This is an attempt to give an example of the internal processes I used in making a shift of perspective and an illustration of how my perspective shifted. There are a lot of examples I could use, but I feel that this one is appropriate on many levels. I've placed it here in Belief modules, because it also outlines a particular belief of mine.
A pre-growth assumption that I carried was that honesty is dangerous. Most people don't want to hear the truth. They would rather stay in their illusions. Many might even consider it an act of cruelty if I were to force them to become aware of a truth that they found unsettling. If I tell the truth people will not like me, they may even become cruel to me. Dishonesty is a necessary part of life.
This assumption needed to be examined more closely. I asked myself questions. What would happen if everyone suddenly became really honest? Would there be a real negative consequence to this? Is it possible that I am a person that would rather stay in my own illusions? What illusions am I trying to maintain? Are those illusions making me a better person? Do my own illusions interfere with my ability to be honest with others?
My conclusion (which is a conclusion in progress and not a final conclusion, because I am always open to the possibility of shaping it through further understanding) is that I have not always been honest with myself about the state of my own honesty. I have turned to dishonesty as a way to avoid criticism or consequences. I wanted to pretend that I was more honest than I really was, so calling another person on their dishonesty threatened my own illusions. If I told them the truth, they might tell me the truth. Dishonesty was not a way to protect others, it was a way to protect myself. But I did not want to remain so weak a person as to be unwilling to hear and acknowledge truth.
I began examining the situations in which I have considered myself truthful. I paid particular attention to the conversations I was engaging in at the time. I set the intention of being honest, even when it seemed like a bad idea. I paid attention to the way people spoke when they were being honest. I made a decision to acknowledge and thank others for their honesty even if I disagreed or felt very uncomfortable. I paid very close attention to my own discomfort. And analyzed and broke down my reactions and responses. I began to recognize that my discomfort was a clue to an illusion I did not want to let go. I tried to figure out why I wanted to keep that illusion, where it came from, and what I was afraid of if I were to let it go. . I let the illusions fall away, even though I had doubts that anything real was beyond them. I came to realize that most of my illusions were variations on real truths that I didn't completely understand or trust.
Once I spent enough time thinking about these things and paying attention to my habits, I became better at expressing myself in a genuine way. I learned many truths about honesty. These are subjective truths but they are truths nonetheless.
Criticism is not honesty. We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect. Criticizing another is a way of protecting oneself and maintaining a solid barrier against interference. Honesty is not aggressive. It is not self-defensive. It does not cause pain. Honesty is as comfortable with silence as it is with expression. When I am coming from an honest place, I don't "need" to be honest, I can "choose" to be. The need to tell it like it is, is not motivated from a sense of honesty, it is motivated from a sense of superiority. My sense of superiority can motivate me create a façade of false honesty. People can use this false honesty against me, but true honesty in not reversible. It acts to defend itself, and requires no effort on my part. When I am willing to own my own actions, my own mistakes, I am no longer vulnerable to attack. There may be individuals who don't like me, but when I am comfortable with myself they no longer have power to hurt me. Any dishonest approach becomes completely ineffectual. The only approach that is left is truth. They can either tell me what I already know, or they can tell me something new. Most people tell me what I already know. People who are trying to be hurtful can't see deep enough into me to identify the things I don't know already, because they are unwilling to look deeply into themselves. They assume that what they perceive on the surface is the whole picture. People who can see past the surface are usually helpful and kind, because they have dealt with the same issues within themselves. When they tell me a new truth about myself I listen, and I explore that truth, and begin to understand myself better.
Good stuff Joy. You've obviously done a lot of introspective work and benefited as a result.
Honesty is an interesting topic because many many people, with no religious or spiritual inclination, subscribe wholeheartedly to the notion. So, how does your experiment in honesty (with self and others) relate to a spiritual belief system or journey?
You seem to be saying that honesty can protect you from what the ancients called maya or illusion. It's interesting how in some religio-spiritual communities have personified the concept of maya into the "Hindoo" moon goddess Maya - more. In the West, we have personified "the veil of illusion" into the great deceiver - satan, at least in my humble opinion. So yes, illusion must be separated from reality in order for truth to be uncovered and honesty (of self and with others) is integral in this process.
I agree that most people are uncomfortable with others who claim to be honest and are not shy to show it. Being honest with others probably does far less to "positively" influence others than it does to protect those who are internally honest and congruent. But congruent with what? Congruent with a broad or coherent framework or cosmology that explains how honesty (truth) works with individuals like you. This framework or metaphysical cosmology would be an abstract representation of reality. There are many cosmologies out there. Most religions have a cosmology. Religious philosophies (religions) use cosmology as a way to explain that which we exist within and also provide rules and guidelines to function effectively this reality.
