Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2012 Nears

I quite like this, despite its horrendously disappointing web address (http://www.postmoderntimes.com/):




If it seems like I'm talking a wee British, it's because the season finale of Derren Brown's Mind Control was on Sci-Fi tonight. Look it up for yourself.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sayings and Aphorisms, #8

Suspension of disbelief is the foundation of ethics.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Doctrine of Correspondence

After recently reading Barbara Packer's new paperback version of her 1995 The Transcendentalists, and after reading even more recently Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Emmanuel Swedenborg (or, "The Mystic"), I find myself very interested in the doctrine of correspondence and the questions raised in seriously considering its consequences. The concept will be familiar to most people with a liberal arts degree, though the terminology varies very much depending on who is presenting the idea. In short, correspondence, as defined by Swedenborg and interpreted by Emerson, describes the relationship between physical data and "higher" truths.

The flower that blooms again every spring, for example, may correspond to the soul that is born again and again into the world after death, or the father who son has a son who has a son. Or, the psychological wound opened with the loss of a loved one may heal with time, like the scrape on your knee that heals slowly and then leaves a subtle scar. Even the most secular and unimaginative among us have participated in this kind of thinking: "That cloud looks like a crocodile!" Etc., etc.

In the case of the mystic, these correspondences may be understood as manifestations of the divine mind. The secrets of the universe may be discovered by studying the structure of an apple intensely, and vice versa--each thing contains all.

My question is: can this cognitive process go too far? I think first of Captain Ahab, who insisted on reading all things under the sign of himself (see chapter 99, "The Doubloon"). For Emerson, Swedenborg's genius was in suggesting the overall scheme of things; Swedenborg's failure was only in clinging too closely to the manifestations of the eternal truths that Swedenborg (almost) recognized. Emerson says in Representative Men:

Swedenborg and Behmen both failed by attaching themselves to the Christian symbol, instead of to the moral sentiment, which carries innumerable christianities, humanities, divinities, in its bosom.

Emerson understands easily what has been so difficult for me to understand at different times in my life: "These books should be used with caution. It is dangerous to sculpture these evanescing images of thought. True in transition, they become false if fixed." In other words, the correspondence between a passing cloud and a crocodile is true only as long as the cloud retains its shape.

But back to my question: assuming a person understands that the forms are always changing, that everything is "on fire," as the Buddha said, is there no limit to the power of correspondence? I think there is no danger in someone taking a shooting star to be a sign of good luck, and there could be little harm in avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk, and perhaps the popping out of a light bulb in your living room while you're in deep contemplation may be taken as a friendly hint from the universe to give it a rest--.

I believe in this doctrine of correspondence, as Plato did, as Plotinus did, as Swedenborg did, as Emerson did. There does seem to be some easy relation between those eternal things such as beauty and goodness and the temporary physical forms that we deal with every day. But when does gratefulness slide into superstitiousness, and when does that slide into mania, and when does mania become dangerously single-minded religious fervor?

In short: when does a thing correspond; when is a thing meaningless?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Little Dose of Tr-th

What Should We Do about that Moon ?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night a hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the 'night candle' rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument
Said to his friend - for no apparent
Reason,

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.

From: 'The Gift - Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master'
translations by Daniel Ladinsky

Monday, August 13, 2007

Into the Gloaming

Well, I'm back from my honeymoon. Not sure that Q-Majin? is going to pick up any steam, though -- not for a while, at least. I'm entering the red-zone with this dissertation now, and this semester is going to be a whirlwind. My mystic-ethos is probably going to be a little damaged as I make apparent concessions to the demands of institutional deadlines, but consider this.

Anyway, here is my favorite picture from my recent vacation to Zihuatanejo, Mexico:

Saturday, August 4, 2007

On Simultaneous Org-- ...er, On Communication

If you're a genuinely curious person, you will have the patience to first watch this video:



That's awesome in itself. That kind of bewildering hypnotism is possible. For another example of bewildering hypnotic kidnapping, click here. But now imagine this--it is a kind of forbidden experiment involving real human subjects, and so it must be imagined, must be only theoretical:

You are caught by surprise and hypnotized, and you awake to find yourself in a 12 ft. X 10 ft. room with white padded flooring and a white ceiling. There is a toilet, and twice a day someone opens a small tile in the wall and pushes food through. There is another person, incidentally of the same sex as you. Both of you are wearing white shorts and a white t-shirt.

You say "Hello." And then, "Where are we," and the other person mutters something in a language that sounds utterly different from your own. It seems you have never heard it before.

Days pass, and you have gone through the customary "first-encounter" rituals of pointing to your own chest and pronouncing your name. You have shaken hands, though your roommate did not see the handshake as something familiar. You both eat your food. Weeks pass.

Then months. It seems that eventually you will want to begin genuinely communicating with your roommate. Fastforward in time to that moment, the moment when it becomes clear to you that you must either learn to communicate with your roommate or go mad.

It seems to me that there are four options: 1) You will teach him your language. 2) He will teach you his language. 3) You will invent a mixed-language. 4) You will learn each others' languages and speak them both occasionally.

Assuming there are no directly overlapping linguistic histories between the two languages (other than a general "universal grammar" underlying both), I think it is probably unlikely that it would occur to most people, consciously, to choose option number 3. And yet (here's my thesis) I think option #3 may ultimately be the only lasting and mutually satisfying outcome assuming "escape" is not an option.

To myself, I wonder if this is really just a Puritan's way of discussing sex.

Sensing Tr-th-Resurgency in Indiana, Dalai Lama set to Visit Purdue

I'd like to personally invite all of my tr-th-seeking friends to join me in attendance this fall when the Dalai Lama comes to visit Purdue. He's only coming to three American universities this year, so we have "lucked out." Of course, sotapanna that I am, I know this has very little to do with "luck," but we'll leave that point aside for now. Tickets go on sale at Ticketmaster on August 11th and will sell out quite quickly. Twenty bucks for students... please go. I understand that Buddhism is a little '90s-ish in America, and that Hinduism or something is probably more chic these days, but at this bargain rate...

Which leads me to my point -- well, sort of. First just read this headline and rapidly skim the article.

Seriously, though -- the Dalai Lama's forthcoming visit provides the perfect subject for a blog post and a subsequently healthy comments page. The question is, if you had one question, what would you ask the D.L.? I have a few ideas:

1. Do we talk because we don't love?
2. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
3. Is focused, institutional learning superior to organic, unconscious learning toward the end of achieving Enlightenment?
4. Is the attitude of faith always superior to the attitude of doubt?
5. Does the fear of death serve a purpose; is it natural?
6. Who was your favorite Beatle?
7. Ontolo-metaphysically, what are unfertilized eggs and the sperm that lose the race?