ACIM Lesson 235: God in His mercy wills that I be saved.

God in His mercy wills that I be saved.

I need but look upon all things that seem to hurt me, and with perfect certainty assure myself, “God wills that I be saved from this,” and merely watch them disappear. I need but keep in mind my Father’s Will for me is only happiness, to find that only happiness has come to me. And I need but remember that God’s Love surrounds His Son and keeps his sinlessness forever perfect, to be sure that I am saved and safe forever in His Arms. I am the Son He loves. And I am saved because God in His mercy wills it so.

Father, Your Holiness is mine. Your Love created me, and made my sinlessness forever part of You. I have no guilt nor sin in me, for there is none in You.

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I’ve been substituting God for “Infinite” and that’s really working for me!

What is it the Infinite will save me from?  From the belief that I am nothing more than a finite body.   There is an aspect of me that is infinite and it is this aspect that gives rise to the finite.  The finite is experientce and experiential, but it isn’t the experiencer.   The brain is a finite mass of grey matter that provides us with a means to interpret sensory experience.   We can train it through meditation and meticulous “unlearning” to become much more aware of the sensory world so that it isn’t quite as quick to put frames around the content.   But being finite, it has to put frames around content, even if the frame is very broad.

That’s where trust and faith come in and why trust or faith in some thing or idea is problematic.   Trust in an idea of God is problematic.  Trust in an interpretation of ACIM is problematic.  Trust in any religion is problematic.  That’s like glorifying the finger that points to the moon because you placed the frame around the finger and made the finger the content.   All religions and spiritual teachings are fingers pointing, they aren’t the content.    They are at most, a craft for those who can only see the finger and an art for those who know the moon.

Trust is the way beyond the frame to the content.  Faith, when understood as this sort of trust, takes it rightful place again, too.   (Faith has become incredibly dumbed down of late.)

Yes I experience these things that I perceive to hurt me.  But the “me” I refer to that is hurt is not the experiencer, it is the experience of being hurt.  I am not hurt, I have simply had an experience of hurt.   Pain is finite.  It comes and goes.

I’m not always a huge fan of Chopra but he has a way of breaking these things down.  I have this explanation in my notes on lesson 38 which I borrowed from Chopra:

There is nothing my holiness cannot do because it is not limited to the subject of the experience or the object of the experience or even the process of interaction between the subject and object. My holiness is the potential for the whole thing!!! Infinite potentiality. You are neither the subject, nor the object, nor the process of interaction between subject and object, but the potential for the whole thing.

In a discussion between Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra on “God”, Chopra says this:

The mechanics of the dream and the mechanics of the waking state of consciousness is exactly the same. One has been given a rationalization and the other has not. It is the karmic software that is appearing in your consciousness that you make stories out of. You get so caught up in the drama of the stories that you forget who you are. The only way to come out of this “tangled hierarchy” (the seer has become lost in the scenery) is to recognize the experiencer. The first step out of the drama is to realize no matter what you are doing, you are not doing it. God does everything. We are the mechanism through which the divine intelligence is working. The second is through devotion/love. The third meditation (silence). And the fourth, using the intellect to go beyond the intellect/rational mind.

That last line I think is what ACIM is about.  We are expanding the frame which allows us to see more of the content.  And the more of the content we become aware of, the more we are able to trust that there is content that is not in our conscious awareness.  We become fully aware of the limits of our awareness which allows us to transcend that which creates the frame.

ACIM Lesson 189: I feel the love of God within me now.

There is a light in you the world cannot perceive. And with its eyes you will not see this light, for you are blinded by the world. Yet you have eyes to see it. It is there for you to look upon. It was not placed in you to be kept hidden from your sight. This light is a reflection of the thought we practice now. To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.

Every now and then I see it.  But mostly, I’m blinded!  Perception is a tricky thing…

Who could feel fear in such a world as this? It welcomes you, rejoices that you came, and sings your praises as it keeps you safe from every form of danger and of pain. It offers you a warm and gentle home in which to stay a while. It blesses you throughout the day, and watches through the night as silent guardian of your holy sleep. It sees salvation in you, and protects the light in you, in which it sees its own. It offers you its flowers and its snow, in thankfulness for your benevolence.

This immediately made me think of a book I read by Deepak Chopra many years ago.  It was a fictional book about a wizard, I think.  I don’t remember the name.   There were all sorts of enlightened characters and one of them was a homeless woman.   That was maybe the first time I realized that being enlightened didn’t mean powerful status came along with it.  But the other thing that struck me is that Deepak Chopra is one of those out there materialistic type folks who makes no apology for the amount of money he spends (or at least that was true then) so how would he know whether an enlightened, homeless person would be so joyful?

