“the breathing became slower and slower, and there was absolutely not the slightest indication of contraction, of struggle. it was just that the breathing became slower – and slower – and slower, and at five-twenty the breathing stopped.
I had been warned in the morning that there might be some up-setting convulsions towards the end, or some sort of contraction of the lungs, and noises. People had been trying to prepare me for some horrible physical reaction that would probably occur. None of this happened, actually the ceasing of the breathing was not a drama at all, because it was done so slowly, so gently, like a piece of music just finishing in a sempre piu piano dolcemente. I had the feeling actually that the last hour of breathing was only the conditioned reflex of the body that had been used to doing this for 69 years, millions and millions of times. There was not the feeling that with the last breath, the spirit left. It had just been gently leaving for the last four hours.”
In this interview, Philip K. Dick describes a breakthrough he had when “probing the phenomenal” world.
I have one search and one search only. Let me preface it by saying that I use to search for personal happiness, fulfillment and joy. Since all those things have been denied me, and it’s obvious that they will never happen, I also hope to make a lot of money, but that’s also been denied me. And yet by default one search which I will never give up on and which I feel is within my power to succeed at and is to determine once and for all, to my own satisfaction – not necessarily to the satisfaction of anyone else, but to my own satisfaction – what is the actual nature of reality around us as compared, as contrasted to the apparent, evident, phenomenological reality that we perceive. I have, as you know, written about this for 27 years, in the form of questions. I’ve probed the phenomenal world looking for something behind it, which is why I took LSD. I only took LSD three times and didn’t find any answers through it, so I gave up on that.
But within the last three and a half years, for reasons which I do not know, I made a fantastic breakthrough to a perception of what appears to me to be, I mean what I construe to be, the actual world, in a sense that Plato distinguished the real world from the merely evident world, or empirical world. But I made a fantastic breakthrough. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know what caused it. But since then I have done nothing but attempt to develop a coherent explanation of what I saw. That is, it is nothing that I thought, it is not an idea. It is actually a perception. The model would be as follows. Let’s say that we are all sitting in a theater watching a live play. And for some reason, it doesn’t matter what reason, we are all so naïve that we think that the play is factually true, that it’s real, it’s not a play. And we’re sitting there, and we’ve watched maybe two acts, and we believe that the actors are the characters that they’re performing. We believe the characters are real. Let’s say it’s a play about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and there’s an actor with a beard, and he’s playing Lincoln. And we really believe he’s Lincoln, you know, and this other guy is John Wilkes Boothe. And we’re sitting there and we’re watching this, and we believe that it’s all real. And all of a sudden, the whole back scenery falls over flat. And now that we see stagehands, with robes and dice and people half in costume and somebody studying their script. Well, this is a –
Right, right. Exactly. Lights and sandbags to counterweight the curtain. Then immediately about sixteen hundred people rush up and push all the scenery back up on the stage and hope that the audience happened to all be asleep at that moment.
Well, this is what happened to me in regards to the phenomenal world, that for a period of about three and a half days it was as if the scenery had, for some reason, fallen over flat, revealing to me the nature of the reality behind it. But the reality behind it was so different from the phenomenal world, that I couldn’t use language to describe it. That is, I could not find words. I can’t say I saw X, Y, Z – here inserting some semantic associative. And I’ve taken about 300,000 words of notes on it, and done tremendous research. Because I feel if it happened to me it must have happened to somebody else. I can’t be the only person in the entire history of human consciousness to have ever seen the world as it really is. I’ve discovered, for instance, that Plotinus, the neo-Platonist, had this experience. That some of the Sufi have had this experience. And some of the Christian Mystics, like Origen, have had this experience. And Driesch, the German vitalist philosopher, and Bergson. I find indications in India, especially in the Hindu religion, in Brahmanism. Emerson appears to have had this experience. Wordsworth appears to have had this experience. And it doesn’t resemble anything, very closely, that I’ve ever read by even such people as the father of Alexandria. You know, it’s a little like Plato. That is why I gave the image of watching a play. You can say it’s similar to Plato’s image of the pictures shown on the walls of the cave.
In three and a half years of reflecting on my experience and doing research, all I have learned is that it has something to do with time, that apparently time is not what we think it is. It’s something else. There’s a new Soviet theory about time, by Kozyrev, Dr. Nikolai Kozyrev, the great Soviet astrophysicist. His theory is that time has an energy, that it’s the primary energy of the universe. He says time is an energy poured into a material system and the material system is the universe. Well, apparently what happened is I got rephased in terms of linear time in such a way that, instead of linear time flashing by me like the frames in a movie projector flash by, I got past the progressiveness of linear time and saw things outside of their temporal progressions.
