Tag Archives: universal mind

Worthy to Sit at the Divine Table

Icon by Andrei Rublev, 15th century

I’m posting this on International Women’s Day, which is appropriate for reasons that will probably be clear to you.

Last time I told you about the powerful experience I had in the hospice while my mother was dying, where I felt that I was surrounded and embraced by uncountable beings who loved and supported me. This feeling of ineffable love continued as my mother stayed present with me over the next few days, and then the typical disjunctions and confusions of life took hold more again, in addition to the stresses of adjusting to her absence and dealing with the many responsibilities of her estate and planning her memorial.

We allowed nearly three weeks to prepare for the memorial service and the get-together for family and friends afterward. It was a massively busy period but also one in which I was able to contemplate important matters and to have deep discussions with friends and patients about life and death. A subject that came up was one that I’d been planning to write about anyway, the pervasive feeling of not being worthy and not deserving. It was on my mind the day of the memorial Mass, which took place on February 10, a few blocks from my house at Our Lady of the Assumption church.

I was apprehensive before the service, even felt like I was going into enemy territory. I had only met the pastor once and never heard the church’s singer before, and I had no control over the proceedings. But my family and I were welcomed warmly by the pastor and the deacon, the singer turned out to be one of the best I’d ever heard in our area, and friends gathered closely around us with great love and caring. My piano teacher played an organ piece right before the Mass, and as the last chords were sounding, the church bells began to ring with magically perfect timing.  I’m not sure if one is supposed to enjoy a funeral, but I did. It was everything it should have been, and we all felt sure it was just what my mother would like.

Some of us were feeling strongly that my mother was present and did in fact like the event. That sense of an atmosphere filled with myriad kindly beings visited me again. I had felt that in certain churches before, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting it at this one, which seemed cavernous and perhaps a little impersonal. The priest told us all, a little apologetically, that although people of different beliefs were present, we were going to hear about Jesus and get the standard Catholic experience. (Exactly as it was supposed to be.) When he said “Jesus,” I suddenly felt as if a cord flew upward from my head and connected with that loving presence.

Feeling that I was cradled in the love of my mother and the heavenly entities, I was busy communing ecstatically when I heard the words, “Lord, I am not worthy….” Wow. There it was again, stated flat out. “I am not worthy.” I am not good enough for God. I do not deserve to have the Divine be with me or within me.

And you know what? That idea rolled right past me and none of it stuck. I was completely immune to its destructive power. In every quark and photon of my being I knew that I was a child of God, a citizen of the universe, an integral and indispensable part of All That Is, however you want to put it. I was deserving of all the goodness that was pouring into me and I soaked it up joyfully and with profound gratitude and with absolutely no reservation. Not only was I worthy to receive the Divine, I was doing it right then and there and with no effort at all.

Later, as I am wont to do, I spent time rationally analyzing what had happened. I considered the fundamental contradictions embodied in “Lord, I am not worthy.” I read about the Gospel story* from which this line in the Mass was taken, and worked through a few different exegeses of it. (A nice scholarly-sounding word!) I could see where they were coming from, but I just wasn’t buying them. And this was new. Although I could still recognize my inadequacies perfectly clearly, a lifetime of existential guilt and subjugation to self-hatred had evaporated. What I knew intellectually had come to live in my heart. After years of struggle, I was at last ready for this radical acceptance.

Think about it. Even a moment of attention will show you how odd and backwards that “unworthiness” is, by doing no more than following along through basic Judaeo-Christian religious thought. God is supposed to be all-good and all-powerful, so surely God must have done a fine job at creating everything. We’re told that God looked at His creation and saw that it was good. Why, then, would human beings be total pieces of crap?

I am far from the only person to bring this up. When I was reading one of the articles on “Lord, I am not worthy,” which insisted on the truth of our not-deserving, I was pleased to see that a commenter asked, simply and directly, why we should disagree with the Creator’s opinion.

Now, suppose that God is a loving parent, as we are so often told. Imagine that you have a child, and you tell that child, “I love you, but you are really a mess, and you will never be worthy of my love no matter what you do and no matter how hard you try.” Only a twisted, psychopathic parent could say such a thing. How could an all-good God say it?

To an extent I’m oversimplifying, but this not-worthiness, this fundamental self-rejection that undermines us at a core level, is one of the most notable characteristics of mainstream religion, in our society at least.

There is another way.

The work of Fr. Richard Rohr, at the Center for Action and Contemplation here in Albuquerque, has been getting international attention. Fr. Rohr stays within the fold of Catholicism but at the same time is profoundly radical. His “Franciscan alternative orthodoxy” views our flawed humanity with great compassion, and constantly points us toward union with the divine, never into ashamed isolation.

Fr. Rohr’s recent writings have had to do with the concept of the Trinity. The idea of three-persons-in-one-God has never made sense to me, nor resonated emotionally, but he uses it to present a dynamic, moving, relational energy, a “divine dance,” rather than a static deity that doesn’t particularly interact with us or the universe. Referring to the painting shown at the top of this post, he wrote:

“In Genesis we see the divine dance in an early enigmatic story (18:1-8). ‘The Lord’ appears to Abraham as ‘three men.’ Abraham and Sarah seem to see the Holy One in the presence of these three, and they bow before them and call them ‘my lord’ (18:2-3 Jerusalem Bible). Their first instinct is one of invitation and hospitality—to create a space of food and drink for their guests. Here we have humanity feeding God; it will take a long time to turn that around in the human imagination. ‘Surely, we ourselves are not invited to this divine table,’ the hosts presume.

