I was recently discussing the similarities between Shamanic journeying and Christianity with a friend. In my own spiritual practice the Falcon is an important symbol and guide, my friend suggested I read The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins (written May, 1877)
My own interpretation of the Falcon is to ‘fly high’ be purposeful, to observe, learn from, heal and ultimately transcend any lower energy that may exist on the ground. It is also about self control. There is a sense of guardianship that comes from the duality of the ‘earthly’ falcon and its ‘spiritual’ counterpart Archangel Michael with his protective sword and shield. In Heraldry the Falcon means ‘One who does not rest until objectives are achieved’. The bird can also be viewed as a metaphor for Christ or of divine epiphany.(Wikipedia)
According to Guardian Books, the theme of Christ’s Passion is central to the poem, along with athletic, natural and often homoerotic grace that is represented by the Falcon (and perhaps his Archangel counterpart) The plunge of The Windhover onto its prey suggests not simply the Fall of man and nature, but the descent of a redemptive Christ into the abyss of human misery and cruelty. To me this is represented perfectly in the Cross. The single point that exists at its centre could be seen as the point of perfect earthly balance or Christ like consciousness and earthly non-duality. On death the intersection of earhlylife (horizontal) with spiritual divinity (vertical) at the centre of the cross provides a metaphor for the point of consciousness that we pass through as our soul passes from our earth bound existance and back to the arms of God.
A full interpretation of the Windhover can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/apr/01/windhover-gerard-manley-hopkins
To Christ Our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
Here is in interesting thought….What if the new paradigm for our places of work and business were not capitalism but consciousness? How would the world look if commerce, consciousness and creativity existed together in parallel? Everything is possible if people would only have the courage to act on their convictions….This is an edited and bolder version of an article I wrote previously for a creative magazine.
The financial, cultural, religious and environmental crisis we have found ourselves in, is at its root a crisis of consciousness. Whatever the cause, it is clear that the on-going economic problems cannot be solved with more capitalism, consumption and debt. ‘More’ will not put right the seeming feeling of malaise that pervades the developed world. So the wheel of fortune turns: with the economy in decline it is up to creative minds to envisage an understanding that can only arise from a higher level of awareness, one where conscious thinking and capitalism exist in parallel. This new paradigm could come to define the values of the 21st century if we as mankind wish it.
Consciousness is the source from which organisational greatness arises. It is a shame that in the business world, the word ‘corporate’ which means ‘made real’ has created an ‘object’ out of organisations and their employees. Businesses are places where people are bought and sold, while being compensated (paid) for leaving their spiritual or personal values at the door on the way in. Often these values are honesty, compassion, empathy, trust, individualism and creativity. These values are intangible assets, what creates the unity and purpose of an organisation and the ingredients of its commercial success. This approach with employees and partners also builds collaboration and trust; with this in mind perhaps shareholders in the corporate world need to ask themselves who is leading their organisation. Taking this further, perhaps management training courses should invite business leaders to ask themselves: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my real purpose here?’or as I privately call it when talking to like minded friends, ‘Our real work’ on this earth, as opposed to the work we are simply ‘paid’ to do. Old-school CEOs and entrepreneurs may dismiss such notions as mere flapdoodle and continue to argue that the main objective of a business, and our own existence is to make money….this has failed. However, human folly will not stand in the way of progress. If we look at Universal Darwinism we can see how human attitudes and knowledge evolve by the same process as living organisms: when the system is not working nature looks for, selects, varies and copies the successful process to return the system to profit. The current system is ‘ unprofitable’ so therefore nature will select differently. Our purpose here on earth is to serve others in the system, like nature we should nourish each other. It should be the same in business, this is sound economics, whether it be the structure of our organisation or the means by which business makes, markets and sells its products. Being inspired by nature is ideal, succesful ideas and strategies self-replicating via human consciousness until they becomes ‘the successful system’.
With this hypothesis in mind, conscious values could transcend and include the earlier memes of capitalism and consumption, just as Darwin’s theory suggests. ‘I’ culture gives way to an inclusive ‘I-We’ world view. It is the transactions between business and consumer that pumps the life blood through the veins of our economy, but to succeed in the era of consciousness, companies will need to understand that commercial success will need to be based upon a higher purpose beyond maximising shareholder value, rather than go against the natural way of things and persist with a failed system.
The materialist views of modern science also provide inspiration. According to Peter Russell, a respected British scientist and philosopher from Great Britain, the whole world system is driven by consciousness. Few seem to understand the reality of consciousness and its importance to our world view. According to Russell, if we want to understand ourselves and the new trends which are rapidly emerging in the economy, we need to understand and explore consciousness from a creative, economic, business and consumer perspective. The traditional economic model of materialism is based on the philosophy of ‘Classical Capitalism’. A more conscious paradigm recognises that we live within two realms of reality: materialism and consciousness. When we stop and think about it, money units are now ‘created’ via one’s ‘consciousness’. Central Bank policymakers are now creating digital money units, derived initially from their ‘consciousness’. Design and the created world arises from consciousness, as do ideas in marketing and media, innovations in science and technology; cyberspace is really an ‘extension’ of our collective ‘consciousness’. Virtual reality is also an ‘extension’ of our ‘consciousness’, along with the social media driven marketing campaigns where the brand collaborates with the consumer, sharing ideas on everything from product development to the transparency of the supply chain.
In fact, it has always been about consciousness, but of an individual rather than on a unified level. Consumption will continue as the system changes and these changes will need to go far beyond creating attractive products that encourage engagement in environmentally sound practices, such as designing attractive re-usable grocery bags.
The last few decades has left the developed world wondering ‘why?’, when so much of life feels so empty and spiritually impoverished. As the explosion in the self-help industry shows, people are suffering from schizophrenic whims arising from the feeling of ‘needing to do something about it’, this dissatisfaction and fear has produced thinly-veiled values, seemingly self orientated meditation practices and endless therapy sessions. Indeed, the boomer generation and my own generation, ‘Generation X’, are often well meaning but lack the knowhow and vision to change things on a larger scale. Yet these generations, starting with themselves are leading the change: the boomers recognised the need for unity, peace and have led anti-capitalist protests since the 1960s. This sense of ‘anx’I’ety’ has continued to fuel the continued growth of the $11bn USA wellbeing industry. As a key example, Deepak Chopra the physician, speaker, writer and founder of the Chopra Centre for Wellbeing (a centre for spirituality and consciousness) has a personal income of $22 million, higher than the CEOs of most Fortune 100 companies. Generation X are not just committed to solving their own problems either, they want to create change where they can: according to a 2012 Neilson Global Corporate Citizen Survey, nearly half of global consumers (46%) are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that show a commitment to social responsibility through their campaigns and programs. Those respondents also prefer to work for these companies (62%) and invest in these companies (59%).
Books published on the subject of spirituality, consciousness and so called ‘Pseudo-Sciences’ have increased by 30% over the past decade. The wider business world may dismiss this as nothing more than a New Age ‘knit-your-own-muesli-nonsense-attempt’ to provide answers in the face of our enormous spiritual and scientific uncertainty. However even in a declining book industry, shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain age-old philosophical controversies, Shamanic Journeys, spiritual enlightenment, out of body experiences and the functioning of consciousness. ‘How do we think?’ is another topic: the popular brain industry explores neuroscience through snazzy brain-imaging studies. More recently there is also a growing popularity of books that promise spiritual Illumination within the worlds of politics, business and economics. With Americans spending more than $11 billion each year on self- improvement and spiritual guidance products, the consumer interest in consciousness cannot be ignored. In a macro economy where many industries are contracting, this industry is forecast to grow 6.2% annually over the next 3 years.
A more conscious approach that unifies the values surrounding human lives, relationships, places of work and consumed products could go some way to releasing the spiritually impoverished from their frantic search through self-help books for a solution. This is not just a Boomer and Generation X problem, Generation Y (born 1977-1994) are suffering from what the press have described as an ‘insane narcissism epidemic’. This, at its root, may just be a crisis of confidence, one that they have tried to solve through aping celebrities, self-aggrandising through social media and a ‘shop-till-you-drop’ mentality. This dissatisfied generation own a higher value of consumer product than any other generation (especially electronics and apparel) and are also known to replace these items more quickly with the next big thing. They also have a higher level of debt than any other generation before them. They are idealistic and have been called spoiled, idealistic and impatient, yet in spite of their material lives Generation Y has been described as the most medicated generation ever; in the USA especially, they are apparently routinely prescribed psychotropic drugs–antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants, mood stabilizers. It’s not uncommon for 20-and-30-somethings today to have spent the better part of their lives on such medications.
The answer lies deep within our consciousness: what is needed is an Einstein ‘Theory of Everything’ approach that joins up the world’s problems and comes up with a unified solution. The theories put forward by Charles Eisenstein, the author of Sacred Economics, provide some inspiration. A Yale graduate in Mathematics and Philosophy, Eisenstein is way ahead of modern economics and its triple bottom line (TBL) theory. Also referred to as ‘people, planet, profit’, the theory is that the supply of money (and the corresponding volume of debt) has for several decades outstripped the production of goods and services that it promises. There may be much to re-learn from what Eisenstein refers to as the ancient ‘gift’ economies which operated on the idea of co-operation and exchange, where economics and spirituality were inseparable.
Another inspiration is the work of Rachel Botsman, an author and social innovator who writes, consults and speaks extensively on the economy of trust and the power of sharing through networks and technologies. She has inspired a new consumer economy with her influential book ‘What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live.’ Best-selling author Patricia Aburdene combines solid financial knowledge with proven spiritual principles in her book ‘Conscious Money’. Aburdene outlines strategies for conscious capitalism that attain wealth based on a new economic system fuelled by human ideals, greater awareness and higher consciousness.
Even the much vaunted ‘Design Thinking’ needs to die a dignified death; creativity in many organisations does little more than appeal to the business culture of process. Designers are tasked with creating products of poor quality with built in obsolescence so that we that find premium consumer electronics in the landfill within 2 years. Like other industries, the design industry has made materialism its god; serving a consumer goods industry with powerful muscles, but no personality. Nevertheless, art and architecture still lead the way with a number of recent projects that explore the parallels of consciousness and objectivity through ‘thinking spaces’ and our built environment. The MIT Senseable City Laboratory creates and monitors the stream of human consciousness though architecture. ‘The Cloud’, described as a symbol of our dawning age, was built for the London 2012 Olympics as a monument to the connected networks that unite humanity. From an observation deck, high above the Olympics, one could not only see the whole of London, but the whole of the world via a live information system of transmitted data which was represented by constantly fluctuating particles, each of which contributed briefly towards a vast, beautiful, constantly-vibrating whole. The British company Architects of Air combine art with an immersive exploration of consciousness through light and space. Visitors were reported to be transported to a sense of wonder which invited them to back to a place of tranquility and joy.
This consciousness paradigm also began several years ago online. Generation Z follow on from Generation Y who learned to use social media to say ‘look at me’. Generation Z, the so-called digital natives, have skilfully learned to use technology to build trust between strangers arising from collaborative networks within the digital realm. For Generation Z, being connected is not just about social networking it is about building a reputation. Indeed, according to Wired magazine, by the end of the decade a good online reputation could be the most valuable asset for businesses, brands and consumers. 2012 marked the point where more than 1 billion people on the planet are active in using social media; with every tweet, like, share and comment we make, we leave a reputation trail. As for brand intelligence, how a company is perceived online will become a profoundly important question in an age where company reputation will be the most valuable commercial asset. According to Neilson in their Global Corporate Citizen Survey, for generations Y and Z, trust is the main basis on which purchasing decisions are made. The most important form being recommendations from people they know (95%), closely followed by looking for opinions and information posted by other consumers online (76%) and the use of social media to help make purchase decisions (59%).
In the longer term, a lot of responsibility will rest with the next Generation Alpha (2011- 2025). Largely parented by Generation Y, they may share some of the same characteristics. Generation Y can be idealistic, but with the influence of Generation Z’s higher level awareness of values and reputation in the workplace over the next few years, Generation Alpha may well be a generation with the vision we need…
I was introduced to this work of Thomas Campbell and his work by Fiona, who contributes to this blog as Fiona1968, her review can be found here: My big theory of everything I met Fiona at a gathering in Salisbury U.K. for those interested in the work of the late British philosopher and spiritual teacher Douglas Harding. www.headless.org Fiona was lugging a very heavy book around which she later told us was Campbell’s ‘Big Toe’, his theory of everything. I was reluctant to tackle another reading assignment but intrigued by Campbell’s claim that he had resolved the problem which had stumped the likes of Einstein and Bohm and that his theory, by way of inserting the subjective aspect, succeeds in marrying metaphysics and physics, although I recall Bohm spoke of the ‘self-ordering principles of the universe’ which seems pretty close to the Campbell perspective. I was also impressed by the enthusiasm and sincerity of Fiona who had recognized a correspondence between Campbell’s theory and what she had found as a result of her interest in Douglas Harding’s discoveries. I can’t hope to do justice to the complexities of the Campbell theory in a brief commentary but I decided to identify what I thought to be the key points and prepare these notes under a few basic headings.
Who is he?
Thomas Campbell , the author of My Big Toe is a physicist and at the time of writing and maybe still, employed as a research physicist at NASA. His specialty is risk analysis. As a young physicist, he was introduced to Transcendental Meditation by a friend and although extremely skeptical he decided to give it a try. Consequently, he found himself opening up to aspects of consciousness which he, and most of the people he discussed it with, seemed to be completely unaware. In addition to the book there are a number of You Tube videos which provide useful introductions to his thought. He seems a very modest, likeable person, completely free of any pride in his achievement and discoveries.
(I added the link to the Martin Peniak website below which provides includes connection to an introductory talk by Campbell and there is additional commentary and complementary material on Dr. Joseph Bray’s blog: https://josephbray.wordpress.com/?s=Campbell, in particular, Fionna’s article on the subject at:. https://josephbray.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/my-big-theory-of-everything-thomas-campbell/)
My Big Theory of Everything (TOE) is an 800 page-plus trilogy in which Campbell lays out his theory in great detail and includes some useful advice on how to test his claims. This takes the form of meditative practices designed to open the door to aspects or levels of consciousness of which most of us remain largely unaware. The book has an extensive index which I found particularly useful. I first listened to the series of You Tube lectures (Toronto 2008) and then followed up his written commentary on the key issues by using the index to find the relevant locations in the book.
What does he say?
He refers to the everyday world which most of us would describe as reality, as Physical Material Reality (PMR) and wholeness or underlying consciousness out of which it manifests as Non-physical Material Reality (NPMR). To summarise his theory: consciousness is primary, information provides the building blocks for evolution based on a binary model for which current computer technology offers a helpful metaphor. Consciousness is engaged in an evolutionary movement towards reduced entropy. That is, out of the random chaos of undifferentiated energy the appearance of difference, differences of the most elementary quality, leads inevitably through self generating and self ordering evolution into reflexive consciousness and whatever might develop beyond that. He says it is possible to access NPMR in a manner similar to meditation. This involves a not doing rather than doing and it is not a matter of learning a new technique but of abandoning ego, beliefs, fear and expectation.
What are the consequences?
