On Friday, July 25, I emerged from my devotional time exceptionally centered, and I stayed that way for hours. Nothing like this has happened to me before. It raised a number of new questions and resurrected many old ones.
This begins with an e-mail exchange between follower Vikkilyn and myself, back in May.
Wednesday, 05/21/14: Me: Recent events suggest it’s time for me to get more serious about “becoming” William Tell. There are some emotional obstacles there, so it’s going to take some work, and seeing this, it’s easy for me to grasp why William Tell hasn’t “happened” yet. I’ll get through it.
Tuesday, 05/27/14: Vikkilyn: Not sure what you mean by “becoming” William Tell? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell What part of William Tell do you want to be? (I realize that is your “stage name” but you must have picked it for some reason, after all you have written a lot about the power in a name.)
This post includes many footnotes. To get to any footnote, click on the link in the body of the text. When you’re done reading the footnote, ALT+LEFT will return you to your original place in the text.
No bona fide clairvoyant known to me sells products.
R.I.P. Brian Williard, a.k.a. funnyphilosopher.
Homey died yesterday. Earlier in the week, he had consumed too much alcohol in too little time, and stopped breathing. Help did not arrive in time.
My grief surprised me, given that, when my mother died in 2011, I never grieved at all. However, that occurred in special circumstances. (Link)
I recently came across the web page for The New Life Clinic. This appears to be new. It’s modest, but says enough.
The New Life Clinic happens at Mt. Washington United Methodist Church, 5800 Cottonworth Av., Baltimore, MD at noon every Thursday. The service lasts about an hour, and includes individual prayer with the laying on of hands.
I’d encourage anyone in Baltimore to go.
They’ve always kept a very low profile. In 2013, not sure whether the New Life Clinic was still in operation, I phoned the church office. The pre-recorded message didn’t mention it. Yet the services I’ve attended were all standing-room-only with people who’d come from all over the world; many of them also patients at one of Baltimore’s world-class hospitals.
I seek to model my practice on theirs.
(Originally posted 06/30/14.)
Doing research for “Pious frauds” (forthcoming 11/24/18), I had to review information about various occult groups and figures.
Reading the Wikipedia article about #DionFortune, I was overcome by positive feelings toward her, as if I would really like her if we were to meet in real life.
A polar opposite is #AleisterCrowley. Historically, and again this time around, whenever I read anything about him, I get these feelings as if I really, really dislike him. Now, he did, in fact, do many things I strongly disapprove of. But should I be catching feelings behind that? He’s DEAD!!!
Then there’s #AmbroseWorrall. It has always been the case that, whenever I read anything he’s said, I am instantly predisposed to trust and believe anything he may say. And he says some things sometimes that can be hard to believe.
Bottom line: I suspect something’s going on here, more than meets the eye.
Strategies pertain to long-range goals, or a basic posture one means to maintain over a long period of time. Tactics are plans of what to do from moment to moment. In this chapter and the next I set forth the strategies and tactics known to me, that I personally use.
Other may know others; others may know better. In my work in therapy, I have been astonished how much is known to psychologists that is not common knowledge — probably because the media would rather keep people at each others’ throats than help them improve their own lives. (Compare, for example, at this writing, the recent spasms of abuse by Senators Feinstein and Grassley in the Brett Kavanaugh matter.)
“Seek and you will find.”
There’s no end of irony in that I write this now not based on what I have accomplished, but based on what I have yet to accomplish. I myself do not yet do these things.
Seek peace, and you will find it — or create it. Seek turmoil, and you will find it — or create it. The Way of Peace entails seeking peace.
One may face dozens of decisions each day, between a path that will maintain or enhance one’s peace of mind, and a path that would destroy it. It can be as simple as choosing a self-affirming, self-loving act over a self-destructive one. It can be a choice of attitude towards a project or a relationship that may occupy one’s attention for hours or days.
In “the rooms” of the Twelve Step movement, we speak of changing “people, places and things.” People, places and things that were associated with one’s former life of addiction, may need to be sacrificed in order to maintain one’s recovery — one’s newfound peace of mind. Don’t go back to the corners you used to hang on, let alone the bars you used to hang in. Give up activities that used to accompany your drinking or drugging; find new ones. Old friends who used to egg you into self-destructive activities, aren’t likely to be friends to your chosen, new and better course in life.
