Archive for the 'misunderstandings' Category

Layers of divinity

September 26, 2014

My sense of the spiritual world is that there are what we could call layers and that the highest layer is what some people would call God or Dis or Source.  The essence of the highest layer I think permeates through all the succeeding layers, including into our own, into our material world and into ourselves.  I think it’s very difficult for a human to comprehend the highest level.  I think when we try to, we often resort to coloring it with imagery that brings it down to a lower level.

I may have written this before, but I want to say that what Jesus was trying to say could be taken to be about mistaking the “son” for the “father,” about mistaking one layer for another, about mistaking a “personal God” with anthropomorphic characteristics for the highest layer.  The father-son concept would then be a metaphor for how there is connection between the layers.  Encouraging people to fall in love with a being they could identify with even more than with a more abstract concept could be a way of trying to help people who have trouble achieving spiritual union find the emotional posture to do so.

But the “father layer,” in my view, is not the ultimate layer.  I think Christianity conceptualizes that it is the ultimate layer.  I think a “father layer” is also, and too much, dependent on the person’s need to relate to a being who can be related to in human terms.

I wonder if the teachings got misunderstood.  I would take the father-son idea and the idea of accessing the father through relationship with the son as ways to help achieve spiritual union, but which need to be replicated up the chain through the layers of the spiritual realm to the more abstract layers.

As always, take what you like and leave the rest.

I wrote this after reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.

Letting it pass through you

June 22, 2014

Sometimes during an argument, the other person hurls an insult.  I don’t know how it is for biological parents, but adoptive parents sometimes get from their children during the heat of an argument, “You’re not even my real mother.”  And you take it for what it is, part clumsy expression of fact (that I am not their first mother), part expression of pain and frustration (maybe even powerlessness), part attempt to penetrate their opponent’s defenses.  And you let it pass through you.

The relationship, as I see it, between addiction and spiritual connection is that some people are open in some ways and not in others, and they prematurely encounter a spiritual equivalent to “You’re not even my real mother.”  It may well be that “boundaries, strong identity, impulse control, and deep God experience” were lacking (that’s from today’s Daily Meditation from Father Rohr), but I think those are secondary to the problem of encountering a difficult wave of spiritual energy while, on the one hand, not being simple and  innocent enough (to allow it to pass through naturally), and, on the other hand, not being spiritually (re-)developed enough (to allow it to pass through consciously), either.  I think the addiction comes from the dynamic of the energy encountered — it is an energy that offers a rush of pleasure but at a very high long-term cost.  Very innocent people I think never get caught up in the energy because they are oblivious to it, but people with a little less innocence may stop to take a look, to see what it is, maybe they even try to resist the energy or tussle with it, or maybe they become frightened by it.  In any case, they interact with it instead of letting it pass through them.  Without a really well developed capacity for removing the ego from that encounter, the person becomes sucked into a cycle of succumbing to short-term pleasure and long-term pain.  To get out of that dynamic, one has to remove one’s “hang-ups” and learn detachment, and those are helpful things in their own right.  That’s why in Al-Anon, the program for relatives and friends of alcoholics, one sometimes hears gratitude expressed for having gone on the journey of growth that the alcoholism of another has impelled them to go on — it can be a painful means to a very helpful result.

My point is that I think addiction may actually be the result of a spiritual encounter that went awry, not because there was anything wrong with what was encountered, but because of the person’s state of mind.  In that respect, I agree with the Daily Meditation, it’s just that I think there is no surprise that people who fall into addiction have a keen spiritual sense — it’s what got them into the situation in the first place — it was keen but not keen enough.  I also don’t think it was “aimed in the wrong direction” so much as it was unable to process safely what it encountered.  I have the impression that the strand of belief that Jesus dealt with something spiritually on the behalf of others may arise out of some notion of protecting people from this pitfall.  But I think in the end we all need to develop all the tools, including those that would allow us to extricate ourselves on our own (with spiritual help) from this particular pitfall.  Trying to deal with how people do get seriously stuck in this pitfall should not be confused conceptually with roping off the pitfall and putting up permanent detour signs.  Otherwise we end up with the bogeyman under the bed, with the part of the map labeled “There be monsters here,” when in fact there is no bogeyman or monster, only an energy difficult to process.  And then we have the very real problem of having created the idea that there is a bogeyman.


April 28, 2014

I was writing about the Anglo-American property law concept of adverse possession in a comment I wrote to Paul Krugman’s column on Cliven Bundy, because I wanted to focus on how people get emotionally invested in their initially mistaken notions of what is theirs.

