Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tantra It Is

I’ve done Zen and Vipassana (Theravada Buddhist) meditation. More recently I’ve also tried the tantric breath and sex exercises. I’m going to stick with the latter.

I’ve been attracted to Zen and Theravada for a long time—since my teens. Its sparse and focused aesthetic appealed to my puritan tendencies. No complicated metaphysics, no need for gods, no demands to be faithful or dogmatic—just practical exercises and enigmatic statements. A few pointless rituals, genealogies and guru worship have accumulated around it. But the direct, bare-bones teachings are still easy to perceive underneath. It is an Appolonic approach to enlightenment: Rational, steady, refined and distanced.

I liked Zen and Vipassana because it was just like I behaved anyway:  intellectual, self-disciplined, out of touch with my emotions and sensuality. The endless hours of sitting, the ‘stillness’, the ‘witnessing’ of thoughts and emotions—not all that much different from years in the archives and library. But I know people who have been sitting for years and years (in both zendos and archives) and don’t seem any the better for it. In fact, they sometimes seem the worse for it, getting arrogant and competitive about how long they can sit.

It’s also incredibly hard for me. I just can’t shut off or merely observe that chattering mind. One way that history is clearly not like Zen, is that history training works to deeply entangle our egos with our thoughts. We can ‘witness’ the thoughts and feelings of others, but not our own. Our thoughts are our careers, our lives, our glory, our selves. And we never ‘witness’ our feelings. Instead we ignore and deny them, crushing them into warped little balls of neurotic tics and immaturities. For me, a meditation practice that resembles historical practice in so many ways is not the way to overcome my ego’s attachments to my thoughts. This is the way that I built that attachment.

And I can’t help but think that all the sitting is just a method of social control—something that was overemphasized as Buddhism became institutionalized and respectable. This is even more true in the West, where Buddhist meditation is mostly touted as a method of stress reduction. Something to make us moderate, build equanimity, help us accommodate to life’s routines and go back to work.

In contrast, tantric exercises try to harness desires and facilitate the flow of energies through the body as the vehicle to enlightenment. My chattering mind shuts up as I watch the energy flowing inside and out; feel my body distorting, tearing, melting and crumbling; feel the effects of the exercises on orgasm and touch; it keeps me on track. It helps me to see that there is much more than the limited experiences of my rational mind. During the day, I often stop to watch my breathing, feel the energies, notice the colors, feel the textures. It is a dose of stress reduction to be sure—but also reminding me that there is something other than that world of daily concerns and vanity that I have lived in for so long.  On the surface tantra seems a Dionysian approach to enlightenment: Channelling desire and fomenting mental effects. But in practice it feels more polytheistic, recognizing the great diversity of forms.

Some tantric practitioners say that it is the faster route to enlightenment. But it is also a trickier and more dangerous one, throwing up many temptations and diversions along the way. I can see that all the mental and sensual experiences that are so helpful now for me can become an obstacle, a distraction on the way to clear perception.

It especially hard to wade through all the neo-tantra that pervades the west. All the promises of greater intimacy and better orgasms and bliss—nice therapy, but I want more than that. Not to mention that tantra can be really expensive, too. And so many of the people involved are New Age flakes who drive me nuts. To be sure, neo-tantra often delivers on the promises of better orgasms and intimacy. That stuff is fine and helpful, but I am after more than that. I want not only bliss and better social functioning. I want to open my mind to what it has never perceived before, perhaps even enlightenment.

The less sexualized tantra associated with Tibetan Buddhism and white tantra aren’t much better. They are often obsessed with social bonding, gurus, incessant dharma talks, helping the environment, special interest discussion groups , social justice, and how to make meditation into a practical part of your life. I’m much more drawn to the rich symbolism of Tibetan tantra than I was in my puritan Zen days. But the p.c. and self-help platitudes make me lose interest quickly. (So far, I like the Ipsalu Tantra exercises–they are straightforward and effective, good focus on spiritual development, with a minimum of rhetoric and promises. We’ll see.)

And yes, I guess a lot of it is about the sex. My desire is not going away, so I may as well try to use it. I’ve spent the first half of my life in classrooms and libraries—with good professional results complemented by lousy personal ones (including lots of lust but no ability to do anything with it). I can’t see that spending the second half of my life sitting quietly would do me any better. With tantra, even if I do not reach enlightenment at least I will have enjoyed myself along the way.

