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From daily reading, my translation:

None of us has investigated what truth is, but each has delivered fear to another; no one has dared to come near to that by which disturbance arises and to know the nature and the good of his own fear. And so something false and empty is trusted still because it is not refuted. [6] We should consider it worthwhile to look carefully: then it will be apparent how brief, how fluid, how safe are the things that we fear. The confusion of our souls is such as it seemed to Lucretius:

for just as children are alarmed and fear everything | in the obscure shadows, so we fear everything in the light.

What of it? Are not we who fear everything in the light more foolish than every child? [7] But it is wrong, Lucretius, we do not fear everything in the light: we make everything into shadows. We see nothing, neither what harms nor what helps; for our entire life we rush forward nor we do either stop or step more considerately on account of this. You see how mad a thing it is to rush on in the dark. But, by Hercules, we press on to be recalled from a greater distance, and although we do not know where we are being carried, still we continue quickly in the direction to which we are tending. [8] But if we wish, day can break. In one way, however, can this happen: if someone acquires this knowledge of the human and the divine, if he doesn’t sprinkle it on himself, but imbues and dyes himself with it, if he reviews the same things, although he knows them, and often reproduces them to himself, if he investigates what things are good, what things are bad, to what things this name has been wrongly attributed, if he investigates what is honorable and what is shameful, and providence.

Read every ‘we,’ ‘us’ and similar as ‘the mind in the altered state investigating control systems in light of possibilism and eternalism’. My following commentary is a running gloss on the above:

The mind still attached to possibilism cannot know the truth, still has fear. The possibilism mind recoils from approaching the source of control instability and recoils from learning about the fear of loss of control and the good of switching to eternalism. Because the mind recoils, it does not refute but still trusts possibilism, although it is false and empty (alternate translation for ’empty’: illusory; empty like a void). If the mind looks [vision] closely at the fearful control instability, it becomes how obvious how quick and safe it is. But in the amplified light of the altered state that the mind turns on its control system the possibilism mind is confused and afraid, worse than children alarmed at shadows. The mind still attached to possibilism avoids the light, makes everything into shadows, rushes on through life in the dark, without seeing the fixed path that it travels. Light can come by getting knowledge of the human [possibilism doomed to die changing] and the divine [eternal immortal unchanging eternalism]. The mind must not just sprinkle, but immerse itself in that knowledge [loose cog liquid metaphor]. The mind must remind itself again and again. The mind must learn the true meaning of morality and words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘honor’ and ‘shame’. Finally, it must learn providence [i.e. eternalism, pictured here as perfect fixed future foresight].

Original Latin:

Nemo nostrum quid veri esset excussit, sed metum alter alteri tradidit; nemo ausus est ad id quo perturbabatur accedere et naturam ac bonum timoris sui nosse. Itaque res falsa et inanis habet adhuc fidem quia non coarguitur. [6] Tanti putemus oculos intendere: iam apparebit quam brevia, quam incerta, quam tuta timeantur. Talis est animorum nostrorum confusio qualis Lucretio visa est:

nam veluti pueri trepidant atque omnia caecis
in tenebris metuunt, ita nos in luce timemus.

Quid ergo? non omni puero stultiores sumus qui in luce timemus? [7] Sed falsum est, Lucreti, non timemus in luce: omnia nobis fecimus tenebras. Nihil videmus, nec quid noceat nec quid expediat; tota vita incursitamus nec ob hoc resistimus aut circumspectius pedem ponimus. Vides autem quam sit furiosa res in tenebris impetus. At mehercules id agimus ut longius revocandi simus, et cum ignoremus quo feramur, velociter tamen illo quo intendimus perseveramus. [8] Sed lucescere, si velimus, potest. Uno autem modo potest, si quis hanc humanorum divinorumque notitiam acceperit, si illa se non perfuderit sed infecerit, si eadem, quamvis sciat, retractaverit et ad se saepe rettulerit, si quaesierit quae sint bona, quae mala, quibus hoc falso sit nomen adscriptum, si quaesierit de honestis et turpibus, de providentia.

From Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 210-211:

It is in Stoicism that the exercise of physics takes on its full value. More than anyone, the Stoic is conscious of being in contact with the entire universe at every moment, for the entire universe is implied within each present moment:

Whatever happens to you was prepared in advance for you for all eternity, and the interweaving of causes has always woven together your substance and your encounter with this event. [Marcus Aurelius, 10.5]

This event which comes to meet you has happened to you, has been coordinated with you, has been placed in relation to you because it has been spun together with you since the beginning, from the most distant causes. [Marcus Aurelius, 5.8.12]

Each event which comes to meet you has been linked to you by destiny, and has been spun together with you from the All, since the beginning. [Marcus Aurelius, 4.26]

Thus, the self’s concentration on the present moment and its dilation into the cosmos are realized in one single instant. In the words of Seneca, “He enjoys the present without depending on what does not yet exist. … He is without hope and without desire; he does not hurl himself toward an uncertain goal, for he is satisfied with what he has. Nor is he satisfied with little, for what he possesses is the universe. … Like God, he says: ‘All this belongs to me.'” [On Benefits 7.2.5, 3.3] At each moment, therefore, and with each event that I encounter, I am in relation with the entire past and future development of the universe. The Stoic choice of life consists precisely in being able to say “Yes!” to the universe in its totality, and therefore to want what happens to happen as it happens. As Marcus Aurelius says to the universe: “I love along with you!” It is physics that allows us to understand that all is within all, and that, as Chrysippus said, a single drop of wine can be mixed with the entire sea and diffused throughout the whole world. [in Plutarch, On Common Notions, 1078e

Consent to fate and to the universe, renewed on the occasion of each event, is thus lived and practiced physics. This exercise consists in placing our individual reason in accord with Nature, which is universal Reason. This is the same as making ourselves equal to the Whole, plunging into the All, ceasing to be “human beings” and becoming “Nature.” This tendency to strip ourselves of “the human” is constant throughout the most diverse schools – from Pyrrho, who remarked on how hard it is to strip ourselves of the human, to Aristotle, for whom life according to the mind is superhuman, and as far as Plotinus, who believed that in mystical experience we cease to be “human.”

From P. Hadot (2002), What is Ancient Philosophy?, 202-206

From the Epicurean tradition:

“For the spirit plunges into immeasurable and infinite space, and extends itself so as to traverse it in all directions, never seeing any borders or limits at which it might stop.” Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, 1.54

“Since space stretches to infinity beyond the walls of the world, the spirit seeks to know what is in this immensity, into which it can plunge its gaze as far as it wishes and where it can soar in free, spontaneous flight.” Lucretius 2.1044-1047

“The walls of the world fly apart. I see things hurled about within the immense void. … The earth does not stop me from distinguishing all that is happening beneath my feet, in the depths of the void. At the sight, I find myself seized by a kind of shudder of divine pleasure.” Lucretius 3.16, 30.

“Remember that, although born a mortal and having received a limited life, you have nevertheless risen, through the science of nature, up to eternity, and that you have seen the infinity of things: those that shall be and those that have been.” Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 10.

From the Stoic tradition:

“Tell us instead how natural it is for man to unfold his thought into the infinite. The human soul is a grand and noble thing. The only limits it accepts are those it has in common with God himself. … Its homeland is that which encloses the sky and the world by its circular movement.” Seneca, Letters, 102.21

“The soul achieves all the fulfillment and completion of happiness that the human condition can attain when it reaches the heights, and enters the heart of nature. … It likes to soar amid the stars, … When it arrives there, it nourishes itself and grows. Freed from its bonds, it returns to its origin.” Seneca, Natural Questions 1.Prologue.7, 12

“The soul travels through the entire world, and the void which surrounds it, and its form. And it extends into the infinity of endless time, and embraces and conceives of the periodic rebirth of the universe.” Marcus Aurelius, 11.1.3

“To embrace the paths of the stars in our gaze, as if they were carrying us along in their revolutions, and constantly to think of the transformations of the elements into one another – such representations purify us of the stains of terrestrial life.” Marcus Aurelius, 7.47.1

“Constantly imagine the totality of the world, and the totality of the real.” Marcus Aurelius, 10.17

From the Platonic tradition:

“When men aspire to a life of peace and serenity, they contemplate nature and all that is within it. … In thought, they accompany the moon, the sun, and the movements of the other stars, fixed or wandering. To be sure, their bodies remain on earth, but they give wings to their souls, so that they can rise into the ether and observe the powers which dwell there, as is fitting for men who have become citizens of the world.” Philo of Alexandria, De specialibus legibus, 2.45

From the astronomer Ptolemy, influenced by Platonic, Stoic, and Aristotelian doctrines:

“I know I am mortal and last only a day. Yet when I accompany the dense ranks of stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth. Besides Zeus himself, I drink my fill of ambrosia, like a god.” Palatine Anthology, 9.577

Hadot, p. 205: the philosopher “becomes aware of his being within the All, as a minuscule point of brief duration, but capable of dilating into the immense field of infinite space and of seizing the whole of reality in a single intuition. The “I” thus experiences a twofold feeling: that of its puniness, as it sees its corporeal individuality lost in the infinity of space and time; and that of its greatness, as it experiences its power to embrace the totality of things.”

