Friday, February 27, 2009

The Gold Standard

At the gym this morning I was watching an informercial on "six-pack abs". Having been a personal trainer in a fitness center, I wondered: when did "six-pack abs" become the "gold standard of physical fitness? When I was a scrawny kid in elementary school the national gold standard was The Presidential Physical Fitness Award which I never won. But it was the local gold standard that mattered more to me since this was the prize in the eyes of my peers. This involved climbing ropes suspended from the gym ceiling, climbing up from the floor to the ceiling. I struggled all through elementary school to make this great achievement, watching other athletic kids scramble up and down while I just hung there trying to figure out how to make this rope climbing thing work. I can still hear the strains of "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" in my mind. It wasn't until late in the 6th grade that I actually made it all the way to the top. But --- to my horror instead of proud satisfaction, I looked down from this unnatural and dizzying height wondering about the newly discovered "other side" of this "ropes" paradox: now, how do I get down?
Somehow I did. It didn't take me years, but only minutes. I decided then that there might be other gold standards I could aspire to, so I went into a life of Art instead of Sports. 25 years later I was a personal trainer in a fitness center training folks to climb "fourteeners".
Today, in science, the gold standard is not "results" like six-pack abs nor information in infomercials. (And besides, did it ever occur to you that those fitness models pictured in the ads had the abs BEFORE they had the program or device claiming it bestowed perfect abs on them?) The gold standard in science is the double-blind (placebo) peer-reviewed journal published experiment. In science, failure is as illuminating as is success. As many experiments are constructed in order to "disprove" an hypothesis as there are those designed to "prove" one. A genuine scientist does not go to television and its "results" for his or her best data but to the scientific community.
This all made me wonder, "What is the gold standard of Scientific Spirituality?" For me, the word "scientific" means that I cannot entirely discount the role of intellect or reason in the unfolding of my understanding. I read books. Reading is not just about awareness. My awareness alone doesn't read the book, reason is involved and acting. My trained intellect interprets the books I read as I read them, but I am aware that my reason is always overshadowed and foreshadowed by my intuition which is listening and watching and waiting to insert itself at unexpected and surprising moments. What is the genuine interpolation (insertion) of intuition and what is spurious? How is the spiritual fact discerned unless its meaning bestowing power enlightens reason which unfolds from "faith" (doubt) to "understanding." When an understanding unfolds, a doubt is put permanently behind me.
"Faith" is the rear guard of reason, that is, it is the commitment I myself make to the Truth of Being as my primary fact. It is also my goal of living to live freely the I am that I am. For my reason to become "correct" my intuition must be "clear". Science is a standard which includes both --clear AND correct. Divine Mind speaks the language, the dialect or dialectic of my own understanding; it is recognition and acknowledgement, insight and intellect functioning in unison (harmony). I cannot make sense of Reality or Truth in any other way. So "faith" is a promise I make to myself and I myself keep. Just like "six pack abs".
When I discover that I have been had by the infomercials and realize that my closet full of fgadgets, formulas, packages, programs, recipes, mantras, and rituals will never produce "results" unless I produce them, if I am not committed to myself, The Whole, then I will not see my way clearly enough to follow it. Becoming aware as God-- as Being fully aware of Itself alone I feel the built-in Reason for reason. This Insight or Light within me enables my reason to steer my own inner tendency of "projecting". When I am into a not possible project of becoming that which I can never be, giving all my energy to making it seem so, my intuition deserts me. I may gain the world but I forfeit the Soul. Suffering tells me I cannot get "there" without all of me --imagination or reason to make sense of my experience and intuition or insight - which alone satisfies reason. Considering a bird flying, which wing can it do without?
Talking the talk, walking the walk, are no longer standards of spirituality --- flying is.

"Mind must have conscious identity to be Mind. This is the Reason for man and is the Principle by which he lives, moves, breathes. Originality, wit, humor, versatility, spontaneity, joy are characteristics of Mind. They are Mind Itself and not mere qualities. The substance of Mind is Spirit, and Spirit is Love and Love is Infinity—omnipresent perfection. “Being is infinity, freedom, harmony and boundless bliss. This is the Science and the Reason we say, “Be and by being heal the sick." --Bicknell Young

