My friend also wrote:
For esotericists, clergy and ancient wisdom practitioners, PRAXIS (spiritual practice) is everything. Here’s a quick lesson from Eckhart Tolle teaching the spiritual practice of people watching. Fun.
Tolle addresses people looking back at us. As ordained clergy, teachers and/or public speakers we sometimes flip out when we think “all those people” will be “staring” at us. (laugh)
Tolle explains how to eliminate that fear by realizing — convincing your fraidy-cat brain — that “even the attention of 100 people doesn’t add [or detract] anything to who you are in truth.”
Who you are in truth. Right.
I also liked Tolle’s point about dogs being easier to trust / love than humans because there is no big fat ego — human mind — in the way to clash with our own big fat ego!
The Practice of People-Watching
If each of the seven days of Creation were an epoch — an Age — then maybe we are living in the 7th Day, the Day our Creator(s) rested? No new life forms are being created during our era (“And on the seventh day He rested”) unlike the previous 6 ‘days’ when everything was created and evolved via millions of years. God is now perfecting his-and-her creation by resting, letting evolution proceed, and like the Great Scientist she/he is — observing.
**I wonder what new age will begin after this 7th Day evolution testing / perfection era is over. Esoteric Christianity teaches since the Greek Bible shows Jesus resurrected aka awakened on the 8th day, this caused the earliest Christians to worship on Sunday instead of the 7th Day Sabbath of the Jews. Sunday was not chosen because it was the first day, but because it is the day AFTER the 7th Day, the New Age “Eighth Day”. It was the day of awakening, of enlightenment, of evolution of consciousness.
The cool theory about earth’s inhabitants currently living in Creation Week’s “Seventh Day” is explained by astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross in his new book, Navigating Genesis.
Fox News’ Lauren Green spoke to Ross about his search to bridge the gap between science and religion, beginning with finding the true age of Earth.
Ross says … there were three different definitions for the word “day” in Genesis one and two when describing day and night, as well as days and years.
“I realized that this word ‘day’ must have multiple, literal definitions…” …Those include part of daylight hours, all of the daylight hours, a 24-hour period, and a long, but finite, time period.
While there might be several interpretations in English, Ross says in biblical Hebrew, the language of Moses, “yom” is the only way to describe long periods of time.
“So I see no contradiction between the time scale and astrophysics and what I see there in the Bible,” Ross said.
“No problem with the Earth being 4.5 billion years old and the universe 13.8 billion – it’s consistent with Biblical texts that tell us the mountains and hills are ancient and aged-old,” Ross said. “It’s making it quite clear that we do live on a very old Earth.”
Ross, who founded Reasons to Believe, suggests that the world’s inhabitants are still living through the seventh day described in the Bible.
“We are living in that time period when God is not creating new life forms for example which we have reasons to believe is an opportunity to test creation, [and] evolution models,” Ross said. “We can do real-time evolution experiments in biology to see if we see a difference between what is going on in the human era and what [existed] previous to the human era.”
Watch the full interview with Dr. Hugh Ross above.
* * * * * * *
The author Dr. Hugh Ross is also an ordained minister
This kind of “esoteric” aka “inner” and hidden interpretation of the Bible gives our alternative clergy rich material to teach in their churches and synagogues. (Find out how you can become an ordained minister or rabbi and teach this stuff, too).
I received this nicely worded greetings of the season from one of our seminary alumni:
“Just a quick note wishing You and Yours heightened Spiritual Happiness, Prosperity and Wellness during the coming new year.”
The guy is a wordsmith. I like the term “spiritual happiness” since we so often in our work as spiritual teachers focus on spiritual awareness.
I recently found this quote by Eckhart Tolle.
“You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.” (Eckhart Tolle, Oneness With All Life)
Maybe we should tell kids, “Find your good! Access your good! Dig out your good and use it please!” instead of the tired old, “Be good, be good! Be GOOD!” Christianity and Judaism (Islam, too I guess) have always been basically guilt-mongering religions with so much emphasis on sin, sin, SIN and how “bad” we all are. I like this positive way of flipping things around.
I have heard mothers say to their children things like, “don’t let your ugly out” and “sorry my ugly came out.” I’ve heard ministers say that last to their congregations actually…hee hee. So we can refer to our inner good the same way. DO let your “good” out. A whole new tactic to use on the kiddos…. I am going to employ it right away…
And here’s another fine post from our exceedingly wise alumnus, Jack Campitelli.
© 2012 Jack Campitelli LLC Revised July 17, 2012 All Rights Reserved
At the very fundament of life, at the core of conscious existence, saying “Hello” and saying “Good-bye” is all that there is. Those simple words that form much of the social “form” of how we interact with each other without thinking, are a massive foundation for spirituality as soon as one is mindful of the meaning each time one says it out loud or to oneself. And as one learns to say the words internally, without even pronouncing them in your mind, it fundamentally changes your wakefulness to “that which is.”
“Hello” – is an almost unthinking courteous greeting to another person. But it is also can be a greeting, spoken or unspoken, to all that captures our attention. A person across the street, an animal whose eyes capture our attention, a flowering plant that would have called out a cheery “Hello” if it had a voice. Even if the flower was saying “Look at me! Look at me!” Of course you would respond with an equally cheery “Hello!”
“Hello” is a first cousin to “Welcome.” An embrace of what you just greeted. “Hello” and “Welcome” are not just things one says to people. You can certainly say them to animals and to plants. And even to a new pair of socks. As soon as you say “Hello and Welcome” with true intention, the socks are now part of you. They are no longer “just socks” even though they might look like it to a stranger. And every time you see the socks, if you say “Hello” to them as you go to use them, they are, again, brought into your awareness. And it wouldn’t hurt you to say “Thanks” for their use.
“Hello” is also a first cousin of “wonder” – perhaps the single most important human calling we have. To live in a state of wonder means you are always “at one” with what is going on in your life and keenly aware. As a result, you remain a constant beginner. Each moment is a new moment to savor. If you live in a state of wonder, you cannot be jaded. You can be sad, but you cannot be depressed. Wonder seems to call forth “gratitude,” “thankfulness” for being able to have this moment of wonder. And perhaps for that to whom we say “Hello.”
And then you are gone from that moment of “Hello.” Your life-walk continues. The “Hello” recedes into the too soon past and you are ready to say “Good-bye” to someone or something to which you’ve never formally been introduced. And, there is perhaps some sadness in the “Good-bye” for that moment just leaving will not return in your life or that of the stranger’s, the animal’s or the plant’s, or the rock’s.
In “Good-bye” (God be with you) we can surely find a place of “thanks” of “gratitude” for the “Hello” – the sharing of “being” for an instant, the moment of wonder.
As we look at “real” hello and goodbyes, we think of loved ones. Our children off to school, our children home from school. Both of you there to greet each other with another “Hello” or “Goodbye”. If you are aware of your words, is there not a sense of thankfulness and of gratefulness as you say the words? And as you say either “Hello” or “Goodbye” can you not feel the innate sense of sadness that such moments are never to be again?
It is this awareness, this consciousness, of the wonderment and gratitude of “Hello” and both gratitude for the “Hello” and the sadness contained in “Goodbye” that forms the true conditions under which we live. “Goodbye” usually contains a silent prayer for the chance of another “Hello” but we never truly know and, even if it is granted, we know time has passed and change has happened and every encounter is always a new “Hello” because what or whom you are greeting has changed from the time you last said “Hello.” And your “Goodbye” is again hopeful for another chance at greeting and, at the same time, sadness that it may not happen at all but certainly that it will be not the same, and gratefulness and thanks that you were given one more chance at “Hello.”
THE RIVER OF LIFE
The ancient Greek philospher Simplicius, characterizing the philosophy of Heraclitus, is claimed to have said, “Ta panta rei” – “everything changes” or “everything flows” (1) Nothing remains the same. Plato later says: Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in his famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” (1)
Yet, if we think about it for a moment, is not as simple as if the river just flows past us as we watch safely from the shores; it is we who ride precariously on a sinking raft floating on the moving river. We will never see the same shore again in our life once we pass it and there is no map of where the river is taking us. Not only does the river pass our raft but we and our raft continually pass the ever-changing shore. We will never know what dangerous rapids or tranquil pools are before us. The raft on which we ride is slowly disintegrating and destined to sink, even if the dangers of the unknown voyage do not take our life before our raft naturally disintegrates.
