Thursday, December 29, 2011

Varying Manifestations of Union

As I look back I can see that my views on perfection in earlier years were unduly idealistic.

I would have believed at that time that human perfection in the pursuit of spiritual union was indeed possible and that many shining examples can be found in the various mystical traditions of special individuals who already realised such union to a profound degree.

Though still in a certain sense believing that the pursuit of a high degree of union is still indeed attainable for certain individuals I would no longer associate such attainment with human perfection (which does not in fact exist).

So it would now be my view that even the greatest of mystical exponents would have suffered from many human faults and imperfections (and indeed in some cases glaring imperfections). Indeed without a keen existential realisation in the personality of the existence of severe limitations and imperfections the very attainment of union would not be possible.

Not surprisingly I have been drawn over the years to the spiritual superheros of my own christian tradition. However putting it bluntly I always found a lack of true honesty in the accounts of such individuals. The standard hagiographic practice unfortunately is to start by admitting that these saints were keenly aware of their own sinfulness (as the least of humankind) and then to proceed to objectively portray them as without any blemish.

Indeed something of the same practice characterises the process of canonisation of saints in the Catholic church.
Personally I think it somewhat ridiculous to create a process whereby one is deemed a saint if found free of any severe natural failing. It is even worse as the very desire of "backers" to have their chosen hero deemed a saint creates a strong unconscious bias against honestly confronting criticism that might be deemed unacceptable of sainthood. This is not to suggest that certain individuals can indeed reach advanced levels of sanctity. However this is always in the context of human imperfection. Indeed the two are ultimately inseparable. It is only through a keen realisation of one's human imperfection with the ongoing attempt to freely accept its necessary existence that one can attain a high degree of sanctity!

I feel pretty sure that if more was truly known about what was really going in in the lives of many of the most revered saints that many would be shocked to see so much human failing. However from my perspective this would certainly make the process of recognising sanctity much more authentic!

Recently I have come to the conclusion that the process of achieving spiritual union - even when authentic - can often remain largely confined to limited areas of the personality. And the very attempt to then maintain union can in certain circumstances lead to other weaker aspects of the personality remaining largely undeveloped.

Most people grow up with specific talents as personality features (that thereby give confidence and are viewed as strengths).
The desire then to attain authentic degree of spiritual union can be built around achieving a very high degree of integration and fidelity with respect to these strengths.

For example in my case I would see the greatest asset as a willingness to follow personal convictions and to unceasingly question all conventional truth. So when this quest brings me into conflict with accepted notions, I conscientiously follow my own lights.
Attempts at achieving union have followed a unique course requiring me to constantly re-evaluate received wisdom.
In this respect I would say that I have attempted to maintain the highest standards with respect to truth (sometimes at considerable personal cost). However I can see that other areas of my life have remained relatively undeveloped e.g. in a manifest concern for the rest of humanity and a willingness to help the less fortunate where possible.

Perhaps this could be explained in terms of the analogy of fire. In other to achieve union certain materials need to be closely integrated and heated to eventually achieve a blaze that will transform them into pure energy. However meanwhile in the same fireplace other materials may be considerably separated and never achieve much heat. So these materials to a considerable extent can remain unreformed.

Now to maintain the blaze it is necessary that additional material be constantly added. However if these materials are largely in the same place where the blaze is already occurring, the fire of transformation can continue without separated materials being involved.

In a similar manner, someone who has advanced to a high level of attainment with respect to certain limited aspects of personality development may remain and even advance at this level while other important features of personality remain largely untouched.

Now there is a sense in which a blazing fire will inevitably spread so that all - initially - separated material eventually becomes consumed in the blaze. Likewise with the greatest of mystics though initially attaining union through their strongest personality characteristics a high level of integration would eventually have spread to all aspects. Such a form of union is inherently more dynamic and tends to continually accelerate transformation.

However having said this it is possible for example to reach a high degree of contemplative union (based on one's personality strengths) without this quickly affecting the rest of personality.

