“How we position.” Seems to call for an object, “What?” before we can get into wondering about “how;” or even, who “we” are; we want to know what.
I could not add a what. Any of the possibilities that come to mind seem too limiting. Not necessarily in the ways we might expect. For instance, if the subject of that sentence were ourselves it might seem inclusive, but it would limit us to an expectation of how the narrative would continue. We’d see ourselves in some position. Immediately we will have not only left out all that is not ourselves; we would limit what could be understood as a position. Even if we were to see position including ideological as well as physical positions this would still be limiting in an unhelpful way.
The title as written might imply that we’re talking about the act of positioning in all its aspects. For now, that’s as close to a working hypothesis as I can muster.
We’re talking about realms. What is a realm?
A kingdom. If we strip away the specifics of royalty from the statement it means a space – not confined to the physical – in which something or someone is sovereign. A space under some rule.
What does rule mean?
We tend to take it to mean a Law, or if we look beneath this, a Power to control. If we dig deeper, and use a lighter touch, rule could also mean an organizing… something. Does it have to be a principal? A set way of doing whatever a rule does?
Not necessarily. Especially if we take a hint from Sheldrake’s “Habits of Nature.” His antidote to the notion of fixed Laws of Nature. Laws that are always taken to be exactly what some authority considers to be fundamental and coincidentally identical with how they perceive the world to be….
So, if by rule we mean something like a fuzzy sphere of probability roughly organized around something we may or may not be seeing clearly, then a realm would be the space – not necessarily physical, or, for that matter, in any way limited to the confines of our understanding – in which there is some sort of rule, however unintelligible it might be.
For the last few years I’ve been finding some sense in looking at three realms of action: Art, Craft, and the Sacred. These three forming a triad. I’ve always found a three-legged stool more stable than trying to perch on a binary….
In its simplest configuration this would be a series of realms of action that connect and overlap at any and every point. Art has to do with the way in which we navigate questions of meaning. Craft is how we mediate between necessity and contingency. And The Sacred is where we celebrate and connect: with each other, with everyone and everything, and with how we position ourselves in relation to the whole.
Whatever we do, however we act in which ever realm we enter into, we are relating within this triad of realms. Life in this way can be seen as a series of spiral movements that begin in one realm and by turning and turning again, bring us to the other two. Navigating this triad we are simultaneously confronting and relating to a singular specificity of circumstances, situation, and conception of where we are; while at the same time finding conduits that help us integrate each particular action into an integration of a whole life, a whole community, a whole… everything.
Such a triad of realms would have been familiar to most people throughout most of our time on earth. Today it can seem like some wild utopian dream that can only be glimpsed in passing as we observe the countless ways in which any possibility of achieving it has been corrupted.
Corruption is a term that has come back into vogue. We’re surrounded by examples of its limited sense as a criminal activity that is intended to bring an advantage to its practitioners by their running some sort of cheat. What’s missing from this, and also in a curious way from the supposed opposite view of corruption as a mater of Sin, as having broken the Law in a way that will bring down divine punishment, is that corruption is part of the cycle, or shall we say, the spiral of life. When something has outlasted its vitality it becomes corrupted and rots. If it failed to rot we would be burdened with corpses and life’s vitality would be unable to find nutrition. There is nothing “wrong” with corruption. When we insist that corruption does not take place or that some particular form of corruption must be rooted out so we may return to some hallowed-in-hindsight-state-ante we do enter into error, or more precisely, incoherence.
There is a time and a place for remedies that might forestall corruption, but these are to be found way before the rot has begun to smell. For us, today those days are long past.
In this environment it makes more sense, is much more coherent, to see corruption as a heuristic helping us discover where futility lies in ambush and how we may move our attention away from propping-up the undead and towards more fruitful occupations. Seeing corruption in this light is an aspect of our continued, joyful disillusionment.
What lies at the heart of our predicament is that we are deluged with the consequences of corruption and the attitudes at its foundation. Attitudes revolving around what we can call bad faith.
So long as we assume that vitality is a common goal or aspiration, especially at a time like this, we labor at a disadvantage. If we take the opposite view, that the smart thing to do is to accept a cynical perspective and join the club; we give ourselves up without a struggle.
Vitality is the definitive attribute of life. What is alive is vital. What is alive cannot remain; or shall we say continue as nothing ever remains anything or anywhere for long; living without being able to attend to coherence. A potential root definition of living; one that can encompass any view of what may be alive: animal, vegetable, mineral, and spiritual; would be an instantiation of energy attending to what-is. Another term, so badly abused, for what-is is truth….
