The Innate Value of Writing
Before the descent of the spirit a man can do what he wants, but not after.
“Self-pity is the real enemy and the source of man’s misery. Without a degree of pity for himself, man could not afford to be as self-important as he is. However, once the force of self-importance is engaged, it develops its own momentum. And it is this seemingly independent nature of self-importance which gives it its fake sense of worth.”
― Carlos Castaneda, Power of Silence
The first piece I wrote was about my rapid rise in journalism to age 30, and then a shift which I have since thought was unfortunate. I could have risen in the ranks. Editors were saying it in my ear, You can write for anybody. That was an exaggeration but I knew I could write for Playboy, and got an assignment. On the night Reagan became President I was flying to Atlanta to rent a car and drive to my home town, South Pittsburg Tennessee, to write about the sexual repression among the religious.
I got paid, but the editor I was working with didn’t run it. He moved to Esquire and it wasn’t long before I saw a piece with the same theme by him. It’s not like I thought he stole it, because he didn’t just rewrite what I did, but it was the same idea. The thing is, when you’re trying to do something and it’s not working out, you have to back up and ask why. Otherwise you blame everybody else. The unconscious will not go in a direction it does not want to go. Oh, you can go all right. I’ve done that too, try to rule my body with my head. You can do it, but you will have the worst stomach problems you ever imagined. The gut does not want to go down that road. It will gnaw on you night and day, and a black dog will wait at your door and follow you to Trader Joe’s.
In the Third Reich, stomach problems were epidemic
Felix Kersten was a Swedish masseur and bodyworker who was engaged by Himmler to work on his stomach and abdomen. The pain was constant. Kersten leveraged his literal hold on Himmler to help Jews escape the ovens, and arguably prevented the resettlement of the Netherlands by getting Himmler to delay it until the war was over. It wasn’t just Himmler. Hitler had Dr. Theodor Morell, who left notes on his condition. Though a strict vegetarian who maintained an ideal body weight and healthy immune system, Hitler had colitis (an inflamed lining of the colon), and probably couldn’t shit, as he was afraid to take off his pants to have his leg treated. It would make him look like a joke. Branding was everything.
When the head goes against the gut instincts, a person can get trapped between them. Like a man on a cross, you go one direction and then back the other. There’s a rat experiment which demonstrates this. The rat is put at the top of the run, and food is put at the end. He heads down the alley, and about half way there he gets a shock. Draw a line where he got the shock, and he’ll move back and forth across it, as the drive for the food gets stronger until the fear of the shock is stronger. The rat is trapped in a defined area, like the Yazidi child “trapped” in a chalk-drawn circle who was released by Gurdjieff when he simply erased a piece of the circle. The story is from “Meetings With Remarkable Men.”
That’s how it is with rats, Yazidi, and to tell the truth, with most people: pure instinct operating without consciousness. Consciousness is making a third, creative choice, and centering in the heart. Some people learned this by taking ecstasy. When you come onto it you can’t remember what had you so narrowed down into a fishbowl. Sudden freedom from social fear is exhilarating.
After I wrote the saga of my early foray into journalism, I talked with Adelia Ritchie about a new magazine, which would feature the kind of open writing about ourselves that we have always been afraid of. So I went back to the time when the journalism dean was threatening to knock a chip off my shoulder, or Publisher Pig and his pet monkey were taking corporate assholery to a new level, and I asked what else was happening that didn’t fit into that particular narrative.
What I saw was another narrative which had been running alongside the one I had been focused on.
A more authoritative part of me had been quietly determining things in the background, while I went along like a bad haircut. In the background there was a different field of study. That’s the danger with going to college; you can get pulled off the set course, and by the time I got the degree, I was far more engaged in and intrigued by social and cultural history than I was by popular journalism.
“To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.” (Thoreau)
You might think this was obvious to me, that I was and always had been more a philosopher than a newsman, but my youthful ego wanted more of the public acclamation which fed my pride. I was writing, still, but not finishing a book. Garrison Keeler said that if you sit down to write the great American novel, you’re in for a very long afternoon. And he was right. I had some very long afternoons.
Now, just by looking at this again, with new eyes, I see that the failure is always a failure to do what the larger Self is not focused on. You have to have faith in the Self. Whatever we are, we are contained in it, so it’s the controlling system.
The controlling system is the one with the widest parameters.