Not a lot of people will read this one, because I don’t know where to put it, or how to promote it, or how to tell you how important it is. But it is, and you won’t understand a lot of the other things I’m going to have to say until you get this.
Before I can write about a lot of the things in my mind these days, I have to introduce you to a tool I think is essential for knowing how to deal with, well, anything. I’ve been searching for a name for it on the internet and can’t find it (and am tired of wasting my limited writing time that way); it’s the little bar they used to put on computer maps, over to the right, that you would grab with your mouse and slide up and down to make things on the map larger or smaller. The computer maps version of the thing seems to be going out of style, anyway; when I look at maps now, on a touch screen you accomplish this function by spreading and pinching with your fingers; on my desktop and laptop I hold on either a “+” or a “-” until the map gets to be the size I want to see the detail, or on the other hand the overview, I need. Neither of those illustrates my point so elegantly.
I wish I had a name for this little tool because it’s the best way I can think of to graphically represent what I think is an important conceptual tool, which I think you can learn, perhaps, to use to isolate what is both a problem we need to solve and an ability we need to develop, which involves fixing and identifying from what point we need to operate in addressing any issue – and I do mean any issue, but what I’m most concerned with here are matters usually associated with philosophy, religion, psychology, politics, the environment, and social issues.
The question of what You need to do in any given situation is dependent on who You are. And who You are, as anyone who’s had any success at mediation or any other form of “inner, psychic” exploration – any work on the Self – will recognize, is a matter of Scale. Of perspective. To wit:
I used to be a part of these Zen groups, and other kinds of groups that would do extensive meditation – not the hour or half hour a day a lot of people do, but the kind you do on organized retreats that usually involve relative isolation for a weekend or more, or weeks or months or years. I haven’t done that in quite a while and probably won’t, and certainly not with one of those groups; meditation is like acid, you have to know when to drop, and when to stop – but more about that some other time.
The point is that during these meditation sessions (or even the shorter ones), there would usually be some sort of leader and some sort of discussion. And after hours or days of meditation, and sometimes exposure to what the group would consider profound texts, as you might imagine the topics and details of these “discussions” would be rather mystical and spacey. Usually they come back to some variation of the “We’re all one” mantra (albeit here on a cosmic rather than a sociological level – the latter makes me gag and I could never be a part of those groups after I was about twenty).
The point is that it’s true – we’re all emanations, manifestations of the One. And it’s important to realize that, as a baseline for everything else you have to do, from whatever perspective, which always involves operating from some point of reference, on some sort of scale. But the scale, the perspective, of being part of the One, is absolutely worthless for actually doing anything. Because the you who must be the actor is not capable of being God – big God, absolute God. Actually of course on the largest scale that God, that universal god is both wholly manifest and fully non-manifesting; but I won’t belabor the point. To operate as human, you have to operate on a human scale.
Note: One of the main real benefits of some of what I’ll later call Left Hand practice, is that you can learn to do real magic and actually expand that scale a bit. I’ll get to that in time: If you want a jump start on the practice now, if you’re not already doing some sort of magical work, you can learn one way to do that with Edred Thorrson’s The Nine Doors of Midgard, or Franz Bardon’s Initiation Into Hermetics, which I think Thorrson patterned his system after. It’s very useful practice, as it turns out.
Anyway, at the end of these sessions or retreats, the problem was, as I always used to point out probably rather tiresomely, was that you had to come down to earth and drive your car home. And doing that from a divine or semi-divine perspective is not only impractical but risky for your mortal self and the others who are also driving their cars home, most of whom have never in their mean little lives shifted their perspective one bit above the perspective and the skills they need to get that car where it needs to go. Which means, in that moment, that they have an advantage over you.
