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Thank you for visiting SpiritsNextMove.net, a spot which has been the home of the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog for the past several months. As part of our organization’s web presence reorganization, we have moved the contents of this blog and will no longer be posting here.

You can find the new Spirit’s Next Move daily blog, better than ever, on the Center for World Spirituality’s main site at www.iEvolve.org. You can find new daily material on the left sidebar of the site. Thanks once again for sticking with us … we look forward to seeing you on the new site!

Protest as Prayer (Part 9): “The Shechina which is called I” (Zohar….)

Doorway

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 8.

“The Shechina which is called I” (Zohar….)

The implication of this Kabbalistic strain of thought needs to be unpacked more fully. One of the core ideas in the Lurianic understanding of the religious act is the need to identify with the pain of the Shechina in exile. According to the Talmudic masters the divine presence  — the Shechina — is exiled with the Jewish people. In one of the most daring affirmations of divine intimacy, the Talmudic teachers and later the kabbalistic masters insist that the transcendent God of the Bible becomes incarnate in the suffering of the Jewish people (and, I would add, of all people).

Indeed the actual term for Shechina in many kabalistic sources is kenesset yisrael — the community of Israel. The community per se is an embodiment of the divine. This identification achieves its most extreme form when God is described as suffering the pain of the people. Emerging from the verse in Isaiah, “In all your pain — he is in pain,” the mystical writers develop at great length the very powerful notion that God suffers together with every person in pain. For the mystic there may be much quiet desperation in the world but there is no lonely desperation. And being “with” is always the beginning of redemption. One mystical writer turns God’s infinity — which is understood by the medieval rationalists as being the expression of divine perfection — on its head and talks not about infinite power but of the infinity of divine pathos, intimacy and love. God loves us so much that when we suffer he experiences our pain — infinitely. This explains why God is hidden in world. For if God’s infinite pain were to be revealed — if one divine tear were to fall, it would surely destroy the world in an instant.

This notion of divine intimacy — together with a combination of two major ideas — one from Cordevero’s and the other from Luria’s Kabbalah — need to be transformed into a mandate for human spiritual activism. Luria teaches that a major raison-de-etre for the performance of Mitzvah is to participate in the pain of the Shechina in exile. When I perform a ritual act says Luria I am engaging in far more than the fulfillment of a divine command — I am rather empathetically identifying with the Shechina in exile. Through this identification I contribute to her redemption.

This idea brings us full circle. The human being suffers. God abandons the heavens, risking his transcendence in order to create intimacy with the sufferer by fully participating in her pain. Even for God there is no intimacy without risk.

Yet intimacy demands response. We are called on to participate with God in her pain. The act of Mitzvah is interpreted by Luria as a sort of participation mystique. For example, when we give charity it is not only an act of social justice. It is a movement of redemption — namely the redemption of the Shechina (who is called “the poor one”) from her exile. According to Jewish Law the dispenser of charity to the poor is commanded not only to give charity but to empathize with the pain of the poor person. According to Luria we experience the pain of the poor one on two levels, the actual poor person and the Shechina who is called the poor one. God’s redemption, according to Luria, takes place through our participating in God’s pain.

Cordevero in his classic work the Palm of Devorah teaches that Imatatio dei — the imitation of God — applies to all God’s revealed characteristics. All theology — i.e. knowledge about god — is a challenge to imitate, to be like, God.

Therefore the knowledge of God’s ways passed down by the spiritual visionaries of the generations — that God emerges out of Herself to participate in human suffering — demands that we imitate God. Just as God merges infinity into finity by participating in human suffering, so do we merge finity into infinity by participating in divine suffering.

How do we accomplish this? Clearly in the same way that God does … by participating in the pain of the other. Divine suffering is human suffering. We meet God in the pain of the other. God participates in the pain of suffering human beings. If we are challenged to imitate God by participating in divine suffering — then we meet the challenge by feeling the pain of other. Human beings meet God in pain — not, however, in our own pain, but in our ability to expand the narrow boundaries of self and fully identify with and experience the pain of other.

Is a politics based on World Spirituality conservative or liberal?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/08/1062913/-BREAKING-On-a-Roll-Washington-state-passes-gay-marriage-bill-55-43-

By Joe Perez

In truth, there is no division between spirituality and politics that can be found in The Way Things Are. If you believe, as I do, that there is only one True Self and that every unique individual is a completely whole and infinitely valuable Unique Self which is one and the same as that Ultimate Identity, then how can there be a separation?

In an Integral view of ethics, care and justice evolve in ever expanding reach from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to kosmocentric levels. Ultimately, there is a sense of self-identification with responsibility and empathy for all sentient beings in all times and places. Thus, politics — which I define broadly as the expansion of our circle of concern to ever wider levels of embrace — is deeply wedded to our sense of self and our understanding of the nature of reality.

Spirituality and politics are distinct aspects of our human existence, but not separate ways of being. In other words, every spiritual act is also a political act, and every political act is also spiritual. But if spirituality is related as Paul Tillich formulated to our “ultimate concern,” then politics relates to concerns that individuals share with other individuals in their community.

