Originally published in ‘Vision Mound’ magazine Vol 2 NO 8, 1979
THE ARGUMENT OF THE TWO-SIDED MAN WOMAN
by Bubba Free John (Adi Da Samraj) to the members of The Free Communion Church
BUBBA: Interest in transcendental spiritual Wisdom is only beginning to develop in the popular consciousness. And the interest that is now in evidence is, in most cases, not much more than an emotional response, a reaction to the frustrations of ordinary existence. The response is not yet intelligent. Thus, as soon as anyone becomes involved in the possibility of real spiritual practice, they begin to experience critical difficulties, and usually find reasons why he or she does not want to do it, or why it is too difficult. But one cannot properly approach the possibility of spiritual life through reasons with the mind. You may try to make your mental (or willful) gesture equal your emotional gesture toward the possibility of happiness, salvation, liberation, and realization—but you cannot succeed. You mistakenly think of yourself as an essentially rational and responsible being. This estimation of yourself seems to you to be justified, because you tend to have only one thought at a time! You forget that the thought you had just five minutes ago is often completely the opposite of the thought to which you are now totally committed!
The mind that you represent is self-divided, full of contradictions, a complex, not only of your own experiences and tendencies, but of the experiences and tendencies of your total society and of the entire world. All of human culture, all psychic life, the entire history of previous and even future psycho-physical existence, is present in you in the form of memory, tendency, and concept. Along with your primitive emotional gesture toward the practice of real or spiritual life, you also bring much mentality, much talk, and much conventional enthusiasm. Therefore, when I communicate to you, I am obliged to deal with your mind, which is not single, not simple, not truly rational. It has no form. It is filled with all kinds of concepts, beliefs, persuasions, and bits of knowledge. It holds them all in every moment, and yet you imagine yourself to be somehow responsible at the level of the mind.
You have a raw, primitive interest in truly human and spiritual practice, a mysterious impulse toward Divine Life, but your actual involvement in the process itself remains ambiguous. All kinds of thoughts, reasons, memories, and tendencies that have nothing to do with this raw impulse occupy your attention. The pure and unquenchable impulse toward real spiritual life is still latent in you, hidden beneath these distractions. Thus, to begin to engage the true practice of spiritual life, you must be purified of your conventional occupations—of memory, thought, tendency, concept, persuasion, and knowledge. These are obstructions to your participation in the ultimate spiritual process, which depends on the absolute intensification of the raw impulse or feeling that moves you to consider this transcendental Teaching and the whole affair of spiritual life. You are constantly involved with interpretations and concepts relative to the process of spiritual life, while at the same time you are moved to live it directly and with a will. Yet these concepts work against the real process, because, although you entertain them one at a time, they themselves represent a scheme of duality, full of oppositions, conflicts, arguments, and contradictions.
One of the concepts that arise to obstruct your response to spiritual life is the notion that asceticism, or the strategy of absolute bodily self-frustration, is the design, the structure, the logic of spiritual life. You constantly encounter this notion in yourself. Whenever you begin to enjoy yourself a little, you also consider the possibility of cutting off the enjoyment, of not experiencing it anymore, of not indulging it anymore, of not being caught doing it anymore. Guilt and shame and fear begin to arise each time you throw yourself into some feeling enjoyment. Such negative emotions enable you to contain yourself again, to return to meditating on yourself, like Narcissus, instead of dangling blissfully at Infinity with nothing to hold on to. The chronic negative reaction to enjoyment tends to support the notion that asceticism is the practical principle of spiritual life, and that you, for whatever reason, cannot live spiritual life, because you are not inclined to be an ascetic. Could it be true that spiritual life demands asceticism? If it is true, then you and all ordinary people like you are in trouble! If asceticism is the true principle, then your practice of simply living humanly, with some affection, discipline, and responsibility in ordinary relations, and eating a moderate lacto-vegetarian diet is not nearly enough. Your daily practice, even though relatively benign, is nothing like asceticism. Therefore, if asceticism is true, you may just as well exploit yourself with the libertines!