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Don’t Vote

The U.S. election is coming and I’m not voting. I’ve voted once in a national election and now regret it. Voting in the U.S. is the consumate act of political self-degradation. It is submission to corporate power, big money, political machines and celebrity culture all in one. To vote in the national election is to say that I don’t have a problem with cynical propaganda, political hypocrisy and relentless media manipulation. A ballot cast is a vote in favor of the degradation of thought and language. It is a vote of approval for our Orwellian public discourse, a vote for more of the same next time. Exercise your freedom from the relentless degradation and homogenization of the corporo-statist big money-media machine: Don’t vote!

Yeah, I know, “corporo-statist big money-media machine”: it sounds a bit conspiratorial. But I don’t see a conspiracy at all. What I see is that elections have become a magnet for everybody that wants to manipulate, control, spew ideology, feed their ego, serve their own interests, deceive and bully. I have never seen so much dishonor and suspect motivations concentrated in one place.

The Innovators, the Free Spirits, the Silent.

The most amazing thing about the corporo-statist big money-media machine is that it has convinced us that voting is the ultimate exercise of our civil rights, our greatest expression of freedom. We believe that our moment of purest subjection is actually our moment of liberty. It must be true, because Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, L.L. Cool Jay and Diddy have all told us so. The more sleazy advertising a campaign generates, the more free choice we must have.

National elections have made us intellectually moronic and emotionally barren. I know so many people that spend half of their lives bitter and enraged —literally sleepless, stressed and irritable–about things over which they have no control. They spend hours each day fuming at the TV and ranting to each other about the latest electoral development that they’ll forget after two days. We spew all of our impotent, stressed-out anger at election campaigns, which then feed on it, digest it, and feed right back to us in forms calculated to make us even more stressed and angry.

I try to escape by not watching the news and refusing to talk politics. But then I’ll say something–about some topic like evolution, or religion or the word “security”, or economics, or old people–and somebody will start getting angry at me because what I said sounds vaguely like the political rhetoric of a party they disagree with. Or they’ll say, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s totally right,’ because it sounds vaguely like the slogan of the party they agree with–which wasn’t my intention at all. If, by chance, I do manage to convey the nuance of my idea, nobody wants to hear it. It’s just irrelevant. Middle ground is ont desired. We only want only to hear, speak and even think only in terms of the dichotomies, slogans, choices and terms set by political campaigns. (For more nuanced thoughts along this line, read Tocqueville)

The ineffable thrills of silence.

My refusal to vote has nothing to do with apathy or the fact that my vote won’t really matter. It has to do with the fact that any vote I make, for whatever party, is a statement that I am OK with the foul, reeking, cynical bullshit that gets passed on to us as the heart of our democratic process. It requires that I have spent hours degrading myself by listening to and thinking about the poisonous idiocy spewed by campaigns and pundits—idiocy designed to control and manipulate my opinions, to misguide and misdirect me, to obscure more than reveal. I much prefer to maintain emotional equanimity and personal independence.

Some people insist that I must vote for a candidate that I don’t like, just because the other candidate is so much worse. They say it is a basic civic duty. Some even insist that it is the only way to save the country from disaster and tyranny. If I respond that they are being excessive–that one person’s disaster is another’s redemption, and that we’ve already gone through dozens of national elections without a disaster, that the biggest problem is the electoral process itself–some will even start calling me names like ‘apathetic,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘head-in-the-clouds,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘self-absorbed,’ and ‘arrogant.’ It is social coercion.

Is this idea that I have to vote, regardless of the worth of the process and candidates, really any better than a People’s Congress in someplace like China where everyone just votes yes for the proposed slate of candidates? The fact that the corporo-statist big money-media machine is divided into two factions doesn’t make any difference. Voting for either major candidate is a vote for the machine. If I want to enjoy and promote the virtues of living in a free country, I can think of no better way than not voting.

