Jordan Peterson on the current state of The West

 

 

Jordan Peterson on the current state of The West

The title of this post is a misnomer, but I have been trying to understand what’s been happening in both the European Union and the United Kingdom during the past few years, while at the same time trying to get to grips with the numerous talks, lecture series, and writings of Jordan Peterson who, in my opinion, seems to bring a deeper analysis to current events even though it doesn’t seem to be his aim to address them in particular. Could it be that we need the analysis and opinion of great thinkers like those mentioned by Jordan Peterson below. I have found Jordan Peterson’s comments very insightful, and his remarks on the Biblical Series XI: Sodom and Gomorrah, in particular, inspired me to make this posting.

“There aren’t that many ways of doing things right, and there’s a lot of ways of doing things wrong, and if you do things wrong the consequences of doing them wrong can be truly catastrophic. One of the things I learned from reading Viktor Frankl first, but then Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who I think did a deeper job, was that they and Vaclav Havel thought the same thing. That these people were very much trying to understand what happened in places like Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union. So [The Gulag Archipelago?] is a particularly good analysis of what happened in the Soviet Union, and his conclusion – and it’s a 2,100 page conclusion – and it’s hammered home with a hammer. It’s a book that everyone should read, assuming that you can read a 2,100 page screen because that’s basically what it is. First of all, what he does is document just how terrible things were in the Soviet Union between 1919 and 1959, and no matter how terrible you think they were, unless you know the stories. They were a lot more terrible than that, and they were terrible personally because everyone lied. They were terrible in families because two out of five were [in the pay of?] “government and farmers”. They were terrible among friends because no one could tell each other the truth, and they were terrible socially because the whole system was corrupted. [There was?] slave labour, and they were terrible philosophically because the doctrine of man upon which the state was founded was hopeless and nihilistic, and they were murderous, destructive and genocidal. It’s like they got it wrong at every single level of analysis simultaneously, and the question is why Solzhenitsyn’s answer and to some degree Victor Frankel’s answer, as well and Vaclav Havel and I would say also Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. They all they all ended up in the same conceptual sphere and the answer was because individual people lived crooked lives because individual people swallowed lies and spoke them and didn’t stand up for the truth and the corruption that spread from each individual, which pulled the entire state mechanism into that corruption and made everything into hell.”

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Jordan Peterson on Derrida and Cultural Marxism

 

Jordan Peterson on Derrida and Cultural Marxism

[pp. 187-9 in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules]

Postmodernism and the Long Arm of Marx

These disciplines draw their philosophy from multiple sources. All are heavily influenced by the Marxist humanists. One such figure is Max Horkheimer, who developed critical theory in the 1930s. Any brief summary of his ideas is bound to be oversimplified, but Horkheimer regarded himself as a Marxist. He believed that Western principles of individual freedom or the free market were merely masks that served to disguise the true conditions of the West: inequality, domination and exploitation. He believed that intellectual activity should be devoted to social change, instead of mere understanding, and hoped to emancipate humanity from its enslavement. Horkheimer and his Frankfurt School of associated thinkers—first, in Germany and later, in the US—aimed at a full-scale critique and transformation of Western civilization.

More important in recent years has been the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida, leader of the postmodernists, who came into vogue in the late 1970s. Derrida described his own ideas as a radicalized form of Marxism. Marx attempted to reduce history and society to economics, considering culture the oppression of the poor by the rich. When Marxism was put into practice in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere, economic resources were brutally redistributed. Private property was eliminated, and rural people forcibly collectivized. The result? Tens of millions of people died. Hundreds of millions more were subject to oppression rivalling that still operative in North Korea, the last classic communist holdout. The resulting economic systems were corrupt and unsustainable. The world entered a prolonged and extremely dangerous cold war. The citizens of those societies lived the life of the lie, betraying their families, informing on their neighbours—existing in misery, without complaint (or else).

Marxist ideas were very attractive to intellectual utopians. One of the primary architects of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan, received a doctorate at the Sorbonne before he became the nominal head of Cambodia in the mid-1970s. In his doctoral thesis, written in 1959, he argued that the work done by non-farmers in Cambodia’s cities was unproductive: bankers, bureaucrats and businessmen added nothing to society. Instead, they parasitized the genuine value produced through agriculture, small industry and craft. Samphan’s ideas were favourably looked upon by the French intellectuals who granted him his Ph.D. Back in Cambodia, he was provided with the opportunity to put his theories into practice. The Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodia’s cities, drove all the inhabitants into the countryside, closed the banks, banned the use of currency, and destroyed all the markets. A quarter of the Cambodian population were worked to death in the countryside, in the killing fields.

Lest We Forget: Ideas Have Consequences.

When the communists established the Soviet Union after the First World War, people could be forgiven for hoping that the utopian collectivist dreams their new leaders purveyed were possible. The decayed social order of the late nineteenth century produced the trenches and mass slaughters of the Great War. The gap between rich and poor was extreme, and most people slaved away in conditions worse than those later described by Orwell. Although the West received word of the horror perpetrated by Lenin after the Russian Revolution, it remained difficult to evaluate his actions from afar. Russia was in postmonarchical chaos, and the news of widespread industrial development and redistribution of property to those who had so recently been serfs provided reason for hope. To complicate things further, the USSR (and Mexico) supported the democratic Republicans when the Spanish Civil War broke out, in 1936. They were fighting against the essentially fascist Nationalists, who had overthrown the fragile democracy established only five years previously, and who found support with the Nazis and Italian fascists.

The intelligentsia in America, Great Britain and elsewhere were severely frustrated by their home countries’ neutrality. Thousands of foreigners streamed into Spain to fight for the Republicans, serving in the International Brigades. George Orwell was one of them. Ernest Hemingway served there as a journalist, and was a supporter of the Republicans. Politically concerned young Americans, Canadians and Brits felt a moral obligation to stop talking and start fighting.

All of this drew attention away from concurrent events in the Soviet Union. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the Stalinist Soviets sent two million kulaks, their richest peasants, to Siberia (those with a small number of cows, a couple of hired hands, or a few acres more than was typical). From the communist viewpoint, these kulaks had gathered their wealth by plundering those around them, and deserved their fate. Wealth signified oppression, and private property was theft. It was time for some equity. More than thirty thousand kulaks were shot on the spot. Many more met their fate at the hands of their most jealous, resentful and unproductive neighbours, who used the high ideals of communist collectivization to mask their murderous intent.

The kulaks were “enemies of the people,” apes, scum, vermin, filth and swine. “We will make soap out of the kulak,” claimed one particularly brutal cadre of city-dwellers, mobilized by party and Soviet executive committees, and sent out into the countryside. The kulaks were driven, naked, into the streets, beaten, and forced to dig their own graves. The women were raped. Their belongings were “expropriated,” which, in practice, meant that their houses were stripped down to the rafters and ceiling beams and everything was stolen. In many places, the non-kulak peasants resisted, particularly the women, who took to surrounding the persecuted families with their bodies. Such resistance proved futile. The kulaks who didn’t die were exiled to Siberia, often in the middle of the night. The trains started in February, in the bitter Russian cold. Housing of the most substandard kind awaited them upon arrival on the desert taiga. Many died, particularly children, from typhoid, measles and scarlet fever.

The “parasitical” kulaks were, in general, the most skilful and hardworking farmers. A small minority of people are responsible for most of the production in any field, and farming proved no different. Agricultural output crashed. What little remained was taken by force out of the countryside and into the cities. Rural people who went out into the fields after the harvest to glean single grains of wheat for their hungry families risked execution. Six million people died of starvation in the Ukraine, the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, in the 1930s. “To eat your own children is a barbarian act,” declared posters of the Soviet regime.