In the literature of the religious and spiritual traditions, a great voice argues for the point of view of asceticism. But what is asceticism? One of its aspects is the denial of functions, particularly the gross functions—vital, physical, emotional, sexual, and ordinary mental. According to the traditions, one can abandon these functions through the inversion or inwardness of attention. Asceticism is the turning of attention away from gross functions and toward any number of other and subtler (or internal) possibilities, depending on the tradition. If the tradition involves an ascending or mystical approach, attention is inverted, or turned away and in, toward what is above the heart, above the brows, toward mystical-psychic possibilities. In certain of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of asceticism, on the other hand, there is no fundamental orientation toward what is above the heart, what is functionally and psychically to be found by the ascent of attention in mystical practice. There is instead the radical asceticism that cuts away even identification with what is within and above the body and tries to find the Condition that exists before a single thing arises, low or high.
Thus, there are many schools in this ascetic path of the inversion of attention, each claiming a distinct attainment as the goal, and all resting on the fundamental assumption that the gross or earthly plane of life is only suffering and illusion, and that therefore one must invert attention and turn away from gross life in order to find happiness and Truth. It is obvious, however, that none of you is involved in anything like asceticism!
When, in your superficial mind and emotion, you are not feeling particularly fearful, sorrowful, angry, or full of doubt, when you have not been exploiting yourself greatly, when you have been “good”—when you have been working, enjoying your intimacies, eating a healthful diet—you begin to consider the expansive celebration of bodily life through indulgence of physical and sensual possibilities. You are interested in asceticism or the inversion of attention, but you are also and even more interested in the extroversion of attention, the forceful, energetic enlivening of the gross functions. You exploit the mind—you like to think about existence, about politics, about the daily news and the fulfillment of your personal destiny. You exploit the emotions—you like to feel the trees, feel the human condition, feel sex; you like to phase between romantic enthusiasms and angry, sorrowful, or fearful states of self-possession. And you exploit the vital—you become strong and very active. In this mood of extroversion, however, you do not usually become intelligently creative, and you do not tend to bring positive, forceful, effective energy into life and relationships. Instead, you usually find some way to exploit the body, through food and drink and sex and money and personal power, and thus become dull and enervated or empty of Life.
Whatever persuasion you may be following at any moment, this philosophy of extroversion is, in fact, the most common form of your thinking. The consideration of asceticism is fairly uncommon, at least among Western people. People may feel fear and guilt and sorrow and anger and doubt in reaction to their relational, vital, extroverted life, but rarely do they become interested in ascetic transformation, inversion of attention, and attainment of mystical states. The common “Western” persuasion is toward the things that are already arising. We are already physically alive in this elemental domain, already sexy and full of life and thinking and reacting and responding. Our primary philosophy, since we are so primitive, is the gravitation by mere association toward the things of the gross life, toward everything below the heart. Is it perhaps true, then, that the true way of life is not a matter of the inversion of attention, of renouncing, separating from, and escaping from the vital functions? Perhaps it is simply true that this elemental existence is all there is to life. Perhaps it is true that we think and we feel and we breathe and we sex and we walk and then we die eventually. Perhaps that is the extent of it. Perhaps the fundamental force of life is an irrational force, and perhaps we should throw ourselves into this obvious physical event and exploit it as we will, toward a short life or a long one. Could this possibly be the true way of life?
Which point of view is true? You yourself represent both of these inclinations, the outward and the inward. Which of them is true? Can you really make a decision? Has any of you decided between these two very intense arguments that you represent in your own body-mind?
All of you are divided between these two points of view. You are primarily committed to the exploitation of your gross functional life, to the fulfillment of your born state. Yet you are still very strongly and primitively moved toward the possibility that ascetic spiritual practice represents—the inversion of attention, silent meditation, liberation of the soul, realization of the self, yoga, mystical visions and transports, knowledge in higher, psychic, superconscious forms. You are an argument that has no ending, constantly alternating between these two points of view.
You represent both sides of this argument from time to time and in portions of yourself in every moment. Your body itself is an argument. But how do you make a decision? If you happen to be minimizing your diet or fasting, you become sympathetic with your ascetic inclinations, but if you are eating, working, and sexing as usual, then you want to be fulfilled in the functions of life. That is just how you are after all these years. Traditional yogis and saints and sages apparently were able to make such a decision, at great cost to themselves. It took a tremendous effort, a greater human effort than most people express in their ordinary living, but they were able to make the decision conclusively. They chose the principle of inversion. There have also been those who glamorize the extroversion of attention, who seem to have succeeded more than the average man at the exploitation of gross life. There have been great thinkers who thought profoundly, great artists who felt profoundly, great libertines who enjoyed sex profoundly. Consider all the other great beings who have accomplished great things all over the world while you have been arguing with yourself and fretting, unable to decide whether to extrovert yourself through the functions of life and live with tremendous energy or to introvert your attention and move away from this life forever. You have not yet made such a decision, and you do not show any signs of being about to make such a decision. Your life is basically mediocre.
