Aiming at the Center
April 3rd, 2018
Mount Kailash, depicting the holy family: Shiva and Parvati, cradling Skanda with Ganesha by Shiva's side. This image represents the Axis Mundi, or the Cosmic axis, which represents the "connection between Heaven and Earth" or the "higher and lower realms".
The Story of Jacob
The story of Jacob, later Israel (he who struggles with God).
After serving his time with his uncle Laban, and being deceived by him in the most karmic of manners, Jacob returns to his home country. On the way, he encounters an angel, or God Himself, and wrestles through the night with him. Successful in his encounter, he still sustains damage to his thigh, but earns the name Israel, and becomes the father of all those who to this day wrestle with God.
Fiction as the Essence of Truth
You want your fiction to be boiled down to the essence. And that essence is something that is truer than the plain old truth if it is handled well.
Sidebar Commentary: "There is more truth in fiction than truth in non-fiction".
For example, the "motif" of the hostile brothers is a deep, archetypal truth (e.g., Cain and Abel).
Marxism's viewpoint that religion "is opiate for the masses" is a credible viewpoint. It is a shallow interpretation because the stories would be a lot prettier, if that was the case. The characters would not have this strange, realistic moral ambiguity about them. If you are going to feed people a fantasy, then you want it to be like a Harlequin novel, or a greeting card, or something like that. You do not want it to be a story that is full of betrayal and deceit and murder and mayhem and genocide, etc.
Sacrifice turned from "burning of something" to "offering what you value now for something in the future" (the unique human insight). It orients us in ways we do not understand. It’s the mechanism by which were oriented and if it’s lacking we become disoriented.
Sidebar Commentary: Greatest discoveries of mankind are (1) Freedom, having to give up freedom to achieve freedom, and (2) Sacrifice, having to offer something now for something in the future.
Straddling the Border of Order and Chaos
Walled city: Everything within the wall is cosmos, and everything outside the wall is chaos. You want to stand on the border of order and chaos.
Master of a field of study (or martial arts). Field is a metaphor because ‘field’ is a geographical metaphor. In the center of the field are those things that everyone knows really well—the axioms that everyone abides by, in the field. And then, as you move towards the fringes, you get towards the unknown—towards the frontier of the discipline. As you become expert, you move from the center to the frontier. When you’re a competent scholar (or martial artist), you’re on the border between the explored and the unexplored. You’re trying to further that border. So, even if you’re doing this abstractly, it’s the same thing. It’s a reflection of the fact that every human environment—concrete or abstract, it makes no difference—recapitulates the order-chaos dichotomy.
Taoism: The union of chaos and order that constitutes Being itself, and that you stand on the border between chaos and order, because that’s the proper place to be. Too orderly, too much in the explored, and you’re not learning anything. Too much out there, where the predators lurk, then you’re frozen with terror. Neither of those positions are desirable.
Jacob’s Ladder: The center, where you put the pillar, is also the place where heaven and earth touch. That’s a complicated idea. It is a symbolic place where the lowest and the highest come together. It is a place where earthly Being stretches up to the highest possible ethical abstraction, and that’s the center.
One of the things that defines ‘us,’ say, as opposed to ‘them,’ is that we’re all united within a certain ethic. That’s what makes us the same. This is a complicated line of reasoning. I’ll go back to it after I show you some more pictures.
We are all united in a certain ethic. That is what makes us the same. But the first idea is that the center is the place where the lowest and the highest touch simultaneously. You could say that, in some sense, it specifies the aim of a group of people.
Sidebar Commentary: Inside of a company you unite yourself around a project. You all have the same aim. And that makes you the same in some ways. The same things important to you are important to me. That means I can instantly predict you because we are all the same. You can say the aim is ethical because we are aiming at it together.
Center of the community is the pillar that unites heaven and earth—it unites the lowest with the highest. There is some intimation of the idea that it is the highest that unites the community. That is the idea of the axis mundi, which is the center pole that unites heaven and earth. It is an unbelievably old idea that may stretch back to whatever our archaic, archetypal memories of our excessively old ancestry in trees—when the tree itself was, in fact, the center of the world, and it was ringed by snakes and chaos.
Evolution is a conservative business. Once it builds a gadget, then it builds new things on top of that gadget. Towns: The center of the town is really old, and newer areas of the town get built around it. Our basic physiological structure is tens of millions of years old. If you think about vertebrates, it’s much older than that. That’s all conserved. So everything’s built on top of everything else.
Ancient cities: New cities are built on cities.
You have to get the balance between death and life so you can actually live.
