We’ve been having a lively exchange about what it can mean to be the hero of your own story. This is another way of investigating the “self” we take ourselves to be. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the four noble truths of the Buddha, about how suffering arises in this life, about how it ceases, and what the heck this has to do with being a self. For a long time, I wondered why suffering was so central to the Buddha’s teaching. It seemed life-denying to me– championing the need to pull back from life (even before it was fully lived!!!) I was attracted to teachers like Gurdjieff, who had brave adventures and feasted on life, none of this restraining the senses, limiting attachments. Over the years, however, although I still love feasters and lovers of life, I’ve slowly come to understand the noble truths in a new way. Now I understand that the “dukkha,” which is often translated as “suffering” includes that feeling of friction, unease, of being slightly out of balance with the world that comes with having a self.
The Buddha understood the way our habitual, reflexive ways of responding to life get entrenched and drive our lives. We see the world and experience everything that happens to us through the lens of our own attitudes, old hurts, our particular problems. Our stories about who we are and what we’ve been through and what matters give us a way of relating to life but it also separates us from the experience of being fully present. And part of what we might see if we weren’t so cut us off, so narrow and selfish in focus, is that we ourselves are inextricably part of the whole world, no clear separation between inner and outer–that those very feelings and thoughts of being separate require a physical nervous system and physical ears and eyes, not to mention the impressions that flow in from the external world. Moment by moment by moment, we are receiving impressions and responding to those impressions, not observing life but participating in it. Yet we don’t really take in the big picture. We see what we want and don’t want. The Buddha taught that the root of that experience of “dukkha” is our underlying craving to have this or or not have that–our yearning to be or become this and not be or become that.
In moments of radical honesty, we can taste that the “self” that we experience is not a fixed being at all so much as a powerful shadow longing that laces together all the feelings and thoughts and impressions. BUT the Buddha does offer a greater possibility. We really are meant to be something greater than a kind of ghost haunting the world, returning again and again to the scene of old hurts and lost loves. In those moments when we stop and truly open to the here-and-now, we can experience a new kind of groundedness and balance. After our craving or pining or thirst abates, a new calm and clarity can appear. The Pali word for craving is tanha, which comes from a Sanskrit word with the same root as thirst, and when we see it for what it is and drop it (and sometimes life shocks us into dropping it for minute) another order of desire or wish may appear–the wish to help, to aspire, to be compassionate. This order of desire is called chanda. As the Buddhist monk Ajahn Sucitto writes chanda is “a psychological “yes,” a choice, not a pathology. In fact, you could summarize Dhamma (Dharma) training as the transformation of tanha into chanda.” Blind instinct and habitual grasping or aversioncan give way to the conscious choice to participate in the world. Whether one is Buddhist or Christian or follows another way (Sucitto uses Nelson Mandel as an example) a sense of true self-respect or respect for one’s brief and blessed life can cause one to chose to resolve to stop blindly identifying with the circumstance and conditions of life but to consciously relate to life.
Ironically, since the Buddha emphasizes how much a part of the whole we all are and how conditioned our experience is, the Buddhist path holds out the possibility of being more than the sum of our conditioning, of being in the world but not of it. As Sucitto writes (taking inspiration from Mandela) “We don’t have to drink the water we’re swimming through. We don’t have to become the world.” We can be more. Some of us can even be true heroes. Seeing through the selfish nature of self, can lead us to our underlying heart, which is able to let go, to relinquish, to open to life. A sense of courage, inner balance, and generosity can grow within us as we learn to open more and more the truth of the present moment. Some people can even take this inner strength into places of despair and great suffering and offer themselves in service. And all the rest of us can learn that instead of separating us, our heartaches and disappointments can become a source of understanding and compassion. Our suffering, our stories, are cravings and longings are “repurposed”–not so much “gotten over” as seen through, made into a light that can illuminate us to the roots of the situation–so that we can respond to the world (including ourselves) with generosity and compassion.
28 thoughts on “A Light To Guide Us”
Good post Tracy. “For a long time, I wondered why suffering was so central to the Buddha’s teaching.”
Suffering is a key idea in ‘the Work’ as well as in the Buddhist teaching. (I was tempted to say Gurdjieff’s teaching then realized the enormous help brought to us by Madame de Salzmann , Henri Tracol , Michel Cone, Lord Peatland and others).
Gurdjieff uses the phrase intentional (or voluntary suffering); easily misunderstood. He also says that most of our suffering is useless. It is a big step to experience the difference. I suffer the insults and insensitivity of others then, perhaps, when it becomes very intense, almost unbearable, I wake up to the fact that I am suffering in sleep, automatically, no Presence. And for a moment I can intentionally suffer; that is see the suffering that is proceeding in the emotions, in the body, in the head. In that moment a small new birth occurs and I am free and in front of useless suffering. A transformation has occurred. I wish to never forget. But I forget nonetheless. I wish not to forget because the moment of seeing suffering is a moment of receiving a food which I very much need. I need to see my own useless suffering, which takes many forms. To feel compassion and see the suffering of others I need to be attentive to how I am.
This is true. I need to be attentive to how I am–and rooted in the reality of the present moment. And I forget what is received over and over again.
