[Note: I found this essay as simple as it is profound in stating a basic fact in our pursuit of truth. I am reposting Rev. Bottorff’s words–with permission–in their entirety.]
If you’ve had children, you’ve probably had the experience of setting out on a car trip with the child hanging on the seat asking every few minutes, “Are we there yet?” To our children’s dismay, I learned to answer truthfully, “Yes, we’re here.”
Though there was sufficient time in any of our given car trips for a lengthy philosophical debate, I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news by saying, we will never be there, we can only be here. I assumed life would provide that lesson soon enough. This assumption was probably a miscalculation, however. There are plenty of sectors who believe the day will come when their special interests finally reach the promised land of there.
In one of my talks, I mentioned that the process of evolution is not one that is working toward some idealized goal, some perfect expression of any given species. The driving force of evolution is adaptation to the present environment. In this sense, the whole of nature exists in a perpetual state of completion. The biological component of life adapts to the environment in a way that allows for continued expression of life. When the environment changes, the biological interface changes. Life itself remains the same.
Science does not invent the laws that allow them to send a robot to Mars. Science discovers the laws. The spacecraft and controlling software they design is adapted to the preexisting laws that govern our planet, conditions beyond our planet, and conditions on Mars where the craft is sent.
Think of your spiritual essence, your soul as that body of laws that is already complete. Nothing at the spiritual level needs to change. Only the way we think about ourselves needs to change. Paul warned of the problems of conforming to the ever-changing landscape of the world. To find our true anchor, we must take our eye off that ever-adapting material interface and ground our understanding in the changeless reality that is the soul. There’s no there to reach. There is only here, and we’re in it.
Watching the eclipse, I can’t be the only one who was reminded of I Corinthians 13:12 (KJV): “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know as also I am known.”
Scholars believe that St. Paul was referring to seeing one’s reflection in a mirror. Mirrors of polished brass were common in Corinth, and the image was dim, requiring frequent polishing with powdered pumice in a sponge (think “Mr. Clean” Eraser!)
But from here, my mind took a metaphysical leap: we must not look directly at the sun, except through a “dark” (filtered) glass, or else we will have the retinas of our eyes burned by ultraviolet rays. We also cannot look directly at God, except through His reflections, or else we will have our human desires and understanding burned away.
There is, however, one point during the eclipse when we can take off the glasses and gaze directly at the completely occluded sun. At that point, there is total darkness, and the heavens may be filled with stars that are hidden by the light of day. This is a solemn, awe-inspiring moment, and one can understand why early mankind may have feared that the world was ending. The air around us cools; the animals are quiet. But after a short time, the light begins to appear again, and somehow we feel different, renewed…
Is this not like the moment of death? It is at that moment of total occlusion that we may look directly at the face of God, our humanity burned away and discarded, and emerge into the light again in a new form.
A maze is a puzzle in which there is only one route that leads to an exit.*
While travelling your path, you encounter many situations where at least one choice must be made of which way to go. There is no straight path that leads from entrance to exit.
In some cases, there is only one choice: the path you are on reaches a dead end, and you must turn or go back to the first open path available.
The path through the maze is long, circuitous, confusing, and frustrating, especially if it is a real, physical maze made of dense hedges that are taller than your own height.
If you have a poor sense of direction and no reference points within the maze or overhead, you can become lost and in serious trouble, because the way back to where you started is just as difficult to find as the way out. Unless you made fresh footprints, unrolled a ball of string behind you, or left a trail of visible objects, you need guidance from overhead, or perhaps a solution to the maze that is shown on your smartphone to get out.
If you are like me, even when you get back to the starting point, it looks different from the way it looked before, and you still have the perception of disorientation, which is extremely uncomfortable.
Some of us should never attempt going through a complex physical maze, even with a companion. In the maze of our life experience, most of us need a map, drawn by someone who succeeded in finding a way through to an exit.
Or you could just hack your way through with an axe or machete–although it defeats the purpose of the learning experience, some people choose this method of dealing with their challenges.
*We all hope that life is not like that, and each of us hopes that there is more than one route leading to the desired exit. IS there? It depends on who designed the maze, and for what purpose.
During the Democrat Debate in October 2015, Hillary Clinton said, “Diplomacy is not about getting to the best solution. It’s about balancing the risk.”
I have never heard any politician (or any non-politician) say this before. Is it a case of accidentally telling the truth? And is it true?
