As I expected, I am receiving plenty of raised cyber-eyebrows about the third instruction in Pandemic Homework to: radically decrease or discontinue altogether your use of internet technology to support social distancing.
Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I am calling for an immediate cold turkey here—more like a gentle challenging of some assumptions we’ve all bought into a bit too automatically, and a phased step-down as we learn to shift to the real network of global intercommunion.
I continue to believe that the only authentic “worldwide web” exists in the Imaginal realm: i.e., in that subtler and quantumly more powerful bandwidth of energetic communion which links not only all beings of this planet, but also beings in all realms, including those on the other side of the life/death “divide.” It is from here that we receive our help—and it is here, too, that we give it! It is where our real human contribution to calming the inflamed heart of our planet can be must efficaciously offered.
This is in fact the subject of my forthcoming book, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm, which ironically would have had its maiden teaching voyage right now at Valle Crucis in North Carolina. It elucidates the part I believe we Wisdom students can most fruitfully contribute to the present planetary upheaval. But playing that part is counterintuitive and it is a learned skill.
My invitation as I invited you to consider slowly weaning yourself from the internet is to do so proportionately as you re-boot your innate skills for imaginal communion (skills, incidentally, that have been vigorously discouraged and numbed in our contemporary Western culture.) The problem with the internet zoom groups as an antidote to physical gathering is that they are a simulacrum, substituting fellowship and information exchange for authentic communion and gnosis. We are losing not only our skills for but our taste for the real deal, and the continued electromagnetizing of our planetary atmosphere by this sudden surge in “social distancing”-motivated electronic communication is aggravating the conditions in which the covid-19 virus spreads. Call me a nutcase here, but disregard at your own peril!
So if some of you are inclined to take me up on this wager and boost your component of “imaginal bandwidth” participation during this present crisis and beyond it, how do you go about doing that? Traditionally, of course, this teaching was transmitted only one-on-one; from initiated teacher to prepared student. That it is how it was transmitted to me by my own teacher Rafe. I categorically refuse to put it out there in the form of an online course! But I am willing to share some general orientation, and perhaps a few specific suggestions for those of you who want to take it to the next step.
First of all, a little general theory:
First and foremost, in this vast inter-realmic cosmos (meaning not just this physical earth, but all cosmoses and planes of consciousness in this great eclosion of divine purposiveness we call the created order), all hearts—all individual lives and beings—are merged and flow out of that great ocean of life. Our individual beings participate in this individually, but always as an emergent property of the whole. Our individual life is an instantiation of that one divine life. And because of this, we can always find one another. We are never out of contact. There are no walls; there are no barriers.
But to see this and work with it, we must move beyond our automatic human orientation toward “the individual” as designating a specific corporeal unit with a fixed identity and position in space and time. As long as we insist on that orientation, we wind up in necromancy, not intercommunion. To be fully present in communion with a beloved, whether in another corner of this world or in another world altogether, we must ironically completely let go of that beloved as an object, and allow his or her heart to wash gently upon us like waves of the ocean washing gently on the shore. Any attempt to make precise will result immediately in engaging the personal imagination and will; the whole exchange immediately degenerates into illusion and sentimentality. A very delicate touch is required, and this is where the learning curve comes in.
We are really talking about stabilizing in ourselves a higher state of being, exactly in line with Maurice Nicoll’s celebrated dictum:
As your being increases, your receptivity to higher meaning increases. As your being decreases, the old meanings return. (Psychological Commentaries, 1245).
This higher level of being, which accesses the imaginal bandwidth not by raiding it but by matching it, has traditionally been known in Christian spirituality as “vigilance” or “recollection.” It is a higher bandwidth of spiritual attentiveness, in which imaginal intercommunion becomes possible.
To do this requires spiritual work on self. It is not a technique that can be taught, but a transformation that must be undergone. Gurdjieff called it “Being partkdolg duty:” our obligatory human contribution to the planetary wellbeing, whose twin pillars are conscious labor and intentional suffering. Only in the refiners’ fire of these two foundational practices (which are actually foundational attitudes) do we gradually attain to purity of heart—which, remember, is the precondition, according to Jesus, for “seeing God.”
Each of the four instructions I offered you in Pandemic Homework are building blocks for stabilizing these foundational underpinnings of imaginal seeing. I have circled back in the post From the Eagle’s Nest… (the background to instructions) to unpack a little bit more of the “how.” Please see also Foundational Points for the Five Pandemic Homework Exercises, the third post in this series. These should serve to get you started.
By the way, Jacques Lusseyran gets this exactly:
From a point so close at hand you can imagine how easy it was to resort to my inner vision… I spent hours at it. In time it became my only occupation.
By the way, when you are in prison, you must think of anything but the world outside. That is forbidden, materially because of the walls, but above all spiritually. What is outside wounds you. It is dreadful to think that other people are going on living while you are no longer alive. Already you begin to tell yourself that they are growing old away from you, and that you will never see them again as they were. The idea is foolish, especially when you have not spent two months in prison, but it is inescapable and destroys you. You must not let it in.
In prison, more than ever before, it is within yourself that you must live. If there is a person you cannot do without, not possibly-for instance a girl somewhere outside the walls-do as I did then. Look at her several times a day for a long time. But don’t try to picture her wherever she is at the moment, out there where there is free air everywhere and open doors. You won’t manage it and it will hurt you. Instead, look at her inside yourself. Cut her off from everything that is space. Focus on her all the light you hold within yourself. Don’t be afraid of using it up. Love, thought and life hold so much of this light you don’t even know what to do with it. In this way you will see your mother, your sweetheart or your children perfectly. And for a long time you will not even realize you are in prison. Believe me, that is what the inner life can do.
And There Was Light (pp 259-60)