“Sixsmith, I climb the steps of the Scott monument every morning and all becomes clear. Wish I could make you see this brightness. Don’t worry, all is well. All is so perfectly, damnably well. I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.”
— Robert Frobisher. Letter to Rufus Sixsmith (from the film, Cloud Atlas)
In the recent film, “Cloud Atlas,” conventional boundaries of every sort are explored, transcended, and obliterated through a process of being transposed across generations of time, limitless space, and through the amazing interplay of personal liaisons which, in some way, contain a haunting awareness of connections that defy our commonsense notions of our temporal “limitations.”
Each of us, no matter how obscure or prominent we are in our day, are connected in ways that we seldom appreciate fully. There are many ways in which people can be connected, but certain connections are especially prescient, when we find ourselves confronted by the presence of particular kindred spirits, whose character, personality, or personal history, resonate so well with ours, that we are compelled to engage them, without necessarily understanding precisely why we feel so compelled. In his novel, “Cloud Atlas,” Mitchell expresses this idea well:
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
As we all know, the heart is not a logical organ. It can bring us to our knees in moments of pain from betrayal, or when the pain of separation strikes. Such circumstances not only affect us emotionally, but the pain we experience can be accompanied by confusion and bewilderment on a scale which exceeds our ability to cope. Imagine, if you will, this very same pain being accompanied by the inclusion of memories that clearly could not have taken place during that period of temporal incarnation. Ordinarily, such experiences would be thought of as unusual, encompassing a most controversial and speculative subject. However, it is not without precedent, nor are such beliefs uncommon in cultures throughout the world.
“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principals of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. That each point of intersection, each encounter, suggests a new potential direction. Proposition, I have fallen in love with Luisa Rey. Is this possible? I just met her and yet, I feel like something important has happened to me.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
I have had, throughout my entire adult life, difficulty adjusting to the awareness of memories which clearly do not seem to have been possible to acquire during my current existence. Periodically, since the initial encounter with the story of Jonas Rice, the character at the heart of these recollections, I have encountered individuals who have brought these issues, sometimes abruptly and inconveniently, to the surface. Each encounter with this kindred spirit in Massachusetts, whose presence always seemed to precipitate such extraordinary experiences, led me to pursue intuitive and occasionally obscure paths and directions in the course of my investigations. I do not pretend to completely understand what it was exactly that led me to become aware of this information, and while it stretches the imagination just to entertain the notion of the possibility of connections between lives over generations as depicted in the film, “Cloud Atlas,” I can only report that I sensed these kinds of connections profoundly in my own experience, and cannot offer much in the way of empirical proof beyond my own subjective recall of these experiences and my vivid personal sense of their integrity. I have not wished for any of it, and quite frankly would rather have been a wiz at math or a Maytag repairman.
Over the years, I have endeavored with all my strength to avoid these thoughts and to deny them to myself. I have spent countless hours in a variety of different forms of pain–seemingly endless stretches of unavoidable suffering, attempting to evade even acknowledging that such thoughts existed within me. There were even times when, for brief periods, I was able to convince myself that I had gotten past the danger, and that by somehow dodging and not confronting them for a long enough time, I could quell them and silence my mind. But each new encounter brought me within proximity to a miracle–a spirit so dynamic and wondrous, that whenever I drew near, my very life force trembled. I seemed to abandon all my senses; my psyche would be flooded with memories and feelings that made me feel as though I was someone else–assuming a different identity and personality–acting in ways that I could not explain even to myself.
–next time….the reckoning before the journey overseas…
“Artwork by Daniel B. Holeman ” http://www.AwakenVisions.com
“The inner self is not part of our being, like a motor in a car. It is our entire substantial reality itself, on its highest and most personal and most existential level. It is like life, and it is life: it is our spiritual life when it is most alive. It is the life by which everything else in us lives and moves. It is in and through and beyond everything that we are.” –Thomas Merton from his book, “The Inner Experience.”
“We are not capable of union with one another on the deepest level until the inner self in each one of us is sufficiently awakened to confront the inmost spirit of the other.” — Thomas Merton from his book, “The Inner Experience.”
Confronting the inmost spirit of another requires a very particular set of circumstances. According to Merton, unless we are reasonably awakened to our own inner self, we cannot hope to unite with that same inner self in others, at least in any sort of deeply meaningful way. He also suggests that our inner self is not just one part of our being, but rather “our entire substantial reality,” while still existing “beyond everything that we are,” as temporal human beings. What an intriguing thought it is to suppose that our entire substantial reality might transcend all that we are as human beings.