In dealing with international contention, do the diplomats actually not even try to reach the best (or ANY) solution to the problem—i.e., is this a secondary goal and an incidental outcome of balancing the risk to all parties?
What a revelation!—and a possible explanation for the behavior and apparent motivation of politicians and diplomats. They truly do not care about the effects of their negotiations and it is not their job to care. It might even make it harder for them to do their job if they did care. Instead, they approach problems like mathematicians, accountants, and historians.
The Law of Attraction: “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.”
“Think positively and you will attract success, health, and wealth.” “Our supply is unlimited; we only need to claim it.” As modern Christians, we have all heard these sayings. And all we have to do is to get rid of our negative beliefs and think positively?
This is only an intellectualized way of begging God for what we need. “I believe, Lord—please feed me.” Like baby birds with our mouths wide open, or a pet dog standing on his hind legs, as he was taught: see, I believe—please feed me, we plead.
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” He did NOT say he had come so that we could be successful, live forever, and have more money than we know what to do with.
How is it that by thinking positive thoughts, we are supposed to attract prosperity? We can have the mental idea or intention to change or use something, but we have to use physical means to affect the physical world.
It is possible that a person or animal could pick up my thought as a disturbance travelling through the magnetic field–and correctly interpret it–but I don’t believe that physical objects can be (directly) affected by thought.
Electricity just sits there until it is moved: a constant generated push on one end and a demand when a connection is made. (The water did not become wine until it was poured out: a total metaphor for idea + effort = effect.)
The main problem with the “Positive Thinking” method is that if everyone were thinking positive thoughts to attract abundance, there would not be the necessary balance for the transfer of energy to occur. All demand and no push.
Also, as you know, “positive” does not attract “positive” in the physical world (though it may attract “less positive.”) Negative electrons are held in their orbits by a central positive nucleus, which usually contains other charged particles that must balance electrically, or else it is unstable.
So a healthy person needs to balance optimistic confidence with enough ‘what ifs’ to prepare himself for obstacles.
The spiritual realm or level does not work differently from the physical realm or level. They are analogous. We have heard it claimed that there is an unlimited supply of all we need on the spiritual level, and all we need to do is to get access to it, make a connection through our higher consciousness by practicing meditation. However, what we actually receive are ideas, clarified perhaps by the removal of emotional baggage, which makes space for the formation of “Yes, why not?” thoughts. And in all probability, if you work on a win-win proposition, you will get cooperation, you will succeed, and so will others, who will in turn, help you. This works, this happens—I know.
I finished the book this morning, and have gone back to clarify a few points. But I will still have to re-read the whole thing.
Here is what I have to say now:
The ideas that I didn’t understand (and may never be able to gain insight into):
Light—is not physical; relative velocity is the same as absolute velocity; how light receptors work in humans, animals and plants.
Quantum physics—how objects and particles can be/not be/or be in 2 or more places at once because they pulse in and out of existence.
What I did understand (thank you!)
Yes, I agree that the mind is a delusion generator. Intelligence works within the structure of learning. Awareness is unlearning; it removes wrong beliefs.
But the problem of a Plan, having a known End, co-existing with Free Will, has effectively been solved (for me) by calling God “All That Is”, and God’s Will “Probability.” (What an idea!)
There is no such thing as Truth, especially Absolute Truth. Since the existence of the universe depends on opposites, only probability can rule whatever happens within it.
There is one sentence at the end of page 72 that I would like to have the author explain: “More to the point, there is something about eyes that supports God’s inevitable reassembly.” Nothing more was said about it. If I can get Mr. Adams to explain it to me, I will pass it on to you.
It’s not so much that human beings are limited in their ability to comprehend the non-material or spiritual realm: the brain is unable to think (reason) without limits. That’s why it’s just as hard to imagine having an immortal soul as it is to imagine NOT having one–or just as impossible to prove that there is a God as it is to prove that there is NO God. Finding limits or placing them is the foundation of analytical, rational, deductive, logical reasoning. Anything outside the limits of reason is a matter of conjecture or faith.
a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something.
the process of personally observing, encountering, or undergoing something.
the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things generally as they occur in the course of time.
knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered, or undergone (as opposed to what one has read about, been taught, or has heard from someone else.)