People do that in all kinds of contexts, including spiritual ones, I think.  In most social circles in our culture we don’t allow much discussion of trespasses against others that are not visible physical ones, but that doesn’t mean people don’t trespass against others in other ways.  In fact, the fact that we can’t talk about it helps such trespassers continue the trespass:  “What, are you crazy?  I can’t be doing that, that possibility doesn’t exist!”  And it doesn’t mean nobody talks about such trespasses, either — it is acceptable discourse in some circles.

I will focus on a context in which it is more generally acceptable to talk about the issue:  the muse relationship.

Writers, artists, and musicians who focus on someone whom they think is a muse may actually just be focusing on some particular real life person living their life on this planet.  Their focus may come across as a “wrong number” phone call to that person, and if the caller perseveres in the call, it may come across as a trespass; it may even damage the person.  And like Bundy grazing his cattle for years without paying, the caller may get used to the idea of a free grazing right.

People who have a lot of spiritual development and are very open get plenty of people who want their emotional and spiritual support.  Some of the people looking for the support try to establish muse relationships (some try other type relationships), and some of those relationships work, some of those relationships come across as trespassing or worse.  It can feel to the “muse” as if they are getting an unsolicited cold call promising them a scam.  They may follow up on the call to make sure it really is the scam it seems to be, and if it is, they may terminate the connection.  But first they may give the caller an opportunity to recast the relationship into a viable form.  If there is no willingness to negotiate in a reasonable way, then the connection will probably fray and fade.

Just calling the relationship a “muse” relationship doesn’t make it one.  It may be experienced as something quite different on the receiving end — the “muse” may feel as if she has a Cliven Bundy grazing his cattle on her resources, claiming, in essence, adverse possession.



March 19, 2014

I think we all have flaws as we live in the material world.  Just as Willy used to chide me that when we have nothing on our “administrative matters” to-do list it’s because we are dead, when we have no flaws, I think we are just spirit.

But some flaws are more of impediments to navigating in the world and developing our potential than others.  So we try to reduce the big impediments, in order to reduce distortion to our perception and in order to reduce damage to others and to ourselves.

As to the rest of our flaws, I think we adjust for them through collaboration with others — like blind men feeling parts of the elephant, if we pool our perceptions, we might make up for one another’s limitations.

“This is your life”

January 7, 2014

Some people invite a “mirror” into their lives, perhaps unwittingly.  They may think they have merely coerced someone into helping them out, but when that person turns out to be one of these “mirrors,” they may find themselves like someone who has inadvertently ordered cooked internal organs from a menu written in another language:  they are treated to a “This is your life” scenario in which the mirror plays a role they previously played.  As liberals are quick to say about Congressman Paul Ryan about his attitude towards (dismantling) entitlements, after he allegedly financed a college education on Social Security Survivor’s Benefits (I’m not saying all this is true, I’m just referencing a paradigm using a popular example that people at least think is true), people sometimes have a really negative reaction to seeing the same scenario from a different perspective.  I think we think this is because the person has unresolved issues; in Rep. Ryan’s case, we might think he never dealt with his vulnerability and the randomness of losses that put one at the mercy of others’ helpfulness.  So people who are being mirrored, not for their present situation, but to revisit an old scenario from another perspective, they may be horrified and want to play the other role differently from the way it was played for them:  they may decline to be helpful where someone was kind to them, they may decline to take a chance on someone when someone took a chance on them, they may even become morally outraged at someone wondering whether there’s a sexual component to a relationship when they actually were involved in something similar — some sort of sexual relationship, or quasi-sexual relationship, or the dangled possibility thereof —  in their own past.  If a mirror has kept her perspective, she remembers that the person she is mirroring has free will and may opt not to play the role in the way it was played for the other person.  Her need is to handle the “energy” of the situation so that she is not shattered, especially if that energy goes back over many instantiations of the same patterns over many past lives.  As they say, “Don’t shoot the messenger;”  this is a case of “Don’t shatter a mirror [just because you asked for one and then decided you don’t want it after the fact].”  A mirror has to be careful not to accept somebody else’s stuff — “Your stuff, not mine,” she needs to model.  “If you don’t want a mirror, fine;” because if a person wants a mirror but tries to use it in a way that will shatter it, the relationship that included the mirroring will change, in some way or another — the energy has to go somewhere.  If the person being mirrored deflects it away, the energy goes somewhere.  A mirror does not owe it to anyone to take that energy as a direct hit on herself.  A mirror who is aware that others have been shattered trying to work with this lineage in the past will be careful to stay at a safe angle so as not to repeat the debacle.  Chances are, the person being mirrored does not see the situation at all from the perspective from which the mirror sees it.  It helps if the mirror doesn’t expect them to, but if they ask for an explanation, she may try to provide one.  It’s hard to find a secular cultural vocabulary in which to express such an explanation.


