Conversion Against Perversion

Let’s continue with the topic we addressed in yesterday’s post about Buddhism’s Three Evils, the Three Gems, and how Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and “grammatical method” reveal the meaning of it in a way that Ken Wilber’s AQAL model could not. And let’s continue with this theme to show how certain vital truths, pretty much forgotten, are revealed in this pattern.

Again, the Three Evils which are today rampant in “the New Normal” are Greed, Malice (or ill-will) and Ignorance. Instead of repressing or denying these, the Buddhist vow of the Three Gems converts them. “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha” basically is the conversion of the Three Evils, in and through which the “I” itself is converted. This is the real meaning of “conversion” as “to have one”s face turned in a new direction”.

Now this is also what we read in the great Sufi mystic Rumi about the “four nafs” or “animal souls” (who are, in some respects, the fallen forms of Blake’s four Zoas of “Albion divided fourfold”)

The rooster of lust, the peacock of wanting
to be famous, the crow of ownership, and the duck
of urgency, kill them and revive them
in another form, changed and harmless.

Mystical Islam is a marvel, really, and especially as we find it in figures like Rumi or Al-Arabi, for these “four nafs” bear remarkable resemblance to what contemporary neurology describes also as the “four F’s” or four primitive drives of the Lizard Brain — feeding, fighting, fleeing, and, er, “fornication” (we’ll use the euphemism today for sensitive minds). These are also what William Blake calls “our Energies” which are “of the Body”, or why his four Zoas or “the four Mighty Ones” also “reside in the Human Brain”.

So, in this respect, Blake and Rumi are both corroborated by contemporary neuroscience.

Now, you will note that Rumi (Blake likewise) does not recommend their repression or suppresion, but their transformation: “kill them and revive them in another form”. This is the true meaning of “conversion”, and this is what is intended also by the Buddhist vow of the Three Gems. Greed (or lust) is converted into the ardent desire for “Buddhahood”, Ignorance is dispelled by coming to know the Dharma, and Malice is overcome through membership in the Sangha. In these ways, Greed, Malice and Ignorance are not repressed but converted, and in this process of conversion, dispelled. We also find these represented in Aurobindo’s great book The Human Cycle.

It is this process of conversion that is also called “the ennoblement of mankind” and is represented equally in the Hermetic transmutation of lead into gold and the passage through the crucible. But there is also a reverse process which represents a debasement, and this is called “perversion” and which Nietzsche describes as nihilism, or “all higher values devalue themselves”. Propaganda is typically the instrument by which the higher is perverted and debased, or because the paradoxes of the Dharma are not properly understood, and the mind distorts their meaning through dualistic thinking.

So, so-called “secret doctrines” were often kept “secret” only from fear that they would be perverted or abused by lesser mentalities, and even Jesus had one teaching for the masses (the parables) and another for his closest disciples (direct knowledge), and mostly what has come down through the Ages of the Church has been the minor teachings — the parables. So when Blake says that he has “the Bible of Hell” he meant the secret teachings.

Now, we have said that in the Buddhist vow of the Three Gems there are actually four elements: “I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma, and in the Sangha” has four elements when one includes the latent subject — the “I” which is to discover itself in and through these others. That is to say, this “I” can only actually come to know what it truly is in and through the “relationship” it has with the other elements — the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha — as completing a mandala. This is the same pattern, we noted in the previous post, that we find in Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method and “cross of reality”.

The same pattern holds for the Christian monastic, as noted. “Christ”, “the Rule”, and “the community of the faithful” or the brethern correspond to the “Three Gems”. And this same pattern is followed in Islam as Mohammed, the Qu’ran, and the Ummah. And if people cleave to their religions monomanically, or fanatically, (what we call “fundamentalism”) it is often owing to gratitude for having discovered their “I” in and through these relations.

The more enlightened among them, however, know this, and this is why we also see ecumenical formations developing these days — the dialogues of the religions.

While this quadrilateral pattern of relations in and through which the “I” discloses itself to itself is a universal, the problem of sectarianism or the hyper-partisan within these groups becomes an issue. How does sectarianism come about? There are quite noble forms of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism and many ignoble forms. In much the same way, there is the noble forms of Blake’s “four Zoas” and also ignoble forms (or “emanations”), and this is quite likely connected with what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “the Twelve Tones of the Spirit”, and that merely one of this “tones” as such comes to be over-emphasised and deemed “normal” at the expense of the others, so that it is not integral.

So, let’s review, once more, the “Twelve Tones of the Spirit” which also appear to be a universal given the archetypal significance of the number “12”. (Rosenstock-Huessy’s essay on this is also available online as Chapter VI in the collection entitled I Am An Impure Thinker)

prophet or warner
teacher or educator
leader or legislator
sufferer or perseverer
protester or rebel
critic or analyst
doubter or despondent  
player or singer
learner or wanderer
reader or conceiver
listener or obeyer

This array looks very similar, in many respects, to the 12 principal archetypes of Jung’s archetypal psychology. And the logic here is this: that while the spirit is one but fourfold (the fourfold Atman, four Zoas, the Christian tetramorph, Gebser’s “four consciousness structures”, the four branches of the “cross of reality” or the “Sacred Hoop” etc) this fourfold structure expresses itself through “twelve tones”. (Quite possibly these twelve tones are represented in Spiral Dynamics and as Wilber’s “colour-coded” consciousnesses but I haven’t looked into this too closely)

Twelve, of course, is an archetypal number: Jesus as tetramorph has twelve disciples; the twelve signs of the zodiac; the twelve gods of high Olympus; the 12 principle archetypes of the “collective unconscious”, and so on. But what seems to happen in sectarianism is that one of these is established as “normal” or as “the truth” of “identity”, when, in fact, it is the whole that matters and not the part.

But the fact is, we are poymorphic and polychrone beings, and we pass through many of these “identities” during the course of a single day — donning one, discarding the other in succession, without being the slightest bit mindful or conscious of doing so. What is called “integral consciousness” is knowing it, and as Blake says correctly: “all gods reside in the human breast”, including the Christian one. For is it not said that “the body is the temple of the living God” and that “the kingdom of Heaven is within you”?

Nietzsche discovered no less. So is it not strange that Nietzsche was considered anti-Christ and Blake was considered a “lunatic”? That’s just an indication of how far Christianity had fallen from its roots that it no longer understood at all that “the body is the temple of the living God”.

How the One becomes four, and the four becomes twelve is also represented in the Mother’s Symbol (the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo) as we see

Integral Yoga: The Mother’s Symbol

This was also represented in the “Compass Rose” of early Christianity and has pretty much the same meaning. The one becomes four, and the four contain the twelve — principally represented by the winds.

Wind Rose or Compass Rose

So what we call “character” (even “national character”) is often an overspecialisation in one of these “tones of the spirit”, whereas it is only one aspect of the full “Universal Humanity” called “Atman” or “Anthropos” and the paradox of the One and the Many.

And this is the Age of the Paradox.

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