This has nothing to do about being undecided. If forced by gunpoint to vote for one of the two main candidates in the U.S. election, I would have no problem choosing. But I know that such a choice would not be based on any informed understanding of what is better for the country or better for me. I am enough of an historian to know that I barely understand the complexities of most policies, and that even policies that I think I do understand have consequences that extend far beyond their intentions. And the historical policies that I appreciate in the long run were not always associated with the candidates or parties I liked (an vice versa). And I certainly can’t learn anything substantial about the actual content of policies by listening to obscuritanist and diversionary campaign rhetoric. I know that the main motivation behind my vote would be that I viscerally dislike candidates who have the arrogant smirks and body language of jocks and stock traders. But the arrogant smirks and body language of nerds and intellectuals don’t bother me so much—I’m used to them (and probably have some of those tics myself). It’s a pretty lame reason for choosing a candidate. But most people become attached to candidates for similarly visceral and unconscious reasons. Indeed, the whole election machine is geared to cultivate and appeal to such reasons.

Voting for a minor party—the Greens, the Libertarians, the Socialists, the Objectivists, the Marijuana Reform Party—may seem like an better alternative, an active protest that ‘I’ve seen the major candidates but I do not choose them.’ But voting for a minor party still acknowledges that the election is the only game in town. And other people won’t see this as a principled statement, but only a confirmation that not voting for one of the main candidates is just a hopeless and pathetic waste of time and that people who do so are just nutball losers. Better to maintain my dignity and independence, and not take part at all.

Some Tocqueville for the Elections

In honor of the upcoming U.S. elections, some quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835, 1840):

Our contemporaries are ceaselessly agitated by two conflicting passions: they feel the need to be directed as well as the desire to remain free. Since they are unable to blot out either of these hostile feelings, they strive to satisfy both of them together. They conceive a single, protective, and all-powerful government but one elected by the citizens. They combine centralization with the sovereignty of the people. That gives them some respite. They derived consolation from being supervised by thinking that they have chosen their supervisors. Every individual tolerates being tied down because he sees that it is not another man nor a class of people holding the end of the chain but society itself. Under this system citizens leave their state of dependence just long enough to choose their masters and then they return to it.              –Vol. 2, Part IV, Ch. 6.

 

I know of no country where there is generally less independence of thought and real freedom of debate than in America. . . .  Inside America, the majority has staked out a formidable fence around thought. Inside those limits a writer is free but woe betide him if he dares to stray beyond them. Not that the need fear an auto-da-fe but he is the victim of all kinds of unpleasantness and everyday persecutions. A political career is closed to him for he has offended the only power with the capacity to give him an opening. He is denied everything, including renown. Before publishing his views, he thought he had supporters; it seems he has lost them once he has declared himself publicly; for his detractors speak out loudly and those who think as he does, but without his courage, keep silent and slink away. He gives in and finally bends beneath the effort of each passing day, withdrawing into silence as if he felt ashamed at having spoken the truth.                   –Vol. 1, Part II, Ch. 7.

 

I think that the type of oppression threatening democracies will not be like anything there has been in the world before; our contemporaries would not be able to find any example of it in their memories. I, too, am having difficulty finding a word which will exactly convey the whole idea I have formed; the old words despotism and tyranny are not suitable. This is a new phenomenon which I must, therefore, attempt to define since I can find no name for it.

I see an innumerable crowd of men, all alike and equal, turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself as for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he will be said to have lost his country.

Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny. It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed. It would be like a fatherly authority, if, fatherlike its aim were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only to keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it. It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principal concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances. Why can it not remove from them entirely the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?

Thus it reduces daily the value and frequency of the exercise of free choice; it restricts the activity of free will within a narrower range and gradually removes autonomy itself from each citizen. Equality has prepared men for all this, inclining them to tolerate all these things and often even to see them as a blessing.

Thus, the ruling power, having taken each citizen one by one into its powerful grasp and having molded him to its own liking, spreads its arms over the whole of society, covering the surface of social life with a network of petty, complicated, detailed, and uniform rules through which even the most original minds and the most energetic of spirits cannot reach the light in order to rise above the crowd. It does not break men’s wills but it does soften, bend, and control them; rarely does it force men to act but it constantly opposes what actions they perform; it does not destroy the start of anything but it stands in its way; it does not tyrannize but it inhibits, represses, drains, snuffs out, dulls so much effort that finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as shepherd.                 –Vol. 2, Part IV, Ch. 6.

