“Everything remembered is dear, touching, precious….at least the past is safe, though we didn’t know it at the time. We know it now, because we have survived.” –Susan Sontag, Partisan Review Winter 1967
“Daydreaming is good for you. It fosters creativity, happiness and mental health…Daydreaming, letting your wishes and instincts play out, is so important because the real you– your true, authentic, emotional, free and spontaneous self comes to life. When you express the true self you are less likely to feel anxious or depressed and more likely to feel creative and content…Memories, fantasies, intuitions and inner conflicts that need to be worked through find a place for expression in daydreams. When your deeper mind opens up, you feel better, see possibilities and uncover solutions. Daydreaming strengthens the identity, fosters awareness and helps you grow…”
–excerpts from article in Psychology Today, “Creativity, Happiness and Daydreaming,” posted May 27, 2012, by Carrie Barron M.D.
Reflecting recently on the idea of the wandering mind, it occurred to me that daydreams often take up a significant portion of my daily mental life, and as the quote from Dr. Barron points out, it can have benefits for those who employ it in moderation. Recently, though, it seems that engaging in wandering mentally has become what I prefer to do whenever the opportunity presents itself, and seems to affirm her conclusions, particularly the one about opening your deeper mind allowing you to “…feel better, see possibilities, and uncover solutions.”
During a recent episode of concentrated daydreaming, I decided to record my wandering thoughts, hoping to gain some perspective or intuition from the stream of daydreaming consciousness. The recording took place in solitude, in a warm bath, and in a spontaneous state of mind:
“There is a single candle burning in the corner. The water is warm and surrounds me on all sides. There is no light except for the candle, and yet, this is not completely true. There is another kind of light in the room, but it is not of the visible sort. It is, in some ways, a memory of light–in some ways the essence of light–and in other ways, a monument of light.
The memory of light, as it once shown, occurs often enough to evoke the feeling of the experience of the light, even as I might sit with eyes closed, allowing my wandering mind to illuminate the darkness without the benefit of an actual source of light being present. And yet I feel such comfort from the flame of the candle in the corner. It is a very small flame, but it speaks to something much greater–the sense of mystery and awe that I am even here to observe it in the first place.”
There have been a number of times in my life when I came close to extinguishing myself through accident or serendipity–never by intention–even though we often conduct our lives with other intentions of one sort or another, we occasionally place ourselves on the path of danger. I have been on the path of danger many times. Danger and I are old friends. As I contemplate the possibilities which may endanger me on the path ahead, perhaps the greatest danger is revealed upon reflection of the past:
“A long time ago, in centuries past, we existed on a plane that can no longer be reached. It is clearly in the past, but it also here and now in my wandering mind. We breathed the same air. Our hearts beat in rhythmic unison. I gazed deeply into your eyes; inhaled the scent which rose from your body; embraced the spirit inside you. At such moments, though bodies touch and hearts beat independently, we were one. My heart rose with each embrace. My spirit expanded until it encompassed yours; it has happened a hundred times a hundred times over centuries…and now…I know your spirit. I can see myself in you; our paths are illuminated by each other.
We have no patience. We cannot say what makes all of us as one. It must be experienced. In the ages past, when we first encountered the path, everything else disappeared. The whole physical world went dark except for the immediate area which surrounded us. As my eyes fell upon you, there was a powerful moment of astonishment and utter fascination. I couldn’t be sure if what I saw was the brilliance of the morning sun or a natural aura surrounding you. Like the fascination one feels staring into a fire in the darkness, I couldn’t turn my gaze away.”
Life itself contains the essence of light. We sometimes refer to difficult days as “dark days,” and celebrate joyful people as “lighting up a room,” whenever they enter it. When we lose the trail of thought or come to a point on our path where we lose track of our direction, we say the trail has “gone dark,” and conversely, when we see a path forward, we may say that our path is now “illuminated.”
