Monday, June 11, 2018
4:15 a.m. So, I got the sense of what the book should be, what it should offer, and I did the slightest bit of work on it. I think I have its orienting principle. But I find, writing this, that I’m superstitious about saying what it is.
Some things mature in the dark, and wither if prematurely exposed to light. Nothing wrong with working silently, so long as you do work. So let us take the word “superstition” as a jumping-off place.
Yes, I got that flash even as I wrote the word. I wrote it and thought of Abraham Lincoln, describing his deepest intuitions as superstition, sometimes, but not dismissing them.
We don’t want to discuss superstition in the abstract, nor in and of itself, but as it relates to our greater theme of the identity of inner and outer worlds, and the close connection of things seen one way, felt another way.
That last phrase is striking, but I don’t know what it refers to.
Remember, we are explaining to you that experience comes through the senses and through the non-3D knowing. It seems like two steams of data. It seems to be two unconnected worlds, even. The perception of the world as divided between outer and inner is the root cause of so much misunderstanding.
Superstition may be many things, but one thing is that it is the perception of pattern in the absence of explanation.
A black cat bringing bad luck? Shattering a mirror, walking under a ladder, three on a match, spilling salt and throwing a pinch over your shoulder – that kind of thing?
No. That kind of superstition is an attempt to codify experience in a simple-minded way, the way people put together dream dictionaries as if any symbol seen in a dream must have one meaning, or the way people make hasty generalizations about any kind of experience. We don’t say there can be no truth at the core of such attempts, but reality is always nuanced, and doesn’t codify all that well. We mean, not a code-book, deciphering the world, but a sensitivity to unexpressed relationships. Lincoln’s slip and not a fall.
He lost the election to the Senate in 1858 to Stephen Douglas, and as he was walking home, his feet almost went out from under him as he hit a patch of ice. But he recovered, and said to himself, “A slip, and not a fall,” and immediately was struck by the non-rational conviction that the phrase also described the result of the election.
He knew, you see, that he had lost the immediate contest. He was proceeding upon his way in that knowledge. But when the physical slip occurred, his non-3D self, which knew better than his 3D component the meaning of the election to his life, used the occasion to give him an emotional, non-rational (seemingly ir-rational) certainty that the minor external event mirrored the major; that, in fact, the election had not been an end of his career but only an interruption, if even that.
There was no logical connection between a missed footstep and a career event. Associating the two could scarcely be more “unscientific,” less “rational.” Yet history demonstrated that the superstitious association of the two had gone deeper into reality than surface logic or data had.
Years ago I published a book by a gambler named Armando Benitez about gamblers’ superstitions and his own conclusions about how to use one’s knowings to make money betting on unpredictable events. I don’t think I still have the book, but I remember he called it Sheer Superstition. A very quirky, very intelligent book.
You may not remember why you published it, but it struck you as insightful.
My father liked to gamble, and he seemed to do well not by having a lucky piece of clothing, such as soldiers, for instance, sometimes have, nor by following any ritual (unless he did so and I didn’t know it), but by following his hunches. I often thought, he was highly intuitive in this way, and he enjoyed the exercising of the faculty as much as the money that sometimes resulted. I got the sense that this is a major draw, for gamblers: not only the intense drama of concentrated attention, not only the prospect of winning big, but the exercise of that faculty, perhaps the only way they were able to use it in their lives. Hemingway did too, I learned much later; he was an avid gambler, and it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with a need for unearned money, despite Fast Eddie’s statement that money won is twice as sweet as money earned. I think it was about that high that was a result of concentration and connection. That’s why gamblers have to gamble more than they can afford to lose, sometimes; they get jaded. At least, that’s my guess.
Do you like to gamble?
I know where you’re going with this.
Your connection with inner and outer worlds takes another form. When you gamble, it is in terms of putting your life’s savings into a new business, or taking a leap of faith, giving up what seems a safe steady career to follow the lure of something that seems more fitted to what you are. You don’t need a confirmation that inner and outer worlds are united.
I’m not convinced that gamblers would agree that that is why they gamble.
What they agree to depends upon their awareness. But what they demonstrate is not dependent upon that. They may be useful as illustration without themselves comprehending why.
Now, you may wonder why we are looking at superstition, which is usually looked upon as a negative phenomenon. Let us now tie it in to the question of religion, which is also frequently seen as merely a negative phenomenon. The fact is, superstition, religion, science are all the same thing in some ways. Call them three variants of one endeavor, which is to understand the world.
We smile to envision the howls of outrage.
Me too! But I know what you mean, and I see it. The howls probably come chiefly from the devotees of science, which to my mind says they are the most subject to superstition because the least conscious of its presence in their mental world.
Look, we aren’t criticizing or prioritizing. What we seek to do is to bridge over chasms in your social thought, so that anyone on either side of the chasm – not to mention those perched insecurely on the rope stretched between the two sides – may see that the chasm is, as Hamlet says, a “dagger of the mind,” that is, a phantasm.
Not sure if it was Hamlet or Macbeth [Macbeth, as it turns out], but I know what you mean. Imagined relationships can do as much damage as real ones.
Or can do as much good. That has not occurred to you.
It hadn’t, but as you say that, I get that you mean our mental scaffolding we are always building.
That’s right. And, since knowledge and concepts and theories are always provisional, always somewhat incorrect –
Science, superstition, religion – other categories of thought and perception too – are all necessarily incomplete, necessarily imperfect, necessarily both helpful and harmful, positive and negative. Each area of inquiry has its strong points and its corresponding weaknesses. To adhere to one and not two (let alone all) is a practical necessity, but is not a theoretically desirable condition.
Science investigates the outer world that can be instrumented and observed. Even if the instrumentation (the means of observation) is only the individual’s senses, that’s how it proceeds. That’s what it does.
Religion investigates the inner world as it is revealed in actions and is impelled by inner forces. It is the science of the heart, one might say, as psychology is the science of the mind.
Superstition is the awareness of cause and effect between the two worlds, inner and outer, without framework and with only the barest minimum of measurement. Not a textbook definition, but enough to serve for the moment.
Now how do science and religion and superstition look if you remember that inner and outer are one, and that we in human 3D and non-3D form are “the measure of all things,” as has been stated long ago?
To me, they look like examination of the elephant, each from a different point of view.
Not point of view so much as a different emotional / intellectual bias – though really, that is what a point of view consists of, come to think of it.
Enough for now.
Very interesting indeed. Thank you.