Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nature of Modernity in Spiritual Insight

“When we use the term ‘modern’ we mean neither contemporary nor up-to-date… Rather, for us ‘modern’ means that which is cut off from the Transcendent, from the immutable principles which in reality govern all things and which are made known to man through revelation in its most universal sense. Modernism is thus contrasted with tradition…; the latter implies all that which is of Divine Origin along with its manifestations and deployments on the human plane while the former by contrast implies all that is merely human and now ever more increasingly subhuman, and all that is divorced and cut off from the Divine source.” ……… Professor Nasr, Studies in Comparative Religion.
I was recently listening to the talk by contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber and one key factor that I could note is the progressive stages of human consciousness which was initially classified by Jean Gebser and later refined and reclassified to contemporary stages which are: archaic, magical, mythological, rational. Pluralistic, integral and super-integral. He clearly indicates that these stages are not totally superseded but evolve as an integral pattern of the human physical growth. Advanced stages of consciousness are available to humanity today as against what would have been available in the past. Human evolution has to be seen not in isolation as survival of the fittest but as a lock step process where higher levels of consciousness added the necessary advantage to the fitness regime.
Even today as we develop from a child to an adult. We have the potential to leverage the higher realms of knowledge and wisdom but inhibit this process through belief systems and social and cultural conditioning.
When St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who were a very intellectual Greek society, he says:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” …..1 Corinthians 13: 11-13
This is a clear indication of the necessity of transcending our limited perceptions from the archaic, magical and mythical levels to higher levels which are available to the higher mind. This would enable us to move beyond seeing the image to seeing the reality face to face. This full knowledge has to progress through a belief (faith), then a longing (hope) and then an unconditional response (love). The final stage can be reached only through integral or unitive consciousness. If we divest our progress from the earlier stages of consciousness and define our current knowledge as ‘Modern’ or ‘Postmodern’, then we move away from the richness of the past, which had deep roots in ethnocentric worldview and position ourselves in dualistic mode of operation. This results in pure rational level of consciousness and inhibits our growth beyond this stage. This need for openness to all that ancient spiritual traditions can teach us is expressed by Joseph Epes Brown who was an American scholar whose lifelong dedication to Native American traditions helped to bring the study of American Indian religious traditions to a larger audience.
“It has long been necessary to situate correctly the so-called primitive religions in the context of the world’s historical religions, and in so doing to recognize that in spite of many elements unfamiliar to the outsider, Native American traditions, at least where there has not been excessive compromise to the modern world, are in no sense inferior, but indeed are legitimate expressions of the philosophia perennis.” ……………..Joseph Epes Brown, …..“The Question of ‘Mysticism’”
A true ethnocentric worldview can be developed only when we learn to appreciate and imbibe all good things that are available to us through various spiritual traditions. As social creatures humans have to evolve to our higher potentialities only within our limitations of social, cultural and religious upbringing but as St. Paul says in every one of us there is a stage when we have to move away from seeing the reflection for reality and directly grasp the nature of higher reality through our inherent capacity for higher wisdom.

Love to you all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hearing the Inner Voice

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” …………1 Kings 19: 11-13
This is a very meaningful verse in the Hebrew Old Testament which we normally gloss over as a miraculous calling of God to Elijah.
This is a calling to every human being. We hide in the cave of darkness and look for answers from a superior being or a higher level of intelligence for answers to our doubts and questions. When Yahweh said to him “Go out and stand on the mountain …….where the Lord was about to appear, Elijah was expecting Yahweh to appear in all sound and fury, as described, in the powerful wind, the earthquake and the fury of the fire but there was only a gentle whisper. Elijah recognizes the voice as the voice of Yahweh and goes out of the cave.
Going out of the cave is an act signifying our moving out of ignorance and darkness into the light of true knowledge. The first question that he hears from the whisper is why he sheltering in ignorance. In every one of us there is this inner voice, a voice which beyond the conceptual meanings of turmoil resultant from our tormented rational mind.
Yesterday I was watching a debate on YouTube between a Buddhist scholar who was also a qualified physicist and a leading cosmologist and particle physicist. On one side there was an argument that pure subjective experience validated through empirical methods and the natural laws which are mathematically defined and repeatedly confirmed, could be the nature of reality. The other side of the argument was that the central axioms on which laws of nature are based are only the product of the rational mind and their validity has already been questioned by leading mathematician Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. The argument from the Buddhist thought was that only through a constant practice of silencing the mind that the inner voice of intuitive knowledge can be accessed.
Leading scientists in the fields of Quantum Physics, Cognitive Sciences and other disciplines are seen to be in agreement that our conscious perceptions are extremely limited and in the word of a leading Mathematical cognitive scientist, Stewart Hoffman, our limited perception is a derivative of evolution so as to ensure the survival of the human species.
“I think consciousness will remain a mystery. Yes, that's what I tend to believe. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent. Biologists and perhaps physicists will understand much better how the brain works. But why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think that will remain mysterious. I have a much easier time imagining how we understand the Big Bang than I have imagining how we can understand consciousness..” ………….Edward Witten, American theoretical physicist and professor of mathematical physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
This does not mean that our journey to highest source is perennially impeded. The route of listening to the inner voice as pointed out in the Biblical verse quoted is the path beyond the rational mind.
In the New Testament we have a reference to the impossibility of perception through sensory effects of the true cause from which such effect is derived. Christ tells Nicodemus:
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ………….John 3: 8
Let us silence our mind whenever possible to listen to this small whisper which is felt in our inner being.

