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The Enlightened Shakespeare

Odysseus: Hero of Consciousness

All writings and art work
on this site ©2014 Jan Cox
(an audio version of this story is available on Audio page)
All writings and art work
on this site ©2014 Jan Cox
(an audio version of this story is available on Audio page)

cIf this struggle to, as we call it "wake up,” were nothing but a wearisome, burdensome affair and were not entertaining, then no one would do it, not even me. On the way here tonight, one or two lines of MacBeth hit me about, "It's the attempt that confounds us and not the deed itself."  This caught my attention in such a way that I went back and dug up MacBeth and got through about half of it.  I decided that, up to the point that I took it, it is a splendid story. If you have never looked at things this way, consider that everyone is struggling to awaken in his or her own way.  This is true especially of writers, artists, poets, psychologists, historians--anyone who is sincerely involved in "trying to figure man out”--is struggling to awaken, whether they know the term or not.

 I'm going to quote Shakespeare tonight, though I don't mean to overdo it.  As you know there are still debates and argument over whether a man named Shakespeare even wrote all of these stories and plays.  There are people who claim that he couldn't have because of the lack of education and sophistication.  The man is not important.  As I always point out, whatever I may have taken from Buddhism, Buddha is not important.  It doesn’t matter whether such a person existed, but that is not the way ordinary minds ordinarily think.  Whether it was a man with that name, or someone else, rather than worry about who, consider it was the cellular activity in one man's brain in the late sixteenth century that wrote this.

 I'm telling you I only got halfway through, so I picked out seven lines that struck me.  Remember, MacBeth is a cellular message of awakening--it carries a message directly as old as that from Buddha's writings, the old testament, right up to the 1600's and what is happening today--a message from the cellular activity of one man's brain telling a story.  A story, by my analyzation, is those brain cells expressing their struggle to do whatever it is they are attempting to do.  The cells that constitute our mind expressing their desire to change comes out in us as "the desire to awaken,” to change our state of mind.

 I know that Shakespeare's dramas tell a rousing good tale.   And people are then tempted to extract some psychological meaning from them.  I say the psychological story of MacBeth is the ordinary cellular activity of other ordinary brains.  But, as readers would often like to explain it, it is a psychological drama, not just the murder of the king and the struggle for power.  It is the ramifications of the feelings of guilt and doubt; the fear that seizing power causes in the person who has seized the power.  I’m saying it is way beyond that.  I say it is the cellular activity in one man speaking, delivering a cellular message, an expression of cells wanting to awaken.  So in MacBeth, as per yours truly, something else is going on.

Here we have MacBeth, a general (and I'm just going to give a general outline, not go into detail with the story).  He and his friend, another general, are on the way back from a war.  Three witches come upon them, or vice versa, and address MacBeth as the "Thane of Caldor,” a title he doesn’t hold.  It's sort of like the Duke of Earl.  It's a title he doesn't possess, and then they call him "Future King of Scotland,”   He points out to them when they say, "Hail, MacBeth" that they got the name right.   "I am not a Duke or the 'Thane of Caldor' and I am certainly not the king."  He then realizes it is a prognostication and tries to question the witches, but they disappear.  Later some riders catch up with him and it turns out that King Duncan has already heard of MacBeth's heroics on the battlefield and has given him the title, "Thane of Caldor.”  Of course, he and his friend are somewhat taken aback that what those three strange women, witches, predicted has already come true before they even get home.

 The first line that hit me, after loving Shakespeare and admiring his obvious love and facility of language, is the one that I decided to rewrite.  It starts off after he's saying it's amazing that what those three old women forecast—something he never imagined--has happened.  It starts, "Oftimes to win is to harm the instruments of darkness."  I changed it just a little bit but the intent is still there.  I propose that his friend, in response, says, "Oftimes to lead us to harm, the forces of opposition tell us things true.  Some small, some partial, winning us over with shallow trifles so as to later betray us into deeper consequences.”  That is the first line.

 So, MacBeth sends word by messenger, home to his wife, and by the time he gets home she is already speaking as though it is fait accompli that he is going to kill the king.  He told her that the three old apparitions appeared to me and called me by a title that I did not possess, they called me King.  She takes it as a done deal.  She just starts treating it as he has decided to kill the king and he doesn't put up a lot of opposition.  But as it happens, throughout the rest of the day, he hem-haws a bit about doing the deed, afterwards expressing great regret.  His wife already treats him like the King is coming over and spending the night and just how are we going to kill him.  He hems and haws a little bit about, "I can't do it that way."  She replies, "Well, just what kind of a man are you?"  Now I'm not going to change anything--MacBeth says, "Well, I dare do that which becomes a man and he who does more is none."

 She goes out and he is still fretting over it.  She has already figured out how we'll get the guards drunk and all that.  She has figured out that he will take their daggers and leave bloody daggers in the guards’ hands, and it will appear that they in their drunken stupor killed the king.  So then she leaves and MacBeth sees this new apparition of a knife floating in front of him.  And part of the line here is the part I'm going to use.  He says, "Is this weapon real or is it a dagger of the mind?  Is it a false creation preceding from an overheating brain?"  The actual line is "oppressed brain" but I couldn't resist "overheated.”  

So they do the deed.  Morning comes and one of the Noblemen comes in to wake up the King and discovers the King is dead.  He hollers to MacBeth and Lady MacBeth, who fein surprise, and cries out, "Wake up and shake off your downy sleep, death’s counterfeit.  Come and look at the real thing."

