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).

Here’s Seth,

“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.

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5 responses to “The Foreign Installation, II”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    I immensely appreciate how “The Little Buddha” and “The Century of the self” worked to identify the multiplicity of sources to the foreign installation. The ‘self’ itself being an interference as well as the outside, environmental sources. And isn’t the movie The Matrix great? In my opinion, it is one of the most, if not the most, revealing and universally relatable motion pictures I’ve ever known. It’s utterly remarkable that “Neo” fought and won the vast majority of his battles at the level of the subconscious — when he was “jacked-in.” That’s in complete harmony with don Juan’s gesture to Castaneda when he put the palm of his hand on Castaneda’s chest, saying something like “This is where all your true battles are.”

    Another question I have been grappling with is what are some of the different mundane ways — I mean ways that are different than what Seth and don Juan have put forth — with which one can confront and undo the impact of “The foreign installation?” It occurred to me the very first time when a foreign installation — or an environmentally imposed misconception I had — was utterly destroyed was when I began to travel. I don’t mean travelling like a tourist, but to travel to other places with cultures and life styles different than what one is accustomed to, with the purpose of living and working in these far away places. In my experience, this way of traveling and working abroad has an unbelievably potent power to unmask “The foreign installation,” bringing it to the front just like the moment when Keanu Reeves pulls Mara out of the pond and tells it that it’s an illusion. Other less potent, but I think still effective, ways are for one to do away with any source of mass dissemination of information or ideas. Or at least not taking information disseminated through such sources, seriously.

    I have been continuing to read Seth’s “The Way toward Health.” Last night I reached a section regarding beliefs that I think might be worthwhile quoting in light of your quote from Rumi:

    “The mother and father are your attachment
    to beliefs and bloodties

    Here’s the quote from Seth,

    “The ideas that you have, then, play a large role in the way the body handles its nutrients, and utilizes its health and vitality. If you believe that the body is somehow evil, you may punish it by nearly starving to death, even though your diet might be considered normal by usual standards. For it is possible for your ideas to cause chemical reactions that impede your body’s ability to accept nourishment. If you believe that the body is evil, while the purest health-food diet will or may do you little good at all, while if you have a healthy desire and respect for your physical body, a diet of TV dinners, and even of fast foods, may well keep you healthy and nourished.

    “If we are talking about you health, it is to your beliefs that we must look. You have the most efficient and beautiful physical organs, the most elegant joints and appendages, the most vibrant lungs and the most exquisite of senses. It is up to you to form a body of beliefs that is worthy of your physical image — for you are nourished by your beliefs, and those beliefs can cause your daily bread to add to your vitality, or to add to your cares and stress.

    “The weight of unfortuante beliefs perhaps falls heaviest on the older segments of the population, for the beliefs have had a longer period of time to operate relatively unimpeded.

    “Those particular beliefs actually take hold in young adults, so that it seems that all of life is meant to come to its fullest flower in young adulthood, and then from that prestigious position fall quicker and quicker into disuse and disarray.” (p. 258 – 259)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Another question I have been grappling with is what are some of the different mundane ways — I mean ways that are different than what Seth and don Juan have put forth — with which one can confront and undo the impact of “The foreign installation?”

      This is a very multifaceted question. The key to it is this, however: what Seth means by “vitality” (or the inner vitality as “spontaneity”) is no different by what don Juan means by “energy” or “the energetic facts”. They have one and the same meaning.

      The key, therefore, is to increase the volume of what don Juan calls “personal power”. In Nietzsche this is construed as “will to power” but which is, in effect, the meaning of “health” in his philosophy. It is this increase in energy/vitality/personal power that supplies the resources we need to break the siege-hold of the foreign installation on our consciousness and perception. Read Blake carefully, and he has the same view of the relation of energy to form (and thus to perception). Increasing the fund of available personal energy or power is the key to breaking through the “boundaries of the soul” (as Jungian analyst June Singer described it).

      However, the “soul”, as such, has no real “boundaries” except as they are imposed by “limiting beliefs” (as Seth puts it). It is infinite. Those “limiting beliefs” are the very issue of the foreign installation. And breaking their hold over our perception is the issue of confronting and defeating the foreign installation, which is Mara or what Christians and Muslims equally call Satan, who is “The Prince of Lies”.

      It’s all connected, of course. When Seth describes physical reality as “the camouflage universe” and connects that with the fact that the physical senses are “lovely liars” (the obverse of the same coin, as “camouflage universe”) we are still dealing with the issue of “Mara” as the Buddha experienced it. How did the Buddha break the hold of Mara — the foreign installation — over his senses and perception? Fundamentally, he increased his fund of personal power or energy, and this automatically provided the breakthrough condition. How did he do that? That is the significance of his gesture of “touching the earth” and calling upon the Earth to bear witness. It is much the same strategy that don Juan pursued in his teaching of Castaneda. If you read Tales of Power, the exact same motif appears towards the end of that book, when both don Juan and Genaro make reference to the Earth as the source and sustenance of their vitality.

      In some ways, David Bowie’s great song “Major Tom” is a parable — a symbolic expression — of losing touch with that sustaining energy that is the earth. There is the equivalent mythological motif in which an enemy is defeated by lifting him off the earth and preventing him from contacting the earth. These are parables.

      In a concrete sense, Castaneda later went on to found the practice of “Tensegrity” as he presented it in The Magical Passes. I’ve looked at the magical passes pretty carefully and observed something which seems significant. Each of the “magical passes” is designed to increase the flow of energy throughout the body by activating nerve points that do not typically get used in daily life. That’s what gives each of the exercises their strange character. We don’t typically use those postures. Yoga serves much the same purpose, where “personal power” or energy is called “kundalini”. For all intents and purposes, therefore, this is what Seth refers to as “spontaneity” or “vitality” — the cease inhibiting the flow of energy, which he calls “creativity” or “vitality” (same thing) through the body.

      So there is a good deal of reason in Castaneda’s “magical passes” as the equivalent of yoga. In fact, to “perceive energy as it flows through the universe” is exactly equivalent to liberating the flow of energy through the body. And this is where Seth’s interest in “health” becomes his strategy to achieve the emancipation of perception from what Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy once called “amalgamate false natures”; a strange phrase, but which has no other meaning than “foreign installation”.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        A truly profound response. I do practice introductory Yoga which, I can testify, drastically changes and adds to the flow of energy throughout my body. I always wondered about what you think of “Tensegrity.” I have the book and tried to practice those poses. But they are extremely difficult to duplicate and so I went back to practicing basic Yoga again. I do however plan on returning to Tensegrity and trying it again to see how it would make me feel. I feel to do the poses in Tensegrity correctly, one’s body should have some good level of flexibility.

        I love the fact that you reminded me of don Juan’s good friend’s name: Genaro. He was the man who skipped to the top of the waterfall in the blink of an eye – whom Castaneda observed doing the same thing years later, and this time he was able to “see” the cable-like structures that protruded from Genaro’s body over the rocks aiding his climb.

        Thank you.

  2. amothman33 says :

    We are installed with two installations, these installations are not foreign but part of our divine construct,the vice path and the virtue path and the human is free to choose either path/ there is a verse in the islamic book which reads…the self has been perfected in such manner as to be imbued with the insight as what is wrong for her and what is right for her,assigning sucess for the rightdoers and failure for the wrongdoers.when we look around us in this vast earth what we see ,but the manifestations of these archtypes irrespective of the different grades ,shades and intensities.i donot grasp ending the scene without question.

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