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“If you filter my words through any tradition or ‘-ism’, you will miss altogether what I am saying. The liberating truth is not static; it is alive. It cannot be put into concepts and be understood by the mind. The truth lies beyond all forms of conceptual fundamentalism. What you are is the beyond – awake and present, here and now already. I am simply helping you to realize that.”
When I heard from a friend that James was ‘awake’ – as in, enlightened, free of dukkha – I had to check it out. Could it be? Some guy, living, not far away, but across town, in Tucson, Arizona, had done what it seemed so impossible to do? I was all doubt, skepticism and Zen-snobbery.
I had to meet him. I had questions.
The rest is history, you could say. Things sped up.
Shortly after I started working with James, an answer to the Mu koan appeared. I had been chewing on that one, and giving ridiculous attempts at answers to my Zen teacher, for about 3 years. I started to see more translation of in-zazen-realizations into the rest of life.
For me, teachers of spiritual awakening are access points, way-pointers, nudging me toward what’s possible. James’ perspective and friendship help keep me going in the right direction, like the breadcrumbs that lead out of the deep dark forest.
Here is a beautiful piece in which Richard Moss writes about meeting Franklin Merrell-Wolff.
Joel S. Goldsmith on the function of the spiritual master:
In some religious teachings, there are those known as masters, just as in ancient days Jesus was called Master. A master is one who has achieved some measure of spiritual freedom, which means some measure of nonattachment to the things and thoughts of the world. People often get the idea, however, that the function of a master is to take over another’s mind and life and to govern and manage them for that person, but a master is one to whom a person can go and through whose help and co-operation he can be lifted up into a state of spiritual consciousness and discernment where he himself realizes the Master in his own consciousness. The Master is not a man: the Master is a state of unfolded and developed consciousness.
– Joel S. Goldsmith. The World is New (1997).
This is a talk by research professor Brene Brown, of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brown studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. The talk is about twenty minutes, good and funny.
In listening, I was struck by the transformational potential of curiosity, vulnerability and courage – it takes a strong dose of all three for us to question our carefully constructed identities.
I appreciate what Brown says about numbing emotion, that we can’t selectively numb out the bad feelings without also numbing ourselves to good feelings.
Recently I discovered the work of Imants Baruss. He suggests a systematic research orientation to investigating consciousness. He describes how Franklin-Merrell Wolff’s intense desire to know the truth, by way of philosophy and mathematics, resulted in his Realization.
Those who have an extrinsic orientation to their religious practice are interested in its utilitarian aspects and use religion as needed to serve their own ends. Those with an intrinsic religious orientation actually believe the doctrines of their religion and view religion as a framework for living their lives (Allport & Ross, 1967). There is a third orientation, quest, which is characterized by an open-ended and self-critical exploration of existential questions. Those with a quest orientation regard religious doubt as positive and resist reducing the complexity of life (Bateson, Schoenrade, &Ventis, 1982/1993; Hood, Spilka, Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, 1996).
-Baruss (2007). Science as a Spiritual Practice. p. 33
The quest orientation is terrifying and thrilling and unpredictable. The person with a quest orientation won’t stop, won’t be able to. She doesn’t see an end to inquiry. She will contradict herself. She will doubt everything, she will even doubt doubting everything.
What about you? What’s your orientation?
In Science as a Spiritual Practice, and Authentic Knowing, Imantus Baruss* explores concerns of the truth seeker, who wants, above all else, to not find herself replacing one belief system with another – thereby inhibiting her ability to recognize truth itself.
I’m afriad of: being religious, collapsing into a comforting belief system that I mistake for reality, being intellectually inflexible, interpreting everything and everyone through the filter of a theory I do not see to question.
Does taking guidance from a spiritual Teacher look like I’m doing all the things I’m afraid of? Here is what happened: When I met James, I checked it out for a while, then, eventually, I realized the searching part was over. Everything sped up and kicked into high gear. For me, it doesn’t feel like religious belief. I trust James as an adviser and friend.
In any pursuit, it is important to have contact with people who have done what you are trying to do. It brings the goal closer – in addition to reading about it, you can ask the person questions about how they got there, and what it’s like to be there. The relationship is the teaching. The goal starts to seem less exotic and impossible.
Working with a true Teacher requires healthy integration of the whole person. The intellect is not shut down, but put to good use. The relationship demands authenticity.
…*I highly recommend Baruss‘ books, especially if you:
- are an academic doing research of any kind
- are interested in consciousness, from a scientific and/or spiritual perspective
- have had unusual experiences that cannot be explained by science
- are skeptical and/or curious about self-transformation
- have concerns about authenticity in your pursuit of transformation
“When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness. It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future. Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making.”
– Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
Social activism is a form of love in action. If you base your activism in a value judgment – e.g., that the world is “messed up” – you will only create more pain in the world.
As far as social activism is concerned, just liberate yourself and trust what happens. Human rights arise from the true heart of all morality, the conscious human being. The more awake you are in the world, the more just, righteous, and fair your actions are. Anger does not produce positive social change. Liberation does. Anger just makes you harder, meaner and more afraid. Negativity in any form is not necessary for vigorous action that, in its own way, subverts an unjust social order.
- The Path of Awakening (2007) p. 110
If you straighten yourself out, if you are no longer putting out hostility or deception, then you are putting out something that is helpful, therefore that is the only thing you can do to help society… Your anger is the cause of war.
-The Esoteric Path to a New Life MP3 CD, “A revealing interview with Vernon Howard”
Just as we use stress and fear to motivate ourselves to make money, we often rely on anger and frustration to move us to social activism. If I want to act sanely and effectively while I clean up the earth’s environment, let me begin by cleaning up my own environment. All the trash and pollution in my thinking- let me clean that up, by meeting it with love and understanding. Then my action can become truly effective. It takes just one person to help the planet. That one is you.
-Loving What Is (2003) p. 107-108 and here is an additional excerpt on activism from A Thousand Names for Joy (2007)
This view is not merely altruism in the usual meaning of the word, for in the latter sense, altruism involves a difference between one’s own self and others… I Recognize more in every man’s Recognition. I am delayed by every man’s failure. Every new facet opened by another individual man breaking through is a new facet awakened in My understanding. Thus, from this standpoint, the duality of selfishness and altruism is destroyed.
-Experience and Philosophy (1994) p.91
I’d love to hear your take on this!
The Meaning of Divinity
Clearly, what I mean by Divinity is a somewhat that is quite impersonal. Yet, this somewhat can be directly Realized by the function of Introception. When so Realized, it is found to be quite the most intimate of all thi…ngs. It is the fulfillment of all the deep yearnings of the human heart and it illumines the mind with a Light that is far more brilliant than any light of the intellect, operating either in its purity or in relation to experience.
“A description and a value judgment are not the same thing. If I see a cup on the table, the statement “The cup is on the table,” is an accurate description of my experience, a basic truth. If I say, “The cup shouldn’t be on the table. It should be in the dishwasher,” I am making a value judgment, because I am implying that my experience should be other than it is now or would be better if something else were happening. This is also true if I say “The cup is ugly,” “You’re an idiot for owning such an ugly cup,” or “I hate myself for being so careless as to leave a cup out on the table again.” A value judgment implies that comething is wrong or bad about my experience. In this case, the badness or wrongness – the “shouldn’t be-ness” – can be attributed to the cup, to its owner, or to myself. You can judge anything or anyone for any reason. Descriptions are useful because they convey information about the world. Value judgments are confusing because they conflict with Reality. Notice the difference.”