“This story inspired a piece of devotional religious art by iconographer Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century: The Hospitality of Abraham, or simply The Trinity. As icons do, this painting attempts to point beyond itself, inviting a sense of both the beyond and the communion that exists in our midst….

“The icon shows the Holy One in the form of Three, eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves. If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, ‘In the beginning was the Relationship.’ The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. Notice the Spirit’s hand points toward the open and fourth place at the table. Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing space? I think so! And if so, for what, and for whom?
At the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people pass right over it, but some art historians believe the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it—there was room at this table for a fourth.
The observer.
You!
Yes, you—and all of creation—are invited to sit at the divine table. You are called ‘to consciously participate in the divine dance of loving and being loved,’ as Wm Paul Young, the best selling author of The Shack, writes.
The mirror seems to have been lost over the centuries, both in the icon and in our on-the-ground understanding of who God is—and, therefore, who we are too!”

In this view, we are not unworthy to receive the Divine— we are invited to sit right next to it, co-equal, at the same table. Imagine if all children were brought up this way instead of in the shadow of the Antichrist of guilt and unworthiness. The world would be transformed.

I would add one more thing: to me, the angelic figures in the painting look androgynous. The Trinity is not being shown as “three men,” but as three human beings— perhaps even three women.

Never let anyone tell you that you don’t belong at this table.

 

*The story is that of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant, and trusts that he need “only say the word” and the man will be well. The centurion says that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof.

https://cac.org

http://catholicexchange.com/lord-i-am-not-worthy

http://www.fromwordstoprayers.com/2011/09/lord-i-am-not-worthy.html
‘What roof do we mean? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and our flesh is like the “roof” of this temple. We know we are unworthy to be such temples, where God is present spiritually; we are even less worthy to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.’

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On the Nature of Persons

1/4/11

Fryderyk hadn’t been around for a couple of weeks, and I was starting to feel lonesome. I “rang his phone” a number of times during the day, and then late in the evening, while I was reading in bed, he visited.

A little while before that I had seen a video about Jay Greenberg, a young composer and pianist with near-miraculous abilities, someone it seemed Fryderyk might be able to relate to, a good topic of conversation. The boy was only 12 at the time the 60 Minutes excerpt I saw was made, but he had already written a huge amount of music, and even as prodigies go, he was positively scary. For example, at the age of 2 he’d started asking for a cello, although his parents were not musicians and he’d never been exposed to such a thing, and he started drawing wobbly staves on paper and putting notes on them. When he was given a cello, at age 3, he could play it right away.

I told Fryderyk what I had seen and asked if he had anything to say about it. Many of us see reincarnation as a likely explanation for such extreme abilities in children, and indeed, in the Leslie Flint tapes, the Chopin entity had talked about his efforts at music in other lives, and being ready to hit the ground running in the 19th century because of that preparation. Michael Tymn* favors another theory, that the spirits of deceased adults who had developed their abilities in the arts during their lives “overshadow” and take control of these children, using them to express their own work. What did Fryderyk think about that?

First, he gave me to know that I was looking at the matter from the wrong angle. This happens rather a lot– at least he no longer insists that I’m not listening to him! The idea of a person having different lives in sequence was incorrect. I don’t think of time as linear, myself, so I was fine with that. This part was fairly incoherent, with a sense of rushing energies and various ideas flying at me at once. I struggled to pin it down. “What are you?” I asked for the zillionth time. As has happened before, I saw a flame– same thing you and I are, of course. When I tried visualizing a child artist, such as himself, and asked about other spirits floating around trying to control it, I got nothing.

I was able to pick out the thought that the rushing lights and colors represented a person and its activities and creations, and that the person was an extensive being that existed in many forms and did many things at once, so to speak. He seemed to be using the term “person” (at least as I was hearing it) to mean a total entity including what we might call the Higher Self and any and all individual, earthly lives or personalities. I would be more likely to use that word to mean one of those individual personalities, myself. So I asked him to elaborate on what a person was, in his view.

This time I got words. “A person is an outpouring from God,” he told me. Along with that, I received feelings and visual flashes of a kind of river of light and fire. I still wanted to know more about how he saw the relationship between the different parts of the larger entity.

He explained, “The person is a force which pushes out in all directions, and those directions look like separate lives.” This sounded a lot like the concept described by the Seth entity years ago, in books like The Nature of Personal Reality. It also sounded so good that I wanted to be sure to remember it. I turned a light on and hunted around for my notebook and pencil, which would normally be right by my bed, but dang, I had cleaned my room and moved them. By the time I’d written the sentence down, the contact was broken. As I had feared. I wanted to ask him something about his own larger being, but there was no more communication to be had.

 

* Find his blog here, with links to his books: 
http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/

 

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Inedia, Molecules, and What Are We Made Of?

While working on something else, I came across this page I’d written in 2008 while in the midst of taking a seminar in Richard Bartlett’s “Matrix Energetics.”  It explores some ideas I want to develop soon in these posts, so I think I’ll just submit it in its original form for the moment and whet your appetite.

Yesterday, before the intro to the Matrix seminar, I was reading an article on “breatharianism” or “inedia,” in which people go for very long periods of time without taking in physical nourishment and yet stay alive and healthy. The article, written by psychologist Jon Klimo, did not say that this is necessarily possible or true, but since there are recorded cases that are well studied and seem convincing, it asks whether there might be some kind of theoretical framework that could allow for this phenomenon. Klimo uses zero point energy, among other concepts, to offer possibilities.

(Seems like Chopin was attempting inedia at times, but I think being able to breathe well is a prerequisite if you are planning to live on air….)