There are family and tribal/organizational politics, there are national and international politics. And as plans in recent decades for human colonization of other worlds has demonstrated, there is even a politics of the relationship between the inhabitants of Earth and everything extraterrestrial. Politics is inescapable, no matter how apolitical one’s views.

If you scan articles written about politics by members of the World Spirituality, Integral Spirituality, or Evolutionary Spirituality communities, you may come away with the impression that most people are progressive. After all, among those in the U.S. you will frequently hear praise of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Barack Obama — all Democrats. You will hear support for remedying income inequality, addressing climate change, and legalizing same-sex marriage.

But read more closely and you will find a more complex picture.

The liberal and conservative writers divide opinions into warring camps of “the ones who are right” and “opponents.” They advocate positions based on their convictions of the values that are most important to them: for example, civic republican virtues such as self-reliance and individual responsibility for conservatives, and progressive values such as equality, protecting the vulnerable, and giving voice to the voiceless. Conservatives often invoke religion to justify their aims, and liberals invoke secular principles (while those who are religious add that they are motivated by their privately held religious or spiritual convictions).

In contrast, a more authentically Integral approach is grounded in a spiritual view that includes people of all faiths as well as secular perspectives. For instance, as we’ve noted, World Spirituality recognizes an evolution of political views from egocentric to worldcentric and beyond. The values upheld by conservatives and liberals are all embraced as valuable if they lead towards greater levels of love and compassion, and the policies they advocate are assessed on the basis of how they enhance the well-being of all sentient beings.

Thus, people embracing an authentic World Spirituality may take stances that look conservative, liberal, or radical … depending on how they discern the merits of particular choices that must be made in particular contexts at particular times and places. I’m not talking about situational ethics, but context-aware and forward-looking decision-making.

Conservative and liberal values are balanced in practical situations, but not out of a desire for warring parties to compromise irrespective of what is right or wrong. Rather, World Spirituality calls for individuals to enter into political life not with our egos, but in a We-space of Unique Selves joining together to discern how our political life together can allow everyone to be more fully who they are, the heart and mind of God. From this vantage point, petty politics is vanquished and a World Politics more noble, humanizing, and inspiring is permitted to emerge.

Protest as Prayer (Part 4): Where — is God

Angst

This post is continued from Part 3.

By Marc Gafni

R. Nachman of Bratzlav in a profound and daring teaching reveals the light shimmering in Alyosha’s speech. It is a teaching on the word ‘Ayeh’. Ayeh in Hebrew means where, in the sense of ‘where is God?

Ayeh encapsulates in one word Alyosha’s entire oration. I want to share with you R. Nachman’s teaching directly, in my trans-interpretation of the original Hebrew text. The bracketed words are my additions:

‘When one follows the path of intellect – (certainty)
one may encounter
multiple mistakes and pitfalls
There are many who fell
and who caused the world to fall
and all through their intellect (false certainty)

….. when you fall into uncertainty
the fall perse
and the descent
are the ultimate ascent.
For all of creation…
derives sustenance
from the ten revealed utterances of creation(certainty)
but the place of the fall
derives sustenance
from the hidden utterance. (uncertainty)
(which is keter)
…in the place of the fall
certainty can give no nourishment
there only the hidden utterance – uncertainty
gives nourishment.
When a person says ‘Ayeh’- where is the place of his glory
when he realizes how distant he is
how deeply he has fallen into uncertainty
this – itself is his fixing

Nachman teaches that in the depth of uncertainty is certainty- the experience of worth, value and being loved. In the anger at evil is the profound intuition that our rage matters – and that it is holy.


Note: This is part of an ongoing series.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney

Protest as Prayer (Part 3): Two 19th Century Russians, Nachman and Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky

By Marc Gafni

Note: This post is continued from Part 2.

It is this paradox that Dostoyevsky in Brothers Karamazov does not fully grasp. He does not understand that the rage of Ivan is the rage of ‘heresy that is faith.’ Ivan, responding to Alyosha’s certainty of belief, has just described to him the brutal murder of a child torn apart by dogs for sport. Ivan’s uncertainty burns with the fiery anger of faith:

Although the passage is longer than what one would usually expect in a quoted text, it is so germane to our theme and so compelling that I did not shorten it. Thus I invite my dear reader to experience the truth and power of Ivan’s plea. He needs to be read as a modern echo of Abraham’s cry “Will the judge of the entire world not do justice?”

I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven’t suffered, simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else.

I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer.

But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so answerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution too, but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their father’s crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.

Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn’t grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be, when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear.

But what pulls me up here is that I can’t accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child’s torturer, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ But I don’t want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether.

It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.

I don’t want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother’s heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony?

Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket.

A 3,500-year-old text anticipates Ivan. Moses says to God – ‘You have promised to redeem the people in the future — that’s not good enough — for how does that help the babies brutally killed and buried in the mortar of Egyptian brick?’

The outraged existential challenge which Ivan, Moses and Abraham hurl against God is also God’s highest embrace. When we rage like Ivan we affirm the dignity and validity of our rage. We recognize that the rage is holy, welling as it does from the deepest recesses of our being. We refuse to invalidate our core certainty of self and capitulate to the indifference of dogma that denies the uncertainty of evil. We refuse to deny our rage, and in so doing we affirm the holiness of our moral intuitions. In giving voice to our deepest uncertainties, we paradoxically confirm our inner certainty of the divinity in ourselves. Dostoyevsky’s mistake was only that he thought Ivan’s speech to be heresy.