MacBeth’s two sons run for their lives when they realize the king is dead and there is some question as to why the guards would kill the king.  The boys realized that someone might think they were behind this and without any further word, they galloped off.  So the finger of suspicion is there.  But then due to the way of the hierarchy, MacBeth becomes King.  I think it is the same day, he also recalls the three witches foresaw his rise to power, and that his friend who was with him at the time, has heirs who would become the power of Scotland and not MacBeth's.  And so MacBeth sees now that everything has come to be and his friend has got to go.

 MacBeth decides this friend has got to be murdered and he calls in two murderers.  They don’t say how, but after what MacBeth says to them it seems fairly obvious that they had been condemned as murderers and probably awaiting execution.  So he calls them and without any great details, he lays all the blame on Banquo.  "He's the one responsible for their predicament.  It is all his fault and all their troubles are due to him."  And then he gives them a question like, "So what do you think about that?  What are you going to do about that?  Are you going to stand for that?"  And to show that they were real men they should also be mad at Banquo.  They may be murderers but they are not stupid.  They can tell the king wants them to agree.  So one of them says, "Are we not men, my liege?"  And being king I guess he can afford sarcasm, he says, "Well, in the general catalog you go for men."  That is my other one, and I won’t point out the others ones.  That would be my fifth line.

 So they do him in.  MacBeth decides he wants to know where things stand now.  So he digs up the witches.  He goes to the cave and just before he gets there, they are really upping the stakes.  They are mixing up a whole cauldron of charms and mischief to work on him.  They seem to know what's going on already, but they are going to do worse.  They are throwing in a whole bunch of hearts of attorneys and the humility of priests or something.  They are all around the cauldron singing and muttering and what all.   Suddenly, MacBeth pops into the cave and says, "What is it you do?"  One says, "It is the deed without a name."  That is my sixth line.

 Then he is back in the castle and whining again.  Just MacBeth and the Lady MacBeth, and he is whining and bemoaning the king and his friend Banquo, wishing they were alive.  He's wishing he hadn't done it.  Now they're both dead, my god how he regrets it.  Then she says--and it terminates in a line that is fairly well known--"What's done is done."  But the words right before that, the line right before that is my final one for tonight.  She says, "That without remedy should be that without regard."

Now that you know the story, here are my seven lines:  "Oftimes to lead us to our harm, the forces of opposition will tell us things true.  Some small, some partial, winning us over with shallow trifles so as to later betray us in deeper consequences."  The second line was, "I dare do that which becomes a man.  He who does more is none."  Third line, "Is this weapon real or is this a dagger of the mind.  A false creation preceding from an overheated brain?"  Four:  "Wake up.  Shake off your downy sleep, which is the counterfeit of death, and come look upon the real thing."  Five:  "Are we not men my liege?"  "Aye, in the general catalogue you pass for same."  Six:  "What is it you do?"  "It is a deed with no name."  And seven:  "That without remedy should be that without regard."

 Of course, now that I’ve read these lines, I should just stop for the night and you do your own.  But I have a point to make, the same point that I have been trying to make, that I cannot put into words, over the last several weeks.  It is about what we call "the struggle to awaken,” to change permanently.  Of course the ultimate goal, as I keep encouraging you, should be to have an ongoing and ever shifting definition of what this is to you.  But it definitely fits this description:  It is, to me, the attempt to permanently change what goes on in my brain, in the area that produces consciousness, that produces thought.  I see all seven lines that I picked out as representing that struggle

 I see these seven lines as telling the story in another way.  Consider the first line that I picked out and remember the story is these witches that forecast great changes in MacBeth's life.  They forecast huge changes, going from being a warrior to being first a Nobleman and finally a King.  In fact, at first MacBeth tells Banquo that, "I like fortune telling as much as the next man, but they should have told me something that at least was believable.  It was unbelievable enough that they first tell me, ‘Thane of Caldor,’ but then to say, 'Hail MacBeth, King of Scotland'.  They went too far.  If they want to pass themselves off as fortune tellers, they should learn to deal with something a little more believable."  And his friend says, "When they seek to lead us to harm, the forces of opposition will first tell us things true."  

They called him by name.  They knew who he was.  See, they will first tell us things true, things small, truths that are partial, just enough.  Does that sound like, "Man believes he's awake and he's not."  They give you some trick of, "Can you hold ‘I’ for two minutes?  See, we told you.  Read on."  And you think, "Hey, they know what they are doing."  Man believes he's conscious and awake when he gets out of his downy position and he's not.

“Oftimes to lead us to our harm, the forces of opposition will tell us things true.  Some small, some partial, winning us over with shallow trifles so as to later betray us in deeper consequences."

 So, Banquo says, "the forces of opposition."  This is when it changes from “the forces of darkness.”  Although I don’t assume that you people think that I believe in the idea of evil forces, you can look at them as being the opposing forces of life.  Opposing forces don't have to be active.  Consider that your mind inherently operates in a certain way.  The mind has a repertoire of repetitive thoughts, over and over.  You have a certain physical temperament that makes you feel ways that directly affect what you think about.  Whether this has an aggressive edge to it, or whether your thinking just seems dull one morning, there are opposing forces.  You don't have to look at them as some sort of nefarious forces.  We are simply fighting our own nature; we are fighting the nature of life, fighting the status quo.  I repeat to you that I don’t see the status quo as being static.  There is such a thing as an alive status quo, an active status quo.  At any rate, he says to MacBeth, "Oftimes to lead us to our harm, the forces of opposition will lead us to things true.  Some small, some partial, winning us over with shallow trifles as to later betray us in deeper consequences."

