Further Reflections on Psychotic Knowledge
This essay is an effort to respond to comments on the previous essay, "The Ascendancy of Psychotic Knowledge," and to carry forward the implications of the ideas expressed in that text.
The line that
separates sanity from madness has never been clear. In fact, it is not
clear that such a line ever existed. This is because what passes for
sanity today is in fact still a kind of madness. Even the
psychoanalysts admit that normality is neurosis, a form of mental
illness. They also admit that one of the most tenacious forms of
psychosis is what they call normotic disease, meaning the insane need
to appear normal. What if all normality is really normotic? This
underlying insanity of the normal is becoming more evident every day as
normal people and societies fail to adapt to reality, fail to respond
to the climatic and other changes in our natural and social world that
should put us all on red alert. Instead, we are being terrorized by
propaganda regarding conspiracies that are themselves delusional.
Reality-based discourse has become impossible.
What is clear is that the concept of psychosis is a political category, not a medical one. Such disparate visionary thinkers as Thomas Szasz, R.D. Laing, John Perry, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have all accepted this. That does not mean that there are not people who are suffering with what can descriptively be called paranoid delusions or other symptoms of great psychic suffering. But we need to enter more deeply into their inner worlds in order to understand the true nature of their suffering, and recognize that they are mirroring back to us our collective delusions and sadistic impositions of pseudo-realities. We need to recognize our interbeing, as Thich Nhat Hanh has phrased it. Otherwise, we are simply punishing the Other for our own sin of hegemonic collective egocentricity. In the old Soviet Union, political dissidents were routinely diagnosed as psychotic and locked up in mental institutions. Obviously, if one was not satisfied with Stalinism, clearly the best of all possible social arrangements, one had to be mad. But we need to explore the possibility that all psychotic symptoms are, among other things, passive political acts of resistance to a world order that is itself psychotically unbalanced.
Morton Kelsey, a Jungian analyst, wrote in one of his books that the difference between a genuine vision and a psychotic hallucination is that the latter is out of touch with reality. His example of the latter was that of a man who believed that the FBI had put him under surveillance. For Kelsey, that belief was delusional, by definition. I doubt that too many informed people would agree with him these days. The naïveté of the so-called experts in psychology is astounding. Is this not itself a form of repression approaching psychosis?
The late Harvard psychiatry professor John Mack nearly lost his position because he took seriously the reports of otherwise ordinary people that they had been abducted by extraterrestrial beings. By definition, according to the gatekeepers of the psychotherapy industry, alien abduction is a psychotic hallucination. Psychologists can lose their licenses if they take such reports at face value. Not even Lacanian analysts are willing to entertain any other hypothesis. But is not such closed-mindedness more psychotic than the abduction reports? Is not such diagnostic rigidity the equivalent of the Church's unwillingness to look through Galileo's telescope in the Middle Ages?
Lacan famously defined psychosis as foreclosure of the Name of the Father. But has not society itself foreclosed the Name of the Father -- the reality of the Absolute -- as a matter of ideological necessity? Are we not all (to the extent we are "well-adapted") committed to remain cut off from the Self in order to genuflect to the altar of ego-consciousness? And if some of those who refuse to swear allegiance to the ego fall into hell realms, others ascend to divine luminosity. The latter group, the successful mystics, can offer the only real help to those who have dropped into the abyss of psychosis. Rather than confine those who suffer in nightmarish mental institutions, we should be creating joyous spiritual refuges under the governance of mystics rather than psychiatrists. Our current approach to treatment is bankrupt. With a few exceptions, such as the clinic led by Willy Apollon and the Ecole Freudienne du Quebec, treatments are primarily drug-based and lack sufficient depth of understanding and willingness on the part of therapists to enter into the world of the psychotic. There have been great pioneers in this realm, of course, including Jung, Klein, and more recently Harold Searles, Wilfred Bion, Donald Winnicott, and others. But the field of depth psychology has been under attack and losing ground for years to the minions of pharmacological repression.
The ruling approach today is a rigid refusal to recognize the insanity of the ego itself. Yet this rigidity is understandable. It comes from the same mindset that, in biology, leads to the refusal to even consider the possibility of intelligent design being a more rational hypothesis than Darwinism. In that case, the scientistic establishment fears precisely a return to the Middle Ages, and a faith-based approach to matters that we need to deal with scientifically. But has not science in its battle against religion merely become another dogmatic religion?
The religion of science is a belief system without the possibility of transcendence of the ego. Not only must a scientist be an atheist, but also a materialist. Not even Cartesian dualism is allowable -- even though there is plenty of evidence that dualism is true, as a matter of subjective experience. For example, in the so-called near-death experience (better thought of as an aborted death experience), consciousness leaves the body and yet continues to exist in non-corporeal form, both in this dimension and in a higher dimension. This phenomenon has been verified thousands of times. Therefore, consciousness is not simply an emergent property of the brain. It is a separate substance. That is dualism. Of course, there may be a resolution of the dualism of consciousness and form at a higher level of understanding, in which even matter is recognized as a manifestation of consciousness. That is the Advaita position. But at the first level of cognition of subtle reality, dualism is a fact.
Yet, science cannot accept such facts. For science, the near death experience must by definition be a hallucination produced by lack of oxygen to the brain. There is no other possibility. This is because we "know" that there is no such thing as a soul; there is only matter in motion. Even though physicists have already discovered that matter is a myth; that the universe is filled with other kinds of stuff, given such names as dark matter and dark energy; and that at the quantum level, particles do not act like material objects at all, but as waves and swarms, defying ordinary logic; and most importantly, that consciousness is fundamental to the nature of reality.
None of this has yet been digested by the modern mind. Politically, the capitalist system requires a belief in social Darwinism to justify its modes of action and methods of control. The communist system did likewise. Social systems that operate on other principles have been largely eliminated. That has included most indigenous tribal societies and most monastic societies. Modern thought, trapped in its material greed, is now psychotically destroying the planet in order to amass delusional wealth in the form of money. To call this collective psychosis is not exaggeration. This is even understood by many secular rationalists, yet they cannot change course.
The real problem for secular rationalists is that acceptance of these non-material facts would put them on a slippery slope. Where do we stop, once we accept teleology and higher dimensional beings? Must we not then accept such phenomena as channeling, the downloading of information from akashic records, and so on? What criteria can we use to ascertain truth from charlatanry?
If a young woman declares, for example, that she is possessed by a thirty-five-thousand-year-old male warrior spirit from another planet -- then on what basis can we say she is deluded? But do we then believe everyone all the time? And when we end up with conflicting narratives, how do we decide if the aliens who are speaking through the people in front of us are from the Pleiades or Sirius or Zeta Reticuli? Clearly, we are at an epistemological impasse. How do we solve this problem, without holing up in our fortress of materialist crypto-rationality and denying all of that as impossibly mad -- or giving up on discourse altogether?
Here is where the ancient Indian spiritual traditions, such as Yoga, Advaita, and Buddhism, can be of immense help. First, let us examine the great syllogism of Shankara:
The world is illusion;
The only Real is Brahman (the Absolute);
The world is Brahman.
This bit of Logos, the Advaita Principle (non-duality), forces us to accept that any belief system regarding the world is delusional -- because the world itself is Maya, illusion, through and through. What is real is the Absolute. But Brahman is also nirguna (without qualities). That means that the Real cannot be described or explained by any means. This leads to the Advaya Principle, which was the ground of the steadfast silence of the Buddha. This principle states that there is no form of discourse that can approach an accurate understanding of the nature of reality. In Christianity, there is a congruent principle of apophatic theology, which accepts that nothing true can be said of God. But the Advaya Principle is far more radical, maintaining that no aspect of reality can be captured by language.
Yet there is a further principle, that of omnicentrism, which is implied by the doctrine of Shunyata (Emptiness), that is found most clearly in Tien-Tai Buddhism, but also in the model of the Net of Indra, which is similar to the modern notion of the holographic paradigm. This principle states that every moment of conscious experience is valid in its own right, and that every individual consciousness mirrors the whole, and is part of the whole. The Absolute appears as the many and the momentary. But if we put these three principles together, then what is Real is every arising of pure awareness, but stripped of its subsequent interpretation. What we must sacrifice is the hermeneutic desire, if we are to regroup into harmonious interbeing at a higher level of consciousness than the one that we are now trapped in. The epistemological impasse is itself an illusion created by the psychotic delusion known as the ego. Only from egoless Brahman-consciousness can the current lethal encounter with psychotic knowledge be surpassed.
Such a shift in actually existing consciousness, once enlightenment has become the new normal, will by itself bring the current epistemological impasse to an end. Once we are operating from quantum consciousness, with our siddhis (spiritual powers) fully deployed, with telepathic intercommunion in place, with everyone sharing in cosmic consciousness, and each Atman Self-realized as an equal point source of the Absolute, then the problem of psychotic knowledge will have been resolved. The current state of pseudo-normality -- which is a thin veneer of courtesy over a boiling pot of paranoid aggressivity -- will have become a psychic relic of the past dark age of kali yuga, which is now blessedly coming to an end.
Now the final question: How do we get there? Using plant medicine or meditation? Or can we arrive at Illumination through the cognitive discipline of metaphysics? Or will devotional chanting do the trick? In fact, any or all of these may work, depending on the temperament of the consciousness that is seeking Itself. So there is no conflict between the entheogenic quest via the tryptamine palace, or the crystal castle of consciousness that can be attained through meditative means. And gyana yoga (the path of metaphysical knowledge) and bhakti yoga (prayer and devotion) have been recognized since the Vedic age as excellent means to attain jivan mukti, the Supreme Liberation.
Meditation is the best path for some, while ayahuasca works better for others. There are also dangers in every path. The psychedelic path can obviously involve bad trips and blown-out brain circuits. Meditation can also bring up repressed traumas and anxieties and the whole dark night of the soul. The devotional seeker can get caught up in a cult that exploits rather than liberates. The philosopher can get bogged down in books and never reach Nirvana. Ultimately, everyone must follow their own way, and that way will probably include at least a little of every means and method.
The approach of Sat Yoga, which focuses on meditation practice, bringing about the naturally arising endo-production of entheogens; plus sattvic self-discipline to purify the karmic and dharmic fields; plus the processing of dreams, symptoms, and other psychic manifestations to raise consciousness to higher assemblage points and transform the ego; plus cognitive action to gain understanding of the multidimensional structure of consciousness that forms our reality; plus the determination to sacrifice the ego into the Supreme Flame of the Absolute; plus performing the charitable service of karma yoga, and receiving the support of a spiritual community and the wisdom of well-trained and adept transformational guides; all together create a path of great power with minimal danger. Such a path is not for everyone, and it is not intended to be. But those who seek such a path, and such a refuge, including having the option of living in an ashram as a contemplative renunciate of the destructive jouissance of ego-consciousness, should know that this is available as a valid life choice.
The choice to lead one's life according to the highest Dharma (whether it be Buddha-Dharma, Sat Yoga Dharma, or some other similarly sattvic set of disciplines, such as those of Christian monastic orders, Sufi or Shiite religious orders, or Jewish halakha) must be made only with the highest degree of seriousness of purpose and determination. To a certain point, the greater the renunciation, the greater the rewards -- but that is true only if one's intention is pure and wholehearted. If the decision lacks authenticity or maturity, then it is likely to backfire. But clearly the more one's actions are in alignment with what is highest and most vital and virtuous within one, the greater are the blessings of ascension on the stairway to heavenly consciousness.
The conscious choice of one's life purpose should be considered carefully before stumbling into karmic entanglements that can swallow one up for a lifetime. This is especially true now, as we near the end of civilization, as we know it. If we are not clear about where we are in the destiny vortex of our planet, then that should be studied in depth as well. None of these epistemological and ontological issues would be of such intense concern if not for the urgency of our existential situation.
What should be clear to all is that the end point of the trajectory of consciousness lies beyond what is currently called knowledge, beyond language, beyond the mirage of duality, beyond the world of Maya to the realization that this entire cosmos is only the dreamlike manifestation of the One Supreme Being. If we start with that recognition, even if it is only conceptual to begin with, we will be able to open our hearts to the higher reality of love. All paths are in agreement that love is the gateway to the Infinite. May we recognize our oneness in the indescribable Emptiness of ego that is the Fullness of the Absolute, and which is manifest always in the form of unconditional divine love. Love or psychosis: we must choose.
Image by Ian Muttoo, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet