Our True Nature

 

“The Buddha taught that our true nature is emptiness- a lack of a permanent Self- and when this true nature is realized, the divine states of the Brahma-viharas – loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity- emerge.”

“In the teachings of the great yoga masters, our true nature is Brahman, the universal soul, of which the individual soul is simply a part. When this is realized there is ‘satchidananda,’ the awareness of bliss, from the knowing that pure awareness is our ultimate nature.”

“There are moments small and large when we are filled with the transcendent, as though we have been lifted out of our bodies or the Divine has entered us as grace.”

“Both the path of transcendence and the path of immanence are beautiful, whole, and worthy. It is your heart that must find its true path.”

–excerpts from “Realizing Your True Nature,” by Phillip Moffitt

 

 

Inspired this week by a personal challenge to the true nature of our world and our humanity, it occurred to me that any unnecessarily extreme version of a worldview, whether it is based on science or religion or philosophy, can mitigate our ability to navigate  in the world of our everyday living, and if we could only see that much of the discord in the world could be lessened significantly by striving for a balanced approach to addressing any of the most vexing questions we are engaged in answering, we might find that greater progress is possible.

No matter how much effort we pour into finding an explanation of how everything works in the physical universe, and no matter how much progress we achieve in all of the related sciences surrounding our subjective experience of human consciousness, any effort to compose a comprehensive accounting for every aspect of our existence, if it does not include the contributions made possible through transcendence and immanence, will likely fall short of an actual understanding of our true nature.

One need not be an advocate of Buddhism in order to arrive at a better understanding of our true nature as living beings, and although ideas like the ones expressed by Phillip Moffitt provide an excellent starting place for approaching the subject in conversation and study, even those with no inclination generally to support specific religious viewpoints can join the conversation by examining the basic principles they address.  Whether or not we embrace such ideas as a matter of course or bring other opposing views to such interactions,  giving consideration to the full realm of possibility, at least as a starting point to explore the ideas presented in the quotes above, is a helpful tool in our progressive discernment process.

 

 

We are beginning to see a few hopeful signs in the willingness of scientists, philosophers, and poets, to at least listen to a greater range of ideas from their unique viewpoints, which include sincere scientific approaches, as well as genuine philosophical and spiritual inclinations found often in music, art, and poetry.  Just because some ideas come from a creative approach to human expression, they shouldn’t be automatically dismissed as “wishful thinking,” and well-reasoned, thoroughly-researched, and innovative scientific ideas should be given commensurate consideration when they are presented in the interest of moving our understanding forward.

In asking ourselves questions such as, “What could account for our intuitive sense of the unity of all life, when such clear divisions exist between species and among all levels within major branches of the tree of life?,” or “Why does anyone suppose because we are not able currently to fully account for experiences of transcendence and immanence as measurable phenomena, that giving consideration to the potential existence of such an idea isn’t worthwhile?,” we begin a dialog that can lead to an expansion of the realm of what’s possible.

 

 

I was recently able to review a National Geographic documentary, distributed by PBS, and appearing on Disney Plus streaming service, called, “The Greeks,” and prior to the Greek Civilization, much of what occurred in the world was cloaked in superstition and thought to be the result of the influence of benign Gods and malicious demons, but according to this presentation, that all changed once the Greeks set out to understand the world through reasoning and focused attention on philosophical thinking.  The mini-series is informative and interesting with a number of modern-day thinkers contributing to an overall view of how the Greeks contributed to important changes in the course of human history.

Did our inclination to abandon the notion of Gods and Demons influencing and directing the fate of humanity in the world originate in Ancient Greece?  According to historian, J.M. Roberts, who wrote a volume of “Ancient History,” published by Duncan Baird Publishing, 2004:

 

 

“The Greek challenge to the weight of irrationality in social and intellectual activity tempered its force as it had never been tempered before…They invented the philosophical question as part and parcel of one of the greatest intuitions of all time, which was that a coherent and logical explanation of things could be found…the liberating effect of this emphasis was felt again and again for thousands of years…It was the greatest single Greek achievement.”

Whether or not a “coherent and logical” accounting of consciousness might eventually include aspects of transcendence and immanence as essential components is still an open question, but a comprehensive account of the true nature of things begs the question, and requires a serious look at the kind of philosophical thinking inspired by the Greeks!

About jjhiii24
Way back in 1973, as a young man embarking on the journey of a lifetime, I experienced what Carl Jung described as “the eruption of unconscious contents,” which compelled me to seek the path I continue to pursue to this day. The path of discovery has led me through an astonishingly diverse range of explorations in philosophy, science, and religion, as well as the many compelling ideas in the literature and scriptures of the cultures of the world. There is, in my view, a compelling thread made up of components of each, that runs through the fabric of life. The nature and study of human consciousness has been a compelling subject for me for more than twenty years. I have spent a great deal of my time and energies trying to come to terms with my own very particular “inner experience” of life, and to somehow understand how the events and flow of my temporal life have directly been influenced by the workings within. Sharing what I have come to understand about my own “Inner Evolution,” has tasked my intellect and communications skills in a big way. I am only just beginning to feel confident enough in the results of my study and contemplation to express the many various aspects of what I have uncovered within myself. I am hopeful that my own subjective and personal experience of my own “human spirit” will resonate with others, and encourage them to explore their own.

6 Responses to Our True Nature

  1. A few disparate thoughts:
    1. There were many smart Greeks, but it looks like western thought and law is based on the dumbest of them. I’ve just started a Yale Open course, “Philosophy of Human Nature” or something, and at least the first examples from Plato and Socrates are pretty bad. There’s a school of thought says they Greeks basically invented violence and war in their modern forms too, isn’t there?
    2. Maybe not where we want to look, but some of the mushroom therapy folks seem to be weighting out transcendence by the gram, this may be where it and science meet. Sort of the same as my obsessive thought, that abuse is science, not just personal problems, that maybe we want spirituality and such to be real, to be science. As well as personal, of course.

