such experiences induce ecstasy and can lead to a re-evaluation of one's life. These traits seem to be common to all sacred traditions, with each one adding into the mix its own cultural and historical idiosyncrasies. I think it's important to recognize the core of what constitutes a sacred experience so that we can recognize and initiate them in our own, present day experiences. Rather than re-enact esoteric rituals and religious practices, I'd rather create new ones that are more compatible with present day life. I think you can actually argue that this sort of thing has already taken place. For example, in the 1960's pop music underwent a transformation, in search of something transcendent. This was obviously influenced by the popularization of psychedelic drugs and drug gurus, but if we brush aside the trendiness of it all I think we can see a genuine hunger in youth culture for a sacred experience. This continues to the present day, especially in music. The psychedelic spirit is present in the various genres of electronic music, particularly in ambient house and techno. In fact, the large, darkened rooms and light shows, combined with the blaring music, remind me of what supposedly went on in the Greek mystery cults. The sacred is alive and well in contemporary culture; it is our job to recognize it and continue it into the future.



thoughts 12/20/07


let me start off my saying that I enjoyed this class more than I thought I would. The first couple of class meetings left me confused and unsure as to whether or not it would be useful or interesting. I'd say by the middle of the semester I realized what Mobius was doing with the course and really started to appreciate it. I'm glad I started keeping this blog, as it is a good way for me to sort out thoughts and ideas which are always crammed together in my mind. I hope to continue using this blog for a little while longer (if I can) rather than start a new one. Besides, this is much cooler than myspace or livejournal. About my final project, its still in production. I hope to have a substantial version of it finished by tomorrow, though I don't know if it will be "finished" by then. I would say that anyone could grade it, but I'm not sure if many of you would be interested in the topic. In any case, it doesn't matter to me who grades it, though I hope you'll be kind. I'm not quite sure what is expected from this project, and therefore I'm just slogging my way through it, composing what I find to be interesting and significant about memory as it relates to the sacred and my personal life. And Ceridwen, I'm determined to finally listen to that CD, and post on your blog when I can. Before I forget, let me just say that I enjoyed being in class with all of you. Though I didn't contribute much to class discussions (I'm always somewhat quiet in class) I enjoyed the discussions and feel that I've benefited from them. Have a great holiday break and good luck to all of you.






Valis and psychoanalysis


Along the same lines as my previous post, I've noticed a similarity between what Bollas is saying about psychoanalysis and what happens in Valis. The key event for Horselover Fat is his encounter with the pink beam of light, which shakes him up by instilling previously unknown knowledge and awareness, and initiates his quest for God. He is aware of the experience, yet he struggles throughout the remainder of the book to comprehend just what exactly has happened to him. As with all sacred experiences, it doesn't translate easily into a clear, articulate narrative. Similarly, I think Bollas's interpretation of cathexis and psychic genera works the same way. Genera, as I understand it, just means a self-creating experience, where our concept of "self" is formed by the interaction of unconscious energies with the objects in the outside world. We unknowingly project meaning onto everyday objects, and consequently they evoke emotional responses from us. When the latter occurs, and we are profoundly moved by something without really understanding why, we are almost in the same position of Horselover Fat. An interpretation of the experience always evades us, yet the effect is real and remembered.



Psychoanalysis and the Sacred


For a while now I've been interested in psychoanalysis, both classical and contemporary. One of the main reasons I'm drawn to it, aside from its therapeutic capability, is its emphasis on everyday experience. I don't necessarily mean Freud's work on slips and jokes, which I kind of disagree with, but rather the role of desire and projection in our experience. I'm reading an interesting book now by a contemporary psychoanalyst named Christopher Bollas, called Being a Character , where Freud's concept of dream-work is applied to our everyday waking experience. Freud thought that in dreams wishes and desires that have been forced into the unconscious temporarily asserted themselves, often through abstract and confusing images. Integral to his dream theory was his concept of the "dream day" where the events of the previous day triggered unconscious desires and lead to the particular dream. What is important here is that the particular objects that set the chain of associations in motion are unknown to us. Bollas claims that we in fact unconsciously charge ordinary objects all around us with significance, and as a result, ordinary objects elicit powerful yet elusive feelings from us. He posits that our concept of "self" or our character is developed through a dialectic of what he calls our "idiom," which is similar to Freud's concept of Id (in fact, looking at the two words, Bollas's term is a clever extension of the word) and the ordinary objects that we interact with. Our idiom, says Bollas, is something that we're born with, a kind of creative energy that seeks engagement with objects.