Photo Credit: Bradley Wind

Protest as Prayer (Part 2): The Answer

Japan Prayer

By Marc Gafni

It is to this paradox that we will now turn. We dance in the paradox of certainty and uncertainty. As we hear of recent tragedies in the world –hurricanes, earthquakes, and last year’s catastrophe in Japan — we enter into a space of desperately of grappling with God within the uncertainty. Where are you God? Where are you within me and within the word?  Within the very recesses of the uncertainty however is a powerful experience of certainty. Of the non dual realizationof I Am.  It is in I Am, when I experience the core certainty of self, and therefore of my divinity- of my being loved by God.  This experience is not only not in contradiction to the question, it wells up from the question itself. In the question is God. The question is the answer.

Photo Credit: -= Hobo=

Not at all a horror story: Stephen King and the virtues of patriotism

Stephen King

Stephen King

By Joe Perez

Patriotism is often taken as the virtue of virtue by conservatives (and by politicians posing as conservatives to win right-wing votes). Mitt Romney, for example, has made patriotism the centerpiece of his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, his campaign, and his attacks against the president Barack Obama as “apologizer-in-chief” for statements made overseas admitting to the imperfections of the United States.

On the other hand, liberals and progressives have often demonstrated an allergy to patriotism and some of the things associated negatively with it (xenophobia, ethnocentrism, simple-minded acceptance of the ruling party, foreign policy aggression, etc.). It’s almost as if patriotism is a litmus test dividing the ethnocentric from the more worldcentric views of the world.

But this isn’t quite that simple. An Integral approach does not tell us that patriotism is good or bad, more developed or less developed. It tells us to honor all the ways of relating to patriotism that contribute to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. And when talking about patriotism, it is the case that progressives who can honor patriotism often make the best case for its virtues, and conservatives who argue against the downsides of patriotism are often its best critics.

Stephen King, the world famous author of thrillers, horror, science-fiction, and other literature, is also believed to have a net worth of $400 million. Despite being “filthy rich,” as they say, he’s now written an article in The Daily Beast criticizing rich people who don’t want to pay more taxes and the ideologues who reinforce their beliefs and block legislation that would make the rich pay “their fair share” in taxes.

What’s more, in making this courageous and unusual argument, King tells us that it’s patriotism that ought to motivate the rich. He writes:

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

PatriotWhat I want to highlight here is simply King’s brilliant move of honoring patriotism and making the case that people who say they are patriotic are hypocritical for not being true to its ideals. Although his position might be debatable, it is certainly Integral in the best and widest sense of the term: open to truth wherever it can be found, taking the virtues upheld by “the enemy”  and explaining not how wrong they are, but how the virtues actually demand a more compassionate and loving stance than is being offered. Fairness, King says, is an American virtue, and Americans who are proud of their country ought to stand up for all its ideals, not cherry-pick the ones that make their bank accounts the fattest.

World Spirituality based on Integral principles is not based on dividing people up into “the people who are right” and “the enemy,” which is something that King arguably does in his article, so it isn’t the case that King speaks for a truly authentic World Spirituality. But it is definitely the case, I think, that World Spirituality does not tell people that in order to take a more worldcentric spiritual view they must lose their patriotism. Love your self, love your family, your neighbors, your city, your state, your country, your country’s allies, and ultimately your country’s enemies and the people of every nation on the planet.

Patriotism as a partial identification of the self and the state is not an evil. Like any limited sort of self-identification, it removes us from the True Self, the Ultimate Identity of which of there is truly only one. But it is part of our Unique Self as a station on the way to a wider and ultimately truer identity. Love calls us out of narrow conceptions of self into larger wholes, and it is also love that can lift our nations into larger frameworks that solve global problems.

Why disgust is important from a spiritual perspective

Worms

By Joe Perez

One of the most important insights of the Integral Framework is that it helps us to integrate psychological research regarding the basis for our worldviews with our spirituality. For instance, when we learn that many (but not all) liberals and many (but not all) conservatives are more likely to hold a common psychological type or structure-stage which per se is neither good nor bad, and for which they are not morally accountable, then we become less judgmental of them.

Thereupon we learn to dis-identify with exclusively liberal or conservative impulses as we locate within our own psyche the basis upon which liberals and conservatives usually hold out their warring worldviews as the only one worth belief. This change in political beliefs is associated with the arrival of a more expansive identification of the self and the world it inhabits. The self holds more of a both/and perspective rather than either/or.