I was thinking, “This sounds a lot like what we’ll be talking about in the seminar.” And right then I saw the Matrix Energetics book listed near the top of the bibliography. I’ve had the article for a couple of months, but didn’t read it till now, a time when it fits right in with the rest of what I’m thinking about. This is always happening to me. Sometimes the universe is so nice and convenient.

The inedia article, in part, concerned what humans are made of and what really happens when we take substances and energies into our bodies. This led me to ask a question I hadn’t thought about in a long time: What is Fryderyk made of? He doesn’t have molecules these days—or does he have them, but in a different form? (Just bear with me for a minute here.)

Not that we understand what molecules are made of. They certainly aren’t made of anything solid; if you cut them into smaller and smaller pieces, you find that there aren’t any pieces. There’s just something that could perhaps be called energy, though that’s not a particularly good term for it. I’m not sure what the fashionable term is for the fundamental Stuff at the moment. We could call it Qi, which would be fine with me; Oriental medicine says that everything is made of Qi, and that concept fits my experience. When I was a Rosicrucian, I learned to call it Nous. Whatever. Now we know that what we always called “vacuum” and thought was empty is actually seething with activity, serving up particles of all sorts at every instant and destroying them just as quickly, so that we don’t notice unless we look for them in the right way. “Solid” matter appears and disappears effortlessly and instantaneously, matter and energy transform into one another, and everything seems to do whatever it damn well pleases.

One of the first things Richard Bartlett told us in the seminar was, “You think you matter, but you don’t, ‘cause you aren’t!”

I always thought of Fryderyk and his ilk as being made of Qi, like the rest of us, but missing that one layer that appears to us as matter. In terms of energetic perception, a “dead” person feels very much like a “live” person to me—indistinguishable, in fact, if I am not in direct contact with the Earth-plane person’s skin or clothing.  (One of the entertaining aspects of being in a room containing 560-plus individual humans is noticing the different flavors of their personal fields—otherwise, I pretty much hate it. Some people I would like to have sitting next to me all the time, others I want to get away from as soon as possible, and most, strangely, I don’t notice at all unless I put forth some special effort. The field of the group as a whole, as you can imagine, is pretty overwhelming.)

But we don’t know what Qi is either. Some of the people writing on healing, Qi Gong, etc. talk about electromagnetic energy, but Qi can’t be electromagnetic. I wish it were, since that is something we sorta kinda understand, but it it’s not. It can’t be, because the strength of electromagnetic fields falls off rapidly with distance, but Qi can be shown to act at seemingly impossible distances. These effects are measurable. While there are models within physics that involve action at a distance, the EPR paradox and Bell’s theorem, as far as I know they do little or nothing to explain phenomena like remote healing. They also don’t explain the observed effects, also at a distance, of purely mental interventions like prayer or positive intentions. So saying that everything is made of Qi doesn’t resolve the mystery.

This matter (no pun intended) of Qi-at-a-distance is bothering me increasingly. It’s an obvious reality that can’t be avoided, yet it doesn’t fit known physical laws. Which has to mean we don’t know all the laws yet, because everything is ultimately physics. I don’t know what kind of research strategy could deal with it, and I don’t have the math(s) to even begin to think about this like a physicist might. If physicists were thinking about it, which only a few of them are willing to do. (David Bohm and Nick Herbert deserve mention.)

Metaphysics is physics too, just physics we don’t understand so well yet. I don’t think there’s really a “meta” anything, except maybe metaphor. And whatever Fryderyk is made of, it has to be physics.

One way, one fruitful way, to look at reality is that it is made up of interacting fields. Unfortunately, that is likely to bring us back to electromagnetism, but for a moment let’s postulate that everything is information. Dr. Bartlett said that we were working with fields of information, that that is what we are. Ah, I thought, Fryderyk is a field of information. I think that’s probably the closest I’ve gotten to the truth of the situation. But what is information made of? I have no idea.

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A Failed Life?

chopinmarble1

Clésinger’s bust of Chopin, done after his death

You are perfect just as you are. And you could use a little improvement.
— Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

 

It’s Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin’s birthday, a major holiday in my calendar.

A while back I was taking another look at a biography of Chopin from the 2000s, in which the author summed up her subject as “a failed life redeemed by art.”

Think about that for a moment before you read on. A failed life.

OCD-like as I am, I got stuck on that phrase. First, we should all fail so awfully as Chopin, shouldn’t we. But seriously, what would constitute a failed life? I cannot think of very many circumstances in which that could be said of someone. Even in the case of a mass murderer, there would always be the chance of redemption (and that person might have been very successful at mass murdering). The only time that I might say a life truly failed would be if it never got started— if a child died in the womb or at birth. Even then, there might have been some point to that life while it existed, in that it had effects on the lives of its parents and perhaps others.

It is worth spending some time on this issue because it seems that most people, most of the time, tend to believe that they are failing, or at least that they are not succeeding sufficiently. I often feel very much that way myself, despite recent days of great “success” in my practice and a patient calling and telling me how well he had done when I treated him. Our temporal ideas of success and failure are relative, slippery, malleable, and ultimately have little if any meaning. Better not to get overly involved with them. Let’s explore and explode some of them.

The author of the Chopin biography was comparing him to a certain type of Romantic-period literary hero. It was convenient, I suppose. We fit facts into our stories and organize them around preconceived themes all the time. The story, in this case, has to do in large part with love gone wrong. If we look at success and failure through this lens, poor Beethoven comes off even worse, and most of us would receive questionable grades. Is a person who’s been through a divorce a failure? How about a person who remains single throughout life? A celibate clergy member? This is not a very useful filter.

One might postulate that being loved in a more general sense is a sign of success in life, but then, some people who are bucking trends and rocking boats may be doing critically important work but be widely hated for it.