What is vital is vital, in as it is in relationship with what-is, with what is true. In this way whatever is corrupt, precisely for its deviation from what-is and from what is true, is no longer vital. Giving ourselves up to illusion, any form of willful denial of what-is, of what is true – including pronouncements that we know what that might be and that our certainty provides some power to outwit the greater order, as unknown and unknowable as this order is – puts us on the side of the corrupting forces. Not in the sense of some evil to be fought or celebrated, but in the sense that we are aligning ourselves with forces working to consume the undead – who, at this point would also include ourselves….
I’m afraid we’ve not seen the end of this kind of death-dealing bargain-making. It’s at the heart of every will-to-power. It begins as an alluring dance with death and ends in the bunker mentality so strikingly apparent in Berlin in 1945 and in every nuclear command center, every corporate boardroom, every center of power since. It’s rallying cry has always been, “If I cannot impose my will on the world then no one, no thing shall outlive me!” A much more chilling update of, “Apres moi? le deluge.” that marked another end of an era.
How do we maintain a relationship with what-is, with what is true in our circumstances?
This does appear to be a most vital question!
So long as we remain whipsawed by every vagary of the death-dealers we cannot find a way to maintain this relationship. If we keep looking for ways to bolster our illusions we cannot even begin. This combination of confusion and denial feeds the forces of corruption. Adding ourselves, our physical bodies and whatever capacities we might have in any other articulation, to the fires consuming the undead.
Interesting the way the divide-at-all-costs wing of spiritual story-telling has used a similar language to pull anyone beginning to resist such a narrow conception back into the fold….
Our fires are not Hell-fire. Our destructive force has broken out of this confining prison and threatens the only heaven we have ever known directly, this earth as a living being.
This brings us back to the title and its implicit question: Where do these three realms reside? How do we position them? What is the overall context?
At every level and every stage of contemplating action we need not only a working sense of what and how, even of who. We need to position all we bring to bear somewhere. We need to have a sense of inside and outside. Where is our act grounded? What are we basing our exertion upon?
As Scott Preston writes on The Chrysalis we are looking at a transition not just from a linear, bipolar view of the universe. We are transitioning from a triangular, three-pole, perspectival view as well. What William Blake and others have foreseen is a transition to a fourfold view.
I’ll leave the delineation of these matters to him and others. For our purposes here what is needed is to find a way to position our triad within four dimensions. And, to do so is to find where this triad is embedded. What is their context?
This action is, at least at this stage, primarily an act of dissolving separations and uniting oppositions within larger dynamics. Identifying where we are mistaken in thinking the boundaries are, the misguided certainties that prevent us from seeing over some wall….
This battle takes place within the language we use. It is built into the workings of language that both provide its strengths and feed its weaknesses alike. Without the presumption of certainty to some degree we have no basis for communication. Language is built on a trust in the meanings of words and upon this working assumption we continually build an edifice of Enormity out of the blocks of accepted certainties, the concretions of dogma we cannot help but create as we stumble along.
We cannot act upon what we cannot attend to. We cannot attend to what we do not perceive. We cannot trust our perceptions if we cannot judge our actions. And around and around we go.
Our triad of realms is a story about how we might interact with these dilemmas, weaving meaning, necessity, and spirit in such a way that we partake and embody vitality. But unless we can position this triad we have not moved out of the dying perspectival view. We will continue to be blindsided by assumptions that can only be attended to if we have this fourth perspective – even here the vocabulary is too compromised to be helpful!
The triangle never leaves the binary. It simply places a singular linear view as an orthogonal line on a perspectival grid. This leaves the holder of this view in a position to claim authority and usurp control because they claim to occupy the highest perspective. We risk the same error if our triad is left free-floating without a greater context. We would just be returning to a cobbled-together rehash of what led to what Blake called, “Newton’s Sleep” in the first place.
A spiral turns. It may pass the “same place” quite closely, but it does not repeat. This is the error of a strictly cyclical view of history or evolution. It does not necessarily travel in an uninterrupted upward assent as the Belief in Progress would have it. There is neither an “End to history” nor is there repetition. There is a general trend of a rhyming of orders of order that roughly approximates a building of greater complexity when seen from a middle distance. This smells a bit like progress. So long as we don’t start to think we understand it and can control its embodiment.
This birthing of a new age of awareness needs to be seen as part of this greater movement and one that takes place beyond understanding. Our part in it can never be more than fragmentary and contingent and the most we can hope for is that we contribute to vitality more than we hinder it. This comes at the intersection of attention, compassion, and communion.
There is no answer to the question of how we position our triad. By the time one has been constructed it will have already approached its impending devolution into dogma. Our task is not to jump at answers. But to keep the question alive. Expanding our capacity to hold uncertainty as we embody vitality positions us beyond the present conceptual impasse. For us this is not only all we can do at present; perhaps it is enough….