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Eikasia, Attachment, Cave

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  • Thomas Mether
    David,   To answer your questions, I first remind you that humans, including all their faculties which means eikasia too, can exist and function in the
    Message 1 of 36 , Feb 9, 2011
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      To answer your questions, I first remind you that humans, including all their faculties which means eikasia too, can exist and function in the hyper-natural state, the natural state, and the contrary-to-nature or contranatural state. In all states, the functional power of eikasia is imitative vicarious experiencing using the resources of past experience and memory.
       The Hesychasts make use of anthropological concepts inherited from Greek philosophy and the New Testament. So, they speak of the natural inner human (eso anthropos) or inner I (eso ego) in contrast to the contranatural outer or outwardly oriented human (exo anthropos). The inner human is oriented godward, and thus, spiritual or pnuematikos. The outer or outwardly oriented human, sort of personality as a false mask or fascade, is sarkikos.
      In the contranatural state, the authentic inner I or self or inner man is asleep. As a consequence, the inner connection with God is broken except for conscience (syneidesis). As another consequence, the phantasia is inwardly darkened and only reflects outer experience revealed by the nous. Modern Fathers compare the plight of fallen phantasia to the modern mirror. Modern mirrors have a black silver oxide coating on the back so they reflect images called the "tain". In the fallen state where the inner man is asleep and the connection to God is cut off -- or, rather, the inner light (phos) is gone -- the phantasia no longer receives light inwardly but like a modern mirror has a dark "tain" so it receives only outer images via the nous and five senses. The inner disconnect with God and light and inner sleep are this black silver oxide or tain, contemporary Fathers say, of the now outwardly oriented phantasia. But since the inner man as inner I (the eso
      ego) or our true authentic self is asleep, that is, since our true identity is asleep, we suffer a inner chronic emptiness that craves something to fill it, and thus, some kind of identity that fills the hole of our real lack of identity. This brings us to a discussion of pathos (passion) as used by most of the fathers in the Hesychast tradition. 
      The fallen and outwardly oriented human or personality as mask or fascade is woven out of passion (pathos). In Hesychasm, the term pathos has basically two meanings. First, it is a form of false inner passivity or inner incapacity. Second, it is attachment as you used the term but it has a stronger sense of being false identity or false forms of identification. As a fabric of narcissism, pride, vanity, inner emptiness and lack of our true identity or our true I, pathos is our falsely inward passivity to the outer world that we are thereby enslaved to since we seek to squeeze out our false sense of identity from it. We are puppets of the world. The passions are the strings, and they are all the stronger because it is these very strings by which the outer world has power over us and moves us that is also our very sense of identity and self (albeit, false). You might say inwardly we have a prodigal psychology in the contrannatural state. Inwardly dark
      and asleep, our light and our sense of identity, value, importance, and meaning are derived from the outside. Instead of Plato's cave, Hesychasm has the outer human of flesh. One of the translators of the Philokalia made a striking comparison with the Hesychast concept of the outer human and imagery from William Blake. He referred to these verses from Blake,
      "They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
      And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle.
      And sank my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot
      and burning
      Till all from life I was obliterated and erased."
      [Visions of the Daughters of Albion, 2:31-34, E46]
      and also from Blake, an image that connects fallen man to a cave,
      "Five windows light the cavern'd Man; thro' one he breathes the air;
      Thro' one, hears music of the sphere; thro' one, the eternal vine
      Flourishes, that he may recieve [sic] the grapes; thro' one can
      And see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;
      Thro' one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will
      For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant."
      {E. iii: 1-6, E58]
      In this fallen state, the imitative vicarious power of eikasia serves the inner darkness in its conspiracy with the world and the passions by which it rules us; the contranatural eikasia, most of the time, is weaving a fabric of on-going and constantly updated false identity and falsely positive self image, animated by a narcissistic inner emptiness that seeks recognition, meaning, value, importance from the world and others in the world out of which is constructs its false sense of self and defends threats to it. Thus, fallen, inner sleep with eikasia becomes inner self-hypnosis (hypnos and hypnos) of chronically and consistently patching up an always hurt vanity and wounded pride, of always being in the right, of "yes, but..." forms of self justification, demanding recognition from others to a degree they can't nor should give, of resentment concocting inner fantasies (using this term completely separately from phantasia) of getting even, of "I'll show
      you" or revenge of those who we resent, sexual fantasies serving resentment, anger, pride, or vanity (lust as emotional rape and sexual aggression in this context -- something different from raw desire or as Joseph Campbell once put it, "zeal of the organs for each other"), as the day to day make up and identity, very sense of self, that we falsely identify (pathos) with as who we are. Inwardly, eikasia as pathological imagination is the constant inner chatter and gossip to drown out the inner silence resulting from the inner darkness and sleep of the inner human plus to evasively not hear the inner voice that has become very small - conscience.
      Dispassion or apatheia in Hesychasm, thus, does not mean "emotionless" but is inner detachment, or rather, an inner process of withdrawing the life and sense of self from the fallen outwardly oriented human. Dispassion is thus overcoming false forms of self-identity and recovering our true identity. In the process, it is also overcoming the false inner passivity towards the world and inner enslavement to it by recovering our self-mastery as the true inner human of the heart re-awakens to become the inner ruler (the Hesychasts use the Stoic word but I can't recall it right now). In this process, the contemporary Hesychast fathers say, the blackness or black silver oxide coating or tain of the phantasia begins to be polished or peeled off and the inner light (phos) from God begins to shine through so the phantasia becomes sort of a janus-faced faculty of receiving through nous and the five senses the light of the outer world plus through the nous the
      interior light and life from the divine. And like the chick pecking through the eggshell, the inner man begins to break apart the fallen "caverned" outer human.