Financial failure, maybe? Our society certainly pays a lot of attention to that. Chopin made a lot of money for a while there, until he became too sick to work, so he’s kind of safe on that score. But we all know very well that there are both great humanitarians and total scuzzbags who have made a lot of money. Not a good measure of a life.

Reproduction, perhaps? In terms of a stripped-down view of evolutionary biology, all that matters is that you pass on copies of your genes to the next generation. Chopin didn’t manage that, but then, since he probably had a very adverse genetic disorder, that may be just as well. OK, that’s a biological fail (though descendants of his sister are around today). But this measure would mean that the Duggars are incredible successes, and your stomach is probably churning as hard as mine at that thought. Chopin’s artistic “children” are surviving quite nicely and have had many descendants of their own. Human life has far more complex effects than mere genetic replication. Passing on one’s thoughts is likely more important in the long run for humans than passing on one’s genes.

Teaching is a hugely significant way of passing on thoughts. Chopin did a great deal of that, and the community of pianists continues to learn in depth from him by playing and studying his work.

What would constitute failure for you? Whatever that is, is it a true measure, or have you received it from the world without examination? A case can be made that if you have enough to eat and a roof over your head, you have already succeeded big time in a fundamental and crucial way. If you have strong connections with other humans, you’re in even better shape.

Jim Carrey put it this way: “I’ve often said that I wish people could realize all their dreams and wealth and fame so that they can see that it’s not where you’re gonna find your sense of completion. I can tell you from experience the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is, because everything you gain in life will rot, and fall apart, and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart.”*

I think Suzuki Roshi nailed the truth superbly with his famous aphorism. For the essential, real, universal You, there is nothing to do, nothing to be or to become. For the everyday, changing mirage of you, there is always the potential to develop further. We can fully accept the present self while still moving toward what may turn out to be a quite different self. We aren’t finished— even at death— so we haven’t failed.

 

*http://www.higherperspectives.com/jim-carrey-speech-1468783748.html

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Review: Waking Up to the Dark

rose at Notre DameWaking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age
by Clark Strand
New York, Spiegel & Grau, 2015

In the vision exercise called palming, you attempt to see complete darkness. The idea is that when the eyes and brain are struggling to see, the muscles overwork and the optic nerve is constantly irritated, so that even with your palms blocking out all light, you see persistent flashes. It can be a challenge to relax and let the darkness happen, but when you stop trying to see, you become able to see more clearly.

What would it be like to let complete darkness happen? What would happen if we turned out all the lights? What would it be like to truly rest?

Clark Strand’s thesis is that artificial lighting is the fundamental evil behind every form of human trouble, and that before electric lights came into use, humans did truly and deeply rest, reaching a state of grace every night that we rarely if ever experience in the modern world.

I had already heard of this, that people used to go to sleep early in the evening, wake and go about quiet activities for two or three of the wee hours, then sleep till dawn. Apparently there are many written references to the “first and second sleep.” There was also a fascinating experiment, described in the book, in which subjects were kept away from all sources of artificial light for a month, and they soon developed that same pattern of sleep.

Although it is still common to wake in the middle of the night, most usually at 2 or 3 am, now people are typically held to a schedule where this becomes a vexing and draining problem, and they lie there anxiously staring at the ceiling. Strand writes that this time has been called the “Hour of the Wolf” because of that distress, but he sees it as the “Hour of God.”

Throughout his life, Strand has awakened and walked outdoors during that hour, in all settings and all weathers. Even as a child he did this, and he claims that he has never gotten into any serious trouble. He never takes a flashlight— it seems that his vision is exceptional. He experiences darkness as a friendly and nurturing presence.

I can relate to this, even though it is more natural for me to reach the Hour of God simply by staying up till then, not by waking after a period of good sleep. When I was little my mother, also a night person, taught me not to be afraid of the dark, and told me that it was comforting and peaceful. I took that feeling in early, and I still have it. I partake sometimes of that clarity that Strand talks about, where suddenly thoughts come together in a new way, answers click into place, and poetry may arise out of the depths. Of course I am often doing this in an environment that includes electric light, so it is not quite the same thing.

Lately I have been reducing the intensity of light as much as possible, though; I started that even before reading this book. One aspect of that was my purchase of a Kindle, essentially an electrically-lit book. I’d been reading e-books on my laptop, and both the heat and the light generated were irritating at night. The Kindle is much gentler that way, and besides it uses less power.  A little way into the book, which I was borrowing, I decided to buy my own copy, and perhaps ironically, I bought the Kindle version, thinking how much Strand would disapprove of this self-lighting of his book. Yet, this allowed me to nestle in my bed, wrapped securely in the dark, like a child reading with a flashlight under the covers, instead of being flooded with the light I would need to read a print book.

(It must be noted that Strand’s book, even if only in print, could not have been produced or distributed without electricity and lighting.)

As valuable as Waking Up to the Dark is, in some ways it goes seriously wrong. Strand mentions teaching his kids about our prehuman ancestors, and he has apparently read a great deal about them, but it seems to me that he has missed some important understanding. If I read him correctly, he believes that the introduction of fire into our caves was the beginning of our sense of separation from the rest of Nature, and the hubris that causes us to want and expect dominion over her. (He even states, based on someone else’s book, that fire is responsible for the fact that humans reproduce year-round. I would be extremely surprised if there were any evidence for this, especially since our close primate relatives also mate at any time of year despite an utter lack of firelight.) The use of fire far predates the existence of Homo sapiens. Can we confidently attribute a modern human imbalance to people who were a completely different species, beings we know next to nothing about? What kind of hubris would that be? Strand also seems to ignore the fact that even now, people in traditional cultures feel themselves to be part of the natural world, co-equal with other creatures, not set above them. That must have been the norm everywhere in the relatively recent past, up till no more than a few thousand years ago.