Nor is such union confined in any way to those who are conventionally religious but may occur where both a great motivation is present and an unusual integrity with respect to truth maintained (in the context of using one's key talents and strengths)

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Prayer

I have always been a big fan of Roy Orbison. Perhaps more than any other male singer he gives convincing expression to deep emotions of anguished longing. Though his songs are generally framed in a romantic context, I have found them equally valuable from a spiritual perspective where the desire for affective signs of meaning can sometimes remain long frustrated.

His cover of the well-known song "My Prayer" especially communicates well with me in this context. Roy is rightly acclaimed for the dramatic way he concludes many songs with his trademark high-pitched crescendo and on "My Prayer" he truly excels himself in a dramatic finale where his voice seemingly pierces the darkness to touch Heaven itself.

In my early years from the age of 8 - 14 for each Summer I would spend a couple of weeks in the seaside resort of Portstewart in Northern Ireland. During that time I developed a deep attachment to the town which I always considered had a beautiful location. However paradoxically I remember it as the time when I began already to experience social detachment and a profound sense of loneliness. It is then that the longing for a deeper meaning to life was truly born in me which has never ceased. Perhaps because of lack of sufficient direct involvement with other people, I tended to develop a mystical communication with certain places of my acquaintance that thereby became associated with a genuine sense of contemplative fulfilment.

Recently I travelled back to Portstewart for a funeral that was made even more sombre due to the dreary weather. However as I walked down the promenade once again for the first time in nearly 50 years, I experienced a remarkable sense of connection as if the answer to all that former longing was now being revealed. Despite the sense of gloom, my surroundings momentarily melted becoming one with an extended body. And at the centre was the ultimate realisation that everything is truly spirit. So here unexpectedly the personal and impersonal worlds were revealed as indivisible. And in this precious moment when evolution briefly glimpsed its eternal destiny, all questioning ceased.
Subsequently when joining the throngs gathered outside the Church for the funeral, I was filled with a wonderful sense of lightness and peace as if all the events unfolding on the surface represented but an insubstantial play on a much deeper reality now flooding my being.

It was only a few days later when I reflected on this experience that I realised - perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not - that Jimmy Kennedy who wrote the lyrics for "My Prayer" was for many years a resident of Portstewart and that Roy Orbison recorded the song just after my last holiday visit there in the early 60's!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spiritual Mass and Energy

Einstein's equation E = MC2 has rightly become perhaps the most famous formula in physics.

However what is greatly overlooked is that - when appropriately interpreted in an integral scientific fashion - it has equal relevance from a psychospiritual perspective.

So from one perspective, all psychological "mass" in the accumulation of varied perceptions and concepts can be transformed into spiritual energy in the attainment of pure contemplative awareness.

Equally however all such spiritual energy can be subsequently reduced in the experience of phenomena of form.

It struck me forcibly at the weekend that spirit and matter are therefore of equal importance in experience.

However in practice this is rarely recognised.

On the one hand we have those who give primacy to matter leading - literally - to the materialistic perspective on life and advocacy of secular values (devoid of religious influence).

On the other hand we have those who give primacy to spirit which is generally identified with the religious vision. In extremes, matter is often seen from this perspective in many respects as inherently evil. Even when a legitimate role for matter is recognised it is rarely properly integrated with spirit.

Indeed to be honest when I look back on my earlier adult life, I now realise that it was dominated by a somewhat unbalanced emphasis on spirit where In effect I saw the purpose of life as the need to successfully transcend the material world.

However it was only slowly that I have come to realise that it is equally important to make spirit immanent in the world of matter (thereby realising its true purpose).

So true transformation of spirit (in transcendence of matter) cannot be ultimately divorced from the equal need for true transformation of the world (whereby spirit becomes properly immanent in matter).

When I look at the great Western religions (including of course Christianity) I now am of the belief that they are unduly transcendent in nature. Not surprisingly such religions then often find themselves in conflict with the secular world with no hope of subsequently reconciling the clash of values thereby arising.

