February 6, 2018 in Views
We need God to exist
because we do not recognize Existence itself.
We need a name for the Nameless,
a form for the Formless,
or we lose track of the fact that everything is nameless and formless.
To understand eternity,
we need a concept for an Inside that has no outside,
a Presence that has no absence.
So we draw the outline of a Circle whose center is everywhere,
and blink while it disappears.
No hocus pocus,
just a focus with no locus.
never the Mind itself.
We look at the painting,
and ignore the Canvas.
We look up to the sky to know the weather,
but all we see are sun and clouds,
at night, moon and stars–
do we ever really see the Sky?
All the while it was in plain sight,
right behind your head.
Look! There it is again, just below your nose.
Now it fills your lungs.
making the unknowable known,
the unfathomably far away
no mysterious ways,
until that Aha! moment when the secret is revealed:
the lady wasn’t really cut in two,
and neither was Existence.
It was all you.
For Emerson, on the splendid occasion of his 3rd birthday. Love, Papa
February 6, 2018 in Views
The following was posted in a Pantheism discussion group on Facebook. It was my contribution to an ongoing (and annoyingly circular) argument about whether pantheism affirms or denies the existence of God. My position is that pantheism is itself a third option that is neither theism nor atheism, and requires a release from the binary logic that tries to force it into one camp or the other.
God called me last night. She wants me to settle a few things for us pantheists so we can get past the whole a/theism thing and move on.
One: she does not exist. In order to exist, she would have to be less than Existence, paired in contrast against something that she is not, and of course that just isn’t the case. Even dyed in the wool Catholics, she reminded me, know that God is synonymous with Existence itself, so it oughta be self-explanatory for a philosophy whose descriptive title says just that.
Two: she also doesn’t NOT exist. Existence does not lack God, and to profess that it does just to refute a bunch of specious theistic claims is to miss a key point. To truly grok pantheism (her word, not mine), you must let go of binary logic and allow your mind to relax into the non-dual. “To be or not to be” is not the question, for the question is too small for the answer: unlimited Being. I Am That I Am. To doubt that is to doubt Existence and the intelligence inherent in every atom, and that’s just silly. In her words.
Three (and here’s where she got a little snippy with me): it is not our job to prove nor disprove any of the small, oversimplified ideas about her. Whether it be a trite religious metaphor or an elaborate mechanistic model of a universe without a singular self-creating energy, or anything else really, all ideas exist within the fabric of Existence –none can stand aside and observe Existence in its wholeness; they are all essentially attempts at putting the sky in a box, and an effort to dis/prove that idea puts the box in a slightly bigger box.
This especially pertains to one of her pet peeves: the argument over whether or not God is “personal.” As she said (and again, I stress that this is she talking, so please, don’t shoot the messenger), “You have the wisdom to know that I Am beyond all limiting characteristics, and you have the creative power to draw any limitations you want. You hold the tools of perception in one hand and imagination and the other; using both, you carve from me an idol. Not a big deal really, you have full creative license, and I remain whole and Uncarved. But every one of these ideas, from Mithra to Multiverse, is equally idolatrous, so there is no point in condemning any of them! They are action figures of me. Play with them, use your imagination! There is the real Me, and there are the action figure versions of me, and you’re not five years old. You’re damn well smart enough to know the difference. So c’mon people, what the fuck?”
Four: on a lighter note, she likes our group a lot and thinks we have a great deal of potential. “I’m hopeful that if you just get these issues settled, maybe you won’t need so many posts bashing other people’s ideas about me, and you will devote a lot more space to promoting what pantheism IS instead of arguing about what it isn’t.
That’s all folks. Namaste.”
God wants you to read more about pantheism and non-duality at Not Two
September 18, 2017 in Views
There is something so incredibly simple about pantheism that we are making way too complicated.
The conceptualization of our sensory perception is based on the principle of duality –the creation of conceptual distinctions between subject and object, knower and known etc. Duality is an illusion –a very useful one, but still an illusion, like the observable notion that things get smaller as you get farther away from them– and human logic tends to follow it as though it were absolute.
The logic of Nature is non-dual. Nature contains these conceptual distinctions, and by that I mean it limits and subsumes them, like bugs caught in tree sap that become a property of the sap as it hardens –except in this case, the bugs were never not part of the sap.
What the logic of Nature shows us is that the conceptual distinctions we create are different aspects of one thing. This isn’t speculative and it doesn’t require the suspension of human logic –it just requires recognizing how contained it is, and not making more of it than actually exists.
When we say that we use logic and reason to arrive at pantheism, this is true, but it does not stop at human logic. It must expand into the logic of Nature.
Human logic by itself tends to produce either theism (we know there must be somethingoutside the limits of physicality, and we call that something God) or atheism (there is no evidence of a separate object we can call God.)
Human logic plus Natural logic produces pantheism. “God” is a term for the union of subject and object, knower and known, extended omnidirectionally and omnidimensionally, uncointained by any conceptual limits.
Want to learn pantheism? Learn some of the constructive ways to break through the barrier you create between self and other, and follow where that leads you. There is nothing more to it.
August 21, 2017 in Views
In April 2017, a collective of space enthusiasts and provocateurs calling themselves the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) launched a weather balloon with a camera and a message for the current president of the United States of America. Billed as the “first protest in space,” it was intended to speak against the administration’s proposed budget cuts for NASA’s Earth science program, which according to ASAN “is invaluable to understanding climate change and making informed, data-driven policy decisions.”
(I highly recommend checking out at least a portion of their operatic 2:26:21 video of the balloon rising to 90,000 feet above the Arizona desert. Trigger warning: Flat Earthers, there is curvature present.)
The quote in ASAN’s protest tweet is a portion of a famous statement by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who in 1971 became the sixth person to walk on the moon. Speaking of the dramatic change in his perspective as a direct result of his space travel, Mitchell said:
“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
Mitchell’s mental and emotional changes summed up by this statement have been cited as perhaps the most dramatic example of a phenomenon called the “overview effect.”
According to Wikipedia, “The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void”, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ becomes both obvious and imperative.”
“When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half,” said astronaut Rusty Schweickart after a 1969 spacewalk during the Apollo 9 mission, “you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change. It comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.”
Mitchell shared his own experience of the overview effect as a “profound sense of connectedness, with a feeling of bliss and timelessness.” Mitchell said he felt intensely aware that each and every atom in the Universe is connected in some way. He was struck with what he explained as an “understanding that all the humans, animals, and systems were a part of the same thing, a synergistic whole.” He described it as an “interconnected euphoria.”
Frank White coined the term “overview effect” in 1987, and explored the concept in his book The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998). White also co-founded the Overview Institute “with the purpose of both researching and informing the world of the reality, nature, and potential of the overview effect.”
“We will also promote and support widespread experience of it,” according to the institute’s website, “through direct space travel, and newer, more powerful and more publicly available space art, multi-media and education.”
As part of this outreach effort, the feature-length film “Planetary” explores the topic with many first-hand accounts of the effect, and there is also an exquisitely beautiful 19 minute short version, “Overview,” available on Vimeo.
