Friday, August 8, 2008
public and private faces; transmission of the unknown
I had an extremely groovy picture of a Buddha for this post, but it got edited out in favor of the above image, for reasons that will become apparent. Read on. More Buddhas tomorrow.
Occasionally, as the readership knows, I end up posting a more tactile and personal piece. Then again, the point of this enterprise is to offer not just theories, facts, and ideas, but something a little closer to the bone as well.
Once again, in his latest comments, rlnyc seems to psychically sense the questions I’m pondering. Perhaps this is reasonable—we know each other well, and have worked closely together for some time now—but the synchronicity of it consistently startles me, nonetheless. It's just downright weird, the way people who are closest to my own personal work will be working the same point as I am, even if we are on opposite sides of the globe.
After nearly two years of publicly writing about my own inner work, and inner work in general, I’m struck by the chasm between what we are able to offer outwardly and what we experience inwardly.
The outer life, outer events, circumstances, forms, and exchanges, all have a materiality that is fundamentally different than the inner condition. Our Being—such, insh'Allah, as we may have it—stands at the juncture between the known and the unknown: the intersection of an inner world, umbilically and viscerally connected to forces unknown, and the outer world, crudely steeped in, and forever celebrating, its own literalism.
The images that come to mind when I ponder this dichotomy are Mithraic in nature: I’m reminded of May 2001... of going down into a cult crypt in Ostia Antica near Rome, where a preternatural life-sized statue of a bull sacrifice all but fills one end of the small room: lined with benches, with dappled lichen yellows and moss greens smoldering in sunlight that streams down from a hole in the roof.
Ultimately, our inner work inhabits this underworld of the ancients; a world of power, hidden from this one, in which the immense natural forces we serve touch us in ways we don’t understand and can’t elaborate. They have no images or names; in our imaginations and our dreams, we cast them as evangelistic bulls, winged angels, men with the faces of dogs. Logic and reason fail; Horus and Anubis rule these realms.
This is the world of myth; it’s a world we carry within us, timeless, mysterious, and forever resistant to our stubborn attempts at interpretation. Here in these hidden inner spaces, our real work takes place. Like naïve children, we grasp hold of it and draw fragile elements into the light of day; parade them in front of one another, as though we understood something. Yet the deepest meanings are forever hidden; and perhaps we even sometimes sense that the worldly urges that compel us to show the faces of our souls to others are perversions, even the betrayal of a sacred covenant between Lord and maker.
Perhaps that’s why religions cloak themselves in mysteries, prophets speak in tongues and parables, and Gurdjieff himself “buried his bones” in the epic mythology of “Beelzebub.” In the end, we can’t bring anything of that world to this one; all we can offer one another are the pale shadows which Plato’s prisoners see cast upon the walls of their cells.
Nonetheless, somewhere within this dialectic between seen and unseen, we manage to transmit some faded version of our experience in a way valuable enough that we help each other grow. How that happens is mysterious; it may not even take place within the words themselves, and perhaps we’re naïve to believe it does; naïve, even, to believe that any of the forms we create and share actually have an impact.
It may be that the subtle currents, the electromagnetic pulses and pheromones that we exchange in proximity to one another, are far more important in the end than any words. Certainly, coming out of the work week two weeks ago, after seven days of immersion in waters unknown, drinking deep from streams of collective endeavor, I had no sense whatsoever that the words were what fed me.
Certainly, they were part of it; and even here, they are not without purpose. Nonetheless, it’s wise to call them into question.
To doubt the very words themselves, and look past them.
May we all sink deep within the inner life of the self this day, and discover a point of breath that draws the darkened silken thread of Being into contact with our sleep.
And, as always, may your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.