Despite more than mere rumours of such atrocities, attitudes towards communism remained consistently positive among many Western intellectuals. There were other things to worry about, and the Second World War allied the Soviet Union with the Western countries opposing Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. Certain watchful eyes remained open, nonetheless. Malcolm Muggeridge published a series of articles describing

Soviet demolition of the peasantry as early as 1933, for the Manchester Guardian. George Orwell understood what was going on under Stalin, and he made it widely known. He published Animal Farm, a fable satirizing the Soviet Union, in 1945, despite encountering serious resistance to the book’s release. Many who should have known better retained their blindness for long after this. Nowhere was this truer than France, and nowhere truer in France than among the intellectuals.

France’s most famous mid-century philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, was a well-known communist, although not a card-carrier, until he denounced the Soviet incursion into Hungary in 1956. He remained an advocate for Marxism, nonetheless, and did not finally break with the Soviet Union until 1968, when the Soviets violently suppressed the Czechoslovakians during the Prague Spring.

Not long after came the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, which we have discussed rather extensively in previous chapters. As noted (and is worth noting again), this book utterly demolished communism’s moral credibility—first in the West, and then in the Soviet System itself. It circulated in underground samizdat format. Russians had twenty-four hours to read their rare copy before handing it to the next waiting mind. A Russian-language reading was broadcast into the Soviet Union by Radio Liberty.

Solzhenitsyn argued that the Soviet system could have never survived without tyranny and slave labour; that the seeds of its worst excesses were definitively sowed in the time of Lenin (for whom the Western communists still served as apologists); and that it was propped up by endless lies, both individual and public. Its sins could not be blamed on a simple cult of personality, as its supporters continued to claim. Solzhenitsyn documented the Soviet Union’s extensive mistreatment of political prisoners, its corrupt legal system, and its mass murders, and showed in painstaking detail how these were not aberrations but direct expressions of the underlying communist philosophy. No one could stand up for communism after The Gulag Archipelago—not even the communists themselves.

This did not mean that the fascination Marxist ideas had for intellectuals—particularly French intellectuals—disappeared. It merely transformed. Some refused outright to learn. Sartre denounced Solzhenitsyn as a “dangerous element.” Derrida, more subtle, substituted the idea of power for the idea of money, and continued on his merry way. Such linguistic sleight-of-hand gave all the barely repentant Marxists still inhabiting the intellectual pinnacles of the West the means to retain their world-view. Society was no longer repression of the poor by the rich. It was oppression of everyone by the powerful.

According to Derrida, hierarchical structures emerged only to include (the beneficiaries of that structure) and to exclude (everyone else, who were therefore oppressed). Even that claim wasn’t sufficiently radical. Derrida claimed that divisiveness and oppression were built right into language— built into the very categories we use to pragmatically simplify and negotiate the world. There are “women” only because men gain by excluding them. There are “males and females” only because members of that more heterogeneous group benefit by excluding the tiny minority of people whose biological sexuality is amorphous. Science only benefits the scientists. Politics only benefits the politicians. In Derrida’s view, hierarchies exist because they gain from oppressing those who are omitted. It is this ill-gotten gain that allows them to flourish.

Derrida famously said (although he denied it, later): “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte”—often translated as “there is nothing outside the text.” His supporters say that is a mistranslation, and that the English equivalent should have been “there is no outside-text.” It remains difficult, either way, to read the statement as saying anything other than “everything is interpretation,” and that is how Derrida’s work has generally been interpreted.

It is almost impossible to over-estimate the nihilistic and destructive nature of this philosophy. It puts the act of categorization itself in doubt. It negates the idea that distinctions might be drawn between things for any reasons other than that of raw power. Biological distinctions between men and women? Despite the existence of an overwhelming, multi-disciplinary scientific literature indicating that sex differences are powerfully influenced by biological factors, science is just another game of power, for Derrida and his post-modern Marxist acolytes, making claims to benefit those at the pinnacle of the scientific world. There are no facts. Hierarchical position and reputation as a consequence of skill and competence? All definitions of skill and of competence are merely made up by those who benefit from them, to exclude others, and to benefit personally and selfishly.

There is sufficient truth to Derrida’s claims to account, in part, for their insidious nature. Power is a fundamental motivational force (“a,” not ”the”). People compete to rise to the top, and they care where they are in dominance hierarchies. But (and this is where you separate the metaphorical boys from the men, philosophically) the fact that power plays a role in human motivation does not mean that it plays the only role, or even the primary role. Likewise, the fact that we can never know everything does make all our observations and utterances dependent on taking some things into account and leaving other things out (as we discussed extensively in Rule 10). That does not justify the claim that everything is interpretation, or that categorization is just exclusion. Beware of single cause interpretations—and beware the people who purvey them.

Bill Pickard’s letters to Eric Johns 1984-1987

 

On the Path of Dharma:

Bill Pickard’s letters to Eric Johns 1984-1987

Eric Johns has described how he set out to discover the Buddha Way by visiting Bill Pickard at Mousehole in Cornwall where there was a small group living under his instruction in Soto Zen. During the subsequent years of Eric’s training as a monk (Sik Hin Lic) in Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, Bill sustained a flow of letters to him, acting very much as an older spiritual counsellor to a young man on the way. In many ways his letters recall the spiritual counselling offered to a young priest in ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ written by an unknown spiritual director in the Middle Ages in England. Eric showed me these letters suggesting that they could be the basis for an article in NCF and to this Bill readily agreed. I have edited the letters to bring out teachings that will be useful for all who travel the way, whether monk, nun or lay person. The letters are very warm in tone and must have been a great support to Eric who was usually the only Westerner in his monasteries. I have removed the more personal comment, discussions of Masters and acquaintances, and matters extraneous to the issue in hand. Bill wrote on small blue letter forms in a neat spidery writing and had to pack a great deal into limited space. The admirable condensation of his views under this strict discipline gives us all some very pointed directions in our quest for understanding Chan. Ed. [Edited by John Crook]

5 April 1984

I will try and give you some hints on how to use the huatou(1) in meditation. It is not easy or simple; after all, like all Zen training, it is mostly a question of what you shouldn’t do! Of course you will have read Hsu yun’s remarks on its use in Charles Luk’s books, so you will understand that a huatou signifies the state of mind before a thought has started: so it is the state of mind one is in when one’s thoughts, inner chatter, picture making, dreaming in zazen have stopped.

What I do is to start by following my breath till the mind stops producing any pictures or thoughts; even the awareness of the actual movement of the breath has faded from consciousness, so there is only an awareness of emptiness. At this point you must remember that this also means you must not continue ‘looking’ for something called a ‘huatou’ either; for your thought of the huatou is now also a barrier, a hindrance! But still you may feel a sense of doubt at this point. This is natural. If any idea or thought, or perhaps even some kind of vision, comes into your mind you must take no notice; but the moment you realise that you are aware of it, bring your pointed concentration back to that mental stillness. At first you will not be able to hold this for even a second; but if you keep on with determination, these seconds of mental stillness will increase.

So the huatou is really another name for what I have usually called… the ‘zazen mind’. Don’t worry about the Great Doubt; that is the mental state we are all naturally in before we realise that all our words, thoughts about meanings, mental pictures etc. are themselves this doubt. When we know that we cannot know, the doubt slips away.

Don’t get impatient with yourself. Don’t think about progress. Simply keep on bringing your attention back in zazen to that state of mind when you have no mental activity going on. Once you can experience the ‘feel’ of this one-pointed concentration you will find it easier to get back to it. Simply to become the breath, in and out, no other thought, idea, mental picture in your field of consciousness at all, is for me the quickest way to the huatou state.

There are various levels of consciousness that you will become aware of; but to all of them you must pay no attention. Don’t expect things to happen. Drop, and keep on dropping, everything that comes into your mind. Return always to the ‘feel’ of your breath, till that moment comes when you will really know that there is nothing to ‘know’ with your mind. You have all that you need just as you are.

