Friday, October 8, 2010

Honoring Our Messengers

Recently on my Facebook page I've been involved in some highly intelligent and stimulating discussions around whether it's more important to understand how a thing works or to learn by experience how to use a thing.

I've been noticing that this seems to be the same question behind the underlying tension that exists between science and religion. Scientists are most interested in explaining exactly HOW a thing like human consciousness works. They want to explore the mechanics of the body, the brain, evolution, mathematics, quantum physics - all the fascinating components and moving parts - that make up the larger mystery we call life. Meanwhile spiritualists - particularly those who have been exploring the depths and capacities of human consciousnesses for many, many years - believe they already know the meaning of life. They've figured out how to use their minds by asking why life exists, and then following that question to a destination that revealed to them a truth. They're not really interested (or only mildly interested) in grasping the mechanics and learning how they work. Their passion is to support others in taking the journey into inner revelation, so they too can know WHY we've got these tools we've been gifted.

What seems to be happening then, is that scientifically oriented individuals find themselves defending their line of inquiry against what seems on occasion to be an almost condescending attitude from those who already consider themselves experts on the meaning and purpose of life. Likewise, spiritualists are often condescended to by modern scientists, who can't imagine that someone who doesn't understand the mechanical workings of a tool could really understand how best to use it.

That's because explaining where a thing came from and how it works isn't the same as developing an expertise around knowing when to use it and why it exists at all. Scientists - who ironically are using the subjective nature of their own consciousnesses to the best of their abilities when they make their inquiries into life's objective form and function - don't attempt to explain why consciousness exists so much as to explain precisely how the vehicle that has allowed for its existence creates opportunities for it to self-express. Spiritualists, who ironically are activating the highly mechanical objective structures and technical operations that the scientists are so busily defining, don't attempt to explain how the mechanics of consciousness works so much as why it's important to use it, and for what purpose.

We all know that to be able to put together and take apart a television set tells us nothing about the ins and outs of network broadcasting. Even so, it helps to understand as much as possible about how a TV set actually works before we start fiddling with the buttons on the machine. For help with that we don't turn to the experts who create our TV programming. They may hold wonderfully deep wisdom around the broadcasting feed that flows into our sets, but if our TV breaks they can't tell us how to repair it. Likewise, TV repair people may be very good at fixing a broken set, but they have no idea how broadcasting works or which channels we can access from our location.

I therefore believe that if we are to honor the form (not to mention the absolute brilliance!) of this living universe that has created, contains and activates us all, we need to immerse ourselves in both being life and in applying ourselves to understanding more completely who/what we are and why we're here.

If we stubbornly claim we don't need to understand all the buttons and functions on a home power tool in order to skillfully use it, we're bound to miss realizing some of its potential. At the very least it may take us an entire lifetime to become an expert with a particular tool and discover all its hidden capacities. Likewise, if we don't turn on a power tool and diligently practice using it in a safe and controlled environment, the odds increase that the more we assume we know about it because we've studied a manual, the more arrogant we'll be about using it in a way that damages our surroundings or causes injury to others - or to ourselves.

To refuse to more fully explore the tool of human consciousness because our ancestors passed down to us an ancient manual written for a similar tool they used a couple of thousand years ago leaves us reliant on faith that we truly know what we're doing. That's a self-limiting approach, because the human mind - like all other complex technological systems that have developed over time - has made enormous strides in capacity and function. If we fearfully cling to the comfort zone of what we've been told to believe about older, outmoded versions of ourselves, we risk missing out on the greatest advances in human evolution. Science, by shining a light on the mind's physical evolution and mechanical complexity, is helping us recognize that human consciousness - like a modern electric chainsaw - has vastly improved from the time of our great, great, great grandfather's flint axe. Still, as spiritualists so often remind us, oohing and aahing over the "coolness" of new technology, or studying a manual so we gain a better understanding of the chainsaw's many capacities is NOT the same thing as hitting the "on" switch and figuring out how best to cut down a tree.

How we learn is a very interesting topic in itself. For those who are mechanically inclined by nature to work with their hands, picking up a tool and playing with it seems the most efficient way to learn how to use it. They may glance at the manual now and again if a question or two arises; but they learn by subjecting themselves to the physical experience of practice, not by reading or listening to lectures about the process. This path to higher learning is the one taken by all the great sages who have ever lived in our world - those who have fearlessly wielded the tool of Mind to explore the innermost reaches of themselves. These are the early Jewish prophets who - despite their fears - asked searing questions of God; and who received answers that spoke to humanity at its level of understanding at that time. They then shared those answers with the many millions who didn't yet know they had the power to create their own subjective experience of God. This describes Jesus, who - because he sensed the ancient manuals referred to an outmoded version of who and what he believed he had the capacity to become - stepped beyond those texts and plunged into the abyss of the unknown, on a wondrous journey of self-discovery. This also describes the radical subjectivity of Muhammad, the Shamans, the Pagan High Priestesses, Buddha, Krishna, the Vedics, the Sufi mystics.

