Pain, Observed

Pain requires an observer. Grind up a rock, split it in two, and it does not complain; it might be called an observer of sorts, that may in quantum terms collapse a wave function on its own, but there is no “looking out” anywhere in a rock, nothing that sees, feels, no awareness. It cannot feel pain, no matter what you do to it. Simply put, there is no value to the measurement. Pain does seem to exist for a reason, of course. As negative reinforcement: touch a boiling pot and the bite of the intense heat should make you learn not to do such a thing. It is a learning experience. Pain keeps us from doing some stupid things, it warns us when something is wrong in our physique, it makes us run faster from what we fear will inflict itself on us. Pain is evolutionarily useful. But there does seem to be an awful lot of it.

It is not so that there is more pain in the world than ever has been. We are as if waking up to what has been happening everywhere around us. Civilization exists to protect people from violence, and we are starting at least to stand up to the threat of pain, for it not to have power over how we decide. It is an idea whose time has come, what I mean by this: the answer blowing in the wind is to touch down. There will be no end of pain, but the manner in which it is experienced we count on materially changing: that it will not anymore be a deliberate and negative infliction, but rather only come by accident, or perhaps in corner cases to be part of some experiential gain. Perhaps a far future. The dream is that coming generations will be greatly removed from truly comprehending the actual nature of such things as torture.

Even if it comes, though, such a frame of mind, universal—what of all the pain that has been? How about all the senseless pain? Impersonal, storms that struck and rendered grievous injury due to no seeming cause, that there were no particular sin that had caused the hand of nature to so render retribution… how about the animals, too? the numbers caught in steel traps who chewed through their own leg to escape? dolphins who drowned in nets? deer caught in cruel barbed wire who only made it worse by trying to kick it off? I cannot believe animals were guilty of anything that the powers that be would take it out on them for it. It seems so much a waste, that the experience that marks the lives of all who have something which looks out—that this is what the world has to show to them. The cruelty is a mocking of fate.

Pain seems to be the cost of doing business. No pain, no gain, right? And an artist needs to suffer to produce anything of worth. (That happened to be true at least in the case of me, mine.) It seems to be the price of having a world at all. You can actually think of everything, that it is all made of pain, all sensations merely a variety of it. But what if the price we pay—what if it’s worth it? As if we see pain as currency, and some of the good things in the world what we purchase with it? What if pain is the price of love? I recall I was in the school play in elementary school. The play was The Prince Who Couldn’t Laugh, and it turns out it was because he had not first ever cried. Is the sweet not as sweet without the sour? In a larger scope, U2 lyrics come to mind: “Don’t believe the devil / I don’t believe his book / But the truth is not the same / Without the lies he made up.” Maybe in this world, the pain gives the heart its depth?

Out of pain, sometimes out of a lot of pain, there can be brought into this world meaning. It is not a fair equation, it might seem, from gallons of suffering a few drops of it may be squeezed out. But this is our “safety net”. We want to find meaning in any other way besides it, but if there is nothing else, we can find a depth of experience in tragedy. To share sadness makes us more human. Makes us care. And if it doesn’t? Then how easily is the reaper to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is not always easy to find meaning, for in this sometimes horrible world there can be so much pain it seems an impossible task to find any kind of purpose meet to such suffering, seemingly disrespectful even to try. Out of the Holocaust some said the meaning to be found was the new nation of Israel. But other Jews simply said, “It is too much, I can no longer believe.” This is understandable.

Sometimes the feeling of pain itself is the meaning. It is to care, when the object of what you care for is gone or is in pain themselves. They say that love can be the greatest source of pain in this world. Love sometimes grows powerfully when watered by tears. Do you understand yet? It is not fair. The sense that we can make of all of this—any of this—makes no sense. This is the world, this is life. In our faith we must believe that the meaning that is collected as the “fruit” of pain is greater than the pain ever was. Even if, as it looks, that so much suffering seems to go unmet by anything like caring. Or half measures taken to comfort the bereaved, how they look to fall so short of what we would rightly desire for them as recompense. But truly, even if there be no God or Heaven, can we believe that there is indeed a deeper meaning that comes from a world’s, a whole history’s worth of pain?

Is there buried treasure that we might dig, a sudden purpose where we might fit the greatest of suffering, and have it make sense? This is the Holy Grail greater than the Grail. Perhaps it is in memory. In imagination, even. That we sit and wonder of those who have suffered, especially those whom history forgets, and it causes our hearts to feel, to be human, and to give it our best that we should not see something like that happen again. Even for the best of us, and the best of our abilities, we will fall short, but the attempt—that in itself is meaningful. It is to care, beloved. To try and remember what the dust itself forgot, that is a form of magic. The good kind, the real kind. What if we make of the world, this ugly, imperfect world—what if we make of it better than what it would have been had it been perfect, all along? That is the nature of the greatest thing of all: that is the sentiment of love. Which without it we would be lost, sitting still on a calm day. Which if we have it, we can stand against the hurricane.

Do not despair. We not only can change the world, we are indeed in the midst of changing it. Do you not see? Have you not heard? Things are getting better. Not everywhere, not all at once, and sometimes it has to get worse before it turns back around—but it is happening. We don’t live in the Dark Ages anymore, do you not see? Have you not heard? You don’t have to believe in anything to have the hope, hope for all the world. That each dawn brings us the light to build upon the light of the day before. Even the great dreams may come to pass. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Amen. It costs you nothing to care. Nay, not just that: if you do care, how enriched you will then be, to have a heart. Don’t let that candle expire, beloved. Such light people have died to defend. We are what we care about… else we are worthless, indeed.

The Origin of Night

The story? Let us say God is all that. All good, all wise, all patient, all merciful, not lacking in any perception. What would it be, what could Lucifer have possibly done that he would be forever removed from the light of Eternity? Can we suppose, should we believe that he knew what he was doing, that he knew he was going five steps too far? In a perfect world, what could he have possibly done to bring upon himself the wrath of God? “Perfect”: that’s the clue. What could Lucifer have done? Perhaps actually to create the very concept of “wrong”? Before his doing so, all there was—anywhere—was perfection. No one ever made any sort of mistake anywhere that there were beings to make them. There was no such thing. This was his “genius”. With it, he tried to overpower God Himself. For all he had to do was to make the Lord make one mistake… But after temptations of pleasure and of pain, our man Jesus Christ said at his last, “It is finished,” for indeed, his whole life had then been led without any error whatsoever.

What Lucifer did was to sin, for the first time anyone ever in the history of Heaven and Earth even had the thought to. And Sin, his emanation, goes by other names, from the analytic name “Error” to one that is near and dear to all of us, I’m sure: Pain. Which is to say that God was not the one who thought that up… Lucifer had enough power to do this all by himself. Now, God put it to good use, a good example that it has had great utility in the process of evolution—but no, the first instance of it did not go as far back as the Most High. And Sin, the curse that it was, spawned from Evil himself, spread from the first like an insidious fire, so that everyone—all but One, were subject to it. Even the angels would from then on sin, and this is outside of all the “rebel” angels, Lucifer’s angels: they now to be called the Devil and his demons.

Can you imagine a world without pain? For it was thus at the beginning, and it shall be again at the end (see the finish of the Book of Revelation). Do you understand that Error is Sin is Pain? Or maybe the word we used at first that says all three are what you may comprehend of what Lucifer made: the Wrong. It was his to do, surely, for perhaps no one but him could have thought of something so “novel”, and it required stretching of the mind to conceive of it, and it required effort like nothing else to commit the first fault—anywhere. And then this was a breach in the Godhead. It threatened existence itself. For we are talking about stakes where pain—the idea of pain—were invented by one created: something that fundamental and pervasive. For pain, even the idea of it: before it were made, it was an impossible thing.

To which one might conceive, that if the whole of the universe were one grand story, could it be that all the best subplots are ones not where nothing goes wrong, but ones where we overcome obstacles—stories where there are bad things in them too? True, these of struggle may be intrinsic to the nature of creation and that is why we would see things this way, and one might imagine a physics where the best story that could be told is one where nothing goes wrong. But this universe is all we’ve got—might we find that truly, this one is all we need to make the best of all possible worlds? Like it were all on purpose! Does the best story necessarily win, in other words? Ours to follow in that path of struggle, to know that it all goes to have some meaning: this is surely God’s ultimate gift to us, what He made of the pain, that nothing is wasted.

