Summarize the whole of life in a sigh six months long.
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Before they can be investigated—before they can even be seen to exist—some things must be dredged up from the depths where they sleep; but aren’t those precisely the things nobody wishes to dredge up?—precisely the ones we would rather let sleep?
Three of our most fundamental and most harrowing experiences as conscious beings, inhering within three of the most essential stages of our existence, are lost to us—totally lost. It is as if they had been obliterated, blotted from our minds.
But these blank areas where our life should be don’t trouble us, and nor do we trouble ourselves about them. Content to declare irrecoverably lost what we fear to find, we forge ahead with our daily projects, rendered insensible to reality’s depths by the deadening force of routine, and the suffering we endured during the initial phases of our embodiment in a material form remains buried in darkness and silence.
Indeed, a man can live and die without ever once becoming aware certain essential parts of his experience have vanished and without ever once reflecting on the significance of this disappearance.
The remarkable passages from the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana which follow could be interpreted as a valiant attempt to recover that lost knowledge we would all like to remain lost, to remember what eludes memory and what memory is glad eludes it.
Read them if you dare!
Passages from the Srimad Bahgavata Mahapurana Describing Life in the Womb, at Birth, and in Early Infancy
Deriving its nutrition from the food and drink taken by the mother, the fetus grows and remains in that abominable receptacle of feces and urine, the breeding-place of worms. Bitten again and again all over the body by the hungry worms in the abdomen itself, the creature suffers terrible agony on account of its tenderness and swoons away moment after moment. Nay, adversely affected by the bitter, pungent, hot, salt, dry, acid and other such irritating substances consumed by its mother, the fetus experiences a painful sensation in every part of its body. Enclosed by the amnion and covered outside by the intestines, it remains lying in one side of the abdomen with its head turned towards the belly and with its back and neck arched like a bow. Unable to move its own limbs like a bird which cannot freely move in a cage, the creature in the womb finds its memory awakened by the will of Providence and recollects its doings committed during hundreds of previous lives and feels suffocated for a long time. What peace of mind can it have under such circumstances?
The fetus, though endowed with consciousness from the seventh month of its conception, is tossed by the winds that press the embryo downwards during the weeks preceding delivery, and cannot remain at one place like the worm born of feces in the same abdominal cavity. Tied to the physical body, made up of the seven ingredients, which are like so many cords to bind it, the human soul, which regards the body as his own self, is much afraid of the process of gestation being repeated in other such births, and with joined palms he entreats and extols Him by whom he was cast into the womb, in a tone full of agony.
Pushed downwards all of a sudden by the wind, the child issues out of the womb with great trouble, head downward, breathless and deprived of memory out of agony. Fallen on earth in a pool of blood and urine, discharged by the mother, the new born babe tosses like a worm sprung from ordure, and having lost its wisdom acquired in the womb and reduced to a state of self-identification with the body which is just the reverse of wisdom, cries loudly.
Being nourished by people who do not know the mind of another, it is given something which was not intended; and the pity of it is that the child is unable to refuse it. Laid on a foul bed infested by sweat-born creatures the poor creature is incapable even of scratching its limbs to relieve itching, much less of sitting up, standing or moving itself. Just as smaller worms bite a big worm, even so gnats, mosquitoes, bugs and other creatures sting or bite the babe, who is most tender of skin and, deprived of its wisdom acquired in the womb, cries bitterly.
Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana
2012 New Year’s Address
(2017 Anniversary Edition)
Friends, readers, fellow conspirators; critics keen to judge and judges quick to condemn; supporters and disciples who celebrate me, undeservingly, as the unforeseen reillumination of a flame long ago snuffed out; enemies, implacable and unresting, whom my numberless acts of criminal wrongdoing have accumulated over countless lifetimes; birds of the air, beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, insects of the soil; angels of heaven and devils of hell; ghosts and spirits pervading all worlds, beneficent and malign alike; gods and goddesses who, stupefied by the comforts of the higher realm you presently occupy, improvidently forget your fortunes are subject to reversal; beings unknown, creatures unnamed, and deities unacknowledged: I greet and salute you all without discrimination at the beginning of this new year, extending my warmest regards and sincerest best wishes on this third day of the first month of 2012 when the moon is in its waxing phase, the celestial influences or diamones awakened from dormancy by the Quadrantid meteor shower moving my passive hand, stationary just moments before, and prompting me to write these mysterious but true words which you are reading now, words which, before they are written, and before they reach you, enter my mind as if transferred through an unknown conduit from another dimension.
