[Work in Progress] "Paul Bunyan Disorder"

I read with interest the recent announcement of New Direction etc. and noticed that the word theosophy was not capitalized.  I thought, therefore, that this might be a good time to share part of a larger work-in-progress of mine which gives the special epistemological reason that I prefer to keep it capitalized.  Best wishes to all--R.


Paul Bunyan Disorder


Let me tell you about Paul Bunyan Disorder. . . .

First, however, let me tell you about Basal Equipoint (BE).

The BE is an “esoteric” concept.  This means is that it could either be important knowledge which has been hitherto hidden, possibly from the “unworthy,” or, alternatively, it could just be some ego-aggrandizer’s fanciful advertisement (possibly mine) for merely colon-channeled material which he or she cannot otherwise prove or demonstrate by means of science or rational consideration.   

In any case, the concept of the Basal Equipoint could be a very helpful Theosophical tool for understanding oneself.  Here, Theosophical is used in its epistemological sense:  “knowledge or wisdom which BIG-maybe derives from direct experience with the ‘less differentiated’ (Buddhi-manas, ‘Spirit-mental’), and therefore more ‘Divine’ (‘Theoic,’ Atmanic, ‘Undifferentiated’), aspect of a person’s own psychological nature.”  In other words, it could possibly be knowledge or wisdom which shows up Intuitively—in other words, “Theo”-“sophically!”

Fortunately, though, one does not need to be a Theosopher  in order to understand BE.  All that is required is a simple, two-part “exercise”:  1) inhale as fully as possible; 2) then exhale as exhaustively as possible.  The approximated midpoint between these two extremes is what is called the Basal Equipoint.   Here, basal is used in the sense of “basic,” “fundamental,” or “underlying.”

Except while vigorously working out or something, a person will not usually touch both extremes when breathing.  The normal range is narrower and usually at least slightly unbalanced toward the in-breath or toward the out-breath.  The approximated midpoint of such an ordinary breath or the average midpoint of a succession of such ordinary breaths has a different name.  Its or their average halfway point is the Moving Equipoint (ME).  Unlike the BE, the ME is much more changeable.  For example, if inhalation tends to prevail, the Moving Equipoint may gradually move above the Basal Equipoint for a shorter or longer time; if exhalation, the midpoint may, at least temporarily, sink below the Basal Equipoint. 

Information about BE and ME is not so easily found in occult or religious literature.  Indeed, even the most committed, life-desiccating of arcane scholars may only stumble upon a few brief “hints” or “near misses” regarding it.  For example, here is a suggestive passage from the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad:  “Normally during exhalation prana goes out 16 digits [width of a finger?] and during inhalation 12 digits. Thus 4 digits are lost during breathing.  Sitting in Padmasana one should lengthen inhalation by 4 digits.  Thus inhalation and exhalation are made equal.  This awakens the sleeping Kundalini.”

A powerful claim considering the many “super-normal” abilities which are sometimes attributed to the arousing of “Serpent Power”! 

However, it might be wise upon encountering statements like this to keep in mind that old purported Theosophical writings are not necessarily any more valid or useful than new purported Theosophical writings.  Raising the hypothetical “Kundalini”— assuming that once awake, the hypothetical “Serpent” loses no time heading upward—may almost certainly not be as easy as the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad passage implies.  Certainly, if it were just a matter of equalizing inhalation and exhalation, should there not be many more people who, perhaps having practiced alternate-nostril breathing in their weekly yoga classes, are now spectacularly Serpent-surfing their beatified ways through life?

One might think so.

But even if sightings of such homegrown ETs are a little rare, the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad may in fact be pretty close to describing a crucial relationship between the two estimated midpoints, BE and ME, which perhaps really does have something to do with the awakening of the Kundalini—or less science-fiction-channel, simply the improving of Self-awareness.

Therefore a word:  Just as one often has to “quarantine” the over-statements or over-enthusiasms in many older Eastern writings in order to salvage their underlying worth, here too it might be necessary to lower one’s expectations about what is actually likely to happen after one has tried breathing exercises or administered some other form of occult NoDoz™ to rouse a potential somnolent spinal reptile.  Bluntly speaking, personal powers like flying to the moon or making oneself invisible may never show up.  However, there is ample testimony from many that, at the minimum, there will be a slight contraction of the anal sphincter muscles—and that this may at least be associated with a general, “upward-toning” effect.