This is not a setup. Even predestination is not so simplistic, so simple-minded as that. The meaning we have, that given us and that which we make—if this is just a chess game where we set the pieces up to systematically knock them down, we have then as much meaning as a chess game. We would be poor players indeed. Know this: Lucifer had his chance, had a real chance to repent of his wrongs. They we not simply token offerings of forgiveness for the clearing of our conscience, for the sake of the story. Thus it is with anyone who ends up being damned: they had a real chance not to go down the path they did, and they did not take it. If they didn’t have that chance, and were damned anyway, we to indict them would be the worse side of evil, and we would surely all be lost.

And God can forgive many things. If Lucifer had turned back, after committing that heinous first error, indeed how different things would have been. But the pride that made him think he could outdo the Most High, this pride was not satisfied with merely the opening salvo of the War: he was bent on seeing it through, a furious obsession that became the more inflamed with every defeat. At every step, he would attempt the worse, thus the evil knew deeper lows. And the Dragon also threw down a third of the stars with his tail: a third of the billions of angels fell with him. This was part and parcel of that evil. These angels’ lives we lost by him. Sympathy for the Devil? He surely has my sympathy, that justice so harsh will be done on him, but he has the least of that sympathy. More goes to the least of the angels who fell, than ones who caused said fall.

It was that I saw Satan and his angels fall from Heaven like the ground of the place dropped out from beneath them, out of sight. He made himself out to be darkness itself, but all he did was block the light so that there would be shadow. God answered the darkness with the origin of night. And I saw Satan full of wrath when he landed in the Earth, for he knew his time was short. What if the story were just as real as the pain we go through? And what we do on this world ultimately has import, has gravity, for we are caught up in that story… God Himself came down here because it required His personal attention. This is our only world, this our only life we live: so now, will you not do something? If perhaps nothing else, to pray? Let it not be to watch it all go by, and not having lived, lament the dream not followed…

You are a human being alive on this green Earth: while you are alive, while it is still green: will you not seize the day, will you not do something so easy and impossible as love? And what can you love? Think of this: you can thank God for the pain you have experienced in your life. Decide to do that. You will then be forgiven for the pain you yourself have caused. (Pain is a saint’s excuse to be thankful.) And so, we fight the good fight, and defeat Satan at the first, and then even the last and worst of his evils. All you have to know is this: don’t give up. There is always hope: believe this, and it will be true. The Devil started with everything and threw it all away because of his pride. Be happy with nothing, instead. Do you not know? The Man Upstairs made the stars above for us, the ground below. All He wants from us is to stand and look up, and to feel small, and to be amazed. For that is what it means to be a child of God.

And that’s how the story goes, right up to your doorstep. Go.

If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.

Conspiracy Theory

Can it be true? Is the Devil responsible for every wrong thing that ever was, from the barest papercut to the most seismic earthquake, the hugest hurricane? For pain, itself? What does it mean, the Plan of God, and is it the same as the Grand Design? Why would the War in Heaven echo within these questions, and through time and creation? Do you think you can know the answer? For it requires a shifting of scale, as to what you thought God was capable of, and then of what you thought angels, the power of these were, who were said to be a little greater than human beings. What you probably have in mind as to what God is able to do, this is more in line with the ability of the archangels, if we say that Lucifer was once the first of them (and Michael the second).

It took a little getting used to, that last thought. I had read Tolkien’s “Ainulidalë” where Melkor, the rebel Ainur, and the greatest, shaped creation—and I thought, certainly it could not have been like that for the real world, for certainly angels and their ilk did not possess such power. And yes, the evil that was will, the harm man does to man, that could have come from the original rebel; but earthquakes? hurricanes? Certainly not having source in the Fall. Or so I thought. What it took to shift my paradigm was to hear that God had not created pain. I half overheard it, the Lord said it to me as if in a dream. And then it all made sense to me. The aesthetics of pain, pure pain: it is discordance itself. Verily, good things have been made of even this, but that result is the work of the Lord, and not of the pain. Discordance itself, permeating all creation: this was the scale of the greatest of angels. Quite the idea.

But… it was really like that?

What is this conspiracy? Why did we never know this? The Book of Job gives us clues. You know the story, Satan makes a wager with God when God gushes about His faithful servant Job. And so Satan is given permission basically to let loose on poor Job, to test that faith. So at the end of his trials, when Job is about to lose it, God appears. About the reason(s) for his travails, He says:

4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[Job 38:4-7]

He goes on in that vein for a bit. Not once does he point a finger and say, “Satan did it!” Nope. He takes “blame” for the whole shebang. And to anyone who asks why He didn’t tell us this before, this news about pain, above—I would simply point you to that speech. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to be let in on this tidbit of a revelation.