Love at First Sight

I met Luna, my girlfriend of five years, on the streets of Bangkok. I was walking to a phone booth, looking at all the lights and not really paying attention to where I was going. Luna was sitting with a friend on a small sidewalk restaurant, and I nearly walked into them. I apologized, and her friend asked me to sit down with them. I declined and walked on. I looked back, and saw Luna smiling at me.

This happened in Sukhumvit, a part of town with many sex workers and where inviting smiles are common. At least one or two other women had smiled at me that night. But after my phone call, I was still thinking about Luna’s smile. Both she and her friend looked a bit different than most of the women around Sukhumvit: different fashion sense, a bit darker, a bit heavier, an less bored and mechanical. And Luna’s smile–it was stuck in my mind. I decided to walk back, and take them up on their invitation.

Her friend Minnie invited me to sit down again as soon as she saw me. Minnie was a flirt–and as I learned later also an alcoholic and a freestyle sex worker (i.e. frequent sex with foreigners for free, for drinks, for money, and for long term relationships–whatever seemed appropriate at the moment). She lied to me about being from the Philippines and about having a job. But she was good natured and fun about it, and I am thankful to her for keeping the conversation going. Both Luna and I were a bit shy, and the encounter may have amounted to nothing without Minnie’s lubrication.

Luna shared some fried cakes she had cooked at her home in the country with us. She said that she had just arrived in Bangkok that morning for her job. When I told them I was a professor at CU, Minnie’s eyes opened wide but Luna only looked at me blankly. Minnie tried to explain what a professor was and that CU was a famous school. Luna only smiled at me. I started to focus my attention on Luna.

They were just finishing their meal, and talked about going to a bar that Minnie knew. Luna started to pay, but Minnie told her to put away her money and let me pay. I started to reach for my wallet, but Luna insisted that I hadn’t eaten anything and that she would pay.

They stood up abruptly and walked away quickly. I wasn’t sure if I was invited to come. Then Luna turned around, looked in my eyes, held out her hand and gave me that smile. I took her hand and we walked across the street together. . . .

How Bigots Learn

I’ve often said that Thailand is where bigots learn to be tolerant and the tolerant go to be bigoted.

Thousands of young men and women who think of themselves as open, tolerant and supportive of social justice in the West travel to Thailand every year, where they express disgust and condemnation of Western men with Thai women. And many of those men, who may well have started out as bitter, misogynist pigs have have shown far greater social adaptability and even had their lives transformed by their Thai partners.

Many of the young, tolerant tourists with activist ambitions appreciate the fluid gender identities in Thailand—the transvestites, transsexuals, and enormous range of gender-crossing personas.  But they are shocked and contemptuous of the sex tourism. They stereotype it all as trafficking and exploitation, and the men as disgusting, misogynist creeps. Some even become social workers and activists, creating videos and blogs to criticize and try to stop it.

To be sure, many of the male sex tourists are bitter about Western women, or just plain misogynistic. Some treat Thai women with contempt, and believe stereotypes of submissive, horny, materialistic, or manipulative Asian women. But many of them also fall in love. Some deeply in love. Many send money regularly to the women they have met (sometimes one of many men sending money to the same woman). Some maintain long-distance relationships for many years. Others marry their girlfriends and bring them to Europe, Australia or North America. Others quit their jobs and move to Thailand, often building a house, buying a farm and supporting an extended family in a far rural area (read a bit more about sex work in Thailand here).. And once they do that, their stereotypes of Asian women (if they had any) can no longer survive. They’ve gone much farther in challenging their preconceptions than any young tourist or NGO worker coming to ‘help’ the Thais.

The men who relocate to Thailand, both full- and part-time, are impossible to stereotype. Some are jerks. Some are clueless, and some are charming. Some are pale, nerdy losers—men who are just far too socially awkward to find a girlfriend in the West. Others are recently divorced or retired, looking for a new life. Many are overweight. Some think of themselves as outlaws, driving their big Harleys and wearing leaher. Some like to show off by giving money and building big houses. Some are social misfits–both right-wing gun nuts and anarchist hippies–who  are a lot more comfortable in some isolated farm with minimal social interaction where everybody expects them to be just another out-of-touch foreigner. I don’t necessarily like many of these men. But I can identify with them. We all share a fundamental sense of alienation, and have done something about it beyond merely getting bitter.

