Sunday, May 06, 2012

Soul and Spirit

Lately I've been rereading my journals from the past of years. I ran across this entry on June 6th, 2011:

The Wild Man isn't like an Eastern Mystic: "When it comes time for a young male to talk with the Wild Man he will find the conversation quite distinct from a talk with a minister, a rabbi, or a guru. Conversing with the Wild Man is not talking about bliss or mind or spirit, or 'higher consciousness,' but about something wet, dark, and low--what James Hillman would call 'soul'." [Robert Bly, Iron John]

I've mentioned a couple of times that I sit zazen(meditate)for a half-n-hour every morning. There are times when I wonder why I'm doing it. Robert Bly once said this about enlightenment and the soul: "Mythology is more helpful than enlightenment or to put it chronologically, years of mythology need to come, accustoming the soul to darkness, before the soul is ready for enlightenment."

Part of the reason I do it is to relax and slow my thoughts. But than this excerpt from an interview with psychologist James Hillman comes to mind:

Safransky: What if the goal is merely a few minutes of calm?

Hillman: If that’s the goal, what’s the difference between meditation and having a nice drink? Or going to the hairdresser and sitting for an hour and flipping through a magazine? Or writing a long letter, a love letter? Do you realize what we’re not doing in this culture? Having an evening’s conversation with people; that can be so relaxing. Moving one’s images, moving one’s soul; I think we’ve locked on to meditation as the main method for settling down.

It’s better to go into the world half-cocked than not to go into the world at all. I know when something’s wrong. And I can say, “This is outrageous. This is insulting. This is a violation. And it’s wrong.” I don’t know what we should do about it; my protest is absolutely empty. But I believe in that empty protest.

You see, one of the ways you get trapped into not going into the world is when people — usually in positions of power — say, “Oh, yeah, wise guy, what would you do about it? What would you do about the Persian Gulf crisis?” I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know. But I know when I feel something is wrong, and I trust that sense of outrage, that sense of insult. And so, empty protest is a valid way of expressing feeling, politically. Remember, that’s where we began: how do you connect feeling with politics? Well, one of the ways is through that empty protest. You don’t know what’s right, but you know what’s wrong.

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