A podcaster reached out to me a few months ago and said "been watching your stuff and you seem like a real Cosmic Orphan, wanna chat?"
That phrase intrigued me, so I looked it up. And it turns out that it's an expression of the German concept of weltschmertz. Which roughly translates as "world weariness" or "the wound of the world."
Steinbeck wrote about it in East of Eden, Ralph Ellison, speaking of the African American experience riffed on it in his Invisible Man, Kurt Vonnegut name checked it in Player Piano. One author called it "homesickness for a place you have never seen."
That's the Cosmic Orphan in a nutshell.A grieving for what is, coupled with a yearning for what could or should be.
And in many ways, we're all Cosmic Orphans––thrust into this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, with barely a say in the matter. Homesick for a place we've never seen, but still, somehow, remember.
This matches the Kabbalistic notion of three phases of existence––the Pre-Tragic, Tragic and Post-Tragic, and points out a way Home for all of us.
In the Pre-Tragic phase, everything is safe, womb-like, peaceful. It could literally represent the amniotic sack, or it might persist through a stable and loving childhood, in the bubble of our nuclear family.
But inevitably, the Pre-Tragic phase, where we are safe, loved and cared for, doesn't last. At some point, the contractions and pressures of the birth canal shunt us out into a harsh, cold, loud reality. We run smack dab into the wound of the world, and we feel it as pain, confusion, frustration, or resentment. Welcome to the Tragic. (if you've ever raised teenagers, this is where much of their angsty angst and resentment comes from).
We didn't ask for this, we didn't sign up for it. All that happened is that two random humans swapped genetic material, followed by a brief flash of green light when zinc atoms exploded where sperm met egg (as scientists at Northwestern discovered a few years ago).
Fiat Lux. Let there be Light. And here we are.
But once we're wounded by the world, and get swamped by the even bigger wound of the entire world, we often want out. There's an element of "f*ck this, didn't sign up for it, don't deserve it, don't want it!" Because what we want, what we Cosmic Orphans often yearn for, is a return to the womb, where we're loved, safe and secure.
And we attempt to crawl back into the womb (an awkward philosophical and gynecological prospect on the best of days), we seek escape, transcendence, soothing. It might be in binge watching and digital distractions, in intoxication, in acquiring the baubles of material status, in cultic group think and conspiracy theories, in esoteric spirituality and magical thinking where "everything happens for a reason"––but no matter the mechanism, we're seeking to bypass the unsolvable trainwreck of the human experience. We deny this life and devalue it because it hurts too much to embrace it fully.
But the obstacle, as Marcus Aurelius reminds us, is the way. What stands in the way, becomes the Way. And the same is true for how we can move from Cosmic Orphans to Humans who've found our way Home.
Rather than retreating to try and claw back our Pre-Tragic beginnings, we can accelerate forwards to the end. We can face death, but on our own terms, and in our own time. We can engage in the deliberate initiation of "death practice."
Lest that sound morbid or frightening, it's important to note that death practices are as old as human culture––ranging from indigenous trials of shamanic dismemberment (and reassembly) to Lakota Sun Dances (where supplicants are suspended by their flesh) to the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece, which Plato attested "teach us not only how to die a better death, but to live a better life!" They've literally provided the seedbed of most philosophy, art, culture and belief for our entire species.
All ecstatic practices––whether meditation, psychedelics, sexuality or extreme sports, are all in their way, death practices.
Goethe perhaps said it best, "He who does not know the secret "die and become" shall remain forever a stranger on this earth."
Forever a stranger on this earth...sounds a lot like the Cosmic Orphanage.
So why all this waxing poetic about dying and becoming? What could possibly be so meaningful about becoming a "twice born" human?
Because remember, the first time we were born, we had little say in the matter. And that absence of consent leads to much of our suffering, as well as our counterproductive efforts to escape our bypass the nitty and the gritty.
But once we have experienced "dying and becoming" we, like Ebenezer Scrooge, or Jimmy Stewart in A Wonderful Life, or even Dorothy joyfully returning to Kansas, get to choose this existence, without qualification or compromise.
We were never given that choice the first time. But we can offer it to ourselves and each other a second time. And once we heed the call, once we say an unequivocal, full bodied, open hearted FUCK YES to the rest of our lives, we are reborn into the Post-Tragic potency of being HomeGrown Humans.
So our death right is actually our (re)birthright.
And what's so interesting and exciting is that, for the first time, the notion of Death/Rebirth rituals aren't philosophical or metaphysical anymore. There's actually straight-up neurophysiological protocols that reliably deliver the goods.
A deep reset of the brainstem, a deceleration of brainwaves into low Delta frequencies, a rise in heart rate variability and vagal tone, a flushing of hormones and neurotransmitters––code in those parameters and you will have a rich and ineffable experience of dying and becoming.
Because we now know the mechanisms of action behind these experiences we don't have to wrap them in esoteric or exclusionary belief systems––we can strip out the mythologies, but keep the technologies.
Believe what you want to believe, just never lose the faith. Cause lord knows, we could all do with a bit more of it these days.
So that's what Recapture the Rapture is about. I've only just thought of it in the way I wrote it today, but that's the clearest distillation I can come up with. It shares the toolkit for an open-source DIY initiation into all of us recapturing our rapture––our bliss, our belonging, our becoming––so that we can rise up, stand up, and lend our voices to how this All Goes Down (that's the capital R Rapture bit).
Does it matter?
Will it work?
No idea. But I can say that a) it's likely the most outrageous book ever published by a major press and b) it's my level best effort to make something that nudges the scales at least a little bit towards the good, the true and the beautiful.
At the proverbial end of the day, we don't have to remain Cosmic Orphans, isolated in our despair, alienated in our grief. We can find our brothers and sisters, who can hear all the truth in what we say. We can learn to weep, rather than whimper. And we can do it, with creativity, with courage and with conviction.
We can dance each other home.
"Always and already," Nisargadatta reminds us, "the other world, is this world, rightly seen!"
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