Spirals and sustainability on the way to 2012

Spirals and sustainability on the way to 2012

In this article I will try to explain why sustainable development seems to imply following the spiral of time. A way to explain the relation between spirals, sustainability and the 2012 singularity from the Maya calender would be to combine the work of Eckart Tolle with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, Benoit Mandelbrot, Ervin Laszlo and Rhonda Byrne. This way of explanation is described below.

Tolle’s living in the Now

Tolle says it is important to live in the now. First this means that you should not build up experiences from the past that cause friction in your everyday life. Another way of saying this is that you should not institutionalize yourself in a way that causes you to become a slow responder to all the things and chances that come by. It is important to let go of mass from the past that holds you back so to say.

It costs a lot of energy to carry all that mass from the past with you. In the same way ideas for the future can hold you back from responding naturally to the opportunities of the now. They make your head full of ideas and heavy, which makes you a slow responder to the opportunities of the now. If you want to live in the now you should become an ‘open system’ as it were, receiving what the universe gives you and passing it on to others just as easily.

In this way you are always ready to act on opportunities as they occur. Essentially you are in synch with the progression of time. Now assuming for the time being that the universe essentially brings love, living in the ‘now’ moment of time could make you a very happy person.

Einstein’s edge of materialization and dematerialization

Einstein says in his famous E=mc2 formula that mass is a special kind of energy. Energy converts or materializes into mass, due to friction with light falling onto a surface (square term). You can visualize a surface with a unit of energy positioned on it. The surface with the energy unit is moving at near the speed of light through space. Light falls on the surface and the energy unit like a rain shower.

Because the energy unit receives friction from the rain shower of light, it picks up more energy which in the end causes the energy unit to transform into mass. If the surface goes too fast energy converts into mass, if it goes too slow the energy stays energy. If it moves just at the right speed, it stands exactly on the conversion point of energy into mass. No excessive mass is picked up, no excessive energy builds up.

According to Einstein’s formula, energy starts to convert into mass when we approach the speed of light. Now the speed of light determines our experience of time. This is why living in the now is another way of staying just on the edge of materialization of energy into mass. This is why people who live in the now are usually very well capable of materializing their own future.

From this perspective, Tolle and Einstein’s works are not as different as they seem. The status of being on the edge of materialization also seems to be what Ervin Laszlo means by his In-formation field or the Akashic field.

Spiraling time

Now the time that we experience is linear clock time. The 2012 story is based upon the assumption that time follows the path of a logarithmic spiral that ends in the singularity point in the center of the spiral in December 2012. This spiraling time exists outside of our conscious awareness, in the subconscious, the quantum vacuum, the world of the soul, the universe or whatever you want to call it.

It seems to evolve from the friction between dark energy and dark matter in the quantum vacuum, which could convert darkness into light, but this is very hypothetical. The Mandelbrot fractal shows that in systems of duality, the outcome space consists of spirals. Within our conscious awareness time is linear, based upon our experienced speed of moving through the universe and our experience of day and night that follows from these movements.

Newtons laws for moving masses

Newton also made formulas about the relation between energy and mass. Only he didn’t focus on the conversion point between energy and mass at the speed of light, but he focused on the movement of bodies that have already materialized into mass, in other words the movement of masses in time. About the relation between masses and time, he said in one of his laws that mass is slow.

In a way masses follow their own pace of time, which is much slower than the time of our conscious awareness. Regarded from outside of our linear conscious awareness, these masses have their own spirals. These are the ‘baby spirals’ that evolve from the larger spiral in the well known Mandelbrot series. Newton says that it takes energy to move the masses. This is comparable to the energy it takes to carry around your own mass of experiences from the past that Tolle describes.

Gaps between time spirals

Now that we know that Newtons masses that we experience in our everyday life are slow, meaning that they are slower than the time evolution of our conscious awareness, we can see that as the time of our conscious awareness commences, a gap evolves between the two time spirals.

The gap takes the form of an energy potential: the energy of the regular time wave tries to suck the slower masses back onto the regular time spiral. In compensation we try to put in more energy to either keep track of the regular time spiral or to resist and try to change the environment.

Organizations and time spirals

We see this phenomenon very well in our world of businesses and institutions. The larger they become, the more energy it takes to move them. Those on a competitive market need to make sure to put in lots of energy to follow the edge of time, those on a non-competitive market can simply try to change their environment.

Essentially they take energy from their environment, thereby slowing it down to the pace of the institution itself. The latter situation will sooner or later bring the institution into trouble. If society eventually breaks out of this stronghold, the institution will no longer be supported with the energy from society.

The lack of this energy that was needed to keep the massive institution standing suddenly confronts the institution with a strong pull force from the energy of regular time. This force is stronger than before because the whole formerly controlled environment has now shifted from institutions time to regular time. The institution will literally start to suffocate; it will start to show cracks and signs of an approaching collapse.

Organizations and their span of control

Signs of institutions in trouble are showing everywhere in our societies now. Those that went for control of their environment find out that they become increasingly incapable of doing this. This is because time picks up speed as we approach the singularity in the time spiral of December 2012. In particular privatized organizations with a public task, large multinationals, etc who could earlier simply change their environment to resist regular time, now become unable to control it all.

Only last week in my environment the privatized public housing companies in the Netherlands ended up in big trouble because of this. The tenants and the public in general revolted against the self-enriching culture that had evolved within these non-competing companies with a public task.

The time spiral of sustainability

The above combination of theories explains why living in the now, as close as possible to the time spiral wave of the now, can be regarded as sustainable. In this way you do not rapidly build up unstable massive institutions that need to be moved out of the way later on. In the same way you do not build up excessive energy from not materializing ideas on time.

In reality, no matter what you materialize, in the end it all needs to be dematerialized again as the energy from the regular time spiral starts to pull. You can compensate by putting in extra energy to keep things standing, but this will only make things worse.

Sustainability as flexible materialization/dematerialization

The kind of sustainability of the regular time spiral or at least as close as possible to this regular time spiral seems to be what we really mean by sustainability as a cognitive subject. Sustainable development takes place on the highly dynamic edge of materialization and dematerialization.

f we are on this edge we can materialize and dematerialize in a very flexible way. Although in the end we are predestined by the regular time spiral, we can easily materialize our own little time spiral if we are on the edge. If we use our intuition to build this new spiral we have all the opportunities of the quantum vacuum available. The quantum vacuum contains past, present and future, here, there and everywhere, so that’s a lot of opportunities. This is a part of the explanation of the success of Rhonda Byrnes the ‘The Secret’ as a method.

Institutions in trouble

In practice we have a lot of mass in our world. Intuitively we feel which masses experience friction with time. In our current economic crisis we see that all those large institutions are in trouble because they have become too slow, unfit, or unsustainable. A system that is fit and healthy is automatically sustainable. So why do large institutions often judge exactly the opposite?

This is because they see the baby time spiral of their own materialization as sustainable. They either do not realize that it takes a lot of energy to drag the mass of their institution forward to keep track of regular time or they do not realize that their attempts to slow down their environments and taking energy from the environment will become insufficient to keep them standing at some point. From a short term perspective, it seems to be a feasible option to take that chance, if only time were not picking up speed!

Societal awakening from dreams

We experience time as the speed of our consciousness. If time goes faster, our consciousness moves faster. We do not experience this in our linear time, the sun will rise every morning as it always has, but our consciousness will take rapid steps. We will awaken from long existing dreams that we have always believed in during our lives because we’ve learned them at school, because companies and governments were always very convincing in getting you to believe in the dream they present, etc.

This mass awakening is likely to cause enormous changes in our world. Many institutions will simply collapse as humanity prepares to take a jump in its own evolution into a new phase of space-time.

Evidence for the singularity?
The crucial point here is whether the singularity in the time spiral in December 2012 will actually take place or not. We know that there will be an astronomical alignment. Furthermore, in the 1990s it was discovered that the Maya calendar predicts the end of a time era at this point of alignment. Moreover, twenty years before the Maya calendar was unraveled, Dennis and Terence McKenna found a mathematical pattern in the I-Ching from which they found an end of an era date less than a month earlier than the Maya calendar.

I have also heard of 2012 predictions from the 1950’s in Indonesia. There are probably many more clues, but this is what I have found so far. I leave it to the reader to judge the validity of these clues and the story that follows from it.

Source: http://www.spiralscience.net

What is Wisdom and Why Do We Need It?

World Wisdom Council: What is Wisdom and Why Do We Need It?

World renowned educator, Founder of the Club of Budapest, Dr. Ervin Laszlo, talks about the need for wisdom in the world and how to prevent the worsening of the global crisis on all levels: social, ecological and economic.

Critical Mass -Prof. Ervin Laszlo talks with Rav Michael Laitman, PhD.

Prof. Ervin Laszlo talks with Rav Michael Laitman, PhD about the need for a critical mass of people to affect positive global change.

Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World

The World Wisdom Council – scientists, spiritual leaders and academia come together to show that global change is a result of experiencing connectivity as an integral intelligence.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSFORMATION: An Interview with Ervin Laszlo

Concert pianist-turned-philosopher Ervin Laszlo talks about his personal intellectual and spiritual evolution and about the evolutionary challenges facing humanity as global civilization approaches the ‘chaos point.’

The cofounder with Ludwig vonBertalanfy of General Systems Theory, Laszlo talks from a broad, trans-diciplinary perspective that integrates leading-edge science and spiritual understanding from many traditions. The founder of the Club of Budapest, he travels the world working with many organizations on the urgent mission of helping create a ‘sustainable transformation’ to a peaceful planetary civilization before its too late

Evolutionary Ideas Of Sri Aurobindo By Kishore Gandhi

Sri Aurobindo: Evolutionary Ideas Of Sri Aurobindo
By Kishore Gandhi

Sri Aurobindo’s insight and analysis of evolution are now part of the scientific and cultural landscape. But few scientists and artists know his evolutionary theories that are being proved true by modern science.

While probing frontiers of science, physicists have discovered the limitation of the Newtonian mechanistic model at the level of galaxies and electrons. These discoveries have no doubt given the first glimmering of the new paradigm that matter and consciousness are the primary forces in the universe.

The theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s principles of uncertainty, Bohr’s laws, Schrodinger’s resolution of particle/wave paradox, Prigogine’s discovery of dissipative structures based on self-organising and self-transcendent systems, Roger Sperry’s researches in the right and left implications of hemispheric brain processes, Ervin Laszlo’s Psi hypothesis have all brought about major breakthroughs that have profound philosophical implications for science as a whole.

This development marked a major shift from the clockwork paradigm to an uncertainty paradigm, from the absolute to the relative. The new model looks upon matter as being in some way a graded manifestation of consciousness. So increasingly, the West has been showing an increasing interest in Eastern thought, particularly in Buddhism and Vedanta.

The Isa Upanishad says, “Everything that exists in the cosmos, living or non-living, is the habitation of the divine”. The Mundaka Upanishad says that one perceives “Brahmn verily in this resplendent cosmos, in front and behind, above and below, in the right and to the left. The universe is indeed all manifestation of the Brahmn”.

These mystical insights are being significantly recognised by physicists as a more accurate expression of the real structure of the universe than many of the classical theories of science. The dance of Shiva is inspiring physicists as a new reference point in explaining the creation of this world in terms of a unified field theory.

The double crises of civilisation and evolution today is the product of the human mind. I see through the eye, not with it, said William Blake. He also said that “if the doors of perception were cleansed, we would see the world as it is, infinite”.

Quite clearly, the human mind which imagines, reasons and creates is dynamically active, and is playing a critical role in the process of its own evolution and also in the survival and evolution of all living things. The future of our evolutionary course will be in the realm of psychic development, and the new potentialities will make us surpass ourselves.

The development of trans-disciplinary approaches to knowledge corresponding to the creative manifestations of life is our model for tomorrow. Aurobindo’s philosophy of a new and higher consciousness for the future provides a convincing and viable alternative to a bewildered humanity that is living under the spell of multiple fears.

The discoveries of modern science have no doubt given their own verdict of opposing alternatives – of either the Buddha or the bomb, for instance – and it is up to each one of us to decide which path to follow. To save history from being reduced to a tragedy of successive civilizations, we need to promote the Oneness Principle. Global consciousness is the only way out.

Mirra – The Mother: Paris to Pondicherry: Journey of Discovery

Mirra – The Mother: Paris to Pondicherry: Journey of Discovery

Paris in the last decade of the 19th century was tranquil enough to let the 12-year-old Mirra sit amidst the woods of Fontainebleau near her house for hours at a stretch and feel one with Nature and Infinity.

She would remain aloof, away from friends and relatives, but she was never alone. She was always aware of several invisible companions who, she said, were more real to her than those who were physically present.

One day, while climbing a hill in the woods, she slipped and began falling down the precipice. Even as she fell, she somehow knew that she was not going to meet the fate that was expected in such accidents. True enough, she soon found herself standing at the foot of the hill as if nothing had happened. She was not surprised; she had been fully conscious of the invisible hands supporting her.

She grew increasingly close to one of the ‘companions’ she saw in her visions and began calling him Krishna – years before even knowing the origin or meaning of the word. Her quest brought her to Pondicherry, where she met Sri Aurobindo. There, she identified the guide who had been with her all these years. He was none other than this Mahayogi .

The next day she wrote in her diary: ”It matters little that thousands of beings are plunged in the densest ignorance, He whom we saw yesterday is on earth; his presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, and Thy reign shall be indeed established upon earth.”

Mirra finally settled in Pondicherry in 1920. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram began to take shape with her arrival. Soon, she became known as ‘the Mother’. The Ashram she shaped was not a hermitage for ascetics, but a community of sadhaks for whom the world itself was the Divine in action – the veiled splendours of the Divine in the process of manifestation.
”All life is yoga,” said Sri Aurobindo, referring to the work done not for the satisfaction of one’s desires or ego but as an offering to the Divine, which is actually a powerful means of yoga.

This is how the Mother explains the profundity of Sri Aurobindo’s vision: ”There is an ascending evolution in nature which goes from the stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, from the animal to man. Because man is, for the moment, the last rung at the summit of the ascending evolution, he considers himself as the final stage in this ascension and believes there can be nothing on earth superior to him. In that he is mistaken.

In his physical nature he is yet almost wholly an animal, a thinking and speaking animal, but still an animal in his material habits and instincts. Undoubtedly, nature cannot be satisfied with such an imperfect result; she endeavours to bring out a being who will be to man what man is to the animal, a being who will remain a man in its external form, and yet whose consciousness will rise far above the mental and its slavery to ignorance.

”Sri Aurobindo came upon earth to teach this truth to men. He told them that man is only a transitional being living in a mental consciousness, but with the possibility of acquiring a new consciousness, the Truth-consciousness, and capable of living a life perfectly harmonious, good and beautiful, happy and fully conscious.

During the whole of his life upon earth, Sri Aurobindo gave all his time to establish in himself this consciousness he called the Supramental, and to help those gathered around him to realise it.”

The path to peace lies in a collective aspiration for a Supramental future. Till her passing away in 1973, the Mother experimented in her own person the process of stabilising this new consciousness.

(February 21 is the Mother’s birth anniversary)

A Higher Vision of Time is Needed to Appreciate, Experience and Enjoy the Relationship between Being and Becoming

By Lori Tompkins

As a follow up to ‘Being and Becoming’, I am posting some valuable excerpts from Time and Imperishability (1997) by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. The subject matter includes the error of spiritual paths that divorce the dynamic Becoming of material creation from the static or immobile Transcendent Being, as well as the necessity of knowing the reality of Time (Mahakala) and its laws if one is to experience, appreciate and enjoy the real relationship between Being and Becoming and the real relationship between the Transcendent, the Cosmic and Individual Self.

Also discussed is the process by which the Unmanifest is born as a point or seed (bija) and extends itself in time and space. This line of thought is deeply rooted in Vedic gnosis, as well as in the supramental gnosis of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is the product of and a call towards cultivating the ‘Supramental Time Vision’ that Sri Aurobindo foresaw and discussed in The Synthesis of Yoga. [1]

From Time and Imperishability, Part I, ‘Transcendence and the Immanence of the One’

… [T]oday’s warrior … must face Time, must face Death, and thereby come upon the element in our being which survives destruction. Nay, which uses destruction as well as creation as the modes of its expression, as the vehicles upon which it moves in the world, immobile yet fully engaged in the mobility of this universe in an eternally renewing process.
This path lies in the opposite direction to the one seekers have been encouraged to pursue since the time of the Buddha. It lies in the core of creation, not in the Beyond, or whatever name we give to this extra-cosmic reality.

A core must not only survive the action of disintegration; it must be the central pivot of the process, and even, we may add, its controlling element. It is that ‘centre that holds’, in contrast to Yeats’ vision of an apocalyptic disintegration due precisely to the fact that ‘the centre cannot hold’, as he describes in his majestic verse. What then is this core? How does it arise, and moreover, how can it be experienced?

These are questions we shall endeavor to answer in this study. But first it is necessary to know the exact nature of the Reality we wish to explore, in the effort to clarify these fundamental questions. For the problem before us concerns our entire perception of the Absolute and our approach to that highest Reality. Indeed, a study of the developments of spirituality and the course it has taken over the millennia is a precious aid in the knowledge we are seeking.

Undoubtedly all spiritual paths have led seekers to a Beyond, to a Transcendent Reality. Even religions have fostered the same emphasis. Some call it Heaven, others Nirvana. Whatever the designation, it is evident that we are dealing with one avenue of experience; or we may say, with one ultimate goal. This is by no means a false perception. It is deeply true, and for this very reason innumerable yogins and tapaswins have devised the means to carry the aspirant to this static Beyond.

Once one attains the capacity to place the consciousness out of the cosmic dimension, it is believed that one can enter into a transcendence which is an upholding or all-encompassing Consciousness that somehow, in some magical way, is not involved in the flux and flow of material creation and hence is untouched by the ravages of time and decay and death which appear to be the principal features of our universe.

Methods of escape to this transcendent Brahman were thus devised in order to grant the troubled human spirit the solace of a peace that by virtue of its static quality could liberate the seeker from any further involvement in the torment of life and death. Rebirth, in this instance, was accepted only as a means to achieve this liberation ultimately. Unlike the mid-Eastern religions that have arisen in this 9th Manifestation (beginning in 234 BC and lasting for 6480 years thereafter*), the pursuit of such an attainment was not limited to just one lifetime. Nonetheless, the goal was the same: a path out of the cosmos, hopefully never more to return.

The realization such illumined beings attained cannot be denied or doubted. These yogins themselves stand as luminous beacons to the truth of the way and the goal. However, the time has come to view dispassionately such accomplishments in the light of our present discussion, insofar as the acquisition of a transcendent poise naturally suggests ultimate liberation from future birth. We are drawn to believe that the process of birth, death and rebirth, holds only as long as the human being is caught in the coils of the Ignorance. When finally he or she does attain liberation, concurrently with this accomplishment the realiser is freed from any further involvement with material creation and this ecstatic yet more often maddening Dance of Shiva.

However, the power of Arjuna’s vision still lingers in the consciousness of all who seriously pursue the path of Truth. That vision, if indeed it is the highest, presents a stark contrast to the static Beyond. Are we then not justified in questioning the content and direction of these ways which have not carried seekers to the truth of Mahakala but rather away from it?

The conventional paths would have us believe that it is precisely a realization or occupation with Time that is the inferior poise, and that the transcendent reality is the higher. But the Gita contradicts this notion, and it has held its place at the heart of Indian wisdom far longer and more persistently than any other scripture. It has thoroughly pervaded all Indian spirituality and captured the imagination of seekers for several millennia. But perhaps it is time itself that can give us the answers we seek.

Time is the great Controller. Thus if spirituality has moved in a direction opposite to Time’s mystery and truth, it must be Mahakala himself who is ‘responsible’ for the divergence. We shall see anon how indeed this has been the case, when we bring into our discussion the line of the Ten Avatars of Hinduism. [2] But for the present, it is important to discover the true nature of Reality, in its most limpid form. That is, we must ‘unmask’ the Transcendent itself, unveil it as we would unveil Guha, free it of the many elements which have diluted its pristine truth. At the same time certain fundamental aspects of that ultimate Beyond must be grasped, for only in this way can we appreciate – without any illusions – our real condition in life and the material dimension.

The first aspect of the Transcendent that arises in our purview is its unmoving nature. That is, if indeed it is extra-cosmic and represents something, some dimension, some plane of consciousness which from our poise within the cosmos we must view as ‘beyond’, then, given the fact that the principle feature of the cosmos is movement, it stands that in the Transcendent this element is withheld.

We know therefore that one of the prime attributes of the extra-cosmic Absolute is that it is unmoving and immobile. This represents the great divide between Cosmos and the Transcendent Brahman. It is this immobility that has provided yogins with the exquisite experience of Peace. Extending the consciousness to the ultimate reaches of itself, all relatives in the universe dissolve into this great and immense static Calm.

If indeed the Transcendent is significant of that which lies beyond movement and the snare of the Gunas – creation, preservation and destruction – it is recognizable that this Ultimate Beyond does not suffer the fate of decay. For in such a condition, what can there be that is subject to decay? The process that engenders decay and death is irrevocably related to movement. The Transcendent does not perish because it is, in fact, unborn, – unborn in our moving and evolving universe. There is nothing of it that can be born and hence no experience of decay and death, much less of any rebirth.

Without a doubt the experience of that irrefutable imperishability is the single most enticing factor that has instigated the pursuit of realms beyond. At the same time, it is that devastating perception of disintegration that has established the vision of Mahakala as a prize for only those ‘rare highest souls’.

However, we approach now a third characteristic which has the intrinsic power to overturn our secure understanding and cast an element of paradoxical doubting into our quest and experience. It is this: If the Transcendent is unmoving and imperishable due to its otherworldliness, or its poise beyond and outside of the cosmos, then we encounter a particular aspect of its nature which has been the bed-rock of Indian spirituality from time immemorial. This is indivisibility. Given the fact that it is a homogeneous Consciousness beyond the planes of existence in which division occurs, it stands that this Transcendent is hence indivisible.

Consequent to this we know that this perception offers the most compelling aspect of the Absolute: its unity, its oneness. Yet with this appreciation many of the paradoxes which face the human spirit arise; and due to this unity, oneness and indivisibility, it can be shown how until now no path has truly bridged the chasm that this experience of transcendent indivisibility and unity has created in our spiritual experience. And it is precisely because of this chasm that the highest Vision has been withheld from the seeker. For to bridge this intriguing chasm is to resolve the paradoxes.

The main aspect of the paradox is this: If the Transcendent or Static Brahman is indeed indivisible, then it stands that none of the experiences seekers have until now had of Its poise beyond and out of the moving cosmic dimension have been faithful to the truest and highest Truth. They have been real and overwhelming experiences, but they have suffered from a severe limitation.

This limitation resides exclusively in the fact that any experience of the Transcendent which does not include the totality of Itself must be, to a certain extent, deceiving. For we cannot divide the indivisible. If the Transcendent is all-encompassing – and this is one of its most secure attributes – within Itself lies that which we consider irredeemably subject to division. The unity of the Transcendent carries us to the clear perception that the only true experience of Reality is an integral one. How then to achieve this perception of wholeness? and what would be its relation to the question of rebirth, the theme of our analysis?

It must be stated that this discovery is the key that unlocks those iron doors which do not permit entry into Mahakala’s sanctum sanctorum, and hence withhold from us the true meaning of life and death and our purpose in this material creation. We cannot divide that which is indivisible. This means then that there can be no true experience of those attributes that have been here enumerated of the Absolute which introduce the element of division.

Thus the Transcendent’s stasis can never be disconnected from its kinesis which in any case arises in its own Being. Likewise, its imperishability must contain within it the elements of all that is created, preserved and destroyed. But how is this accomplished?

The chasm is cleared of darkness and the bridge is constructed in our awareness when we understand that the vast Transcendent in the act of manifestation is reduced to a seed. This is the profound mystery of creation. It is the origin of all things. The Unmanifest enters the Manifest (of Itself) by virtue of this compression to a Seed, – that precious bija, that miraculous Hiranyaretas which is Agni. This Flame-Child stands at the Origin, he who is the first God extolled in the Veda. Thus all the attributes that we can conceive of in the Transcendent Beyond are drawn, by its own power of manifestation, into the Seed of Itself. That is, immobility, indivisibility, imperishability, are all properties which are contained in this miraculous Golden Bija.

What happens then to this Seed, which stands as the foundation of material creation?

The Golden Bija is the origin of spatial reality and the base of material creation. Manifestation (of the Unmanifest) results then in a central truth-seed, which from that Point extends itself, multiplies, grows, in the experience of creation, preservation and dissolution. This can be appreciated if we observe the nature of the cosmos we inhabit, which confirms this perception in that all its material bodies orbit a Centre. Indeed, centrality is one of the foremost aspects of the universal dimension.

Yet there is a consciousness, a reality that extends beyond the material creation, or rather within which creation in matter is contained. But in appreciating this fact, a curious phenomenon took possession of the human mind. Somehow, along the way of human evolution the experience of God resulted in the fact that the Transcendent (the very significance of the word stands as a clue: that which lies beyond…), which contains this universe in its Being and is all-encompassing, became veiled or masked to the perceptive eye of consciousness in the human being; and these contained dimensions came to be considered or seen as somehow inferior, or reflected an inferior spiritual poise and realization, or a partial reality. This then reached its extremes in the formulation of theories of Illusionism in all its many facets, and ultimately laid emphasis on an escape from these apparently inferior cages in which the human consciousness was seen to be imprisoned.

A divisive perception of this nature is not a property of the Divine Consciousness. It reflects a wholly human, mental poise and suffers from the scourge of a separative vision and experience, results of the mental orientation of the species. Because of this limitation of the present instrument, the Lord withdrew the vision of Himself as the Time-Spirit from Arjuna, since in this state it is not possible for humanity to attain a fuller and truer unified vision due to these limitations of the instrument and its subjugation to the rule of Mind.

The human species is an evolving collective entity. At present, civilization as a whole is experiencing the pain of realising its limitations and insufficiencies and of knowing that as a race its actual constitution cannot permit a higher experience to come. To reach a wider and deeper collective experience, a new, more refined, more enhanced instrument is demanded. The turmoil of humanity at present is due largely to the fact that pressure is being applied on all quarters of Earth existence to compel the emergence of higher faculties so that a new way can manifest.

Some details of this evolutionary process are given in Indian Scriptures. For example, in the Puranas we find mention of ‘the Nine Creations’. The final stages, the 7th, 8th and 9th, refer to the mental, the overmental and the supramental creations, respectively. Mental man is not the ultimate and highest but is merely a transitional creature. The evolutionary process, governed by the play of tattwas and the gunas, is the mechanism to evolve a higher species.

And one of the principle characteristics of this newly-emerging creation, superior to the present mental being, is a capacity to experience the indivisibility of God – a consciousness, hence, of true unity. For this the being of the human experiencer must be fortified in such a way that it can withstand the impact of seeing the Time-Spirit working in the worlds, via the action of creation, preservation and destruction or dissolution, with an equanimity of being that arises from the knowledge of the Core-Purpose at the heart of material creation. (pp. 7-14)
Time’s function in the material universe is to draw the compact, involved elements held in the Seed to fruition. Time is the motor of Consciousness. It draws out and into extension that which arose at the Origin, at the moment of passage of the Unmanifest to the Manifest. This passage is the bridge connecting statics to dynamics. Time is movement, or rather it gives forth a body of itself in the cosmic principle of perpetual motion, or dynamic consciousness.

Hence we encounter the splendid, colossal image in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of the universe in the form of a Horse, – that great and majestic Vedic symbol of energy, speed, kinesis. ‘Time’, the Upanishad tells us, ‘is the self of the horse sacrificial’. In this superb image the Seer describes the deepest truth of cosmic existence: that Time is the propeller and stands in the inner recesses of material creation and urges, propels it onward to completion, to fulfillment of its inherent purpose… ‘the self of the horse sacrificial …’ (p.16)

Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘Sketch of a Horse’ (partial)


Material creation is thus the body of Brahman, the Divine Shakti, deploying Herself for the purpose of the Absolute’s self-knowing and self-enjoying.
We cannot divorce ourselves from this truth and cosmic function. We are integral parts of the cosmic manifestation, minute as we may be in comparison to the vastness of the universe.

However, does this minuteness not reflect then the very process of passage from the Unmanifest to the Manifest which has been described herein? We are, as it were, those very Seeds. We are those infinitesimal ‘eyes that see’, through which the Absolute knows, and thus knowing enjoys Itself. And this is the magic and the mystery of human birth. We are endowed with all the properties of the Transcendent and are Its instruments for this supreme Act of creative deployment of Itself.

How then can we desire to flee from this instrumentation, this glorious act of knowing along with God, of self-discovery of all the attributes contained within Itself? But at the same time we must accept the Laws which govern the orderly deployment and extension in Time of the compact particles of the Seed. These use that majestic and awesome dynamism, the Power or the Shakti in her movement of creation, preservation and dissolution.

To participate knowingly and willingly in this Act, we must then accept these Laws – the essence of Time – indeed we must accept the Divine Mother. [3] Thus we must evolve as a race beyond the capacity of an Arjuna and reach the point where we can know and sustain all aspects of Mahakala, above all his consort, Mahakali, without flinching, without seeking escape to the Beyond because of the limitations and trepidant condition of the present human spirit. (pp.18-19)

* See: The Gnostic Circle, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, Aeon Books, 1975.
© Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, 1997

The Only Journey There Is: An Exploration of Cosmic & Cultural Evolution

An interview with Robert W. Godwin
by Elizabeth Debold

Curiously, in our era of specialists and experts and masters of ever more circumscribed fields of study, the most original and genuinely innovative thinking is frequently coming from individuals who are exploring terrain in which they’ve had little or no formal training. The occasional autodidact has been around for a long time, but these new “explorers without portfolio” do not lack education per se. They generally have academic degrees—accounting, medicine, or law—but it’s those subjects that lie beyond the sphere of their professional competence that motivate them to passionately read, think, and write about complex ideas in often remarkably fresh and insightful ways, whether it’s about art or physics or the origin of the universe.

Robert Godwin is such an “outsider” thinker, and a masterful litterateur to boot. In his book One Cosmos under God, he attempts nothing less than to reenvision the entire story of creation, both scientifically and spiritually, and audaciously and stunningly presents an often poetic, quasi-scriptural rendering of what a new cosmic narrative could be. It’s a book that breaks boundaries, thrills and teases, and ultimately makes very much sense in its Herculean embrace of cosmology, biology, quantum physics, psychology, anthropology, history, mysticism, theology, and more.

A practicing clinical psychologist, Godwin, in his words, became voraciously interested in everything at some point in his mid to late twenties. He also credits himself with having a synthetic versus analytic mind. So in order to make sense of what he was learning, he sought to find relationships and patterns among the truths he had gleaned from disparate fields of study. In short, he wanted to know. To that end, he recognized that the only way to grasp spiritual truths was through direct experience and he became a serious practitioner of Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga. One Cosmos under God is the result of what he discovered as a follower of the Indian sage’s teachings, together with the fruits of his relentless curiosity.

Because of our own unfailing curiosity about evolutionary spirituality, WIE wanted to find out more about the ideas of this intrepid scholar. In the interview that follows, Godwin takes us on a tour of some of the grand metaphysical themes of our time as he explains his efforts to articu late a new, higher synthesis between scientific and mystical thinking. It is from that higher perspective, he says, that both the linear, causal nature of earthly life—the horizontal dimension—and the absolute and transcendent—or vertical—dimension can be seen in a more integrated way.

It is also how we can understand the four “singularities,” those explosions of evolutionary novelty that initiated the universe and radically transformed life on this planet forever. Then, seamlessly, the conversation shifts direction and Godwin takes us inward, into the deeper reaches of the human psyche as he presents an often startling account of psychological development and its relevance to the evolution of culture. Touching on a dizzying array of topics from child-rearing to ritualized sacrifice to the capacity for self-aware consciousness, he masterfully unites them all into a vision of humanity that is at once infinitely vast and ever so close to home.

Verticality and the Evolution of the Cosmos

WIE: In your book, One Cosmos under God, you create a remarkable synthesis of two types of knowledge— scientific and spiritual—in a grand evolutionary context for understanding who we are and why we’re here. Can you start by telling us about the goal of your work?

ROBERT GODWIN: I am simply trying to put the best spiritual wisdom together with the best knowledge about science to show that it’s not incompatible and that, in fact, the two reflect each other. Ultimately, I’m trying to make traditional metaphysics relevant to people, which is something that religions do.

The main idea is actually implicit in the traditional religious view. The traditional idea is that prior to evolution there is what’s called the involution of God, which you can think of metaphorically as the Big Bang. God throws himself into existence and almost loses himself in existence. Evolution, then, is the reverse—the gradual recapturing of different levels of God, and at the end is the I Am. At the end of the journey, you find out that it was God all along. The whole thing is God playing hide-and-seek with himself, so to speak.

However, to understand how our knowledge from science actually lines up with a traditional mystical understanding of God’s relationship to creation, you have to think stereoscopically. You have to hold one view, scientific knowledge, and hold the other view, mystical wisdom, until the two views are synthesized at a higher level. It’s like those magic 3-D pictures where a new thing emerges from two images.

It’s not like the “Tao of physics” idea—that if you understand quantum physics, you’re a mystic. That just conflates two lower levels. I’m for going to a higher level or dimension where you see that the two things that seem separate are actually part of the same thing. They’re two sides of the same coin. In fact, one basic metaphysical principle is that any truth comes from Truth with a capital “T.” So we’re looking for that Truth that shows how all of these lesser truths can exist together.

That’s the perspective that I’m talking about—it’s getting to a higher view that does not force things together or blend them. It’s a vision. And one of the things that you see from that higher view is that existence consists of two different dimensions.

WIE: And you call these two dimensions the horizontal and the vertical?

GODWIN: Yes, but that’s not original to me. Many people use that metaphor. It’s not easy to define the two—they make sense only in relation to each other. The horizontal is given to us in the course of material evolution by genes or natural selection and operates almost deterministically from past to present to future through linear cause and effect. Most people naturally regard the horizontal dimension as what is real, because that is how Darwinian evolution designed us.

The vertical, however, operates “perpendicular” to chronological time. This is where what we call God comes from. It’s where revelation comes from. Revelations don’t come from the past; they come from the Above. The vertical is actually the leading edge of the cosmos, the creative space of post–biological evolution. It is about qualities, such as depth, interiority, and the three great transcendentals: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Virtually everything that defines us as humans, that gives us our dignity and our nobility, comes from the vertical—our capacity to know Truth, our capacity for aesthetic beauty, music, symphonies, poetry. To give an example, when Jesus is baptized, the spirit descends on him like a dove. It literally comes down vertically. That might be a metaphor, but it’s a very useful metaphor because it describes the experience. Just like the horizontal contains energies—the energies of physics—the vertical contains energies—the energies of shakti, grace. Any spiritual practice is about opening up to that vertical energy.

The spirituality that I practice, which is Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, has as its aim to bring the vertical into the horizontal. You’re not leaving the world behind. As a matter of fact, this is the proper understanding of the Christian approach also. The Word becomes flesh. The Word is the universal. The flesh is the particular, the horizontal. The Word becoming flesh is like saying the vertical became horizontal. The ultimate vertical became a particular horizontal—and not just in one man, but potentially in all.

WIE: How do you understand the relationship between the vertical and horizontal in the cosmos itself?

GODWIN: The vertical is at the head of everything. It’s like the blueprint, the potential. Ken Wilber talks about this, saying that it is like forms that are only pure potential but are not yet realized. The whole process of evolution is realizing and bringing down these pure forms of empty logos and making them manifest on this plane in horizontal time. At this point, they’re plastic and open because we’re evolving toward them. Evolution is the process of actualizing these things.

I think that’s why there are so many religions and different revelations. We have only recently entered this vertical terrain of Spirit, and we’re getting back a lot of different reports on what people find. It’s like the earliest explorers of America. Their maps were very crude because one guy lands in Massachusetts and another guy lands in Florida.

They come back to Europe and the first one says, “There are a lot of forests.” The second one says, “It’s very flat and sandy.” Each person sees different things because it’s not mapped well yet. In the Bible, Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many mansions.” Different people are seeing different mansions, but what is the whole territory that the mansions are in? That’s the interesting question.

WIE: In One Cosmos, you trace cosmic evolution by looking at the relationship between the vertical and the horizontal. In fact, you argue that the Big Bang is the first of four major “singularities” that have brought us to where we are now. Can you explain what you mean by singularity and what these four singularities are?

GODWIN: Singularity is actually the term that’s used for the Big Bang. Physicists define a singularity as a tiny point of space-time so impossibly dense that it is, in effect, infinite and is literally beyond our ability to imagine. But it is also an ontological discontinuity. Ontology is the study of being, and when a singularity occurs, being radically changes character.

That’s why there is not just one but four unaccountable singularities in existence—Matter, Life, Mind, and Spirit—that mark the unfolding of new dimensions in the cosmos. At each of these levels of evolution, there’s a deepening interiority. That’s the vertical dimension. It’s the deepening interior of the cosmos. Each is in its own way a bang, a unique one-of-a-time warp between what was before and what came after.

The first bang goes from nothing to a very exquisitely ordered something. With the second bang, we go from a dead universe to a living universe. That’s pretty bizarre. With the third singularity, we go from a living universe to a thinking and creating universe that mirrors the creator. That’s very bizarre. And then the most bizarre is the fourth singularity when we human beings have the spiritual revelation, “Aha! I am That,” which is very unexpected.

WIE: Could you go through each of the four singularities more fully?

GODWIN: The first singularity is existence itself, creation coming out of nothing, the Big Bang that happened 13.7 billion years ago. I started writing the book in order to understand the Big Bang and where it came from. As you study it—and of course, I’m relying on experts who know a lot more than I do—you realize that it’s quite mysterious that the Big Bang has these beautiful equations that govern it, which if altered one iota would make life impossible.

We wouldn’t be here. It would be a radically different universe. So it’s not just a random explosion; it’s a very ordered explosion with exquisitely beautiful mathematics. The very origins of the cosmos are indistinguishable from beauty and highly refined information, which implies verticality, right from the very beginning. Randomness can’t create that.

The second singularity is the bang of Life, which is also inexplicable. Biologists, in fact, can tell you everything about life except what life is because it’s such a mystery. That bang was approximately 3.85 billion years ago. It’s as startling as the Big Bang—just as unexpected because, after all, the universe was here for ten billion years without life. There’s no interior view on the cosmos. It’s simply pure exterior.

And then, one fine day on this planet, matter loops around itself and suddenly there’s an interior horizon that goes against everything that existed prior to that. It’s literally the beginning of a new universe, one with an interior, because everything interior that follows—the greatest poems and paintings and symphonies and philosophies—all started with that humble beginning of some little piece of matter rebelling against the flow of time and saying “Damn it, I’m going to exist for a while.” And all of our cells replicate that process.

The third singularity is surprising: the development of Mind. This happened relatively recently. You can argue about when it happened, but it’s interesting to realize that it didn’t just follow our genetic completion as Homo sapiens, which was finished somewhere between two hundred thousand and one hundred thousand years ago. We’d been Homo sapiens for a long time, and there was no evidence of what we would call humanness. Our humanness seems to have come from the vertical, not just from horizontal evolution.

All of a sudden, starting about forty thousand years ago in Europe, we see these beautiful cave paintings. We suddenly see burial of the dead. It was sporadic before, a little bit here and there, but now there is widespread burial of the dead. We see body decoration, which implies a new kind of self-consciousness. We see musical instruments. Now how do you explain that? How did humans suddenly manifest these new capacities?

The only way I can explain it is that we entered a new ontological realm—a world of truth and love and beauty. All of those things imply a sense of verticality, a sense of opening into a mental space where there is a recognition of beauty and eternity. It is a different way of being.

But even so, there’s no reason to believe that mind is going to lead to the fourth singularity. This last singularity is the sudden realization, about three thousand years ago at the beginning of the Upanishads, of the I Am. I am That. I am not God, but God and I are indistinguishable and the deepest part of myself is the Atman, is Brahman. Soon after that, beginning around 900 BC, you have the Jewish prophets and the whole Axial Age: Plato, Jesus, Lao Tzu, and others.

Now secular critics would say, “Oh, well. It’s just fantasy. It’s just because of anxiety. They’re making up fairy tales.” But what surprises me is the metaphysical sophistication of the great traditions. Consider the incredible wisdom in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The Jews who composed it were extremely rustic, nomadic, ignorant, illiterate people. Yet it has timeless wisdom that still profoundly applies today, as interpreted by the great rabbis.

Where did this wisdom come from? It almost argues for divine vertical origin because the people themselves couldn’t possibly have possessed it. They were just bringing it from some other dimension. This isn’t natural selection; I call it supernatural election. That’s how the vertical operates. It sort of chooses you: “I’m picking you to be my prophet.”

People who inhabit the I Am shine through history—I call them “fleshlights.” There’s no question that they live in a different dimension and are trying to help us to achieve that dimension as well. Throughout history, their words are there to illuminate us and to draw us toward them. They’re priceless. True spiritual masters use language in such a way that they are able to create the realm that they’re talking about. Their words are not just informational; they’re transformational.

WIE: One of the things that I found most interesting about your work is your assertion that the role that the vertical plays in human history is not limited to religion.

GODWIN: Right. Think about it: If not Churchill in World War II, who would have stepped up to do what he did? He was what I would call a secular mystic. There are so many stories about him talking about how he didn’t know where the words came from when he spoke. Or if you read the spiritual letters that the founding fathers wrote and see how animated they were by high ideals that led to creating this perfect document—the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or Einstein, in science.

When you get right down to it, there is just a handful of people without whom we’d really be screwed-up human beings. It’s like the Jewish idea that there always have to be thirty-six righteous people, and if there’s anything less than that at any given time in history, everything goes to hell. Without these vertical ambassadors, things would really be a lot worse than they are.

Furthermore, the vertical plays a role in all human institutions. All institutions begin by having a higher instrumental purpose, whether it’s the military, the educational system, or whatever. But eventually the institution just begins to care about self-preservation, and that original instrumental task becomes lost. They eventually tend toward horizontality and close off the vertical. When that happens, people will instinctively leave the institution and try to find something else. For example, right now people are fed up with education; they want to home school.

Of course, you see this most obviously at work in religion. The problem with traditional religions is that they try to contain the uncontainable God and boil it down to some formula or some ritual. This creates the need for what Wilfred R. Bion, one of my psychoanalytic mentors, calls the Messiah. The Messiah’s job is to break these ritualized institutional containers to bring the savage immediacy of God back into reality.

This is why you constantly have religious reformations. Buddha, when he came along, was clearly rebelling against a highly institutionalized Hinduism that had lost its verticality. Jesus, at the time, was rebelling against a very horizontal Judaism in which there was the law, but the spirit was gone. On the holidays, you’d bring your pigeon or your sheep and pay off the priests. The destruction of the Temple was what created the deeper, interiorized rabbinical type of Judaism that we know today. Both rabbinical Judaism and Christianity started at the same time out of crisis.

WIE: So you feel the vertical dimension plays a crucial role in moving humanity forward?

GODWIN: I don’t know if it’s a metaphor or if it’s literal, but there is this idea that the avatar comes at key points where psychohistorical evolution has reached an impasse. The avatar comes down to break through the impasse. Take the Jews, for example. People think that the Jews are the chosen people in a narcissistic way, but the opposite is true.

Supposedly, the way the story goes, God gave his offer to every other group and they turned him down! And the Jews reluctantly accepted. There was nothing great about the ancient Hebrew tribes; they were as barbarous as anybody else. They just decided to cut this deal with this God named Jehovah to do his work. It’s not like they’re better than anybody else—it’s that nobody else would do it. And in the Bible, they keep reverting to making sacrifices to Molech. But they were chosen for this mission.

As the Jews developed, you find out, they were striking for a couple of reasons. They were the first culture ever to treat their women as full human beings and their children as treasured beings. By and large, both Greek and Egyptian cultures treated their children and their women horribly. At the time, the Jews were mocked for this, but because they were the most humane to their women and their children, it allowed for a rapid psychohistorical evolution.

This may be why they’re one of the first cultures to discover the One God—to have a more whole and unified experience of the divine. Down through history, the Jews have produced extraordinary people. And I’m not saying this because I’m Jewish, because I’m not! But Jewish people are overrepresented in all fields of excellence. I think it’s because of this leg up they have, and they continue to have, due to this cultural transmission.

It was this aspect of Jewish culture that paved the way for Jesus’ role in history. When you think about it, he could only have appeared from within the matrix of Judaism. Jesus could never have come from the Romans, who worshipped many gods and were so disrespectful of human life. Only the matrix of Judaism could have prepared the way for him to say the crazy things he said about the divine in each human being.

The Integration of the Psyche
and the Evolution of Culture

WIE: There’s something you’re touching on with this point about the Jews that I’d like to go into more deeply. You were saying that there have often been vertical interventions in history that propel humanity forward. This moves us into the territory of cultural evolution. I’m sure that very few deny that culture has evolved on a material level—technology, hygiene, and so forth—but I think most people believe that our sense of self and the way we think and feel have always been the same, that ancient Romans or Greeks were just like you and me except that they lived in a time with less technology. But you argue that the actual experience of being human has changed dramatically over the course of human history.

GODWIN: It is a controversial topic. I really believe that humanity has changed profoundly, although for some reason it’s politically incorrect to think so. Science still thinks of human intelligence as being the product of the brain, that a brain just got complicated enough and then boom!—human intelligence was there. But actually our horizontal intelligence is the product of the very species-specific situation of being born completely helpless and neurologically incomplete.

Way back in time, the human brain was growing at such a dramatic rate that the human infant’s head became too large to pass through the birth canal. This started to kill mothers, so evolution worked out a compromise where we were delivered nine, twelve, or more months premature. And for the baby to survive, the baby needed parents willing to take care of a small helpless infant—because who wants to do that?

So over time, evolution created things like oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes mothers to fall in love with their babies. Evolution created the human family because a mother could not survive by herself with a helpless baby. She had to find a way to lure a man to take care of her, so you have sexuality being available all year round instead of just twice a year as it is with other mammals.

Then, because the child is born in this neurologically incomplete state, the brain is literally growing and assembling itself during the first two years. What happens then is going to be hardwired into us, for better or worse. It’s only now, in the last forty or fifty years, that we have come to really understand attachment theory—the way the personality is created through bonding with caretakers and the effect bonding has on the brain. The more you understand how sensitive this process is, it’s just a no-brainer to apply that to the past and see, wow, the conditions of human development have changed. The way children were treated has changed dramatically, so there must have been implications.

I was very influenced by the work of a psychohistorian named Lloyd deMause. He’s gone in some directions that I disagree with, but he did a lot of very sound research about the history of child rearing and how horrible it was to be a child in the past. Just like it was horrible to be black and it was horrible to be a woman, it was horrible to be a child. When you read about what it was like in earlier times, you wouldn’t want to live there. You would not want to live in the Middle Ages; you would not want to live in ancient Greece. It was bad, except for a very small minority of people.

Let’s take ancient Greece for an example. If you look at Greek parenting, frankly, it’s a horror. There’s incest. Girls are always treated barbarously. When any infant was born, the father could just look at the baby and say, “Eh, let’s get rid of it.” Then they would just leave it outside, give it to the wolves. That’s a very different mindset. Imagine what it would be like for a child to grow up in such a stony, emotionally autistic world.

When you have parents who are capable at a moment’s notice of tossing you out the window and not looking back, you’re going to internalize that. The Greeks lived in a psychologically fragmented state, and their gods reflected that. If you look at the Greek pantheon, they had no ability to conceive of a loving God. They saw only hostile gods, gods who messed around with them, gods who screwed with them just for the fun of it.

Looked at from this perspective, it starts to make sense that the earliest mode of religiosity for human beings was human sacrifice to these sorts of pagan deities, and it was universal. All primitive cultures practiced human sacrifice. There was no concept of monotheism because people couldn’t cognitively entertain it. For example, what the Aztecs did is something unimaginable to us.

They had to have a constant supply of victims because it was their belief that the sun would be extinguished without human blood. Estimates of the number of people sacrificed each year range between fifteen thousand and two hundred fifty thousand. They would drag somebody up to the top of the pyramid, open up their chest while they’re still alive, take the beating heart out of their body, then take a bite out of the beating heart, and hold it up to the sun. It’s as if the average person was like Jeffrey Dahmer or something.
Robert Godwin

WIE: It’s hard to make the connection between human sacrifice and the experience of the sacred. How do these two things work together?

GODWIN: You need to understand the effects of early psychological splitting. The more primitive your mind is, psychoanalytically speaking, the more it exists in unsynthesized fashion. There’s a new model of the unconscious that is different from Freud’s model, where you imagine more or less a horizontal line, a boundary, between the conscious and the unconscious.

The new model of mind recognizes a bunch of vertical splits in consciousness—and not vertical in the way that we were speaking about before. The more difficult and traumatic your childhood is, the more there are going to be these vertical splits in your mind. Certain aspects of your experience are not integrated into your sense of who you are, and these parts are not able to be integrated. Even your own emotions will be experienced as intrusive, as persecutory, as something coming from outside you. In cultures that have child-rearing practices that produce this level of trauma and splitting in the mind, those people have to find some way to appease all of these projected persecutory enemies. That’s probably where sacrifice comes in.

One great writer on this subject is Gil Bailie, who wrote a wonderful book called Violence Unveiled. He argues that the reason for this universal mechanism of human sacrifice was to create solidarity among demon-haunted human beings who were driven by aggression and fear. In the moment that you’re killing the scapegoat, there’s a temporary kind of unity. There’s a kind of awe, because it is so horrible, and you spontaneously fall to your knees. For that moment, everybody’s on the same page.

It could create a sense of the sacred because when you are amidst death, there’s something sacred about it. Bailie talks about how, anthropologically, Jesus was to be the last human sacrifice. His sacrifice was supposed to say once and for all, “Don’t do this anymore because when you do it, you’re killing God.” When we scapegoat somebody who’s innocent, we’re killing God because we’re killing innocence.

Virgins, children, and infants have often been sacrificed because somebody who’s without sin is the one who needs to be sacrificed. Jesus was withoutsin. His sacrifice acts like a poultice on an infected wound. He draws out all of humanity’s sin. He takes all of our poison for us; then we kill him, and that cures us.

In fact, in ancient Greece the word for this kind of sacrifice is farmacon, which means cure, and it also means poison. The human who is sacrificed is the cure, but he or she is also perceived as the toxin. We’re making that person bear the burden of all our toxins. After we kill them, we temporarily feel free of our toxins. But we’ve got to keep doing it over and over again.

WIE: That’s certainly not the picture of the past that we see in mov ies or on TV! I can’t imagine what it would be like if most people walking around the street, as you said, had homicidal tendencies.

GODWIN: I look at the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], which is the diagnostic manual for psychologists, as containing the fossils of the past. Certain personality disorders that we see now, that are relatively rare, were much more common in the past.

The borderline personality is a classic example. These individuals internalize a very chaotic relationship with their mother or their parents early on, so their psyche is completely disregulated as adults. They hate you one moment and they love you the next; they’re just all over the map. They’re impulsive. And when you read about people from the Middle Ages, that’s what they were like. People then were impulsive. Somebody pisses you off in the street, and boom, it’s on. You draw your sword and kill them right there. The mortality rate was much, much higher in the past. Violence was pervasive.

For example, I read a new biography of Shakespeare. At the same time that you have Shakespeare writing the most luminous language that’s ever been written, they were torturing bears right next to where his play was going on. Human heads stuffed on pikes were all around the city as a warning that you’d better not commit crime. They had public executions that were horrific. All of that was going on side by side with Shakespeare’s plays.

It’s unbelievable. We’re talking about sadism merged with human creativity leading to very black, sinister behavior. Whole families would go to see the disemboweling and the burning of witches! If you study psychoanalysts like Melanie Klein and W.R.D. Fairbairn, you see how early relationships are internalized and then lived out later in life. Once you understand that these experiences get locked in, you realize that it’s not just that people at earlier times were a bit different; it’s deeper than that. That’s why I say that the average person was like a Jeffrey Dahmer.

WIE: We still complain about exposing children to violence in the media, but the picture you are painting is very extreme. Unfathomable, really. It’s fascinating that it is only recently that we have recognized how delicate child development is and how much care children need in order to develop.

GODWIN: Absolutely. It’s only been maybe a hundred years since we realized that the child has an interior, that the child is not just an object. This is why I have found Lloyd deMause’s work so compelling. Through his extensive research, he presents an evolutionary theory in which he argues that there have literally been different phases of human development that go along with improvement in child rearing.

Throughout history, in Western Europe particularly, child-rearing methods have improved. When child-rearing practices change significantly, they produce what he calls a new psycho-class. Now, as I’ve said, I don’t accept his views completely, but I think he’s really on to something. For example, I think you can see that a new psycho-class has emerged in the baby boomer generation. Dr. Spock’sBaby and Child Care was a bestseller in the fifties. My mom read it; all mothers read it. Our whole cohort was raised in a new, much more humane way. In fact, we were raised in the most humane way of any children in history.

There might even be a genetic basis to these psycho-classes, which is also very controversial. A study came out a couple of months ago that showed that our brains are still evolving. There’s an assumption in science that brains stopped evolving a hundred to a hundred fifty thousand years ago. But now they’re finding that brains are changing, that they are evolving, and that different groups are evolving at different rates.

The more humane your child rearing and the better your nutrition, the more opportunities you have to actualize your potential. So after a period of time, wouldn’t those brains become bigger and more complex? Ken Wilber makes this point too. Whenever we evolve mentally, there has to be a neurological substrate that develops at the same time. It doesn’t mean it’s reduced to neurology, but the two are going to go along together.

The implications are profound. That’s why the world has not synchronized its calendars. We’re all living in 2006, but there are many cultures where people actually function as if it were still 1700, and some as if it were 1500. The last totally primitive tribes only died out about thirty years ago. People are living in different developmental times, where they have very different ideas of sexual relations.

Women are still property; children are certainly property. Think about the difference between having a mother who is able to live in a linguistic world space of sophisticated abstract thinking and having a mother who is so concrete in her thinking that she’s not that far removed from being a primate. Literate mothers make a huge difference. If a person is not literate and has been abused, he or she is even more likely to act out on the children whatever sadism he or she has internalized. These issues do play out generationally, even though there are exceptions in each culture. There’s higher and there’s lower; it’s not uniform.

As part of my job as a clinical psychologist, I’m able to evaluate patients from many different cultures, and believe me, there are differences. There are differences from the bottom, meaning different practices in child rearing, that I think explain what goes on at the top, in adulthood. There are certain cultures where it’s as if every person is the same. They tell you the same story; they describe the same experiences. Their culture and the people themselves haven’t discovered individuality. The emphasis on individual development happened only very recently in history and really only in the West. In most cultures, historically, the emphasis has been on group identity. Nobody’s different from anybody else, and nobody really stands out.

WIE: How do differing degrees of fragmentation in the psyche relate to our religious or spiritual experience?

GODWIN: Somebody who has a fragmented psyche is often predisposed to extreme experiences. They can have very out-there experiences because their psyche is disregulated, but they can’t really make them stable. People who are traumatized, like incest survivors, are susceptible to disassociation and derealization where they can easily be disregulated into altered states of being that are, well, spiritual. But there are good realms of the spiritual, and there are bad realms of the spiritual. People who are fragmented can easily tap into other dimensions.

Look at it this way. All science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. Any great scientific theory takes a whole range of phenomena and then organizes it into a vision that unifies it. That is what depth is. The creation of depth is the unification of multiplicity into unity. So it makes sense, therefore, that the more unified you become as a person, the more clearly you see the light. Most spiritual training touches on this in some form—becoming one, becoming whole.

We have all of these competing parts of ourselves, and if they’re all brought together on the same page, by virtue of
creating a more unitary being, it automatically creates a depth in the universe. The more unity you have within, the more deeply you will see without.

WIE: So where do you think we are going now? Where is Western individualism leading us?

GODWIN: First, I’d say that this kind of depth work, the exploration of consciousness, is now available to more and more people. In the past, it was available only to the few people who entered monasteries. Almost everyone else was doing backbreaking work practically 24/7. With modernity, for the first time your average person really does have the leisure and the resources—all of the great mystical literature as well as the cognitive, psychological, and emotional resources—to seek spiritually.

Yet the downside of Western individualism, of course, is narcissism, self-absorption, and the idea that everything can be fulfilled in the horizontal. All we get on TV is a steady diet of horizontality, which kills the vertical. Now we have the search for what is being called “authenticity.” So the richest people are the biggest lowlifes, like Paris Hilton. I call it downward mobility.

They show their authenticity by completely overturning any kind of authority, any hierarchy. They’re what I call the vertical barbarians because they’re attacking verticality. They are purely horizontal beings who assault the very idea of verticality, which is what’s so damaging about something like MTV. It’s a constant feast of bestial horizontality. And I’m no prude or anything like that; it has nothing to do with that. But just as there were horizontal barbarians who destroyed Rome, we have vertical barbarians who are destroying our culture.

WIE: It’s a tricky situation because the traditional way to have access to the vertical is through religion. But very few of us postmodern individualists are going to turn to the traditions. To move forward, it seems we need something new.

GODWIN: That’s a very good point. How do ironists find something that they revere and don’t just mock and look down upon? How do you make them look up? That’s the trick.

In some form or fashion, you have to find something that you spontaneously bow to, that you revere. And it can’t be something lower. It can’t just be Gaia. It’s got to be something higher that you recognize as such that makes you fall to your knees spontaneously. I’m trying to reanimate and reawaken awe, and trying to bypass or trick irony into recognizing this adventure of consciousness that we’re privileged to be on.

I think of the break from tradition as our adolescence, our break away from parental authority. But you can’t be an adolescent forever and we seem stuck here. We’re up on our hind legs, thinking almost in a nineteenth-century way that science has now conquered everything so that all human needs can be fulfilled. Now we have to find a way to enter our true spiritual adulthood, not the old authoritarian adulthood and not the adolescent rebellion of materialism, secularism, Marxism, and all those things.

We’re just at the very beginning of moving to the next stage. Andrew Cohen, Ken Wilber, myself—we’re all in our different ways trying to create a postmodern spirituality for people so they can leave adolescence and become grownups. That brings with it a new kind of responsibility, one that comes quite naturally once you enter into it. There’s a spontaneous desire to give. And when you meet a fellow traveler on the way, it’s a great joy.

I relate to any serious spiritual practitioner of any variety much more than to anybody else. Those are people with whom there’s a shared intimacy. And we’re all trying to create more fellow travelers. We’re trying to populate the lands that we’ve discovered.

Here’s a metaphor to leave you with. Look at the external movement of human evolution, going out of Africa and into Europe, then crossing the Atlantic, then coming to the East Coast of the United States, and then slowly migrating into the frontier—to the West Coast. Then the frontier closes. By the 1890s, there is nothing left. That’s when the interior journey really starts on a cultural level. You start seeing postmodern people like James Joyce, Einstein, Picasso.

All of a sudden, you see much more focus on the interior as the new frontier. We are now just beginning to explore that interior frontier. That’s what’s so exciting about it. People long for that old frontier:

“Oh, gosh, I wish I could go live on the frontier again.” But the frontier is here and now. The interior frontier is here, ready to be conquered and explored and inhabited. It’s so exciting. We’re on this incredible interior journey now, and we’re finding out that this is the only journey that is or has ever been. Because for us, the exterior frontier was actually an interior frontier all along. It was a longing for new horizons, for new experiences. All along it was that. But now we don’t have the inconvenience of the material world to worry about. We don’t have to “Go west, young man.” Now it’s “Go in and go up. Become inwardly mobile.” That’s the real journey and the next evolution.

A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being

An Interview with Dr. John F. Haught – By Amy Edelstein

Standing in front of the annual Metanexus conference on science and religion at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, Dr. John F. Haught cut a quiet and impressive figure. One of the more passionate proponents of an evolved and evolving spirituality, Haught is personally committed to dissecting what he feels are the gross oversimplifications and confusions in Intelligent Design and to postulating instead a vision of our evolutionary trajectory that runs (as one of his books is so aptly titled) “deeper than Darwin.”

A prolific writer, engaged Catholic, and Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Haught is no ordinary Christian theologian. Profoundly influenced by the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which he discovered when he was just twenty-three, he has spent the last thirty-five years breaking new ground in systematic theology, melding a deep understanding of religion with the wisdom gleaned from cosmology, biology, and ecology.

With unusual originality, Haught has focused his attention on the deeper questions, relating natural science to the emerging capacities of consciousness. In his careful efforts to find new ways to define the upward groping of sentience and conscience, Haught deftly teases out a perspective that merges a profound understanding of the principles of biological evolution with a religious sensitivity for the mystery of life.

A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being

Haught’s precise mind and inquisitive heart are doing much to encourage a higher level of discussion in the world of evolutionary theology, invigorating the debate between science and religion. After speaking with him for just twenty minutes, my own grasp of where the march of evolution is taking us deepened in ways I never would have anticipated.

Among John Haught’s many accomplishments are the authorship of ten books, the 2002 Owen Garrigan Award in Science and Religion, and the 2004 Sophia Award for Theological Excellence.

WIE: In a recent talk at the 2006 Metanexus Conference, you spoke about the Darwinian recipe for evolution as “random events plus natural selection plus deep time equals evolution.” You said that this was an inadequate explanation. Can you say why?

John Haught: From a scientific point of view, the Darwinian recipe might be considered to be sufficient because when you are a scientist, you don’t ask questions about the meaning of the universe or the value of things. You don’t ask about purpose; you don’t bring in the idea of subjectivity or the idea of God. From the beginning of the modern age, science decided that it would leave these things out of its consideration and focus only on the physical or material causes of things. That’s perfectly all right. That’s the scientific method.

The question is whether through this focus we have left something out, and in fact, most people believe that something has been left out—even scientists. Most of them agree that science does not give the final or ultimate explanation of anything, so that’s the main reason I would say that the Darwinian recipe, since it’s part of science, is inadequate. Any scientific explanation is inadequate to give the deepest understanding of phenomena.

Now you might say that’s a belief on my part. In a sense it is, but so is the belief that science is the only route to truth. So what we have here are two belief systems. The first one is that science is the only route to truth, which is known as scientism. Scientism leads to a worldview that I refer to as scientific naturalism, which is the view that since science can talk only about nature, nature is all there is. If you believe that science is the only way to get to the truth, then the only thing you will find through science is nature.

The other belief is that nature is inexhaustibly deep. This means that there’s a depth dimension to nature: Nature is not all there is; there is infinitely more; there is a great mystery in which nature is embedded; and we get an inkling of that mystery from time to time, especially in religious experience. But even when we’re doing ordinary things, we come up against what might be called limit experiences and limit questions. It’s those questions that open us up to mystery and those questions to which religion is the appropriate response.

WIE: What you are saying reminds me that St. Augustine said that humanity has an innate desire for the infinite. Could you describe what your sense of that infinite is and how it may differ from a sense of material infinity?

Haught: Sometimes people ask, “What is the evidence that the infinite exists?” For Augustine and for many religious people throughout the ages, the best evidence is the utter restlessness of the human heart. You could extend that also to the restlessness of the intellect itself. We all realize that no matter how much we know, there is yet more to be known; we all realize that no matter how much we get in life, how much we have, how much we possess, we are never fully filled up by it. So there is, in a sense, a God-shaped hole at the heart of our being. That’s what Augustine was saying—our hearts are restless until we rest in the infinite.

Now the way we become aware of the infinite is not so much by knowing it as by allowing ourselves to be grasped by it. This often happens without people realizing it. For example, even a scientist is grasped by the value of the truth and surrenders his or her life to the pursuit of that truth. Whether they say so explicitly or not, I think many scientists, if not most, have made a commitment to something much larger than themselves that is inexhaustible.

They realize that no matter how much they probe, the horizons will keep on receding. I associate that very closely with what theology refers to as religious experience. So we come in contact with this infinite horizon—which Augustine referred to as God—in very subtle ways that oftentimes we are not aware of. Religion simply tries to make us more explicitly aware of, and especially grateful to, that horizon of depth, that horizon of an infinite future, a horizon of infinite beauty and truth that keeps calling us, that keeps addressing us, that keeps summoning us. And in doing so, it gives us vitality, life, and meaning.

So something religious is going on even in scientific work, not in the scientific information itself but in the commitment to the idea that the universe is intelligible and truth is worth seeking. Those are religious convictions. You can’t prove scientifically that truth is worth seeking, but it’s the conviction that it is worth seeking that underlies all good science. Religion lifts this up and makes it more explicit.

It symbolically names that depth, that truth, that meaning, and refers to it in Western theology as God or Allah, or in Eastern thought as Brahman or Tao. People have always had different names in different cultures for this sense of an absolute that gives significance to their lives. The evidence for this dimension is not the same as scientific evidence, but I would not say that religion is simply a leap into the dark. Something tangibly and palpably grabs hold of religious people. We can call it “mystery” just to give it a general name.

WIE: You said very poetically that we have “a God-shaped hole” in our heart. Do you feel that the shape of that hole is changing or evolving? In other words, do you feel that our sense of God is evolving?

Haught: Oh yes. Just by virtue of the emergence of science, it gives us a different understanding of the universe and of ourselves. For example, Darwinian evolution gives us a deeper understanding of ourselves, which changes this sense of restlessness that I’ve been speaking about. The idea of a God-shaped hole is not my idea—it’s been talked about a lot. The restlessness itself is a constant. What changes are its symbolic expressions. Our theological and philosophical ideas, as well as scientific and cultural ideas, influence what fills that hole. Each generation looks at it differently.

For example, the French priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin argues that there are three different ways of being religious today. One is what he calls communion with God, which is the traditional idea that our best way of living is to detach ourselves from this world and try to put ourselves in touch with another world beyond this one.

The second understanding of religion is what he calls communion with the earth. He’s referring to scientific naturalism or to religious naturalism, which is the view that nature itself is enough to fill our hearts. Many people feel that the physical universe has been made so expansive and so interesting by developments in evolutionary biology and geology and cosmology and astrophysics that nature is enough to fill that hole. This is quite different content from that of traditional religion.

Teilhard himself proposed a third way of being religious that he calls communion with God through the earth, meaning that we want to keep alive our sense of the infinite, our sense of the eternal, our sense of the divine, even as we remember that the way in which we come in contact with that divine reality is only by way of natural reality or by way of things immediate to our experience.

We can’t have a naked experience of the divine; it’s always mediated or expressed through creation, through nature, culture, history, and so forth. The advantage of this approach is that it allows us to become involved in earthly matters but in such a way as to realize that there’s always something more—that no matter how much we love nature, how much nature fills us up, there’s a horizon of infinity beyond nature, deeper than nature, that gives us a future and, in a sense, gives us a guarantee that nature, too, has a meaningful outcome.