5 May 1984

You must be guided very much by your intuition as to the rightness, for you, of the teaching and the teacher you decide to follow. He must feel right for you. If he is a real teacher and he knows your potential, and knows he is right for you, he will accept you. But if he does not, it may well be because he can see you must go to someone else. Teachers who appear to accept everyone, and Eastern teachers who accept every Westerner, are often more concerned with the so-called prestige a Western pupil is supposed to bring them. Simply prepare yourself so that you are ready when the right teacher is available: when the pupil is ready the teacher appears.

15 May 1984

From my own practice I know it is good advice to cut out reading when really engaged in intense meditation; and what reading you do needs to be selective, probably only Sutras, and probably again only one or two of those: the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra and the Surangama to help with psychological problems. Once you can communicate with your teacher you must be guided entirely by him; while always remembering that even Shakyamuni tells us we must not take even his words as correct for us till we have experienced the truth for which the words stand. This is why we must have total trust in our master.

After you have been meditating rigorously for long hours, for many days, you will no doubt enter a stage where you will probably be filled with doubts, you will feel stale, everything becomes cloudy, you may even think you are in the wrong place or have the wrong teacher. This is the testing time. Everyone goes though this stage at some time. You may feel depressed, homesick, lonely. It is not something peculiar to you and your situation. I reached a point where I nearly killed myself; but I was alone and had no teacher.

30 May 1984

Do you still have the huatou in the pit of the stomach, the ‘Who?’ as your whole field of consciousness, turning the mind inwards? What is the state before even the ‘Who?’ is asked? Where does that ‘Who?’ come from? When the doubts or questions fill your whole content of consciousness, there will come a moment when everything stops; hindering thoughts stop, and there is only a stillness, you are one with the question. This is no longer your usual consciousness. You and ‘Who?’ are one. There is no sensation of body, no consciousness ‘of’ anything. And of course this is the state of mind before a thought arises; in other words it is the huatou. It can be endless space, a brightness, a kind of great joy, it turns the world upside down. There is nothing you can say profitably about it, but you know it.

26 June 1984

Every situation, at that moment, is perfect for our practice; just as every sense intrusion such as pain, noises, mental creations, are subjects for meditation. All we have to do is drop all the hindrances, preconceptions and attachments.

You will find you will never come to the end of doubts. But doubts are the driving force that set you on your path, and that will keep you on it. As you deepen your meditation you will find that your sense of doubt becomes more subtle; it will be seen to be less about external concrete concepts, opinions, situations and much more to do with moral attitudes, a sense in which nothing can be distinguished or be said to exist apart from anything else. Doubts never end but in the end become of themselves also void; these are the doubts not subject to answers. Having to examine doubts (in order to answer others) clears the ground of our minds, so we can be free of clutter; or at least some of it. The subtle doubts are of a different kind.

You are right about robes being powerful; but don’t forget they can also become a barrier, a hindrance, if we live behind them. They focus attention on us; they can make us feel special. The fact people expect a special kind of wise answer from you will show you this. Don’t let this fool you into thinking you really have what others may expect. Answer always from your heart, from the truth you know for yourself. Remember in the end the real question, which is also the real doubt, can only be answered by silence. The Buddha showed us that. Just because one may be wearing robes, be he Easterner or Westerner, does not mean he has travelled very far on the spiritual path. A real teacher will be hard to find because in the end he will only be found within! That is hard to accept but the Buddha also told us that.

I think it will be wise to discuss your meditation less with other monks and only with your teacher. Others may not understand, conversation can be confusing and raise expectations both for you and them.

22 July 1984

Ah! I know how you felt, and I am so very happy for you. Of course one is beside, or outside oneself at first, or simply with no self. It’s wonderful, so obvious, and quite impossible to put into words. And of course one has to calm down after a while. But no matter; now you know it’s just this, your view of things will never be the same again. Your real training starts here. I share your joy.

Now you will find deeper meanings in the Sutras. You have the answer and no one has anything to ‘give’ you. The need to keep rushing about the world simply ceases. Yet the need to go on deepening your insight never stops; for all is instant change and flux, including what you are, how you are, the situations around you. Life is constant practice. Every moment is new and pregnant with possible births.

Your old friend still has a suggestion to make. Forget the first experience and do not expect the next insight to be as big. Each moment is just it. There must be no smell of Zen, and that only happens when you are unaware that ‘just this’, be it a deep insight that lifts your heart filling it with a love for all things, or the dreary drudgery of occupations you don’t like, is all one. You must learn to hide your discovery; don’t let even a hint be known, or that subtle poison, spiritual pride, creeps in. Even present joy must be let go. Nothing very important has happened. Be happy, be sad, with all your might; the next moment is new.

One does each thing as new because one has to do it. Nothing special. One does zazen not knowing, one sits because it is the next thing. That is Zen samadhi. All the multiplicity of the flux of the Universe is the One, and that’s also the present moment, writing this, reading this. Nothing special. Wonderful! No stink of Zen. Nothing holy. You are a Bodhisattva and have all the beings (who do not exist!) as numerous as the sands of the Ganges to save. Keep on doing this and never give it a thought. That is how we pay the debt of gratitude. It flows from the heart and we don’t know it with the head at all.

19 September 1984

With regards to our Bodhisattva vows: if from the first not a thing is, who takes the vows or precepts and what beings are there to be saved? The idea that there is a ‘you’ who will take these vows; that at a ceremony these precepts of a Bodhisattva will be ‘given’ to you; that then you will for all time try and ‘keep’ them, is simply a simplistic view of the meaning. There are no beings to be saved, and nothing that is a Bodhisattva, for all is One. Form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form: this is true of everything. But still, as the very emptiness is also form, so, though no such being called a Bodhisattva can even hold an idea of saving any beings, that ‘no- person’ must, by his whole way of life and attitude, create around himself the atmosphere where such ‘no-beings’ can wake up and realise that which is! So, in a dualistic sense, which is no-sense, beings can be saved. Ask “Who is there to be a Bodhisattva?” Truth is beyond words but there is an insight that will, moment by living moment, infuse your presence with the atmosphere that will help all (no-) beings. Even the summit of human aspiration is a concept; but we can all try by great attention to live in compassion for all beings. We are what we think. Yet who holds these views?

24 October 1984

I’m delighted to learn that you have had the ordination… even if it was a rather more noisy ceremony than you had anticipated. The only important part is what took place within you. The rest is froth and will settle…

The inner truth and insight of your meditation is all that matters. You have committed yourself to a great adventure that never ends. That is the transmission and each time you enter into samadhi in meditation this transmission takes place. The Bodhisattva is one who is living in a state of constant transmission, for the Buddha nature naturally flows through his every act. Nothing is self centred…

You may often find the tears flowing or you may see visions or get some ‘Chan disease’ manifestations. This is why it is such a help to have a Chan master, quite apart from the ‘presence’ that a right teacher can give your practice.

I am now 70 years old and have followed the way since I was 16 and each day is new and there’s still no goal in sight.

24 November 1984

As you have asked me, I’ll give you a few details of my early stages on the path. Like you I first became aware of the Dharma through reading a book when I was 13 or 14; it was as if I somehow had known about it all the time. I seemed to remember it. Then one day, I suddenly had the experience of my body and everything around me simply dissolving into a brilliant space that had no limitations and I realised that somehow I was not really separate or apart from anything. But I knew nothing of training or meditation nor that there were different paths to follow. I only read books on Buddhism and the vision got dim.

Then, during the war in Burma I was wounded and got malaria and was sent up into the Himalayas to a rest camp where it was my karma to go and stay with some English Buddhists who introduced me to my first master. He was a Chinese lama who was meditation teacher in a local Tibetan monastery; but was also a disciple of the Venerable Chan Master Hsu yun who was at that time still alive in China. He gave me the Precepts and introduced me to Chan meditation and for a month I had the privilege of sitting every day (night) with him. Later, through him, I was put in touch with Charles Luk.