But you see on the other hand that you have to learn how to shift perspective to do any kind of abstract thinking at all. Some of the creatures you see shambling about who identify as human never do, believe it or not. Some of them come to it late in life; others make a faint stab at it early on, and are discouraged, and some continue to do it so badly yet so convincingly that they fool all the other drones into believing that they (the fooler and the fooled) are great men, and have successful careers based on the most meaningless nonsense. I could name names but I’d probably hurt your feelings.
But remember, this is a sliding scale, not just the “zoom in” and “zoom out” functions in your vestigial View dropbar. Not only can you go up, you can go down, and you can stop at any point on the way, once you get good at it. You can and must also learn to function below the level of human consciousness (some of you already are). You have to be kind of careful when you take the “spotlight of consciousness” down there, though. Some of the things going on below the level of your consciousness do so much better without your conscious interference. For this reason, for the most part I abhor breathing exercise and try not to think about my heartbeat any more than necessary. These things run quite well when I leave them alone.
The point is that I think for a human that the most important function of a meditation practice, and the subsequent practices that derive therefrom, is to first learn that it is possible to shift perspective – that there are many larger You’s and many smaller ones, which are all just perspectives, points of view you can adopt; and then to learn to slide up and down that scale until you find the proper perspective for dealing with any particular situation you encounter. You also learn that the levels, the way stations on the scale, are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact complementary and coequally valid – though not with regard to any particular situation or issue.
For example, many teachers in the Hindu, Buddhist and other traditions (i.e., Ramana Maharshi) have taught that one direct path to self-realization is to keep asking yourself, “Who Am I?”. What you’re supposed to do there (to give away now the trick) is to realize that each successive answer you come up with, is not good enough; you are not your body, your thoughts, your ego, etc… successively peeling away the layers of the onion until you reach that place of nothingness or everything-ness which is the source of all. And from the perspective of which you can address no problem whatsoever! Then again there are no problems at the source of all, are there? But how helpful is that to you?
So one of the important realizations I had as a result of all this “work” was that I am indeed many of those things. I am an animal, a person, a member of a family (even if a very small one), if I’m lucky a clan, a kindred, but above that I am most certainly a member of a race, then of a species… and then it gets tricky. Because I’m a part of an ecosystem, of the planetary person, of the solar system (I feel very Gurdjieffian here), and of the universe. As I move the little cursor up and down the sliding scale of my existence, some things come into perspective and others disappear. Things which appear huge from one height are small from another.
And the higher perspective is not always better! Trying to operate from the wrong perspective is just wrong and leads to bad results, And I submit that learning that this scale exists, and learning how to move up and down on it – and this is an exercise both for meditation and for “real life” – is the essence of personal Work. Because once you develop this tool, you can not only learn how to think more properly – you can learn how to do magic. Metaphorically, and really.
With this tool in hand, I can move on to discuss the Right and Left Hand Paths, the values and dangers of each, and why both are necessary. To give it a way a bit, the Right Hand path is the view from the top down; the Left Hand path is the view from the bottom up. Although both, as viewed by practitioners, start in the middle of the scale, with no sense where on it one is, which is the tricky and dangerous part. Both are necessary, but in balance.
I can also talk about the inherent dangers of those paths and the almost inevitable pitfalls their practitioners fall into, particularly in groups – the danger of Moralism in the Right Hand, and Egoism in the Left. All of which could be avoided by realizing one’s own perspective.
There’s also the question which comes to mind inevitably if one visualize and contemplates the model I have proposed; must one go only up and down, but can one also go sideways at at angles? Perhaps, but we shall see. Let’s get the basics down first, shall we?
Because yes, Kundalini is about this. And Yggdrasil. But we can also use the tool to look at the root of how you are deceived, and by whom. You can perhaps eventually come to bear in “mind” more than one perspective at a time – to see how some actions are both necessary and doomed. Because to be faithful to oneself becomes a matter of which “self” one is being faithful to. Above every level at which the little self dies, there is another one at which a larger self yet lives, and the big Self at the top isn’t going anywhere. But where he is, nothing happens at all that is “interesting”, which is why all the fun is down here with us.