Each moment, each instant of now, is equally a saying goodbye to what preceded it and almost demands a welcome to the new moment. Life is only “now” but now has three aspects. And each aspect is a chance for spiritual awakening – of deepening our own life journey. Each successive instance contains the inseparable aspects of now: before-now-after; before-now-after; before-now-after. These aspects of “now” are an inseparable trinity. In the realm of existence, that is, in the realm of “what is,” there is no way to separate before not-now; now; after not-now. It is words that allow us to make this distinction and it is our mind that allows us to separate the three elements by lingering mentally in the past; imagining the future; or staying “at one” in the ever-changing moment as we imagine animals do.
If you separate before-now-after in your mind, then there is little now – there is remembrance of things past or longing for things in the future – both eliminate your ability to be one with the moment you are actually in. This is, in fact, how most of us spend our lives: in the past or in the future but rarely in the moment of “now”. If you linger too long in the past or spend too much time planning the future, you nonetheless are remaining in “now” as you do this. But you are not aware of “now” because you are not there. You might ponder who is living the “now” of your life if it’s not you?
The challenge is to be in the state of being conscious of all three aspects of now simultaneously. Now contains the sadness of the forever past and calls upon us to instantly say “goodbye” to it. And it calls us to bring into our consciousness the newness that is the new now. The “Hello” if you will. It is only in this manner that one can live life fully and constantly.
A Zen priest told the story one day of her love for her favorite coffee cup that she had used for years. Each time she picked up the handmade cup she relished its beauty and she said goodbye to it because she knew what someday either she or the cup would no longer be. “And today,” she said, “was that day. It shattered in my hand and was gone. But for years I had joyfully welcomed it every morning and, as I held it, I always said goodbye to it with sadness and gratitude for it sharing itself with me.”
It is that way for all of life, actually for all that is, including you and all you care about. Life is about welcoming each moment we are given and saying goodbye to all that we care about in the very same moment. Our family, friends, pets, cherished objects; our hearing, sight, movement, our lives are all going away. In time, in their season, or suddenly without warning. We must grab each moment with glee for its very being there at all and at the same time take heed of the sadness that it will never be back.
The sad fact is that almost none of us know this. And, sadder, few of us acknowledge it as a way of being alive. And a way to a sense of oneness with all that is. All too few of us use this practice as a spiritual path.
Life is nothing if not ironic or even twisted. Sometimes the “Hello” is to something terrible and the “Goodbye” rather than sad, is to a welcome relief – even if that is death.
But there is always an “Hello” and always a “Goodbye” in the same instant.
SAYING HELLO AND GOODBYE TO BREATH
As we lay in bed, there is not much to say Hello and Goodbye to except what you bring into your imagination and you might think about this as a time for a bit of housekeeping. To go over the missed opportunities and extend greetings and farewells to people or things in your debt. But after that, there remains the ultimate spiritual practice: attentive breathing.
At the most basic level, each intake of breath is an hello and each exhalation a goodbye. Captured in the hello should well be a sense of wonder and of gratitude. Captured in the exhalation should well be a sense of thanks and sadness and hope for another breath. If you begin this practice by actually saying hello and goodbye with each breath, soon you will be able to breathe without the words but the feelings of welcome and thanks will remain. This practice can continue your whole life; and not just in bed. This is a perfect exercise to practice during all the hours of our lives we spend waiting. Instead of allowing the reverie of your imagination to keep you unbored as you wait, you can learn to immediately revert to concentrating on your breathing in the hello and goodbye mode.
While there are many variations on breathing practices, some designed to transport you to other states of being, the most important one is just to notice your breathing. Not to try and control it for other purposes, but just to be aware of your breathing. Adding the unspoken overlay of hello and goodbye, of welcome and thanks, which soon becomes voiceless, may increases the depth of the practice. It becomes your most basic way of being.
If you decide to try the “Hello Goodbye” breathing practice, feel free to experiment with variations. For instance, I find I naturally use “Hi” on intake and “Bye” on exhalation. I also find “Hi” and “Thanks” works well, too. You can find your own simple “code words” for “Welcome” and “Gratefulness” that lend themselves to your breathing patterns.
Zen often starts out with counting. One upon inhalation. Two upon exhalation. Three inhalation, four exhalation, etc. Up to ten. Then start over. When you can do that for five minutes, which is nigh impossible for a beginner, you can try just holding the one of inhalation through exhalation. Then two through both inhalation and exhalation, et seq. You can then switch to just counting exhalations up to ten before starting over. Eventually you will just “follow your breath” in the sense that your attention is directed to the sensation of breathing in and breathing out and nothing else.
When you lose count or lose where you are or find yourself in mental fancy, you simply re-direct your thoughts to counting or following your breath or saying “hi” and “bye” in your mind as you breathe. Saying “Hi” and “Bye” or “Hi” and “Thanks” is transitional but if you do it for a few weeks or months, then when you follow your breath or follow another aspect of breathing, without internal words, you’ll still associate the “Hello” and “Goodbye” sentiment with breathing – when you are attentive to your breathing – without actually using any words.
Since so much of “what is” has no voice that we can hear, it is impossible to imagine how many hellos are shouted at us each moment, each hour, each day, from all that is, that we do not hear. In fact, for many of us, it is as if we have become deaf to even listening to “what is” with strong attentiveness. And in order for us call out a cheery “Hello” in return we have to notice what or whom we are calling out to. But how many things are there that want to say “Hello!” Even our tiny yard is so full of unheard-unvoiced voices that great us that we could never find enough time to say “Hello” to them all! If you try, you can hear the bright flowers shout “Hello” and then the simple weeds spouting weed-flowers atop them wave a silent hello to you. And then the beings that move – from birds to chipmunks to bees to flies to pesky things. And even dangerous things. A serpent or poison oak. An “Oh-oh!” is also an “Hello!”
Saying a silent “Hello” to all the unheard voices is slightly different than just noticing as many of the things filling our lives as you can, but noticing is almost like giving a nod or tipping your hat. In Zen practice, you will sometimes notice someone taking a moment to gasho (bow) to something they notice and the gesture is a sign of reverence. Noticing is big even if you don’t say “Hello.” “Seeing,” as in noticing as much as we can, may be our most important human mission. So much calls for us to be seen. You will notice how much easier it is to notice and even say “Hello” if you know the name of what you are seeing. You may notice it is almost impossible to see something whose name you don’t know. And in a moment you realize that you don’t know the names of almost everything that surrounds your life. There are modern philosophers who claim that consciousness is a direct result of language. The more limited the language, the more limited the consciousness. More words equals more consciousness. And yet we all know that all words are metaphors for reality, not real reality, so that no words truly describe the reality of anything. But experiment for yourself. Does your awareness increase as you know more names of the things that you notice? Even if you know that “to name it is to shame it,” perhaps you’ll find that things almost call out to be named – it is as if you do not really notice strangers you pass on the street but can say “Hello” to people whose names you know or whom you recognize – even if it’s just a smile.
WHEN I FORGET
When I find I have been inattentive for a period of time, which is common, it is not cause to beat myself up. It’s quite human to “wander” and not be one with “now.” It really takes practice to be mindful of your life. Once you realize you’ve drifted, just smile and return to your patterns of welcome and wonder followed by gratefulness and a bit of sadness. A child, not yet with words, nonetheless has a remarkable relationship to all that is seen and touched and smelled. As a child grows, all to soon, his ego develops and his sense of “self” as different from “other” soon separates him from “not-self” and re-enforces his sense of a distinct self.
LIMITING THE SCOPE OF OUR LIFE TO THOSE THINGS AND PEOPLE WE CAN TRULY BRING INTO OUR MIND REGULARLY.
In countries of affluence, sometimes storage units and deep closets hold objects we have not seen in years. Even our homes are sometimes thick with nick-knacks that we never say “Hello” to any longer. They have lost their place in our lives – and yet they remain taking up space.
What if we were to limit the amount of our “stuff” to things we actually said “Hello” to pretty often?