(And since one dictionary definition for the word fundament is “anus,” any Kundalini experimenter who testifies in this way might also be considered a fundamentalist; however, it would undoubtedly not be fair to automatically lump him or her in with some other types of fundamentalists who may or may not sometimes deservedly be considered [plural obscenity deleted]. . . .)

Whatever the case, there is, anyway, a good chance that it is not merely the balancing of the in-breath with the out-breath which produces the effects (which are often possibly too hastily attributed to, and used as “proof” for, the actual existence of the Kundalini).   An alternative explanation could simply be that various saints, sages, yogis, etc. down through the centuries have just been describing physical, emotional, mental, and Spiritual “enhancements” they noticed after using a certain type of “breath-work” to elevate, at least temporarily, their Moving Equipoints above their Basal Equipoints.

Furthermore, there is even a good chance that balanced breathing is not the only technique which can produce such an uplifted ME/BE effect.  In fact, after listening to the devotees of many common meditative approaches—reciting mantras, fixing attention on the forehead (“Ajna chakra”), listening to the “Sound Current” (Shabd), etc.—one might become convinced that there are quite a few ways to “correct” a chronic condition of BE/ME (the Moving Equipoint being stuck below the Basal Equipoint for way too long).  One might even be persuaded by those who insist that the old Buddhist method of simply watching the breath is just as effective as trying to balance it with precise pranayama pettifogging.  (Not to mention be persuaded by those who advocate merely resting the north pole of a ceramic magnet on the top of one’s head, or the south pole on one’s solar plexus, for a while. . . .) 

All sorts of aspirants, of all sorts of ways, seem at least united by their testimony that at times their breathing becomes so subtle that it almost seems to stop.  But where does it almost stop?  Up, up toward maximum inhalation.  That is, at a place where the ME becomes firmly established above the BE.

Here it might be objected that in hatha yoga it seems like a sinking Moving Equipoint should be produced, because the breath does indeed become shallower and more toward the out-breath while poses are held.  This is only temporary, however.  After the “recovery breaths” of the follow-up “dead man’s asana,” the ME quickly re-establishes itself upward—usually well above where it was before the yoga session began.  If the Moving Equipoint is now at a place considerably higher than the Basal Equipoint, the “Kundalini-tightened” individual will likely, at least for a while, be and feel better in a variety of ways.

ME/BE can be considered the condition of a normal, healthy, happy person who has at least some remaining “Undifferentiated psychological potential” to use for new, Self-aware life experiences.

BE/ME can be considered the condition of a person who may at least be temporarily “convalescing” from an “overdose” of physical, emotional, and/or mental life experience and who, psychologically speaking, could be courting an impairment which called “PAUL BUNYAN DISORDER.”




Paul Bunyan.  My old hometown and college town, Bemidji, Minnesota, has a semi-famous, 18-foot, 2 1/2 ton statue of him.  Paul’s ox, “Babe,” is there as well—not measuring the correct “seven axe handles and a plug of chewing tobacco between its eyes,” but at least weighing in at a respectable 5 tons of blue-painted, concrete-covered wire mesh.

Decades ago, while working my undergraduate years as a substitute desk clerk in the Lakeview Hotel, I would very often see, along with the even closer statue of “Chief Bemidji,” the Paul Bunyan and Babe tourist attractions from the lobby window.  I liked these mythological characters then and still like them now, even though I know that some jaded modern travelers might be inclined to describe the northern Minnesota statues in Sam Johnson’s words:  “worth seeing, but not necessarily worth going to see.”

Actually, though, I think that Paul Bunyan, at least, is very much worth going to see.  Looking at his expressionless face, in particular, can stimulate a lot of philosophical thought.  A basic question which might arise in a tourist is this:  where did all of Paul’s marvelous earthly accomplishments really get him?

Certainly, the earth in general, so they say, got a lot from his efforts.  North Dakota, for example, got all of its productive farm land when Paul cut down its extensive virgin forests with merely two or three swings of his axe.  Minnesota got its 10,000 lakes when Paul’s and Babe’s tracks later filled up with rain water.  Even the United States got a tourist attraction which is indisputably worth going to see, the Grand Canyon, when Paul let his axe drag along behind him one day.