Now it turns out researchers are constantly giving us greater understanding of how this all happens. Writing on Towleroad, Chris Mooney reviews the evidence to substantiate the fact that there appears to be no rational basis for the belief that children are harmed by same-sex marriage and unions. But Mooney’s main point is not political, but psychological. He argues that there is a psychological basis for differences in belief among liberals and conservatives regarding gay marriage, and it has to do with feelings of disgust:

There are a small number of Christian right researchers and intellectuals who have tried to make a scientific case against same-sex marriages and unions, by citing alleged harms to children. This stuff isn’t mainstream or scientifically accepted — witness the APA’s statements on the matter. But from the perspective of the Christian right, that doesn’t really matter. When people are looking for evidence to support their deeply held views, the science suggests that people engage in “motivated reasoning.” Their deep emotional convictions guide the retrieval of self-supporting information that they then use to argue with, to prop themselves up. It isn’t about truth, it’s about feeling that you’re right — righteous, even.

And where, in turn, do these emotions come from? Well, there’s the crux. A growing body of research shows that liberals and conservatives, on average, have different moral intuitions, impulses that bias us in different directions before we’re even consciously thinking about situations or issues. Indeed, this research suggests that liberals and conservatives even have different bodily responses to stimuli, of a sort that they cannot control. And one of the strongest areas of difference involves one’s sensitivity to the feeling of disgust.

recent study, for instance, found that “individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.” In other words, there’s now data to back up what we’ve always kind of known: The average conservative, much more than the average liberal, is having visceral feelings of disgust towards same-sex marriage. And then, when these conservatives try to consciously reason about the matter, they seize on any information to support or justify their deep-seated and uncontrolled response — which pushes them in the direction of believing and embracing information that appears to justify and ratify the emotional impulse.

The key takeaway, for my purposes today, is that when we look at our beliefs and those of our neighbors about important subjects of concern to us all, we are not looking at beliefs formed strictly out of either emotional or rational bases. Beliefs can also be almost instinctual, rooted in primordial feelings planted deep in the reptilian brain. In a sense, debates about gay marriage can turn into a show of force between a mature human perspective and a reptile perspective rationalized with human defense mechanisms.

Perhaps disgust is not something quickly changed, but it is a conditioned reaction that can be changed given the right amount of time, inclinations, and technique. But anyone concerned with making positive changes in the world needs to know this information and develop strategies smart enough to account for more of reality. And that is one way to characterize the Integral perspective on which World Spirituality is grounded: it is based in reality, and a commitment to continually embrace and include as much of it as possible… and perhaps, by extension, be disgusted by as little of it as possible.

The Nightly View: Thorny questions about reincarnation. The status of women in Pakistan.

Pakistani Women

A few cosmetic changes tonight: I’ve updated the name for this column to The Nightly View and removed numbers from this and The Daily Wisdom columns.

Thorny questions about reincarnation

The worst thing to be reincarnated into is an animal, because you can’t learn, says a past-life specialist who ponders questions such as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Andrea Chalupa interviews Dr. DeBell, a specialist in past-life regression therapy, on the Big Think blog:

Since death isn’t the final liberator, according to Dr. DeBell, the ticket out is living life unflinchingly by the Golden Rule—treat everyone else as you would want to be treated. Working out your “golden rule” muscle makes it stronger over time.

“I am not surprised,” he says, “that given the complexity of trust or humility or applying the golden rule and the amount of progress I see myself and others making in one lifetime, that it takes many lifetimes to master them.”

One of his most useful regressions, he says, was finding himself a cave man suddenly killed by an animal attack, and was surprised that he was still alive. “I experienced,” he says, “that early phase of my soul’s development in a way that helped me come to terms with the very slow pace of development.”

After growing up in a religious Protestant household, he stopped believing in God at the age of 21. Two decades later, after spending most of his career as a psychiatrist in community clinics in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, he met a spirit guide while practicing self-hypnosis. His exploration in soul self-knowledge reminded him of a feeling he had when he was around eight-years-old, and reading an article in National Geographic about reincarnation. Back then, “Something inside of me reverberated, and I knew it to be the truth.”

This level of self-searching, DeBell says, took him “a couple of years to learn, because I’m scientifically oriented.”

Fifteen years later, he would return to that childhood conviction by founding his own private practice, with his wife, Susan DeBell, where they walk patients through the lessons they’re still working out over lives. For anyone interested in past-life regression therapy, DeBell advises to focus on questions that feel important and have a curiosity about yourself. An open mind is necessary to silence the mental chatter. For those eager to graduate, DeBell recommends, “focus on the process instead of the goal. Any goal can limit us.”

So what happens to the Hitlers, Stalins, al-Assads, Jong-ils, Cheneys?

“God didn’t create Hitler,” says DeBell, “but he certainly created the situation for a Hitler. That is what free will is about.” As for the world’s “bad guys,” they are souls who simply flunked. “It’s like somebody who is put back a grade,” he says. “You find yourself as the big kid in kindergarten. That’s rather humiliating.”

In regards to, say, former Vice President Dick Cheney, America’s very own Mr. Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life, who drove us into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and profited from it, DeBell’s answer, “Dick Cheney could be a very young soul. His soul was dropped into power, and couldn’t handle it.” He added, “It’s not up to us to judge.”

What’s the ultimate punishment? “Coming back as animals is a punishment,” he says, surprisingly, “because you can’t learn. Being unable to learn is the ultimate punishment. It’s like being frozen, you’re trapped. Hitler could have been a lab rat thousands of times.”