When I was a very young grammar school student I was fascinated by the ancient world, far beyond what any of my fellow classmates seemed to be, and I delved into it mentally with a passionate intensity within my own inner world, and it seemed to me that no one even noticed my absence in the room as I wandered through the thoughts of what it must have been like to live in ancient times. There was no frame of reference for me or for the others either, but somehow I persisted and continued to indulge my daydreams. I wasn’t able to express the content or the character of those machinations. It was probably about the age of twelve when I realized that I obviously was contemplating experiences that could not be the result of what was manifesting in my everyday real world. I never lost this dual awareness as I grew, and even as a young man in the modern military in Germany, I couldn’t help but spend any available moment staring out the window, lost in the inner world of my daydreams.
“While in between tasks, (during a recent study) researchers noticed that a set of brain structures in their participants started to become more active. These same structures turned off as soon as the participants began to engage in the cognitive tasks that were the original focus of the research.
Eventually, scientists were able to pinpoint this set of specific brain structures which we now know as the brain’s “default network.” This network links parts of the frontal cortex, the limbic system, and several other cortical areas involved in sensory experiences. While active, the default network turns itself on and generates its own stimulation. The technical term for such a product of the default network is “stimulus independent thought,” a thought about something other than events that originate from the outside environment. In common speech, stimulus independent thoughts make up fantasies and daydream, the stuff of mind wandering.
Apart from entertaining us when we’re bored…the preponderance of evidence suggests that the default network is there to help us explore our inner experiences (Buckner et al., 2008). Specifically, we engage our default network when we’re thinking about our past experiences, imagining an event that might take place in the future, trying to understand what other people are thinking, and assisting us in making moral decisions.”
–excerpts from article posted on Psychology Today website, “Why and How You Daydream,” Jan 08, 2013 by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
In the evening, as the days grow longer, and the daylight lingers, I sense a change beyond my control. I don’t know at all how I might survive it. Clinging to the grasp I have, I try to express myself in positive terms. I am uncertain about the future. What I do know, is that there is something more for me, my world–it is headed for the unknown, the incongruous, the ambiguous–the complete and utter boundlessness that the realm of possibility presents. I can stare blankly ahead, I can retreat, look away, drop into obscurity, but no matter where I go, my destiny will find me. When it does come, with luck, I will be able to pursue it. When my star rises, and the wheels begin to turn in that direction, perhaps there is a chance, after all these years of contemplation and writing, I may be approaching the culmination of the sum of all my daydreams.
In the Review section of the WSJ this weekend in an article by Frank Wilczek, he casually suggested that it shouldn’t be so difficult to accept, intuitively, that life and mind emerge from matter, as if we were all just somehow mistaken or deluded about the source of life and mind. Wilczek shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004. It was awarded jointly to David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek “for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction”. According to the dictionary, “…asymptotic refers to a function coming into consideration, as a variable approaches a limit, usually infinity.”
Here is a short blurb about their award from the Nobel website:
“The scientists awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics have solved a mystery surrounding the strongest of nature’s four fundamental forces. The three quarks within the proton can sometimes appear to be free, although no free quarks have ever been observed. The quarks have a quantum mechanical property called colour and interact with each other through the exchange of gluons – nature’s glue.
This year’s prize paves the way for a more fundamental future description of the forces in nature. The electromagnetic, weak and strong forces have much in common and are perhaps different aspects of a single force. They also appear to have the same strength at very high energies, especially if ‘supersymmetric’ particles exist. It may even be possible to include gravity if theories which treat matter as small vibrating strings are correct.”
How Wilczek feels like his visit to an artist’s rendering in an outdoor light display in Phoenix, Arizona somehow equates to an intuitive affirmation of how life and mind “emerged” from matter escapes me. Although the metaphor of lights blinking off and on is suggestive, in a way, of how brain activity might be viewed if such a thing were possible in the same way, to suggest that MRI, PET scanning, and other techniques for detecting blood flow in the brain are somehow visualizations which answer the age old question about how life and mind emerged, strikes me as completely overreaching. Here is a link to the video on WSJ.com: (The narration is only a partial replication of the entire article.)
