Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Spontaneous Healing of Belief

"I have no quarrel with the general attitude of scoffing at new ideas. It is better to be skeptical of all new ideas and to insist upon being shown rather than to rush around in a continuous brainstorm after every new idea. Skepticism, if by that we mean cautiousness, is the balance wheel of civilization. Most of the present acute troubles of the world arise out of taking on new ideas without first carefully investigating to discover if they are good ideas. An idea is not necessarily bad just because it is new, but if an old idea works, then the weight of the evidence is all in its favour. Ideas are of themselves extraordinarily valuable, but an idea is just an idea. Almost any one can think up an idea. The thing that counts is developing it into a practical product."

Once, many years ago, I was playing poker with some acquaintances. (We were playing Texas Hold 'Em, if you must know.) In order to make a specific hand during a particular game, I needed the seven of clubs. The seven of clubs remained 'available', which is to say that I had not observed it in play yet during this game. In theory then, the seven of clubs could be the next card that I was slated to draw. All that remained was to force that particular outcome - that is, that specific location for a seven of clubs from all possible locations within the decks - and the seven of clubs (and thereby a quite likely-winning hand) would be mine. Believe it or not, this is not as hard as it sounds. And being able to do so certainly had utility at the time. (I pulled the seven of clubs and won that hand.)

But what I remember more than anything is the feeling of 'So what the hell is the point?' that came over me as we began to play the next hand. As in - What the hell is the point of playing this game if I can just 'pick' the outcome I want? (That was probably one of the last games of poker I've ever played.)

At some point, the idea of 5 dimensions of experience is 'new' to everybody. And each person will have to decide for themselves if that idea has merit. Each individual will have to judge how well the 'old' ideas work for them, and what is to be gained by embracing such a radical change in view. To a similar end, I have wondered what the point of 'enlightenment' was, and what the point of a non-dual perspective is.

I'm a fairly stoic individual to begin with, so I'm not sure that I'd much trust a self-assessment of how well a 5-dimensional perspective might have eliminated any personal suffering on my part. (I've also been doing this for most of my adult life, so I have no good basis for comparison.) Have I benefited from having peeked behind the illusion of 'self', and if so, how? Do I suffer less than an individual who rails against God or an unknowable universe for his/her suffering? And if I suffer less, do I also enjoy less? As I have no good basis for comparison within myself, I am forced to asked... What is the worth of this idea to someone who would have to struggle to embrace it? (That is what you can share.)

Initially, of course, you are alienated from others who don't share your perspective. Does anything compensate for that alienation? Can anything compensate for that? Obviously I still feel lonely, and choose not to engage in an overt struggle to change anyone else's perspective. The desire not to be alienated is fairly powerful.

So what have I gained? What have other people gained from peeking behind the illusion of 'reality'? What recommends a non-dual perspective to someone for whom it is not forced upon by experience?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Others

"I can't tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like."

"Everyone will not discover the same clues in his perceptions, but in our common humanity and in our shared experiences we may find hints about the meaning of life and existence."

"A person eventually learns that his or her own personal fulfillment is tied up with the fulfillment of others, and he or she comes to recognize the need to work cooperatively with others in order to build a more harmonious society."

Some time ago a few things crystallized for me in a way that I knew would only make sense to someone else who had had the same type of experience. For whatever it's worth, I'll put it out there anyway.

Objectively, I had just written a blog post. From my perspective, there was no objective evidence that anyone else had read the blog post. Subjectively though, I was awash in the psychic backlash that follows when my blog post has been/is being read. (And you wonder why I need to take a break from blogging... Or why the thought of writing a book scares the crap out of me.)

[For the skeptics - yes, I've done more comparisons than you can imagine. I compare objective evidence to subjective experience. I vary what I produce, and where, to attempt to manipulate readership and potential reactions, with the hope of becoming better at identifying the relevant 'signals' within my subjective experience. Ultimately it's all about what's going on in my head, so I'll understand if you don't find that to be appropriately 'scientific'.]

Anyway... in my subjective experience, layer upon layer of meaning for the fortune cookie is revealing itself. And I know that these were not my initial interpretations of the meaning of the fortune. (Most of them amused me nonetheless, and were valid to reasonable degree, although I admit nothing.) But what crystallized during that time what the picture of how my experience of getting that fortune was the sum of all those influences.

What further crystallized in the weeks that followed was a more-complete picture from the perspective of 'state exclusion'. [Yes, I know that term refers to something else. I'm going to use it anyway. Deal.] You may have caught hints of what I'm getting at in some of my previous posts (too many possible links to choose from at this point), but I don't think I every explicitly stated it because I don't think that I had previously seen the pervasiveness of it.