The idea of our inner life being the source of “the life by which everything else in us lives and moves,” seems to suggest the existence of a clear connection between our inner spiritual lives and our temporal lives. If we consider this to be valid as a way of accurately describing the phenomenon within us, then surely the connections we feel to others, whose inmost spirits are equally transcendent of our human nature, must also represent a connection to that same nature.
Connecting to our own inner life, awakening to the inmost spirit within us, is not a simple matter for many of us. Life in our century has accelerated in so many ways, and the demands of daily life, combined with the deluge of stimuli from every form of media and communication in our day, leaves precious little time for contemplation and the work of awakening to what is both essential and insubstantial within us. As anyone who has been reading along here can see, my own process of awakening has been tumultuous and burdensome, many times requiring what felt like Herculean efforts to sustain my momentum, and there have been many periods when I was desperate to climb up and out of a feeling of despair which nearly drained me of any hope for success and forward movement.
Equally evident, though, appearing often at precisely the moment when I needed it most, throughout many of the years in which this struggle took place, was the almost miraculous presence of other vital spirits. The more I searched and struggled to awaken to my entire substantial reality, the more profoundly the arrival of such spirits seem to affect me, often becoming a lifeline or a saving grace that helped me to hold on, to push forward, or to reclaim lost hope.
Upon my return to Massachusetts in the spring of 1975, shortly after my experience in the forest, (Deep Forest Vision, 4-11-2014), I encountered another vital spirit, whose arrival in this period of my life sparked the beginning of a flame of awakening, propelling me forward toward an awareness that I still carry within me as I write. As can be true with many such encounters in our lives, I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the connection right away, nor did I have any sense of how it might impact my process of awakening at first. It was clear, though, that this was a compelling spirit, and I became swiftly entangled in a web of emotion and desire that was impossible to ignore. We spent much of the early time together in long, penetrating conversations, exploring the worlds within us, imagining the possible futures that might lay ahead, and, as time progressed, in close personal proximity which became increasingly difficult to conclude when the time came to part.
The intensity of the training assignment at the military base made for a formidable obstacle to distractions outside of the school. Engaged in the principles of cryptography and decipherment of encoded transmissions, the daily grind of regimented and focused learning took all of my energies to maintain and absorb. The numerous technical details and methodologies employed in this training were designed specifically to engage the students as analysts of complex information, and there were no computers or digital devices to assist us. The tools of the training were pencil and paper, statistical analysis, and hard-won experience from years of development and intense efforts of operators in the field before us. The image above is the door to the high security areas, that I stood in front of every morning before entering the hallways to the secret classrooms. It was a sight I would never be able to forget.
Each morning, we would pass through the security checkpoints, being smartly reminded by the officer in charge to keep our viewpoint looking forward and not to stray from the designated path to our classroom. This was not open for discussion. “Eyes front and keep moving,” was the standing order. The covers on the windows have long since been removed in this image, but the memory of standing at my station at attention until directed to “take seats,” in the cramped and musty rooms of the training areas is still vivid in my memory. This was serious business and you had better keep your focus on the task ahead.
When the class was dismissed at the end of the week, so long as you weren’t required to report for other duties, the local area had many points of interest and options for a young soldier to explore, but for me, the first order of business was to fly to nearby Clinton, Massachusetts to visit the vital spirit who lived there. These encounters seem to break through every barrier placed in the way, and even though they sometimes ran in opposition to virtually every practical and temporal circumstance outside of that “oasis in the forest,” they frequently contained some of the most powerful intuitive experiences of my life up to that point. I was occasionally overwhelmed by their intensity, and very quickly identified and was drawn toward this kindred spirit. There was almost a hypnotic effect to being in her presence. It felt as if I was only truly alive in her presence, and in some sort of suspended animation in between visits.
One afternoon driving back from a week of especially intense training, I was overcome by a keen sense of her presence spiritually. It seemed so unlikely to my rational mind that there could have been such a connection between us, and I supposed my reluctance to accept that it was even possible was part of my unconscious doubts, but there I was nearly gasping with a sense that she was in some sort of distress. I had always been fiercely empathetic and sensitive to distress in others, but generally those experiences took place in their presence. This was something altogether different. The pain in my heart on this night was unlike any other I had known. Intellectually I had to acknowledge that I was experiencing it, and emotionally it felt as though there might be some purpose to it, but spiritually where the effect was most severe, I was totally without even a shred of a hint as to how to proceed.