After decades of research, study, and contemplation of many diverse features of subjective experience, and having expended an enormous amount of effort and energy in the process of discerning what might possibly be behind our extraordinary human subjective awareness of existing as a physical entity in the physical universe, for me personally, as well as for many prominent thinkers throughout human history, the reality is that while our subjective experience of being alive requires the cooperation and integration of physical systems in order for our temporal existence to register with sentient creatures such as ourselves, it is NOT…and I repeat..NOT in any way certain, by any criteria or judgmental standard, that those physical systems are the absolute SOURCE and PRIMAL DRIVING FORCE responsible for that experience in the first place. It is much more likely, in my view, that our physical existence is founded upon and derives its significance from a source as yet to be established with certainty, and very likely to be beyond our capacities for establishing an empirical proof. This inability to demonstrate or define categorically the source of all Life and consciousness does nothing to negate the possibility, that whatever it is that defines it or explains it, there may still be an ineffable and non-material source that produced all that we perceive with our senses, and all that we observe in the vast universe beyond the Earth.
The evolution of biological life in the physical universe on planet Earth has provided our species with an astonishing array of sensory systems, complex biological processes, extraordinary cognitive skills, and a profoundly fragile and beautiful physical environment in which to flourish and evolve, and regardless of our prowess in deciphering the scientific and mathematical underpinnings of the mechanisms and systems which facilitate Life on Earth, none of the intricate details and highly complex processes which support that Life can reduce the totality of our SUBJECTIVE HUMAN EXPERIENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS to those physical mechanisms only. Suggesting that Life (with a capital “L”) can be reduced to an understanding of those mechanisms alone is like handing out speeding tickets at the Daytona 500. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.
In order to begin to understand how our subjective experience of being alive is even possible in the first place, we clearly do need to consider the gradual development of the complex macro-structure of the brain by examining the various stages of mammalian, primate, and hominid evolution, each of which contributed essential individual brain components, and how that development over millions of years facilitated the gradual sophistication of cognition and higher order thinking. However, once these complex structures and extraordinary cognitive talents were sufficiently developed, it might also be possible to accept intuitively, that it then became possible to utilize them in accessing a much broader intellectual and psychological plateau, and to establish a connection to what we describe as human consciousness or “the subjective experiential awareness of being alive.” This then allows us to hypothesize about the important contributions of specific emergent properties which are a consequence of the evolution and structural hierarchy of the network of various brain regions, while still allowing for the interaction with what C.G. Jung described as “the transcendent function,” or “non-physical substrates,” rather than simply characterizing the results as the “emergence of life and mind from matter.”
To assume from the very beginning of the conversation that it shouldn’t be “…difficult to accept intuitively that life and mind can emerge from matter,” sets a tone that feels limiting right at the outset. Moreover, as a means of coming to terms with the origins of life and mind, one might suggest, by that reasoning, it also shouldn’t be difficult to accept intuitively that life and mind emerged from the seeds planted by advanced beings visiting from some other universe in a multi-verse theory of creation, or perhaps as a result of an inter-dimensional crossover billions of years ago. It is the PRESUMPTION that matter alone might have been the sole source of life and mind which eliminates other possible essential components to their existence. While I completely understand that there are advantages for the scientist to justify their mechanistic worldview by simply claiming that Life and mind emerged from matter, I fail to see why it is so difficult to accept intuitively, the existence of other forces or energies, which we do not yet fully recognize or comprehend, which are equally possible and responsible, and required to provide a more comprehensive explanation for Life and mind.
While it is true, as the author suggests, that we have only a limited “…immediate experience when it comes to how physical systems represent information,” I do not agree that it’s primarily because of the way “…our own brains store and manipulate information in patterns of electrical activation.” The author’s report of how “most neuro-biologists accept that those patterns are the physical embodiment of mind,” does not automatically infer that those patterns are the “source” of the human mind, any more than “the patterns of radio waves” are the source of the transmissions we intercept on our car radios. Radio waves are a MEANS of proliferating the ideas and messages and content created by the users of those systems.