And if what I am am saying is broadly true, then this problem cannot be solved through seeking to be true to the spirit of its founders (for the very point here is that such a spirit represents an unduly transcendent perspective!)

I have tended to concentrate - as befits my own personality and limitations - on just one aspect of this needed reconciliation i.e. between religion and science.

Success in this regard, I have argued, is based on two key requirements.

1. the demytholigisation of religious understanding and

2. the "spiritualisation" of science in the recognition of its hidden qualitative dimension.

Ultimately the three great pathways to truth through the arts, science and religion are designed to complement each other in a seamless integrated fashion.

The fact that this is clearly not the case at present only serves to highlight the unduly fragmented manner in which the "big three" are generally viewed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two Aspects of Reductionism

I have given considerable emphasis in my writings over the years to the manner in which Conventional Science is directly based on a strongly reductionist type of understanding. In the most general sense this implies that emptiness (as the ineffable essence of spiritual reality) is reduced to (phenomenal) form.

However it struck me forcibly in the past few days that another fundamental form of reductionism is equally possible in the opposite direction whereby form is ultimately reduced to (spiritual) emptiness.

Though both types are inevitable and indeed necessary for development, a crucial imbalance often characterises the relationship between them.

So one extreme tends to foster its opposite. So in contrast to the traditional scientific worldview we have the opposite contemplative perspective where the pure attainment of spiritual awareness is held to be paramount. However in practice this is often associated with an unduly transcendent orientation where phenomenal form is understood as secondary to spirit. So in effect through attempted spiritual transformation matter is thereby reduced to spirit.

In Einstein's famous formula, the equivalence of mass and energy is maintained. Likewise in psychospiritual terms rightly understood there is an equal equivalence.

Thus when properly appreciated the traditional scientific and contemplative perspectives represent two valid forms of (extreme) specialisation with respect to the experience of form and emptiness respectively.

However ultimately when both aspects have undergone sufficient development in this way, the task then should be to relate them ever more closely in a dynamic interactive manner.

Thus the most balanced and comprehensive scientific worldview is one where reason is genuinely motivated through an authentic contemplative vision.

Likewise the most balanced and comprehensive contemplative worldview ultimately leads to a deep need to transform worldly affairs through an active and committed form of engagement.

So spirit and matter are really two sides of the same coin and equally necessary for balanced development. So through recognising such interdependence one can potentially achieve an ever more refined appreciation of both spiritual and material reality.

However - by definition - the relationship between both cannot be finally resolved through the process of human existence.

In this context, death can be given a special meaning in enabling this ultimate identity to be achieved.

However even in this ultimate sense spirit and form maintain a certain equality. So pure spirit always entails likewise the pure potential for the generation of form.

What happens at death remains - as it should - a deep mystery and I would be highly sceptical of the pronouncements of those who claim to somehow know what transpires.

My own belief would strongly suggest that as our essential being is spiritual (with the potential for creation of form) that this always remains present. In this sense death never really takes place (with respect to our essential being). Rather what we call death represents the ending of what is accidental with respect to our true eternal identity (which is shared by everything and everyone in creation who lives and dies).

One could rightly call this shared existence God. But if you ask me what this further entails with respect to the nature of life involved neither I - nor anyone else for that matter - truly knows.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cosmic Process

I have been fortunate to receive an especially clear intuition recently into the fundamental nature of creation.

Such moments in my experience which are so precious generally occur unexpectedly in the most unlikely places and are received in a very passive manner as pure unexpected gifts. While they are being received they have the great quality of certitude in that one simply knows that one is experiencing what is most meaningful and intellectually fulfilling. However once the moment has passed - though the initial intuition is generally renewed for a while through a series of lesser insights - they leave little or no trace in memory. Though one may later recall the fact that one had a special vision of reality at a certain time and recall well the accidental events surrounding the moment, one cannot directly relive the experience itself (especially when it is of a pure spiritual nature). Also though one can indirectly attempt translate such an experience into appropriate language through the medium of paradox, without the confirming intuition to which such a translation relates, communication of the event remains largely meaningless to others.