Love to you all

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Myth as Expression of Truth

“Myth is a symbol, approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately or accurately express…. It implies not falsehood, but truth; not primitive. Naïve understanding, but an insight more profound than scientific description and logical analysis can ever achieve. The language of myth in this sense is consciously inadequate, being simply the nearest we can come to a formulation of what we see very darkly…..This procedure is quite legitimate if [we] understand what is being done.” …………..Biblical Scholar Millar Burrows
This good expression of the purpose of myth has been misunderstood ever since human consciousness moved towards its higher dependency on the neocortex. Human beings when they evolved from the archaic and magical consciousness into the mythological era tried to find more meaningful expression of what the intuitive mind was able to perceive. The sages of the ancient wisdom traditions and the writers of sacred scriptures used myth as a tool for evoking the human mind to grasp deep spiritual truth.
It is unfortunate that when the rational age of consciousness evolved and religion became the sole, unquestionable dispenser of spirituality, a historical interpretation of scriptures became the dominant mode. This is because then there could be a two way regression of anchoring the deep truth into the rational domain.
These two are; the evoking of pre-mythical magical consciousness which could become a universal unassailable explanation invoking a supernatural source for events in a literal sense and also assign a historical character to the scriptures so that the authors become witness to purely sensory perceptions as witnessed in the past and  rational mind becomes an unquestioning receptor of meanings.
 There are also certain fundamental relatedness in which a myth evolves. The socio-cultural and language are very important factors at the time of the conceptualizing of mythical theme. We are fortunate in this respect especially in the study of Biblical scriptures as voluminous studies have been carried out from Jewish, Christian and secular perspectives. Through these studies we have been able to find deeper meaning and commonality of structures of various symbolism which are used in these writings. If we consider the creation story in the book of Genesis, the symbols employed such as the sacred garden, the flow of water from the underworld, the serpent, opening of one’s eyes, Cherubim and the flaming sword are all common symbols appearing throughout ancient near east in Biblical times.
There is a psychological dimension which is very vital in the structuring of a myth. All myths evolve from the author’s ability to call upon the archetypes in the process of deeper perception of truth from the universal unconsciousness. This perception of truth from the universal unconsciousness and hence the common archetypes finds different types of expression depending on the local milieu, culture and language.
An common example in the creation myth is the ‘coiled serpent’ symbolism. The archaic consciousness of humanity, predating the magical and mythical consciousness evolution, the coiled serpent, “Uroboros”,  eating its own tail was used as the symbol of primal, unmodified consciousness of humans. It is a paradisiacal state which provides all their needs. The open ended uncoiled serpent on the tree of knowledge represents the internal prompting man when growing out of primal consciousness to perceiving the external world and his own ego through this newly invested knowledge derived from the tree of knowing and to equate himself to God but in this process becomes keenly aware of his physical nature or his lower self. This duality results in his worldly life of toil, pain and keen sense of emotions resulting from his rational thinking.
When we study the myth of Eden we can see how the psychological development of the human being progresses from the primal state of undifferentiated unity towards a subject-object duality of perceptions. The participating players in the Eden Myth are the male and the female and the deity which is presented as the Great Mother Goddess and the serpent. This theme can be seen in many sacred scriptural mythologies.
The Sumerian mythology talks of Marduk and Tiamat, Vedic lore talks of Indira and Vritra, the dragon or serpent, Greek myth of Zeus and Typhon. All these myths are told to evoke and make humanity keenly aware of our primal purely unmodified consciousness and our current status of fragmentation.
This is a vast topic and the reason for bringing up this specific topic is for all of us to delve deeply into the what so ever scriptures we use for our spiritual enrichment and move beyond literal, historical and dictated meanings and eke out the spiritual kernel which can enrich our lives.
Love to you all.