Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by KnowSelf, Oct 1, 2019.
Quite. Have you read "The Psychopath Test"?
Like many of our psychological categories, the actuality is a lot more fluid and organic; everybody is to some degree OCD, it only becomes an issue when it interferes with the idea of a social 'norm'.
Similarly, everybody registers somewhere on the psychopath scale, and even with those who are very high, it does not mean they become serial killers, etc., it's a nature/nurture thing.
Amusingly, CEOs of big companies register high, as do some politicians (notably not Trump nor, I think, Johnson. They're classic narcissists, different kettle altogether.)
Amusingly, successful surgeons tend to rank high.
There's a famous ex-special services guy, Ant Middleton, who not unsurprisingly ranks very high. One of the factors is he cannot read expressions! He doesn't empathise at all. After five marriages, he's come to a survival plan with his current wife. She has red and yellow cards which she'll hold up when she's upset and he hasn't clocked the fact. He sees the card and thinks right, I need to fix this, but he did explain this need to fix is neither empathy nor compassion, it's just a case of doing what needs to be done to fix a problem.
Is there such a thing? I would have thought the latter precludes the former?
No, but I have been reading material on the subject for years (I am not a trained psychologist, but my wife is, and she keeps me informed). The term "psychopath" had its ups and downs in usage: it was out of fashion for a time for being too vague and blanket-like, but seems to be back nowadays.
A classic from the 1940ies, frequently republished, is "The Mask of Sanity".
Apparently, this is in part because psychopaths experience no fear, which is a useful trait to have when doing open heart surgery or neurosurgery. In human interaction, not so much.
Not going to name names, but there are overtly narcissistic people in the enlightenment scene / Satsang Circuit / whatever you want to call it.
It depends on what ideals you associate with enlightenment, what enlightenment is to you, I think. Will it automatically sanitize a person's behavior?
My thinking is, why should someone's fundamental personality structure change, after they had a profound spiritual experience? Will a narcissist's "false self", constructed to compensate for the empty void of their "true self", will this just vanish in a puff of fragrant smoke when they have an enlightenment-type experience? Usually there is a great deal of "integration work" to be done for someone with a new spiritual insight, and it is not clear to me that a narcissist would be successful with this. But it would not render their deep insight invalid. But the thought of them attracting followers, teaching, is a scary one to me.
I know a doctor...when asked.why she went into medicine she gleefully reports, "it was the only avocation I found where you could cut into living people and not go to jail."
Bro, that's so weird ...
I have accumulated quite the variety of unique friends over the past 6 decades...
Quite. The way I heard it, they do not empathise with the person under the knife... probably different takes on the same thing.
Oh, I'm sure. I think they're frauds, or mistaken about their enlightenment, but then again that depends on how you define the term. Those I've met are very clever, cleverer than you, clever in the sense they can trot out the appropriate aphorism at the right moment, and thereby convince others of their enlightenment.
I suppose that depends on whether one is a theist or not. I would say the sanitisation is a pre-requisite? It's simply revolves around questions like, do narcissists empathise or feel compassion? Having a 30-second google, it appears they do, or, in the right circumstance, they can. But the research suggests a certain pre-conditioning – sanitisation – is necessary.
Because profound experiences of any ilk impact on the personality?
I don't think they'd have one.
Hence the need, acknowledged in every tradition, of a director of sorts. The insistence that one doesn't it relatively modern, it's all part and parcel of the anti-establishment ethos of the 60s.
I think people can have deep insight without enlightenment, and yes, it is scary.
Yes, that is one of the differences between narcisisst and psychopaths.
Certainly. Let's imagine what happens when a narcissist has a unitive experience. "Thout art that" may become "I am all of that", the facade self is not seen as one of many parts of "that" but inflated to "all of that". The fundamental structure is not changed.
Why not? Are they damned to remain in darkness?
Also, evidence suggests that enlightenment-type experiences are available to anyone with a functioning nervous system. Entheogens and magnetic stimulation can vastly facilitate this.
And I fully agree with your next thought regarding spiritual direction, teachers, mentors, guides:
But I don't think it started in the 60s, that was just the pendulum swinging away from the pro-establishment ethos of WWII and the early Cold War, where all had to stand together and buckle down in the struggle against a common enemy.
The individualistic, rebellious, anti-establishment current has always been there, the trickster figures in every mythology bear witness to this, and to their essential role in the scheme of things.
Agreed. Again, it depends on what enlightenment means to you.
