The Website of Unknowing: further thoughts

A while back, I wrote a post about a Christian blog.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/intelligent-christian-blog-the-website-of-unknowing/

And that blogger wrote a post about my post.

http://anamchara.com/2009/12/03/aslan-may-not-be-tame-but-what-are-we-to-be/

Here are my comments so far on that post:

My use of the word ‘tame’ certainly wasn’t an insult by any means. It might not have been the best word to describe the writings in this blog. Words such as ‘tame’ and ‘wild’ are relative.

My own sense of spirituality is informed by some more ‘wild’ thinkers: Carl Jung, Robert Anton Wilson, Terrence McKenna, William S. Burroughs, and Philip K. Dick. I’m also fond of many ‘tame’ thinkers, but it’s hard to say who is ‘tame’. Is Ken Wilber ‘tame’? Is Jiddu Krishnamurti ‘tame’? Certainly, Rumi isn’t ‘tame’.

Mysticism seems to be one of the most central themes of McColman’s blog. And an interest that I share. Any mystic worth their salt probably isn’t ‘tame’. But outwardly a mystic may appear ‘tame’.

Partly what I meant in labelling McColman as tame is more about the subject matter of this blog. This blog seems to have a very clearly defined focus and McColman doesn’t seem to stray from it. My own mind wanders far and wide. The difference maybe simply be a difference of personality.

Some people see the purpose of religion (specifically religious practice) as a way of taming the individual (taming the senses, the desires, the will, or the mind), a way of training, of elevating, of directing human aspiration towards lofty ideals.

I understand that perspective, but it doesn’t overly appeal to my own sensibility. I’m more of a “God in the gutter” kind of guy. I’d probably be happier if I were more tame (i.e., disciplined and focused), but as it is that isn’t the way my life is. To me, spirituality feels more like a hunger that can’t be sated.

I have little doubt that “Wicks’ mature, grounded spirituality is better suited for the long haul than Crowder’s colorful but miracle-hungry vision.” Even so, it’s just not my way to be cautiously concerned about the long haul. Not every path is easy, but every person has to follow their own path where ever it leads.

 – – –

By the way, my mentioning “God in the gutter” (or “God in the garbage”) is a reference to the writings of Philip K. Dick. I highly recommend Gabriel Mckee’s book ‘Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter’. This idea of Philip K. Dick’s is essentially the same as the theology of a hidden God. I wrote about it in a couple of blog posts.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/burroughs-pkd-and-ligotti/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/448/

However, the “God in the gutter” isn’t simply the idea of a hidden God. There is also an element of the Gnostic/Kabbalah notion of the divine fallen into the world. The divine, in this sense, isn’t tame, isn’t controllable. The divine is loose in the world and it’s probably to be found where ever you’re least likely to look for it.

This view of the divine reminds me of a vision of God Jung had as a child. It involved God sitting on a throne above a cathedral.

http://www.woodka.com/2008/07/16/carl-jung-and-the-cathedral/

There is something about the interplay between destruction and creation that intrigues me. To Philip K. Dick, God has to fall into the world in order to remake the world. It’s a fecund vision of transformation.

There is a feeling of danger and forbidenness in this portrayal of God. This God isn’t just love and light. Maybe there is even a connection to the Hindu portrayal of Kali dancing on Shiva’s corpse. Anyways, it’s a view that doesn’t easily fit into traditional/mainstream Christian doctrine.

 – – –

As I was considering my second response, I did a few websearches.  Here are some interesting things I found:

A nice article by Gabriel McKee

http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10516

And a Wikipedia article that uses Philip K. Dick as an example

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

4 thoughts on “The Website of Unknowing: further thoughts

  1. Dear Benjamin Steele, thank you for giving me some food for thought. I certainly didn’t take your comment as an “insult,” but rather as an honest observation — criticism in the best sense of the word. The fact that I didn’t like my work being described as tame was a gift that I wouldn’t have experienced, had you not made the observation. So I’m quite pleased that you did.

    “God in the gutter” is a splendid metaphor, and I think can be a healthy corrective for Christians who have so spiritualized our perceptions of Jesus that we can’t relate to the fact that he associated with socially unacceptable people in his day. I like to say that if he were to walk on earth today, he’d be hanging out with the folks who make adult films and who own strip clubs. I read a book a few years back called “In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld” that explores this idea. Not sure if that’s where PKD is pointing, but it’s something to ponder. I haven’t read PKD — where would you recommend I start? Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and may the conversation continue.

    • I didn’t think you took my comment as an insult. The reason I said that was more just a part of my explaining my perspective to other readers of your blog.

      There are three other aspects I like about the idea of “God in the gutter”.

      First, it makes the divine very close and personal. God isn’t above and beyond but right here in front of us. God is that piece of trash blowing down an alley. There is something magical about this way of looking at the world. Everything is filled with the potential to surprise.

      Second, God is closer than we can imagine. God fallen in the world represents our own forgetting. In the Gnostic/Kabbalah worldview, sparks of God exist within us. God is hidden, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It forces us to look deeper.

      Third, Philip K. Dick had this wonderful notion of the “fake fake”. Basically, God invades the fake in order to make it real. This forces one to look past superficial appearances. But it also awakens one’s sense of wonder. Everything possesses a potential to utterly transform. What is required is double vision, to see the world both with the senses and with the imagination (I believe Blake may written about this).

      I haven’t heard of the book “In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld”, but it sounds like it could be interesting. Whether or not that was where PKD was pointing, I’m sure PKD would’ve been interested in such a book title. PKD wasn’t one to judge those who are dismissed by more respectable society. To PKD, the divine was about radical transformation rather than the upholding of social norms.

      Where would I recommend you start with PKD? It depends. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Just to understand his ideas, I’d recommend his non-fiction or some non-fiction written about him and his ideas. Just to get a taste of his work, I know there is much of his nonfiction available online, but I don’t know if any of his fiction is available online.

      Here is an essay PKD wrote about “fake fakes” (and which can also be found in a collection of his essays):

      http://deoxy.org/pkd_how2build.htm

      I also like his journal writings. There was a book published of some of his journal excerpts, but it’s out of print. Fortunately, some of his journal can be found on the following website:

      http://www.philipkdick.com/new_exegesis.html

      As for fiction, one of my favorite books is A Scanner Darkly which was made into a movie a while back. It’s a fairly dark story, but it portrays well my own understanding of what it feels like to suffer in this world all the while seeking that which is beyond oneself.

      A classic PKD novel is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was the first to be made into a movie (Blade Runner). That novel is nice because it touches deeply upon the issues of what it means to be human and the importance of empathy.

      A novel I read recently is The Man in the High Castle. I enjoyed it and it had some interesting ideas in it, but I don’t know if it would make a good introduction.

      PKD did write many short stories that have been collected in various volumes. I’ve heard Disney is going to make a movie out of his story King of the Elves.

  2. O, Mr. McColman, you disturbed the pond of my eyes. Its been a long time I had an experience as this: ‘he’d be hanging out with folks who make adult films and who own strip clubs’.

    What a vision it will be!!!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s