There’s an obvious and ancient association of caves with wombs, and it’s easy to be simple about it, and to think that this association is simply a matter of caves providing physical shelter. Thinking, though, of those famous painted caves in France, the womb-ness of caves takes on a different sense. In caves, I think, those ancient people transformed themselves on the inside. The cave was a literal womb, but of a metaphorical being.

Anyway, I need to be back in Eugene around June 10th. I imagine arriving there sometime around then, and to be traveling till I arrive. Nothing is certain. Given infinite money, I would say that that is more definitely what would happen, but I have something more like the opposite of infinite money. And that just complicates everything.

The fact is, I’ve been back in Rhode Island after three weeks of traveling, and I’m not really sure exactly how to leave again. I know on a practical level, of course. I have a map, etc. I just mean that the journey is not merely getting from one place to another, as a sort of delivery man. This whole trip is the Lion cave. America is the Den of the Lion. For the Chinese, though, it was the Den of the Tiger. I imagine for some people it was the Den of the Bear. For others it was the Den of the Dragon.

You get the point.

So, I’m in this one room of the Lion’s Cave, which is comfortable but a complete dead end. Just one facet of that dead end: I have become more directly aware over the course of this trip how deeply the culture of America is a culture of addiction; and I am tempted to say that the Ultimate Addiction, the Grand Daddy of them All, is to opiates.

Whatever the truth of that, I want to clarify what I’m calling an addiction. It is, to put it in the terms of One Planet, an attachment to one season to such an extent that one attempts to, in effect and increasingly, to isolate that season from all the rest. The mind under addiction is the mind that has mistaken the part for the whole. It is the mind that is, in essence, trying to force a union between eternity and time.

And opiates, we might say, are the ultimate lubricants facilitating this marriage, which is represented in myth by the tragic marriage of Narcissus with himself. And while we tend to identify Narcissism with other, bad, people, the myth was not a diagnosis of some people, but a representation of the basic human condition of infatuation with our own reflections, and the suffering and sadness intrinsically associated with this condition.

We are all the Children of Narcissus. As the Gnostics understood: Narcissus is the All-Father. Odin. Jupiter. Deus.

This, in fact, is the root of the Christian mystery, and the idea that we are all essentially Christ, and thus subject to the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Passage into St. Patrick’s Cave, and – should we navigate this passage successfully – to the Resurrection.

This is also the reality behind the story of Orpheus, who likewise descends into the Cave to recover Eurydice, her name meaning Wide Justice. This Justice, I believe, is the awareness that all of the Seasons are the produce of One Planet. This Justice is Wide in the sense that it encompasses the Whole. And in encompassing the whole we might transcend it by including it.

So, the mantra at the Temple of Delphi was Know Thyself – for in knowing oneself one might be free of oneself, not by rejection but by embrace. This, I think, is what the yogi Joseph Campbell met was talking about:

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, when I was in India, there was a man whose name was Sri Krishnamenon and his mystical name was Atmananda and he was in Trivandrum, and I went to Trivandrum, and I had the wonderful privilege of sitting face to face with him as I’m sitting here with you. And the first question, first thing he said to me is, “Do you have a question?” Because the teacher there always answers questions, he doesn’t tell you what anything, he answers. And I said, “Yes, I have a question.” I said, “Since in Hindu thinking all the universe is divine, is a manifestation of divinity itself, how can we say ‘no’ to anything in the world, how can we say ‘no’ to brutality, to stupidity, to vulgarity, to thoughtlessness?” And he said, “For you and me, we must say yes.”

To say yes is to know thyself. And this is exactly the false doctrine, as well. This is the doctrine of the Advertisers. That future of personalized advertising we’ve been seeing in movies for a decades is not just the world we are now entered into, it is the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega, of advertising itself.

Advertising begins in the premise of selling a person on some limited vision of himself – you cutting the grass; you cleaning the dishes; you wearing pants – and ends with selling you on yourself: YOU.

But it’s not the YOU that by knowing you become free of. It’s a necessarily and calculatingly fictional image of yourself that binds you to a wheel of debt, promising freedom but delivering slavery.

This, incidentally, is the American YOU, that the French Deconstructed so mischievously. Problem is, this deconstruction could never escape itself. The journey of neti, neti depends ultimately on the sanctity of Nature, which provides the possibility of a genuine YES. Deconstructing false selves is necessary but not sufficient; as the self can never be deconstructed away by the self. It can’t be invalidated out of existence. Freedom comes with the genuine embrace, the recovery of Wide Justice, which escapes the self by knowing the self.

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2 thoughts on “In The Lion’s Den

  1. Bill Winslow 2 years ago

    In response to a feminist critique of the Garden story, I wrote this:

    creation myths, while they function to legitimize a social order, also have other messages, other layers of meaning in them. For example, humankind finds itself always in some kind of trouble of one kind or another. Perhaps some tragedy lies at the heart of our species, and the Garden’s story shows how, among other things, humans are never satisfied, even when they are given everything they need. This hunger can possibly lead us to maturity (leaving comfort zones), or, just as well, to hubris. I am happiest when we can draw both messages, and then some, from such ancient stories, rather than a single cynical interpretation.

  2. Amy 2 years ago

    Beautiful post tim. You are such a deeply developed thinker…but (as we are all the children of narcissus) you know that.

    I for one am proud and grateful to have they guy as my dad. Taken in the right dose (no pun intended) narcissism is the key to balanced happiness. That is, if we haven’t irreversibly overdosed on puritanical self deprication.

    I’ve been traveling and then sick. Now it’s time to catch up on all of this sung but tragically unheard brilliance. Thanks for writing.

    I miss you!!

    And I’m excited to hear what the universe conjures up to get you back home. That crazy guy!!