      --- On Mon, 2/7/11, dgallagher@... <dgallagher@...> wrote:

      From: dgallagher@... <dgallagher@...>
      Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Eikasia: Another example of several levels
      To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Monday, February 7, 2011, 12:25 PM


      Thanks, Thomas. So allegory is analogizing by telling stories?

      Does eikasia, therefore, include the sense of what the Buddhists call
      attachment, and, correspondingly in the Cave, both the shadows *and* the
      chains? That is to say, does eikasia in Plato involve more than just images and
      shadows? And what of the reflective surfaces? Would they not be included
      as well?

      Narkissos comes to mind here.


      In a message dated 2/7/2011 12:34:29 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
      t_mether@... writes:


      The play of eikasia in the example was the first monk's worries about
      Buddhism as a nihilism; my playing it safe and not voicing I sort of had the
      same question; our collective stereotype of the monk we feared and didn't
      like, and his subsequent use of imaginative analogy (the trees) to address a
      question we all had.

      Sesshin is a sitting meditation session in a Zen monastery. Early on the
      focus is on learning how to meditate and overcome difficulties. But to an
      extent there will always be difficulties with being able to meditate even for
      advanced meditators. They become less and less, and also, the weak
      attention that in the beginning was an attempt to attend that was exclusive of
      them becomes a stronger attention that can now become inclusive of them. In
      other words, what once were the difficulties in meditating now do not really
      disturb it no more than passing clouds disturb the sky. But the
      difficulties encountered in the sitting are an index to who one is generally most of
      the time in life, and not just when one is sitting. So, sesshin becomes a
      microcosm of one's life, one's habitual way of being, or one's character.

      Sometimes one needs a nudge and a sesshin practice alone won't cut it.

      At one place, there was a person who we all knew, except him, had a chip
      on his shoulder. But around the retreat he always had his Sunday face on.
      You could see it when he'd get ticked off but he would not express his anger
      nor admit, even to the abbott, that he was ever angry. So, one day, the
      abbott assigned this person the task to go into town to buy supplies using the
      retreat's truck. So he set out. On the way, he got behind a very slow
      driver that also swerved back and forth erraticallly preventing this person
      from passing (when the road allowed, which was almost never). Eventually, the
      car ahead came to a full stop after this person started tailgating and
      laying on the horn. Out popped the abbott from the car ahead. The person we all
      knew was an alpha-personality suddenly realized he was indeed an
      alpha-personality. In this case, eikasia was this person's false positive self-image
      he maintained so well he had a nearly undefeatable blind
      spot that needed a little nudge from the abbott.

      Sesshin just means a sitting meditation session.