Bollas raises important questions as to why we select certain objects to interact with over others. Why do certain types of music or books elicit powerful responses from us, and not others? What do the products that we choose to interact with on a normal day tell us about our personality, and what we really want? I find this kind of approach to be supremely helpful in thinking about the sacred in the everyday, as well as sacred memory. I've always wondered why certain types of music, certain images, certain ideas, have taken hold of me. Certainly, some of this has to do with memories of childhood; when I view something that was a part of my childhood I experience feelings of nostalgia. But I think it's more than that. Why do certain sights, sounds, and objects of my childhood elicit strong responses, but not others? There are many things that were a part of my childhood that I still interact with, but which generate no intense feelings. The same intense emotion can be generated by objects which are relatively new and unfamiliar to me.


Bollas speaks of a certain undefinable aspect of our interaction with the outside world, a feeling that approaches the surface of consciousness, but which is ultimately beyond our reach. While this may be frustrating to the individual, such a feature of ordinary life is a welcome contribution to the beautiful mystery that is human existence.



Morning thoughts


I've been thinking recently about the nature of this class, and really I think that I've appreciated it more and more as the semester progressed. Whereas early in the semester I wasn't too keen on the idea of an unstructured class left open to what the students were up for, now I can actually see how interesting and useful this approach to a class can be. I think that Mobius realizes, rightly, that when you let students learn about, and write about, what they're interested in, you get much more interesting product. I stared out blogging maybe once a week, with gaps here and there when I was lazy. Now I find that I have something I want to write nearly every day. I'm able to bring other things that I've been reading about in my own free time into the mix where I think it's useful.


Now on the other hand, at this point I'm sick of my other English classes, that are very tightly structured and planned out. I find that not a lot of learning takes place in this kind of classes, unless you happen to have an instructor who is really good. Most of the time, particularly when you have grad students teaching the class, they really are a waste of time. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh here, but I do feel as if I actually learn more just reading on my own and reading criticism that I find useful. I'm really just tired of the English major in general. I still believe that the study of literature is profoundly important, and I'll continue to read a lot, but as a profession I just don't know what to think. My interest has shifted to psychology, so if I were to continue my education after this and go to a professional school, it would be that field rather than English. Just the idea of having to write long research essays on 19th century poetry just makes me shudder. I'm hoping at this point that I can get through this semester, so that I can at least try to pursue what I really think is worthwhile.



Reflections on sacred memory


The more I think about my final project, which is an exploration of personal memories which have become sacred and integral to my current conception of myself, the more difficult it becomes. For the most part, the actual "events" as they took place in a certain space and time, are gone. All that remains are flashes of imagery, color, sounds, and their affect on me. But how can you write a memoir based on sensation and a collage of images? Perhaps I just need to think harder on the subject; maybe meditation will help to concentrate on experiences long past. It is interesting, however, to reflect on how this relationship to one's past can be useful. By keeping the sensations and forgetting the actual events as concrete happenings in the past, I think that it's easier to integrate past experience into the way you live your life today. Maybe this is what could possibly make memory something "sacred" as opposed to just a normal cognitive process. There is less of a separation--less of a distinction--between your life now and your life as it was. What actually happened in the past, at least from a Zen perspective, doesn't really matter. What matters is the present moment. The past, at least for me, augments my life as I live it today. I don't reflect on my childhood when I'm in a whimsical mood and lament what is forever lost, but rather I can remember what I felt when I was at my happiest, as well as what caused me to feel this way. I can regain my former way of looking at the world, which for a while was indeed lost.




Unreal City!