But I think that is definitely the point of ACIM.  It’s not about making everyone comfortable or making everyone’s lives easy.  It’s about recognizing who it is we are despite our wordly circumstances.   Having nothing to fear doesn’t mean that everything will suddenly go the way we want it to go once we become enlightened.  Having nothing to fear means there is nothing to fear, no matter what our earthly circumstances are.  It is our fear that enslaves us, not our earthly circumstances.

What would you see? The choice is given you. But learn and do not let your mind forget this law of seeing: You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed, bony fingers. If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and of love.

Yes!  What we see out there exists within or we wouldn’t be able to see it.

ACIM Lesson 38: There is nothing my holiness cannot do.

Williamson’s written blurb: Through the power of your thinking, you can transcend all limitations of the world. Through the power of your holiness, you can transform all situations. Through the power of your love, you can cast out all fear.

ACIM: Your holiness reverses all the laws of the world. It is beyond every restriction of time, space, distance and limits of any kind. Your holiness is totally unlimited in its power because it establishes you as a Son of God, at one with the Mind of his Creator.

This is making so much more sense to me now! I’ve been a student of ACIM on and off since before my daughter was born in 1995. I was pregnant with her when I joined my first ACIM study group and had her just before we moved to California and away from my nice little group. I’ve done Lessons 1-150 three times and have done the first 50 more than I can count. I’ve understood them differently every time. There is so much depth in them!!

What I keep thinking about recently is from a conversation between Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra which I took posted about a few days ago.

I wrote this on a previous lesson and it keeps sticking with me. Chopra says that in physics, the subject of experience and the object of experience co-arise simultaneously moment by moment from a transcendent domain which is beyond both space and time. You are neither the subject, nor the object, nor the process of interaction between subject and object, but the potential for the whole thing.

We are the potential for the whole thing!!!! That is just so huge for me right now. It’s bursting my head. There is nothing my holiness cannot do because it is not limited to the subject of the experience or the object of the experience or even the process of interaction between the subject and object. My holiness is the potential for the whole thing!!! Infinite potentiality.

OK – so what does it mean “my holiness reverses the laws of the world”? I immediately think of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus tells the crowd that the Kingdom of God turns the Kingdom of Rome on it’s head. What is considered powerful in a human kingdom (oppression, power over others, hoarding of material wealth, etc.) are seen for what they are when one realizes that the Kingdom of God (Heaven) is here now. The Kingdom of Rome and the values it represents are effects of fear. It’s a matter of perception – not a matter of dying and going to heaven (although it is, in a sense, a matter of allowing the ego to “die” .) It isn’t about supernaturalism, either. It’s simply a broader perspective of who it is we are. As Chopra says, there is only one witness and the whole universe is an expression of that witness.

There is nothing my holiness cannot do because the power of God lies in it.

ACIM Lesson 36: My holiness envelops everything I see.

ACIM: Today’s idea extends the idea for yesterday from the perceiver to the perceived. You are holy because your mind is part of God’s. And because you are holy, your sight must be holy as well. Sinless means without sin. You cannot be without sin a little. You are sinless or not. If your mind is part of God’s you must be sinless, or a part of His Mind would be sinful. Your sight is related to His Holiness, not to your ego, and therefore not to your body.

From the perceiver to the perceived.

Deepak Chopra says that in physics, the subject of experience and the object of experience co-arise simultaneously moment by moment from a transcendent domain which is beyond both space and time. You are neither the subject, nor the object, nor the process of interaction between subject and object, but the potential for the whole thing.

So if I say my holiness envelops that rug, I’m not the perceiver (me) and I’m not the perceived (the rug) and I’m not the process between me and the rug, I am the potential for the whole thing.

 

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

The current movie for the Analogical Imagination Group is Mulholland Dr. These are just my jumbled thoughts on the film.

This is a SPOILER WARNING!! Only read this if you’ve already seen the movie. If you have any plans at all to watch it, I highly suggest you watch it without any preconceived ideas about it because I seriously think there are probably as many interpretations as there are people which is why I LOVE it so much! If David Lynch were to say – here is what it meant – that would completely destroy the quality of the film for me. I don’t think it is logical, but it does seem to have a sound structure so seems worth puzzling through some of it – especially Lynch’s clues Kristen provided.

SPOILER WARNING!! SPOILER WARNING!! SPOILER WARNING!!