On my return to England I became a hermit for two years, living in a tent on the cliffs here in Cornwall. After another experience of dropping body and mind and going through a difficult time because I could not have the guidance of my old teacher (who had said I must find my own path on my own), I discovered how kind he had been.

One day a Japanese lay brother came to visit because of a dream, and, through this, a Zen Roshi eventually came to England and I was ordained and given transmission in to the Soto sect of Dogen. Yet I have always lived as a layman and do not wear robes. I also sat for a while with the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa who also had my Chan lama Linchen(2) as his meditation teacher when he was a young monk. My ordination name was Myozen Daizui.

1 January 1985

You are right: deep concentration brings about many physical as well as mental changes. These are quite natural and there is nothing either special or ‘holy’ about them… As I think you realise, these various manifestations of auras, lights, demons and Buddhas are all fairly common. They are all projections from your own subconscious, or in some cases a kind of telepathic or joint sharing of the hallucination of someone else.

In meditation, when you have reached the state of really stilling the stream of thought and images, that reservoir of memory of which we are not normally aware seems to throw up these phantoms. It is the same place as that from where our dreams come in sleep. Sometimes they can seem to take on a life of their own and can be frightening; they won’t go away. They won’t go away because secretly the more egotistical surface consciousness becomes fascinated. This is certainly the case when hallucinations seem to suggest we are being favoured, for instance when it is a holy image, such as the Buddha or a ‘divine being’, who comes and seems to suggest we’re making great progress.

So take no notice of any such manifestations. They are all illusions, projections of your own mind however ‘objective’ they may appear. This also goes for ‘lights’, ‘voices’, ‘scents’ as well. What they do show however is that your meditation is maturing… but don’t ‘stick’ at this point. Many ‘mystics’ have done so.

A few suggestions now about this sense of evil, of being possessed by an evil power that apparently came from what should have been ‘good’, that is a Buddha statue. You are quite likely to experience a number of such paradoxical transformations of right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark. They will take many forms. Remember, all these concepts, values, judgements are within; they are all attributes of the self and must be seen for what they are. Remember that even the concept of ‘Buddha’ must be seen for what it is, a concept, idea, created by minds and so it is for all values. Precepts must become actualised, we must become living embodiments of them, Bodhisattvas who are not even conscious of being Bodhisattvas, otherwise we are not Bodhisattvas. In Zen we are told to ‘kill’ even the Buddha: that is we must not hold to the concept of Buddha as being other than what we are.

I have the feeling that you are still objectifying some of the experiences that you have or which arise in your meditation states. I mean that you are placing outside of yourself a kind of power, the ‘power of your vows’, or even your ‘wish to teach Buddhism to others’. You are still giving off the smell of ego, of pride, even if in a subtle way. Who has this ‘power of your vows’? Who wishes to teach Buddhism for the ‘good of others’? All powers, all demons, all energies, are in a sense the natural manifestation of the flux we call reality; but when they pass through our senses and are filtered through our brains and become ‘real’ in consciousness, they appear to be apart, or outside, or other than we are. You should have no problems if you still your mind and return always to ‘Who is it?’ who experiences whatever it be – demon or Buddha.

You must always start from where you are and from who you are. You will always be who you are. We are all the result of our past karma; this cannot be altered so far as the past is concerned. It just is. Yet this very moment, this place, is where change also occurs. In this constant flux of the eternal present there is also change. Yet, even in all the apparent movement, our very self is the mental habit of moment by moment creating this illusion of an ongoing apparently permanent entity or being. All is one void, process, energy and at the same time quite beyond all our concepts of the mind. We will never know or understand, though we will experience.

I think, secretly, you are a little proud of what your ‘self’ or ego has achieved: it’s all been mind blowing of course. But now your real inner journey must get underway. No doubt there will be many slips and the possible help of an English speaking teacher will help at such moments. If you trust your intuition and watch the tricks of the self you will have all you need.

I think you must bow in gratitude to your master Sik Sing Yat who, although he may not be Lin-chi (What vanity to tell him what he should have done!), seems to have guarded you well. Yes, I know the country you are passing through but what are dreams to trouble the incredible perfection and beauty of this moment. The best mantra is always the one eternal question ‘Who?’ The answer is no answer but only the experience of ‘Who?’… The only demon is within; that persistent little self. It fights to the end yet it is an illusion.

At your stage I don’t think learning mantras is anything but a diversion. After all, your master told you not to play around with such antics. I rather feel you are showing too much interest in your mind’s tricks. Yes, I also had my demons and not all are gone yet. Practice never ends. There is always a further mountain to climb. That’s what it is all about.

I am sure you have been very impatient at times. We all experience this. It is of course yet another manifestation of pride, isn’t it? I wonder why we make what is simple so very difficult?… I think you are at the point where you’ll find the answers that are in the Heart Sutra within you. You know you are ripe for experience and I wouldn’t read anything unless it is the Heart Sutra… in any case more a meditation than a reading. Please bow to Sik Sing Yat for me. I think your gratitude to him will increase with time.

1 March 1985

It sounds as if you are wise not to get mixed up with Westerners who are at popular temples in Japan. I think that since Zen became popular in the 60s and 70s the more comfortable Zen temples have become overrun with Westerners seeking quick and easy ‘answers’. I am sure the serious monks and teachers must find them a problem at times. There will no doubt be many that are neurotic or very disturbed.

You obviously now understand that all the exciting ‘states’, ‘visions’ and other experiences that you had last year were stages of no consequence except that they showed your powers of concentration to be getting stronger. Do not become attached to their fascination or feel that you are somehow special or important because of them. There is no special ‘god’ handing them out to you, they are produced simply by your own effort in zazen. And all that business with the finger burning! Your wise teacher Sing Yat knew there was a lot of pride and vanity in that affair but worth it in the end for what you learnt. Some of us have to travel a stony path as we are so full of ego.

Soon you will find that there is only emptiness, both inside and outside; that you require no outside guide. At each moment and in each situation you will know how to respond adequately. Gradually you will realise that you are increasingly in an empty state, you will be aware of the working of your mind and the objects of your thoughts as somehow floating in space. Inside and outside are the same in the process. There is nothing static, fixed, with a separate reality. You will find yourself increasingly in the present moment fully and your past thoughts and deeds will lessen their grip on your habits. As Sing Yat said, “the real work is to forget the self, so one can benefit others”. Others and self are one. The only disturbance is within.

14 November 1985

This rude, unhelpful, uninterested in Westerners, Zen master (of whom you write) sounds interesting. What reputation has he among the Koreans? No master can give you anything, except perhaps a little encouragement and a push now and then. I cannot know but perhaps he is a master from whom you have things to learn. Sometimes the nice, friendly, apparently helpful, master is not what we need. It becomes comfortable, safe, predictable. Maybe he is uninterested in Westerners because he doesn’t consider they are there with enough inner commitment. If it is a question of life and death, then even the question of the master’s attitude must be dropped. So it’s not what he can give you or do for you, but what you can realise in yourself. If you think he’s unhelpful it’s surely because you expect him to be helpful; in other words give you something – help! You are well on the way; you have the tools; it’s up to you. It’s right there in front of you, whatever the circumstances. I know you can do it. Hard slog yes; polishing the mirror yes; till you realise there’s not even a mirror.

Zazen is the gate. Nothing else matters. Just where you are is the place. Now is eternally the right and only moment. It’s a question of life and death; your head is in the pail of water and all you want is air, nothing else will do. I know you have the strength. All your battles are with yourself; only you can conquer and win through. You have it all. Who are you?

