Transparency is the Only Shield against Disaster (Parts 3–5)
Editor’s note: This is the second of three installments. The complete essay has seven parts. See installment 1 (parts 1–2) and installment 3 (parts 6–7).
We may feel that some world-shattering event is just around the corner. As always, it is “just about” to occur; this does not mean that the images and emotions generated are not, in fact, the circuitous projections of a memory. Conversely, the fact that an already complete Apocalypse might exist in its own dimension, like a stockpile of atomic bombs, does not mean that its explosive energy cannot spill over into ours, any more than the brain is incapable of exerting an influence on the hand.
That our world has already ended, of this we may be certain. But is it the end of “a world” or of “the world”? It is reassuring that the prophets of world destruction have proven almost 100% wrong—and yet…One might justifiably wonder if our amnesia as to the length of recorded history is an issue. A slow, staircase-shaped sequence of disintegration—what John Michael Greer describes as “catabolic collapse,” of crises followed by periods of partial adaptation and recovery— is probably the more common pattern for the decline of civilizations.
At the same time, this does not mean that there have been no all-consuming catastrophes, in which thousands of years of development have been wiped out, relatively speaking, overnight. I believe that the world-wide network of megalithic sites is a testament to this reality. During several periods of global flux, these sites were needles stuck into acupuncture points, as well as markers of a vast cosmology destroyed. If our teachers chose to build with 900-ton blocks of stone, we should, perhaps, wonder if their motives were other than whimsical. It would have been so much more sensible to use 800-ton blocks. Sadly, they had never been exposed to Hutton’s gradualist theory of geology, while they had been exposed to sudden catastrophic changes. These giant-works are cues, the glyphs of telluric energy, which we, in our quest for eternal youth, have chosen to ignore. They point to how easily the evidence of past world-destructions can be hidden in plain sight, as each day the polar magnetism that protects Earth from the Sun decreases.
Time is the magician whose tricks educate the audience; a master of bi-location, he then gladly joins them in a long round of applause. Our preoccupation with linear evolution shows our incomplete grasp of the time-cycle; while this intricate clockwork does not manifest by means of exact repetition, it also does not involve the creation of any higher state of consciousness. We only seem to progress. At the end of the cycle, we are different, yes, but not necessarily better. Our experience is, in some peculiar way, important. How and why will at some point become self-evident. For now, such things are self-evident only to our Doubles.
Oddly, it is always the next production at the theatre that especially concerns us. We have allowed ourselves to be distracted by the movement of Time’s hands. If we are haunted by the catastrophes at the end of the last ice age, when the yogic technology of the Satya Yuga fell, not soon to be seen again, we are somehow unable to locate the source of our emotions in the past.
Ohrmazd and all the beings of the celestial universe are drawn into the ascending movement of limitless eternities toward horizons and toward creative acts of thought belonging to universes still informulable. Here then we may speak of a “Gothic style” of cosmology. In this sense the Zervanite horizon, that of absolute Time without shore, without origin, and without end, would truly be in keeping with the Mazdean universe of those archetypal Archangels who, far from being “fixed,” multiply beyond themselves, always sending out another Angel ahead of themselves.—Henry Corbin, from Cyclical Time and Ismali Gnosis
If we follow our breath back, we will come to a luminous sphere, to the waves of a black ocean, to the shards of former worlds. Though whole in body, this sphere is designed so as to turn against itself. Its center and its circumference give birth to each other. Space yawns between the right hand and the left, the center of the sphere and the abyss, so that we cannot see any one part of the first body from the other. And yet the structure of this body has not ceased to exist. To inflict a wound on the left hand is to seed a corresponding injury on the right, even if the pain takes several centuries to be felt. “We can take what we want,” we think, “and kill whomever we choose.” This is true, so far as it goes. Spells cast from haunted cultures tie knots in our judgment. The Double gives us enough rope to hang ourselves.
At each turn, our vision only temporarily directs us in clear lines, and paths do not lead where they seem to point. Our eyes work well; it is our primary visual cortex that betrays us, in conjunction, perhaps, with the hypothalamus. To examine a piece of evidence is to cause it to change shape. This pathology may be due to the subliminal meddling of the Watchers, to whose paleo-fascist network the Double might be perceived to belong. It is possible that experiments in behaviorist engineering did not begin in the 1890s. Let us tentatively push back the date by some 11,000 years, to the wasteland that followed the last deluge.
As the Watchers hovered above the black mud of the flood-plain, having said goodbye to the bodies they once loved, trauma became the fuel that powered their glass houses. Cosmic, their pathos. Some more or less returned. Putting on new bodies that could strike the passerby blind, these hid in their mountaintop enclosures, at a calculated distance from the chaos. From there, they made excursions to bring arts and sciences to the masses. Others, stuck between dimensions, played games with the development of the time-cycle, for their own opaque reasons. These demanded blood sacrifices and became the founders of kingdoms. All memory of the actions of both groups is forbidden. For, to this day, we suspect that they do more than watch, even if we do not know what laws they have broken.