My immediate thought upon first reading about the overview effect: If this isn’t exactly the non-dual perception that is the progenitor of pantheism, there is at least an enormous overlap between them. My research enhanced and confirmed the idea in two fully connected and complementary ways which, being inseparable aspects of the same thing, I will call the “dual overview effect” of pantheism rather than pluralize them.
The term “pantheism” covers a broad range of thought, but it was coined to describe the ontological philosophy of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), the “God-intoxicated” heretic shunned by his Dutch Jewish community and feared by subsequent generations of conventional Judeo-Christian believers for his heterodox views of the Divine. Of his seminal work, Ethics, Hegel said, “Spinoza wrote the last indisputable Latin masterpiece, and one in which the refined conceptions of medieval philosophy are finally turned against themselves and destroyed entirely. You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.” High praise indeed.
To Spinoza, existence itself was a unified whole that was synonymous with the theistic concept of the Godhead . His neutral monism is often cited for its strong resemblance to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, in which Tao is neither a personal deity nor an impersonal force, but the singular essence and source of all seemingly separate things.
The idea of God or some conception of Absolute Being as the basic fabric of existence itself would have been familiar to any ancient culture east of Palestine or to mystics anytime and anywhere, and not unfamiliar to classical Western theists either. Pre-Enlightenment Roman Catholic luminaries like St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas would have shared a hearty laugh with Gautama Buddha or Lao-Tzu over the thought that God is a bearded man in the sky. Where Spinozan pantheism radically differs from orthodox Catholicism is that the distinction between Existence itself and what exists –between Creator and creation– is only conceptual; only a matter of where subjective attention is framed and focused, such as the difference between a canvas and a painting, or a dancer and the dance, and not an essential distinction, such as in the Christian model of Potter and pot.
Consider the relationship between a tree and its leaves. There is the obvious conceptual difference that any dictionary can validate, but is there an essential difference? Any quality of the leaf is also a quality of the tree. It is equally important to note that the tree is not “made of” leaves, branches, roots etc, in the way that a car is assembled from various parts –the parts of the tree are always aspects of the whole as it grows from seed to maturity. It would be inaccurate, therefore, to say there is a functional distinction as well, because everything the leaf does is also what the tree is doing.
It is a common misconception of pantheism that (to continue with the current analogy) it equates the leaf with the tree. The part and the whole are not identical, as the conceptual distinction correctly observes. Rather, to recognize the non-dual relationship of part and whole is to observe their conceptual distinction but keep it in its proper context of essential co-identity. In fact, the otherwise arbitrary definition of a part, relative to other parts, is the particular activity of the whole in that unique location, performing particular functions of the whole itself. The leaf, in other words, doesn’t do anything for the tree or in service of the tree. It is a specific activity of the tree; it is the tree in a unique time and place when-where the tree is “leafing.” It was never anything separate from the tree while it was this nexus of arboreal activity.
The non-dual relationship between the pantheist concept of God and creation is (literally) infinitely more profound and pervasive than the simple tree-leaf analogy. For one, the tree is also a temporary part of a greater whole –a forest, a landmass, the planet Earth, the Milky Way galaxy, the physical Universe: choose any of these and more, they are all correct. Furthermore, the leaf will one day fall from the tree and land on the ground; its elements will decompose and become part of the topsoil, which will help the tree continue to grow, as well as other trees from its seeds. To see the cyclical connection between ephemeral leaf and the more durable yet still finite tree, one must step back from the conceptual framework in which “tree” is the whole and see it as a part of “forest,” another system with its own vast set of complexities connected by non-dual relationships and lack of separation.
The pantheist concept of God is nothing less than the absolute Whole in which all possible partial relationships exist, the infinite unconditional ground in which all temporary, conditional, extant entities live and move and have their being –exclusive of nothing, conceptually distinct but not separate from anything that is, was, or will be. Keep this in mind, as it the key to seeing why the dual aspects of the overview effect are complementary and based in a single observation from just above our conditioned sense of self.
In short, pantheism expresses an holistic worldview. The universe, to a pantheist, is not just a system of interconnected parts, but an all-encompassing Whole –inclusive of all physical dimensions and the timeless, spaceless ground necessary for those dimensions to exist– manifesting in myriad ways and forms.
Holism takes little more than the intellectual dexterity to “pan back” from our typical scale of perception to see greater wholes as readily as we zoom in to examine the interaction of parts. The holons it reveals (a term for that which is both a whole and a part of a greater whole) do not bend reality or natural order in any way, they just reveal a broader perspective of reality than we are used to seeing. From our own visual scale, for instance, it is common sense knowledge that a human body is one unified “thing,” and not merely a temporary confluence of trillions of cells, interacting with each other and in constant material exchange with the surrounding environment to sustain the pattern of activity we call animate life. There is no reason to think that perception changes when we pan back and increase our scope to any scale we can imagine.
This becomes especially poignant when the scale expands to take in the oneness of our home planet, the only place that any animate life we know of so far has lived and died. Countless people have undoubtedly imagined this expansion of scope throughout human history, but only a handful in the extreme recent past have seen it with their own optical equipment and felt that effect imprinted on their nervous system. We should listen closely to what they say about it.
This physical moving of the self from a narrower to a wider scope of perception to see the oneness of a greater holon is the more obvious phenomenon, what I’ll call the “outward overlook effect.”
A precursor to the outward effect can be found in words attributed to Socrates in the Platonic dialogues:
“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives”
Even if the statement in the original Greek isn’t as sexy as that translation, the idea of rising above our earthbound perspective to see humanity in our true ecological context is not new, just the means to physically accomplish it. This opportunity for self-reflective contemplation seemed to surprise some of our early space explorers and the Mission Control crew receiving the first images beamed back from above:
“It was quite a shock,” said philosopher David Loy, speaking in the Overview film. “I don’t think any of us had any expectations about how it would give us such a different perspective. I think the focus had been, ‘We’re going to the stars, we’re going to the other planets.’ Suddenly we look back at ourselves, and it seems to imply a new kind of self-awareness.”
“One of the astronauts said, ‘When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking on looking back at the earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.” –David Beaver, co-founder of the Overview Institute
Perhaps the two most iconic images of the Space Age –“Earthrise” and the “Blue Marble,” both below to the right– do not focus on new cosmic discoveries, but on our old familiar home from this radically new perspective. These images are said to produce in us a diffused, vicarious kind of outward overview effect by stimulating us to imagine the real experience. Indeed, the timing of the birth of the environmental conservation movement in America –the first official Earth Day was in 1970; there is also a likely causal connection with the Gaia Hypothesis, developed by chemist James Lovelock in the early 1970s — suggests a direct relationship with the first moon landing and subsequent Apollo missions, and the cognitive shift of seeing Spaceship Earth in its true celestial context.