As we throw out an old pair of socks, do we say “Good bye”? Do we thank them for their faithful service? It is not as if you expect the socks to speak back to you. It is your soul that expresses gratitude for the socks themselves, the materials who gave their existence to make the socks and the people who gave portions of their lives to produce them. And it may be that you never even said “Hello” to the socks when they first came into your life. Feeling their texture and appreciating their pattern or color. And do you say hello and goodbye to them every time you wear them?
Things are not just things. A chair is a tree who gave its life plus labor and transportation and storage and sales and a pork chop is an animal who gave its life plus the people who gave parts of their lives to raise it, those who killed it, those who cut it up, those who stored it, shipped it, sold it, and those who prepared it for your dinner.
I DON’T KNOW
To whom are we grateful? Ah, that is the question, is it not? I suppose one could say God or Christ or the universe. But do you or I really know to whom we are grateful? No, we don’t. The only correct answer to most spiritual questions is “I don’t know.” This is likely true on many levels but one that is for sure true is that “I” (which translates as my sense of self) is about “ego” which actually is Latin for “I”. Ego is one of those things that gives us our sense of self. It is miraculous in its own right. However, as you suspect, the ego is also the font of most suffering that comes into our lives. The Buddha was adamant about this. The ego thinks it knows everything about us. But as you grow in wisdom, you will undoubtedly find that there exists in you a voiceless “inner self” that has amazing awareness that we are largely unconscious of. Whenever we notice it, it is something to say “Hello” to and thank it for its unconscious awareness. Thus, if you accept that we have a portion of “us” about which we are largely unaware, then “I don’t know” is really saying that “My ego from whom I get my sense of individual self has no clue.” Nor should it. “I don’t know” really means “My ego has no idea”. This is another way of saying that whatever I am, there is something about me that I am not. And, in a spiritual sense, you can rightly say, “In death it is only “I” who die.”
Think about breathing. We breathe automatically. Without thought. We can concentrate on our breath and be aware of it. It’s a good meditation. But, in the end, you might come to the conclusion after pondering breath that “I do not breathe,” instead “I am breathed.” “Who or what breathes me?” And that should give you much pause for mediation. If you use words, you’ll not find the answer.
The emperor, who was a devout Buddhist, invited a great Zen master to the Palace in order to ask him questions about Buddhism.
“What is the highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine?” the emperor inquired.
“Vast emptiness… and not a trace of holiness,” the master replied.
“If there is no holiness,” the emperor said, “then who or what are you?”
“I do not know,” the master replied.
BLESSINGS AT TABLE
The standard Catholic blessing of “Bless us O Lord in these thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen” is at least some acknowledgement to the “Lord” but it leaves out our gratitude to the plants and animals that gave their being to feed us and the persons who prepared the food for our nourishment and our pleasure. Meal blessings are a good time to re-focus our gratefulness. All meals are an hello and goodbye that is very sacred and fleeting. Meals are also a communion of sorts. If you think of meals, or even some meals, as a sacrament, then they are a sacrament. They are a gathering together. But even if you are alone, or at a restaurant, taking a moment to be grateful not just to “the Lord” but to each element that went in to your meal is good spiritual practice.
Another opportunity for “Hello” and “Goodbye” happens at special meals. It is a chance for a prayer with or without words as you look at each person and realize you will never see that same person again. If you see them at all, they will be different and so will you. But there is another version of this: oftentimes, unknown to you, a meal is the last meal, just as every breath may be the last breath. As you feed your pet, take a moment to look at him or her and relish their presence and say Goodbye. There is almost always a moment when a pet without much warning refuses to eat and is soon gone. Enjoying the awareness of the “Hello” and saying “Goodbye” with a hug or a pat is good meditation. It works on family, too.
RETURNING THINGS TO THE UNIVERSE
This is a polite way of saying that things are used up and pass into garbage. Living food things are digested to allow us to live and then are flushed into sewage. Other refuse from our lives is hauled to dumps or incinerated like bodies in a crematorium and reduced to ashes that are returned to the earth in some fashion. Or the refuse, the discarded, are just abandoned like old shoes or old people or old animals. Interred in municipal dumps or just allowed to rot along the roadway. As if things and people were not special after a certain usefulness had passed. When you notice this, it is something to bring into your mind and take into you. This, too, is life. We can think of it as “the cycle of life” and dismiss it, but there was a time when what is being discarded was new and maybe someone said “Hello” to it. And perhaps no one said “Goodbye” in gratitude for its service. And when you notice, it is ok for you to say “Goodbye” for all of us and feel grateful for all of us. You can almost hear the graveside eulogy: dust to dust – after a brief sojourn as something that exists.
WHY AM I HERE?
The eternal question of “Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?” perhaps has many true answers. But one that carries great spiritual significance is learning to be awake to the wonder of “what is” and to learn to say “Hello” and say “Goodbye” as an acknowledgement of and gratitude for our fragile existence, of the innate sadness of life, and the chance at a moment of happiness. Perhaps, as our hands are also the hands of God, so is our mind and heart. Our gratitude, whether spoken in our minds or out loud or just felt, becomes the prayer.
Final goodbyes are always filled with sadness, sometimes regret that we never said “Hello” often enough. But in life, so many goodbyes go by without us remembering to actually say “Goodbye.” In life, every instant is a “Goodbye” and we surely miss most of those chances. But often we miss milepost “Goodbyes,” too. Or, more to the point, we often say the words to others but never reflect that this in fact is a final goodbye: this moment, this interaction, this moment of happiness or sorrow, will never return. And it carries with it the real possibility that we shall never even see the person or animal again to whom we say goodbye – meaning that we rarely bring this into our awareness when we say the words. I think that’s a spiritual tragedy.
There are truly hundreds of “things” that come and go in our lives each day that truly deserve for us to have been grateful for them being a small part of our lives, or an essential part of our lives, and who deserve a heart-felt and grateful “Goodbye”
Just as “Hello” carries the sense of “Welcome” and wonder and gives to us a chance to awake to another instant in our lives, “Goodbye” gives us a chance to again feel gratitude for the person or thing that has given us a moment of happiness or usefulness. The solely human ability to have self-aware consciousness carries, I feel, some spiritual responsibility to be awake to what has come into and what is leaving our lives.
While it is easy and somehow comforting to read about “Hellos” and “Goodbyes” it is actually more difficult that you might think to make this simple spiritual exercise part of your daily life. In fact, you may find it easier to be aware that you are saying “Hello” to people and animals and plants and things as you greet them. And it’s ok to just try and say “Hello” for awhile. “Goodbyes” are tougher. They are certainly more emotion-filled and always bring to mind the briefness of it all. While you try to cultivate this path to spiritual awakening, you may find that you realize you didn’t say “Goodbye” to something or someone by bringing to mind the finality of the instant as well as a sense of gratitude. When you realize you missed an opportunity, it’s really ok to take an instant and say your goodbyes in your mind with gratitude. Eventually, your post-event “Goodbyes” will become synonymous with the actual event “Goodbye”. You may find that this is a very comforting spiritual exercise – even though it is just an expression of your true humanness.
There are literally thousands of times a day to say “Goodbye” and be grateful or say “Thanks.” From the waste at toilet to the waste at table to the dead flowers you throw from a vase to scraps of this and that that we dispose of, to people and pets, to birds we spot – everything that makes up our day gives us pause to say “Goodbye” with gratitude and thanks. If you do this for a bit, you’ll notice that you are lot more aware of the many “things” that make up your life and you will start to have respect for many more of them.
Saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” in a heartfelt manner is an amazingly powerful spiritual practice and it will fundamentally change you. After awhile, you will do it largely without words, but you cannot do it without attentiveness, awareness, wonder and gratitude. In order to truly say “Hello” and “Goodbye” you must be at one with your life. Whatever it is that we are, we carry with us the ability not just to “do” but to “be aware that we are doing.” This awareness, which we can manifest in “Saying Hello” and “Saying Goodbye,” is our sacred calling.
Goodbye. And thanks.
1. “rhei,” also anglicized “rei,” can also be translated as the verb “streams” or “flows” which is even more poetic. But the idea that nothing stays the same is the point. “All is streaming” seems quite a contemporary translation.
