In Praise of Holy Madness

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Agonizing divinity

The first time I experienced a human window into “something other” was in 1972 with hipster holy man Stephen Gaskin. At one point it was very clear that he was experiencing samadhi, the nature of which could be glimpsed. Another time was the birth of my children, that moment when the infant opens its eyes briefly and gives you that unearthly glance of recognition, and the whole room is filled with a funky penetrating electricity that literally smells like the flesh being made holy … as the kid’s eyes give off a flash that says, “Yes we know each other and always will across space and eternity.”

But there is also the terrible anxious look of the sadhu of the burning ghats, the madman, and others connected to that same eternity from which the baby’s consciousness flashed. I have seen far more of this than the blissful kind, which should probably tell me something about the nature of things. Sometimes it is the ecstasy in a Hare Krishna’s eyes, other times it is the look of the universal agony of existence, the sort to which we respond when we behold a legless beggar in Varanasi, India or a homeless schizophrenic in Washington D.C. or Scranton. Agony/divinity. About the worst news I ever got from the pursuit of these things was that enlightenment and truth is all suffering and no bliss, which was always the point. There is no free prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box. Just increased consciousness of the world’s suffering. Anyway, when Bob sent me an email, part of which is excerpted below, I suspected I was about to meet another mad adept, or maybe just a madman, either of which prospect always delights me.

Rubber hair transfiguration

As to Etowah being the Rubberized Hair Capital:

When I was young, my home town Etowah was the rubberized hair capital of the world. There was a BIG sign at the city limit informing travelers of that dubious horror/honor. The stuff was bright green. It was hog hair coated with stiff, green rubber. People actually did that for a living—they did that with their lives. Then came the Eighties and the hair plant closed down. All those deaths and maimings on the loading platform of the rubberized hair plant rendered pointless. A few of the dismembered and widowed collected big settlements from the railroad or the plant but, usually, they spent it all frivolously and now live in penury—but with some stories to tell. The richest people in town, the rubberized hair barons, went bankrupt and their family estate is now a Rodeway Inn and McDonalds. Spooky transfigurations took place. The carcasses of abandoned textile mills have been turned into what might loosely be called “outlets,” cavernous holes simply DUMPED full of discarded, outdated, broken merchandise. When I say, “DUMPED”, I mean, “DUMPED”. It is piled up on the floor, sometimes to the ceiling. Much caution is required when walking through lest one be crushed under shifting/falling merchandise. I’m not kidding. Now if you venture far enough back into one of these monstrosities—and down, down, into the belly—you will find amidst the crumbling, raw subterranean concrete and filthy molded block and exposed, termite eaten wood… suddenly a gleaming modern glass facade and, behind it, luxurious big-city-like air-conditioned offices where well-dressed people seem to be doing something useful while sitting on polished chrome and leather furniture with fake Motherwells and Pollocks on the wall. It’s just fucking weird . . .

Deepak Chopra, get a job!

East and West, for the most part religion is synonymous with fraud, with the Pope, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and our president’s phony religious values being the icing on the Christian cultural cake of our times. Bob D— sees the same things in the low-fat spiritual icons of the left and the New Agers:

How has Deepak Chopra managed to express such Republican conservative values with no criticism whatsoever from the left? Chopra is the ultimate example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, a denizen of Oprah, and a spiritual guru for the superficial, self-serving rich in a miserable, dying world. Listen to him carefully. It’s the Benny Hinn/Robert Tilton/Creflo Dollar “gospel of prosperity”. (If you’re poor, you’re ungodly, and you got what you deserve. God prospers his people.) Chopra states overtly that material success is directly related to spiritual attainment. Oh, really? It would be news to Christ and Buddha.

I will concede the poor are spiritually bankrupt, but no more so than the rich. No more so than the many monasteries and religious communities I have visited. IT’S ALL OF US (on the other hand, the left seems to think the poor are all saints by virtue of their poverty. And I DO think the poor have a more valid excuse for their crimes.) Then Chopra drives in the stake, decrying “throwing money at social problems” and the says, “where you see poverty it is the expression of a deeper impoverishment—the soul, the spirit screaming for nourishment”. Conspicuous by its absence from Chopra’s words is any mention of integrity, ethics, morals, self-sacrifice, commitment, and renunciation. The message, essentially, is, “FUCK YOU! GET A JOB!” Another rhetorical point scored for General Motors and Phillips Petroleum. God comes home to the Wall Street Journal. But this IS America, where everybody is a businessman and Chopra makes his pitch with that sweet, smiling, gentle face reminiscent of Ted Bundy. Chopra’s place is in Beverly Hills telling rich people what they want to hear—for money. And will Chopra read this, sneak in while I’m asleep and beat me to death with $150 ayurvedic bars of soap in one of his Versace silk stockings?

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“How has Deepak Chopra managed to express such Republican conservative values with no criticism whatsoever from the left? Chopra is the ultimate example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, a denizen of Oprah, and a spiritual guru for the superficial, self-serving rich in a miserable, dying world. Listen to him carefully. It’s the Benny Hinn/Robert Tilton/Creflo Dollar “gospel of prosperity”. (If you’re poor, you’re ungodly, and you got what you deserve. God prospers his people.) Chopra states overtly that material success is directly related to spiritual attainment. Oh, really? It would be news to Christ and Buddha.”

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, my friend!!

I have never even read anything by him, in all honesty, but my deepest gut instincts tell me to stay the fuck away.. Thank you for providing the reason. I knew I wasn’t crazy. Well, maybe just a little.

I also have a deep love for Holy Madmen.
I am reminded of the guy I met on the bus once, who told me, “I am Jesus!”  Yes!! My friend, you are!!  I understood that, that epiphany of prior unity, only my head went somewhere else with it, so that I don’t tell strangers on the bus about it, but live it as a moral duty and a spiritual necessity, in the way we all should, if we cared.

Posted by Chandira  on  02/11  at  09:45 AM
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