But what did Paul himself get from all this?    —All this prodigious material-plane productivity . . . so much of it that his bookkeeper, Johnny Inkslinger, with pen attached to a hose, could save seven barrels of ink just by not dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s while trying to keep track of it all.

From the look of Paul’s face:  nothing.

Not only nothing in the material sense of “you can’t take it with you,” but nothing even in the more intangible sense of lasting fame on this earth.  Surely, Paul’s mythological legend is still well known today; however, it is undoubtedly just a matter of a few more eons before no one on earth will have ever heard of him.  Thus if he actually had a tombstone somewhere in the North Woods, its inscription might be appropriately similar to the one John Keats composed for himself:  “Here lies a man [giant-giant] who writ his name in water.

Paul, though, probably would not have written this for himself.  He was not known for writing, reading, or anything else greatly involving the higher desire-mental (kama-manas) or dispassionate mental (manas) varieties of differentiated consciousness.  His work was typically done using the simplest of physical methods like swinging an axe or throwing shovelfuls of snow chunks which would later thaw and also become lakes.  The six-member work crew (each named Elmer so that six Elmers would show up with one call) usually did the more cerebral things like building cook shacks and bunk houses.  No one can say for sure, of course, but one might guess that his excessive down-to-earth orientation and “workaholism” made Paul Bunyan an especially good candidate for Paul Bunyan Disorder (PBD).

PAUL BUNYAN DISORDER:  “A chronic, impaired condition resulting from perpetually throwing oneself Mindlessly into some part or parts of life, thereby eventually becoming so embrangled that one permanently breaks the psychological connection with Whole—in other words, “loses one’s Soul.”

Soul, of course, is a too old-fashioned a way to talk.  The capitalized word Self seems more modern and perhaps is more helpful if what is being referred to is an individual’s Intuitive sense that there is some “Identity” Above and Beyond his or her common, more temporary, psychological “person-alities” like “I-am-my-present-body-awareness-and/or-sense-perception,” “I-am-my-current-desire-and/or-emotion,” “I-am-my-desire-tainted-knowledge-and/or-biased-logical-operation,” or “I-am-my-objective-knowledge-and/or- dispassionate-logical-operation.”

Nevertheless, it is clear that the older language of Soul/soul still has an advantage when it comes to scaring people about the possibility of losing the “higher part of themselves”—the only part which might have the long-long-long shot of surviving the decomposition of the other parts. 

“Being lost” would not actually seem so bad if a “particularized soul” (or “monad”) were simply thought to “dissolve” and exist no longer.  It would be worse, of course, if it were believed that, as a consequence for getting lost, a soul (often metaphorically portrayed as something like an immaterial billiard ball) must take up an eternal roasting station on some Greek-front-window rotisserie in Hell.  Reincarnational views are naturally less frightening; however, even believing that a soul is not fully lost but rather just “not fully found” (in the sense of its not yet having achieved full awareness of its underlying Transcendent Nature) may not be so comforting if it is also believed that hundreds, thousands, millions, or even more additional rebirths will likely be necessary in order to get rid of all Identity-deluding, pain-producing earthly attachments and other karmic garbage.




There is, though, a possibly more cheerful Theosophical alternative:  the somewhat startling notion that a person may not actually have a soul; rather, that he or she may just have a gradually improving ability to en-Soul certain psychological features of himself or herself.

What this verb en-Soul en-Souls (en-Selfs, “Silently Witnesses,” keep a “Once-Removed Vantage” upon, etc.) are the myriad of inner “identity-assumptions” (temporary egos) which psychologically appear and disappear at various “Levels” of differentiated consciousness.  Such “ego-formations” (“ego-amalgams”) can be considered to be at least slightly false “I-ams” (merely “semi-Selves” or “semi-I’s”) because the Undifferentiated I (Self, Undifferentiated Consciousness, Atman, Purusa, etc.) has been “tainted” by contact with some “product” of a human being’s physical, emotional, or mental biological evolution (in the Darwin-inspired, conventionally scientific sense).

P.D. Ouspensky (IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS, 1949) masterfully presents the teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff in this regard:  “Man has no individual I.  But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small I’s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible.  Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking, ‘I.’ And each time his I is different.  Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly.  Man is a plurality.  Man’s name is legion.”