For a long time I've found the image of Tokyo to be intensely moving. It appears to exist in a future time. There is something about the neon lights and the sleek architecture that keeps my attention. It may also be the Japanese youth culture which I associate with the city, and the incredible popularity of anime and videogames. It seems as if the real and the imaginary are blended together in such a culture. Of course this "postmodern" way of living exists in America and the rest of the Western world, but For whatever reason Tokyo seems to be front runner.


I've always found the blending of reality and fantasy to be interesting, and in some ways I do it myself. I played videogames a lot and read comic books as a kid, and because if it I think I see things differently than people who were not exposed to such stimuli. Looking at Tokyo lit up, I'm also reminded of cyberpunk stories which I've always loved. Not so much the actual storyline, but the visuals and the atmosphere--the tropes that lay the groundwork for the main plot--the blending of the real world and the simulation. The "real world" and the "virtual world."


I recently read an article by Slavoj Zizek where he applied Freud's concept of dreamwork to contemporary videogames. For Zizek, we have on the one hand our normal, bourgeois existence, where we are repressed by either ourselves or society, and on the other our dreams, or the simulation, where we can take on roles and do things that normally we couldn't. This is an innovative way of looking at the issue. Though I do think that immersion in these kinds of simulations for too long can be harmful--eating away time that could be spent living one's own life, I do think that they can be healthy in that they can unlock--like dreams--untapped creative energy that can augment one's "real" existence.


I don't really know where I'm going with this, maybe just that the relationship between what we think is "real" and what is "imaginary" or "fantasy" might not be as distinct as we think, and more interestingly I think its worth thinking about what this might do for our practical everyday lives. Does this new entanglement of reality and fantasy make our lives better, or worse? Can one lead a good life living "in a fantasy world?" It's hard for me to say. Obviously the older generation would lament such a lifestyle, those who are accustomed to tradition. We can claim that the younger generation lacks "authenticity"--a troubling word really. But I'm not convinced either way.




Creative Writing Exercise- I'm starting to get ideas for my final project/paper, and as an exercise I want to try just writing some things in a semi-automatic style to see what I come up with. What I suppose I am trying to do here is in a sense relive my memories of the past. This may be incomprehensible to everyone but me, but maybe with enough practice I'll come up with something interesting.











I too thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. Indeed, I have honestly and thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from each and every presentation. What's up with that? How is it that with such flagrant mediocrity all about us, we can gather and with apparent ease relate our experiences with these distant, lacunaed, and often cryptic texts, to each other? It is paradoxical but apparent: 2gether, we focus our attention on our own minds, and the result is unfailingly interesting. Once we realize that our own minds are galactic in magnitude, capable of harboring, sheltering, inventing & proliferating fleeting images of purple and green, darkness and light, we start to get serious in our exploration. These are no longer mere figments, but close and attentive observations of ourselves, feeling , thinking dreaming presenting, calculating, the void somehow pulling it all together. Nothing persists! - mobius


P.S. I wanted to make sure you saw my comments on our Swann's Way project, so I replicate them here. And for more on Sophia, you should read Pk Dick's Divine Invasion from the Valis triology of four books.


Proteus! You really should float, since our study is looking precisely what I am calling the "Genetics of Transpersonal Experience". Or have you already done so? It would give you something to write about...You would probably be interested in some of the papers associated with REST therapy, as well some some studies of Wilderness response seeking to quantify this feeling of the "strangeness of the ordinary", where nature itself is of course the must mundane and awe inspiring "thing" most of us get to access legally and reliably. Writing about and with and through these experiences - as you did above, beautifully - helps continue the reflection process so that we are able to learn more and more from and about these experiences that are themselves often difficult to have deliberately. I am excited about how you are phrasing your inquiry, and encourage you to immediately begin reading Swann's Way and perhaps the work of Henri Bergson ( the nobel prize winning philosopher cousin of Proust!) for focusing a bit more on the nexus of "memory" and "the sacred". Funny how along with Alice in Wonderland as well as Swann, my own path features some very deliberate tea drinking. Do not underestimate the radically idiosyncratic and yet thoroughly parallel nature of each and every one of our inquiries. Perhaps you might say along with mobius that "We all live in our own world - together." Your affirmation of the "idiosyncratic" nature of your project shows excellent sense and I really look forward to watching it develop out of Augustine, Wordsworth, and any other help you find. I will share all shareable papers from the tank project to the wiki. Finally, you might like this essay by John Lilly, inventor of the tank, as it seems to resonate with your "mundane sacred" experiences. Awed, again, by the patterns in the sky - mobius






God's Grandeur


THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.