For others of us, following objective lines of rational inquiry is the way we prefer to learn. Many of us thrive by applying our external senses to what we observe and by determining how a given system functions. These are the great scholars of the world, the scientists and mathematicians who work tirelessly to bring greater clarity to the history, structural evolution and present day workings and functions of this amazing tool of life we've all been gifted. They dissect, explore and reveal the inner workings of the atom and the farthest reaches of accessible space, using tools they've created to expand the limitations of our bodily senses. This describes Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein, along with countless others who have made their contribution to our storehouse of knowledge.

What I believe we're just now collectively coming to realize is that the subjective and the objective are not separate realities at all, nor are they innately hostile modes of realization. They are, in fact, highly complementary ways for us to get at our deepest truths. Our eternally ongoing subjective experience, synthesized with our infinitely expanding objective knowledge, advances the total wisdom of the whole being.

Why, you may be wondering, am I so excited by this line of inquiry? Perhaps it's because I was VERY slow to set out on my own journey of self-discovery. Perhaps I'm not quite as intelligent as some or perhaps I'm a bit more fearful; almost certainly I'd been religiously indoctrinated into believing that I risked entering hell if I left behind the comfort zone of faith into which I'd been birthed. For me to make the journey then, to actually hit the "on" button and begin my self-exploration, I needed to both study the manuals and test the methods that had been espoused by the first Jews and early Christians. I also studied the teachings and explored the practices of Wicca, Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, theoretical physics, biology, evolutionary theory, quantum physics, mathematics, philosophy and so forth. Continually I merged all that information with my personal experiences and explorations, so that along the way I could feel confident I was moving in the right direction. For many years I stumbled about, traversing first this side then that side of the mountain of self-realization, wandering from ancient path to modern path and back across again, until one day (today perhaps!) I suddenly realized I'd created my very OWN path - the perfect trail that has led me to be the beautiful, grateful and loving being I am at this very moment.

Along the way, whenever I felt lost or afraid or beset upon by the demons of my own imaginings, I regularly consulted whichever manuals or sages spoke loudest to me at that particular stage of my inner journey. Eventually I discovered that virtually all the manuals and all the sages - both the ancients and the modern day versions - pointed to the same thing, only from different social, cultural, historical, experiential and rational perspectives. What I especially love about my own journey is that because I have flailed about in ways that have caused me to literally stumble on all of these paths in my struggles up the mountain, I can honor them all for having been there to provide me with a much-needed boost of courage and support whenever I felt too dispirited to continue.

I therefore salute ALL the manual designers and sages from every era and walk of life. It seems to me that - rather than continue to argue over who's produced the most up to date manual or which sage got it "more right" than all the others - we ought not to throw away any of the fruits of all our human efforts. We never know when some poor, lost soul may find something we personally don't feel is important to be exactly what he or she needs to get back on course. May we instead begin to more fully honor our own evolutionary progress by thoughtfully updating our ancient manuals with grace, instead of worshiping them or the tools they describe as the apex of human advancement. May we continue to broaden our trails, to groom and light the many paths that lead the way to human self-realization. May we also begin to more compassionately - instead of through judgment, intimidation or impatience - kindly and lovingly take the hands of those who feel ready to make the journey alongside us. May we also develop the wisdom to redirect those who don't feel called to our path toward other paths that may speak more clearly to their own way of learning.

In this fashion it will continue to get easier for each of us to continue our quest to understand and explore the infinite nature of the eternal "I AM," and to bring back our personal wisdom in greater service to the highest good.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Design a Regenerative Social System

Frankly, despite all the chatter and fears today about the "New World Order" and its concurrent conspiracy theories, I don't happen to believe that the systematic elimination of most of the human race is the conscious mission of our capitalistic/governing system or any of the people in it. While some people seem to believe that a massive human extinction event may be necessary to achieve a new level of social sustainability, I don't believe they actively strive to create that disastrous outcome.

I do believe what we've experienced has been a slow evolution of the entire human species, until we've reached a point where the system we designed initially to serve the needs of a burgeoning, evolving and mentally developing population has become one that we've outgrown. Clearly our "growth at any cost" model no longer serves the needs of a species that has already reached the upper limits of planetary expansion. Like a baby in the womb at the very end of its gestation, we're now confronting the twin challenges caused by the rising need for consumption and the upper limits of vital supportive structures. Even so, our fundamental belief in and emotional attachment to the only system we know remains comfortably ensconced in our collective psyche. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, we humans sit stubbornly in our too-warm water, even as the temperature climbs and our skin begins to burn.