What we call greatness, and what fascinates us in human history, is the ability to select one half of the argument, to concentrate exclusively in one of the two great alternatives that confront us, and thus to overcome the great conflict that smothers ordinary people. Those who make such a choice become archetypes, fantastic and heroic and legendary people. Ordinary men, however, only remain in the conflict, decisively choosing neither one principle nor the other. Sometimes they turn inward with their attention in ordinary psychological ways, becoming frightened or sorrowful, or reading about spiritual things and thinking about liberation and God. At other times they are simply confused in their relations, exploiting themselves sexually and failing at it, confused by the whole matter of life, afraid, and mortal.
What is this conflict between the extroversion of attention and the introversion of attention? Where does it come from? Why does it so fundamentally characterize our existence? This conflict does not arise out of our accumulation of experience. It is inherent in us. This division, this argument that every human being represents, is self-generated. It is an expression of the structure of the human body-mind, which is two-sided. The body-mind is a brain, a body, and a nervous system, each with two great functional divisions. Yet it is one body-mind. The conflict that we represent in our philosophy, our mediocre play of living, our ordinary psychology, our thinking and emotion, is pure anatomy. The left side of the human body-mind (or the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls the left side of the body) represents the tendency of the energies of the body-mind to invert, to contract and ascend toward the brain. The right side of the human body-mind (or the left side of the brain, which controls the right side of the body) represents the tendency of the energies of the body-mind to descend and to expand out into our relations from the vital regions—the solar plexus, navel, sex organs, and the base of the body. Those who become profoundly sensitive to the conflict that their own structure represents, and who have seen that struggle reflected in all of their experience, seem to make a decision. Though they may think that they are choosing a true or whole or right way of life, in fact these individuals only choose one side of the body over the other—and in this way they become the great human beings that fascinate mediocre human beings. If they choose the motive of the left side of the body, they become great yogis, saints, or sages. And if they choose the motive of the right side of the body, they become great explorers, warriors, lovers, poets, scientists, statesmen, or philosophers. They are willing to make a heroic gesture of concentration in the midst of the conflict that everyone suffers, and their exploits are fascinating to ordinary men and women. The adventures of great individuals seem to clarify the whole affair of our experience.
The clarity that great men of experience appear to manifest is the kind of clarity that comes from grasping a single thought and becoming completely involved with it to the exclusion of all other thoughts and experiences. Suddenly you feel free of the mood of conflict because you are absorbed in a single activity. But if you try to hold on to that singleness through time, the force of the opposite persuasion begins to weigh on your intention, until gradually you weaken and fall to the allure of the possible experiences of the other side. Then, for a while, you feel completely absorbed in the truth of that opposite point of view—until the original motive becomes compelling again.
That ambiguity characterizes you and all other ordinary or mediocre men and women. Inspired by the biography of a great yogi, you may suddenly focus your attention on yoga and God-Realization, but you would not become capable of the choice that the true yogi represents, even though you might be excited by it. Choosing to be a yogi might seem to make something single out of your whole being. For a time you might be sympathetic to the path of the yogi. You might imagine what it would be like to be a yogi and perhaps even take up some method that, you believe, represents spiritual life. At some point, however, your ordinary, extroverted, desiring life will begin to claim your attention again. Then you will have to read another autobiography, hear another talk about spiritual practice, and become stimulated again by the romantic possibilities of your own inwardness in order to maintain the feeling of the singleness, the truth, of that practice. You might be enraptured with the consideration of spiritual life through the biography of some spiritual individual, but when you see something fascinating on TV, or meet some sexually attractive person, or merely become distracted by anything through the gross mechanism of vital existence, suddenly the spiritual possibility loses its attractiveness. Either you wonder righteously how you could ever have become involved with such a life, or else, later, after you have indulged your extroverted inclinations, you begin to feel remorse and guilt because you indulged yourself and abandoned the spiritual path that you still believe to be right and true.
