Monday, 27 August 2018

Through the Gates of Gold Chapter 4 The Meaning of Pain, Part 4


This chapter is closely related the chapter I, The Search for Pleasure. In part 4, the idea that pleasure and pain form a dichotomy that needs to be transcended, to go beyond the duality of opposites, is further explored:
One definite lesson learned by all acute sufferers will be of the greatest service to us in this consideration. In intense pain a point is reached where it is indistinguishable from its opposite, pleasure. This is indeed so, but few have the heroism or the strength to suffer to such a far point. It is as difficult to reach it by the other road. Only a chosen few have the gigantic capacity for pleasure which will enable them to travel to its other side. Most have but enough strength to enjoy and to become the slave of the enjoyment. Yet man has undoubtedly within himself the heroism needed for the great journey; else how is it that martyrs have smiled amid the torture? How is it that the profound sinner who lives for pleasure can at last feel stir within himself the divine afflatus?

Again the importance of freeing oneself of attachments, superstitions, dogmas and delusions is stressed, with further ideas on the inner god:
“For the noble soul of the man, that potential king which is within us all, knows full well that this household idol may be cast down and destroyed at any moment, — that it is without finality in itself, without any real and absolute life. And he has been content in his possession, forgetting that anything possessed can only by the immutable laws of life be held temporarily. He has forgotten that the infinite is his only friend; he has forgotten that in its glory is his only home, — that it alone can be his god. There he feels as if he is homeless; but that amid the sacrifices he offers to his own especial idol there is for him a brief resting-place; and for this he clings passionately to it.”

The problem of identifying the transcendent in the lower self rather than the higher self is discussed:
“The strange and mysterious fact remains unexplained as yet, that man in so deluding himself is merely interpreting Nature backwards and putting into the words of death the meaning of life.
For that man does indeed hold within him the infinite, and that the ocean is really in the cup, is an incontestable truth; but it is only so because the cup is absolutely non-existent. It is merely an experience of the infinite, having no permanence, liable to be shattered at any instant.”

We see an echo of the Platonic notion of the body as a prison as well as the oriental notions of illusion or emptiness:
“It is in the claiming of reality and permanence for the four walls of his personality, that man makes the vast blunder which plunges him into a prolonged series of unfortunate incidents, and intensifies continually the existence of his favorite forms of sensation. Pleasure and pain become to him more real than the great ocean of which he is a part and where his home is; he perpetually knocks himself painfully against these walls where he feels, and his tiny self oscillates within his chosen prison.”