THOUGHTS ON ZEN AND CHRISTIANITY
By Jack Campitelli
© 2012 Jack Campitelli LLC
For many of us who transact between the worlds of Christianity and Zen Buddhism, there is little reason or need to explain how seamlessly the metaphysical/mystical elements of Zen and Christianity fit together.
Christianity has such a broad spectrum of religions that claim to be Christian that the common denominator can only be the name Christ in the religion. Christian religions can span a New Testament Christ of various exegeses to a New Age Christ of the cosmos. There is also an ontological Christ that represents God’s presence in being and time. This Christ could probably after painful discussion be roughly comparable with Buddha nature or even Lord Krishna dancing in the universe.
Buddhism started 600 years before Christ in India. As Christ was plying the shores of Galilee, Buddhism was heading into China. And 600 years later written evidence of Zen Buddhism started coming to notice. As Thomas Aquinas was finishing Summa Theologica, Zen was entering Japan. It if from Japan, rather than China, that Europe and North America received Zen priests and masters.
Zen is supposedly a non-religion that starts with the premise that God both exists and does not exist and neither exists nor does not exist. The foundational element is a “suchness” that carries various names that roughly is comparable to Christ in the universe. You can’t push the analogy because Buddhism, although full of rich texts, is not dogmatic in the sense that traditional mainstream Christianity is. Zen is about “practice” by which they mean mindful attention to all that goes on in our lives. The starting place of this in Zen is often “zazen” or sitting Zen where the student concentrates on breath. In a monastic setting this is a twice daily practice. Officially there is no “aim” since “striving” is the start of much karmic trouble in sacred texts. Unofficially, the aim is “kensho” or a state of oneness with all that is followed by “satori” or awakening into emptiness. There are explanations of why such states are possible due to the posture of sitting Zen but, for Buddhists, that is not up for discussion. I believe that would say that “zazen” is enlightenment. The fact that you are not yet aware is another issue. In between formal mediation sessions students work – whether cooking, cleaning, or working in fields – or even Buddhist enterprises. Zen has weekend “services” for visitors that can look like scenes from a Tibetan monastery or sometimes sparse liturgy from a Quaker meeting hall. Services often have a “lecture” from the presiding priest on some aspect of Buddhism. Services are followed by a Sunday-school of sorts for adults where Zen practice is discussed.
Zen represents a direct path to mystical/metaphysical experiences that is now quite mainstream for Benedictins, Trappists, and even Jesuits. However, for Sunday-Christians, Zen Buddhism remains largely unknown and, if known, suspect and competitive with their current religion. Besides the barrier of the “mysterious Orient” that cloaks the practice of Zen, there is the fact that no major religions preach “how to” for mystical experiences from the pulpit. In marketing terms, mystical experiences are wholesale goods as far as religion goes whereas sermons and Sunday worship services are retail. The problem with all forms of mysticism is that it tends to cut out the middleman: the priests, the church, the authoritarian hierarchy that customarily forms the traditional bridge between God/Christ and the faithful. There is just no way to have an indirect mystical experience. The path to “awakening,” no matter the twists and turns of methodology, are always personal.
Nevertheless, an increasing number of Christians around the world are finding their way to Zen Buddhism as additive to their Christian practice, not to supplant it. Unlike parts of Christendom that are rigid with orthodoxy, Zen Buddhism has remained “flexible”. As it moved into China from India, its practice was influenced by Taoism and Confucianism. As it moved to Japan, its practice adopted many of classic elements of Japanese architecture and customs: of sabi (untranslatable but full of simplicity; quietude; rustic beauty) and wabi (untranslatable but things “fresh and simple; natural; accidental happenstance; uniqueness” approximate). There is nothing about a phrase like “Christian Zen” that is going to upset Buddhists.
EARLY CHRISTIANITY AND BUDDHISM
Early Christian mystics from Origen to the Desert Fathers, led ascetic lives, perhaps masochistically ascetic: when their regular ascetic practices failed to deliver the goods, they turned to increasing harsher levels of mortification. They produced writings that are similar to a stage of the Buddha’s passage in Hermann Hesse ’s Siddhartha when Siddhartha spends years with ascetic practitioners who were searching for “the way” but leaves them behind on his quest. The writings that survive show that the Desert Fathers and their like were truly embedded in the metaphor and dogma of early Christianity and, while I can find “Zen-like” passages, I find no attempts to describe “pure” kensho experiences, even in stories.
What we know of Jesus from the New Testament Gospels does not exactly fit into the non-dogma of Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, which hadn’t yet begun. Zen didn’t emerge into written history until about 600AD. However, what is interesting in examining the historical fragments of early Zen Buddhism, is that, like Jesus and his disciples, mendicant Buddhist monks, travelled and taught for decades, perhaps a century, before written records and commentary and stories about Zen began to emerge. And, perhaps like instances in the Gospels, apocryphal stories of early Buddhism were penned to create legitimacy and credibility – once a foundation had been established. Meaning, given the difficulty of widely disseminated communication from the time of Buddha about 600BC through the time of the emergence of Zen Buddhism in 600AD, and thus overlapping the period when Jesus taught, it was common for stories to emerge at some point to cover origins when it became necessary to have stories. Stories were a way to set roots deep into past or present popular religions – including politically powerful pagan “religions” in the case of Christianity. The stories of both early Buddhism and early Christianity were likely more expedient than factual as was the custom. And stories, such as Revelations, could easily have been both well meaning and, like all good marketing sales letters, designed to create a sense of urgency in “signing up.” Revelations seems at once poetic, mysterious, symbolic and scary as hell. It seems an accepted fact these days that early Christians were awaiting the imminent return of Jesus and undoubtedly wanted to be on the right team when he returned.
The Gospel of Thomas, though not an official New Testament gospel, has some Buddhist-like elements. But it’s not Buddhist.
What we do know is that for centuries, and not too long after historic Jesus walked the Holy Lands, there is evidence of efforts to connect his teachings with Hinduism and Buddhism. Since the Gospel birth stories and the time-line of Jesus parallel those of a host of religions that pre-date Jesus (most originating to the west of Galilee), there’s a case to be made that narratives were created that fit the early Christian efforts to connect Jesus to other and earlier religions, perhaps to enhance Christianity’s fledgling credibility and legitimacy. It’s not inconceivable that stories also arose to link him to religions to the east of Galilee.
Somewhere in the 1100’s a story about a St. Buddha began to surface that supposedly found a path from India and may have happened, if at all, in the 7th century AD. St. Josaphat of the story was a Catholic martyr and “the Buddha.” The exact details of his life are lost to history but his name was removed in recent times from the official roll of Catholic martyrs. In fact, there is a whole body of legend about Jesus himself traveling to India as a young man and adopting Hindu/Buddhist beliefs and returning them to the Holy Land. Or maybe never returning. Or maybe leaving Galilee and traveling to Kashmir where he preached until his death. There is a tomb for him in Kashmir, India.
A woman, St. Hildegard de Bingen (1098 – 1179), is currently being honored as the 35th “Doctor of the Church” in 2012. She was a renowned herbalist of her day, prolific composer and mystic/visionary. Her long-term monastic companion was also a visionary. St. Hildegard’s mystical experiences manifested themselves as visions and voices from God urging her to write about her visions. Her narrative claims she had visions from an early age (3) and is perhaps why her parents confined her to a monastic enclosure a few years later.
Meister Eckhart (c.1260 – c1327), theologian, philosopher and mystic, is often thought as an entry place for Christians to explore mysticism. And perhaps he is. Even though he was tried and convicted as a heretic, his thought and metaphor remained clearly in the Christendom box of dogma and he considered himself a Thomist (St. Thomas Aquinas). What he is not is a common denominator between Zen and Christianity. Meister Eckhart comes complete with his own arcane pathways – but they are not the way of Zen.
THOMAS AQUINAS AND KENSHO
However, historically, there is one very unlikely, almost totally unknown, taste of Zen to touch orthodox Christianity — and that is from the most rational and prolific mind that Christendom has ever produced and whose massive works form the very foundations of Christianity: St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) of the encyclopedic Summa Theologica fame.