We come to see ourselves as an element of consciousness in its movement to higher levels of complexity/order (lower entropy) and as individuals we can make either a positive or negative contribution to the process. Consciousness provides the underlying context in which everything, including what we refer to as space and time, arise and that what we consider to be our reality is really one of many possible realities―actual and potential. Given that that consciousness is the source and field of all that is, was and will be, it is possible to explore past and future actualities and probabilities as well as other realities. And, as a side issue, this approach provides an understanding of how such matters as telepathy, remote viewing, out of body experiences, healing, etc., come about. Once the single point, body-free consciousness is attained through the recommended practice, it is possible to become operational in the various realities by application of focus and intent.
What do I think about it?
I have long maintained that the so-called mystical is a blanket term for my failure see the complete picture rather than some inaccessible, other-worldly dimension. The demystification of the mystical seems to be what Campbell is about and that is the main attraction as far as I’m concerned. In my experience, whenever the veil is pulled aside, the revelation is usually accompanied by the understanding ‘Oh so this is how things really are’. There is no attempt to retain the condition because it brings with it a sense of how absurd it would be to try to hang on to what is clearly revealed to be what is; nevertheless, the veil of non-seeing falls yet again. So, I am attracted to any theory or view which supports a ‘this is it’ perspective and particularly an approach which offers an experiential method, enabling me to examine the goods which might be on offer. The recovery of enchantment through scientific endeavour is an unexpected consequence and revelation of the unseen realities echoes much traditional commentary such as the oft- quoted verses from, for example, the Bhagavad Gita about the seer of the Unseen. There is also in my case a weakening of the deep commitment to identification with the individual as opposed to the undivided. I remain sceptical about some of his claims which is only to say they are the possibilities he speaks of which remain outside my experience. However, there are a number of unlikely matters he speaks of which do match my own discoveries and this is what makes me take him seriously.
Some quotations from the book I found helpful.
(What does he mean by describing our reality as virtual) Because of our limitations and the constraints on our consciousness our local reality must be constructed from ‘what appears to be’ not ‘what is’. P592
(Context— Observer versus participant perspectives) It is clear from Einstein’s writing that space-time is not the place where we live but rather a field of which we are a part. P779
(On Purpose) We, the creations of AUM (Absolute Unbounded Manifold), are the source of its joy and sadness. We evolve our individuated piece of basic consciousness by lowering its entropy and increasing its quality. As we drop our ego delusions , we become more AUM-like—an embodiment of love and caring. This is our goal, our purpose. We began this trip as a chunk of individuated digital consciousness with enough complexity, memory and processing ability to evolve ourselves from a high-entropy relatively dim awareness to a low entropy brilliant embodiment of love. In the simplest terms we are to follow n the evolutionary footsteps of Absolute Unbounded Oneness- Absolute Unbounded Manifold. P399
(On Free Will)…we have been given two attributes. First, we are individuated into existence—a tiny snippet of the AUM hologram—an interactive sub-routine or defined object running in its own piece of mind-space within TBC (The big Computer)—a part of the Big Picture consciousness-evolution fractal that contains the pattern of the whole. Second, we are given free will so that evolution (growth) is possible. P399.
Here are some additional notes from Martin Pentiak’s website at:
……..this site also provides access to Campbell’s introductory lecture to The Monroe Institute’s 22nd Professional Seminar, March 2010 Thomas Campbell was one of the original consciousness explorers at The Monroe Institute (tmi) in Virginia in the 1970s and the explorer identified as “TC Physicist” in Bob Monroe’s book Far Journeys. Campbell, working alongside electrical engineer Dennis Mennerich, discovered what is now known as Hemi-Sync, the binaural-beat approach to inner exploration that came to be almost synonymous with TMI.
As Bob Monroe’s protégé, Campbell worked in the TMI lab and participated in explorer sessions as a subject. He was one of the first trainers and finished his tenure at TMI as an advisory-board member.
In his book My Big TOE, Campbell does not spend much time on his personal experiences through his 35 years of exploration. Rather, he concentrates on the inner workings of such subjective adventures as OBEs, remote viewing and healing — to name just a few — and much more.
With more than 800 pages in My Big TOE, the reader will find plenty to ponder and absorb. The knowledge gained will bring greater understanding that grows with each subsequent read.
My Big TOE presents a robust overarching model of reality that does a great job of demystifying some of our most cherished beliefs, and it’s done with an abundance of humour.
The book beckons you to search within yourself to understand how belief structures colour your outlook. Campbell masterfully nudges you away from the ego traps that keep many from experiencing the Greater Reality for themselves.
With patience and clarity, My Big TOE suggests to readers that they themselves need to create their own TOE — Theory of Everything — and that with greater awareness they can find answers for themselves.
My Big TOE by Thomas Campbell is a must read for anybody with questions about why we are here: the very purpose behind our existence.
About Alan Mann:
Alan Mann is based in New South Wales, Australia. He is now retired from a working life in the timber and wood preservation industries. His emphasis is on the work of the British philosopher Douglas Harding and others whose teaching and writing concern our first nature. He is particularly interested in the mystical English poet, clergyman, theologian and religious writer Thomas Traherne (1636-1674). Reference to the complementary work of Bohm, Wren-Lewis and Harding is included in his website at www.capacitie.org. For the past 20 years Alan and his wife Margot have held monthly meetings at their Sydney home. Based on the principles of Bohmian Dialogue, they have provided a forum for exploration of spiritual, philosophical, scientific and religious enquiry. A periodic e-magazine, The NOWletter, posted towww.traherne.org is an extension of this group activity.
To quote Einstein, who I would consider to be among the greatest of modern Shaman “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” To me one of the most beautiful aspects of shamanism is that it is a true spiritual and scientific democracy, an understanding that everything is one, and of humankind’s kinship to all other life forms. We are each other, we are all existence, we are all our collective thoughts, intentions and actions, we ourselves are the collective, feeling, seeing, blinking universe. It is that universe that provides us with beauty and providence beyond all measure. In my mind everything is ‘God’ and once I had accepted this as my own truth I felt a lot happier. It is possible to see, feel and touch divinity in everything around us.
This article starts with some scientific blurb (so it does not sound too weird) although it is interesting stuff, it then goes on into the real Shamanic practice. Understanding ourselves and the universe is Shamanism….
If there is one darkness in our world today that needs urgent illumination it is the understanding of this ‘one-ness’, there is no religion, or science or anything else existing in isolation, just a vibrating synthesis of consciousness , energy perceived as visual information. This is what is understood during the collapse of time and distance that occurs when the true self touches and becomes part of all creation. This dimension is accessible to everyone, yet lies beyond the accepted human understanding of measurement represented by zero to infinity. We touch creation all the time, as with all memes once created or observed nothing ever dies, even with natural selection. Anyone acquainted with Darwin’s theory of evolution can surely see it. This theory of endless life through replication and evolution applies to all life forms and ideas, all that is observed by the consciousness present in all existence, this lives on in continuous expansion for all eternity. It is a perfect system which in my mind is designed by God. Similar views to that of Darwin have also been put forward in the world of physics were the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics states that every possible quantum outcome is realized, this appears correct in many ways when you consider how aspects of everything live on in some form in evolutionary terms.
