Spiritual Purity and the Empty Places

On FaceBook, Lance Foster shared this:

“Life for us has become an endless affair of trying to improve ourselves, achieving more and doing more, learning more, always needing to know more things. The process of learning and being taught has simply become a matter of being fed facts and information, receiving what we didn’t have before, always being given something different from ourselves. That’s why whatever we learn never touches us deeply enough; why we sense this the more we rush around trying to find substitutions for the void we feel inside. Everything pushes us outside ourselves, further away from the simplicity of our humanity. “-Peter Kingsley, In the Dark Places of Wisdom

Many thanks to Lance for quoting this. I haven’t read him, but Kingsley seems, if I may judge by only one paragraph, an excellent writer and thinker. And a timely one. I need to read him. (Peter Kingsley’s book Reality also comes highly recommended to me). —Meanwhile climate change changes faster. Greenland melts away. Arctic sea ice will soon be gone. Our world civilization is on the brink of running out of not just energy but water (water! does no one see what might be round the bend? — wars, the biggest human migrations in our history — surely you can see that something will arise from our running out of water).

This disaster and disordering of the macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm, in us. It is mirrored in, most importantly, our souls. I think it’s this inner disaster area that we must in all honesty call our souls that Kingsley is talking about above. I think it’s a good guess that most of us, me included, usually find our souls in states of disaster. Nowadays, at least, I usually do. It’s only rather recently that I’ve had hints and guesses concerning another way to be/live/do.

When our souls are in states of disaster the following sorts of things begin to happen. They’re sure signs that spell DISASTER AREA sticking up out of the deep waters of our souls. They’re like strange anti-Excaliburs and it isn’t the Lady of the Lake handing them to us. In fact, we’ve already seized them by the hilt and it’s ourselves we’ve wounded with them. Whether your poison of preference is overachievement or the endless pursuit of pure knowledge or too much time goofing off on the Internet, we’re most of us metaphorical cutters now, committing self-harm in our efforts to feel real.

We neglect listening to the birds sing, and the sigh of the wind. We no longer see the color of flowers or of a gray, rain-filled sky — how beautiful they are. We cease to sense the Gods — or God, or the Great Spirit, or “Him who speaks with the voice of the winds”, whatever your preferred words for external spiritual realities might be. We lose our connection to  — not just the spiritual face of reality but even more the soulful face of itand we fall out of touch with ourselves, and our lives are gray. Or worst of all, we dwell in “those whited regions where [we’ve] gone to hide from God” (Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian).  Beautiful, perfect reality has now become, in Robert Lowell’s phrase, “the whited monster IS.” We do not see the hints or read the inklings that we already live in the Pure Land. If fact, the notion becomes absurd. It’s a hard road to find, the first steps of the road to the Pure Land, and a hard road to remember even once we’ve found it, and hardest of all to find it again when we invariably lose our way.

Meanwhile we Westerners pursue the hollowness of our electronic lives. Orwell got everything wrong in 1984. But Aldous Huxley got it just right, in his preface to the 1946 edition of Brave New World: “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” Read that again: this is us, this is you and me. Here. Now. We love our servitude. We love the psychic robbery committed upon us by our overbusy, overconnected Western lifestyle.

But—enough of my dystopianism. Back to the emptiness where our hearts should be.

I’m becoming very familiar with the “void we feel inside” that Kingsley mentions. I’ve become slack in my thoughts and deeds and oblivious of the world around me. Just a month or two ago I remember thrilling to the choruses of coyotes late at night and to the hooting of owls and the wind in the pines. Now I don’t listen for them anymore. —My transition, of course, has occupied of most my awareness already, my head-space, and that’s OK because it’s a necessity.  But now I’m losing even what’s left over. And the worst of it is that it’s happened so quickly, just this last week or two. There were warning signs beforehand, of course, which I ignored. And now I’m drifting into the maw of the “whited monster IS.” I’m living in my own private Unknown Kadath in the Cold Wastes. This has happened because I’ve not been paying attention. It’s scary how it only takes a few days of inattention, of laziness, bluntly, for me to lose my way.

Perfection is unachievable of course. But even a small lapse in self-vigilance can lead to days of just staring at pixels, and loss of the awareness of the world we’ve struggled so hard to attain. That’s me, at least. —Maintaining a state where I’m at least partially aware of reality itself and more than just pixels on a screen, or “current events”, where I’m caring for my body, soul and mind, is very close to what I think of as “purity” in my magico-spiritual practices.

And thus I’m in purity free fall and must take steps. Today. Starting with a spiritual bath. Then maybe a frankincense smoke bath later. These are outward deeds, but such simple real-world acts are, for me, the best first steps on the path back to some measure of inner purity. I highly recommend such outward deeds for outward purity, they’re good rudiments for beginning the journey back to inward purity. Truly they always remain useful, and maybe they even remain necessities. I’ll meditate too, and stretch my stiff muscles. If I’m very, very good, I’ll pray and sacrifice.

I’m not positive in my mind about my equation of Kingsley’s “rushing around trying to find substitutions for the void we feel inside” and the lack of purity of, especially, soul. But it works for me this afternoon. The notion will have to do, for now.

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Purity and the Empty Places

  1. Robert Mitchell says:

    Read a quote today by Allen Ginsberg I bet you’ll like: “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

  2. Very good! I’m not nearly familiar enough with Ginsberg as he deserves.

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