So what's your cosmology? Do you have one? A (metaphysical) cosmology might begin address such questions as:
1/ Who/what am I?
2/ Why am I here (purpose/role) ?
3/ Where did I come from?
4/ Why do some suffer greatly while others little or not at all?
5/ etc . . . .
I have a cosmology but mine is pieced together from various bits of knowledge and personal awareness. I am a self labeled pagan, but my belief path diverges in many way from traditional neopaganism, and naturally is divergent from any from of ancient paganism.
It's easiest to describe my cosmology in components, and I will keep the descriptions as brief as possible, so if a concept in unclear feel free to ask questions.
God in three parts- I believe in a 3 part god, but unlike Christianity's Holy Trinity or Wicca's Triple Goddess this is not a gendered concept. Part 1. God is a non conscious tendency toward the creation of complex patterns... any pattern that can be tried will be, if the pattern is stable enough it becomes the foundation for a new layer of complex patterns. Part 2. God is a non-specific universal consciousness which shapes reality through the actions and awareness of specific conscious beings. Part 3. God is a specific personified consciousness with the goal and intention of creating a harmonious balance of all aspects of creation, is willing and able to intercede to a limited degree but respects the individuals rights to self determination and participation in self defined reality.
Time is non-linear. Although time appears to be a linear phenomenon from an individual narrative perspective, the universe/reality is not constrained by the laws/illusions of linear time. From the perspective of divine consciousness the only time is now. Reality is in a state of constant flux. Conscious beings are active participants in shaping reality, and narrative plays a vital part in an individual's ability to interact meaningfully with the universe/reality. The past stands in as that which is knowable to the individual. The future stands in as that which is unknown but predictable in a limited way (as in we can calculate probabilities but never certainties... we foresee trends but rarely specifics). Now is the vital edge of the universe, where the most meaningful changes take place.
I am an active creator of the vital living universe. I am an aspect of God. I do not hold this information in my consciousness at all times. I lose sight of it when I become tuned into my ego consciousness/personal suffering. I participate in ego consciousness willingly because it allows me to engage meaningfully with other ego conscious individuals. It is a necessary part of shaping reality. God consciousness is incapable of worry and is at peace with suffering as a natural part of the human condition. Ego consciousness worries and dislikes the experience of suffering. God becomes compassionate by experiencing suffering through human ego consciousness.
Suffering exists because humanity is engaged in the formulation of a new level of complex patterning. We label our new level of patterning civilization, society, culture, government, religion. We are searching for stable patterns of relationship that can maintain large numbers of ego conscious individuals harmoniously without self destruction or vulnerability to competing patterns. We are participating in the evolution of social patterning. Just as individual life forms eventually fit into niches within an ecosystem we are attempting to find niches for social structures that will enable the existence of an ecology of conscious beings. Through the narrative past we may access information about previously attempted patterns, through the future we can forecast future failures and successes. Now is an evolutionary experiment, and it can get very ugly from an ego perspective. The God consciousness within all of us remains consenting that suffering is necessary and unavoidable. In death we escape from suffering and experience a detached peacefulness, but as conscious beings we are addicted to life and the process of experimentation. We are here because we have chosen to live.
What about you john... I've shown you mine. Would you show me yours? What are your answers to your own questions? If you've already posted about your cosmology feel free to refer me to a previous post you've written.
The cosmology that I use to better navigate the drama of life is based on the understanding that I am a point of conscient energy called soul. As a soul, I am unique, (none other is exactly like me), I am eternal (never created, never destroyed), indivisible (can neither be broken into component part nor merged into or "physical" part of God). As such, I am not this body. I am not physical, I am metaphysical.
I come from the metaphysical realm into this material dimension to experience and express. Once "I" enter into the drama of life, "I" remain until the cycle of time repeats itself. As you mentioned Joy, time is not linear. In this cosmology, time is cyclic. It repeats itself. At the end of the cycle, souls return home to their place of origin, the soul world, with the supreme soul - God.
In this cosmology, God is a soul (point of self-conscient energy), however, God does not get pulled into the physical dimension of Time & Space & Matter. God remains constant/perfect - situated in the metaphysical realm. Our real home is where Father-God is found. We never merge with God. Rather, we each have a unique relationship with God. When we return home to rest (peace) and to be rejuvenated, some souls have a proximity that is very close to God while others of us are located further away. The ones that are located closest are the ones who enter into the eternal world drama first. These are the great ones who remain in the cycle from beginning until the end. Enough for now. Gotta run. Any questions?
