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I want to close this series by stating that I believe Love, and expressions of Love, are all that truly exist. When I say that expressions of Love truly exist, I mean that they endure, they are timeless in a sense, they add unto the eternal fabric of being, they open pathways to new modes of being, and they enrich all aspects of being simultaneously.
What might be said is that this doesn’t square with our experience.
Most ideas we’ve had of God and man have been incorrect, often disastrously so, but they’ve simply been concepts. They’re easily shown to be inconsistent and conflicted, and more importantly, I think these represent a superficial dilemma as compared to the one with which we all must grapple: the fact that how we perceive of ourselves and the world in which we find ourselves directly influences the nature of our experience. Not only that, it influences the type of world we create. The real challenge I see is that it is impossible for a mind with a perceptual orientation to find logical fault with the integrity of the subsequent experience. This is the nature of a mind. It constructs its reality.
We don’t give ourselves nearly enough credit for our ability to shape experience into a consistent structure. This has nothing to do with ideas of God and man, or any philosophy whatsoever; nor does it have anything to do with being disingenuous, or with intelligence, or with any vice or characteristic we know we possess. This simply has to do with the way we assign meaning to experience, and the way those assignments create closed systems of evidence-based perception. Those who would manipulate facts and those who would uphold an integrity of scholarship are equally subject to the conditions of the mind and its inherent ability to form self-referencing structures of experience and perception. Our minds, in essence, are projection engines.
I watched the movie My Cousin Rachel this weekend and it’s an interesting study in this regard. It’s one of those movies in which the evidence seems to be stacking up in one direction, but then a single insight changes everything, and then all the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. Back and forth it goes without any final resolution, and this, at a much more powerful scale, is what I mean. It is impossible to make a final determination about which perception is correct—even when the two perceptions could not be more diametrically opposed—without more information, but the core perception (or worldview) at work engenders evidence only of itself.
I could suggest that only Love and its expressions are truly real, but then we would look together upon an instance of suffering and say that it cannot be so. If Love is real and it leads to this, then we must have been wrong about Love entirely. And if Love isn’t what we thought, of what value is it then? The other alternative is that our perception of suffering was incorrect. But if this isn’t suffering that I look upon, then I don’t know what is… Call it what you will, it’s a terrible thing.
When we look upon suffering it is not so easy as it is in fiction to introduce a new insight, a flash of evidence, that changes everything. We can’t imagine a reinterpretation of the Holocaust that leaves us all relieved. I will not try. But I will say this: there is a condition of perception that must exist for minds to enact such an event, and in such a condition it is not possible to experience the reality of Love’s presence. And that same condition of perception applies to children fighting over a toy, or adults fighting over the price of a car, foreign trade deals, or the primacy of ideas that populate our scientific publications. If these examples are different, it is only by degree, and we are mistaken when we think that difference by degree is real difference. Difference by degree has a stranglehold on our world.
There are really only two forms of perception—one that is based on the idea we are each fundamentally separate beings, that each us can truly gain even as another loses, and one that is based on the idea that we are fundamentally joined, or unified. Only one of them can be true, and I’ll suggest it is the sort of distinction we cannot make on the basis of external evidence alone: principally because the world we occupy—the closed loop of mental interpretation—can return the experience of either one; and second, because one cannot choose both at once.
So what I believe is that the suffering we experience in our world is the product of our perception of, (and belief in), our separateness. This perception is very real (in the sense that it is available to be experienced). Its logic is crystal clear and self-reinforcing with the world as evidence, and it informs choices and conditions whose ramifications are far more reaching in their extents than we would guess. That this mode of perception lies at the root of suffering is not, in my opinion, because of the whim or failure of some God, but because it is the closest thing to a natural law that I can imagine. Let me be clear: this law is not the idea that a belief in separation is met with suffering for any whimsical or moral or consciously elected reason, but simply because separateness is the condition of suffering. The perception of separateness produces all of the conditions and inner orientations that are necessary for suffering to occur.