Whatever other gifts the Shamanic practitioner has, it is this understanding of connectedness that is at the core of Shamanism, both ancient and modern. Being mindful of this, humankind should show our children all that is good in the world and protect them from witnessing harm, prejudice and negativity. Ideas self-expand just as the universe does, as more of collective consciousness observes both positive and negative behavior and thinking….at least these are how my own thoughts on Shamanism are solidifying.As part of this I have recently become re-acquainted with Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity along with later scientific quantum field theories, such as Bells inequality theorem which to some extent explains time and distance collapse, and Neils Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation which explains the collapse of matter into a vibration (waves). I have done this in order to try and objectify my spiritual beliefs, reorder my thoughts on God, Christianity and science and place these harmoniously alongside a more Shamanic worldview, which was not at first an easy task. Since I believe without doubt that ‘God’ is the first cause of the cosmos and find the teachings of Christianity most relevant to myself and my family I have to call myself a Shamanic Christian……a combination that the church will surely welcome with open arms…. Regardless of the prejudice I have already encountered Christianity and Shamanism go together in my mind, after all what was Jesus if not a great Shaman with teachings to follow? A healer who dedicated his life to humility, forgiveness, love and service to others. What is Shamanism if not a type of mystical communion with God? Shamanism is not after all a religious practice in itself, it is the foundation of modern religion and can sit happily alongside anything- possibly even materialism…
So where did it all start…..? and, if you are reading this and want to start for yourself then welcome to what is a direct experience…. and a playful, mystical kaleidoscopic world of illogicality and ‘uncommon’ sense….and don’t forget to enjoy your journey!
As a teenager with no spiritual direction, education, parenting or any other direction to speak of my path lighters have always been books and those friends who recommended them. Anyone who likes to read will know that one book leads to another. So my Shamanic journey began at 15 with the Tao of Physics (1975) by Fritjof Capra a quantum physicist. I then read Capra’s later titles, The Turning Point (1982) and Uncommon Wisdom (1988); the books joined together eastern Mysticism with quantum physics. Capra also continually mentioned Carlos Castaneda and ‘The teachings of Don Juan’ although I have never really experimented with drugs as Casdaneda did, however I did become very interested in dreams, recording my dreams and ‘actively’ rather than passively day dreaming. No one had ever told me about Shamanic journeying as such so my methods were entirely of my own invention, but slightly based on the wanderings and observations of Castaneda. I later combined this with elements of the Northern European pagan traditions simply because these seemed nearer to me spiritually than the traditions of the Americas. As a child, teenager, and very recently I have used all kinds of methods to induce a deep meditation. As a child I had a very annoying (to my family) habit of tongue clicking, something I soon discovered could induce a state where I could experience a deep ‘daydream’, the washing machine on spin was another one. The others were visual; I observed moving clouds to disorientate myself, or the visual vibration of slightly moving leaves. Squinted at lights on the motorway so they became a continuous stream. Anything that alters perception is a potential door opener to an altered state of consciousness. Clouds were (and still are) one of my favorite methods, By lying on the ground while tilting my head back so that I am unable to see any of myself (like the nose), it is possible to get the impression of being a body-less free floating consciousness without actually doing an out of body experience. Non of these methods are in themselves Shamanism which is a very purposeful practice. Castaneda to some extent kept my childhood practices going… Although I forgot about all of this for more than 20 years while I build a career, business and had a family….in a crisis of stress several months ago meditation was the most important thing I did, and I thank God and others for it.
Now I have returned to some of the childhood methods described earlier and am enjoying having these experiences of absolute bliss, one-ness and time collapse all over again. For anyone wishing to find this, start by doing what makes you happy whenever you can. I do Shamanic journeys, meditate, listen to binaural beats music, hum along to the Indian Harmonium (Shruti box). Any practice where ‘time collapse’ is experienced is true meditation, wherever this can be found, simple pencil drawing is another place I find this, particularly portraits, where I literally visualize the person, feel what it is like to be them by literally ‘getting inside’ them in order to create a ‘likeness’- Time collapse can be explained in the objective world, if you are enjoying yourself time speeds up, this is one way of understanding the mystical aspect of timlessnes.
I have for years seen what appears in my dreams as powerful metaphors for guidance that speak from deep within the subconscious, and I have just re-started recording my dreams. In my mind, you are your own guide, a wolf (important in my own Shamanic journeys) is a powerful path lighter, and a mirror of the self- in other words you are the wolf and its representations, or it may show you what you need to become. In the case of the wolf this may mean loyalty, endurance, intellect, instinct and the ability to operate alone and with others. All guides have a shadow side which is also a reflection of the self. In my case the wolf also represents the shadow side of working alone and over self-reliance. Another of my guides is the Falcon. The Falcon means flying high and alone. Classic interpretations of the falcon include visionary power, wisdom, and a guardian who leads you to your life purpose. It also represents the Archangel Michael. Those attributes aside what means most to me is travelling alone and the Falcon’s message of transition and change which are also relevant in my current life circumstances. I do not rely only on my intuition to interpret what I see, I also look them up. Shamans have and find knowledge….so the internet seems a good tool. Shamanic wisdom holds that guides are symbols of what your own and the higher collective subconscious (God) expects of you. This may be why guides are often culturally appropriate, a Christian might see Jesus for example, but Jesus would be unlikely to appear to a Muslim as unless they were experiencing a crisis of faith, there would be no message in it. I do not worry if the guides are real or imagined, everything that was ever invented came from imagination rather than knowledge and it is startling what sometimes appears on journeys.
Inspiration (‘in-spirit-ing’) regularly appears to me via books- my most important guides in the objective world. If a book has been given to me I know that its message will be a powerful one even if this is a single sentence. This are often non-spiritual books by the way. I have also started to find teaching in those who weave together Shamanic thinking or Celtic traditions with Christianity. Although I am only very casually acquainted with poetry I am beginning to find a lot of inspiration in the late Irish poet, philosopher and priest John O’Donohue who’s divinely inspired work creates a wonderful synthesis of all existence within his poetry. Christianity and Celtic Shamanic reverence for trees, rivers, skies and hills are skilfully woven into a spiritual on-ness. Like O’Donohue, the American poet Emily Dickenson’s work sings to the soul and is replete with references to an intimacy with nature.
Einstein’s ability to join the spiritual with the material was also very inspired. Just like the ancient Shaman he appeared to be guided by imagination that came from a place far beyond human intellect. Although Einstein did not believe in a personal God, here are some of his views on spirituality:
“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness….Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.” (Albert Einstein, 1954)
“The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science…..To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness.”
(Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science)
Einstein once said of himself that he was not so smart; he just stayed with his problems longer. I have recently read an account of Einstein’s life and it is clear he was a deeply spiritual; often he would lie down, blank his mind and trust that something higher would enter. That something was the Theory of relativity (E = mc2), an equation which describes the relationship between energy and matter, and which demonstrated that “energy and matter are equal, identical, and interchangeable, operating through vibration. This theory although incomplete remains the foundation of modern physics. Later interpretations such as the Copenhagen interpretation and Bells inequality theorem go some way towards science understanding what Shamans know, although the 70 year old paradox of the Particle-Wave Duality of Matter still remains outside of the logic of science and Mathematics.
What separates the Shamanic thinker from the tribe is the belief in spiritual democracy and the understanding that everything is one. The practitioner trusts in instinct and lets their imagination take them to the ‘other worlds’ described in Shamanic writings. This ‘higher place’ is the one where inventiveness, intuition, healing and prophecy come from. As with Quantum Mechanics, Shamanic insight relies on the observer effect to bring it into objective reality, A Shamanic healer will ‘imagine’ the patient getting better, they believe it, observe it and therefore make it real. Spirit and science (QM) work in exactly the same way (in my understanding) along with everything else…..No need for anything special here, The Shaman, Both ancient and modern or ‘one who knows’ is able to weave spiritual practice into their life work through their ordinary occupations in the everyday world. No need to hide away like a hermit or live like a saint. Shamans enjoy blissful experience with or without natural drugs such as plants and sex along with creative pursuits Shamans work in the interests of other existence and this is always their intent, and this understanding is part of what brings peace and happiness…I could not call myself a ‘Shaman’ but I am enjoying integrating this thinking into my own practice. Once again, enjoy your journey!