--G.M. Hopkins


"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things"




Proteus - nice presentation today! I liked your connections from Gnostic traditions to the present. I've had this on my computer for awhile but didn't know the significance of it until today...it's by Alex Grey, called "Sophia - God's Bride"




mobius, I may need your help in framing my final project. I have an idea of what I want to explore and express, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I would want to write something akin to what I'm reading right now (Swann's Way, The Prelude) that explores spontaneous memory and the sacred in the mundane. I would like to do this because it's something that draws my attention away from what I'm supposed to be doing. I think about it everyday, but never grant myself the time to fully explore it. Though I may never be able to (or would want to) fully purge this nagging curiosity from my system, I think that it would be useful for me to try and get down just what it is exactly that occupies much of my thinking. Plus it may just turn out to be interesting for others to read. who cares? everyone. not about my particular experiences, but memory is important to everyone, as is the sacred, even if they don't notice it or care. Given the opportunity, who wouldn't want to enrich their day-to-day experience, considering that the age we live isn't as overtly spiritual as those of the past? This is something that everyone can learn to do themselves, given the right examples. What it is not? Well, it's not a chronological biography, there would only be a limited biographical aspect of it--and even then it would be less of a specific account than it would be describing a certain feeling or mood or sacred response.







see, this is the kind of image that comes to my mind when I think of the sacred. I cannot fully understand a construction such as the one above. The first time that I saw this image, it conjured up strong emotion. (This may sound kind of strange), but I think it may have to with this bizarre relationship I have with colors. In my mind I associate certain colors, in particular purple and green, with experiences in my youth. When I see see these two colors mixed together in a certain way, and the same can be said for black and gold, I am somehow reminded of my former, youthful way of looking at the world. The only specific memories that they bring back are extremely vague, like I'll remember sitting in my room, or riding a bicycle. It's not like I can remember a specific event when I experienced something that would cause the colors to resonate in my mind. Just a thought...







I'm about 110 pages into VALIS (I know I should probably be further, I'm playing catchup) and though it's a bit chaotic, it's actually pretty interesting. I do like the fact that the actual linear narrative is secondary, and not really the point of the book. It's the kind of book that you can start and stop as you please. I find that by reading this book, I have the urge to go out and read more about the early Christians and Gnosticism (I am reading about Valentinus obviously, for my presentation). I think that's one of the best things a book can do for you--get you interested in other books. The direction of Fat's theology just gets more and more interesting (and crazier) the more I read. I can pick up some elements of Greek philosophy and Gnosticism, but the most interesting ideas are those that are unique to him. For example, the idea that ancient Rome and California circa 1974 are superimposed onto one another, and that Fat and a man named Thomas, who lived (lives?) in antiquity, share the same mind is a really bizarre and compelling idea. It was amusing to see Fat suggest that he may have schizophrenia, and then say that the results were negative, because that was the one of the first things I thought of when reading of his experiences. I would be curious to know how accurate Dick's facts are about what happened to him. Obviously, we can never know whether he was shot in the forehead with a pink laser beam, but I wonder if he really did suddenly discover the cause of his son's illness, or if he actually did receive letter from the Soviet Union, with a prior knowledge of their being sent. That's about all I have to say about the book for now; I hope to finish it over the break.