My aim here isn't to tear down our social system. It's to turn down the heat by reframing things so our motivation mirrors our highest priority: to support and honor ALL life forms on our home planet. In a very real sense it's high time we give birth to ourselves as a species, and give our mother planet a much needed break.

The first step will be for us to reach a shared agreement that this IS our highest priority. At the moment we seem to be arguing over whether our highest priority is to preserve and protect our personal selves and our own immediate needs, OR to steward and honor the larger collective so it can meet the needs of its many individuals. What's important to notice is that this sets up either/or choice that triggers a win/lose game. And since we already know that both our individual well being and our community's health are required for our survival, for us to continue to play that game can only lead to destruction no matter who wins. Destroy the mother and we all know that the infant cannot survive, but the mother's desire to nurture her child must not be underestimated here.

To therefore reframe our discussions around the concept of honoring ALL life forms - BOTH in their unique individual capacities and talents AND as larger organic collectives - changes the nature of the game we're playing to a win/win paradigm. Instead of choosing up sides and pitting both crucial elements for our survival against each other in a battle to all our deaths, we honor the truth that supporting the one is how we support the other.

Our next step is to determine how to balance the needs of all individuals with the needs of the many planetary communities we've created. My suggestion is that we do all we can to design and embody a new system that produces new goods and offers new services only in humane, regenerative and thoughtful ways with our primary motivation being what serves and supports all life. Such a society would gift whatever it produces to all its members in such abundance they would be freed from the demands of "make work" and could realize their highest vision of themselves. Fully self-actualized individuals, having been freed from the necessity of earning their daily bread and expending energy in the stressful quest for survival, would then be empowered to gift of their skills and creative abundance into the system that allowed them to flourish and honored their dream of becoming the best they can be. Here we must note that when we love and feel gratitude for our system - be it our family, our community, our nation or our entire universe - to serve it becomes an honor instead of something we resent and try to avoid.

We can begin this social redesign process by forgiving all debts and ending the practice of charging each other money in exchange for the skill sets, talents and energy we have to offer. Just as we don't charge our family members for the work we do in the home, there's no need for us to charge for the labor we do for our greater home, this planet. We'll also need to take inventory of what we've created so far, and notice where the most pressing needs are arising. We can then gather the energy we've free up from the "make work" we're creating to earn our paychecks, and apply it to meeting everyone's basic needs as quickly as possible. That in turn will empower many more of us to contribute even more talent and energy to meeting our future desires. That extra energy will naturally focus itself on designing and producing what needs to be created based on what we collectively aspire to produce. Here it's important to remind ourselves that nature has proven to us over and over again that abundance produces in ever more abundance, while impoverishment only creates more suffering and lack. This means we can't look at this process through our existing lens of lack, which generates fear; but must instead peer through the expanded lens of our desire for greater abundance, which generates hope.

Next we can begin to prioritize our dreams as a species. What DO we want to accomplish for ourselves, and what legacy do we wish to leave for future generations? Do we want to clean up the planetary messes we've made so far? Do we wish to more rapidly advance our technological capacities and eliminate the laborious jobs that nobody likes to do? Do we concentrate on improving infrastructure, converting our systems to renewable energy and designing lower impact dwellings using sustainable energy sources? Do we advance our knowledge of science and expand the arts? Do we focus on educating our children in ways that set free their highest capacities? Do we lovingly hospice our elders in gratitude for all they've done? Do we set our sights on exploring the oceans and thrusting ourselves into the wilds of space?

My suspicion is that if we get it right we can do ALL these things, and more. What seems to be required of us here is a shift in human awareness. We each need to begin to trust what we already know - that collaborating with each other makes more sense and benefits us all far more than does competing, fighting and destroying one another. We need to look inside ourselves and honor the fact that we are personally hardwired at birth to want to be more, do more, know more and love more, and that the only reason we've fallen short is that we haven't yet built a society that nourishes our desires to full fruition. We must begin to accept the fact that we don't need to prod each other any more than we ourselves wish to be prodded into working though forced labor contracts and the imposition of bills and emotional stressors. We must accept the truth that just as we ourselves function much better when we come from a place of love and feel joy for our work, so do others. We also need to embrace the fact that just as we don't necessarily what everyone else has or wish to do all the same things as everyone else, not everybody is going to want what we have or choose to do what we do. Because we're all so amazingly, uniquely different in our desires there will always be enough to go around.

It helps to note that it feels much better to live and behave this way toward our fellow man, so that's a gentle hint from the Cosmic Mind that holds and supports us all.