A Spiritual Hunger

“At the turn of the last century, people’s hope was in science, technology, and modern progress. As we approached this millennium, we realized the extent of that progress, and that it hasn’t taken us far enough. There is a part of us that still has a spiritual hunger. We have spent the past century looking at outer space and exploring that, and we’ve realized the importance of reflecting on inner space, the soul within.”

–D. Michael Lindsay, Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University, excerpt from “Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs

From the earliest inklings of creativity in our ancient ancestors, who painted images from their world in the caves of Chauvet some 35,000 years ago, through the development of symbolic writing on cuneiform tablets, which recorded the hymns and prayers of the kingdoms of Mesopotamia in the ancient Near East, to the pictographic hieroglyphs of early Egyptian love poetry, and the ancient verse of India and China, human beings have searched for ways to express the spirit of love and of life, which permeates our existence still today. We have become more sophisticated and technologically advanced, gaining in knowledge and experience exponentially as the centuries have accumulated, but with all the advances and profound alterations of the millennia since the first written accounts appeared, we have never outgrown our need to express the spirit within us.

We are part of a fantastic heritage of poetic expression throughout the history of humanity, and it is as definitive a proof of the existence of the human spirit as we are likely to ever know in any age.

Anonymous (c. 1567-1085 B.C.)

Without your love, my heart would beat no more;
Without your love, sweet cake seems only salt;
Without your love, sweet “shedeh” turns to bile. (*shedeh* = ancient Egyptian drink made from red grapes)
O listen, darling, my heart’s life needs your love;
For when you breathe, mine is the heart that beats.

–excerpt from a Bronze Age Egyptian courtship poem, translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock, 1998 volume of World Poetry

Centuries later, as an emerging adult in the 20th century, I penned a courtship poem of my own, which shows, perhaps, how little has changed in human nature, in spite of advancement in numerous other ways:

Spirit of Love

“A long time ago, in centuries past,
We existed on a plane that can no longer be reached.
It is clearly in the past, but it also here and now
In my wandering mind. We breathed the same air.
Our hearts beat in rhythmic unison.
I gazed deeply into your eyes; inhaled the scent
Which rose from your body as I embraced the spirit inside you.

At such moments, though bodies only touch, spirits merge;
We were lovers, with lips pressed together–
We were one–my heart rose with each embrace;
My spirit expanded until it encompassed yours;
It has happened a hundred times a hundred times over centuries
And now, I know your spirit.
I can see myself in you;
Our paths are illuminated by each other.

As a young man, unaware that he was on the threshold of a profound awakening, the tumultuous events which would follow my arrival at the doorstep of my truly independent life were only heightened by a growing acknowledgement of being without a Polestar, for the first time in my young life, and by my inability to turn off the extraordinary natural inclination to open myself to whatever might come. While it may have been the traumatic and unprepared transition to independence that left me vulnerable to the events which followed, the power of my connection to something beyond the immediate moment in which I was living made the impact even greater.

Growing up in a large extended family, an emphasis was often stated not only about my responsibility to care about those within the family circle, but also to those outside of that world and into the world-at-large. As a result, I developed a more conscientious approach to social interactions as I grew into adulthood, and frequently found myself engaged in a greater degree of involvement emotionally and psychologically in a variety of relationships. Consequently, an even greater sense of empathy began to take hold than was already established as an almost inherited trait. Whatever part of the brain that handles our inherent tendency for empathy must surely have been more expanded in my case, to the point of bordering on possessing a pathological condition, given that my experiences many times seemed to exceed those of most others I encountered.

In retrospect, it seems that my own keen sense of extending myself toward others, may have amplified the same natural sense within them, in some cases, sparking a kind of alarm or surprise, which they occasionally found unsettling and unexpected. When this sense within ME was fully engaged, it always felt like a consequence of my inner self RECEIVING stimulus from a source outside of myself, and the resulting heightened perceptions, far from being something I would naturally choose or impose on a given situation, felt completely natural and shared–a resonance of sorts–with empathic waves being directed AT ME.

Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist described the process of our unfolding development as Individuation, “an expression of that biological process–simple or complicated as the case may be–by which every living thing becomes what it is destined to become from the beginning. This process naturally expresses itself in man as much psychically as somatically.”