This article appeared recently in the Huffington post and is a simplified version of the theory put forward by the physicist and consciousness researcher Thomas Campbell in his book My Big Theory of Everything. See Link
The idea of the universe as a ‘giant brain’ has been proposed by scientists and science fiction writers – for decades, now physicists say there may be some evidence that it’s actually true. In a sense.According to a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the universe may be growing in the same way as a giant brain – with the electrical firing between brain cells ‘mirrored’ by the shape of expanding galaxies.The results of a computer simulation suggest that “natural growth dynamics” – the way that systems evolve – are the same for different kinds of networks – whether its the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole. A co-author of the study, Dmitri Krioukov from the University of California San Diego, said that while such systems appear very different, they have evolved in very similar ways.The result, they argue, is that the universe really does grow like a brain.The study raises profound questions about how the universe works, Krioukov said.”For a physicist it’s an immediate signal that there is some missing understanding of how nature works,” he told Space.com.
Thomas Campbells theory starts with the concept that consciousness is the foundation of all being, his book makes the paradoxes of quantum physics, being and our infinitely expanding and self-programming universe explainable by weaving together science, spirituality, consciousness into a complete unified theory of absolutely everything which uses scientific knowledge as the basis for the understanding that the connectedness of all beings is the fundamental nature of consciousness.
According to Dmitri Krioukov, The team’s simulation modeled the very early life of the universe, shortly after the big bang, by looking at how quantum units of space-time smaller than subatomic particles ‘networked’ with each other as the universe grew.
They found that the simulation mirrored that of other networks. Some links between similar nodes resulted in limited growth, while others acted as junctions for many different connections.
Thomas Campbells theory hypothesises that individual beings are derivative consciousnesses within a digital pattern of being and evolution which he describes as a hologram or a 3D digital fractal. According to Campbell’s theory, personal identity is simply a consciousness that has evolved as a result of all the choices (intents) a person has made in conjunction with all the people and objects with whom that person has interacted. The result is a continuously expanding array of unactualized (past), present and projected (future) states or probabilities. In other words our choices manifest a continuously expanding and unfolding happening. He goes on to say that solar systems, galaxies and human bodies all evolve through the same natural pattern. Life, the universe and every form of being and existence starts from any point (no beginning or end) each self evolves its existence in a continuous pattern of processes. Darwinian mechanics followed this same process to populate the world with diverse life forms. All forms of existence follow an identical pattern, biology, (cells) molecules, (chemistry) and atoms (physics). Time and space time all execute their own version of that same basic model within their unactualised past, present and future probabilities.
Campbell’s Theory goes much further than Dmitri Krioukov and his team who say that thier research does not quite mean that the universe is ‘thinking’ – but it might just mean there’s more similarity between the very small and the very large than first appearances suggest.
Jenn Sim a contributor to the No-Facebook, Facebook page No-Facebook put this another way, “It is also interesting how this thing we call consciousness mirrors on a macro level the wave function collapse of a particle, likened to a superposition of potentialities from our perception of past and future or non-locally, but the collapse is what we observe here and now through the single eye. The single eye that Jenn refers to is also known as the 3rd eye. The single eye is a concept put forward by the late British Philosopher Douglas Harding. See yourself through your single eye
The work of Greg Goode was recently described as ‘a massive turning point’ by a member of the No-Facebook page. So I decided to take a look…Very recently I have said on this blog that I only believe that true non-dualism is achievable during meditation, well I was wrong based on Greg Goode’s view of things which have made the pieces slot nicely into place in my mind. Watching these videos has certainly developed my understanding of how non-dualism looks in everyday life as opposed to meditation.
Gregs work is based on self-enquiry, In the videos he talks about both the traditional devotional, progressive path and the direct path to enlightenment. The direct path is not attached to a particular teaching and is about contemplatative self enquiry although many practitioners may embrace the wisdom of a number of teachings to add depth of understanding. According to Goode, the direct path works well for people who have tried the devotional progressive path, this contradicts John Sherman (see recent post) but agrees with Douglas Harding another advocate of self enquiry and experiment who also embraced many other teachings within his work.
One of the fundamental points made here by Goode relate to non-dualism and the primacy of consciousness, which may seem obvious. It is only when it is understood, and really understood that all feelings, desires and life situations, are arising objects within consciousness that non-dualism is realised. Once achieved (and this unsuitable wording turns it into another arising object and therefore dual and not non-dual.) Individual Consciousness becomes benevolent to what arises within the life of the ‘I’. In my mind taking this further makes individual consciousness an arising of a benevolent universal consciousness (God consciousness if one prefers).
An interesting experiment on one of these videos is one that locates ones own feeling of ‘I’. When I pin-pointed my own ‘I’ it was actually outside of my body- just in front of my forehead. I don’t think it matters where this ‘I’ is located as the exercise makes the ‘I’ into another arising object, but it is interesting all the same. Our body is an arising object of consciousness also, so the ‘point’ being inside it is irrelevant. Different states of awareness that arise will shift it anyhow even if one is unaware of this at the time.
It is through various forms of self enquiry where I have found my own peace. And now I can see where consciousness has primacy over my ‘I’ and were it does not. (dualism/ non-dualism). Everyone arrives at their destination in different ways although reports of individuals becoming enlightened always appear to be broadly the same. It has been very valuable for me to read the story as told by others, like Greg, awareness of light has played a big initial part in my own story; light is after all the nature of us along with all apparent objects. As Greg puts it: “There is no experience of enlightenment, for nothing is separate from experience. Rather, experience itself is light. Enlightenment is not just about ‘Light’ also is the feeling of oneness, lack of limitations, bliss and expansion along with the “I” that experiences it….Gregs ‘enlightenment’ is described later in the post. Light need not be part of everyone’s experience here, although a sense of an illuminated ‘I’ may be more common in the unmistakable ah-ha moment that occurs when one ‘sees’ oneself for the first time.
Greg’s has published 2 books relevant to this article, ‘direct path’ and ‘Standing as awareness’ the works are centred around the concept of the direct path, and much like Douglas Harding or John Sherman the purpose is to feel the direct experience of you. Greg’s work is based on the teachings of Yes, Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon, who died in 1959. According to Greg the point of the ‘Direct Path’ is to alleviate suffering by uniting the head and the heart in peace, to see ones true nature as awareness and no longer experiencing duality at any time. Personally I am not a fan of too much ‘method’ however these experiments are fun. A method can be a good starting point…
Greg’s own story has similarities to mine, in childhood when he was about ten years old, he and his friends would throw rocks at each other. This led to a kind of self-inquiry, although he did not realise this at the time… Smack! As a rock hit Greg’s head. He realized that the rock had not hit ‘him’ just his head. As he got older Greg thought a lot about this. According to Greg Goode “There was no place a rock could land that I thought was truly me. In fact, whatever “X” could named was not me, because it was “My X.” But where was the “I”? It’s not as though I didn’t have a strong sense of it.
I suspect many children may think this way, certainly as a young child I had a similar feeling and pondered for hours on the ‘who am I’ concept myself. While psychologists may dismiss this childhood awareness as a pre-personal (pre-ego) state as opposed to the transpersonal state associated with enlightenment. It is never the less a question I asked in a previous post in the journey to un-enlightenment here it occurred to me that some adults spend a lifetime trying to ‘find themselves’ when they were born with the very answer that they were looking for. Gregs story appears to resonate with mine in this respect.