All of this began for me when I understood (from a subjective perspective) how it was possible to forcibly exclude certain outcomes from the set of all possible outcomes. The idea that a subjective experience at one point in space and time could preclude such an experience from happening at another point in space and time was reinforced to me through other experiences, though I was a little slow to make the connections. What was becoming clearer to me now was that exclusion underlies everything. I attempted to explore this idea further earlier this year, until the backlash got to be more than I could handle. (Ahem.)

If there is a fundamental substrate to everything in the universe (and I'm not willing to call that substrate God or the Omega Point), then perhaps the unity of all things might best be seen when we understand how what is 'held' in one moment of subjective experience forces other points/moments of subjective experience to take complementary states. Moving in five dimensions is about understanding option space - the set of all possible options/outcomes. You become used to thinking about what's not there, as well as what is there. Eventually you also start to ponder the question - Well, if it's not here, where is it?

Maybe it is held in the 'others'. Maybe there is no line between 'self' and 'other' because 'other' is simply what 'self' is not. The 'other' changes as the 'self' changes.

Which brings me to the point of practicality. If there is a fundamental way to be a more compassionate human being, I think it is reflected in understanding this idea.

"Master, why must they suffer so? Must they always?"
"Only until you learn what they are here to teach you."

This is the perception that drives me at the moment and about which I hope to write/explore in this blog. I hope I've done a decent job of explaining it thus far. Of course, as always, you are free to mutter 'Crazy woman!' and go back to a world not permeated with metaphysical babble about 'self' and 'other'. I'm also going to get on with the business of living and get some chores done before this weekend is totally gone. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The World As I See It

"But what remains to be said... is of so novel and unheard-of character that I not only fear injury to myself from the envy of a few, but I tremble lest I have mankind at large for my enemies, so much doth want and custom, that become as another nature, and doctrine once sown and that hath struck deep root, and respect for antiquity, influence all men: still the die is cast, and my trust is in my love of truth, and the candour that inheres in cultivated minds."

The first words I ever blogged on this topic were these: Only a handful of people know who I truly am. I don't mean my identity as a blogger; I mean who I am as a result of what I have learned and what I can do. Needless to say, I get lonely.

I began blogging, I suppose, as a way of dealing with my need for understanding and acceptance of who I really am. I have learned a great deal along the way, both about myself and about the way other people will react to me. And I find that I am acquiring an increasingly 'mystical' view of reality and what it means to be human. Perhaps the more accurate way to say it is that the way that I see the world is beginning to resemble certain mystical viewpoints.

This blog began as I prepared for (but was eventually unable to afford to attend) last year's Science and Nonduality conference. I'm likewise unable to attend this year's conference, but my interest in exploring nonduality and nondual viewpoints hasn't waned. (This surprises me a bit.) Indeed, I think there is much to be gained from understanding the exact nature of our interdependency. To what degree am I what you have made me, and what how should I behave if I am creating you? (And if those are indeed pointless questions, what is it that this thing that feels like 'I' should be doing?) And though I think that I am developing a clearer picture of what I believe to be true, I nevertheless want to explore what others have had to say in this area. This will involve a much different subset of literature, and so I've decided to give this exploration its own blog.

You may find yourself disagreeing with, or rejecting, the perceptions that I'm struggling to articulate. (I'm used to this, though certain reactions still disappoint me more than others.) What matters most is not whether or not we share the same viewpoint, but how we treat each other when we have different viewpoints. Ironically, this is a fundamental problem of the human condition that a nondual viewpoint is challenged to explain. Why do we disagree, and why are we threatened by disagreement?

Strife arises not because there is a disagreement in viewpoints, but because such disagreements often lead one or both parties to view the other as inferior. When you have decided that someone is somehow less than you are than it quickly becomes easy to treat them differently. To manipulate, lie, coerce, threaten, even torture becomes permissible if the 'other' is viewed as sufficiently different and that difference is perceived as a threat. According to a nondual viewpoint, the illusion is that the 'other' is anything more than a reflection (of sorts) of ourself. Are you willing to battle the illusion that I am somehow something that is threateningly different? Or have I acquired the status of 'curiosity' to you - something to be tested, goaded, and manipulated?

I wish I could say that I didn't view certain 'others' as threats... I'm working on that, but I'm not there yet - sorry. (I can't imagine why it's taking so long... but maybe this exploration will help with that problem.)

Oddly enough, I missed a line in my haste to type that quote on strife. "But it all has purpose, and that purpose is to seek union." And perhaps that is the struggle - to never cease to be willing to trade fear for love...