Archive for the 'transcendence' Category

Compare and contrast

March 17, 2014

I made a quip the other day in a reply to what I think was somebody complimenting my ability to distinguish different situations accurately according to what makes them the same or different.  I said something to the effect that sometimes having been trained to think like a lawyer comes in handy.

In law school students learn to distinguish a case from precedents and to try to harmonize seemingly disparate cases.  I think it is probably just a more intensive form of “compare and contrast,” which I think we all learn to do at some level.

It’s not as simplistic as dualism — in which there are only two categories.  With compare & contrast there can be many categories and gradations, there can be a continuum, there can be multiple axes and dimensions along which things are evaluated.

Compare & contrast I think is one skill involved in finding patterns.  It is probably related to metaphorical thinking, as it involves the use of analogies often.  Maybe it’s a bridge between dualism and unitary thinking, I don’t know, but I have thought that my learning to think like a lawyer, in the Anglo-American tradition and Roman law traditions, is not irrelevant to where I’ve ended up, although I think my first choice was learning such techniques through the study of Jewish law.

Transforming another

January 13, 2014

“Transformed people transform people.”  That’s in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation today (which for some reason arrived in my spam folder).

In my humble experience, with my deceased friend Martin, you become transformed by a transformed person (only) when (1) you have rid yourself of enough ego attributes that you can receive the flow unimpeded, and (2) you give of yourself completely, unstintingly, no holding back, thorough-going willingness — and not willingness for union, but rather, to do that which serves the greatest good.  Then that union happens.  (And for me, we remained distinct persons throughout, and it felt as though I were experiencing “his” joy at the union, in case there are any reporters in the audience taking notes.)

You have to get yourself sufficiently out of the way, but that must be done through a process that accomplishes that indirectly, in a sense.  You can’t want the union, you instead have to be willing in a general way, and I think it actually helps not to be too aware of the possibility of union — that, at least for me, would make me too self-conscious to be sufficiently out of the way — for me, it was easier to stumble into union.

As I write this, sunlight is streaming in on the Standing Buddha statue in my foyer.  The sunlight is coming in from the dining room,  through an angled window there, and it’s especially bathing the Buddha’s legs.

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Serving or longing for union?

August 1, 2013

I was reading an email announcement from Father Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation about rediscovering our yearning for reunion with God.

That’s certainly part of the journey, recognizing the idea of union with God, becoming open to it, maybe even yearning for it, but I also believe that the sort of union we get through such yearning is not the same sort of union we get when we yearn only to serve the greatest good and our greatest good.

The the kind of union that occurs when all we yearn for is to serve is important, and I think the kind of union resulting from yearning for reunion can be problematic and result in serious “falls.”

These ideas are not original to me, and I even have written about them before on this blog, I think.  I just figured I’d repeat myself.

A friend of mine once said sometimes the thing that one is called upon to do in a particular situation is just to keep repeating oneself.

Difficult forces

November 18, 2012

I thought I’d write a shout-out to “Difficult Forces.”  They feel misunderstood.  They need a PR firm or something, I guess, but for now maybe I can express a little that might rehabilitate their reputation.

They’re what allow me to think these thoughts and for people who read them in this post to process them.  They give us our self-consciousness, I think.  That “knowledge of good and evil” maybe is really that ability we have to perceive deeply — we recognize our place in the world both from within ourselves and as an observer of ourselves, we are aware of our awareness, and these are skills that allow us not only to think in terms of opposing categories but ultimately to transcend them.

I do think we access this ability through an interaction with Difficult Forces.  They are the kind of forces that if we want to interact with them without being overcome, we must pull aside the part of ourselves that harbors our fears and desires (what I call our ego).  Why that is I think has to do with how they themselves are structured — they don’t have a part that corresponds to our ego, I think, and so when we match up in an interaction, if our ego is present, it gets matched up with something against which it cannot maintain its integrity — and we experience that as complete despair, if not worse.  But if we can keep our egos safe (leave them at home, so to speak) and interact with the difficult forces, we gain some very positive things — kind of like having to engage in a quest that includes great difficulties, in order to gain that holy grail of self-perception and hence transcendental perception.

Unconditional love

November 11, 2012

I’ve never quite been sure I understand the particular emotion to which people are referring when they talk of unconditional love.  Not that it doesn’t exist or even that I haven’t felt it or expressed it, just that I’m not sure which subset of “love” they’re talking about.

I don’t experience intimacy as having a subset of loneliness — for me, loneliness is related to loss, mine or somebody else’s, and how I am powerless to make up for it.  Intimacy with my husband, spiritual intimacy, even love for friends, relatives, acquaintances, when I’m loving with no reservation there’s no loneliness, in fact it leaves me feeling quite at peace with myself and the universe.

