This post has its roots in a number of threads that have woven through my awareness over the course of the past few weeks, and which as an ensemble beg a few of the questions I try to tackle. One of the delights of open-minded dialogue is its ability to reveal how little we know about the subjects regarding which we thought the opposite was true, and in making the discrepancy apparent, to inspire us to take a fresh look at the ideas we are carrying and the questions we are asking. It is a process that, if engaged with willingness and joy, I see potentially continuing without end, as we are swept gently along a flowing river of conscious awareness of steadily deepening and expanding proportions. I have great respect for the meandering direction of awareness, and think that as the mind is freed of attachment to conceptual identification, the river flowing through it brings gifts from unknown places upstream.
Beautiful pieces come together.
As a first point of backdrop, this fall a new three-in-one edition of A Course of Love (ACOL) will be published. (The Course of Love consists of three books: A Course of Love, The Treatises of A Course of Love, and The Dialogues of A Course of Love.) As a successor to A Course in Miracles (ACIM), I think ACOL has enjoyed a lukewarm reception by the ACIM community to date. An obvious question is why? What is different about it? There are any number of related questions and possible answers I won’t try and tackle here, but this question of what is different about ACOL is a thread that forms a delicate knot with a thread about non-dualistic philosophies I’ve enjoyed following with my friend Hariod.
Hariod has a wonderful blog about what she describes as contentedness, which I don’t believe I’m incorrect in stating has its roots in cultivation of non-dualistic awareness. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading and contemplating her views and shares, and recently found myself trying to explain what ACIM was all about—what overlaps there were, and maybe were not. I found it difficult to address the subject very well. Something about the conversation made me want to be thorough and scholarly, and careful to be true to each stream joining the river despite winging it on a limited budget of time. I think it is generally accepted that ACIM is, at least to a very significant extent, a non-dualistic course aimed at training the mind to perceive in ways that engender peace, albeit an approach steeped in theistic terminology. But is it just your basic non-dualistic philosophy dressed up in Christian terms? Are all of the distinctions with non-dualistic philosophy just window dressing, or is there an essential and valuable distinction to be considered?
These nagging—in a very good way—thoughts coincided (though not perhaps in linear time!) with Marga’s recent post about the mystical roots of Western Civilization that contained a video interview with Peter Kingsley and some description of his book Reality. Not having read the book, or reviewed any more of Peter’s work than was contained in the post and video, I may be misapplying or misinterpreting his work entirely, but for the purposes of this post it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the post acted upon thoughts latent within me and activated them, and I found myself thinking about the concept of “self” in the West, and of the concept of the “self” in the East, and of this idea of a constructive interplay between East and West.
Within my own thought constellations, I tend to think of non-duality as having its roots in the East, and of the notion of discrete selves (e.g. eternal spirits) as the primary units of existence being more of a Western philosophical vantage point—one which has perhaps been spun in a negative light of late with so much emphasis on “non-self” and rooting out the “ego”. Discovering an author who portrays Western Civilization in a positive light, suggesting its roots lie in a conscious effort to activate holistic sensation and awareness, helped to precipitate within me an awareness of where some of the hesitancy I experience in exclusively embracing non-dualistic philosophy may lie. It is not that I find any points of objection within the basic non-dualistic worldview; it is more that I feel there is something more to this experience we’re having in this realm than I perceive non-dualistic philosophy as exploring.
(I reserve the right to retract statements such as the one above, of course, as my experience of these things deepens, which is precisely why these discussions are invaluable.)
I think this nebulous something more may explain ACOL’s relationship to ACIM. I think this something more is what is emerging as a fuzzy inner yearning catalyzed by my dialogues with Hariod, and what is responding to the tickle of encouragement I found in Marga’s post about Peter Kingsley’s work. I think this something more is an unnecessary void that arises when East and West are not enjoying a healthy exchange within me (and all of us), when self and non-self are not engaged in mutually enhancing cohabitation, when God and Nirvana seem at odds with one another. These threads all collide for me as questions about creativity, purpose and power.