As any investigator of Astronomy can attest, there are many randomly generated radio signals in the wide expanses of the cosmos, but it requires an intelligent and deliberate manipulation of those signals to generate something recognizable as a message or to qualify as a type of specific content that is intelligible and meaningful. The mechanisms of thought are astonishingly complex and fascinating to study, and the advances in neuroscience have increased our understanding of those mechanisms and helped us to determine the nature of pathologies, to devise methods of counteracting the mechanisms of disease, and to find ways of reversing or mitigating the damage caused by injuries to the brain. In order to understand why all of the activity and structural complexity of the human brain is accompanied by a profound subjective experiential awareness, the “what it’s like” experience of being, requires a great deal more than “patterns of electrical activation.”
The artist’s depiction of patterns of light that we find so impressive and suggestive of brain activity is a fabulous work of creativity and artistic expression, and anyone who experiences a walk through the display in Arizona might rightly invoke the metaphor of electrical patterns in the human brain. However, it might be more prudent to equate the display with a representation of an underlying mechanism, which facilitates an artistic expression created for the purpose of inspiring and delighting the observers, who are fortunate enough to attend to the pleasures it offers as a work of art.
“No experimental methodology ever has or ever will succeed in capturing the essence of the human soul, or even so much as tracing out an approximately faithful picture of its complex manifestations.” “My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. It is not the part which can be externally and biographically dated that constitutes the real life of a person, but its myth–the fateful, spiritual inner side of this life.” — C.G.Jung from Collected Works, Vol.6, and from the Prologue to his autobiography.”
It was very much like the proverbial “lightning bolt out of the blue.” An inexplicable explosion in my heart and mind, touched off by an encounter with a clearly kindred spirit–perhaps a soul mate from a previous incarnation or the embodiment of an answer to some unconscious longing–an “Eve,” from a garden paradise; a Nefratari–wife of Ramsees II of Egypt; or the companion and lover to Jonas Rice in colonial America. The pieces of the puzzle were only beginning to form a fuzzy picture of how this lovely and mysterious soul evoked such a provocative and profound influence on my psyche. The awakening to her presence in this lifetime brought with it a torrential flood of long-forgotten memories from what seemed like centuries ago, and which were in sharp contrast to my life at that time. Like a ship trying to sail against the tide, I was ill-equipped to manage the powerful emotional and spiritual flow. Faced with the deeply-felt draw toward her spirit, I floundered at first, stumbling through each encounter like an embarrassed child. Impelled helplessly by forces I could not control, I fell headlong into the cavernous recesses of the ancient shared memories.
What follows is a glimpse into what lies within. It is not an exaggeration to say that I do not fully understand how these thoughts and images erupted from me in the weeks prior to departing for overseas duty in Europe, nor could I identify the underlying causes or enumerate the sources for the vision that occurred one night while on a field exercise in the forests of Massachusetts. The descriptions arrived on the page with my hand holding the pen, and with my heart and mind completely open to what was erupting from within me.
Alone while on perimeter patrol in the middle of a steamy summer night, gazing up at the full moon, humming softly to myself, I noticed a rock formation shaped like the bow of a ship, which stood out prominently in the foreground against the moonlit sky. Intrigued by the thought of traveling on the ocean in such a vessel, I explored the area briefly, and allowed my mind to wander into a reverie of a sea voyage, setting sail for a sea-bound adventure, and traveling to distant shores. Exploring the limits of my youthful imagination, and caught up in the daydream of an exotic sea voyage, I suddenly became aware that there was absolutely no sound around me. No swells crashing against the side of the ship; no wind whistling through the masts, no seagulls screaming in the distance. I tried furiously to shake it off, but without success. My brow began to bead up with sweat, and my heart was racing as I struggled to free myself from the strange and compelling silence. I fell to my knees, somehow unable to cry out or to look around to see what might be causing my predicament.