Erecting a stone is a vision for the highest good (e.g., Stonehedge, Pyramid), it is the center. Permanent marker of space. Obelisk, where Pyramid is built on top.
Corruption of Center
Conservatives see flags as the sacred thing that binds people together. Burning a flag is dramatizing that the center has been corrupt. The corrupt center has to be burned and then transformed. They are both right all the time.
Young people always feel like they have been handed down something that they need to clean up. Yeah, yeah that is true but it has also been true for the last 35,000 years. There is a secret center with flaws, always.
Anybody who is a member of a group accept the transcendent ideal of the group. That is what it means to be a member of the group. When you were a member of a group you may disagree about how the group operates but you do not disagree about the purpose of the group because that is to dismember the group.
You should be able to specify, without error, what that central name of the group should be.
What should the aim be around which a group should congregate? Especially if it is a large group and the large group has to stay together around long stretch of time. And the group is incredibly diverse.
What kind of possible ideal could unite such a large group very diverse people across very large stretch of time? That is a really hard question. Part of the way that question has been answered is having been answered symbolically and in images because it is so damn complicated that it is almost impossible to articulate.
Sidebar Commentary: You need to circumambulate. This is why symbols and stories are more powerful than articulating a set of sequences (rationalism). This is also why when expressed in words the most important concepts are extremely abstract (e.g, Otsu and Musashi).
You need to have a center around which everyone could unite or else everyone will be at odds with each other. It is not possible to exist without a central ideal.
Grand Strategy and Aims
Your category system is a product of your aims.
If you have a set of facts at hand, the facts do not tell you how to categorize the facts. Because there are too many facts. There is no way, without imposing some a priori order on them, determining how it is that you should order them. So how should you order them? Well that is easy. You decide what you are aiming at. In order to organize those facts you need an aim. The aim instantly organizes those facts into those things relevant to the aim—tools, for example—those things that get in the way, and a very large number of things that you don’t have to pay attention to, at all.those things that get in the way and a very large number of things that you don’t have to pay attention to at all (via negativa).
You also have to keep that in mind, because what it means is that your category system itself—which is what structures your perceptions—is actually dependent on the ethics of your aim. It is a moral thing. It is directly dependent on your aim.
This is not how people think about thinking. We don’t think that way. We think that we think deterministically or empirically. None of that seems to be the case. What we do is posit an aim and organize the world around the aim.
Skills imply that you are very good at a certain set of things but not very good at a large set of things. It simplifies. It is a constraint in which we operate which allows us to exceed all expectations in that room in which we operate compared to the general.
Perception Systems: Mostly this work is ignored because the world is a complicated place. They focus on a small set of phenomena deemed relevant to whatever the aim is.
The aim is problematic because it has to be something that the group does not object to. It has to be sustainable across some amount of time.
You do not decrease fear, you increase courage.
The Thing That Unites People
People were trying to figure out what they need to unite under. What’s the proper thing to unite under? In the Mesopotamian societies, the emperor (absolute monarch) lived inside what was essentially a walled city. The God of the Mesopotamians was Marduk, and Marduk was the figure who had eyes all the way around his head, and he spoke magic words. He was very attentive and very articulate. It was Marduk who went out and confronted the Goddess of chaos—the dragon of chaos—cut her into pieces, and made up the world.
You can kind of understand what that means. Marduk goes beyond the frontier, into the place of predatory chaos, and encounters the thing that’s terrifying, and then makes something productive out of it. It is a hero myth. Marduk is elected to the position of preeminent God by all the other Mesopotamian gods because he manages that. So the Marduk idea emerges up the holy dominance hierarchy, and hits the pinnacle. God only knows how long that took. It would be the amalgamation of many tribes, and then the distillation of all the tribal myths, to produce this emergent story of what constitutes top God. And then the job of the emperor was to act out Marduk. That’s what gave him sovereignty.
The reason that he was the center around which people organized themselves—when he was being a proper emperor—was not because there was something super special about him. The power did not exactly reside in him, which is a really useful thing to separate. It’s kind of nice to have a symbolic monarch. You get the symbolic power separated from the personality power. Otherwise, they get conflated. That’s what happened in Rome, and you can see it tending to happen now and then in the U.S., like with the Kennedy dynasties, and that sort of thing.
The idea of the emperor is to act out that ideal. This is what allows the emperor to act as sovereign. The emperor becomes the center. That is why it is nice to have a symbolic monarch, you get the symbol power separated from the actual power. The idea of the sovereign is something that goes out into the unknown and makes it useful for the community.
The Story of Jacob
"They decide to sneak away, but are unhappy with the lack of inheritance from Laban."
