Sanctuary

Sanctuary — the sanctum of an inviolable sacred space and a time-out of time — is becoming increasingly difficult to find and to preserve.  Muslims bombing mosques; secular governments and churches disrespecting the principles of sanctuary. We are, today, also subjected to universal surveillance.  But without sanctuary, there can be no true autonomy and preservation of the person as an individual.

My thoughts turned to this issue this morning after reading an article on artificial intelligence in The Guardian entitled “Smart robots, driverless cars work – but they bring ethical issues too“.  All received and present custom, law, tradition, meanings and values are being challenged, and are being threatened with annihilation, by the potentialities of new technology — bio-technology, robotics, and technologies of social regulation and political control.  But the whole notion of the individual and of individuality as autonomous personality with an inviolable consciousness may well be one of the first casualties of this “brave new world”.

I have noticed of late that some guided meditation programmes, such as one finds on YouTube, employ the device of having the meditator imagine to themselves an inner sanctum— a secluded beach, a garden, a forest, a castle, an Eden, maybe even another planet — where they can relax in safety and security  and “let go” — this “letting go” being a dropping of roles, masks, agendas, schedules, timetables, deadlines, and so on.  Nothing to do, nowhere to go in this inner sanctuary except just be who and what one truly is.

This seems novel to me, in my experience. I don’t recall ever having otherwise encountered meditation techniques that involve the creation in the imagination of an inner sanctuary.  The odd thing about these fantasy refuges, retreats, and sanctuaries is that they all remind me of commonly advertised tourist destinations — of so-called “tourist Meccas” — such as one might find in Cuba, Thailand, Hawaii, or Mexico.  Pristine sandy beaches with palm trees, singing birds, a sparkling blue ocean whose gentle waves lap rhythmically and entrancingly upon a virgin shore which has never seen the foot of man, a lounge chair with a cool piña colada at hand, and not another human being anywhere in sight.  This inner sanctuary seems to be some private version of Fantasy Island.

There seems to be some confusion of the practice of meditation with fantasy.  Nor does this fantasising have much in common even with Carl Jung’s method of “active imagination”. It seems to me rather to point to something more disturbing — the loss of that sacred space of retreat, asylum, refuge, sanctuary in which the autonomy and inviolability of the individual person and their consciousness is respected and honoured, and in which it can be, in fact, renewed and revived.  The person turns inward, towards a private Fantasy Island of the imagination — one’s own private Disneyland — because our social order no longer allows a space for the autonomy of the person.  It is, however, only a mirage of sanctuary. Everything is being assimilated into the designs of the techno-corporate system, and it does not recognise or acknowledge sacred times or spaces or the autonomy of the person and the inviolability of consciousness.

By “autonomous” I do not mean, here, “free will” (which is a misunderstanding) but of time-out from time.  “A man’s home is his castle” was really a statement about sanctuary, and sanctuary as the space of personal autonomy. But this is not true of the home any longer. It has also been invaded by the marketplace and has been equally assimilated into the 24/7 techno-corporate system. The social philosopher, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, puzzling about what had happened to the spaces of sanctuary that had supported the autonomy of the person in the past concluded that sanctuary in the secular society had become the space of the private automobile, and particularly in the time of the commute between the home and the office or factory. Here, one was still completely with oneself, at least temporarily being neither the family man nor the cog in the machine.

Opportunities for voluntary withdrawl into seclusion — to be present with oneself alone — are fast dwindling, and becoming more and more difficult to preserve in the face of the assimilatory pressures of modern technology and economism and the logic of the techno-corporate state.  As Eckhart Tolle noted in the interview I posted earlier, we tend to treat the present as a means to an end in our frantic “pursuit of rational self-interest” rather than as the only place where life can be truly experienced in its fullness.

What our besieged souls want at “the end of history” is sanctuary. But our present social, political and economic arrangements do not recognise sanctuary (except, perhaps, in the form of the annual vacation). Consequently, they also undermine the basis for individual autonomy, which appears instead to have now turned inward into a fantasy paradise in a failing attempt to preserve itself.  Sanctuary is the place of autonomy, and autonomy ultimately means time-freedom, a time-out from time itself. If people today complain that they have no time, it is because sanctuary is disappearing and the possibility of autonomy and authenticity with it.

The logic of the new techno-corporate state does not seem to me to promote authentic individuation, which is integration of the personality as fulfillment, but rather mere egoism and massification, and which still confuses assimilation with integration.

This seems to me the gravest error of the contemporary mind — that it has confused higher and lower values.  Integration is not assimilation, any more than the unity and integrity of the whole depends upon the uniformity of its parts.  Error, error, error!