? June 1986

I’ve been in Nepal for a month. Managed to step into Tibet, but things are not too happy there; though better than they were. Met one or two interesting Tibetans. It all helps to knock off the tough corners of one’s ego box. Travelling in the Himalayas was the real testing. I needed to return to the high mountains again. Just to trek in such places, camping away from western life and conditions, living with the Sherpas, tough simple people, was a tonic. In many ways reluctant to return; but my karma is here, I know.

Had a dream about you; partly why I felt this was the moment to write. You’ll probably understand what it means. I see you climbing steep rocky steps to a building on top of a high hill; could be a temple on the top, a Chinese temple. You’re struggling to climb the steps because you are holding a goat and a tiger by two long ropes, and they are pulling back down the hill. You do not seem to want either of these animals, but you say you cannot leave them. Perhaps you can interpret this? I awoke somehow expecting to have news of you. The Bodhisattva’s great delusion is that knowing all are Buddhas, he still goes around trying to help everyone realise that. Look after yourself.

30 August 1986

Your letter… has broken the long silence; for I had been wondering how you were getting on; or had you perhaps vanished into China, lost to our world? I can see you’ve been discovering many things. This is the perennial wonder and beauty of the path; that it is ever changing and will not end; certainly not in this life or on this earth.

I can feel in your letter, as much as in what you say, that inner certainty that comes with the true inner vision that deep zazen brings: seeing and experiencing the total ultimate emptiness of what we call ‘self’; the total oneness of what we call reality. As you now realise for yourself nothing can ever be the same again. This insight, the total oneness and its paradoxical constant flux and change, must now become what you are; it’s not something ‘you’ have somehow become; it’s what you have always been!

Yet, equally, as there’s no static, ultimate thing we can call ‘you’ to be, this has to be realised or woken up to moment by moment. In this sense, none of us ever achieve enlightenment; but enlightenment is when all our illusions (our wrong views) are dropped. We all struggle so hard just to be.

Yes, sex and drink and fasting simply are; not good or bad, but facts or aspects of reality, of the flux of existence: but how and when and how much they are experienced is what must concern us. Are they at this particular moment in time either conducive or a hindrance to our waking up? There is no value in a load of guilt; that can be not only another hindrance but actually an indulgence. So we make a mistake and indulge overmuch; greed of one kind or another overcomes us, we see this, acknowledge it to ourselves, and then, endeavouring not to break this particular precept again, we carry on into the next moment of this flux of time. If karmic harm has been created then we must expect to pay. Beyond this make no big deal out of it. We will all fail sometime.

Do not think too much about ‘progress’ in meditation; if there is real meditation, where is the ‘you’ who can consider it greater or less improved since the last time? The ‘progress’ comes when you are no longer apart from the process; when you don’t even consider it something that is being done by ‘you’. It is as natural and as inevitable as your next breath. The less of ‘you’ there is in your meditation, the more ‘result’ others will probably see in you; but ‘you’ won’t know it!

I see you have arrived at the difficulty of living the meditation mind state from moment to moment: but you’ve stated the answer; no discriminating mind but complete attention to each moment, mind state, and action resulting from it. It becomes more and more subtle, always requiring awareness and vigilance. Much of the change that comes with the life practice is in the character. Without knowing it your perception and awareness become more acute. The practice will never end, though your intuition will gradually disclose to you a different dimension within which you experience it: the third eye is open.

6 December 1986

Even if you found your situation [on a Korean sesshin] rather chaotic at times with much switching around and even arguments, how good it must have been for your practice. That’s the beauty of the way; all situations are the right and perfect way and place and time for practice. Just where you are, as it is, can be the right place. In fact there can be no other for it is where you are.

Tho’ you know the silent place in your meditation you have by constant mindfulness to actualise it in your total being. The inner nature that you are, beyond the conditioning of your character, has to become the living, moment by moment, you that you potentially are. Remember the way is a constant progression with no goal. We shall never achieve or reach an end in our journey but must always be in a state of practice. By constant practice we slowly become more aware; if only more aware that we all have a long journey ahead. Even our Lord Buddha practised till his last meditation.

If you check your actions and thoughts with reference to the Precepts the fruits of what you do will be right for all situations. The precepts, the ethical concepts given us by our teachers, are our staff for the journey. By such constant reference we all have the guidance and the map of the way.

2 February 1987

The enemy within us is the habits we have accumulated both in mental baggage and as the results of our actions. The more we can develop the way of dealing with the present moment with the free and open mind that meditation shows us the less habit-controlled we will be. The practice has no end. Razor sharp awareness and vigilance is required.

You will no doubt have people suggesting all kind of attractive Buddhist projects that could use the money [you have acquired]. All of them may no doubt be worthy projects but I think you should take your time. Your idea of a retreat house is very good; but all such places require a strong purpose and well-grounded individuals (not just one or two) to really carry on and not become a bolthole for little groups of rather inadequate people. Such places need a nucleus of people with strong convictions and the practical ability to attend to the organisational side. Many fine ideas and good intentions float around but come to nothing because the people are not practical enough…

As you ask me, I would suggest that you carry on with your practice, with the teacher that seems right for you, till you feel it’s time to come back here and then let what will be right, at that time and place, grow slowly. Perhaps a small cottage where you can carry on your practice and let those who will, come to you and share your practice. Don’t fall for that ego trip, “I am a teacher, I can teach you!” Even Buddha said he could only point the way. The heart of a ‘centre’ has to be right motive.

17 July 1987

You seem to be a traveller still, for every letter comes from a different place; but I sense there’s also somehow a different person writing them. You sound as if in many ways you are slightly disillusioned with many things. Perhaps you should write more on this subject.

“Without really knowing how” you say, you are sharing an apartment with a young lady. That, I suspect, will be the cause of several aspects of karma, if it has not already been so. I am simply thinking of what you told me happened the last time you were in Japan.

I wonder why you have not attempted to find one of those few small temples where some kind of good teaching still goes on under one of four really enlightened Zen masters(3). If you can speak a little Japanese you will be in a better position than the usual Westerner. I feel that you have an opportunity to open some gateless gates in Japan. What is the weightless Buddha of Nara? Daito lived with beggars under the bridges of Kyoto for twenty years and came back into the world of Dharma and founded Daitokoji. There’s something there for you; an insight that you should be able to perceive and two strong karmic fetters that you must break. You have travelled so far, do not waste energy and time on anything less than realising the truth in you!

Why do I feel that there’s some doubt, something unresolved in your letter? Is the life of the monk really the way for you? For being a monk or not being a monk has nothing to do with passing through the gateless gate. Fighting constant inner battles to keep a lot of vows can take up a great deal of energy. The only reason for keeping vows of celibacy, like abstemiousness generally, is that otherwise we increase the fetters that blind and enslave us. Even guilt when we do not live up to our intentions becomes an extra guilt and a thief of energy; and to make that last great leap from the top of the hundred foot pole will take all you are. Everything must be sacrificed. There will be no dickering there, no bargaining with truth.

Are you intending to return to Hong Kong and Master Sik Sing Yat or has the time come to move on? There can come a time when one should seek out new aspects; test out the depth of one’s realisation in new situations, with different teachers. It is a very old tradition to do this and I suspect Sik Sing Yat may have suggested this when he first sent you off to Korea.

Another thought; don’t ever forget that realisation of the Buddha way is not different from its actualisation amid all the temptations of our everyday life. So although we may be disillusioned with weakness in ourselves and in our teachers we must still seek for that one true teacher who will be there when we are worthy. It’s then the Dharma takes root. Something is waiting for you.

Your brother in the Dharma
Bill

Notes

1 The huatou meaning ‘head of thought’ refers to the moment before a thought arises, usually a question often derived from a koan story. The method described here was much favoured by Master Hsu yun. See C. Luk, Chan and Zen Teaching, (London, Rider), First series, p 23. Also: The Secrets of Chinese Meditation, (London, Rider), 1964, p48. Master Sheng Yen often speaks of the methods of Hsu yun in his books.