5. Philosophy: the totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered.
(Courtesy of Dictionary.com)
Author’s observation: an experience is a concept, not a thing. It is a set of thoughts, sensations, emotions, and beliefs that is individual to (from the point of view of) each person who has observed, encountered, or undergone (something).
Approaching the end of our lifetime as the identity we have come to know and love, and having no memory or premonition of any other, we tend to dwell on the question, “What will happen to ‘me’ when the body wears out and ceases to function?” Also, we wonder where we were before we took residence in this body.
I experience an “I” in the physical form that I find myself at birth. The limitations and strengths of the body are the first things to be dealt with, and if others do not feed me, I will die. The culture, resources, and institutions of the society in which I mature have all been built up by others as part of their experience. Physical monuments, books, legends, and skills learned and passed on, are now shapers and teachers of the “I” that experiences life in this physical interface.
Is consciousness a property of life, as primitive in the bacterium as its physical form, hardly aware of anything beyond its own needs, but creative and imaginative in the human form, where it reaches out to the depths of life beneath it, and to the known universe beyond?
If so, where does conscious awareness go when the body is no longer functional? Back to where it came from before we were born? Does it have an existence of its own? Does it break off in pieces (fractals) to inhabit new bodies as they are formed and separated (shed or peeled off) from the “mother?” And does it rejoin the universal fractal after the body no longer functions as its sensory interface? Where and what is “home?”
Is there any continuity that any of us can be personally aware of? Can consciousness survive the absence of a physical interface? Is physical form the only form that can support conscious awareness and experience? It is the only one we know of, though we imagine others. And life in this form is often difficult.
Truth:I am conscious while I am awake and aware of this body’s sensations and this brain’s impressions. I am not conscious of the sensations or impressions of any other body, although I can imagine them, and [a trained technician] can sometimes measure them with instruments that make electronic images of their waveforms.
When I am asleep, I am not unconscious, since I can still react to discomfort and external stimuli, and my brain is sorting thoughts and building habits, as well as replacing cells and keeping the body systems functioning in equilibrium. These are things that I can’t do consciously (intentionally). They are electro-chemical in nature and marvelous to observe.
But when I am unconscious, I am not aware of anything (and the electro-chemical processes will still go on.) If the body dies in an unconscious state, I will be unaware that death has occurred—or of anything else, since my conscious awareness is unsupported by a functioning physical interface. What am I and where am I then? Do the effects–all that “I” have experienced, enjoyed, suffered, appreciated, loved, hated, feared, wondered, built, achieved, destroyed, learned, and created—including offspring—go away and become someone else’s experience, because “I” as the experiencer, no longer have a means of experiencing anything? Icannot actually experience my own death!
IN OTHER WORDS, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE ME? Life goes on for those I leave behind, and they will remember me for a while. But DO I THEN EVEN EXIST AS “I”? I only know that none of us can conceive of not existing—nor of a beginning or end of time, the universe, infinity, eternity, or the nature of God. It’s not so much that human beings are limited in their ability to comprehend the non-material or spiritual realm: the brain is unable to think (reason) without limits. That’s why it’s just as hard to imagine having an immortal soul as it is to imagine NOT having one–or just as impossible to prove that there is a God as it is to prove that there is NO God. Finding limits or placing them is the foundation of analytical, rational, deductive, logical reasoning. Anything outside the limits of reason is a matter of conjecture or faith. This would include such things as Near Death Experiences, Out of Body Experiences, visions, ghosts, prophetic dreams, extrasensory perception, alien abduction, channeling, laying- on of hands, and intuitive suggestions. (Yet there are documented claims of these.)
We can never know, by exercising the intellect, the answers to the questions I have posed here. Why do I care? Can I do anything about it? Should I believe a book or tradition because my parents did, or out of fear of execution or Hell if I don’t? There is only relative truth in the realm of experience, and there is no such thing as Absolute Truth: anything that has an opposite is relative, so “Absolute Truth” has no meaning and cannot be defined. It is that which is.
“I think; therefore I am” (at this moment.) What I believe about the next moment is a matter of choice. Perhaps I will survive the chasm of death by taking a leap of faith, by loosening my grip on this world and turning with expectation to whatever awaits me. It can’t be worse than clinging to physical life, however painful, out of fear of the unknown. Perhaps what awaits me is only a long… dreamless… sleep, as I dissolve into the dark matter of the universe, waiting to become.