By extension, it should be easy to see this shift as a significant impetus behind a modern iteration of pantheism called spiritual naturalism, typified and popularized by groups like the World Pantheist Movement. Founded in 1999, the group focuses on a scientific approach to pantheism, meaning the aspects of an interconnected reality for which verifiable evidence can be obtained through the scientific method. The first three items in the group’s Belief Statement reveal a great deal of consistency with the ecological and holistic principles engendered by the overview effect:
- “We revere and celebrate the Universe as the totality of being, past, present and future. It is self-organizing, ever-evolving and inexhaustibly diverse. Its overwhelming power, beauty and fundamental mystery compel the deepest human reverence and wonder.
- All matter, energy, and life are an interconnected unity of which we are an inseparable part. We rejoice in our existence and seek to participate ever more deeply in this unity through knowledge, celebration, meditation, empathy, love, ethical action and art.
- We are an integral part of Nature, which we should cherish, revere and preserve in all its magnificent beauty and diversity. We should strive to live in harmony with Nature locally and globally. We acknowledge the inherent value of all life, human and non-human, and strive to treat all living beings with compassion and respect.”
By their own admission, I’ve found, spiritual naturalists tend to focus more fully or exclusively on the outward overview effect and an external expression of pantheism. This focus can be a tremendous source of strength, as it makes the philosophy accessible for those who would otherwise pay no mind to a holistic perspective. The manmade world desperately needs this perspective, and sensory-oriented personality types , who form a substantial majority of the global population, are not likely to receive it without the visceral feeling of oneness with life itself on a planetary scale, promoted by tangible icons like Spaceship Earth.
To me, the outward overview effect is only half of the picture. While the outward effect may be where the rubber meets the road of ecological action, the complementary “inward overview effect” –an interior perception of the oneness of consciousness– creates the space and stillness for contemplation, without which action will likely just create more problems.
The overlap point of the outward-inward effect is hinted at by author and Zen Buddhist teacher David Loy in the Overview film. Speaking of the sense of awe reported by the astronauts, he said:
“To have that experience of awe is, at least for the moment, to let go of yourself, to transcend that sense of separation. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them, but that they were at some very deep level integrating, realizing their interconnectedness with that beautiful blue-green ball.”
According to Frank White, “Many of the great wisdom traditions of the earth have pointed to what we’re calling the overview effect. They have realized this unity, this oneness of all life on earth and of consciousness and awareness.”
“As you go into your mind in a contemplative way, the sense of the living reality of the planet becomes obvious,” said David Beaver. “You become more in tune with the natural world. This is very akin to the direct perception the astronauts have. So it’s no wonder that so many people have likened the overview effect to a spiritual or meditative experience, though it’s not exactly that. It’s a cognitive shift that very often can induce a meditative experience.”
This is crucial distinction made here by Beaver. As said before of its counterpart, the inward effect does not alter the natural order of reality, but it reveals a deeper perspective of reality than we are used to seeing. The human mind, to borrow a phrase from Rusty Schweickart, is seen as the “sensing element” of universal Mind.
Suspicion of supernaturalism is strong in the modern world, and it is an accusation of which some will understandably find anything smacking of pantheism guilty until proven innocent. The contemplative traditions have a well-earned reputation in the West of delving into specious supernatural explanations for the perceptions that result from this kind of experience. But those explanations come from the cognitive processing, not the experience itself. A cognitive shift, such as from dualistic theism to non-dualistic pantheism, can cause the same experience to be processed in a different way.
Such a cognitive shift essentially says: “Yes, the ancient perception of God or the Divine realm was real, that perception has never changed since we became both lost enough to need it and sensitive enough to receive it. And here is an explanation for it that is more attuned to the physical facts of the universe that we have learned since then.”
Edgar Mitchell seemed to be the one who went the furthest in exploring the inward overview effect gained from space travel.
“After I came back, and tried to understand what this experience was all about, I could find nothing in the science literature about it, and nothing in the religious literature that I looked at. So I turned to the local university, and asked them to help me with what I saw. And they came back a few weeks later and said, ‘Well, in the ancient literature, we found a description called Savikalpa samadhi. They said that means that you see things as you see them with your eyes, but you experience them emotionally and viscerally with ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness. And I said, ‘Well that’s exactly what the experience was.’ And so it’s rather clear to me as I’ve studied this that it wasn’t anything new but it was something that was very important to the way we humans were put together.”
According to Paramahansa Yogananda (of Autobiography of a Yogi fame) via Wikipedia,
“Savikalpa samadhi is a state in which one lets go of the ego and becomes aware of Spirit beyond creation. The soul is then able to absorb the fire of Spirit-Wisdom that ‘roasts’ or destroys the seeds of body-bound inclinations. The soul as the meditator, its state of meditation, and the Spirit as the object of meditation all become one. The separate wave of the soul meditating in the ocean of Spirit becomes merged with the Spirit.”
The spiritual naturalist (always, it seems, more comfortable with his noun than its adjective) may balk at the religious terminology of this explanation –two theological concepts, soul and spirit, for which there is no more physical evidence than for the bearded man in the sky.
But consider how these terms could translate in the cognitive shift from theism to pantheism. “Soul” begins as the individual mind experiencing itself as an isolated pocket of consciousness in an unconscious world, living with the belief that this pocket will be extinguished when the body dies like the leaf falling from a tree, and hoping to find some kind of more durable ground in which it continues to exist. This is the self loaded down with dualistic assumptions which it cannot see past, just as someone standing alone on Earth’s surface is not inclined to see his home as a “blue marble” in space. So the soul enters a state of meditation that involves panning back from this limited concept of self –not physically as if in a spacecraft, but mentally, through inward contemplation of greater and greater holons of self, like a leaf realizing it is an activity of the tree/forest/landmass/Earth and so on. (One could logically call this contemplative exercize the soul itself, a verb rather than a noun, an idea I explored in this article.)
When the mind exhausts itself and can pan back no further, when there is no greater holon to be found, the “souling process” may then step beyond that and see itself as an activity of the “Spirit beyond creation” –infinite Universe. The soul is nothing other than the infinite, eternal ground of all Being which it sought.
The once lonely soul then realizes that, along with everything else that is, was, and will be, he is an activity of the Spirit, or God itself. Personal boundaries don’t vanish per se, but the conflicts that divide people become less important. The tense, panicky, sometimes terrorstruck stance of the individual ego, clinging with all its might to a single temporary life and out for all it can get to fill that life with riches and experiences, can relax, and let its egoism subside like a drowning man realizing he is water. Because of the inward overview effect, the contemplative has found himself affixed to the one all-encompassing timeless Tree from which no leaf will ever fall.
(This is just one among innumerable examples of a methodical approach to the savikulpa samadhi experience, a mystic showing his work instead of just giving the answer. Far more often, as happened with Mitchell and yours truly, the Spirit finds and overwhelms the soul first, without warning. In such a case, all the middlemen are skipped, the ego is simply submerged in Spirit, then typically, having survived, crawls upon a dry shore and comes back to its sense of separate selfhood, and is left to wonder what in the blazes just happened to it.)
