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The Highly Played Game of As If – Episode One: The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda

Bethesda Fountain, San Francisco, CA, Courtesy of: F. Diez

Matt and I just finished recording the first episode of The Highly Played Game of As If: A Podcast Exploring Creativity in the Light of Sacred Texts. In it we look specifically at a story from the Gospel of St. John, interpreting it in the style of Maurice Nicoll, a British psychologist and student of Carl Jung and G. Gurdjieff. Our conversation includes a brief introduction to the underlying concepts — which you can read about more at the post, Introducing the Highly Played Game of As If — as well as our analysis of the Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from John Chapter 5.

As I said, our commentary stands on the high shoulders of the British psychologist, Maurice Nicoll, who wrote a ground-breaking book called The New Man, in which Nicoll offers a number of deep insights into the parables and miracles of Christ as described in the New Testament Gospels of the Christian Bible. Below you’ll find an inline flash player loaded with our talk, as well as a link to the audio file and a brief play-by-play outline of what went down.

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Download Episode One (runs about one hour and four minutes)

  1. Introduction to the Game of As If — 00:00 – 26:30
  2. Reading of the Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda — 26:30 – 28:30
  3. The Sheep-Gate and the Five Porches: Being Led by Our Senses — 28:30 – 36:45
  4. The Stirring of the Pool: Water as a Symbol for Living Truth — 36:45 – 41:10
  5. The First Man: Receptivity, Readiness, and Disposition Toward Living Truth — 41:10 – 47:10
  6. The Sick Guy, His Bed and the Presence of Jesus: Being Touched by the Good of the Truth — 47:10 – 01:03:30
  7. Closing — 01:03:30 – 01:04:30

Introducing “The Highly Played Game of As If”

photo credit: freesynap

We talk a lot on this blog about the uniqueness of humanity. I believe, as indicated in the introduction to our theory, that we owe this to our “really badass imaginations.” Think about it — how long did it take you to come up with a reason why that guy insisted on tailgating you all the way to work last week?  Were his actions potentially excusable because he was surely going to the hospital to see a loved one, or was he completely out of line and most likely a total asshole?

We love to jump to conclusions, and we can do this because we have a highly evolved ability to conceive orders of scale, which is to say, the human being is alone in the known universe in his ability to hold in his mind’s eye a progression, succession, or graduated series of related steps or degrees, including both steps externally perceived and steps internally imagined or extrapolated.  This skill is at the same time enormously useful and tragically fallible.  It is fallible for one simple reason: we’re limited by what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Beyond that, we have to make something up … or throw our hands in the air and walk away.

This is particularly frustrating when it comes to the big questions — like meaning-of-life questions. How did we get here? Where are we going? What can we do to reach our greatest potential? We at the Creative Evolution Blog have thrown our hands up at these questions more times than we can count. We’ve felt like we were banging our heads against a wall and had to leave with our tails between our legs. Yet we’ve always come back to them, looking for some new vantage point, unable to pass life off as meaningless biological clockwork and at the same time unable to accept theological/doctrinal explanations at face value.

Between these two extremes lies what Joseph Campbell called a “highly played game of ‘as if.'” Campbell borrowed this concept from Immanuel Kant, who said the “proper expression of our fallible mode of conception” is to imagine the world and everything in it as if all of it were “derived from a supreme mind.” This is Campbell’s “highly played game of ‘as if,'” and it begins with the idea that we all have within us some divine seed or common source. It then plays itself out as we endeavor to act, think, and feel in new (unscripted) ways through body, mind, and spirit.

Successful Retreat!

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
– Often Attributed to Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

The first Creative Evolution Workshop/Retreat has officially come to a close. It was a beautiful experience for everyone involved, filled with emotions of all kinds, hard work, wistful playtime, and fantastic food. Check out the pictures at Circle Yoga Shala’s Facebook Page.