Alone in a cocoon

If your wife looks like that when cutting vegetables, you should probably give thanks that she does not think you are an imaginary person.

I have made it around halfway through the free online book, “Butterflies are free to fly”. Now reflecting on the spiritual autolysis. Following the butterfly metaphor, the author is now in his cocoon, breaking down the structures of his larval stage (when he was a human adult.)

What has actually happened, it seems, is that he has descended into the heresy of solipsism. Hopefully he will emerge from it when his cocoon phase is over.

In a sense, solipsism is the natural conclusion of the ego lifestyle. It is the belief that only I am real. The universe is all in my head. Other people don’t exist, or have their own universe where they too are alone.

We tend to think of solipsism as the philosophy of the sociopath, the criminal without a conscience. After all, if other people are not real, why not enslave them, rape them, kill them and eat them? After all, nothing is “bad” or “wrong”, as the author repeatedly tells us. I am sure it could be an interesting experience. And so would death row, hopefully, since the imaginary society in your head is unlikely to share your enthusiasm for post-coital cannibalism. (Unless you are a praying mantis.)

Of course, not all of us would want that. My sims are very happy imaginary people. But my opponents in the RPG Oblivion are not. I have to say my desire for setting bullies on fire has kind of disappeared over the last couple years, but it was an important motivation for playing RPGs until my midlife transformation at least. And there are many Sims players who build walls around their sims and watch them slowly starve to death, or set their house on fire and remove the doors, or take away the ladders while the sim is in the pool. So, I am not sure solipsism is suitable as a general teaching.  Of course, the Butterfly book is not aimed at the general public, but it is freely available.

That said, the intense lonesomeness of the spiritual path is a well known phenomenon. Let me see if I can find a YouTube video I saw recently where Ken Wilber brought up this. Ah, here: “Ken Wilber on the aloneness of the spiritual path.”

Of course, for Ken Wilber this is not the only reality. He famously says that Spirit has three “faces”, aspects or modes: I, It and Thou.  The first aspect, I AM, is the subjective experience of being the observer without which my universe would not exist. If I was not here to see it, it would not exist for me, and I cannot really know of anything outside myself as seen from this angle.

Another aspect it “IT IS”, the overwhelming scale of the world and the realization that I am such a tiny little part of it, my body roughly halfway between the size of a virus and the size of Earth, the planet itself only a speck of iron dust circling a nearly average star in the outer reaches of a galaxy among billions of other galaxies. Being one with the universe is being an extremely small part of it. In order for the ordinary human to find life worth living, the vastness of the universe has to be held at bay.

The final face of Spirit is “THOU ART”.  This is in essence the classical God, the Thou who art in Heaven but for some reason appear in our life, the overwhelming presence of the Other which can be experienced with as strong a reality as my own, or more so.  I personally suspect the reason why so many people never experience the Presence of God is that they have never experienced the absence. But I may be wrong. In any case, once one has experienced this overwhelming presence, it becomes possible to see this “face of Spirit” in other people as well.  By then you are well and truly out of the cocoon.

Having these three experiences of the three faces of Spirit is different from the starting position of having none of them, of just thoughtlessly accept that other people are kind of real because everyone is treating everyone else as real the same way they treat me, more or less.  Usually however we have a healthy dose of egotism (without which we would not survive the early years where all we can do is receive). Egotism accepts that other people are kind of real, just not very important. First me, then others if it benefits me. So that is different from seeing, in the words of Mother Theresa, that “every person you meet is Jesus in disguise”.  Or in other words, the Divine in the flesh.

So I guess there is a reason why most insects in their pupal stage are immobile, while butterflies are free to fly.