So I guess the claim the sacred can't authentically be put into words won't excuse me from my writing duties, huh? It's hard to talk about my encounters with "the sacred" because most of the time, when I do have them, I'm not really aware. I don't sit myself down to meditate (though I probably should), but just go about my business each day, reading (a lot) and doing whatever else I want to do or needs to be done. I think that my encounters with the sacred are very mundane, like for example if I happen to look up at the sky as the sun is going down, and for a split second I'm awed by the patterns in the sky, or when I'm listening to a particular piece of music that for some reason engulfs me and makes me lose all sense of self--which is the point, I'm aware, of sacred experiences--to take to you out of your normal, everyday routine and induce a sense of wonder. I think that I'm particular prone to these kinds of moments; for some reason I'm very receptive to the strangeness of the ordinary. I've noticed that certain sights and smells act as triggers to past memories--not specific, but just general feelings of youth or adolescence--which combine with what I currently know about the concept of the sacred and philosophy to create a kind of sacred vision. That might sound kind of weird; I'm not sure if I can explain it as well as I'd like. I know this theme is present in a lot of literature. I know that In Search of Lost Time begins with a kind of random memory that's caused by the narrator drinking tea and eating a cookie. (I have yet to read Swann's Way, hopefully soon I will). I hope to incorporate these kinds of random memories and everyday visions of the sacred into my final project. I'm trying to find some other models for it, other than the Autobiography of a Yogi. I'm currently reading Wordsworth's Prelude, which is a kind of spiritual autobiography, as well as selections from St. Augustine's Confessions. Hopefully these will guide my project, though I would still want the overall design to be somewhat idiosyncratic.

Proteus! You really should float, since our study is looking precisely what I am calling the "Genetics of Transpersonal Experience". Or have you already done so? It would give you something to write about...You would probably be interested in some of the papers associated with REST therapy, as well some some studies of Wilderness response seeking to quantify this feeling of the "strangeness of the ordinary", where nature itself is of course the must mundane and awe inspiring "thing" most of us get to access legally and reliably. Writing about and with and through these experiences - as you did above, beautifully - helps continue the reflection process so that we are able to learn more and more from and about these experiences that are themselves often difficult to have deliberately. I am excited about how you are phrasing your inquiry, and encourage you to immediately begin reading Swann's Way and perhaps the work of Henri Bergson ( the nobel prize winning philosopher cousin of Proust!) for focusing a bit more on the nexus of "memory" and "the sacred". Funny how along with Alice in Wonderland as well as Swann, my own path features some very deliberate tea drinking. Do not underestimate the radically idiosyncratic and yet thoroughly parallel nature of each and every one of our inquiries. Perhaps you might say along with mobius that "We all live in our own world - together." Your affirmation of the "idiosyncratic" nature of your project shows excellent sense and I really look forward to watching it develop out of Augustine, Wordsworth, and any other help you find. I will share all shareable papers from the tank project to the wiki. Finally, you might like this essay by John Lilly, inventor of the tank, as it seems to resonate with your "mundane sacred" experiences. Awed, again, by the patterns in the sky - mobius








I apologize for not writing often. I really need to force it; it doesn't usually come easily. Maybe it's what Mobius was talking about towards the beginning of the semester about the dread of looking at a blank screen. I shouldn't have to force it. It should come naturally. The near infinite thoughts that are perpetually swarming around inside my head should easily be transferred into long, stream-of consciousness posts. It doesn't happen though. I have the same problem with speaking too. There is a gap between unarticulated, incomplete thought and emotion and the actual words I speak that I can't bridge sometimes. Of course, there is something kind of artificial about language anyway. I think Nietzsche has a quote where he says something to the effect of whatever we can articulate is already dead in our hearts. I get the feeling that there is truth to that.


I've been thinking about my final project. I would also like to compose a spiritual autobiography of sorts. I've been obsessed by my development from early childhood for many years. I'm not sure exactly how I'd go about writing it, what events to include, the structure of it, etc. It would definitely be therapeutic for me in that I would be able to put down in writing what has occupied a lot of my time. I don't doubt that a good portion of it would be inaccurate or fictionalized, because when you romanticize things you distort them; I would only hope that my actual experiences combined with my present feelings about them would produce something interesting and revealing about who I am. In a sense I'd be writing my own, miniature VALIS, looking back over some early important years and creating significance for them.







