Joseph Campbell used to tell a story, about how he had met some famous Yogi, a Guru, in India, when he was a young man. He got an audience with the Guru, and as is customary, arrived with the deepest question brought to him by exposure to the Vedic tradition.
If, Campbell asked, all of existence is a manifestation of the Divine, how can we say “no” to any part of it?
Given how deeply a lazy, unconscious, permissiveness used, until recently, to rule our culture – political opponents excepted – it’s easy to miss how profound a question it is, and/or how it emerges as a consequence of a moral mind immersed in the Vedic vision.
In the Abrahamic tradition, the innate Goodness of Existence was lost in the Fall, as a consequence of the knowledge of Good and Evil that caused the Fall to happen by fracturing the world along a moral fault line that divided Heaven and earth.
In the East, as Campbell was shocked as a young man to find, this Fall had never happened. In the East, The Theophany Never Ended. God had not been alienated from the World.
This doctrine can provide a profound sense of relief to a consciousness, such as Campbell’s was, struggling to reconcile its animal existence with its ideological identity. That Proverb that gives to all things its season, only extends its acceptance so far. It is, we might say today, vanilla; and as such makes no accepting mention of all those kinks and horrors that human beings long ago found within their kin and ken.
As a young man, Campbell – another child of Freud – found himself in a culture of two minds. By custom, it was vanilla, but it’s intellectual and artistic vanguards had pushed into the black; and were, apparently, throwing a party on the other side of the line. Raised in such a time and place, Campbell’s sense of intellectual nobility was thus inspired to get back in touch – via Jung – with the wisdom hidden in the archetypal awareness of the body.
So, he went to the East, and to that most sensual of Eastern traditions, the Vedic. Not that he looked only there, of course. Rather, I’m saying that it was into that tradition that he was initiated, such that his own mantra – follow your bliss – the code which he contributed to the world – was an expression of what he learned in the moment his Guru answered his question.
If, again, all the world is a manifestation of Divinity – If, in other words, the Fall never happened, and THIS IS EDEN – then how do we say “no” to any part it – and by “part” I’m not just talking about the vanilla stuff, but absolutely any experience?
To which his Guru replied: “For you and for me, we say ‘YES’”
You might recall that it was this very word – YES – that sparked John’s love for Yoko, during his visit to what I imagine was her otherwise perfectly ordinary post-modern art show. Unless you’re some sort of idiot, it’s hard to get really inspired during such a show. Wryly amused, maybe. Benevolently uncomprehending, perhaps. Hyped up on the revolutionary weirdness of it all, sure. But truly touched is, I imagine, particularly rare in the face of such polymorphous perversity. And that’s what that one word, those three letters, did for Lennon.
Romeo and Juliet similarly said YES, so the story goes. His first words to her provide the first half of an English sonnet, and she willingly provided the rest. Thus began their act of Divine transgression, the YES they said across the boundary maintained by their families, and ultimately across the boundary of death itself.