 I don't mean to overdo this, but I see that I have fallen, well, I'll speak for me--it came on like an addiction.  It was like; if the Great Work existed out in life, it gave me the first snort, the first vial of cocaine free, as dealers are wont to do.  After that they have got you, and can betray you into deeper consequences.  Again, this is very theatrically put, but I love it because I do not see it as some dangerous consequences.  We mystics start out attempting to do something that sounds to us very reasonable.  Remember, it's no one's fault, we are not being tricked, unless you are being tricked by your own cellular activity.  But we start out attempting to do something--again remember, we are in a small crowd.  There are not many people who can hear the description that man believes he's conscious when he's actually dazed and half asleep, but through certain efforts he can be alert, he can change his state of consciousness.  Out of six billion people on this planet there are damn few that can hear this message.  They are not led to their harm through it.  They do not take these as shallow trifles, they don’t hear it as the truth of any kind.  There are only a few of us--MacBeth and Banquo--two guys out in the wild of Scotland, who hear it.

 At any rate, I don't know if I can go any further without lying.  As soon as I decided to go back and look at the book itself, I looked at that line and I was hooked.  That is when I decided to use it.  First there is a forecast made of a great change.  If we are going to go back and forth from symbolism or metaphor, however you consider it, a simple warrior, man of no title and position, is given the forecast that he will be King; there will be an extreme change.  It is the opening volley, I say, not just the opening of MacBeth but the opening volley of someone attempting to awaken.  They read the opening drama, the opening lines of the struggle to awaken.  Except in MacBeth there is someone to point out that when we are led to our harm, down a nowhere path, led in a way we don’t understand, that at first we are told things we can almost understand.  That is, that the forces of opposition first tell us things true, some things small, some things partial, but enough that we are won over by shallow trifles so as to later be betrayed and led deeper into consequences.

 So you can look at Lady MacBeth and just so I can ramble on, I must tell you that I don’t see any great significance to the characters themselves.  I could stop and spend three or four hours here, but by then we would all be sick of them.  She represents something and I will leave it to you to consider. She encourages him in the deed to make the forecast come true.  Right now it is just a dream of a warrior MacBeth being King MacBeth, of going from being an ordinary sleeping person to being an awakened person, to being a Buddha mind.  He goes, "I'm all right now, I've got a title."  She says, "You don't fool me.  When you sent me that note, before you got here, as soon as you heard about it from those three witches that you would get the title, you said you couldn't believe it.  You don’t fool me.  If you didn’t have something in mind you wouldn't have mentioned it.  You had in mind making it a reality."  And he never does say no.  And of course, as some of you henpecked men would say, "She was so overbearing."  He offered some resistance, but then all of us offer some resistance.  "Well, I can't do this."  Like when someone said to "constantly hold your attention" and you say, "I can't do this."  It’s like we all have a Lady MacBeth saying, "What kind of a man are you?"

"I dare do that which becomes a man.  He who does more is none."

 Dig my second line.  We are dealing with 16th century middle English.  I didn't want to change all of these, but I can make it sound like me talking.  He says, "I dare do that which becomes a man to do.  He who does more is none."  It's like, "I'll do whatever is possible and whoever attempts more than that is not even human.  They're an idiot."  "I dare do that which becomes a man to do.  He who does more, (but it really means he who attempts more), is none."  That is to say, he doesn't qualify as being a full man, an intelligent, reasonable man or he wouldn't attempt to do that which does not become a man to do.  Of course, in the play MacBeth is saying it is unbecoming for a man whom the king has raised up and given a title, to betray the liege.  That is the way it is taken psychologically.  But to say, "I dare to do that which becomes a man to do," you could also say, "Well, it doesn't become a man to get up on the castle turret and fly.  That is not becoming of a man.  He is a reasonable creature and he knows that he cannot fly.  So I dare to do that which becomes a man to do.  He who does more is no man.  He doesn't qualify as a man."

 That is my analyzation of moving right along with the struggle to awaken.  That one, I went ahead and put into chronological order and I started to shift the time and put it down towards the end of the seven lines I was using.  It could have come, but that is where it came, and you could even have put it near the end. It fits almost anywhere in the struggle to awaken as I am interpreting this.  But then by the third line, she has convinced him that we will kill the king.  "We'll take the daggers out, get the guards drunk.  I'll take care of that.  You get the daggers, kill the old king, put the daggers back in their hands and they won’t know what to say."  

You know how this goes, no matter what you are attempting.  MacBeth has proven to be the type that worries; he frets about doing these dastardly deeds,  but not enough to stop him.  Likewise, does not every one of you continue, even up until today, to fret, "Should I keep doing This?  Am I getting anywhere with This?  Is This just a dream?  Have I not been going to all these meetings all these years?  Is this just one night's dream?  Am I back in 1982, in the middle of one night's dream and I'll wake up in a minute and find out I've been listening to him and fooling around with this for the last twenty years?  Could it be just one midsummer night's illusion?"  

Again, if any of you think that is not possible, you still don’t get it.  Yes, it's possible you could be dreaming….

Is this weapon real, or is this a dagger of the mind...
 a false creation preceding from an overheated brain?

Here I changed what MacBeth says, just a little bit. I said “weapon” instead of “dagger,” because I look at weapon as whatever the attempt to awaken appears to be:  the weapon is the method--your approach to the attempt--floating there before your eyes.  MacBeth knows he's hallucinating.  He says, "Is this real or is it a dagger of the mind?"  I almost stopped there.  I had forgotten that line, "the dagger of the mind.”

I almost want to say, "Well now I know one of the incarnations of Buddha.  He came back as Shakespeare.  And he wrote this whole play just to get in the line about 'the dagger of the mind’.” Of course--and this is just to me--the whole play is almost worth that one line.  Think about, "Is this real or is it a dagger of the mind?  A false creation preceding from the heat of an oppressed brain?"  Now that is the actual line.  Think about it.  It is all one sentence and it came from this guy who’s supposed to be in a fight for the throne of Scotland.  Is this dagger--is this thing that I'm dealing with, this struggle to awaken--is it just my imagination about my mind or my mind's imagination about changing itself?  "Is this weapon real or is it a dagger of the mind?  A false creation preceding from an overheated, oppressed brain?"

