Yesterday I suggested that enlightenment is biological, and cited supportingly Humberto Maturana, who is a biologist. George Spencer-Brown observed that when we ask a philosophical question, we get a philosophical answer. It should surprise nobody that a biologist sees enlightenment on biological terms.
Yet I also allowed that enlightenment could be magical. Or Christian or Buddhist. It is my experience that if you ask Jesus to show himself, then Jesus will show himself. But does this mean that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for everybody?
One way to handle this question is to assume that enlightenment/awakening/oneness/et cetera is a universal human experience that expresses itself through to cultural filters. Of course Jesus understood his relationship with God in terms of Old Testament monotheism – that was the relevant spiritual discourse and heuristic. Same with the Buddha. And Ramana Maharshi.
A lot of folks subscribe to this idea under the rubric of the perennial philosophy. Bill Thetford described A Course in Miracles in this way. It is a comforting ideology because it allows us to smooth out differences. We don’t have to prove our path is right, just culturally relative. And we can neatly absorb other paths by translating them according to our own. When Buddhists say X, they mean what Christians mean when Christians say Y.
This was persuasive to me for a long time. But it is predicated on an unsustainable assumption – that there is a universal objective (mind independent) reality to which all these spiritualities equally point. That is, any apparent differences are located in the pointing, not the reality.
But neither you nor I can step outside our experience and compare it to that independent reality in order to verify (or falsify) their 1:1 correspondence. There is certainly this – this this – but it may not point to anything else, much less something that is the same for every one else in the world.
On that view, we construct our God experience – our enlightenment or awakening experience. We make it out of the available material – Thomas Merton, Ramana, Eckhart Tolle, A Course in Miracles, Humberto Maturana. We cobble enlightenment out of the welter of our living. A biologist explains it one way, a neo-Pagan another. It points to nothing but its construction.
And, if you go deeply into it, the various explanations are not even uniform across their domains. That is, Maturana’s biological explanation doesn’t cohere for all biologists. Sean Reagan’s A Course in Miracles doesn’t cohere for all course students.
If you want to wake up or be enlightened or see the Face of God and live or experience nonduality then you have to give careful attention to the terms and conditions of your living. The answer – the road map, as such – is actually given to you because you are constructing it.
But “given” is too loaded a word here because it implies a giver who is not you. It’s more like you’re constructing the answer but pretending that you’re not. You are – if you will allow me to indulge ACIM – separating self and God and then forgetting that you did it. Most of us pretend that our living is reality, or at least a pretty faithful rendition of it, but there are no grounds for this. Separation, like unity, is just an idea.
This does not mean that anything goes! You can see how that level of permissiveness is not true in your living. You cannot force ascended masters to show up in your living room. You cannot levitate or talk to mice. You cannot make it rain dollar bills. A lawfulness abides and guides your experience, which includes the way you frame that experience. Look at it very carefully: what does it allow? What does it bring forth?
I want to share with you a little practice that works for me.
If you ask Jesus to show himself to you, then Jesus will show himself. He is unconditionally reliable in this regard. But. You will probably not see him because your preconceptions – and their offspring expectations – will crowd him out. Or efface him.
For a long time this frustrated me and I worked very hard to clarify my preconceptions, monitor my expectations, look harder or wider or less hard and more narrow.
Then, one day, rather that ask to see Jesus, I asked to recognize Jesus. I asked to remember Jesus. It is a different kind of request, a different kind of invitation. And so it brings for a different kind of experience. If you can imagine what happened when I did that, then perhaps you would like to do it for yourself. It is a gift, truly.
Yet please note that what works for me may not for you. In fact, it probably won’t. But it might. And if it doesn’t, then you’ve learned something. You’ve ruled something out.
The point is to give attention to our living and to see where Christ lives in it, and then to see what it means to bring Christ forth. Christ (or enlightenment or oneness or whatever) is not a secret but it can be obscured. It can be occluded. But also, you are allowed to bring a light to the darkness. You are allowed to be a light in the darkness.
Thank you, as always, for being here.