Diane is far too young to have been part of a jitterbug contest. And the opening scene doesn’t seem like a bunch of people in the 1990s doing the jitterbug, it seems like a bunch of people in the 1950s doing the jitterbug. I don’t have an answer to this, I just wonder – Why a jitterbug contest? And how does winning a jitterbug contest lead to acting? Is this a reference to a more naive time?

The first sequence seems to be a movie Diane has constructed and she’s cast all kinds of characters that she has seen elsewhere. I could find most of them in the “awake” sequence. The scene after Betty arrives in LA feels like watching a film from the 1950s where everyone is just way too perky and everything is oh so wonderful. Except – the old couple has the plastic smile that turns into something knowing and sinister once they are in the car alone. So you know it isn’t as perky as it is being made out to be. Strange that Diane would dream that into her dream, though. Maybe her relatives had been abusive? Probably a stretch but you wonder how someone becomes as psychotic as Diane. It could easily be the disappointments of Hollywood dreams, but what makes people dream those sorts of dreams in the first place?

It’s all dreams inside of dreams.

I think I missed what was going on with the man in back of Winkies. I’m not sure what it is we were supposed to notice other than the obvious – that he puts the blue box in a bag and according to the bizarre guy who had had two dreams about that Winkies, he’s supposed to be controlling all of the fear everyone feels. And the other connection is the blue key. Diane asks the hit man what it opens and he just laughs – I guess because it doesn’t open anything? It’s a symbol of the opposite – that someone is dead (something has died). Rita’s blue key opens the box – but there is nothing in it. It’s empty. So maybe the homeless man behind Winkies represents the emptiness of Hollywood dreams?

One of the clues on Kristen’s list (from David Lynch) is who gives keys to whom (or something like that). Rita’s key shows up in her purse and Diane’s key shows up on her table. We assume the hit man has given Diane the key, but he could have someone else deliver it. So really, the only person I noticed giving anybody a key was Cocoa giving Betty a key. Is that significant? Cocoa, in reality, is Adam’s mother. She clearly doesn’t seem to approve of Adam’s marriage to Camilla and gives Diane that sort of knowing pat on the hand which is humiliating to watch so must be humiliating for Diane. There must be a lot of kinky stuff going on with Adam and Camilla because she very seductively kisses the “dream” Camilla in front of both Adam and Diane. And it seems that Adam and Camilla are intentionally taunting Diane. Very confusing and very mean.

Is there any significance to Betty and Rita saying they are going to call the police, just to see if there was an accident on Mulholland Drive? It was very intentionally said. Is this connected to the botched hit scene where they are laughing about an accident? I didn’t get why Diane would dream that into her dream.

There is all of this talk of being in a dreamland and “you can imagine how I feel” and Billy Ray Cyrrus says to Adam when he catches him with his wife in bed, “Just pretend you didn’t see anything – it’s better that way.” As long as you pretend it doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter? All pretense, all dreams, illusions which Club Silencio points out. I so LOVE that scene!! That’s the most realistic part of the whole movie in a way. We are dragged into a reality and then shocked with it’s unreality. Which is when the blue box is discovered and the Cowboy comes in to say “wake up” to whoever it is that is sleeping on the bed. Whoever it is, it is Diane that we actually see wake up in her gray gown.

In the beginning of the film when the mafia guys are calling each other and the guy with the yellow phone makes a call to the black phone by the red lampshade – we later learn that is Diane’s apartment. So that’s kind of weird. They are calling to say the girl is still missing. So that’s probably Diane’s secret hope? That Camilla does somehow manage to escape the hitman?

I loved the Cowboy and the corral – especially after just having read Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It’s that whole herd mentality. Go rope Adam in, corral him, and get him to do what it is you want him to do. If you do good, you’ll see him once. If you do bad, you’ll see him twice. Of course, turns out he is Adams friend in reality – at least he is at Adam’s party. But we see him two more times. I loved this: “Man’s attitude goes some ways, the ways his life will be. Is this something with which you agree?” Adam off-handedly answers yes (or sure). The cowboy then asks “Because I wanted to hear that answer? Or because you agree with what I said?” Adam says it is because he agrees with what he said. So the Cowboy says – “what did I say”. Adam says “A man’s attitude determines to a large degree the way his life will be.” The Cowboy replies, “Well, sense you agree you must be a person who does not care about the good life.” Adam says, “How’s that?” And he never really gets an answer except to be told that he has to change his attitude to get on the Cowboy’s buggy if he wants to go along for the ride. Which means, I suppose, that he has to do as he is told if he wants the good life? Adam gives into the Italian brothers and his life becomes “good” again. In the dream world, he ends up casting Camilla even though he apparently wants Betty. In the real world, he ends up getting engaged to Camilla and taunting Diane with it.