There is a way in which I sense that the practice of non-duality can become an exercise in passivity, which is not to say that I think this is the intended or even a desirable outcome, but I do see it as a temporary and superficial mode of understanding and expression that seems to arise. If suffering arises from misperception, principally expressed as identification with a self that isn’t “real”, then turning the intensity of that self down to zero on the volume dial can perhaps lead to an experience of peace. If the world is an illusion, then discounting one’s experiences within it as “just illusions” and dialing down the volume of the world’s cantankerous proddings can likewise result in a diminishment of drama and discord. These approaches strike me as those many have taken, and I sense and feel that there is something essential within us that is also dialed down in the process. Something powerful, natural, and good. Something necessary. Something we wouldn’t have despite all we’ve been through if it wasn’t somehow the point.
What is that something more?
I’m whittling it down here to purpose. There is something beautiful and healing I find in non-dualistic approaches to awareness, to recognizing that we are both experiencer and experience, both individual and whole, both unified and distinct. This way of seeing brings us into contact with a reality that resides at the deepest core of our being, where concepts of self break down even as self is the only window we have for gaining a glimpse into what both holds it and lies beyond. It’s a bit like flying a space shuttle to the sun. The vehicle, at some point, has got to go, but it’s the only one you have for getting close that brilliance. So, that reality we can never be without… that we discover within but not separate from what is without… what is it up to? What are we up to? What would a field of healed beings create?
One of the real gifts I found in the three books of A Course of Love was confirmation that Creation, which is a word I would perhaps equate to the ground of reality that is experientially touched through non-dualistic awareness, is moving. Creation is afoot. What’s more, Creation is afoot within us, as us. Our existence is neither optional nor necessary, but it is the movement of Creation. I think that our return to non-dualistic modes of perceiving unlocks our ability to move in harmony with the whole, and to become conscious embodiments of Creation’s unfolding. And there is, in that, tremendous power we have yet to fully embody I believe, though I should perhaps say I only really speak for myself.
This is not to suggest that Creation, or a “Creator”, exists in any way apart from us, but it is to say that our awareness has long been cleaved from its original and most natural domain in unity. Our awareness has been abstractly disassociated from its origin, and the volume on our power supply dialed down as a result.
Near the end of the Dialogues of A Course of Love, we wrote together, “What we have called illusion is this simple nothingness of existence without relationship to God, and thus existence without relationship to the power of Creation. The illusion is an illusion of simply being.” It is worth noting that at this point in the Dialogues this illusory condition of simply being is described as a state in which creation happens to us, a state in which separateness is the dominant mode of perception and as a result we are removed experientially from the most essential nature of our existence. Also, God at this point in the text is not an outside intelligence, force or being, but the relationship of all-to-all, a relationship that dwells within and through each of us.
And what of purpose? A paragraph or two later we wrote, “…your acceptance of the truth of who you are and who you can be is essential to the accomplishment of our mission- to the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.” This is it! This is the something more not explicitly found in ACIM or is lost within its emphasis on other aspects of ego dismantling that were urgently needed therein, and which is not often emphasized in my encounters with non-dualistic philosophies and practices: the notion that we are inherently creative, that Creation itself is purposeful and that we share in that purpose, and that we are literally in the midst of transformation of heaven and earth. Creation is happening in real time, flowing in from outside of time, and we’re it’s agents on the ground. We are dreaming up a healed earth—a heaven expressed through this plane. Not a separate heaven, or an abiding peace that comes with departing this plane, but a present reality powerful enough to transform every lack and poverty, to heal every wound and rift, to modulate our every experience and to supply our every need.
I think when duality is healed and our perceptions corrected (an Eastern contribution?), the field by which we are distinctly embraced and held– even as we are the field itself– is found to be alive with creative purpose, and we are integral to this creative expression (a Western contribution?). That is the something more that imbues my day with meaning, because while it is tremendous to discover the pathways to personally sustaining peace of mind, it is intensely meaningful to recognize in each encounter the opportunity to lay a brick in a new world.
And I have to stop here because I don’t know what the next parts are yet. All I know is Purpose is not an individual thing, though it may take on a variety of individualized expressions. But you probably do know, and I can’t wait to hear about it…
Just had a very quick late read of your deep post and find I now cannot head to bed without getting a few thoughts out through the fingers…
A funny thing happened when we left (or got asked to leave or got thrown out of) that garden called Eden and all of a sudden there was this construct of separation and this awareness bifurcation into these ideas of good and evil. Knowledge…hummm?! lol It was my Christian roots that brought the thoughts about duality to my door.
