The Fulfillment of Life

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Michelangelo Buonarroti – The Dream of Human Life

Writing about “Life,” or rendering artistically the everyday scenes of our temporal existence goes on all the time in every culture and it has become commonplace in our time to read about or to see the results of those efforts everywhere we go. Actually “living our lives” and answering the important questions about life are a whole other matter. As artists of every variety know all too well, it’s far easier to look at the world and express your art than it is to undue the tragedy and mayhem that we see in it. As a writer and a reasonably well-traveled fellow, I am far more adept at describing and expressing my thoughts about the world, than I will ever be at unraveling the tangled web we are all weaving as modern humans.

Recently, I was asked by a visitor here if I had come to any conclusions about what purpose there might be to our existence, and by inference, to life itself. Modern Homo sapiens are currently the only known species capable of asking such a question, and since this now familiar variety of human life has only been in existence for about the last 100,000 years or so, the path of life that led to creatures who can think well enough and be sufficiently self-aware to ask such a question obviously existed well before modern human beings showed up.

Since Life is at the top of the list I posted recently, and since all of the research and study I have conducted over the years frequently suggested this question for myself as well, I thought I might introduce the subject with some general thoughts which might serve as both an opening to talking about life and as an initial response to the question.

human body

The Life of the body is problematic, right from the start. In the womb, we are fragile, unable to survive outside of our mother, and so tiny at first that we cannot even be seen except with a powerful microscope. In spite of all the advances in medicine through the centuries, there are still no guarantees that every child conceived will flourish. There are still many different ways in which a new life might not succeed. Our beginning in the womb is tenuous at best. If we are fortunate enough to be constructed of healthy genes and to develop in a healthy womb, even after we emerge into the world and take our first breath, life continues to remain uncertain.

But the Life of the spirit is not bound by any such limitations. Its health is unaffected by any physical malady. When we describe the life of the spirit, we speak of an inner life-the spirit within-sometimes referred to as “the Soul.” The Catholic Monk, Thomas Merton, who wrote one of the most profound books on spiritual life, entitled, “The Seven Story Mountain” called it “the inner experience.” It is in this realm, where we experience the most exquisite joys, and the depths of sorrow, and everything in between.

mom child

There are many different viewpoints regarding which relationship might be considered most important in life, but few familial relationships can claim the centrality and significance of the one between a mother and her children. Sometimes children grow up without their mother for one reason or another, or are born into a family in which the mother is unable to be a proper mother for one reason or another, but I think it’s fair to say that the role of the mother is, by far, the most personal relationship we can have with another person. With its many facets, from carrying us inside of her body before birth, through the care and feeding of us as infants, to teaching us the many lessons we need to learn and grow as young children, and through the many stages of our lives for as long as we have her with us, there are many contributions that only a mother can make. The mother who gives birth enjoys a level of intimacy with that child that cannot be duplicated or reconstructed after they arrive in the world.

No matter what kind relationship we have with those we love, we often don’t realize just how much the spirit of life figures in our experience of the world and our temporary existence as human beings, until we are faced with the end of life. But if we take the time to examine these important considerations while those we love are amongst us, it makes it a bit easier to celebrate their lives when the body can no longer sustain itself. It might seem strange to say that we celebrate someone’s life when they finally reach the end of it. The end of life and celebration seem, on the surface, to be contradictory. And yet, what greater reason to celebrate than the fulfillment of life; the arrival at the goal to which all life has pointed, and the place at last for which the soul has always longed.

failure

But we are so human, and the end of life feels like such a loss, that we can easily forget the other side of the coin, which is the transition into a life of the spirit. We often see the end of temporal life only as a door closing on life, not as an opening to a much greater one. We feel the emptiness within ourselves, making it so much harder to remember, through our tears and grief, that as St. Paul said, “We know that when the earthly tent in which we dwell is destroyed, we have a dwelling provided for us by God, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by hands, but to last forever.” Many of the world’s mythologies and religious traditions suggest some variety of transcendent existence which supports our lives as human beings, and which can mitigate our sense of loss. We cling to life in a completely understandable human way most of our lives, suffering terribly when we see that it is lost too soon, and sometimes we despair even when it dwindles slowly at the latter part of a long and fruitful life.