I attempted to call the house, but there was no answer. We had arranged to meet the following day, and I hadn’t expected her to be home that night, but didn’t know what else to do. By this time, I had begun to record my thoughts and feelings in a notebook when compelled by circumstances to do so, and on this night, I wrote the following:
“How shall I begin to describe such immense feelings as those which fill my soul this evening. How indeed, can one put into words, the images and sensations which flow across the chasm of thoughts and emotions? Truly, how could my words do anything but fall short of precise expression? So many times I have struggled to free myself from the grasp of this journey. How many hours have I passed between knowledge and ignorance, retention and loss, comprehension and failing to understand? My heart swirls in a sea of indecision. My heart seems to beg for fulfillment and yet my consciousness warns with each step forward. Never before have I felt such complete hesitance to make a move. The path that beckons is my very life force, yearning to rise and follow.”
That evening, as I reluctantly closed my eyes to sleep, I felt a lessening of this sensation, but awoke during the night from a powerful and disturbing dream. Exhausted and worried, I drifted between wakefulness and sleep for the remaining hours until dawn.
….next time….the dream and the movement forward….
In our fast-paced, technologically-driven, and supposedly “hyper-connected” existence in the 21st century, we often do not recognize or appreciate fully the depth of our interconnectedness to all the other living entities, and at times, even less to the natural environment in which we exist, and upon which we are so dependent for our existence. The connections that do seem to pervade modern life these days are often superficially brief in length, shallow in depth, and far less enduring and substantial than our capacities as sentient beings have provided since we first walked upright as modern humans. The capacity to “be aware of…sensitive to…and vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others,” without necessarily having to communicate them “in an objectively explicit manner,” imparts an invaluable and clear survival advantage, and unless we begin to reduce the emphasis on the technological side of communicating, and balance it with a greater appreciation for the full range of “feelings, thoughts, and experiences,” of all the varieties of life on our planet, our ability to utilize this capacity may, like any other skill, eventually atrophy from neglect.
How might we reasonably reduce our increasing dependence on the less personal and ubiquitous forms of interaction, and tip the balance back toward a greater understanding and appreciation of the whole community of life on Earth? The most important first step is to raise our awareness of our unique potential as individuals. Achieving this awareness requires a deliberate, persistent effort, and a mindfulness of purpose. Just as the millions of individual neurons in the brain act together in a symbiosis of numerous neural systems to permit access to a unified individual human consciousness, the collective and coordinated efforts of millions of human individuals could ultimately manifest as a kind of planetary consciousness; a metaphorical “global-self,” that would enrich and support a global community, increasing the likelihood of the achievement of a more peaceful and bountiful world.
In order to pursue this objective successfully, we must be willing to open our hearts and minds, and to consider the possibility that our lives, and our very existence in the physical universe, may be supported by forces or energies which, while clearly existent in some form or dimension of that universe, cannot presently be perceived directly by our physical sensory systems. Empathy in this context demonstrates this possibility well. Gaining a true understanding and vicarious appreciation of the experiences of another sentient being, while acknowledging no objective or explicit means of accomplishing the task, points toward a capacity that, in some way, creates opportunities for moments of transcendence. We all have them; a hunch that a particular way of solving a problem will work; a worrisome feeling that something is wrong with someone we love; an immediate and overwhelming sensation of connection and familiarity with someone we’ve just met; having the same thought at the same time as someone with us; even particularly vivid dream events that later manifest as real-time events–or a strong feeling of deja vu.
Photo is of a Moroccan ammonite from the Cretaceous period (Albian stage approx. 100 mya), cut longitudinally and polished.
As inexplicable as these moments can be when they occur, often with no discernible cause or clear conscious motivation, we are compelled to respond to them because we intuitively “know” that we must. If we examine these intuitive urges and the significance of the connections associated with them, we can begin to uncover what it might be that links us to each other, and to every epoch of time. Life on our planet today still resonates with the ancient life from millions of years ago, as is evidenced in the photo above, which shows the fossilized shell of an extinct ammonite, which is related to our modern octopus and squid. Discerning some sort of connection to an extinct life form, (or indeed to an octopus) while far from being a clear or direct link for most people, can be accomplished when placed in the context of the abundant life that has flourished on our humble planet since life first emerged billions of years ago. We tend not to think of such life as even relevant to us today, except when we examine life intimately, and contemplate the complex paths of evolution and contingency which led to mammals and primates and ultimately to humans. The very survival of our species may depend on our ability to apprehend the full significance of our interconnection to life in all of its manifestations.