The latest moment when I received such a clear vision occurred a few days ago as I was entering the upper level of a centre city car park here in Dublin where I regularly do my shopping.

This vision pertained to immediate understanding that all reality is created out of emptiness in a present moment that is continually renewed.

So all the phenomena that we necessarily experience in a framework of passing space and time are merely of a relative secondary nature that in many ways only tend to obscure the true vision of what is primary (and ultimately of an ineffable spiritual nature).

In the deepest sense spirit is a continual creation out of nothing though necessarily through intermediate phenomenal veils in relative space and time.

So the entire cosmic universal process spread out in space and time is continually created in the present moment from an underlying nothingness that is also the source - and goal - of all that phenomenally exists.

Much speculation in scientific circles is given over to the origin of the Big Bang. Coincidentally at the same time as this latest vision I came across new book by Roger Penrose "The Cycles of Time" in which he argues that the famed "Big Bang" in fact coincides with a corresponding "Big Crunch". In this way the problem of what happened before the "Big Bang" would be resolved in that it would arise necessarily as the end of a previous universal cosmic cycle.

However when I reflected on this I realised that there would be in fact little meaning to the attempted extrapolation backwards in linear time through an unending series of previous incarnations of the Universe. In other words as all creation essentially takes place in the present moment, we cannot give strict meaning to a Universe that existed before the present one unfolded from the Big Bang that is reputed to have occurred some 13.7 billion years ago.

Indeed as I have repeatedly argued we can give no strict meaning to this figure in any case as measurement of time and space (from within an emerging Big Bang) would bear no direct relationship to the linear notions that we conventionally employ. Indeed ultimately in the context of that initial event such notions would break down altogether.

So if we are to accept the notion of "previous" incarnations of the Universe unfolding from a starting Big Bang event and culminating with a Big Crunch we must accept that all of these necessarily commenced in the same "now".

This would then lead to the fascinating conclusion that what we term the Universe properly relates to a series of multiple universes that are all emerging in the present moment!

What is even more remarkable is the corresponding recognition that our universe is in truth this dynamic interacting series of multiple worlds.

So properly understood each life form constitutes in dynamic terms a unique universe which necessarily interacts (ultimately) with all other universes.

Using the language of physics therefore each universe (as a unique life form) interacts with a multiple series of parallel universes (though all other life forms).

So the key fact about any life - as for example at the cognitive human level - is that it defined as one unique universe in interaction collectively with all other universes (which however it cannot fully access).

My life therefore remains inevitably separate to a degree from your life in phenomenal terms (with both as unique interacting universes that yet possess a common - though never total - shared identity).

The clear implication therefore is that it is only in the underlying source (and ultimate goal) of such multiple interacting universes unfolding in space and time that true reality can be realised as the continual present moment.

In other words life is ultimately spiritual and in this reality we all equally share as the same life force that creates everything that phenomenally exists.

Now we can refer to this life force as God. However my point is that in the truest sense we all are essentially God (in equal measure) as the non-phenomenal source and end of all that exists . So strictly God does not create human beings as dependent creatures, for our truest identity is always simply God in equality with all other life again as the source and end of all that exists.

One other implication of this is that all life in its multiple phenomenal expressions is in truth the incarnation of the same one life i.e. God as continually manifested in finite existence.

In this sense every finite life is continually reborn in creation through multiple individual existences.
In - perhaps - a future generation, someone for example will have a similar insight.
However that person is really you and me experiencing that same insight (though full appreciation of this is not possible in phenomenal terms).

The catch however will always remain that such ultimate realisation cannot come from understanding of form. Rather it is only by utter detachment from all that phenomenally exists that the true spiritual realisation of the nature of our unique - yet - common existence (in God) can simply unfold.