In the beginning was the Gift: Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of others.” –Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein made a good point, when one considers it, the whole of existence survives for the benefit of all other beings and no amount of ego based self-aggrandisement changes this fundamental fact.

Sacred Economics was sent to me as a You-Tube video by Steve Palmer as a ‘gift’ Since receiving the video at the end of last week I have now read the book, all of which is available via Amazon or free online. In the spirit of the work itself, I am also now sharing it with others.

Charles Eisenstein, (b 1967), is a Yale graduate in Mathematics and Philosophy has written a deeply spiritual work which integrates the economic system into spiritual thinking, thinking that may have entered the outer fringes of human consciousness at exactly the right time. Sacred Economics may serve to remind us all that the ‘circle of the gift,’ rather than that of money is the true value of community, and indeed our natural economy. Some may wonder if ‘God’ really gave us the world for exploitation mastery and domination, a folly that has been at the expense of all other existence. The most beautiful thing about this book is that while it highlights our economic and global imbalance, it also suggests modern day versions of ancient solutions that have served mankind well before. Eisenstein is way ahead of modern economics and its triple bottom line (TBL) theory, also referred to as people, planet, profit which is really just an expansion on the traditional Keynesian spectrum. The result 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. Moreover, mass industrialisation has also shattered traditional communities.

Reading this book made the American word for Salary ‘Compensation’ pop into my head. Anyone who questions the time they spend simply making a living may find it interesting to contemplate the definition: Something given or received as an equivalent for services, loss, injury or suffering.

When we think about it, how many of us are being ‘compensated’ by money for having something taken away, even if this is simply time to enjoy the world. Perhaps we are ‘compensating’ others for the suffering we inflict on them by our requirement of their services. These could be the people we pay to care for and educate or children, the medical profession, the supermarket staff from whom we buy our ready meals and a host of other services which were available freely in tribal families and communities. An interesting question is to what extent money is used as a substitute for time, freedom, friendship and love. How many talented people sacrifice their lives to uninspiring but well paid work believing that in retirement they will find the freedom to do what they believe in only to find themselves enslaved to money? After three hundred years of economic expansion this is how impoverished we have become, with no more real freedom than a medieval feudal serf.

This makes me wonder if money has presented a paradox where progress results in the polarization of wealth, where the accumulation of wealth by one may contribute to the poverty of another? It also makes me wonder if anxiety and depression arises because ‘God consciousness’ has been forgotten and replaced with a material existence which is so spiritually impoverished by this self-bondage that many are unable to find lasting pleasure in everyday life. These people also appear to be most commonly found within the world’s wealthiest nations, where it is ok for consumer goods manufacturers to build in planned obsolescence to many of our manufactured goods, and create advertising campaigns that make the user feel inadequate if they don’t ‘pay’ for an upgrade. Presently there is little desire for products that are well made, long lasting and easy to fix.

How did we forget who we really are? Our early ancestors received the gift of providance from their creator. The economy was a ‘gift’ consciousness where cooperation was emphasised over competition in a cyclical rather than linear economy. This has very strong parallels to Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory.

Eisenstein exposes the myths behind corporate and government power structures and the social and the spiritual devastation that has arisen from 300 years of economic growth. Indeed, our modern existence has split human reality into material and spiritual realms, a duality that is woven into every aspect of our civilization.  Eisenstein allows the more inclusively minded to entertain the hope that failing economic systems may eventually propel us into a new era where suspicion gives way to the authentic generosity that has always existed in the world.

Economics and spirituality are inseparable, it is sad that these days we are suspicious of ‘gifts’ thinking kindness is to be about someone wanting to profit from us or having an ulterior motive. The more enlightened even question their own motives because we are conditioned to avoid ‘being used’ Am I giving because I want to, we ask ourselves… or is this just a means of self-aggrandisement? Perhaps it is good to give, whether this is simply trust, time, our talents or whatever.

The question is how do we share our gifts in today’s money economy and still make a living? For this to work we need to instead think ‘How may I best give of my gifts?’ instead of, ‘How can I make a living?’ The problem is for this model to work this thinking needs to be everyone and not just the enlightened few, as Ken Wilber says, the gifted need to step forward…

Unfortunately those with power are driven by money, significantly J. P. Morgan cut off financing for Tesla’s wireless energy transmission project (which, according to Tesla, would have provided virtually unlimited energy), he did not question the science. He did not evince the slightest doubt that the invention would work. He rejected it because he saw that it would be impossible to make money from it, saying, “If I can’t meter it, I can’t sell it.”