ACIM found me for the first time during graduate school in Chicago during the early 90’s. I heard about it on a public radio show and then sent away for it (this was a radical thing for a little 5th generation Mormon gal from Utah to do 🙂 ). The book arrived in a mailing envelope that was lined with recycled padding material which exploded all over the book with dust and clinging particles when I opened it. For weeks after, each time I picked up the book for the daily study, it would give off a cloud of grey particulates when I would turn the page. Wonderful memories. A very important book to have been gifted a run in with during my beginning days of questioning!
The first email I ever sent to my now husband (after having heard him in an interview about awakening), I signed off with Rumi including the sentiments from that delicious field where the world is to full to talk about. Finally, here was a man (who based on what he was sharing) I guessed was doing the work needed meet there in that place of just “being”. This is the territory of living practicing observation rather than judgement. It is that place past the ideas of connection because there was never anything to be separated from to begin with. In fact, there was no beginning because it has always been now. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Living from that field is a source of true freedom and peace. I am not there all the time, but more and more often I can feel the grass between my toes and oh how delicious it is to BE!
Thanks for the opportunity to do a little dance celebrating where I have been and where I am returning because we never really left…Maren, Maren quite contrary how does your garden grow? Opposites are melting and only that sacred grass remains.
– – – – –
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
Observing. (and good morning) I am at the marinating bench, taking in all of you, and these exchanges.
ACIM exploded my brains some 30 years ago… because I’d not yet realized the tension of repressed memory. It seems fitting that this led me to learn these things, then, through therapy exercises of integration practices (though I didn’t recognize it). Imagine my surprise when I opened your window and discovered This was That… in progress, all the time, in kindergarten format (for me), gently urging me to learn beyond the realm of words. Imagine.
Thanks for this post… and exchanges. ~Meredith
Thanks for your bench-marinating thoughts, Meredith. One thing that is becoming clearer and clearer to me as I integrate these whatever-they-are’s (mental habits, states of awareness, open-observing mindedness, inner reliance) is that I am constantly discovering the way all things are leading to the same place, to Maren-Rumi’s field beyond judgment and opposition. The methodologies and practices vary, but all seem to wind their way to this lush valley of connection and being.
So, I am imagining… That glorious moment of recognizing a grace, a familiarity, a home… in Wordlessness… 🙂
The fact that we have never left is such an important aspect of all this… It’s as if reality is a pristine, open construct onto which we have scribbled our graffiti of misconception and misperception. The glorious thing is the ground beneath our efforts can never be defamed or harmed or affected in any way by our scribbles of choosing to experience disconnection. For me that is profound– a bedrock to return to when I find myself wandering into comparisons and grievances and judgments and all those mental acts of distancing sure to bring dissatisfaction.
The awareness that holds and carries all opposites is such a delicious place to rest with friends… 🙂
Hey Maren! Lovely to taste these insights into your life’s flow (up to now)! It seems that many of us are now approaching, or frequently there “When the soul lies down in that grass,” – with all love, tomas
Hi Michael, very happy to make your acquaintance! My wife, Alia, received your post and pointed me to it. Great exploration you are in (we are in) – t.
Thank you, Tomas! Much appreciated. I am happy to make your acquaintance here as well upon this billboard perched between reality’s various planes… A surface of surprising depth, I find it to be, when people reach across that electronic gap.
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Stunned silence 🙂 So much here! the bricklaying without the burden of identification or ego hits of LOOK WHAT I MADE is what all the clearing out seems to have been leading toward (a brilliantly observed dance of east and west philosophies). There have been times when the clearing out led me to stillness that demanded nothing, but soon after, I would be stirred to move from a more mysterious pull. – and that process is Seeing M jumping out of the car to capture the sky, a pocketful of seashells all in warm or cool tones to be arranged just so before the tide washes them away, a furrowed brow of a pre-K matisse working with cut paper only to skip away from a masterpiece a moment later for juice and cookies, performance art every moment – the antithesis of selfies 🙂 Sheila gave me her copy of “Reality” yesterday – and she ordered another for herself (she is so lovely) because it was so earth shifting, she’s ready for round 2 with the words. Heart so grateful for my teachers and compadres who so lovingly and playfully engage me to the point I’m losing the boundaries of where each one begins and ends! Just wonderful, Michael!