You are always tending toward both sides. That is the dilemma. Is Truth really a matter of choosing the left or the right, the introverted life or the extroverted life? It seems that there is something to choose when you consider this dilemma in philosophical terms. However, when you try to reconcile the philosophy of choice with the structure of our own existence, you can see how absurd such a choice is. The body is not obliged to choose one of its halves. The heroic adventure of choice, animated in great, fascinating lives, has nothing whatever to do with Truth. Although the yogis and the great adventurers are both sensitive to the conflict of manifest existence, their ways are not true solutions to that dilemma, and neither of their ways is the Way of Truth. Truth is neither up nor down—it is to be found in neither the extroversion nor the introversion of attention. The Real Condition of the body-mind is not realized by the exclusive motives of either the left or the right side of the body, of either the right or the left hemisphere of the brain. None of the alternatives in the argument of the divided body-mind is Truth.
Bubba Free John is one of those individuals who are very sensitive to the inherent argument that our structure represents. He also enjoyed from birth the capacity, the circumstantial possibility and strength of character, to exploit completely the two possibilities represented in the body-mind of Man. He engaged with great energy the experiences of the vital-physical, emotional-sexual, and mental extensions of gross life. Likewise, he engaged the possibilities for the inversion of attention, the capacity to go within, to go up, to have visions. But he could not make a final choice.
The autobiography in The Knee of Listening reveals that he could not ultimately choose one side of the body over the other—not because of some inherent weakness or limitation in his character; there was simply no logical way to make the choice. He considered all alternatives on the basis of the intelligence of the whole body itself. At times these possibilities were so bright, so interesting, so full, but they were never conclusive, because the whole body was aware of its inherent unity even in the midst of adventures that represented only a part of the whole body’s potential. Eventually all the possibilities of the whole body had appeared, and still there was no philosophy, no persuasion, that could permit Bubba Free John to choose any of the conventional, one-sided approaches to human existence.
He did not finally choose the conventional spiritual or mystical path. The path ot mystics is concerned with the inversion of attention, turning attention within and upward, away from the gross functions, or even beyond, upward, and away from all conditions toward the Absolute Principle from which all conditions arise. This path was not something Bubba Free John could decisively choose, although he could and did realize the experiential possibilities that awaken when one turns within. He did more than just entertain the possibility of mystical or inward experience—for a period of time he entered completely into the exploitation of such experience—but he could not ultimately choose inwardness. Nor could he simply choose the exploitation of gross experience, the extroversion of attention, the destiny of living out the limits of this birth in the physical world. Neither of those strategies could be chosen conclusively, although both dimensions could be experienced.
This is an uncommon position to realize, because the creative struggle of human beings is always viewed as a choice between introversion and extroversion. In the conventional point of view, human character is developed through the heroic choice by which one becomes single rather than divided. Likewise, human history is viewed as a process of profound human choices that move mankind. Great events and great possibilities excite and motivate us day by day. Thus, we are stimulated to choose one side of the body to the exclusion of the other, because all great possibilities represent only one half of our anatomical structure.
By becoming profoundly sensitive to the conflict—the inherent argument that our structure itself represents and projects in the form of experience—Bubba Free John arrived at the position of the whole body. While resting in that wholeness or Fullness, he was no longer mightily persuaded or disturbed by the argument of the left or that of the right, not mightily turned within nor mightily- turned without. He saw that Truth is the whole shape, with both sides equally conscious, both directions presently included within the form of awareness. The Way of life that is revealed on the basis of that sensitivity of the whole body is not the conventional heroic one of choosing between the two great alternatives. It is the Way of coming to rest in the native disposition of the whole body itself, which includes, but which is prior to, all the moments of the play wherein the two sides of every possibility come and go in cycles.
Thus, Bubba Free John does not recommend the mystical life of asceticism and inversion of attention. Nor does he proclaim that there are worlds above this one that are Truth, or that exclusively represent the possibility for liberation or God-Union. Neither does he recommend the ordinary life of existential commitment to the absurd patterns of gross existence. Rather, Bubba Free John represents a constant communication that unites, includes, and yet transcends both sides of the body, or both of the conventional ways of life. He demonstrates the completeness of the whole body, so that you, like him, will come to that moment of radical insight in which the essential, prior, and absolute Truth of the whole body and the whole world is completely obvious. Such Realization does not depend on your exploiting your possibilities until they eventually run out. They never do run out. Your possibilities will absolutely never run out. Whatever you exploit remains as tendency, as motion in you, that will continue without relief to impel you toward partial experiences until, while remaining in the stream of all experience, you become totally aware of this conflict between the halves of the body. In that intuitive awareness you are no longer confined to the lunar, subjective bind of your own sleeping two-sidedness, but are awake as the whole body, from the heart.*