In fact, the problem with pure naturalism, which is the second approach, is that it does not guarantee that there is any ultimate victory over meaninglessness. If nature is all there is, since we know scientifically that nature is going to someday reach an energetic death by entropy, then there’s no getting around the idea that ultimately everything goes down into a pit of nothingness.

Teilhard’s third alternative is not that we try to escape from nature but that we actually travel with nature into the infinite. You might say that nature is a fellow traveler rather than the ultimate context of our existence. The root of our restlessness is the whole evolution of the cosmos itself. Thus when we think about ourselves and our destiny, we can’t dissociate them from the destiny of the whole universe. It’s a much wider and deeper approach for religiously sensitive people than either of the first two.

WIE: This third perspective of Teilhard’s also suggests that evolution is ongoing as opposed to the idea that we have come to an endpoint in the evolution of human beings.

Haught: Because there are fourteen billion years that preceded our emergence in this universe, we are too likely to say, “Okay, finally nature has reached its goal in producing us.” But there’s no reason for us to think that we’re anywhere near the end of the cosmic journey. I believe with Teilhard that the goal is not us—the goal is “more being.”

The universe has a tendency that is almost silly for us to overlook. Ever since the beginning, it has been in the process of more being or, as Teilhard puts it, of bringing things of a higher degree of value into existence. By anybody’s standards, there’s a real difference between the human brain and human culture, on the one hand, and the primordial radiation that the universe began with. Something is working itself out in this universe. What is that? At the very least, it is this process of becoming more and more complex in its mode of organization.

But more than that, it has been in the business of producing higher degrees of awareness, of sentience, of feeling, of enjoyment, and especially of consciousness and freedom. But anybody who lives on this planet knows that we haven’t become fully conscious, that we still haven’t become fully free. We still get lost in our feelings and dull our senses; in other words, we live in an unfinished universe. And if the universe is unfinished, then that means it has a future. We don’t know exactly what that is, but it enjoins us to care for the natural world environmentally, for example, so that it does have the opportunity to have a future.

Right now what we’re doing is closing down life systems all over the planet, and that’s because we have assumed that we’re IT, that this is all, that this is the end of the journey. But if we consider that we are fellow travelers with nature and not the end of it all, then I think we would be more willing to take care of nature and to allow it to have the future that perhaps God has some vision of but we do not. We should leave ourselves open. We can’t describe or predict the evolutionary developments in the world’s future with any great accuracy, but maybe they would take the form of even deeper consciousness and deeper freedom, deeper capacity to love and feel, and so forth. At the very least, we should leave ourselves open to those possibilities.

Ten Metaphysical Lessons from James Cameron’s Avatar [Updated May 6, 2010]

Avatar Trailer The Movie (New Extended HD Trailer)

1. The Interconnectedness of Life

In James Cameron’s Avatar, the scientists were fascinated to discover that the roots system of the forest were completely interconnected and acted as one nervous system for the planet Pandora. This premise is supported by recent scientific breakthroughs such as discussed in the following book by legendary physicist Fritjof Capra.

The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems
by: Fritjof Capra

During the past twenty-five years, scientists have challenged conventional views of evolution and the organization of living systems and have developed new theories with revolutionary philosophical and social implications. Fritjof Capra has been at the forefront of this revolution. In The Web of Life, Capra offers a brilliant synthesis of such recent scientific breakthroughs as the theory of complexity, Gaia theory, chaos theory, and other explanations of the properties of organisms, social systems, and ecosystems. Capra’s surprising findings stand in stark contrast to accepted paradigms of mechanism and Darwinism and provide an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that will allow us to build and sustain communities without diminishing the opportunities for future generations.

2. All Life is Sacred

Honoring Life Even When Taking Life
Part of Jake Sully’s training as a Na’vi was the ceremonies performed when taking a life. This then balanced the cycle of life and kept the harmony with Nature. Consider bringing back ceremony into your own life…

Sacred Ceremony: How to Create Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrationsby: Steven Farmer

In Sacred Ceremony: Honoring the Holiness in Everyday Life, Steven Farmer offers ideas on how to create your own ceremonies to consecrate the critical events and passages that you experience on your life’s journey. Rather than complex rituals or exacting formulas, Sacred Ceremony offers clear guidelines and suggestions for honoring the spiritual nature of these important milestones

3. Interspecies Communication is Possible with Energy
Animal Communication
On Avatar, mental telepathy was used to connect with the animals and enhance interaction with them. Communicating with animals here is easy with a few good tips such as offered in this book.

Animal Talk: Interspecies Telepathic Communication
by: Penelope Smith

Have you ever wondered what your cat or dog or horse is thinking? Animal Talk presents tried-and-true telepathic communication techniques developed by the author that can dramatically transform people’s relationships with other species on all levels — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It explains how to solve behavior problems, how to figure out where your animal hurts, how to discover animals’ likes and dislikes, and why they do the things they do. You can learn the language that will open the door to your animal friends’ hearts and minds.

4.Listen to Your Intuition
Listening to What We Know versus What We’ve Been Told to Do
In the journey of Jake and Neyteri, both must listen to their own intuition versus their social conditioning. Everyone is intuitive and developing it can deeply enrich your life.
Awakening Intuition: Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight and Healing
by: Mona Lisa Schulz M.D. Ph.D.

Schultz is a physician, neuropsychiatrist, and neuroscientist who has worked as a “medical intuitive” for more than a decade. Far from claiming extraordinary powers, Schultz believes we are all intuitive and can train ourselves to tap into our resources. “It’s a real down-to-earth capacity that is available to anyone willing to tune in his transmitter and listen in to what’s being broadcast,” writes Schultz. “The information it offers us is practical, and it can immeasurably improve and enrich our lives.”

5.Death Is a Natural Part Of Life

Death is Not To Be Feared
The Na’vi handled death with acceptance knowing the soul was returning to Eywa, the divine Mother of the Na’vi. A death was supported with ceremony. In this classic book, the Buddhist practices of accepting and preparing for death are every pertinent to us. It is true…to live well includes dying well.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The Spiritual Classic & International Bestseller; Revised and Updated Edition
by: Sogyal Rinpoche

Through extraordinary anecdotes and stories from religious traditions East and West, Rinpoche introduces the reader to the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, moving gradually to the topics of death and dying. Death turns out to be less of a crisis and more of an opportunity. Concepts such as reincarnation, karma, and bardo and practices such as meditation, tonglen, and phowa teach us how to face death constructively. As a result, life becomes much richer.

6.Reincarnation is Possible

Reincarnation is an Option Too
The concept of the Avatar is an intriguing one…the consciousness shifts into an alternate body. This pretty much describes what happens in reincarnation. Through this concept Jake Sully experienced a miracle in his life. In this book, the same possibility is unlocked for the reader.

Past Lives, Present Miracles: The Most Empowering Book on Reincarnation You’ll Ever Read…in this Lifetime!by: Denise Linn

Miracles can occur in your life, easily and effortlessly. It’s simply a matter of remembering who you are-and to do this it’s necessary to clear the blockages that stand between you and your soul. Almost all of these obstacles have their roots in your distant past, so it’s valuable to travel back in time to release them. However, most of us are so caught up in limiting beliefs about who we are that it’s almost impossible to take that journey. In this book, you’ll learn how to travel back to your previous incarnations to release buried obstructions so you can create the miracles in your life that you deserve! It’s safe, easy, and fun . . . and anyone can do it!

7. All Life Radiates Light.
The Human Energy Field Radiates Light
On Pandora, the world of Avatar, everything is bioluminessent. But we, too, radiate light through our energy fields. People with higher sense perception are able to perceive this light and science is beginning to be able to measure it as well.

Human Energy Fields: A New Science and Medicine
by: Colin A. Ross, M.D.

In Human Energy Fields, Dr. Ross describes a hard science and medicine with applications, testable hypotheses, and instrumentation. The core proposition of the science is: the human energy field, called chi, the human aura, the life force, or the human spirit in different philosophical systems, and the electromagnetic field of the body are the same thing. Dr. Ross outlines practical applications of the science in many different fields including anthropology, medicine, agriculture, weapons development, security systems, physiology, and psychotherapy. He describes three specific devices that can be used in the study of human energy fields, and proves scientifically that, in one specific instance, western science is wrong about what is scientific and what is paranormal.

8.A Greater Consciousness Communicates to Us Through Signs
Divining the Future: Discover and Shape Your Destiny by Interpreting Signs, Symbols and Dreams- by: Sally Morningstar

Reading Signs is Like Interpreting Dreams.The Na’vi interpreted signs as presented to them by Nature and Eywa, their Divine Mother. Whether you believe you are talking to guides, angels, your higher self, the Divine or just your subconscious, interpreting signs can help you navigate more easily on your soul’s path.

9.At its True Essence Science is Spiritual
Spiritual Science and Metaphysics Go Hand in Hand.The study of universal laws is a deeply spiritual one. The scientists of Avatar were having spiritual experiences as they explored the universal laws on Pandora.
The Science of the Soul: Explaining the Spiritual Universe (Sacred Science Chronicles, Volume 3)

The Science of the Soul describes the nature and purpose of the soul, the most important aspect of a human. Age-old questions of life’s purpose, why we are here, and human destiny are understood by understanding the soul. The books explains the involution (the Fall) and evolution of the soul, the concept of rebirth and destiny, the spiritual planes including Heaven and Hell, and the spiritual inhabitants and their hierarchy. The Science of the Soul examines the soul after death and the holographic science underlying spirit and matter.

10. To See The Divine in Another is To Truly See Them
Avatar’s Version of Namaste is “I see you…”
Namaste is a Hindi phrase used as a greeting that means, “the divine in me sees the divine in you.” In Avatar the phrase, “I see you” was a special greeting similar to Namaste that meant the the seer was recognizing the divine in the other person. The greatest expression of love possible is when two people connect from this level of “seeing.” In this book Chopra discusses how we are hardwired for recognizing the divine.

The Essential How to Know God: The Essence of the Soul’s Journey Into the Mystery of Mysteries (The Essential Deepak Chopra)
by: Deepak Chopra

According to Chopra, the brain is hardwired to know God. The human nervous system has seven biological responses that correspond to seven levels of divine experience. These are shaped not by any one religion (they are shared by all faiths), but by the brain’s need to take an infinite, chaotic universe and find meaning in it. How to Know God describes the quest each of us is on, whether we realize it or not. For, as Chopra puts it, “God is our highest instinct to know ourselves.” This book makes a dramatic and enduring contribution to that knowledge.

What Message Did You Get From Avatar?

Reference: http://www.squidoo.com/james-camerons-avatar–ten-spiritual-lessons-from-a-great-movie-and-director

Avatar – Top 5 Spiritual Lessons Revealed From the Movie Avatar

Avatar – Top 5 Spiritual Lessons Revealed From the Movie Avatar – By Amy C.

Avatar, a 2009 movie directed by James Cameron, has several spiritual lessons embedded in it. Here are the top 5 spiritual lessons from the well acclaimed must-watch movie.

1. Everything is Alive.
Each particle of creation is filled with awareness, life force energy, spirit, and intelligence. These objects have different consciousness than ours. The universal consciousness, also known as ‘Animism’, is an integral part of several primitive cultures.

This beautiful planet on which we live is not a dead lump of rocks circulating around the sun in space. Everything in this earth is pulsating with energy. Every culture knows it differently. Chinese calls it Chi, Indians call it Prana, Japanese call it Ki. The “bio-botanical neural network” described in the movie is real and we can experience it by increasing our consciousness. If there is one thing that I take home from this movie, it is that we should treat this earth and every living and non-living thing on this earth with respect and love. The “tree of souls” is as real as you believe it to be.

2. Love is the most powerful purifier of all.
When our heart is filled with love, it heals us. This positive frequency goes out from us and resonates with everything around us. The heart filled with love creates electromagnetic field that affects the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. Love purifies the spirit. It cleanses the soul.

3. Everything is born twice.
Your physical birth is simply the beginning of your consciousness. What you do with your life and how you earn your place in the community decides your second birth. Most people never reach the level of consciousness to be born again. To be born again, a person has to earn his or her place in the community. A real warrior has to earn place in the community by cultivating fearlessness and good heart.

4. Balance is the key to all life.
“Mother earth does not take sides; she protects only the balance of life,” a quote from movie reveals that mother earth promotes balance and harmony over everything else. Several Hindu and Zen spiritual theories promote balance and harmony as well. For long term sustainability, nothing takes precedence of balance.

5. This world is a collaboration of energies and every individual has something to contribute.
Everybody has a purpose in life. Living a purposeful life puts you in attunement with rest of the universe. All the life force energy comes to your aid when your purpose is in attunement with betterment of the universe as a whole. “All energy is only borrowed…You have to give it back” – a direct quote from the movie reveals the quintessential aspect of how energy of both living and non-living things interacts and creates our universe.

Living your life by these 5 principles is bound to fill your life with love, joy, and serenity.

Krishnamurti – The Real Revolution – Part 1 of 2

This 30-minute documentary is the first from an original series of eight made for television in 1966. They were the earliest sound-films of Krishnamurti speaking to audiences.
Click to Part 2 at the end of this video clip.

Transforming the Seeds of Corruption – Brother Wayne Teasdale

An interview with Brother Wayne Teasdale
by Amy Edelstein

“We have a universal responsibility to speak out when we see injustice, oppression, and the abuse of human rights, the rights of the earth, and other species,” writes an impassioned Brother Wayne Teasdale in his book The Mystic Heart. “Personally, I find the silence [on the crisis in Tibet] disturbing and morally indefensible; it indicates a lack of courage and moral strength that hides behind considerations of prudence and discretion.”

There are few souls as gentle as Brother Wayne Teasdale, “lay monk” and pioneer of the interfaith movement, who also speak as stridently and compellingly as he does about the necessity for all spiritual leaders to actively respond to the crises facing the world. But for Teasdale, the result of any true and deep mystical experience must be an active and engaged response to the cries of a suffering humanity and an embattled earth. Brother Wayne Teasdale has devoted much of his life to facilitating understanding, respect, and practical cooperation among spiritual leaders. Serving on the board for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, he was instrumental in bringing almost eight thousand people of different faiths together for the 1993 Chicago Parliament, an event that led, among other things, to the pivotal signing by two hundred spiritual leaders of Guidelines for a Global Ethic. He also organized the Synthesis Dialogues, an interreligious, interdisciplinary forum moderated by H.H. the Dalai Lama, designed to bring key figures from diverse professions together to explore the value and implications of mystical experience. And, together with His Holiness, he helped to draft the influential Universal Declaration on Nonviolence.

Teasdale’s spiritual calling began almost fifty years ago when, as a child, one warm summer’s eve, awed by the infinite splash of stars in the dark sky, he decided that when he grew up, he was going to be a priest. Raised in a Catholic family in Connecticut, his early years were full of faith and optimism, but the tumultuous times of the sixties and the cruelty and inhumanity of the Vietnam War sorely challenged his nascent conviction in the immediacy and goodness of God and plunged him into what he describes as a three-year-long “dark night of the soul.”

In the midst of this period, questions unresolved, Teasdale enrolled in a small Catholic college in New Hampshire run by monks of the Benedictine Order. The monks were associated with St. Joseph’s Abbey, a monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts, whose abbot, the highly revered Father Thomas Keating, ran contemplative retreats for laypeople that Teasdale attended. Teasdale’s time with Keating had a profound impact on him, reopening him to the mystical dimension of life. During those days, he writes, “The divine completely took me over . . . I was often taken out of myself, my consciousness enlarged, and perceptions of everything altered from within. Space and time were suspended—I couldn’t think, analyze, remember, imagine, or speak. I hovered between fear and awe. . . . Saturated by [the Divine’s] incomparable love and mystery, all I could do was to assent to its presence within, around, and through me. . . . Fired with urgency and expectation, I gave myself to the divine.”

With renewed commitment, Teasdale dedicated himself to his spiritual practice. In 1973, he struck up a correspondence with Father Bede Griffiths, a spirited and innovative Benedictine monk who drew on Eastern meditative traditions to enrich his Christian path of charity and selfless service, and eventually Teasdale spent two years at Griffiths’s Benedictine ashram in southern India. Life in India opened his eyes both to the depth of Eastern mysticism and to the very pressing reality of overpopulation, deforestation, environmental degradation, and resource depletion. Taking a renewed set of renunciate vows under Griffiths, Teasdale dedicated himself to a life of simplicity, service, and ‘interspiritual’ pursuit.

Deeply convinced that solutions to problems of the magnitude facing our world today lie in genuine mystical experience, experience that transcends the boundaries of religion and culture, Brother Wayne Teasdale has become a tireless spokesperson for the practical power of profound spiritual realization. “It is the inner life that is to spark the change in consciousness that will permit us to advance,” he emphatically states. “My own inner, or mystical, process . . . accounts for the passion with which I speak.”


