Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Every guru's got one

It seems like every authority, especially spiritual authorities, have at least one idea or belief that seems to come completely out of left field. You'll be reading along, nodding your head and thinking, "the guy's got it sooo right," and then suddenly you pull up against this non-sequiter.

With Rose it was "entities" -- he gave an excuciatingly honest analysis of humanity's psychological failings, but ended with the conclusion that there must be non-human "entities" provoking the behavior and "feeding" off the psychic energy produced. It was a conclusion that was perfectly consistent with his observations . . . and yet I had a hard time making the leap from subtle psychological analysis to superstitious belief. Fortunately, the idea was not particularly central to his spiritual teaching; you could see the sense in all his recommendations without having to believe in "entities", so I (along with most his students, I think) just kinda blipped over that bit and tried to pretend it didn't happen.

I used to think Rose was unusual for such quirky explanations . . . but then I read Gurdjieff. He had some very compelling ideas about human will and the quest for freedom. Unfortunately, he also thought the Moon was sucking souls from the earth. Or Nietzsche, who was a masterful psychologist and profund philosopher, but who was convinced that ever single event was destined to recur in a never-ending loop of cosmic events. Or Rudolph Steiner, who has some incredible insights into spiritual development, along with some truly weird ideas about everything else under the sun. It's like a cosmic law: every guru seems to find some belief that embarrasses their disciples.

I'm thinking about it now because I was listening to Eckhart Tolle on the trip up to West Virginia, and I hit his "left-field moment" in his discussion of "pain bodies." He has a long discussion of this psychic entity that's kinda like an Ego, but something else altogether. Now, I'm used to some anthropomorphic discussions about egos in spiritual matters, as a way of explaining why people act the way they do . . . but Tolle seems to really, literally believe in this separate semi-autonomous thing called a "pain body". It seemed so out of place with everything else he teaches, which is very much focused on awareness and attention and rarely degrades to the level of belief.

Seeing as how "all true learning begins in confusion," I have to stick with it and give the idea a chance . . . but it reminds me how much of my world view is full of these patches of uncomprehension, hastily covered over with "I don't get this bit but it probably doesn't matter", or "this is truly profound and I kinda believe it but please don't ask me to explain or I'll have to go through all that cognitive dissonnance again."

Anything we don't understand but tentatively accept is indistinguishable from superstition.


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