As they sneak away, Rachel steals the idols that her father has in his house. It’s not exactly obvious why. There’s a lot of contention about why she’s doing that.
Sidebar Commentary: Look into Twilight of the Idols for some insight. Also, idols stolen and taken with you to the new land. You have a piece of the past with you. That is likely more accurate? Like the Fire God being brought to Hawaii.
It could be "as punishment; to bring with her the images of her ancestors"—maybe she’s lonesome, moving away from home—"just out of spite; to show him that the idols were actually powerless; for protection; to stop her father from divining the route of their escape." That last one is the strangest one, because the idea would be that Laban would’ve used some sort of ritual, with the idols, that would help him infer their escape route, and then he could chase. Anyways, that’s the range of speculation about that. I think it sounds, to me, mostly like a little act of revenge—maybe with a bit of loneliness mixed in.
Laban pursues them, but God comes in a dream to tell him to leave Jacob unharmed.
Laban catches up to Jacob and reproaches him, saying that he would have thrown a great party, if he would have known that they were going to leave—that he did not want them to sneak away in the night. You cannot tell from the story whether that is true or not. It could have been a slaughter (Game of Thrones style) or a party.
Laban complains that his gods are gone (presumably, the idols), and Jacob says that whoever has them, he will have them killed. Rachel—a sneaky character, all things considered—basically claims that she’s having her period, and she’s sitting on a carpet, with all the idols underneath. She can’t move, so they search everywhere, and they can’t find them. She’s laughing away, behind her hand, about that sneaky little maneuver. But she doesn’t die.
Laban checks everything out, checks the camp out, and he can’t find anything. They reconcile, and so that’s the first reconciliation that Jacob engages in. It’s sort of like the karmic debt has been paid. That’s one way of thinking about it. He got punished for his wrongdoing; he’s learned his lesson, perhaps. That’s good enough, as far as he’s concerned. He got away good enough, and they make peace.
The next thing that happens, as they’re travelling, is that "Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled a man"—man, angel, or God…It’s not clear. We’ll go with angel—"until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with the angel. And the angel said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And Jacob said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And the angel said unto him, What is thy name? And Jacob said, Jacob.
"And the angel said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob"—‘the supplanter’, ‘the overthrower,’ with that kind of implication of crookedness—"but Israel"—which means ‘he who wrestles or strives successfully with God—"for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
That’s quite a story. I don’t know exactly what to make of it. There’s obviously a symbolic level of meaning. That is what human beings do, in some sense: they wrestle with the divine—even with the concept of the divine, for that matter. But the question is, do they prevail?
It’s an odd thing that Jacob actually seems to win this battle. At least, he wins it enough so that whoever he’s wrestling—this divine figure that he’s wrestling—is willing to bestow a divine blessing on him. Maybe it’s a testament to his courage. Maybe it’s an indication that he has paid for his sins sufficiently, and he’s back on moral high ground. But I think the transformation of the name, from ‘Jacob’ to ‘Israel,’ is really telling, as well as the fact that ‘Israel’ means ‘he who wrestles or struggles with God."
It’s also so interesting that Jacob actually emerges victorious. You wouldn’t necessarily think that would be a possibility, especially given God’s rather hotheaded nature in the Old Testament. You don’t want to mess with him, too much. But Jacob does it successfully. Even more importantly is the idea that, whatever ‘Israel’ constitutes—which would be the land that Jacob founds—is actually composed of those who wrestle with God. I think that’s an amazing idea. It also seems, to me, to shed some light on, perhaps, what was meant by ‘belief,’ in those days.
Sidebar Commentary: Why does she take the idols? They are no longer doing any work for us psychologically because we no longer need to revenge ourselves on our worldly existence.
Two Types of Heroes
Two types of heroes: (1) The hero that slays the dragon, takes the resources, and distributes it amongst the community, and (2) The hero who stands up to the corrupt state.
The two major dangers are nature (dragon) and corrupt individuals (malevolence).
If you have something to contend against, then that strengthens you. And that is actually better than having nothing to contend against. Jacob is the person who is strengthened by this necessity of contending. That seems to be the proper relationship with God or the angel. The contending, the battling rather than some loose statement of belief.
We are contentious creatures. The kingdom of the chosen people are those who contend with God.
Sidebar Commentary: Some of the greatest insights of human history seem to come from people that have gone into isolation then come back. Israel, Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Seneca, Newton, Wolfram, and many of the Greek and Roman philosophers who were asked to leave for a period of time.