Seneca, Epistle 71.27:

Non educo sapientem ex hominum numero nec dolores ab illo sicut ab aliqua rupe nullum sensum admittente summoveo. Memini ex duabus illum partibus esse compositum: altera est inrationalis, haec mordetur, uritur, dolet; altera rationalis, haec inconcussas opiniones habet, intrepida est et indomita. In hac positum est summum illud hominis bonum. Antequam impleatur, incerta mentis volutatio est; cum vero perfectum est, inmota illi stabilitas est.

My translation:

I don’t remove the wiseman from the number of men nor do I take away pains from him as if from some rock that lets in no sensation. I keep in mind that he is composed of two parts: the one is irrational – this is bitten, burned, feels pain; the other is rational – this possesses opinions unshaken, it is unafraid and unconquered. In this is placed that highest good of humans. Before it is filled, the mind has an unfixed rolling about; but when it is complete, it has an unmoved stability.


The mind that exclusively uses the irrational unstable egoic control system suffers pain in the altered state, it is shaken, it is afraid, it is conquered. The mind that uses the deterministic control system, the perfected, filled mind, is unshaken, unafraid, unconquered, it possesses an unmoved stability.

This passage is part of a larger argument that while the wiseman suffers harm, he is not disturbed.

The irrational part is the egoic system of control. The rational part is the deterministic/transcendent system of control. The mind first uses the egoic system of control exclusively. This is characterized by irrationality and instability, the unfixed rolling about of my translation (Seneca’s incerta … volutatio). Seneca describes the egoic system of control as if it were the body – the body feels pain. Seneca allows the wiseman to feel pain in the body, i.e. the egoic control system understood. He denies that the wiseman is disturbed by that pain in the mind, i.e. the deterministic control system.

When reading ancient philosophy, understand [body = egoic control system] and [mind = deterministic/transcendent control system].

Seneca culminates his treatise, De Tranquillitate Animi (On the Tranquillity of the Mind), with practical advice: Habes, Serene carissime, quae possint tranquillitatem tueri, quae restituere, quae subrepentibus uitiis resistant. Illud tamen scito, nihil horum satis esse ualidum rem imbecillam seruantibus, nisi intenta et assidua cura circumit animum labentem (17.12)

From C. D. N. Costa’s translation: So here you have, my dear Serenus, the means of preserving your tranquillity, the means of restoring it, and the means of resisting the faults that creep up on you unawares.  But be sure of this, that none of them is strong enough for those who want to preserve such a fragile thing, unless the wavering mind is surrounded by attentive and unceasing care.

This is the very end of the treatise.  Preceding this conclusion, Seneca has prescribed various methods to achieve the goals he lists.  The final method, it’s final position lending it greater importance, is to drink wine.  Per the current, normal, standard scholarly view, we should interpret this wine, and all other wine in antiquity, as fermented grape juice.  Per Hoffman (the Egodeath theory), Hillman (the Chemical Muse), and others (Michael Rinella, Carl Ruck, etc.), we should interpret this wine. as fermented grape juice mixed with psychotropic plants.

Let’s see what Seneca has to say about wine in this passage and see if the way he talks about wine favors one interpretation: Indulgendum est animo dandumque subinde otium, quod alimenti ac uirium loco sit. Et in ambulationibus apertis uagandum, ut caelo libero et multo spiritu augeat attollatque se animus; aliquando uectatio iterque et mutata regio uigorem dabunt, conuictusque et liberalior potio. Nonnumquam et usque ad ebrietatem ueniendum, non ut mergat nos, sed ut deprimat: eluit enim curas et ab imo animum mouet et, ut morbis quibusdam, ita tristitiae medetur, Liberque non ob licentiam linguae dictus est inuentor uini, sed quia liberat seruitio curarum animum et asserit uegetatque et audaciorem in omnes conatus facit. 9 Sed, ut libertatis, ita uini salubris moderatio est. Solonem Arcesilanque indulsisse uino eredunt; Catoni ebrietas obiecta est: facilius efficient crimen honestum quam turpem Catonem. Sed nec saepe faciendum est, ne animus malam consuetudinem ducat, et aliquando tamen in exsultationem libertatemque extrahendus tristisque sobrietas remouenda paulisper. 10 Nam, siue graeco poetae credimus, “aliquando et insanire iucundum est”; siue Platoni, “frustra poeticas fores compos sui pepulit”; siue Aristoteli, “nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit”. 11 Non potest grande aliquid et super ceteros loqui nisi mota mens. Cum uulgaria et solita contempsit instinctuque sacro surrexit excelsior, tunc demum aliquid cecinit grandius ore mortali. Non potest sublime quicquam et in arduo positum contingere, quamdiu apud se est: desciscat oportet a solito et efferatur et mordeat frenos et rectorem rapiat suum, eoque ferat quo per se timuisset escendere (17.8-11).