When 26 people control as much wealth as the bottom 3 ½ billion, we may theorize that unnatural forces are in play. There are those who believe that Earth’s rulers are practitioners of the occult arts, that some bargain was made before the dawn of recorded history, that there is one law for the rulers and another for the masses. Our paranoia may very well be justified, but its actual object is far stranger than we think. Nothing suggests that Earth’s rulers are more than normally intelligent. If they were, they would know that their coastal properties will soon be underwater. They would know that a “Carrington event”—a coronal mass ejection from the Sun—could wipe out the whole of the internet, taking with it all of their hoarded assets. There is, however, one whose knowledge we should fear, who was old when the Watchers were still tucked in the planet’s womb. More intimate than one’s heartbeat, both one and many, more violent than death, which it resembles, the indeterminate presence of the Double exists to expel us from our comfort zone, to open us to some fraction of the depth that it embodies.
In the end, perhaps courage is of more importance than any sharpening of our prophetic skills. As Rilke said, “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.” We cannot stare too directly at the enigma of our origins, any more than we can stare into the dark heart of the Sun, any more than we can stare into the wide eyes of Medusa. We must see through the Double’s eyes. We must trace the outlines of the Shadow that he casts in our efforts to reenact the path of our descent.
There are certain traditions—such as the Zoroastrian, the Manichean, the Ismali Sufi—that would split the figure of the Double down the middle. His bright face is angelic. His dark face is demonic. How could this be any simpler? To free himself from the City of the Oppressors, the explorer should seek the light with all his heart. He should shrink back from false council. He should not confuse the darkness of the Shadow with the darkness of the Deus Absconditus, the hidden treasure, the presence that infinitely withdraws into its depths. Upon his exit from the darkness of the well, from the cycles of manifestation, the explorer should shrug off his Shadow in disgust. To the dualist, these forms of darkness cannot be other than at war, and to suggest that they might share some arcane purpose is grotesque.
We should keep in mind, however, that the glamor of the light can hide many false instructions, that a straight line may not lead to the goal at which it points, and that spiritual warfare may be as destructive as any other type. To fight against a concept or a force may be to lend it greater power. Reflex judgment is far easier than subtle discrimination. The luminous darkness of the Pole would not be what it is if it did not encompass the full movement of the eon.
For better or for worse, we have no choice but to trust our vision, even knowing that it must always be imperfect. Such imperfection is not due to any accident of perspective, but instead to the primal schism between worlds. Inside and outside do not quite fit together. The below and the above may indeed be mirror images, but a generative gulf divides the one from the other. If we had not fallen, then we would not be able to stand, and we would lack the knowledge that comes only from the depths. There are those who claim to have removed their shadows. We must run from them, for they are soon to be destroyed.
However great one’s intelligence or encyclopedic one’s knowledge, without a moment by moment awareness of the Shadow one is little more than a puppet. Such awareness is not natural; it involves a radical leap beyond duality, which is an achievement as individual as every person who attempts it, one that must be renewed with every slight shift of focus. Never quite the same way twice, the Shadow points to those actions that have cut us from the whole, from the civic body and the body of the cosmos. By blocking our view, the Shadow prompts us to resort to other methods, to more minutely read our energies, to sink into our sense of touch.
The Shadow is a phenomenon that leaps as fluently as we do, and we should never make the mistake of thinking that we have caused it to stay put. Where we think it is, that is only where it was. Without such a mercurial awareness, Jung himself, the originator of our modern understanding of this concept, would no doubt have fallen prey to the archetypal powers whose resurgence gave birth to Fascism, as he almost did. His very ambivalence towards Fascism, in the early 1930s, was itself a sign of his enormous subtlety as a seer. His judgment upon events was not in any way mechanical, but came only at the end of a long process of self-discovery.
The problem is that the Shadow does not look like the Shadow; it looks like the external world. Jung writes
The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, that when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.
No time-lapse separates the projection of one’s monsters from the shape-shift of the Rorschach blot; each fear will be justified. All suspect data will be purged, as well as the existence of those groups we have wronged. The whole of history will reassemble itself. The depth of our violence will guarantee that we are pure. As Jung argued, it is likely that our monsters are haunted by even bigger monsters, that the personal unconscious opens onto tangled collective roots.
A snake navigates between the continents of the tree, turning the green branches black. Its leaves are pages that only silence can decipher. Let the student seeking access to its healing sap be warned: that any and all knowledge of the World Tree leads to death. There is no way to avoid the lesson that was planned by the Instructor.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” writes Jung, “but rather by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” Wholeness lies in the direction of what we do not know we know and of what it is far too unsettling to acknowledge. To breathe is to inhale the residue of all past crimes from the atmosphere. The deeper one breathes, the greater becomes one’s guilt, until a peculiar kind of stillness rushes in.