Monday, February 28, 2011

Both Philosphers and Science Point to a Unity

In another post, I have written about how cutting-edge physics, metaphysics, psychology and philosophy all point to a certain unity (or "Unity") that exists beneath our ordinary egoic existence. Yet, it never fails to astound me how ancient philosophers and sages from the world's great wisdom traditions formulated the same conceptions and came to much the same conclusions thousands of years ago.

"Atomic" theory, or "atomism" was first formulated by the Vedic teachers of ancient Hinduism and was carried forward not only into the Advaita Vedanta, but also into Greek philosophy, in large part because Alexander the Great pushed his army all the way from Greece to the Gates of India.

My favourite ancient Western philosopher (along with Socrates, and his pupil, Plato) is the Roman Emperor and neo-Platonic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. In his Meditations (at Book 6:25) Aurelius  writes:
"Think of the number of things, bodily and mental, that are going on at the same moment within each one of us; and then it will not surprise you that an infinitely greater number of things - everything, in fact, that comes to birth in this vast One-and-All we call the universe - can exist simultaneously therein."
For a meditation nearly two thousand years old, it is awe inspiring that Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (like "Indra's Many-Jewelled Net" in Hinduism) cover the same truths as the most modern metaphysical teachings (like Andrew Cohen's "Evolutionary Enlightenment"), as well as those of cutting edge physics (as in Bell's Theorem, which shows there is "entanglement" or the 'faster than light/influence at a distance' phenomena which haunted and frustrated Einstein for the balance of his career.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Morning Meditation From a Roman Emperor

Marcus Aurelius (120-181 C.E.)
Two thousand odd-years later, the Roman Emperor and neo-Platonist philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, is far more renowned for his "Meditations" than he ever was for his battlefield exploits fighting the "Barbarians" on the plains of Germany.

"All we have to live and lose is this ever passing present moment," he observed, a philosophic idea which is wholly consistent with popular inspirational and spiritual teachings today. My favorite of Aurelius' meditations, however, is the following paragraph which reminds us that we interact in a world where most individuals are driven by their self-centered egoic thinking, rather than by any appeal to the higher parts of their consciousness and being.

Aurelius (at Book Two, Verse 1) reflects upon just how we can "turn the other cheek,'" metaphorically speaking, in the following way:
"Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness - all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of these things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man's two hands, feet, or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against nature's law - and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poetic Transcendentalism

Nobody says it like a master poet. And William Wordsworth ( (1770-1850) - who has perhaps the most fitting name of all the bards - is without question a master poet. His work transcends the ordinary and reaches the Divine.

In his Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, Wordsworth enters the sublime with his intimations of the transmigration of the soul and his explicit recognition of  a universal "home" in the Godhead.
William Wordsworth
… Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come,
From God who is our home.

(William Wordsworth, from his poem, "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.")
 The two poems that seem to approach the same spiritual heights as the above passage from Intimations are William Blake's The Tyger and Emerson's Brahma. Blake (1757-1827) was one of those rare individuals to experience wholesale spiritual enlightenment, according to Richard M. Bucke in his groundbreaking treatise on Cosmic Consciousness, while Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) provided a good deal of the impetus to the American Transcendentalist movement that centered around his Concord, Massachusetts home.

William Blake
"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

Richard M. Bucke
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake, The Tygre, 1794)
And last, but not least, is Emerson's Brahma, which reflects the impact that the introduction of Eastern wisdom traditions had on Western religious understanding,  particularly on the development of Emerson's Unitarianism.
If the red slayer think he slays,
  Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
  I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near, 
  Shadow and sunlight are the same,
The vanished gods to me appear,
  And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
  When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
  And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
  And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
  Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
 (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Brahma," 1856)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Indwelling Spirit: You Must Become a Fool to Become Wise

In medieval times, every King had a court jester. The jester was the only person permitted to criticize the King, to prick his pride, to deflate his ego. Carlos Castenada writes of the "trickster" who is a guide to enlightenment. In the same vein, the ever insightful minister, Ted Nottingham, took the following verses as the basis for his sermon on the "Indwelling Spirit" (a podcast of which is available here):

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God. and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? . . . Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in the ways of this world, let him become a fool so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness. For it is written, He catches the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain."
(I Corinth. 3:16-20)
As rendered in Phillip's The New Testament in Modern English, the verses read (in part): "Let no one be under any illusion over this. If any man among you thinks himself one of the world's clever ones, let him discard his cleverness that  he may learn to be truly wise. For this world's cleverness is stupidity to God."

Or, as the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi wrote: "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment."