I love your descriptions of the spontaneous Participation– the sky glimpses, the pre-K Matisse in action, the assembly of seashell and stone in perfect, sublime harmony with the movements of the stars and a gentle inner need to give of something…
I am going to have to see about getting a copy of “Reality”. I just finished reading the exploits of Michael Valentine Smith, and after a string of fiction I think it is time to swing towards the opposite pole… Although I say, there is such great merging in fiction, myth, reality, prose, and wordlessness these days… These distinctions are breaking down… Seeing M’s field of beauty without comparison is blossoming everywhere one turns… 🙂
A very deep post Michael. I’ve never quite connected with ACIM. ACIL sounds more appealing to me. Maybe that means I still have more ego/ mind to dismantle, but I like your suggestion of needing to add the more of creation to the dance of stripping ego and hanging out in being (which I prefer to non-duality). Thanks for your thoughtful reflection on life.
Thanks, Brad. ACIM can certainly read like a psychology thesis… 🙂 I think that was perhaps part of what was needed to reach those who needed to be reached through such a vehicle. A Course of Love, as I mentioned once before I think, is written on a far less intellectual level, and more for the heart. That is not to say the ideas or logic are watered-down, only that it is written without making nearly the attempt to cater to the mind’s comfort zone…
Your garden, in a way, says everything I was trying to say here, Brad… It is an expression of you, a way of working with the elements given, of integrating your movement and flow with that of the Whole. These movements catalyze discovery, I think, through the experiences that arise from such creative engagement. They communicate, nurture and heal.
Thanks Michael. That is a beautiful way to look at gardening and life; a dance of co-creation leading to growth and love (hopefully :)).
“Now I realize that it isn’t the miracle that creates the believer. Instead, we are all believers. We believe that the illusion of the material world is completely real. That belief is our only prison. It prevents us from making the journey into the unknown.” – Deepak Chopra
Too true, David. I remember when I first ran across the idea that the world was an illusion… one’s experience changes mightily when one is willing to really think about that. It took me a while to integrate that simple statement– the world is an illusion– with an experiential, felt and comprehended inner understanding.
Walter Russell’s work and ACIM both helped me tremendously in that regard. That and a lot of long car ride meditations… 🙂
It seems to me that what you are saying here Michael, when you write of ‘creativity’ and ‘purpose’, is that your perspective is categorically teleological, and that your current conception of heaven is the telos.
If this is surmised correctly, then one wonders what is the genesis of this position. Is it a cultural artefact; is it a psychological trait inherited and conditioned by a theistic conception of existence imposed initially from one’s societal or parental circumstances? On what basis does this teleology subsist?
I warm to the teleological perspective in some regards, and have always felt that human consciousness is likely to be subject to evolutionary forces such that it may one day arrive in a full knowing of itself as itself, rather than as the fragmented flux of imagery it takes itself to be for the moment.
Still, it is, for me at least, perhaps as well to bear in mind that the whole play of things may simply be down to chance and necessity, as the writer Jacques Monod suggested all those years ago. Of course, one could if stretched still add in that these factors are of divine intent or some such; I really would not know, and am at a loss to see how such an idea could be supported with any certain efficacy beyond the means of faith and belief.
Fabulously thoughtful and eloquent post Michael, for which many thanks.
Thanks for engaging here so exquisitely. I find myself wanting to reflect on your questions and not fire off an answer quickly, and as we are hosting a party today for my wife’s granddaughter, who has graduated from high school this year, I will have to defer for a bit on doing so.
More to follow. With deep appreciation…
My Friend Hariod,
Let me begin by saying how much I appreciate the ability to have a dialog that raises questions. I don’t think dialog is in any way related to convincing or scoring points, although it is often used that way. I think genuine, open-minded dialogue is a way of discovering who one is. It is in probing that inner unknown and watching oneself respond to ideas as they emerge that each is able to encounter themselves on a deep level. Certainly one discovers the “other” as well, but what is most immediately known is what arises within.