      --- On Mon, 2/7/11, _dgallagher@..._ (mailto:dgallagher@...)
      <_dgallagher@..._ (mailto:dgallagher@...) > wrote:

      From: _dgallagher@..._ (mailto:dgallagher@...)
      <_dgallagher@..._ (mailto:dgallagher@...) >
      Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Eikasia: Another example of several levels
      To: _neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com_ (mailto:neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com)
      Date: Monday, February 7, 2011, 10:47 AM


      With reference to eikasia, your sentence (noting alliteration with
      sentience) that seemed most germane to me was: "A sesshin is a *mirror*
      held up to
      the typical patterns of who you are whether sitting or not." Does the
      "mirror" in that statement correspond with Plato's reflective surfaces? If
      so, then it would seem, in the context of what you wrote, there's a mirror
      within a mirror? And that would further seem a very apt metaphor with
      reference to the Line.

      In your view, does eikasia represent the images, the mirror in which they
      appear, or both?


      In a message dated 2/6/2011 11:46:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
      _t_mether@..._ (mailto:t_mether@...) writes:

      I've shared this with Buddhist groups, including some who were there to
      share it.

      Eikasia: as the power of imitative vicarious experience, under very
      controlled conditions that help expose false fears, and allow a measure of
      protected and shared "exposed" questions, there was the typical meditation
      session and sermon and question and answer session with the Buddhist

      The monastery had a person that seemed -- unnervingly challenging -- not
      the nice sort one would associate with being a Buddhist monk. One was
      tempted to feel sorry for the abbott and admiring him for suffering this
      hard nut
      of a case of a contrarian monk. Naturally, some of us felt we were glad we
      weren't like him.

      By this point, I played my cards tight to the chest, which meant I posed
      as a meek and mild "try to be as invisible as much as possible". There was
      monk that asked about anatman, non-self, whether it meant extinction of
      self and the past that made one who one is, and the kindly abbott gave an
      answer to the effect that no-self was not nihilism.

      As it turned out, with great anxiety, some of us were assigned to tasks
      led by the monk we all feared and hated.

      The monk asking whether "improvements" in Buddhism led to being
      increasingly "generic" until one realized non-self was with us, I suspect,
      as our
      voice and concern.

      With Buddhists, I have shared the following that others were there to see.
      But it is relevant here to the issue of eikasia. At the time I posted it
      originally, I believe the title of the post was "Buddhism is not about

      The apparently evil and contrarian monk turned out to be even the abbott's
      teacher. My post,

      I once had a teacher who was a gnarly old character yet who was the most
      precise and clear teacher of those around this monastery in China. Once,
      were out in the forest and someone asked about improvements and
      one's "flaws". His response: he pointed at these very old trees. He
      pointed out how they were not smooth timber or nice clean boards. They
      twisted, knotted, and gnarled by the history of their growth. Then he said
      are all old trees. Becoming a buddha or fulfilling the bodhisattva vow was
      not about becoming nice smooth boards -- generic lumber -- but was about
      turning all we were, knots and twists and all, into means to be a
      "Buddhism is not about killing trees. It is not a lumber mill. Its about
      you, knots and all, being view and means."


      From that experience, I added this as my small bit to a Zen group several
      years later.


      One way of looking at one’s sesshin is that it is a laboratory. It
      provides simplified conditions for cultivating a state of mind that is
      supposed to
      become a way of living and practicing when not sitting. It is also a
      microcosm of your life as a whole under a microscope, so to speak. While
      it may
      not be noticed until it is pointed out, how it goes with your sesshin is
      how it typically goes with your life as a whole. A sesshin is a mirror
      up to the typical patterns of who you are whether sitting or not. Thus,
      there is always a teaching and something to learn. Don’t analyze. Just
      without comment “this is such as I am now” or "these difficulties are
      me". You are your own raw material for practice and for becoming a Buddha.
      of the early steps (usefully repeated even for senior practitioners) is
      getting acquainted with and familiar with, without comment or analysis,
      raw material that is “you” -- that is what you have to work
      with. If done with patient acceptance of “such is the way I am”, there
      will be a cumulative and transformative effect produced by these
      relatively “
      objective pictures of yourself”. You will be changed. And, your practice
      will change with you.

