The Angel and the Animal
November 20, 2009 § 2 Comments
“At the beginning of the third millennium, the human race is in the process of forgetting what it means to be human,” writes Charles Upton in a vivid, chilling essay in the current “Future” issue of Parabola. “We don’t know who or what we are; we don’t know what we are supposed to be doing here….Human life is no longer felt to be valuable in the face of eternity.” According to Upton we and the whole universe are caught in a cycle that is sliding inexorably downwards “from the pole of Essence, or Forma–the Hindu Purusha–towards the pole of Substance, or Materia–the Hindu Prakriti. ”
Not to put a damper on your day but we may be more materialistic, denser, heavier, than people in earlier times (those cave artists?) –the very nature of space and time may have changed: “In earlier ages, space dominates; the forms of things are more important, more real, than the changes they undergo; time is ‘relatively eternal.’ As the cycle moves on, however, time begins to take over, melting down space and the forms within it until everything is an accelerating flow of change.”
On it rolls, this compelling downer of an essay, insisting that we are headed towards maximum entropy. Reading it, I want to be on the side of our better angels, battling the Anitchrist (which Upton defines as those forces of obscurity and denial which blind us to the true scale of our human potential). Yes! I definitely want to be on the side of Christ, the Messiah, al-Mahdi, Maitreya Buddha, the Kalki Avatara–the force of consciousness that wants the breakthrough of Eternity, of Space, into time.
But how? I can sometimes experience Space in moments of deep quiet, in meditation. But how can I experience spaciousness in the midst of ordinary life, which is so often spent rushing around captive to that panicky or grinding sense of forward-rushing time? I’ve felt it at moments, when desire and striving fall away. Still, there is this nagging sense that I need to understand more.
What does Jeanne de Salzmann mean when she says (again in the current issue) that we “participate in life with both a divine nature and an animal nature. Man is double; he is not one. And as such, he is only a promise of man until he can live with both natures present in himself and not withdraw into one or the other.”
I feel this must be true. Being conscious has to do being fully present body, heart, and mind. It matters somehow in this great battle of Space and Time that I volunteer to fully inhabit my life. It means not turning away from the animal or getting so mired in my animal life that I forget the angel. But what does it mean to remember ourselves in two directions, to have our two natures always confronted?