What I Believe and Why, Part 6

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Christ / Course Ideas

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]

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!)

26 Comments

  1. Thanks for the intriguing path back to love Michael. You, like many others, have condensed the CIM in miracles to a choice. We choose fear and separation, or we choose love and unity. I want to live in unity, but often choose separation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think we all do this, Brad. Even and probably especially those persons who, like myself, make a conscious effort and thus fall into the trap of seeking to understand how we’re doing. The true measure of course is to not look back and simply trust in being who we are… I think unity is simpler than we think. The hard part is trusting enough to let go of those clinging thoughts and self-judgments that compel us to look back…

      Peace to you, my friend!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautifully written Michael. I was going to quote back to you some of the more pertinent sentences you’d written but as I reread your piece looking for them the feeling of unity, the remembrance of unity began to wash over me and the words became unnecessary. Thank you for this beautiful reminder. Your last paragraph says it all for me.
    Alison

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Alison. It really isn’t complicated is it!? Thank you for reading and sharing along the way. If the words sparked a sense of remembrance then I’m grateful.

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Michael. I’ve been following and enjoying your six posts on “What I believe and Why”. sometimes receiving them fully, and at other times reaching to open up and receive your meaning. And upon reading this final one, I’m taken aback by these words –

    “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 … 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.”

    I’m reading and experiencing your words as conceptual, and am struggling to bring them down an octave or two or three into my human experience. In order to relate the concept to my experience of the past 18 months, which as you know has involved much pain and some suffering..I want to add … or for that matter reconcile your words with the suffering of the people of the Houston floods, and the tens of thousands in the Bangladeshi flooding. And I hesitate ( even though I just said it, I know!) because that is secondary or second-hand experience, and it’s all too easy to be a distanced observer. So strike that example … we can revisit it later.

    More than anything I want to understand your meaning through my heart and body of my own experiences of the past many long months. Help me please … with love, Christina xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Christina,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your response. In many ways this was a post about ideas, but I felt a lot of ideas come into clearer form for me as I wrote, so it was written with love in my heart. I don’t know what specific reaction you’re having but whenever the topic of suffering comes up, and the possibility that it need not be so, one of a couple things often happens (either for me, or for those nearby). I don’t know if any of these apply to your feelings today or not, so please don’t assume I think so. I’m simply trying to respond from what I’ve felt on my end. One thing that has come up for me is a fresh batch of guilt, or shame or something. It goes like this: a) I’m trapped in a difficult situation, b) a doorway is shown to me, which has been there all along, but c) I feel suddenly and profoundly foolish for not having seen it. In a sense, it only reiterates that I’m to blame or something, which only makes the trap of difficulty we’re in more profound. This feeling of being blameworthy for any condition or cause of suffering is utterly false, but the part of us that seeks to learn and continuously improve and be the right and good person we wish to be thinks how it totally messed things up. We’re to blame, is the conclusion. And from there it feels like these are great concepts, but I’m not cut out for them. Like if this were doable for me, I’d have done it already. If I could run a marathon I’d have run it. But I can hardly make it up the stairs so all this marathon talk is just a tad unrealistic. I think whenever we’re told we’re powerful, it is easy to get tripped up by that and turn it into a fear of that power, or this sort of difficulty where we see how we’ve turned power into powerlessness and it’s just not easily reframed. We can’t just wave a wand. There’s just no way to move across the gap and our feelings simply don’t suggest it is possible to do so. You may not be feeling this at all… but I’ve felt it a lot from time to time.

      Another thing that has come up is the notion that in speaking this way, we’re saying it’s all as easy as 1-2-3. Also that, in a sense, we’re implying the suffering another feels or has experienced is no big thing. We’re being dismissive, or cold-hearted, or simply absurd. It’s like being a white male person of extensive financial means giving a lecture on racism in America. Hey folks, what’s the problem? A white male person of extensive financial means could of course have nothing but love and compassion in their heart, but it’s going to be a tough sell. And we know this. How can a person not in the flood speak of these things? How can a person who isn’t living in a war-torn region without access to food or water say any of this? There’s an idea that you probably shouldn’t talk about things you haven’t lived, and it’s a good idea. It would be pretty hard for me to look a person in the eye as they emerge from the flood waters of southeast Texas and tell them suffering doesn’t exist, because first of all it may not be true for them, and second what right do I have to tell them their experience? Well, none.