I also thought the audition scene was fascinating. The Director is Bob Brooker (I think?) who seems totally incompetent. He gives some crazy advice: Don’t play for real until it gets real. And don’t rush the line, “before what”. Everyone roles their eyes because Bob is clearly crazy. Woody tells him, “Acting is reacting – I just play off them. And turns to Betty and says – you don’t rush it, I won’t rush it.” I think this must have some significance, but I’m not exactly sure what. I caught the fact that Camilla played the lead role in Sylvia North which was directed by Bob Brooker and Diane tried out for the lead, too. So the whole Italian brothers Maffia thing is about Camilla getting a role she doesn’t deserve that Diane believes should have been hers. That was one of the clues in Kristen’s list – does Camilla get her roles because of her talent? That’s hard to say. But the mother clearly seems to think Camilla does not deserve Adam so it probably has more to do with being able to manipulate people than it has to do with talent.

I asked a couple of questions on Kristen’s post. Is there any significance beyond allowing us to understand that Diane has been missing (and later that Betty is Diane) that the woman in Apt. 12 switched apartments with Diane? What was the significance of the botched hit? I think I asked something else but I don’t remember what. Maybe I already included it here.

Anyway, my cryptic thoughts for what they are worth. I’m not even sure the reality is reality. I’m a little thrown off by the person who is actually in the bed because it seems it must be that person who is having the dream and it isn’t clearly Diane.

But the whole movie is like that. You can’t be certain of anything. It’s just like a dream where people take on different persona’s, time periods merge into each other, the time sequences are out of order and jumping all over the place. You see recurring themes that you can easily make out while you are watching the movie but as soon as you try and understand it, they don’t really make sense anymore.

Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic movie. I absolutely loved it.

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I watched Mulholland Dr. one more time before I took it back to Blockbuster, read through Alan Shaw’s analysis of Lynch’s 10 clues that Kristen posted which helped, and learned a little more about David Lynch at his Myspace.

Turns out he’s been into Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM for 30 years and has been meditating at least 20 minutes twice a day for that long. He is very involved in bringing TM to various communities like students with ADHD, school violence, etc. (See The David Lynch Foundation). It is during TM that the mind is said to reach it’s most quiet state (transcendental consciousness).

Here is Maharishi’s seven major stages of consciousness:

  • Dreamless sleeping state of consciousness
  • Dreaming state of consciousness (REM)
  • Waking state of consciousness
  • Transcendental Consciousness, said to be a fourth major state of consciousness, distinct from waking, sleeping or dreaming. According to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, thought becomes increasingly subtle, until the finest level of thought is reached. From there the mind can further experience the source of thought, or transcend thought, and is no longer bound by thoughts or perceptions but experiences awareness awake to itself alone.This state is said to be an experience of “am-ness”, or “Being”, the unbounded pure consciousness that is at the source of thoughts and feelings. Maharishi calls this state Transcendental Consciousness, and has said that Transcendental Consciousness is experienced via dhyana, a Sanskrit term which he equates with Transcendental Meditation. While dhyana is often characterized as involving concentration or contemplation, Transcendental Meditation, according to Maharishi, makes use of the “natural, expansive response of the mind.” Maharishi notes that concentration is a mistranslation of dhyana and that meditation that uses concentration can result in a failure to transcend.
  • Cosmic Consciousness, the fifth state, is said to be the state of “enlightenment” which results from alternating the experience of Transcendental Consciousness and activity in our daily lives. Through repeated practice, the non-changing state of Being in TC becomes permanently maintained along with waking, sleeping and dreaming. This all-inclusive state – “cosmic” – is marked by a peaceful, non-changing restful state inside while one is actively engaged in the constant change which occurs in life.
  • God Consciousness is said to be the state where the unbounded awareness of Cosmic Consciousness is accompanied by refined sensory perception during waking, sleeping and dreaming – where the full range and mechanics of creation are appreciated at a sublime, subtle level. This perception leads to a devotion and love for creation and its creator.
  • Unity Consciousness, the seventh state, is said to be the perception that all aspects of life are nothing but expressions of Being, or pure consciousness. All of the diversity in life, from the gross to the subtle, is seen as the self-interacting dynamics of Being. The outer and inner realities of life are bridged in Unity Consciousness. One sees the Self in all aspects of creation.