I have asked myself similar questions– (e.g. is a belief in God, or a teleological purpose, a cultural artifact? A product of early conditioning? Could the universe or consciousness I experience be the product of chance alone? Of exclusively physical mechanisms?)– on a variety of occasions, and it was in part these types of questions that made it desirable for me to experience and understand other philosophies and faiths. I have also taken the time to read about biology, chemistry and physics, and to read contrarian books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in order to consider the points that were made, their basis, and most importantly, how it was that I felt as I read and considered them.
At the end of the day, I don’t exactly know what I am in words. I know that whole systems of internally consistent logic may be constructed that hinge upon one unprovable assumption whose shift or reversal would change everything. When it comes to nudging this assumption around, toying with the block of our inner life on which all other blocks rest, I know that something within us will offer profound resistance. And so we look for evidence.
We may think we look for evidence before staking out our positions, but as you rightly suggest, this is not always the case. Predominately we seek for evidence to strengthen the position of the cornerstone from which our inner world derives its order. To do otherwise– to ask for evidence of what is so without a preconception of what that may be– is incredibly difficult. I would like to think that I have examined this block from at least a few angles, and even these simple efforts were not without their moments of debilitating ambiguity and confusion.
There is a real sticking point when it comes to evidence. We all know from the debates and memories that have shaped our lives that evidence is most often what we paint it to be. Our perceptions inevitably contaminate the scene. Is it even possible to engage life– to perceive at all– without imposing some sort of interpretation? On a deeper level, if it is true as some suggest that the reality we inhabit is only as available to us for discovery as the questions we carry in our hearts, then this issue of evidence is a particularly slippery slope. It may be the case for instance, that the very experiences I rely upon as evidence arise quite naturally as part of the very dialog of life, a response of what is, arising to what is so in me. (This implies a response on the part of life that many would question, but I ask you to bear with me momentarily…) In a simplified version of this, we know that if we’ve never witnessed a particular phenomena and it occupies no place in our mental inventory, it is hard for the mind to perceive it, and that only later after its existence is known do we start finding the phenomena with increasing frequency. In a further-reaching version of this, I might suggest that the experiences of our lives arise as a series of responses to who we are. At the furthest point, removing distinction between self and other, I might suggest that the evidence we find and the experiences we have, are together an ensemble– perceiver and perceived– arising from deeply held parameters of our awareness.
I think in an effort to take this sticky wicket out of play humanity has to a certain extent glorified objectivity and logic– thereby insisting on a reliable “reality” we may observe and all agree upon– but for me it breaks down when it comes to examining the cornerstones of our awareness. The inability I have perceived on occasion of those who stake out the rational-scientific high ground to recognize that their own positions are only rational in light of unprovable starting points and assumptions about the nature of the experience taking place has long been confounding to me. There is a certain alarming willingness to draw a box around those suppositions that reasonable people agree merit inclusion in the field of possibility, and to discard the rest. I suspect there is as great a fear to look carefully at that bottom block for a materialist, or any other type of -ist, as there is for one who is a theist. The argument is sometimes made that the materialists are those with authentic ethical and moral courage, as if by taking an objective look at the (perceived) isolation and tragic beauty of the human condition and having the courage to accept it, they have endured a right of passage.
A man who goes up into the hills armed only with his heart, on the other hand, to sit and pray for several days and nights without food or water because armies of strange people are marching through his people’s land and sometimes killing his relatives, is not courageous, but duped. Or at best, courageous and duped. If a vision takes up residence within him, it is not because he has prepared his heart and mind, or tuned the parameters of his awareness to contact deeper realities within, it is because in his superstition, desperation and understandable love for his people, he invented a figment of a dream to console himself. At the vital moment, he was weak. He didn’t have the courage to consider that no greater reality or intelligence exists to brook concern for him and his people, or to accept that his people’s delinquency in entering the metal or agricultural ages are his only real problem, and too late to be fixed at that. Fasting after all is not a means of tuning the parameters of awareness, but of predisposing one’s body to states of hallucination. If he had a vision or received guidance, it was but a wish.