WIE: Brother Wayne, you feel very strongly about the tragedy of the Chinese invasion of Tibet and are one of the leading Christian spokespeople for the cause of the Tibetan people as well as a personal friend of the Dalai Lama. You’ve gone so far as to say that the response of the world’s spiritual leaders to the situation in Tibet is the critical test of our times, “a test that will measure the mettle of our planet’s spiritual leadership.” This is quite a bold statement. Why do you feel this way?

WAYNE TEASDALE: Let me clarify. It is equally true that the tragedy in Rwanda is a test, because it’s a challenge to be able to have that kind of concern for people in Africa, or in Kosovo, or in the Middle East, and so forth. But there’s something unique about the Tibetan situation. There’s such a parallel between what is happening to the Tibetans and what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust. And now there’s an opportunity for the world and the spiritual leaders to respond. That’s number one. Number two: The Tibetan struggle is a nonviolent struggle. This is not true of these other struggles. The one between the Palestinians and the Israelis is fraught with hatred, violence, vengeance, and incredible irrationality, and also, both sides have many advocates in other nations. But the Tibetans don’t. Their nonviolent struggle is a continuation of the ideal that Gandhi put forth, which is an incredibly important resource. I really think that what Gandhi did is a form of revelation. I believe that through his life and teachings, the Divine gave us some vital resources and skills that are going to serve our planet for millennia. The example of the Dalai Lama and the struggle of the Tibetans continue and deepen and reinforce what was gained through Gandhi, and therefore, the Tibetan cause must be supported. And then thirdly, this is an incredibly precious culture. It’s reached a very high point and we mustn’t lose it.

WIE: How do you feel that taking a stand with the situation in Tibet will galvanize the world’s conscience?

WT: Well, let us say, for instance, that the Vatican gets off the fence and takes a leadership role. It will focus the world’s attention, and slowly governments will begin to realize how serious this is in terms of the moral development of the planet. We can’t have business as usual; we have to solve this. The religions coming together would be a powerful step forward in bringing this tragedy to an end. I believe, in the fullest sense, what I said before about this being a test. I don’t mean that it’s just a challenge. I mean it is a test.

WIE: You’ve said that if we fail, if we don’t respond, then it’s a sign of a real lack of evolution on a moral and spiritual level.

WT: Yes. Individuals may be capable of evolution but maybe not the whole of humanity, as represented by institutions like the Catholic Church. They just don’t seem to have that moral level of awareness. Still, there are some voices in the Vatican that are looking for a new vision, and I think that the Church could be extremely effective and influential if it put its genius of organization to the service of the interfaith movement for justice, ecology, and peace.

WIE: You passionately advocate the coming together of individuals from different spiritual traditions as an essential step toward solving the pressing problems of our times. Why do you believe that interfaith dialogue can bring about global change, and how do you envision it working on a spiritual and practical level?

WT: So many of the wars in history, thousands and thousands of them for the past five, six, seven thousand years, have been related to differences in Truth claims. If we can evolve beyond that problem, then I think there’s some chance that we could retire the whole institution of war and begin to focus on the peaceful evolution of humanity. If the ecological crisis, for example, is to be solved and if we are to promote genuine justice and thus bring real peace to the planet—and with it the possibility of improving lives on every level, not just economically, socially, and politically, but spiritually, psychologically, and intellectually—then, just on a practical level, we need to have all of the religions working together.

I feel that slowly the interfaith movement is replacing the old habits of mutual isolation, hostility, competition, conflict, and ignorance of one another’s traditions with habits of mutual trust, mutual respect, and friendship.

WIE: In your book, The Mystic Heart, you write about how deep mystical experience will engender the depth of care and perspective that will enable us to truly respond to the crisis facing the world, to the needs of the whole. Can you speak about the relationship between mystical experience and the arising of compassion?

WT: Well, in my experience in the mystical life, I find myself becoming more and more aware of the Source as “inherently warmhearted.” The vast consciousness that is the Divine is not a cold analytical intelligence—it emanates from its very core a concern. Heidegger said that the essence of being is concern, and this is what many of the traditions have tried to communicate, even the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha said that once a person lets go of the focus on self-interest, then they see that all is emptiness and all is compassion. And that compassion, that ultimate concern that Heidegger is talking about, that agapic or selfless love, is the connectivity of all sentient beings. It’s the glue that holds it all together.

WIE: Are you saying that this profound care for the whole will naturally arise from the realization of the Source, or from what Buddhists call “emptiness”?

WT: Yes, absolutely.

WIE: The teachings of Jesus present an interesting challenge to the interfaith movement. While Jesus preached compassion and tolerance, he himself was first and foremost concerned with defending the truth. He raged at the Jewish priests who were destroying true spirituality through their corruption, and rather than sitting down with them in dialogue, he stormed into their temples and overturned the tables as a statement of his uncompromising stand. In the spiritual endeavor, if the goal is first and foremost ecumenical tolerance, then it’s likely that such a broad net will be cast that important distinctions will not be made and the result will be compromise on the most crucial matters. How do you reconcile the movement to accommodate all religions with the imperative to stand for what is true?

WT: That’s a very tricky question. Our work in interfaith doesn’t require us to submerge our differences or to sacrifice what one has seen or experienced of ultimate truth or ultimate reality, but it does require us not to be quite so overbearing. It’s not a competition. It’s a question of sharing what we know and what is our position, our faith, our experience—just not in a militant way where we lose compassion and perspective.

Why was Jesus so angry with the money changers in the temple? Because they were misguiding the people. The temple was supposed to be a forum for relating to God, and it had become a very worldly place of commerce. They had distorted what that was all about; that’s why he got so angry. I think it was like a therapy to shock them out of that kind of behavior.

WIE: With the crisis facing the world, it seems like we have to do a lot of shocking at this point.

WT: Right. Exactly. We need to do it. But I don’t think we can shock George W. Bush out of unrealization. He seems to be fixated on it!

WIE: At previous times in history, revolutionary thinkers believed that changing our social or political structures would bring about the changes we so desperately need to make in the world, but nowadays many visionary futurists are convinced that in order to change the world, we must first change the human heart. At an event connected with the recent State of the World Forum, you exclaimed, “What we need is a spiritual revolution!” What do you mean by that, and what do you believe will bring that about?

WT: Let’s put it this way: Christ said two thousand years ago that before kingdoms change, the hearts of people must change. The revolutionaries have not seen that; they’ve focused on the external. And we have seen the disasters that have occurred, for instance, with Marxism. The problem with Marxism is that it never looked at the agents of change. It only looked at the process of change. It never looked at the transformation that needs to occur in the individuals who foment change. They defined the human in the abstract, and they ended up killing the human in the concrete.

I really feel that what we need is awareness, and you can’t get that simply through a political process or an ideology or a slogan. It’s something that has to engage what is deepest in the human. We have to have a holistic, integral kind of development that isn’t simply intellectual or moral but that is also deeply mystical. A kind of development that engages one with the Source itself, the Source that is that pure love, pure concern, pure sensitivity, and which then allows that to radiate out into our actions and our attitudes and our perceptions and how we relate to one another in the world. I think that only spirituality will bring about that self-knowledge that will allow us to purify ourselves and to shift to a focus that protects the interconnectedness of all life and all being.

So I like to put it this way: The real revolution, the definitive revolution, is the spiritual awakening of humanity. The real revolution is one that goes to the radical core of human limitation and raises that up to transformation, to development. Unless that happens, the seeds of corruption are still going to be there—and the seeds of inequity, of exploitation, and of a selfish, greedy existence that neglects the welfare of the masses and of the planet.

WIE: What do you see as the most pressing crisis facing our world community at this juncture in history?

WT: The ecological crisis, and the kind of change required in humanity that would allow us to resolve it. It’s a crisis of the environment, but it’s also a crisis in the style of life that people are living. On the one hand, there’s an agreement that we have to do something about the environment, and on the other, there isn’t really the will to change our style of life to allow a resolution. I see that as the most pressing threat and the highest moral priority because, as Thomas Berry says, if the life raft, which is the earth, goes, what use will our economic system be? Or even our spirituality?

Take, for example, the heavy use of fossil fuels, the rise in the rate of global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, the deforestation in the Amazon. Just the cutting down of trees in the Himalayas is causing massive flooding in Bangladesh every year. All of these factors add up. We need to really simplify how we are living and using resources. We don’t know enough about the resilience of the planet in restoring itself and its ecosystems, but we are aware of how much damage we’re doing. If you take the American dream and you apply it to six billion people, there’s no possibility of our species surviving. We will destroy what we have left around the planet.

WIE: Given the severity of the crisis, do you feel optimistic about the future?

WT: Well, clearly the situation requires a fundamental change in how we live, and right now, given our spiritual and psychological understanding and how we view our individual responsibility for this situation, it’s hard for me to be optimistic that people will make the sacrifices necessary for us and for other species, other sentient beings, to survive. But I think optimism can be found in our spiritual technologies. I would suggest that we utilize those technologies, those forms of spirituality that transform attitudes, that open minds and hearts, and that change consciousness. One of the great practical values of a spiritual transformation is that it does possess the resources to change humanity, and to change humanity in time.

WIE: You obviously feel very passionately about bringing about a real change in the world in our lifetime. What makes you care so much? Can you describe the turning point in your own life when you realized this passionate concern for the state of the world?

WT: I think the concern has come out of my spiritual life and out of my years at attempting prayer. You know, it’s very strange. I used to wonder whether I had any compassion. I wasn’t sure I understood it. One of the turning points for me was when I was walking around a lake in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I saw a mother and her two sons, maybe seven, eight years old. The two kids were throwing stones at these swans, and one of them hit one of the swans. And I instantly felt an incredible, overwhelming grief at the suffering of that poor swan and also anger at what the children had done. I realized in that moment that, yes, I guess I do have compassion.

Three Ways We Find the Divine – Brother David Steindl -Rast

Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about three dimensions of experiencing the Divine.

Grace and Finding the Space Between Thoughts -Brother David Steindl-Rast

Brother David Steindl-Rast talks about how grace is the wisdom that flows through us when we stop thinking.

An interview with His Holiness The Dalai Lama by Amy Edelstein

No Independent Existence


His Holiness the Dalai Lama

If you had the opportunity to interview anyone alive today to learn what the heart of the Buddha’s teaching of enlightenment truly is, it would most likely be to the monk Tenzin Gyatso that you would turn.

And so began a string of faxes and phone calls to the mountain enclave of Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and home of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. Perhaps one of today’s most sought-after public figures, the Dalai Lama is besieged with requests for his time by everyone from New York Times reporters and Hollywood film producers to United Nations officials and heads of state. In the midst of all his worldly responsibilities, the Dalai Lama is also the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, acting head of the four principal sects of Tibetan Buddhism, and the figure to which this beleaguered nation turns for faith, inspiration and guidance.

The Dalai Lama was ordained in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Founded by the great scholar Je Tsongkhapa in the fourteenth century, the Gelugpa lineage is most noted for its scholarly interpretations of the Buddhist teachings. Its monastic training includes many years of rigorous study, memorization and debate.

Tenzin Gyatso began his own training as a young child, and although he writes of himself that he was a poor student, he excelled both in debate and in his arduous examinations. He now gives teachings and tantric initiations [esoteric Buddhist practices] to Buddhist practitioners, sometimes drawing assemblies of over 100,000 monks, nuns and laypeople eager to receive his interpretation, instruction and initiation. We were endeavoring to ask the essential questions about the Buddhist goal of enlightenment—questions, they agreed, that His Holiness would like to respond to. We were granted an interview at his residence in India and excitedly began our preparations.

India at the end of May is always hot, but this year an unusual heat wave was sweeping across the nation. In New Delhi it was 113 degree and even the night breeze felt like a roaring tandoori oven. The town of Dharamsala is perched on a rocky ridge by the Dhauladhar mountain range in the Himalayan foothills. Once a British hill station and refuge from the summer heat, its slopes are covered with fragrant evergreen trees and wild crimson rhododendron. Monks are hidden away in caves in the shadow of the snow-covered peaks. Under the guidance of the Dalai Lama and other teachers, these recluses do intensive meditation practices for many years at a time. The land is still wild and rugged, and sadly, one long-term ascetic lost his life several winters ago when he was attacked by a mountain bear.

In the time since the Dalai Lama settled here, Dharamsala has grown from a disorganized and haphazard refugee village into a thriving community. Fifteen years ago there were only a handful of restaurants, like the dark and smoky “Tibet Memory,” where newly arrived Khampa refugees would sleep on the floor on pungent bed rolls next to Western hippies and dharma seekers. Today, clean new hotels, often operating as income generators for the monasteries, offer hot water, fax machines, mountain views and even email. Volunteer centers have been set up where Western tourists teach English and Microsoft Word to Tibetans, aid with recycling programs or watch Kundun or the latest documentary about the Dalai Lama at regular video showings.

The day I arrived there were over five hundred Westerners at the Tsuglakhang, His Holiness’s temple, waiting to meet the man many think to be a living Buddha, shake his hand and perhaps receive a red, knotted blessing cord. In the space of a few hours he personally greeted several thousand people, including local residents and new refugees from Chinese-occupied Tibet. Then, at midday, almost everyone in the entire town lined the narrow, winding mountain road, chanting peace slogans and prayers as five hunger strikers arrived from New Delhi. Several days before, in a desperate move to call the world’s attention to the untenable situation in the Tibetans’ homeland, one hunger striker had self-immolated. The Dalai Lama, an avowed proponent of nonviolence and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, was caught in a difficult position as the strikers called for his support. These are the kinds of painful dilemmas this “simple monk,” as he refers to himself, has been faced with since he assumed rule of the Tibetan people when he was fifteen years old. Now, with his ever increasing popularity as the leader of a nonviolent resistance movement, millions from the East and West look to him for guidance and direction in finding a clear answer to the question, “What is the path that a Buddha would tread?”

The day before our interview, I met with his private secretary, Tenzin Gyeche, a soft-spoken man who has assisted His Holiness for many years with everything from international affairs to dialogues with Western spiritual teachers. As we sat and discussed this issue of WIE, Tenzin Gyeche became both deeply thoughtful and animated. “His Holiness never gets asked questions like these,” he said with interest, pondering what his answers might be. “Very recently in teachings with His Holiness, something finally got through this thick head of mine,” he reflected, tapping his head lightly with his knuckles. “His Holiness was explaining how once you get a true glimpse of emptiness, even the most basic of Buddhist practices, like taking refuge in the Triple Gem [Buddha, dharma and sangha], take on a very different meaning. . . . Yes, these are important questions.” I left this meeting filled with excitement and anticipation about what our interview might bring.

The following afternoon, as I walked through his courtyard past three hundred monks reciting memorized prayers as part of a week-long prayer ceremony, I hoped that I would be able to learn as much about His Holiness’s personal experience as about the traditional and methodical Gelugpa teachings on emptiness, enlightenment and Buddhahood.

At 1:00 p.m. a beautiful chuba-clad Tibetan woman escorted me up the flower-lined drive to His Holiness’s offices. We had just finished a passport check and thorough body search, measures to preserve the tenuous security around this individual whose unshakable religious conviction is regarded as a significant threat by one of the most powerful governments of our time.

I was ushered straight into a meeting room, expecting to have a few minutes to set up my tape recorder. It was a surprise then, when the monk fiddling with the air conditioner turned around to greet me. The familiar face and bright black eyes met mine and, not standing on ceremony, the Dalai Lama motioned me to sit down. He was ready to begin. Here was a man, serious and self-contained, the cares that rested on his crimson-robed shoulders completely invisible. What did this extraordinary man think about the goal of the Buddhist path?

Traditional Tibetan teachings follow a systematic and predictable structure. Like highly stylized thangkas [religious paintings depicting the Buddhas], these teachings on the nature of the human condition and the way out of the suffering of cyclic existence have been codified in a precise and methodical form. And while they represent a very refined science of spiritual endeavor and a complex and subtle explanation of the nature of the human mind, they can often seem more like technical formulas than the outpourings of the highest aspiration of the human heart. In preparing for our interview, one of the challenges we considered was how to ask the Dalai Lama about his own experience of these subjects, classical definitions aside—how to ask someone so thoroughly schooled in the art of debate, logical deconstruction and analysis to tell us what he thinks “emptiness” is.

Interviewing this man whom millions consider to be a living saint was an extraordinary experience. Simply while sitting with him, one experiences his rare sense of goodness, deep faith in humanity and joy. Looking into his gentle face just a few feet from my own and listening to his unforgettable laugh was like being swept up into one of the thousand arms of Chenrezig [the Buddha of compassion], which the Dalai Lamas are said to be incarnations of. Throughout the course of our interview, while his translator and foreign religion advisor, the venerable monk Lakhdor, was interpreting his Tibetan, he would laugh and look at me warmly, as if wanting to communicate more than his classical answers were conveying.

But in the end, what was communicated by his disarming sweetness was not communicated in his customary responses, which were, more often than not, disappointingly abstract. They were, I guess not surprisingly, the classic Gelugpa teachings—erudite and prescribed explanations of the stages and categories of enlightenment and emptiness for which this school is known. To my questions about the very core of the Buddhist path, the Dalai Lama had presented the straight Mahayana doctrine according to its fifteen-hundred-year-old tradition. His academic definitions and carefully measured descriptions seemed to convey more concern with giving the traditional view than with a simple, unguarded expression of his own experience.