Yes, that's how I understood it.
Yes, I can see that, the unitive experience has been distorted in translation, its nature assumed to be 'all of that' — which is where the director/geront/staretz/guru etc., plays a vital part in stabilising the individual, who can otherwise be overwhelmed by the experience.
No, but we're back to individual perception again.
In my belief no-one is ever damned, nor pre-destined (except in exceedingly rare circumstance) one way or t'other, it depend how open they are to experience. It's a major beef I have with the 'gnostic schools' and esoteric schools generally, who do rather assume along those lines, eg 'If I can't educate you, no-one can' sort of thing. The early gnostic systems categorised humanity as pneumatic (pre-determined saved, and can do no wrong), psychics who are unconscious and can only be awakened by a pneumatc, and the hylics, who are beyond redemption and are the most part of society. It's inevitable in elitist systems which, for the most part, dogs the esoteric schools.
Ah, I'd draw a distinction here, between a heightened self-awareness which can be spoken of in general spiritual terms, and the language of spirituality within a given traditional context. Being that mine is fundamentally Orthodox/Catholic, then no, the entheogens and other techniques are an ersatz similitude, but not the real thing.
Having said that, there is the well-trodden path of drugs enabling altered states of perception which can lead to a life taking a different path; I suppose I would mark the distinction between natural and supernatural, again in the context of tradition. LSD does this, MDMA does that, alcohol does something else, in some aspects potentially opening doors, in others, closing them. The user might experience satori, or extreme delirium tremens.
Good correction. It was that swing of the pendulum I had in mind.
Well, by now the words are starting to pile, and we are still not yet up with a definition of an enlightened person? Is it safe to ask?
I love Kan't definition from his essay, "What is enlightenment", fully aware that I am grossly distorting his views by quoting him in this context:
Do you dare to know?
I am not well read in the many ancient Gnostic texts, but I got the impression that some Pauline epistles can be read with a Gnostic understanding in mind, also the Gospel according to John. John 14:6 is not that different from "If I can't educate you, no-one can", for instance...
Weren't the ancient gnostic groups organized as secret societies, as mystery cults? The (perceived) elitism would go hand in hand with that. I have no idea how inclusive or exclusive these groups were. On the other hand, I used to be a member of a Christian church (not fringe, and with impeccable Reformed pedigree) with rampant elitism and looking-down on those who would have no part in it.
It's a weird grey area between active exclusion and the hurt, defiant attitude of "serves them right, see if I care".
Enlightenment is universal and personal connected awareness
Interesting and very terse.
Is this awareness mediated by a third party?
To rephrase my question:
It sounds like it would be available to anyone who turned their attention at themselves and the world around them for a moment. Does this mean we are all enlightened, and if not, what's the obstacle?
Always the problem with syncretism. This is close to that, but the bigger picture is something different altogether.
I think there is a nuanced contextual difference, but I do see your point.
Yes, but then that was the general non-Hebrew religious model, I think.
It's interesting that the Greek Philosophical schools were also scathing of their critique of what has been grouped together under the catch-all condemnation 'gnostic'. I'd say they were populist schools, much like the cults we had in the 70s, big on 'the mysteries' etc., charismatic leaders (I think it was Valentinus who opened a gnostic school when the Christian Church decided they didn't want him as Bishop of Rome — probably a narcissist — although a lot of research has gone into his cosmology in recent years). Probably not too well thought-through on their philosophical grounding, and a hotch-potch of ideas from here and there ...
Oh, quite, under a 'pneumatic' leader. If one reads Gnostic texts, the number of people Jesus told "Only you get it, no-one else does" is quite enlightening And the competition between sects would have been fierce.
Yep, especially when it can switch to-and-fro in a moment
Ok, I get this. Enlightenment is the realisation of universal and personal connected awareness?
Enlightenment seems to imply a sudden Eureka? Oh, NOW I understand. Oh NOW I see.
The Buddha's moment of enlightenment. Suddenly he knew and understood everything. This is the traditional understanding of the term?
Can enlightenment be a process, not a single event? This seems to be the current understanding? Is it possible to see and understand everything?
Every day we learn a little bit more. Sometimes in a hard way. Just an expanded understanding? It's not always purely rational. Often intuitive. So at what point can the word enlightenment be applied to a person in the 'spiritual' sense.
I suppose I'm really referring to the oh-so-enlightened new-age types out there. Especially the teachers. No reference to anyone here.
Hi RMJ —
Your questions pose a whole lot of other questions / reflections ...