I find it a bit confusing, too, to be told first that modern electric light is the root of all evil, and then that the trouble started even with ancient firelight. Discrepancies like this may stem in part from the fact that this book is based on years of recorded experiences, during which Strand’s ideas must have evolved and shifted. Strand reports that his wife, Perdita Finn, wove the book from material in his 59 notebooks about rising to walk at night. Perhaps a few threads were crossed or twisted in the process.

The last part of the book is focused on something that, despite my not-entirely-different experiences, gave me rather a turn. I referred to Nature as “her” above for a reason: that is what Strand encountered, or rather, who. As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.

When Strand realized it was time to understand Her destructive and terrifying aspects, he discovered an image of Kali. He describes the Hindu view of the Kali Yuga, a stage of destruction that is necessary in order for a new cycle of creation to take place. He sees this as natural and inevitable, but at the same time, he believes that we are bringing it about through our insanely imbalanced technological way of life. Turn out the lights, he says, and all will be well, because we then will understand how we should live and we will save ourselves and the earth.

But here is another source of confusion. “The night is a natural corrective to that most persistent and persuasive of all illusions: that human consciousness is the reason for the world.” (p.96) I understand what he means, but human consciousness is, at the very least, the reason for the world that we experience. There is nothing more fundamental than consciousness. Further, our consciousness is not separate from that of the planet and its other inhabitants. This is the very same interconnectedness that Strand says we will experience if we turn off the lights. Are human thoughts and activities truly in opposition to Nature and the Earth, or are they the working out of the path and destiny of the planet and actually in divine order? Complex arguments could be made about this. I tend to think that if something, anything, is happening, no matter how dire it looks, it is part of the overall Plan and would make sense if we could see the big picture.

A healer I know replied to this question by saying that Earth and its inhabitants are being hampered and interfered with by entities who benefit from our confusion and strife. A lot of people see things this way. I am much more aware of entities who do their best to help, but just because I don’t perceive a particular thing, I can’t prove that it’s not there. I do think that we are more than capable of screwing up massively on our own, even without anyone working to make it worse for us. And I have a hard time imagining anyone or anything more powerful than the Goddess herself. Even if She is only a concept, a construction of the greater Mind of humanity, as my materialist friends may postulate, She is a concept with immense energy, perhaps more than we have ever completely understood. “My body is the body of the world,” She said to Strand. “Your body is one with that body. What could there be to fear?” (p. 124)

On the more hopeful side of this idea of harmful entities, someone told me the other day that a channeler she knows had been told that as of the end of 2014, the “good guys” had removed a whole lot of those beings from our planet, and there was a big positive shift going on because of it. She used Pope Francis as an example of movement in the right direction. I don’t know— I’d like to think that’s true, but I don’t see much basis for it. Meanwhile, I await further guidance.

Which may have arrived already, two weeks ago, on the day I started writing this.

Bob decided he really needed to stop at DaVinci’s Pizza after Nia class, and I decided I really needed to work on this post, so by way of organizing my thoughts, I started to tell him about the visitations from the Blessed Mother in her many forms. I was about to open my mouth to say that Strand saw her as Mary when the sound system suddenly broke into “Silent Night,” the section that goes “round yon virgin mother and child.”

It was October 6. Everyone knows businesses don’t start playing Christmas music till Halloween! This was obviously a mistake, and was immediately replaced by some very ordinary hip-hop. Or it wasn’t a mistake at all, and it meant that She was listening.

Synchronicities have been coming thick and fast lately. I had my laptop with me, and I opened it to find an email from Steve Bhaerman, my dear old Swami, describing how he had lost his voice right at the beginning of his tour of the Southwest. He concluded that he needed to shut up and listen. “You need to listen to that still small voice inside… that’s still small, because you DON’T LISTEN. You need to stop the endless rat-a-tat-tat of thoughts, and listen to the silence.” Listen to the Silent Night. In the dark.

One might wonder where the Father and the Son in their own various guises fit in with the story— those in whose name the Mother’s lips were misguidedly taped shut. They haven’t gone away, but as Strand points out, fathers cannot produce sons without mothers, no matter how much the patriarchal religions would like to deny mothers their due. Yang cannot exist without Yin, as we all know, and there is nothing so Yang as our current America. Swami Beyondananda, who always travels with his wife, says that when a society is based only on masculine energy, we have a stag-nation, so we need the feminine energy to make a doe-nation in order to create the imagi-nation that builds the world.

When I read Strand’s chapter about the apparitions of Our Lady, as usual it was very late at night. I put down the book and turned in, and I could feel myself as partaking of that essential feminine principle, being, in myself, a source of creation. This principle lives in males as well. I’m not sure that we have to turn off the physical lights in order to find Her within ourselves and return to our Mother, whom we have never really left.

*******************************************************************

The photo above was taken when I visited Paris in the fall of 2010.  A rose– symbol of Mary.  Growing behind the cathedral of Notre Dame– Our Lady.  In the dark.

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Identity and the True Self

By Mike Luckovich. http://www.gocomics.com/mikeluckovich/2015/06/02 (I did my best to look into getting permission to use this cartoon, but could not find out how. Go Comics does allow free sharing on Facebook etc., so I hope this is OK.)

 

 

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks! Looking at the news optimistically, despite the horrifying attacks that have occurred, I see tremendous opportunities for healing in the national conversations about race, gender, and sexual orientation. That is, the fact that we’re having the conversations at all is extremely positive.