It is not language versus non-language. It’s is routine versus novelty. We have old things that look for anomalies, and we also have reflexes—for example, a snake reflex where you move faster than the snake and bite and you don’t think about it you just had a reflex. These responses are quite primitive but incredibly fast.
Orienting Reflex and Confronting Monsters
What is it?
The right hemisphere system: Orients you towards novelty. Something threatens you, you orient towards it, and the right hemisphere prepares a bunch of images about what it might be. They tell you what monsters might inhabit the darkness.
There are two things you have to figure out, what to do about a monster and what to do about the class of all possible monsters. Part of that is sacrifice. Sacrifice is one way to tame the monsters; then there was heroism as one alternative too. This means the act of confrontation of the class of all monsters.
It takes an incredible amount of meditation to solve the problem of the class of all monsters. An example of the class of all monsters: You have the direct monster, but then there is the monster that is generating all those other monsters. So no matter how much you try to defeat the direct monster if you were not to feed the monster that’s creating the monsters. (i.e., Hydra problem).
Solitude and Isolation to Dream
When we go into solitude, we shut off external stimulation and we let the dreaming part of our mind emerge and that is this nonverbal pattern detector that thinks in images. And it’s the thing that mediates between what we understand and what we don’t understand.
If you understand it completely then you can say it and you can act it out. And if you don’t understand it then you represent it in images. It’s the emotion fear, withdrawal, paralysis and that manifest itself in an image of what that might be or represent. And that image is the basis for the story and the basis for the further development of that image. To go into isolation is to let those images emerge and to dream a little bit. And that’s what moves you ahead into the future.
Becoming the Monster
The future becomes a problem because the future is all possible monsters. So how do you solve that? By becoming a monster yourself. You have to be monstrous enough to contend with the monsters but civilized enough to not be a monster.
Sidebar Commentary: This is the Jungian "integration of the shadow". Find those disowned parts of Self (murder, rage, other psychological factors like love). Those are the monsters.
Nietzsche on Scholars
Nietzsche talked about scholars as if they were a mirror and they stretched every part of their skin to allow every piece of new information they took on, and all they ever were was just an instrument, just a mirror reflecting what they have learned and never essentially ever having generated anything on their own.
The Existentialists: Life is a problem.
Nietzsche said all truths are truths to me. If an idea did not incarnate itself into you and transform your perceptions and your actions then you were merely possessed by the idea. You were merely a spokesperson for the idea. Or you can see the idea possessed you. You are a puppet for the idea. It’s not you, the idea is in you and it has you. You haven’t taken the idea and incorporated it with you and made a part of your life. That’s the passionate scholar.
Debating ideas: It is to establish intellectual dominance. It is too shallow an approach to the ideas. Ideas are not commodities. They have tendrils that reach right down into the living.
Nietzsche said scholars were full of performative contradictions they would say one thing and do another. Their intellect was completely disassociated from their actions.
You can tell when idea is a part of the inner accord of a person versus nearly passing through a person. Are they engaging or gripping? It’s not a good idea to have idea possess you unless you know what the ideas are up to.
Lots of people are possessed by ideas rather than possessing them. Which means they haven’t taken the idea (or understand what it is) and integrated them into their own being. They have not incarnated of the ideas in embodied form. They are incomplete.
Intellectual knowledge and action are not to be separated. People are a lot smarter and fluid with their ideas and they are ethical and consistent. Characterized by integrity.
Virtue via Negativa
Don’t practice what you don’t want to become. Don’t reinforce the low road. It becomes a "to hell with it". Reinforce the high road so it gets built into your neural architecture.
God allows Jacob and Abraham to win.
Humility in Panzram’s Rats and Jacob Wrestling God
The bigger rat lets the smaller rat win because the smaller rat will not engage in the game (also grappling). If people aren’t allowed to win every now and then they will stop playing the game.
God allowing humanity to win occasionally allows us to engage. A much more primitive version of the virtue humility?
Humility is an interesting take on it. It is almost like mercy. Almost like Christ allowing himself to be handed over and be defeated. God enters into that dynamic with people and willingly loses.
In the Old Testament God is amenable to negotiation. New Testament starts showing that you win because you’re playing a straight game. So maybe God let’s Jacob and Abraham win because they’re playing a straight game.
The reason god tolerates Satan is because without an adversary you get soft. Like is a moral struggle. It’s the fundamental essence of being. Reasonable observation (phenomologically).
Why does god let you win? If you’re trying to encourage someone then you’re trying to make them strong (not protect them, because that will not make them strong).
Set them a series of challenges right at the point where they may win
. That’s what you would do if you care for someone? Definitely with children. You push them to limit of their ability or else they don’t transcend their current abilities.