Saturday, 4 February 2017

My experiences with meditation...

...Began in the late 1990s, when I became fascinated by hunter gatherer spirituality ('animism') and then actively interested by New Age spiritual writings.

My main problem was alienation - feeling cut-off from from Life, inside the nutshell of my mind; and my understanding was that there were two main possibilities to escape this - both of which I attempted in meditation.


1. Hypnosis

The first aim was 'hypnosis', more exactly auto-hypnosis - which was tending towards deep, dreamless sleep. I did this by allowing myself to drift toward sleep, and diminishing the control and awareness of my 'self'; but trying to hold myself halfway.

(Of course; sooner or later I would fall-asleep or wake-up.)

 The idea was that self-consciousness was diminished, to allow a return to a dream-like cognition.

This solves the problem of alienation but at the cost of no consciousness - and little or no memory. So it was pure escape - but that period of escape was just take out of life. And there was no 'meaning' in life - just an indifference to meaning - and not even the possibility of purposive in life.

I could not be integrated with 'real life' but was, at most, 'time-out' for recreation.


2. Shamanism

The second aim was 'shamanism' - which seemed similar to Jung's idea of active imagination, and was closely related to lucid dreaming (which I knew about, but had not experienced).

The idea was to relax my body completely but to keep my awareness awake - so that the body would sleep, but the mind remain alert - to create a dissociation in psychological terms.

This produced a state of waking dreams, of a kind of temporary psychosis-with-insight - hallucinatory, delusional and thought-disordered - but I found this was completely 'random' and uncontrollable.

It was rather like watching disorganised, cut-together movie snippets on multiple topics - and the experience was mostly trivial and boring. Certainly it did not provide any interesting answers or insights.


3. Magical times

A much earlier feeling I had experienced throughout life were periods of minutes or a few hours when I seemed to be in a meaningful, beautiful, purposively-unfolding world where everything was integrated and flowed-together: feeling, thinking, being, perception, memory...

This could not be forced - but would sometimes happen on holidays in, or visits to, certain places that had some special external meaning for me - the Park Street area of Bristol, Keswick, Oxford, Berwick upon Tweed - even, a few times, abroad: Berne, Girona, Freiburg, Cambridge Massachusetts...

But these came-upon-me and could not be controlled or held-onto - I couldn't do anything with them except remember them as a possibility that made life more hope-full. I could not achieve them through meditation.


4. Communion with God

When I became a Christian I found the work of Seraphim Rose - and via him Eastern Orthodoxy - and tried to meditate in that fashion - aiming at a communion with God, a kind of immersion with the divine; again with loss of the self.

Insofar as I touched-upon this, once or twice in divine liturgy, and in Mass at an Anglo-Catholic church -  I found the state very moving; but in a sense paralysing - it was, again, time-out-of ordinary life. I could find no way to integrate the state of consciousness with everyday consciousness - and while I did find meaning, I did not find purpose... except to the extent that I had a vague notion that if I was serious then I should be more like an ascetic monk.

Yet my real life was first of of a family man, a husband and father; and secondly someone engaged in a creative exploration of philosophy and science; and this was in practice - and by my conviction of the heart - far more important to me than the idea of solitary, ascetic striving for communion.


5. The current situation

About four years ago I developed a solid conviction that the Mormon religion was true, and the distinctive theology was a valid Christian theory.

(I regard the Christian religion as separate from the theories about it - and theology and metaphysics are ultimate theories about Christianity - so none are true in the same sense as the religion is true - all are at least somewhat partial and distorted by our human limitations. So Mormonisn is - for me - the best and truest; but I regard several other theologies - some extremely different - as equally Christian.)

But my meditative practice has been influenced mainly by William Arkle, then Owen Barfield, then (via Barfield, mostly) by Rudolf Steiner; in particular I now strive for a meditation in which I remain fully alter, conscious, self-aware, purposive...

In sum, I am trying to meditate by thinking - and to make this thinking align with my deepest self and include all possibilities.

I strive for a thinking which is an active process that moves fluidly between the external perceptions via the senses, internal perceptions (feelings), memories, and (vitally) that direct knowledge which enters thinking from super-sensory, extra-perceptual sources. 

My conviction is that - to the extent my motivations are Good - then this kind of meditative thinking is also Good; and has an unbounded scope for discerning truth, beauty and virtue.

There are no limits to what this thinking can do, in principle. By it we may know everything which can be known (this 'everything' does not, however, include the content of other agents minds, nor of God's mind, except insofar as these are purposively shared by them.)

So my meditation operates from a belief in the potential for absolute freedom and agency of the thinking mind.

My actual practice is that such thinking can only be attained sometimes and for short periods; and that it tends to be contaminated by my own evil motivations (ranging widely and including a desire for power or prestige, to pride - to a desire for present pleasure and the tendency for seeking wish-fulfilment rather than reality).

I have not found any 'method' for this meditation - except that it is sometimes helped by reflective note-taking and reading (sitting at a table, or lying on a bed propped up on an elbow), and by ambling walks though areas I find sympathetic (which luckily includes several walks near to my home, and many more in the countryside nearby).

In two words, what I am now seeking, primarily, is exactly Owen Barfield's concept of Final Participation (as described, for instance, in his book Saving the Appearances) - and my understanding is that Final Participation is actually the divine mode of thinking (which is why it is 'final') - therefore seeking FP is the path of theosis appropriate to my metaphysical and theological understanding of Christianity.


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