How much?

April 15, 2014

I suppose it is not necessary to believe we have through reincarnation multiple opportunities to develop spiritually to believe that it may be preferable for people to do what they can in terms of what Father Rohr’s tradition calls “dying to the self” instead of aiming to do more than they can safely accomplish.  In the reincarnation model, we can think of it in terms of laying a strong foundation (for future layers), but even without multiple opportunities, we could think of it in terms of progress made — how far we have come from where we started — and see “delta” (change) as what we are looking for.

I have concerns about everybody feeling they should be able to achieve it all, and hence not trying at all or trying in a way that actually results in harm, such as regression or implosion.  I’m in favor of taking solid steps, however small, towards becoming aware of what about us is flawed and ephemeral and what about us is timeless and stable.  Rome was not built in a day.  Every stage of development is important and having people at different stages of development is important.  I would rather see people moving slowly in a helpful direction than not moving at all or incurring too much damage from tumbling backwards after trying to take too large a step on difficult terrain.

Where I do see privileging one stage of development above others is in being able to see a bigger picture and being able to encourage others not to get stuck in limited thinking, in mistaking a part for the whole, or in clinging to a stage as if it were a permanent resting place.  Being able to suggest an overview can be helpful, but the actual nitty-gritty of coaching individuals, in terms of where they are and what may be helpful to their progress, I think is something else.

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35 Responses to “How much?”


  1. What if enlightenment turns out to mean finding that we are simply meat machines with no purpose beyond propagating our species?

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I would say that that is a perspective, but I don’t think things look that way from all perspectives. If you want to discuss why we call some perspectives “enlightened” and others mundane, to my mind, the distinction has to do with how helpful they are in seeing more and finding ways to live that allow one to take less and give more.


      • From what you say I take it that you find nihilism as only negative? There is more than one perspective on nihilism.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I don’t see how nihilism and openness are compatible, and I find openness helpful.


      • You may have a rather skewed understanding of nihilism. Having no intrinsic purpose or meaning does not mean that you cannot provide your own. It does not preclude people being helpful at all. Nihilism is not a world view, rather it is a single point issue. In this I mean existential nihilism. The word is applied loosely to other things as well.

        If by enlightened you mean “having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.” then I can assure you that being an existential nihilist does in now way prevent that. In fact, by paring down to the truth it can facilitate that.

        Perhaps I’ve not understood your idea of enlightened?

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Enlightenment to me is like finally seeing the camouflaged animal in the brush.


      • Is not seeing the human mind as it really is the same as seeing the animal?

      • Diana Moses Says:

        But it involves seeing the human mind as it really is from a vantage point other than the human mind — it involves stepping out.


      • No, I believe it only takes a mirror and a new perspective…

      • Diana Moses Says:

        A mirror aimed at what, though? The current ego-identity?


      • If you are going to look inside yourself, you need a mirror and the perspective to accept the truth of what you find. A perspective free of previous ideas, free to see without expectation.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Sure, but what part of the self you look at I think makes a big difference in terms of what kind of “enlightenment” you may experience.


      • In a word, all. Philosophers and theologian alike have yet to define what a thought actually is. They talk of qualia but fail to explain it. They talk of self and consciousness yet fail to explain it.

        We need a perspective that explains these things and more. When we find it, the mirror will show us what our brains are really doing. The truth of that _is_ enlightenment. That truth might well be nihilistic in nature.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        What our brains are doing I think is just supporting material detail to something more significant — kind of like infrastructure or scaffolding.


      • That’s the thing, we’re finding more and more about what they are really doing, and it’s not spirit support system. Consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I disagree. It may look that way looking from the inside outwards and using only part of one’s mental apparatus to do so, but that doesn’t make it so — there are perspectives that can see that but also see that in a larger context, and in that larger context, it is only a subset of what is going on.


      • do you have details or links on that perspective?

      • Diana Moses Says:

        You mean citations to other people who subscribe to this point of view, or do you mean “proof” that someone who can’t see it this way will find persuasive?


      • Just further information to understand that perspective and where it comes from.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        It doesn’t come from having read stuff, at least not in my life. Sometimes I read something that supports or elucidates something I’ve already experienced or observed or discerned. I think that for me it serves to bleat my point of view, to apply my perspective rather than to try to persuade or even to teach. After all, it’s about tasting the sugar, not reading a description of how it tastes, and nobody can make you taste it or taste it for you.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I wouldn’t try to reduce songwriting, or sculpting, to what the brain is doing while the artist in engaged in it — I don’t think the brain activity is “primary” in the sense of producing the event. I also think that we might find it helpful to get chronology out of the model (in terms of the relationship of the physical to the non-physical — using chronology in a model about only the physical doesn’t seem to me to pose the same problem).


      • One would need to show that there was something other than the brain involved during sculpting etc. to agree with your statement if I understand it correctly.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        If it were provable on your terms, it wouldn’t be anything different from the usual, provable stuff.

  2. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    Some very clear and valuable thinking in your second paragraph, Diana. I think your perceptions are accurate.

    As to the oriental (mainly Hindu) idea of “moral progress through reincarnation” I have always thought that rather silly. Before you make a judgment as to transfer of identity, you must have a clear definition or concept of what constitutes “identity.” What would it matter if the same “soul” passed from dog to man, if the two had nothing in common mentally or by memory ?