Also, there’s a look at Satan’s capabilities in the Book of Job:

Job 1:16 “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them”
Job 1:18-19 “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead”

We were talking about natural disasters, here. So are all natural disasters directly the work of evil forces? Maybe not, but natural disasters are due to how the world works, and how the world works is in part due to the strivings of evil against the good. I found that the creation of pain was the start of the War in Heaven. The evil, it is told, spread through a third of all angels. We’re talking billions. The War had a good deal in making the quality of fate, as the angels contended on what was, and is, and is to be—for creation itself. And it is yours to decide which side you are on, those who fight for truth, or those who make their own desire the greatest of their ideals.

So, if you ever come to a place were the walls seem to shut around you, when there seems before you only a dead end, know that these are from the twisting of the innards of the cosmos, and indeed there you may be able yourself to fight in the War in Heaven, which has ended, is ending, and will end—as herald to a new age. If you can make a way out of a structure sealed in shadow, you give the angel fighting on the side of faith and logic a means to bring the demon down. The conspiracy of the darkness is one of despair, for this is how it propagates. Like a virus, to the detriment of its carrier. Find the truth, indeed, the faith and logic: it is with us, not our foe; we are of the light. The Grand Design inhales the darkness and breathes out the dawn, and we are one with the Plan if we do likewise, to carry the candle flame into corners light forgot.

And the grandest conspiracy of all? That which makes all other conspiracies pale in comparison? Of course, it’s right before your face. Pretty much every day. What is the way to all you ever could hope to want? It is simple, and no one ever told you: it is love, and only love: be not but love, do not but love. That’s it. As the soothsayers 4 said, “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you meant to be. It’s easy.” It is what’s behind the whole ball of wax, why God took the blame for all the wrong that’s ever happened, when it’s never His fault for anything (never!). If God is all good, but let His greatest creation have the greatest angle of leeway, and it was from that created one that ultimately, all evil and pain come… it almost seems too easy. But that’s God for you.

“I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” [Luke 10:24 NRSV] It is many a time such a way with mysteries, that once unraveled they show a very simple underlying structure. If this is a great saying, what I write here, remember that it was not the Lord who said, “God is love.” But the Lord, indeed, said that they who were to follow him would do greater things than he had done. Yea, verily. He gives us even this. There is no question, love is the answer. The secret is love. Tell everyone.

If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.

Sanity (cont’d)

And the nature of this world: imperfect can be more beautiful than perfect. Though, of course, nothing that is truly perfect was ever a part of this world (save Christ). Error, or more romantically, accident, can be much the more beautiful than straight on poetry writ flawless. This is the memory of her who had no chance. She was the first Sophia, who was not acceptable, but by no fault of hers. She was the first that was not caused to be by the Lord our God. It is our duty to do as God did here: we do not prefer that the evil occur, but to make of things in its aftermath better than if the wrong had never been done at all.

Look: one of the greatest factors in evolution? Pain. Prey flee from predators because of the threat of pain. And death? One wonders if they comprehend it, never having experienced it but maybe having witnessed it, and one wonders there if they fully understand that, there; but pain? they get that. So the prey is fueled by fear of pain and they get faster. Predators run faster to catch prey. So it goes. Pain has other uses, of course. Philip K. Dick once called it the most efficient motivation. We escape damage because of pain. Some people of the S & M crowd thank their lucky stars that there is pain. Death, too, is a motivating factor, but more abstract, for we do not remember when we blinked on, in the womb, and have only unconsciousness as a comparison. Pain we know.

So what exactly is that streak of insanity that runs through the universe? Though Sin is dead, she behaves as one who is supernaturally animated. The universe is not her body, but her body was like the seed of it. There is of her darkness spread through and throughout creation. If you perchance a pocket of crazed circumstance, it might be her center, blowing by. And beware her children, every bit as dead as her (for the offspring share the nature of the parent), who are monsters. Do not mistake their madness or motion for life. On the Last Day shall they all be collected and burned into nothing, and no one will mourn their passing. But all of it is indeed a sad tale.

