Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolles

I listened to an interesting interview with Eckhart Tolle on the "The John Murray" show yesterday. Though I was indeed already aware of Eckhart Tolle as one covering similar ground to Chopra - and who is now arguably more successful and influential - I had never actually heard him speak.

On the merit side he came across as genuine and sincere probably helped by his Germanic accent lending an appropropriate touch of gravity to his words.

He spoke about his "conversion" experience at 29 which undoubtedly deeply shaped the rest of his life.
I agree fully with the central basis of his teaching which is the spiritual realisation that only the present moment truly exists. So the secret of deep happiness and fulfilment is to simply learn to live in the continual now of the present moment. I would also agree that the ego in practice is the big obstacle to such realisation with both thought and sense predisposing us to make absolutes of phenomena (which in truth are of a merely relative and ultimately illusionary nature).

However having said this I would have definite reservations with his position. For I believe Tolle (though it may not be his intention) is in fact selling another illusion i.e. that awareness of the true nature of reality can somehow be easily attained.

Perhaps it is just my own hobby horse but I have always found that a major weakness in the position of those advocating spiritual emptiness is that it is rarely properly integrated with phenomenal understanding of form.

In human experience form and emptiness are always necessarily related to each other. Indeed the appropriate experience of form is vitally necessary in fully embracing deeper levels of emptiness!

Therefore the true task is not the surrendering of the ego (with its investment in varied rigid forms); rather it is the difficult developmental task of progressively engaging with a more refined appreciation of form so that it can thereby become compatible with an ever deepening realisation of emptiness.

So I would see that in our age of instant gratification, the very appeal of Tolle's message for many readers is the unjustified belief that spiritual awareness too can be simply achieved.

The spiritual journey is unique for each person where personality characteristics and former experiences play a key role. So some people do indeed appear to find the task of finding true awareness much easier than others.

However accepting the key reality of how the limited ego blocks true freedom of spirit, reform is likely to prove somewhat problematic.

My own experience is that it resembles the peeling of an onion (where the core can never be finally reached). One peels back one layer of the ego enabling a new appreciation of the eternal light only to find new unrecognised layers now impeding reception. So one never can - or even should attempt to - fully surrender the ego. Rather one may through appropriate development, continually attain a more refined appreciation of its nature that can thereby become properly integrated with permanent awareness of the ever present reality of spirit.

A particular barrier to this attainment of spiritual awareness in society is posed by the very nature of our scientific understanding of reality (which in many ways fosters a mental outlook that is incompatible with the spiritual vision).

And as mathematical closely underlines scientific understanding I have always seen my own particular calling in terms of a deep need to develop a more comprehensive approach to both mathematics and science. Thereby both can be made properly compatible with the unfolding of spirit throughout the various stages of contemplative (and radial) development.

Central to this approach is that understanding itself has an infinite number of dimensions (that become ever more refined through spiritualisation).

Thus there is not just one valid overall interpretation of science and mathematics (as represented by the conventional rational outlook). Rather a potentially infinite set exists combining both reason and intuition in increasingly refined configurations.

And for someone pursuing a genuine contemplative path these alternative interpretations become especially appropriate.

Thus belief in the dawning of a new spiritual age (when we at last unmask the folly of the ego) is naive and utopian.

As we face into major environmental and social crises this century (that I fear are inevitable) we will see - at least among some - major shifts in consciousness. However the clash with old ego based beliefs is only likely to intensify rather than recede. This is not to suggest that there is no reason for hope and optimism. Rather it is pointing to the fact that authentic spiritual development is a slow process that can only be properly secured through overcoming many difficulties.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chopra Delusion

I was watching Gay Byrne's series on the "Meaning of Life" last Sunday with his guest Deepak Chopra. Chopra certainly made for an engaging half hour. He is clearly a very gifted individual with well honed communication skills. Also hearing his account of his privileged early background in India was very interesting providing a fascinating intersection as between both Eastern and Western perspectives.

Chopra of course has been very successful in bringing the spiritual mystical worldview to bear both on popular medicine and modern living. Indeed I remember when reading his "Quantum Healing" some 20 years ago readily resonating with his accounts of how mind and body form an indivisible unity with illnesses of all kinds potentially ameliorated through an appropriate spiritual outlook.

However I still have certain reservations regarding Chopra whose greatest talent seems to be his ability to market himself with amazing commercial success. He has that capacity - in common with many well-known personalities - of unerringly sensing the public mood and then adapting so as to meet its requirements.

Now on the positive side one can perhaps laud Chopra's ability to thereby reach a wide audience offering it his notion of enlightenment.

However on the negative side in the desire to increase this vast band of followers he is quite happy to dilute the message somewhat so as to readily fit in with conventional materialistic expectations.

So the unconscious vibe that so many take from Chopra's books is this!

"Look at me, your spiritual guru! Can't you see that I am extremely successful leading a rich and varied life while enjoying its many comforts.
And you too can achieve likewise by following my way."

I found it quite revealing that without any prompting from Byrne, Chopra adverted to a previous televised exchange where Richard Dawkins cast him as a charlatan by debunking his books on healing.

In particular Dawkins sought to denigrate his notion of quantum healing as somewhat vague and unconvincing and clearly designed - as he characterised it - to create a bogus physical basis for his theories.
And while accepting that Dawkins extracted just small sections of an interview to suit his purposes, he clearly succeeded in unsettling Chopra.