This is why the outward overview effect needs to be balanced by the inward. Space travel and spiritual naturalism are enough to show us viscerally that Earth is one and we are all stardust. But the web of earthbound life is very fragile and even stardust is temporary; the creative potential from which it comes, by extrapolated definition, is not. We need to explore inwardly as well to realize creation is all part of some cyclical process without beginning or end, both an impenetrable mystery and the most familiar, essential aspect of birth-death-rebirth that we all know with utmost intimacy.
The inevitable conclusion of the wholly integrated overview effect is almost unfathomably astonishing: Just as all of physical existence can be shown to be a manifestation of a single entity, so can all consciousness be shown to be a manifestation of a single mind (or mental field, if you are too attached to the idea that mind equals brain). I tackled that concept in much greater depth in these articles. A key bullet point idea: If matter is the universal noun, mind is the universal verb –two ways of seeing the same thing-activity.
Again, all this would be no surprise to anyone whose core philosophy is non-dual, and there is nothing of it that violates any scientific sensibilities, (at least, among those who have not drawn hasty conclusions from incomplete data.)
One scientist who knew this as well as anyone was Erwin Schrödinger, one of the pioneers of quantum physics. Though most famous for simultaneously having and not having a cat, Schrödinger also wrote extensively in the later years of his life about the correlations between what he observed in the laboratory and the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual school of thought within the broader umbrella of Hinduism. Like Edgar Mitchell, it seemed that Schrödinger had to look East for answers that his classically trained Western mind could not produce with clarity regarding his scientific findings. His Wikiquote page is a treasure trove of these interdisciplinary gems, two of which, a long and a short one, I’ll add here as a sampler:
“It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling, and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. But not in this sense — that you are a part, a piece, of an eternal, infinite being, an aspect or modification of it… For we should then have the same baffling question: which part, which aspect are you? what, objectively, differentiates it from the others?  No, but, inconceiveable as it seems to ordinary reason, you — and all other conscious beings as such — are all in all. Hence, this life of yours… is, in a certain sense, the whole… This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula… ‘Tat tvam asi’ — this is you. Or, again, in such words as ‘I am in the east and in the west, I am below and above, I am this whole world.’ Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you … For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.”
“The total number of minds in the universe is one.”
Not what we thought we were getting into, perhaps, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to break the barrier of that ultrathin and ill-defined membrane holding all the oxygen that animate Terran life has ever breathed close to us. That was 56 years to the day before ASAN told the president of the United States to LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH. Space may indeed be our final frontier, but given that president’s notorious lack of interest in or capacity for contemplation, and the horrid state of religion in the country that allegedly elected him, it is fair to wonder which will be the more vital for us to explore: outer space or inner space…or both at once.
“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available … A new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” –Fred Hoyle, renowned British astronomer
Dude, you have no idea…
 From Wikipedia: Godhead (or godhood), is the divinity or substance (ousia) of the Christian God, the substantial impersonal being of God, as opposed to the individual persons or hypostases of the Trinity; in other words, the Godhead refers to the “what” of God, and God refers to the “who” of God.
 Referring to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, which according to the Myers and Briggs Foundation finds that around 3 out 4 people are “sensing” types as opposed to “intuitive.” Long story that I won’t get into here, but I’ll mention that informal surveys I’ve observed in pantheism discussion groups have all suggested, with no or virtually no exceptions, that those who identify as pantheist are uniformly intuitive personality types.
 In true Advaita Vedantic philosophy, conceptual distinctions are considered illusory and, ultimately, meaningless; only the unity of Brahman is real. This may seem to contrast with the position of this article, which more closely resembles Spinoza’s neutral/attributive monism, Taoism, and the branch of Vedanta called Vishishtadvaita, which means “qualified non-duality.” In this school of thought, Brahman (or Godhead) alone exists, but is characterized by or manifests as multiplicity. In other words, conceptual diversity is real, but all conceptual distinctions subsume to an underlying unity that is Brahman.
I mention this neither to confirm neutral monism nor quibble with Advaita, but to suggest that we not get ourselves derailed by the negligible difference between a universal reality and an all-inclusive illusion. Ultimately, Advaita and pantheism both perceive the unity that duality misses, and that is what really matters.
April 9, 2017 in Views
I have always admired C.S. Lewis with the respect due to a loyal opponent. He certainly wasn’t a mystic Christian, but he was no mindless fundamentalist. Although an apologist for a state religion I cannot condone or glorify, Lewis always wrote with a strong heart and intellect, and his arguments, though too boxy for my tastes, have helped create a significant minority population of what had become an endangered species: logically rigorous Protestants.
When this well-known quote was posted in the Pantheism Facebook group recently –“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”– I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support it received. We pantheists can be rapacious in our picking apart of anything that smacks of an Abrahamic religion, but we should be gentle with ideas about the soul, no matter what the source. It is far from the most egregious idea advanced by theism that we exist beyond these temporal manifestations, and in fact if there is one broad topic with which pantheists can agree without playing a lot of word games, that should be it.
But that last line, “You have a body,” is where Lewis’ Cartesian dualism is showing. If I come to believe that I am a soul that has a body, I am in danger of making that most grave error of the ages –giving immortal status to the fictional “ghost in the room,” my ego. When that happens, the religion that would be a remedy for the ego becomes a kind of intellectual cryogenic fluid to preserve it, and the scourge of self-centered fundamentalism is the result.
To deny the soul on these same terms and offer nothing else, however, might be worse, because it does nothing to address the ghost nor to explain the extrasensory perception that there is some form of continuity of self beyond the lines drawn by ego. When we lose that sense, we have the modern malady of “the ghost in the machine:” an ego that feels trapped in the body, believing itself to be isolated from its surroundings that are actually part of itself, yearning for a freedom it could have now except for the belief that it can only find it in death.
Pantheism can address this quandary by using its holistic principles to accept the intention of the soul-having or soul-being experience, while redefining what we mean by the concept. The pantheist soul is not something we are nor something we have –it is not a “something” at all. It is an action, what the universe does through us to keep us mindful of our true expansive nature.
To me, “soul” has always been one of those words that designates a function or activity rather than a thing, like “heartbeat” or “thought.”
Theism generally uses the word for an aspect of the self that survives the death of the body, and its function is to fuel the yearning for God while alive. It would be consistent with this usage, then, for a pantheist notion of soul as the natural self in its full eternal context, beyond its subjective experience of itself or an object of the analysis of others.
We are the timeless essence of Existence, expressing itself in time as you and me, him and her, this and that, giving each its own unique perspective of the Whole. The experience of the soul –perhaps the verb “souling,” however clumsy for its newness, is the clearest way to convey it– is to be uniquely aware of the the universality of this expression. The work of the soul –again, souling– is to relieve you of the sense that you are a worker, to let you be nothing other than Being itself, just as a heartbeat is nothing other than the heart beating, and a thought is nothing other than the mind thinking.
The soul is in no way separate from the body, but it is the body in its holistic sense rather than the semantic “my body/her body/their bodies” and the inherent implied dualism. In this sense, it becomes much more clear that the body is an activity of the universe. In the famous words of Buckminster Fuller:
“I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process –an integral function of the universe.”