Yet, at the same time, I have learned something. Over time, I have learned to value patience more, humility, the wisdom of kindness. I have learned that I am more than I usually think I am and that life holds more. I have learned that its possible to wake up and overcome this powerful habitual forgetting, this reflexive self-protective contraction of the heart and mind. And that in the moments when this happens, life takes on a kind of magical vibrancy. Reality appears for a moment, including what the Buddhists call the Unconditioned or Unlimited depths or our own mind and heart.
In those moments, it’s all worth it.
Tracy, what is the Buddhist concept of the “light?”
When I read this passage it made perfect sense to me and explains the futility of secularism.
“Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.” Simone Weil
Panentheism makes a great deal of sense to me since the Absolute is outside of Creation. It is the NOW outside the limitations of time and space and its levels of reality which could be seen as the functioning body of the Absolute within NOW. Grace entering from outside creation sustains creation both in the processes of involution and evolution.
Help from above in the form of the light of grace seems necessary to awaken to a higher reality in the ddirection of the “good” not governed by the needs of Mother nature.
Does Buddhism explain grace from a different point of view and without the need for a source?
I’ve had similar discussions with myself and others. The answer I found is that we are the light, we make of ourselves a light to quote Buddhist writings. Here are the links to two poems where I tied to touch on this concept in a simply.
Not that I’m trying to pawn off my poor verses on everyone, but they do have some value.
The first poem is called Poets of Creation.
The 2nd one is called, When Angels Are Born.
Matt. 5:14-16 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
In his final words under the Sala trees, the Buddha gave us these words. “Make of yourself a light.”
All who find freedom from clinging to desire, sin, separation, and sorrow, free from the incessant flow of their thoughts, are like shining lights reaching final liberation in the world. – The Dhammapada 89
You are a good poet Ron. I just question if we are the light. We may have the potential to be the light but I believe we are far from it.
Art alluded to it before. We can experience through intentional suffering how difficult it is to be capable of light.
We can fantsize about it but when we try it, we see our limitations. It is hard enough to retain a spark, much less a light.
“Difficult as it is really to listen to someone in affliction, it is just as difficult for him to know that compassion is listening to him.” Simone Weil
I’ve experienced this and the difficulty to give my attention in this way rather than my fantasies. I have the potential but potential is not the light.
The light doesn’t refer to what we do but rather what we ARE. Meister Eckhart explains:
“People should not worry as much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.”
I have a great deal of respect for Buddhism but my heart and mind appreciates esoteric Christianity and its levels of reality that explains everything including conscious human potential and the light that initiated in the beginning as emanations from Ayn Sof. “Let there be light.”
This is a bit long, but you may enjoy it all.
I’ve always felt drawn to that same Judeo-Christian esoteric tradition; God as spirit, truth, endless light, and love.
A part of that journey comes from my family’s involvement in both the church as a Christian, and in Freemasonry that goes back several generations. With all the esoteric work you must learn in each degree, which are all allegory, myth in the truest since of that word, and of course metaphor, fingers pointing at the moon. We may same the same about many of the Bible stories and parables of Jesus.
Both Buddhism and Christianity offer similar paths, perhaps parallel paths, as Marcus Borg points out in his book “Jesus and Buddha, the Parallel Sayings.” I do appreciated the reference to Ein Sof (Ayn Sof) …
“Before He gave any shape to the world, before He produced any form, He was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else. Who then can comprehend how He was before the Creation? Hence it is forbidden to lend Him any form or similitude, or even to call Him by His sacred name, or to indicate Him by a single letter or a single point. . . .” from the Zohar
This concept of, “Ein Sof” point towards God as “the nameless being.” Then in other verses, “reduces the term to “Ein” (non-existent), because God so transcends human understanding as to be practically non-existent.”
I like what Meister Eckhart once said …
“Where one is emptied of self, ideas, concepts, assumptions, images, and all else; God pours himself into the soul, and the light at the core of the soul grows so strong, it spills out holiness and radiates through the whole person.”
“Therefore discard the form and be joined to the formless essence, for the spiritual comfort of God is very subtle.”
“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”
So, I can clearly see a connection between the Christian concept of Kenosis (Greek for Emptiness) and the Buddhist concept of Emptiness, or Śūnyatā (Shoon-Yuh-Ta). They are both similar in process, in learning to let go of all images and thoughts, and return to the truest core of the self. Perhaps in some sense to even worship God as Spirit and Truth, as Jesus told the Sumerian woman at the well.
This it seems is the original self, the original face we had before we were born; we may call it the image of God.
Are we light? Yes, I think that we are light in some form if we are created in the image of God.
If you have time, look up on the internet any reference to a Buddhist meditation called the hollow body visualization or the rainbow body.
Again, these are all fingers pointing at the moon.
Here is an interesting link to a sermon by Prof. Paul Knitter, who is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in NYC.
What any good poet or artist will do, or try to do, is to transcend language itself by creating new images or a new language, and new connections when writing about our relationships and interconnections to creation.
Which is one reason I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of “InterBeing.” Prof. Knitter points out that Thich Nhat Hanh, “translates Śūnyatā more freely and more engagingly as “InterBeing,” the interconnected state of things that is constantly churning out new connections, new possibilities, new problems, and new life.”
In Christian theology and imagery we might refer to such an interconnection as the Body of Christ, where all Christians become one with Christ. Although, I would say we always have been one, one body, one breath. And add to that; One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism to take that image of oneness a bit further.
Where do I begin and other person ends? There really is no difference between myself and others, we actually are one. We are so interconnected in our relationship with on another and with all of creation, that we are one.
Understanding God through relationships is critical in seeing how Prof. Knitter views the nature of God as the source and power of our relationships. “And for a Christian it all begins with the Trinity, God the three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or to use more gender neutral language; Parent, Child, Spirit, which expresses beautifully the importance of our relationship within the Trinity.”
Prof. Knitter points out that “all of this means that God’s very being, or existing, or identity consists of relating, or inter-existing, or “InterBeing,” what theologians term the “internal Trinity” – God’s inner nature.” When a Christian looks at Jesus Christ as God, we see the “Incarnate Word” the word made flesh. We see God who is present to the world through relationships, and these relationships are a reflection of, an echo of, even an actualization of the very nature of God.
I like Paul Knitter, he has taught me a lot, but more importantly he has been able to put into words many of my own thoughts about how interconnected and dependent we are.
Prof. Knitter argues that the Buddhist concept of Śūnyatā may “open the doors to a deeper grasp of what Thomas Aquinas saw when he announced that God participates in creation, or that we participate in God’s being.” While dependent origination or arising, places a whole new light for Christians, on the importance of relationships in forming our own experiences of reality, of God and creation.
Prof. Knitter then goes on to say that “to experience and believe in a Trinitarian God is to experience and believe in a God who is not, as Tillich would say, the Ground of Being, but the Ground of InterBeing!”
Let me end with this thought, which also comes from Paul Knitter.
The 20th century Christian theologian Karl Rahner once wrote: “In the future Christians will be mystics, or they will not be anything.” In Christianity the primary adjective used to describe mystical experiences is unitive or in union with, meaning that such an experience is to feel “oneself connected with, part of, united with, aware of, one with, something or some-activity larger than oneself.” In short, this is an experience of the non-duality of God that begins for Christians with kenosis, the Greek word for emptiness or to empty ourselves as Christ emptied himself, becoming a servant to all humankind.
If the goal of any Christian is to become Christlike, then we must take to heart the following scripture.
Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)
5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. 678
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Christianity teaches that “the way of Christ” is a way that calls us to love others unconditionally with immense compassion and loving-kindness, which is quite similar to the Buddhist call to become a Bodhisattva who develops universal compassion and a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.
For me, the call of Christ is one that I must answer by loving others in all their diversity of beliefs, in all their pain and suffering, even taking on some of their pain as did Christ on the cross, and in showing them through love how Christ lives and dwells within my own being. It is the approach Christ compels me to take; it is a path marked by extraordinary humility, with no hint of hubris.
Another poor poem …. ;-)
Nick, wondefull what you say “It is hard enough to retain a spark, much less a light.”
The rest of your post also resonates (is that the right word?) with me.
I have only one small question which is distinguishing between the words radiant and emanations? Finally I have figured out to my own satisfaction the difference betwen emanate and radiate.
Art, you were a little vague but I take it to mean you want to know how I distinguish between radiations and emanations.
Radiations as I understand it, are expressions of a quality of energy that initiates with a given phenomenon. Emanations are qualities of energy that are passing through a given phenomenon but doesn’t initiate with it.
“Let there be light.” Okidanokh illuminates the three essential forces beginning the process of involution. It emanates throughout the universe at different levels of reality.
I find it sad that so many now frown on the idea of God being simultaneously one and three. Yet Gurdjieff’s description of Creation as levels of reality initiating with the Absolute and illuminating the three forces allowed me to understand how it can be so. I see how it became an essential part of esoteric Christianity since it makes both the fall of man and Christian re-birth a logical possibility along the scale of being.
Nick’s question about grace in Buddhism does beg a response, and some branches of Buddhism do define grace in some form.
But, in general, they aren’t even asking the question, since ultimately it is a question related to sin or original sin.
In Christianity grace might be defined as the following, but even this understanding is not universal.
“By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to good works.”
I always seem to come back to the following piece of scripture found in the New Testament.
Colossians 1:15-20 (NRSV) – Talking about Christ
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
When we, as Christians, look at Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word and the first born of all creation, we are in a very real sense viewing Christ outside of time or within the eternal context of all creation. What that means in terms of salvation is that we are and always have been completely accepted by God, as the 20th Century theologian Paul Tillich so often pointed out. In short, we are the beloved of God. And we know this because God came to be with us, to be born as a human being.
Now most of the Buddhist I know would say the same thing, or somthing similar, but in a different way with very different language. They are not concerned so much about sin, as they are about suffering. For a Buddhist it is our clinging to desires that leads to suffering. Desire can also lead to inapproriate behavior, in many ways, which in turn leads to more suffering. It becomes a cycle of behavior that repeats over and over again. Learning to let go of such desire does lead to enlightenment, but is enlightenment the same as salvation?
You see, the language used, the vocabulary that is used is all so very different in both traditions. In Buddhism there is no Garden of Eden, no Fall, no After the Fall either. It’s hard to hold the conversation even, because the concepts are so different.
But, we can find common ground, and that common ground is found in the contemplative traditions and practices of both religions. This is true of other core world religions, they all have a contemplative practice.
You could even say that the common ground is silence and stillness, found in a sacramental practice of meditation and deep prayer. And that out of this silence, this stillness, arises all of creation and the relationships we have with one another and everything else, all of creation, i.e, the Buddhist concepts of Emptiness and Dependent Arising.
Okay, that’s it, I’ve said far too much today. Sorry to take up so much time, but this whole subject strikes an very important cord in my own creative imagination. You might say that it rings or resonates through my spirit.
I am drawn to this idea of levels of reality. It also allows me to admit that when the word Christian is used, it can mean anything from a robot to a conscious human being.
Are you familiar with Frithjof Schuon’s book “The Transcendent Unity Of Religions”? He asserts that there is an enormous span between the exoteric level of religions and the transcendent where they are one having initiated from a conscious source
If you look at Thomas McFarlane’s diagram, the great traditions are separated at the exoteric level but move closer together along the esoteric path.
This means that the exoteric level is primarily dominated by imagination.
I feel bad for so many young people growing up that experience an unnecessary division between science and religion. If they are scientifically inclined they tend to conclude that the spiritual is fantasy. If they are spiritually inclined they feel that science denies the reality of the spiritual..
It doesn’t have to be the case. This is why I’m wary of secular Interfaith. It seeks to draw commonalities at the exoteric level where they cannot exist because of the human condition that maintains the exoteric level. Speeches are one thing. Reality is another.
Simone Weil could search because she had the inner strength to buck the system. Her elder brother André Weil the famous mathematician in a 1932 letter wrote:
“It will now be I think 23 years that you made your entry into the phenomenal world to create the greatest pain in the ass for rectors and school directors.”
She needed truth of a higher order that doesn’t exist in the world and would not find consolation in fantasy. She wrote:
“To believe in God is not a decision we can make. All we can do is decide not to give our love to false gods. In the first place, we can decide not to believe that the future contains for us an all-sufficient good. The future is made of the same stuff as the present….
“…It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in God. He has only to refuse to believe in everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose belief. It is enough to recognize, what is obvious to any mind, that all the goods of this world, past, present, or future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire which burns perpetually with in us for an infinite and perfect good… It is not a matter of self-questioning or searching. A man has only to persist in his refusal, and one day or another God will come to him.”
— Weil, Simone, ON SCIENCE, NECESSITY, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, edited by Richard Rees, London, Oxford University Press, 1968.- ©
She was called to the transcendent as described by Frithjof Schuon. That is why she could maintain the attention and detachment that allowed her to remain present to her living experience with the external world.
As I see it, everything is a middle. A human being is actually a middle that can reconcile a corresponding higher conscious quality and a lower acquired mechanical nature. The higher asserts its will. the lower denies. How does the middle reconcile it? In the world it does so on the same level. It is like finding the midpoint along a horizontal line that connects extremes like hot and cold. Since everything changes, the middle also changes.
Now imagine a triangle where the apex represents a higher level of reality that reconciles extremes, a “duality.” Now the extremes are reconciled as ONE from a higher conscious perspcetive.
I believe this quality of reconciliation is our conscious potential. However it exists for us as fantasy and escapism until we awaken to our sleep.
A real human being would be able to simultaneously give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Such a person could become a conscious middle capable of receiving from the higher and giving to the lower free of imagination. They would be Nietzsche’s overman in the world but yet realizing their nothingness in relation to a higher conscious level of existence.
From this perspective, is their any reason why there should be a conflict between science and religion? Science reveals relationships between universal laws in the external world . The essence of religion reveals the relationships between these same laws as they concern the vertical quality of existence that comprises our quality “being.”
Where science describes relationships within one cosmos or living level of reality, the esoteric path, opens one to the conscious experience of these laws within themselves; how they are a middle between a higher quality or existence we are drawn to and a lower that reflects are earthly arising. If science and the essence of religion are both true, then their division is only the result of our fantasies.
From Albert Einstein:
“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”
“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
This is my problem Ron: how to allow this young minority that are drawn both to science and religion but are scorned by both, to find a direction that respects both? How to make reasonable that the solution lies in the Socratic axiom: Know thyself.”
So I begin with honoring the purity and dedication of Simone’s search: her “guiding light. Is she abnormal for being so unique or am I missing something by not being so sensitive?
The spiritual person wishes to live outside the world and the scientist seeks to know and experience the world. Can they be reconciled as one by a real Man? I believe so and hope to further those that begin to sense their complimentary callings.
I thought the opposite of what you say about the difference between emanations and radiations. The former comes from one’s being, the later as a lawful result of the ray of creation.
I agree that science and religion are two sides of the same coin, and that we should not fear either one. They do compliment one another.
It’s an old metaphor, but it works well; many paths one mountain. The core religions of the world do help us to wake up and see our place in creation.
I also believe that it does take a leap of faith and consciousness to move towards a more mystical or esoteric approach. Something draws you to that path; what is it? Can we named it? I would name it Spirit or even Holy Spirit as in the Christian Trinity, God plays many roles and the Spirit of God moves in many different ways.
My point is that we can experience the presence of God, in prayer, in meditation, in other sacramental practices. One of the most powerful ways of experiencing God’s presence that I learned from my Buddhist friends is the practice of Tonglen, the practice of giving and taking. It is a way that opens us up to compassion.
Another powerful way to experience God’s presence is through the celebration of the Eucharist. I’ve attended interfaith meditation sessions where we were able to do both, both practices are trans-formative. They help to form us and to complete us, to finish in us the form and image of God. Theosis. Sanctification. Holiness. Unification. Non-Duality. Oneness. Grace.
Whatever you may name it, it is ultimately a gift of grace, one that is given and not earned. The best we can do is present ourselves as an offering through prayer, meditation, or practice (praxis) in great humility, God does the rest. But, I think that the process begins by understanding compassion, forgiveness, and selfless love.
St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, “God became man so that man might become god.”
This would be hard to discuss here Art. It would mean beginning with Theomertmalogos and describing the involutionary creation of cosmoses.
Emanations though for me are what is concealed behind the radiations we experience.
However, as I understand it, the emanations of the sun could become radiations for the being of Man on earth which could be experienced as “light.”
Fascinating discussion. Thank you for your insights, for sharing these rich sources–and the good poetry.
We seem to have a difference in perspective and I’d like to understand yours better to clarify.
We’ve been discussing the guiding light. Consider these two guides:
Lucifer has been called “the bright son of the morning” and “most beloved of God.”
John 8: 12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus is the light. Lucifer provides the most beautiful light. Are they the same? If not, how do you apprecite the difference between these two guiding lights?
Theological discussions are not my meat nor drink. However it does seem clear that we need to understand the difference between emanation and radiation. From my view emanations are conscious manifestations, creations whereas radiations are a part of the involutionary force that proceeds automatically according to law.
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson:
“The factors for the being-impulse conscience arise in
the presences of the three-brained beings from the localization of the particles of the “emanations-of-the-sorrow” of our OMNI-LOVING AND LONG-SUFFERING-ENDLESS-CREATOR; that is why the source of the manifestation of genuine conscience in three-centered beings is sometimes called the REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CREATOR.
And this sorrow is formed in our ALL-MAINTAINING-COMMON-FATHER from the struggle constantly proceeding
in the Universe between joy and sorrow.”
As to Jesus being the light; what is Jesus? The historical Jesus? If so that is past. Perhaps He who was known as Jesus still exists in higher worlds, unavailable to our rather feeble attention but to name one person as the light and leave out Gurdjieff, Milarepa and a whole host of others who have ‘lit the way’ is illogical.
In my way of thinking and feeling no one individual, personage, whatever name one uses, can ever be “the light”. The light is, for us, even though we experience it in moments, essentially still a mystery. How did it come to be? Always was isn’t an answer, just a lack of understanding.
As to Lucifer being the bright sun of the morning and the most beloved of God? Obviously, for me, Lucifer is not a personage, nor even a Being but one of the Universal forces which has its origin in the Source, the Absolute, The Creator. Again we have no name, really, for this.
If we can agree that Jesus represents one meaning of the light and Lucifer another, other names are unimportant since we are dealing with concepts.
We are attracted to the light. Yet it is not the same meaning. How can we understand this? Disregard names and think concept.
“When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.” Simone Weil
Rather than objecting to the contradiction, can we respect it as a door?
I can’t really speak on the topic of Lucifer, other than what we know through stories and myths, legends and lore. I’m sure you know all those stories too. There is quite a lot of information out there to read through. The only reference to the name in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah 14.
12 How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. [c]
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But, is also said that this passage refers to the king of Babylon, a man who seemed all-powerful, but who has been brought down to the abode of the dead.
Should we speak of Milton or Dante as well? The story has been added to by many others it seems.
What is the key allegory and metaphor in that whole story line, of heavenly rebellion? Is it real? Does it matter? Is there redemption and forgiveness at some point? Can we hope for that?
Perhaps a rereading of Job might help. The Book itself comprises a didactic poem set in a prose framing device and has been called “the most profound and literary work of the entire Old Testament.” It is one of the wisdom books found in the Bible.
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
And the poem goes on from there to remind us of all we do not know and do not understand.
At some point we have to realize our human limitations, that all the answers won’t come at once. Still, there is verse in 1 Corinthians 13 that always strikes me as being quite profound, one that gives me hope and sustenance.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
This last line always gives me tingles —-
“Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
As for Jesus, how do you see him, as the Incarnate Word, the Word made flesh, God with us?
This is what is told in the Gospel of John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
How do we come to know Jesus?
Christianity teaches us that God can be known through love, through compassion. According to the Gospel of John, “God is Love.” When a Christian says, “God is Love,” they are pointing towards Agápē, divine or selfless love, the highest and purest form of love, to be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.
For any Christian, God becomes known through Jesus Christ, who was both fully human and fully divine. Jesus, therefore, is Lord and Brother, uniting in one person both humanity and God. Christians know Jesus as the Logos, the Incarnate Word, the Word Made Flesh, and the image of the invisible God, preeminent and preexisting, the First Born of all Creation. Jesus, for a Christian, is redeemer, reconciler, revealer, and teacher; Jesus is all these things and more. In Jesus, we find our personal destiny, our truest self, and an ultimate reconciliation with all creation.
The trick of course is to begin seeing Jesus, or God, or the Divine in other folks. Once we start that process, we too start to become the light, the light of love. I don’t think I could put into any simpler terms. It is a process of being and becoming. There is a Buddha and a Christ begging to be born in each one of us.
Here is a link to a pretty orthodox essay I once wrote. Maybe it will answer your questions about my own perspective. Although, it may also raise more questions too. ;-)
Ultimately, I think that we have to not only be open to the Mystery, but to live in that Mystery. And to understand that we are the beloved of God, however you may conceive of God. God is a very big subject.
Thanks for allowing me to understand you better. I may not agree but still just appreciating our differences is a help towards a greater understanding.
First though, when I refer to Christianity I am referring to esoteric Christianity which is different from the Christendom people normally call Christianity. So I will post this link to explain more of what I mean:
Where the outer expression of Christianity is in society, its inner meaning opens us to Man’s conscious evolution achieved through re-birth. I am not against the distorted influence of religion within society since as a whole, it is all that is possible. However, I also believe in the value of the essence of religion and grace for creating true human individuality and freedom from the limitations of Plato’s cave
The biggest obstacle to this normal transition between mechanical and conscious evolution is imagination.
I’m not a follower of Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy but I appreciate how he divides the Satanic influence into Lucifer and Ahriman.
Where Ahriman is the pull of man’s being into materialism and is the more dangerous influence, the Luciferic influence IMO best seen in the attraction to the “I am God” of New Age philosophy.
Lucifer’s beautiful light attracts us into fantasy that creates fantasy in place of true mysticism.
Steiner describes the Christ influence as between Lucifer and Ahriman. It strives for “I Am” rather than I am God. The striving towards I Am requires humility rather than false pride that believes oneself one with God. The light of Lucifer attracts our personality while the light of Christ touches our essence
Gurdjieff describes the power of imagination in his description of the “Kundabuffer.” It is also described in Ouspensky’s “In Search of the Miraculous” as kundalina for anyone concerned.
Where Lucifer’s light invites pride, the light of the Christ invites humility.
“We can only know one thing about God – that he is what we are not. Our wretchedness alone is an image of this. The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.” Simone Weil
As usual her purity serves to disturb the ego. But for those like me, we have gratitude for this insulting depth of honesty.
A person writes a book “I’m OK, You’re OK” and is a best seller. How much would a book called “I’m an idiot, You’re an Idiot” sell? Yet which is closer to the truth for those concerned with awakening to the human condition?
This is another reason why I have so much appreciation for those like Basarab Nicolescu who understand the connection between the conscious transcendent and exoteric imagination.
He developed Transdiciplinarity
Since I am sensitive to levels of reality, the project makes perfect sense to me. The guiding light has revealed that specialties have a piece of the truth that exists as a whole at a higher level. The scientist, artist, mechanic, etc realize they all have a fragment of a higher whole. How can it be shared to reveal the whole? Even though they are specialists, it requires real humility to be open to the limitations of fragmentation.
This would never be popular around here because we celebrate fragmentation and specialties. This approach seeks the whole as the goal of fragmentation. It require surrendering fantasy to share reality that begins admitting our limitations and the dangers of celebrating partial truths.
IMO it is the Christ influence that allows us the potential to put our attractions to materialism and mystical escapism into a conscious perspective.
“In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty there is really the presence of God. There is, as it were, an incarnation of God in the world, and it is indicated by beauty. The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible. Hence all art of the highest order is religious in essence. (That is what people have forgotten today.) A Gregorian melody is as powerful a witness as the death of a martyr.” (Page 52 of The Simone Weil Reader, George A. Panichas, ed. New York: David McKay Co. 1977.)
IMO it is the light of grace that allows us to maintain hope as we experience this and our wretchedness in front of it.
I’ll need the weekend to look a lot of this over Nick, it’s a busy week.
I hope I didn’t drive everyone away with my concerns for self deception. :) I’d like to share a passage with you that convinced me how little I understand about good and evil. Even though I intellectually agree with what Simone Weil says here, I don’t feel it. I am still drawn to self deception. Guess which I am attracted to: truth or fiction?
“Nothing is so beautiful and wonderful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy, as the good. No desert is so dreary, monotonous, and boring as evil. This is the truth about authentic good and evil. With fictional good and evil it is the other way round. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied and intriguing, attractive, profound, and full of charm.” Simone Weil From “Morality and Literature,”an essay published in Cahiers du Sud, January 1944
Ironically, since the Buddha emphasizes how much a part of the whole we all are and how conditioned our experience is, the Buddhist path holds out the possibility of being more than the sum of our conditioning, of being in the world but not of it. As Sucitto writes (taking inspiration from Mandela) “We don’t have to drink the water we’re swimming through. We don’t have to become the world.” We can be more. Some of us can even be true heroes. Seeing through the selfish nature of self, can lead us to our underlying heart, which is able to let go, to relinquish, to open to life. A sense of courage, inner balance, and generosity can grow within us as we learn to open more and more the truth of the present moment. Some people can even take this inner strength into places of despair and great suffering and offer themselves in service. And all the rest of us can learn that instead of separating us, our heartaches and disappointments can become a source of understanding and compassion. You could say that our old suffering and our old stories are “repurposed”–not so much “gotten over” as seen through, a kind of light to guide us in responding to the world with generosity and compassion.
Nothing wrong with being a good person. We need more of them that are able to transcend selfishness to a certain extent for the good of the world.
Then there are the weird ones like Simone. I don’t have her purity and emotional quality so recoil from some of what she asserts. She writes of inviting suffering for the benefit of her own being. I can appreciate it intellectually but fear it emotionally. This is a deep article by a man that appreciates the union of science and religion so appreciates Simone as well:
Read the section on “The Path of Love and Devotion.” Scary stuff.
How do I honor her search? Is there anything of value for me in the suffering she invites? Her purity is far beyond me and would be repulsive to the great majority dominated by our egotism.
Yet it is there. If someone reasons objectively, they can read the message of the Crucifixion and Resurrection in it.
Self deception denies it and yet those like her invite it. How to reconcile this?
Their is a balance, suffering can lead someone to the Christian concept of Kenosis, where we empty ourselves to become a servant to all.
Suffering can also be a part of the path, a part of the gestalt, suffering can awaken us to compassion.
But for some, it may also lead to bitterness and unhappiness.
Can suffering lead to the Buddhist concept of Sunyata? Perhaps.
We shouldn’t limit our experience, or what we may gain from those experiences, and we all have the right to put a name on that experience if we wish.
It really is up to us.
The point being this…
The world is coming from you, not at you. We do find what we are looking for, whatever that may be.
I’m not sure what tradition it’s from. There is a guy leaving one town and moving to the next town. And as he walking there’s a farmer on the side of the road. And he asks the farmer, “Sir, could you tell me what the people are like in the next town?” And the farmer says, “Well, tell me what the people were like in the town you just came from.” He says, “Oh, they were wonderful. It was so hard to leave. We just loved each other and trust each other.” The farmer says, “Well, I’m happy to say you’ll find the same thing in the next town.”
The next day another guy is traveling moving from the same town to the same town. The farmer is there and he asks the same question. The farmer says, “Can you tell me what the people were like in the town you came from?” He said, “To be honest that’s why I left. They were terrible. They were back-stabbing and mean and no one trusted one another.” And the farmer said, “Well, those are the kind of people you’re going to find in the next town.”
We have all probably used the phase “the devil made me do it” and we all create our own devils, literally or metaphorically – we all live with the devil we make.
From a more traditional Christian context …
You may believe in a devil or not, but if you think about it, this is exactly where the “father of lies & illusion” loves to see people living, outside the Kingdom.
Outside the Kingdom of God, in a constant state of fear and inadequacy, even isolation.
I’ve always found it interesting that the words devil, evil, and veil share so many of the same letters. I think it’s a hint, so it’s good to pay attention.
Since childhood, we’ve all heard the expression: pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Ultimately that has to do with – betrayal, deception, or leading astray!
When we can’t see God or ourselves clearly, or what’s right in front of us clearly, it all becomes an illusion.
Jesus came and said a bunch of great things, and quite a lot of it was to help us realize that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, right now. In this moment now.
So did the Buddha, sometimes they said the exact same thing, or very close.
Jesus really wants to help us peel away all of this “false self ego stuff” that gets in the way of us truly living as beloved children of God. And sharing that love with one another.
So, did the Buddha. So, does any Bodhisattva, which any us can be. We can take in Bodhisattva vows.
There are times when I know that my head is so full of stuff, crap really, that I have just stop and be still, to sit in the stillness and to let it all go. Including my own ego, mostly my own ego. ;-)
I’m always amazed at how easy it is to return to that stillness, time and time again. We just have to take the time to do it!
As always, you share some very rich and illuminating comparisons between traditions, Ron. Thanks!
I think I see the main difference between us. You wrote
“When we can’t see God or ourselves clearly, or what’s right in front of us clearly, it all becomes an illusion.”
From what you write I tend to believe that you see yourself and humanity in general much closer to it then I do. As a result, I’m more concerned with the dangers of building ideas on a faulty foundation because it feels good to do so.
A lot of New Age and Interfaith thought believes as you do. I am very wary of it and prefer, at least intellectually, the harsh realism regardless of how unappealing it is.
This is not to say that I doubt legitimate experiences like what Tracy referred to. My concern is our tendency towards interpretation. My own talented ancestor was asked how he could paint the sea as he did. He said one has to remember it since it doesn’t pose for you. What does this mean? What can be remembered? He must have referred to the logic of the interaction of elemental forces that comprise the movements of water that is a very deep knowledge. It can pass through the artist’s being and onto a canvas.
How many can do this? How many can have an experience normal for higher consciousness and translate it onto our level of being? In my opinion, it is far more difficult than normally considered.
Thomas Merton wrote of Simone Weil:
Simone Weil and Thomas Merton were born in France 6 years apart – 1909 and 1915 respectively. Weil died shortly after Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemani. It is unclear whether Weil knew of Merton, but Merton records being asked to review a biography of Weil (Simone Weil: A Fellowship in Love, Jacques Chabaud, 1964) and was challenged and inspired by her writing. “Her non-conformism and mysticism are essential elements in our time and without her contribution we remain not human.”
He then quotes Weil directly, “Blessed are they who suffer in the flesh the suffering of the world itself in their epoch. They have the possibility and function of knowing its truth, contemplating its reality…”
Merton Thomas, Journals, Dancing in the Water of Life, Volume Five (1963-1965), New York: Harper Collins, 1997, p.213.
Weil’s friend Gustav Thibon said of her, “Such mysticism [as Weil experienced] had nothing in common with those religious speculations divorced from any personal commitment which are all too frequently the only testimony of intellectuals who apply the things of God. She actually experienced in its heart-breaking reality the distance between ‘knowing’ and ‘knowing with all one’s soul’, and one of the objects of her life was to abolish that distance.” Weil, Simone, An Anthology, ed. Sian Miles, London: Penguin Books, 2005.
I think what Thomas Merton is true for those like Simone. They do bring something that allows us to become human. They cannot cater to the literal mind that believes science is the end all anymore than they appeal to the dreamers caught up in la la land. They have acquired experiential knowing free of fantasy. To “abolish the distance,” how far we are from it.
Their purity irritates both sides yet the truth they bring is essential as Thomas Merton points out.
The guiding light is described by Jesus when he comments on the faith of the Centurion. What made his faith so great was that he was a middle that dominated the 100 beneath him and yet had a guiding light that recognized his nothingness in relation to the higher. The quality of his faith is what allowed the Centurion to maintain this alignment.
I would like my guiding light to reflect this quality of being. Yet everything is against it. It is the problem of the human condition and no flowery language and wonderful thoughts can change it. “Since we are as we are, everything is as it is.”
When I was sitting this morning the wish to wake up began to appear; that I wish not to ‘be taken’. Then I remembered that the ‘older’ ones who have gone before me and left us so much inevitably had to work themselves in order that this wish appear. Then I read the post by y’all and then remembered Lord Pentlands words relating to the same.
Exchanges Within, Lord Pentland
The real force comes from above and I am down here. This “above” is always different from what I expected, when I find it. It is never expected. Think of all the trouble people cause who want to make over the world according to their point of view. We are part of the world. We wish to be conscious that we are a part.
Is it possible that this higher energy – if it’s experienced at all, is obviously a dangerous energy; in the sense that it’s higher it’s more powerful than I am; in the sense that it has a different quality nothing that I’ve accumulated in quantity can be set against it; it’s greater than I am – is it possible for me to relate directly to that energy, as it were on a one-to-one basis, without intermediary, without fear, in order that its wishes should be accomplished in me as well as up above? This is what we’re talking about as I understand it.
If you mean by something higher, something you don’t know, obviously you don’t know how to approach it. It has no real meaning to think of it as above me. The higher energy we need, that can pass into us, is all around me. What is higher? Look up. What is higher? The level of energy is higher.
So I make myself available as far as I can by being more sensitive and by making a more stable wish to come in touch with this higher energy. You see that’s where the work on emotions fits in. To observe emotions is interesting and very valuable in the sense of observation, for then more energy is taken from the emotion to observe. Do you follow? In observing the emotion there is more energy being used for observing that would otherwise go into the emotion. By accumulation of many observations, I could free myself from emotions.
You don’t feel emotional, true, but sensation enables me to observe, to control, the emotion. And when I’m not emotional, the sensation can connect me with emotion. I need to be free regarding the emotions, and that’s possible by observing myself only. Why do I need to be free in relation to emotions? There are two reasons and they don’t conflict with each other but they often get mixed up. The first is because my ordinary relationships with other human beings are important to me and the first collision always takes place in the emotional area. The more I can find emotion when I have none, and control them when I have emotions, the more my human relationships are possible.
But your question deals with another area, which includes human relationships, which is how to relate to the higher emotions, and it’s useful to separate that from the first kind. The work with emotions, as understood by the human potential movements and others, can improve my relationships. But it’s only through a relationship with the higher energies that we can really have a stable relationship with humans because that’s the only thing we have in common – higher energies enter me and higher energies enter you. We each have a number of centers but even my essential material of centers is different from yours and all the information depends on being brought up differently and so forth.
How to be able, to be open, to have room enough for this higher energy to enter? That’s what the work is chiefly concerned about. Yes, it’s necessary to be free of the fear because I can’t work without concepts though they can hold up the flow of energy, particularly emotions about concepts, like “I’m right about this concept.” The main this is the higher has to be unknown. I am lower. It is higher. I don’t know it. So there’s probably fear in approaching it.
You call it higher but that’s all you can say. It’s a level where some things take place analogously but I can’t know that except by an observation of myself with that energy. I have to be ready, to prepare myself, to be available to this energy because it’s too convenient when it comes to go away. I have to try to have contact intentionally even though I can’t know. I have to try to let it be received. That’s why we emphasize the somewhat ceremonial aspects of our meetings, even at the expense of it being rather stiff.
It really is useful to study this alone, sitting in the morning. And there again it helps to be rather careful and ceremonial about it. I choose carefully the place I put the cushion. I make sure there’s going to be enough time for how long I want to sit. I don’t sit in bed or in a mess. I get out of bed and tidy the bed. By why speak, you may ask, of such absurd details? It’s a good question.