And then later in the interview with Byrne, he once again returned unprompted to that same exchange with Dawkins to protest the unfairness of how he felt he had been treated.

So to put it mildly Dawkins struck a raw nerve, and to a certain extent in protesting Chopra was missing the point. Whatever about the precise accuracy of Dawkins' charge in the brief extract that was televised, he did successfully convey the fact - which many would privately suspect - that there certainly is an element of new age quackery about what Chopra writes.

Though fully accepting the general point that the mind can play - especially when spiritually motivated - a powerful role in healing, I never found the use of the term "quantum healing" very convincing.

Certainly in the narrow sense that Dawkins implied where quantum theory in physics has proven remarkably accurate in prediction, the same could not be applied to quantum healing.

Indeed even as a metaphor or analogy the very use of the word quantum in the context of healing is inappropriate.
One might well accept the idea that healing in certain circumstances is associated with discrete shifts in consciousness. But such shifts are of a qualitative - rather than quantitative - nature and in terms of scale do not in any case correspond well with equivalent shifts in energy states at the sub-atomic level.

Though there is I believe a valid case - in what I would term integral science - to elaborate more fully the qualitative equivalent of quantum mechanical notions, it is important to establish that this operates at a very different level of understanding from standard methodology in physics.

Though I would accept that Chopra's actual position on science and indeed quantum physics would be considerably more nuanced and enlightened than Dawkins simplistic characterisations, he is however guilty of the old marketing trick of attempting to deliberately create suggestive linkages so as to enhance the sales of his product. And whatever else one can say, Chopra has proven himself a master salesman!

So in this sense by creating a direct association as between quantum physics and healing he has unconsciously created the unwarranted impression that there is a precise scientific basis to such healing (which does not in fact exist).

People who are in so much demand as Chopra become part of a celebrity circus and he includes among his devotees a strange mix including some fellow intellectuals, show business personalites and prominent politicians. He is used to appearing before adoring audiences who hang on his every word. And he has all the easy charm and communication skills to keep it that way.

For example he threw out a couple of remarks during the interview with Byrne that I suspect he has used a thousand times before. At one stage he came up with the line "God writes my books. I just collect the royalties." Though indeed witty, however this is also somewhat glib. For if he genuinely believes that he is just the instrument of God's message, it begs the question as to why he should be collecting royalties in the first place!

He also came up with another good line;

"I used to be an atheist, then later discovered that I was God". Though witty it is again glib as it creates the impression that full spiritual realisation can be easily achieved.

And this is the root of the problem I have with Chopra. Whatever his actual intentions, which may indeed be sincere, he creates the impression that spiritual development is a relatively painless task and - worse still - that it can greatly enhance the materialistic lifestyle.

And if this is the true basis of his great appeal then indeed he is a charlatan.

So once again though Dawkins may well have been unfair with respect to his specific allegations,at a deeper level he did indeed succeed in unmasking this shadow side of Chopra.

Rather than attempting to reassure his audience that Dawkins's specific claims with respect to quantum healing are baseless, perhaps he should accept that there is truth in the general characterisation of his overall impact.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No More Stages

It is strange!

Only recently I have been contemplating the prospect of retirement from my lecturing job (perhaps leaving a couple of years early). Then paradoxically having adjusted to that prospect I have begun to actually enjoy - perhaps for the first time - what I have been trying to do all these years.

No doubt some of this is due to the characteristic release of tension following the resolution of any major issue in life.

However in my case it probably relates more to the unfolding of a new period in - what I have long referred to as - the spiritual life.

I am now beginning to see how strongly immersed I have been - indeed for all my adult life - in the depths of the unconscious. This has certainly enabled a certain kind of development entailing direct experience of many specialised intuitive states; however it has also proven remarkably restrictive and at various times incredibly stressful. Though valuable in enabling the development of new holistic mathematical understanding (as my true vocation) I have felt through nearly all that time as if trapped in a dark dungeon scarcely able to move or breathe and with little prospect of a dawning light. This has endured - with some very short intermissions - for the past 45 years (commencing in earnest at about 17).

This morning when I was listening to the radio I had that strange experience as if awakening from a long sleep.

An item on the "Morning Ireland" related to a poetry book "Soundings" a Leaving Cert Anthology of poetry that had been introduced in 1969 (lasting till 2000).

This came as news to me as I had never heard of Soundings (with my own Leaving Cert predating its introduction).

It was as then as if I was magically transported back to my first year in College (prior to the subsequent darkness) to experience it anew in a very faint though expansive light.

Recently I have found that I have been steadily losing interest in any further codification of stages of development.

And perhaps this is the real lesson that is slowly emerging is that in the end even the most carefully refined rational classifications we can make are but a hindrance which need to be surrendered. Only then can one truly emerge in true peace and relaxation into that eternal light that was always present but somehow remained hidden while attempting to still cling to more flimsy phenomenal expressions of its existence.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Pyramid Scheme

I saw a fascinating programme last night on the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in the Egyptian desert some 4,500 years ago.

One can only marvel still at this truly wonderful achievement and what a stunning spectacle it must have been on its completion! Indeed is there anything in our modern technological civilisation that bears comparison? I think not!
Though it is impossible of course to build any physical structure that is indestructible and guaranteed to last for ever (as the Egyptians intended), you have to admit that at least they gave it a damn good try.

The Pyramid at Giza is the oldest physical structure still standing (and the only survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world). Also, for some 4000 years it remained the tallest building in the world.

