A Children’s Book with Plotinian Themes, Followed By Book Chatter

If you’ve been keeping up with my monthly updates, you may recall that I mentioned switching to the Calm meditation app from Headspace in part because the mini-dharma talks are at the end of the meditation time instead of at the beginning. I would get excited by the discourse in Headspace and not be able to focus on the meditation, whereas when I do the Calm meditations, I’m already done with the meditation portion and can properly digest what was said.

Today’s meditation, “The Missing Piece,” referred to a children’s book by Shel Silverstein that I have not read. I do not consciously recall reading Silverstein as a toddler because I was reading ghost stories and pretending my dollhouse was a haunted house where the dead victims of murders wanted vengeance. The book is called The Missing Piece Meets The Big O, and it is basically a retelling of this section in Plotinus’ Ennead 1.6.9:

How, then, can you see the kind of beauty that a good soul has? Go back into yourself and look. If you do not yet see yourself as beautiful, then be like a sculptor who, making a statue that is supposed to be beautiful, removes a part here and polishes a part there so that he makes the latter smooth and the former just right until he has given the statue a beautiful face. In the same way, you should remove superfluities and straighten things that are crooked, work on the things that are dark, making them bright, and not stop ‘working on your statue’ until the divine splendour of virtue shines in you, until you see ‘Self-Control enthroned on the holy seat.’

Ennead 1.6, section 9, trans. Gerson et al.

Fortunately, there are eight billion story-times on YouTube.

It’s actually kind of fun that you could use this picture book to explain a lot of what Plotinus, Iamblichus, and Proclus are talking about insofar as the soul develops itself into a good enough state to have a nice vibe with the Gods. There’s also that fun sphere stuff in Platonism (about the best shape of things, AKA, spherical bodies) that makes this an even richer comparison.

Otherwise, I have to give a shoutout to Hermes Eriounes today for having me stumble across a new direction with some of the research I’ve been doing into healthy spiritual communities, teachers, and so on. I have started reading Holy Madness: Spirituality, Crazy-Wise Teachers, and Enlightenment by Georg Feuerstein, and I’m already making a lot of annotations (you can see most of them on Goodreads). I’ve also got The Guru Principle: A Guide to the Teacher-Student Relationship in Buddhism by Shenpen Hookham on the list, but the book from Feuerstein seemed like a better start. The way I got there was by doing a test search for something in a database that just added a new metric for sentiment analysis (note: those metrics do not seem to work because the AI-ish tool is bad at flagging paggro academic jargon) and finding something about Ralph Waldo Emerson in a book about American “gurus” and seeing a citation to something that was directly relevant to questions in a part of my life that isn’t work-related.

It may be slow-going at first because I need to finish a few things I’m currently reading before doing much beyond the introduction. Winifred Rose’s Heathen Soul Lore Foundations has been a fun contrasting read to the Platonism that I’m usually into, although conceptually, there are some things in there that have given me some vague ideas about how to approach/counter some of the bad takes about Platonism in the emergent ecology space because they keep saying the most horrible things about Platonism, and I’m learning that one of the big failures of 19th century American Platonists was them deciding that evolution couldn’t be. Currently these vague ideas are a note to myself from earlier today that basically says, “Forms of Animals are relational dimensionless gradients, it’s all gradients, it’s all sameness and difference and squishy matter spaces, libations, divine feasts, beautiful rowdy ordering of every last micrometer of any seat life could have the universe is amazing and the Demiurge was using the best paradigm ever, Animal Itself pours over worlds like water! GENERATION! WATER! POURING. LIBATIONS. What about irrational life and the community of cells? GUEST HOUSE IS GUESTIER THAN WE THOUGHT.” It’s a wonder that I can turn the way I think into anything coherent to other people sometimes.

Finally, if you’ve read The Soul’s Inner Statues in digital (it’s out in print on February 27), it’s on Goodreads now.

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