Deepak Chopra, also a student of Maharishi, explains it this way:

There are actually seven states of awareness. Deep sleep is the first; dreaming is the second; then the third stage is waking; the forth stage is meditation; the fifth is called cosmic consciousness, which is when you have that internal experience of meditation in deep sleep, dreaming, and waking, so you are established in that state even while in action. Then beyond cosmic consciousness is the sixth stage of consciousness which is God consciousness, where you become aware of the spirit in the objects of your perception. So you look at a flower and you can feel the presence of divinity within it. Or you look at a telephone or a table or a shoe and you can feel the presence of the infinite in it. The infinite is everywhere. And the seventh stage is the ever present witnessing awareness in the object of experience. They fuse and become one, and when that happens then you experience enlightenment–you see the whole world as an expression of yourself and you see that the ground of your being is also the ground of all existence.

I watched God and Buddha (a discussion between Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra) and Chopra said this about the waking and dreaming states:

The mechanics of the dream and the mechanics of the waking state of consciousness is exactly the same. One has been given a rationalization and the other has not. It is the karmic software that is appearing in your consciousness that you make stories out of. You get so caught up in the drama of the stories that you forget who you are. The only way to come out of this “tangled hierarchy” (the seer has become lost in the scenery) is to recognize the experiencer. The first step out of the drama is to realize no matter what you are doing, you are not doing it. God does everything. We are the mechanism through which the divine intelligence is working. The second is through devotion/love. The third meditation (silence). And the fourth, using the intellect to go beyond the intellect/rational mind.

So it would seem that the viewer of Mulholland Drive is the experiencer. We are the seer and we’ve become lost in the scenery. Perhaps Silencio is a call to wake up from our own waking state.

Carl Jung said that all of the characters in our dreams are in actuality, ourselves. In a sense, this is true in our waking state, too. We project our beliefs, experience, etc. onto others rather than seeing them as they are.

When I went back through and watched Mulholland Dr. this last time, the story made a lot more sense thinking in terms of the characters being a projection of Diane’s experience. At first I was kind of skeptical of Alan Shaw saying she had been sexually abused, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about the scenes in her dream.

I figured out the gown dilemma. The corpse in Diane’s dream is wearing a black gown. The “awake” Diane is wearing a gray gown. So when the Cowboy knocks on the door and says “wake up pretty girl”, that’s still a part of the dream and he’s saying it to the Diane in Diane’s dream who is presumably already dead. Maybe what that signifies is that the identity Diane had associated with the Hollywood dream is dead. (In a sense, Camilla in the “awake” scene, represents that Hollywood identity. In the “dream” scene, Camilla is an aspect of Diane.) And in another sense, these characters are all aspects of the viewer (as the experiencer of the film), too.

OK – I know this is already really long, but I want to write this down for the next time I watch the movie (which won’t be anytime soon). These are based on Alan Shaw’s analysis of Lynch’s 10 Clues:

Clue 1) I couldn’t figure out why Alan Shaw would have been so certain the older people are Diane’s grandparents, but apparently this is what David Lynch called them in the screenplay for the pilot.

Clue 3) I’m not sure I agree with Alan Shaw’s analysis of the third clue. I think when Adam is asked “to keep an open mind”, they mean the opposite. An open mind is open to infinite possibilities, not the specific demands of others who use desire against them. I agree with Shaw that Adam is an aspect of Diane. Adam in the dream fits the prostitute archetype perfectly. He’s willing to sell his integrity for the sake of maintaining his lifestyle. It’s not his film anymore so he is left with two possibilities. Comply and maintain “the good” life”. Or be willing to walk away from the film. An open mind in this case means the willingness to be directed/controlled. And of course Adam is willing to be controlled because he doesn’t want to walk away from “the good life”. He can be bought. This mirrors what is going on in Diane’s life. But I suppose it could have dual meaning if Lynch agrees with Chopra’s take on Maharishi’s teaching that ultimately, no matter what we are doing, we are not in control, we are the mechanism through which divine intelligence is operating. When we try to control the events and people in our lives based on what it is we personally desire, we close our mind to infinite possibility. Our reality gets “boxed” in and we become much more easily manipulated by the desires of others. (Our desire plays off their desire and vice versa.)

Clue 4 )I also don’t really agree with Alan Shaw’s take on the fourth clue although the accident theme is interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Mulholland Dr. is sort of like Mount Olympus in a way, but the analogy doesn’t quite work for me because Adam is not in control of his own life (or his film), either. He’s being controlled like a puppet, too. I think it might be a little shallow to say that Diane meeting Camilla is the metaphorical accident that is being referred to in this clue. That is part of it. But I think the accident is more along the lines of illusion crashing into reality. The crash takes place where Camilla meets Diane and leads her up the hill. Camilla is charming Diane as though something good is going to happen and Diane falls for the illusion Camilla is creating. But at the dinner party, Diane is forced to face the reality of her relationship to Camilla.

