Sunday, August 14, 2011

the theocrat

Writing in this week's New Yorker, Ryan Lizza tells how Michele and Marcus Bachmann while still in college fell under the influence of Christian dominionist author and film-maker Francis Schaeffer, who produced a film series, "How Shall We Then Live?"

Schaeffer died in 1984, but one of his disciples, Nancy Pearcy, carried on his work.

When, in 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Bachmann what books she had read recently, she mentioned two: Ann Coulter’s “Treason,” a jeremiad that accuses liberals of lacking patriotism, and Pearcey’s “Total Truth,” which Bachmann told me was a “wonderful” book.

(Read more.)

Ryan Lizza also reports that in a recent Iowa speech, Bachmann asked the audience if they were familiar wth "How Then Should We Live?" and when greeted with applause, said:

That also was another profound influence on Marcus’s life and my life, because we understood that the God of the Bible isn’t just about Bible stories and about Bible knowledge, or about just church on Sunday. He is the Lord of all of life. Every bit of life, including sociology, theology, biology, politics. You name the area and walk of life. He is the Lord of life. And so, as we went back to our studies, we looked at studying in a completely different light. Not for the purpose of a career but for a purpose of wondering, How does this fit into creation? How does this fit into the code and all of life that is about to come in front of us? And so we had new eyes that were opened up as we understood life now from a Biblical world view.

Sounds like theocracy to me.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

the sun's light

What follows is an edited version of a post which first appeared here on February 13, 2009.

The wise man Patanjali, the apocryphal transmitter of early yoga tradition, spoke of a "seer," or that part of us which sees, and taught that the right kind of mental discipline would establish (or reveal) this seer "in our own true nature." The discipline, according to the teaching, will enable a person "to see clearly."

The ancient Indian texts called the Upanishads identify this seer as Atman, also called the self, "hidden in every object of creation," being "the very Self which descends down...through self-projection and participates." According to this view, then, the center of the human being (or any other living thing) is the supreme being itself, incorporating itself into, the individual.

This sounds very much like the "collective unconscious" theory of Dr. Jung, who wrote that "A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious (i.e., subconscious mind) is undoubtedly personal. I call it the 'personal unconscious.' But this personal layer rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the 'collective unconscious.' I have chosen the term 'collective' because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal..." (S.V. Wikiquote: Carl Jung,

Not everyone agrees. Prince Gautama, who became the Buddha, did not believe in a Self separate from the individual, and taught that "Self is but a heap of composite qualities." He believed that what some call the Self or Seer is a bundle of loose ends, and simply another component of the individual.

But for our purposes, defining this part of our brain we see with as God or not-God is not important. What's at issue is the possibility of seeing "clearly," which both Patanjali and the Buddha agree is only possible by overcoming our social conditioning. William Blake expressed this same idea when he wrote that "The sun's light, when he unfolds it / Depends on the organ that beholds it."

This is all very deep stuff, and confusing to one not used to thinking in terms which can only seem abstract until experience has made them concrete. I find myself referring to something I heard my grand-teacher say about the G-word (God) when he expressed his preference for simply lumping all notions of Atman, Self, God, etc. under the phrase "that which never changes." What he's saying is that our attention, as distinct from that upon which the attention is directed, never changes.

The analogy I use to illustrate this principle is a goldfish bowl, which holds fish, water, plants, pebbles, and dirt. The contents of the bowl are the objects of attention, and the bowl is the attention itself. If your mind perceives goldfish in the bowl, you're perceiving accurately. If you see piranhas, you're misperceiving, and if you see miniature sea monsters, you're imagining. If you see not the goldfish swimming in the bowl but the ones who used to swim there and are now departed, you're remembering. And if you see nothing, you're asleep.

But if you empty the bowl and wipe it clean, and allow it to remain empty, avoiding both the temptation and the tendency to fill it with this or that, then there will be nothing to occupy the attention but the attention itself, which unlike its constantly-changing contents, never changes. It's always transparent and reflects accurately, like a clean mirror.

Since beginning a yoga practice I've attempted with limited success to empty my mind's attention of its contents. Changes in the mind have occurred, and I sometimes see things in my mind's eye that I don't understand. Also, life, and even the most mundane daily events, sometimes seem extremely strange and unfamiliar. I'm sure this is some sort of manifestation of the practice. I guess there's nothing to do but go on with it.