A change of spouse may be necessary. This is not at all unusual in the recovery movement. The tantrums and turmoil one used to create, while in one’s active addiction, may have left the spouse so emotionally (and/or physically and/or financially) scarred, she or he cannot cooperate with the new self one seeks to be. Given something like PTSD, the spouse may be unwilling or unable to forgive, but instead keep reminding the recovering person of her or his past offenses and behavior patterns. To maintain peace of mind, one may need to get away. Permanently.
There are influences and thought systems to which I will not voluntarily expose myself; for the sake of maintaining peace of mind:
- Noir film or literature: Scenes of torture, betrayal, and evil schemes I would never have thought of on my own, are not consistent with the way I want to think about people.
- WERQ: The only radio station one heard anywhere in Barclay, it was everywhere, spewing forth material produced by and for gangsta wannabes.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates: Currently the darling of the American intelligentsia, he seems to champion exactly that values system most prone to keep the black man bankrupt and in jail. That’s not what I want for the black man.
- Critical theory, including critical race theory and critical gender theory: As I am more oriented towards feelings than ideas, these systems seem to me to be all about deconstructing others’ hopes. I want to create hope, not deconstruct it.
Many times, one can simply choose to be happy — just wish it, and one will be there.
More often, one faces choices among different courses of action or ways to look at things — some of which are more likely than others to let one feel happy, or to bring happy results. It is wise to choose the course of action, or the point of view, most likely to leave you feeling happy. Even in very little things, in minor things, it matters.
Circa 1985, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier produced the landmark Happiness is a Choice.
It is chock full of strategies and tactics, and even exercises, to help one learn to consistently choose happiness. I never read it myself, because it’s written from a perspective of Biblical inerrancy, which was sure to offend me again and again. But it is revolutionary.
Look at opportunities, not obstacles.
Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones.
Almost every cloud has a silver lining somewhere.
The novel Pollyanna told the story of a relentlessly optimistic girl. Years ago, I was fearful of becoming “pollyanna” — relentlessly optimistic — because I supposed it involved denying that the cloud exists, denying that bad things ever happen. In fact, it involves instead a radical acceptance that bad things do happen, and a choice to move through, rather than dwell in, the grief and get on with life.
|If you’re going through hell, keep going.|
|— Winston Churchill|
Opportunities for grief are and always will be available. There will always be a reason to feel sad or angry. The question is how often, how much and how long one will choose to feel that way.
Related: Life in the outer darkness
Look on the bright side.
Rodgers and Hammerstein are about the last place I’d look for wisdom. The song, “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music, is very wise:
|Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
|* * *|
|When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
It works. And in almost any situation, replacing bad feelings with good ones is a good thin in itself. It’s worth it. It leaves one in a better position to deal with the grief one can’t help but feel, and to move on, making positive decisions for oneself and one’s neighbors.
Related: I will not be disappointed.
In Silentium Altum, Amrose Worrall states:
What is an opposite thought?
Worrall was an engineer by trade, and so oriented more towards thoughts and ideas than I am. I am more oriented towards emotions and feelings. Note that the changes speaks of — hope replaces despair, confidence replaces fear, faith replaces doubt — are actually changes of feelings, not thoughts.
Sublimation is the change of one feeling into another, and we each have the right and ability to change one’s own feelings any way one likes. Here is an example of what I actually call “incineration;” from the post, “Some prayer exercises:”
One can use whatever before-and-after images one likes, “from” whatever ugly image may symbolize one’s ugly feelings, “to” whatever lovely image may correspond to one’s desires; with the substance involved changing — substantially — as one makes the change.
One who practices Presence becomes able to do all this without having to enter silence and without having to imagine.
From “Learning to pray:” “[T]he most common mistake I observe in other folks’ prayers [is] an assumption that God is distant and apart from human beings.”
My belief is at the opposite extreme.
On the one hand, God’s omnipresence means that God is fully present to every cubic centimeter of empty space, to every atom and electron of your being.