I usually try not to jump into any of the rings of the media circus. I am way behind the news cycle with this post, because I’ve been cogitating for quite a while about what I want to say. All the headlines lately have to do with identity in one way or another, and that’s my subject today. It’s complicated, as you know, and I’m afraid that someone may come away from reading this feeling insulted or minimized, which is certainly not my intention.

I started on this back at the time earlier in June, which seems like ages ago, when everyone was talking about Caitlynn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal,* and we were endlessly treated to analyses of those two cases of identity change. I don’t normally pay any attention to celebrities-for-celebrity’s-sake; it wasn’t that long ago that someone had to explain to me who Kim Kardashian was, and I wasn’t clear how Jenner was related. (Argus Hamilton quipped that before Dolezal identified as black, she identified as a Kardashian-American.) But there has been some real usefulness in the confusion people have been expressing and in their attempts to work their way through it.

It seems like the group mind has concluded that it’s pretty much OK to change your appearance and who you say you are in order to fit with who you feel you are on the inside, but that it’s not OK to lie. That’s fairly simple. There’s nothing simple about identity, though.

The fact that same-sex marriage is now legal and recognized in all 50 states (Lord, what fun it is to type those words!) is one sign that our view of human identity is more flexible and tolerant than it used to be. The lowering of the army of northern Virginia’s battle flag in some Southern states is another. The burning of African-American churches—six of them in four states in just the past week— following the murders at the church in Charleston is a sobering sign that the opposite is still true.** We have a long, long way to go.

From a biological viewpoint, race is nonexistent, and gender is fuzzy. Each of us contains multiple lines of ancestors and multiple genetic potentials. Why shouldn’t identity be large enough to contain those multitudes? I am so accustomed to switching roles in the course of a day or a week that it’s hard to imagine being limited to existing as any one thing. I wonder if we can or will get to a point where being intentionally multiple will be seen as normal.

In the matter of race, it seems inevitable; there are more and more mixed-race people all the time (all of us are mixed-race, of course, but I mean those for whom it’s an overt identity), so surely everyone will get more and more used to that. Genetic studies have shown how closely everyone on the planet is related, and that fact will most likely become more widely known.

With regard to gender, I wonder what would happen if our concepts of male and female expanded enough that a boy who feels like a girl could be comfortable remaining identified as a boy while expressing feminine aspects without restriction. That is, I wonder if trans people would feel less pain and less need to transition if society got over the idea of gender being binary and opened up the possibilities. But I am fortunate in that my own identity is not painful and is not being forced on me in any way, and I cannot speak for anyone else.

I read an impassioned essay from June 9 by Fr. Robert Barron, who strongly criticized trans people for saying that they are mentally one thing and physically another.+ He wrote that the Church has always seen the material body as good (which doesn’t sound to me like the Catholic Church I was brought up in), with identity being a characteristic of the body and not just the mind. “Moreover, the mind or will is not the ‘true self’ standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.”

Since I am very much aware of the existence of human beings who are not currently living in bodies, I find this point of view astonishing. I wonder what in form Fr. Barron imagines humans to exist in his version of heaven, where physical bodies must be irrelevant. I don’t mean to say that the mind should be set against the body, but it is clear that the body cannot be the “true self.”

Speaking of a council that was apparently convened in Rome the week before, he said that he was particularly bothered by “the claim that the secret council was calling for a ‘theology of love’ that would supplant the theology of the body proposed by John Paul II.++” Christians espousing a theology of love? Shocking! Certainly no basis in the New Testament. No idea where they could have gotten such stuff.

If I had the chance to converse with Fr. Barron, I might ask him how his body-centered spirituality deals with the fact that the body is always changing and does not have “distinctive form” or “finality.” The many, shall we say, gifts of middle age put this fact in front of me every day. For example, my vocal range has changed enough to cause a new label to be applied to my voice, one that feels like it doesn’t belong to me, and I am trying to gracefully let go of the old one. It would be silly to get overly involved with concepts of having to sound a certain way or having a certain hair color or even being a certain height, because those are going to be different, and sooner rather than later. My mother, at age 90 1/2, has been expressing surprise that her body is changing so quickly and dramatically. My elderly patients and friends often say things like that, but add that they feel exactly the same on the inside as they always did.

On the spiritual level, none of our outer identifiers, the things other people see when they look at us, have any real meaning at all. I don’t have to tell you that body shape, size, color and the like are not who you really are. But let’s go a bit further. Some philosophers say that there is no “real you” at all.

Brian Hubbard, husband of Lynne McTaggart, wrote the book Time-Light, describing his theory that what we think of as our personality is nothing more than an accumulation of experiences we have not sufficiently understood, that stick to us and make us “time-heavy.” He claims that he got over his persistent depression by letting go of the past and returning to a state much like that of a small child.

Brent Phillips, a healer and teacher whose work I encountered a few months ago, is one who insists that the you that manifests in the physical world is only a kind of fictional character— he likes to use Harry Potter as the example. When you look further and further inward, he says, you find that “no one is home.”

I have been very uncomfortable with this concept that there is nothing and no one at the center of a person. Not because I particularly want to cling to my own existence; in fact, I feel empty of it much of the time, as if there is someone talking and doing various things, typing this right now, but “I” am not particularly identified with that being, and even the “I” that is observing its activities does not feel fundamental. The problem is that I, whatever I that means, directly experience a something in a human being, some irreducible spark behind all those characters in their shifting roles. That something exists in animals as well. At the core of all is an awareness. That is what’s home.