Thusly, without any effort to “inhabit” the experience of another, without even coming close to looking at the cornerstone of one’s own modes of experiencing in light of an account of another being that passes through awareness, whole classes of “evidence” etched upon the marrow of human lives are dismissed. If it is the case, however, that experiences are in some way correlated to parameters of awareness held within, then no conclusions should be drawn about what is or is not without conducting the only experiment that counts– placing one’s own awareness in a state comparable to another who has had a different type of experience.
This, however, is difficult and may be quite frightening to do. It may feel like abandoning your self. It may require “becoming” somebody else. To even make an effort to do justice to this type of experiment, one would have to examine and question the cornerstone which says reality is fundamentally objective in nature, a position I find most rational-materialists simply unwilling to do. Some would say, dismissively, of course if I placed my mind in a state just like another’s the same experience would arise, but a deluded mind is delusional, and I don’t wish to be so deluded. This is for me unscientific bias, fear, and aversion to making the greatest experiment known to humankind. It is a statement whose starting point is the notion that a state of awareness may be “known” from afar, which means it is a statement affirming it’s own cornerstone assumption of objectivity.
All of this is to say that it became apparent to me at some point that none of the positions we hold may be rightly apprehended from the outside. From afar, each differing stance appears to be untenable without a sustaining faith and belief– an illogical and unjustifiable abandoning of logic– and the transition to knowing that occurs within from embracing one’s experience is lost on the outside viewers. This is scary to accept, because it suggests that what is true for me, from my own experience, may be different from what is true for another, and if this is the case, there can be no real truth. No steady foundation on which to rest. No means of discernment. The problem with the thought that gives rise to this fear is that it suggests we know ourselves fully in the moment this judgment is made, and it suggests that what we know as ourselves is genuine and complete. I think we are all open-ended, becoming-evolving, experience-generating systems, and thus naturally we may all find ourselves at a loss to explain another’s position, until we become them. Once we have “become” Everyone, then perhaps there is in some sense, a completion. Only then can we say we “know” ourselves. There we find all experience points to the same.
To think that there are some positions, however, that rest on objectively firmer ground that all can agree upon prior to conducting the ultimate experiment of becoming requires a resorting to suppositions and assumptions. I can’t see any position related to these questions that may be made in the absence of assumption. So… logic needs a starting point, and for me that starting point is the knowing of the heart. The heart is where discernment lies, and over time, I believe each of us arrives at a common heart of being, though our paths and phases of awareness may take very different turns along the way.
To end what has gone on far too long here, while teleology undoubtedly exists in what I hold to be true, it is an element interwoven with a vast array of other words and concepts that becoming meaningless when pulled out in isolation. When wholeness is fractured, the pieces alone can seem strange. Some may read about this teleology, and walk away with the conclusion that if part of my thinking is teleological, I must be one of those close-minded theists who ignores the theory of evolution. This would be a false conclusion.
Having examined as thoroughly as possible the available modes of perception, the notion that life is fundamentally and exclusively the product of physical origins explains far less to me personally than the notion that the physical world is the ever-changing image of an underlying, invisible wholeness. The notion that we are temporal extensions of an indestructible, invisible, timeless, experience-generating “engine” who sometimes over-identify with the experience itself, explains far more to me than the notion that we are simply independent bio-chemical complexes. I find the least conflict, the most order and rationality, and the greatest ability to love in these positions. And I find no reason to dismiss evolution.
Existence is either the product of intention, or it is not, but I think I am indeed finding that it is neither one. If there is that whose nature is both timeless and aware, is its existence a choice? A deliberate act? The product of purpose? Most definitely not. My latest definition of God would be that which exists without ever having chosen to do so. That would be everything, and nothing at all. In between lies the choice to generate experience, to come to know– a purpose held by that which itself could never be the product of purpose, a joy arising out of realizing the nature of what is, without ever having been given.
The wisest will admit, as you have done, that they simply do not know, and thereby free up that cornerstone block to experience freely, and discover what may be known. From resting there, it strikes me that Purpose arises from that which has no purpose, and as such, enfolds all that is… That which has given rise to beings, exists prior to and free of all purpose, and we, as beings who arise within and integral to this inexplicable field do so with the holiest and most unified of purposes. This is my conclusion now, based on what I have become, knowing there is no end in sight…
Thank you for your questions, your presence, your delightful and erudite contrarian nature, your time and your tolerance… I know myself better now, than I did before… and for that I thank you.