Well this goes right to the heart of the issue ... that is a kind of enlightenment, but it's not the kind spoken of in the Abrahamic Traditions, where the whole is underpinned by the notion of the Union of the individual self with the Other, or with Selfhood as such, that is the union with a contingent, ephemeral, transient, momentary and fragmentary being, with Being-As-Such, a union of self with the source of Beingness in all its myriad forms, both formal and formless ... key text in the Christian Tradition is John 1:4-5, and the hymn of Colossians, the 'now I see darkly' of St Paul and, for me, the most luminous of the lot: "We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Well that seems to be the assumption, but I'm not so sure? I know people like to phrase it that way. On the flip side: 'soon ripe, soon rotten' or 'easy come, easy go' ... the sources I read seem more the 'chop wood, carry water' type.
I'm not fully au fait with the life of the Buddha, and his epiphany might well be the case, but there must have been a path to that point? I recall a popular singer once saying, "Twenty years in the industry, and I'm an overnight success". And then, once the moment has passed, we have to make of it what we can ... If you read Acts, Saul of Tarsus is enlightened on the road to Damascus, the effect is so profound he is addled and struck blind ... If you read Galatians, after this moment, he went to Arabia, where he stayed for about 14 years, before coming back and making his journey to Damascus, where he was instructed in the Christian faith and baptised by Ananias. Then he starts preaching ... so one blinding moment and 14 years to come to terms with it ...
Yes, I'd say it's dynamic process. Is it possible to see and understand everything? Not the enlightenment that I have in mind. You can't contain the Infinite. Is it possible to understand and be content with that? Yes.
Right from the beginning.
Well I'm sure everyone can guess my views on that!
What's the deal with enlightenment anyway? is it the point of religion? No. Is it the point of spiritual practice? No. In today's world it's seen as just that, as the reward, it's very much driven by the desire for experience, and often on very dubious grounds: If I do this, I want that. I should have it because I'm worth it kind of thing.
I'm more in favour of the apophatic, the Darkness of the Divine, Divine Ignorance, call it what you will. There's a great, great lesson in the Tanner of Alexandria, but it's an unpalatable one in the current climate:
When blessed Antony was praying in his cell, a voice spoke to him, saying, "Antony, you have not yet come to the measure of the the tanner who is in Alexandria." When he heard this, the old man arose and took his stick and hurried into the city. When he had found the tanner...he said to him, "Tell me about your work, for today I have left the desert and come here to see you."
He replied, "I am not aware that I have done anything good. When I get up in the morning, before I sit down to work, I say that the whole of this city, small and great, will go into the Kingdom of God because of their good deeds, while I alone will go into eternal punishment because of my evil deeds. Every evening I repeat the same words and believe them in my heart."
When blessed Antony heard this he said, "My son, you sit in your own house and work well, and you have the peace of the Kingdom of God; but I spend all my time in solitude with no distractions, and i have not come near the measure of such words."
And this, another from the Paradise of the Desert Fathers:
God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from passions or those caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated and the illitrate, of the healthy and the sick, of the young or the old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather which are the same for everyone without exception.
Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."
There was an old man living in the desert who served God for so many years and he said, "Lord, let me know if I have pleased you." He saw an angel who said to him, "You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such place." The old man marvelled and said, "I will go off to the city to see both him and what it is that he does that surpasses all my work and toil of all these years."...
So he went to the city and asked the gardener about his awy of life.... When they were getting ready to eat in the evening, the old man heard people singing in the streets, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, "Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?"
The man said, "I tell you, abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized." When he heard this the old man said, "What, then, do you think in your heart when you hear these things?" And he replied, "That they are all going into the Kingdom." When he heard this, the old man marvelled and said, "This is the practice which surpasses my labour of all these years."
What I mean is, the basic messages of any authentic Religious Tradition should be reason enough in themselves, without the need of (paradise) carrots or (perdition) sticks.
And it's tied up with status, psychic powers giving me higher status than him/her, etc.
Of course you have covered a lot of stuff. Thank you for the full response.
Perhaps for me it comes down to the gift of inner peace -- even in bad circumstance. So that is equated with faith. Christ's greeting: "Peace be with you."
Which does not mean a perfect life or perfect world, but a sort of overview?
Profound conclusion of many years, I think?
Peace in the moment. Can I ask for more?
That seems an admirable outlook to me.
I think so.
When in His peace, what more can we ask?
Separate names with a comma.