Language made you believe you were a noun; the pantheist notion of soul fixes that.
The function that we could call the pantheist soul, then, is simply Truth, abundant and belonging to all, reminding us of what we are when we are lost in the limiting ego. Where a duality of body and soul –or negation of soul, leaving the duality of self and other unchecked– leads to a sense of isolation, a non-duality of soul gives us both the Buddhist sense of interbeing (the “Oneness with everything” experience) and the opportunity to practice compassionate love for all from a unique perspective of soul. What more natural way could there be to put pantheism into practice, or follow the New Commandment: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)
To tell people that they have no soul, while not untrue in the vernacular sense, is thus misleading, or at least squanders a great opportunity to connect a specious theistic idea with a life-enhancing truth to which we can all relate, because it is a real experience we all have that brings us closer to God (aka Reality as an interconnected web of Being) in our fragmentary thoughts. As a pantheist, I don’t have a soul, but soul definitely has me.
February 21, 2017 in Views
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” —Thomas Aquinas
“Faith means not wanting to know what is true.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
“Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: ‘Ye must have faith.'” —Max Planck
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” —Richard Dawkins
“‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith, faith.” —George Michael
Like “God” and “divine,” faith is one of those pesky words that seems to erode the meaning of any sentence where it is placed rather than contribute to it.
On one hand, there are intelligent people who tell us that faith is a kind of extrasensory perception and a necessary complement to reason in order to access a level of truth that is super-rational. On the other hand, there are intelligent people who tell us that is rubbish and that faith, as a synonym of belief, can only be an impediment to reason. Then there are others (Alan Watts was a great example) for whom faith is an antonym of belief, describing the trust and confidence to let go and accept the unknown.They are all true of course, and if you stitch them all together, you come up with a spectrum that covers the whole radius of the layered circle of Metatheology we introduced in this section’s homepage.
My definition of faith can be summed up in this quote that a friend shared with me recently, of which there are many variations and sources:
“Faith and fear cannot live in the same body at the same time”
I love what that does to the concept of faith: It is simply the absence of fear. So simple, yet true across the whole spectrum. (Because religion is primarily concerned with the art of living gracefully given the inevitability of pain and impending death, for our purposes here I will define “fear” as our natural aversion to these persistent bugaboos.)
Since the idea that faith is not necessarily synonymous with belief will be a novel one to many in Judeo-Christian cultures, let’s explore that for a moment before looking at the spectrum.
Imagine you are driving along a highway, having a pleasant trip through some beautiful country, and suddenly out of the corner of your eye you see a big black sign with letters that glow like fire, saying:
The number is too blurry to read, but you’re spooked as hell now and need to know what it says. You try to go back for another look, but you realize that you can’t –you can’t even stop or slow down. Until that moment, you were pretty certain you were driving the car, but now you know the car is driving you.
In the back of your mind, you also know this coming event is literally not the end of the world –life will go on without you as it went on before you and continues to go on with you. But a very significant part of you feels desperate to know that it also won’t be the end of your world. For what is the point of this short, often difficult life if it can just go POOF at any moment and in the greater scheme of things it will be as if it never happened?
Exoteric religion, with its gospels, scriptures, and oral traditions that it takes either literally or with the slightest nod to their symbolism, offers an antidote to this fear in a belief that there is an invisible, non-corporeal counterpart to the physical self that will persist when the body disintegrates. The harbinger of death in this cryptic road sign, then, is not to be feared because this death does not kill the real you; the essential, eternal, existential self persists beyond this temporal experience. You will find that this truth persists throughout the spectrum of faith, though its nature will change dramatically.
Theology is the beginning of a trail of bread crumbs leading from literalism to esoteric practice to mystic experience and eventually into the cloud-hidden realm of metatheology. Most religious people, realizing they’ve found manna from heaven but ignoring the trail, crowd into the trailhead and fight over the limited apportionment of crumbs, and likewise most atheist rebuttals of faith only address this crowd because it is like shooting fish in a barrel. But faith, if it is the absence of fear, and is to be a journey rather than a destination, implies an undertaking and a venturing down this trail, armed with beliefs at first perhaps, but increasingly only with confidence and trust –the other side of the prosaic definition of faith.
So you can have faith in words written by someone else, as at the outermost layer of the diagram, describing events you never experienced, creating a certainty you don’t fully understand, but still, there goes the fear –except, perhaps, for the creeping anxiety called “doubt,” the low-grade fear that you don’t have the “right” words, or you aren’t doing the right things with them, and so on. It is still a rather egocentric faith, in other words, and if this is the only source of your faith, you will defend those words beyond your own death. This is the aspect of religion with which we are all too familiar, and probably would be better off without…if not for the bread crumb trail leading away from it.
Because you can also have faith instilled by new insights from the multidimensional inkblot test of religion that revealed deeper truths than what you could access before. Maybe those words and symbols constructed by someone else stirred something in you and suddenly became very personal, a small shift by the lever of metaphor causing a large portion of your inner being to rise up. Maybe the rising is temporary, maybe not, but while it is risen there is no room in the vessel for fear. This is the beginning of the experiential aspect of religion, encouraged by esoteric practices specific to each tradition, found in the middle blue circle. Most mainstream churches dabble in esoterica, dipping their toes in it from the safety of the outer circle, but without the full immersion that would make further progress toward the center possible.
In pantheistic modes of thought –which are found closer to the center– faith becomes less about adherence to verbal professions of literal beliefs, and more about the suspension of belief in linear time as an absolute, despite the pervasive evidence of rational thought and the measurable fact that 78 seconds of my lifetime passed in the typing of this sentence. In other words, linear time is experientially true but ontologically false, such as how a road sign recedes behind you and eventually disappears beyond the horizon as you drive away from it, even though in reality we know it neither diminishes nor disappears.
As non-dual thought compels your sense of self to expand from a single passenger in the car to a field which includes the sign and all the space in between, the importance of the progression of time-space toward your personal doom is what recedes and eventually disappears behind an event horizon that is alternately called enlightenment, salvation, metanoia, moksha, et al. You will still experience the progression of time, but you will know it is occurring within the context of a greater self that is timeless –perhaps best rendered as a tiny segment within the constant arc of a circle. Your life is the segment, but Life itself is the circle, and pantheism informs us that you are That.
It is important to note the even the most exoteric religions are an attempt to rationalize the co-existence of linear time and eternity through symbolic language, such as in Christianity, in which the life of Christ models the birth-death-rebirth cycle of Nature. The difference between the trailhead and the trail is solely based on one’s individual comfort level in leaving literalism and duality behind and venturing into contemplation of the symbols as archetypes of something greater, non-dual, and more intangible but superrationally real. Whereas exoteric belief compels us to accept that the Jesus character is literally the theos, in esoteric faith, this becomes more of a trust that Jesus, declaring himself one with the Father and “the Life,” personifies a holistic image of God as Creator and creation undivided. He metaphorically represents Life in his sacrificial atonement because his birth-death-rebirth cycle is symbolic of what all Life experiences, not individually but as a whole. So esoteric faith is about letting go of narcissistic attachment to the limited life of the mortal self and identifying with Life or Existence itself, represented by Christ. (Krishna imparts a very similar lesson to the mortal Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita.)