2 Perhaps Rinchen (Great Jewel): the Chinese do not pronounce ‘R’s easily. Ed

3 Bill recommended Roshi Mumon of Shofukoji Temple in Kobe and Roshi Kyodo Sochu at Ryutakuji Temple near Mount Fuji.

Edited by John Crook

Jordan Peterson on the femininists and Islam

 

Jordan Peterson on the femininists and Islam

One of the things that I’ve really tried to puzzle out, and it’s not like I believe this. I’m just telling you about the edges of my thinking, of being…is that you have this crazy alliance between the feminists and the radical Islamist that I just do not get. It’s like the feminists, it’s like why aren’t they protesting non-stop about Saudi Arabia? It’s just completely beyond me, like I do not understand it in the least, and I wonder – I just wonder is this what the Freudian means? Is there an attraction, you know, is there an attraction that’s emerging among the female radicals for that totalitarian male dominance that they’ve chased out of the West? That’s a hell of a thing to think, but after all I am psychoanalytically minded, and I do think things like that because like I just can see no rational reason for it. The only other rational reason is that the West needs to fall and so the enemy of my enemy is our, yeah, it’s a guy… Exactly now, what is it I thought that’s wrong with “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Yes, exactly! So elements tend to vote liberal as well, so that that could be the case but I am NOT going to shake my suspicions about this unconscious balancing because as the demand for egalitarianism and the eradication of masculinity accelerates, there’s going to be a longing in the unconscious for the precise opposite for the problem of that. The more you want, the more you scream for equality, the more your unconscious is going to admire dominance. That’s how you think if you’re analytically minded. [Sorry if this isn’t 100% coherent]

In his recent book, 12 Rules…, he says, “When softness and harmlessness become the only consciously acceptable virtues, then hardness and dominance will start to exert an unconscious fascination. Partly what this means for the future is that if men are pushed too hard to feminize, they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology.” [p. 199]

Jordan Peterson, on Meaning

 

Jordan Peterson, on Meaning

The text below is taken from the last page of ‘Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)’ from Jordan Peterson’s latest book: 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote for Chaos

 

There is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. There is no careful observation that actions and presuppositions matter, or that the world is made of what matters. To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning  is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You can set up the preconditions, you can follow meaning, when it manifests itself, but you cannot simply produce it, as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.

What is expedient works only for the moment. It’s immediate, impulsive and limited. What is meaningful, by contrast, is the organization of what would otherwise merely be expedient into a symphony of Being. Meaning is what is put forth more powerfully than mere words can express by Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” a triumphant bringing forth from the void of pattern after pattern upon beautiful pattern, every instrument playing its part, disciplined voices layered on top of that, spanning the entire breadth of human emotion from despair to exhilaration.

Meaning is what manifests itself when the many levels of Being arrange themselves into a perfectly functioning harmony, from atomic microcosm to cell to organ to individual to society to nature to cosmos, so that action at each level beautifully and perfectly facilitates action at all, such that past, present and future are all at once redeemed and reconciled. Meaning is what emerges beautifully and profoundly like a newly formed rosebud opening itself out of nothingness into the light of sun and God. Meaning is the lotus striving upward through the dark lake depths through the ever-clearing water, blooming forth on the very surface, revealing within itself the Golden Buddha, himself perfectly integrated, such that the revelation of the Divine Will can make itself manifest in his every word and gesture.

Meaning is when everything there is comes together in an ecstatic dance of single purpose—the glorification of a reality so that no matter how good it has suddenly become, it can get better and better and better more and more deeply forever into the future. Meaning happens when that dance has become so intense that all the horrors of the past, all the terrible struggle engaged in by all of life and all of humanity to that moment becomes a necessary and worthwhile part of the increasingly successful attempt to build something truly Mighty and Good.

Meaning is the ultimate balance between, on the one hand, the chaos of transformation and possibility and on the other, the discipline of pristine order, whose purpose is to produce out of the attendant chaos a new order that will be even more immaculate, and capable of bringing forth a still more balanced and productive chaos and order. Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.

Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book) quotes

 

Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book) quotes:

Some quotes from Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book)

Someone [many thanks!] on the web wrote:

I copied these quotes from The Red Book into a booklet and from there copied what I thought were my favorites from the booklet onto my computer; this is the result of that effort. Keep in mind that Jung cautioned us to “beware of unearned wisdom” – but with that said I think these quotes could be of great service to those seeking wisdom in life and who are willing to put in the effort to earn it. If you’re not familiar with Jung’s work then let this serve as perhaps a taste of what is to come from going down that path. These quotes are listed in the same order as they appear in Liber Novus. I’d also recommend reading the Wikipedia on this book if you’d like to learn more about it (it has quite an interesting backstory).

In 1957, near the end of his life, Jung spoke about the Red Book and the process which yielded it; in that interview he stated:

“The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”

