Friday, November 8, 2013

"Truth" as a Working Hypothesis

We might say that we have something of a working hypothesis for understanding the leading, guiding, prompting, and directing of the Authentic Self in our life, an ordered, patterned hypothesis that has certain “rules.” In the early stages of this development, this hypothesis is quite rudimentary and perhaps only the people closest to us can see real, substantive change in our lives. But as we continue to immerse ourselves into contexts, to observe, compare, contrast, and analyze, we come to see more and more clearly the work of the Authentic Self in our lives, and others do, too.

The core idea here is that at any point in time, our working hypothesis works for us in most contexts that we find ourselves, even if it is in many ways rudimentary. It is through the continual effort to continually learn, and evaluate that we succeed in fine-tuning that hypothesis. The reorienting of our hypothesis is important because it helps us mature and grow into a fuller capacity to both understand and to communicate our needs on a spiritual level. 

Remaining open and understanding that there is the potential in the universe that I don’t know everything there is to know allows room for growth, for such re-orderings when they become necessary. Unfortunately, this is not typical, especially with regard to spiritual beliefs. Rather, it appears that the common human practice is to settle upon a fixed set of ideals, beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, or teachings, and stick to them with the tenacious grip of a desperate man holding onto a half empty canteen in the desert.

Much has been hypothesized concerning the typical adult’s inability to acquire a foreign language without an accent and without interference from the languages he knows. The standing hypothesis on this is that children have some special ability to acquire language that gets lost somewhere between the ages of 14 and 20. There is no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis. 

Children seem to have a special ability to learn language, but is it not really just an openness and lack of limitation that allows them to learn unfettered?

I don't personally believe it's an ability that gets lost. The trouble with adults is that we very much like to settle upon what we believe is true, as if it is absolute, and resist any evidence that suggests that perhaps that collection of “facts” isn’t as true as we thought. There is an ossifying of the adult's mental capacities because they stop learning, often feeling they have learned all there is to learn. 

This is the pattern of behavior that you can easily observe in the world as first Copernicus, and then Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg and beyond have discovered facts that have literally turned our ideas of what the universe is and how how it works on their heads, time and again, and each time with a great deal of resistance from every direction, most especially the religious institutions.  We don’t feel disdain as much as a level of pity for someone who can’t seem to understand that adjustments are needed to any working hypothesis, but would rather believe they have found the Truth.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This one, Not that one...

The ultimate challenge:  following the promptings of the Authentic Self.

The greatest challenge of incarnating into the body is the volition to live life according to the direction, prompting, guidance, and leading of the Authentic Self. The term “enlightenment” in eastern philosophy defines a person who has come into a complete, unswerving understanding of being one with all that is, and acting solely upon that connection to the universe, regardless of the consequences that this may have.

And while one could argue that this is the ultimate purpose of incarnating and reincarnating into this body-bound existence, I am certain that no one ever said it is easy. Indeed, one reason that we may reincarnate so many times is that this is in fact such a great challenge that it takes many, many lifetimes to achieve it. And going from one incarnation to the next, the soul understands that certain exceptionally difficult challenges need to be redressed, maybe again and again.

The brain generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences.

This is what I call “karma,” a battery of lessons meant to help us get over the next hump in understanding, but that don’t pass until we “get it.” Our earth-bound existence happens within the context of a body immersed in nested and related contexts from cultural and societal to familial and local. Our brain—a part of the body—generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences. It does this by patterning—the making of groups of various “types” of experience.

By formalizing strategies based on producing certain types of experiences while avoiding other types, the mind builds a network of patterns by which to navigate through this earth-bound existence. The problem with patterning is that it, by necessity, involves marginalizing certain data while centralizing other data. For humans living in places where there are powerful and cunning predators, such as lions, tigers, and bears, this sort of patterning can mean the difference between survival and extinction. But for those of us living in the more “civilized” environs of a hierarchical society, we very rarely face this sort of danger, and yet, our penchant for patterning persists.

We tend to sort our experiences into categories of "preferred" and "non preferred."

In this way, we have a tendency to pattern our experiences, choosing at a very base level to view the world and all that is in it a certain way, marginalizing certain data while centralizing others. This includes opportunities and possibilities which we may marginalize and ignore or even turn down because of how we have constructed our experiences.

For example, if I grow up in a family with a ruthless tyrant as a parent, I may formalize a strategy of “laying low” and “keeping a low profile.” Perhaps I’m a gifted artist, but because of my patterning, I will have a tendency to hide myself even in environments where opportunities exist, such as a visitor at the school looking for early evidence of artistic abilities in first graders in order to help them develop these skills. And if these patterns are not challenged and changed—they typically aren’t—they persist into adulthood where I continue to “keep a low profile,” which is safe, but may very well keep me from following my destiny to be an influential artist. I may resist the promptings of the Authentic Self in my life in favor of my formalized strategies which no longer serve me, but in my own mind keep me safe.

As a boy, I developed the strategy "keep a low profile."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Many Voices, Many Selves

An "eastern philosophy" seems to presuppose a belief in reincarnation, among many other assumptions about why we are here and what we are doing. 

I find myself a part of what is frequently called the “eastern philosophy” camp of writers and thinkers. This term suggests a number of key factors, among them, a belief in reincarnation (even though beliefs in reincarnation exist in a wide range of cultures across time and around the world), a belief that a soul lives not only one incarnation but many, repeatedly, that the purpose of this repeated reincarnation is so that the universe, or “all that is,” might deepen its understanding of itself, and that the ultimate goal of this is oneness, that is, the soul realizing that she is not a separate entity, but connected to the universe, a part of the universe, one with the universe, one with everything.

Furthermore, “eastern philosophies” tend to teach that the “reality” that we accept as reality is an illusion and that there is an inherent sense of suffering that comes from taking this illusion too seriously, becoming attached to any part of the illusion, and coming to feel entitled to possessing or experiencing the many objects, entities, and events that form the illusion.

A key component of this illusion is the body the soul inhabits, the integration point where the soul and this world meet. The brain, a key component of this integration point, does many complex operations, including interpreting and modulating sensory data, using these to generate “experiences,” which it remembers and builds into narratives, distinguishing those it prefers from those it doesn’t prefer, thus creating a personality and ultimately a self, which strives to maintain the belief that it is complete, whole, and, most importantly, separate from everything and everyone else in the universe. This “separate self” is called the “ego.”

For “eastern philosophy,” the ego is a significant concept. The ego is generated and lives in the brain of each human. There is a saying that goes, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” Anything we can say of the mind we can say of the ego because the ego depends on the mind—the rational processes of the brain—to maintain itself, its preferences, and its entitlements. 

Television:  a good metaphor for the body as a "receiver" of the soul.

We might consider a television as a metaphor for the body. A television has parts whose ultimate purpose is work together to project integrated images and sound which have been broadcast to it, or sent to it through a cable, onto a screen. The body, similarly receives a signal--the soul. Nevertheless, the major difference between a television and the body is that the body not only receives a signal—energy in the form of a soul—but also generates its own experiences within the material world, ultimately creating the ego. Whereas a television only projects what is broadcast or sent to it via a cable, the body both “receives” the soul, and “projects” its own experiences from the ego.

The body both receives a soul and projects its own experiences onto the "screen" of the mind. 

It is in this sense that we see the soul, our Authentic Self, working through a body that has the capability of generating its own experiences. It is in this way that we have a fragmented self in the form of the ego and its many parts as well as the Authentic Self--the soul who has incarnated into this material existence.