In my previous post, I suggested that we need to consider more comprehensively how we are altering the changing landscape of our own evolution as cognitive creatures in ways that may end up being disadvantageous, by focusing too narrowly on aspects which offer only temporary or limited advantages. Our progress as modern humans, which resulted from adaptive utilization of our increased cognitive abilities over thousands of years, points to important developmental differences, which may indicate that further variance can be expected, and we must consider the profound implications of the character of that variance, before we lose our way.
David Lewis-Williams, in his recent book entitled, “The Mind in the Cave,” reports the reactions of three individuals who investigated the now famous cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave in Ardeche, France, placed there by our ancient ancestors some 35,000 years ago:
“Deeply impressed, we were weighed down by the feeling that we were not alone; the artist’s souls and spirits surrounded us. We thought we could feel their presence; we were disturbing them.”
David goes on to question how it is that modern people are “rational enough to travel to the moon,” but still believe in “supernatural entities and forces that transcend all the laws of physics on which (the) moon journey depended.” The suggestion that the laws of physics are somehow incompatible with the existence of supernatural forces is at the very heart of many of the barriers to progress in understanding consciousness. These are not really opposing forces or mutually exclusive in my view. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the difficulty in coming to terms with or to attempt to explain the nature of the subjective experience of human consciousness. There are all sorts of unanswered questions that may, at some point, be answerable through empirical methodology, and what we know already is nothing short of miraculous in its own way.
Just as we can determine a link to extinct ancient marine life forms to those existent in our oceans currently, these modern explorers experienced what could only be described as a moment of some sort of “shared consciousness,” which not only suggests an intimate link to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the cave artists, but also to a profound connection to all life, in every epoch, and along the way on the journey of discovery to unveil the true nature of subjective experience, it is completely plausible to me that our capacity for empathy, and the intimate nature of consciousness itself, may contain elements which we inherited or somehow retained from our distant ancestors. The link, I believe lies in the very nature of consciousness itself. Many of the people involved in the research of the subject struggle with the inexplicable nature of subjective experience because they seem insistent on finding an empirical solution which eludes us. Resisting our intuitive, empathetic, and natural inclinations, or shutting the door on alternative viewpoints because we are unable to demonstrate some empirical cause and effect is, in my view, one of the main obstacles to achieving further progress.
We have become so enamored of the scientific in our technology-driven world, that any theory which even hints at the possibility of a metaphysical component is increasingly considered daydreaming or irrelevant. And yet, throughout human history, there have been otherwise scientifically sound ideas which have been considered equally irrelevant in their time, whose proponents were either dismissed or even arrested for advocating them. Today, we should recognize that it is only through encouraging new or alternative ideas that we can expand our understanding of our complex nature. If we can find a way to open up the range of our current social context with regard to our ideas about consciousness, we may also find our way back to increased empathy and intimacy, which will tip the balance back toward our inherited capacities, and may even ensure the survival of our species.
“Awakening to that mystical dimension where the very essence of self is suddenly perceived to be one with the ultimate forces of nature, is at once the secret and the transforming journey of human life.” – Joseph Campbell
In my last post, I introduced the story of how I began the journey of discovery which is now unfolding here on the pages of my blog. It was, in many ways, a tumultuous and transformative time in my early life; a time when my temporal life was in a bit of a tailspin, and when my inner world was finally free to expand in whatever direction seemed right to me. Although I had no preconceived notion about just what direction I might go, my awareness of a transcendent aspect to my world of experience had finally been released from the confines of my earlier restrictive religious background, and with those restrictions no longer in place, it seems my inner world, which had been more like a fortress against exploration, now had become my “inner fortress” of my experience of consciousness.
According to specialists in cognitive studies, there is a stream of consciousness within each of us that never ceases, regardless of whether we are awake or asleep. Exactly what is responsible for our experience of consciousness and a comprehensive explanation of its functioning are still subjects of considerable speculation and study. Assuming that we continue to expand our knowledge and insight into cognitive functioning, it seems reasonable to conclude that we will eventually gain a greater comprehension of its workings, perhaps resulting in a greater degree of access to this stream. We must therefore seek it out, and nourish our individual paths which connect us to it, and also be open to what we uncover as we search.
The nature and study of human consciousness has been a compelling subject for me for more than twenty years. I have spent a great deal of my time and energies trying to come to terms with my own very particular “inner experience” of life, and to somehow understand how the events and flow of my temporal life have directly been influenced by the workings within. Sharing what I have come to understand about my own “Inner Evolution,” has tasked my intellect and communications skills in a big way. I am only just beginning to feel confident enough in the results of my study and contemplation to bring the many various aspects of what I have uncovered within myself. I am hopeful that my own subjective and personal experience of my own “human spirit” will resonate with others, and encourage them to explore their own.