And about Phil thinking that other thing about all these things that happened, the Godhead itself in jeopardy, all of it because of an intellectual and not a moral error—really? The error being mistaking the illusory world for the real world? That’s what he said, that all of us so fall, and the powers that be will tell you when you fall that you have sinned, and not that you committed an honest mistake. But the streak of the irrational in the shadow of everything—what is irrational is the illusion we see, that the “real” world actually is supposed to make sense. The true way of the world has always been inaccessible to us. To be sane, therefore, to be of the outward forms we see, is to be insane. The sanity is actually the insanity. And indeed, this is something like an intellectual error, not moral.

So they are opposite sides of the coin: to find the beauty in even the faltering of things; or be as like the powers that be, and grasp after power by taking advantage of the irrational, phenomenological world. Even in the purely intellectual, there is in practice always a moral dimension to your actions. Maybe just the ones who made up the rules being at fault. If you think about it, much of all sin is an intellectual error. The logic of them, however, contained in the heart, and not the head. When we do not understand the consequence of a sin, then it is purely an intellectual error. Only when you know it is wrong can you call it so. Ostensibly, of course, for the record counts even unknowing sin as sin.

In the War in Heaven, the main goal was preservation: Logos (Holy Reason) vs. derangement (evil). The angels fought for the fundamental structure of our reality. If you can tell, we did take damage, but if you also have eyes to see, then see that ultimately, we won. I think there is a reason we feel so satisfied at the end of a movie when the good guy wins. I think it’s cooked into the soup of existence itself. Along with the tribute to Pain, there is the blood, sweat, and tears of all the angels who fought so hard to keep things from falling apart. And in it, even how there is no victory without first conflict. Lucifer ultimately plays his part in the Plan; there is no escape from that. Not to say things aren’t his fault. It’s just how good God really is. And for how seductive evil may seem, how senseless it ultimately amounts to.


Have you at some point thought that there is a streak of insanity that runs through the fabric of the universe? Philip K. Dick had several explanations about that. The first, and probably closest to his heart, was that the original Mind mourns after a woman who has died, and all of creation is awry because of that grief. Another is that the primordial Fall from grace was not a moral error, but one of intellect. And one may find the latter sounds unsatisfying. All the bad stuff that ever happened, because someone forgot to balance a checkbook? We shall return to that, but the former speculation: this does indeed seem to be the case of how things are.

When Lucifer decided to sin, in its most formidable cast, that urge did not sit idle, but its consequence bore fruit. When he sinned, he gave birth to Sin. This was the fruit of his overwhelming genius, and sad that is. Where nothing could go wrong, there in Heaven where God’s will is done as a matter of course, he invented Error. He invented Pain. And he, being the progenitor of same, he himself became Evil. This is in line with the writings of Milton, Paradise Lost, but it has its origin in the Bible: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” [James 1:15, NIV] And the term, “playing God”—and how wrong that could possibly be—is most fit in describing this creation, Sin.

I wrote once: “imagine every fiber of your being twisting in agony; it gets worse if you move; it gets worse when you stop.” I had not realized it at the time I jotted that time, but such a tortured soul was what Sin was to be, behind her eyes. This was Error, this was Pain. So before the life could light within her, just at that moment, she was slain. And mercy it was. But this is the one whom we grieve, the woman that died, the innocent that died—for she was not given the chance at all. And this is an argument against the question of why does not God select them to be born who would not sin? Because everyone should get a chance, a real chance, if life were to be given to them. Sin’s life was zero sum: perfectly fair, no gain nor loss. Except the potential of what might have been. And that is real too; and this is why we grieve.

This was what was meant when the Lord said of the Devil that he was a murderer from the first. The Lord would not let the light behind the eyes, the life, suffer so catastrophically… Philip K. Dick said that the universe is a tale told of the one that was lost, and indeed, is it not so? Is it not a tale of sins, of pain, of mistakes—do we not relate to these ideas? It is of fruitless speculation to wonder how she would have turned out. There is no way to tell. As it stands, you may interact with Sin, and she will seem like she were of like any other spirit being, until you look into her eyes, and at the cores exist only vacuum. She reacts like she feels, but ultimately, there is nothing there that looks out.

So it was her body out of which God created all things material. Lucifer thought that by poisoning creation by the body of pain, of error, he was “salting the earth” as the saying goes, so that it would be impossible to build anything out of the watery chaos that that body was. But God wanted it that way, all creation the reminder of the one who was lost. That all might remember her. Indeed, it was impossible to build anything solid from the barely there watery chaos, but as we know, with God nothing is impossible. What you see all around you has this one thing in common: nothing is perfect. But there is so much beauty. This is what God can do with the body of Error itself.