      None of this is about telling anyone the nature of their experience. Nor is any of this about trivializing another’s difficulty, or not greeting them and their suffering with compassion and support. But the truth is that we’ve all suffered. We’ve suffered for a long time. For those who believe it, we’ve suffered in lifetime after lifetime. So to this second point that often comes up for me, about anyone who isn’t suffering in a given moment speaking about the possibility of not suffering to those who are suffering, I think it’s okay. We have to start somewhere. The intent is to help every last person find their path to a life with as little suffering as possible. If making a shift to unity consciousness will help the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time, then it makes sense to give it consideration. But of course there’s a time and a place, and I’m seldom master of either one… 🙂

      Lastly, I think our own suffering collapses us. It is so, so hard to suffer and feel access to Love. In fact you need the miracle–the grace–to shift things sometimes because you just can’t will it to be so. Some days you’re just not there. Some moments. We wobble and fall down and it hurts. The pain is very real and there’s no magic wand. But the suffering and separateness sort of travel together. It’s easy to then get into one of the two pitfalls above, to feel like there’s something we’re not doing or being or trying. And sometimes a difficult process simply does play out in our lives. We get into this mode of analyzing each moment sometimes, each breath, each encounter. I contract when I suffer. I start examining each thought and moment very carefully, when for the previous two decades it just all sailed by. That moment there! Was it full of grace? Or just plain shitty? Another shitty one. What does it all mean??? But healing simply does play out over time I think. Because we are never truly separate, and never truly alone, we’re healing ancestries, we’re healing families, we’re healing cells and race memories and our friends and all those instances of violence, we’re healing whole threads of beings sprinkled through all the associations accumulated over a lifetime, we’re healing others’ pain that we’ve taken on, we’re healing lifetimes of uncertainty or fear or isolation or whatever it is. And intellectually we can’t know all this, we can’t track it easily, and we try to make the next moment the miraculous one. Because we think we’re all alone when we’re suffering, because that’s ultimately what it feels like, and so our pain is clearly about us. We personalize it. I think at times we personalize it in ways that simply are not so. But when we’re at our lowest–when I’ve been at my lowest, it’s been about me. Sadly, really. And in that stance we’re outside of possibility, we’re simmering in our separateness, in a way. But then I laugh with the person next to me and in that moment of connection, of unity, it’s all so different. It’s a hard and challenging thing for sure…

      So maybe 0% of that answered your feelings Christina. I don’t know. If not please let me know where it broke down…

      With Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful conclusion to your long but enthralling series of posts, Michael. I’ve been rereading Adyashanti’s tiny but weighty “The Way of Liberation” this past week. In the concluding chapter he states “it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that . . . brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being. Such an expression is neither personal nor impersonal, neither spiritual nor worldly, but rather the flow and flowering of existence beyond all notions of self.” Seems like you and he (and me) are on the same page. Many thanks for your always thought-provoking essays.

    With love,
    Don

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Don,

      Always a joy when you appear here! I’ve not read any Adyashanti before but have heard bits and pieces from you and Alison, and it seems to be another expression of the same Source. There are so many ways to say it and be it, and so many ways not to it seems as well. I love the quote you’ve given. It is that flowering of a living and undivided expression of being that I think we all ultimately desire, recognize and become. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading, Don!

      With love to you, too–
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So, you’re a Buddhist and Advaitan after all — I knew it! A fabulous article, Michael, and a perfect conclusion to your series; perhaps, the only conclusion possible? We could probably have a terribly long-winded discussion about this thing you call ‘Love’, and how it relates to my ‘Contentedness’, but that would seem unnecessary, and likely unproductive. The separateness thing, or rather its opposite, unicity, is of course anathema to reason, logic, and the intellect, evolved as those faculties are to discriminate dichotomously into self and other, subject and object. May I ask then, do you think that formal, developmental practices are necessary to bring about the possibility of unicity being realised, or do you think one can simply hold open the possibility of its arising, then sit back and wait, stroll around in the wilderness a bit, perhaps? In other words: System vs. Non-System. Secondly, if I may, what is it that knows unicity? Of that latter question, then what I mean is do you see the realisation as a matter of the intellect, in the sense of it being a positive form of knowledge, or do you see it as the negation of erroneous knowledge, so that what remains is your ‘Love’, or unicity? With gratitude. H ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • What did you call me!? 🙂 Hahaha!

      I think I’m probably a Buddhist-Advaitan-Creationist, to be totally honest. I say that because I sense there is a creative aspect to being that I haven’t sensed as directly or as prominently in Buddhist and Advaitan teachings as it rests in my own understanding. There is a power within the true nature of our unity that I think has largely been misapplied, and that I sense has a lot to offer. That’s probably the closest I’d come to what we’d call a “belief.” But I also sense this creative element in the idea that we are not self-created. We have a given nature that is backstopped by the authentic nature of being, and in a sense I see individual beings as a flowering or outpouring of this fundamental unity. All of this is so hard to explain really. I do think I land pretty close to Buddhist-Advaitan ideas.

      As to your questions, in reflecting on them I feel a paradoxical response brewing. I think formal developmental practices, or a discipline of some sort, is very helpful. At least it was to me. But I also sense that at some point it becomes a hindrance if one is not willing to simply accept and enter into the nature of being that is found. There can be a clinging to practices that produces dogma, and that results in a clinging.

      On your second question I do not think it is an intellectual matter. I think the intellect has a role, in the sense that the intellect must be open to accepting unity as the nature of reality, but we’re not talking about an intellectual concept. I think we’re talking about something that can only be mobilized, or discovered, as the very essence of our awareness, our being, our nature, etc. So it’s not an external concept we bandy about. It is a visceral awareness I suppose, or perhaps a posture of being. It’s like the awareness of a primal environment. I do think negation plays a vital role. In A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love considerable emphasis is placed on “unlearning” and “removing the barriers that block our awareness of Love’s presence.” We can’t enter into the sustained awareness of unity while we believe in and harbor ideas and concepts, including those of self, that are inconsistent with the conditions of unity. So to your point, unity isn’t something we define or control. We can only desire it, be willing to allow our perceptions to be healed, and to allow conditions to obtain in which unity may be perceived. Then we leap across the gap!

