Previously in the Premiseless Imperative Series:
Kimetikos I: Foundations
Kimetikos II: Theory
Kimetikos III: Practice
Anagoge I: If You Want to be Saved, Admit That You’re A Sinner
“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”
~Jose Ortega y Gasset
So now that you’ve named your Archons, met your Evil Twin, externalized your imperfections and hidden them away where they can’t really bother you for a while, let’s get down to business. I have a question for you. Or, rather, *you* have a question for you. The question is:
Are you even ready for gnosis?
Seriously, you might think you’re really ready for it, which is why you might be reading this in the first place. You might think, “HELL yeah I’m ready– it’s what I’ve been searching for this whole time!” It’s true, you might be. It’s very possible. But, if it happened, would you recognize it for what it was? You might not. It’s very possible that you’ve already been granted gnosis but don’t even realize it yet!
Now that’s kind of a dangerous idea, even if it’s true, because now you might be trying to think back and remember whether any experiences you’ve had fit the bill. Unfortunately, the memory of enlightenment is useless– the only thing that fits the bill is the recognition of it. Memory is image of experience, and we’re concerned with experience. So, don’t go looking backwards for enlightenment, instead focus your attention on NOW.
Jesus actually talks about this state of attention in the Gospel of Thomas. In Saying 21, Mary asks Jesus to compare his followers to something. Jesus answers that:
“They’re like little children squatting a field that isn’t theirs. When the Lords of the field come, they’ll say, “What the hell?! Give us back our field.” The kids take off their clothes in front of the owners in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them.
For this reason I say, if the Lord of a house knows that a robber is coming, he’ll be on guard before the robber arrives and won’t let the robber tunnel into the house of his kingdom and steal his possessions.
You, however, keep watch from the beginning of the world. Bind a great power to your loins, so the robbers can’t find a road on which to get to you, because the help that you’re watching for will be overtaken.
I hope there’s a person among you who understands.
When the fruit split open, the farmer came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with ears had better listen!
The children in the field, the Lord of the house, and the farmer who harvests ripe fruit all have one thing in common: they’re paying very close attention. If we want to experience and recognize gnosis, we have to be just like those little kids and live as though someone is about to come and take all of our stuff. We have to be like the Lord of the house, constantly on watch for thieves and assassins. We have to be like farmers waiting for the harvest as though our lives depend on it. To do so, we must learn the art of attention.
This also doesn’t mean we should become obsessed with constantly looking over our shoulders. Think of the cultivation of attention as a sort of spiritual hyper-awareness. Our Gnostic myth tells us that the Pleroma is “full” of God, or divinity, and that the Aeons are basically on a rescue mission to save us by pumping spirit down into us like a bunch of firemen with a hose that’s out of control. If this is the case, gnosis can manifest ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME! In fact, one could say with a fair amount of certitude that gnosis is CONSTANTLY UNFOLDING AROUND US, but we can’t tell, because we’re not paying enough attention!
It’s like the lovely Zen koan “No Water, No Moon,” one of my personal faves (way better than that damned “finger, moon” story that’s so freaking overplayed):
When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.
At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!
In commemoration, she wrote a poem:
In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!
Note that Chiyono tried and tried to attain enlightenment using the traditional methods, but it took something completely unexpected to enlighten her. Because she was at tension, she understood that she was free even though her enlightement experience seems out of context to the casual observer.
Now, we can argue untill we’re blue in the face (as many have) about *why* we’re unable to pay the attention required here. Obviously, we’re distracted. Lots of people claim that they know why we’re distracted, and it has to do with watching too much television, or playing too many video games, or having too much sex, or talking too much or buying too many things. The fact is, the Archons have tailor-made our distractions for each of us. Something that distracts me from gnosis might be just the thing to give it to you! Focusing so much on locating the distractions is a fool’s errand; it’s best to ensure that we’re able to remain attentive even while being distracted, so that we can open ourselves to the experience of gnosis even while the Archons are standing right in front of us wearing rainbow covered fright wigs and playing kazoos.
We need to become hyper-aware Gnostic ninjas, ready for gnosis at the drop of a hat! To help us, here are a couple of exercises. Don’t forget– these exercises work best when done in order. If you haven’t done the Evil Twin exercise, I don’t recommend moving along to these ones.