Clue 5) It’s not Aunt Ruth that gives Betty the key. It’s Cocoa that gives Betty the key. It’s definitely not Ruth giving Diane the key although I suppose this key could hold a double meaning because Alan is right – it’s Ruth’s money that allows Diane to come out to Hollywood. But then why does Cocoa turn out to be Adam’s mother? Aunt Ruth is not connected to Adam’s mother in reality. The other two keys (the blue ones) are not given by anyone. The hitman doesn’t give it to Diane. He just says she’ll find it when the job is done. And Rita isn’t given the blue key, either. For me, both represent the emptiness and illusory nature of a life controlled by desire.

Clue 8) Is this Sylvia North Story about child abuse? Where did that come from? I’m still not sure about that connection although I looked up some info, on Rita Hayworth. (Rita got her name from the Gilda poster which was the film that launched Rita Hayworth’s career.) Rita Hayworth was one of the first Spanish actresses in Hollywood and was known for her red hair. She had an extremely early onset of Alzheimers. She never sang in her films, including Gilda. And she changed her name (which is a common thing for movie stars to do.)

Interesting thought on the Blue Haired Lady: I have spent way too much time with the link Kristen provided for Mulholland Dr. It’s all interesting but here is the coolest thing I’ve stumbled across on it yet: “Just a quick note on the final word in Mulholland Dr., regarding another film ending on the same word, Le Mepris (aka Contempt), in which the call for silence (in Italian rather than Spanish, albeit with the same pronunciation) comes from a director’s assistant (?) as a scene is about to be filmed for a movie. As a second point, why would someone in a theatre ask for silence? Both of these suggest that the show is just about to start. The Blue Haired Lady is breaking the spell of the film and speaking directly to the viewer – she is urging silence before a performance, which is real life, the life we engage in when we leave the theater.” (James Stanley)

OK – that’s it for me and Mulholland Dr. for a while. I’ll have to come back to it after seeing a few more Lynch films.

Kierkegaard and Buddhism

During Dreyfus’ last lecture, the issue of Buddhism came up and Dreyfus lumped Buddhism in with the Greek Philosophers. He thinks it is probable that Plato came back to Greece after his long journey to whatever mystical place he was said to have visited with Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism was in existence at the time of Plato, so it’s possible.

What Dreyfus points out is that Kierkegaard’s idea of unconditional commitment is entirely different than the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. Kierkegaard is saying we have to go through despair in order to obtain bliss and because the Buddhists seem to be focused on the avoidance of suffering rather than obtaining an unconditional commitment, he thinks that Kierkegaard would say they cannot possibly attain bliss.  

Which just seems plain silly to me. I can think of several examples of Buddhists that seem to me to be fully living and acting in the world while not being of it – like Thich Nhat Hanh and definitely the Dalai Lama.  They feel the pain of being exiled and losing loved ones.  If it doesn’t cause them suffering, I’d say it’s because they recognize infinite possibility (which is otherwise known as nothingness.)

Dreyfus’ son is a Buddhist and I guess they get into arguments – he tells his son that life is not about getting rid of suffering, it’s about obtaining meaning.

I guess I have a hard time understanding his argument – where is this meaning supposed to come from unless we create it? If Kierkegaard is saying that God is “infinite possibility”, then isn’t it we who create our meaning out of that infinite possibility? If Kierkegaard doesn’t believe in a supreme being, then surely he isn’t saying that there is some entity out there who has made everything the way it is and is pushing it all to a particular end. That would make God finite rather than infinite.

Robert Thurman says the aim of Buddhism is to become enlightened in the swirl of animal life forms and that this is possible because we have the ability to choose to optimize our being together. It is not a life negation, but rather a means to become aware of all that is around you and to function from that place of awareness. In a discussion between Deepak Chopra and Robert Thurman about “God” (according to the Vedic tradition), Chopra says God is the field of infinite intelligence and infinite potentiality and we are the finite expression of the infinite (although at another level, we are both.) If we are able to recognize the existence of infinite potentiality, then we can make more optimal choices.  Thurman agrees with this.  Nothingness is nothingness in Buddhism because it comprises everything (but undifferentiated).

Maybe I am wrong, but I think Kierkegaard is sort of saying the same thing – but in a different way. Through Buddhism you achieve this awareness through non-attachment. Kierkegaard is saying we have to achieve higher levels of consciousness through an unconditional commitment which does seem to be the opposite. But is it?