As much as my own experience lends support to the belief in reincarnation, I can’t speak to any particular knowledge of the nature of reincarnation as an animal. I find it curious that DeBell doesn’t think animals can learn. The more we learn about animal communication and knowledge, the more it seems we are surprised to find them more human-like than we previously imagined.

The status of women in Pakistan (and beyond)

Mona Eltahawy, the New York-based award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, and Zara Jamal, a Canadian writer, received notice today on the Genealogy of Religion blog by Cris. The most vehement and strongly worded statement comes from Eltahy, who is quoted as saying:

Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.”

What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either.

Chris also looks to Pakistan, where Zara Jamal reports things aren’t any better. In [Zara Jamal’s] To Be a Woman in Pakistan: Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival, we glimpse a small world of suffering. Jamal prefaces the six stories with this odd observation:

Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is far more complicated. A certain mentality is deeply ingrained in strictly patriarchal societies like Pakistan. Poor and uneducated women must struggle daily for basic rights, recognition, and respect. They must live in a culture that defines them by the male figures in their lives, even though these women are often the breadwinners for their families.

Chris writes:

Is Jamal suggesting that the abuse of these women is a byproduct of free-floating or traditional patriarchy? If so, my questions to her would be how did this patriarchy develop and how is it maintained? It surely isn’t by vague obeisance to tradition or patriarchy. The “mentality” and “culture” that Jamal mentions are anchored in and justified by a particular reading of Islam, even if she wants to minimize or not.

The challenge for World Spirituality to help to bring smart, rich spiritual perspectives into the trenches of the oppression of women in many parts of the world. I think the beginning of such a response must not happen merely in blogs such as this one, but by the people closest to the scene. What of the women and men who are co-creating complex lives in the midst of oppressive traditional patriarchal structures? What wisdom do they have about how to find additional measures of security, freedom, love, and joy? Let’s hear straight from them.

Surely we know that an ideology which simply tells us that a class of persons such as Middle East women are dupes of oppression is overly simple and disempowering of them. The question, “Why do they hate us so much?” which Mona Eltahawy voices, is but a moment of anger in a more complex discourse which includes moments of love and forgiveness and wisdom. We must listen to all their voices, and the voices of the men in their lives, and hear ways in which new openings are emerging for liberative changes. The call of evolution, the power of God in history, is none other than the force of liberation, and our answer of that call is the nature of justice.

Photo Credit: Photosenses

Kenneth’s mystical diary

Geometry

By Kenneth Daviknes Hansen

Originally published Dec. 24, 2011, on iEvolve.org.

This entry was written by my student and friend Kenneth Daviknes Hansen. Kenneth is not a native English writer or speaker but I think his core intent is clear in this long journal entry. To be read by mystics only! — MG

This is a text that conveys a visual view of enlightenment – the awakening from ego identification as seen through my own eyes. It is a free flow of consciousness written by Kenneth in his diary and not a formal essay. The first half of the essay was edited after the initial diary entry and the second half was not.

First there are the perspectives and the clarification:

We are talking about the 1st-person awakening to the enlightened view of reality. This is the 1st-person view of both inside and outside when they awaken and realize their true nature. When talking about this experience in the language of perspectives, this is a first-person experience as well as 3rd-person experience of the 1st-person. One realizes that one is something more than ego.

When one has the realization of oneness with what you see — the expression of this in terms of how to understand it will express itself through various cues that will make the understanding and indeed possibility for realizing oneself that there is in fact naught any distance whatsoever in what comes to be the relationship between the one observing (the 1st person) and the one/that which is being seen by the observer. Here the distinction between 1st person and 3rd person will be crucial because we are all observing from the 1st-person while within this 1st-person what we see is the third person, and the observer is what we call 1st-person. So to be clear we are always seeing from within the 1st-person.

There are five expressions of what we can term the 1st-person realization of oneness with what you see. Before I proceed for the sake of full disclosure I want to share that I am writing based on my own first-person experience interpreted through 3rd-person categories of enlightenment thinking.

When you have a realization of oneness it often expresses itself through various cues. These cues point to the understanding and make possible the realization that in fact at the essential level there is no distance whatsoever between the observer (1st-person) and that which is being observed (3rd person). We are all observing through first-person and that which is observed to the extent that it can be communicated becomes available to a broader population as a third person reality. However all third-person reality is paradoxically seen differently by every first person. At the same time in the awakened or enlightened experience there is not any distance between the one observing and the one /that which is being seen by the observer. There are five expressions of what we might term the first person realization of oneness with the visual field.

One:

First as George Bishop* has also pointed out, length is perceivable as a line. When we willfully turn the line towards the eye, we can only see the end of the line. The distance becomes depth and cannot be seen.

Two:

When we wondrously examine the definition of distance we realize that distance requires two points to be present so as to be perceived. However when one is relating to an external object the requirement of having two visible points cannot be met. One can only see one of the two points necessary for the visual distance to arise, which is the object of observation.   The person that is seeing cannot see the eyes themselves and therefore is no distance perceived.

Secondly when we are wondrously examining the definition of distance the necessary requisites are that two points will be present so as to be perceived. However when one is relating to an external object – in one sense you are not seeing distance – as two visible points are not available – as one can only see one of the two points necessary for the visual distance to arise which is the object of observation. The person that is seeing cannot see the eyes themselves and therefore is no distance perceived.