Nearly seven hundred forty years ago, Friar Thomas Aquinas, aged 49, died on his way to the Council of Lyons. His death, then unexpected, is still unexplained. However, the age was full of unexpected and unexplained deaths. The sole fact that seems historically sure is that, following four years of incredibly productive intellectual work during his second professional stay at the University of Paris, Thomas underwent “an intense personal experience” on December 6, 1273, which caused him to cease writing forever. That experience may have been a stroke, some form of physical or nervous breakdown, or a mystical experience. (In his important new study Friar Thomas d’Aquino, Father James A. Weisheipl rather puzzlingly suggests that it was a combination of all three.)
One proffered explanation is that Aquinas had what the Buddhists would call a “kensho” or “awakening” experience while saying Mass. In a “kensho” experience one realizes that there are no inherently existing ‘things,’ that the world we experience is empty. More precisely that there is no distinction between me and thee. Kensho also implies an experience of one’s inner nature, the originally pure mind. Whatever its explanation, the fact is that Thomas never wrote again after his “experience.” When his several admirers asked him why, he supposedly replied, “I cannot, for all that I have written seems like straw to me.” (as quoted by James Arraj Christian Philosophy, Vol. III found on his website: www.innerexplorations.com from a book by Jaques Martain)
The reason this experience is quite Buddhist is perhaps found in a Zen story.
In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master’s teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim “I am the successor of So-and-so.” Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.
The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. “I am getting old,” he said, “and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I have also added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship.”
“If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it,” Shoju replied. “I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is.”
“I know that,” said Mu-nan. “Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here.”
They happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.
Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: “What are you doing!”
Shoju shouted back: “What are you saying!” (quoted from www.101zenstories.com)
In the 1500’s St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avilla were Christian mystics and wrote from and about that state. There was great interest around Europe in their writings but their mystical experiences lacked easy, understandable “pathway practices.” Thus widespread interest was short lived.
CHRISTIAN MYSTIC EXPERIENCES SHOW LITTLE SIMILARITY WITH BUDDHIST KENSHO
Christian mystics may well have rooted their mystical experiences in the ecstatic rapture of being totally immersed in thinking about or praying to Christ in one manner or another. Whether St. Hildegard, St. John of the Cross or St. Theresa, the mystics of the middle ages seemed to produce very talkative and proselytizing interpretations of their experiences — not to diminish their experiences, just to distinguish them from what we know of Buddhist experiences. In all of Buddhist literature, as far as I know, there are no reported visions of God/Buddha or voices urging them to write about the visions. In fact, Buddhist “kensho” experiences don’t really have words or call for words.
The visions/voices of Christian mystics set them apart from the general populace and their mystical visions are used to proselytize to or mystify the uninitiated with the standard dogma of the Church during their time. And there’s a case to be made that some of these souls were neurologically or psychologically impaired rather than just predisposed.
In my limited experience, the first thing someone does after a “kensho” experience is nothing. The last thing one does is run around and tell folks about it. Or create interpretation for it. How an awakening experience manifests to others is by a change in visage and a change in attitude and behavior; rarely in
Here’s an interesting excerpt from http://www.orthodox.cn/patristics/apostolicfathers/mystic.htm
In reference to early Christian mystics or the Desert Fathers, [v]isions were practically non-existent in the mystical theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church! Distractions to prayer, whether voluntary or involuntary, were to be deplored and dismissed with whenever possible, and visions and ecstasies were considered to be involuntary distractions to prayer! Those experiences which later mystics sought after and prized so highly were considered by the earlier Christians as little more than nuisances to be suspiciously examined and barely tolerated.
Simply focusing on the idea of Christ relentlessly could quite possibly lead to a “kensho” experience. If you can do it by attentive breathing (zazen) or attentive archery or tea ceremony, then it seems quite possible that persons could experience “kensho” by focusing on certain repetitious prayers (like the rosary), plain song chants, or long litanies producing similar sounds to those of chanting Tibetan monks and perhaps inducing semi-hypnotic states. This could explain how some Christian mystics attained “kensho” but without pathways that they could pass on easily.
In contrast to the quietude of Buddhism mystics, the Christian mystics that find their way to history seem to have an agenda. Their visions hold not just meaning for themselves but with it comes an urgency to interpret and share the “meaning” of their visions with others. And since they survived history, one can assume that the interpretations of their visions fell within the bounds of approved dogma and reaffirmed the legitimacy of the Church and even Christ.
ZEN’S FIT TO CHRISTIANITY
Using Zen meditative practice does not immediately put the novitiate outside any mainstream religions. Writing about various Buddhist pathways to metaphysical/mystical experiences rarely gets anyone in Dutch with the precepts of their current religion. Where things go awry is trying to put words to the wordless Zen experiences you might have and then trying to fit them into the dogma of a particular religion. The first victim of awakening is almost everything you think you knew about God and certainly most of the dogma of your current religion. It is not as if your new state is antagonistic, because it’s not. It’s that you have moved beyond the world of words. I suspect this is precisely what happened to St. Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps he became Christianity’s first “Zen victim” due to his intensely focused attention into the nature and existence of God.
In a broad sweeping conclusion (and thus suspect), I have the feeling that Christ of the Gospels and Zen Buddhism are not a close match. The metaphysical parables of Jesus are not Zen koans. (A koan is a short question or story that undermines all attempts to explain it using words. The idea is you noodle on the koan until your brain gives up. And then the answer might appear.) Zen casts a would-be student adrift into mindful-doing and mindless-emptiness so that the student is forced to quit using words as his way of knowing or to stay away from words long enough to find his own wordless knowing out of mindfulness and mindlessness.
The New Testament Jesus on the other hand gets right to a Confucian-like set of behavioral principals that define Christianity, such as “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mathew 22:35) The “Lord’s Prayer (Mathew 6:9-13 et al) is very Christian-like and little Zen-like. The most Christ-like part of the “Our Father” is an amazing concept that is not found in Buddhisn: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is seemingly an anti-karma pathway. The quid pro quo to getting your own transgressions forgiven unto eternity is that you must forgive the transgressions of others against you. This prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” which seems like an “external God above us” (Latin “qui es in caelis”) and “heaven” certainly carried the notion at the time of 1) a real place and 2) located in or beyond the sky. It is pushing the definitions of “heaven” as understood then to translate this as an “internal space” or heaven as a “oneness with Christ.” The “Lord’s Prayer” is not Zen-like.
Jesus’s use of short “parables” as a mode of teaching doesn’t seem to have parallels in other religions. Like koans, they are a clever way of conveying a lesson without coming right out and saying it. Parables are open to interpretation as to meaning and the wrong people hearing them cannot really get a good purchase for attacking them as unorthodox teaching. Like Zen koans, parables are sort of “coded” and useless to someone who has not “eaten” them.
While Christianity, like Zen, is about “doing” and “doing good,” the Christian foundational element of “love” is not a part of the Zen tradition. The Buddhist concept of “Right livelihood” is not exactly the same thing. On the other hand, if one finds enlightenment in Buddhism, past sins become irrelevant. That is just not who you are any longer. In fact, for the most part, there is no you any longer! But there is a subtle difference between growing beyond the karma cycle of good and evil via “enlightenment” and being forgiven by a deity upon request. Perhaps it amounts to the same thing in the end, but it is not the same exactly.
Metaphysical/Mystical experiences in the Sufi, Judaic, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian traditions are remarkably the same and remarkably produce the same behaviors “on the other side” of “awakening.” What is not common to all these religions is the historic figure of Jesus as the be all and end all.
As you enter the world of Zen Buddhism many Christians wonder if they need to set Christ aside to enter. The answer is, “No” — on many counts. A more important question is, are you still a Christian after you have “awakened” using Zen practices? Or, maybe phrased more articulately, how does Christ fit into your experience of no-self and awakened-self after plying the depths of Zen? The easy answer is that the idea of Christ is not necessary to successfully reach a state of wakefulness in Buddhism any more, according to Buddhism principles, than you need “Buddha” to reach the same state.