Each of us abandons our grief and arrives at joy once again in our own time, but it is always there waiting, and we must, at some point, attempt to locate it. Of joy and sorrow, the great poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. When you are sorrowful, look again into your heart, and you shall see, that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Eternal-Life-Road-Sign

All the work I had done to come to terms with and to put into words, the core matter of the spiritual nature of human consciousness, had never been so vital to me, as it was when facing the loss of the connection to my dear brother. Contained within my experience of his last days was the perception and recognition of the very essence of the life of the spirit, and tending to his spirit during those days was the fulfillment of the essence of the spiritual awakening that had been percolating in me for years. The character of this connection of two spirits was experienced with a profound recognition of the significance of that connection, so full of life and love, right to the last.

The realities of the temporal world, have not escaped me. I am not running blindly into the sun. I nearly lost my footing many times when enduring the grief which followed the loss, because I did not fully understand and could not have known, the extraordinary circumstances that would lead to the recognition of what it means to exist as both a physical and spiritual being.

Every aspect of the spirit within me is invigorated by the potential of the spiritual connections possible in this life. The revelation of the Jonas material, now thirty years ago, was a prelude to the release of the spirit about to come. After the journey began, I realized that I could no longer trip and slip through the important learning and work necessary to come to terms with the experience. While I remain uncertain about how I will share what I have learned, or even if expressing what I have found in a comprehensive way will be possible, I view the work I have done these many years as my first tentative steps to encourage others to seek the path to the fortress of life, and to pursue the ultimate fulfillment of their own unique purpose.

From Morning Light To The Next Liquid Night

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As the morning light bestows its first sweet caress,
It stirs my waking dream to life,
Loosening the reluctant grasp of
Yesterday’s liquid night;
The stillness of the dark water,
In the wee hours before dawn,
Slowly yields to the tides within me.

They ripple gently in steady, rhythmic response,
As my heart reclaims its rightful place,
Among the hidden pillars of my spiritual center;
Tender thoughts of affection newly-born,
Cascade like a waterfall of epic delight,
Propagating along networks of neural pathways,
Bursting now with skittish ions,
Jumping to each new tendril that reaches out,
As they await the sparks
Of their measured and anticipated embrace,
With invisible and mysterious arms
Of infinite possibility.

How delicately we step into the light of each new day;
How faithfully we sow the seeds of our delight;
How often we strive to open our hearts and minds to its potential,
Only to discover the ever-changing distance,
From morning light to the next liquid night.

January 2015

Our Human Powers

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“Finally we must make use of all the aids which intellect, imagination, sense-perception, and memory afford in order, firstly, to intuit simple propositions distinctly; secondly, to combine correctly (compare) the matters under investigation with what we already know, so that they too may be known; and thirdly, to find out what things should be compared with each other so that we may make the most thorough use of all our human powers.” — Rene Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, circa 1628

Throughout each of my personal investigations of the subjects related to my experiences in the early seventies, especially those which catapulted me into the most astonishing, chaotic, and emotional period of my life, I have been compelled to attempt to penetrate their mysteries and implications, based on both the intellectual and metaphysical foundations of human endeavors. At first, as an uninitiated and rudderless spirit in the world, I could only take stabs in the dark–disoriented in the extreme as I was–and while it took some time to decipher and organize these efforts, I gradually progressed beyond the chaotic stage and began to comprehend the experiences more broadly.

After applying years of persistent and determined mental effort, it seems to me, that we may only be said to truly comprehend our lives experientially, while still requiring and receiving much benefit from research and expansion of our knowledge generally. Our perceptions of the world, through an array of sensory faculties and cognitive skills, assist us as we construct and try to make sense of our daily reality, and although there are characteristics of our sensory systems which are subject to potentially erroneous interpretation of their input, as is the case with optical illusions, there are adequate safeguards available to nominally functionally brains and sense organs to feel confident in making judgements regarding the true nature of what we perceive, and to determine with reasonable certainty that we exist in the physical universe, as a substantial living entity. There have been a variety of accomplished thinkers throughout human history who have written at length regarding the range of what we might express with confidence in this regard, and I am not so enamored of the conclusions drawn from my own experiences to suppose that they represent some sort of comprehensive explanation. I present my ideas and thoughts here more as an explanation of what has brought me to suggest them as a beginning to unravel it all.

