Let me make this claim that’s valid for me in all situations:
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is sexier than mental stability.
Several cards in the tarot suggest balance: Justice and Temperance are the prime candidates, but when you think of it, even the Charioteer needs to be in control of his horses if he’s to get anywhere. The Star suggests peace of mind, the Sun stresses a clear agenda in the head, and the World spells out perfect stability.
All good, but before you get there, to discerning what is just, or to mixing perfect concoctions whether of the mind’s fabrications or something else, what do you do?
There’s one instruction only in the Buddhist cannon of teachings that I find the most useful among the arsenal of spiritual schools and manifestations: ‘Take hold of your mind.’
Indeed, without taking hold of your mind, you won’t even realize this truth, namely, that every phenomena that arises in the mind is the product of the mind. Without this realization you go through life mirroring and identifying with reflections that have no substance but that you think are fixed relations, stable, and worthy of your idealism. You praise your emotional intensity, and call your general dissatisfaction with life or dramatic rollercoaster ‘passion’.
But what we call emotion is a phenomenon that arises in the mind, hence the product of the mind. You can’t even think, or say: ‘I’m emotional today,’ without using words. And what are words? Symbolic glyphs that a community decides ‘mean’ something. Right. So now we know where we’re at.
When the Hermit is in the picture, he points to the context where it’s possible to distinguish between stable and unstable states of mind. What enables discerning between passion and drama, peace of mind and obsession, is the act of disengaging from the workings of desire through language.
What the Hermit does when he retreats his steps from the conceptual frames of culture that dictate what we supposedly need is take hold of his mind.
Taking hold of your mind is the most exciting enterprise in my book, as I identify in this move a strong desire to just live life, ride the wave, and not give a fuck in a most detached way.
I bring in detachment here, as the condition for not giving a fuck is understanding what projection is all about. This includes not only realizing that our minds operate with thoughts that are the product of language and culture, but also realizing that we can get attached even to our excitement in holding this realization of how the mind works. Any form of excitement is the opposite of mental balance.
Some would say, ‘how boring, what makes us human and interesting is our passions, getting excited about the Devil who enslaves us so we can feel life throbbing in our efforts to exert our agency, enjoy the illusion of giving and receiving commands, asking Hekate and Hermes to respond to our devotions, and generally looking for fixtures that are as far removed from the idea of taking hold of our minds as possible.’
Indeed, if we must polarize the relations, I’d say that the card in the Tarot that emphasizes the opposite of mental stability is not the Fool but the Devil, as the Devil’s business is to convince us that the altars we cling to are IT, when they are not.
In contrast, I find the Hermit a more accurate expression of Eros, because he makes the realization that everything that’s external to the mind is not life itself, but objects.
In our encounter with the mind, we can experience orgasmic bliss that has a counter intuitive force than the one that has us fall into another’s embrace: ‘Fuck all this,’ the Hermit says, while knowing the void that both gives rise to desire and returns desire to itself.
When the Hermit holds up his lamp, what he does is invite us to consider what we question and what we mirror.
As a quick experiment on how mirroring works, ask yourself about the nature of your statement every time you feel inclined to say, ‘me too’, in response to what other people offer in terms of story.
Where does ‘me too’ come from? Shared experience, familiarity, or the stylization of acts?
When you ask questions about the nature of what you’re saying and way, what you do is disengage from cultural pre-conditioning.
The consequence of disengaging from language and its discontents is that it makes you realize that just as the mind is a mirror, reflecting anything you put in front of it, so are your stylized gestures.
You owe it to your body and your corporality to know anything at all. The body learns through repetition and imitation. You see people walk on two legs, you stand up yourself and take small steps. You repeat the process and before you know it, you win a marathon and get a gold medal for it.
Where it goes wrong is when such stylized, repeated acts are assigned meaning. Walking is not the result of having understood the meaning of walking. Walking is walking. If walking has meaning it’s because someone somewhere created a narrative about it, a story, a myth that turned into a legend, or an instruction into self-help.
We all live through mirroring, but not all of us identify with the reflections in the mirror.
Mirrors give us insight into what the buddhists call ‘relative reality’. But the mirror itself is empty, which makes it a good metaphor for the absolute reality, the reality that’s beyond the conceptual, and as such immovable.
The Hermit’s lamp excites our Eros, making us present to ourselves, following our nature that has nothing to do with the language of desire. Just as a stream of water runs down every time, following its nature and the low of gravity without ever asking itself, ‘what is my purpose?, so the one who takes hold of her mind follows her nature independently of the rhyming patterns that her mind is also capable of creating, rhymes between thoughts and their synchronous manifestation.
The Hermit says:
Being present means the following: If you go about doing your thing, whatever it is, from work to shallow thinking or obsession, can you hear the dogs barking? If you can, you’re present. If you’re not aware of everything that goes around you, even as you concentrate on the one thing that preoccupies your mind, then you’re not present.
If you can hear the dogs barking, then the crazy, becomes marvelous. Taking hold of your mind means getting naked to yourself, and dancing to the edge of town. The dogs are barking, the caravan is passing.