"You are radically relying on Truth when you believe only what you find within yourself as understanding. The night of dualism is far spent. We are learning to know ourselves and to demonstrate the human and divine coincidence as the individual perception of Truth. This is the reason for the writing, as well as the reading, of this book. When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears. All doctrine and dogma for the identity of Truth are constantly being outmoded by Truth unfolding form the withinness of consciousness. The evolution of consciousness does make the dogma wrong for the identity of Truth in the age in which it appeared, but makes it obsolete for the succeeding age. Consciousness or conscious (37) being is Mind—a ceaseless disclosing of Reality. This is the Reason that I am. In an earlier age Meister Eckhart said it this way: “Everything that is has the fact of its being through being and from being.” Being is ceaseless awakening to Reality. It is the discovery that nothing exits external to our being, either to gain or lose.
Mrs. Eddy was not the first to identify Mind as the ordering Principle of the Universe, original and individual. Plato regarded Mind as including the forms, the universal ideas which are the Reality (structure) of all things. He, however, considered Mind transcendental, and its ideas as ideals separate from sense phenomena. What made Mrs. Eddy’s vision unique was her recognition of the indivisibility of consciousness and her identification of Mind as the all-pervading substance or energy which constitutes existence. “One infinite God (Mind, Good) unifies men and nations constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars;" --Margaret Laird

Today -- healing is no longer the gold standard of scientific metaphysics and mysticism. Stopping wars is.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I pulled a book off my shelf called, A Brief History of the Paradox, by Roy Sorensen who is professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College. In the frontispiece were these two quotes: "There are two famous labyrinths where our reason very often goes astray: one concerns the great question of the Free and the Necessary, above all the production and the origin of Evil; the other consists to the discussion of continuity and of the indivisibles which appear to be the elements
thereof, and where the consideration of the infinite must enter in. The first perplexes almost all the human race; the other exercises philosophers only." --Gottfried Liebniz, Theodicy

"Here and elsewhere we shall not obtain the best insight into things until we actually see them growing from the beginning." ---Aristotle, Politics

In the unfolding understanding that we are, we find ourselves confronted by a series of paradoxes. Paradoxes are riddles seducing us into attempting to solve them. The oldest recorded paradox is presented by the Greek Philosopher Anaximander and is the riddle of origin. Most popular version: "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?"
Intellectually, the problem can be solved by taking one side or the other. Chickenism or Eggism, let's start a new movement, maybe an institute. While this may seem to be a solution to the problem and ends the impasse and we proceed, it is no solution, our understanding-level recycles itself behind intellect's back and reappears "in fairer form". Now we are confronted by The old Paradox in a new form. Paradoxes can be "dissolved."
Of course, Margaret Laird's presentation is: "The human is human because it is divine and not human." We are the Paradox living our own divinity unself-consciously as another as understanding unfolds to us that we are our own divinity self-consciously living our Self.

"Understanding is the Lord that takes care of everything. Let understanding—the Truth of being—your own divinity or God-self, deal with the problem and it becomes no problem. This understanding is the Lord building your world in complete command of every situation. The all-knowing Mind is the intelligence, the Love, that disposes of the need for a problem or catalyst. The name which conditioned thinking or ignorance gives to Reality, the Good, is the Reality in finite form. The attempt through human effort to make conditions better and mankind happier, proves abortive and frustrating since the human is human because it already is divine. Treat sickness with 'the right apprehension of the truth of being' and you treat it with Love, which evaluates it as a Health experience."

"We cannot imagine what life will be like as the idea comes into clearer focus that everything seen, heard, felt is functioning Intelligence—one’s own Self-fulfillment or actualization. In all destruction, construction is the destruction, in matter, Mind is the matter; in body, Soul is the body. These paradoxes state the Absolute or Science. Since the human is human because it is divine, my divinity makes all decisions for my humanity. The CSt, therefore, is unafraid even when what he calls himself and his world is threatened with destruction. He realizes that such appearance is simply not seeing clearly and that in reality a new world of peace and plenty is forever in the making. CS lived as Science, as discernment, translates matter into Mind and error into the language of Truth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote “Matter and Spirit are two distinct aspects of one single cosmic stuff.” The truly religious man is the man whose daily living is his religion. Everything he does, he does by being conscious identity, and therefore everything he does, he enjoys and appreciates. He does not consider that going to church, praying, or reading a holy book are any more religious in nature than going to his office, doing housework, playing tennis or enjoying the theatre." - Margaret Laird, Christian Science Re-explored.