As we know it was built during the reign of the pharaoh Khufu requiring an amazingly gifted and organised group of workers over a 20 year period. I was just thinking as I watched that here we had the ideal example of the advantages of the division of labour around 2,500 BC that was incomparably more impressive than Adam Smith’s famed account of his visit to a pin factory in the 18th century AD.

However what is perhaps even more impressive regarding this ancient civilisation is that that it had already begun to grapple with the deepest spiritual questions and provided - within the limits of its understanding - an impressive response that we could do well to seriously ponder in our modern age.

What is the ultimate meaning of life? What happens to one’s soul after death? How does one properly prepare for inevitable death?
Well - at least within some sections of Egyptian society - answers had already been provided to these searching questions.

For these Egyptians salvation was not already secured but dependent in a sense on creating a successful bridge between Heaven and Earth. Heaven was identified with the skies and the regular patterns of the stars. It seems that one such alignment of the stars served as the basis for the Giza pyramid. So it was intended that it should be built so that its own construction would perfectly fit with this alignment (considered as indestructible). Success in this regard thereby guaranteed eternal life to the King as the supreme incarnation of the Divine and then through the King to all the workers involved with the project.

We often question whether we are deriving true meaning from our work and very often to be honest it is apparent that it provides little genuine fulfilment.

Now contrast this with the Giza Pyramid project! Not alone was this so massive and awe inspiring from a construction viewpoint, its successful completion was understood to guarantee – not alone immortality for the King – but also for those involved in the work.

So for the Egyptians the basic religious impulse was interpreted in a this-worldly immanent fashion identified with the construction of a lasting natural monument (to match the permanent nature of the Heavens).

It struck me that the Christian revelation – which subsequently exercised immense influence on the development of Western culture - fell roughly half way as between the time of Khufu and the modern day.

There are indeed important similarities here with earlier Egyptian thinking.
1. Christ was likewise viewed as a King (King of the Jews).
2. Christ was also understood as a unique incarnation of God (i.e. God the Son).
3. His own (successful) resurrection would likewise guarantee immortality for his faithful followers.

However, he had a very different kind of revelation in mind from what his followers expected.

Thus it was clear that Christ viewed his role essentially in otherworldly transcendent terms. “ My kingdom is not of this world” .
So rather than a harmonising of Earth with the Heavens as it were, in Christian terms salvation was seen in terms of overcoming the world so as to attain redemption.

Though there are definite strengths to this position in giving a purer spiritual emphasis to the task of salvation, there are also residual problems.

One problem with Christianity is that it has never provided a truly balanced way of reconciling secular with religious concerns. Not surprisingly, even in our own day to be a Christian is generally identified as being thereby opposed to many aspects of secular society.

It struck me while reflecting on the programme that this Egyptian society (or at least a special segment) in some respects offered a better solution to life’s eternal issues than subsequent religious revelations. What I mean by this is that temporal concerns i.e. in the - literal - desire to build a lasting natural monument were invested with more meaning than with subsequent - unduly transcendent - spiritual beliefs.

So perhaps another great revelation awaits in the not too distant future where the immanent aspect of spirituality can at last be properly married to the transcendent.
In some way this will require the realisation that eternity is not something than unfolds after human life is extinguished but rather continually exists here in the present moment while we live. In this way though all secular concerns may be transient and relative (from a phenomenal perspective) yet they also possess universal meaning as the potential expression of the divine.

Thus the true religious impulse should not be necessarily opposed to secular developments but rather see that the right interpretation of such events as inseparable from authentic spiritual development.

Perhaps someday in the future our spiritual will also be our secular leaders enabling us to work out our salvation in authentic fashion through everyday engagement in affairs.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Comments on the Dark Night

I have been reading in recent days regarding certain aspects in the lives of well-known Catholic saints that have long fascinated me.

For example I came across an account of St. Paul of the Cross (who founded the Passionists) and who apparently from documentary evidence spent most of his latter years (45 in all) enduring a continual dark night experience.

Perhaps, largely due to his close namesake St. John of the Cross, an unduly limited view of the dark night is sometimes taken. So the dark night process (especially with respect to the passive nights of sense and spirit) is often viewed as an intermediate stage for advanced contemplatives on the way to transforming union. However this can mistakenly imply that somehow the process has no longer any strict relevance during the ensuing unitive life (in what I refer to as the radial stages of development).

However this would be very mistaken. One of the great limitations that I have frequently pointed to is the possible restricted view of contemplation taken (even for one destined to attain its sustained spiritual expression).

Initially in the contemplative life we often see an undue emphasis on the merely personal dynamics of spiritual transformation (largely divorced from the lives of those involved with more secular concerns).

Indeed I have made an analogy with Relativity Physics. Here due to Einstein we can now appreciate how a very small amount of material mass can give rise to a considerable amount of physical energy. In the same manner one can take a similar view of the traditional contemplative life where the spiritual aspirant becomes intensely focused on the transformation of psychological mass (in the form of previous life experience) into pure spiritual energy. And when this task is completed (to the necessary extent) the state of transforming union can indeed be reached.

However often at this stage the focus now turns outwards, in one destined to be a great saint, from the more limited goal of attaining personal sanctity to concern for the wider salvation of all humanity.

Thus when in genuine compassion such a person identifies deeply with the problems and suffering of a sinful world, this can entail a more extended dark night process where both active (conscious) and passive (unconscious) loss is profoundly experienced. So when the willingness to go out to others is especially marked, this can entail a continual and intense dark night for the soul (which may scarcely ever be relieved).