If I had to speculate, I’d say the piece that may be at issue is what we call altruism — loving regardless of outcome, feedback, efficacy, recompense, reciprocity, etc.  By itself, hitting that note provides the internal sense of balance and peace — loving fully is its own reward, provides its own reward.  When you love fully, you feel equally good as the beloved, I think.

There are all kinds of other loves, and I can still get caught up in them.  Some of them seem to help in certain situations, others seem to lead to difficulties.  I’ve wondered, having hit that note of unconditional love, whether I will express that kind of love more frequently and not get caught up in the other kinds so often.  I honestly don’t know, and to try to decide what would be preferable I think would be doctrinaire of me — I don’t know what expression of love by me serves the greater good.  Maybe it’s the altruistic kind, maybe it’s not.

For me, at the end of the day, all I ever have is my willingness — that’s my touchstone.  It’s a touchstone I can always get back to, I think, and once there, I can await what’s next.   (I am working on learning to do the waiting more patiently, which includes not predicating the patience on there being a particular outcome to the wait.)  As I’ve probably said before, I do at times get swamped by other people’s ways of navigating — people who don’t navigate through willingness.  But I can clean the decks and relocate my willingness after these encounters.

Getting unstuck

June 3, 2012

I have felt myself stuck on an a comparison between art and mysticism in which art is an inferior medium, artists are missing the understanding of their message, and people enjoying the art are getting too caught up in something that provides pleasure but does not lead to where we need to go.

I think I wrote about how after Tony networked my computers and printers together I could see things differently.

It occurred to me that my getting stuck on a bad attitude toward art needs to be examined in light of art’s role in one of those very large spiritual experiences in my life.  It occurred while I was watching a concert on PBS.  Why would I denigrate something that had been so instrumental in that sort of Road to Damascus experience?

I can see that for me it was a means to, if not an end, then at least a further stage, that the art led to something I found more important and profound, and that that is different from celebrating art in and of itself, art for its own sake.  I can also see that art for its own sake is appropriate or helpful for some people.  I can see as well that since that experience, art has sometimes provided me with cues and help as I move along a path that is more mysticism than art.

What interests me here is my reaction to the art piece — it certainly facilitated, even birthed my experience, and yet something in me wants to disavow it.  I don’t really know why.  I don’t think it’s because I can’t do what artists do, I think it’s more because I think artists are stuck themselves and shouldn’t be.  Maybe I think more people would develop their mystical selves if artists didn’t sell them on art for art’s sake alone.  I’m not sure.

And I am not at saying my attitudes are helpful or admirable or “correct” in any way.  But I lay them out because I wonder whether other people do the same sort of thing in other contexts.  Perhaps atheists who denigrate religion or conservatives who reject liberalism or scientists who put down the humanities — perhaps these people too would not have reached their own station in understanding and affiliation without the help of the very thing they are rejecting.

I think these issues can fade into unimportance if we can find a place in our worldview for the discipline or field or belief system that makes us uncomfortable, find a way to integrate it in some way instead of excluding it.  I’m thinking that if we stop seeing opposition and dualism, and fold together the dry ingredients with the wet, then we lose the need to pronounce relative judgments on them, they are all needed for our coherent belief system.  Maybe I just need to bake some cookies.


Climbing the mountain

April 13, 2012

I am thinking about Moses, in part because of Passover and in part because a couple of comments to my comments on the NYTimes website have called attention to my surname.

The thought my mind came to rest on is, “What good is having climbed the mountain if you can’t see?”

I think Moses (in the Bible) saw, I think I can understand the tradition of his brother Aaron helping him get the message out, but my guess is that there is still unfinished business to the story.  My sense of where to look for what that unfinished business might be is in the notion of the Great Man.  I suspect, in other words, that we’re all supposed to climb the mountain and see.  I think we got stuck in the West with a Great Man model that doesn’t serve ultimately, but may have been a sufficient way of keeping things going until we could understand more clearly what is needed.

A danger, as I see it, is for an Aaron to learn to make the climb himself before he has the vision, the ability to see, because that could result in his transmitting an erroneous message.  I wonder if the previous division of labor between Moses and Aaron could have inadvertently resulted in this consequence.

Equipment and technique

April 4, 2012

Gita says that my mind is constantly in motion, and implies that this is difficult for some other people to deal with.  I think of it as being something like a car battery in an engine that wouldn’t turn over and has been jump-started, and you keep the engine running because you’re not sure whether the battery can or will hold the charge.

If a person “hooks up” with higher ways of understanding the world, that hook-up is like a one-shot connection, I think, and I think we try to maintain that connection by keeping our mental engine running.  I think that hook-up may be the same thing people mean when they talk about spiritual union with God, I’m not sure.  But I am pretty sure that we don’t engage in that hook-up through our willing it, that it comes through a combination of willingness to serve, to do what serves, and to accept and learn from a whole lot of experiences in life other people might try to escape or control.  I don’t think it’s compatible with a lot of what most people want to have in their lives.