Way back in 1973, as a young man embarking on the journey of a lifetime, I experienced what Carl Jung described as “the eruption of unconscious contents,” which compelled me to seek the path I continue to pursue to this day. The path of discovery has led me through an astonishingly diverse range of explorations in philosophy, science, and religion, as well as the many compelling ideas in the literature and scriptures of the cultures of the world. There is, in my view, a compelling thread made up of components of each, that runs through the fabric of life.
The awakening to the knowledge of the transcendent within each of us can be a difficult, dangerous, and deeply personal undertaking. Without a sense of urgency that we can reconcile against the relentless struggle to survive and maintain our daily lives, many of us never even attempt to access this knowledge. For some of us, the awakening can begin without a conscious choice.
Forty years ago, as a young soldier stationed in Massachusetts, I experienced what could only be described as a revelation. I was off-duty in the base cafeteria near the post exchange in the middle of what had become my traditional Sunday noontime meal. As I sat down to begin eating, there was no reason I knew about for that Sunday to feel any different than all the others which preceded it, when suddenly I was struck by an overwhelming sense of being unable to control my body. Fearful at first that I might be ill, I tried desperately to settle my mind, and I began to tremble noticeably. Reaching out, I spilled my drink on the table. The harder I struggled against the experience, the more difficult it became to remain calm, when I was inexplicably overcome by a sudden, compelling urge to write something down.
I got up from the table, went into the post exchange, bought a notepad and pen without waiting for my change, returned to my table in the cafeteria, pushed my meal aside and began to write. What disturbed me the most was that I didn’t seem to have any control over what my hand was doing–it felt more like I was outside of my body watching someone else writing.
Sweat dripped from my forehead onto the pages, smearing the words in several places. I was writing frantically, cramming the words onto page after page. The resulting text was incomprehensible to me, and I was in such a state of excitement that I found it impossible to concentrate. I can only remember wondering what the few people around me must be thinking about this nut, spilling drinks and writing like a madman.
As suddenly as it began, the frenzy stopped. The pen dropped from between my fingers and I went limp. I lifted my head, now throbbing with a headache, and looked at the clock on the wall. Nearly two hours had passed since my arrival at my table around noon. Shaken, but slowly calming down, I had to drag myself away to the men’s room to throw up. When I sat back down at the table, I turned back to the first page of the notepad, having half-filled it with what looked like scribbling. The initial pages were only marginally legible, but as I gradually turned over the pages, I was able to make out most of the words. It seemed like a description of a journey, but the terms were suggestive of travels not found on any map. The language seemed almost surreal and incoherent to me. The single item that made any immediate sense was a name–Jonas Rice.
Deeply disturbed by the incident, when I returned to my barracks, I ripped the pages out of the notebook, put them in an envelope, and hid it under some clothing at the bottom of my closet. I told no one of the experience.
The following weekend, I bought a bus ticket to the nearby city of Worcester, with the intention of investigating the name and whatever else I could find to help me understand what had occurred. Without fully knowing why, I felt certain that I could resolve the matter, even though I had no conscious knowledge about the city of Worcester prior to that day. Upon my arrival, I immediately set out walking, simply moving instinctively forward toward what felt like the center of town. I shortly came upon the city commons, where I noticed a collection of headstones marking the graves of prominent former citizens, interred there in the 1700’s. My heart began to pound wildly as I stood in front of the headstone of Jonas Rice.
Photo by Susan Fenner
Momentarily dazed, I found myself gasping for breath, unable to speak or move. Only with great effort was I able to gather my wits long enough to suspend my state of shock long enough to walk away. I realized at that moment that I was dealing with a phenomenon of an extraordinary nature, and unless I could come to terms with it somehow, it would be difficult for me to find any sort of peace of mind. I managed to find my way to the public library, and began what ended up being decades of investigation, which included life in colonial America, psychology, mythology, philosophy, and a whole range of religious and metaphysical subjects, trying to understand the experience, and the nature of what had been thrust into my consciousness.
Subsequent to the initial episode in 1973, I occasionally experienced recurrences of lesser intensity, which seemed to point me in new directions as the research progressed. Over the years, I began to view my research as part of the process of awakening, and kept a more detailed record of the significant events and important milestones, hoping to incorporate the essential information into a more comprehensive narrative at some point. Without fully understanding why, I nonetheless submitted myself to the unfolding drama, at times, overcome be a sense of powerlessness to stop myself. The resulting path of discovery and illumination brought me face-to-face with a fascinating and perplexing inner world.
