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Monday, June 21, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 37

Unsplash photo by Adele Morris 

Chapter Three: Small Miracles

By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger

It’s a small miracle that any of us manage to hold on to or develop any type of sanity. Rereading the third chapter this weekend it struck me how many things can go wrong with the initial imprinting of the First Circuit. Birth itself seems to be a traumatic experience by nature; after months of dark, warm oblivion to be suddenly squeezed out into cold, bright existence. While, by all means, the birthing process is miraculous, it doesn’t seem particularly pleasant for any of the parties involved. And while I would put my trust firmly in modern medicine, I can understand why some try to reduce possible distress on the child’s part by giving birth underwater. 

The myriad of things that can hurt us as infants, from our hand being pulled away from our privates to not being held enough, to being mistakenly (or purposefully) struck....just a minefield of incidents that could fuck up the foundation of our psyche. I always imagined that I had a negative initial imprint because I certainly do see the universe as a hostile and unforgiving place. 

Looking back on my adolescence and twenties, it is pretty obvious that I was going through some sort of extended crisis based around the first circuit. I went through hypochondriac fits: one year I ended up in the doctor’s office on a monthly basis, worrying that I was dying. This was partly driven by my cigarette smoking habit- something strongly associated with searching for first circuit comforts. While smoking was a calming and gratifying experience, I was also raised to believe that “if you smoke, YOU WILL DIE A HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH AND YOU DESERVE IT.” So between my addiction, my guilt and myself we had a smashing time. The hypochondria was also a symptom of my deep dissatisfaction with the way my life had been and was going. It was only after moving far away from my parents, for a myriad of reasons beyond smoking, that I was able to come to terms with my childhood and finally stop flagellating myself, or at least not quite as much, for my nicotine abuse. Eventually I returned home with a firmer understanding of my past. 

Then it was time to experience the present and future along with some real fun panic attacks. These occurred occasionally over the course of a couple years while I was stewing in my discontent and coming to terms with life. Through these attacks I learned how well other mental activities cease when the bio-survival circuit senses danger. Working with a therapist helped me find the ways to symbolically “solve” the source of my panic attacks. (Which mostly seems to consist of repeating “You’re just having a panic attack” and doing my best to ignore it until it goes away.) I’ve also found externalizing my anxiety/depression and treating it like an annoying, needy old dog seems to work. 

While I practiced pranayama and basic hatha yoga during this time, it seems in many ways that what was needed was time. Time for growth and most importantly for acceptance. The bio-survival circuit seems to be tailored to induce panic and ungainly dispositions, for me it took “simply” giving up the struggle against it or its eternal desires to form a working relationship with this earliest part of myself. 

While the higher circuits are fascinating, I find that most human behaviors can be explained through the first and second circuits, we’ll explore the latter in the upcoming weeks as we dive into Chapter Four and primate politics. 


Eric Wagner said...

Interesting post.

Oz Fritz said...

Thank-you Apuleuis for the candid report.

I suspect a fairly good C1 imprint in this beast. I'm guessing that because I plotted to leave home at a very early age,14, and did move out on my own right after turning 16. Generally, universe and chaos feels friendly and sentient to me in a silly putty kind of way, but I definitely acknowledge and take caution against the less friendly aspects. I had periods of great anxiety in my late teens, early twenties which I later attributed to excessive psychedlic use and nonexistent nutrition, I mostly lived on junk food. Most of the psychedelics were exotic THC products - honey oil, Thai stick, Cambodian, etc., etc. I also loved being that stoned, listening to music and exploring those spaces when not anxious which mostly occurred in social situations. I began to get my shit together when I discovered hatha yoga and pranayama. After doing a lot of that, I started to feel comfortable in my skin socially. The best asana for me was the corpse posture, where you lie flat on your back, arms and legs slightly spread and relax deeply. In a yoga class they would guide you to relax each part of your body. I also read that Gurdjieff advised the beginning exercise of relaxing deeply for one hour, laying on our back and trying not to move. He said we lose a great deal of energy in our moving centrum (C1) by fidgeting and nervous, unnecessary movements. He said just make the aim of relaxing deeply for 1 hour. It really worked for me and became preliminary to working in the floatation tank. I have had some incredible inner healing experiences simply by deeply relaxing, both inside and outside the tank. It seems that past traumas get stored in the muscles and deep relaxation can let them release and they can get seen. Just seeing how you reacted to a past trauma seems to let you shake off that particular psycho/emotional armor, and it does go away. Around the time I discovered yoga, I found Leary's Game of Life. Stage 14 made a big impression on me, I learned about nutrition and what food does to the body (C1)and began making experiments to biochemically engineer my body for a more optimum performance.