      The issue of self, or of who or what knows unity, is something of a problem I think. We get so fixated on the idea of self sometimes that I feel we’d almost be better off to leave it out of the discussion. There’s a stance in which a self is perceived that is false. And there is a stance in which a self is perceived that is the perfectly natural flowering of unity. We can describe it as selfless, or we can describe it as the movement of unity experienced through the lens of self. What really matters is the distinction between the stance that leads to an illusory self, and the stance that leads to unity. They are wholly different and utterly incompatible, but I don’t personally think unity means utter loss of self. We lose identity with a certain sort of self that is found to be illusory, but don’t lose all identity–our identity has simply become unity–and we discover we are each unique manifestations of this unity. Also hard to explain I think. The words are so confounding… They really are! But I don’t think unity requires a denial of our uniqueness as beings.

      Thanks for reading Hariod! I’m really grateful you’ve stuck around!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for that fabulously eloquent response, Michael, which warrants a post of itself, to my mind. I like this very much: “It is a visceral awareness I suppose, or perhaps a posture of being. It’s like the awareness of a primal environment.” I agree with you on the Self/self conundrum. It rather reminds me of discussions I’ve had at my place in which readers talk about the self as Self, and I accept it happily, or maybe even mention God/gods in certain contexts, and I get what they mean and agree with what they’re pointing to. It’s a jungle the whole words thing. Thanks Michael; I appreciate all you do here. H ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah! Deep breath…
    I purposefully waited until I had time to sit and really read and comprehend the last post in this series. Wow! There are so many things I could comment on…and for sure I have to read this again…and probably at least one more time after that. But I think what I would like to comment on is that I feel a strong serenity…a ‘peaceful easy feeling’ (couldn’t help singing 😉) about your conclusion. Yes…we all have a heart…and yes…we are all at different stages of remembering. And your are correct…we life our lives and bob too and fro with the ebbs and flows. And we watch our neighbors exist in the life THEY created and they too see the pluses and minuses. Where you got me…hit me in the gern…was when you said:
    “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.”
    And something felt SO RIGHT ABOUT THAT…and it made me feel honored to walk the path that I have walked and continue to walk, and it made me so happy to share the walk with you.
    There’s so much more I could say, but honestly I just want to sit here and think about this…and feel the feelings you stirred in my heart!
    Thank you, Michael!! 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lorrie,

      Thank you so much for this note! Sorry for the delayed reaction here. That’s lovely you felt a sense of serenity reading this. I think sometimes we feel that way when we encounter something that is true, or at least true or relevant for us in the moment. Maybe it’s just a little realization that nudges us along on our perpetually unfolding path, but still we respond to what we recognize! And I think ultimately we recognize truth… I’m honored to have you here with me! Hope all is well and you’ve had a nice week.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Michael, I don’t have a lot to say right now, but I am lavishing in this series of presentations.
    Your words are like music, and perhaps sometimes the best response is silence.
    Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Harlon. Thank you for reading and for your presence here. Hope all is well on your end. And yes, sometimes there’s little to be said. Silence can be a profoundly intimate experience. The place we all me without words or images…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I keep trying to add a comment, and the system is not cooperating. Hoping third time is a charm. 🙂
    Michael, thank you for this Love-filled series! The most beautiful image that stuck with me throughout the whole series was the one of you and your childhood friend running and tumbling and laughing. 🙂
    It is interesting that you wove in the film “My Cousin Rachel” here. I watched the preview and got a little scared. 🙂 But looks like a worthwhile film to watch. I like how you tied it in your writing here.
    I was walking in Walmart the other day. Suddenly, I looked at the faces of a couple strangers, and I could see so much love in people, sometimes behind some very tired faces, sometimes floating closer to the surface, but I had this strange momentary revelation, like that light and energy was much bigger than anything imaginable, and putting it together was simply explosive! I know, in words in sounds like a cliche, but that understanding just literally blew me away. Walmart, of all places, you can find Love. 🙂 Thank you for sharing here on this page your memories, your heart and your wisdom.
    May you follow your passions,
    Kristina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kristina,

      Yes that moment of running down the grass with my head turned over my shoulder, without any worry of ever tripping or hitting an obstacle, was pretty sweet. We had good times on that ole’ golf course! I think “My Cousin Rachel” is a better movie than a preview. It’s been a little while now but when you see the preview it does have that sort of scary, or unnerving edge to it. But it wasn’t a horror or macabre film at all.

      Thank you for sharing the realization you had, too. Yes sometimes we realize we’ve just lived a cliche… 🙂 But there’s a reason the cliche’s exist I guess! What’s unique is experiencing the love within our own being, and not just as an idea or a story I think. It’s not really something you can explain… Yes, I believe you can find it anywhere… Even online! Ha!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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