[Read more…]

The Nightly View: The price of limerence. A good lunch break. What Barack Obama really believes.

Lunch Break

The Price of Limerence

Let’s leave aside for a moment all the mushy poetic and theological language about love. Let’s put on Ebeneezer Scrooge’s worldview and simply ask: how much money is love worth?

Well here’s a short YouTube video that explores that very question. Among the interesting findings: Hearing that someone loves you for the first time is worth the equivalent happiness of $267,000. Being married is the equivalent of receiving an extra $100,000 per year. Committed long-term love live on average 15% longer, so finding a relationship that lasts per life is the equivalent of making another $23,000 to $30,000 extra per year.

The speaker says, “Love is democratic. No matter who you are or how much money you have, people all over the world are feeling it.” Amen.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish.)

Working at your desk sucks. Americans should take lunches like the French do.

Orion Jones writes on Big Think:

By deciding to take a midday break, and taste the food you are going to eat anyway, you will refresh your mind and have the opportunity to mingle with co-workers. You may even get some sunshine. “By taking those few moments to breathe,” said Levy, “you come out feeling refreshed and invigorated. At work, time spent chatting with colleagues can lead to great ideas and cross-pollination between departments. And if you’ve broken bread with colleagues at lunch, it’s going to be easier to approach them in the professional sphere.” Giving yourself a half-hour lunch will increase your productivity, not decrease it.

Paying attention to our daily routine, making it more harmonious with our True Self — or at least make our ego a bit happier and more well-adjusted — is one of the surest routes to finding divinity in the ordinary.

Want to know what Barack Obama really thinks about religion?

Religion writer Jeffrey Weiss has followed Barack Obama’s statements on religion from the beginning, and he says there’s no better statement of what he really believes than this:

On the one hand, among the oldest and most complete texts are Obama’s two memoirs. Dreams From My Father has a long account of his journey of faith — from the child and grandchild of people who were indifferent or hostile to organized religion to crying in the pew of a Chicago church. The Audacity of Hope has an entire chapter titled, simply “Faith.”

But for me, the uber-source is a remarkable interview Obama gave in 2004, when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate and long before he was even whispered about as presidential timber.

He sat down with Cathleen Falsani, then a religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. She did a news story off the interview at the time. Later, when Obama became a bit more important than a mere senate candidate, Falsani posted the entire transcript of the interview on her own website. You can read it here.

Here’s how Obama explained his approach to his faith back then:

“I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.”

And here is how he explains his attitude toward specific doctrines:

“I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.”

And here is where he starts to explain how his understanding of his faith helps inform his ideas about governance:

“I think it’s perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about… I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same.”

For the next eight years, he’s come back to the same basic themes: That he’s motivated by his understanding of the Christian social gospel as an inspiration for his personal service and as a guide for the kinds of policies that he pursues. But he rejects narrow and sure interpretations of religion. And he’s careful to say that government policy must not be narrowly tailored for any faith or none.

But what nobody seems to have done (yet) is to ask Obama about his own spiritual experiences, prayer life, and any mystical intuitions. Has he had any experiences of divinity or enlightenment, and what conclusions has he drawn about that?

Or, if no journalist wants to go on the record asking about that, why not simply ask him: What does “spirituality” mean to you?

Photo Credit: MR MARK BEK

A Bouquet of Truth Tests, Reflections on Certainty and Uncertainty (Part 1)

By Liza Braude-Glidden

Introduction

Physics Joke 3:
Q: Why are quantum physicists so poor at sex?
A: Because when they find the position, they can’t find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can’t find the position.

To engage with the growing community of the Center for World Spirituality is to accept an invitation to the dance of certainty and uncertainty. The relationship between certainty and uncertainty is one of the key teachings of World Spirituality in the writings of Dr. Marc Gafni, The Center’s teacher in residence. These recent teachings  emerge from Marc’s book The Uncertain Spirit published in Hebrew in the mid-eighties. An updated, expanded version of Marc’s teachings on certainty and uncertainty will soon be released in English. This essay is a series of ten short reflections on Marc’s teachings on the dance of certainty and uncertainty from a feminine and inter-subjective lens.

Reflection One

A Granular Truth Test

How detailed is this truth?

Breeze wafts through my open window. Outside, flower vines bob in a slow rhythm. I feel your eyes looking out on whatever scene is yours to see at present, feeling honored by your presence here, wondering how you will come to know what you know in your moment about what I am writing here in mine. In this moment, dear reader, how are you knowing what you know?

Consider this scene from Science fiction: a man stands joyously on a twenty-story rooftop edge about to leap. He’s certain he’s found a way to prove that the reality around him that seems real, isn’t. He’s confident jumping will show him what’s real. A female character calls him to step away from the edge. Her voice is too inviting. He grasps her hand. “Grit” he says, “I feel gritty sand on your fingers.”

“Yes,” she says, “I touched a broken plaster wall on my way up to the rooftop.”

