Miserable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Karma
To the solipsist, it is evident that one who lives by the sword is likely to die by it, just for reasons of dramatic harmony. Since life is a “closed” (but “expanding”) system, it is to be expected that what one “puts in” one is likely to “take out.” If you act, talk and think in terms appropriate to a cops-and-robbers plot, the protagonist (your hero, yourself) is not likely to find himself wafting gently o’er the greensward at eventide but rather in a Dashiell Hammett hell-world of blood, sweat and tears.
If you tell a lot of lies, you are likely to hear a lot of lies also.
If you tell the truth, you are likely to hear it also (which does not imply that you will necessarily like what you hear).
Understanding “karma” in the above terms does not imply moral judgement but merely the most elementary rules of dramatic plot development, the maintenance of an appropriate mood, believable characterization, etc. However—if you are inclined to think of human fate in terms of an old-fashioned morality of tribal sin and supernatural punishment (as people tend to do in Ireland and Israel, for example) then things are likely to “work out” that way. If you tend towards a cosmological view based on evolutionary principles, on the other hand, you are likely to find yourself in a world in which individual fate counts for very little, and statistical principles rule the roost. Your hero becomes a representative of his type or class or species—a mean, median or mode figure. You will also be the victim (or the beneficiary) of all kinds of “accidents,” since randomness is a crucial part of your metaphysical system.
And if you think life is “meaningless,” as do many people who are half-assed enlightened, an extraordinary jumble will be forthcoming—the meaning of which will consist in your fear of meaning.
Of course, most of us alternate and combine Weltanschauungen, first giving prominence to this one, then to that one, depending on what practical advantages seem to be promised, which is what accounts for the tenacity of many “loser syndromes,” by the way, and the airy instability of many good conceptual organizations. The notion that everything “evens out” somehow, for example, is very difficult to give up because it means abandoning “credits” accumulated with every loss in every game—so, in a sense, the worse off you are the better off you are. On the other hand, the idea that “the truth will make you free” is extraordinarily difficult to believe in, judging by a simple-minded assay of the immediate consequences of telling the truth or hearing it in specific instances, because it is one’s character most often, that is improved by devotion to truth and a series of seeming “practical” deprivations may (as Henry Miller has pointed out so well) be exactly what is required to do the job.
All the difficulty in seeing these things is caused by the enormous contrast between the subtlety, and intricacy, and logical perfection of the antakarana functions and the (necessary) role-playing limitations of “conscious” or “ego” mentation. It is however, the player-hero who makes the crucial decisions, which are then carried out automatically by the “media technician” or “computer” functions of the psyche and the results, as the greatest myths of mankind never tire of pointing out, are often exactly what was asked for but also exactly what wasn’t wanted.
Frankenstein’s monster. The Genie. Faust.
Think twice before you decide you absolutely must have something. As Lao Tze pointed out (and it is in such observations that he has his unique value among the enlightened teachers of the past), it is good to be a little hesitant, perplexed, doubtful.
People are always asking me how I see things “going” or “developing” or whatever. I am asked to predict the future.
The truth is that I am not really interested in the future. Oh, tomorrow, yes, next week, yes, but (depending on how recently I have had a trip) my interests rarely extend beyond the next few months.
I assume that the world as it is now, and as it will logically develop from what it is now, is based entirely on the decisions I made coming down from my last death-rebirth experience, and since I have no way of knowing how I will organize things the next time I do it, how can I possibly take any genuine interest in the “distant” future? There is no “distant” future. My present “karma” ends with my next big trip.
But this is not what most people mean by “karma,” any more than it is what most people mean by “fate.” Before the ignorant occultists successfully degraded the term “karma” into an incantation for summoning up a vague, super-mundane mechanism of retribution and reward to excuse their heartlessness and indolence, there might have been some advantage in using it in place of the western term, but, like “guru” instead of “tutor” or “teacher” or “philosopher” it has now become even more of a soporific than the familiar western term, and I think it would be best if we dumped it, along with most of the other exotics, from ordinary converse, and returned to the old practice of only using Eastern terminology when we are talking about Eastern philosophy.
It is my fate to be a tutor of enlightenment, and I would rather hear my name mentioned in the same breath with that of Hume or Thoreau than be compared to Buddha or Nagarjuna, because I am reasonably sure that people who are talking about Hume or Thoreau are at least not talking, in terms of fundamental images and associations, about the opposite of what Hume and Thoreau actually had to say, while in the case of Buddha and Nagarjuna, such is the case, I would estimate, at least 95% of the time.
Both here and in India, China and Japan also.
I heard a story from Bill Haines one time which is apropos. He was crossing an Indian river in a crowded ferry when a small child fell off the rear of the boat. Not a single one of the several swimmers present who were standing close to jump in and save the kid did so. Nor were the child’s parents upset about this general apathy (although they were grief stricken over the loss of their child.) When Haines asked the young fellows standing around why they hadn’t saved the child, they all had the same answer. You guessed it—it was that wonderful concept, “karma” once again.
Anyone who saved the kid would “take on” the kid’s karma. It would be interference with the divine creakings and groanings of the great cogs and wheels of the moralistic cosmic machinery. This view is perfectly consistent with the cosmological assumptions made by most occultists, in or out of the psychedelic world, and it is no accident that the most stupid class of street hippies are notoriously disloyal to one another under stress for it is exactly a cosmology such as this that they adopt, being too stupid and ignorant to conceive or learn of any other alternative to the ontological assumptions (externality, randomness, mechanical causation) of the dominant culture.