  • The soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.
  • You should say: “The life that I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.”
  • The transience of the things coming toward you has never yet experienced a human meaning.
  • There will be no one who will laugh at me as I laughed at myself.
  • Nothing will deliver you from disorder and meaninglessness, since this is the other half of the world.
  • If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.
  • How can we presume to want to know in advance from where the light will come to us?
  • Cleverness conquers the world, but simple-mindedness, the soul. So take on the vow of poverty of spirit in order to partake of the soul.
  • Depth and surface should mix so that new life can develop.
  • Life does not come from events, but from us. Everything that happens outside has already been.
  • Incapacity will overcome us and demand its share of life.
  • The one who learns to live with his incapacity has learned a great deal.
  • The highest truth is one and the same with the absurd.
  • As day requires night and night requires day so meaning requires absurdity and absurdity requires meaning.
  • If we do not have the depths, how do we have the heights?
  • Nothing is more dangerous than to play the hero. The depths want to keep you.
  • If we still want to overcome death, then we must enliven it.
  • If you are in yourself, you become aware of your incapacity.
  • He must embrace the worthless and the worthy with the same love.
  • Judgement must fall from you, even taste, but above all pride, even when it is based on merit.
  • Turn your anger against yourself, since only you stop yourself from looking and from living.
  • Let your hope, which is your highest good and highest ability, lead the way, and serve you as a guide in the world of darkness.
  • He who prefers to think than to feel, leaves his feeling to rot in darkness.
  • To live oneself means: to be one’s own task.
  • If you want to create yourself, then you do not begin with the best and the highest, but with the worst and the deepest. Therefore say that you are reluctant to live yourself.
  • Through your selfish wish, you pushed out of your thoughts everything that you do not consider ordered, that is, unfitting.
  • Thoughts are natural events that you do not possess.
  • The way of life is transformation, not exclusion.
  • I am in danger of believing that I myself am significant since I see the significant.
  • You need your wholeness to live onward.
  • The spirit of this time has condemned us to haste.
  • Only one law exists, and that is your law. Only one truth exists, and that is your truth.
  • If we do not see a thing Fate does it to us.
  • He who strives only for things will sink into poverty as outer wealth increases.
  • I bear a wound that is as yet not healed: my ambition to make an impression.
  • Mercy is granted to the developed, not the childish.
  • May those be well who can see these things! Those who cannot must live them as blind fate, in images.
  • Open the ancient books and learn what will come to you in solitude.
  • Know that you attain yourself from what you read in a book. You read as much into a book as out of it.
  • You may follow me not on my way, but on yours.
  • Thus I become, like the Buddha sitting in the flames.
  • The flowing together of the forethinking with pleasure produces the God.
  • The God holds love in his right, forethinking in his left.
  • You do not become God through this, or become divine, but God becomes human. He becomes apparent in you and through you, as a child.
  • You will become grown up insofar as you overcome the God of the ancients and of your childhood.
  • One can only overcome the old God through becoming him yourself, as one who seeks himself and no longer imitates heros. You free yourself, when you free yourself from the old God and his model. When you have become the model, then you no longer need his.
  • The spirit of the depths appears in you as thoroughly childish. If you don’t want the spirit of the depths, he is to you a torment. Willing leads to the way.
  • What is this divine childish willing? You can’t learn it through description, it can only become in you. Nor can you will it. You cannot learn or empathize it from what I say.
  • You should not learn my way but your own. My way leads to me and not to you.
  • Do not pretend there is a difference between thinking and doing.
  • You should be proud of nothing more than your emptiness and your wretchedness.
  • Your sensitivity is your particular form of violence.
  • Understand yourself and you will be sufficiently understood. You will have quite enough work at hand with that.
  • You do not want to believe in the size of the sacrifice that is required. But it will go on to the bitter end. Greatness requires greatness.
  • Never forget that you are a man and that you must bleed for the goal of humanity. Practice solitude assiduously without grumbling so that everything in time will become ready.
  • In the night my soul spoke to me: “The greatest comes to the smallest.”
  • You should pass from hand to hand. Self willing is not for you. You are the will of the whole.
  • One does not live one’s self, it lives itself.
  • The work of redemption is always first to be done on ourselves; if one dare utter such a great word. This work cannot be done without love for ourselves.
  • What we neglect in ourselves blends itself secretly into our actions towards others.
  • Through uniting with the Self we reach the God.
  • I recognize the God by the unshakableness of the experience.
  • We must heal ourselves from the God, since he is also our heaviest wound.
  • The God should not live in you, but you should live in the God.
  • The enlightening thought comes from the body.
  • It always begins in yourself and in all things and above all with love.
  • Love is to bear and endure oneself. It begins with this. It is truly about you; you are not yet tempered; other fires must yet come over you until you have accepted your solitude and learned to love.
  • Therefore, above all, solitude, until every softness toward yourself has been burnt out of you. You should learn to freeze.
  • You are most in need of your own help.
  • Stay quiet, fulfill the cursed work of redemption on yourself.
  • Draw the coat of patience and silence over your head, sit down, and leave the daimon to accomplish his work. If he brings something about, he will work wonders. Thus will you sit under fruit bearing trees.
  • You are a powerless man who needs all his force for his own completion.
  • “I am jealous of the hate you give others.”
  • “Embellish yourself with the gold of the Gods, but not with the meager treasures of earth-bound human-beings.”
  • Our very nature is differentiation – nondifferentiation and nondistinction pose a great danger to the creature.
  • Not your thinking but your essence is differentiation. Therefore you must not strive for what you conceive as distinctiveness, but for your own essence. Therefore at bottom there is only striving, namely the striving for one’s own essence.
  • There are only mistakes in your world.
  • Those whom love does not unite, fear compels.
  • What the Sun God speaks is life, what the Devil speaks is death. But Abraxas speaks that hollowed and accursed word that is at once life and death. He is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.
  • No man has a spirituality unto himself, or a sexuality unto himself. Instead he stands under the law of sexuality and spirituality. Therefore no one escapes these daimons.
  • Man is weak, and community is therefore indispensable.
  • Absence of community is suffering and sickness. Community in everything is dismemberment and dissolution.
  • Community gives us warmth, singleness gives us light.
  • Pleasure comes only from the new. Your soul would also like a new husband – ha ha! – she loves change.
  • We love only what is coming, not what is. Only the new gives us pleasure.
  • The Gods want you to do for their sake what you know you do not want to do.
  • I bring you the beauty of suffering. That is what is needed by whoever hosts the worm.
  • The devil as the adversary is your own other standpoint; he tempts you and sets a stone in your path where you least want it.
  • Accept your other standpoint; with that the devil fundamentally loses ground and so do you.
  • The devil always seeks to saw off the branch on which you sit. That is useful and protects you from falling asleep and from the vices that go along with it.
  • Only what is human and what you call banal and hackneyed contains the wisdom that you seek.
  • If no outer adventure happens to you then no inner adventure happens to you either.
  • You are a slave of what you need in your soul.
  • Become a woman yourself, and you will be saved from slavery to woman.
  • The acceptance of femininity leads to completion.
  • As a man you have no soul, since it is in the woman.
  • .. You must make your ordered world horrible, so that you are put off by being too much outside yourself.
  • The soul demands your folly, not your wisdom.
  • The way to your beyond leads through Hell and in fact through your own wholly particular Hell.
  • We do not love the condition of our being brought low, although or rather precisely because only there do we attain clear knowledge of ourselves.
  • Every word can work productively in your spirit.
  • Honor the darkness as the light, and you will illumine your darkness.
  • He who comprehends the darkness in himself, to him the light is near.
  • .. you find manifold meaning only in yourself, not in things.
  • We need the coldness of death to see clearly.
  • Life and death must strike a balance in your existence.
  • Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death.
  • How much my ideals have come down, and how freshly my tree greens.
  • I am man enough. I am noise, conversation, comfort, and help enough unto myself.
  • I unsuspectingly absorb what I reject. What I accept enters that part of my soul which I do not know; I accept what I do to myself; but I reject what is done to me.
  • The outer opposition is an image of my inner opposition.
  • This tangible and apparent World is one reality, but fantasy is the other reality.
  • Armor is enough to protect you from the fools who still suffer from the need to conquer. God’s armor will make you invulnerable and invisible to the worst fools.
  • Consider that your fellow men are animals without knowing it. So long as they go to pasture, or live in the sun, or suckle their young, or mate with each other, they are beautiful and harmless creatures of dark Mother Earth.
  • So conceal the God that you have taken with you.
  • If your beauty grows, the dreadful worm will also creep up you, waiting for its prey.
  • He who does not want evil will have no chance to save his soul from Hell.
  • Do not look back and regret nothing.
  • There are not many truths, there are only a few. Their meaning is too deep to grasp other than in symbols.
  • ..the way is my own self, my own life founded upon myself. The God wants my life.
  • What thinking cannot solve, life solves, and what action never decides is reserved for thinking.
  • We can hardly be without temptation.
  • .. do not turn anything you do into a law, since that is the hubris of power.
  • Turn to the dead, listen to their lament and accept them with love.
  • Do not look forward so much, but back and into yourself, so that you will not fail to hear the dead.
  • Become accustomed to being alone with the dead. It is difficult, but this is precisely how you will discover the worth of your living companions.
  • I accepted the chaos.
  • We create the truth by living it.
  • The work of men is steady but it swims upon chaos.
  • Your life needs the dark.
  • You grow if you stand still in the greatest doubt, and therefore steadfastness in great doubt is a veritable flower of life.
  • The strong have doubt but doubt has the weak. Therefore the weakest is close to the strongest, and if he can say to his doubt; “I have you,” then he is the strongest.
  • My speech is neither light nor dark, since it is the speech of someone who is growing.
  • He who cannot mock himself will be mocked by others. So accept your self-mockery so that everything divine and heroic falls from you and you become completely human. What is divine and heroic in you is a mockery to the other in you. For the sake of the other in you, set off your admired role which you previously performed for your own self and become who you are.
  • I see that he was the great suffering one, who needed salvation. He is the chosen one since he was the most rejected.
  • I become the smaller part of myself.
  • I have even become smaller and poorer, but precisely because of my smallness I can be conscious of the nearness of the great.
  • Nothing should seperate me from him, the dark one. If I want to leave him, he follows me like my shadow.
  • Be content and cultivate your garden with modesty.
  • The future should be left to those of the future.
  • I return to the small and the real, for this is the great way, the way of what is to come.
  • Remember that you can know yourself, and with that you know enough. But you cannot know others and everything else. Beware of knowing what lies beyond yourself, or else your presumed knowledge will suffocate the life of those who know themselves. A knower may know himself. That is his limit.
  • Life is free and chooses its way.
  • What would poverty, nakedness and unpreparedness be without consciousness of weakness and without horror at powerlessness?
  • .. above all don’t act so enlightened.
  • There is only one way and that is your way. There is only one salvation and that is your salvation. Why are you looking for help? Do you believe help will come from outside? What is to come will be created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.
  • The work of salvation is endless.
  • It is unclear how great one’s humility must be to take it upon oneself to live one’s own life.
  • You should make demands on no one, neither desiring nor expecting anything from anyone except from yourself.
  • You should live and die with yourself.
  • Our freedom does not lie outside us, but within us.
  • If the power of growth begins to cease, then the united falls into its opposites.
  • We suspect and understand that growth needs both, and hence we keep good and evil close together. Because we know that too far into the good means the same as too far into evil, we keep them both together.
  • .. nothing disgusts the human animal more than itself.
  • Your seriousnessness leads us to suffer.
  • We are the thousand canals in which everything also flows back again into its origins.
  • I have accepted everything beyond into myself.
  • He who wants to burden others with his baggage is their slave.
  • Happy is he who can be a hermit in his own desert. He survives.
  • No one besides you has your God. He is always with you, yet you see him in others, and thus he is never with you.
  • .. you are alone among men – in the crowd and yet alone. Solitude in multitude – ponder this.
  • My I, you are a barbarian. I want to live with you, therefore I will carry you through an utterly medieval Hell, until you are capable of making living with you bearable. You should be the vessel and womb of life, therefore I shall purify you.
  • The devil always tempts us first through women.
  • I returned to my middle ages where I was still romantic, and there I experienced the adventure.
  • Evil is one-half of the world, one of the two pans of the scale.
  • To live what is right and to let what is false die, that is the art of life.
  • What lies in the middle is truth.
  • It is a murderous task to write the wisdom of real life, particularly if one has committed many years to serious scientific research. What proves to be most difficult is to grasp the playfulness of life (the childish, so to speak).
  • More than ever we require the living truth of the life of the mind, of something capable of providing firm guidance.
  • We know that the ancients spoke to us in images.
  • As long as you know about the dead, you will understand your temptation.
  • If you know what the dead demand, temptation will become the well-spring of your best work, indeed of the work of salvation..
  • Nothing protects you against the chaos other than acceptance.
  • Salvation comes to you from the discarded. Your sun will rise from muddy swamps. Like all others, you are annoyed at the lowest in you because its guise is uglier than the image of yourself that you love.
  • We will take his sickness upon ourselves, and salvation will come to us through our own wounds.
  • You are afraid of the danger, but know that where God is nearest, the danger is greatest.
  • The sun arises from the darkest, dampest, and coldest. The unknowing people of this time only see the one; they never see the other approaching them. But if the one exists, so does the other.
  • “Near is / God, and hard to grasp. / But where danger is, / salvation also grows.”
  • Tame your impatience. Only waiting will help you here.
  • Waiting – I know this word. Hercules also found waiting troublesome when he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
  • If we accept the other in us, we also evoke the particular stupidity of our nature. Stupidity is one of man’s strange hobbyhorses. There is something divine about it, and yet something of the megalomania of the world, which is why stupidity is really large.
  • Satan crawls out of a dark hole with horns and tail, I pull him out by the hands.
  • Eros is desire, longing, force, exuberance, pleasure, suffering. Where logos is ordering and insistence, Eros dissolution and movement. They are two fundamental psychic powers that form a pair of opposites, each one requiring the other.
  • The fact that she is assigned to him as a daughter indicates a subordination of Eros to Logos.
  • Temptation brings about a further movement toward the side of Eros.
  • He must love his inferiority, even his vices, so that what is degenerate can resume development. Only disobedience against the ruling principle leads out of this condition of undeveloped persistence.
  • Every development leads through the undeveloped, but capable of development.
  • Some would rather abandon themselves to despair than adhere to a worldview completely removed from the well-trodden paths of their habitual behavior.
  • Of course your I is full of unease and doubt, but the constant flame of devotion burns in you more strongly and the compulsion of your fate is more powerful.
  • To attain individuality, we need a large share of death.
  • To him for whom solitude is Heaven, he goes to Heaven; to him for whom it is Hell, he goes to Hell.
  • Whomever does not follow the principium individuationis to its end becomes no God, since he cannot bear individuality.
  • You yourself are a creator of worlds and a created being.
  • Fear Abraxas, who rules over the human world. Accept what he forces upon you, since he is the master of the life of this world and none can escape him.
  • It pleases the one God if the individual lives his own life against the power of Abraxas.
  • Only by living life can you free yourself from it so live it to such a degree that it befits you.
  • In one sense I say to you: do not fear him, do not love him. In another sense I say: fear him, love him. He is the life of the earth; that says enough.