That hook-up is, I think, what develops the equipment we have in a nascent form; I think it’s kind of like a leaf unfurling, a flower opening, a balloon inflating, a Mars land-rover deploying after landing.  So, I think we lack the equipment in a useful state if we lack the hook-up, and that many people do lack it.  (I think some people have experienced the jump-start for its instant but have not been able to maintain the connection it allows, perhaps because they had not first readied themselves.)

My sense is that a person has to develop mental equipment and then technique, in order to engage in some kinds of understanding.  That’s what I was getting at in my comment to Ross Douthat’s blog post.  I think plenty of smart, well-educated people learn technique, but I think that without the “hook-up,” the technique applied produces a flattened view of a multidimensional scene.  And most people don’t want to do what it takes to experience the hook-up, in part because that sort of a life is antithetical to many of the things they wish to do with the ability to understand profoundly — the ambition undermines the very things they need for the experience and maintaining its aftermath.

I used to think that people who have developed the gift of understanding through such a hook-up could themselves connect with other people, people who don’t have it but have something else, like a means of communicating the understanding to a wider audience.  Kind of like components to old-fashioned stereo equipment, I think, with its amplifiers and subwoofers and such (I may have the technology misunderstood, but my point is different units networked together to produce the sound for the audience).  I even think the stereo analogy may not be unrelated in content, because I sometimes think I have developed the equivalent of depth perception in part through my connection with another “viewer,” whoever that may be, as if we were two eyes seeing together, and hence in three dimensions instead of two.

So, I used to think, I think, that one of these people/eyes got the vision, the other provided the translation and publication, in some kind of partnership.  And maybe it’s so.  I don’t know.  I used to have a sense of how it might work, but in trying to move closer to it, I feel less sure of it.  Maybe that’s just an artifact of getting up close to the object, no longer seeing its totality, like seeing less of the earth as the airplane gets closer to landing.

But I’m not sure.  Part of me thinks my collaboration model was wrong, and that in the past it produced unhelpful and damaging results that needed to be walked back.  And so I wait to get some clarity, trying to remain open and loving to everyone involved, and intending no harm.

God, salvation, and philosophers

March 25, 2012

I missed my chance to comment on the piece in the NYTimes, “Does It Matter Whether God Exists?”, by Gary Gutting.

The first place I felt I had a significant point of disagreement was the notion of salvation.  It seems to be thought of as the antithesis of “final annihilation when we die” and akin to being “happy eternally in our life after death.”  I think whatever annihilation there ever is is really just a reunion with God in which the boundaries of self dissolve, so I see no antithesis.

Then comes a discussion of whether God would help us achieve salvation, as if God chooses this or not.  I think we are God, in a sense, and in that sense (that we contain divinity within us), that part of us will unite with others parts of God — the parts of God come together, and this process does not involve a choice by one part or another of God consenting or refusing to unite — it just happens, once the impediments to that union are dissolved.

On the issue of “evil,” I don’t think it exists in the abstract, and as for why painful damaging acts occur in our world, we can also ask why beautiful pleasant things occur, too — we live in a reality of dualisms, and we have the pleasure of beauty and the difficulty of pain.  I suspect that to avoid the painful stuff we need to forgo the pleasurable stuff, too — not through sheer force of will, but by living in a different construct of what is real, in another version of consensus reality in which dualism is transcended.

As to the issue of possible deception, raised toward the end of the piece, I think the aspect of faith that is missing in the analysis there, and would resolve the concern, is love.  If one heart at its deepest level connects with the highest level in the universe, there is no room for doubt — instead there is an assurance that is quite definite but at a level we don’t participate in very much of the time we are living our lives in this world — that sense of definite knowing happens in a moment, but we can remember that we experienced it, and build on that knowing with confidence, through continued connection at somewhat less extreme levels.

Well, that’s what I think, anyway.  It works for me.  It allows me to navigate a life full of challenges without being completely swamped.  I suspect that people with fewer challenges may not feel as impelled to learn how to swim in the deep water, how even to merge with it and to grow gills, so to speak, when that’s necessary.  So, for them, the universe and God and salvation and all this stuff may look quite different, because they are looking at it from a different vantage point.  Maybe they are dealing with life’s events using a different set of reference points, reference points that are adequate for the types of things in their lives.  If a person has thick hair, they need barrettes that will hold a lot of hair; people with thin hair need barrettes that will not slip out because the hair doesn’t fill them up sufficiently.  No one’s hair thickness is “wrong,” and the different barrettes are just what is apt for the situation.  If our hair situation changes, we may find ourselves looking for new barrettes.  And if we’ve never had a certain kind of hair, we may not know what it’s like to have it, and what kind of styling equipment works if one does.