There are two competing schools of thought that still persist in pursuing a greater understanding of our true nature, and while I continue to contemplate how they must both be approaching that understanding, these quotes show the ongoing dilemma of the contrast:

“What it means to be me cannot be reduced to or uploaded to a software program running on a robot, no matter how sophisticated. We are flesh and blood biological animals, whose conscious experiences are shaped at all levels by the biological mechanisms that keep us alive.”

–Anil Seth, British professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex

“At the heart of consciousness is the transcendence of thought; a newfound ability of rising above thought, and realizing a dimension within ourselves that is infinitely more vast than thought…Each of us is a vehicle through which consciousness operates.”

–Eckhart Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” and “A New Earth.”

5 thoughts on “A Spiritual Hunger

    1. Thanks so much, Wendi…There has been some renewed interest in my catalog of poems, and it is especially rewarding to find ways of integrating my poetic expressions into the mainstream writing I am doing currently. The idea that the most prominent energies at the core of our humanity might be possible to express through poetry in a way that simple prose can’t always accomplish has been a persistent motive to include them when I can since I started this blog. You have a particularly effective way of doing this that I admire so much, and your comment is reassuring to me that it’s worth pursuing.

      1. Oh my goodness, I loved how you integrated your poem and an ancient one within your writing, it was such a pleasure to read and woven so effortlessly that it was a beautiful post to read……..I look forward to future posts.
        Bless you for your kind words, I am deeply humbled.

  1. “We have never outgrown our need to express the spirit within us”.

    We are greater than the sum of our parts perhaps. It would not be so very surprising – the honest truth is that with all our advances we still know so very little about the universe and its physical laws.

    In the beginning was, if not the word, then at least hydrogen. The very simplest matter in the periodic table. And I believe scientists tell us that even hydrogen came after the big bang. And so from that simple atom arose, ultimately, consciousness.

    How could anyone truly believe that we are only our base elements? We are an emergent phenomena and who knows where that might lead.

    I do not feel like “just physics”. I am certainly not “just hydrogen” and I suspect that life is probably more than “just” carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and so forth.

    You have had direct experience confirming this. To date I have not but the logic is there, for me at least. It is not something I feel I need to take “on faith”; given the extraordinary complexity of existence I would by contrast be surprised if something (which we choose to call “spirit”) did not exist. Whether it is dependent on physics who knows. Or perhaps it is dependent on physics we have not yet discovered.

    1. While it is true that our scientific and technological advances have only revealed a fractional proportion of the vast physical universe as we have come to understand it as a phenomenon, much of what we claim to know scientifically is mostly inferred from evidence which points toward some phenomenal principle, like the existence of the electron and much of quantum physics. We see the trails of particles split off by the Large Hadron Collider, and scientists are able to conclude that their observations demonstrate the existence of Higgs bosons. Even though they are unobservable directly, the acknowledgement of their existence is nonetheless considered as established in principle.

      Proponents of string theory, which currently reigns as our “best guess” as to the nature of the most elementary supportive level of physical existence, are forced to acknowledge the existence of unobservable dimensions in order for that explanation to hold up as credible concerning what we observe as the physical universe. There is good cause to suppose that this explanation will one day have a more solid footing, once confirmation can be made experimentally to prove the mathematics of it all. In order for the physical universe to exist in the way it appears to exist, they say, certain principles MUST be true, otherwise, the universe would appear in a completely different configuration.

      My own direct experiences are, to me, even now, still startling and wondrous, and I understand completely why others whose experiences do not include such events are less inclined to support the possibilities suggested by them, but as you so rightly point out, “the logic is there,” and by the same principle of logical inference of unobservable phenomena, or unproven ideas suggested by ineffable experiences, it seems to me that we must allow for possibilities other than those we can affirm empirically.

      Since I have encountered a number of direct experiences throughout my lifetime, which from my perspective strongly infer the existence of immaterial components to our subjective experience of consciousness, it has become a matter of some urgency, at least for me personally, to share what I have discovered and experienced, to the best of my human capacities to do so, and to point to the results of sincere explorations by other seekers, which have affirmed, in varying degrees, my own journey of exploration.

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