10/16/07 Opening thoughts on VALIS


After reading the first two chapters of the novel, plus having read the novel in full a few years ago (though I don't remember much of it), I find the author's situation very unique and interesting. Having what is perceived as a divine experience just after the peak of the psychedelic drug era is obviously problematic. As the narrator points out, the result of such excessive drug-taking is that many users have completely lost their mind. The schizophrenic experience is very similar to the visionary experience; how are we to tell them apart? They both involve our ordinary way of perceiving reality breaking down, and being replaced by new, sometimes chaotic and frightening ways of seeing and perceiving. There is always a fine line between madness and visionary experience, especially when we look at prophets and poets. Many people argue that William Blake, for example, was clinically insane based on his writings and his testimony that he could communicate with angels. This is why Horeselover Fat is so skeptical about his own experiences, and speaks of what has happened to him as his "breakdown."




10/13/07 Autobiography of a Yogi - reflections


I chose to read chapter 14, which deals with the author's first experience of cosmic consciousness. This is obviously a significant part of the autobiography, as all moments of epiphany are. I found it interesting how his interactions with his master just prior to having the experience (the showing of unconditional love of the student from the master) prepares him for his epiphany. His expectations of cosmic consciousness and divine love have been so built up that they overpower his mind. He cannot simply sit and reflect on them with any productivity. His master realizes this, and (somewhat comically, in a zen-like manner) proceeds to physically knock the wind out of him.


What I also found interesting about this particular chapter is how Yogananda reacts to his experience of cosmic consciousness. For a yogi, this experience is what is desired more than anything. It is what makes the arduous training worthwhile. Afterwards, however, one still has to face ordinary, mundane existence in the world. It is very tempting, it seems, to not ever want to return to such a life. If the object of this life is to reunite with God, why not choose to stay with Him once you have found Him? One has a duty, however, to instruct others on how to achieve the same transcendence.





10/7/07 - further reflections on the sacred


I'm wondering how far we can take the notion of the sacred. We seem to define "the sacred" in contrast to "the profane" or the ordinary. We select certain moments out of the chronos, or linear time, and give them a special meaning, thus making them sacred. This is easy enough to follow, as seen in religious rituals which are observed and repeated. But can everything mundane and ordinary be sacred? Joyce, in his Ulysses, showed that the most banal and repulsive aspects of daily life can be incorporated into an epic. It also seems that imagination, with the help of memory, can turn the ordinary events in one's past into a spiritual narrative. Human memory is naturally selective, and we seem to always form our own conception of the past into a narrative. Is it possible though to retroactively "spiritualize" your own past and make it sacred? I definately think of my own childhood as in some sense holy, and yet I am aware that as I reflect on it I imaginatively alter it. This is, however, the only way the profane is made sacred. We project meaning into events, just as we project divinations into parables. So does everything profane and ordinary have the capability of being made holy?








10/7/07 - thoughts


Rereading my previous post, it seems a little crude. the two traditions that I compare probably have more in common than I am aware of. maybe my fears will be reduced with further understanding.


-further reflections on parables


I was reading more on the parables of Jesus and their interpretation in the Frank Kermode book I mentioned below. He compares how the parable of the Sower is described in Mark with its appearance in Matthew. They are not identical. In Mark, for example, when Jesus is questioned by his disciples as to why he speaks in parables, he replies, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. (KJV 4.11-12 emphasis mine) In Matthew, the same question is asked, and Jesus responds, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (KJV 13.11-13) There is a notion of intended exclusion in Mark that is not found in Matthew, as Kermode explains. Jesus speaks to them in parables so that they "hear but not perceive", and are therefore excluded from the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew, Jesus speaks in parables because since they are outside the inner circle, they cannot understand the message in any other way but in a parable. Mark's version has obviously proved to be troubling for many interpreters, and many have actually argued that the person who wrote the gospel actually misunderstood the purpose of the parable of the Sower. Once could also argue that since Matthew was written later than Mark, which is accurate, that the writer of Matthew was troubled by Mark's interpretation and changed it for his account. Parables by their very nature (the word can be translated as "dark saying" or "riddle") are so open-ended that interpreters can make them mean whatever they want. This process of reading a spiritual meaning into a parable, or any vague text, Kermode calls divination, and his distinguishes it from a strictly literal reading.




