Do you ever wonder what the historical precedent is for the magical internets?
Try and cast your mind back to a time where sincere seekers from across the planet could come together to engage, swap ideas, benchmark and -every so often- go kinda completely insane.
It’s the geographic diversity that potentially sets it apart in my opinion.
Every so often I find myself in a breath-catching moment when I realise just how amazing this whole thing is. We are swapping notes on the universe in real time across the planet… Even if it’s just wild speculation. That’s pretty neat.
Speaking of wild speculation… on with the post:
Jason and I were chatting via gchat the other week, discussing his re-exploration of Christianity. In a lot of respects, I have been circling a similar drain for a while now. Saint Peter inspired this blog, surrender is clearly a life challenge, and so on.
Anyway, it came up that my flavour is a lot more gnostic than Catholic and it’s bound up in all this Occitanian/Cathar baggage I seem to be accidentally unpacking. He mentions the gnostic world view -matter as a prison, etc- doesn’t grokk with him.
But to me.. I don’t know.. perhaps the gnostic worldview is exoteric? Perhaps it’s there to short circuit an otherwise longer spiritual development path rather than accurately describe reality? (Remembering how our ancestors had less problems with mythic truth than we do.)
Alcohol and antibiotics
Here’s something I learnt from the BBC rather than my father who is actually a doctor. You don’t need to avoid alcohol while on antibiotics. Antibiotics were obviously used to treat syphilis and alcohol is a major vector in syphilis transmission. (Basically, men would get drunk and visit prostitutes. Then take it home to their wives. Or other prostitutes. Who would spread it to other men. Who would take it home to their wives. And so on.)
It was easier and more effective to simply tell the patient to abstain from alcohol during the course of antibiotics to prevent further spread of the disease. It took the patient out of the syphilis-spreading game.
A set of untrue practices -a lie basically- told in a time of flux, for the betterment of the patient and society at large.
For me, this is how God -and in particular the gnostic understanding of Him- is like antibiotics.
The gnostic approach was also built during a time of tremendous flux, -as were all early Christian teachings (The Beast, for example, being an inelegant metaphor for the Roman Empire). It was designed to do one specific thing: eject you permanently out of your meatsuit.
So then, an exoteric perspective of gnosticism is like abstaining from alcohol while you allow the drugs to work. A patient doesn’t need to know how the medicine works for it to cure him/her.
The esoteric perspective could resemble matter as a playground/learning centre rather than a prison from which to escape… Indeed Sylvia Browne basically says this is so. (Say what you like about her, I’ve seen her live twice. Woman’s got some skills!)
Intriguingly, this brings it closer to modern shamanic experience:
Come here often?
Seeing as we’re speculating (wildly), why not go the whole hog?
It seems to me that magical careers are in some sense binary: there is before your first meatsuit ejection and there is after. (Remember Tim Leary’s dickish “the caterpillar cannot understand the butterfly”?) Here is Grant Morrison describing his Kathmandu ultradimensional experience:
What happened to me can be interpreted in any number of ways. To some, it’s sure to read as just one more trip story with no relevance to the material world. Occultists of a certain persuasion will recognise the knowledge and conversation of the holy guardian angel. My experience comfortably fit the profile for alien abduction reports, angelic contact, and temporal lobe epilepsy. None of these “explanations” for what I saw, coming as they did from a lower-resolution, flatter universe, could truly do my experience justice. Where higher dimensions are implicated, it’s wise to remember the story of the blind men and the elephant and assume that all attempts to frame Kathmandu in 3-D terms are in some way absolutely true.
I stopped piling up rationalizations and instead dealt with what could be proven about this event, which was its undeniably positive effect on my life. Kathmandu fundamentally reprogrammed me and left me with a certainty stronger than faith that everything, even that which was sad and painful, was happening exactly the way it was supposed to.
I was left with the stubborn conviction that when I died, my consciousness would start awake there, with the same shock of the utterly familiar, the same thrill-ride buzz of a job well done.
That’s certainly going to sound familiar to anyone who has slugged off their meatsuit even once. Or at least, this is what my first extra-meatsuit experience (a past life regression at age fourteen) was like.
So I wonder if 90% of spiritual development isn’t flinging yourself out of yourself -the core shamanic initiatory experience- and then coming back with the unassailable, inexplicable gnosis of. What. You. Really. Are.
The rest would then be fireflies and individual personal refinement of that original 90%.
(incidentally if this is so it dovetails nicely with my hypothesis that the accidental incorporation of hallucinogens into the food supply due to climate change is what kickstarted magic in the first place. Imagine waking up the next morning and turning to the Neanderthal next to you: “you’ll never guess where I’ve been.”)
In that context, a little fudging of the details to ensure our souls are pointing in the right direction is surely understandable.
Yes, fine. The Demiurge.
What if it’s an egregore? What if it’s an anthropomorphism… the sum total of all our fleshly aspirations and need for power over others? Basically, what if it’s the One Ring?
We very quickly stray into samsara territory whereby we aren’t enslaved by ignorance but by desire, by attachment. And as any self-respecting magician will attest, it’s a lot easier to banish something once you’ve anthropomorphised it.
Where does that leave us? Is it too overly literal to consider the gnostic worldview life-denying? Well, outside the perfecti, the Cathars lived fairly normal lives. They grew vineyards, they married, they raised armies. But they had at their disposal -for anyone who wanted it- robust asceticism finely honed to pop you out of your meatsuit and bring you back.
If you’ve undergone this experience then you know upon your return that the fleshly world isn’t really the ‘true reality’. It doesn’t make it fake, it doesn’t make it bad it just makes it… part of something much bigger.
You are rewarded with the realisation that you are a magnificent extraterrestrial creature choosing to explore God’s creation so that the universe may know itself.
And if God is like antibiotics, I’ll certainly drink to that.