Jul 272010
 

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream – Edgar Allan Poe

inception-poster-2010 So I went to see Inception last night with most of the family. First a general review. It was an excellent and entertaining movie. It combined espionage, science fiction  and action with mind-bending psychological and metaphysical elements. I don’t generally go out of my way to see a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, but he seems to be getting better.

But my reason for commenting here is because of the use of the dream metaphor. Just as a warning, my commentary below may be considered a spoiler by some, so you may want to see the movie first.

The movie involves shared dreaming, dreams-within-dreams, and the strange phenomena that in dreams, we are often unaware that we are dreaming, and confuse dreaming with real life. As the characters struggle to avoid becoming lost in their multi-layered dreams and strive to wake up, a natural question arises – what if the waking world is actually yet another layer of dream, from which we need to awaken? In the film, this speculation is immediately and forcefully dismissed as pathological. But the director knows that he has planted a seed of doubt in our minds, and he subtly toys with that doubt right up to the end of the movie. Seeds of doubt are another theme that runs throughout the movie.

In fact, dreaming and waking have been used in various spiritual traditions for thousands of years as a metaphor for ordinary consciousness and enlightenment. In fact, the name “Buddha” translates as “the awakened one”.  In the Gnostic “Hymn of the Pearl” from the Acts of Thomas, the son of a King is sent on a mission to retrieve a treasure, but falls asleep and forgets who he is. His father sends a letter to remind him:

Awake and arise from your sleep,
and hear the words of our letter.
Remember that you are a son of kings,
consider the slavery you are serving.

Unenlightened consciousness is indeed very much like dreaming. We become entranced with the little details of our lives and the stories unfolding around us. We forget and become unconscious to a larger context around us. We forget our connection to our highest self and become attached to the particulars. Many enlightened teachers have confirmed that the process of enlightenment is like waking up from a deep and not very nice dream.

It’s interesting that several spiritual and psychological schools and techniques use dream work, dream journaling and lucid dreaming as tools for self-development. Ken Wilber suggests that dream work is one of the few resources we have for accessing our shadow aspects – which are normally invisible to the conscious mind.

Like the dream engineers in Inception, we need to become better architects of the dream world in order to become more conscious in the waking world – and ultimately – awake to the larger world of spirit.

Feb 012010
 

How does one reach the state of consciousness that is commonly called “enlightenment?” You don’t often see a really good answer to that question. Either it is very vague, giving you little guidance, or it is steeped in layers of tradition, and requires navigating your way through a very complex path. So I was pleased to read in David Hawkins’ book, I – Reality and Subjectivity – a relatively simple and straightforward approach to enlightenment, as he describes his own journey. The steps are:

1. An intense desire to reach this state of consciousness.

2. Develop constant universal compassion – cultivating acceptance, forgiveness and gentleness to absolutely everything and everyone without exception.

3. Surrender the personal will to God (the Self). Each thought, feeling, desire or deed is surrendered completely to the Divine will, the mind grows increasingly silent. At first, individual  thoughts and feelings vanish, then entire concepts and ideas. Finally, one is able to surrender the very energy of thinking before thoughts arise.

4. Focus intently on each present moment, not allowing extraneous thoughts of the past or future to enter. Make intense focus on the present task in the present moment a constant meditation. At first this is quite difficult and requires a lot of energy. Gradually it becomes habitual.

At that point, interesting things start to happen. As Hawkins describes it:

Suddenly, without warning, a shift in awareness occurred and the Presence totally prevailed, unmistakable and all encompassing. There were a few moments of intense apprehension as the self died, and then the absoluteness of the Presence inspired a flash of awe. This breakthrough was spectacular and more intense than anything before. It had no counterpart in ordinary experience. The profound shock was cushioned by the love that is the Presence. Without the support and protection of that love, it seems that one would be annihilated.

There followed a moment of terror as the ego clung to its existence, fearing it would become nothingness. Instead as it died, it was replaced by the Self as Everythingness, the All in which everything was known and obvious in its perfect expression of its own essence.

Hawkins book goes own to elaborate on this process and how to achieve it. I’ll work on a review of the book when I’ve finished it. Hawkins claims that simply reading the book raises one’s level of consciousness, and I tend to believe him, based on my experience with reading it so far.

Nov 102009
 

eckhart_tolleIf I had to recommend only one book on spirituality, it would be Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  As I mentioned on my page on Eckhart – I first encountered him on CD’s.  But after hearing him, I quickly picked up his first book. I have since bought many copies and given them to whoever I think can benefit from him.

His message is simple, and has a lot in common with other spiritual teachings throughout the ages. But the beauty of Eckhart’s presentation is that he has distilled it down to the bare essentials.  But like the Tao Te Ching and similar spiritual classics, every word resonates with profound meaning.

The focus of the teaching, as the title suggests, is the present moment – that magical space in which all reality arises. Our mind and our ego attempt all sorts of tricks to keep us away from focusing on the present moment. We may be obsessed with our past, and play over past events (good or bad) again and again in our minds.  We may focus on the future and the plans we have for ourselves. We may construct alternate present moments where things are “better”. But all of these keep us away from the one reality – the present moment of time.

The reason the mind and ego are so determined to keep us away from the present moment is that in this moment, if we fully immerse ourselves in it, we realize the fundamental unity of all being. This is a realization that greatly weakens our individual egos. The stories and identities we construct for ourselves become unimportant in the light of the present moment. And so we flee from it. We tell ourselves we are looking for happiness – but in fact we flee from the only place where REAL happiness is to be found – the reality of the now.