10/1/07 - Brief Reflections on "The Heart Sutra"


After my first reading of this text, I find it interesting how succinct it is. The basic tenants of Buddhist thought are presented without much of a narrative. The greatest challenge for the author is how to describe the concept of the Void useing language. Since words were created in order to refer to things, it is naturally nearly futile to use them to describe absense. Even poetic language, which this text employs, is still not sufficient to accurately describe the concept of nothingness. The author is forced to use a common strategy for this kind of thing; he uses negatives to describe what the Void is not. While this may not lead to a complete understanding of the concept, it at least clears up some confusing. It may at least help aspirants stop thinking of the Void in terms of worldly phenomenon such as sense and consciousness.


As for my thoughts on the message of the work, I have to admit that I am slightly troubled by the concept of Enlightenment and the methods used to attain such a state. Part of this may be due to a lack of understanding, and possibly to my interest in visionary Romantic poetry of the 19th and 20th century. They don't seem to go together. For example, Buddhist philosophy seems to teach a reduction in action. The student gradually learns not to pay attention to thoughts and emotions until he or she achieves a state of nothingness. This effect is celebrated obviously and is termed enlightenment. The poets, on the other hand, promote active imagination. They believe that human imagination has the power to completely transform one's view of the world. William Blake in particular thought that the mind had the power to create a heaven on earth. The senses are not to be ignored, but rather to be understood and used correctly. The early romantics (Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge) also have the concept of "Maya" shared by both Buddhists and Hindus, though it is secularized to some extent. There was indeed a fall, but one can be redeemed in this world of sensual pleasure and imagination. The downside to this approach to life for Buddhists would naturally be recurrance of suffering, and the Romantics were a dejected bunch at times, but tumultuous periods of elation and agony were to be expected in such a revolutionary undertaking.


Let me just end by saying that I have tremendous respect for Buddhism, and am very interested in reading more about it. I would like to further explore the Zen tradition. One of these days I am going to pick up one of D.T. Suzuki's introductory books. For right now, I think that the concept of the Void is something that is always looming in the background of all experience, yet the potential of the mind and body should not be discarded.







I have always been interested in Jesus's use of parables in the Gospels because of the implications. In fact, I have been trying to get a hold of a book on the subject by the literary critic Frank Kermode, called The Genesis of Secrecy. Jesus speaks to his apostles directly, and to other listeners in parables because "they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Applied to modern Bible readers, this leads to the potential disaster of mistaking parable, or metaphor, for literal truth. Their distinction, I find, is not so clear in the text. One question that immediately comes to mind is why those that Jesus picked to be his disciples are better able to understand his message than others. There isn't any difference in class or education. They're fisherman and farmers like everyone else. It seems apparent that Jesus also talked to them in parables, because for me (and I could be wrong) the only way to speak about the sacred is through metaphor and symbol. I mean, there is no way to directly convey a feeling of religious transcendence through ordinary language. To say that one group of people is better able to understand the kingdom of heaven than others is unsatisfactory. The Gnostics, of course, had another understanding of the problem, claiming that Jesus shared with his disciples secret "gnosis" (knowledge) that outsiders simply were not ready for. This makes more sense, but it still raises the question of why his disciples were better able to understand the message. Maybe Jesus was more interested in getting a moral message across before an understanding of metaphysics. But still, why would Jesus draw a distinction between parable and truth? If Jesus admits to speaking in parables, then what stops us from reading the entire New Testament as a parable? Also, think about who wrote the New Testament. Not the actual disciples, but writers a generation after (the earliest Gospel, Mark is dated around 70 AD). Was all of their inherited knowledge based on teachings that were intended to be parables? Obviously I don't have the answer, which is why my thoughts are so scattered (protean?), but I do think they are worth thinking about, even as they drag one down into a labyrinth.