According to Buddhism and the Vedic traditions, what creates suffering is the fear of death and loss. You cannot detach yourself from suffering by avoiding it. You have to be willing to face it head on. There are Buddhist meditations where you imagine yourself as a rotting corpse with worms crawling through your body and learn to accept that image because that will be the state of our bodies one day. If we fear that fact, then it is impossible for us to truly live because our lives will be focused upon the avoidance of death. Detaching yourself from suffering is not avoidance of it – just the opposite. You can only transcend suffering through suffering. Which, as I said the other day, seems to me to be what Kierkegaard is saying about despair. You can only transcend despair through it. Avoiding it, not acknowledging it, will only keep you mired in it.

There has to be an absolute acceptance that at the common level of human consciousness, suffering and despair are the human condition. You have to be able to imagine all the possibilities. Not just the ones that don’t scare you. Of course, there is the possibility of accepting despair and suffering and then staying stuck within it – like the French woman in Hiroshima Mon Amour does (the Knight of Resignation). Her imagination is more limited than that of the Japanese man (the Knight of Faith) who has been through equal despair but has managed to transcend it.

Again, Kierkegaard says something to the effect that God is infinite possibilities and infinite possibilities is God. (Through God, all things are possible because God IS infinite possibility.) What makes a Knight of Faith a Knight of Faith is that he recognizes that there is infinite possibility even in the finitude of his existence. He can walk home dreaming of a wonderful stew yet be perfectly happy when he gets home to find out only a very meager soup is available because the possibility of the wonderful stew existed so the meager soup is not a disappointment. Maybe things aren’t going the way he wants them to go, but knowing that it is possible for them to go the way he wants them to go is enough to transcend despair. This is what makes him a Knight of Faith rather than a Knight of Resignation. In a sense, his recognition of infinite possibility creates a sort of unattachment.

I think what allows us to recognize this ability might be different in the west than it is in the east. A while back, I was at a lecture where an American Buddhist (or Hindu – I can’t remember which) was explaining the danger of eastern philosophies hitting the mainstream in America. Traditionally, in Eastern cultures, community is more highly valued than individualism. But in Western cultures, individualism is more highly valued than community. (Not that either deems the other non-important, but the emphasis, in general, has been on community in eastern cultures while it has been on individuality in western cultures.) The religions that have come out of the cultures reflect these differences and seek to compensate for the imbalance. Christianity is a communal religion. The emphasis is based on communion and being One in Christ. Prayer is done communally, repentance of sins is done communally, etc. But Eastern religions primarily emphasize the individual. While you meditate with a Sangha there are communal rituals, but the emphasis is more heavily individual than it is within Christianity. Many of the Zen Buddhist exercises are meant to break the individual away from his identification with the family (ancestor worship, etc.).

You have to fully recognize “the other” in order to recognize Oneness. For those of us in the west who already have an exaggerated sense of “me” and “you” (rugged individualism in the U.S.), eastern religions have the potential to create dangerous levels of narcissism if not approached in a very mindful manner. We think of ourselves as individuals and we push for the rights of individuals, but we still have a really difficult time recognizing the other as “other” in the west. So I think it makes sense that Kierkegaard says we need to discover “the self” through an unconditional commitment to something “other” rather than through an idea like non-attachment. That’s not to say non-attachment can’t be helpful, but it does have the potential to make it even more difficult for we westerners to recognize the other as truly “other” rather than a narcissistic reflection of ourselves. Perhaps it is true (I think it is, at least) that what we see “out there” is “in here” and that people are reflections of ourselves. But there are different levels of understanding this truth and we have to be careful not to understand it through narcissistic inclinations. The point of realizing that what you are seeing is a reflection of yourself is not to assume what you are seeing is yourself – but to recognize the egoic limitations of actually being able to see clearly at all.

OK – so a lot of rambling. The Sickness Unto Death has got me thinking about a lot of things so I’ll probably have at least one or two more posts on it.  My apologies in advance. It is likely I’ll change my mind on a lot of it, too. It’s helpful just try and get it into words.

Kabbalah

I watched a documentary called Secrets of the Kabbalah from the History Channel last night. I know next to nothing about Kabbalah so this was of major interest to me even though anyone could tell me anything about the Kabbalah and I would have little means to decipher fact from fiction.