 I almost came over and started the meeting before you got here. I got up and walked around and walked outside.  I went to light a cigarette and discovered I didn't smoke.  I had just forgotten—

And then they kill the King.  Then they let one of the other noblemen discover the body.  He believes he discovered it. He believes that no one else knows except him and the guards, who were lying next to the King, have bloody daggers in their hands.  He comes out and attempts to spread the news, "The King is dead!"  I see that as the old state of mind.  It gets kind of shaky because you can't do a story, but the actual truth is the struggle to kill the old state of mind.  I submit to you that it is like the ghost of Banquo.  It's the old state of mind continuing to pop back up.

 MacDuff discovers the body and shouts out to all the other characters still in bed, "Wake up.  Shake off your drowsy sleep!"  That is, shake off your ordinary sleep, the kind that man sleeps at night and when he wakes in the morning, he believes that he is awake.  He is not awake.  So here is MacDuff , who finds the King dead, the old state of mind dead to a huge degree.  The King is pretty seriously dead and MacDuff says, 

Wake up!  Shake off your downy sleep which is death's counterfeit 
and come look at the real thing.  

Now that one I just don't want to talk about.  That makes me laugh out loud.  I repeat, I am going to leave that one to you.  If you' re my kind of mystic, that's got enough to propel you way outside of this solar system.  "Wake up!  Shake off your downy sleep which is death's counterfeit and come see the real thing."

 How about a hint?  Face up to what is possible and what is not possible.  There is death and there is the counterfeit, a faux death.  He is saying, "All you people are being accustomed to being in bed.  You can take that as being dead, but it is a counterfeit of death.  Compare what is real and final to what is temporary."  Sleep is like temporary death.  He is saying, "Arouse from that temporary death, which is sleep, and get your asses out of bed and see the real thing."  Anyway, if I keep on--I will laugh too hard.  It's too enjoyable; you take it.

Are we not men my liege?  
Aye, in the general catalogue you pass for same.

 Now the fifth line, when he decides he has to murder his compatriot Banquo, because Banquo’s heirs would be the line of succession and not MacBeth's. MacBeth had much to fear, according to the witches, from his friend, so he had to be done in.  MacBeth calls in these nefarious characters, these murderers, and wants to be sure he has them on his side:  "You will go do this deed.  You will go murder a potential king.  You will murder he who is my potential competitor.  I hate him.  He is a great danger to me but he is also a great danger to you.  You just don’t know and it's a good thing you've got me here to tell you about it.  He's the one who got you in this position and fucked up your lives.  Now what do you think of that?"  And they realize, "Hey, we're not the kind of lily wastes that are going to put up with that kind of shit."  

Again, I'm not going into this one much because it’s so good, it makes me think Shakespeare is Abraham or Zoroaster reincarnated.  Out of the clear blue sky comes this line, that has little to do with the play.  It's just a fancy way of saying, "Well yes, we know what to do.  Would not any decent man seek revenge and hate this guy because of what you told us?"  Having nothing to do with the play, MacBeth says, "In the general scheme of things you can pass for, all the way from a bull mastiff to a stringy cur dog."  They reply, “Are we not men my liege?"  He says, "In the catalogue you go for men."  That one is even better than the third line or the fourth line.  At least lie to me and tell me you will work on it.

  I am telling you there is something there and it is far removed from the ordinary run of  “Well, here's what we should do to awaken."  The cells, in somebody's brain, were having a big old time.  I know there are those who think that people didn’t have much fun in the old days before computers.  But I know one man who, in his head, hell was being raised.  There was a party going on in his head--and he was known as Shakespeare.

What is it you do?  
It is a deed with no name.

On with the story--Now MacBeth has had Banquo done in and he is wondering if he is safe.  "I've killed the King and they're blaming it on his sons.  Have I covered my ass?  Did I forget anything?"  So he goes to look up the witches.  They are already talking about how he has screwed up his life and is suffering over it, but that's not enough.  They are going to make it worse.  

Imagine the witches doing all this-- the point is there are some forces somewhere and they are involved in activities that cannot be understood by the audience.  The witches are dancing around a cauldron and mumbling, "toads blood!” They are saying shit like that, and there are other things they are saying to each other, fairly enigmatic, that just don’t make sense.  If you are not some suspicious boom, even in the 1590's, if you are a reasonably sane person, then what they are saying is irrational.  Their incantations and what they are doing makes no sense at all to the audience.  But the point I am making is that to the witches, within their circle—to the three of them dancing around the cauldron—their words, within that context, made sense.

 I'm not talking about fights over Scotland. Forget the actual words they are saying.  Remember they’re just putting more and more into the mix.  The purpose is to stir up more vexation in the life of MacBeth.  Then he pops in suddenly and realizes he caught them doing something.  He says, "What is this that you do?"  Of course, them being magical, they realize they can outsmart him.  They don't try to hide anything.  The action just stops and he says, "What is that that you are doing?"  They just look at him and say, "The deed we do has no name."  Here are the three forces that put all of this into action--it was them that put him on the course of attempting to awaken--that is, to kill the King.  They look him right in the eye (one eye), and say, "The deed we do has no name."  Another interpretation is, "You will never understand."