If, as I believe, God is All — which must be so, if God is infinite, since if God is truly infinite there cannot be any thing that is not part of God — then every speck of matter that exists is actually part of God.
Continue reading Co-creators with God
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
When not at sea, a boat is normally tied, or moored, to a dock. The waves rise and fall, the winds blow this way and that, but the boat is stable and secured because it is moored.
The storms of life buffet us this way and that, and one can lose oneself in the chaos and confusion. Managing, coping, requires that one have some mooring somewhere. Some folk moor themselves in a concept, a dogma, such as Biblical inerrancy or the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. Others moor themselves in the dogmas of an ideology, such as Progressivism or identity politics; or a cause, such as environmentalism; or even a romance (a particularly bad choice). I propose instead mooring oneself merely in What Is.
Everything else is subject to change or question or dispute. There is no disputing What Is. And the underlying principles, the principles that underlie existence itself, never change.
Contemplation and “Deep Silence”
I have previously discussed silence: “About silence.” Another term for this state is “contemplation,” which I have avoided using for reason that (1) I don’t care for a multiplicity of terms, and (2) there’s a lot written about it that, frankly, I myself don’t understand.
As taught by Ambrose Worrall, the discipline of silence has as its goal the attainment of a state he calls “Deep Silence,” the contemplation of a level of existence where there are no ideas, no thoughts, no opinions, no theories, no images, no value judgments (“shoulds,” “oughts,” approval or disapproval); but merely What Is. After 35 years of practice, I myself rarely attain this state. It seems to depend on how much Presence or mindfulness I’ve practiced during the preceding day.
As to the absence of value judgements, Rumi said:
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
This was the Edenic state.
There is a state beyond Deep Silence. In “Silentium Altum,” Worrall speaks of
… the realm of Absolute Silence, which we could call “Silence Unlimited,” or perfect and complete silence.
This is the condition in which God dwells.
In Absolute Silence there is neither time nor space; motion does not exist; there is no observer and nothing to be observed; there is nothing to learn, for all things are known. It is eternity; it is infinity; it has neither position nor size; its center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere. This is perfection and only the perfect can understand it.
Man can approach the Absolute Silence but cannot enter it.
God created existence, being, based in a set of coherent, well-ordered, harmonious principles. It must be so; otherwise What Is would quickly disintegrate into chaos and non-existence. Mooring oneself in those principles can’t help but tend to establish coherence, good order and harmony in one’s soul, one’s mind, one’s life.
The inevitability of turmoil
Despite the order and harmony of the microscopic world — electrons move placidly in and among their orbitals; charged particles willingly follow paths of electromagnetic fields — at other levels of the physical universe, we see sometimes great turmoil: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on. All ultimately derive, however, from simple fundamental principles.
Three factors determine our weather: humidity, barometric pressure, and sunlight. They are completely independent, and so never conflict with each other; but their interactions make weather fair or foul.
Sunlight always causes water to evaporate; the more sunlight, the more evaporates. And warm air can hold more water vapor than cold. But air at high barometric pressure can also absorb more water vapor than air at low pressure; it’s like a larger or smaller sponge, that can only take in so much before it becomes full, and then begins to empty itself as rain.
High pressure systems are associated with clear weather, high clouds, sunny days and low relative humidity. Low pressure systems are associated with low clouds, high relative humidity, and the likelihood of storms.
When a low pressure system passes over the ocean and sunlight falls on it, increasing amounts of water will evaporate into that air. In addition, the absorbed sunlight makes the air more energetic, so that the system rotates with increasing strength, making high winds. This may develop into a hurricane.
So from time to time I may find myself unhappily outdoors in the middle of a downpour, with heavy rain pelting my skin and drenching my clothes and belongings; and having to lean into the wind to keep from being blown over. This may ruin my plans for the day; as a homeless man, the steps I’ll need to take that night for the sake of my clothes and belongings are less convenient than if I had my own place. I have my choices.
I can resent the whole situation, be angry, wish it would all go away. I can do that with all my might. Or I can accept it and say, “This is what’s happening now.”
I have only recently come into these understandings.
Social turmoil is, in some ways, analogous to turmoil in the weather.