A friend recently posted a video from the Ashlag Research Institute called "Perceiving Reality” which has to do with Kabbalah and I reacted to it similarly to how I reacted to "What the Bleep" and "The Secret." I’m skeptical. Not because I disagree with the message, but I am troubled by the delivery because it feels to me like I am being sold a spirituality which doesn’t feel right, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe the old Christian brainwashing? Or maybe it’s as Huston Smith says – that as soon as you turn spirituality into a noun, something that can be consumed – you’ve destroyed it. What you create is yet another desire which pushes aside emptiness rather than allowing for it.

My friend’s rabbi claimed to be somewhat of an expert on the history of Kabbalah and said that what came about in the middle ages is not what Kabbalah is actually about. This potentially meshes with what "Secrets of the Kabbalah" presents. Kabbalah began as a means for individuals to experience a vision of God like the vision Ezekeil has in Ezekiel 1: 1-28. But it wasn’t called Kabbalah at that time. It was simply an exercise.

"The Book of Creation" (the Sefer Yetzirah) claimed that the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet were the creation of the universe. Apparently God spoke in Hebrew? The details of the book were kept hidden for centuries. (Of course now you can read it in English on-line.)

During the crusades, when Jews were being persecuted against, the mystics who studied "The Book of Creation" and attempted to experience Ezekiel’s vision of God began to be called Kabbalists. (Kabbalah means receiving.) In 1280, the book of Zohar (meaning “splendor, radiance”) was discovered. The author of the 2000 pages is a mystery. It is a mystical commentary on the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). It was written in Aramaic by someone who didn’t know Aramaic very well and is very difficult to interpret. On the surface, it is a novel. But underlying the story is the understanding of the Torah as a code.

It overturns the account in Genesis that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. What it teaches is that Adam expelled God. We are still in the Garden of Eden but we no longer realize it by our own choice. According to Kabbalah, God is comprised of both male and female aspects. Shekhinah (something Deepak Chopra kept referring to in "How to Know God") is the feminine part of God (possibly akin to the Pagan idea of mother goddess). The goal is to unite the male and female halves of God and this is understood as a sexual union. Human beings affect God by uniting the male and female through acts of compassion, love, etc. This idea, of course, completely clashes with the orthodox idea of God being omnipotent and omniscient.

We have the ability to unite and create harmony, but we likewise have the ability to create disharmony. Human sin creates a mis-balance and empowers cosmic evil. It disrupts the harmony in God. (The Zohar says that the Biblical characters are metaphors of the aspects of God.)

In 1492, 100,000 Jews fled Spain because of the Spanish Inquisition and Kabbalism spread. It became a sort of puritanical movement that taught that if people were holy enough, they could help God bring about the Messiah. In the 1500s, Isaac Luria created yet another form of Kabbalah which became known as Lurianic Kabbalah that had a huge influence on Hasidism. Luria believed in reincarnation and thought that if you could understand what someone had undergone in a previous life, it would help individuals navigate their way through this life. He taught that the first act of creation was not creation, but was withdrawal. Withdrawal created the emptiness necessary to give God the room to create. (The basic understanding is that you cannot have creativity without destruction.)

In 1572, Luria died of the plague which was a blow to many believers who thought his death was brought on because of false teachings. But, with the invention of the printing press and the widespread distribution of the Zohar, Kabbalah continued to spread.

The Zohar was translated into Latin and something known as the Christian Kabbalah came into being. Many claim that this was the very beginnings of modern science and physics  because what the Christian Kabbalists were interested in doing was using Kabbalism as a means to understand Pythagorus whose theories mirrored much of ancient Kabbalistic thought.

Meanwhile, Lurianic Kabbalah gave rise to a mystic named Sabbatai Zvi. He had major bouts of depression mixed with mystical ecstasies (likely bipolar?) He claimed to be the Messiah but when push came to shove and he was given the choice of his Messiahship or converting to Islam, he converted to Islam. A few followers converted with him, but the vast majority decided that mysticism was “bad”.

In recent times, Kabbalism has taken on a completely different character. A New York Rabbi named Philip Berg who had devoted himself to Kabbalism was part of the 1960s American Counter Culture. He created a simplified version of the Kabbalah that he claimed anyone could understand and simultaneously created a Kabbalah empire in Los Angeles called The Kabbalah Centre. This is what has produced much of the Hollywoodized version of Kabbalah (ie Madonna). The practice is open to all and there is no longer any need to engage in the study of Kabbalah in order to consider yourself a Kabbalist. It’s a sort of postmodern spiritualy based upon a materialistic/physical/secular understanding rather than the spiritual/metaphysical understanding traditional Kabbalah held.

This seems to me to be the problem with all of religion/spirituality these days! We’ve almost completely secularized what was once spiritual. (We’ve turned spirituality into a noun – something to consume – rather than a discpline/process.)