Monday, June 21, 2010
I can think of two teaching stories that involve light being lit in the daytime, and they are poles apart. The first concerns a Sufi saint called Rabia who lived in Basra, in Persia (now Iraq), in the late eighth century. She is reputed to have run through the streets carrying a flaming torch in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other. When asked about this crazy behavior, she cried out, “With this flame I want to burn up heaven and with this water I want to quench the fires of hell so that neither ambition nor fear keeps us from loving God for Himself!”
The second tale concerns Diogenes of Sinope, the very astute but eccentric ancient Greek who lived during the fourth century BC. He is the one who walked the streets of Athens carrying a lit lantern. When challenged for his nutty action, he retorted, “Not at all, I am simply looking throughout this city for an honest man!”
It seems to me, that we should take up a national collection for a statue of Diogenes to be fashioned and placed prominently in front of Congress in Washington, DC! It could remind not only our government but each of us citizens, of every age in life, of the importance of honesty and integrity.
We fail to realize the consequences of our negative actions. The liar and the cheat end up trusting no one; the thief swaps stolen goods for the constant fear of being caught. Put bluntly, if one can put the question of “morality” aside: virtue is truly only enlightened self-interest!
This logical approach is the basic notion of karma or cause and effect, but we have, over the centuries, put lack of integrity under the concepts of sin and guilt and religious ideas of divine wrathful if not human punishment. It just seems to me, that a new approach in education might prove helpful. That way, we could get on with the spiritual fulfillment of loving our neighbor because he “is thyself” and concentrating on saving our planetary home, the earth, and respecting animals not just as objects for monetary greed alone but as the living miracle each one truly is. In some ways perhaps, the Internet seems to be pointing in the direction that everybody is everybody!
Lest this seem idealistic nonsense, we could learn from the practical pygmies in Africa – some of them are said to hunt and kill for food, but offer up a prayer for each victim in gratitude and ask that it return to the “group soul” from which it came.
Rupert Sheldrake, scientist and spiritual individual who studied with Bede Griffiths in his ashram in India, is the author of Morphic Resonance. I was blessed in meeting both at the International Transpersonal Conference in Bombay. The basic premise is that when a group of animals reaches a certain collective number, it can simultaneously change its behavior as a group. This opens a new concept of evolution, and includes us as animals. A popular rendition is the story of the Hundredth Monkey. Briefly summarized:
The Japanese Macaque is a very intelligent species. It is the only animal other than humans and raccoons that is known to wash its food before eating it. Researchers studying this species at Koshima Island in Japan left sweet potatoes out on the beach for them to feed on, then witnessed one female, named Imo (Japanese for yam or potato) taking the food down to the sea to wash the sand off it. After a while, others started to copy her behavior. This trait was then passed on from generation to generation, until eventually, all except the very oldest members of the troop were washing their food and even seasoning their clean food in the sea. She was similarly the first observed balling up wheat with air pockets, throwing it into the water, and waiting for it to float back up before picking it up and eating it free from dirt
The story has been disputed, but the idea is sound, and gives us hope that if enough human beings wake up to the futility of dishonesty, greed, and war, we might yet save our planet. Stay tuned and pray that this can come to pass!
Friday, June 11, 2010
I have a dear and insightful friend (who, despite my objection, insists on anonymity); she shared a unique thought with me just the other day. I had leaned back in my chair after a long day’s work and, with a great sigh, exclaimed, “I am exhausted!” To which, she countered, “No, you’re not! You feel exhausted.”
She then proceeded to point out the distinction: I am implies a permanent condition, and I feel implies a transitory one. Transposed to Jungian terms, the Self is and the Ego is what is feeling. What I was really saying therefore was that I was identifying with my ego, which I readily admit!
It is the Ego on the circumference of the mandala of the psyche that feels, and to say I am exhausted is to confess unconsciously that one is identified with one’s ego, and to forget the reality of who one really is. Granted, that is the Self, according to Jung, which dwells problematically in the Unconscious, so it’s a Catch 22 paradox and no wonder that we tend to misspeak! The Self is unable to be exhausted! However, I see the wisdom of my friend’s distinction, and realize that this can truly aid us in a spiritual way by helping us remember who we really are.
The steady Light of the Self can always reveal and help us watch our egos feeling happy, depressed, angry, or worried. By the same token, the Ego can turn in reflection and meditation to transcend the feeling and sometimes reach that Peace that passeth understanding!
For most of us, including myself, this is a huge challenge, but the difference between Being and Feeling opens up a huge insight for me, anyway, of what the Scriptures of all faiths are trying to teach us. To be convinced that it’s okay to feel because that’s our individuation in action, never mind our typology, but that by spending a few minutes daily visiting our Divine Guest at our center, we can derive comfort, and a source of wisdom and hidden strength – something sorely needed these days of turmoil and disaster.
To be con-scious, etymologically, is to know with! Perhaps, that’s a hint to knowing that we have an unconscious companion, that source of Light always available to us.
As an oooooooold lady now, I look back on the many times I felt lost and helpless or overwhelmed with happiness, and see that time has made most of those memories intangible. Ann Foley said it best in one of her books: Things are changed by what comes after!