 If it has no name, then a human is not going to understand it.  Looking at the witches as being, I say, other than human forces, it could be cellular forces.  I don't mean some supernatural gods, but they are at a different level than MacBeth.  That is my interpretation--that they are at a different level, they are speaking a different language, operating on different frequencies.  And so he says, "What is this deed you do?"  I'm suggesting to you when they say, "It is a deed without a name,” that is their answer.  They don't say any more and he doesn't push it.  But what they are saying is, "You will never understand it."  Yeah, they are doing something.  You are aware of that, but you can look at it as MacBeth's own brain saying, "Well, I'm certainly up to something, what is it?"  And his own brain says, "I guess you will never know."

That without remedy should be that without regard.

 MacBeth’s still whining, expressing regrets over things he's done.  In this case it's the murder of the King and the murder of his friend.  "God, I wish I hadn't done it, I wish I could undo it."  Don't get hung up on specifics.  The point is that he's whining about conditions.  "Boy, I would give anything--here I am King--to have my friend back.  To have Good King Duncan rise from the grave, but here I am helpless."  And Lady MacBeth is saying, "Shut up.  Quit your whining.  Be a man."  What she really says, (pithier than I can put it) is,  "That without remedy should be without regard.”  Things that you cannot change, you shouldn't think about, you dummy!  She's been telling him this throughout the play.  Every time they are alone, after he gets through killing someone, he starts, "Oh, I wish I hadn't done that."  And she keeps saying, "Snap out of it!  What kind of a man are you?"

 Now, and this is not even near the end of the play but about half way,  she says, "Things without a remedy should be without regard."  I don’t know whether I should make that the last one for the night or make it the last one of the seven, or should I have made the last one the line when he says, "I dare do that which becomes a man to do.  He who does more is none."  Or can you get a whole wider interpretation of his conversation with the two murderers:  "Well, what are you going to do about this affair?"  And they go, "Ah, are we not men my liege?"  And he says, "Well in the Sears and Roebuck catalogue maybe you pass for men."  Does anybody see that as being the climax of the night?

 I am assuming that seems to be the most obtuse line of all.  If you are trying to take my interpretation, I would assume that you have a much wider and different one than the words convey.  I would assume that seems to be the cloudiest part, but it is a fourth of July with fireworks display.  He says, "Are you going to leave the situation as it is; that you have been mistreated?"  I don't see that as being mistreated.  If I found out that Banquo is in charge of keeping my state of mind popping up, and I had a MacBeth say, "Well, I know what's causing you to be so distracted.  It's not you.  It's not your fault.  It's Banquo.  You're helpless!"  Think about it.

 Of course, there is another one that I didn't do.  I can't begin to quote it, I don't think, but when he says, "It's Banquo; he's the one." And they say, "are we not men, my liege?"  Then he makes his wise-ass remark, "in a cheap catalogue, then I guess you'd pass for them."  But then back to the subject, he says, "Well, do you have it in you to do what you know needs to be done?"  Then they are winking at each other, and it's obvious that they are not complete idiots.  They understand that the new king, MacBeth, wants harm to come to Banquo.  He says, "Do you have the nerve, do you have the backbone to do it?"  One of them says, "the ills and the injustices that life has inflicted on me even scare me, the smyth with which I would return and care not what I do."  What he's saying, in Shakespeare's kind of words is, "Don't worry about me.  The way life has pissed on me, it's frightening the things I would do.  There's nothing I wouldn't do to piss back on the world."  You know, "Who is this guy, just point me toward him."

Now back to my hinted interpretation.  Does anyone get this?  It's not your fault.  You are in this predicament in Life, you are condemned murderers, but it's not your fault. Also, what little we know about the murderers is just through MacBeth's speech to them.  They are pretty unsavory characters, from what he says on and off.  But then he ends up going, "It's not your fault.  You know who's responsible."  

What a relief, to finally find out, "Well, it's not my fault if I haven't made any better headway."  This is where I suggest to you that the comment MacBeth makes about them "passing for men" maybe -- just barely -- could come into play after he says a little bit more.  That is, "are they going to fall for this?"  Can you put all this in your brain?  "By the way, it's not your fault.  The blame lies over here.  Now will you do something about it?"  "Well damn right!--are we not men?"  Then that's where, after the fact, you could say that his comment about, "Well you could pass for it.  If you're dumb enough to fall for that, then you pass for a man."  

Do I have to do it for you?  "If you're a man who believes you can change your state of mind; if you're a man asleep and you believe you can awaken, then you are a man so asleep that you just barely pass for being a man."  Don't take it as a comment of futility.  I think most of you missed it anyway.  It was kind of a close shave.

Well, we spent an hour, and I didn’t talk about the brain.  I didn't talk about neural physiology or morphology or anatomy.  I guess that is a great relief for some people.  I agree, I think we should be entertained.  I just forgot how neat Shakespeare was.  Maybe it's just that I have a soft spot for anyone who enjoys language as much as he did.  I mean that as more than being a lover of language.  Somebody, as I repeat, in 1593 or 1594, whenever he wrote that particular one, the cortical cells in some guy's brain, apparently living somewhere in Southern England, were having themselves a ball.  

No particular consequence, but I almost think that it's a shame that there wasn't somebody, a Gurdjieff or somebody who wandered through town, that he could run across.  I'm telling you that whoever “Shakespeare” was, even if he never heard of this kind of activity—and the more sincere, the deeper philosophers (and it seems especially true of fiction writers and dramatists)-- are actually trying to figure out life.

Those writers trying to make a living, a reputation, all the way from the Greek dramatists, fiction writers, tellers of tales, of mythology--it was cellular activity in some men trying to figure out the nature of man.  And that is just another name for the struggle to awaken.  It's more than just another name.  The types of people who are satisfied with doing that are not really mystics.  The attempt to figure out man, in one sense, is just another name for the struggle to awaken.  But it's different types of people who follow the two different courses; different types of cellular people.  