It is not stupidity and ignorance themselves which produce this behavior pattern, but certain fundamental religious or philosophical assumptions in the context of stupidity and ignorance. The masses of early Christianity were not very bright either, but they were fantastically loyal and brave and solicitous to one another. The masses of Islam, operating in terms of their assumptions, were as fierce as tigers, as were the Jews, who believed they got their orders from a kind of gigantic Meyer Lansky in the Sky.
The behavior of the psychedelic masses of our era may therefore be traced back to the original imprints which, in the absence of genuine philosophical inquiry, always account for the “grand ideas” of simple people. Where did those imprints come from?
They came from the enemies of the psychedelic movement—for it was the enemies of the psychedelic movement, or, at the very least, those who couldn’t have cared less about the future of it, and who themselves had little or no experience with psychedelics, who decided in the early years of the movement who the leaders of the movement would be and what would be published and given prominence in the mass media.
I don’t think that much conscious and calculated hostility went into the making of those choices. Rather, the media-thugs chose what they chose for perfectly understandable psychological, political and economic reasons. They concentrated their attention on those expressions of “stoned consciousness” which were resonant with their own un-stoned ideation, feelings and opinions, or those which in some way satisfied their notions of the way things “ought to be” in terms of the various historical parallels they could think of which were not threatening to their interests.
Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and Abbie Hoffman satisfied the requirements of the mass media decision makers. I did not.
The first major publishing event of the psychedelic revolution was Leary’s conversion of The Tibetan Book of the Dead into psychedelic terminology, which was printed and distributed by that continuous eruption of noxious occultist effluvium, the Mystic Arts Book Society of University Books. Virtually every acid taker in the early years read this book—and I have as yet to find anyone who thought it did him any good. One hears nothing but stories of confusion and disappointment, and yet there are very few complaints directed at the book itself. It is assumed to be correct (after all—look who wrote it!) and the victims blame themselves for not being, perhaps, “pure” enough to have such glorious experiences as are pictured in it, or for being “too paranoid,” or whatever. (Not paranoid enough would be more like it.) But the climbing upward or succession of trials cosmological arrangement, leading to achievement of a “state” (the Great White Light at the end of the tunnel) was successfully imprinted among the masses of unsophisticated LSD users, and so the first great blow was struck for the casting of the psychedelic experience in terms of that low-class Tantrism, or low-class Brahmanism, or low-class Shamanism which rings a bell with dumbbells everywhere, Evans-Wentz being a prime example, and which has no more to do with genuine “mystical” philosophy, East or West, than Billy Graham has to do with Jesus Christ.
Tim’s next “translation” was much better, in fact, contradictory. It was the Tao Te Ching. I think he was ashamed of himself. Very few read it—partly because it didn’t get the same kind of distribution—but I have never heard anyone who did say anything but good things about it. It came too late. The damage had been done. Also, Tim could not sustain a Taoist frame of mind, and he returned, after a few months of Gautama and Lao Tze imitations, to pseudo-scientific maunderings about the cakras and whatnot and settled down into those varieties of Brahmanism and Yoga which are simply power-magic, in which sinkhole he has remained, with nothing more for variety than terminological shuttlings between mechanical gods and god-like machines, ever since.
That, with all of the imitations of imitations by lesser lights that followed, took care of the imagery imprints in the mass media. For style and mystique, Ken Kesey, Abbie Hoffman and the rock musicians in general—with Tim’s enthusiastic collaboration—succeeded in giving to the psychedelic movement the characteristics of a kind of Norman O. Brownian band-of-brothers revolt of Jewish Youth against “technology” and intellectuality in general, taste, couth, sensibility, and all distinctions between men—in other words, conventional mob politics on the model of the French Revolution…or (a much more sinister way of looking at it) the Children’s Crusades, and I think that’s how the media thugs took it. Who’s afraid of a Children’s Crusade? Let the lemmings flow over the cliff by all means! (Where do we set up our cameras?) There are many good reasons to believe that some of the “leaders” of this wing of the movement were controlled by the government. If not, it is at least clear that their behavior was deeply appreciated by such as H.R. Haldeman, who has testified under oath to that effect. What better characteristic to wish on one’s adversary than mindlessness?
Of course, even in the Brahmanist tradition, one can find many examples of a non-mechanistic treatment of karma and associated concepts, if one looks for them. An enlightened person, (a “true Brahman” or whatever) who does not identify with his transitory and illusory personality, but rather with the (characterless) perceiving “I”, in a very genuine sense, has no karma, no fate—and neither does anyone at the peak of an LSD trip. He chooses his fate—and in what sense can a chosen fate be called fate? It is a most casual use of the term, to be sure.
Is it possible to convert the masses to a solipsistic view of things? Why not? There isn’t anything very complicated about it, in principle. The application (the interpretation of synchronicity) can be a little tricky, but almost all of the supposed “paradoxical” intellectual consequences which the literate of our era find so intractable turn out, on close examination, to be nothing more than reified diagrammatic metaphors imposing spatial coordinates on non-spatial relationships. Our Metaphrast of the Emanations is working on a programmed learning version of Neo-American doctrine for use with teaching machines.
With such material in hand, I don’t see any reason why the average Boo Hoo can’t show even the simplest souls how full of shit the Tibetan Book of the Dead stuff really is, and put them on a better trip.
Getting them to try it is another problem entirely. Should we suck them in under false pretenses?…make a deal with Baba Ram Dass?…does a dog have the Buddha nature?