 

Nicole Krauss…on her writing

 

Nicole Krauss…on her writing

“The Self is a narrative, a story. In many ways we are captain of those stories, which are expandable. What you thought was pure imagination, actually comes from your life. These characters must come from the same mind, my own mind, so there must be coherence there, and my work as a writer is to find that coherence.”

nicola

There must have been some sense that not only was writing a chance to express myself – it’s too easy to express, well, we can ‘express ourselves’ in a conversation like this. I think it was something else, I think I recognized it was a chance to create myself. To actually decide for myself, who I was going to be. And that’s an incredibly exciting idea. It’s radical in a certain sense. Particularly when you’re young, you’re 14 years old, and almost everything in your life is decided for you. Your parents decide, your family, your school. The peer pressure, your friends. There’s this whole world, the cosmos, is pressuring you into a shape. And then you have this blank page and on that page you can decide to become anything and say anything. And you show it to someone or you don’t. And years later, you publish it, or you don’t. But that possibility is absolute freedom as far as you’re willing to go – it’s up to you, right? This chance to become something, to invent yourself, I think for me has always been incredibly enticing, and to this day, it’s probably the most compelling reason to write. But as a writer, I could be an old man at the end of his life. I could be somebody who lives in London.

As I see it, Judaism became something internal and portable. So these moments of radical reinvention of an individual, of a whole people, I guess that’s what moves me most, because I must feel in some way that it isn’t sufficient, it isn’t acceptable to simply inherit the past. To be shaped by it. It’s not fair. How can we live like that? What choice do we have? It seems that we have to have some say in the matter of who we are. And I don’t think that we have a complete say obviously, I’m writing all the time about the burden of inheritance, I guess you might say. I mean, if you think of your own memory, or the memories that are passed down to you from your parents and grandparents, that’s not really what happened – what you remember is not really what happened. You’ve taken this enormous portion of time, however many years you’ve been alive, and you’ve just blacked out huge portions of it that were useless to you, or didn’t quite work, and didn’t fit in with the narrative, but then you chose these moments, you illuminated these moments (very few of them) and you strung them together to create this coherence. And that’s who you are. That’s the story you tell yourself. You’re a fiction writer. We all are, right? But that fiction, is the fiction of the self. This goes back to my idea of writing as the creation of self. I’m sure it’s not only writers who do it – I’m sure it’s not. I think that is how we create who we are. And it’s something a little frightening, but it’s also something, I guess quite empowering. Because then the past isn’t something that lands on your head and that you have to deal with the rest of your life, and just live under the shadow of it. No, you have this imagination, to make something out of it.

In her novel, Great House, Nicole Krauss writes:

“Yes, I believed – perhaps even still believe – that the writer should not be cramped by the possible consequences of her work. She has no duty to earthly accuracy or verisimilitude. She is not an accountant, nor is she required to be something as ridiculous and misguided as a moral compass. In her work the writer is free of laws. But in her life, Your Honor, she is not free.”