Spookah said...

Thank you for this post Apuleius, and for being open about these personal issues. Having someone else’ perspective can sometimes help better understand oneself. I do not think I ever had much physiological translations of whatever was going on with me, apart from the odd nod in the belly and feeling nauseous. I myself mostly had to deal with psychological symptoms such as bouts of depersonalization when I was around 15, later to give way to more proper cyclical depressions. I did self-medicate to the point where, by the age of 20, I was pretty much drinking seriously daily. The good part of being an alcoholic so early on was that I got bored with it quickly, there just wasn’t much fun anymore in never remembering a thing.

I would agree that recognizing the mechanisms at play when seeing myself slipping away from a centered and grounded place helps a lot. I even have a cap that says “hello darkness my old friend”. Even though I know how serious it could become, by now I find it much easier to step away from the downward spiral upon recognizing it. Knowing how emotionally taxing it would be to start feeling sorry for myself again, I usually don’t have the motivation to go there anymore. I’m lazy like that.

Last week, Eric Wagner said “I fear I usually fall in the hostile weakness quadrant.”
Looking at Tim Leary’s Interpersonal Grid in chapter 4, I find myself falling in boxes (mostly the second ones from the center, fairly moderate) of pretty much every quadrant, except from the “hostile strength” one. But then RAW eventually describes hostile weakness as someone who “will complain (and complain, and complain), no matter who is in charge, while skillfully avoiding any action that would require taking personal responsibility.” Unfortunately, this sorts of hits pretty close to home, I have to admit.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Eric- Thank you, I apologize for not moving on to Chapter 4 as soon as we had scheduled.

@Oz- I've recently began trying to get reacquainted with my old yoga routine. One of my teacher's always suggested the Corpse and Reclining Buddha as excellent asana's. Granted, they were only excellent as long as one wouldn't fall asleep. When I tried Regardie's One Year Manual as a young man I began the first "body awareness," which I believe is essentially similar to the Gurdjieff exercise you discussed, in the Corpse position I often found myself taking a nap after 10-20 minutes. I always stuck with the God position which, to this day, makes me distrust my knees. (For all the moralists scream, it is actually very difficult to keep your legs together.)

@Spookah- I can relate to what you've talked about and I am happy that you found a path forward. You seem like a really brilliant, humble person so you must do a pretty good job learning from "shaitans" (or, as Pagels explains/translates, "stumbling blocks.") I didn't credit Ramsey Dukes enough in my original post but his "Little Book of Demons" had a big, if long-gestating impact on my view of my foibles.

I always dress in blue and grey- and one of my kids pointed out in class that my color-scheme is probably a reflection of my depression. I found that an insightful statement, firstly because I try to never bring up my personal feelings/issues to the students but am depressive and secondly because I started wearing mostly blue and grey a decade ago as a simple qabalistic scheme to combat my depression. (Blue for Chesed/Mercy and Grey for Chockmah/Wisdom, to combat my melancholy and balance my severe bent toward the "Pillar of Severity.")

I also find myself in that quadrant. I've sadly acknowledged that since I read the book at age 18/19. My aunt used to say about me "if I were in Heaven, I'd wish I were in Hell." I believe that people misinterpret my general dissatisfaction with all out nihilism. I play by the Hellenist rules- we get to acknowledge that the World is Fucked in a myriad of ways but the gods left us with Hope. I'm wearing my SMI2LE shirt at the moment and while I try to talk honestly about the world, I also wax into mania talking about human accomplishment, understanding and postulated wonders.