Before becoming enlightened Greg described himself as feeling a deep sense of loneliness, alienation, lack of fulfilment, and a strong yearning from the heart and mind to know “What is it all about? What is the purpose of life? What happens after? What are all these mystical truths that are spoken of? Where is fulfilment to be found? He tried many different paths, from Ayn Rand’s icy “Rational Selfishness”, the strictness and ecstasy of Born-Again Pentecostal Christianity. Years later, this all settled down to an intense inquiry. “What is the core of me?” After a few years, the question refined itself. “Is that the me?” “But where is it?”
Greg’s answer came one day while he was reading a book about consciousness, and when the answer came, it didn’t come as a conceptual statement like “It is ABC.” Rather, it came by way of the world and the body imploding into a brilliant light, and the willing, phenomenal self-thinning out, disappearing in a blaze of the same light. No separation was experienced; no time or space was experienced, yet I knew myself as the seeing itself. All “thoughts” and other mentation’s were deeply experienced as spontaneous arisings in awareness, happening around no fixed point or location. And it wasn’t personal. Not only the entity “Greg,” but all apparent personal entities dissolved.
Out of nowhere, lightness, sweetness, brightness, and a fluidity of the world became qualities of everything, and became one with all experiences. My long-standing question had vanished along with what I had believed was “me.” There arose resiliency, joy, and an untouchable happiness.
This experience uncovered the realization that without the conceptual structures that make things seem real, there is no presumption of a separate centre. This is a sense of peace far beyond what happens when we get what we dream about. Indeed, the world, body, and mind appear as sensations, feelings and thoughts. These appearances are all arisings in awareness. The person does not see these arisings. Rather, the person is made up out of these arisings, including the supposed act of seeing. If these arisings are investigated, it can be seen that they do not reach outside themselves. They cannot point to each other, touch each other or contain each other. It is only memory that suggests that there has ever been another arising. But memory itself is nothing more than an arising. It cannot truly point backwards or forwards to anything, for during this apparent pointing, there are no objects to be pointed to. What is left? Awareness, our true nature. The person is never free, as awareness, we are never bound
Greg Goode’s title, ‘The direct path’ is an experiential guide to nondual inquiry from beginning to end, and beyond. The core of the book is a set of forty experiments designed to help dissolve the most common non-dual sticking points from simple to subtle. The experiments cover the world, the body, the mind, abstract objects and witnessing awareness. You are taken step by step from the simple perception of a physical object all the way to the collapse of the witness into pure consciousness. Your “take-away” is that there’s no experiential doubt that you and all things are awareness, openness and love. Also included is a section on teaching and the notion of a “post-nondual realization.”
These are the type of experiments that can be found in the book: Towards the beginning of the book, you look deeply for an orange. What is your direct experience? Is the orange really over there, separate from you? Towards the middle of the book, you look deeply for the mind, and parts of the mind that are usually regarded as separate and hidden. So in one experiment you look for the subconscious. What is your direct experience of the subconscious? Later you look for subtle objects such as causality and even witnessing awareness. What is your direct experience of these things? In every case what happens is that you make a discovery. Your direct experience is nothing other than awareness itself. And it doesn’t even end there…
About Greg Goode. Greg has been a philosophical counsellor since 1996. After studying Psychology at California State University, Greg studied philosophy in Cologne, Germany, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester
Resources and further reading:
Play list of 18 videos
On the topic of awakening and enlightenment, I felt it may be useful to share something very simple…..Myself and others who use this blog are familiar with this and similar practices.
I was ‘awakened’ by a simple meditation in a room with a person who took me through an inward focus exercise. This simple practice was based on the work of an American, John Sherman, an ex-convict and reformed spiritual seeker. The act of ‘looking at yourself’ is linked above. Unlike John Sherman, no spiritual teachings as such had ever been on my radar, although I was interested, having free styled Shamanistic practices in my teens, and dabbled in divination…I had read a couple of books about 25 years ago, but awakening or enlightenment was not something I had ever thought about, this was for Buddha or someone…. In childhood I had spiritual experiences, but I never sought them, they just happened.
The simple meditation was done spontaneously. I was not asked if I wanted to do it, and I therefore had no expectation of it. The practitioner was simply helping me manage a stressful period of my life and this was just another exercise- or so I thought.
In this single moment I saw my forgotten (real) self very clearly. The only thing I wanted to do was to see this ‘real’ self again- I was overwhelmed with joy and grief to have glanced at ‘myself’ and grieved that I had somehow ‘forgotten’ it. I also saw the falsity of Fiona transposed, which I found very unsettling.
That weekend I located the You-Tube video above, as recommended to me, and did this exercise over and over, and not always successfully. The ‘feeling’ of that ‘real self’ was unmistakable. I joined a discussion forum, downloaded podcasts and did everything I could to touch that ‘feeling’ again and again.
I believe that most people have touched the their real self, especially if they look back at childhood. This is an account of my early experiences of ‘looking’ which I shared on the John Sherman website discussion forum (May 2012), extracts of this first 2 weeks are below:
“I find ‘looking’ very easy to do. At first I needed to watch Johns video to ‘get in’…..As I look I have the sensation of folding the outside of myself to the inside, a kind of turning myself inside out experience. The sensation is unmistakable; it is how I felt as a young child much of the time…. The looking has been a very bi-polar experience for me….I feel I have been transported back to my childhood world and natural state on one hand, but re-exposed to emotional trauma on the other….”
This extract written by me shows the childhood sensations of joy that the looking can be compared to (May 2012)
On childhood memories, also on the forum. “The simplest things are the most evocative. The triangle of light created on the wall by the curtains in the morning, the smell of coal in my Grandmother’s house, the orange glow created by a street light shining through raindrops, the star burst effect created by squinting at the lights on the Christmas tree. The grey pebbles on the beach that turn to purple on a cloudy day, the green that jumps out at you from the hillside in the morning sunshine…All manner of simple but beautiful experiences which have never actually gone away, I am finding myself regaining an increased visual awareness of colour and light which I am enjoying”.
A week following all this I read the Psychology of Transformation by Hubert Benoit, with no previous understanding on Zen at all. I understood the Zen teachings absolutely fundamentally, not out of any superior intellect, but because I had seen my ‘real self’. After all Zen is just about ‘seeing your own nature’ with a bit of ‘the way’ and ‘existing in an endless moment’ thrown in for good measure. Not that there is ‘a way’, it is compete freestyle and I love exploring ways of seeing that join it all together. I don’t think about it at all, I just do what comes to mind as I go along in life. ‘Seeing myself’ within a leaf while walking, loading up 3 different You-Tube binaural videos and meditating to all three at the same time while focusing inward. The ‘feeling’ that arises is always the same, although it can intensify and produce spiritual experiences. What this does do is make the practice elastic so it joins up and slots into as many places in real life as possible. What I am frustrated about is my inability to articulate ‘the feeling’. I am still unable to find adequate words for myself without rambling as people reading this blog may have noticed… Once you have ‘seen’ yourself you do not read spiritual books as a seeker (if indeed you are interested at all). Personally I find profundity in their words, I love reading how others try and describe ‘the feeling’. I also enjoy them intellectually, just as one might enjoy reading about Darwin’s theory of Evolution, or Einstein’s theory of Relativity, no more necessary to the fundementals of understanding our material existance, than the reading of spiritual books is necessary to understanding the mystical.
My later work with Douglas Harding’s Headless Way added another dimension again, as the focus is outward and inward, to keep this post simple I will not describe this further here, those interested can take a look at the link here: Douglas Harding and Douglas Harding Continued
I did run into problems, and these may arise again. There are no promises with this or any other practice for those who wish to be 100% anxiety free. At times I have felt very listless and disconnected, I also feel disappointment at my ego; this just arises because it has naturally come into view. It may also have been counter intuative reading Benoit so early on, as the subject of ego was covered from a psycolological point of view, and extremely intellectually. These are difficult aspects of myself that I have been slowly re-aligning. This is another extract from the discussion forum which exhibits one of my earlier problems and one which still persists from time to time.