Feelings, affects, or emotions aren’t just within us individually. We broadcast them. We send them out as, as it were, spirits — not living things, but spiritual materials analogous to gases — oxygen, water vapor, the smell of alcohol, the smell of roses, and so forth.
So, for example, if you walk into a room full of people who are in a foul mood, you may pick up on that, like a foul smell. If they’re in a happy mood, you may pick up on that also.
All these masses of gases are out there, and they develop their own high- and low-pressure systems, and under the radiance of God’s sun can become energized — and sometimes give rise to social storms.
In the past few years, I have seen any number of intense controversies come and go. The media stir up hysteria, and folk get heavily invested in feelings, and there’s a ton of sturm und drang, and a lot of people’s feelings get hurt — not to mention the possibilities of bodily harm and property damage. I myself have got caught up in more than one, and became passionate about it, and felt like this issue was my calling from God, and the most important thing in the world — until the media lose interest, and the thing dies off like a burnt match, and nothing’s changed.
In short, shit happens.
I don’t necessarily have to involve myself in it. I don’t need to defend my beliefs; I do need instead to live them. I don’t need to refute others’ beliefs; I do need instead to love them.
That is What Is.
Many examples are available; I need only focus on one.
Different people are in different places, and thus of necessity have different points of view. The easy resolution would be for each person to understand the other’s point of view, in which case they might all agree on What Is. But different people also vary in their degree of empathy — the ability to see another point of view.
The most incompetent supervisor I ever had was seriously empathy-challenged. Discussing this or that approach to some need or project on the job, she was utterly unable to grasp any point of view other than her own. I tried and tried, every way I could think of.
Now, we sometimes think or speak of empathy in moral terms, or as a feature of emotional maturity. In her case, I came to the conclusion that it’s neurological. She lacks the equipment that makes empathy possible.
So it is also with psychopaths: they are physiologically incapable of empathy. They lack the equipment.
That’s the way God made them.
It is What Is.
We could start with the turmoil I myself have just gone through in composing this very portion of this post.
The short conclusion:
Don’t get torn up about being torn up.
On the one hand, in a composition about attaining inner peace, it would seem unseemly to propose the inevitability of inner turmoil. So, I haven’t wanted to say this. On the other hand, as I have pondered the different causes of inner turmoil in my own history, it becomes clear that I have made tremendous progress in recent decades, by applying the principles I am seeking to teach here.
about being torn up.
Even last night as I wrestled with the memories of the decades I often lived in agony — that I was able to maintain my composure, in the company of sixty disorderly men (at the homeless shelter), would have been beyond me years ago.
Related: A short route to agony
I’ve been through a lot worse than homelessness.
For the moment, I suppose there are three causes of inner turmoil: indecision; karma; and dis-acceptance of What Is.
Indecision pertains to conflicting desires. It can be eased if one is willing to do the work to become pure of heart or balanced. It can be exacerbated by a defective worldview, such as if one is zealous to discern and act according to “God’s plan.” Kierkegaard referred to the latter as “existential angst.”
Karma for me is reflected mainly in my lifelong karmic obsession with racism. The related posts in my blog evidence the progress I have made in recent years toward accepting racism as a feature of What Is, and accepting also the What Is-ness of my own skin color.
Dis-acceptance of What Is. For decades, I suffered from an invisible disability, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). I may go into the details elsewhere. But the past few days, anticipating this writing, it has seemed to me that this condition marginalized me, made me as “differently abled,” as if I’d been born without arms. Now, had I been born without arms, that could be karmic, or instead merely the way God made me. As far as I understand things just now, it seems to me to be the way God made me.
Difficulties rose in my interactions with other people, with the job market, with institutions, and I became distraught over my inability to fit in. This led to the situation described in the post, “A short route to agony,” linked to above.
Had I only known then what I know now; had I only had then the religion I have now; had I not lived in a world of “oughts” and “shoulds,” but instead merely accepted What Is; my life might have been far more joyful.
For all the turmoil we observe in nature, in society, in relationships and within ourselves; at bottom, God created the universe as an orderly, harmonious place; and one can focus one’s attention on that harmony and order.
This is God’s unchanging hand.
It is actually very hard for me to believe this works, but I have a lot of convincing evidence it does, and I do it every day.