In recent Christendom, stern religions like the Quakers, Shakers, Amish and even Mennonites offered very sparse Zen-like religions that involved “right livelihood” and “doing.” As they would say, “Hands to work; hearts to God.” Their aim was perfection in everything. Such striving for perfection is not Buddhist. What is Buddhist is the extraordinary mindfulness it takes to create perfect work. Mindfulness is a very powerful spiritual path. The Christian aspects of their religions revolved around “loving your neighbor” – and even though they were rough on their own members, they were historically open hearted to strangers. Their “rules” of in-house conduct made sparse monasteries look like pleasure palaces.
However, there is a case to be made that the essence of Buddha, the historic figure, and Christ, the historic figure, are remarkably similar. That is, each historic figure shares the same “what is-ness”. It may be a matter of sophistry, but if we define Christ as “that part of God that is one with time and space (being and time)” and further that Christ has always been one with all that is and thus is one with us, whether we know it or not, then Buddha, Christ, and us all share the same “oneness.”
This concept of Christ makes Christ part of all that is from the very onset of “what is” and will continue until the end of time – the end of evolution or the collapse or fulfillment of the cosmos. From Alpha to Omega. According to this view of the nature of Christ, Christ already is part of all that is Buddhist. Just as Buddhists believe Buddha is part of everything “that is” and thus part of Christ and us – whether we know it or not.
A more important question for Christians to ponder is, do Christ’s New Testament teachings actually add something to Buddhism that is not there? For me, the answer is, “Yes.” The metaphysical Christ is one with us no matter what or no matter the name we use to describe “God with us.” However, the historic Christ of the New Testament introduces a few new ideas not found in Buddhism in a straight-forward manner: proactive “love” as the ultimate state of being; and breaking the karmic wheel with “forgiveness” of ourselves and everyone else. To me these ideas are “evolutionary” – they go beyond the rubric of Buddhism; they seem to move consciousness to a higher level.
However, these concepts are irrelevant on your path to spiritual awakening – no matter what path you take. As Buddhists would say, you are already on the path. And you become enlightened just by realizing you are on the path. On this path, at some point you may get to a place of oneness with all that is – I mean before you die. If you look at the New Testament’s testimony about the thoughts of historic Jesus, you may find that Christ brings something to your life that might take your Zen practice to another dimension.
Perhaps, before setting out on your journey, you may wish to examine what is essential to you of Christ’s New Testament teachings. All “new” religions of sincerity are trying to find new descriptors, new metaphors, for interacting with God. To gain admission to the new religion it will be necessary to learn its argot, such as L. Ron Hubbard’s. To understand anything well, you must eat it. I am becoming much more careful, as I age, about what passes as metaphysical food.
Forming accessible pathways to an awakened state may be the greatest gift of Zen to all religions and all persons with spiritual curiosity. It is one of the intrinsic wonderments of Buddhism that you really do not need to learn a new dogma or a new language (in the sense of coded metaphors) to plumb its depths. To my way of thinking, it would be a mistake to try and cram the New Testament into Buddhism. It won’t fit. But, if you are Christian, on the other side of Buddhism, you will undoubtedly find Christ in a new light.
This is an amazing site: http://www.innerexplorations.com/chmystext/cm5.htm
This article below by famed female philosopher mythologist anthropologist Jean Houston, deals with the Problem of Evil indirectly as it ponders whether God exists or not; and deals with that ol’ Problem very directly, not to mention dramatically, at the very end of the article…
And here also is a video of Jean Houston talking to Deepak Chopra about the existence of Deity/Consciousness/God. Just like in the article below, in this video Jean also ends dramatically — this time with the remark, “I think suffering is Infinity playing with itself.”
THE ‘FUTURE OF GOD’ DEBATE
Dr. Jean Houston
March 15, 2010
Here are a few of the points I made or intended to make at this remarkably
rousing debate between the atheists and skeptics — Michael Shermer and Sam
Harris on one side and Deepak Chopra and myself on the other. The debate was
mostly focused on the scientific aspects for the existence or non existence
of God. My role was to provide a somewhat different perspective.
1. The world has been rearranged, the reset button of history has been hit.
Many are called to take initiatives that before would have seemed unlikely,
if not downright impossible, including the rethinking of the reality of the
Intelligence that underlies the universe. My perspective joins that of the
poet Christopher Fry: “Thank God our time is now when wrong comes up to meet
us everywhere, never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men
ever took.” In this, we are present at the birth of an opportunity that
exceeds our imagination — the 13.7 billion year experiment that could
result in our lives coming to end within the century.
2. There is a radical need for a new natural philosophy based on our new
knowledge of the cosmos, the world, the cross-cultural mix of knowledge and
understanding, potential evolutionary directions, and our own emerging
realities. We have been shackled for too long by philosophies, however
noble, that have been limited by much narrower views of the world. And what
is worse, too many of us have been patterned and prepared in the alembic of
these limited views, however out of date they may be, and we find ourselves
to have been marinated in the medieval soup of the mind. Today, many feel
the need to release inadequate ideas of God so that we can all move forward.
To become atheistic and skeptical at a time of so much opportunity is one
way to respond to our dilemma, but then we forget that religion and
spirituality are also about the quest for meaning, transcendence, seeing the
interrelatedness between things, compassion, goodness, laughter, and the
great Pattern that connects all things with each other as well as ways to
live kindly with the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human
condition. Thus, faith will never go away and, in the words of Karen
Armstrong, ” To identify religion with its worst manifestations, claim that
they represent the whole, and then demolish the straw dog thus set up does
not seem a rational or useful way of conducting this important debate.”
3. In spite of the fact that there appears to be a decline in attendance in
traditional organized religions, the search for spiritual experience has
rarely been greater. In America alone, in the last 30 years, the number of
religious groups has doubled. We take new names, sit zazen, become Sufis,
Taoists, neo-pagans, devotees of Kali and Vedanta. Buddhism in all its
varieties is the fastest growing American faith. There is an eruption of
spiritual polyphony, that some might caustically see as “the Divine Deli” or
“cafeteria religion.” What this points to recalls the original Greek meaning
of enthusiasm: entheosiasmos, “being filled with the god.” As one Catholic
Brother told me, “These other traditions do not contradict my own. Rather,
they open the wells of the Waters of Life. When I meditate with His Holiness
[the Dalai Lama], I feel as if the deep rivers of our respective traditions
are meeting and becoming a mighty flood of spirit and renewal.”
4. The complexity of the present world is shattering expectations in every
arena, most especially, in the geography of the soul. Lost as we all are, we
can understand why some retreat into fundamentalisms that provide archaic
certainties, holding houses of containment before the onrush of new
realities. Others wander in a spiritual void, overwhelmed by the loss of all
pattern, looking to material accomplishments to replace the loss of essence.
Still others flee into “replacement strategies”– psychotherapy, drugs, sex,
growth seminars, travel. In each case, mind and body are at the end of their
tether, swung out into vertigo over the abyss of Being. And yet the yearning
for personal experience of the divine reality has never been greater.
5. As Martin Buber taught us, “I” attends to “Thou” much more than “I”
attends to itself. When you get beneath the surface crust of everyday
consciousness, and past the sensory, psychological and even mythic and
symbolic levels of the ecology of inner space, you discover the depths
beyond depths, and, with it, peace, serenity joy — no separations, but also
a transcendent grace and even high creativity. It is not just the mystics,
but the high creatives (some of whom are scientists) who report that in the
throes of creative experience, feel themselves aligned, guided, allied by a
power that is beyond or deep within themselves. This power is felt as
spiritual reality, a vision, an inward voice, an invisible life’s companion,
and became a formidable motivation for a quest for truth and discovery. One
cannot just reduce these experiences to brain secretions and happy neural
chemistries. There is more to us than that. We inhabit the Universe, but the
Universe, with its vast domain of intelligence and inspiration also inhabits
us! In certain states of consciousness and explorations we tap into its
6. The issue of where this is all coming from has ancient roots. St. Francis
in the 13th century defined the issue of consciousness, the brain and God
when he said “What we are looking for is Who is looking.” Meister Eckhart, a
little later, took it further when he said “The eye by which I see God is
the same eye by which God sees me.” He got into a lot of trouble with the
Pope over that one.
