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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Say a prayer in the darkness for the magic to come

You fall down a well.

It’s a long fall and you should be dead when you hit but for some reason, you’re not. You’re not even hurt. But you’ve fallen so far that you can’t see any light above you. It’s pitch black where you are and you’re completely blind. It’s cold and it’s wet; the ground underneath you is covered with three inches of very cold water with a sluggish current to it, and everything you touch is covered with slime.

Without sight, your cone of perception is brutally truncated. What you hear is distorted by echoes and distance, yet sound, and touch, and smell, and taste, are all you have to rely on. There is no comfort here. If you lie down, you’ll drown. You’re shivering, and in pain, and quickly exhausted.

For some reason, you don’t die. You’re often sick, you’re never comfortable, but there is food down here, and sometimes, other people fall down here, too. You make connections, and form a society. Eventually you, or some of the others, have children in this hellish place. They grow up here, without light, without warmth, without ever knowing the sensation of having dry feet, of being able to sit or lie down, of color or heat or decent tasting food.

You and the others who have fallen down here try to teach your children of the light and warmth above. You’ve always tried to find a way back up there, and you want your children to keep trying too, because it’s so much better up there, with the sun and the wind and the light and the heat, with comfortable furniture and dry clothes and beds to sleep in and working electricity and all that other stuff that you yourself by now can barely remember, that seems like some distant dream you only imagined. But to your children, it isn’t even that; it’s a fantasy, a myth, something unreal and unimaginable.

And your children have children, and those children have children, and the stories of the upper world and all its wonders becomes a legend, and then a myth. The cold wet darkness is all they know. They’ve never known dry feet, something soft and warm and dry to sit or lie on, the open air on their faces, the warmth of sunlight, the pleasures of sight, the smell of a rose, the sensation of silk. They’ve never been comfortable, they don’t sleep well, they cough and shiver constantly, and they’ve never known anything better, or different. They have no idea what life is supposed to be like.

This is what they know. This is all they know. They are no longer even aware there is anything else above them. Sometimes one of them takes up the old legends that are still whispered with great fervor, and repeats them, and others follow that one or another, for a while. But they embellish and embroider what their ancestors told their ancestors long ago, and it all ends up distorted and exaggerated and wrong. Their quest to find the upper world is futile and hopeless; they don’t know what they’re looking for, nor would they know what to do with it if they found it. How do you find a shaft in the ceiling of a pitch black chamber you can’t reach? How do you ascend once you find it?

This is life, at the bottom of the well.

* * * *

There is a hypothesis I’ve encountered in a few different places – Alan Moore’s Promethea for one, and, just lately, here.
This hypothesis basically posits that solid matter – the entire material realm as we know it, including our bodies and everything else in our world that we are aware of through our physical senses – is a perversion of the universe’s natural state.

Solid matter is wrong. It’s a crystallization, a warping of the very fabric of existence, that should never have taken place. We cannot imagine what the universe is supposed to be like, because somehow or another, we’ve become trapped in this horribly hardened shell that isn't supposed to be here. The energy that is our essential essence is imprisoned here, and we cannot find our way out, back to the higher realms where we are pure energy, and have freedoms and powers we cannot even imagine while we exist down here… at the bottom of the well.

Did something do this, or did it happen by accident? Were we deliberately imprisoned here in this dark, cold tar pit, or is it simply an unfortunate entropic event we were caught up in? We have no way of knowing. But here we are.

We cannot even conceive of what life used to be like for us… what life is supposed to be like, any more than the children of darkness at the bottom of the well can conceive of light, and warmth, and dry feet, and being able to lie down and sleep. Life unending, .life as free energy, life untrammeled by insane, perverse, irrational limitations like linear time and finite space. Life where we go wherever we want to go, see whatever we want to see, do whatever we want to do. Life where we are always part of a greater whole, where we are never alone, where we are utterly free, all the time, for all of time. Life as a single licking flame in the vast Cosmic Pyre, perhaps, or a single note in the infinite Universal Symphony.

We can’t imagine it. But it’s our birthright, and those that haven’t been trapped here with us in this horribly slow chunk of entropic amber probably look at us the same way we would look at those poor people living at the bottom of the well, if we became aware of them. They can’t imagine how we can put up with it – the aches and pains of a physical body, being slow and getting old and not being able to go where we want to, to be whatever we want to, the instant we want to go there or be that. Being born and reborn, again and again, into these flesh and blood cages that befuddle our thinking with strange chemical secretions and limit our perceptions and make us slow and blind and deaf and stupid, that cut us off from each other and make us mean and vicious towards each other.

They can’t understand how we live down here, in the cold and the wet and the dark.

Maybe once in a while one of them, braver or stronger or kinder than the average, climbs down to the bottom of the well, to try and help us out. But while they’re down here, they’re blind and cold and wet, too, and all they have to help us with is the knowledge of where we are, and what the world above is like, and how to get back up there. But they can’t carry any of us back out; we have to climb up ourselves, and they can’t really point to where we need to start, we have to find that ourselves, too. And what they’re saying to us sounds like madness, because we’ve never known anything but the cold and the wet and the darkness. And we’ve made accommodations down here, a lot of us like it down here; we’ve found ways to make our lives down here in the cold wet darkness more tolerable, and running around looking for a mythical hole in a mythical ceiling leading to a mythical shaft we’d have to climb up into a mythical upper world where everything is supposedly better, but still, so incredibly, unimaginably different that, frankly, we find it alien and frightening… well… it’s just too much trouble. It’s not that bad down here. We’re used to it. We have our little pleasures, our creature comforts. Sometimes, briefly, we’re even happy.

Down here. In the cold, and the wet, and the dark.

At the bottom of the well.

