Divine Work Wanted

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 praying/applying

 

 The Silent Question

 

   Enduring silence is uncomfortable because it forces us to hear our own thoughts. Here, we notice the mental dialogue, and that it is undeliberate. We find ourselves trapped in memories or daydreams, or tunes or circular rambling. Upon finding that we cannot stop it, we flick the radio or television on. The noise stops it by drowning it out. We repeat that solution unconsciously every day—or we avoid the problem by surrounding ourselves constantly with noise. Fear of silence, says the theosophist Annie Besant (A Study In Consciousness), is evidence of a weak mind.

   But there’s more to it than that. What we also discover in the silence, and then avoid[1], is the fact that we do not know how we ought to employ our thoughts instead. A radio is a form of employment. The host says, “Listen to this.” Now we have something for our mind to do. If it is a talk show, they give us topics for us to think about, passively. A book is mental employment. Television too.

   So, what we become aware of in the silence is lack of purpose. Silence is a question. This question is what we are avoiding. I propose that as long as it remains unanswered, that question becomes the most common cause of depression (and anxiety).

   I found it interesting when I’d meet someone who was wealthy enough to retire and yet stayed in the workforce, explaining that they “got bored” sitting around. Retired people often have similar attitudes. It is also interesting when people express discomfort at a job which is quiet and there is little to do. “It is better when it is busy,” they say. “Time goes faster.”

   Time, of course, does not actually go faster. The worker simply becomes less conscious of its passing. Less conscious.

   This avoiding of time sounds frighteningly similar to how we avoid silence. It betrays the lack of any purpose outside the purpose of the company we work for. Keep busy and the day will go faster; your life shall wiz by too, with any luck. A job then, drowns out a physical problem the way the radio drowns out a mental one.

 

 There is something very similar, by degrees, about addiction to drugs and fear of silence/being alone/free time/empty space. All is initially based on avoiding the ‘silent question’. All is based on the realisation of excess, whether it is excess of uncontrollable thought, space, free time, or so forth.

   In his famous book, Junky, William S. Burroughs explains, “You become a narcotics addict because you do not have strong motivations in any other direction. Junk wins by default.” Radio, keeping company with people, television, computer games (or card games, for that matter) and beer – these all win by default too. (‘Keeping company with people’ is here over simplified, but I refer to the people who we stay with rather than being alone, not to close friends and beneficial influences.) 

   “As a habit takes hold,” continues Burroughs, “other interests lose importance to the user. Life telescopes down to junk[2], one fix and looking forward to the next, “stashes” and ‘scripts,’ ‘spikes’ and ‘droppers.’ The addict himself often feels that he is leading a normal life and that junk is incidental. He does not realise that he is just going through the motions in his non-junk activities. It is not until his supply is cut off that he realises what junk means to him.”

   The last line bears another similarity. It is not until our supply of entertainment or company is cut off, that we realise our problem. The majority of our lives have been based upon avoidance of facing this problem, usually unconsciously because we never let our supply of distractions be cut off for too long.

   A close friend of mine could not take being single, and could not bear going home to an empty house. He suffered from restlessness whenever left alone, and from deep depressions when having to live alone. His doctor did not tackle the problem of my friend’s fear of loneliness; the doctor gave him drugs to take away the depression.

   Here is another example I have experienced from three different people (two of them being senior citizens, the other in his mid twenties): At night, when sleeping alone in the silence, they would turn their bedside radios on. The radio would stay on all through the night, helping them sleep.

   These cases sound extreme. However, to find out how much you are affected, cut off your ‘supply’ for a while.

 

   Notice how jobs control our thoughts as well as bodies. If we feel empty (of purpose) inside, we take on a substitute purpose, in the form of a job. Having a job is a form of possession: we become possessions of our employers. They control us. There are three levels to this possession: physical, in the repetitive tasks, say, of factory workers; emotionally, the boss controlling your emotions through deadlines, rewards and chastisements; then the deepest level is mental possession, when the boss’s concerns inhabit your thoughts. This is complete ‘occupation,’ though not absorption.

   Absorption is when your identity becomes the job. Your personality becomes synonymous with the company. The job, being a substitute soul (for apparent lack of internal one), takes complete ownership – leaving any true soul floating in permanent abstraction.

   But they save us as well. Remember, we complain when there is no work to do. Also, we are glad to employ our thoughts as the boss wishes, not knowing what else to employ our minds with.

   An employer – a boss – is a substitute saviour. 

   I once worked with a man who came to work each morning, vomited in the garden and then happily began the day. Evenings and weekends were spent in marathon drinking sessions, which nearly always ended in his passing out. I truly believe that holding that job in the steel factory saved him from killing himself, for no other reason that he could not drink at work. It wasn’t the boss’s will.

   The idea of a Higher Self, and of Divinity, is endemically linked to the idea of there being a Divine Purpose. It implies that purpose is at the core of sentient forms (as opposed to sentient forms being at the core of purpose). For example, if each human is a cell in a greater being called Humanity – and an even greater being called Earth[3] – then a purpose is alluded to in the way that cells unite into organs and fulfil functions for the health of that organism. This is alluded to in the words, “He In Whom We Live And Move And Have Our Being” (New Testament).

"Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere,” said Edmund Burk, the so-called philosophical founder of conservatism, “and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without... men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” This quote could cause much mischief, but there is no doubt a point in it.

   Similarly, William Blake said: “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” If we are connected to our Higher Selves, it stands to reason we become conscious of a creative purpose. A soccer player experiences this when paying attention to the whole team (his ‘Team Self’) during the game; he sees where he fits.