December 3, 2013

When I was in eighth grade, my best friend got an 8-track cassette player for Christmas, and one of the cassettes she had was for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the rock opera.  I had an LP of the album.*

Kathie’s 8-track version included a song on it that mine didn’t:  “Could We Start Again, Please?”  I never figured out the (technical?) reasons they didn’t put it on the LP edition, but I assume there was a reason.

I love Yvonne Elliman’s voice.  (Here’s her doing “Can’t Find My Way Home.”)  So it bothered me to be missing one of her tracks.  But over time I also found my attention going to the point about wishing we could start again when things go so sadly and awfully and nightmarishly and seemingly unnecessarily awry.

I’m not much on “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

My turntables are in need of repair, 8-track players are a thing of the past, I haven’t been in touch with Kathie for years.  But it’s a time of year when anything seems possible, when even maybe past and difficult unfinished business gets resolved in some way, with a little bit of help from grace.  After all,

When through the window big and red

There hurtled by his royal head,

And bounced and fell upon the bed,

An india-rubber ball!

(from “King John’s Christmas,” by A.A. Milne)



*The recording with Ian Gillan as Jesus.

Finding balance

November 27, 2013

I am aware that there are plenty of people who are more spiritually adept than I, clearer than I in trying to explain how someone with one foot in the spiritual realm sees the material world, more perceptive than I in the seeing itself, more effective at working with damaged people who have an aversion to faith and belief.  But with all due respect to Jackson Browne, I do sometimes think I see a reason I am alive (that’s in reference to “For a Dancer,” towards the end, the part about how there may be a reason we’re alive but we’ll never know — I love the song, though, it is so evocative, I can ride its waves to see so many things).

I see myself as figuring out how, in a sense, to walk and chew gum at the same time, to rub my stomach and pat my head simultaneously, while at the same time, adding in the third piece of having a conversation.  The first two activities are maintaining a spiritual connection while living in the material world, the “conversation” part is talking about it without losing my coordination and failing at the primary activities.

And then there’s the piece about keeping my balance.  That can be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself, between focusing on their needs and paying enough attention to my own.  It can also be about finding a helpful balance between having a message worth expressing to others and spending energy on making that expression effective.

There is a balance that needs to be struck, I think.  The irony is not lost on me that some of the people with the best bully pulpits have fundamentally flawed messages, from my point of view.  It’s as if the universe requires through its impersonal laws that we find a balance between attending to the messenger and attending to the message.

People have tried, consciously or not, all different ways and ratios for combining these elements.  For me, this life has been about letting go of the version of collaboration.  I really thought the most effective way of combining medium and message would be for one person to develop the delivery apparatus and for the other to develop the content.  But it doesn’t seem to work out, the delivery person tends to try to do both, in my multiple experiences of trying to collaborate.  Even when the delivery person pays some attention to the message-gatherer, they tend to distort the message that has been gathered through an inability to really see it.

I spent some time thinking this constituted some sort of failure to get something important and necessary to work, but now I don’t see it that way.  I figure instead that that way of trying to arrange things doesn’t work for a good reason.  (Trying to resolve the issue by having the message person spend more time on developing a delivery system just doesn’t work, it changes the person so much that they lose their ability to really see the message.)  The reason I see is that people need to come to discern the message themselves, not hear it from someone else.  If we can facilitate this process, maybe that’s something we should do, but that facilitation is more effective when it is indirect, I think.  I’ll invoke Jackson Browne again:  sometimes words are not enough (see “Late for Sky”).

I’m aware that this interpretation includes an assumption that the correct explanation is not that I am doing something wrong, which, interestingly, is often my first go-to explanation.  But this understanding about why collaboration isn’t the answer comes from that deeper place within, and it’s tied to the understanding that however interconnected we are, “in the end there is one dance [we] do alone,” even if that dance isn’t, in my opinion, the dance of death but rather the dance of enlightenment.


November 22, 2013

I was trying to reconstruct my five year old’s train of thought that led to my thinking that a premature baby was carried around by his parents in a basket.  I mentioned this conclusion of mine in my previous post.