I’m not reading all that!
Hariod, your wisdom is the icing on the cake… I wouldn’t either if I were you. 🙂 The hard work is done. It is time for us to enjoy some refreshment and bask within the type of moment that is so deftly able to sustain the whole crazy lot of us.
Glad you were able to take my jesting in good heart Michael; I had little doubt that you would do otherwise. As a matter of fact, I copied the whole of your response to an MS Word document as I would like to keep it as an exemplar of faith explained. Is that okay with you?
The two of us shed tears differently as we respectively peel through the layers of this onion called ‘life’; though as you suggest as much in your subsequent post as regards talking cast iron balls and so forth, well, there must come a limit in what can profitably be said, even to your own inestimable powers of endurance.
That is perfectly fine. I thank you graciously for demonstrating your own inestimable powers of endurance. It takes one to know one, as they say.
Indeed so Michael, I am without doubt similarly ‘guilty m’lud’ in respect to anything I might unwisely utter on the ineffable – Wittgenstein had it right on that – and so I try (unsuccessfully), to keep such utterances to a minimum. This, not least of all, as I am not familiar with whatever ‘. . . has been outside waiting in the car this whole time with the engine running . . .’
Please be certain to know though my friend, that in this context, I am merely echoing and endorsing the sentiments you express in ‘Sometimes I wonder . . .’. and from where of course, the above quote comes. It’s perhaps a case of ‘quod erat demonstrandum’ baby, and the two of us are each the necessary demonstration for the other.
With love and respect.
“…the two of us are each the necessary demonstration for the other…” A beautiful sentiment, Hariod. That’s what I was trying to say all along. How’d you do that!? 🙂
I so admire your engagement with your readers. It is beautiful to see someone embrace being open-minded and welcoming the wisdom of others to the table, then fly back into the kitchen to prepare dessert alone…as you compile the amalgamation in solitude. And….Then you bring us cake!! It is so delightful!
Honestly, what spurred me to comment on this post was the mention of Matisse, as I was thoroughly obsessed with him as a child and did many a school project on him! I think he is such a perfect example of the evolution to what Jung would call Individuation, and what we might call just BE-ing. I found it quite heartwarmingly ironic that his final cut-out works were referred to in your comments as “Pre-K” as it took him a lifetime of thinking, struggling, seeking validation, individuating, to get back to a place of such simplicity, profundity and ease. He referred to his cut-outs as his second life, and his most simple and glorious work (in my humble opinion) was done as his final hurrah.
The man’s path is such a beautiful spiral to the return of being – I mean he earned a law degree first, intent on fulfilling the societal and familial pressure placed upon him, gave it up to study painting the way of the “Masters” – with incredible precision, long before he found his magnificent talent for color. Oh and he did tons of “self” portraits too, not exactly an iPhone selfie, but still, self as subject…long before he ever found his final cut-out works done in the throes of physical handicap. His return to the innocence of childhood came in his second life, and in some ways, only
after he had exhausted the all too human mental meanderings, needs for approval, emotional release, etc.
Oh I just love him!!
He teaches me compassion, to honor where everyone is on their respective path, if they are still figuring themselves out, still releasing emotions, still in the throes of ego, still transforming their canvases, because maybe, just maybe, we might get to see the magnificence of the final canvas of BEing shine.
Thank you for this delightful commentary… Much appreciated… I loved your description of Matisse and your finding in him an example of what can emerge from authentically living through the throes of one’s own becoming. I don’t know much about Matisse, but I read three of the four books in the series called The Nature of Order by architect Christopher Alexander, and he used Matisse frequently to point out the subtle simplicity and very knowable human warmth that comes when design arises as a heartfelt exercise in being who we are (my simplified translation). So, I think I was prepped for your comment by my earlier engaging with the thoughts I found there.