 

 

Advertisements

9 responses to “Sanctuary”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    It just occurred to me that the great song by the Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter” is about the theme of sanctuary. I googled it up and found this youtube rendition of it, and watching it, the juxtaposition of the images selected with the music and lyrics, produced a deep sense of sadness about the human condition — the human story doesn’t have to be like this…. or even to have to end like this

    “Gimme Shelter” could easily be “Gimme Sanctuary” in the sense I’ve referred to it above. In my opinion, this was the greatest rock n’ roll song of all time (even if most people seem to think that Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven” was that). Here’s the lyrics to Gimme Shelter,

    Oh, a storm is threat’ning
    My very life today
    If I don’t get some shelter
    Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

    War, children, it’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away
    War, children, it’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
    Our very street today
    Burns like a red coal carpet
    Mad bull lost its way

    War, children, it’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away
    War, children, it’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    Rape, murder!
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    Rape, murder!
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    Rape, murder!
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    The flood is threat’ning
    My very life today
    Gimme, gimme shelter
    Or I’m gonna fade away

    War, children, it’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away
    It’s just a shot away

    I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
    It’s just a kiss away
    It’s just a kiss away
    It’s just a kiss away
    It’s just a kiss away
    Kiss away, kiss away

    • alex jay says :

      From one monk to another … and when you take a step out of your sanctuary, you step on to a tightrope (“Highwire”) trying to keep your balance to avoid falling into an abyss … since you got me in the mood – touche.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Sanctuary can be found in the oddest places. Sri Aurobindo was arrested and imprisoned by the British Imperial authorities for his nationalist militant activities. Later, he said he couldn’t thank the British enough for his internment, as it was in prison that he experienced his enlightenment. So, in an ironic and even wryly humourous way, prison was his sanctuary, and where he attained liberation.

        Wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to Castaneda’s don Juan, to Nietzsche, to Rumi, or to ibn Arabi. They all knew the value of the “petty tyrant” whose oppression could be used as a springboard to emancipation. Ibn Arabi told the humourous story of a master Sufi sheikh who had a real bear and terror for a wife. Others could not understand why he put up with her. He simply remarked that his wife was “his practice”. She conforms, in that sense, to the archetype of “the petty tyrant” as don Juan described it. He was using her to achieve self-overcoming. So, despite appearances, he was in effect the real master of the situation.

        So, in a paradoxical sense, things are both precisely as they appear to be and also not as they appear to be. “Nirvana and samsara are the same” (which is the ultimate conclusion of Buddhism) but also not the same at all.

        The paradox is soluable, in a way, only if one accepts the double-nature of the human — as a “coincidence of opposites”, of form and formlessness, the finite and the infinite, the time-bound secular and the timeless or eternal, the personal and transpersonal, or egoic and non-egoic. There is an aspect of us which already perceives truth and knows immediately, and another aspect — the sense-bound, egoic nature — which only perceives mediately. The free aspect perceives appearance to be camouflage, while the sense-bound egoic consciousness takes the camouflage or appearance or phenomena for the real. So, we are this odd construct of the immediate and the mediate — ourselves a coincidentia oppositorum.

        One of the big mistakes of much western “spirituality” and the quest for enlightenment is the mistaken notion that enlightenment is somehow attainable by simply adding and adding to egoic knowledge, which is just a variation on the “pursuit of happiness” theme. In fact, it is simply waking up to this other awareness which already is Here and Now, which already knows and perceives truly, and to which nothing can be added or subtracted. This distinction (which is not really a distinction at all) is the gist of Blake’s remark “More! More! is the cry of the mistaken Soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man”.

        This double-nature of the human frame, being a coincidentia oppositorum of the time-bound and the timeless is why the Buddhist can say “nirvana and samsara are the same” and at the same time “nirvana and samsara are not the same”

        This is equally Blake’s “heaven in the wild flower” and “eternity in the hour”, the coincidence of the infinite with the finite form applies equally to the human. There is nothing “beyond” Here and Now, which is the Infinite and the Eternal. And yet we experience time and space as real according to the interpretations of the sense-bound self. But that’s just the rub right there. The physical senses translate the implicit knowledge of the vast inner self — its infinity and eternity — into spatial and temporal constructs or metaphors. The eternal it translates into concepts of “forever” (endless time) and the infinite or formless it translates into endless space. To the sense-bound egoic self, this infinite and eternal character of the inner or knowing awareness is all inscrutable darkness. “Darkness is His pavilion”, “dark sea of awareness” or Rumi’s “darkness is your candle”. Darkness — or abyss, void, emptiness — this is how the sense-bound self interprets or translates this infinity and eternity into perceptual or conceptual terms.

        Goethe, of course, knew this too. “Two souls, alas, reside within my breast, and each from the other would be parted. The one in sturdy lust for love with clutching organs clinging to the world, the other strongly rises from the gloom to lofty fields of ancient heritage”.

