Where's The Heat?

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  I remember only one thing about someone I met a long time ago. It was his abhorrent statement that 'the Jews experienced the Holocaust because they rejected Jesus Christ.' Aghast, I felt a great chasm open up between us.     

 The man made his statement cooly and calmly, with an unfeeling, deadly certainty. As he spoke, his appearance was robotic, machine-like. I perceived an SS man standing before me, a scary, creepy dude.   

 Something in him had been locked up and forgotten. I believe that was his heart, which had gone missing somewhere along the way. He was all brain, all head. No feeling, no compassion. Only cold certitude. 

 I recall that I shuddered with horror at his coldness and heartlessness. What a memory to have of someone, that of a human being's iciness! My memory is the freezing effect of his utterance and presence.   

 I want to ask: Why the coldness? Why the absence of heat? Why no firey joy? Why no contagious delight? My question: Where's the heat?

 I believe that this poor man lived in poet, William Blake's, land of urizen, where the cold, confining spirit lives a barren, anarctic existence. 

 The word is from the Greek which means "to limit, bind, restrict', which is what the head, disconnected from the heart, specializes in. Such a head, dislocated from its proper relation to the heart, is always looking to pounce and pronounce. Its proclivity is to limit, bind and restrict. It is 'rule bound,' law oriented - attached very often to correct beliefs and proper procedures.  

 Blake called this density, this impenetrable thickness, the lowest level of consciousness. He called it a 'self-enclosed,' and 'all-repelling' state. He wrote of it as 'petrifying all the human imagination into rock and sand.' He called it 'my visions's greatest enemy.'  

 Where this dense level of consciousness exists there is no heat, light, or warmth. Why? For Blake it is because of 'narrowed perceptions:' As he expressed it poetically: 

 "The Eye of Man, a little narrow orb, clos'd up and dark,

   Scarcely beholding the Great Light, conversing with the ground. 

    The Ear, a little shell, in small volutions shutting out True harmonies and comprehending great as very small.'

 Blake is describing a chilly state of 'diminished consciousness.' You can feel the dampness and the cold of this level of being when you attend almost any committee meeting, or its prevalence in the loud voices and ear-splitting music at almost any bar or pub. 

 Or you may sense its hardness and tightness on display among religious zealots, today's re-expression of the pharasaic spirit, ever 'on the watch' to see who 'steps out of line' in some way.

 These are the ones about whom Jesus said: 'You travel over land and sea to win a single convert and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.' (Math 23:15)    

 In the land of Urizen, there is, at the level of where the heart should be, no 'living motivation.' Instead there is a lot of anxiety and restlessness. There is therefore an effort constantly to keep busy, to be on-the-go. One's only purpose may simply be to 'pass the time,' and perhaps to engage in almost any mad project that will keep the restless mind from sensing the desperation it fears to feel.  

 Rarely at peace and therefore perpetually moving around and about, such a one has to quickly think up a game, task or project of some kind to avoid the purging process of transformation. So he jumps at the chance of a diversion or distraction.  

 I recall in my innocent enthusiasm as a young minister that I presented some of the British writer, Colin Wilson's, inspiring ideas about elevated states of consciousness to a group of clergy and business executives at a church board meeting. 

 I had discovered Wilson's book The Outsider early in my career when I had glanced back at a book shelf while leaving a bookstore in downtown Vancouver.

 I was drawn to the title and an impulse of hope immediately stirred that perhaps this was a book about, well, someone like me! - someone who had felt utterly alone at theological seminary and who continued to feel that way as a young clergyman. 

 I wondered when I noticed the title, The Outsider: 'Could this possibly be a book about me?  I was daring to hope that it was. And, indeed it was! I had struck gold at that bookstore!

 About the Outsider Wilson wrote: "Ask the outsider what he ultimately wants, and he will admit he doesn't know. Why? Because he wants it instinctively, and it is not always possible to tell what your instincts are driving towards." That is, the outsider is in the grip of an intensity of passion that he may not understand, but cannot help but follow. He is driven to a creative way of being that others may not care about or understand at all.  

 Well, back to the church board, or should I see meat freezer, for that was how it was soon to feel.

 A cold wind blew as soon as I began to talk about Wilson. The board members had no interest in Wilson. Not even the slightest curiosity about him. They shot me down immediately. I remember their icy stares of alarm. 

 Now, most simply tuned me out, but one man icily exclaimed: 'Why would we want to know about that? He did not, as I recall, warm up to that word 'consciousness.'     

 Then, several years passed, and I noticed that several of my Colin Wilson books had mysteriously vanished from my home library. I had no idea where they'd gone.  

 It took a while to realize that my eldest son, who been known quite often to  say in high school in a rather proud and debased way that he had never read a book, was devouring Wilson's books in his basement bedroom. I had never been so happy to have been robbed! 

 That boy, with his newly acquired taste for deep reading, then went on a trip to England and arranged to meet the great British author, the author of more than eighty books on consciousness raising.

 I don't know how my son pulled it off, but he did. Apparently upon arrival at the author's home, he and Colin walked together around a lake. They got on so well that Colin invited Jeremy for dinner. That went so well that Colin and his wife invited him to stay the night. 

 I often look at a picture taken of Jeremy and Colin Wilson standing together.  There is a shared sense of warmth and understanding between them. How honoured I have felt that my eldest son had taken so seriously the writings of one of my favourite writers!

 The church board members had not wanted to hear anything about Colin Wilson. I had failed to connect with them in their frigid zone. My son, in contrast, who caught Wilson's spirit and felt the heat of deep inquiry that Wilson encourages, crossed the ocean to spend unforgettable time with this gracious and inspired man. My son felt the heat and that shared love has connected us in a vital way ever since.  

 Robert Bly, the American poet, long a lover of Blake's poetry, has said in his effort to communicate Blake's ideas that, when consciousness changes, there is an increase in heat!  

 At the lowest level of consciousness, well, as I've described, 'it's cold down there.' The molecules aren't moving. There is a poverty of spirit. Bly confesses that he lived his life as a college student on this level of trapped energy, when the imagination is frozen.

 It is, says Bly, a level of blindness. 'You only see what is there.' One looks at a sunset, as Blake wrote, and makes the comment that it resembles a guinea piece, or, if we make this contemporary - someone sees a sunset and exclaims that she is reminded of a postcard she once saw! Gasp! This is a pretty dismal level of awareness.

 When Blake saw a sunset, in contrast, he beheld a host of angels singing  hallelujah. In a similar way, Colin Wilson writes: "When I open my eyes in the morning, I am not confronted by the world, but by a million possible worlds.”   

Thus this realm of existence is a small and unimaginary world. As Bly said: 'You see only what is there.' No heat is generated. 

 A little heat begins to be generated when the heart opens to others. The heat arises, in particular, from the action of respecting others as distinct and unique beings. At this level of generation, Bly says, you approach someone with respect by asking a question and then listening.   

 You do not begin with a pronouncement of some kind, but with a question. You engage another by listening to her. 'The way to talk is not to talk.' The heat is generated therefore when real listening is shared!

 Bly illustrates his point by telling of when a wise old therapist spoke to a group of 'sophisticated' transpersonal psychologists and warned them that the worst mistake is to think that someone you encounter is just like you, (or we might add), could become like you, if he were fortunate enough!

 The point Bly is emphasizing is to encourage otherness, or separateness. Heat, indeed power, is generated by persons who are each sharply differentiated and individuated. Love therefore does not blot out differences but sharpens them!  

 You know a relationship is in trouble when one partner becomes less herself as the years go by. Love helps another to become a hobbit, not a gollum.   

 I love going to Trader Joe's over the border in Washington state. But one day I had a 'not so hot' experience there. 

 I had searched for the men's washroom, walking past a line of women waiting, I presumed, to go into theirs. Well, I couldn't find the men's washroom and began to panic a little. 

 A woman, noticing my plight, harshly and angrily exclaimed: "The line is here!" with a tone clearly rebuking me.   

 I then caught on that the line she wished me to go to the back of, was a line for the new soviet style, unisex washroom. Oh joy!!! 

 Then, from this line of enlightened beings, arose a chorus of unpleasant voices declaring with one shrill voice their preferred way of going to the toity.   

 I got the message loud and clear that I was expected to conform to their vision of a common washroom - 'You stand in line in here!'     

 I quickly decided that I did not 'have to go' quite so badly. Thus, rather than, as I imagined, squatting down amongst them in their sacred abode, I bolted for the door.  

 It felt like a little taste of fascism to me. Very cold and icy. I pictured these gals in gray uniforms, goosestepping. There was no respect for me as an older gentleman who had not become enlightened enough to enter their new age of 'no gender differences.'    

 Bly's point is to say that differences are to be celebrated, not covered over and that power is generated through separate beings living in a creative tension with each other. 

 Bly then moves to the higher levels of Beulah and Eden. Bly makes the point that when he was teaching Blake and asked his students about what they thought the highest level of consciousness might be that all of the students kept repeating two particular words, transcendence and detachment. These were the words that immediately sprang to his student's minds.  

 Bly then made his point to these students that for Blake, commonly regarded as perhaps the greatest mystic ever to have been created in the West, the highest level of being is to be continually creative. I have been pondering this point ever since.

 I have often thought myself that to be in some kind of detached state of transcendence is the highest and best place to be, but am currently embracing the potency of Blake's point to go on creating until the day one dies.  

 And it appears that Blake fully lived out what he preached for, as G.K. Chesterton states: "His last sickness fell upon him very slowly, and he does not seem to have taken much notice of it. He continued perpetually his pictorial designs. One of the last designs he made was one of the strongest he ever made - the tremendous image of the Almighty bending forward, foreshortened in a colossal perspective, to trace out the heavens with a compass."  (William Blake, G.K. Chesterton, p. 32 of 80 Nook book)  

 So again, where's the heat? It is to be found when and where one is being creative. There's where the heat will be, when any of us is living as an "exuberant soul glowing with health and energy."  (Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry, A Study of William Blake, p. 88)


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Audio:  Strangely Beautiful - Amethystium