(May 2012) “The main problem is concentration and distraction. I am normally able to concentrate for long periods without being distracted. The ‘looking’ has made me on edge, but at the same time is compelling. Another thing is the increase in visual data. Everything I look at or listen to jumps out at me more. I feel like a blunt pencil that has just been sharpened to the point that it splinters when it is put to paper. I am having to wear headphones with ambient music to help me concentrate as well as it screens out other sounds.”
Other problems I do have are an inclination towards ‘dissociation’ (not an OBE experience) where before I was far too ‘associated’ to stressful and anxiety inducing situations, having learned an amazing capacity for concentration, and staying power, I am now probably too dissociated from stress at times. It is important, as Zen puts it (Benoit) ‘to live in the real external present’– 4th manner of thinking, as opposed to ‘Waking with pure intellectual thought’ 5th manner of thinking or meditation. A space which I find myself in more often than is helpful.
More recently, I have been surprised that those who love me have accepted the real ‘me’ as an improvement on the ‘false self’. I have also seen a very dark period where the trauma of a near serious accident made the ‘false self’ overshadow the ‘real self’ to such a degree that I could no longer find ‘myself’ for a period. (or something like that). The dissociation trick failed me here as well, I was very associated to this incident for a short time.To overcome this I dropped all practices other than going back to the breath, mindful walking and the John Sherman video above. In other words I just went back to where I started, and in times of darkness, for whatever the reason, I would recommend anyone afflicted just drops everything and goes back to the very basics. This, I have begun to accept as something that simply arises within the on-going moment of life.
This way of ‘being’ does reduce stress and anxiety, but the ‘self’ still lives in the real world and continues to be affected by it. What I can say is that these issues are ‘viewed’ rather than experienced, and appear more objective. Paul Hedderman said something like ‘you can’t get out of it, when you’re not in it’. Paul only has about 3 things to say, the profundity of his nonsensical parables make sense once you have touched the ‘real’ self although they do have a ring of dissociation about them
For those inclined spiritual reading may be very useful once you are awakened, but not needed. For those that have done a lot of reading previously the words may find new meaning for you. Any mindful practice , walking, writing, painting, music, any form of self-expression is part of the expression of you-ness, after all what we are talking about here is actually ‘ourselves’ so as long as we answer our own call in full, then perhaps this is the way. No need for masters, although like mindedness wherever one finds it does help light the way.
Those who light the path for others, also light the path for themselves….(Anon)
Recently I’ve grown tired of the whole spiritual enterprise. The seeking seems like only the subtlest and most ‘noble’ of addictions. At least the alcoholic knows he is deluded. The spiritual seeker thinks he is doing something worthwhile.
Last year I did a 5-day silent Chan retreat and the only insight I had while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to stay awake, was that everyone there was completely wasting their time. Of course, they wouldn’t have seen it that way. True, all of them ( by their own admission) had long-since given up the quest for satori, or liberation. These old hands had smiled indulgently at me when I stated during the introduction that my reason for being there was to attain enlightenment. This was seen as somehow naïve and childish.
But why else would I be putting myself through this self-imposed torture, if not to rid myself of suffering for once and for all?
Of course I don’t know what was going through these veterans’ minds as they settled down for 5 days of turbo self-abuse. Perhaps they were expecting to get into the ‘zone’ for a while. Maybe they just like that sort of thing, or use it to get away from their spouses for a few days, without running the risks of an affair, or the 19th hole of the golf club.
Either way, satori wasn’t on their agenda, by all accounts. Of course they were right. Satori is no more or less likely to fall upon one in the zendo than the boozer.
But I didn’t know that at the time. They were right. I was naïve. But the advantage I had was that I wasn’t signed up to some tribal behaviour of the Buddhist kind, obediently going through the prescribed rituals like some well-trained monkey.
I suspect that if any of those people had attained liberation they wouldn’t be wasting their time with this nonsense. If I was totally liberated I would probably spend my time more productively, or at the very least enjoyably. You see, I suspect that at the heart of it, these people secretly still believed that if they did this sort of thing long enough or often enough it would lead to the end of suffering; to the end of the agitation, restlessness, and discontent that is the lot of the unawakened.
So what now? It seems to me that Joe Bray is an imaginary person, that this show is just happening, that I have no real influence over what turns up next, and that my true nature is just this ‘on-ness’, which seems to be there all the time. Whether I am asleep, drunk, happy, sad, seeking or absorbed in some task, ‘on-ness’ is just there making it so.
It is faithfully registering everything that arises, constantly changing in this ceaseless eternal moment. So I am already dead, already eternally fucked, eternally redeemed. No need for Jesus or the Buddha, or Mohammed to intercede for me.
Of course I don’t get this, don’t understand this, don’t practise this, don’t realise this, don’t comprehend this.
But it is definitely the way it is.
As Wei Wu Wei said, 99.9% of what you say and think and do is for yourself, and there isn’t one.
All else is bondage…
According to Zen ‘the perfect way knows no difficulties except that it refuses all preference’
Several months ago I read Zen and the Psychology of Transformation by the French psychiatrist Dr. Hubert Benoit. Reading this work was for me the second step on my own path towards meaningful self-realisation. This was a book that appeared in my life at the right time along with a person who understood its potential. No interested reader could deny the sheer intellect of Benoit, an incredible scholar and writer who clearly made it his life’s work to absorb the spiritual teachings of Zen and other eastern traditions, placing these in parallel with western metaphysics, philosophy and psychology. Benoit brought his work to others through his psychiatric practice and writing which he continued almost up until his death in 1992.
Although a complex work, the effort of reading Benoit is extremely worthwhile; to fully absorb its wisdom I would recommend a pack of highlighters as this is a body of writing which one feels the need to constantly refer to. Indeed, those with a true desire for self-transformation will understand the profundity of Benoit’s work. It would not be an understatement to say that reading this book has possibly changed the course of my own life considerably.
I believe the real value in this writing is that Benoit himself had not experienced enlightenment personally. My view is based on this book and the Benoit material I have read online. It does not appear that anyone other than myself shares my view (based on what I have so far read), and I realize that this statement may offend Benoit’s admirers. However this takes nothing away from the achievement of writing such a profound spiritual work and, for this reason I am an admirer of Benoit myself. In my view Benoit’s words reveal his own frailty as a spiritual seeker, he writes with humility, and with the understanding of anxiety and inner conflict way beyond the objective psychiatrist/patient relationship. The anxiety is the authors own, this only makes the work more valuable to the suffering. In the preface Benoit identifies that he himself has had to reflect for years before beginning to be able to see how the need for inner attention taught by Zen could have some practical application. It appears also that Benoit is frustrated in his professional work as a psychiatrist, referring to the ‘poverty of therapeutic effect’ when referring to the condition of man. Throughout the book Benoit talks as a seeker who refers to the possibilities of Satori rather than concrete realization. Those seeking transformation will find this work lights the spiritual path regardless of the authors own ability to reach enlightenment. It is also a a very insightful book for those wishing to understand the source of their own anxiety.
On the subject of self-realisation or the possibility of satori, the author writes:
(p5) “In order that we may theoretically understand the existence in us of this faith which is asleep, and in the possibility of its awakening, and that only this awakening can put an end to our illusionary sufferings…..But this theoretical understanding changes nothing as yet in our painful condition….it must now be transformed into a condition that is lived” Here Benoit also refers to the 4th Mode of thought, which is described later in this study.
