If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.

"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chapter VII.1

A Fistful of Disclaimers

(otherwise known as the intermission)

Aren't you tired, as I am, of waking up every morning and seeing the sun again? Tired of living the same life, of suffering the same pain?” ~Gustave Flaubert

A fool who persists in his folly will become wise.” ~Henry David Thoreau


I am not well.

I am not certain that I ever was, and if I was, it was a time before I can remember.

I am at war with myself—an insurgency of the mind, a counterinsurgency of consciousness, and I don’t know anymore on whose side I stand— lost in a strange world where very little makes sense, attacked in ways that I am not aware of, punished for sins that I can’t recall, terrified of things that I’m not even sure exist (anymore).

I feel helpless and that all is lost.

But I doubt and I wonder…

You’ve seen how I’ve gotten to this place. And now we will see how I go from here.


“Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” ~Henry David Thoreau

This Shit Sucks
This represents, thematically, the halfway point in this book, from here, the story, while remaining the same, changes dramatically. I can’t overemphasize that last point; it becomes a whole different book, though the logical continuation of the first half. This is where I begin to awaken to the (incontrovertible) fact that I am the Librarian and that I am in Purgatory—it is here that the Story really starts, at least in earnest; or at least becomes aware of itself.

It is here, in spite of myself and all my efforts to the contrary, that the Path, ever so slowly, begins to turn inward and downward. I wish that I could say that I answered what Joseph Campbell has referred to as, “the call to adventure,” that I went willingly and of my own volition, heroically. This has not been the case, not the case at all—some times we go willingly and some times we go kicking and screaming and clawing, but go we will and go we must; for even though going might mean our death, it is assured if we don’t.

The Star that Wasn’t There
This story, the whole of it—as much as it can be whole—is an autotripography; it is the Path, the Journey, which is the star, the main character, the point, not the individual. The story, as related here, is personal, but beyond that, it is archetypal. In that, it is every man’s, any man’s, and maybe even, no man’s story. I cannot state this enough—it is not me, never was, never will be, whatever my fantasies to the contrary might be.

The Silent Cartographer
Given the nature of my undertaking, which is essentially cartographer, I believe it necessary to provide some warnings for what you are about to dive into.

The Path is not straight, or I should say, it has not been straight for me, but typically moved in a three-fold cyclical pattern which means that almost all realizations/lessons learned are visited at least three times and correspond roughly to 3rd, 2nd, and 1st person awareness. I am fairly sure that the details of this process are covered in some detail at some later chapter yet to come.

In that regards, the mundane, many sidetracks, miscellaneous, tangents, and wrong ways are laboriously included. If this were truly about me and not the Path, I would merely cut and paste my triumphs and my CV and wait for your phone calls and emails of adulation—really, it’s that fucking cool. This makes for a slower, longer, and dumber read. The Path that I have followed is my Path; few, if any, of you will be able to duplicate it, or will even want to try. The majority of the value in this is not what I did right but what I did wrong—that is where the wisdom is—which means that we will be covering the whole convoluted Path and not the triumphant highlights, of which there will be few. This is one of the few times in my life that I am willing to be seen for the idiot that I often am—Skinny Legs and All.

Buyer Be(a)ware
I am NOT, let me repeat that, NOT, a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, doctor, social worker, counselor, scientist, sociologist, physicist—quantum or otherwise— engineer, philosopher, guru, sensei, pastor, preacher, rector, ayatollah, rabbi, shaman, witch doctor, astrologer, seer, mystic, guru, intuitive, learned man, philosopher, new-age shithead, professional baseball player, or any other kind of (mental/spiritual) health provider or advisor—trained or otherwise—nor do I make any claims to be as such— READER BEWARE! However, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last week.

Whatever you pull out of this tale you do at your own risk, which is considerable—I would recommend Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work if you have no idea of just what you may be getting into. I am merely, like you, a seeker (and shithead)—mad, delusional, neurotic, schizophrenic, psychotic full of projections, delusions, fears, neurosis, repressions, disassociations, cheap rum, and god-only-knows what else. This shit can be contagious, especially the fear, it jumps from mind to mind. Be on your guard, as every psych 101 student has been told.

Rediscovering the Old World
Along those lines, I can tell you that I have been much like a Columbus Jr, (re)discovering a great multitude of ideas, theories, suppositions, suspicions, and outright fallacies which have been long discovered, documented, catalogued, plotted, well known, and readily available to anyone who knows how to type “altavista.com”. It would be a gross understatement to say that I have rediscovered, if not reinvented, the wheel, repeatedly.

In that regards, many of the terms that I use have very specific scientific/religious/philosophical meanings, which I have, at least initially, only been vaguely, peripherally aware of, if at all. Rarely will MY definition conform to the scientifically accepted one, not because I know better, but because I know less. Unless you are familiar with these terms, you won’t know, which are correct, I guess, since I didn’t either. Often, that ignorance has led me to create my own terms and definitions; again, to explain what has already been explained. Once more, buyer beware!

The following are some of those oft-abused, misused, misunderstood, or completely made-up terms which you will encounter:

Enlightenment, wholeness, individuation, self, Self, Self, ego, īgo, mynd, identity, ego-self, ego-identity, authentic self, I, i, ego-identity-complex, perpetually-wounded-infantile-ego, mother complex, feeling, feeling function, shadow, anima, complex(es), inferior function, subject, object, Eros, Logos, love, Zen, Taoism, Buddhism, and quantum anything.

When you see any of these, and the list is by no means comprehensive, you should look around, get your bearings, and do a double take—I WILL lead you astray, if unintentionally, but then we’ve already covered that.

