Monday, July 30, 2018

The Underworld of Being, part I

June 8, Hangzhou, China

Thoughts about the earthly world are made in order to gather intelligence, to correlate, to  collect, compare, and contrast. In the midst of this activity — which is the natural inclination of the  intellect — there is a sense of ownership, as though the agency, all of the activities, belong to me.

Yet there is also a conscious sense of “me,” a being which exists as what I have begun to call the self – in – self, a being within being that does not just act, but exists. It exists before action; and within the kernel of that existence lies the intelligence and presence of what we call God.

It is also being; because being is God, and there are no separations between the two. In this sense everything that manifests is indeed a part of God.

Yet these are big thoughts, and today I’m specifically interested in this question of the action of the intelligence, its belief in ownership, and other aspects of its nature.

Although we experience the action of the intellect and all of its abilities as individuals, its action is collective, as is clearly expressed by the collective nature of society, civilizations, and all its enterprises. There is, furthermore a deeper psychological portion of this that penetrates realms that are poorly understood, even today, and will never be susceptible to dissection by machines — which is what we specialize in as creatures in this era. That deeper psychological portion is a reservoir or repository for all of the memes, all of the civilizations of intellect, that have, can, and will exist in humanity.

Yet this is a relatively low level of mind, and if we can see it for what it is (which is quite difficult, because we are with in it and it’s quite difficult to get a vision of the jar one dwells in from the outside) we can see how confusing it is. 

For myself, I see how being is poised on the edge of this vast and confused piece of territory called intellect, which is like an ocean whose currents are disorganized and unintelligible — even though they appear to form many patterns — and the realm that lies above me, where being emanates from. As I examine this particular sense of position, I see how there is a tension, a stretching, that takes place between soul or spirit, psychology, and intellect. In this sense soul is being, and intellect is doing. Of course that’s oversimplifying it; but perhaps you get the idea.

In any event, as I examine these questions from within, I see the constant force and power, the magnetic attraction, of intellect and all of its denizens of the underworld, which are attempting to draw me towards them in a thousand different ways. These are gremlins, trolls, machines, and daemons; the underworld may be a world of strange creatures, but they are all born of this capacity for intellect, no matter how oddly they twist themselves in their effort to acquire shape. One of the best examples I think I know of regarding the nature of this underworld and our struggle with it is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch called the Temptation of St. Anthony, currently in Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve written about the nature of this painting, which is a psychological masterpiece about the psychospiritual evolution of mankind, and one man in particular, but writing about it does not capture the experience of a life in which one discovers that St. Anthony is not someone else, but, rather, myself.

I don’t mean this in the sense that I am some kind of saint, but rather that I am a human being poised, as St. Anthony was, between the heaven of being and the hell of the intellect, each of which stakes out a piece of territory that I am obliged to come to terms with. If I do not have the hell of intellect to juxtapose against it, the heaven of being cannot be appreciated when it arrives. And I have to taste both of these things — not just the one I prefer — in order to know more about who and what I am. 


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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