Proteus, I like this claim a lot. It can really be worked on. Also in John 1.1, the Word seems to preceed God almost. Check out my latest http://biotelemetrica.pbwiki.com/Realityor">post - Realityor




just a quick note on John 1:1. When it says that in the beginning there was the Logos, I was reminded of something I heard about Philip K. Dick, that for him God was really just information. The text of John would seem to support this interpretation because it identifies the Word (Logos) first, and then claims that it is God, as opposed to Genesis 1:1 which identifies God as a being first, and then attributes creation to divine speech.


oh and speaking of PKD, the empire never ended!






Proteus, I was reading up on your name. Did you know that Proteus, the god, actually became the son of Poseidon, that is he existed first, and then Poseidon came into being and somehow the Greeks decided that Proteus was the son? That sounds like a Genesis remix if I ever heard one.--Echan


hey everyone. just a few brief reflections on today's class. Well, first, let me just introduce myself. My REAL name (or given) is Matt, so feel free to call me that instead of Proteus (I'd rather not be called that actually. I picked it because it was the first thing that came into my head when trying to decide on a handle. It's actually fitting because in a sense it reflects my personality and consciousness, but I need not get into that now). Anyway, I'm glad Mobius mentioned repetition as a rhetorical strategy when discussing John Lily. That's what I was trying to use in my remix of Genesis, based on my familiarity with techno and dance music (which I love). I'm interested in what effect such repetition has on the listener or reader. As for me, I think I'm naturally inclined to repeat things over and over, especially when it comes to music. Whenever I hear a song that I really enjoy for the first time, I replay it endlessly. I play it until I'm almost sick of it. Somehow I am able to do this without quickly losing interest in the song entirely after a few days. As a result, the beat or riff or melody gets stuck in my head, sometimes literally overwhelming my thought process, so that all I can do is replay it in my head. This is of course distracting, especially when I'm trying to think or read, but I think my appreciation for music dominates over everything else. I think as a rhetorical device the use of repetition attempts of enact a similar kind of obsession.


I also appreciate the support for confusion. Now, it may be that I am bias, seeing as how my entire life has been a cloud of unknowing, with me drifting here and there without much direction other than what my interests happened to be at the time, but it seems to me that there is a kind of sacredness in confusion. well, at least in a certain kind of confusion.





Genesis techno remix- (1:1) so far


And God saw that it was good, it was good, it was good...

And God saw that it was good, it was good, it was good...


And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.


And the earth was without form, and void

And God called the dry land Earth

And the earth brought forth grass


And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.


And God said, have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.


And God saw that it was good, it was good, it was good...

And God saw that it was good, it was good, it was good...


And the evening and the morning were the first day

And the evening and the morning were the second day

And the evening and the morning were the third day

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day

And the evening and the morning were the fifth day

And the evening and the morning were the sixth day


In the beginning....


So God created man in his own image

And God blessed them

And God said,

And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:

And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth:

And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth


And it was so.....

And it was so.....

And it was so.....



more to come








First of all, let me just say that I'm really excited about where this course is going after looking at the syllabus. I signed up for this course without any idea as to what we'd be doing in the class, and now I realize that I'll have the opportunity to get familiar with some of the world's great sacred texts. I've always had an interest in religion and mysticism, but I've never found time to read much into it.


Anyway, regarding Genesis, I decided to choose 3:1, the first appearance of the serpent (interestingly, the text never identifies the serpent with Satan, that must come later). One thing that jumps out at me is the word choice that each translation uses to describe the serpent. While most are basically synonymous, some contrast dramatically, for example, the use of the word "subtle" in the American Standard Version (ASV), to "wiser" in the Bible in Basic English (BBE). I'm not sure what the translators of the latter edition were thinking, but the choice seems kind of absurd. The text is trying to describe a creature that is seductive, bent on tricking Eve into damnation, thus ruining God's newest creation. To deem the serpent "wise" is actually pretty offensive if you're a Christian, because it actually complements it. This edition (BBE) also substitutes the word "take" for "eat" when the serpent asks Eve if she is not to eat of any tree in the garden. While most readers would assume what the serpent was getting at, it could still possibly cause misunderstanding.


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