And here is the biggest problem….not that this means that we as individuals are not responsible…

To buy Sacred Economics Sacred Economics from Amazon


Also interesting: Ken Wilber and Thomas Campbell and the theory of everything


Divine Pride: Ken Wilber and the ‘we-ness’ of being

Joe Bray recently sent me a You-Tube video (above) where Ken Wilber puts forward the concept of ‘Divine Pride’, a movement arising from the first wave of a Divinely ‘called’ spiritually gifted elite. According to Wilber these few individuals are on the cutting edge, understanding that there is only one consciousness, a divine field that exists between humanity, and all things. These individuals have a calling to be part of something spiritually greater than their own existance in the world. As implied by Wilber, Divine Pride is far more than a phenomena arising from the inter-subjective field of shared spiritual values and world views, this is fundementaly about ‘We’ and not ‘I’. Wilber’s suggestion of a spiritual elite may be sounding a little too like narcissism…after all if there is only one consciousness then such cosmic jewels as spiritual enlightenment would be (and are) equally available to all…at least this is my personal point of view.

In Wilber’s formulation of ‘Divine Pride’, the idea Ken is putting forward is extremely valuable, both because of the ideas themselves and his popularity as an author, speaker and teacher, someone uniquely able to bring the subject of consciousness into wider awareness. Kens hypothesis puts forward consciousness as a uniquely human property, although his belief in something spiritually greater is also implied. It is my belief that human consciousness alone is simply ‘conscious awareness’, a minute fragment of consciousness itself, but very important none the less.

It seems that at the simple but important level of ‘Conscious Awareness’, we humans appear to have a need to recognise the importance of our own consciousness. Those wanting an answer to that over-shadowing question; ‘what’s it all about? are increasingly engaging in a practice of spiritual inquiry which asks the self about its own motivation towards world issues over our individual anxiety. In contrast Wilber’s spiritual focus up until now appears to have been the spiritual evolution of individual ‘I’ consciousness, and concern with personal rather than collective spiritual development. However, things are changing, our postmodern, industrial scientific worldview is failing along with politics and organised religion, this ‘I’ culture appears to have become the victim of mankind’s egotistical limitations- perhaps the cause of our anx’I’ety? (mine anyway) Perhaps it is time for capitalism, religion and science, and other important facets of our collective consciousness, to be somehow incorporated into a new and more inclusive ‘I’-‘We’ world view?

It will be interesting to see how Wilber’s ‘Divine Pride’ pans out in the real world and in spiritual circles. In Wilber’s 12 minute video (above) he calls on spiritually gifted individuals to offer their greatest possible gifts to the world, A sentiment that suggests that each human has a gift to freely offer to another, with no need for ego-centricity or anything special here. ‘Divine pride’, is according to Wilber a certain orientation in life, above ego, where the self is stripped of arrogance and tempered by a humility motivated by compassion and the desire to be of spiritual service. He goes on to say that this is a condition where spiritual elite have the ‘divine pride’ to believe that they are ‘God.’ We are entering what Wilber describes as the 6th transformation of humanity which will change our actions towards other human beings to be motivated by deeper perspectives and higher intentions. What I believe Ken means here is to simply recognise our divinity over narcissism or self-flattery.

What I believe Wilber has identified here is the awakening of 5th and 6th dimensional consciousness within popular spiritual thinking. Current spiritual thinking appears to suggest that on Earth, 4th dimensional consciousness is currently overlapping 3rd. The 4th dimensional characteristics account for an increased desire for unity, peace, anti-capitalist sentiment, the increase in anxiety within the developed world and possibly the continued growth of $11bn USA self-help industry. Indeed Deepak Chopra the physician, speaker, writer and founder of the Chopra Centre for Wellbeing has a personal income of $22 million. In the field of consumer intelligence this correlates with the sentiments of the so called Generation Y (b.1984-2001) who appear have more conscious attitudes than the preceding generation X although GY are also seen by marketers as egocentric and me orientated. Gen Z (b 2000 onwards) are forecast to be more altruistic and less materialistic than Generation Y and are expected to be focused on social justice issues.

If mankind is to progress beyond the ‘cutting edge’ of this new age of conscious understanding towards actually realizing it, self-enquiry for as many individuals as possible needs to go way beyond philosophical introspection into what it means to be human, and our divine purpose as spirits on this earth. The larger paradigm for consciousness also needs to be considered here as a fundamental of our collective being.

In order to fully explore consciousness it may be useful to consider dimensions above the 4th dimension (time) to be non objective and spiritual. On this basis consciousness itself could exist in higher and multiple dimensions outside of the observable/ measurable 4d universe. The entire universe (as one) could participate in consciousness, the solar system, humans, animals, single-celled life forms, particles and atoms. Everything in existence has (in my belief) its own expression of consciousness. Consciousness itself could be the conscious observer that brings all into being, a single ‘one-ness’ that operates via a spectrum of vibrational frequencies along the lines of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). Most humans are able to perceive only a fraction of the EMS, visible light for example. However if we consider consciousness as the observer that brings all that is into being then believing in (observing) other dimensions of existence either singly of simultaneously could bring them into reality. The same could apply to the EMS gamut that exists outside of normal human conscious awareness; belief in the form of observation could be what brings phenomena such as the human aura into visibility for some. (Similar to the wave/ particle duality of the photon for example) The ability to experience such things may not be a gift at all but an ability available to all who accept the possibility of it. This theory could be extended into experiences such as the out of body experience (OBE)

Such Dimensions may simply be a means of organising planes of existence according to their vibration. As human conscious awareness develops beyond the 5th/ 6th dimension Humans may more widely be able to experience states of multi-dimensional consciousness, that is being able to exist (vibrate) within the frequency of multiple dimensions. This may mean gaining the belief to manifest an awareness that exists above and below what we consider our physical plane, while also existing within normal human objective reality. This to me explains some people’s ability to experience Auras and OBEs while existing in this world. More on multi-dimensional consciousness soon…

Further Information on Ken Wilber and the integral institute

What is self? A journey with the Christian mystic Bernadette Roberts

With extracts from an article written by Alan Mann

‘Eternity comes clad in the guise of the present moment.’