Their choice to have a Thai family is hardly an easy choice. Living in rural Thailand is difficult. It takes enormous cultural adaptation and tolerance. Food, language, religion, dirt, insects, families and infrastructure are all huge challenges. They also have to adapt to a world with fluid sexual identities, where ladyboys, men with make-up and dykes are common. They have to deal with families that have very different attitudes towards money, property and privacy than Western families. Some anthropologists say that families in Northeastern Thailand “a tendency towards matriarchy” in which women often have the most powerful personalities, and men are just expected to contribute resources.  I like to think of myself as somebody who is culturally flexible and tolerant. I have lived in several countries, and had a Chinese wife for nearly twenty years. But I still find it very hard to adapt to rural Thailand (humidity, food and extended family are my biggest challenges). I am impressed by the men who have been there for years.

The marriages are difficult. Men often suspect their wives of only wanting their money, and women often suspect the men of sleeping around all the time. Both suspicions are often quite justified, and many marriages have collapsed even on unjustified suspicions. But many marriages also succeed against all odds. This takes enormous tolerance and adaptation from both sides (read about some of my problems here).

Many of these men go on internet discussion boards where some of the most popular threads are those asking for advice about how best to deal with extended family, especially their expectations about money. But the threads with the most responses are on topics such as “Describe a typical day” or “What do you like best about living in rural Thailand?” Men wax rhapsodic about their farms, their families, their easy-going wives, the food, about having found the good life. When somebody calls the women in the bars of Bangkok or Pattaya ‘prostitutes,’ or writes “you can take the girl out of the bar but you can’t take the bar out of the girl” they are sure to receive a barrage of responses that their wives can not be defined by jobs they once worked or income levels into which they had been born. Many participants also indulge in criticisms of Western capitalism and society that are not far from the criticisms that NGO activists and academics also indulge in—with the significant exception that most expats would usually include NGO activists as examples of what makes the West so undesirable, sanctimonious and unwelcome around the world.

Social activists and NGO workers interact with Thais not as equals, but as objects of generosity and assistance. They see Thais, and especially Thai women, through theories about inequality, exploitation and trafficking. Little can be done to dislodge those theories. Some activists and academics have written reports and books that show some awareness of the complexities of sex work, of the many ways Thai women learn to manipulate men just as men use the women, and the relatively good incomes earned by sex workers. Some admit that there is no evidence of trafficking to the tourist-oriented sex industry. A few even mention the successful long-term relationships that can emerge out of the sex industry, and note the extensive resources that are channeled to the countryside through these marriages.

Regardless of what they uncover, these investigations almost always end with a righteous condemnation of the global inequalities that have made sex tourism possible (with little mention of the marriages and long term relationships), and a call to do something to empower these poor exploited women. They investigate and report but they don’t listen, preferring instead their own stereotypes and self-images as people who bring justice to the world. They want to set up sustainable rural industries and give loans and advice about how to be clean and manage money. Are Thai women really more empowered if they have the chance to work 40+ hours a week in some rural workshop for wages about the same as construction work in Bangkok, making ‘local crafts’ to be sold to Western consumers, much of the profits of which will only be used to pay the growing bureaucracies of social workers, nuns and activists back in Bangkok, Europe and America? Or is it the self-esteem of the activists that is most empowered?

Before we start talking about other people and how they should be helped, we should make friends with them, live with them, fuck them, make love to them, and even marry them. We should not only treat them as equals, but also get into situations where we are dependent on them. Then we can develop some understanding what they need. As far as I can tell, academics—and I suspect NGO workers—have very low rates of outmarriage. Although they may marry outside of their ethnicity and nationality, they almost always marry within their class, occupation and educational status. But marriage and friendships outside of our social circles is where a true transfer of understanding and redistribution of resources will begin.

One of my favorite memories from Thailand is from a beach where I saw three English men in their thirties. They had the strong hands of manual laborers, were a bit overweight, somewhat crude in their language, and would have looked more at home watching football in a lower-class pub in England. One was with a young, sexy Thai woman who was likely straight from a Bangkok go-go bar. One was with an plain-looking middle-aged Thai woman. They had the dynamics of a long-married couple. And the third was with a somewhat flamboyant young man. All six of them were getting along great: laughing, eating and swimming. We should be supportive of the social context that makes encounters like this possible.