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With basic functionality of all our perceptual and intellectual systems intact, we are able to propose judgements regarding our perceptions. Quite independent from the actual quality or accuracy of those judgements, we have good cause to feel at least reasonably confident that as conscious cognitive creatures, that we are HAVING experiences based on our ability to perceive. Acute perceptual disabilities caused by disease or injury to the brain, and heightened perceptual capacities such as the many varieties of synesthesia, represent the low and high range of quality possible in our experiences, and to some degree, we generally rely on the agreement of our fellow sentient beings to assist us in gauging the reliability of our interpretations, along with whatever previous experiences we might have available to us in memory. It is clear that we each enjoy a unique perspective as an independent observer of our own experiences, and that we interpret them from a relatively narrow subjective viewpoint most of the time. Not surprisingly, we may occasionally find ourselves as the lone possessor of a solitary interpretation of a particular subjective experience, as with personal trauma, as well as sharing what might ultimately turn out to be a mistaken view of the ideas and experiences of thousands of other confident perceivers, as with those who believed that the earth was flat, or that the earth was the center of the universe.

Numerous considerations including social, cultural, biological, and specific neurological components can contribute to the general run of experience for most of us, but our individual interpretations of our unique experience of existence, while clearly difficult to verify subjectively for those who are NOT us, even when they are standing right next to us, rely on what can constitute a remarkably different perspective, and in spite of possessing a similar range of shared experiences and education, may seem quite out-of-the-ordinary to other sentient beings.

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“Just as the imagination employs figures in order to conceive of bodies, so, in order to frame ideas of spiritual things, the intellect makes use of certain bodies which are perceived through the senses, such as wind and light…The wind signifies spirit; movement with the passage of time signifies life; light signifies knowledge; heat signifies love; and instantaneous activity signifies creation…It may seem surprising to find weighty judgements in the writings of the poets rather than the philosophers. The reason is that the poets were driven to write by enthusiasm and the force of imagination. We have within us the sparks of knowledge, as in a flint: philosophers extract them through reason, but poets force them out through the sharp blows of the imagination, so that they shine more brightly.” — Olympian Matters, Rene Descartes, 1619

Think of the varying degrees of culture shock when an individual is transplanted from a previously narrow or isolated environment of a rural character to a big city or urban center. The individual, having developed keen instincts in the previous realm of experience may find themselves virtually without adequate resources to make sense of the altered environment. Likewise, a sophisticated city dweller who handles the intricacies of city life and who may have a fine command of the urban environment, might find a remote rural landscape equally challenging. In each case, the perceptual and cognitive apparatus are fully functional, but require an additional number of experiences before comprehension can catch up. Imagine now how my own limited experience of the world thwarted my early attempts at comprehending the “eruption of unconscious contents,” (Jung) in 1973. Is it any wonder that I turned to philosophy, poetry, and investigation of the whole range of human thought and experience through the ages in order to come to terms with what happened?

If it is true, as my research and contemplation of the subject of the subjective experience of the human version of consciousness suggests, that consciousness is a manifestation and an expression of a non-physical reality which is the source of all life in the universe, and if we are able to affirm consciousness as a means through which we are able to gain access to the transcendent source of our awareness, aside from the many intellectual and spiritual benefits such knowledge might provide, it may provide, among other things, a source of genuine solace for all sentient beings who might be facing their own mortality or that of another. Reviewing my ideas on the spiritual aspects of existence generally and of consciousness particularly, it seems more urgent than ever to attend to the conclusions they infer for me, based on these ideas.

In the next few weeks, I will be posting some of the foundational ideas and conclusions drawn from the years of developing myself as a philosopher, poet, and serious student of the science of consciousness, and hope to expand the conversation throughout the new year here at WordPress.com.