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.
Out of curiosity when you say Father-God... Do you perceive God to be a gendered being who is specifically male? Being a pagan and a woman I'm always curious to find out how important the concept of gender is in more traditional conceptions of the divine.
The Supreme Soul has no gender. We can experience God as male or female - whatever makes establishing a relationship easiest. God has no gender, God has no body.
Joy, many of us exist in a state of body consciousness. Not only do we see ourselves as a body, we identify others as being male or female, black of white, young or old, even rich or poor. When a soul identifies strongly with its body, this identification makes it very difficult to establish a connection with God. In a state of soul consciousness, however, it is possible to connect with the supreme soul.
As you may know, the word, Yoga comes down to us through the Greek word for Yoke. So, in the same way we would yoke two oxen together, in a state of soul consciousness, we are able to connect with the Supreme Soul. Yoga means to Connect. Several forms of yoga have evolved over time. The yoga I am referring to is called Raja Yoga Meditation. This method does not involve special postures, breath control, chanting or rituals. This is yoga of the intellect - easy raja yoga. It is practiced in a state of consciousness that is not based on physical gender.
In Western spirituality it has been suggested that the preference of soul over matter is parallel to the preference of masculine qualities over feminine qualities.
In ancient traditions the concept of the sacred was deeply connected to body concepts, sexuality, child birth, dance, hunting. There was no separation between spirituality of the body and spirituality of the soul. These were not even viewed as different sides of the same coin. There was simply no division.
Many have argued that the patriarchal trend of sublimating the body while exulting the soul has created a persistent disrespect for the physical world which has resulted in, violence, greed and misuse of natural resources. While disengaging from one's body may cause one to feel more spiritual and more connected to God, it may also cause one to lose sight of the importance of emotions, interpersonal relationships, and the natural world.
Most people find some form of balance between these two separated concepts, although it seems that nearly everyone living in modern western society has some sense of this separation.
Part of the reason I find the gendering of God so fascinating, is not because I believe that God has a gender (I've also found that most people I've spoken to do not believe that God is literally gendered, including many Christians) but rather because God has been gendered for a very long time in the hearts and minds of most worshipers. While the concept of God's gender has dissolved the consequence of it is still rampant.
In my personal practice I make it a point to honor my body as well as my soul. I acknowledge God as present in nature rather than a distant and disembodied entity. I believe God is most exulted through physical creation, the manifest universe, and all the subtle interactions that take place.
You honor your body??? Are you saying that you have a body that you honor or that you are the body that you honor?
If you have a body, then who or what are you? This is not a semantic argument. This is about how one conceives of the self. Are you a body that has a soul or a soul that has a body? These are 2 fundamental but very different understandings. Our view of life is tempered by our underlying assumptions/understandings.
As for the "patriarchal trend" of sublimating the body in order to exult the soul, who or what is it that is exulting this soul you speak of? Can one really exult one's soul? If so, who or what is it that is doing the exultation? If "I" am not my soul, "Who am I?" I (my-self) am a soul. My body is the vehicle that allows my-self to experience and express on this material plain.
When you suggest that establishing a connection with God might cause one to lose sight of the importance of our emotions, I would say that it is our emotions (emotional responses) that, in so many cases, lead us astray. Emotions, without logical balance and clear sight, can be problematic. There is a difference between emotion and intuition.
As far as the importance of interpersonal relationships and appreciation of the natural world, how could establishing a relationship or ongoing connection with God do anything but appreciate the value of this.
Joy, I'm not clear what you mean when you say God is present in nature. I know that this is a very popular conception amongst "new agers", pagans and "Hindoos" etc . . . . but upon scrutiny, the idea is problematic.
An alternative conception of God is that She has an address (location) and cannot necessarily be found in the decay of dog feces - for example. Natural law can be found in nature and in dog feces. I'm not so sure God can be found there.
Discussions like this can go on and on. You must know that the POV I present is not of my creation but one conveyed by a Spiritual University operated entirely by women and head quartered in India. These teachings were first represented in 1936 and included the understanding that a World Spiritual University should be established for those with ears to hear - so to speak. Today, approximately a million students attend classes at the university on a daily basis. So please, the points presented here are not mine. They are freely available to anyone. This is a worthy POV. Lesson #1 at the University is "Who am I". It is not until lesson #2 that God is even mentioned. How can "I" know God if I don't know or understand the self.
I started to write a reply, but it turns out I simply don't have time to do proper justice to the subject given my current schedule constraints.
I would like to request your permission to move the subject to The Arena, since I think - given our debate style in the past that we could get a bit ugly with this one. The conversation is not officially hostile, but I think a definite change of tone has taken place.
I will try to post a reply tomorrow but it may end up having to wait until Monday. I look forward to it though!
I'm very glad that I didn't have time to respond to this yesterday, because giving the subject proper thought has led me to the conclusion that I cannot give a simple answer... and I was very tempted to try at first.
The subject of the body's role in identity and spirituality is a very important subject to me, but it is one that I am no where near resolving into a simple statement. To say that I have a body is very true of the way that I typically think. To say that I am a body might be more true of what I hold to be a personal belief. But I do not think that what I am is reducible to a body alone. I could define my sense of body/self as being a gestalt... in which the sum of all the parts is something more than the whole, but even that doesn't do justice to the complexity of the problem.
I can ask myself if reality a physical phenomenon, or is reality a phenomenon with a physical component? It is easy to divide reality into as many parts as suits one's purpose, but if I divide it into two parts. I get objective reality and subjective reality. Objective reality being that which occurs outside of oneself that other's can potentially observe and effect. Subjective reality being that which occurs inside oneself that can be translated into objective reality but cannot be directly experience by anyone other than the being which originates and contains it (dreams, feelings, thoughts all fall into this category). Objective and subjective reality do not have hard barriers, they have soft barriers things pass between them constantly. The simple act of having a conversation allows me to transmit my subjective reality into an objective event. Every time I think about a real world object I'm translating the objective world into my subjective experience.
My identity is something that I experience almost entirely as a subjective concept. Who and what I am is constantly reshaping itself within my own head. Yet I am not a subjective phenomenon... others experience me as an action/event/object. I am then an objective phenomenon... I am a body. But I don't experience myself as a body. I experience myself as an identity. My subjective identity is the me that I have formed an attachment to. Yet my entire capacity to interact meaningfully with the objective world is dependent on the possession of physical body, in fact I could not have shaped my sense of identity if I had not ever had objective experiences.
The consciousness that functions through my body, might continue to exist if I had no body, but it could not then be defined as me, as Joy. Because I am part of a story that takes place in an objective world. I have impacted others and others have impacted me. When I drop my arbitrary schism in reality, (I don't believe these schisms exist they are only ever imposed by human thought) what is left is a body/identity complex in which one cannot exist without the other, because each in effect is the other.
The question that I find at the conclusion is... What about death? Will my identity remain cohesive enough after my body has stopped functioning that the identity of Joy will exist in eternity? If I believed in linear time I would have to doubt that a disembodied identity could survive the forces of entropy. The consciousness that functions through my identity would eventually loose track of the memories and events that shaped my identity because there would no longer be a focal point for that identity. I don't believe in linear time however... the narrative experience of time is a human phenomenon. That consciousness which functions through me exists in the constant fluctuations of the now. It's ability to access my body/identity is not on a time limit, because there is no time limit. In essence I am saying that from a certain point of view even my body is eternal... not that it lasts across an endless span of linear time, but that it is eternally accessible from a non-linear perspective. To translate that into a metaphor... my life is like a book and as I am living it, I'm moving from one page to the next. I can reflect back and forecast forward but I can only experience the page that I am on, and I can only move forward one page at a time until I reach the final page. The divine consciousness that functions through me however is not constrained by the pages... it can move forward or backwards. It can read the book as many times as it likes. It can even edit and make amendments. It could add a chapter or delete one. It could return again and again, or read it once and then move on to something else. The really cool part is that my body/identity has a will in shaping the story as it goes along. I can only shape the page that I'm on, but it's my page and I can do whatever I like with it.
The discussion involves physical and metaphysical dimensions - the material and the immaterial or spiritual. If consciousness is non-physical, (beyond the limits of time and space), then where does it come from. Or, more specifically, is it produced somehow by matter? Does the physical organ called brain somehow produce consciousness? Put otherwise, is consciousness an epiphenomenon of brain matter?
There has been some interesting speculation and "research" that beings to suggest that consciousness is signal free communication - more.
A theoretical physicist - Dr. Goswami, has a number of thoughts on the subject, if you have time to look at this 1 hour video.
Regarding what happens to the self upon death, there have been a number of discussions regarding the topic of Near Death Experience here on this site - more.