I was introduced to the work of Bernadette Roberts by Alan Mann, who I met at a Douglas Harding gathering in the UK this summer. Alan’s thoughts on Bernadette Roberts follow a little background information and my own thoughts which are based on reading extracts of her work online. Roberts is a remarkable Christian contemplative, her work has similarities to Thomas Merton although her own personal experience of ‘God’ is perhaps considerably more profound. Some of what she describes also has a personal meaning for me, and although I would not consider myself Christian as such the writings of the Christian mystics have a deep resonance with me at this moment. Bernadette appears to suggest that the final duality is the I-We-ness of being (living?,) where our union with the divine is in synergy with our sense of personal selfhood. This, according to Roberts can be transcended so that both self and God/ the Supreme Being fall away. Union with this Supreme Being or God gives way to something beyond this union. In other words the self’s union with God transcends itself to live entirely in the now, which I believe to be a union with a self-sustaining state, one which is illuminated only by divinity, the illuminator of pure consciousness. This simultaneous ‘being’ and ‘not being’ is one where the ‘match’ or eternal flame gives life to all our seen and unseen illusions in this life. It is divine consciousness. This to me is pure white light although I am not sure how such a state can be sustained outside of some kind of super form of the single point consciousness state, which some can achieve through deep meditation, not that I have experienced anything so profound personally. In an up and coming post I will attempt to explain 6th dimensional consciousness, a modern way of expressing a stage before this. Ken Wilber is also understanding this thinking in his Divine Pride Ideoligy. Below Alan questions if what Bernadette describes, is not in fact death…although I believe the book of Genesis has something to say on this. More thoughts although not so profound can be found here in Let there be light

As a young child Bernadette had personal experiences which she believed to be revelations of God. Roberts felt the divine present within her, and as entirely transcendent. After entering the Carmelite order as a young teenager she experienced the spiritual deepening of the “dark nights” described by Saint John of the Cross. She recounts that when she was 18, a new novice mistress asked her about her prayer life, “so I told her: I do nothing; there is just silence.” Her superior believed Bernadette to be deceived, and falling into the heresy of Quietism. Roberts believed she should trust in the journey so carefully described by the Saint John of the Cross. In her work Roberts considers herself a common contemplative although she is most often described as a Christian mystic.

After spending 10 years as a cloistered nun, Bernadette left the order, married, raised four children, and walked an ordinary life with God

Her first book The Experience of No-Self was the most popular, she subsequently wrote The Path to No-Self and What is Self? Her latest book which is the book discussed here. Unlike Thomas Merton Bernadette does not seem to relate to other spiritual traditions. Like many mystics Roberts finds that language alone is insufficient for describing the profound feeling of enlightenment that arises from the silence of the no self, she is unable to describe the indescribable feeling that arises within the heart as it finds or glimpses true nature.  What is most profound is that Bernadette is able to describe from personal experience, a stage beyond what she calls the unitive stage, that is ‘being at one with God.’ As the unitive stage is transcended the experience of being at one with God dissolves into a new way of knowing. As the author writes “We think of ourselves as originally emerging from the unknown, from darkness, nothingness or non-existence into the light of consciousness. But as consciousness develops we discover the increasing ability to see in the dark, see into the nothingness or mystery within ourselves and eventually realize that this darkness and nothingness is the divine from which we emerged and with which we are one. Thus we discover that our original darkness IS true light. Midway in this passage, divine light (darkness or unknowing) and the light of consciousness are in balance, with neither outshining the other. But as we move beyond this mid-point, divine light begins to outshine the light of consciousness until, in the end, the light of consciousness goes out and only divine light remains. From this vantage point we look back on the passage and see that although consciousness was the veil that dimmed the light, this dimming was necessary in order to make the human dimension possible. But if consciousness makes human existence possible, it is also not separate from the divine, nor does it completely hide it; on the contrary, consciousness or self is man’s faculty or medium for experiencing the divine”

Here are some thoughts from Alan Mann who has studied Roberts work and discussed these at the spiritual meetings he attends. More on Alan’s writings can be found here:

Alan Man: I was introduced to Bernadette’s latest book What Is Self , in which the author  continues her exploration into the nature of self and what lies beyond it. She says that there is a level beyond the unitive self—beyond consciousness, human awareness and experience—and which we miss because we tend to take unitive consciousness to be the ultimate goal.  My immediate response was that this seemed like a definition of death and, if beyond experience, how could one possibly have any idea that such a condition existed? I was also intrigued by the apparent contradiction between this claim and the title of her earlier book which carried the title The Experience of No-self.  I pulled these extracts from What Is Self to summarise her view:

P.16.  We cannot come upon mature existence or right living until we first come to the egoless unitive condition. Only the true unitive Self is able to live fully and fearlessly in the world—or in the ordinary marketplace. It is only after the true Self has been lived to the fullest extent of its potential that it ultimately falls away. Self or consciousness falls away because its purpose and potential for full human existence has been completed—finished. With its completion man moves to his final divine destiny.