Again an extension of our simple analogy can help to illustrate. Where a limited amount of material is involved it can be completely transformed into energy in a relatively short period. In like manner with a narrow focus on transforming union one may convert the psychic material of one's previous life into spiritual energy at a comparatively early stage of development.

However if we increase a fire by throwing more and more material on it, though the flames may certainly deepen, at any given stage material will remain at the top (that has not yet been transformed into energy).

Likewise in the unitive life where one takes on the problems of the wider world - though this may indeed lead to a deepening of contemplative life - it coincides with much psychic material not yet transformed. Thus the need for conversion of this material may therefore require a continual purgation with respect to the soul.

So in the case of extremely generous individuals this can lead to an almost permanent deprivation of surface light (though at a deeper level the personality will remain at peace in total commitment).

I would suggest that such extended dark nights during the unitive life are far more common than is generally admitted.

Perhaps the two most famous Catholic "saints" - as popularly accepted - of the last century were Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio.

It has now become known - due to the unsought for publication of her letters - that contrary to accepted opinion Mother Theresa spent virtually the whole of her active ministry undergoing a very profound dark night. There is mention of some relief in 1958 from this state (which however only lasted a few weeks). So she spent virtually the last 40 years of her life in total darkness which would entail in affective terms feeling deeply abandoned by God (while striving to maintain faith at a pure volitional level).

Indeed this makes considerable sense to me. I often wondered why Mother Theresa never seemed to engage in any of the pleasantries and "small talk" that characterise normal social intercourse. Well, if one is undergoing a continual dark night little notice will be taken of the phenomenal happenings on the surface of life! Rather one will remain intensely rooted in the deeper and permanent "now" underlying all of these events. So this constant immersion in the present moment, behind an impenetrable wall of faith (as Gay Byrne so well described it) would have become completely natural to her through continual contemplative absorption (facilitated by this permanent dark night experience).

It is also apparent that Padre Pio spent most of his adult life in a similar dark night (imitating the sufferings of Christ) accentuated in his case through enduring great physical as well as psychological pain.

And when we look at the life of another very popular saint of the last century in Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) we again find evidence of an unrelieved dark night (though also in this case reflecting in some measure debilitating physical illness).

And even when we turn to - perhaps - the best known of all Christian saints viz. Francis of Assisi again we can see that he suffered considerable depression (again in the form of a prolonged "dark night experience) in his later life.

So the reality of the lives of great saints is often very different from popular conception. Through living at the highest level of spiritual commitment they display great willingness to imitate the suffering of Christ through endurance of awful privations (psychological and often physical). Not surprisingly this then can lead to a painful and continual "dark night" throughout most of their ministry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Perspective on God

While watching the British Open Golf on TV this weekend I had a strong intimation of how realisation of the true nature of God (within each person) could help to banish all fear.

As our true essential being is eternal (as God) then this life can never pass away despite phenomenal death.
All fear and anxiety associated with death relates to the belief that something important is thereby lost. However what is really lost through death is but a temporary pheneoemnal identity bound up with space and time whereby our true identity is God (in the eternal present). Therefore what is truly essential in terms of our lives cannot pass away.

However becoming free of fear while alive in the body requires release from attachment to secondary phenomena. So the fears and anxieties we suffer inevitably relate to such attachments (with ultimately no essential basis).

A view that I frequently have found helpful relates to a scientific context with repect to the Many Worlds Hypothesis.

Properly understood, in correct interactive terms, each life (at whatever level of being) constitutes a dynamic universe (involving the relationship of the individual to the whole).

Therefore what we call the Universe, in dynamic terms represents a vast web of interconnecting worlds or universes.

In this sense though I have at present only direct access to one universe (representing my personal interaction with the whole), from such a perspective all other lives can be interpreted as the same life existing in a multitude of parallel universes to which I have no direct access.

In this way all life can be understood as the same one life endlessly recreated in parallel universes. Again, from this perspective true God realisation represents the ability to see all these (seemingly separate) lives as truly One.
So though each one of us will inevitably die, in a sense we will become endlessly recreated through all other lives continually reborn. All these lives therefore are you and I for ever recreated in parallel universes (existing in space and time).

This also represents for me a more compelling view of the notion of Reincarnation particularly popular in several Eastern religions.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Meaning Behind Christian Myths

I mentioned in another context how two major revolutions are required before science can be properly integrated with religion.

The first of these relates to the limited nature of science (as presently understood) which is properly geared solely to the analysis of quantitative type phenomena.

However there is an equally important holistic qualitative dimension to science that is properly geared towards - what I refer to as - Integral Science.

Just like a scissors has two blades of equal importance, likewise when properly understood it is the same with science. So a comprehensive scientific approach requires both (analytic) quantitative and (holistic) qualitative aspects working in close interaction.

The second of these revolutions relates to the need to demythologize the manner in which spiritual truths (with a truly universal meaning) are symbolically conveyed in the major religious traditions.
And in this post I am confining myself to some of the major "myths" used to convey spiritual meaning in the Christian - and specifically Roman Catholic - tradition.

The very first - and perhaps most important - that we encounter is the belief in God as One (which likewise defines Judaism and Islam).

It is important from the onset to recognise that while the ultimate nature of God is truly mysterious, that all phenomenal understanding is necessarily conditioned by polar opposites. So its only by coming down arbitrarily in terms of one side of a polarity (in any given context) that truth can be conveyed in a meaningful phenomenal manner. However this always implies a certain bias whereby the opposite polarity (which is equally important) is not thereby accommodated.