I think I probably heard the word “incubator” in the radio reports about the newborn Patrick Kennedy, and asked what an incubator was.  I suspect I heard something about a special kind of bed for a baby.  The neighbor’s new baby I had first seen sleeping in a bassinet, and that had had a woven, basket-like feel to it.  So I probably concluded that an incubator was something like a bassinet.

I suspect that my parents explained to me that an ill baby has to stay in the incubator all the time, and, well, I knew a baby needed to be with its parents, so I guess that led me to conclude that Patrick Kennedy was being carried around in a basket everywhere by his parents.

May they rest in peace, all of them.  A lot of sadness, but they did so well despite all the sadness, it seems.

Thought forms and not thought forms

October 15, 2013

Since there is no comments section, at least as yet, to a piece in the NYTimes about thought forms, I thought I’d just speak my piece here and point out that there are things that are thought forms and things that are not thought forms.  Conflating the two categories is not helpful.

Re-establishing the status quo

September 6, 2013

Nowadays we can get tracking information for our packages so we can monitor the progress of their transit.  At first this seemed to be a gain.

But now I feel that I’m back at square one.

Jordan ordered coursebooks from his campus bookstore.  He commutes and having them delivered here isn’t actually very expensive and in his case makes sense.

Some came.  Some didn’t.  But all were issued tracking labels.  Some never progressed in the system beyond that.  The bookstore says, “They must have fallen off the truck” (sic).  Jordan took an hour yesterday to get replacement copies from the store, in person.

This morning I was checking the status of a different package, and again, we’ve got a shipping label acknowledgement by the carrier.  I called the vendor, and they assured me this was normal, that the package was actually in transit with the carrier, and will indeed arrive next week.  I asked them how they could be sure, and cited by way of example the recent experience of Jordan’s books.  The customer service agent said that the lack of information that the package has made it into the carrier’s system is normal.

So tracking information has now become somewhat random.  Maybe it gives one real information, maybe it is misleading.  It is not dependable, does not give us a basis for a realistic expectation of whether the package will arrive.  It does not seem to me that it leaves us better off than we were before we had access to it, at least when the tracking information gets stuck at this stage of “label created, not yet with carrier.”

But there’s always, for me, the possibility of an analogy.  There’s always a lesson I can find in my circumstances.  The situation is not a useless exercise in frustration or in unmet expectations from what technology purports to do (and maybe even did for a time).

Here it could be how psychism interferes with faith.

For example, there’s a spiritual story about a person who “tracks” other people with some sort of supernatural powers we might call psychic.  They eavesdrop and insert messages on a frequency most people don’t notice because they don’t have enough awareness to pick out within their thoughts and emotions these intruded thoughts and emotions as not being their own.

During a subsequent incarnation, these psychic people have that same ability, but without the quality of discernment as to which individual they are communicating with.

They eventually figure this out and are quite indignant.  They think they’ve got defective machinery.

But they don’t.  They have machinery helpful for a different task and helpful for teaching them not to rely on psychism to navigate their lives.  The “different task” is empathic healing, in which it is quite helpful not to know the identity of the person being healed.  And not being able to triangulate and strategize about what move to make based on inside information forces the person back onto faith and reliance on internal guidance from their core.  They can’t track the package, or even know it will get there, they can only do their part and then wait and see, until they receive feedback actually addressed to them; and in the meantime, they can (only) do what their guidance suggests.

But they cry out and complain and sit down and refuse to participate.  Or they demand extra help to compensate for their inability to untangle the strands of what they hear and attribute them accurately to individuals.  Because in addition to being able to undertake empathetic healing, the person in the story is also capable of being one of those “mixing bowls” (like Plato mentions somewhere), and can mix various strands of energy or information in a way that forms a new whole, but they don’t realize that’s what that talent is for, either — they see it, again, as a defective device for manipulating people.  They don’t understand their function, probably because it isn’t part of the belief system of their culture.

Along comes the IT support, the spiritual geek squad, and they check out the equipment (by trying it out themselves).  And they report that it works just fine, it’s just not meant for tracking other people or manipulating them or building social relationships, it’s meant for healing shattered souls, including by creating pieces that may be missing and lost.

I have no idea whether I will receive my package.  I have no idea where it is.  I can only wait.  While I wait, I can stop scouring my external environment for clues and listen to what I hear within.

The package in question is a representation of Kwan Yin.  She would not be who she is through means of trying manipulate on the basis of pieces of external information or trying to manipulate other people.  She hears the cries of others as cries welling up within her, she navigates and heals by means of looking deep within herself and connecting with those forces.