Ever-changing, this legion is comprised of ego-formations ranging from the grossly physical (resulting in at least the partial illusion that one really is one’s body or sense perceptions) to the subtly Spirit-mental (resulting in the Level Six Buddhi-manas illusion that one really is one’s Intuition-assisted perceptions, knowledge, or “rarefying” mental operations).  In short, ego-formations can be any “partially corrupted” and transitory sense of self which at least temporarily makes a person forget that he or she really is . . . truly and transcendentally . . . pure Self (“Consciousness-untouched-by-biology”).

Admittedly, this is not such an easy thing to understand.  Non-meditators, or those who have not engaged in much introspection/self-monitoring, might not readily grasp what is supposed to be meant by an “ego-of-the-moment”—especially if such a temporary psychological “identity” is described as having been “created” from mere association with a mundane “Consciousness-contaminator” like, for illustration purpose, one of the following: 

Level Two, Physical, e.g.:  A) a headache, B) the general sensation of fatigue, strength, or some other type of body consciousness, C) any sight/sound or other “attention-grabber” related to something like driving a car or watching a television.  Level Three, Desire-Feeling, e.g.:  D) the wish for attention from others, E) a craving for a Dairy Queen Buster Bar©, F) a daydream-generated jealous feeling regarding someone else’s Jackie Kennedy/Onassis reproduction bracelet.  Level Four, Desire-Mental, e.g.:  G) a Republican talking point (to a Republican), H) a soul-saving, medieval, theological “consensual-belief” regarding the precise wishes/nature of an anthropomorphic God, I) any semi-logical-sounding, trigger-pulling rationale for buying a motorcycle.  Level Five, Dispassionate Mental:  J) all objectively and untendentiously researched/analyzed/pontificated understandings, whether actually valid or not, about the material world (or perhaps the life and teachings of H.P. Blavatsky), K) the accumulated, matter-of-fact knowledge/expertise pertaining to one’s career (or just the painfully trial-and-error-produced opinion about the best way to paint one’s kitchen), L) the neutral, underlying “mental/-mechanics”/rational processes involved in reading/writing/computing something.

Fortunately, this “contaminated, multiple-ego” perspective can often be more easily understood if an individual is already in the habit of looking back at himself or herself—particularly his or her behavior—and saying, “That [person of the past moment] wasn’t really me.”

[It may be that the first step toward what is commonly called “clairvoyance” is simply getting enough practice in noticing one’s own after-the-fact “identity excursions” in order to make better “Seeings/guessings” about what type of ego-formations other people may be utilizing/indulging  as one interacts with them.]


Unfortunately, though, without at least some experiential grasp of what is meant by an ego-of-the-moment, it may be actually impossible to comprehend what comes next:  the teaching which asserts that it is easier to psychologically en-Soul (keep a “Once-Removed-Vantage” upon) a “tainted ego-identity” which is being utilized/indulged at a lower Level of differentiated consciousness than it is to en-Soul a tainted ego-identity which is being utilized/indulged at a higher Level. 

Relative difficulty in maintaining Mindfulness (Self-awareness) is the issue.  For example, it would be rare for a person to become completely deluded that his or her temporary sense-of-self really was a common headache (a Physical Level contamination).  Typically, there would also be enough “residual” Mindfulness to partially compromise such an identity delusion—i.e., the person might easily preserve the psychological perspective of “I am someone having a headache,” rather than becoming the totally deluded “I am a headache.”  Indeed, it has even been suggested that the reason physical suffering may be less excruciating for animals than for humans is simply because the former perhaps totally become the pain while the latter usually must not only have the pain but also add the agony of having to simultaneously “psychologically hang around” to Witness themselves in the pain as well. 

When Mindfulness is capitalized, the meaning is that there is at least some ongoing awareness of Who/What remains ever-apart from any kind of doing.  Therefore, it is obvious that it is not regarded as helpful to become so completely absorbed in activities, entertainments, daydreams, sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc. that one may suddenly look up and be surprised by how much time has passed by—and this is especially true if someone Consciously wants to continue up the (possibly even a lifetime-connected-to-lifetime) Ladder of Self-Awareness.

None of the foregoing is really new.  It may just be regarded as an alternative elaboration of the Sankhya philosophy which is sometimes said to underlie or parallel Yoga philosophy.  (Purusa contaminated by Prakriti etc.)