It was perplexing and fascinating to try to reconcile His Holiness’s irresistible, infectious and radiant compassion with his often dry and technical explanations about the very heart of the Buddhist teachings. Tibetan Buddhism, despite its growing popularity in the West, still remains something of an enigma; the contrast between the great stature of some of its revered lamas and the memorized teachings that they so often present once again raises the very challenging question: What is enlightenment?

Reflecting on our interview, I again wondered what the Dalai Lama really thought. For as I stood in the waiting room afterwards, packing away my tape recorder, still feeling the warmth of his hand pressed on my arm, his translator turned to me with excited eyes and said, “Very good questions, very clear. I think His Holiness really enjoyed this.”

Science of Mind

WIE: The goal of Buddhist practice is said to be enlightenment. While the word “enlightenment” is now commonly used in the West, there are many vastly different definitions of what enlightenment is. In your approach to your own practice, when you think about enlightenment, what are you striving to achieve? What does the goal of enlightenment mean to you personally?

H.H. THE DALAI LAMA: So, enlightenment! “Consciousness” or “mind” has cognitive ability—there is something through which we know. Usually, we say: “I see, I learn, I know, I remember.” There is one single element that acts as a medium for viewing all objects. At our level, the power or ability to know is very limited, but we have the potential to increase this ability to know. “Buddhahood” or “Buddhahood enlightenment” is when the potential of this ability to know has been fully developed. Merely increasing that capacity of knowing is also a level of enlightenment. So, the term “enlightenment” could refer to knowing something that you did not know or realizing something that you had not realized. But when we speak about enlightenment at the state of Buddhahood, we are speaking about a fully awakened state.

That is why, according to Buddhism, all our efforts ultimately should go to training or shaping our minds. Emotions such as hatred or strong attachment are destructive and harmful—we call them “negative emotions.” So how can we reduce these negative emotions? Not through prayer, not through physical exercise, but through training of mind. Through training of mind we try to increase the opposite qualities. When genuine compassion, infinite compassion, or unbiased compassion is increased, hatred is reduced. When equanimity is increased, attachment is reduced. All of these destructive emotions are based on ignorance, and the opposite, or antidote, of ignorance is enlightenment. This is why it is very important to analyze the world of the mind and find out what its basic nature is. What are the different categories of mind? Which minds are destructive? Which minds are constructive? and so on. Once we have analyzed all these questions, then we should try to control our minds by adding more good and removing the bad. Some modern scholars describe Buddhism as a “science of mind” for this very reason.

WIE: Many people have become interested in Buddhist practice these days as a means of cultivating peace of mind, relaxation or mindful awareness, rather than specifically as a means for reaching enlightenment. In your view, what is the difference between engaging in Buddhist practice for the purpose of gaining relative benefits such as these and practicing with the sincere intention of attaining enlightenment?

HHDL: Some ideas that come from Buddhism can be implemented without the individual needing to become a Buddhist or even to be a believer in Buddhism—there is no problem with that. Someone who has complete trust and belief in Buddha may try to be a good human being, and they could be considered Buddhist even if they have no particular interest in the next life or in attaining nirvana. But in order to make your practice a real Buddhist practice, it is important to have genuine aspiration for the achievement of nirvana or enlightenment.

WIE: Can you explain why this aspiration is essential?

HHDL: The definition of Buddhism, I think, is in the teaching of the Four Noble Truths. Once you know and accept that these are the basic teachings of reality, and you follow and implement these teachings, that is Buddhism. Now, you could still be a Buddhist without that kind of practice. It is not necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of the in-depth meaning of the teaching of the Four Noble Truths to be a simple, ordinary Buddhist. One could simply take refuge in Buddha, dharma [teaching] and sangha [community of practitioners], do simple practices, and be categorized as a simple Buddhist practitioner. But to become a genuine Buddhist practitioner in the true sense, it is important to have an in-depth understanding of the teachings of the Four Noble Truths. And for that pursuit, it is important to have a clear idea of nirvana and enlightenment.

No Independent Existence

WIE: The doctrine of “emptiness” is one of the pivotal teachings of the Buddha, and understanding what “emptiness” truly means is said to be critical for those on the Buddhist path. While emptiness has been the subject of extensive commentary, analysis and debate, there seem to be widely different interpretations of what its nature actually is. We have found that some Buddhist schools say that “emptiness” refers to nothingness, while others say that “emptiness” implies the existence of something transcendent. Would you tell us simply what you feel “emptiness” refers to?

HHDL: Buddha himself taught different levels of emptiness. But generally, emptiness means the lack of true existence of the “object of negation.” To begin with we have to ask: What is that object of negation? There are different modes and processes of identifying the object of negation. These include processes for identifying the selflessness of the person, the selflessness of phenomena and so forth. And there are different interpretations and different concepts about emptiness according to different schools of thought.

Now according to Madhyamika [the philosophy of the “middle way”], generally, emptiness is the absence of independent existence. So this means that something exists, and emptiness is one of the qualifications and characteristics of that which exists. We cannot talk about these qualities in reference to a nonexistent object; there is some base. The absence of independent existence is nature—it is the way of existence—and the absence of independent existence is possible only because there is something that exists. So therefore, the mere unfindability of the object of designation is not what “emptiness” refers to. If we search for a totally nonexistent object and we do not find it, that is not emptiness. For example, there is no flower on this table. If we look, we see that there is no flower on the table. That “absence” of flower is not emptiness. But now, let us take the example of the tape recorder, and investigate: What is the actual nature of the tape recorder? If you look at the shape, material and color of the tape recorder separately, there is no longer the existence of “tape recorder.” So you see, although there is a tape recorder, if we investigate its individual qualities and characteristics, we can’t find it. Then you can see that “tape recorder” is a mere designation. But, again, the mere “absence” of flower is not emptiness.

WIE: There is a quote in the Pali sutras, in which one of Gautama the Buddha’s monks asks him whether there is “nothing at all” that exists. This question—whether there is “something” or “nothing”—is an interesting one, because the notion that “nothing at all exists” could easily lead to nihilism. The Buddha is said to have responded definitively to this monk by declaring that there is what he called “an unborn,” and it is because of this that the possibility exists of an escape from the suffering of worldly existence. I have heard that some Tibetan sects also describe the existence of “something.” Could you explain to us what you think the Buddha meant when he said: “There is that which is not born, not become, not made, not conditioned. If there were not that which is not born, not become, not made, not conditioned, there could be made known no escape from that which is born, become, made, conditioned here. But since there is that which is not born, not become, not made, not conditioned, therefore the escape from that which is born, become, made, conditioned is made known.”

HHDL: This points to exactly what was said earlier. If there was inherent existence and inherent causation, then we couldn’t escape from samsara [cyclic existence]. So therefore what we say is that on the conventional level there is a path, there is causation and so forth. But because of the fact that the causation has no inherent existence, to perceive that causation does have inherent existence is ignorance. And to be able to perceive that lack of causation in the nature of inherent existence is wisdom.

If there were independent existence, then the perception of that existence would be valid. If there were independent existence, then when we investigate to find out whether an object exists independently or not, we would have to be able to find it. But when we analyze carefully, we can’t find these objects existing independently. This is how we can see that the perception of independent existence is wrong, is ignorance, and that the perception of nonindependent existence is valid, is wisdom. These two possibilities are in opposition, and when you have two things like this in direct opposition they cannot go together; only one could have a valid foundation.

Beyond Good and Evil?

WIE: Some people say that if one is enlightened, then that individual’s actions would have to express goodness. But there are other views, and even entire schools of thought, which hold that one who is enlightened is beyond good and evil, and that the actions of such an individual therefore cannot be judged by others. What is your view on this?

HHDL: In the nature of emptiness, in the nature of the absence of independent existence, in that nature, both bad and good are equal. So when someone meditates on the ultimate reality, in that reality there are no differences between bad and good. From the perspective of Buddha, who is in a state of total absorption, there are no differences between good and bad. But even at other levels of practice, when you gain some experience of shunya—of the ultimate reality—then in that moment, when your mind is fully absorbed in that reality, there is no feeling of good and bad; then everything is equal.

When you deeply experience the ultimate reality, it is so powerful that the understanding of a conventional, objective reality will be very different. For example, if the absorption of one’s mind in emptiness is really powerful—totally absorbed in the state of ultimate reality or emptiness—the influence and appearance of conventional reality will be almost negligible.

But this does not mean that on the conventional level there are also no differences between bad and good. That’s simply not the case. There is good and there is bad. That’s why Buddha himself followed self-discipline. If there were no good and bad, then Buddha could have led a very casual life. So in order to achieve the training of wisdom, we need to practice the training of concentration and meditative stabilization; and in order to do that, we need to have a solid foundation in the practice of morality and ethical discipline.

The Triple Gem

WIE: As a Buddhist, you formally took refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha—what is known as the “Triple Gem.” In the West today, there are numerous interpretations of the significance of each aspect of the Triple Gem, of what taking refuge in each of these aspects means, and even whether refuge in all three is necessary. Do you feel that all three of these aspects are essential parts of taking refuge? And could you please explain the significance of each one?

HHDL: Of the three objects of refuge, the most important object that you should take refuge in is the dharma. Then the person, or the source of dharma, becomes your refuge, and then those beings who follow and practice the dharma are also very worthy of respect. These three jewels follow each other, but usually, Buddha comes first. Why? Normally in the course of taking refuge, we take refuge in Buddha first because dharma was first taught by teachers, by particular Buddhas.

WIE: It’s interesting that you say that usually refuge is taken first in the Buddha. Having a Buddha or perfect teacher to show the way seems to be almost essential to the path, and you have often spoken about the deep reverence and respect that you have for your teachers. Can you explain more about the value—or the necessity—of having a spiritual teacher?

HHDL: Without Buddha, I think it is very difficult for a Buddhist practitioner to understand the ultimate reality. These things are difficult. Once Buddha opens our eyes, then of course we have to make effort and investigate. But there should be someone who opens our mind or shows us the direction. Therefore Buddha is very important. It is difficult to understand what is Buddha without knowing dharma. Once you have genuine faith that comes from an investigation of dharma, then naturally there will be a feeling of great closeness and respect for Buddha. It will automatically come. And the same will occur with sangha, because sangha includes all the great teachers and great practitioners, like Nagarjuna [a revered second-century Buddhist philosopher], all extraordinary human beings. Of course, all these beings were not extraordinary right from the beginning, no. They were ordinary human beings, ordinary sentient beings. Then, through the practice of Buddha Dharma they became very extraordinary.

But as to whether one really needs their own teacher or not—generally, books can be the teacher. When one Tibetan lama was about to die, he said to his disciple, “Now you should no longer rely on a human teacher, but you should rely on books to be your teacher.” I think that’s very wise. Without investigation and without knowing a person properly you may hurriedly take someone as your guru or teacher, and there is too much involved in guru devotion or guru yoga. So it could land you in trouble. The thorough investigation of a teacher is very, very important.

WIE: You have spoken about your own spiritual practice and your wish that you could devote more time to it, and I certainly hope that some day circumstances allow that. Many of our readers probably wonder, given your intensive travel schedule and your many responsibilities, how you manage to find the time to do your spiritual practice.

HHDL: Well, usually my work or program starts at seven or eight in the morning. So I get up at four and then I have at least a few hours to do some meditation, some recitation or some prayers. And then I do what I can whenever I have the time—when I travel by car or train for a long time, it’s a very good opportunity to do my recitations. So, like that!

An interview with Mata Amritanandamayi by Amy Edelstein

When You Go Beyond the Ego You Become an Offering to the World

A tiny dark-skinned woman draped in a white sari beams as she totters down the aisle of loving devotees. Their outstretched hands are like feather plumes, waving, reaching to brush her as she leaves the crowded hall. Her face is placid, strong and fully alert, as it has been unwaveringly for the last five hours, but her exhausted body can hardly balance; it seems that she may even topple over in a faint before she reaches the waiting car outside. The right shoulder of her sari is stained dark from the sweat and tears of a thousand cheeks that have found succor there. Mata Amritanandamayi has, since early this morning, without pause for food or even a sip of water, literally held one thousand people to her bosom, listened to their troubles and their deepest spiritual longings, showered them with flower petals, pressed sweet prasad [consecrated offerings] into their palms, blessed their photos, malas [prayer beads] and children; and one after the other, each and every supplicant has received the same undivided cosmic love from Ammachi, the Holy Mother.

Young and old, married and single, male and female, wealthy, impoverished, beautiful, crippled, suspicious, crazy and sincere—all are welcomed without exception. And as she embraces each one, chanting softly “Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma” in each person’s ear, the transmission of compassion coming from her is one steady stream that never ebbs, never wavers, and her shining face never registers even the slightest trace of preference or fear regardless of who kneels before her.

They say that Ammachi is an avatar, an incarnation of the Divine on earth. They say that her ego has been completely destroyed, that all vestiges of identification with a separate sense of self have been annihilated. They say when she looks out, she sees only one Self in everyone.

So from one who is said to have crossed over, what can we learn about the right relationship to ego? If her eyes see only God, does the ego even exist, in her view? What is this mahatma’s [great soul’s] message to true seekers of moksha [liberation] when it comes to the most fundamental and ultimately challenging battle of spiritual life? How does her apparently infinite love manifest when it meets the enemy of her disciples, the ego?

Mata Amritanandamayi’s guidance for the seeker of liberation is simple and absolute: Serve God and surrender the ego and all its desires. She says, as many of the most revered saints and sages throughout history have also proclaimed, “Contentment ensues from egolessness. And egolessness comes from devotion, love and utter surrender to the Supreme Lord.”

Ammachi’s public teachings take place at traditional gatherings that are called “Devi Bhava” [literally “mood of the Goddess”] and “darshan” [audience with a guru], where she hugs and blesses all who come to see her. Almost a quarter of a million people seek her out every year, and she receives each and every one of them, giving them love and helping them with both spiritual and mundane concerns. She cannot turn anyone away, for to the Divine Mother, all are equal in their need for love. “During the Bhava,” she explains, “different kinds of people come to see me, some out of devotion, others for a solution to their worldly problems and others for relief from diseases. I discard none. Can I reject them? Are they different from me? Are we not all beads strung on the one life thread? According to each one’s level of thinking, they see me. Both those who love me and those who hate me are the same to me.”

Ammachi is indefatigable, or at least physical fatigue seems to weigh little on her. Her meditation on the divine current appears to drown out all bodily consciousness. Even after traveling all the way from India to Europe, or sleeping for only an hour the night before, Ammachi arrives precisely on time to give darshan. She answers spiritual questions, distributes bhasma [sacred healing ash] to the sick, and not until five or six hours and seven, eight or nine hundred souls later, when the very last person has been received, will she get up for food and a short rest before returning only a few hours later, again precisely on time, to chant, meditate and receive the thousand or so more spiritual pilgrims who have come for her blessing hug.

Often referring to herself in the third person, Ammachi describes the passion that animates her: “Each and every drop of Mother’s blood, each and every particle of her energy is for her children [devotees]. . . . The purpose of this body and of Mother’s whole life is to serve her children. Mother’s only wish is that her hands should always be on someone’s shoulders, consoling and caressing them and wiping their tears, even while breathing her last.” Selfless service, Ammachi teaches, is the whole of her life and is the path she prescribes for spiritual seekers who are committed to transcending the ego, to destroying the separate sense of self.

By all accounts the hardest worker at her ashram in Idamannel, in southern India, Ammachi is a living example of her teaching. She can be found carrying bricks to building sites, tending cows or cleaning toilets in addition to meeting with her brahmacharis and brahamacharinis [male and female celibate students] and seeing to all ashram affairs. Her disciples tell stories of how, even after a long day of receiving visitors, Ammachi will cook for them and feed them like little children, with her own hand. She also fulfills a world travel and teaching schedule that keeps all of her closest devotees on the brink of exhaustion and has inspired numerous charitable works—ambitious projects that have tangibly uplifted thousands of people’s lives, including a brand-new, state-of-the-art $55 million, 800-bed heart transplant hospital, an orphanage for 600 children, 5,000 free houses for the poor and one of the finest computer colleges in her native state of Kerala.

Ammachi’s compassion seems virtually limitless. She is so intoxicated with God that she seems to have burned out every trace of personal desire, and many the world over revere her as the very embodiment of unconditional love. And yet, Mata Amritanandamayi, the “Mother of Immortal Bliss,” has a wrathful face as well. As unconditionally accepting as she is of those who initially come to see her, for those who have chosen to live their lives under her tutelage as her disciples, she is known to be an equally demanding and exacting spiritual teacher. Her discipline can be fierce; to come close to Ammachi, her students say, is to come close to the fire.