My own take on this is that we are the players in a great game called
Paradox. And what is the paradox? It is that we are both Infinite and finite
beings: As finite beings we are Godstuff incorporated in space and time; as
Infinite being, we are the Living Universe in an eternal yet spirited form
of itself. As this Infinite self expressing aspects of God, and as a form of
the Living Universe, we find ourselves capable of creating and sustaining an
individual finite self. That is you — the human being that is the microcosm
or, if you will, the fractal of the Infinite self. The human Selfing game
may be what Infinity does for fun. Not realizing this, we live in a state of
galloping ambiguity, caught in a limited time vehicle
and yearning for our greater self. Then when we make the rare excursion into
our Greater being, becoming our cosmic selves, we suddenly yearn like
Dorothy in Oz to get back home to the farm in Kansas. Why is this? To
continue the metaphor, to live in Kansas however joyous and rewarding it is
to chronically confront our limitations of body, mind and the others.
Whereas to enter into infinite life is rather difficult to navigate and
transcends all understanding.
I believe that to live in a state of both/and is to become who and what we
were patterned to be. We cannot contract the infinite to fit into the
finite, because if we do so we just end up with a fundamentalist God.
However, we can extend — through conscious work on ourselves — the
capacity to expand and thus to enter into partnership with the infinite.
Then, and this may be the goal of the Paradox game, we do indeed discover
that we are an infinity of selves creating and sustaining our individual
human self. Do you see the stupendous import of this statement? To me, it is
a mind cracking, soul buffeting, life enlargening realization. Once
understood and internalized, it adds tremendous power to our freedom to be,
our enormous capacity to grow, evolve and recreate ourselves, and our
ability to live simultaneously as finite and infinite beings. The Infinite
self has some part in directing the development and unfolding of the finite
self, and the finite self offering joy, entertainment and knowledge to the
Infinite self. This is the Paradox of partnership resolved. The game is to
overcome the illusion of separation.
Now we know that many of the great spiritual traditions, Buddhist, Hindu,
Taoist, the Christian mystical tradition declare that the finite and the
infinite are on a continuum with each other. Even recent scientific
speculation is saying the same. Modern physics of the quantum variety as
Deepak Chopra so brilliantly illustrates, increasingly extends into the
paradoxical and mystical in is pursuit of a unified theory of the
fundamental forces of the living universe.
Finally, we are that crossroads between biology and cosmology. We are called
to explore the mystery itself as an interface between engagement with
external realities and embrace of the inner journey. This brings us to a
place of contemplative practice, and the vital synergy between inner and
outer realities necessary to transform self, institutions, paths of
possibility, as well as visionary endeavors. And in so doing, unleash the
human spirit of those who compose the institution or endeavor and of those
who are served by this. It is an activity of extraordinary balance, a
tension in repose. It is about a zone in which paradox occurs. It is a space
where the sacred emerges and the local self disappears. It is a space of
exquisite silence and of extraordinary service. It is a space wherein there
is a fusing and blending of silence and service. In such a state one has
access to the creative, world making place where one’s unique entelechy (the
essential self) meets the Entelechy of a potential new time, one that gives
the details of an evolution in person and society.
There is a wonderful Sufi story of a man broken hearted by all the suffering
and sorrow he saw in the world. He sat by the roadside and began to beat the
earth. He looks up and yells at God. “Look at this mess. Look at all this
pain. Look at all this killing and hatred. God, Oh God, why don’t you DO
And God said, “I did do something. I sent you.”
Rah, rah, Deepak Choprah, “King of Woo Woo” for taking on Skeptic Michael Shermer (former fundamentalist Christian) now the “King of Pooh Pooh”. Here’s the very latest volley in the ongoing war between religion and science…(a useless war since they actually coexist and overlap, ya know!)
WOO WOO IS A STEP AHEAD OF (BAD) SCIENCE
By Deepak Chopra
Sunday December 27, 2009
It used to annoy me to be called the king of woo woo. For those who aren’t
familiar with the term, “woo woo” is a derogatory reference to almost any
form of unconventional thinking, aimed by professional skeptics who are
self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity. I get
labeled much worse things as regularly as clockwork whenever I disagree with
big fry like Richard Dawkins or smaller fry like Michael Shermer, the
Scientific American columnist and editor of Skeptic magazine. The latest
barrage of name-calling occurred after the two of us had a spirited exchange
on Larry King Live last week <http://bit.ly/5AlD31>. Maybe you saw it. I was
the one rolling my eyes as Shermer spoke. Sorry about that, a spontaneous
reflex of the involuntary nervous system.
Afterwards, however, I had an unpredictable reaction. I realized that I
would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer
stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less,
sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in
spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter
that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St.
Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a
reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the
skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made
significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own
right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the
great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow.
Let me clear the slate with Shermer and forget the several times he has
wiggled out of a public debate he was supposedly eager to have with me. I
will ignore his recent blog in which his rebuttal of my position was
relegated to a long letter from someone who obviously didn’t possess English
as a first language (would Shermer like to write a defense of his position
in Hindi? It would read just as ludicrously if Hindi isn’t his first
With the slate clear, I’d like to see if Shermer will accept the offer to
debate me at length on such profound questions as the following:
- Is there evidence for creativity and intelligence in the cosmos?
- What is consciousness?
- Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind, and ego?
- Is there life after death? Does this identity outlive the molecules through which it expresses itself?
The rules will be simple. He can argue from any basis he chooses, and I will
confine myself entirely to science. For we have reached the state where
Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of
the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point
sixty years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli,
Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep
spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and
rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers
into one black box known as woo woo. It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t
even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine,
genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened
fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination. But the king of
pooh-pooh is too busy chasing down imaginary woo woo.
Skeptics feel that they have won to the high ground in matters concerning
consciousness, mind, the origins of life, evolutionary theory, and brain
science. This is far from the case. What they cling to is nineteenth-
century materialism, packaged with a screeching hysteria about God and
religion that is so passé it has become quaint. To suggest that Darwinian
theory is incomplete and full of unproven hypotheses, causes Shermer, who
takes Darwin as purely as a fundamentalist takes scripture, to see God
everywhere in the enemy camp.
How silly. Shermer is a former Christian fundamentalist who is now a
fundamentalist about materialism; fundamentalists must have an absolute to
believe in. Thus he forces himself into a corner, declaring that all
spirituality is bogus, that the sense of self is an illusion, that the soul
is ipso facto a fraud, that mind has no existence except in the brain, that
intelligence emerged only when evolution, guided by random mutations,
developed the cerebral cortex, that nothing invisible can be real compared
to solid objects, and that any thought which ventures beyond the five senses
for evidence must be dismissed without question.
I won’t go into detail about the absurdity of such rigid thinking. However,
the impulse behind dogmatic materialism seems intended to flatten one’s
opponents so thoroughly that through scorn and arrogance they must admit
defeat, conceding that science is the complete refutation of all preceding
religion, spirituality, psychology, myth, and philosophy — in other words,
any mode of gaining knowledge that arch materialism doesn’t countenance.
I’ve baited this post with a few barbs to see if Shermer can be goaded into
an actual public debate. I have avoided his and his follower’s underhanded
methods, whereby an opponent is attacked ad hominem as an idiot, moron, and
other choice epithets that in his world are the mainstays of rational
argument. And the point of such a debate? To further public knowledge about
the actual frontiers of science, which has always depended on wonder, awe,
imagination, and speculation. Petty science of the Shermer brand scorns such
things, but the greatest discoveries have been anchored on them.
If you are tempted to think that I have taken the weaker side and that
materialism long ago won this debate, let me end with a piece of utterly
nonsensical woo woo:
“Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free.
What consciousness consists of, or how it should be defined, is equally
puzzling. Despite the marvelous success of neuroscience in the past century,
we seem as far from understanding cognitive processes as we were a century
That isn’t a quote from “one of those people who believe in spirituality,
ghosts, and so on.” It’s from Sir John Maddox, former editor-in-chief of the
renowned scientific journal Nature, writing in 1999. I can’t wait for
Shermer to call him an idiot and a moron. Don’t worry, he won’t. He’ll find
an artful way of slithering to higher ground where all the other skeptics
Forget God (for awhile), survival of Consciousness after death and outside the brain is the thing to investigate first, says the blogger below. If you prove consciousness has a mind of its own, a life of its own, then the other question of whether God/Goddess exists or not will simply answer itself. The atheists-and-scientists vs. mystics-and-believers method is not getting us the answers we need, we crave. We must look at whether consciousness survives after we die, examine the evidence that our brains do not create consciousness, they merely tap into it, like your car radio picks up on a broadcast of huge FM radio waves.