**Somehow…this posting was deleted by WordPress.com. It was originally posted on January 1, 2014**
The Fall of Icarus by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636 Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
A form seen in the distance
Becomes clearer the closer we get to it.
If a mirage were water,
Why would it vanish when we draw near?
The farther we are from the world,
The more real it appears to us;
The nearer we draw to it, the less visible it becomes,
And, like a mirage, becomes sign-less.
Translated from Sanskrit by The Dalai Lama from the Ratnavali (Precious Garland)
A recent comment by my friend and fellow blogger ptero9 on my recent posting (link above) brought me to consider more deeply the nature of the journey upon which I embarked so many years ago, and upon which I am still traveling, and it pointed to an interesting aspect of that journey which may illuminate some of the darkness which still surrounds it for me, and, perhaps, for some of my readers.
We can often view our relationships with others as both problematical and enriching, depending on where we are along the path which includes them, but many times, it is either in the consummation or in the elimination of those relationships where we discover their true value, and both extremes may prove painful in some way, no matter if we continue to nurture those connections, or find ourselves apart from them. There often is no way to know with certainty, which outcome might serve our aims more readily, and how enduring the pain which we experience in both cases might lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and our journey.
It is in this context that I began to consider the Middle Way, as described in my previous post, and my investigations, which were inspired by the comment by my friend, led me to consider more deeply, the principles upon which the “Middle Way” is based. According to the Buddhist text, “Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth,” there are two extremes:
“Indulgence…in the objects of sensual desire, which is inferior…and leads to no good…and devotion to self-torment, which is painful…and leads to no good. The middle way…avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance to nibbana (non-attachment).”
Of all of the experiences which I have detailed so far, the awakening which began in Massachusetts on a sleepy Sunday afternoon so many years ago, pressed me into following a path which included many unusual and startling events, and it has taken me these many years in between to begin to see how it all fits together. Along the path, many new experiences steered me in different directions, some of which were enormously painful, and others which were enriching in ways that I never suspected were even possible. As I progressed on my journey, all along the way, the experience of these extremes pressed me inexorably toward the middle way, although I was not fully aware that it was doing so.
The experience which I describe in “Transcendent Awareness,” was a powerful and emotionally challenging one, but as I reflect upon it, and on many of the others that were similar as I traveled along this path, it seems very likely that they served a greater purpose than I ever could have known while enduring them. As you will see, in the postings which follow, I began to find my way and to arrive at a place where I could attain the “vision…knowledge…and peace,” promised in the attunement to the Middle Way.
“If Mankind is to achieve spiritual growth, the first essential is that the human units involved in the process shall draw closer together, not merely under the pressure of external forces, or solely by the performance of material acts, but directly–centre to centre–through internal attraction–unanimity in a common spirit.” – P.T.Chardin from “The Future of Man.”
After a meteor shower–a dazzling display in the wee hours of a morning not so long ago, I was moved to write about an ancient connection that illuminated aspects of one in my current lifetime:
“As I cast my eyes skyward, I sense that doing so is something I have done in some previous incarnation. It is familiar in a wonderful way, mysteriously, silently and lovingly, I am reminded of doing so centuries ago. For a moment, I am transported to a time long since past, where the inner knowing of just how it felt to be so enraptured by the sight; almost in a trance as result of concentrating on the sky in just this way. The memory of the pain, being apart from the one I loved, however undeserved that love may have been, and regardless of the pain it wrought, I wanted it no less.
To know love’s agony so well, and still wish for it, if it means knowing, even briefly, love’s ecstasy, is genuine love. The mystery that is love, with all its attendant joys and sorrows, successes and failures, realizations and disappointments, hopes and disillusionment, is one which all of humanity has hoped to solve, in one way or another, since the dawn of time.
I have tried with all my strength to maintain the connection without imposing myself. This has proven to be a formidable task. My ineptitude in presenting my thoughts that convey the deeper meaning of my attention, to bring the interior closer through a direct appeal to the core matter expressed through sensory appeal, has plagued me all along. Once I became aware of the connection, I fell headfirst into the abyss, and barely escaped with my life intact. As difficult as it is to distinguish always between what is true and what is simply desired, between what has substance and what is fleeting, attending to the sensory manifestations of the spiritual core, can often produce a positive energy that illuminates the interior world–and provides a connection to a much greater world of knowledge.”
