Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thought Serves the Ascension of Humanity and is Inimical to Power

“In Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916), he (Bertrand Russell) wrote: Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man. But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be. “Should the working man think freely about property? Then what will become of us, the rich? Should young men and young women think freely about sex? Then what will become of morality? Should soldiers think freely about war? Then what will become of military discipline? Away with thought! Back into the shades of prejudice, lest property, morals, and war should be endangered! Better men should be stupid, slothful, and oppressive than that their thoughts should be free. For if their thoughts were free they might not think as we do. And at all costs this disaster must be averted.” So the opponents of thought argue in the unconscious depths of their souls. And so they act in their churches, their schools, and their universities.”

Fromm, Erich (2010-08-03). On Disobedience: 'Why Freedom Means Saying "No" to Power (Harperperennial Modern Thought) (pp. 26-27). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

During this period of political theatre and argumentation that is derived from the most basic of emotional proclivities rather than from the heights of intellectual discourse, the words of Russell here resonate with a power in line with the clash of ideologies going on in society. Let us have debates, let us ponder the peculiarities of the human condition and delve into the hitherto mysteries of existence and the cosmos in which we are a part of and apart from. However, we should do so from a position of humble acceptance of our own rational faculties and the constant reassessment that follows from a scientific/humanist point of view. This means understanding not just our own position, our own frame of reference, but also understanding that of our opponent’s, who, like us, were they have had different experiences, a different life and a different set of neural connections formed, would stand where we are and, lest we not forget the happenstance of creation, vice versa. There is no experience that, built within and manifested in a singular person that is not, in principle, incapable of being experienced by another. In our ego-focused existence, it behooves us to remind ourselves of this fact and realize that whatever may divide us, there is a great deal more that makes us all one.

Here on the cusp of Labor Day, we rest on the shoulders of those who have come before us. They are the engineers, the intellectuals, the blue-collar workers. They made our roads so that wagons followed by automobiles could open up vistas of land for the expansion of human civilization. They laid down rail tracks for travel, commerce and in so doing made the world that much closer together. They created our planes, designed our phones and created the network that makes it all work together, flattening the world so that mountains were no longer impassable and a person on one side of an entire planet could see and hear someone on the opposite, giving us the power of the gods of antiquity. And none of this was built by any one person, founded upon any one idea. We come into this world screaming our existence to those around us, to boldly declare “see me!” and by that act acknowledge a truth that so often is lost in a world of individualism hell-bent on insularity, that we are none of us an island but possess the innate desire and the potential and actual capacity for conscious union with everyone we have connection.

In that union we will come across ideas and experiences that shake us, knock us back even, make us question deeply held notions of ourselves and the world in which we live. The march of rationality provides no safe harbor to the familiar, the structures of authority both terrestrial and spiritual, that we seek to reside in. But we need not despair or quiver in uncertainty, for we do indeed stand on the shoulders of all who have come before and can reach out at all times to find commonality even amongst those we find objectionable. There is no greater or more terrible power than that of conscious thought, nor any greater threat to the civilization which has been and continues to be built than the denial of thought’s increasing progress. It humbles the self-righteous, raises the common to the extraordinary and at all times reminds us that our relation to the universe and our fellow human beings is a product of our intent.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cosmic Illumination

In all spiritual studies there seems a draw to get behind the veil of phenomenal experience, to see the interconnected or singular reality that is back of all experience. I do not here call it religion, for systematized religious dogmatism has little to do with seeing things from an a-perspectival transcendency, as it is more concerned with making distinctions and drawing separation between groups. There is a profound “us vs. them” mentality in the world’s major religions, especially in their fundamentalist forms, that threatens to remove humanity from a path leading to an ever deepening acknowledgment that back of all ego there is a creative force shaping all things. Whether that force be an actual substance or simply a means of framing existence is not at issue here, for what such thought does is remove the tendentious creations of a mind bent on discriminating. Such discrimination is replaced by contemplation in the realm of figuring out how differences are merely aspects of a greater whole. In that place there can be no more hatred, in that place there can be true understanding and forgiveness.

Erich Fromm, in his book The Art of Loving, when talking about divine love stated: “...God becomes what he potentially is in monotheistic theology, the nameless One, an inexpressible stammer, referring to the unity underlying the phenomenal universe, the ground of all existence; God becomes truth, love, justice. God is I, inasmuch as I am human.” There is no shame or guilt, doubt or despair, no focus on what is lacking, only a celebration of what is, in the human creature, a presence of beauty and grandeur waiting to be awoken to.

J. Bronowski, in his book The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, when discussing the creative and imaginative potential in the human person stated: “The mind, like the hydrogen atom, so long as you do not look at it, is allowed to reach one of an infinite number of answers, and only when action is demanded of it does it come up with a definite answer. But the action now is not an action of the brain -- it is an action of the whole person” Later in the book he states: “The creative personality is always one that looks on the world as fit for change and on himself as an instrument for change.” The actions of a broken person, one who believes themself to be only pieces waiting to be fixed or made whole, will always falter, hobbling as if wearing only one shoe. The celebration of life, of imaginative potential, is a journey from out of present wholeness, a knowledge that every step taken is a step vibrating in an interconnected fashion with all else even beyond what is personally known.

During a speech at Whittier, Ernest Holmes, founder of Science of Mind, had an experience where he was caught up in an illuminating realization of the transcendental connection of all, an experience that at first seemed to be answered by that of ineffable silence, in fact he even stated that he could no longer go on. However, I don’t believe silence or, perhaps better, the absence of sound, was his true answer. Rather it served as a resounding shout to the heavens that there existed a quality of experience that went beyond words, that must be felt by each one of us as we come into the realization of our shared divinity and the cosmic constancy of an imagination bound only within the limits of the entire cosmos.

In that knowing however, in that supreme experience of self-ness, there lies the absence of that very self or ego focus, as we see the singularity of the Universe lying not in front of us like an open sea but flowing in and around us, a maelstrom of creative potential throwing up possibility after possibility. We behold that our individuation is cause for celebration only in the context of our interconnection with all other divine manifestations. We are not a palette of only one color, but the entirety of the spectrum, eagerly waiting for the inexpressible stammer of an illumined existence.