    While it is true that some children have inexplicable memories of past adult lives, this does not mean that the true identity (in terms of personality, talent, emotions, etc.) has been transferred. And no children seem to have memories of past life as animals ! If there are such, I have never heard of them. It seems that Hindus have thus defined the soul so narrowly or mystically it becomes an indiscernible point.

    You might do well to make the effort of developing your ideas as to “step by step moral progress” in such manner that ordinary people might understand and use them.

    The only good ideas I have ever seen in Islam are condemnation of homosexuality and the rule of prayer five times a day.

    Rule number one in your developed “Moral Self-improvement Manual” should be a fixed rule of spending time, say fifteen minutes, once or twice a day for review of relevant goals or concepts and their degree of realization. Advise the self-improver to practice “hard thinking,” like the labor of mental arithmetic, at certain times to become accustomed to this valuable kind of labor. Fully concentrating the mind is no easy task.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I disagree with condemning homosexuality.

      I don’t think reincarnation means the same ego-identity is transferred. The soul reincarnates in a new ego-identity — the continuity is through the soul, not through the ego-identity. A later ego-identity may recall aspects of a former one, I think.

  3. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    If the soul, but not ego-identity is transferred, that what that is identifiable or definable, is ?

    If nothing that is recognizable, definable, or identiiable is transferred, it seems that nothing is transferred that could ever be known to anyone. A trick of definition, perhaps.

  4. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    Right enough, if the person REALLY DOES remember some past identity. But though there are compelling individual cases, it seems a very rare phenomenon.

    The theory or reincarnation would be meaningless (as I claim it is) if the soul is defined so narrowly, mystically, or obscurely that nothing is ever discoverable (like memories) shared in common between the former “container” of the soul and the next-following one.

    My own memories go as far back as age two but I have never had any feeling of connection with strange or unknown experiences. My dreams, even as a child, gave me no insight into things I had not already experienced. This would be true for at least some people if reincarnation were generally valid and not merely “wishful thinking.”

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Maybe remembering past lives is like an Eagle Scout project — in the sense of needing to work your way up to it through the ranks.

      • Jeff in New Jersey Says:

        A good answer, Diana.

        I was never an Eagle Scout, as I lost interest, but I did get as high as the next rank down, Life Scout.

        I recall a good deal of boyish “sex talk” while camping, but I never observed or even heard of a single instance of homosexual activity. There are good social reasons for condemning it. Would you want your impressionable boy exposed to an aggressive or persuasive practioner before adequate maturity ?

        As to your comparison to progress through reincarnation, I understand it to mean thinking about reincarnation as a conscious moral exercise — not something that happens to people of all sorts and conditions beyond the control of Will.

        Do you consider that people with conspicuous psychological defects, like the “killer instinct” of Theodore Bundy (or perhaps even “natural inclination” homosexuals, as distinguished from the other ninety percent) may be playing out some obscure or hidden reincarnation instinct?

        After all, if it is involuntary for all sorts and conditions, a very womanly woman might “re-incarnate” as a man, or a hardened and vicious killer as an otherwise normal person.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        I don’t think the ego-identity aspect of the person determines how they reincarnate.

        As for unwanted sexual overtures, unwanted sexual overtures are unwanted sexual overtures, I don’t think the genders of the people are the issue. Sexual overtures towards kids are also per se a problem, and again, I don’t see relative gender being the issue.

  5. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    You do not seem to be looking squarely at the problem, Diana.

    Women tend to judge many social issues by “putting themselves” in the place of another and thinking in terms of how they would react. I am sure that you personally can cope well enough with “unwanted sexual overtures.” Perhaps you always could, even when young.

    But consider a boy, say fourteen or fifteen, strongly under peer pressure. His “peers” may come to be experienced homosexuals who want to recruit him, but for the idea of it and for the personal advantage of it. That is not at all the same thing as a boy of this age being seduced by an older woman. In that case, he only gets a little early experience.

    The character of a boy that young will not be adequately formed, and he will not have powers of resistance that age and experience brings. True enough, some will resist, but the percentage of boys still malleable or confused is significant. The idea of “consenting adults” is very dubious, as it imposes a rigid legal standard that does not consider or deal with individual vulnerabilities.

    So it is a socially and morally very serious thing if a boy of such age is recruited in a way that changes his life, such that he does not look for a wife but becomes habituated to a male companion.

    You cannot possibly believe this would be a good thing or a proper manifestation of “liberty.”

    Every state and the Federal government once had laws punishing acts of sodomy. Do you remember the Walter Jenkins case of 1964 ?

    Were all the legislators responsible for these laws deluded or out of contact with reality ?

  6. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    I am sure your personal experience is extensive, Diana, but no one individual’s experience ought to be a basis for public policy.

    Once a man has accepted himself as a homosexual, he will convinced himself that it is his own voluntary decision, even though it might never have happened but for the influence of another. Your experience must have taught you that “convincing oneself” (that past decisions were right) is very common in the psychology of humans.

    While there are certainly circumstances where a young man might be harmed by approach of an outwardly friendly but inwardly ruthless older woman, this has more to do with his weaknesses than her strengths. It never happened to me, but how ever it happens, it is at least according to nature.

    Undoubtedly, there are some homosexuals who have responded to a strong inner inclination. It used to be that such men would commit crimes for the purpose of being sent to prison, where they would be happy and in demand.

    I read a statement by one such : To the effect that for most men in prison, it is a matter of sexual convenience, unlike “the true homosexuals like me, who do it for love.”


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