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…