practicing mysticism in the modern world

People sometimes criticize my spending hundreds of hours of free time on translating 5th century chinese scriptures, (even as the rest of the world spends the same hours watching netflix and playing video games); i prefer to spend my time translating the daoist canon i found on the internet; “gibberish”, they say; my response is that i’m really just reading, not for the sake of reading but for the sake of seeing new metaphors for the world all around me, new perspectives to indulge my imagination in, to live “as if”, and to find my salvation in the transformation that comes from these new ways of seeing, stepping outside the “model of facts” that my culture bestows, to see from the perspective of immortality; i walk around in a ‘non-ordinary universe model’, ‘transforming late culture’ into an endlessly flowing river of immortality, as i walk for hours in the heat, while everyone else goes around professing their “motorism” by sitting in wheelchairs and setting fossil fuels on fire, my simple protest, my infinite escape, playing the role of the heyoka, who walks backwards and talks backwards and rides the horse backwards, because he wants to share the magic of the thunder beings he’s talked to by calling into question the fundamental assumptions of those around him, the ‘model of facts’; i ‘spark outrage’ when i say ‘i don’t believe in reality’, while everybody else clings to it; i see it, i think it’s beautiful, i just don’t think it has anything to do with who or what or where i am; rather than ‘consuming’ the miles, i open out and blossom like a flower, talk to my friend the universe through the rhythm of my body, while following the ‘wan bian dao’, the “ten thousand everywheres way”…

Though i am a human born in the modern world, being a mystic among a worldly minded camarilla i receive some of the same dismissing comments from other men that mystic writers hear, ‘not relevant to science’, ‘deluded by fairy tales’, and so unworthy of being part of the discussion, is what i get sometimes; i’ve seen it in ancient chinese history, where it’s the daoist mystics getting the same thing from the worldly minded confucionists; Confucius is said to have met lao tsu, the original daoist, and come away from it not only incapable of communicating, but genuinely frightened of lao tsu, who he likened to a dragon in the mist.

I see reason as a tool for investigating “surface” issues of the most superficial layers of reality, and as an IT specialist I certainly utilize it for what it’s worth; but beyond those most superficial layers of truth, I learned a long time ago, from studying the Zen koans, that reason is an insufficient tool to plumb the depths of mystery, contrary to the assumptions of rationalists and materialists and atheists everywhere; and so I am a rationalist – in my little pinky, on my left hand; the rest of me is a grand irrationalist, a shaman, and that seems to me a much more ancient “tool” to investigate being, a tool that we share with all other beings and not just the worldly minded camarilla of modern times of a subset of one species that like to call themselves “sapiens”, “depthless, antitragic, nonlinear, antinuminous, nonfoundational and anti-universalist, suspicious of absolutes”;

And as an irrationalist I of course find I am held suspect by the cult of rationalists all around me, who are just as irrational as every other being as far as I can tell yet they cling to “reason” and “scientism” as if it were a religion, as if it were the only important aspect of our being, rendering any being not in their cult “irrelevant”, “uninteresting to science” or “reason”. This cult seems to suspect that anyone outside itself is dangerous, murderous, their imaginations running away into a chaos of debauchery every time they imagine someone or something not reared within the confines of their cage, and therefore any of these worthy only of contempt and being cast aside, when to the contrary I find the “irrational” world of the ancient scriptures and the spirit world of shamanism to be quite beautiful, peaceful, pure, clear, and profound, and I think it’s the “rationalists” that are actually far more debaucherous, with a propensity for war as well as technology that debases the being of nature, all products of a frightful netherworld of “science” and “reason”.

Another curious tenet of the reason-ists is the requirement that any “spiritual: practice judged “valid” has to adhere exactly to something ancient. In the book about Daoist immortalism “To live as long as Heaven and Earth” the author relates a discussion from 5th century China by Ge Hong about this; there was then too a similar discussion, with half the shamans, or Daoist immortalism practitioners, trying to keep closely to long-passed-down methods, and the other half deciding that it was just as valid to create a new method, though often only after studying many of the different ideas that were passed down and then working out his own personal and private relationship to the Dao, the universe, often by trial and error as well as spontaneous insight, and they said that anything could be a valid method of communicating with the divine, providing it were sufficiently “clever and lofty”.

I always thought, if I find myself inspired by something that I have discerned to be about the divinity of wholeness, and that inspiration is translated through myself into demonstration that helps myself and others, then doesn’t that make it magical?