“Every grain of matter, every appearance is one with Eternal and Immutable Reality! Wherever your foot may fall, you are still within the Sanctuary of Enlightenment, though it is nothing perceptible. I assure you that one who comprehends the truth of “nothing to be attained,” is already seated in the sanctuary where he will gain his Enlightenment.” — from the Zen Teachings of Huang Po
“Until the sixteenth century, men in general thought of space and time as though they were limited compartments in which objects were juxtaposed and interchangeable. The human mind believed itself to be perfectly at home in this universe, within which it tranquilly wove its pattern of metaphysics. And then one day this attitude began to change. Spatially our awareness of the world was extended to embrace the Infinitesimal and the Immense-the general and also the irreversible modification of perceptions, ideas, problems: These are (two) indications that the spirit has acquired an added dimension…showing our accession beyond all ideologies and systems, to a different and higher sphere–a new spiritual dimension.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin from “The Growth of Consciousness.”
Most of the reading I have done in the realm of human consciousness has left me most often unsatisfied with a strictly empirical approach in particular, but it seems clear that there are measurable and quantifiable components to the mechanisms through which our subjective experience of the world becomes manifest, which contribute in important ways to our understanding generally, and are therefore important to consider in achieving a more comprehensive understanding. I recently encountered a book by Arthur I. Miller called, “Deciphering the Cosmic Number,” about the relationship between Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung, that points to the benefits of collaboration and synthesis of the diverse approaches to achieving progress in creating a new perspective that eliminates the limitations of following more than just one narrow path. Jung has, thus far, been the most interesting and even-handed author, scholar, and empiricist, blending to the largest degree, both the scientific and the spiritual in his deliberations without diminishing the importance of either. His insistence on the scientific method in his research did not preclude the inclusion of the spiritual possibilities that are inherent in any discussion of living beings.
In some sense, what we may wish to describe as non-physical or spiritual phenomena, when they become manifest in the temporal, appear through discernible mechanisms. Even though the source of such manifestations may not be accessible to conventional scientific methodology, nor any way exist currently of confirming a spiritual component to human nature, at least none that might be considered plausible by any scientific standard, Jung was able to bridge the chasm between the two worldviews sufficiently to at least acknowledge the potential for expanding the conversation generally, while suggesting specifically what he described as “the archetypes of the collective unconscious.
Painting by Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty, “On a Mountain Path in Spring.” from http://beyondtheouterrim.wordpress.com
According to a popular website on Buddhism, “The Middle Way (or Middle Path) is a Buddhist term with rich connotations. Most simply, it implies a balanced approach to life and the regulation of one’s impulses and behavior, close to Aristotle’s idea of the “golden mean” whereby “every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice.” — (http://www.sgi.org/buddhism)
Rather than limit ourselves to any extreme or narrowly focused approach to consciousness or to human nature, a synthesis or blending of both the scientific and the metaphysical disciplines, in the spirit of Pauli and Jung, seems like a more balanced way to make progress. However our complex human nature developed, at some point, all of our diverse capacities, psychological, social, biological, mental, and spiritual, combined to produce a keen self-awareness which enriched our everyday level of awareness, eventually enabling us to access higher levels of consciousness. While primitive humans immediately supposed that the world was supported by forces beyond what could be ascertained by the senses, the attainment of these higher levels gradually led to astonishing social and technological progress into modern times, opening the way for modern humans to contemplate the existence of realms beyond the physical world from a more informed scientific and metaphysical point of view.
The evolution of life on earth, leading as it has to the presence of Homo sapiens, doesn’t necessarily imply a deliberate plan to produce them, nor does it guarantee our survival as a species on this planet. The Universe, our galaxy, our solar system, our planet and all of our ancestral creatures existed well before our conscious awareness of them, pointing to a potential for continued evolution, which could bring us closer to a comprehension of our place in the vast cosmic ocean, and lead us to discover a connection to the source of those forces demonstrated by their existence. Scientists don’t like to even infer the possibility of the existence of a transcendent source unreachable in a repeatable experiment, which may be responsible for a universe with seemingly indisputable and clearly defined physical laws. It may seem counter-intuitive to suppose that a transcendent source would not simply reveal itself unambiguously within the evidence we gather in exploring the universe, but even physicists in the 21st century have begun to investigate possible explanations for our existence which would have astonished some of the greatest scientific minds of human history.
This past week in Tuscon, Arizona, some of the most prominent philosophers, scientists, and thinkers from around the world, gathered at the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona for the “Toward a Science of Consciousness,” conference. I have been following the events along with many others on the internet at this url:
There are lots of interviews, debates, news, and different points of view on display, and while much of it is entertaining and informative for those interested in the subject, the disparate points of view on display show vividly the need for a greater effort at bringing each of the extreme views into a more considered synthesis of ideas and principles in order to make any progress.