The author also asks himself in relation to his own search: (p84) “I ask myself then what this way may be. What is this way of looking, which possible in my present state, yet incapable by itself of giving me the ‘vision into my own nature’, will never the less modify my state in such a way that it will cease to oppose ‘the opening of the third eye’
Having identified how to achieve satori, by inner attentiveness, Benoit recognises that full realisation requires ‘the enlightened moment’ to become and endless series of moments. He writes: (p88) It is a question of transforming these instantaneous perceptions of existing-more-or-less a moment ago into a continuous perception. Man can arrive at that by training himself…
With the above in mind, I do not believe this book to be about Zen, although it discusses the practice in exhaustive detail in terms of psychology and philosophy. It is my belief that this is the author’s hypothesis on how he might bring about his own personal enlightenment. Although it appears cumbersome the message of this book to the reader, and its author is very simple: look at your true nature, that’s all. This book promises no feel good factors, no relief from anxiety nor does it aggrandise enlightenment, although reaching satori is the subject of the book. The only prerequisite required to understand this most radical approach to one’s own existence is the honest desire to look at oneself square on. That’s it, this is the message. Benoit understood what he needed to do very well. This book makes clear, the first step towards any meaningful enlightenment, or relief from mental agitation is the desire to manage one’s own ego. Success in this endeavour is entirely dependent on the individuals’ willingness to bring the aberrations of this false self and its attachments into full view. As the author says when we see our true nature all our false mental representations are smashed against the wall of objective reality. Enlightenment is the stage beyond this. Seeing ones nature increases rather than decreases anxiety as one’s own nature can be found to be at odds with the objective reality in which we exist (in my experience). My own belief is that willingness to unmask this falsity and act on it, is the only way to produce true humility which then fades (rather than removes) anxiety and suffering. The philosophy is simple, the on-going realisation and re-realisation of this task is not. This can form yet another desire and attachment and further anxiety.
Benoit says of himself: ‘If I observe myself I see that I struggle incessantly and instinctively in order to succeed whether my enterprises are egotistical (to win, to enjoy, to become admired etc.) or altruistic…
Benoit’s words lack joy and appear lonely as does his seeking. Although brilliant this work is written with the intellect of a scholar and life-long spiritual seeker, one who appears to be struggling to find their own truth within intellect and theory. These are not the words of a mystic. As a psychiatrist Benoit is able to describe how distress comes about and how the mind attempts to handle it, in his words “always unsuccessfully”. A statement which I believe applied to himself as well as his patients. The only real solution, he says, is the interior realization of our true state of being, which he identifies as being the radical transformation of satori. Through his research Benoit clearly understood exactly what was needed to manifest enlightenment, In fact he has undoubtedly enabled others to manifest it. Paradoxically it is probably this very western scientific approach that possibly prevented Benoit from experiencing the Satori that he himself desired.
My thinking here stems from the fact that Benoit’s writing appears to flow from research and lacks the feeling of direct experience. Chapter 12 for example is called ‘How to achieve the inner task according to Zen’ The work feels remote in its orderly approach, each chapter of the book looks at the question of enlightenment or ‘task’ from a slightly different perspective, The mystic ‘discovers’ enlightenment from outside of systems, expectations, doctrines and rituals. The mystic is rebellious not formulaic.
According to Benoit’s hypothesis, enlightenment is achieved through triangulation psychology, thinking which he refers to as the conciliatory principle. This is represented in the diagram below, The Superior Conciliatory Principle (in my understanding) appears to be a ‘balance’ between the positive and negative, it is my belief that this ‘superior’ state is observed from a point (our consciousness) outside of, and superior to our own interior conscious awareness. Although shown resting on its base, the triangle could also be shown be resting on its apex in order to demonstrate the on-going inner attention to ‘balance’ and management of ego that is required to maintain the enlightened state.
Benoit writes on the Conciliatory principle (the theory of which I have simplified in the paragraph above)
(p8) In this intemporal triad…one sees the perfect equality of the two inferior principles….it is impossible to assign a superiority, either qualitative or quantitative, to either of these two principles (which Benoit refers to as similar to Yin and Yang)….(p10) when the apex of the triangle is lacking the base of the triangle cannot remain horizontal….the positive principle swings and becomes ‘God’ and the negative the ‘Devil’….Since this dualism of the principles contradicts the intuition that man has in other respects of a unique principle which unifies everything…..(p18) My life is insipid and monotonous; I do not call that a living; at most it is existing….At the same time everyone feels that ‘living’ is superior to ‘existing’…..(P19/ 20) Man achieves existence, because existing is a necessary condition for living….he cannot otherwise affirm himself egotistically as distinct…basing the idea of existing on living he runs counter to the real order of things since he bases the real on the illusionary. And so the equilibrium of the ordinary man is always unstable; this man is comparable with a pyramid standing on its apex.
Following on from the above; Benoit’s interpretation of Zen tells us our emotions and fears have no place in true understanding. Love and hate, positive and negative must be viewed with an impartial eye in order to transcend the on-going conflict that creates distress; this yields the understanding which is referred to as Satori. This is what Zen means when it instructs us that our task does not consist of any ‘doing’ but in ‘not doing’ This inner task is performed in the course of our life, in parallel with our life. However this ‘not-doing’ is accompanied by a higher-level doing which is explained in what Benoit calls the five modes of thought of the natural man.
The five Modes of thought of the natural man- Psychological Conditions for Satori
In Benoit’s words the psychological consciousness of the natural man functions in five different ways which form a single series. (p46)
1st mode: Deep sleep, without dreams. The mentality contains no images. A mode of functioning which is non-functioning. 2nd mode: Sleep with dreams. 3rd mode: Waking with reveries. Here I concern myself with only the 4th and 5th modes:
4th mode: Waking with definite thought that takes account of the real external present. (real life) -This in my view represents realisation, the equilibrium of the ordinary man living in a state of enlightenment and able to manage his own ego. In Benoit’s words (p91) this man is capable of concrete thought without containing these thoughts within himself. In other words he knows no preference and is able to deal with his life objectively and from the apex of the pyramid. In the words of the Zen master on the way of things: The Tao is our daily life.
5th mode: Waking with pure intellectual thought.- This is the single point conscious awareness state of existence that is experienced in meditation. God consciousness, Buddha consciousness etc. In Benoit’s words this man’s thoughts are not constructed in a realistic style and are in contrast to the concrete thoughts described in the 4th mode.
The 4th mode of thought appears to me to be equilibrium, the effective management of the conciliatory Principle, keeping this at work within oneself at all times – the 5th mode of thought and the Superior Conciliatory Principle (consciousness) is our true understanding, the creator of the other two principles and thus our own creator and ‘God’ consciousness.
‘Knowing no preference’ as Zen calls it, or as the 4th Mode of thought suggests, the ability to manage one’s own ego, also frees the self from attempting to cultivate detachment, an attachment in itself which can create the ‘desire’ to be ‘desire-less’ Triangulating to a point of observation above desire (the superior conciliatory principle) and offsetting fear produces true detachment.
Finally Benoit identifies that when man does not complete his inner task of ‘seeing into his own nature’ and manifesting satori he compensates himself. Rather than the higher-level doing that arises from the enlightened state, man, in Benoit’s words (p218) thinks he has found reality in money or honours or power….an image which confers an apparent inner unity….This is not to be confused with the man of satori. Benoit identifies: (p215) “Every compensation is essentially constituted by an image involving my ego….the image centre is bi-polar….this explains why there are negative and positive compensations.”
All page references are from the Inner Traditions paperback (1995) edition
Free e-book of the Psychology of Transformation- The Supreme Doctrine by Hubert Benoit. Page numbers run slightly behind the printed version referenced above.