Now in terms of polarities the one must be balanced by the many. So if we maintain (from a certain valid perspective) that God is One then we thereby blot out recognition of the equal truth that God is Many.

The strong emphasis therefore on God as One in the Christian tradition leads to a number of further implications in understanding that are not properly balanced.

For example the belief in God as One typically leads to an unduly transcendent view of the nature of God as existing outside creation (i.e. the almighty God). The created universe is then viewed as arising from the action of this transcendent God thereby leading to an unbalanced relationship as between the "creature" (e.g. human being) and the "creator".

However properly understood the immanent aspect of God (as existing in every living being in the Universe) is on an equal footing with the transcendent. So the transcendent aspect (mistakenly identified with the "outside" creator) is in no way prior or superior to the immanent aspect (again misleadingly identified as created being).

Thus the essence of every living thing in creation eternally exists as God. It is not therefore that this essence is created from outside as it were (as it already exists as God in the simple present moment). So remarkably the correct status of our essential being is true equality with God.

Thus the spiritual revelation that I mentioned in an earlier post related directly to this intuition (whereby both transcendent and immanent aspects are experienced as equal). And it is no accident that it occurred at this time as I had been striving for many years in development to correct - what I could see - was an unduly transcendent emphasis. So the real significance for me of this revelation is that perhaps all this work in the womb of the unconscious is perhaps at last bearing due fruit!

So the key point here is that what we call God, combines both individual and collective dimensions.

From one perspective, everything in creation is God (in its unique individual essence); however equally there is a collective shared spiritual dimension to all this life (equally as God).

In the phenomenal realm, there always remains some divide as between the individual and collective aspects of identity. So it is only in the full realisation of God that these distinctions no longer remain.

As well as the prime emphasis on God as One (without equal emphasis on God as Many) there is another obvious imbalance in the Christian tradition on God as male (without equal emphasis on God as female).

In truth God is neither male nor female; equally we can maintain in polarised terms that God is both male and female. This is another way of indicating the sheer mystery of what we refer to as God in that this ultimately eludes all - necessarily polarised - phenomenal distinctions.

Again this unduly male emphasis on God has important consequences. It leads to an overemphasis on the otherworldly transcendent as opposed to a this worldly immanent aspect.

This in turn corresponds to a misleading hierarchy in Christian thinking where matter and the senses is placed on the lowest, followed by mind and reason on a higher ultimately leading to God and spirit at the highest level.

Even the greatest mystics in the Christian tradition demonstrate remnants of this unbalanced treatment.

I was greatly influenced by St. John of the Cross in my 20's and 30's. However ultimately even he maintains this unbalanced emphasis of reason over the senses.
So in coming to mystical union he teaches that the "lower" promptings of the senses (e.g. erotic impulses) must be controlled through the disciplined use of "higher" reason guided by spirit. However this is not strictly accurate. Ultimately pure spirit is attained through removing all rigid attachments with respect to both "higher" spiritual and "lower" sensual impulses. And the very precondition for success in this regard requires that matter (where spirit is made immanent) and spirit (which transcends all matter) be maintained on an equal basis thus enabling true liberation of the pure activity of will.

I have yet to even come across any account in Christian mysticism where the important psycho sexual dynamics of advancing contemplative development are addressed in an open and comprehensive matter.

This indeed is a huge failing and ultimately reflects this unbalanced and mistaken emphasis whereby the Earth (and the body) are considered inferior to mind (and the spirit). In other words a significant failure remains in balancing spiritual transcendence with spiritual immanence.

This imbalance is further accentuated through the doctrine of the Trinity where God is represented in even stronger (exclusively) male terms. Thus we have God the Father as one Person and then God the Son as the second person of the Trinity and the third person (which really represents the indivisible relationship of the other two persons) as God the Holy Spirit.

Now, as always, there is an important universal truth underlying this doctrine for we can only hope to understand God through using opposite polarities (which condition phenomenal understanding).
In Hegelian terms we could say that all understanding starts with a thesis; then this is opposed by its antithesis and the dynamic relationship between both then leads to a synthesis. So in dynamic terms truth must be represented in triadic terms through thesis, antithesis and synthesis (forming an integral dynamic unity). And this is a central truth which the doctrine of the Trinity in its own mythological manner can be seen to represent!

Once again God is neither male nor female (or equally both male and female). Therefore representing God (exclusively as Father) is both limiting and unbalanced. Likewise representing God as (exclusively) Son is again limiting and unbalanced.
Furthermore we have to remember that God is neither personal nor impersonal (or equally both personal and impersonal). So again using exclusively personal symbols with respect to God is likewise limiting and unbalanced.

In the Roman Catholic tradition we still have a clerical ministry that is exclusively male (with no women priests). And as institutional power is directly invested in the hierarchical clerical structure (with the Pope as its head) this means likewise that women are effectively excluded en masse from the power structures of the Church.

Now many are rightly aware in present times of the great injustice of such exclusion. However I would maintain that this incredible bias against women is deeply rooted in the very manner in which the central Christian doctrines are represented. And chief among these is the Trinity!

So before women can be granted their rightful place in the Catholic Church, we will have to revisit doctrines such as the Trinity and recognise the strong cultural bias that has dictated the male symbols actually used in its representation.

Of course it is not possible to exclude the feminine aspect entirely from religion and in Christianity (especially in the Roman Catholic tradition) a special place is reserved for Mary, Mother of Christ.