Quite unexpectedly, I heard what seemed like a voice calling my name, and when I stood up and turned in the direction of the voice, there before me was the lone figure I had seen weeks before in the tree with no leaves in the depths of the forest. Terrified that I might be falling ill or be delusional with fever, my first thought was to escape, yet I seemed to be frozen where I stood, wondering why I could not “wake up” from this daydream. There was no face to the figure, only darkness below a hooded cloak, and no other sound came from that direction, but somehow, inside my head, I felt as though scrambled, choppy words were forming in my mind:
“Do not be afraid…Heed what you now feel…great importance…this moment in time…assume the burden…seek the Fortress…hidden purpose…go now and prepare…”
As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. I felt light-headed and had to sit down. I sat there, stunned, staring off into the distance for some time, contemplating the thoughts that passed through my consciousness in the moments that followed. As I peered deeply into the early morning darkness, the words from the vision tumbled over and over in my head. I could hardly believe what had transpired, and couldn’t seem to settle down. Alone with my thoughts, I breathed deeply, and was reminded of the scent in the air which filled my lungs as a child, which wasn’t much different than the air on that day, but it filled my lungs and sustained me in a very different world.
Not much time had passed before the first hints of daylight began to appear on the horizon, and the overwhelming silence began to give way to the sounds of the mountain creatures awakening to their daily chores. Soon, blanketing the surroundings in shadows, the sun peeked out, illuminating the tips of the mountains with the soft, warm glow of the day’s beginning. Fully aroused now from my reverie by the spears of sunlight, I slowly turned away from the light of the sun, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Whether it was the brightness of the morning light or a sudden sadness that prompted the tears I could not say. Whatever it was, I had the feeling it wouldn’t be the last time I would weep on my journey.
It was a long trek back down the mountain path to the campsite where the field crew was waiting for my return from the perimeter, but it didn’t seem to take very long this time. My mind was clearer now, and I felt an unusual calmness, in spite of having felt fairly shaken just a short time before. I checked in with the station monitor, and my replacement for perimeter patrol was already waiting to take over. I went to lay down in the makeshift barracks for my section, but didn’t think I was going to sleep much. I would be off-duty until the next night shift, and as I lay on my cot, I wrote a letter to my lady-in-waiting:
“My heart and mind are with you. I feel your presence clearly. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it feels very good and I intend to hold on to this feeling. When I look into your eyes, it’s like looking in a mirror in some ways. How to resolve the nature of our connection remains a true puzzle. You enter the realm of my existence in unguarded moments with a frequency that pleases me greatly. Your heart is open, and your spirit is unbounded. And yet, the pain in my heart this night is unlike any other I have known. Emotionally, I accept that it must be for some purpose of growth or development, but spiritually, where the pain seems most severe, I am completely without the slightest notion of how to proceed. The occasionally hopeless feeling of being totally alone, not only because I am feeling a bit lost without you, but in knowing how to move forward again, and if it is even possible, creates a quandary of spirit such as I have never known.”
Our closeness had been a godsend during these times, and it allowed me to see where once there was only darkness. I felt blessed for the gifts of joy and music that spoke her name, and cursed by the anticipated emptiness that everyday life would hold when we would have to part, as I prepared to go overseas. Like it seemed to happen so many times before, everything would “soar brilliantly for a time, only to be eclipsed suddenly” by other circumstances. For me, at least, there was a sense of increasing evidence of the convergence in time and space of kindred spirits, and the story of Jonas was only one of many that would intersect with my expectations and intentions as I followed the path forward.
“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….
“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.
