Coming out of Bookstore Benicia at Southampton Center, last evening I noticed a copy of Deepak Chopra’s best seller of a few years back, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. From the rolling, used book rack outside the store front, I picked it up and briefly flipped through. It set me to thinking again of physicality and eternity. Chopra’s book is one of several in which he which distills the four and five thousand year old essences of Indian thought; a transcendental spirituality that perennially undressed and redressed itself in symbols, metaphors and story-told myth, reborn and dying many times in its various heroes, sages, avatars, sacred saints, villains and devils. All those dressings are, of course, the accumulation of popular nonsense for clever gurus to retell and explain for the usual donations of food into their begging bowls, or for shelter through the night..
Deepak stays clear of that swamp of tall tales, dipping into it only occasionally to make a point. His own face, by aging, gives the lie somewhat to the notion of ageless bodies, though lifestyles do bear significantly on longevity and good appearance. It must be said that if X is timeless, it cannot be mind, if by mind we mean ordinary awareness of self and its surroundings, for these are temporal. In timelessness they are transcended, so to speak, temporally unconditioned. We can, though, distinguish awareness from mind if we view mind as that structure of memorable experience which awareness can usually access for orientation and understanding. Mind endures without awareness during sleep or coma. Awareness can endure amnesia of varying depth. It can be asked whether amnesia may not be the usual state of many people’s awareness. Amnesia is a near approximation of timelessness, which may be the most freedom the majority of us ever get to know.
But, what is freedom without power? Freedom without power has no responsibility. Freedom with no recollection of one’s prior mental state and its impulses offers no aim, no purposeful direction. Responsible action, then, requires a most collected and well-integrated mind. We call this, “Intellect”. Anti-intellectual people cannot be wholly responsible apart from narrowly conceived avenues of consideration. What of power exercised without ability? Can it result in anything good but by accident? Political freedom requires maximal responsibility. Does the Tea Party meet this obligation? No. Nor do the financial backers and ideological agitators of the Tea Party meet any larger obligation to the world than fits within broad ways of getting more private money.