        Yet, it’s really not entirely correct, except as metaphor, to say “two souls” except in terms of this double-nature of the human form, or rather the coincidence of the formless and the formal, or infinite and finite. Goethe’s remark has the same flavour, as it were, as the Buddhists “nirvana and samsara are the same”, and yet not the same, too.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    This evening I just happened upon this dharma talk by an English Buddhist monk by name of Ajahn Brahm called “Being no one going nowhere”, and if you have some interest in this issue of sanctuary, it is very well put here, as well as why it is so difficult for “moderns” to find sanctuary

    But the very title of his talk, “being no one going nowhere” is pretty much the essence of sanctuary as being what I called above “time-out from time”, as well as bearing on some problems of our present social order, arrangements, and relationships that were discussed in “A Formula for Happiness?” posted earlier at

    https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/a-formula-for-happiness/

    Finding sanctuary is your first, most important task, and it is pretty much the gist of Brahm’s tale of “Old Monks Don’t Lie”.

    • alex jay says :

      Oh Dear! The “old monks don’t lie” analogy went down like a joke without a punchline – drop the arrow, dig, and find a pearl/whatever? collar for your dog (Cringe!). Actually, one could have derived as much insight from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she said: “there’s no place like home”. In fact, Brahm’s whole spiel reminded me of the wiseman-bullshitter paradox. Beware of Gurus-Yogis-Priests-Scientists – spin doctors of their own illusions/delusions – that think they have answers to a morphogenic field of consciousness, which by definition is potentia actualised by the grace of our birthright, limited only by imagintion (infinite and everlasting). If I had attended his retreat, I’d ask for my money back … or act as his agent to set up a monestary in Big Sur – like they did with the other fancy arse “new age” Jungian shadow spinners (just made it up). Anyway … here’s something topical on “sanctuary” from another perspective:

      Oh Dear! The “old monks don’t lie” analogy went down like a joke without a punchline – drop the arrow, dig, and find a pearl collar for your dog (Cringe!). Actually, one could have derived as much insight from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she said: “there’s no place like home”. In fact, Brahm’s whole spiel reminded me of the wiseman-bullshitter paradox. Beware of Gurus-Yogis-Priests-Scientists – spin doctors of their own illusions/delusions – that think they have answers to a morphogenic field of consciousness, which by definition is potentia actualised by the grace of our birthright, limited only by imagintion (infinite and everlasting). If I had attended his retreat, I’d ask for my money back … or act as his agent to set up a monestary in Big Sur – like they did with the other fancy arse “new age” Jungian shadow spinners (just made it up). Anyway … here’s something topical on “sanctuary”:

      https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/who_will_protect_you_from_the_police_the_rise_of_government_sanctioned

      • alex jay says :

        Just read what I’ve posted and it appears that WordPress is using the same computer code that has made the Obamacare health exchange such a sweeping success (Barf!). God bless/curse technology in the hands of idiots … bankers …politicians … and the worst whores of all: Media Mendax!

      • Scott Preston says :

        You’ve missed the spirit of the tale, I think alex. It’s another version of Xeno’s paradox, one of those conundrums of reason that continually show up the “Achilles heel” of the mental-rational structure of consciousness — ie, that such “labyrinths of reason” (as the logician William Poundstone called these paradoxes) show that reason can’t even account fully for itself without entangling itself in contradictions (and in some ways, Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem is akin to Xeno’s Paradoxes).

        The tale is about the pursuit of happiness. The arrow is the arrow of time. One displaces or projects one’s happiness into a future state that can never be found. What lies at the end of the arrow’s flight is just a big hole in the ground. Xeno’s paradoxes are essentially about time as well — the arrow that can never leave the archer’s bow; the rabbit that can never win the footrace (or a rat-race, for that matter). It’s even basic Christian stuff — “for where your treasure is, there lies your heart also”.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    “What our besieged souls want at “the end of history” is sanctuary.”

    A thought provoking essay. After reading the essay, I had to ponder about what would qualify as a sanctuary for my personality. I discovered two things about myself.

    1. My true sanctuary is wherever or whatever from which I can gain inspiration. By this definition, The Dark Age Blog, The Chrysalis, the works of Castaneda, the works of Seth speaking through Jane Roberts, and yes even the Guardian have been a place of sanctuary for me. All of these works and platforms have been quite inspirational to me. The other things I gain inspiration from are music and Nature. Therefore, music and Nature are the other sanctuaries for me. I totally agree that “Sanctuary can be found in the oddest places.”

    2. The second thing I noticed was that “wisdom” is at least a product of living a life from without the sanctuary as “inspiration” is the product living from within.

  4. Abdulmonem says :

    Faith is the sanctuary that enhances the process of connecting the personal soul with its source, through silencing the chatter of the intellect and reflection. Ibn Arabi says , the intellect and reflection are the affliction of the human, the limiting factor that make it very difficult for most people to comprehend the limitless and that is why all sages of all variations emphasize the sanctuary , the retreat into god, that is the meaning of immigrating into him or strife into him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: