The Middle Path

middle-path

“Until the sixteenth century, men in general thought of space and time as though they were limited compartments in which objects were juxtaposed and interchangeable. The human mind believed itself to be perfectly at home in this universe, within which it tranquilly wove its pattern of metaphysics. And then one day this attitude began to change. Spatially our awareness of the world was extended to embrace the Infinitesimal and the Immense-the general and also the irreversible modification of perceptions, ideas, problems: These are (two) indications that the spirit has acquired an added dimension…showing our accession beyond all ideologies and systems, to a different and higher sphere–a new spiritual dimension.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin from “The Growth of Consciousness.”

Most of the reading I have done in the realm of human consciousness has left me most often unsatisfied with a strictly empirical approach in particular, but it seems clear that there are measurable and quantifiable components to the mechanisms through which our subjective experience of the world becomes manifest, which contribute in important ways to our understanding generally, and are therefore important to consider in achieving a more comprehensive understanding. I recently encountered a book by Arthur I. Miller called, “Deciphering the Cosmic Number,” about the relationship between Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung, that points to the benefits of collaboration and synthesis of the diverse approaches to achieving progress in creating a new perspective that eliminates the limitations of following more than just one narrow path. Jung has, thus far, been the most interesting and even-handed author, scholar, and empiricist, blending to the largest degree, both the scientific and the spiritual in his deliberations without diminishing the importance of either. His insistence on the scientific method in his research did not preclude the inclusion of the spiritual possibilities that are inherent in any discussion of living beings.

In some sense, what we may wish to describe as non-physical or spiritual phenomena, when they become manifest in the temporal, appear through discernible mechanisms. Even though the source of such manifestations may not be accessible to conventional scientific methodology, nor any way exist currently of confirming a spiritual component to human nature, at least none that might be considered plausible by any scientific standard, Jung was able to bridge the chasm between the two worldviews sufficiently to at least acknowledge the potential for expanding the conversation generally, while suggesting specifically what he described as “the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

ma_yuan_walking_on_path_in_spring

Painting by Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty, “On a Mountain Path in Spring.” from http://beyondtheouterrim.wordpress.com

According to a popular website on Buddhism, “The Middle Way (or Middle Path) is a Buddhist term with rich connotations. Most simply, it implies a balanced approach to life and the regulation of one’s impulses and behavior, close to Aristotle’s idea of the “golden mean” whereby “every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice.” — (http://www.sgi.org/buddhism)

Rather than limit ourselves to any extreme or narrowly focused approach to consciousness or to human nature, a synthesis or blending of both the scientific and the metaphysical disciplines, in the spirit of Pauli and Jung, seems like a more balanced way to make progress. However our complex human nature developed, at some point, all of our diverse capacities, psychological, social, biological, mental, and spiritual, combined to produce a keen self-awareness which enriched our everyday level of awareness, eventually enabling us to access higher levels of consciousness. While primitive humans immediately supposed that the world was supported by forces beyond what could be ascertained by the senses, the attainment of these higher levels gradually led to astonishing social and technological progress into modern times, opening the way for modern humans to contemplate the existence of realms beyond the physical world from a more informed scientific and metaphysical point of view.

Life-on-Earth

The evolution of life on earth, leading as it has to the presence of Homo sapiens, doesn’t necessarily imply a deliberate plan to produce them, nor does it guarantee our survival as a species on this planet. The Universe, our galaxy, our solar system, our planet and all of our ancestral creatures existed well before our conscious awareness of them, pointing to a potential for continued evolution, which could bring us closer to a comprehension of our place in the vast cosmic ocean, and lead us to discover a connection to the source of those forces demonstrated by their existence. Scientists don’t like to even infer the possibility of the existence of a transcendent source unreachable in a repeatable experiment, which may be responsible for a universe with seemingly indisputable and clearly defined physical laws. It may seem counter-intuitive to suppose that a transcendent source would not simply reveal itself unambiguously within the evidence we gather in exploring the universe, but even physicists in the 21st century have begun to investigate possible explanations for our existence which would have astonished some of the greatest scientific minds of human history.

Middle Path

This past week in Tuscon, Arizona, some of the most prominent philosophers, scientists, and thinkers from around the world, gathered at the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona for the “Toward a Science of Consciousness,” conference. I have been following the events along with many others on the internet at this url:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/consciousness-central-tv?utm_source=crowd-live-backend&utm_medium=visit-channel&utm_campaign=notifications

There are lots of interviews, debates, news, and different points of view on display, and while much of it is entertaining and informative for those interested in the subject, the disparate points of view on display show vividly the need for a greater effort at bringing each of the extreme views into a more considered synthesis of ideas and principles in order to make any progress.

The middle path is not just an esoteric belief in a balanced way of life. It is also an ideal for our age.

Transcendent Awareness

ImaginedWorld

“The transcendental law, Emerson believed, was the ‘moral law,’ through which man discovers the nature of God, a living spirit…The true nature of life was energetic and fluid; its transcendental unity resulted from the convergence of all forces upon the energetic truth, the heart of the moral law.” — excerpt from The American Tradition in Literature, Vol. 1, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967

“Undoubtedly, we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his introduction to “Nature.”

With milder temperatures and the blossoming of the natural world underway, I am reminded of years past and the turmoil within me that has always accompanied the onset of Spring. Each time the Earth is in renewal, the passage of time seems more pronounced as the clearly defined changes of the season manifest all around us. All throughout Winter’s cold and extended hours of darkness, we long for the warmth and the sunshine to come. We huddle together against the cold in order to survive. When we first feel the warm Spring air blowing against our faces, and witness the plants and trees begin to sprout their leaves and blossoms, something within us also stirs. Our hearts and minds acknowledge this transformation not only by sensation, but also by intuition.

spring flowers

Somehow, I have been brought to this day and time to fulfill, what must be, some discernible purpose. My heightened sensitivity and enhanced intuitive senses since the events in Massachusetts blew the lid off my steaming pot of consciousness, and I found that I was no longer able to contain the inner struggle. It was a gradual process of unfolding, after the initial burst of energy that one Sunday afternoon, but the flow has been maintained these many years by determined effort to unravel it all. In my temporal world, it seems that life continues to plod along relentlessly. But within me, on rare occasions, particular individuals continue to evoke an awareness of powerful longings, and in several of those instances, it became clear that the consciousness within ME, was connected intimately with the consciousness of the other. It seems, in view of the existence of these intimate connections, that consciousness is a word that describes a transcendent awareness–a manifestation of a non-physical source. By this reckoning, the Universe itself must also be a physical manifestation of a non-physical source. Human consciousness must involve a transformational process through which our transcendent awareness is expressed.

dandelion

During one such experience of transcendent awareness, one connection in particular struck at the very core of my being. Although it seemed on the surface to be a formidable task to reconcile my temporal existence with this connection, I made every effort to maintain the connection, in order to convey the deeper meaning of my attention. In my previous post, I acknowledged the struggle between my heart and mind, trying to distinguish for myself the true nature of the connection, and wrote what follows.

Declaration of Affection

I will never forget the joy and unbridled energy of the first days of our acquaintance. Whenever I close my eyes, I can see you clearly in my mind as you looked on the day when I first saw your face–a shy and giggling gem glittering before my eyes. I remember thinking how beautiful you were; your gently flowing hair surrounding your radiant face and your exquisitely grayish-blue eyes–with a smile that seemed to fill the room with a glow that lingered long after my eyes could no longer see your face. The image of your face will never leave me now.

At first, there was only unencumbered joy when we shared conversation. Your heart and mind were totally open to me. Each new day brought my heart and mind within proximity to a miracle. Your spirit was so dynamic and wondrous, that whenever we spoke, my very life force seemed to tremble, as though I might, at any moment, leave my body and fly swiftly to you. The first time I looked deeply into those eyes, it only took a moment to realize that the world would never again be the same. After several starts and stops, far removed from the everyday routines, when you finally opened your heart to me, my own heart was flung wide open, and pumped wildly as I held you in my arms for the first time. I wanted that moment to last forever.

beginning

The chaotic chain of events that followed made me feel like I was hanging off the side of a moving roller coaster. I can scarcely remember anything from those days other than being with you; as if life began when we were together and was suspended when we were apart. Every encounter with you made me feel intensely awake and alive. After one particularly intense moment of sharing, I realized for the first time, how much you meant to me, and I knew at that moment, with absolute certainty, that I loved you. And yet, even as I contemplated the mysterious swirling hurricane that had become my life, the winds of change had begun to stir. All I knew, was that the feelings evoked by our connection were unlike any feeling I knew or had felt before under any circumstances. When it all fell apart, I was unavoidably altered and shaken to my very roots.

The unfolding of events since then do not fit neatly into any sensible or clear explanation, nor do they seem to lead to any satisfactory resolution. The reality of the temporal world has slowly steered us away from the magical world we had once inhabited, and left us in a twilight world of uncertainty and solitude. How the fibers of our mutual memories will weave themselves into a future cloth is hidden from us now. But one thing is abundantly clear. In any Universe, there could be no greater world than the one that includes your bright spirit. I pray that both of our spirits will endure and remain connected to the wisdom that brought them together one beautiful day, not so long ago.

Friendship and Pain

shaper_of_dreams__by_sea_of_ice

The sun had barely awakened the new day; its first efforts to bring light back from beyond the night had only just begun, but I had been unable to settle down to sleep since just before dawn the day before. My heart and mind were heavy with an inner turmoil, suffering from an enduring doubt, and a persistent heartache that would reappear each time I opened my eyes, even after an abundance of nearly sleepless nights, filled only by a relentless repetition of tossing and turning. The memories of a life lived, of dreams forsaken, and of hope renewed, only to be stolen from me at the height of its promised return, filled my inner world as I endured my deeper thoughts alone; miles away from everything that had come to matter to me.

window

The light that had sparked this hope appeared at a time of desperate emptiness, when I was feeling as though I might survive, but not thrive. Held fast in that place by a twist of fate, I had no expectation at all that my abundant thoughts and feelings might find their voice, and as I lay exhausted in the early light of a new day, I reflected on my human frailty, prone as we are to characteristically human drives, weaknesses, and tendencies. I dragged my battered heart and mind out of my bed, casting a backwards glance at the unmade bed, and saw the very emptiness and disheveled disarray that was my life.

grief23

Sometimes, when your life feels like it is falling apart, a close friend may be all that stands between you and despair. But, when a cherished and close friendship falls apart, whatever else might be happening in your life may suddenly not seem to matter so much.

Usually, there’s no single reason for such a friendship to fall apart. After all, close friendships only happen when there are multiple layers of commonality and affection between two people. Even when you have a bad argument with a close friend, you know that you won’t be angry with them for long. After the dust settles, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is talk to them and make it right again. You may even wonder to yourself, how it was even possible to be so upset in the first place.

Life is not only about just one thing. It is possible, at times, to live our lives in a routine way–almost by instinct–when the days don’t contain anything that rises to a particular level of strength one way or the other, and for a long time, we can almost sleepwalk through them; blissfully unaware that anything might be wrong. But then, when we aren’t expecting it, life can take a turn, for better or worse, and we can either find ourselves in the grips of great joy, or suddenly standing alone, with no idea which way to turn next.  At times like these, the people who matter most in our lives can make all the difference in the world to us. This is when that close friendship really counts. But what do you do, when it’s that close friendship that takes a turn for the worse?

far away looks magritte

As the story unfolded, it became clearer that my heart and mind were struggling badly to work through the chaos and the confusion of what had become a vital part of me, calling for some sort of drastic re-evaluation and some attempt at resolution. Never before had I been so intensely compelled by my heart, and so resolutely restrained by my mind. The tug-of-war within me came to a standstill. The longings in my heart were formidable, but the restraints imposed by circumstances could not be overcome. In desperation, I called for a truce–what was needed was intimate diplomacy.

heart and mind struggle2a

http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/

After a long struggle, I managed to get my heart and mind to the negotiating table. There they sat, arms folded, silent, staring at each other across the table. I began to attempt opening a dialog between them. My logical, methodical, and eminently pragmatic mind made several quite reasonable statements and salient points on the side of stability and propriety. My emotional, spontaneous, and notoriously intrepid heart, threw caution to the wind, advocating a campaign of reckless abandon and unbridled indulgence of desire. Rollicking heated argument ensued.

The terms I offered in mediation were met with skepticism by my mind, and with impatience by my heart. Negotiations seemed to be breaking down, and all my attempts at mitigating the circumstances seemed unlikely at best.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, my mind was a little more rested and relaxed than it had been in a while, and in a moment of compassion, my heart made an overture to my mind regarding a possible cease-fire. While my mind listened patiently, my heart spoke to two areas of mutual agreement. The first was an acknowledgement of deeply felt and clearly present affection. Although this was primarily the domain of the heart, its existence was indisputable. My mind recognized this aspect of my heart’s argument, and agreed that it was genuine and enduring.

The second point of agreement was the certainty of a profound sense of connection to a kindred spirit, perhaps, even a soul-mate, potentially brought together for some great purpose as yet undetermined. My mind concurred that the connection was real, and while reserving judgment as to the precise nature of it, wholeheartedly embraced the definitive nature of the connection, suggesting further exploration of it. Encouraged by this progress, my heart motioned for a declaration of affection, calling it, “…a reasonable consequence of our recent attainment of a consensus.”

My mind was impressed by the wisdom and the skillful analysis presented by my heart, but countered with a reminder to the heart of the recent change in the frequency of encounters with this kindred spirit, and of the character of the few that had occurred in recent times. My mind asked that these factors by considered in the preparation of the declaration. My heart consented.

….next time…..The Declaration of Affection…

Deep Forest Vision

dense forest2b

In the light of day, I traveled to a remote forest area several miles from the base in Massachusetts. I had driven-by the turnoff several times before while navigating through the surrounding areas, and the entrance always caught my eye. Curiosity got the better of me one day while I was still in what they called a “holding company,” where you always waited for your permanent assignment to come through. Without really knowing why, I felt compelled to turn off the highway and explore where the road might lead. As I entered the area, the afternoon was still in full swing, and there was no one to be seen anywhere along the way, so I kept driving slowly forward, deeper along what now appeared to be some sort of logging trail more than a road designed for a car. The sun was warm on my face, and the road ahead was strangely compelling in spite of having no real idea where I was going. It was early in May, and the weather was favorable enough to ride with the windows down. I had brought along some water and something to eat, hoping to make an afternoon of it. I had no where to be for the next few days, but fully expected to return to the base that evening.

The road narrowed and rather than risk damaging my brand new car, I decided to pull over and walk for a bit. I had followed the main path all along, and thought it wise not to venture too far from that point in any direction, and made a serious effort to orient myself to my surroundings, and get a firm grip on where I was parked in order to find my way back. I set out with my backpack and walked into the dense forest.

tree fall new

The trek was pleasant enough at first and offered some quiet solace for my mind to wander as I walked. I had no particular thought or emotional state to dwell over, but I slowly began to feel a bit uneasy as I walked further along. I gradually started to sense something odd about the surroundings as I approached a clearing up ahead. Even in May, most of the trees had already sprouted new leaves, but as I got closer to the edge of the clearing, there seemed to be far fewer leaves as I walked. For most of the path, the surrounding trees flirted with the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the branches and sending fluttering beams of light into a scattered patchwork all around me. Now, the entire area ahead appeared to be glowing and unnaturally bright. When I arrived at the center of it all, I looked up and noticed a large tree which had no leaves at all.

bare tree black white

I immediately felt a sensation of warmth throughout my body. It had been mild all along, but I seemed now to be standing in the sun directly and I attributed the change to the bare branches allowing more sunlight to pour through. I found myself squinting for some reason, even though I was looking away from the sun. I thought to move a little further along, out of the increasingly warmer area, but for some reason, I held fast to my position. The background murmur of nature in the woods, which I had only noticed peripherally before, was suddenly absent. I could feel my heart throbbing in my chest. I suddenly felt as though I could sense the blood pulsing through the veins in my neck, and the rhythm of the beat gently throbbed in my ears. The inner conversation I was having for the last few minutes, trying to figure out what was going on, suddenly stopped. There were no birds tweeting in the background. The gentle wind which had previously been periodically rustling the leaves had fallen silent as well. Not a single sound seemed to be detectable.

I tried furiously to shake it off. Beads of sweat were accumulating on my brow as I struggled to get a better grasp of what was happening. I dropped my backpack to the ground and grabbed each side of my head as I fell to my knees. There was a moment of panic right as I tried to look around to see what might be causing my predicament, when I heard a voice call out my name. I jumped to my feet and turned around to see what appeared to be a lone, hooded figure suspended in the air several yards ahead of me. It seemed impossible, but I was now staring in disbelief at the silhouette of a man floating just above me and my first thought was to run–to escape–but I found myself frozen to where I stood. It had to be that my eyes were failing me or a sudden fever overcoming me, but I could not turn away or awaken from what seemed like a daydream gone terribly wrong.

hand split

I raised up my hand to block out the abundant light surrounding the figure and noticed that my hand appeared to be in several places at once in front of me. As I tried to clear my head momentarily by blinking my eyes, everything started to move very slowly, and I felt my body tighten as it seemed to come to a grinding halt. Although I couldn’t hear a thing, I suddenly began to sense words coming into my head. They made no sense to me, and I wasn’t able to rearrange them or put them in any sort of logical order. Gripped in a strange sort of paralysis of mind and body, I seemed to be witnessing the event from outside of myself. After what felt like only a few minutes, my body collapsed and everything went dark.

dense-forest2a

When I came back to consciousness, I was laying on my back on the ground, and felt chilled to the bone. I was trembling as I sat up. It was nearly dark, but I was able to stand up soon enough to see that the last few lingering hints of sunlight were slowly fading, and I grabbed my backpack and sprinted for the car. I drove quickly away from the area, driving a bit erratically at first, breathing heavily, and trying slowly and deliberately to calm myself as I approached the highway. I took a few deep breaths and turned the car in the direction of the base. I didn’t know what to think or do, but when I got back to my room, fortunately my roommate was out, and I sat down at the desk and wrote these words in my journal:

“The path you must travel expands far beyond today, reaching for tomorrow, its foundation in yesterday. Consider all that you have learned here and you will find the Beginning of the path. Recall all that you are and you will discover what is contained in the Foundation of the Fortress. Meditate on your dreams and you will gain the knowledge which leads to the Entrance of the Universe. Know that all people are concerned. You will find yourself at a time in the future, where the energies of those around you now will manifest in people visibly marked with a sign of the purpose. You will know them by a swelling in your soul. The vibrations of their undying desires will reverberate inside you and you will sense their presence whether they are near you or not. Do not fear this sensation for it will guide you to those who will aide you in your journey, provided you give to them of yourself totally. Some may not recognize you or be able to freely open themselves to you. Your challenge will be to receive from them the energies needed to succeed in your journey and fulfill the purpose. It is a difficult path to walk, and you will face many diversions along the way, but you must not allow them to overcome you.”

Powerful emotional, psychological, and intuitive forces had now risen from within me. I seemed to become gradually more and more aware of what others were feeling, but in particular cases, moments of recognition and acknowledgement of a sort of kinship would be especially intense and dynamic, spurring in some cases, feelings of great joy and of an intimate connection that would stir me deeply and irrevocably, pushing the very limits of my endurance, and grow in strength with each new day.

….more to come….

The Evanescence of Life: Finding Our Way

your_heart-small

Excerpts from “A Lament…” written by Japanese Poet, Yamanoue no Okura (660-733 A.D.)”

What we must accept as we journey through the world
is that time will pass like the waters of a stream;
in countless numbers,
in relentless succession,
it will besiege us with assaults we must endure…

Precious though life is,
it is beyond our power to stay the passing of time.

Would that I might stand a rock through eternity,
unchanged forever–
but life does not allow us to halt the passing of time.

– translation by Helen Craig McCullough

“To think creatively is first to feel. The desire to understand must be whipped together with sensual and emotional feelings and blended with intellect to yield imaginative insight…Our feelings–our intuitions–are not impediments to rational thinking, they form its origin and bases.” – Robert and Michelle Root-Bernstein, “Sparks of Genius,” 1999

Although I have traveled a bit and been to a number of very different places in the world, there are still many more that I have not seen and circumstances I have never experienced. In my travels, I have met people who know so little, even almost nothing about the world, some of whom really don’t care to know about it either. Conversely, I have met up from time to time with people who know so much more than I do, who have seen more, and done greater things than I could hope to do. While no one usually knows exactly how much time they have remaining to experience life, it seems that I am now beginning to sense more vividly the undercurrents of the spirit at work within me. Having been drawn periodically to individuals who were clearly kindred souls, I have occasionally sensed not only how the spirit is strong within me, but have also sensed the same strength of spiritual connectedness being reciprocated when interacting with them. When there is movement within me, when I have been stirred in profound ways by these interactions, even though I am fully aware that it is active within me at those moments, it has been a mixed blessing, as I have had to endure some fairly intense emotional pain, as well as great joy as a result.

collaborate

The sense we have of this connectedness to others when we observe or interact with them is partly recognition of potentials and partly intuition. We experience our own abilities and potentials subjectively as individuals and can at least compare ours to others as we go. We recognize exceptional behaviors both in accomplishments we achieve and also in the ones we do not achieve. Many times, whether we are interacting with an exceptionally bright individual or with one who might be impaired in some way is generally quickly apparent, and we often may get an intuitive sense of the character of a particular individual based on our own inner response, and by comparison based on our experiences with others of similar talents. The broader our range of experience becomes, the greater our intuitive responses can assist us in discerning differences between individuals. In my experience, it has often occurred that a powerful response within me is what motivates me to pay attention and to explore such connections.

emotions

Intellectual exchanges, heartfelt emotional sharing, the stirring of passions, stimulation of every sort, through the power of the mind, are made manifest in our temporal world of experience, clearly indicating, at certain times, the existence of a potent spiritual connection, particularly when they are the result of intuitive responses, and not specifically as a result of any physical interactions with another. Virtual worlds, long-distance communications, and any number of other challenging circumstances can affect us through the power of suggestion and imagination, in surprising ways. The spiritual energy of our intentions and longings and emotions can stimulate a response in our inner worlds and alert us to their existence in such a way that brings the consciousness of others to us and sends ours outward to them. It’s not simply a matter of stimulus and response. It is a spiritual connection.

master-time
image from http://www.thefourwinds.com

In the literal sense, the measurement of time is a human invention, devised to quantify the distance between who we were and who we are. We change from day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute, but no matter what incremental reference we give it, there is only this moment now–timeless and ever-present. Our finite world on a planet with a known beginning and a limited lifespan may expand someday in ways unimagined by us as a terrestrial species. Other finite worlds, existing within our unfathomably large and seemingly boundless universe, may have developed different natures altogether, based on life cycles far shorter or greater in length and breadth than ours, measuring the passage of what we call “time” by completely different standards. Elsewhere in the universe, although surely held by the same physical laws governing energy and matter, there may exist other worlds where the natural rhythms would seem “worlds apart” from those here on earth. The measurement of time millions of light years away may take a form so completely different that it would fundamentally alter our understanding of it, and perhaps many other human ideas and concepts as well. Our perceptions and cognitive abilities, shaped as they are by the many factors governing our existence in this tiny segment of the universe, can only allow us to imagine what other wonders are yet to be discovered by our descendents as they push further out into it.

Even with all that we do know today, we have only a limited view of the vastness of the universe, and as a result of the deficiencies in our knowledge and in our ability to probe the depths of space beyond earth, we are prevented presently from saying definitively what may or may not be possible, regarding movement within what we refer to as “time.” We cling to the relative certainty of our notions of what life is like here on earth, and function within those constraints with increasing efficiency and advancing technology, and yet, we have virtually no idea of what may exist beyond our known world. While we may eventually come to understand the precise workings of the temporal world, and of our world within us, we can only progress as sentient beings when we acknowledge and explore the connection between the two worlds, and must deepen our appreciation for what we can inwardly experience and acknowledge as subjectively true.