The turtle dives deep into the green water depths, and casually pops up onto a rock, staring into the sky; an egret takes off from that rock and glides above the pond and its surrounding forest, landing in different types of places, sometimes on the turtle’s rock and maybe sitting on the water’s surface, but never diving to the green water depths and maybe asking the turtle what it’s “like” to be a turtle, going so deep into that murky greenness, maybe less interested in the turtle’s writing, from its rock lookout perspective on the egret’s world, while the egret’s sky mind is all ghost and text above the green life world of the turtle. as a mystic, i journey through and embrace the green depths of life; as a human in the modern world, i appreciate the sky text of men’s religions that ‘bark out” the commands that mystics don’t want to hear, appreciating the inherent beauty of both worlds, but always seeing how very different they are.

As a disciple of wholeness, i know that neither the egret’s sky mind or the turtle’s green depths are the whole, that man’s and immortals’ perspectives together form our world and the fullness of our species; i don’t pursue unbalanced energies of one or the other, but a wholeness more like my teachers the sun and the moon, whole like the universe; and so i endeavor to teach a dharma of wholeness.

Declaring the gap between “is” and “ought” unbridgeable has always seemed like nihilism to me; i think we’re alot like seeds in a forest, with each seed having an innate nature, and while each tree is unique, they all conform to an inborn pattern, and there is a clear intuitive difference between a jungle that is flourishing and alive, versus a crooked and diseased forest; it’s not necessarily ‘pleasure’ or ‘utility’ that each tree follows, and they aren’t getting it from tree religion, they’re getting it from the thing that religion is supposed to be about (versus what people often say it is about – rules, dogma, oppression, violence); it’s the principle of the seed, its natural pattern, the nature of life, the dark mystery of balance within time; every molecule comes with an inner knowing of, not ‘good’, not ‘value’, not ‘reason’, but truth, direction, vision, and these things can never really be collected into a scientific book, because they don’t fit into the test tube of human knowledge; but fortunately we do have access to them, by watching the sunrise and the sunset, by aligning ourselves in the larger picture, by escaping from the netherworld of the human mind’s test tube of human knowledge, by opening our hearts into the octupole array, the far-off-all-directions, into the one thing that is everything, the tai-ji that comes from the wu-ji, nourished by nothingness; western philosophy books have only the last burnt wisp of these things, but eastern scriptures have done a better job at holding the numinous, by laying out recipes that point into the wholeness; it’s the ‘direction’ of the wind and the light, and we can best be a part of it by simply reflecting it, not by ‘knowing’, or by ‘studying’ it, unfortunately for those who would hold power in their hands or wield it over others and use it to relax into irresponsibility; an ‘eight direction quilt of transformation and metamorphosis’, not a coliseum of selves, and not something that can be ‘won’ or conquered; the bridge between “ought” and “is” can be described as green, flourishing, and twisting wildly in the wind, the bridge between happiness and conclusion;

Because i don’t think ‘nature’ is the point; it’s more like two dolphins, circling the light – the individual and the environment, the manifest body and the dharma it is enlightened to, the subjective and the objective, they chase eachother in a circle, but not for ‘pleasure’ or for ‘utility’, not for themselves or eachother, but for the thing they circle around, the central lamp that they are radiations of, because neither of them invented themselves; they form a temporary shell around that numinous divine, that central light, the dao, brahman, the one, their immortality, and when the creature moves on into a different shell, that’s not a problem for the shell, because the shell was never about itself, it was always about the creature it housed when it was called to: the light.

“HeLu, with the strength of his own nature, accepted the practice and used the medicine of its method to pass through the cloud of war and injury, becoming able to look past the frivolous and to settle into calm within the flowing energy, pausing in breath, practicing the cutting off that enables the crossing of a river, gazing out past the dust, homeward, into the full moon distance, reaching the escape that does not return to the stress that gathers and piles up into heavy layers, an understanding that disentangles and harmonizes into freedom, a releasing solution that separates life from death; the divine spirit of the storehouse-treasury-depository of the scriptures binds up and strings together the esoteric and precious spirit writing with the tranquility of dawn that stands behind it, for the intimacy of the personal soul who takes the book from the shelf and beholds the divinity that bestows the numinous power of the water and mountains that are sealed within it, the flowing energy never lost from the book that it exists within; ” – Book of the Five Talismans (五符經 – wǔ fú jīng)

cha li wu

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