 …Once again, the prevalent mistaken notion to dispel is that the egoless state is the end of the journey or the ultimate goal to be attained. There is far more to self or consciousness than the ego-self. What is urgently needed in order to understand the completed journey is a clear distinction between ego and self, and a clear distinction between the falling away of the ego and the much later falling away of self in its egoless unitive condition.

Alan Mann: The aspect which I found most interesting was Bernadette’s claim that whatever she was pointing to as the ultimate level was inaccessible. Combining the inaccessibility with the necessity for whatever it might be seemed to be an unsupportable contradiction.  My first reaction, that she was pointing to death, reminded me of a Robert Powell quote I’ve been carrying around for a many years, … Continuity can never be broken on its own level: it can only cease when submerged in another dimension—and that dimension is the timeless, manifesting itself on the level of continuity as death. But what sort of death?

Over the days following I finished reading Bernadette’s book. I found a great deal to agree with, and her presentation of the Christian story is far more meaningful in my opinion than the way it is usually offered.  At the same time I am not comfortable with her determination to fit her undoubted revelations into a strictly Christian context she doesn’t allow equivalent value to other traditions.

The British Philosopher Douglas Harding has some interesting things to say, he quotes D.T. Suzuki in his book Head off stress which I found it helpful in resolving the apparent paradox of accessing the inaccessible.

Extract from the chapter entitled The Beyond as the Great Unconscious

D. T. Suzuki, the scholar and master who brought Zen to the West in the earlier part of this century, called this Beyond – which is the medicine for all our stress – the Great Unconscious or the Cosmic Unconscious. In this he followed the lead of the founding fathers of Zen in China more than a millennium ago. He writes:

The relative field of consciousness vanishes away somewhere into the unknown, and this unknown, once recognized, enters into ordinary consciousness, and puts in good order all the complexities there which have been tormenting us to greater or lesser degrees … Our limited consciousness, inasmuch as we know its limitation, leads us to all sorts of worry, fear, unsteadi­ness. But as soon as it is realized that our consciousness comes out of something which, though not known in the way relative things, are known, is intimately related to us, we are relieved of every form of tension and are thoroughly at rest and at peace with ourselves and with the world generally.

Alan Mann: Douglas continues: Later on Suzuki warns that, when this Great Unknown cannot assert itself naturally, it will break out violently or pathologically, and we shall then be ‘hopelessly ruined’. I would add that the way to avoid sickness and ruin is to cease overlooking the Boundary where the known and the Unknown meet, where the patient is in direct contact with the real Healer, and where the beyondness of the Beyond is absolute. When taken seriously and not just read about, this prescription is no mere form of words or bloodless abstraction, no lofty senti­ment incapable of testing and putting into daily practice. Quite the contrary, it springs to life directly it is anchored to this body and its needs. Nothing could be more homely.

So, where does that leave me as far as my difficulty with Bernadette’s opinion that unitive consciousness is not the end of the journey. That it’s a stage which must be transcended, as the ego-centred consciousness has been transcended, to arrive at the unitive state. For her, self and consciousness are synonymous.  This further stage cannot be the subject of consciousness as it is arrived at only when the self and consciousness comes to an end.

To read Alans thoughts on Bernadette Roberts, Douglas Harding and other spiritual teachings:

The moment I let go of it was the moment

Cathartic is such a fabulous word, according to the dictionary its meaning is: Providing psychological relief through the expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis.

For another post on grief and letting go see Joseph Bray’s post For those of us who are orphaned which can be used as a metaphor for letting go in any situation. See also Pearse’s comment in the same post “you got me, I cried. It gets easier as I get older and I thank God for it”

Everyone finds the need at some point of other to let go of things, situations and people in thier life.

When this happens it is somehow it is important to know (and understand) that everything is going to be OK and to know for the first time that it really will be regardless of the final outcome.

This video was linked to me via facebook from a spiritual website, and although I am familiar with the lyrics I had not before considered it to have any particular spiritual meaning. At this point in my life this song as a very personal meaning for me. This is for all those who need to shed themselves of attachments…This is a song for letting go, forgiving others for thier actions against us, letting go of attachments, accepting vulnerability and emotional nakedness and thanking our suffering for gift of freedom it brings to us when we finally ‘grow up’ enough to let go of our attachments and to be overtaken by whatever emotion arises in that moment.