Now you've had your culture for the night.  You can go home and turn on your TV or get out your rented movie.



An aspect of Greek mythology, the story of the adventures of Odysseus, struck me again recently. It struck me that this story of Odysseus (who the Romans later called Ulysses) is a cellular history. It is the cortical cells' recollection of the development of consciousness.

Again, I remind you that I am not offering this as an actual history of the Trojan War, of Greek mythology, of anything. I have no intention of stretching the actual so-called historical facts, as I read them. Remember we're talking about a story -- Homer's writings -- that, last I heard, were believed to date from about 800 to 1000 BC.  These are some of the earliest collected writings in the Western world. 

I find this story interesting since it is an adventure about a man's journey towards a known destination, which he considered his home. I have always found Odysseus to be of much more interest than, for instance, the story of Pilgrim's Progress written 2500 years later, which was put, point-blank, into a given biased context, a Christian context. The hero's name was "Christian", and the whole thing was a metaphorical journey but with identifiable places -- his own made-up names -- like "The Valley of Humiliation" and the town of "Vanity." All of the people that Christian met on the way to his homeland, the destination of all good Christians, had names like Sloth or Perversion.

Or even consider Dante's Inferno. Such writings have an absolute, to put it simply, cultural bias. They have a known cultural/religious context, and an obvious aim from the outset. John Bunyan didn't mess around about it -- up front he said, this is a story about a man I'm going to call, let's see, I think I'll name him "Christian".

In retelling these myths, I'm sure I am mixing up some of the Greek with the later Latin retelling. But I can stick to the basic facts, realizing I'm not covering every aspect of the actual adventure. In Greek mythology, you had the elder gods, the Titans, who -- compared to the later entities -- the gods Zeus, Apollo and the rest of them -- the Titans were somewhat featureless. To me, the Titans are like the Big Bang  -- the universe before Life as we know it.

Another interesting thing, from the Greek view, was that the universe created the gods, and not the other way around. The gods didn't create the universe. I'll leave it to you to peer into why I find that interesting. And remember, I don't find this intriguing because of any Greek figures, be they real or not. I see this as the cortical cells' attempt to recollect their past and tell how they got to where we are now. Of course, I could use the Inferno or Pilgrim's Progress in the same way. But the Greek story is not tinged with any cultural or religious context, at least from our contemporary view. 

At any rate, there were the Titans, the originals, and historically they seemed to be rather featureless. But the son of one of them was Zeus, who overthrew the Titans. I see this moment as being the introduction of consciousness as we know it. Because at this moment the gods took on personalities; instead of the super-gods, the elder gods, you had the diverse Olympians. And Zeus immediately got entangled with earthly matters, with human affairs.  You might find it interesting to keep in mind, as I tell this story, that there is now scientific work going on attempting to answer the question, "What is 'attention' amidst the brain's activity known as 'consciousness'?" Just a suggestion... 

Back to the story. The gods took up residence in Olympus, a place that, according to Homer and others, had specific characteristics.  It was an eternally calm place where the wind never blew and the rain never fell.  I see that, in one sense, as being the time of pre-consciousness, when life -- our own cortical cells -- were established. And ever since the time these stories were first told and then written down, our cortical cells have taken an interest in them. It's the cells' attempt to record their own history. 

Now, moving on to the well-known adventure of Odysseus. The Trojan War was raging. The Greeks had triumphed over the Trojans and sacked the city of Troy.  The story is that the Greeks, being mad with the joy of finally winning, failed to stop and, as was their custom, pay homage to the gods.  Then they went in and defiled the temple of Athena.  She is super interesting to me. Athena was Zeus' daughter and according to myth she sprang from his forehead fully developed. That's the English translation. (Of course, they're supposed to be gods, and magical things could happen.) 

So here is Zeus, the head god in charge of earthly matters. He has a daughter who becomes, in the stories, of supreme importance. Her birth comes about by her springing out of his forehead, fully developed. Do I have to be obvious here and say, "Doesn't that sound like the arrival of ordinary consciousness?"

We've gone past the Big Bang; we've gone past the time described in Judeo-Christian terms as the water and darkness before god shows up and begins to calm the waters, bring the light, and create things. That's one version told years later. But in Greek tales we have the gods showing up and Zeus taking over from the Titans.  All you had was the universe -- no life -- and then with Zeus, life as we know it, in some form. Then, from his head, he gave birth to a new generation. The gods themselves, the Olympians, once they've replaced the Titans, began to have their own children. And from the top god, sprang out -- fully-formed, developed and completed, the next generation -- Athena. Which, as it hit me, was ordinary consciousness. 

So in the story, the Greeks failed to honor the gods after they had triumphed over the Trojans. Specifically, they went into the temple of Athena and defiled it. By the way, hiding there in the temple was a mortal woman, Cassandra. At one time Apollo had fallen in love with Cassandra, and as a gift gave her the ability to prophesy. When she rebuffed him, he couldn't take back the gift he had given her, but he arranged it so that no one would listen to her. So, all during the war Cassandra prophesied.  If you remember, she told the Trojans, don't bring that horse through the gates, it's full of Greeks. No one listened. She could spot all upcoming tragedies, but her curse was that no one would listen to her. I'm going to leave that one with you, but it struck me enough to mention it.