For psychology-specific terms, I highly recommend consulting the Jung Lexicon. Had I done so, early on, I like to think, much confusion might have been spared; but probably not—my tendency to ignore what I do not understand/comprehend has been impressive.

Understanding Andrew Cohen’s take on the non-psychological definition of ego (here and here) and authentic self (here), as well as Ken Wilber’s (here) will greatly aid in navigating and avoiding both my confusion and any confusion which I may generate. This is pretty much the extent of the tools/aids being offered for this trip and it is highly recommended that they being taken full advantage of.

Similarly, given the nature of my affliction, hubris, delusion, ignorance, or what-have-you, equal care must be taken, especially early on, in attributing too much “truth” or “correctness” to my interpretations of myth, legend, fairy tale, or dreams. While there is a certain subjectiveness to this—more art than science— it is useful to distinguish between the (likely) intended message of the dream (plus the state of the sender) and what the interpretation says about the state of mind of the recipient/interpreter, in this instance, me, or at least me at the time.

It would not be hard to argue that there are no wrong interpretations of a dream. However, that is not to say that all interpretations are equal in capturing the essence or message of the dream. And it is in that gap, between what was intended and the result of the interpretation, how widely the mark was missed, that much can be inferred about condition of the one doing the interpreting— someone colorblind may be able to describe a Picasso to you, but there is much that they will miss without ever realizing it. Consider yourself forewarned.

So, over the waterfall and down the rabbit hole we go…

I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me.” ~Hunter S. Thompson

Lastly, as almost an afterthought, I feel the… need? compulsion? to share something about myself, at least as it relates to the telling/unfolding of this story.

First, I am an NF, which in itself may be statistically insignificant, though it does represent a minority view. The second thing though I have to believe is unique to me. On the inside of my left ankle is a scar that looks like the symbol at the beginning of the paragraph. How it got there will have to wait for another time, but it has been there almost my whole life. It happens to be the same as a trigram from the I Ching; K’an, the second son, specifically. When doubled, it results in the hexagram of the same name (see below). What does it mean? I don’t know. K’an—Kain— Cain? Perhaps. I have certainly felt that way for longer than I care to remember.

Cloaked in the sweet perfume
of time
a thousand years melancholy—
Cain passed this way.

#29 K’an / The Abysmal (Water)[1]
This hexagram consists of a doubling of the trigram K'an. It is one of the eight hexagrams in which doubling occurs. The trigram K'an means a plunging in. A yang line has plunged in between two yin lines and is closed in by them like water in a ravine. The trigram K'an is also the middle son. The Receptive has obtained the middle line of the Creative, and thus K'an develops. As an image it represents water, the water that comes from above and is in motion on earth in streams and rivers, giving rise to all life on earth. In man's world K'an represents the heart, the soul locked up within the body, the principle of light enclosed in the dark--that is, reason. The name of the hexagram, because the trigram is doubled, has the additional meaning, "repetition of danger.” Thus the hexagram is intended to designate an objective situation to which one must become accustomed, not a subjective attitude. For danger due to a subjective attitude means either foolhardiness or guile. Hence too a ravine is used to symbolize danger; it is a situation in which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and, like the water, he can escape if he behaves correctly.

The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

Through repetition of danger we grow accustomed to it. Water sets the example for the right conduct under such circumstances. It flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions. Thus likewise, if one is sincere when confronted with difficulties, the heart can penetrate the meaning of the situation. And once we have gained inner mastery of a problem, it will come about naturally that the action we take will succeed. In danger all that counts is really carrying out all that has to be done--thoroughness--and going forward, in order not to perish through tarrying in the danger. Properly used, danger can have an important meaning as a protective measure. Thus heaven has its perilous height protecting it against every attempt at invasion, and earth has its mountains and bodies of water, separating countries by their dangers. Thus also rulers make use of danger to protect themselves against attacks from without and against turmoil within.

Water flows on uninterruptedly and reaches its goal:
The image of the Abysmal repeated.
Thus the superior man walks in lasting virtue
And carries on the business of teaching.

Water reaches its goal by flowing continually. It fills up every depression before it flows on. The superior man follows its example; he is concerned that goodness should be an established attribute of character rather than an accidental and isolated occurrence. So likewise in teaching others everything depends on consistency, for it is only through repetition that the pupil makes the material his own.

#29 K’an / The Abysmal (Water)[2]
The Abysmal is water, ditches, ambush, bending and straightening out, bow and wheel.
Among men it means the melancholy, those with sick hearts, those with earache.
It is the blood sign; it is red.
Among horses it means those with beautiful backs, those with wild courage, those which let their heads hang, those with thin hoofs, those which stumble.
Among chariots it means those with many defects.
It is penetration, the moon.
It means thieves.
Among varieties of wood it means those which are firm and have much pith.

The first of these attributes are again self-explanatory. Bending and straightening out are implied by the winding course of water; this leads to the thought of something bent, bow and wheel. Melancholy is expressed by the fact that one strong line is hemmed in between two weak lines; thus also sickness of the heart. The trigram signifies toil and also the ear. Pains in the ear come from laborious listening.
Blood is the fluid of the body, therefore the symbolic color of K’an is red, though a somewhat brighter red than that of Ch’ien, the Creative. Because of its penetrating quality K’an, when applied to a carriage, is made to symbolize a broken down[3] vehicle that serves as a wagon. Penetration is suggested by the penetrating line in the middle wedged in between the two weak lines. As a water element, K’an means the moon, which therefore appears as masculine. Persons who secretly penetrate a place and sneak away are thieves. The pithiness of wood is also connected with the attribute of penetration.

[1] The Richard Wilhelm Translation, The I Ching, p. 114-118
[2] Ibid, p. 277-8
[3] [That is, pierced with holes.]

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