   By this reasoning, an ‘enlightened’ man would inevitably become a ‘Self’-employed man. Furthermore, your boss at work serves as a substitute Higher Self. He is your ‘acting soul’. When we dislike our boss, we are disliking the gap he fills. He or she is a symbol of the void.

   That being said, this does not mean bosses are endemically good, like a spiritual purpose should necessarily be. We must perceive a difference between self-actualisation and Self-actualisation, the one being selfish and the other group-aware. This is why occultists call desire ‘distorted will’. The glimpse of the moon reflected as broken, shimmering shards in the lake.

   Many of us realise that our jobs are not fulfilling any greater and noble purpose. But only a very few of us hate our jobs enough to find them undoable. Either the need for money or fear of being idle is the bigger motivator. Eventually, people give up and become perfect employees.

   The idealist burning to toil at what he considers his ‘calling’ is surely struggling to ‘exorcise’ his employer. He is no longer satisfied with weekends. Until then, no matter how much we dislike it, the most mundane job fills a void and therefore keeps people going.  Here is more experience from Burroughs:

 

“After a junk cure is complete, you generally feel fine for a few days. You can drink, you can feel real hunger and pleasure in food, and your sexual desire comes back to you. Everything looks different, sharper. Then you hit a sag. It is an effort to dress, get out of a chair, pick up a fork. You don’t want to do anything or go anywhere. You don’t even want junk. The junk craving is gone, but there isn’t anything else. You have to sit this period out, or work it out. Farm work is the best cure.”

 

Where there is so much suffering that the employee needs to quit, there are two purposes rubbing against each other, causing friction. Unless the aspirant’s perceived purpose is strong enough to attract money and thus fulfil his living needs, he must camp under the ‘Staff’ of another (that is, get a day job). His spiritual cum daily struggle is to manifest his soul’s purpose to the point where it is as powerful and sustaining as his employer’s ‘false’ staff/purpose.

 

   Alice A. Bailey said this about auras:

 

“The aura is usually spoken of in terms of colour and of light, due to the nature of the vision of the one who sees and the apparatus of response which is in use. Two words only describe an aura from the point of view of occult knowledge and they are ‘quality’ and ‘sphere of influence.’ What the clairvoyant really contacts is an impression which the mind rapidly translates into the symbology of colour, whereas there is no colour present. Seeing an aura, as it is called, is in reality a state of awareness.”

 

   We can imagine an employer’s ‘sphere of influence’: a long shadow being cast from him over all his staff and all his outlets or factories. Imagine the employer as a great spirit incarnating in all the extended bodies of his workers, himself the head of a Homo Gestalt of some kind; the head with many limbs. (I have thought of this when my boss asked me to write an email in his name. In effect I was an extension of him.)

   In the case where the employer has himself attained some level of spiritual/psychological advancement, then we would theoretically get no friction, even if the employees were not empty of purpose themselves. We would get synthesis – like an organism or a soccer team. A Prime Minister or President’s aura reaches across his nation, but doesn’t necessarily posses or restrict; it could enable and facilitate. A truly great soul reveals a united vision. Jobs sprout naturally as the people work to realise that vision.

 

   Prayer could be seen as applying for a job. I don’t mean selfish prayer. True prayer involves discipline, selflessness and regularity – like how jobs do. A prayer is employing one’s thoughts. In Islam, for example, they sound the same prayers in the same order, five times per day. Imagine having to stop daydreaming about your own problems each day at the same time. When we employ something – like a muscle – it becomes stronger and healthier thereby. The Quaker version of prayer is literally to turn towards the silence and look into it. Members and ‘attenders’ of a Meeting sit together in a circle of chairs, in silence, for an hour. They seek The Presence in this silence, and in doing so transform the negative void into a positive portal. The world is put aside, and finally the Quakers’ ears are pricked up to hear the ‘still small voice,’ or the ‘voice in the silence,’ as they call it. If a member is moved to speak to the group, they do so, and then return to silence. To illustrate the positive connotation Quakers give to silence, one common saying runs: “If you cannot add to the silence, it is better you do not speak at all.” 

   We often ask if prayers are answered. If prayer is applying for work, the prayer is answered by itself. In this sense, Religion is not about understanding the universe; it is about participating in the universe. 

   Meditation could also be seen as applying for work. In meditation, you are also reaching inwards for divine purpose. If your equipment is calm enough, your resolve strong enough and your love wide enough, you will apparently sense this Divine Purpose. Those who claimed to have experienced the above behaved as if they’d passed a job interview; they did a lot of work afterwards. And they seemed to have gained the tools to do it. 

   When Christ got the job, he no longer had any time to be a carpenter. Buddha had no time to fulfil the functions of royalty, despite the financial incentive. George Fox and Mahatma Gandhi didn’t mind the jail time; it was part of the job.

   If, when reaching across the void, we ask, “Is there really anything there?” then what we are also asking is: “Is there actually any thing worth doing?”

   If not, we are justified in fearing silence, time and space. Imagine the cells of an organism scattering the way a soccer team disbands when a game is cancelled. Or when employees are laid off. Imagine cancer cells. 

 

“Junk is a cellular equation that teaches the user facts of general validity. I have learned a great deal from using junk: I have seen life measured out in eyedroppers of morphine solution. I experienced the agonising deprivation of junk sickness, and the pleasure of relief when junk-thirsty cells drank from the needle. Perhaps all pleasure is relief.” (William S. Burroughs.)


[1] A void.

[2] The word ‘Junk’ here used in its connotation as slang for Narcotics. (Levin)

[3] …and so on to a greater being called the Universe, etc.