Thankyou: by Alanis Morissette

How ’bout getting off these antibiotics
How ’bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How ’bout them transparent dangling carrots
How ’bout that ever elusive kudos

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How ’bout me not blaming you for everything
How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once
How ’bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How ’bout taking you upon your support

The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down

How ’bout professing just how much you love me
How ’bout taking him up on a back-massage
How ’bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How ’bout grieving it all one at a time

How ’bout no longer being masochistic
How ’bout remembering your divinity
How ’bout reflecting each-other in our last splendor
How ’bout not equating death with stopping

For the version with the lyrics but without the video

Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere

Sagrada Familiar Stained Glass Window

“Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere, where all the many things are one”

A friend recently gave me a copy of the Path to the Palace of Nowhere by James Finley, a student of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, author, and student of Zen.

The writing of Thomas Merton asks us the fundamental question; ‘Who am I ultimately before God?’ or as I understand it ‘Who am I ultimately before all existence?’ My own thoughts are that whatever way we look at this, our own actions before God/ existence could be considered more important than the actions of others, for in the face of all existence or love within the I/We-ness of all-being the only actions we can control are our own…Desiring others to change their behaviour towards us, others or situations, however unjust their behaviour may have been is just a want of our ego or ‘false self’ – That is if Mertons writing is to be taken into the context of everyday living as opposed to monastic life.

To reach any kind of spiritual understanding it appears that we first need to overcome the sense of “is that all there is?” and to become aware of and reduce the power of the false and illusionary self or ego. This is nessasary in order that the true self can awaken enough to understand and experience a glimpse at enlightenment, and to know that such a glance is merely a ‘given’ moment of illumination arising from the fabric of everyday living. Nothing fancy here, just one eternal moment from which the entire universe unfolds. This realisation was at the heart of Thomas Mertons understanding, and the purpose of his student James Finley’s own spiritual quest, and possibly the purpose of all spiritual seekers everywhere.

The realisation of “Is that all there is?” and recognising the shadow of The ego, or ‘False self’ as Merton calls it has been central to my own path, The most important person in my life has been, and probably still is this illusionary shadow, the small one who insists on the entire universe being ordered to satisfy its own egocentricity. The ‘false self’ overshadows the ‘real self’ in its quest power, pleasure and glory, and in its desire to be ‘someone’ or ‘something.’ In my own life the false self is the one who has allowed family rifts to continue on a point of principle, or the one who has expected people who have wronged me to say ‘sorry’, in order that I can forgive them, even when I know they lack the capacity for what my false self considers appropriate remorse. The false self is the one who demands love and needs to be right. I have come to realize that this want, want want of the screaming child within, with its illusion of power manifests nothing but unrealized ideals, misery, anxiety and anger at the absolute unfairness of it all…not that this makes the false self go away, perhaps it slowly reduces its basis of power.

In his work, Finley describes life with Thomas Merton, and how he pointed the way to an enlightened state of awareness open to us all. Merton, as a young man, was spiritually awakened to the presence of God within life itself, to the mystery that there is nothing missing anywhere. What makes the work so meaningful is the knowledge of Mertons own struggle as a human being, where he, at times has struggled with his own faith, fallen in love, and as a result struggled to maintain his vows, the kind of doubt that reduces even the most enlightened one to serve the shadow self in the of darkest times

The phrase “Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere, where all the many things are one,”comes from the Taoist sage and poet Chaung Tzu, who used the phrase “Palace of nowhere” as a metaphor for contemplative fulfillment. That is, the palace of nowhere is a state of awareness in which we realize directly that ultimately nothing is real but love. Or that ultimately nothing is real but God. “The palace of nowhere” also alludes to a great paradox. The nowhere is the infinite ground of everywhere.

These moments of awakening arise spontaneously out of the substance of everyday life itself. That is, they come in while lying awake at night when it starts to rain, or walking along the beach in the midst of a deep sorrow. Our heart is quickened and we know that this moment is true. If we sit with these moments, we see that they disclose to us a depth that fulfills our hearts. Once we’ve tasted of that fulfillment, we begin to see the essentially claustrophobic nature of egocentric pursuits. We begin to ask ourselves: “Why do I spend so much of my life trapped like this? Why do I spend so much time unaware of that which alone can fulfill my heart?” This aching or longing is our teacher. It helps us to realize that we are called to something infinitely beyond what any egocentric pursuit can offer us. And then in obedience to that teacher we set out on this path. Paradoxically, the way to our deliverance lies in the willingness to open our hearts to this ache. That is what transforms us. But the contracted state of egocentricity invests itself in the avoidance of that ache, which of course does nothing but perpetuate the discontent. This false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves – the ones we were born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist.  A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.”

Further Reading: James Finley left home at the age of 18 for the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, where Thomas Merton lived as a contemplative. Finley stayed at the monastery for six years, living the traditional Trappist life of prayer, silence, and solitude.