C. D. N. Costa’s translation: We must indulge the mind and from time to time allow it the leisure which is its food and strength.  We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air.  At times it will acquire fresh energy from a journey by carriage and a change of scene, or from socializing and drinking freely.  Occasionally we should even come to the point of intoxication, sinking into drink but not being totally flooded by it; for it does wash away cares, and stirs the mind to its depths, and heals sorrow just as it heals certain diseases.  Liber [Another name for Bacchus/Dionysius, and, by extension, synonymous with wine] was not named because he loosens the tongue, but because he liberates the mind from its slavery to cares, emancipates it, invigorates it, and emboldens it for all its undertakings. But there is a healthy moderation in wine, as in liberty. Solon and Arcesilas are thought to have liked their wine, and Cato has been accused of drunkenness; whoever accused him will more easily make the charge honourable than Cato disgraceful. But we must not do this often, in case the mind acquires a bad habit; yet at times it must be stimulated to rejoice without restraint and austere soberness must be banished for a while. For whether we agree with the Greek poet that ‘Sometimes it is sweet to be mad,’ or with Plato that ‘A man sound in mind knocks in vain at the doors of poetry,’ or with Aristotle that ‘No great intellect has been without a touch of madness,’ only a mind that is deeply stirred can utter something noble and beyond the power of others. When it has scorned everyday and commonplace thoughts and risen aloft on the wings of divine inspiration, only then does it sound a note nobler than mortal voice could utter. As long as it remains in its senses it cannot reach any lofty and difficult height: it must desert the usual track and race away, champing the bit and hurrying its driver in its course to a height it would have feared to scale by itself.

How detailed of an argument do I need to make?  Are we to think that Seneca (and Plato and Aristotle, among others) attributed divine inspiration to fermented grape juice?  Seneca explicitly says that wine produces an out-of-body experience, just as psychotropics do.  What’s more, he praises this intoxication as an aid to tranquility and a means of expressing noble thoughts.

There is more to be written about here in light of the Egodeath themes of intoxication, madness, slavery, and liberation.  The presence of these themes only supports the interpretation of psychotropic mixed wine.  I’ll save their further explication for a later time.  At this time I just wanted to point out that Seneca links wine with madness/divine inspiration.  Does fermented grape juice cause these effects?

Immediately I want to follow up my last post.  I’m reminded of some of Hoffman’s writings about insights arriving just as he tried to stop working.

For one thing, it would really be better if I provided my own translations or, even better, wrote a commentary for the Latin/Greek passages.  Since the Ego Death theory is a new way of reading texts, it is important to know what the original language says, not what a translation written by someone with no knowledge of mystic metaphor says.  The passage will contain in the original language shades of meaning important to altered state dynamics which would be tough to reproduce in translation, even if the translator were aware of the them and actively tried to reproduce them.

Translations are useful for us because we can read our native language much quicker than ancient languages and therefore absorb a lot of information at a faster pace.  But given that the translations available were prepared before the advent of the Ego Death theory, close readings of the original texts is necessary to fully map out the depth of the altered state metaphor.

Over the past few months, I’ve found it increasingly easier to identify altered state metaphor in classical texts.  I still want to be able to be able to see the metaphor quickly and completely, but given time, a close reading, and careful thought, I’ve been able to directly link every text I’ve looked at, or at least suggest where the links will be located, to the Ego Death theory.  (Of course, I should put my money where my mouth is and start posting my interpretations!  Still, as I already wrote today, I have exams I need to focus on.)  What texts are the most valuable to show altered state dynamics in?  Where should I direct my energies first?  Hillman, Ruck, and others have pointed out the presence of the plants themselves in classical literature.  To show the complete normalcy of visionary plant use in Antiquity, I need to cast the net farther.  Reflections of altered state experiences are present throughout classical literature.  These altered state insights in turn demonstrate visionary plant use.  Coming from the other side, the normalcy of visionary plant use, per Hillman, points to the constant presence of altered state insights in classical literature.  It’s really not tough to find these altered state insights.  The Ego Death theory provides a tool, easily graspable, for identifying altered state insight.

To return to my present example: Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi.  I said that I suspected that the work was not meant to reflect first-time Ego Death experiences and instead showed an application of altered state insights to the pressures of life, etc.  This might imply that the text lacks immediacy.  I don’t want to imply that. In any case, Seneca goes on like this:

10.4: Assuescendum est itaque condicioni suae et quam minimum de illa querendum et quicquid habet circa se commodi apprehendendum: nihil tam acerbum est, in quo non aequus animus solacium inueniat. Exiguae saepe areae in multos usus discribentis arte patuerunt, et quamuis angustum pedem dispositio fecit habitabilem. Adhibe rationem difficultatibus: possunt et dura molliri et angusta laxari et grauia scite ferentes minus premere.

Translation by C. D. N. Costa: So you have to get used to your circumstances, complain about them as little as possible, and grasp whatever advantage they have to offer: no condition is so bitter that a stable mind cannot find some consolation in it.  Often small areas can be skillfully divided up to allow room for many uses and arrangement can make a narrow piece of ground inhabitable.  Think your way through difficulties: harsh conditions can be softened, restricted ones can be widened, and heavy ones can weigh less on those who know how to bear them.

Seneca describes a person in servitude (10.3, found in my last post) and then recommends a way out of that servitude.  Rather, there is no way out of that servitude, but instead Seneca urges a transformation of that person’s mental world model to take into account his servitude (I can’t resist using Ego Death terminology).  You must become accustomed to your condition.  In Ego Death terms, you are not the locus of your own control power.  Get used to it; it’s no use complaining about it.  There is still solace, even in this situation.  My note above about translation applies to the Latin phrase adhibe rationem difficultatibus.  Costa translates, “think your way out of difficulties.”  I would instead more exactly translate, “apply reason to difficulties.”  You are stuck in servitude, i.e. altered state entrapment.  Use your reason, your intellect.  As Hoffman argues throughout, mystic insight is rational, even if a transcendent leap and a reliance on a power beyond reason is required to restore practical control.  What follows immediately on Seneca’s encouragement?  Seneca does not promise freedom, but instead says that harsh things are able to be softened, narrow things can be widened, and heavy things press less those who know how to endure.  Although you are not free (this is harsh, narrow, and heavy, and experienced that way – in Ego Death terms, frozen helpless embeddedness in space-time) you can become accustomed, through reason, to this new condition.  (rock lyric flash: compare Beatles, “Boy, you’re going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.”)

The two passages I’ve written about today were plucked from the middle of one of Seneca’s philosophical works.  Such Ego Death theory themes as time, servitude, power, and philosophy are central pre-occupations in Seneca’s writings.  I suspect Seneca would look at the Ego Death theory and say “That’s it.  Yes.  That’s what I’m talking about.”  (separated by another culture and some 2000 years).

Here’s a brief excerpt from Seneca.  I should start posting these as I come across them, begin a sort-of online database, a collection of altered-state infused passages, notes for further research.

De Tranquillitate Animi 10.3: Omnes cum fortuna copulati sumus: aliorum aurea catena est ac laxa, aliorum arta et sordida, sed quid refert? Eadem custodia uniuersos circumdedit alligatique sunt etiam qui alligauerunt, nisi forte tu leuiorem in sinistra catenam putas. Alium honores, alium opes uinciunt; quosdam nobilitas, quosdam humilitas premit; quibusdam aliena supra caput imperia sunt, quibusdam sua; quosdam exsilia uno loco tenent, quosdam sacerdotia. Omnis uita seruitium est.

Translation by C. D. N. Costa: We are all tied to Fortune, some by a loose and golden chain, and others by a tight one of baser metal: but what does it matter?  We are all held in the same captivity, and those who have bound others are themselves in bonds – unless you think perhaps that the left-hand chain is lighter.  One man is bound by high office, another by wealth; good birth weighs down some, and a humble origin others; some bow under the rule of other men and some under their own; some are restricted to one place by exile, others by priesthoods: all life is a servitude.

The themes of the Egodeath theory, i.e. control, slavery, levels of control, etc., are all clearly present here.  Seneca applies lessons of altered state experiences, i.e. no-free-will experience, self-will nullity, to the circumstances of life – wealth, birth status, political conditions, etc.  This is not a text about the first Ego Death experiences (as so many acid rock songs are, for example), but is informed by a complete familiarity with altered state insight.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
August 2017
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