A long time ago I heard a talk by the Dalai Lama in which he was asked what the nature of consciousness really is. I remember him saying that it is a “luminous I.” Now I can’t find that quote anywhere, but I’ve found standard Buddhist references to consciousness as being “luminous and knowing.” Consciousness is the thing that illuminates, meaning that it lights its objects so that they can be apprehended, and it is the thing that knows, independent of what is known. At least, that is my best effort at understanding this. And the awareness that is found at the center of everyone is the same awareness that is found at the center of everyone else. This gets tougher to grasp. If one follows along through Phillips’ teachings, it becomes apparent that he too is talking about this universal awareness, not truly saying that there is no one home anywhere.

Universal awareness has found a staggering variety of ways to express itself, and I find that to be a tremendous joy. The “luminous I” is free to manifest as any physical appearance, any set of interests and talents, any gender or sexual orientation. The objective human mind sets limits, but in reality there are none.

 

*For those who have been living on Mars or who may read this in the future when these names have faded into history: Caitlynn Jenner is the name of the person who used to be the Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner before she transitioned. Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who changed her appearance and identified as black, and who led a chapter of the NAACP before she was outed as white by her parents.

**http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2015/06/26/string-of-nighttime-fires-hit-predominately-black-churches-in-four-southern-states/

+http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/bruce-jenner-the-shadow-council-and-st-irenaeus/4785/
Fr. Barron uses Jenner as a reason to attack his real target, Gnosticism, which he trashes viciously, and which he appears to understand poorly, as seen in his use of the term “the Gnostic heresy” at this late date. It seems, also, that he has more of an issue with dualism than with Gnosticism; he conflates the two, and this is misleading. But all that is a subject for another day and probably a very long post.

++ http://www.jp2.info/Theology_of_the_Body.pdf
Here is a summary of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body.”  I had not heard that term before, but I was all too familiar with his resistance to contraception and to any kind of sex outside of marriage (not to mention an equal role for women within the church).  I always admired John Paul II overall, but he went much further than I realized with these ideas, which seem to me to dismiss and denigrate the body’s biological needs just as Catholicism has done for centuries.  I am deeply saddened by words such as this:  “Therefore, in such a case, the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.” “If the procreative aspect of conjugal union is excluded, then that truth of the person and of the act itself is destroyed.”   There is no room at all for those who are anything other than heterosexual and monogamously married, nor even for those of us who have been sterilized for medical reasons or who have undergone hysterectomies!  This does not reflect the reality of nature on this planet.
  And for a celibate old man to suggest that since I had a tubal ligation in my late 20s, in all these years my husband and I have not experienced “an act of love,” is beyond offensive.  I am well and truly ready for a theology of love to replace this one.

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Parallel in No Time

Eckhart Tolle declared, “Suffering needs time.”  This pithy statement implies that any event in time is subject to suffering, because time is an illusion and we are bigger than it.  He goes on to say, “it [suffering] cannot survive in the now.”  Tolle has mined gold here.  Why make a big deal about events in time?  Why not dive into the eternal now moment and let time take care of itself?  As Ram Dass said in his classic book Be Here Now, “If you can be here now, when ‘then’ becomes ‘now,’ you will have superconsciousness and superawareness and know exactly what to do.”  – Alan Cohen, in his December 2012 newsletter

wave background-001

Christine visited the other day, and at one point she tried to help me get unstuck from a vexing issue by means of the Matrix Energetics techniques she’d been practicing.  She simply sat drumming her fingers on the table and doing apparently nothing else.  A wave of warmth washed over me, and suddenly the air began to shimmer and appear to move.  It was as if the very molecules were trying to shift.  And yes, my problem shifted too.

You’ve been reading my blog and similar stuff, so you know, don’t you.  You know that the world we perceive is only that, the world we perceive.  No more, no less.

One of the most obvious and all-encompassing features of this world is linear time.  The cusp of the new year, right now as I write, is one of the moments in which time, marking its passage, putting a dot at a certain spot, seems particularly significant.  But there is no absolute, one-way time that is running at the same rate and in the same order for all observers, no matter what we think we see from our limited vantage point.

Recently, in his blog at White Crow Books, Michael Tymn presented an interview with Julia Assante, PhD, author of The Last Frontier.  Dr. Assante made this striking comment:  “Individual reincarnations co-exist in the afterlife.  And they can co-exist in this life too.  I know a woman who is a reincarnation of me.  We both have the same past-life memories and share one future-life memory, even the name of the man we are going to be, a man named Bernerd, who lives about 200 years from now.*  Our other-life memories were already known to us before we ever met.  She and I simply split up into two bodies.”

Dr. Assante answered another question with this:  “You might already have guessed that I’m not much of a supporter of spiritual evolution in which we progress sequentially.  I know I have had past incarnations in which I was more advanced than I am now.  And nearly everyone is more ‘spiritually evolved’ as children than as adults.”

And the audience went nuts.  Even some folks who have read and written extremely widely on spiritual matters got quite upset at the idea that the spirit might not develop steadily in a forward direction through linear time.

All I can figure is that although they might have read spiritual classics, they’ve completely ignored the past century of physics. I don’t think they’ve consumed a lot of science fiction, either; if they had, time travel, realistic or not, would be part of their normal mental wallpaper.  I don’t mean to be too hard on these folks.  This is difficult stuff, and our brains are not built well for contemplating it.

Why is it that the illusion of linear time keeps us so entirely in its thrall, even though it’s a partial truth at best?  The best explanation I’ve seen is in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  It is simply that the apparent arrow of time exists because of entropy.  Spilled coffee doesn’t jump back into the cup.  Rocks don’t fall upward.  Disorder inevitably increases.  Our physical brains follow this law, so our thoughts go along.