What might be really new, however, is some of the material added (and analogized) by H.P.Blavatsky.  Using a “Psychological Key” to understand her anthrompological “Andropogenesis,”  one can analogize some really valuable psychological insights.  For example, such a teaching might include the  that in order to remain Mindful in/at Level Two, Physical consciousness, an individual may need to have progressed to at least the “Third Degree of Self-awareness.” To remain Mindful in/at Level Three, Desire-Feeling consciousness, an individual may need to have progressed to at least the Fourth Degree of Self-awareness.  Level Four, Desire-Mental, may need the Fifth Degree.  Level Five, emotion-free Mental, may need the Sixth Degree.

These “Degrees” are the basis for what could be called the “Hierarchy of Self-Awareness”—and I believe the major analogical teaching which may set the Theosophical Society, as founded by Blavatsky and Olcott, apart from most other Spiritual traditions.  Alas, however, it seems obvious that not so many modern Theosophists seem to appreciate the analogical character of this old “franchise.”

Nevertheless, the Hierarchy of Self-Awareness may not only have a microcosmic (down-to-earth) significance but perhaps also an analogical Macrocosmic (translifetime) one as well.   Certainly, it is clear that having a lesser or greater aptitude for remaining Mindful may help explain why individuals who are quite similar in physical, emotional, mental, circumstantial (and possibly astrological) endowments can often be quite different in the way they conduct their everyday lives.  Less certainly, but perhaps nonetheless “Intuitively convincing,” is the larger-scale correspondence which suggests that an individual might be able to carry his or her advancing Degree of Self-Awareness out of one lifetime and into the next—just like one goes to sleep at night and awakens the following morning pretty much encased in the same psychological package—at best only slightly “perfected” by the previous day’s experiences. . . .

But regarding the Hierarchy:  Is your “rank” S-A [Self-Awareness] 4.6?  S-A 5.8?  Perhaps even S-A 6.1 or above?

While it may be possible for true Seers and Masters to accurately estimate the rank other individuals, it is probably really only worthwhile for most people to have some gross approximation/guess about their own Degree.  This would help identify what Levels of differentiated consciousness utilized in daily life might need special “Vigilance.”  For example, an individual ranked S-A 4.6 would probably almost never be able to remain Self-Aware while he or she was explaining some unbiased (Fifth-Level Mental) research on the Dead Sea Scrolls—or even just objectively how to change a car tire.  This individual’s primary “Work” might simply be to be Desire-Mental types of consciousness improve the An individual who had reached S-A 5.8, on the other hand, while still probably  mostly not Self-Aware as he or she engaged in the same dispassionate mental activities, might nevertheless from time to time have “Enlightening flashes of Self-Witness.”  A person with a ranking of S-A 6.1, though, might be expected to be always generally Mindful while indulging/utilizing this type of differentiated consciousness; however, this would not yet be flawlessly perfected or continuous. 

Here, one may start to sense a curious analogical correspondence with H.P. Blavatsky’s presentation of “Root Races,” “Sub-Races,” etc.—“Translifetime Psychology” being the analog of the material (but esoteric) parts of her anthropology.  “As Above; so below,” as old Hermes Trismegistus might have said (if he actually might have been). . . .

Furthermore, if the down-to-earth “psychomaturational” information (especially the self-identity midpoints) contained in what is called “The Doctrine of the Seven-Year Cycles” is considered, an equally excellent analogy with H.P.B.’s “Rounds” may also be constructed.  “As below; so Above,” as old Hermes Trismegistus might have said. . . .

There should be nothing surprising in all this analogizing.  The saints, sages, yogis, Masters, Adepts, or whoever else contributed to these esoteric understandings were not scientific physicists or archeologists.  The information they obtained most likely came from nothing more than their advanced self-observations of their own psychological states-and-identities of consciousness which they afterwards analogized into “speculations” about cosmology, anthropology, etc.—in short, much of the material in THE SECRET DOCTRINE.  


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Comment by Hari Menon on November 6, 2012 at 5:53am

Somehow I was left with a strangely silent and immeasurable sorrow a deep and unearthly  sadness slipping away into into silence , the pain and despair of the thinker and his thought ever separated over vast spaces and time , as if it were . I sincerely hope that the burning of the library would bring peace !!

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