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    • Thomas Mether
      Greg, PS, adding to the comments below, nous can only be in a matter of degrees confusedly obscure to totally clear but never mistaken nor invalid; dianoia can
      Message 36 of 36 , Feb 13, 2011
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        PS, adding to the comments below, nous can only be in a matter of degrees confusedly obscure to totally clear but never mistaken nor invalid; dianoia can be both mistaken and invalid.
        --- On Sun, 2/13/11, Thomas Mether <t_mether@...> wrote:

        From: Thomas Mether <t_mether@...>
        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: Emptiness in Plotinus
        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 4:09 PM


        You are correct about the joint need of nous (nondiscursive awareness) and dianoia (conceptual - discursive thinking) to be perfected in tandem. I will post on this soon from the Hesychast tradition and Buddhist tradition. But one of the points of getting out of the head into the body is twofold.
        1. It balances energies, especially the energy of nous, to more evenly pervade oneself.
        2. The body is more stable than we are, such as we are in this condition. Thus it is the basis in Hesychasm for enstasis (samadhi) with focus. Such a move also helps dis-identify, separate, nous from dianoia. Dianoia is one faculty (cognitive); in a way, nous is all faculties and all things, even though it is also, of course, cognitive. 
        But contrary to some "anti-intellectualist" trends in those interested in spirituality at least in the US, logical and analytic rigor are also needed to be cultivated.
        Best, Thomas

        --- On Sat, 2/12/11, gregshaw58 <gregshaw58@...> wrote:

        From: gregshaw58 <gregshaw58@...>
        Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: Emptiness in Plotinus
        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Saturday, February 12, 2011, 11:10 PM



        Thanks for sharing this. You've been "lit up" of late and your posts are fiery with insights, Buddhist, Hesychast, Platonic....

        Yes,surfing, smooching, talking with a dog....all of it requires a kind of pre-conceptual awareness and sometimes we do break a few bones. And then there are structures we're in where the spontaneous moves that are "the way" of theurgic actions, are generally frowned upon and this requires even more care to find a different kind of "surfing."

        Here is what I wonder about: I think there is an important and valuable relation between the theurgic expression of depth not mediated by concepts AND the rigorous conceptual reflection seen in the Platonic and Pythagorean authors. My guess is that it is the erotic that is present in both, for speculations not drawn by beauty are too arid....but the non-conceptually mediated presencing needs, I think, the complex container of discourse and reflection in order to be refined and not excessive and crude.

        So, yeah, let's surf. And give me those texts that allow me to sustain wave after wave. You seem to own quite a few boards and like lots of waves. Enjoy!

        --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Thomas Mether <t_mether@...> wrote:
        > Dear Greg,
        > References are not just to written texts. Ever try surfing in California as a novice? Did you just read texts and look for cross-references? Or did you decide to jump in, risk breaking your neck or back, into the surf itself under personal guidance from an experienced surfer? That is what theurgy is like. It is also what kenosis is like.
        > I use this example because I wanted to learn to surf. As a scholarly "expert" having read all the books available plus as a young physics major doing the math, I was so dead-eyed cocky to think I knew it all. NO! It is the same with mysticism, contemplation, and theurgy.
        > In a way, I began to appreciate Aristotle to the extent the math approximates reality -- not vice versa -- and the body and heart are capable of learning and knowing things the head is not. I have another example in terms of motorcycles and whether my wife can ride. I have other examples in terms of physicians and the art of diagnosis -- and caring -- which I raised a decade ago. Being human alone is a craft. It is a tought craft never learned alone. And mysticism or theurgy is Olympic status human.
        > --- On Thu, 2/10/11, gregshaw58 <gregshaw58@...> wrote:
        > From: gregshaw58 <gregshaw58@...>
        > Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: Emptiness in Plotinus
        > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
        > Date: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 9:00 PM
        > Re: Plotinus' reference to notions akin to Buddhist emptiness....
        > Mike gives these sources: "the idea that we must empty ourselves -
        > i.e., become without form - is important in Plotinus : cf. VI 7 33ff., VI 9, 14ff."
        > I checked the first and it's right there. I even saw I had a marginal note "cf. sunyata" but I tried to find the second and my Armstrong text ends at VI 9, 11, so I don't find the reference. Now, either I am forgetting something essential about the Enneads or it was a typo by Mike. I am interested in this notion from a theurgical perspective. I would be interested to see what else Plotinus says about an amorphon eidos. Help?
        > thanks.
        > Greg
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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