1. For the first exercise, you’ll need a thick towel, a glass item of which you’re not overly fond, a container of some kind, and a hammer. (HAHAYEAH!!!) (You should probably wait until you’re home alone for this one.) Find a high-traffic area of your house/apartment, like right in front of the refrigerator or bathroom. Now get skyclad (that’s nekkid, for those unschooled in Wiccese). Place your glass object on the floor, put the towel over it (completely) and HAMMER THE DEVIL OUT OF THAT SUCKER! Get that thing destroyed! Try and get the pieces as small as possible without making them into sand.
Once you’ve completely demolished your glass item, remove the towel and set it aside. Now, pick up the glass pieces, one by one, with your bare hands, and place them in the container. Since this is a high-traffic area, you’ll need to get every single piece of glass out of the way.
Clearing tiny shards of glass off of the floor with your fingers while buck-naked sure is dangerous! Be sure you don’t cut yourself. Instead, pay exceptionally close attention to what you’re doing. Count each piece of glass, and note the number of edges it has. If you’re perfectly calm and exceptionally careful, you shouldn’t come to any harm. Remember this sense of attention, of being “at tension.”
And look, *If you cut yourself and start bleeding, stop the exercise and attend to your wound.* I mean come on now, we’re not trying to hurt ourselves, just to create a very real sense of tension. If, however, you stop the exercise, don’t try to pick it up again. Clean up with a broom and try the exercise again at a later date.
Now, once you’ve done this exercise, write down some thoughts about the experience in your notebook and consider how it would feel if you managed to cultivate this kind of attention while doing every day tasks. Imagine giving the kind of attention you need to have to safely clean glass while in the buff to, say, walking around or taking a bath.
2. The second exercise is arguably more important, though far less dangerous. For this you’ll need some kind of physical object that you’ll be carrying throughout the day. It should be unusual– not a piece of jewelry you usually wear, or something with sentimental value. Instead, it could be a Gnostic chaplet, a plastic figurine with string tied around it (I recommend a pink bunny), a tiny statue or a toy, etc. It should be small enough that it won’t draw too much attention, but large enough that you’ll definitely be aware of it throughout the day.
You’re going to be carrying this object on your person, so you might want to figure out some way to affix it to your clothing. You could pin it on, you could wear it around your wrist. I used to wear a Gnostic chaplet on my belt so it hung down a bit and bounced on my leg when I walked. Just make sure you can reach it and it’s physically on your person, not in a bag or purse.
Now, this sounds easy, but it’s actually very difficult. Wear your item all day, every day. Every time you notice your object, look around at your surroundings, pay attention, note all of the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, etc., and remember the feeling of picking up glass with your bare hands while completely naked.
Eventually, you should reach a point at which you begin to remember to be attentive even when you’re not wearing your object. You’ll know you’ve been successful at this exercise when this little routine becomes so ingrained that you notice your object in multiple dreams.
If you’re so inclined, you might also incorporate a short prayer or statement into your exercise, so as to help you. You could cross yourself, you could say a rosary, you could even just say “hey you bastards, I’m paying attention!” So long as you stop what you’re doing, look around, and pay attention, the content of your attention doesn’t matter at this point.
This is a long-term exercise, and doesn’t really ever end. Feel free to move along to the next exercise after you’ve been doing the attention exercise for a week. We’ll be coming back to your “attention object” later, so keep it around.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s wonderful novel Slapstick, he writes about “The Church of Jesus Christ Kidnapped,” a Christian sect who believed that Christ had already returned but had been immediately kidnapped by the forces of evil. Since he could be anywhere, and might not even know who he was, the members of the church could be recognized by their constantly shifty eyes, and by their ingrained habit of jerking their heads from side to side, constantly looking for evidence of His presence.
If you’re really ready for gnosis, if you really want to be enlightened, you’ve got to be like the members of the Church of Jesus Christ Kidnapped. You’ve got to be like the ninja who constantly expects attack. Mostly, you’ve got to be like a little kid in a field, constantly watching for the return of the owners so that you’re *truly* ready when they arrive.