New Stage of Life Impending!

The (idealized) Hindu stages of life go something like this:

1) Youth until mid 20s: Celibate studenthood; preparation.

2) Mid 20s to late 40s or so: Householder; career and family; material accumulation.

3) Late 40s (about the time of grandparenthood) to 72: Retreat from worldly responsibilities; attention to spiritual matters; perhaps becoming a forest recluse.

4) 72 (or whenever one feels ready for it) until death (or enlightenment): Wandering ascetic; a life totally devoted to god and searching for relief from the cycle of life and death.

The Western lifecycle goes something like this:

1) Youth until mid 20s (although it is increasingly extended until early 30s): Uncelibate studenthood; sowing wild oats; preparation.

2) Mid 20s/30s to late 60s or so: Career and family; material accumulation.

3) Late 60s until death: Retirement; (ideally) enjoying all that one has accumulated; or perhaps just feeling ill and waiting until death.

In actual practice, the Hindu lifecycle looks more like the Western one. Most Hindus get attached to the second stage and never move on to the third or fourth stages—or else move into a third stage that is more like Western retirement. What is the attraction of this second stage? Is the accumulation of wealth and career really so enticing? Or does it just become a habit that is hard to break? Perhaps we are trapped in it by fear, by our constant worries that we will not have enough money or lose our health, and nobody will take care of us. In the modern world where we have to depend on our own savings rather than family to take care of us, this fear does seem to have a strong basis. But then, maybe we just have lost our ability to appreciate the attractions of the last two stages of the Hindu cycle.

The problem is that the last stage of the Western life is not all that attractive. Many of us spend much of our life preparing for it, and even yearning for it. But then it just marks the end of social relevance, waiting for death. The pinnacle of the Western cycle usually happens sometime in the second stage, or even the first. After that, we just fade away.

The Hindu cycle—idealized as it is—points to a second half of life in which withdrawal from society is linked to spiritual realization, the creation of new meaning. I want to go for it. What am I waiting for? Retirement? That’s too late.

On the Inner World

“We do not regard it as pathologically deviant to explore a jungle or climb Mount Everest. We are far more out of touch with even the nearest approaches of the infinite reaches of inner space than we now are with the reaches of outer space. We respect the voyager, the explorer, the climber, the space man. It makes far more sense to me as a valid project–indeed, as a desperately and urgently required project for our time–to explore the inner space and time of consciousness. . . . We are so out of touch with this realm that many people can now argue seriously that it does not exist. Small wonder that it is perilous indeed to explore such a lost realm. The situation I am suggesting is precisely as though we had all had almost total lack of any knowledge whatever of what we call the outer world. What would happen if some of us then started to see, hear, touch, smell, taste things? We would hardly be more confused than the person who first has vague intimations of, and then moves into, inner space and time.”

–R.D. Laing, Politics of Experience

“In a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions. There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who influenced whom to say what when? Even in this age of technology the verbal humanities are honored. The non-verbal humanities, the arts of being directly aware of the given facts of our existence, are almost completely ignored. A catalogue, a bibliography, a definitive edition of a third-rate versifier’s ipissima verba, a stupendous index to end all indexes—any genuinely Alexandrian project is sure of approval and financial support. But when it comes to finding out how you and I, our children and grandchildren, may become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to the Spirit, less apt, by psychological malpractices, to make ourselves physically ill, and more capable of controlling our own autonomic nervous system—when it comes to any form of non-verbal education more fundamental (and more likely to be of some practical use) than Swedish drill, no really respectable person in any really respectable university or church will do anything about it. Verbalists are suspicious of the non-verbal; rationalists fear the given, non-rational fact; intellectuals feel that ‘what we perceive by the eye (or in any other way) is foreign to us as such and need not impress us deeply.’ Besides, this matter of education in the non-verbal humanities will not fit into any established pigeon-holes. It is not religion, not neurology, not gymnastics, not morality or civics, not even experimental psychology. This being so the subject is, for academic and ecclesiastical purposes, non-existent and may safely be ignored altogether or left, with a patronizing smile, to those whom the Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy call cranks, quacks, charlatans and un qualified amateurs.”

–Aldous Huxley, Doors of Perception