I saw this image one day in a vision whilst meditating – a giant Amitabha Buddha in a city, with a huge cosmos behind, so I thought i’d mock it up. Turned out well.
The culmination of the ceremony was the eulogy by Richard Baker. Using the dharma names he’d given Watts and holding Watts’ jangling staff, which he’d inherited from Suzuki, he spoke:
“Alan, Daiyuin Yuzan Myoko, Daizen Jomon, here is your lineage from Buddha through the Buddhas and Patriachs to you. Alan Watts was a philosopher, a poet, a calligrapher, a lover, a friend, a dharma reveller, a revealer, a great founder of the spirit for all of us.
He was the true emptiness of all things. He taught us to be free. To see through the multiplicities and absurdities to the Great Universal Personality and Play. He gave us the Dharma Eye of a new age. Our blessings go with you now.
Wide Mind, Joyous Mind, Careful Loving Mind. For the true life is beyond life and death, origination, and extinction. We are with you in the many paths you opened for us. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Go! Go! Great Hermit! Great Founder!”
I understand that people, melodramatically, may consider life something one has to survive. But you’re alive, that’s what life is, you are surviving. It plays into this idea that people’s lives are narratives – that it’s a film or book and you have to survive all this craziness. I think it’s a disservice, ultimately, because it makes others feel like their lives aren’t crazy enough. In my mind, life is not a war – although human beings create conditions that make it feel that way – and I think that navigation is a fairer term. I see life essentially as an empty field.
This recent Ian Mackaye interview speaks so much to me I don’t know where to begin quoting. It’s wall to wall wisdom. It has the feeling of a Dharma talk – much of what Ian says vibes with my own thoughts as influenced by Buddhism.
We only wake up for a limited number of days. Although, ironically, I would say life is eternal, because I don’t think there’s any comprehension before or after it. So, if all we know is this, then it’s eternal.
He touches on success, life and technology…. Very much worth your time reading.
You often hear the idea being bandied about that
“You cannot begin to love others, until you first love yourself”
I’ve never really given it much thought, but have always been vaguely suspicious of it. I guess I can see some logic in it – like the principle of tending to your own oxygen mask before helping others, but was always troubled by the idea of “loving yourself”, which seems self-indulgent and egotistical.
It also solidifies and centralises the self first and foremost, which perversely is what creates the ‘other’ that we must then choose to love or hate. But if we were to remove the self, we could undo the entire equation. No self = no other.
Alan Watts hit upon this towards the end of “The Wisdom of Insecurity”. The entire book is, like most of his work, a treatise on the Eastern concepts of what is the self, and how a solidified “I” is the cause of much of our suffering (Go read it. Now.) When he is talking about the implications for morality of such a world view he begins to untangle the equation.
The undivided mind is aware of experience as a unity, of the world as itself, and that the whole nature of mind and awareness is to be one with what it knows, suggests a state that would usually be called love. For the love that expresses itself in creative action is something much more than an emotion. It is not something which you can “feel” and “know,” remember and define. Love is the organizing and unifying principle which makes the world a universe and the disintegrated mass a community. It is the very essence and character of mind, and becomes manifest in action when the mind is whole.
(By “the undivided mind” or “the mind as whole”, he means when we realise our unity with the present moment and cease trying to fortify an “I” as opposed to reality).
There is no problem of how to love. We love. We are love, and the only problem is the direction of love, whether it is to go straight out like sunlight, or try to turn back on itself like a “candle under a bushel.”
Released from the circle of attempted self-love, the mind of a human draws the whole universe into its own unity as a single dewdrop seems to contain the entire sky.
A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; there are “itself”.
Everyone has love, but it can only come out when they are convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love themselves.
It comes only in the awareness that one has no self to love.
(Edited slightly to make it gender neutral)
We seldom to realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. We copy emotional reactions from our parents, learning from them that excrement is supposed to have a disgusting smell and that vomiting is supposed to be an unpleasant sensation. The dread of death is also learned from their anxieties about sickness and from their attitudes to funerals and corpses. Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he is indeed separate! Society as we now know is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules.
I’ve started a new blog on Tumblr. It’s here. The first post is about soup. It is not a replacement for Prickly Goo, just something new. This blog has rotted, as many blogs are apt to do, and I think the problem is I don’t have the inclination for longer posts at the moment, but I do want to say stuff. So I’ve set up a new one to get me rolling again. Expect: shorter, much more vague posts, more photos, some quotes etc.
Prickly Goo is not dead.
Sometimes Ireland, you’re alright.
Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize we’re floating in space?
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round