In Ammachi’s teachings, the role of the guru is to “break the ego of the disciple” so that “they can know reality.” She warns them of the dangers of the ego, saying: “Blindness of the eyes is bearable and can be managed. . . . You can still have a loving and compassionate heart. But when you are blinded by the ego, you are completely blind. . . . The blindness carried by the ego pushes you into complete darkness.”

Ammachi believes that the path to liberation is a path of humility and obedience, and that it is only by bowing down to the guru that the disciple can keep his or her ego in check. Long-term students readily tell stories of hardships and tests, of the “ego bashing” and “ego rebellion” that they experience at the feet of their beloved guru. They speak frequently and respectfully of the tough schedules, physical discomfort and strict discipline that have tested them more than a little. “It is not always easy being with Mother,” they say, “but she helps to speed up our karma.”

One Western student of thirteen years described some of the many ways Ammachi challenges her disciples and explained how in her own case Ammachi has separated her from her husband for long periods of time to help further their sadhana [spiritual practice] and “put pressure on their egos.” Ammachi’s ordained students observe strict celibacy, and residents of her ashram practice eight hours of meditation a day in addition to their karma yoga [selfless service]. Her disciples sleep little, often only four hours a night, and not infrequently just one or two. “It keeps us on the edge all the time and teaches us surrender,” one devotee said. “If you want for yourself, you end up frustrated and angry, so you learn to let go.”

When once asked by a visitor whether hard work, like carrying bricks, doesn’t unfairly tax the brahmacharis, Ammachi without hesitation explained why she will sometimes call her students to labor even late at night after they have gone to sleep: “Amma wants to see how many of them have the spirit of selflessness, or whether they are just living for bodily comforts. On such occasions we can see if their meditation is doing them any good. We have to develop the readiness to help when others are struggling. Otherwise, what is the point of doing tapas [austerities]?”

Ammachi knows well the weaknesses of human nature. Often when her disciples are proud or stubborn and do not heed her guidance, she will fast, refusing both food and water. Knowing that their beloved guru is going hungry on their behalf is the worst punishment they could be given, her brahmacharis confess. “The true guru will not allow an iota of ego to grow [in a disciple],” Ammachi says. “To check the growth of pride, the guru may act in a very cruel manner. . . . People who see the blacksmith forging a hot piece of iron with his hammer may think that he is a cruel person. The iron piece may also think that nowhere can there be such a brute. But while dealing each blow, the blacksmith is only thinking of the end product. The real guru is also like this.”

For some observers, Ammachi’s standards for her disciples seem harsh and disconcertingly contrary to the unconditional love she expresses in her all-embracing role as the Divine Mother. And in a time when the notion of unconditional love is held so dear in the minds of many Western seekers, Mother’s two opposing bhavas [moods] challenge some deeply rooted beliefs. So what is compassion in the face of the ego? What is the right relationship to this perennial enemy of the seeker after enlightenment? In Paris, for two and a half hours in the middle of Ammachi’s darshan, I had the rare privilege of interviewing this extraordinary woman.


WIE: What is ego?

MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI: You are actually asking, what is unreality? But how can unreality be described? What use is there in talking about something that isn’t real, that is nonexistent? And how can you speak about that which is real? Amma can only give you a few hints. The mind is the ego. But the ego is a big lie—it is a liar. It is unreal.

There was a cowherd boy who took his cows to the meadows every morning and brought them back to the cowshed at the end of the day. One evening, as he was tying the cows up for the night, the boy found that one of them was missing her rope. He feared that she might run away, but it was too late to go and buy a new rope. The boy didn’t know what to do, so he went to a wise man who lived nearby and sought his advice. The wise man told the boy to pretend to tie the cow, and make sure that the cow saw him doing it. The boy did as the wise man suggested and pretended to tie the cow. The next morning the boy discovered that the cow had remained still throughout the night. He untied all the cows as usual, and they all went outside. He was about to go to the meadows when he noticed that the cow with the missing rope was still in the cowshed. She was standing on the same spot where she had been all night. He tried to coax her to join the herd, but she wouldn’t budge. The boy was perplexed. He went back to the wise man who said, “The cow still thinks she is tied up. Go back and pretend to untie her.” The boy did as he was told, and the cow happily left the cowshed. This is what the guru does with the ego of the disciple. The guru helps untie that which was never there. Like the cow, due to our ignorance, we believe that we are bound by the ego when, in fact, we are completely free. We need to be convinced of this, however.

The ego is an illusion with no existence of its own. It appears to be real because of the power it derives from the Atman [Self]. It is animated by the Atman. The ego itself can be compared to dead matter; for without the Atman, it would have no life. Stop supporting the ego, and it will withdraw and disappear. We ourselves lend the unreal ego its reality. Expose it for what it is, or rather, for what it isn’t, and that will be the end of it.

A dog wags its tail—the tail does not wag the dog. If the tail were to wag the dog, it would be disastrous! The same is true with the mind. The mind, or the ego, should be nothing more than a useful tool; a sadhaka [spiritual seeker] shouldn’t let him- or herself be ruled by the whims and fancies of the mind.

The ego consists of our thoughts and our mind. Our thoughts are our own creation. We make them real by cooperating with them. If we withdraw our support, they will dissolve. We simply have to observe our thoughts. The clouds in the sky assume different shapes, and they change constantly. You may see clouds drifting by that look like faces of the gods or different animals or sailing ships. A small child may believe that these shapes are real, but, of course, they are only illusions. In the same way, our ever changing thoughts drift through the mind, which is the ego. They assume different forms, but they are no more real than the shape of a cloud in the sky. If we simply witness our thoughts as they drift by, they will no longer have any effect on us or influence us in any way.

A lion made of sandalwood is real to a child, but to a grown-up it’s a piece of sandalwood. For the child, the wood is concealed, revealing only the lion. The grown-up may also enjoy the lion, but he knows it is not real. For him, the wood is real, not the lion. In the same way, to a Self-realized soul, the entire universe is nothing but the essence, the “wood” that comprises everything, the Absolute Brahman or Consciousness.

WIE: What is ego death for the true seeker of moksha [liberation]?

MA: If the ego is unreal, what death are you talking about? We superimpose the unreal on the real. What really exists is Brahman. There is no discovery, only uncovering.

WIE: What are the signs of true ego transcendence?

MA: One who has gone beyond the ego becomes an offering to the world, like an incense stick that burns itself out while bestowing its fragrance to others. For such a person there is no sense of otherness. It is difficult to say what a clear sign would be. People pretend or they imitate this and that quality—but for a real master, one who truly doesn’t identify with the ego, his or her entire being, and every action, is a pure expression of divine love and self-sacrifice. Divine love and self-sacrifice cannot be imitated.

WIE: Is it possible for a master to completely annihilate their ego?

MA: A mahatma [great soul] is one who disidentifies with the ego; they see everything as an extension of the Self. Due to our ignorance, we identify with the ego, with that which is not real, but a mahatma is not identified at all with the ego, with that which is unreal.

WIE: How does the guru help to annihilate the ego of the disciple?

MA: A true master creates the situations that will allow the seeker to come out of his or her dream. The disciple wants to continue to sleep and to dream, but the master wants to awaken him or her. The whole effort of the master is to somehow bring the disciple back to the reality of his or her true existence.

WIE: It is said that the ego will go to any length to maintain its grip on the individual, even masquerading as our own spiritual longing. What are the most important qualities for success in the fight against the endless tricks of the ego?

MA: Performing one’s own dharma with utmost shraddha. Shraddha is very important at the beginning stage on the spiritual path; it is absolutely essential.

WIE: What is shraddha? Is it faith in the possibility of transcending the ego in this life?

MA: Shraddha is more than just faith. It is trust and love. Both trust and love are necessary to transcend the ego—trust in the existence of a higher reality, love for that reality and an intense longing to realize it.

WIE: What is the best way to cultivate discrimination in the face of all the temptations of the ego?

MA: Just as a little boy grows out of his teddy bear and other toys, a true seeker gains the power to discriminate between the eternal and noneternal as his understanding grows and as he advances along the path. The power of discrimination dawns within us as we gain proper understanding and as we mature. As we learn how to evaluate life’s experiences in the proper manner, we automatically begin to use our discriminative intelligence. It is an inner blossoming that takes place—like a bud opening up. It is part of a slow but steady process.

There is a divine message hidden behind every experience life brings you—both the positive and negative experiences. Just penetrate beneath the surface and you will receive the message. Nothing comes from outside; everything is within you. The whole universe is within you.

There will be many temptations and challenges along the way. Only an experienced person can help you. The way to moksha is very subtle, and it is easy for a spiritual aspirant to become deluded.

WIE: What is the role of the spiritual master in guiding the seeker on the path to moksha or liberation?

MA: If you want to learn how to drive, you need to be taught by an experienced driver. A child needs to be taught how to tie his shoelaces. And how can you learn mathematics without a teacher? Even a pickpocket needs a teacher to teach him the art of stealing. If teachers are indispensable in ordinary life, wouldn’t we need a teacher even more on the spiritual path, which is so extremely subtle?

Though that subtle knowledge is our true nature, we have been identified with the world of names and forms for so long, thinking them to be real. We now need to cease that identification. But in reality, there is nothing to teach. A master simply helps you to complete the journey.

If you want to go to a distant place, you may want to buy a map. But no matter how well you study the map, if you are heading toward a totally strange land, an unknown place, you won’t know anything about that place until you actually arrive. Nor will the map tell you much about the journey itself, about the ups and downs of the road and the possible dangers on the way. It is therefore better to receive guidance from someone who has completed the journey, someone who knows the way from his or her own experience.

On the spiritual journey, we have to really listen to and then contemplate what the master says. We have to be humble in order to receive. When we really listen and then sincerely contemplate, we will assimilate the teachings properly.

WIE: Why is submission to a guru said to be so important in helping the disciple transcend the ego?

MA: The seat of the ego is the mind. Any other obstacle can be removed by using the mind except the ego, because the ego is subtler than the mind. It is only through obedience to the one who is established in that supreme experience that one can conquer the ego.

WIE: You didn’t have an external guru, yet you completely transcended your ego. It seems you depended on the formless as your guru to take you all the way.

MA: Yes, you could say that. But Amma considered the whole of creation to be her guru.

WIE: Is perfect obedience to the guru ultimately the same as ego death?

MA: Yes. That is why the satguru [realized spiritual master] is depicted in the Kathopanishad as Yama, the lord of death. The death of the disciple’s ego can take place only with the help of a satguru.

Obedience isn’t something that can be forced on the disciple. The disciple is tremendously inspired by the master, who is an embodiment of humility. Obedience and humility simply happen in a true master’s presence.

WIE: It takes rare courage to face ego death.

MA: Yes, very few can do it. If you have the courage and determination to knock at the door of death, you will find that there is no death. For even death, or the death of the ego, is an illusion.

WIE: There have been some very powerful spiritual teachers who seem to have been driven by the impure motives of the ego. Do you think that spiritual experiences could at times empower the ego rather than destroy it?

MA: Amma doesn’t agree that those teachers to whom you are referring are realized. A Self-realized master is completely independent. Such beings don’t have to depend on anything external for their happiness because they are full of bliss, which they derive from within their own Atman. Amma would say that everyone forms part of a crowd, except the realized masters. In fact, except for those rare souls, there are no individuals. Only one who is realized is uniquely individual and totally independent of the crowd. Only such a soul is alone in the world of bliss.

True spiritual masters have to set an example through their actions and their lives. Those who abuse their position and power, taking advantage of others, obviously do not derive all their happiness and contentment from within themselves, and so they cannot be realized masters. Why would a realized master crave adulation or power? Those who do are still under the grip of the ego. They may claim to be realized, but they are not. A perfect master doesn’t claim anything. He simply is—he is presence.

Until the moment before realization takes place, a person is not safe from the temptations of his or her desires.

WIE: So would you say that people like this have become more proud as a result of having had spiritual experiences? Can spiritual experiences at times strengthen the ego in a negative way?

MA: The people to whom this happens are deluded, and they confuse others as well. They will actually push others into delusion. Some people gain a glimpse of something, or have a spiritual experience, and then think they have attained moksha. Only someone who is not realized will think, “I am spiritual, I am realized,” and this will create a strong, subtle ego. A subtle ego is more dangerous than a gross ego. Even the individuals themselves won’t understand that the subtle ego is leading or motivating them, and this subtle ego will become part of their nature. Such people will do anything for name and fame.

Amma also feels that this kind of pride makes people lose their capacity to listen. And listening is extremely important on the spiritual path. A person who does not listen cannot be humble. And it is only when we are truly humble that the already existing pure Consciousness will be unfolded within us. Only one who is humbler than the humblest can be considered greater than the greatest.

WIE: Since it is possible for spiritual experiences to feed the ego, is it necessary to cultivate purity first?

MA: There is no need to get obsessed with purity. Focus on your dharma, performing it with the right attitude and with love. Then purity will follow.

WIE: What is dharma, in the way you are using it?

MA: Dharma is the right action in the right place at the right time.

WIE: How can one know what one’s dharma is?

MA: By loving life with the right attitude and having the right understanding, we will know what the right thing to do is. And then, if we perform our dharma, purity will come.

WIE: How do you cultivate that kind of love?

MA: Love isn’t something that can be cultivated—it’s already within us in all its fullness. Life cannot exist without love; they are inseparable. Life and love are not two; they are one and the same. A little bit of the proper channeling of your energies will awaken the love within you.

You need to have a strong intent to reach the goal of liberation; you need to be focused on that goal. Then such qualities as love, patience, enthusiasm and optimism will spring forth within you. These qualities will work to help you attain your goal.

WIE: You are revered by so many as the embodiment of unconditional love, and you literally hug everyone who comes to see you. But I have heard that you can also be very fierce with your students. How do these two very different methods of teaching go together?

MA: For Amma there are not two different methods; Amma has only one method, and that is love. That love manifests as patience and compassion. However, if a deer comes and eats the tender flower buds in your garden, you cannot be gentle with the deer and say softly, “Please deer, don’t eat the flowers.” You have to shout at it and even wave a stick. It is sometimes necessary to show this type of mood in order to correct the disciple. Kali is the compassionate mother in her disciplining mood. But look into her eyes—there is no anger there.

Amma only disciplines those who have chosen to stay close to her, and she only does this when they are ready to be disciplined. A disciple is one who is willing to be disciplined. The guru first binds the disciple with boundless, unconditional love so that when the disciple eventually is disciplined, he or she is aware of the presence of that love in all situations.

Amma helps her children to always be aware and alert. Love has many aspects. When Amma disciplines her children, she does this with the sole purpose of guiding them along the path to help them to fully blossom. This blossoming will happen only if a conducive atmosphere is created. It can never be forced. A true master does not force his or her disciples because pure consciousness cannot force anything. The master is like space, like the boundless sky, and space cannot hurt you. Only the ego can force and hurt. Amma will patiently continue to create opportunities for that inner opening, that blossoming, to take place within her children.

The guru-disciple relationship is the highest. The bond of love between the guru and shishya [disciple] is so powerful that one may sometimes feel there is no guru and no shishya—all sense of separation disappears.

WIE: What do you do when the ego takes hold of one of your disciples?

MA: Amma lovingly helps her children to realize the danger of being under the grip of the ego, and she shows them how to get out of it.

WIE: Some Western psychotherapists and spiritual teachers believe that we must develop strong egos before we seek ego transcendence. They say that most of us have weak or wounded egos as a result of the emotional and psychological traumas that we have suffered over the course of our lives, and they advocate various forms of therapy to help us build up our character, ego and sense of individuality. You had quite a difficult childhood; you had to bear harsh treatment and even physical abuse, and yet you transcended your ego completely. Would you agree with these teachers that in the pursuit of enlightenment, we first need to build up the ego before we endeavor to transcend it?

MA: Most people are deeply wounded within in some way, and those wounds have been caused by the past. Those wounds usually remain unhealed. They are wounds not only from this life but from previous lives as well, and no doctor or psychologist can heal them. A doctor or psychologist can help people to cope with life to a certain extent, in spite of those wounds, but they cannot actually heal them. They cannot penetrate deeply enough into their own minds to remove their own wounds, let alone penetrate deeply enough into the patient’s mind. Only a true master, who is completely free from any limitations and who is beyond the mind, can penetrate into a person’s mind and treat all those unhealed wounds with his or her infinite energy. Spiritual life, especially under the guidance of a satguru, does not weaken the psyche; it strengthens it.

The ultimate cause of all emotional wounds is our separation from the Atman, from our true nature. It may be necessary for a person to go to a psychologist, and that is fine—but to put spirituality aside in order to first strengthen the ego is to perpetuate that sense of separation, and it will only lead to further suffering. What is the use in thinking, “I will go to the doctor as soon as I feel better”? To wait for either the inner or outer circumstances to be “just right” before we embark on the spiritual journey is like standing on the seashore waiting for the waves to completely subside before we jump into the ocean. This will never happen. Every moment of life is so utterly precious, such a rare opportunity. We should not waste it.

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