Revelation of the Seventh Day of the Eighth Month of the Two Thousand and Fourteenth Year
The last installment of The Work Underway, which I published on this website sometime in the misty past and can now barely remember, must, I believe, have concerned my project In Paradise. This, I want to emphasize, is the book which I have been planning to publish next, because it is the one which I should publish next, since it necessarily follows from and belongs together with its two predecessors, The Effort to Fall and The Comedy of Agony. Unlike these two, I feel compelled to point out, it is not a philosophical work in aphoristic form. But that is because it is not supposed to be such a work and could not possibly fulfill its purpose if it were. In Paradise is not only the completion but the negation of what precedes it. The necessary completion. The necessary negation. And yet it is not. Of course, The Effort to Fall and The Comedy of Agony are quite capable of negating themselves, of—if I may be permitted to use so bold a metaphor—committing suicide unassisted, for that is precisely what they were designed to do. After destroying their author, destroying their reader, and then destroying the entire universe, they were designed to destroy themselves. Nevertheless, self-sufficient universal dissolvents though these two books may be, they still need, and frequently pine for, their Third. In concert with the still unknown and unpublished In Paradise, The Effort to Fall and The Comedy of Agony constitute the ultimate kamikaze mission. And I use the Japanese word kamikaze advisedly, for it contains the Chinese character for divinity (神), which is the main subject, if not the only subject, of my books (though–and this is a point on which I trust I need not elaborate–in a different sense than it is understood by Chinese philosophy). Looked at in too dim a light, it may appear otherwise, I know; but that is because men whose inner light burns only dimly do not perceive the divine. In most cases, they perceive only hideous and misshapen shadows engendered by their own minds, which they have a dangerous tendency to project into the outside world and react to like real beings and things. But I digress . . . This Japanese word, kamikaze, is one which I use, as I said, advisedly, for it contains the Chinese character for divinity (神), and everything in this universe is crushed by divinity, struck through by divinity, penetrated to its very core by divinity—including what fails to perceive divinity, exults in the negation of divinity, seeks to annihilate divinity, or seeks to annihilate itself. Yes, everything in this universe is pierced at innumerable points of its being by the Divine as if by a fiery sword—even what fails to perceive the Divine, exults in the negation of the Divine, seeks to annihilate the Divine, or seeks to annihilate itself. And yet . . . divinity’s immanence notwithstanding, the only way to attain an elevation sufficient to catch sight of (and, perhaps, be burned to death by?) the Sacred Flame while still covered in the dirt of this earth and imprisoned in the decaying filth of a corporeal form is through a carefully planned murder-suicide of one’s own divine essence and, thereby, of the divine essence of the universe—in other words, that ultimate kamikaze mission of which I spoke before (which, I should add, cannot be accomplished, and is always undertaken completely in vain)–and that is why, without In Paradise, The Effort to Fall and The Comedy of Agony are necessarily incomplete and only partially themselves. Though in fact they are whole in a way which only fragments can be, and need nothing to fulfill them, and depend in no manner on any exterior power. The kind of books I write can even dispense with a reader. They can dispense, indeed, with everything but God. It is enough for them to be in order to grow in potency and achieve their final, necessary end. Still—it cannot be denied: these three works, of which The Effort to Fall is the first, The Comedy of Agony the second, and In Paradise the still unknown Third, were meant to coalesce in triangular form—and In Paradise constitutes the vertex of that triangle.
To be continued . . .
I can barely distinguish myself from the air here. It is as if my body had become as light as the element which surrounds it. When caressingly drugged by so mild a breeze, does a man even exist as a conscious being? And how, when bathed in an atmosphere so stultifyingly pacific as this, can he experience the harrowing truth of his own individuation? There is no creature in nature so unnatural as man, but in the metaphysically astigmatic state to which he is reduced by a climate of so balmy a quality, what hope is there he will apprehend what a monster he is? I admit my puzzlement–my uncertainty on this point. But if uncertainty has come, it is a sign we should depart–and so, without further ado, I pack my bags and prepare to quit this unendurable paradise.
You, I have noticed, are at the height of your discontent when your level of comfort is highest. What is most pleasant is what offends you most. Destiny has been kind enough to drop us off in the sort of place men of a more poetic age called “blessed,” a place where others dream to come, and you can do nothing but complain about how good it is . . . But—though I know I should continue on this topic of how singularly unsuited you are to happiness, it has just occurred to me that from these combined observations of mine regarding your character a complete philosophy could arise (one which would illuminate so much!), and since it is too soon for this philosophy, since I know the world is not ready for its arrival and may never be ready, I forbid myself to go on.
Lesser men, I am sure, would bristle at such biting remarks, but you have the misfortune to be in the company of one whom they roll right off of, leaving him unfazed . . . Without going so far as to withhold my admiration for the act of vivisection you have performed on me, I nevertheless confess I am far more interested in this philosophy you refer to but have seen fit to suppress. You won’t let it arise, you say—but I say: let it arise! What virtuous purpose has procrastination ever served? Do not prove yourself one of those malignant sorcerers who gives us an ephemeral glance at some longed for object only so that he may perversely delight in the crestfallen look on our faces when, with a wave of his magic wand, he makes it disappear.
To be continued . . .
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The part of the earth in which life is the most intensely concentrated is its core. Centrifugally tracked, life shrinks and diminishes, becomes progressively more diluted and adulterated, until, at last, its peripheral and secondary forms, which flourish on the earth’s surface, appear. The weaver ant. The marble-headed whip snake. The white rhinoceros. And, most conspicuous of all, that mysterious phantom of markedly bizarre habits: man. These phantasmagorical surface-forms are deficient in the fiery intensity of being which is life’s fundamental attribute. Shadows of life is what they are. But man, who has the monopoly on biological discourse, and who measures life by his own lack of it, is unfazed by this inconvenient truth. These surface-forms especially, and himself particularly, he privileges as living.