Merton was first exposed to and became interested in Eastern religions when he read Aldous Huxley’s Ends and Means in 1937, the year before his conversion to Catholicism.Throughout his life, he studied Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sufism in addition to his academic and monastic studies.

Merton was not interested in what these traditions had to offer as doctrines and institutions, but was deeply interested in what each said of the depth of human experience.

In April 1966, Merton underwent a surgical procedure to treat debilitating back pain. While recuperating in a Louisville hospital, he fell in love with a student nurse assigned to his care. He wrote poems to her and reflected on the relationship in “A Midsummer Diary for M.” Merton struggled to maintain his vows while being deeply in love with the woman he referred to in his personal diary as “M”. He never consummated the relationship. After ending the relationship, he recommitted himself to his vows.

Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere by Soundstrue, Mertons Palace Nowhere by James Finley

Art, Consciousness and Reality: the work of Tomás Saraceno

Those interested in consciousness the cosmos, multiverses, cell formations, neural communication networks, and the joining up of things into complex geometries which seem to allude to otherworldly dimensions, will appreciate these dizzying spatial illusions created by the Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno. In his work, which is as unique as it is profound, Saraceno attempts to convey multiple versions of perceived reality which are each created according to the observers unique perspective.

For me there was a very particular personal interest in seeing this work back in August while on a work related trip to New York. As a child I had created similar miniature versions of Saraceno’s work in order to try and express my own thoughts on the endlessness of being and infinity, a failed project which started off with 2 mirrors at each end of our family bathroom and eventually became a collection of mirrors and later a mirror ‘football’….

So it was with childish glee that I set off to see Tomas Saraceno, Cloud City on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art early one August evening. The exhibit was made all the more powerful with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline simultaneously outside and inside  (reflected) in the exhibit along with the multiple reflections of the observer(s), even more profound were the ‘missing’ mirrors which instead of reflecting the skyline behind the exhibit ‘framed’ a unique to the observer snapshot of the view.

Sarenceno clearly shows how reality is brought into realization according to the observers view point. Whether it be looking out of a window or arguing with a friend, the reality of any object, situation or relationship is entirely dependent on the first person point of view. In other words every observable thing has as many realities as there are consciousness’s observing or experiencing it, regardless of what those life forms may be. For the more scientifically inclined the many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics (a variation on the many worlds interpretation). Here, the distinction between worlds (reality) is made by the mind of an individual observer, this was later called the many or multi-consciousness interpretation. Wikipedia

Tomás Saraceno was born in 1973 in Tucuman / Argentina. He currently lives and works in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Previous works include “Cloud Cities”, most recently featured at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, a collection of geometric, inflated shapes that challenge our notions of space, place, gravity and future.

More images…

Let there be light

Happiness is a beautiful thing which manifests itself into consciousness quite spontaneously. Recently a simple shaft of light coming through a window momentarily gave me a feeling of pure bliss, making me feel at one with all life from the very soul of my being. The location of this revelation was the cafe in our local swimming pool amidst echos of families and children enjoying themselves.

Paradoxically, this was a very personal and simultaneously impersonal experience which is almost impossible to explain, and one I pondered on while drinking my Latte. I also believe everyone has such experiences but often simply do not pause to consider their enormity.

This was an extraordinary and not an ordinary experience in my life, although not a unique experience either. This was a simple moment of revelation that was both spontaneous and profound, bringing with it the belief of being connected to the power of all creation. At the same time there was a sense of my own insignificance within the infinity of things. That I as flesh and blood am insignificant, and can be removed in a stroke of fate from existance, along with the certain knowledge that there is nothing special or significant about my concerns, or me. This was a powerful, releasing and completely blissful, yet a short lived sensation which soon gave way to all the usual protestations arising from a battered ego, encumbered with ongoing torment and a life that is far from plain sailing at this moment. At the same time as all of this I felt unconditionally loved as a being.

The whole experience has made me read the book of Genesis for the first time. The Bible is not the only word on creation, however even in these ancient times it may have been understood that Consciousness manifested all creation. The book of Genesis clearly states that the Sun was created on the forth day wheras light and dark were separated on the first day making light independent from the sun and seemingly secondary only to consciousness itself. Perhaps the true meaning of ‘light’ is not what shines outside, but what needs to burn ever more brightly and consciously within ourselves.

Satisfaction, joy, bliss, and lack of fear are what I have come to believe enlightenment to be, an experience that arises, when it comes, from deep within oneself. The experience is far from being a permanent manifestation in my life, just a moment among other moments of personal experience which I believe are there for everyone who chooses to experience them.

This brings me on to the question of what enlightenment might look to those able to manifest the experience permanently in their lives. Perhaps bliss arises from a feeling of total love, and perhaps such a feeling can only begin from a personal state of inner wellbeing from which the space to love all things is able to arise. For most of us this experience, if felt is momentary, however its power gives rise to great possibilities not for the sake of our own selves but for the collective self and the greater good of all conscious existence and mankind. If only we each had the courage to manifest this, how different our world could be….

Does this make the quest for personal enlightenment or states of consciousness counter intuitive? This is a question for many who pursue altered states of consciousness through the use of drugs, and for those (including myself) with the sometimes self orientated motivation of improving their own levels of anxiety through altered states arising from deep meditation.

The universe is a strange place indeed, and the whole experience has made me think about the light. We all know that at the centre of our solar system is the Sun, in cosmological terms the giver of light and life to our whole system. Historically, Pagan Babylon worshipped the sun as a deity, and pagan Rome also worshipped the invincible sun. The Roman Catholic Church changed the day of worship from Sabbath to the Sun Day and apparently commonly uses images and symbols of the sun and sunbursts in religious art.

All of this suggests that light as such a source of happiness and wellbeing makes an excellent subject for contemplation and meditation and is possibly helpful in getting closer to our deeper selves

The Corporate Psychopath: Workplace bullying

As a CEO, owner of a business and person who knows many other business owners and senior management, the problem of what I have come to think of as the  ‘corporate psychopath’ appears to be growing. If you have come across this article you may have been the victim of bullying at work, or know someone in this unfortunate position. You may, as senior management be attempting to manage a bully which is not an easy task.

Often these monsters terrorise staff and management at all levels in the business, covering up mistakes for which they themselves are responsible and blaming others. In some cases this causes their staff and co-workers to become desperate enough to leave their employment without another job to go to.

When we think of the term psychopath, images of sadistically violent individuals often come to mind such as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. In my experience the defining characteristic traits of the ‘corporate psychopath’ can be found in a broad spectrum of work environments.

Often these monstrous individuals are initially charming, displaying false empathy to the point that even when thier victims instinct senses danger they ignore this feeling as irrational. These people have a natural talent for manipulation and are self-absorbed individuals with no conscience or feeling for others and for whom rules have no meaning. These depraved manipulators can appear unstoppable. Their non physical violence against innocent victims appears to be planned, purposeful and emotionless. Any attempt at reason will fail as these people appear to operate outside the code that governs normal, rational behaviour towards others.

Their powers of manipulation include the ability to rework the facts when challenged with the truth, and the ability to weave together a series of contradictory statements into a credible sounding story. They do not necessarily lie, they manipulate the truth to the point that they leave everyone confused while covering themselves with an endless paper trail of accusatory emails which contain subtle and not so subtle threats directed at their latest victim. The motivator appears to be control, dominance and an inability to be wrong.

Most successful business people and managers are not corporate psychopaths. Some people consider successful business people and senior management to be ruthless, while this may be true, what differentiates the the destructive type from the successful business person is ethics and the ability to lead and motivate people long term. The corporate psychopath is usually only successful short term and tends to change jobs or roles frequently for this reason. The successful business person is able to ruthlessly pursue objectives for the company over and above their own personal goals while building long term relationships based on mutual benefit and trust. This is done alongside the ability to aggressively negotiate a deal which is in the end equitable for all parties.


The Ego and its Shenanigans

By Andrew Cuthbertson

In the interests of balance here is my reply to one of Fiona’s comments about the concept of the self and enlightenment. I also answer the question directly:

Fiona “I don’t believe it is possible to achieve enlightenment and stay there with no effort.”

If that is what you believe then that will become your truth. Your belief system is what shapes your view of the world and it is part of the EGO. When your mind is quiet you have no beliefs you are only present in the moment.

Why are you spending time trying to figure out the concept of the self that the EGO has generated?

“Meditation and inward focus is a continuous reminder of our short comings”

Who do you think is analysing who when you go on an inward journey? Do you think your EGO is analysing itself for it’s shortcomings? Your true self has no shortcomings. It is a creator. Your feelings of shortcomings are generated by the EGO and have no relation to your true self. Feelings of insignificance are generated by the EGO as it compares itself to others. Your true self isn’t interested in such things, it loves itself completely regardless of the views and opinions of other EGOs.

If you want to get a sense of your interconnectedness with others then sweep away all thoughts of the past and the future and become conscious only of the moment.

In answer to your question “How did we all become so unenlightened?”

We believe we are something we are not and we have never been taught who we really are. We have been lied to so we can be controlled and manipulated by others. The truth has been hidden in plain sight within ourselves. We are all in a locked room and we have been convinced that the room is all there is and so we don’t look for the key which is in our pocket.

The Pre-Trans Fallacy (continued)

ImageBy Fiona1968

This outlines the Trans Rational Theory as seen in the video Joe has posted.

I would like to point out that this contradicts what the late British Philosopher Douglas Harding has to say on the subject. His view is that Children and Animals exist in constant enlightenment. Not that this makes him right, just another viewpoint.

Ken Wilber appears to me to have a very formulaic and dare I say very Alpha Male approach to spiritual thinking. I can just imagine him as a banker or large corporation CEO up on the podium justifying his bonus to shareholders.

This is not helped by the fact that all his tables and diagrams are identical (and copied from) popular charts and diagrams used in the study of the Masters in Business Administration (MBA), namely the balanced score card, the pest analysis “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis” and describes a framework of macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component of strategic management or and the Swot Analysis, (alternately SWOT Matrix) is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective.

