On Wisdom: Principles: Ecstasy

Music: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.
By J.S. Bach. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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Nicholas Gordon

1. Ecstasy is the lightning that flashes whenever we get sufficiently close to being.

2. Like lightning, ecstasy is a flow of energy that cannot be long sustained, is dangerous, and is often accompanied by storms.

3. Again like lightning, however, ecstasy can be harnessed to create a more reliable, albeit feebler flow. The social instruments that harness ecstasy are art, religion, and marriage.

4. Even so, as we approach the nakedness of being, we feel a mingled terror, awe, and pleasure for which there is no substitute. The self falls away, leaving the soul naked before the nakedness of being, longing for fulfillment, for catastrophe, for death.

5. Such ecstasy can become addictive, resulting in obsessive self-destruction, as with those who seek ecstasy in repeated sex with strangers, or in serial love affairs, or in gambling or danger or drugs.

6. Experienced within a discipline, however, whether of meditation, prayer, creation, service, or love, ecstasy is the principal way in which we experience being as pleasure, and is therefore necessary to the attainment of happiness.

7. The pursuit of ecstasy is the surest sign of obsession, just as the enjoyment of ecstasy in everyday life is the surest sign of wisdom.

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