Athena saw they had defiled her temple. She went to Poseidon, the god of the ocean and told him what happened. He didn't like it either. So as the Greeks left Troy, headed back home, Poseidon filled their voyage with endless whirlwinds and ceaselessly turbulent seas. Most of them drowned. Odysseus survived. I see the fact that most of the Greeks drowned as reflecting something. Remember that they were beset by whirlwinds and turbulent, churning seas.  I look at the story of them drowning as an allegory for man succumbing to consciousness.  Man now begins to drown in thought.  I see Odysseus, who survived, as being representative of the mythical, heroic part of consciousness -- the consciousness of people like me and you -- the part that did not drown. That's why, the first time I ever read this story, I read it as fast as I could turn the pages. 

Before we get back into the story of Odysseus' travels, an aside about one particular adventurer-Ajax. His ship went down and the guy survived and swam through all these whirlwinds and waves, until he reached a small island and grabbed hold of a cliff, pulled himself out of the water, and was saved. At that moment, Ajax arrogantly proclaimed--when he looked up and everybody else was gone and he was the only one who had survived-that the seas were not strong enough to take him. (Remember, I look at that as being the succumbing of ordinary men, quietly giving into ordinary consciousness.) He survived all that, but then one the gods, I forget which, happened to overhear that arrogant proclamation and made the edge of the cliff give way so that Ajax drowned.

The point being, if he hadn't said that, he would have survived. Had he not had such an attitude--had he not said that, had he not thought that-had he not been of such a turn of consciousness-he would have survived. I'm going to leave that with you….

At any rate, most of the Greeks drowned. Odysseus survived, and began his long trek home. Thus began what I think of as "the troubles." There were five or six episodes of so-called problems or troubles in the story of Odysseus' adventures that happened to hit me in a particular way. Again, for any of you who've actually read the story, I'm leaving some out, and I'm not telling the adventures in any particular order, except toward the end. So, I don't remember the actual history according to Homer of what happened. But these all are part of the story.

Poseidon is still making life on the seas hell for anyone left alive and, for our purposes, the one we're interested in is Odysseus, who represents a surviving part of consciousness in people like us, those with a desire to awaken. Odysseus is truly a mythical hero, but more so than those who would use the term "hero" usually mean. I take him as representing a part of the consciousness of people like us.

At this point, Odysseus had a boat and he still had some of his men with him. They were attempting to return home, still constantly fighting endlessly turbulent, choppy waters. And these whirlwinds Poseidon set loose were constantly buffeting anything on the seas in the area where the Greeks were attempting to sail back home.

They stumbled upon a place known as the Land of Wind. It turned out the god there was a friend of Odysseus, and he took mercy on him because Poseidon had all these horrendous winds and the seas churning up. They crashed on this Land of Wind and this god, whoever he was, gave Odysseus a leather sack that contained all the storms, so he could get back home. Except, once they sailed away from the island, the sailors onboard imagined that the sack was full of gold and opened it. They were right back where they started-they let loose the storms again.

In his travels, Odysseus ran across an island wherein lived Circe. Circe was a female whose amazing beauty, combined with a magic elixir she would give the sailors to drink, would turn them into wild, mad beasts. Which is easy to see as representing the call of sex. There was also an interesting twist to it: They were beasts who lived off acorns-I presume this means they were beasts that resembled hogs. At any rate, they were disgusting beasts, but kept the consciousness of humans-who knew they were not beasts.

Odysseus managed to escape from Circe's island with a few of his sailors. Then he crashed on another island and was rescued by Calypso, who almost killed him with kindness. He ended up being imprisoned by her kindness, because she felt since she had saved him, kept him alive, brought him back to life and had nothing but kind feelings and love for him--her expression was she owned him since she saved him. I saw that as the enslavement of ordinary men by worldly interests. It didn't strike me as negative, and I'm not saying this pejoratively, but just worldly interests. For contemporary people of ordinary consciousness, the hobbies they pursue, their work or just their leisure activities, end up being distracting. They enjoy it, but they are imprisoned by Calypso's kindness.
As I remember, somebody spoke to her and begged her to let him go. She had never done him any harm, had looked after his every need, loved him. But she would not let him go. So he was captivated by kindness.

Finally, he escaped. And ended up in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. That really, to me, wraps up and exemplifies all such troubles as being with Circe, or Calypso. The Lotus Eaters ate this food that had such magical powers that any sailors, any foreigners who visited their land and ate the magical food forgot all about home. After partaking, the visitors just stood there, they did not remember anything, if they had been headed somewhere. That wraps up everything, for me, about worldly pleasures. I mean, just the affairs of an ordinary man. Nothing wrong with it. Just ordinary affairs. There were more stops along the way, but for me that covers it.

Then there were three more parts of the story that I still recall. I never came up with what would be the proper order of the last three troubles I'm going to recount. I could tell them in any order and it would still sound like the final one infers some moral to all this and points in a particular direction. But I'm telling you they are so good that I cannot come up with the proper order, because any order would work as well.

Odysseus has escaped. He has, from my take on it, become a full-blown mystic. He is no longer entangled with worldly affairs. Sex, wealth, reputation, good food have no appeal for him. Again, nothing wrong with any of that, but that he no longer finds any of this to be a problem that will distract him from his goal of getting home, getting where he wants to go, awakening. So here are the final three. Remember, I didn't make this up, I'm just giving my analysis of one of the oldest stories on the planet.

First he passes the Isle of the Sirens. The Sirens were spirits whose songs were so mesmerizing to sailors that they would literally forget their duties on board and would simply crash on the reefs near the Island of the Sirens. The shoreline was littered with debris from such ships. Their voices were supposedly absolutely mesmerizing. One version said it would so hypnotize the sailors they would forget to eat and would starve to death. But, at any rate, to me the better one is they would forget their sailorly duties and would simply be dragged by the sea into the reefs. Somehow, Odysseus managed not to give in to the call of the sirens, he survived it, and they sailed on. "The call of the sirens" is now part of our everyday vernacular. Think about being so mesmerized by songs that you would forget, forget (I started to say "yourself" but how about "your duty") to remember that you are somebody; forget your duty to stay focused and alert, to find what might be the nature of attention amidst the turbulence and the whirlwinds of ordinary consciousness.