On the other hand, I can play pieces that I couldn’t in the past, implying some sort of progress through time.  On the third hand (which sure would be useful at the keyboard), if what appear to be past-life memories really are, “I” used to play far better than I do now.  But if we can add a fourth hand (and now try duets), that doesn’t matter because the larger entity can push itself into any part of the time/space continuum, so that a “more advanced” model could appear in an earlier era.

A terrific pop-physics program on PBS, The Elegant Universe, hosted by physicist Brian Greene, used the metaphor of a gigantic loaf of bread to represent an Einsteinian view of spacetime.  The angle at which you slice across the loaf determines whether a given event appears to happen before or after another.  Cause and effect goes out the window.  All of the bread is “already” there, waiting for the observer to taste one slice or another.  (You should watch that series.  Seriously.  Even if you aren’t into the science, the visuals are trippy and incredible.)

And as if that weren’t enough, there may be infinitely many other loaves.  In the views of not only Hugh Everett’s venerable Many-Worlds Interpretation but also some modern formulations of string theory, everything that can happen does, somewhere or somewhen.  Some physicists postulate that there could be infinitely many of each of us, almost the same but just slightly different, because in an infinite number of universes, there are infinite possibilities for similar events and beings to be repeated.

The trouble is that even if this is true we can never test for it or prove it; all those universes are hopelessly divided and closed off from each other, forever and ever.  But that hasn’t stopped some mystics from exploiting the idea– mere physical characteristics of the universe(s) are no barrier to the mind.  As Lucy Gillis put it, “The laboratory of parallel universe experimentation may not lie in a mechanical time machine, à la Jules Verne, but could exist between our ears.”  She quoted physicist Fred Alan Wolf: “. . . the possibility exists that parallel universes may be extremely close to us, perhaps only atomic dimensions away but perhaps in a higher dimension of space – an extension into what physicists call superspace. Modern neuroscience, through the study of altered states of awareness, schizophrenia, and lucid dreaming, could be indicating the closeness of parallel worlds to our own.”

A self-improvement teacher in his 80s, Burt Goldman, has based his entire system on this concept.  When he wants to learn to do something new, he imagines a parallel self that already has that skill.  In his mind, he goes to visit that self and minutely observes how he does what he does, then returns to normal reality able to do the same.  In this way he has taught himself to paint in various styles, to play the piano, and more.  He just immediately knows how to do it.  I’m afraid that so far I haven’t had any success trying this.  I’m intrigued, though, and willing to believe that all human capabilities are somehow “out there” in the Field and that we can capture them if we understand how.

I was introduced to the concept of parallel lives many years ago in the Seth material, so it’s been part of my mental background for much of my life.  Seth postulates something very much like Everett’s interpretation of quantum mechanics, that whenever there is more than one possible way an event can to occur (as when a particle “decides” to go through one slit or another during an experiment), all the possible outcomes do in fact occur.  The difference with Seth’s way of looking at things is that he says we choose, consciously or unconsciously, which reality is going to manifest for us, rather than the whole thing being random and all options being equal.  “You create your reality” in this view means that you pick out what you want from among all the probable realities.  Other versions of you are doing the same, making different choices.  It’s an empowering, liberating way of seeing your life, and I think it’s very likely to be the literal truth, but it can make you a bit dizzy and perhaps distressed if you think about it for very long.  All That Is, as Seth calls it, the multiverse, is awfully large.

Seth also concurs that there is no linear time, that everything happens “all at once.”  He says that events are organized in our larger consciousness according to their intensities rather than according to which happened when.  I think we can get a taste of this even in our mundane minds, when we say we remember some long-past but crucial event “as if it was yesterday.”

Most of this discussion has been about advancement in skills and knowledge rather than about fundamental spiritual development.  I am willing to accept Dr. Assante’s assertion that we may be more spiritually evolved as children than as adults, because as we go through our temporal lives more and more junk gets into our heads and obscures what’s important.  But I also would like to think that many people transcend that accretion of junk and come to greater awareness as they age.  At any rate, it seems to me that spiritual development, whatever we may make of that term, is more a matter of opening to the awareness of what we already are than about adding anything new to ourselves.  We can forget temporal things we’ve learned– for example, a couple of years ago I could speak a little Polish, and now I can’t– but I would like to think that what we gain in awareness and understanding in the core or our being stays with us, even if we lose aspects of brain function.

When I described this post-in-progress to my mentor Mendy Lou Blackburn on New Year’s Eve, she said that what the spirit does in its “evolution” is to expand, rather than to progress in linear time.  That matches what I’ve been shown in my own visions.  The concept of expansion still implies a movement through time, but it also suggests a constantly growing network of connections, like a fractal tree in multiple dimensions, ramifying into more and more strands throughout the universe as entities become more aware and more complex and richer with experience.  Not a line, but a web, no beginning or end.

Is that woman who shared memories and future impressions with Julia Assante truly the other half of her, housed in another body?  I don’t know.  There are so many ways two human beings could conceivably share such connections.  Since all of us are essentially the same Mind manifesting in multiple bodies, the question may be moot, and I’m not worrying too much about the exact answer.

*It’s comforting to think that humans may still be here in 200 years!

Mike Tymn’s post:  http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/entry/the_last_frontier_an_interview_with_author_julia_assante_ph.d/

Lucy Gillis, who I found while looking for Seth references, is at www.dreaminglucid.com

NOVA’s The Elegant Universe:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/elegant-universe.html

Burt Goldman’s website:  http://www.quantumjumping.com/articles/parallel-universe/parallel-universes-theory/

Jane Roberts’ Seth material fills a number of worthwhile books.  I reread parts of  The Nature of Personal Reality while preparing to write this post.  Nowadays “you create your reality” is old hat, but when this was written it was fresh, even shocking, and it’s still great food for thought today.

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