Going further inward, you can also have faith because, at some point of supersaturation of insight in your mind or for no discernible reason at all , love rushes in and pushes fear out. Something unknown gives you confidence that you can accept whatever happens around that bend in the road. Something tells you that it never stops bending, and the road leads home in a full circle. Maybe you’ve become so confident in that circle that you’ve lost all sense that there was a starting point called birth, so the idea of crossing a finish line became meaningless.
The mystic experience of the inner circle happens when the letting go of the individual self is complete. It is the actual awakening to the reality that the “I” experience of selfhood is tantamount to being Life itself –called agape (ah-GAH-pay) love in Christianity, shanti in the Vedanta, satchitananda in Buddhism. To the Christian mystic, the universe is the Body of Christ, and the Eucharist (the ceremony commemorating the Last Supper, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed) is a ritual dramatization of the process by which Life perpetuates Life by self-sacrifice.
This is the fully experiential aspect of faith, the beginning of actual awareness of oneself as a unique manifestation or fractal of the Whole. The “I” experience is real and present, but it is known to belong to the universal Self, called by the various names shown in the inner circle. Cultural specificity is minimal though, as mystics tend to speak a language more similar to each other than the one from which they originated.
When you reach the final stage of faith, you’ve stopped being a vessel that can carry fear. Light doesn’t shine on itself, and water doesn’t carry water. If you cease to be a container for your emotions, where do they go?
Metatheology, represented by the wordless red dot in the center, ventures beyond the “I” and names altogether, where even ideas like God, Logos, Brahman, Tao etc are too constraining. According to Eknath Easwaran in the introduction to his translation of the Upanishads, this corresponds with a state of yogic practice called turiya —literally “the fourth,” for it lies beyond waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. Turiya is like waking up in dreamless sleep, in the very depths of the unconscious, where one is aware of neither body nor mind. And when one comes back into the temporal sense of self from turiya, all previous identities resulting from social conditioning, even the limitations of space and time, are seen as the shadow puppets and temporary illusions they are. As the Sufi poet Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī wrote (translated by Daniel Ladinsky):
So much from God
That I can no longer
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
A Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even pure
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.
With a faith such as this, a drop of water becomes the Ocean.
How far you go from mere belief along the trail of faith is a matter of individual will –or, you could say, it begins as a matter of will, then becomes a matter of letting go of the will and trusting yourself to float on the water…and then simply being the water. But at every step along the path, there is nothing to fear, and no one to fear it anyway.
 It should be noted that not everyone begins at the trailhead of faith. Some people, the author included, have experiences that drop them, with a graceful dive or ungraceful plunk, into mysticism or even metatheology. They often feel compelled to follow the breadcrumb trail back to something more familiar to get their bearings.
February 4, 2017 in Views
Oh, Rush. You’ve done it again.
One could build a fairly comprehensive and accurate dictionary just by taking the definitions you give to words that you don’t understand, and writing the opposite.
A recent victim of your linguistic vericide was “pantheism.” To refresh your memory, here are some quotes from The Rush Limbaugh Show, a segment titled “The Pope’s ‘Science Advisor’ Is an Atheist Who Worships the Earth,” as reported by Salon.com:
“The word for [the Pope’s science advisor, Hans Schellnhuber] in the story that I found, one of the most credible stories, is a pantheist, which is a variation of atheist.”
(“Really?” retorts Salon’s Steve Neumann in the article. “An a-theist is someone who doesn’t believe in God, but a pan-theist is someone who believes that God is the universe, or that the universe is a manifestation of God. You know, “pan” means “all” and “theos” means “God,” and all that.”)
Apparently you went on to say:
“a pantheist is somebody that believes the earth is a living organism that has the equivalent of a brain and reacts to horrible things done to it by humans,” and that in this view “the earth becomes the deity and there is no God.”
Now, as fantastical as this statement is, I believe there is an explanation. To be fair, I am sure you are far too busy popping pills and divorcing wives to do all of your own research, and I’m guessing that one of your minions googled “pantheism” and was led to a website for the World Pantheist Movement. Seems like a good place to start a fact-finding mission –a group that infers it represents the wide world of pantheism…well, not so much, I’m afraid. What the WPM promotes is more accurately called “religious naturalism,” a deep sense of awe and reverence for/connection with Nature itself (which includes the cosmos, as the earth is not a closed system), and a disavowal of the supernatural as an explanation for phenomena we experience. (Nature, we like to say, is super enough.) This is an aspect of most people’s experience of pantheism, as Trinitarianism is an aspect of many branches of Christianity. But just as you can’t learn much about the nuts and bolts of Christianity by studying the Trinity alone, WPM’s version of pantheism doesn’t tell the whole story either. I can understand how a quick glance at the WPM site would create the impression that all pantheists fit the atheist/neo-pagan dirt-worshipping treehugger cliche you abhor.
Even so, your Young Republican intern had to read very carelessly and use A LOT of repressed imagination to conclude that WPM promotes the idea that the earth has a cerebral cortex, or that the earth by itself is a deity to idolize. Personally, I would have the poor kid sacked; not the kind of researcher a credible news source ought to be using. But I can’t tell you how to run your radio empire (and his shoddy work seems to be the rule at Excellence In Broadcasting rather than the exception).
What I will do instead, in the tradition of the successful “____ for Dummies” book franchise, is offer this brief primer for you to share with the folks you affectionately call “Dittoheads:” the “Rush said it, I believe it, that settles it” crowd who you cultivated to revere you as a prophet. There are probably a great many Dittoheads out there who are misinformed about pantheism now, and I’d appreciate your help in correcting this.
I will let these two articles (Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) furnish most of the historical facts. To summarize: Pantheism is neither theism nor atheism, but rather an emergent third option, drawing from properties of both to form a unique perspective. One pioneer of pantheism in its interface with mainstream European culture was Giordano Bruno, an Italian monk who evangelized about an immanent and infinite God. Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 by the Roman Inquisition. The name “pantheism” was not used in English however until 1705 by Irish writer John Toland, to describe the worldview of the vastly influential 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. From Wikipedia: “[Spinoza] was described as a ‘God-intoxicated man,’ and used the word God to describe the unity of all substance.”
While the ideas espoused by Bruno and Spinoza were novel to orthodox Western thinkers and theologians, they were really just recontextualizing an idea as old as time, prevalent in traditional Eastern philosophy and among some Western mystics: that all of existence is the manifestation of some ineffable manner of Oneness. Not a Creator-creation model like the Potter and the pot, but something more like what William Butler Yeats expressed when he wrote:
“O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
In pantheism, God is both the Dancer and the dance. We can never observe this God as we observe a dancer dancing though –not because it is supernatural or invisible as theists propose, but because the observation includes the observer. We can’t step out of existence and observe existence as a whole. We can’t even look directly at the back of our own heads, let alone at a totality that includes all of ourselves. We are part of the God we seek.
Largely because of its roots in cultures preceding and generally foreign to our own, pantheism suffers a bit from a perceived exoticism, or a notion of some “out there” philosophy dug up by New Agers from the crypts of history, automatically irrational and inferior to the dominant paradigm of our era. In reality, pantheism is as simple as learning to simultaneously see the forest and all the trees. And it doesn’t need to replace Christianity as a religious worldview –in fact, by the time this piece is done, I hope to demonstrate why I believe pantheism is a necessary condition for the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s gospel, the product of what Christians call “metanoia.” Strange as it may seem, pantheism shows us the alpha and omega of not only the Christian religion, but all major religions at once.
The key to understanding pantheism is a concept called non-duality, the idea that the universe and all its multiplicity are ultimately expressions or appearances of one essential reality, and that even dissimilar, conflicting objects and phenomena share a single identity in this reality. Here is a simple explanation from Advaita Vedanta teacher Nirmala via his website, Endless Satsang:
“Often the question arises, “If it is all one thing, why don’t I experience it that way?” This is confusing oneness for the appearance of sameness. Things can appear different without being separate. Just look at your hand for a moment. Your fingers are all different from each other, but are they separate? They all arise from the same hand. Similarly, the objects, animals, plants and people in the world are all definitely different in their appearance and functioning. But they are all connected at their source—they come from the same source.”
When Christians talk of Jesus as being “fully God and fully human,” this refers to a non-dual relationship; it is only possible if what it is to be one is wholly contained within the other, as a finger to a hand –in this case, to be human is contained within what it means to be God. Where theism struggles with this, non-dualistic pantheism says “Of course! How can we tell the Dancer from the dance?”
Non-duality can be further explained with a simple analogy. Right now as I write this, I am in a place called Enfield. But I am also in New York. There is no contradiction in this because Enfield is a part of New York; New York doesn’t begin where Enfield ends. There is a non-dual relationship between them.
Now I’ve left Enfield and driven home to Ithaca, crossing a boundary line between them…but I never left New York. This is less obvious than the previous example, but the relationship between Enfield and Ithaca is also non-dual, because both towns are not just themselves alone –they share a co-identity as New York. New York unites what on the surface appears to be two separate entities, but are really just two aspects of New York. This is an example of Dual Aspect Monism. The best known model for this is the yin-yang symbol from Taoism, a philosophy that dates back to pre-Common Era China. The black and white portions of the symbol contrast with each other, but together they comprise a seamless whole called Tao.
There is another model of dual aspect monism even closer to home though. It is important to note that “dual” does not mean the logic is limited to two components; this is simply the threshold at which what is one can appear to be multiple –or “legion” if you prefer some gospel lingo– but in truth can be reconciled as a unity. Add a third component –how about the town of Ulysses, New York– and now you have the logic of the Trinity. If you can understand and accept how “three-in-one, one-in-three” works, you can understand non-duality. But why stop at three?!? Throw all the towns and cities and hamlets of New York into the mix –they are all made One by the greater co-identity. There is no real limit to the number of components that can make up a monad.
Imagine that: By contemplating the mystery of the Trinity, Christians are preparing their minds to grasp pantheism! But it isn’t a mystery –or I should say, it is only a mystery to the mind confounded by dualism, by the idea that reality is built like language with discrete and separate packets of existential integrity in the way that subjects and verbs and objects build sentences. If “God” can be such a subject or object, the dualistic mind reasons, it must signify something that can be separated from other things with distinct meaning. But reality isn’t built of separate parts like a car on an assembly line, or like a sentence with distinct words. Your body wasn’t made by a separate creator who put together a head, a torso, two arms and legs etc; your body grew those parts from its origin as a single cell. Parts are creations of the whole. God grows us the way you grow neurons and taste buds and fingernails.
Non-dual logic, in other words, shows us that it is possible (in fact, inevitable) for anything to be the forest and the trees. Pantheism takes that logic to the infinite degree, and shows that what creates and sustains and dissolves and recreates all things in the universe is precisely HERENOW, and you are That.
“…The magic touch of the Master that day immediately brought a wonderful change over my mind. I was astounded to find that really there was nothing in the universe but God! I saw it quite clearly, but kept silent to see whether the impression would last; but it did not abate in the course of the day. I returned home, but there too, everything I saw appeared to be Brahman [God]. I sat down to take my meal, but found that everything—the food, the plate, the person who served, and even myself—was nothing but That.”
–from “The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples.”
Don’t be a dummy! Read more about pantheism and non-duality at Not Two
February 4, 2017 in Views
There are millions of reasons to be an atheist
–go back twenty-five years in linear time and I’ll tell you most of them–
but they don’t add up to the one reason not to be: the love of God.
The most ambiguous phrase ever spoken,
a perfect void of meaning, you say?
Empty as a blank canvas….
Well, you can paint as well as I;
Has there ever been a wrong painting?
Love is the lack of wrongness; the painting is God.
You can take my definition and rip it apart
tear it into those million pieces that testify against the One.
Wonderful –now the painting is a mosaic.
Only what is partial can be broken. What is Whole will never be less.
So I’ll see your reasons, and I’ll raise you One,
for the same infinite Energy that exploded from singularity and became the cosmos
just caused you to breathe in and out,
and moved my thumb across a keypad, creating words to share with you, giving me reason to live,
and that is fucking awesome.
More stuff like this at Not Two
February 4, 2017 in Views
A fellow named “Joe Self” recently asked the Biopantheism Facebook group about our thoughts on an afterlife. Here’s what I wrote to Joe Self:
Before trying to determine what happens to us in the afterlife, I suspect, we need to be very clear about what we are in the beforedeath.
You can think of Joe Self as nothing more than the organism (short for “organize-ism,” a particular way that Existence has organized itself into a thing that exists) that people call by this name, existing alone in a subnatural state (1). If you do this, however, there is nothing about the afterlife you can know for certain, and you would probably be disappointed in the results if you could. Joe Self is a wave in an Ocean of consciousness–a very special wave that learned to think and speak and do a few other tricks, but still just a temporary aspect of the Ocean.
The linear timeline of Joe Self’s existence had a beginning, so it will also have an end, forming a tiny segment of the circular flow of time that we call Nature, or Life. Circumnavigating Life as the essence of Joe Self in the form of a “soul” is a dualistic answer that begs the question of why it needed the vehicle of an organism in the first place, so I would not advise relying on that.
Is it possible that the Ocean of consciousness will rearrange through its continuous flow in a way that reorganizes an organism with the exact same sense of being and identity that Joe Self has now? Will the circle come around to the exact same relative patterns of existence that produce a person feeling this exact sense of “I” you have now, in other words? Well, it is not less possible than the miracle that arranged itself to make you happen here and now, and multiverse/string theories seem to leave that possibility wide open –maybe that’s even why we have afterlife fantasies, though it would make more sense to call them parallel lives because the multiverses “co-exist” outside of each others’ space-time structures. (Our rational mind, operating in four-dimensional space-time without further information, will always want to render them as consecutive segments rather than parallel.) This is probably the most reasonable option for preserving your sense of Joe Self as a continuous phenomenon.