In a simple question-and-answer format, Eckhart Tolle investigates our reluctance to embrace the reality of the NOW, and gives us exercises for learning to be at home in the present moment. Along the way, he discusses the mind, the ego, our life stories, our relationships and many other aspects of being and happiness.

One unique principle in Tolle’s teachings which I have not seen elsewhere is the concept of the “pain body”. He introduces this concept in this book. A “pain body” is a collection of negative emotional energy which feeds from our own unhappiness and pain. This energy can completely hijack our conscious mind, acting almost like an alien invader, in the attempt to produce the negative energy that it craves. Once Eckhart explains this concept to you, you immediately begin to see it at work in the lives of those around you, and (if you are conscious enough) in yourself.

Buy this book for yourself or for someone you know who is seeking. It is the PERFECT introduction to spiritual living.

Jul 282006
 

Although I’m not entirely ready to discuss this issue, since I’m still mulling it around in my mind, I thought we might be in need of a topic to kick around for a bit, so I’ll wing it.

I have previously stated my view that God, as “Being” pervades all reality, down to the last atom. Some objectors noted that they saw no evidence of this. I would like to introduce some evidence, launching into it from a different discussion topic we have also had recently – the problem of reductionist arguments for psychological states – ie explanations for our mind which reduce the mind entirely down to physics and chemistry.

I wish to discuss the problem of conscious experience.

It is possible to imagine that physical sciences could eventually give us much insight on the FUNCTIONS of our mental experience. How information is analyzed, stored, collated and evaluated. How we focus our attention. How we control our behavior. Functional components simply need a functional mechanism as an explanation.

But functional explanations leave one phenomena untouched – our actual experience of consciousness. The experience of what it is LIKE to see a color, remember a face, or have a thought. I am not asking how our brain sees, remembers, or thinks – but how these mechanisms generate the actual experience of being conscious of these functions.

“How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of Djin when Aladdin rubbed his lamp”. (T H Huxley)

We may notice that there are correlations between physical states of the brain and the experience of consciousness, but it is a logical error to assume that a correlation implies either a cause and effect, or (even more absurdly) an identity. We notice that whenever the Genii appears, Aladdin is rubbing the lamp. But this hardly “explains” the Genii. We would need to know HOW and WHY one produces the other. Much less can we say that Aladdin rubbing is lamp is ONE AND THE SAME as the Genii.

In a similar way, a brain state may be associated with the experience of consciousness. But it cannot be said to CAUSE it unless we know the exact how and why. Far less is it ontologically identical with conscious experience. The actual experience of seeing the color red does not seem, on observation, to have any identity in it’s NATURE to the firing of neurons in the brain.

Not only that, but it is difficult to see how any progress in neuroscience could possibly account for conscious experience. Neuroscience can possibly discover physical mechanisms which produce mental functions. But conscious experience is not a “function”. It is a state of being. There is no particular reason WHY a particular pattern of neural activity should produce our conscious experience of a vast subjective world.

Wrapping up quickly, I believe that conscious experience is completely unaccountable in terms of reduction to the laws of physics and chemistry. Conscious experience needs to take its place, like mass and space-time, as a fundamental “given” of the cosmos – part of its fundamental nature.

I could expand on many of these points greatly, but perhaps it’s best to let the discussion take care of that.

Jul 272006
 

The following chart of consciousness is taken from David Hawkins’ book Power Vs. Force

God-view Life-View Level Log Emotion Process
Self Is Enlightenment 700–1,000 Ineffable Pure Consciousness
All-Being Perfect Peace 600 Bliss Illumination
One Complete Joy 540 Serenity Transfiguration
Loving Benign Love 500 Reverence Revelation
Wise Meaningful Reason 400 Understanding Abstraction
Merciful Harmonious Acceptance 350 Forgiveness Transcendence
Inspiring Hopeful Willingness 310 Optimism Intention
Enabling Satisfactory Neutrality 250 Trust Release
Permitting Feasible Courage 200 Affirmation Empowerment
Indifferent Demanding Pride 175 Scorn Inflation
Vengeful Antagonistic Anger 150 Hate Aggression
Denying Disappointing Desire 125 Craving Enslavement
Punitive Frightening Fear 100 Anxiety Withdrawal
Disdainful Tragic Grief 75 Regret Dispondency
Condemning Hopeless Apathy 50 Despair Abdication
Vindictive Evil Guilt 30 Blame Destruction
Despising Miserable Shame 20 Humiliation Elimination
Jul 272006
 

The following chart of consciousness is taken from David Hawkin’s book Power Vs. Force

 

God-view Life-View Level Log Emotion Process
Self Is Enlightenment 700–1,000 Ineffable Pure Consciousness
All-Being Perfect Peace 600 Bliss Illumination
One Complete Joy 540 Serenity Transfiguration
Loving Benign Love 500 Reverence Revelation
Wise Meaningful Reason 400 Understanding Abstraction
Merciful Harmonious Acceptance 350 Forgiveness Transcendence
Inspiring Hopeful Willingness 310 Optimism Intention
Enabling Satisfactory Neutrality 250 Trust Release
Permitting Feasible Courage 200 Affirmation Empowerment
Indifferent Demanding Pride 175 Scorn Inflation
Vengeful Antagonistic Anger 150 Hate Aggression
Denying Disappointing Desire 125 Craving Enslavement
Punitive Frightening Fear 100 Anxiety Withdrawal
Disdainful Tragic Grief 75 Regret Dispondency
Condemning Hopeless Apathy 50 Despair Abdication
Vindictive Evil Guilt 30 Blame Destruction
Despising Miserable Shame 20 Humiliation Elimination
Related Posts with Thumbnails