“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” — Aristotle
Our everyday lives, often full of the mundane, and punctuated by moments of joy and sorrow, can sometimes lead us to become somewhat indifferent to the relentless changes that occur as a matter of course, weakening our awareness of things extraordinary. Thankfully, throughout these relentless periods of change, we are blessed occasionally by the arrival of special people, who make all the periods in between worth the wait. My conscious awareness of an acute sensitivity to an elusive, yet profound intellectual and emotional connection to such spirits, and of an inner stirring that transcends the boundaries of conventional interactions between myself and these other special people, occurs so infrequently, that when they do occur, it generally results in extraordinary events, which often overwhelm me in ways that make managing the events especially difficult.
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” — Jim Morrison
With all my heart, I have tried to accept the circumstances of my life, and to continue to move through the phenomenal world, mindful of its impermanence. And yet, somehow, I have not been able to shake the awareness of something keenly out-of-sync with the flow of events as they unfold at times. Throughout my life, in rare moments of surprise and delight, my inner world has been abruptly and profoundly disturbed by the arrival of particular kindred spirits, and although I willingly and knowingly embraced the path at that time, it often resulted in confusion and disharmony. Reflecting on these events afterwards, it seems I did so without fully comprehending the scope of the consequences of that embrace. Over time, I gained some perspective, and with persistence, came to be more discerning about my attention to such events.
“A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably” — William Penn
We often rush to describe friendship solely in terms of camaraderie and faithful allegiance to another person in a very particular way, and generally most of us can agree that a friend is someone with whom we feel these sentiments, but there is such a wide range of what might be properly described as friendship, that such a narrow definition seems more like a limitation than a proper description. The quote above points to a greater expansion of our definition of what friendship can entail, and in my experience, those individuals with whom I felt a special kinship, or a greater-than-usual emotional connection, as friends, often became much more than simply friends, even though the boundaries of our modern expectations of what constitutes friendship tend to limit what is possible in such relationships. Despite an increased freedom of choice today, and a much greater range of abilities to communicate with each other, we still seem to cling to the notion that friendship only means “liking” someone, when in fact, a much deeper and more profoundly affectionate connection between friends is not only possible, but desirable.
Our relationships generally are well-defined and unambiguous by their very nature, but occasionally we encounter particular spirits in the world who do not fit very well into any of these well-established roles. A few years ago, I attended a lecture at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia by Beatrice Bruteau, who wrote “The Creation of a Self-Creating World,” in which she gave a description of friendship, that goes beyond mere external circumstances:
“If there is strong attraction to the other as a person, an interesting thing happens. One is not satisfied with merely being intimate with the descriptive reality of the other. One wants to be close to the interior of the other, to feel the other on the inside as the other feels. One yearns to be with the other, not as the other appears to be, but as the other really is from the other’s profound sense of self.”
It may well be that our initial contact with such extraordinary connections between people, in spite of the external circumstances, results in an awareness of a commonality which transcends our common notions of friendship. What better way to illustrate the importance of our interior worlds, than to become aware of our connection to such spirits, which may defy all external considerations. The compelling draw to such individuals may be experienced in their presence as well as in their absence physically, and while our physical presence is generally expected to generate an immediate response to a kindred spirit, the fascinating experience of immediate recognition or attraction to others we encounter can occur through a combination of elements, and point to a much greater degree of connection between all of us, that cannot be explained simply by genetics and previous experience.
“Our experience of the world involves us in a mystery which can be intelligible to us only as a mystery. The more we experience things in depth, the more we participate in a mystery intelligible to us only as such, and the more we understand our world to be an unknown world. Our true home is wilderness, even the world of everyday.”
“Unfortunately, (a) true sense of the mystery of things which may, in fact, deepen in the course of scientific investigation…finds no articulate place in the articulated results of scientific investigation…Philosophical interpretation of the experience of the activity of scientific investigation is seldom offered. Thus the wonder, respect, and love for things investigated, which may be at the heart of scientific experience, virtually escape reflective interpretation and testimony.”
– Henry Bugbee from “Inward Morning.”