I find it especially fascinating however to observe the way that the role of Mary (Our Lady) is treated in Catholic theological terms.

Though admittedly honoured with a special status, it is made quite clear that Mary is not in fact God. Rather her privileged positions is seen to arise as a free gift from God (the Father).

Also the Catholic Church has defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception whereby it is believed that Mary was conceived without original sin. It also of course promotes belief in the virgin birth birth whereby Christ is conceived directly through the action of God (without sexual intercourse taking place).

So we have here the unfortunate conjunction as between original sin and sexual intercourse. And it has to be said that this has had an immensely unhealthy effect subsequently on Catholic teaching. Thus it has never been able to reconcile the important role of the World and normal body functions (such as sexual activity) with the equally important spiritual nature of humanity. Rather it has long maintained a mistaken hierarchy where the "lower" world of the senses (and the body) is considered as in many ways incompatible with the "higher" levels of mind and spirit.
Too often therefore the emphasis has been on mind (through reason) as necessary to control - and in truth censor - sensual impulses for spirit to unfold.

So the point I am making is that actual practice in the Churches often correlates with basic theological doctrines, the statement of which is strongly influenced by arbitrary - and necessarily limited - cultural interpretations.

Then when these interpretations become formulated as important doctrines, they assume a more absolute rigidity. This rigidity then becomes projected in the form of a whole set of unwarranted attitudes and assumptions with many unhealthy consequences.

For example there is a direct correspondence as between the manner in which women are treated in the Catholic Church and the theological understanding of Mary. Just as the privileges that Mary enjoyed are believed to have been granted by God, likewise any privileges bestowed on women in the church are at the behest of their male clerical masters (ultimately controlled by the Holy Father!).

Likewise just as traditional belief on the virgin birth has led to this unhealthy split as between spirit and the body, this has been especially projected on to women through a split in thinking with respect to the feminine archetype that lacks any true integration. So fallen woman (and the feminine body) is seen as the potential temptress for clerical (hopefully celibate) males. So women are excluded entirely from the priestly ministry and then because power structures are invested in this hierarchical ministry, they are likewise excluded entirely from all the important power structures in the Church.

And the ultimate basis for this - what is patently absurd - position is the manner in which Catholic doctrines have been formulated (where the male aspect unhealthily dominates to a remarkable extent).

Though once again all such doctrines point to important spiritual truths (with a universal meaning) the particular symbols used to express these truths are properly of an arbitrary limited nature.
Thus when we attempt to give these symbols an absolute meaning, such spiritual truths can assume a mythical and even magical meaning!

A key doctrine of the Christian Churches is that of the Incarnation whereby God (the Father) sends his only son Christ into the world to redeem it from sin and then having been subject to a cruel death rises from the dead. So for Christians eternal salvation is due to Christ's death (whereby he atoned for our sins).

Now I do not wish for a moment to reduce the importance of this doctrine in either theological or historical terms. No one can deny that Christ's life and death have exercised a dramatic influence giving rise perhaps to the greatest religious movement of the past 2000 years.

Likewise I would accept that in theological terms the doctrine of the Incarnation strives to portray spiritual truths of a universal nature.

However there are necessarily strong mythical elements in the way this doctrine is conventionally understood.

It starts with the basic understanding of the Trinity (which as we have already seen is couched in unbalanced male terms).
Again in human language, God is both personal and impersonal (and equally neither personal nor impersonal) which is another way of saying that God represents pure mystery (which ultimately cannot be grasped through phenomenal symbols).

However if we give God a male identity as Father, we should equally be giving God a female identity as Mother. However in the Christian tradition - for obvious cultural reasons - only the male aspect is recognised.

We are then told that God sends his only Son into the World. Once again it begs the question as to why only the male aspect is recognised. Why for example would God send a Son as opposed to a Daughter? So once again this arbitrary choice of personal "heirs" is dictated by cultural understandings.

The use of "only" while in a sense true is highly problematic. From an equally valid perspective we can say that everything in creation has its origin in God. So if we wish to use this language, every human being - and indeed everything that exists in creation - is sent into the World by God.

And there is a certain important sense in which every life is unique (thus distinguishing it from other things living). Thus in this sense we are all unique beings (sent into the world by God).

So in what sense is Christ different? Well he gradually realised I imagine as he grew up that he was destined to fill an important role as the special leader of the Jewish people (that had long been prophesied in their scriptures). It is also apparent that he had attained a very high level of spiritual realisation (i.e. his true nature as God).

There is a therefore a big distinction to be made as between the universal identity of every human being (and indeed living thing in creation) whose essential origin is God and the exceptional few who come to existentially realise in mature fashion this identity.

So we can say without hesitation that Christ would fall into this rare group of highly enlightened individuals who grow to realise their essential identity as God. However we have to say that this had already occurred for certain individuals several centuries before Christ. For example Buddha would be a good example of another rare individual that reached a similar level of spiritual realisation.

It is maintained that Christ had both a human and divine identity. But this is true - by definition - of all living beings (with the important proviso that very few in practice existentially realise to any significant degree their inherent divine nature). So Christ would have been exceptional - though not altogether unique - in attaining such God realisation.

We are then told that Christ was sent into the world to redeem sin. Now this is very interesting. In the most general sense sin relates to the manner in which we mistake phenomenal symbols (in the world) with spirit (which is of an empty ineffable nature). Thus in being attached to the World in so many ways sin takes hold in blotting out the pure light of spirit (which is our essential identity in God).