It is the assumptions we make about reality that can either limit or liberate. Yes, honesty is always the best policy. As such, we can both feel deeply and perceive clearly. However, our beliefs are best served when they are threaded together into a coherent cosmology.
I'm familiar with these concepts. I've done a great deal of reading and even studied integral consciousness in a college setting. The university where I completed my degree was founded by a student of the famous guru Sri Aurobindo. I haven't watched the video yet, when I realized it was an hour long I decided to put it off until I have more time. I love lectures and interviews though so I will watch it... but I doubt that it is content that I have not encountered before.
The question of what is the origin and nature of consciousness, to me at least, is a very different question that what is the nature of my identity and what is the relationship of my identity to my body. I believe that all consciousness is eternal and sources from God. But then I also believe that all matter sources from God also... it is just not considered eternal because it is in a constant state of transition and decay... although to be technical about it all matter is eternal too.
I think that the nature of your concern about the coherence of my cosmology may be based on a misperception.
It is popular among atheist biologists to believe that matter is non-living stuff and that somehow, accidentally that non-living stuff got cooked through natural processes into organic material, that somehow that organic material somehow fell together into a single celled life form, and somehow over countless ages of evolution that single cell life form became complex enough to develop a brain, and somehow over countless ages of evolution that brained creature evolved its brain until suddenly and miraculously consciousness came into being. This is not what I believe.
There is also a theological theory that consciousness is an external entity that exists beyond the boundaries of the knowable universe and that somehow this disjointed consciousness has reached out little fingers of consciousness and is putting on a great cosmic puppet show, moving humans about in a thrilling drama, because somehow the puppets in the show have forgotten that they are really fingers of consciousness. In this context the material world is but an illusion, more dead stuff used by God in order to serve some high unknowable purpose, and the nature of enlightenment is the spontaneous realization that this is the true nature of reality. I do not believe in this either.
Teilhard de Chardin laid the basic foundation for what I do believe in. He suggests that matter has always had, even in its most simple forms, some form of pre-consciousness. String theory suggests that all matter and all energy is made up of the exact same stuff, the only change is in vibrational frequency. The strings in the universe are me and are you, they are table, sun, atomic bomb, earth, fire, water. I would add to this that they are also God, also consciousness. If you don't think that this is a coherent cosmology I strongly suggest that you take a look at The Phenomenon of Man by Teihard de Chardin, it is no longer under any copywrite and there are many free electronic copies of it on the internet. I'm not saying that his work will convince you of anything. I think there are flaws in some aspects of his argument, but it will give you a much better picture of what I believe in than what you seem to have right now. My cosmology is far more coherent than you seem to give credit for, but I simply don't have the time or patience to lay down a complete argument in favor of my perspective especially when it was already done for me by an individual far more capable than myself. In fact I think the first few chapters of the book are all that is really necessary in order to understand the principles at work. This book dates to before the conceptualization of string theory, but the two ideas fit together beautifully and string theory lends Chardin's work a level of poetic complexity that the original work lacks. Chardin lays out the cosmology, string theory supports it by explaining how such a thing is possible.
Joy, I am not particularly concerned about the coherence of your cosmology. I'm simply trying to identify it's main components and your related understandings/beliefs. To do this, recently,I asked if you see yourself as some-body that has a soul or as a soul that has a body. You have written quite a bit in response and, in short, it appears that you are saying you are an identity (let's call it The Self) that will dissipate upon bodily death. Is that a reasonable understanding? . Are you saying that the self or soul is a temporary phenomenon?
In your writings above, you introduced the notion of consciousness. You define consciousness as flowing from God or as God being the source of consciousness. You go on to also say God is also the source of matter? In the cosmology you use, is there anything that does not originate from God or is God the source of everything?
In the Monist tradition, for example, everything is from Brahman/God and will on day again return or be absorbed into this source of everything. There may be some problems with this framework, however, it seems to work well for millions of Hindus. An alternative modern cosmology says that matter (and therefore energy) is eternal and can neither be created nor destroyed. Other views, for example, say that eternal matter/energy cannot be, in any way, configured to experience, express free will, evaluate, judge and hold values without some kind of overriding central control mechanism.
Anyway Joy, thanks for taking the time to present a range of interesting perspectives. I look forward to reading more on your belief modules. If you're interested, here are some modules I presented a few months back. They are high level descriptions but when viewed together they present a relatively simple and clear framework - more.. If you're ever interested in a more detailed view of this cosmology as it pertains to the physical and metaphysical realms - click here.