But the truth of that possibility will stay beyond the event horizon in the unknowable Great Mystery, never anything more than theoretical to Joe Self. Linear time leads to a lake of fire that never gives up its dead. Do you want to spend this brief time hoping there are parallel lives and speculating about them? I don’t.
Instead, I suggest doing what the wise ones have always professed: while existing as a wave, learn that you are also the Ocean, or Existence itself.
While carving out this life from the substance of space-time, learn that you are also the Uncarved Block called Life itself.
As you inch your way around the circumference of the circle, experiencing it as a line and fearing its inevitable end, learn that you are also a whole, unbroken circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere, commonly (but not exclusively) known as God. This limitless potential becomes the turning circle of Life through an eternal process of incarnation, decarnation, and reincarnation, and you, unbeknownst to Joe Self, are That.
Trying to preserve Joe Self, you will lose him. Let Joe Self go for the sake of Life, and you will find Life everywhere, everywhen.
Instead of worrying about the afterlife of Joe Self, know with immediacy and certainty that you are the Self. Let all thought of the beforedeath and afterlife melt into the wholeness of Eternal Life.
(1) “Subnatural” is a new pantheist/Biotheistic term that challenges the idea that our reductionist, subject-object dualistic perception in linear time is “natural” –implying that anything which breaks this mold must be supernatural. Instead, this worldview is considered subnatural, while non-duality is seen in its proper context as what is natural. The Hindu concept of the illusion of Maya is an example of reality distorted by subnatural perception.
February 4, 2017 in Views
Are you bored of the endless debate between evolutionists and creationists, theists and atheists? Not sure which is more ridiculous: Hollywood’s War on Religion or Hollywood’s War on Unbelievers? Did the whole “Ham on Nye” charade leave you shaking your head, wondering how we got into this dichotomous mess and what a third voice would sound like?
There is good news. The universe is bored with it too. Change is on the horizon.
In The God Delusion, his (in)famous salvo aimed at everything held sacred by everyone, Richard Dawkins dismissed pantheism as “sexed-up atheism.” He was right, in a way. But he got it exactly backwards. The small container goes inside the bigger one. Atheism is pantheism for prudes.
I believe the stage is set for pantheism to emerge as the hallmark worldview for a new human era, the focal point of a great paradigm shift for the 21st century. It is tantalizingly close even now, and many are already touching its pulse without knowing so. Pantheism is the alpha of theism and the omega of atheism, the end goal of the romantic heart, the rational mind, and the homeward bound soul. And the awesome part is that nothing needs to happen to deliver us. The Reality at the root of pantheism is here now, waiting for you to discover it for yourself.
Wikipedia defines pantheism as “the belief that the universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God.” It is mistaken, however, to assume that pantheism is a religious movement in the classic sense. In creating a platform for science, philosophy and art to come together with the fervor of religion, pantheism becomes a unitive phenomenon much greater than any of these alone.
One peculiar thing about pantheism is how obscure yet ordinary it is, and the big secret about it is that there is no secret at all. There is no esoterica behind the knowledge of pantheism. The pantheist experience is nothing other than cognitive awareness of non-dual Reality –simply put, this is the individual becoming aware that her self-awareness does not make her separate from her surroundings, that any sense of separation is illusory.
When we look out at the world, we perceive distinct objects that have names and spatial integrity, and we think unique thoughts about our perceptions. This does not change with a non-dual perspective; it simply becomes clear that distinction and dualistic thoughts do not cause separation in Reality. The unity is in the background, like the pages of a book or the canvas behind a painting. At first, this non-dual Reality is as invisible as the retinae of your eyes– which means that you will never see it until you realize that it is the absolute ground of your vision, and everything you see is happening upon it. Then you will literally never take your eyes off of it.
The non-duality behind pantheism is the logical extension of something we have all known at times in varying degrees. Just the simple experience of being One with that which you love, recognized for what it really means: you are not “you” alone.
Love is the bond between what appears to be disconnected. To love means to share our whole being, to let down the intellectual walls we built to protect and separate our sense of self from others. The pantheist simply takes love to its logical conclusion. Once the experience of non-duality visits us, there is no reason to think that anything in the universe is separate from us or anything else– therefore, when we open ourselves to the universe, the universe loves us back. The boundaries we drew around us and between us disappear, and love rushes in.
The implication is profound: There is more to your life than a flicker of existence as an organism. Your true Self is the universe, boundless and eternal. To see the world as a pantheist is literally to be the universe being aware of itself.
The experience of pantheism, therefore, is unchained Love, extending our sense of self omnidirectionally, cleansed of sentimentality and possessiveness, released from the selfish grip of the ego that wants to constrict Love and channel it only to where its interests are served.
Though it shares the Greek root word theos, translated as “God,” pantheism stretches the God concept beyond anything debated by theists or atheists. That debate occurs within the confines of dualism, the mode of thought created by the walls of separate selfhood, projecting God as a mysterious infinite being somehow separate from its creation. The theos postulated by pantheism is numinous and ineffable, immeasurable and transcendent of all categories, including that of an “object” to be analyzed by subjects. Non-dual Reality isn’t limited to the definitions imposed by verbal categories and the “yay or nay” aspect of (dis)belief in specific images of it.
By taking no sides, pantheism stays vital and available to all. Its influence is intrinsic to the practice of every human religion –think of it as the leavening agent that enables an individual to rise above the verbal limitations of his/her own theological suppositions– and, according to the sound rational assessment of Werner Heisenberg and others, it is the same for the natural sciences as well. Therefore pantheism neither confirms nor denies any gods or other avatars of our interior landscapes, but it creates boundless space for the human imagination to envision them– or not, in favor of keeping that sacred space open for whatever may enter it, or focusing on our sacred exterior world.
It is a desire to hold space for the ineffable blank slate of pantheism that makes us slow to give a name to the Oneness we perceive– not, as is often assumed, a lack of reverence for the general religious experience or even a specific traditional framework for it. To the contrary, reverence seems to be the one and only constant across the pantheistic paths. When Frank Lloyd Wright wrote, “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature,” he wasn’t relegating God to the mundane or profane — he was elevating Nature to the divine. Likewise, a Christian mystic may harbor a profound belief in the healing power of his Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that salvation consists of the pantheistic notion of forgetting all traces of the illusion that he was ever separate from the infinite Body of Christ in the first place. And then there are eloquent pantheists like Walt Whitman who find all the evidence for the unity of God that they need in a leaf of grass.
It truly does take all types! There is plenty of room under the pantheist sky for Heisenberg and Dawkins, Ham and Nye. As Einstein implied in saying, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” the pantheist values creativity and all-inclusiveness over correctness and precision. If loving everyone and everything is wrong, pantheists don’t want to be right.
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