* * * *

The link I embedded in the middle of this will take you to a very strange thread indeed. Someone calling himself The Insider, purporting to know what is actually going in here in the reality we all inhabit, offered to answer any questions anyone wanted to put to him/her. During the course of the discussion that ensued, the Insider advised that Earth was 'a prison, and worse' and gave some practical advice on how to escape -- basically, we need to eschew and avoid all material entanglements, and we need to specifically be aware of a list of very specific traps and entanglements that keep us down here, being reborn over and over again, instead of ascending back to the world above. These are things like food & drink, sex, the Internet, social relationships with other people... everything, it seems, that makes life worth living down here.

I don't know what to make of it. But the Insider's last words to us haunt me still --

Thank everyday the Good One where everything has it's beginning for Being, for It's Divine Law providing you with a chance to return to your original state, the realm you truly belong to, for It's power of Necessity applying the justified corrections that you experience everyday.

Praise the Higher Beings who operate according to the One's Divine Law, which are manifestations/emanations of the One, for providing the means of Life in all areas, sustaining them and providing these means for your benefit, guiding you to the release and more.

When addressing Divinity (read again) be careful to articulate well, do not demand, tell, beg, order, suggest, ask… which are abhorrences, just state and do your duty.

Understand the questions I raised by answering you, I said more than you read, pass it on.

Return.


Return.

Return to where? Return to who?

3 Comments:

At 5:29 AM , Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

Ah... this is Manicheanism, also known as Albigensianism, etc. It's an old variety of Gnosticism and you can read all sorts of books on it. Try googling "Cathars" and "Perfecti".

 
At 12:22 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Manicheanism, AKA Albigensianism, AKA the Cathar heresy, was a prominent offshoot of Christianity in medieval times, coming to its highest temporal sway in the early 13th Century, in the French province of Languedoc, primarily centering around the village of Albi (hence, the name 'Albigensian').

Pope Innocent III was very concerned that Catharism, if it continued to grow in influence, could one day supplant Roman Catholicism as the dominant Christian doctrine in the civilized world (Europe and some of the Middle East, back then). So, (to vastly oversimplify the political maneuverings of the time for the sake of brevity), he ended up declaring an 'Albigensian Crusade', essentially issuing a holy bull declaring that it was God's will that the Cathars should all be slaughtered by good Christians, and ensuring that this would be done by decreeing that any worldly goods confiscated from dead Cathars would become the property of those who took them.

As the Cathars lived in some of the best land in France at the time, and there were many, many wealthy Cathars, this pretty much doomed them. Bored second and third sons of wealthy nobles with no hope of inheriting anything descended on Languedoc and put it, and pretty much everything that moved within its borders, to the sword and the torch. The Cathar heresy was for the most part expunged from the face of the Earth -- a kind of grisly irony, given that that liberation from earthly corruption was the goal of the doctrine anyway -- and a multitude of Christian knights got a great deal richer in the process.

Interestingly, the phrase "Kill them all and let God sort them out" has been traced to a knight of the Albigensian Crusade, reportedly uttered by this fine Christian fellow while his troops were setting fire to a church in which a great many Albigensians had taken refuge.

Manicheanism/Albigensianism/Gnosticism/the Cathar Heresy/whatever you want to call it is colored by its religious matrix, in that it sees the essential dichotomy -- material world vs. spirit realm -- as a question of capital G Good vs. Capital E Evil, and more than that, as being part of an active conspiracy/conflict between God and Satan. The material plane (or, as some of us local yokels like to call it, The World) is Hell, deliberately created by Satan as a place to trap souls and keep them away from God, in Heaven.

I don't necessarily postulate that there is a consciousness, inimical or benovelent, behind the theoretical immurement of pure spirit in cold, intransigent matter. It could be some sort of perverse thermodynamic accident, and we -- all of us, you and me and anyone reading this -- were just unlucky enough to get caught in the rockslide when it occurred.

In fact, I don't necessarily believe that the hypothesis is true at all. I just think it's an interesting path of speculation. And I think it's also possible to accept the basic hypothesis, and still take a different tack than most seem to have, historically.

Both extremes -- rejecting the world, fully embracing and immersing oneself in the world -- seem to accept the basic tenet that all matter is essentially evil and corrupting. One the one hand you have saintly ascetics, striving to deny all worldly and fleshly influences on their pure and incorruptible spirits. On the other, you have the corrupt and the decadent power mongers, embracing all fleshly sensation and in fact reveling in the dissipation, moral, physical, and spiritual, that it brings.

I think one can accept that there are beautiful and wonderful things about this material plane, and one can try to live here, and enjoy one's existence here, and if one is so inclined, even make an effort to enhance the beauty and the joy of existence here, not just for one's own self, but for others, as well.

Perhaps material existence isn't a trap. Maybe it's just another way to live. And maybe there are beauties, and illuminations, and enlightenments, and wisdoms and even sublime transcendent joys, available to those who live at the bottom of the well, that the liberated spirits way high up in the spiritual ozone can never understand.

It's possible that Innocent III actually 'saved the world' when he wiped out the Cathar heresy. What would modern day society be like, if Manicheanism had taken as firm a hold on our cultural philosophical foundations, as Christian capitalist materialism has? Would mankind have long ago achieved some dubious philosophical 'height' of utter despairing nihilism, and committed mass lemminglike suicide in what would have been thought of as a massive spiritual prison break?

The rampant corruption of materialism is one extreme, and our culture has embraced it passionately. The mass grave, for our bodies, anyway, would seem to lie at the other extreme. Somewhere in between there must be a better path.

 
At 12:22 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Oh, yeah, thanks for the only comment anyone has hung under this entry. I was starting to feel forlorn. ;)

 

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