Very thought-provoking cogent ponderings… I also saw the PBS show portraying Freud debating CS Lewis, the blogger mentions. The program was also thought provoking and deep, yet fell short of answering the ultimate questions… This article/blog below and the comment that follows seem to point right at such ultimate answers. — +Katia
The November 13, 2006 issue of TIME Magazine featured a debate between scientists Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on the existence of God, the origin of the universe, faith vs. science, etc. As might be expected, they went around in circles and got nowhere. That’s because they are assuming that one has to find God before he or she gets answers to anything else of a spiritual nature. At no point do these intelligent men get to the real issue — whether consciousness survives physical death. If God does exist, but consciousness does not survive physical death, so what? We are still marching toward “nothingness,” i.e., total extinction.
Not long ago before I read the TIME article, I watched a two-hour television program titled The Question of God on PBS. The program, moderated by Dr. Armand Nicholi, a Harvard professor and practicing psychiatrist, featured a theoretical debate between Sigmund Freud, the atheist, and C. S. Lewis, the believer, on the existence of God. After the views of Freud and Lewis were presented by actors portraying the two men, a panel made up of educated believers, agnostics, and atheists gave their thoughts. As you might expect, the discussions went also went around in circles and ended up at the starting point.
As with Dawkins and Collins, the panel members never got past the issue of whether God exists. They discussed such things as whether order can exist in the universe without a higher intelligence, whether God is a product of the need to believe in something greater, and how there can be a God when there is so much evil in the world. As I see it, the issue there also should have been whether consciousness survives physical death. Knowing that there is a Higher Intelligence, Creator, Divinity, Cosmic force, God, whatever name we choose to attach to Him, Her, or It, doesn’t in itself help us understand the purpose of our lives or give real meaning to them.
The “believers,” including a Buddhist journalist and a Jungian analyst, talked about a “sense of connection” to the Divine and an intuitive feeling that there is something greater, to which a skeptical lawyer expressed my thoughts, “Where does that get you?”
Perhaps the viewer was supposed to assume that a belief in God meant a belief in survival of consciousness and, concomitantly, a purpose to life, but the discussions never went that far. It was as if the mere mention of survival or an afterlife was a bit too religious and rudimentary for such educated people. When the afterlife was alluded to on a couple of occasions, even the “believers” weren’t prepared to discuss the subject. In fact, it appeared that none of the believers had any concept of the afterlife beyond what is espoused by orthodox religions.
It was mentioned that Dr. Nicholi has used the Freud vs. Lewis debate in all of his Harvard classes for more than 30 years. I am not qualified to argue with such an esteemed educator, but it does seem to me that Dr. Nicholi and others are missing the boat in approaching the question of God and immortality of the soul deductively, i.e., finding God before we accept the survival of consciousness. Since God apparently is beyond human comprehension, so many people stop there and are left with nothing more than orthodoxy’s humdrum heaven and horrific hell, a scenario that does not invite rational people to believe. Unable to get a handle on God, those taking the deductive approach require a large leap of faith, something more and more people are reluctant to do in this scientific and materialistic age.
The inductive approach, that of psychical research, makes much more sense. That is, explore and examine the evidence for survival of consciousness in such things as near-death experiences, out-of-body travel, deathbed visions, spirit communication through various types of mediums, past-life regressions, and other forms of psychical research. Then, assuming we are satisfied with the evidence, look for an Intelligence behind it all, even though we can’t comprehend that Intelligence. In the light of evidence for survival, the “question of God” really becomes academic. Perhaps that is the problem: Academia often has a hard time dealing with the practical.
C. S. Lewis seems to have based his belief in God simply on emotion, including a “longing to believe.” Although it wasn’t mentioned in the PBS program, Lewis, as I understand his writing, rejected spirit communication and other psychical research as so much humbug. He would certainly not be my choice as an advocate or defender for a belief in the spiritual. I would have selected Sir Oliver Lodge, the esteemed British physicist and educator of yesteryear, or Dr. Gary Schwartz, currently of the University of Arizona, as my advocate or defender. Of course, Sir Oliver would have to be brought up to date on research taking place since his death in 1940, although I suspect he is very much aware of it and may even be inspiring much of it.
But neither Lodge nor Schwartz would be able to sway the fundamentalists of religion and science – those whose minds are made up and closed to further enlightenment. The absolute proof they require seems neither possible nor desirable. However, the results of credible psychical research can significantly influence those who are open minded and truly searching for real meaning and purpose in life.
As I see it, the Freud approach involves a fatal leap into a darkened chasm, while the Lewis approach requires a giant leap of faith over that chasm. The Lodge and Schwartz approach, on the other hand, do not involve much more than a short hop over a babbling brook. Forget whether God exists or not and look at the evidence for survival. There is a preponderance of such evidence out there. Examine it, discern it, dissect it, and let God emerge from what you discover.
Tagged with: God, afterlife, spirituality, Richard Dawkins, science, religion
8 days later, Water Carrier wrote:
Hi Mike, You wrote, Forget whether God exists or not and look at the evidence for survival. There is a preponderance of such evidence out there. Examine it, discern it, dissect it, and let God emerge from what you discover. I agree. Ultimately, those who argue against the existence of God are arguing against the existence of consciousness. They believe consciousness is secreted by the brain the way the adrenal glands secrete adrenaline. Consciousness is an epiphenomenon, or emergent phenomenon, but it in itself doesn’t exist. It’s just a quality of something that does exist, just as “sharp” is a quality of a knife but “sharp” doesn’t itself exist. And so, to talk with them about God is pointless. That’s not where their ignorance lies. They don’t know that consciousness exists outside of and aside from the brain, or rather, that the brain is an epiphenomenon of consciousness. That ignorance is a remarkable state of affairs in the twenty-first century when so much research shows that neurons firing don’t account for the moment of a conscious experience. Neurons certainly don’t account for the fact that I can sit in my office, close my eyes, and “see” images of objects on people’s tables thousands of miles away . I’m not using a retina; I’m not using my optic nerve; and I’m not using the optical cortex because no electrical signals are coming into it to create neurotransmitters. In other words, it seems pretty clear that I “see” without the brain. Then I remember what I see, so my memories aren’t in the brain either. My seeing objects in this way happens with none of the electrical signals the optical cortex needs to produce the neurotransmitters. Electromagnetism doesn’t travel over the earth’s curvature, and besides, experiments done in Faraday cages show that this psychic activity doesn’t involve electromagnetism. But the images are there, in my consciousness. In other words, my consciousness is seeing things my brain can’t possibly “see,” without photons, a retina, an optic nerve, or an optical cortex. My brain is just protein and fat tightly enclosed in the darkness of my skull. My consciousness is what’s out there seeing something thousands of miles away. So obviously, consciousness isn’t in the brain. And that means when the brain dies, consciousness doesn’t die. It’s still wherever it was when the brain was producing brainwaves and firing neurons. That’s what the direct-voice medium recordings tell us http://adcguides.com/ . People who die find themselves just as they were the moment before death. Some don’t even know they’re dead and wander around the Earth for weeks, months, or years. The skeptics won’t look at the real issue of the nature of consciousness. It’s too scary for them. They would have to rethink everything they know if they learned that consciousness isn’t in the brain. It’s easier to avoid looking at the vast amount of evidence that consciousness exists aside from the brain and consciousness survives death. It’s easier for them to focus on an easy target: the unprovable, inaccessible nature of God. That’s avidya, ignorance. But if they did just accept the obvious fact that consciousness is outside of the brain (or the brain is inside consciousness), then they could understand that consciousness is fundamental. From everything we know, consciousness is the ground of all being. Knowing that consciousness is eternal, is located outside of the body, and is the ground of all being, there must be an architect with a greater consciousness. Materialism and evolution break down in the face of consciousness. It couldn’t have evolved naturally; it could only evolve purposefully, and that requires a conscious architect. As you suggest, if the skeptics will look at consciousness and the survival of consciousness, they will find God. — Craig