The Nature of Order was a great series that I felt ultimately touched upon, without perhaps overtly saying so, the way our conceptual and mental abstractions find their way into our art and architecture and can abort them from obtaining a natural reconciliation with all else that arises, and how processes of creativity rooted in responding to the harmony of what is, rather than subscribing to a fixed “concept” or making a “point”, making building and creating exercises in healing. They become a means of recovery of our wholeness and unity with the surrounding world, as well as an end themselves, thus unifying means and ends beautifully.
I am intrigued by Jung’s use of the term individuation as well in the context you have described, because it sounds very similar to what in A Course of Love might be described as differentiation, wherein we each emerge as unique representations of all that truly is. To arrive there, we have to be true to ourselves, but not to an idea or image of ourselves that we were given or that we grasped hold of– a naturally arising self whose roots are indelibly interwoven with those of all other beings, a field of sustenance from which all manifested forms arise.
Wow! A Nature of Order sounds awesome! I’ve never heard of it and now may have to seek it out. Thank you 🙂 Finding out about new books is just another reason to love blogging, in addition to stumbling upon Marga’s and Hariod’s respective blogs, via their comments here…they are awesome too! Hope you and your wife had a good party 🙂
Thanks, Amanda. We had a great gathering… Here is a link with a good summary about The Nature of Order…
I fear the books may be fairly expensive, but hopefully a library near you will have access to them. I got a set probably eight years ago so I haven’t checked on that front. If you do go for it, I would definitely start with the first one. One would assume you would, but just in case… 🙂 They are pretty large and loaded with images… This little article here hints at the underlying philosophy, which Christopher Alexander works in these books to apply to the world of architecture and creating spaces, as an act of healing self and world…
Hi Michael — Thank you for sharing your own inner process. As I may have commented in another place on your site, ACIM provided a means for me to merge my early Christian upbringing with the non-dual investigations of my adolescence and early adult years. Yes, I think that some people certainly have approached non-dualism passively but I would venture to say that they probably didn’t get very far along that path with that approach. My own understanding of non-dualism is that it is a very active self-inquiry process that leads to the discovery of that powerful and primordial force you refer to as “Creation” and I call “Oneness” and others call “Absolute.” I haven’t visited ACIM for decades, actually, but what I remember is that it also provides a structure for active self-inquiry that can take one beyond the veil of illusion into “places” not accessible to the mind as we normally understand it. I actually got the experience of non-duality through ACIM, after 10 years of association with the mental constructs of Advaita Vedanta. That decade of preparation allowed me to use The Course to take me beyond the concepts.
I also appreciate your thoughts regarding the balance of East and West within you. There are many ways to speak of the balance of the polarities — what I ultimately call the “reconciliation of opposites” (thanks to Lisa Renee, author of “Unplugging the Patriarchy.”) You are the first person I’ve heard speak about balancing East and West as an internal process. I look forward to seeing where this dialogue goes from here. Many blessings, Alia
Thank you, Alia! I look forward to seeing where it goes from here also. Probably through wordlessness and back out again… 🙂
It is clear to me that non-dualism can carry us beyond mental concepts, and I think another one of the holy (and inner) mergers necessary to step into that place and fill it is that of the mind and the heart.
Ultimately whether I said it very well or not, part of this post was about suggesting that this return or recovery of a non-dualistic awareness is but one movement within and enfolded by the movement of all Creation, and that what we discover and make manifest as we learn to live from that fulcrum of all holy, inner mergers will be a new experience, a new world, a completion of one chapter and the beginning of another.
Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. ACIM itself has become kind of strange for me to talk about– it was an intense personal experience for me, probably simply as a catalyst, and now I do find it hard sometimes to say what it means and represents. It really can, like many modalities, carry you beyond the bounds of one’s historical parameters of cognition, into a living reality… Where words do fail us…
(Though I obviously have yet to get that memo and READ it.) 🙂
Such an interesting conversation, I too must copy it into my word processor to read through at more leisure. I only wish I was a speedier reader: there’s so much to consider around us . . . Thanks, Michael, for visiting my blog; I will read more of yours.
Thank you, Christine. There is indeed so much to consider. Perhaps that is why there are so many of us! I take solace from the knowing that I will never see or read or hear all the great creations and echoes of brilliance that fill our world in the knowing that just one moment, truly glimpsed, contains all of them. That, and the fact that our unique paths create intersections with precisely what is most needed and desired. Thank you for the visit.
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