“How could my mind fabricate that level of detail?” The main character questions, “Perhaps you are real.” Her feminine presence plus the sandy grit on her fingers gave birth to enough uncertainty that he stepped away, at least long enough for the story to continue.

Traditionally, “certainty” and “reality” and “truth” are used in close connection. In Marc’s writings reveal truths of both certainty and uncertainty.

Some of us love to jump; others habitually hang back. Is either choice inherently wise? What kinds of details make a moment more certain than your interior can fabricate? What details in your life might give you what Marc calls” the core certainty of your existence?”

Reflection Two

“Maybe Stories”

Of what, dear reader, are you absolutely certain?

Is there a place in you that rests gently in the natural uncertainty of each arising instance? Is there some uncertain country inside your heart that longs for inspired action? Is there a nostalgic wish for the certain unity of the One True Right and Only Way? Or do you cling ironically to uncertainty, like a post-modern security blanket?

As globally connected spiritual practitioners, compelling and seemingly contradictory texts on certainty and uncertainty call to us from religious scriptures of many eras and cultures. “The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao” is a common invocation of uncertainty stated in the first line of the Tao Te Ching, primary text of the Taoist tradition (Forth Century BCE.) In contrast, in the New Testament, John echos Genesis: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. “

Is it possible that two great traditions could differ so completely? Can we see these two perspectives as part of a larger whole? World Spirituality lives into the question:

If consciousness is indeed evolving, our recognition of revelation must also evolve. In a post post-modern world, how can we recognize authentic revelation?

In the quote below, Marc recounts a revelatory process of discovering Maybe Stories, tales of inspired certainty about the central importance of uncertainty:

It occurred to me in a moment of graced intuition that although the word Safek (Doubt LBG) does not occur in biblical text, the word Ullai, meaning, Maybe, does appear. Not once but in seven major pivoting points in the book of Genesis.

It also became clear to me in that moment of grace, that there is a distinct and intentional biblical genre of Ullai- Maybe stories which form the basis of the biblical theology of Uncertainty.

In each of these stories the ability to hold uncertainty and not be seduced by easy certainties is the key to the triumph of the Biblical Hero. (2011)

God, who could be called a biblical hero, died. We attended His funeral throughout the twentieth century, yet for the vast majority of people the thirst for the Divine refused to be quenched. Something in us refused to be seduced by the easy certainty of His demise. MAYBE, our hearts said, the Beloved is becoming more present through the act of dying. MAYBE a death of God in each unique heart sweeps the slate for a flood of Eros, a unified yet multiple revelation of the Beloved. MAYBE God’s heroism is revealed uniquely through the heroism of each and all of us.

MAYBE I will get the job. MAYBE she will say yes. MAYBE I will conceive a child. MAYBE the Arab Spring will bring enduring change to the Middle East. What are the MAYBE moments in your world, dear reader? What is the worthy fulcrum on which your life is leveraged at this moment? What is the heroic challenge? Is there a temptation to be seduced by easy certainties?

Reflection Three

A Bouquet of Truth Tests

How can I offer my personal truth tests as a gift?

On one hand, a field of study with centuries of tradition and scholarship, sourced mostly by male sensibilities, inquires into how human beings know what they know. On the other hand each of us, in an intuitive space and in each fresh moment must make judgments about what is certain using whatever skills and resources we have. In that spirit, beloved reader, I offer this bouquet of truth tests, as an empowerment and blessing for the intuitive leaps your life inevitably asks of you. For, as the title implies, truth is a gift, one that emerges uniquely in each instance of expanding human consciousness.

No one test makes something true or insures that I am able to share my truth with you. Yet a well-arranged bouquet of truth tests helps. The purpose is not to assure ourselves that things are real and solid. They both are and aren’t. Rather, the purpose is to inquire into what inspires us to believe that they are and aren’t. What truths move us forward? How do we come to understand the authenticity of such truths?

Sometimes your truth tests may be the same ones I use, sometimes they may be remarkably different. Do your truth tests tend to be linear or rational? Or do you find yourself relying more on whole pictures, leaps of intuition, and nonlinear juxtapositions? We all need and rely upon both of these styles yet in everyone, one or the other is dominant

Some people assume that linear processes have truth tests while holistic, intuitive processes do not. Some assume that only the truths we share with others can be tested. These assumptions have at least two downsides: first we do not give intuition credibility, and second we do not hold intuitive individuals to the level of integrity necessary to fully integrate them into our most vital conversations.

As our world becomes more complex, we are asked to make more and more leaps of creativity and intuition. As the technology we have collectively sourced demonstrates it’s linear superiority over us as individuals, intuition and the synchronicities it stimulates become our assignment as warm-blooded, wet people. Since the latest research in neuroscience affirms the centrality of intuitive and right brain functioning in all human decision-making, we may as well enjoy it and explore it.

There are few things more interior and personal than how you or I know what we know; yet these inner intuitive tests of truth become truer when we share them. Gathered from wild fields and carefully cultivated gardens within, I offer this bouquet of truth tests, and though I cannot, through the medium of writing, receive your bouquet in return, I hope that in every passage of this writing you will feel my curiosity about what is in your bouquet. How are you engaging your essence by testing your personal truths?