    Cheers

    Jeff

    • jjhiii24 says:

      Jeff,

      Thank you so much for your visit and for your thought-provoking comment. As I considered how to respond to your comments, it occurred to me that I could easily write several blog posts to cover the ideas you expressed. The whole subject of the “Philosophy of Human Nature,” is so broad and covers so many interesting concepts and questions, that I am certain I would LOVE to participate in such a course. Without knowing exactly what your age and educational background are at this point, I am hesitant to initiate any sort of comprehensive response presently, but if I had to guess, from reading on your own blog site, “abusewithanexcuse.com,” I would say that you are clearly a passionate and able writer, whose ideas have had a fair amount of time to develop, but are still in a sort of formative stage.

      I’m afraid your characterization of Plato and Socrates as having been the “dumbest of them,” to have influenced western thought and law seems a bit harsh to me. Socrates first introduced the idea of “the priority of personal integrity in terms of a person’s duty to himself, and not to the gods, or the law, or any other authorities,” which had an enormous influence on all subsequent modern thinking. He also did a great deal to establish the principle that “everything must be open to question,” and developed a philosophic method called, “dialectic,” which employs “the art or practice of logical discussion in investigating a theory or opinion.” Plato has the distinction of having inspired the well-known saying, that “the whole world of Western philosophy is footnotes to Plato,” because his writings set a standard that has been followed by-and-large ever since he wrote them. Ancient Greece was the first society “in which students were taught to think for themselves,” leading to an expansion of understanding like never before. Aristotle was a student of Plato, and was the “founder of an approach to philosophy that starts with observation and experience, prior to abstract thinking.”

      As far as describing the Greeks as having “basically invented violence and war in their modern forms,” there are a variety of schools of thought regarding the history of warfare during the early history of Greece, and much of the history surrounding Greek warfare was recorded by relying on an oral tradition and first-hand accounts told to Herodotus the historian. However, having eventually succeeded in defending themselves against the Persian Empire over the period of 498 BC to 448 BC, clearly could be described as one heck of an advancement in the art of war, but violence had been occurring well before the Greeks came along. The degree of violence in modern warfare is on a scale that the Greeks never could have imagined, and characterizing it in such a “school of thought,” seems unwarranted in my view.

      I’d like to think that I have had some success in the almost ten years that I have been writing here at John’s Consciousness in expressing the idea that “spirituality and such” actually ARE real already, and that endeavoring to quantify transcendence “by the gram” clearly misses the point. I don’t think anyone wants it to be quantified scientifically, but most who study the subject want it to be understood more completely.

      Your own blog is interesting and as a parent myself, I can appreciate to some degree your thought process regarding punishment and abuse. I never employed corporal punishment with my children, and was often the one mitigating the consequences for them whenever possibilities came up for punishment. There is a school of thought that says, “spare the rod, and spoil the child,” but I never agreed with that idea.

      Thanks so much for your interest…John H.

      • Yeah, I talk all fast and nasty, I didn’t mean it so badly as all that. Plato, I’ll keep learning, I assume you and the whole world are right and I’m wrong, I’ll keep an open mind. If you saw my blog, you’ll probably get this – I sort of trust my infantile rejection of everything all the grownups know, that’s what I’m throwing at Plato, hardly more than that. Same with the drug-assisted transcendence, I didn’t mean it so hard, to suggest that spirit isn’t real, only that . . . any time it seems we can touch it, affect it from this world, that just makes it closer, real right here in this world – I’m trying to make good things into science, is what it is. I have this idea that everyone thinks science belongs to the bad guys and if it’s bad it’s science and if it’s good, like spirit, then it’s somehow not science, somehow not real. I’m trying to make spirit and goodness science and badness and violence “not real” instead, sort of. Babbling. Sorry.

        I don’t talk about spirit, but I’m just putting it in the good pile here and yes, you’re right, my thought is still in development, or it has been until now. I’m feeling pretty settled just lately, though.

      • jjhiii24 says:

        I’m glad you thought to clarify your approach to the subject of Plato and spirit and science. None of us has all the answers to important questions, and that’s why I think it’s a good idea to keep an open mind, especially from the scientific perspective. I think there are plenty of spiritual folks who have respect for and faith in the sciences, so far as science is able to address these issues, but lately it seems that the scientific folks are less inclined to even consider anything that cannot be proven empirically. There might eventually be a more comprehensive explanation to the mysteries and conundrums that exist today, and no matter where the answers come from, putting everything in only one pile probably won’t be productive in the way that we need the process to be. It’s also probably a better idea not to frame the questions and answers as belonging to any “side,” since we are all on the human side.

        Whatever our true nature may be, with an open mind and a balanced approach to what may be possible to explain that nature, we can make progress.

  2. I guess there is blindness on both sides in some cases. I think you are right. We need scientists who do not dismiss intuition and mysticism. And non-scientists who can see the undoubted validity of science. At the extremes we have foolishness and blindness. We need a cooperative middle way.

    • jjhiii24 says:

      It just seems like we should recognize that a “cooperative middle way,” has often been a key component to making any sort of significant progress moving forward. It’s not a new concept. Compromise and cooperation have been employed in many endeavors over the years to good effect, but recently it seems that division and polar opposites have become more widespread in some of the most important endeavors of our time. As someone who has championed the balanced approach and given equal weight in my research and writing to a range of possible paths forward, it just doesn’t make sense to dismiss earnest inquiry into the whole spectrum of ideas, until or unless a thorough consideration has garnered some degree of consensus among those investigating these subjects.

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