The second of the final three troubles was that they had to pass through the Straits of Messina-literally between Sicily and Italy. To get home, they had to sail between Scylla and Charybdis. In one version, Scylla and Charybdis were two spirits sitting on either side of the strait. But, in another telling, they had to sail between a large, jutting rocky cliff (Scylla) and an enormous whirlpool over at the other shore. Which is where we get the idea of being "between a rock and a hard place," two equally repugnant forces. Odysseus was faced with sailing through the strait and, if he didn't make it, either being crashed against the hard place or being sucked into a whirlpool. As soon as I read that, it struck me as the two ways to look at trying to deal with your own consciousness. That you're either faced with an approach that is a dead end-Scylla, the hard place-or with Charybdis, an endless whirlpool--around and around and around.

The third one is going to be the last one. Odysseus made it through that, but then he crashed upon an island. It was an island on which the royalty was known to engage in everyday, common activities royalty (which was very strange for Grecian times, for that era). Odysseus crashes up on the shore and is saved by a Princess. She happened to be down on the beach doing the laundry-this princess--happened to be there when he crashed and was able to save him. A man, Odysseus-that part of my consciousness, that part of their consciousness -after all it went through--was saved in a place wherein even the heroes, the royals, engaged in the everyday.

Does anybody remember the Zen guy who, when they asked him how great it was to be enlightened said, "Yes it is. It is marvelous. When I'm hungry, I eat, when I'm cold, I light a fire. It's miraculous." As you may know, that's one of the most famous lines in the so-called Zen School of this sort of Activity.

The father of the princess who rescued Odysseus was known to be an exceptionally rational and sane man and so once he heard Odysseus' story, he arranged for transportation and sent him on his way and got him back home, right away. After being saved in his final crash upon a foreign island, by a hero, a Princess, a Zen Master (however, you want to look at it) a mythical hero who is down there doing the same laundry down by the beach and is there to save that part of our consciousness that survived the sinking of the ship by great whirlwinds on the seas….

You know I don't bring this to your attention because I'm giving a history, even a literary history. I just read it and was immediately struck--this was a history of the cortical cells, trying to record their journey.

So he's gone past the isle of the Sirens, he got through the straits between Scylla and Charybdis, and either before or after running across and being saved by the princess, there was another one. He ran across somebody who had a little mercy on him, was trying to help him, and said that they couldn't tell him exactly how to get home, but someone could-and it was one of the dead. They directed him to the secret entrance to Hades, the Underworld, and said that he had to go to the entrance and dig a pit and fill it with blood from animals he had sacrificed, because the ghosts of the dead loved to drink blood. They told him to do that and wait by the entrance until the ghost showed up to drink the blood. And he was to say, "No, no, before you do that, tell me how to get home." And it came to pass,. That was the final thing he needed-the instructions to get home.

Now, it struck me, he had to sacrifice animals, blood from living things. I see this as, we have to sacrifice our present (that is, living) ideas so that the cells themselves have the ability to look deeper into their own past and remember the course of how they got here. I see all this as their attempt to remember, anyway. Do you understand? Odysseus had to sacrifice to the dead blood of the living. And it immediately hit me that what it's saying is, that we have to. You reach a certain point where that is necessary. At least toward the end you have to give up, you have to sacrifice that which is alive in your consciousness now. That is, what you think are up-do-date ideas, thoughts that you have. You have to give their blood-back at the cortical, cellular level-for the cells to be able to recall the course they took to be able to get here, to be able to record their own history. The dead told Odysseus the course to get back home.

Why do men concoct such stories? It's not men writing the stories-it's cells within us. The cells in the cortical area of our brain have told this story. At a simpler level, one of the obvious answers to why do men concoct such stories is that they fear death. But then you're left with the question, what do cells have to fear? Why do they make us tell such stories? What potential payoff are they looking for? Because the cells are closer to the indestructible atomic level than we are; cells must know that they're not going to be destroyed. They can't fear death, because they are not going to be destroyed.

What if the reason they make us concoct the stories is not fear--since they know they're not going to be destroyed-but is based upon their dread that the organism will disintegrate and they'll have to take up a new assignment somewhere. So-at a more radical level-what if that is actually what's behind man's fear of death? As a total organism, we feel like we're going to fall apart. What if we just hate the feeling of being broken down and reformulated as a tree or a dog? It's like losing your job, and then you're going to be reemployed. Because at the cellular level, they simply lose their job-in us-then are faced with putting something new together-go through all this again and then 70 or 80 years later, go through it all again.

It's not just for the fun of it that I repeat all this to you. There's more to it than that. I just want you to understand I'm not just trying to entertain, it's more than entertainment to me, although it is that,,,, By way of encouraging you, I want you to consider that there is more here than the pleasure of it. The something else, I'm going to leave to you.

Legend has it that the most awake man the world has ever known only left one message and that was (I'm quoting): He said that the most awakened thoughts he'd ever had, didn't awaken him.

What do cells have to gain? What could be their purpose in telling this story? Thousands of years ago, Greek cells were making up these tales. Why? The cells in our brains are working on this. I'm trying to make us look deeper, to the cellular level; the cells would be faced with something similar in difficulty, trying to look at what would be their deeper level, the atomic level. I see us as being Odysseus beset by whirlwinds and endlessly churning seas, nevertheless trying to plot his history and trying to find his way home (which is the same thing). If you knew your history, you'd be awake. So you wouldn't have to go anywhere.