Reflection Four

An Inquiry Truth Test

How can I rest in my questions in a way that evokes ever more beautiful and functional questions?

At one point in the dance of certainty and uncertainty, we may have assumed that the purpose of testing the truth is to find a clear answer. Another way of testing truth is to assess the depth, beauty and power of the questions that emerge from it.

Each section of this essay poses contemplative questions. One way to use them is as starting points for journaling or dialogue. Questions are italicized so you can find them easily. Another way to use the questions is as contemplative tools. Here are some steps:

  1. Read the piece through once with open eyes and heart.
  2. Scan through again, this time underlining the questions that have the most resonance.
  3. Choose three questions and write them, perhaps long hand, on a paper you can place near your bed.
  4. Instead of writing responses, simply read the questions in a quiet, relaxed moment, ideally before sleep. When answers come, bow to them gently, jot a reminder, and keep asking. Sit with the questions.
  5. Out of step four, new questions are born. They will lead your curiosity in important directions. MAYBE to an ever-expanding sense of wonder at the particular flavor of mystery to which your being is most alive.
  6. If you find yourself stuck in inaction, uncertainty may be dominant. If you find yourself exhausted by relentless activity, certainty may be at an extreme. What questions emerge from inaction? What questions emerge from relentless activity? When new questions become rich and resonant, (or threatening and charged) repeat the process with the new questions.

Most stuff is stuff we don’t know. And while it’s vital to be certain and to act, my hope is to do so with humility born of contemplation of how inevitably mysterious and complex any human life is. Each human life unfolds in a Singing Kosmos that makes the greatest human music seem like a nursery rhyme. In each intimate and expansive moment, how can we best listen to its song?

Reflection Five

An Exemplar Truth Test

What do you learn about your own intuitions through exploring those of your exemplar?

Many of my personal truth tests arose as I sang in and studied the choral works of J.S. Bach as a young person. In Bach, complex, mathematically perfect structures refine and amplify personal and religious feeling. As a choir singer I entered the maelstrom of that perfection. Do you remember a watershed series of experiences that occurred perhaps in your teens or twenties that helped you form what later became vital ways of recognizing truth?

In high school and college, my wise, feminine, unstructured presence produced countless songs, poems, paintings and deep conversations under the influence of a marvelous variety of creative women who still influence me including my college mentor, Deena Metzger, Cal Arts Faculty member Judy Chicago, and my grandmother, the abstract expressionist painter and Christian Science mystic, Vicci Sperry.

In the process of obediently following intuition I stumbled into plenty of blind alleys. While nursing bumps and bruises, I had many golden opportunities to become curious about masculine role models of structure and vision that could lend strength, integrity, and direction to my intuitive and empathic gifts. Yet most of the possibilities that presented themselves seemed to want to decimate the pleasure, beauty and energy I recognized as intuition’s life-blood. So, the search continued, who could be my exemplar?

Albert Einstein was a candidate. “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” He wrote, “We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” * True enough, yet as Einstein knew, intuition also has a Master, a divine one. Einstein was not always happy with the warlike masters his intuitions served, and as I mentioned above, J. S. Bach’s comprehensive expression revealed the beauty and identity of intuition’s Master.

Have you searched for an exemplar of intuition? Perhaps if you are quite masculine and/or rational your exemplar has contrasting qualities. Is there a passage of writing or an interview that describes her intuitive process? What moves you the most about her expression? What grounds you the most? What do you most seek to emulate?

At age eighteen at California Institute of the Arts, singing in a choir devoted to Bach, the meaning, theory, and history behind his choral works became an early touchstone that mirrored important intuitions of the Kosmos and humanity’s place in it. At the same time, I began practices from Eastern wisdom traditions. The choral works of Bach stood out as the most unimpeachable esthetic, spiritual, conceptual and structural authority. Studying and performing Bach gave state experiences of early spiritual practice meaning they could not have had otherwise. For a sizable minority of students and faculty at Cal Arts in the seventies, spiritual practice and musical expression were one fabric. We held both Eastern and Western enlightenment in our intuitive musical rapport.

A seed was germinating: Structures such as those I found in Bach make it possible to exchange and cultivate our knowledge of the filigree of manifest love we call our world. These structures have the potential to give us more freedom and beauty than they require from us, and to serve as evolutionary ladders, not only for those coming up behind us but even for those ahead of us, who teeter on the shaky edge of human possibilities.

Much later as the seed that was my knowledge of liberating structures began to grow, Ken Wilber sat down beside Bach as a living treasure whose integral map helps give intuition an honorable and expanding home.

Now, as my emphasis on individual expression intimates, I’ve become a student of Unique Self, World Spirituality and Marc Gafni, who has given inspired context to these truth tests. “Questioning,” Marc says, “is a right which emerges from intimacy.” In intimacy with myself, I gain the right to question myself, in intimacy with you; I gain the right to question you. In intimacy with truth I gain the right to test it. In Intimacy with God, I gain the right to question God.

What questions have you earned the right to pose, dear reader? How does your curiosity inspire intimacy? How does your intimacy inspire curiosity?

(for end notes, see the end of part two)

Continued at Part 2.

Photo Credit: Liza Braude-Glidden