I would revise de Chardin's statement to read: "Matter and Spirit are and are not simultaneously two distinct aspects of one single cosmic stuff." When we think "we have it" we don't and it has us.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The intellectual world was rocked when natural scientist Charles Darwin published his book, The Origin of Species in 1859. In his biography of Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, author David Quammen, shares an intimate portrait of the man behind the scientist. Darwin was the wealthy son of a British aristocrat and attended Oxford, studying theology. Bored with and unconvinced by the natural theology of his day he entered biology instead of medicine as had his brother. As he developed his views of the origin of new species arising in response to the environments on isolated islands, his conflict with theology grew. His final break with theology came when his beloved little daughter died in agony. It was at this point that Darwin, like many sensitive thinkers, put the question of theodicy to himself and coming to no conclusion turned his back on the God-idea.
The question of theodicy was most clearly formulated by the philosopher Leibniz who introduced the term in his 1710 work "Theodicic Essays on the Benevolence of God, the Free Will of man, and the Origin of Evil". The problem of evil had been tossed around since Epicurus, who is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called "the Epicurean paradox" or "the riddle of Epicurus."
"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?" — Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief .
What Darwin did for the intellectual community of his day was to demote theology's man-idea from its standing in its own eyes as just slightly below God and accountable for becoming perfect through sacramental religion, to a new man-idea just slightly above the higher primates. This demotion from angel to animal brought outrage then and can do so now. We are nothing more than a fancy animal with a slightly modified brain evolved under natural selection pressures determined by the local environment. The brain of a human is not much different than other animal brains, has more similarities with them than differences and may conceivably be replaceable one day with an artificial brain instead. Darwin's discovery of the mechanism (law) of natural selection did wonders for natural science, gave a new respect for animals, even microscopic ones, in the scientific community and opened the way for science to free itself from religion and to evolve into today's neurological and DNA investigations. The new view into the mechanics of the brain and body also gave rise to such science fiction predictions as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Orwell's, Animal Farm, and today's quest for higher forms of artificial intelligence (robots) which challenge our use of the word "human." What exactly does it signify? Where is the line between animal and human? Human and machine?
What Darwin didn't do was to see himself standing facing his greatest discovery presented in the devastation of his daughter's death. For this he had no vision and he turned away from it. Although he helped to liberate science from old theology, he was himself no giant of metaphysics, or of self-understanding, no profound listener to the Voice within us all. Quammen tells us that Darwin called his wife, "mommie" and would run and hide in her breasts when he was disturbed When confronted by the problem of evil so personally his brilliance did not speak to him but was silent.
What do you hear when the question of evil is put to you? As an academic exercise it is trivial and you may hear nothing. I travelled through seminary and 20 years of professional ministry and never really thought about the Epicurian Riddle, until the question was put to me so profoundly personally in several experiences in close sequence that brought me to the point where I imagine Darwin stood that day his little daughter died and drove me into the search for truth called metaphysics.
Scientific Metaphysics was emerging into its own mainstream discussion about the time of Darwin, taking as its premise and platform the opposite view of life, that life is Spirit and not matter. Metaphysical scientist Mary Baker Eddy in her textbook, Science and Health with Key to Scriptures wrote:

"Christian Science goes to the bottom of mental action, and reveals the theodicy which indicates the rightness of all divine action, as the emanation of divine Mind, and the consequent wrongness of the opposite so-called action,--evil...." S&H 104:13

Fifty years later metaphysician Margaret Laird wrote: "In the effort to overcome evil, as if there could be a false substance, the mind is kept in constant confusion and turmoil. Our problems and their solutions rest in ourselves. Certain it is that evil will remain with us just as long as we entertain the belief that there is evil."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In his book Up from Eden, Ken Wilber writes on transpersonal psychology. He makes mention of the fact that young children passing through the "typhonic" stage of evolving consciousness dream about animals. It occurred to me yesterday that maybe middle-aged adults also dream in "stage-appropriate" terms. Why is it that we can't just will ourselves to have happy, sexy, fun dreams at night, but instead seem to have mainly frustrating dreams of vain efforting to fulfill some impossible task? Is it that we are stuck in a stage of an evolving consciousness? What would the transition/transformation into the new, more expansive, more inclusive stage of consciousness involve? Would we see dreams representing and validating the fact that we had made the transition? Do dreams of frustration and despair arise only in one discrete stage and not in another, say self-consciousness but not Cosmic Consciousness? Do we play these night dreams out in our waking experiences of "living lives of quiet desperation"?