So to attain God realisation (of one's own inherent nature) one must die to sin (in all that is not spirit). Then when an individual (again admittedly rarely) reaches such a level of God realisation it generally leads to an active zeal to lead others towards the same destiny.

So there is always a collective nature to sin (which is shared by all). So in dying to our own sins we inevitably must embrace the sins of the world at large (in all the faults and limitations restricting the true vision of God).

So I would see the doctrine of the Incarnation - when divested of restrictive interpretations - as a very clear statement of the implications of achieving enlightenment (for one growing towards such realisation).

An interesting phrase is often used that God atoned for our sins by His death on the Cross. Now once again there is no absolute significance to the use of the Cross. However one can definitely say that overcoming sin (and attaining realisation) will always entail considerable suffering (certainly psychological and often physical) for this literally requires dying to all phenomenal attachments. So the death of Christ on the Cross is a particularly graphic and gruesome symbol of what might thereby be required.

Atonement is a very revealing word. It can be rewritten at-one-ment. In other words one becomes one with God in existential experience through dying to sin (representing attachment to phenomena of form).

In an important sense as all experience is necessarily of a collective (as well as uniquely individual) nature when one achieves enlightenment one thereby atones for the sins of others (helping them likewise towards similar enlightenment).

Then the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, points to the fundamental religious truth that life is spiritual and eternal (which thereby cannot end in death).

However certain mythical elements are still associated with conventional understanding. The idea that Jesus Christ - as a human being - could be without sin is existentially meaningless as sin with the limitations it causes is inseparable from our existence as human beings. Now there is a certain sense in terms of total God realisation that we could say that one is without sin but this could never fully happen while living on Earth as a human being.
And of course the death of Christ represents an event that is truly graphic in its raw existential dimensions. So it would be much more realistic to accept that Christ like everyone else suffered certain limitations (implying the effects of sin). And sin by its very nature entails both individual and collective dimensions. It is true that with the enlightened, sin becomes largely free of personal elements (enabling its embrace in an ever more collective sense). However with human beings original sin always necessarily remains. To be without original sin is therefore not to be human. So how can any human being therefore possibly identify with someone who is believed to be born without original sin?

There is an interesting paradox about being a Christian. A true follower of Christ (who has become enlightened) would essentially be the same as Christ in all important respects.
However for the many Christians who profess their beliefs (without truly realising God in their inner beings), Christ must always be a figure that is set apart to a degree magically as a kind of spiritual superhero (where His divinity is understood as exclusively unique!).

This also leads to an unwarranted exclusivity in portraying Christian doctrines which leads to barriers in furthering true authentic understanding between the various Churches.

Just one further example of this is given by the doctrine of Transubstantiation whereby it is maintained by the Catholic Church that in its mass at the Eucharist (Holy Communion) the bread and wine are literally transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ (with the accidental properties of the bread and wine used remaining unchanged).

I can only attempt to be honest here and state that this represents another good example of what is a somewhat magical interpretation in an admittedly sincere attempt to convey authentic mystical truth.
In normal understanding if the accidents remain unchanged (e.g. bread and wine) then no material transformation has taken place. So any transformation therefore involved must be of a spiritual - rather than material - nature.

So the essential truth of the Eucharist is the recognition that behind the veils of all material phenomena lies a true identity which is spiritual. And with the realisation of this spiritual nature comes the enhanced ability to recognise all phenomena as interconnected in a cosmic manner. So therefore we could perhaps explain the significance of the Eucharist more meaningfully in terms of a spiritual transformation (seeing spirit as the source and goal of all material phenomena) and then in a related secondary manner through an enlarged cosmic appreciation of the nature of material phenomena. So in this sense the bread and wine would indeed become transformed in understanding so as to represent all physical creation (symbolised in mystical terms by the Body and Blood of Christ).

The over literal attempt therefore to explain a doctrine (which has undoubtedly important mystical relevance) has created a major barrier in dialogue between the Roman Catholic and other Christian Churches.

The problem that will always remain is that it requires genuine mystical understanding to free such doctrines (from an over literal meaning).

Therefore it is inevitable that when dialogue is not actually informed by such mystical understanding that seemingly insuperable barriers to reconciliation will inevitably exist.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

(Binary) Digital Transformation

We are certainly living now in the age of digital information. Computers, cameras, mobile phones, and already established entertainment media such as TV and radio are increasingly reaping the benefits of using information that is encoded in binary digital form (i.e. using the two digits 1 and 0). And potentially all information can be encoded in this binary manner!

However I have long felt that this explosion in information capability that we are now witnessing is likely to give way to significant problems with respect to personal and social development.

Put simply the binary system (for encoding information) is based on analytic interpretation that corresponds with just one logical system. Here opposite polarities in experience are clearly separated leading to the making unambiguous either/or distinctions e.g. subjective or objective, whole or part, true or false etc.

There are two great processes that continually interact in all development i.e. differentiation and integration and ultimately this system corresponds solely to the former aspect. Therefore when issues pertaining to the need for holistic integration with respect to knowledge arise this system leads to basic reductionism.

So as it stands if uncorrected continual rapid development with respect to digital information is likely to lead to considerable fragmentation in experience.

What seemingly is entirely missed is that the digital encoding system has two related aspects. One of these - as we have seen - is geared to processing information (in a quantitative analytic manner). However the latter unrecognised aspect relates to the equally important issue of processing transformation (in a qualitative holistic fashion).

