Jnana & Spiritism

From the perspective of Jnana Yoga, the finest function of the mind is to admit its inability to comprehend THAT which it is barely able to intuit during its most extreme moments of lucidity. In admitting its inability to fully comprehend such fleeting intuitions, the intellect is ready to accept that effacing itself is the only means for allowing the True Source of its consciousness to shine forth. In so doing, the intellect accomplishes the finest purpose for its being, which is to persuade the mind to step aside so that the light of our Real Self may shine through.

Automatic Expression and Spiritism

Regarding any “paranormal” forms of expression, the basic guiding premise applicable in these writings is that any experience of receiving “inspiration” or “messages” from any source other than our conscious has to be contemplated within either of the two main categories mentioned above: 1) Automatic Expression or, 2) Spiritism.  

The automatic expression I’ll refer to here is the one whose origins can be traced back to the surrealist movement first suggested by Apollinaire in the late 1910s and then developed by André Breton, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault, et al, during the 1920s. The spiritism I’ll refer to here can be first traced back to its practice in Sub-Saharan Africa from times immemorial and second to the spiritualist and spiritist practices first documented in Sweden in the 18th century and later in other parts of Europe and the United States from the 19th century on.

Automatic Writing is to be understood as the freeing of the unconscious’ ability to express itself in writing with as little as possible mediation from the part of the conscious. The DADA movement, from which splintered the surrealist movement and the practice of “Automatic Expression,” endeavored to break away from the conformist social, artistic and political parameters of the time (circa 1914-1924). Since those parameters were supposed to be ingrained in our conscious, the surrealists struggled to find ways for expressing art, thoughts and ideas that involved sources of inspiration lying beyond the restrictive frame of the conscious.  

Along those lines, the practice of Automatic Writing, Automatic Drawing, Automatic Painting and any other sort of “Automatic” expression, presupposed the ability of the human being to draw inspiration from sources of knowledge and creativity “dormant” in the unconscious or even in irrationality. Efforts to communicate with otherworldly entities were first embraced by Breton and the surrealist movement, but were eventually abandoned. (2) The technique of séances remained common to both practices, but their objectives were ultimately not the same. The creative processes the surrealists wanted to tap into were all within our minds, which means they were all in this world. Breton even slightly mocked spiritism in the Surrealist Manifesto.

Spiritism, on the other hand, has always presupposed two basic elements: 1) The existence of an otherworldly realm inhabited by beings capable and willing to communicate with humans and, 2) The ability of some humans to communicate with those otherworldly beings. The basic premise in spiritism, therefore, is that some human beings are able to serve as mouthpieces for the messages that some otherworldly entities want to convey to us.

However, regardless of how much validity the case of “Automatic” expression and the case of spiritism and otherworldly experiences may have in certain occasions, they seldom have a single speck of value when viewed from the perspective of Jnana Yoga or from the perspective of any discipline practiced with transcendental objectives in mind. Why would this be so?

Answering the Questions

To answer the question presented in the paragraph above, let’s first look further into the subject of automatic expression. As we mentioned above, the surrealists’ primary quest was to tap into sources of inspiration that lied dormant in the unconscious. Let’s remember that the unconscious is an intrinsic part of the mind. The unconscious is basically a storage mechanism that conceals from our conscious some very basic impulses and some other information about the world as it relates to us, which cannot be accessed at will.

So, basically, as much as the surrealists may have struggled to break away from the existing parameters of perception and expression of their time, they were actually just delving deeper into the roots of those existing parameters. Regardless of how hidden or unconscious the surrealists’ sources of inspiration may have been, the product of their inspiration would always have to be just another reflection of the reality around them, as the images, impulses and information stored in their unconscious would inevitably have been gathered from the same restrictive reality that they were trying to free their minds from.

(2) Among the surrealists, Robert Desnos was probably the most adept to spiritist practices, but he was also the one who had the most unpleasant experiences with them.

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