The middle path is not just an esoteric belief in a balanced way of life. It is also an ideal for our age.
“The transcendental law, Emerson believed, was the ‘moral law,’ through which man discovers the nature of God, a living spirit…The true nature of life was energetic and fluid; its transcendental unity resulted from the convergence of all forces upon the energetic truth, the heart of the moral law.” — excerpt from The American Tradition in Literature, Vol. 1, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967
“Undoubtedly, we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his introduction to “Nature.”
With milder temperatures and the blossoming of the natural world underway, I am reminded of years past and the turmoil within me that has always accompanied the onset of Spring. Each time the Earth is in renewal, the passage of time seems more pronounced as the clearly defined changes of the season manifest all around us. All throughout Winter’s cold and extended hours of darkness, we long for the warmth and the sunshine to come. We huddle together against the cold in order to survive. When we first feel the warm Spring air blowing against our faces, and witness the plants and trees begin to sprout their leaves and blossoms, something within us also stirs. Our hearts and minds acknowledge this transformation not only by sensation, but also by intuition.
Somehow, I have been brought to this day and time to fulfill, what must be, some discernible purpose. My heightened sensitivity and enhanced intuitive senses since the events in Massachusetts blew the lid off my steaming pot of consciousness, and I found that I was no longer able to contain the inner struggle. It was a gradual process of unfolding, after the initial burst of energy that one Sunday afternoon, but the flow has been maintained these many years by determined effort to unravel it all. In my temporal world, it seems that life continues to plod along relentlessly. But within me, on rare occasions, particular individuals continue to evoke an awareness of powerful longings, and in several of those instances, it became clear that the consciousness within ME, was connected intimately with the consciousness of the other. It seems, in view of the existence of these intimate connections, that consciousness is a word that describes a transcendent awareness–a manifestation of a non-physical source. By this reckoning, the Universe itself must also be a physical manifestation of a non-physical source. Human consciousness must involve a transformational process through which our transcendent awareness is expressed.
During one such experience of transcendent awareness, one connection in particular struck at the very core of my being. Although it seemed on the surface to be a formidable task to reconcile my temporal existence with this connection, I made every effort to maintain the connection, in order to convey the deeper meaning of my attention. In my previous post, I acknowledged the struggle between my heart and mind, trying to distinguish for myself the true nature of the connection, and wrote what follows.
Declaration of Affection
I will never forget the joy and unbridled energy of the first days of our acquaintance. Whenever I close my eyes, I can see you clearly in my mind as you looked on the day when I first saw your face–a shy and giggling gem glittering before my eyes. I remember thinking how beautiful you were; your gently flowing hair surrounding your radiant face and your exquisitely grayish-blue eyes–with a smile that seemed to fill the room with a glow that lingered long after my eyes could no longer see your face. The image of your face will never leave me now.
At first, there was only unencumbered joy when we shared conversation. Your heart and mind were totally open to me. Each new day brought my heart and mind within proximity to a miracle. Your spirit was so dynamic and wondrous, that whenever we spoke, my very life force seemed to tremble, as though I might, at any moment, leave my body and fly swiftly to you. The first time I looked deeply into those eyes, it only took a moment to realize that the world would never again be the same. After several starts and stops, far removed from the everyday routines, when you finally opened your heart to me, my own heart was flung wide open, and pumped wildly as I held you in my arms for the first time. I wanted that moment to last forever.
The chaotic chain of events that followed made me feel like I was hanging off the side of a moving roller coaster. I can scarcely remember anything from those days other than being with you; as if life began when we were together and was suspended when we were apart. Every encounter with you made me feel intensely awake and alive. After one particularly intense moment of sharing, I realized for the first time, how much you meant to me, and I knew at that moment, with absolute certainty, that I loved you. And yet, even as I contemplated the mysterious swirling hurricane that had become my life, the winds of change had begun to stir. All I knew, was that the feelings evoked by our connection were unlike any feeling I knew or had felt before under any circumstances. When it all fell apart, I was unavoidably altered and shaken to my very roots.
The unfolding of events since then do not fit neatly into any sensible or clear explanation, nor do they seem to lead to any satisfactory resolution. The reality of the temporal world has slowly steered us away from the magical world we had once inhabited, and left us in a twilight world of uncertainty and solitude. How the fibers of our mutual memories will weave themselves into a future cloth is hidden from us now. But one thing is abundantly clear. In any Universe, there could be no greater world than the one that includes your bright spirit. I pray that both of our spirits will endure and remain connected to the wisdom that brought them together one beautiful day, not so long ago.