Here is his blurb…The “pre-trans fallacy” (popularized by the noted American psychologist/philosopher/writer Ken Wilber) is based on a simple idea that is very important to understand. It is the idea that “trans-ego” states of mind (so-called spiritual states) can be confused with “pre-ego” states (child-like states), resulting in erroneous views about spirituality, and issues related to responsibility.

In many models of developmental psychology and spirituality, three basic levels are recognized. Those are:

1) Pre-ego (roughly birth to age 2 or so)

2) Ego (roughly from age 2 on, with the development of language skills)

3) Trans-ego (possible in adults who commit to working on themselves)

One of the meanings of “trans” is “beyond”. When we commit to a spiritual path (in whatever form) we are basically attempting to “wake up” to our higher nature — or, to go “beyond the ego”. But what does this really mean?

First, it helps to ask, what is the ego? Basically, it is the sense of separate identity — “me”, “mine”, etc. The ego is basic to individual development and is not inherently bad in itself. In fact, it is necessary for both survival, and individuation (recognizing who we are in distinction to others). Something can be initially known only in contrast to something that it is not. For example, a white dot with no border around it placed on an equally white background will not be visible — for all intents and purposes, it does not exist. But a white dot on a black background immediately leaps into appearance. In the psychological realm, the ego is what provides this basic contrast. “I am me, and you are you, therefore I exist.”

As children growing up we had to learn how to separate from our parents (in particular, our mother, as we were originally joined with her body). This is sometimes called the process of “differentiating”. The development of our ego was basic to this process, and thus it is important that a young person develops a “healthy ego”, which means, good boundaries, solid sense of self, good self-esteem, and so on.

Problems with ego-development are, however, common, and often make it difficult for someone to embark on a spiritual path, because we cannot begin to go “beyond” the ego if we have not first developed it in a healthy fashion. This is why many who begin to work on themselves have to do some form of psychotherapy (whether spiritually oriented, or more conventional forms) in order to heal and integrate old wounds, forgive parents or siblings, come to terms with their family history, their self-esteem, and so on.

Failure to come to a reasonable degree of healing with our past (in particular, our family roots), and with our basic sense of personal identity, increases the likelihood of falling prey to the “pre-trans fallacy”. That is, venturing into spiritual practices and beginning to confuse altered states of consciousness that can arise from such practices with early-life memories of “oneness” (like being merged with what was around us), along with an abandoned sense of responsibility, precisely because we desire to relive our childhood in a way that we think will get us what we didn’t get back then.

Spiritual states of mind do indeed include a sense of “oneness”, but they do not abdicate our basic sense of identity. We do not lose the ability to recognize our own name, and thereby successfully answer the phone or reply to an email (for example). More to the point, we do not abandon responsibility, and all the areas of life in which that is important.

Likewise, concerning the role of “rationality” on the spiritual path, there is also much confusion. Trans-ego states of being (deep connection with others, or life, or the universe, deep peace/joy, etc.) are non-rational, which can lead to the belief that all rational states are therefore non-spiritual.

From there, it is a short leap to assuming that all non-rational states are therefore spiritual. This however ignores the fact that pre-rational states are different from trans-rational states. That is, the “oneness” felt by a child is not the same as the “oneness” experienced by a mature, responsible adult. The former is more a state of “fusion”. The latter is a state of deep connectedness in which the ability to use the mind (or personal identity) is not lost.

The main difference between ordinary rationality, and the rationality of trans-ego states, is that in the latter there is less identification with thought. It’s not that the mind becomes non-functional or somehow disappears, it’s rather that we come to recognize, more and more, that we are not our thoughts, anymore than we are our body. But recognizing that we are not the body does not mean that we abandon the body, mistreat it, or pretend that it is not real (or “not spiritual”). Likewise with the mind.

For those who are heavily identified with the mind (common in academia, for example) there is a tendency to dismiss all spiritual states of being as “pre-rational”, that is, a type of regression to immature, self-absorbed states of being. This was one deficiency in Freud’s views, for example, as he saw all spiritual states of mind as a regression to an infantile oceanic state of oneness with the mother. That is also pre-trans fallacy; in this case, confusing post-ego states with pre-ego states, and in so doing, dismissing all spirituality as a childish attempt to avoid being a responsible adult (or “navel gazing”, is it is sometimes derogatorily referred to).

Contrarily, it’s common in new age or personal growth communities to develop anti-intellectualism, by confusing pre-rational states with trans-rational, and thereby assuming that any non-rational state must be spiritual — even though many non-rational states are actually highly egocentric or narcissistic (self-absorbed), not to mention simply disturbed (pathological).

The natural development from ego to trans-ego is a process of transcending and including. That is, the mind and sense of individuality, along with the capacity for responsibility, are not abandoned, they are rather included on the journey, even as we deepen our sense of who we really are, and orient ourselves toward greater wisdom and compassion and skilful ability to help others.