A relentlessly progressive minister who urges his congregation to wake up to the spiritual reality of who and what they are, Nottingham points out the futility and frustrations that are inevitable for those who relentlessly take their life situation too seriously. He urges his congregation to let go of their anxieties and petty fears so that they can attain a higher consciousness and realize their "Indwelling Spirit."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Unity Through Variety: An Introduction to Sufism

Pir-o-Mirshud, Inayat Khan
Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), one of the first Sufi's to bring the teachings of this most mystical school of Islam to the West, wrote a brilliant and concise treatise on the Sufi perspective. Entitled, 'A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberation,' it cuts to the heart of spiritual teaching that appear to be universal to the world's great wisdom traditions.

The powerful opening of the text talks to the universality and omnipresence of God as a fact, as a force that works in, behind and beyond the universe, regardless of belief or faith:

"Beloved ones of God, you may belong to any race, cast, creed, or nation, still you are all impartially beloved by God. You may be a believer or an unbeliever in the supreme Being, but He cares not. His mercy and grace flow through all His powers, without distinction of friend or foe."
Furthering the non-sectarian, ecumenical and universal message of the Sufi tradition (albeit that Sufism is founded upon and grounded in Islam), Khan demonstrates the universality of the messages of the world's wisdom tradition, a universality that flows by extension from the introductory paragraph regarding the impartiality of God, an impartiality that goes beyond belief or non-belief.

The universal message is that the gate to the path to higher consciousness and an awareness of God's universality starts within our own being:

"The wise man by studying nature enters into the unity through its variety, and realizes the personality of God by sacrificing his own. 'He who knows himself knows Allah' (Sayings of Mohammed). 'The Kingdom of God is within you' (Bible). 'Self-knowledge is the real wisdom' (Vedanta)."
The complete text , originally published by the Theosophical Society, is available on the Internet Archive site ( in either .pdf or .doc formats, and is a wonderful and concise introduction to the Sufi teachings that Inayat Khan brought to the West.

Monday, February 14, 2011

All Is 'One' - Where Physics and Psychology Meet Metaphysics

"Dancing Wu Li Masters" by Gary Zukow
Although it is somewhat dated (albeit its history of relativity and quantum physics remains up-to-date, except for speculative "string theories" and chaos theory), I found the "The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics" (Bantam Books, New York: 1980) to be an eye-opening read which helped affirm my belief (and experience) that at a fundamental level there is no separation, that such separation is only manifested by the ego, and that our whole universe (the "Whole") is interconnected, interwoven, pervaded by consciousness itself.

I have come to believe and understand that this all-pervading consciousness is the timeless Ground of Being, which has been witnessed by enlightened individuals, here and there, since the dawn of time. Not only that, but I have observed there has been a decided uptick in seekers and realizers of this Ground of Being in the last 120 years - a time, not coincidentally, since Eastern wisdom teachings and traditions have been disseminated in the West, and a time we have gone as a species from being largely conveyed on foot or in horse-drawn carts to building spacecraft that have, in fact, left the solar system.

(Padma Sambhava, an Eight-century Buddhist teacher who originally brought Mahayanna Buddhism to Tibet, left the following cryptic, but accurate omen: "When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the World, and the Dharma will come to the land of the red-faced people.)

The "Dancing Wu Li Masters" traces the discoveries and advances in physics over this period, a period that has come to change our entire worldview.

My favourite passage from "The Dancing Wu Li Masters", at page 31 and provided below, is a reflection on what the collaboration of the renowned psychologist, Carl Jung, and the Nobel-laureate physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, implies.
Dr. Carl Gustav Jung
"According to quantum physics there is no such thing as objectivity. We cannot eliminate ourselves from the picture. We are a part of nature, and when we study nature there is no way around the fact that nature is studying itself. Physics has become a branch of psychology, or perhaps the other way round.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist wrote:
The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves.
Wolfgang G. Pauli
Jung's friend, the Nobel-winning physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, put it this way:
 From an inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of an extraversion, into the physical world . . .
 "If these men are correct," Gary Zhukov writes in the "The Dancing Wu Li Masters," at page 31, "then physics is the study of the structure of consciousness." (Emphasis added.)
 To pick up where "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" leaves off, I recommend David Bohm's "The Implicate Order," or any of his numerous dialogues with the enlightened spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti (such as, "The Wholeness of Life"). For more information on the collaboration between Jung and Pauli, I recommend the book, "137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession," by Arthur I. Miller (W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 2009).

"The Dancing Wu Li Masters" was, for a time, available as a .pdf file at the following link: