Duration of Sin And The Unbuilt Building

At least weekly – often daily – I read about some scandal or another at a church or religions organization – usually, Christian, as I live in the United States. These are sometimes very highly-placed people, and the scandals are of an obvious nature. You know the kind, the person doing them had to know they were wrong. You really can’t keep doing the same horrible things for years without some idea you’re awful.

But so often the organizations go on. The followers follow. Someone goes to jail or get sued, but they often go on. The rest of us go on because it’s just another scandal, and we’re all used to them because tomorrow there will be another.

And I wonder, who thinks of the theological repercussions of this – again for the mostly-Christian audience in my country. Why did their God (god? “god?”) allow such horrible things, abuse, scandal? Why didn’t anyone do anything at supposedly holy organizations?

I don’t understand how they go on.

A long term series of horrible acts show whatever Church of organization is just . . . a group of people. There’s no holy structure, there’s no divine order, there’s not even an organization, just a kind of group of people like anything else.

It’s really a reputation of most people’s very orderly idea of a monotheistic universe and warrants some pretty deep personal and theological contemplation.

Of course people don’t want to admit that they trusted the wrong people, that the organization won’t protect them. The people in the organization don’t want it to end for their own reasons, from belief to they’d be out of a job. So everyone just sort of goes on, maybe fiddles with theology, and it all continues.

Then there’s another scandal, and another.

What’s strange is that every scandal has to eat away a little more faith that people have. Each one is just another sign maybe you chose wrong or believed wrong and the divine order you want is not something you access. But to give up on that? Well that’s too hard, even if there’s really nothing there anymore.

I wonder how weak some religious organizations are. How much their scandals and failures have been patched over in people’s minds so often they might be close to breaking. I wonder what happens when things break and what reforms. I wonder what has broken that I just didn’t notice.

And in the end, I think all those people lying to themselves, trying to persevere, not admitting to themselves how messed up their church is, they all have to hurt. What’s it like to have things so repudiated, to be so betrayed, what does it take to go on? How much of you is left after you lied to yourself enough?

I don’t understand.

I guess I wish I did understand. But what does scare me is maybe there’s nothing to understand. Maybe at some point you just go on no matter what because stopping means you’ll have to look back.


Rethinking Our Bodies

It takes little effort to look into most forms of mysticism and find something involving the body and the supernatural forces supposedly within. Energy channels and chakras, planetary correspondences and and vortices, many a form of mysticism treats the body as some supernatural system. Even if it’s not part of a given practice, someone has, is, or will add some spiritual-physical elements by shoehorning it in.

Now as any reader remotely familiar with me knows, as much as I find “blueprints” of such things useful, I’m also cautious about them. It’s too easy to turn a mystical practice into a checkbox of experiences one can merely hallucinate instead of experience. But when it comes to this “psychoanatomy” as I call it, I get the value and appeal even when it’s obvious bullshit.

Our bodies are part of our experience, part of reality, and they should be part of our spiritual practice. I mean you can kind of ignore them, but hunger, horniness, or a stubbed toe are going to bring you back to your body, like it or not.

A moment to look at your body quickly reveals how it reflects – and affects – your mental (dare I say even spiritual?) state. Tensions in your mind manifest in your body, emotional reactions are burned into your physical ones, and sense memories can flood you with recollections. It’s complicated,it’s complex, and not dealing with our bodies in spiritual practice just leaves out part of us.

Someone dealing with any form of psychoanatomy is at least being aware of our bodies and deconstructing and rethinking them. To think of the body as energy flows, or correspondences, or chakras can help see and even “take apart” old habits of thought, tension, and reaction. Sure, some of the techniques we use may be utter bullshit (and there’s plenty on the market) but rethinking your body is valuable.

It’s also something I think a lot of us really need to do. I get why people may buy some hack Quigong book or try to align their energy centers or use emotional support oil, or whatever. In my own meditative work I’ve become painfully aware of my tensions and how my body reflects deeper psychological processes. Sometimes you hurt, or feel uncomfortable, or suddenly have overwhelming musical reactions and you really want to deal with that.

It’s easy to fall into bullshit mysticism over the body. I’m sympathetic.

As spiritual practitioners, mystics, and the like, it’s also a reminder that people may have some real insights from their otherwise ill-informed practices. We shouldn’t just be sympathetic, but should help them out with healthier practices of bodily mysticism – or just recommendations for a good therapist. Even the crap may bring insights, and we can make sure those are channeled in a useful way.

– Xenofact

Moving At The Speed of Self

I’ve talked about meditation in previous writings. On a simple level I do breath and simplified energy work mostly derived from Taoist sources. These are things that can be described in a sentence – or not described completely in a book. In the spirit of that paradox I’d like to share a deep slice of an insight I’ve had over the years – the role of speed and self.

More than a sentence, less than a book.

Most meditations I do involve a certain level of slowness – of breath, of feeling the bodies energies, etc. The slow even breath in my beloved Cleary translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower” or slowing so one senses the bodies energies all involve some form of calming, focusing, and not running around in your brain. In these modern times it can almost be shocking to just slow down for a few minutes.

As you may know from your own works there’s a peculiar point in meditations where you slow down and suddenly you’re not you. In fact you might not be there at all.

All the chatter and sensations, dialogue and tensions just sort of goes away. I mean you’re there but you aren’t there. Somehow when we slow down, “we” goes away – which is quite disturbing sometimes as who’s doing all of this?

Thinking over these experiences – without trying to grasp them too hard – I’ve come to realize how much of ourselves, our identity, is a matter of speed.

Thoughts racing ahead in a relay race. Desires we grasp as soon as possible. Tensions that rage through the body as soon as triggered. There’s so much of our identity that relies on fast reactions and immediate thoughts that to slow it even a bit feels like we’re falling apart.

Perhaps that’s one reason relaxing can be hard for some people – even a moment of slacking and you’re falling apart in your head because so much of you is speed. Relaxation for a harried person might feel like an existential threat.

It’s an interesting insight. When you’re used to meditation, going to therapy, etc. it’s easy to see ourselves as complexes. We are thoughts and reactions and memory, crystalline memories on an erratic web, like rock candy on a string. It’s not hard to see yourself as bits and pieces when you do any form of self-exploration.

But the speed? I think that’s harder to see. You can see all the bits and bobs of your identity, but the connections and the rapidity of them? That’s a different thing to observe – moreso when it goes away in a slow breath or graceful meditative movement.

If you’re one thing because of speed – who are you in slowness?