In the context of my holistic mathematical approach to development, I was able to see at a comparatively early stage of my deliberations that all possible stages of human development could be fruitfully encoded in a binary digital fashion. However in this context the binary digits 1 and 0 possess a holistic qualitative significance.

It is fascinating how conventionally in mathematics a line (drawn in vertical fashion) is used to represent what we refer to as one (1). Also a circle - with very small modification - is used to refer to zero (0).

So the holistic qualitative aspect of the binary digital system is that transformation processes (physical and psychological) can be potentially encoded using both the linear (1) and circular (0) logical systems.
And in my holistic mathematical approach to the stages of human development, I have found that all possible stages that can enfold on the spectrum can be fruitfully encoded in terms of a unique configuration of the linear (1) and circular (0) logical systems.

Basically in earliest development these two systems (relating to conscious and unconscious respectively) are at a very embryonic stage and greatly entangled with each other. The first great task then in development is the successful differentiation of the individual ego (relating to the linear system).

Then what are referred to as the middle stages lead to the rapid specialisation of this form of understanding which is the established basis of conventional scientific and mathematical interpretation.

However in the major spiritual traditions further contemplative type stages have long been recognised. Here the second (circular) both/and logical system unfolds based on holistic recognition of the complementarity - and ultimate spiritual identity - of the polar opposites that condition all phenomenal experience.

In my own approach to the full spectrum of possible development this constitutes the third major band (following the lower and middle stages) of development. Then, admittedly for a very small minority, this too - like the linear - can undergo extensive specialisation and consolidation in a 4th band.

I now have three further bands on my spectrum - comprising what I refer to as radial development - where both the linear and circular systems that have already attained separate specialised development can now be increasingly used in conjunction with each other. Not surprisingly this represents potentially both the most productive and creative expression of human development.

Just as the two original digits in conventional mathematics 1 and 0 give way to many other digits (e.g. the prime and natural numbers), likewise this is true in a holistic sense. For example I have stated that in earliest development both the linear (1) and circular (0) systems are entirely confused with each other (before meaningful differentiation or integration can take place). The starting process of both differentiation and integration leads to the onset of primitive development which is the holistic qualitative equivalent to prime numbers (in conventional mathematical terms).

So my main concern for many years now has been to more precisely trace in holistic mathematical fashion, the dynamics by which this prime development arises. Remarkably this has led me deeply into formulating a corresponding holistic interpretation of the famed Riemann Hypothesis with the startling conclusion that the Hypothesis actually relates to a fundamental relationship as between both twin analytic and holistic aspects of interpretation. In other words the Riemann Hypothesis has no solution in conventional mathematical terms. Indeed it cannot be even be properly understood in a conventional mathematical sense!

However this is carrying us far afield at this stage.

My main intent here is to simply stress that the the binary digital system has two twin aspects that are quantitatively analytic and qualitatively holistic with respect to each other.

The first aspect is designed for the encoding of information; however the second aspect is properly designed for the encoding of all transformation (processes).

The present dramatic changes brought about in large part through the explosion of information in our society will require corresponding social and personal transformation to be properly accommodated. Thus there is an urgent need to recognise now this important latter aspect.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reflections in Italy

I always find holiday breaks a good time for the reception of key insights.

Intuition - especially of the most passive holistic kind - is aided by a relaxed frame of mind. Also material that had been incubating in the unconscious for some time can often be released through the welcome change of environmental context that a holiday can bring.

While sitting in a tour bus on route to Venice watching the fields everywhere seemigly planted with vines, I received a particularly clear and extended intuition of the nature of our true relationship to God.

Unfortunately in many traditions the master/servant kind of treatment has been over emphasised (certainly in my own Catholic faith). God is thereby set apart - literally as the almighty - to which we human beings, as undeserving creatures, owe everything (and always fall short in terms of our gratitude). In a certain sense this is correct. However our true relationship with God is much more intimate than this for quite simply our essential being is God. So ultimately God is not in any way apart or superior to us for this mysterious reality is our true ever present being (as it essentially exists).

Of course in practice we face severe limitations in attaining proper realisation of essential reality. Phenomenal experience - which enjoys a merely relative and ultimately paradoxical existence - exercises considerable hold over our minds.

Though ultimate reality - in what we might refer to as God - is of an ineffable spiritual nature that is always simply present, to a considerable extent we tend to identify meaning with merely secondary expressions conditioned by phenomenal spacetime.

Indeed in the deepest sense, sin really represents a restricting of perspective so that meaning is unduly identified with merely limited secondary phenomena. This thereby blots out the simple light of spirit ever present (as the very source and end of all such phenomena).

In the simple realisation of God (as one's very nature) is based true equality because one's own essential identity (as God) is inseparable from the corresponding realisation of the same identity of every living thing in creation likewise essentially as God. In the full realisation of this mystery (phenomenal) creation would thereby pass away, revealing all that is as simply present in spirit (i.e. God).

However it is the very nature of creation that this ultimate clear vision cannot be fully attained (while conditioned by phenomenal experience). So everything in creation must die giving way to continual rebirth (as this endless quest for God realisation in evolution continues).

I find it truly wonderful given that we are still in all probability at a very early stage in evolution here on Earth that the capacity has already developed in the human species to realise (however faintly) that experience of an ultimate destiny in God - indeed as God. Although truly incomprehensible as pure mystery to mind, yet it is a meaning that readily resonates with the deepest core of our being.