The Foreign Installation, II
I received my copy of The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events yesterday, dropped everything else, and dived right in. I didn’t get very far before something Seth writes there brought to mind an earlier commentary on Blake (via Frye) and the significance of “the foreign installation”, as Castaneda’s don Juan described it — the alien mind (or alienated mind).
“Despite all ‘realistic’ pragmatic tales to the contrary, the natural state of life itself is one of joy, acquiescence with itself – a state in which action is effective, and the power to act is a natural right. You would see this quite clearly with plants, animals, and all other life if you were not so blinded by beliefs to the contrary. You would feel it in the activity of your bodies, in which the vital individual affirmation of your cells brings about the mass, immensely complicated achievement of your physical being. That activity naturally promotes health and vitality.”
That brought to mind this earlier quote from Blake about the nature of “action”,
“But as I understand Vice it is a Negative…. Accident is the omission of act in self & the hindering of act in another; This is Vice, but all Act is Virtue. To hinder another is not an act; it is the contrary; it is a restraint on action both in ourselves & in the person hinder’d; for he who hinders another omits his own duty at the same time. Murder is Hindering Another. Theft is Hindering Another. Backbiting, Undermining, Circumventing, & whatever is Negative is Vice.” (marg. notes to Lataver, cited in Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry, p. 55).
It’s in comparing these two passages, along with Seth’s constant insistence on the virtue of “spontaneity” that we get some idea of “the foreign installation” as an inhibitor, and inhibition, hindering, or throwing obstacles in the way of, is the significance of the word “diabolical”. The foreign installation doesn’t appear to be much different from what Blake calls “The Selfhood”. The foreign installation seems the very thing that traditionally has been called “The Prince of Lies”. In Buddhism, it is the demon Mara, Lord of Illusion who the Buddha discovers under the Bodhi Tree as none other than himself, a realisation so poignantly rendered in the film The Little Buddha,
The most recent rendering of “Mara” or “the Prince of Lies” in this sense is The Architect in the movie The Matrix.
The extract from the film here recalls, of course, the myth of Narcissus and Echo, and that brings us ’round full circle again to the basic concern of this and earlier blogs — narcissism is the human condition, and the human condition must be overcome by that odd alchemy of transmutation or transfiguration proposed in the subtitle of A.H. Almaas’s The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization.
Narcissism, in that formulation, is only deficient or distorted self-realisation. Again, that recalls both Sri Aurobindo’s (and Blake’s) view that all falsehood is only deficient realisation of truth as well as “Khayyam’s Caution” (as I’ve referred to it): “only a hair separates the false from the true”. That resembles Blake: “anything possible to be believed is an image of the truth” even though the belief itself may be false belief. The distortion of the truth, the inhibition of “action”, the false framing of our experience through the perversion of our perception — that is the work of the foreign installation, which is Mara, “Prince of Lies”, the Freudian “Superego”, Blake’s “Selfhood”, or “the False Self” as the narcissistic self.
Seeing these connections also helps interpret Rumi’s poem about the pernicious influence of one’s parents. They mean well. The want their son or daughter to succeed in society, to “fit in”, to be “successful” or “normal”. But the cost can be quite severe, for it is the beginning of the foreign installation,
The mother and father are your attachment
to beliefs and bloodties
and desires and comforting habits.
Don’t listen to them!
They seem to protect
but they imprison.
They are your worst enemies.
They make you afraid
of living in emptiness.
Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in that court,
remembering your mistaken parents!
This is the background necessary to appreciate what Seth means by “spontaneity” as vitalaction — as vitality itself. Blake put it this way: imagination is life, or as Frye expressed it summarising Blake:
“The fully imaginative man is therefore a visionary whose imaginative activity is prophecy and whose perception produces art. These two are the same thing, perception being an act.” (p. 59).
Perception is the act of creation itself, and which follows from Seth’s “you create the reality you know”. It is Blake’s “the Poetic Genius” as “the true Man” in contrast to the foreign installation, which is “The Selfhood” and does not belong to the individuality.
The point of many of the exercises and practices promoted by Seth, or don Juan to Castaneda, or Buddhism or Sufism and so on, is simply to stop the “foreign installation” from interfering with the spontaneous activity of this “Poetic Genius” or true self. The achievement of this has been called “Stopping the World” or “Stopping the Wheel” of space and time. This has the same significance as Blake’s cleansing of the “doors of perception”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
The “narrow chinks of his cavern” brings to mind Mara’s statement to Buddha — “you live in me”. That is the significance of The Matrix as contemporary myth and archetype.
Carl Jung, if I recollect correctly, also once put it this way: “we are lived rather than living” — the sense of being like nothings more than a dry leaf blown about by the winds of chance or fate. “I’m only human!” as passivity. In some cases, particularly of extreme narcissism, people often complain that they feel merely like machines or computers, automatons or golems — lived, rather than living. And that, too, pertains to the functioning of the foreign installation. Yet, to experience that may also be the beginning of an awakening to the authentic individuality.