The title of this post was inspired by the announcement of an exhibition of the works of Rene Magritte, the quintessential surrealist artist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. While contemplating the subject of this posting, it occurred to me that what I may have been struggling with all this time is the mystery of the ordinary. We take so much for granted as temporal beings in a material world, supposing that since we have come to unravel so much of the mystery of our existence through science and technology, that it is simply a matter of time before we unravel it all. It seems unlikely to me that we could continue to thrive or even exist without coming to terms with the mysterious, and the quote from Henry Bugbee puts it in perspective for us.
The events of my personal life recently have given me some pause in this regard. I must confess to a certain degree of reluctance to submit myself to the trials inherent in the process of assimilating the many different aspects of spiritual discovery, and of coming to terms with my own experience of consciousness. My heightened sense of awareness of other people’s emotions and their spiritual selves has been unsettling at times, creating a degree of conflict as a direct result of my sensitivity. Occasionally, contact with the stream of life from their inner worlds has evoked emotional responses and triggered instinctive behaviors that might no have occurred ordinarily. Particularly high degrees of openness in a few cases have resulted in a commensurate degree of confusion. and I have not always been adequately prepared for the unrestrained response in my own inner world.
Even when there is an intellectual awareness of the possibilities which may arise in such situations, depending on which end of the spectrum one finds oneself, it can either enhance the experience or send it wildly out of control. There is also a potential for an unavoidable encounter with individuals who we perceive as particularly spiritually vital, but who are, for whatever reason, inadequately prepared for such an encounter themselves.
Opening ourselves to another individual, exposing our inner world and having another’s put before us, can be a considerable risk in some ways. Without careful consideration regarding the possible effects of unrestrained responses, or of insufficient control of one’s emotions, it is unpredictable what may happen. Sometimes, it requires a true leap of faith.
Recently, I was formally introduced to an engineering consultant from the upper levels of management, and ended up in a lengthy discussion, surprisingly not only about philosophy and religion which are of particular interest to me, but also about personal beliefs and the news regarding the state of our culture in the United States and abroad. This bright and engaging fellow is from Pakistan, a Muslim by birth, and a curious mixture of enlightened intellect and pessimistic practicality. His double major of Mechanical Engineering and Religion at the university level struck me as uncommon, although not entirely unrelated. On the surface one doesn’t seem to have much in common with the other, but as is often the case, perceived divisions between subject areas can be dispelled with a persistent effort to find commonalities. At the heart of all knowledge, there is some kind of ultimate reality which reflects the unifying force within life itself. E. O. Wilson wrote a book called, “Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge,” in which he makes a compelling case for finding our modern day version of “Ariadne’s Thread,” the one which assisted Theseus to “…retrace his steps through and out of the labyrinth.” The enthusiasm of our philosophical discussion easily diverted our attention away from the task at hand. Several reminders were needed from others about what we were supposed to be doing, because we repeatedly got caught up in our conversation and didn’t realize how much time had passed between reminders.
The ease with which our conversations progressed and the similarity in our areas of interest were powerful incentives to continue with them, and to discover such a common interest base with an individual raised and educated in such a radically different worldview almost defied belief. We were both struck by the notion, and delightfully surprised to find a degree of personal compatibility which resulted in becoming such fast friends. Lately, it seems that I have been approached by many of the people who come across my path, who have required my attention or counsel. It has resulted in an odd mixture of anxiety and anticipation, and in the coming together of certain aspects of my inner voice and spirit with the external world. At times, it feels synchronistic like signposts of crossroads, and I am alternately encouraged and uplifted, as well as a bit fearful and anxious, from the feelings inspired by progress spiritually, as well as what feels like a widening gap between the world being revealed to me in the process and the world in which I must engage the process. Within the world of the ordinary experiences, it seems that I am being drawn inexorably deeper and further away from the everyday world, and moving toward the uncertainty of new experience.
Magritte’s surreal artworks are intriguing and thought-provoking. I remain in awe of the flow of the stream of life, and must trust in the wisdom that guides us on our journey of the spirit.