What is amazing to me—miraculous really—is that the world can also return the experience of unity. And what I have faith in, because I have experienced it in various microcosmic ways in my own life, is that as we make this choice together, new conditions arise that will allow us to experience the world in a new way. Most importantly, suffering will be relieved, if not eradicated completely.
I want to work towards an ending here by saying this is the wisdom I perceive in the myth of Jesus’ life. For me the stories of Jesus are probably as much or more mythical than factual, but in a world whose fundamental nature lies in the eye of the beholder, myth and fact are interwoven. It’s a distinction that doesn’t ultimately matter. The world is our story as we’ve chosen to perceive it. And what I see in Jesus is a person making the ultimate point about unity to those he loves: take my body if you wish, take what you perceive my life to be, and observe that there is nothing I will lose. I will still be with you. I will still love you. I stand here, though you know not what you do, to keep the way open, so that no being will forever be caught in the web of their misperception. It is a beautiful and complete giving, or relinquishing, of what is perceived as most valuable in the perception of separateness.
The bottom line is this: if separateness and the conditions it engenders are an accurate reflection of reality, and not merely a perceptual choice, then suffering cannot be overcome. It is built-in. In this case forgiveness is a futile, ineffectual practice and the world forever belongs to the strong. Kindness is perhaps a collective management strategy, a productive meme. We may manage this world by degrees, by patrolling carefully its position on the slope, by herding ourselves towards niceties and conventions that establish a “civilized” cultural position, but its fundamental nature is and will be one of strife, of difference, of scarcity and of fear. There will always be those at the margins, those we leave behind that our civilized ship might proceed. Those we would keep out of sight, out of mind, over there somewhere. In the world that separateness engenders, this isn’t a moral choice, it’s in many ways a necessary one. It arises from the limits of what is known. I believe unity offers a completely different proposition. But if unity, on the other hand, is a valid alternative, what prevents us from choosing it? What must be given up?
I’ve found the gap between these two perceptions is both razor thin and almost inconceivably difficult to cross, for what a person must give up to cross the gap is everything of value in the prevailing worldview. To leave the shores of separateness a person must consider an orientation in which the suffering that was previously perceived is reframed as a temporary sand-shifting backstopped by a higher condition of timeless unity. A person must consider an orientation in which suffering may be truly forgiven, and is logically and rightfully forgiven, because nothing is lost at the physical level—only enacted. I believe this is the illusion spoken of throughout ancient times and in various spiritual traditions today: the illusion is that the world we perceive in separateness is the root of our identity, and of value. We are finite, temporal phenomena in the illusion. We must grab hold of this world while we can. But unity transcends the temporal and material order, and anchors all that exists in Love itself. This perceptual shift therefore requires a complete reorientation of identity and of value.
The good news I think is that we each have a heart, a heart that has never forgotten unity, a heart that knows the way. And as our hearts and minds wrestle within us, and as events wash over us and we respond to them, as circumstance churns us up anew, as we cling to the known and subsist on what we find there, and as we gain or lose little by little over the course of our lives and watch those around us gain and lose, still the heart does not forget. I’ve heard people say that if God and the Judgment Day and all of that aren’t real, then nobody really loses by having gotten on board with the idea. But if it’s all real, then look how much is gained: an eternal life on the good side of the line. But this is separateness talking. It’s hogwash, bunk, and bluster. I don’t believe there is a God who requests or demands our allegiance, or that the lives we seek are anywhere but here. We seek to heal the world that is here now, the one we live in today, and that our children live in, and the reason to step across the gap is not that it will be good for you, but that it’s conceivable you do it for everyone. You are everyone, in a sense. You are more powerful than you thought. You carry the hopes of everyone within you. You do it not for your personal self, but for your unified self—for the identity in which we all share, for every mind that still suffers.
So what I believe is quite simple. I believe that Love and unity are real, that the choice for Love is possible, that the world need not be as it is, and that you and I will do this–that we have done this, and that we are here now, to remember what we’ve done.
(And lastly, many thanks to all who’ve stuck around to read these absurdly long posts!)