Body, Soul and Spirit 2: The Way of the Soul

3614955279_1404b6dde5_oaIn my second posting (1st here) on this beginning exploration and reassessment of what I’ve come to see as true, beautiful and good I’m going to look more into what Soul is and does. And again, I’m just going to go with my meanderings and contemplations; I’m not trying to be comprehensive and go through the history of that idea, or into explaining what distinguishes it from psyche etc. Much of that you can find by googling it and looking it up in the wikipedia and similar.

There are a couple of aspects of Soul that are important to me, now, aspects that can be put into these questions:

  • Reincarnation being a reality (will get into that a bit in just a minute), what is it that becomes – or is embedded in – flesh?
  • Given the very long duration of the Soul’s existence (don’t want to call it eternity until I’m sure it is), why would it incarnate in the first place? What is so interesting about hanging out in an embodied and matterful dimension?
  • And what about evolution, oneness, enlightenment in the light of the ‘never ending story’ (at least from an incarnated point of view) of the Soul?

I already mentioned my friend from Basel, Switzerland, who does remember a long line of incarnations and can actually see those of others as well. I haven’t mentioned that I’ve not taken reincarnation serious for most of my life – actually I considered it off and on, but I didn’t think it was relevant for this life. I rather liked the metaphor of Alan Watts, that an individual life is akin to a vortex in a river that can stay there for a very long time. And then it dissolves again. As long as it exists it evolves and even develops a sense of unique and separate existence, whereas it obviously is simply water whirling in a very particular way…

I’m not reconsidering because of the fear of dying and the desire to last any longer than my allotted (if it is allotted) time on earth. Some years ago, when on the Czech country-side, all alone by myself, I felt like I was having a heart-attack and seriously thought, “This is it!” And apart of not being able to say good-bye to my family and friends and telling them that “all is very good, and thank you for hanging out with me,” I felt very fine with dying, and was at peace with the what I then believed to be true – that I would end definitely; no further existence, an absolute end from my point of view, and a slow fading into oblivion in the larger context of the people who live on. There was no desire to stay and hang on to life or survival of my person or soul in any way.

graveThis is the conviction my father died with in January this year. But spontaneously, at the ceremony before his cremation, I said, “He’ll be surprised that death is not the end. Actually, they’ve got specialists in the next dimension for souls who were sure that there was nothing after death, to help them overcome the shock of post-mortem existence.” I don’t know where that came from, but I do tend to trust such matters. So I guess that was the beginning of opening up to the possibility of – at the very least – ‘surviving’ death in some way or other.

Looking into the research by Ian Stevenson and seeing some interesting videos on the topic it’s now quite clear to me that, as professor Dr. Robert Almeder puts it, “It would be irrational not to believe in reincarnation … if you have a very commanding argument that you cannot refute, not to accept the argument is irrational.” But, whatever the case may be, the material I’ve seen has convinced me that reincarnation is a matter of fact. But why does that matter?

It talks to me about what a human person is, at least what a person is giving expression to. It tells me that it is the Soul that reincarnates and sounds through you and me (old Greek: per sona, through sound). Obviously this gets me into philosophical trouble with materialists who believe that a person, consciousness and mind are phenomena caused by and utterly depend upon an embodied brain… but frankly, I don’t care. I go with the evidence as it presents itself, and then discuss, if one of my monist friends wants that.

underwater15aAfter this ground work on why reincarnation is obviously real I can come to my first question, “What is it that becomes – or is embedded in – flesh?

I will try to illustrate my thinking with two metaphors, music and character.
Imagine an orchestra. We hear a few instruments, then more, tuning to a common note, and when all instruments are tuned the conductor ticks on his desk and everything goes silent. He looks at the score, just to be sure, and starts conducting. The first notes of the music break through the hushed expectations and off we go: A new life, a new self is born, a new orchestral work sounds.
In it’s first notes it might be remniscent of some earlier music, some melodies half forgotten, and somehow – if we knew what came before – we might recognise a theme, or the way the composer goes about writing his music, or the style of the conductor. But then we embark upon the new work’s opening sequence and we are taken by the polyphony or symphony, or whatever our destiny sounds like.
In this metaphor reincarnation is like moving from orchestra to orchestra. Does it depend on the orchestra, how the sym-/polyphony sounds? Certainly it does. Do the instruments and voices matter? Certainly they do. Is the score, the music created by the orchestra? No; it has been written by a composer. Does the orchestra determine what is played? Not really; it is the conductor and the leadership of the orchestra that does that. In our metaphor it is the Soul and whomever the Soul consults with when it chooses the particular incarnation for this musical work.

Character is an ambiguous word as it refers to both persons and letters and words. Which is why I like it as a metaphor for what is embedded in flesh, what is incarnating. A body of writing, a poem, a story comes as characters on paper or screen (or sounds in the air, but let’s stick with the written word as we’ve already covered music and sound). Are the characters causing the poem? No, they embody it. Their embodiment certainly influences the reception, but that’s about it. It is the way the story is told, or the poem is composed that makes all the difference in the world, not what are its constituent letters – except, maybe, that a well readable typography is a good thing…

symph1Both these metaphors illustrate two aspects of reincarnation and a Soul’s Way – we cannot hear a symphony or polyphony without voices and instruments embodying it, and neither can we read a story or poem without the use of letters or ideograms. I’ve used both metaphors as if the embodied music or poetry pre-exists, but that doesn’t need to be so. Not being a composer I just know a bit about writing. Writing, in my case at least, develops as I’m writing and re-reading what I’ve written. And so our metaphors do not only answer what it is that incarnates but also if there needs to be a pre-existing fate or destiny. Does the end of the story already exist when we start with the first lines? It depends on the writer. In reincarnation it might depend on the maturity and artfulness of the Soul that composes the life; maybe it is already quite accomplished and has composed enough previous lives to be confident enough to ‘free-style’ in this life. Maybe it already knows the plot, and maybe not. I think we’ll know in the very end…

So does the Soul incarnate? Well, I’d say as much as an artist incarnates in a piece of art. While s/he’s in the act of creation, s/he’s absorbed by creating; maybe once in a while taking a few steps back, but that’s all there is for the time being… (Writing this I suddenly understand why great art touches us so deeply; the Soul is very much of an artist.)

Which brings us close to a possible answer to, “Why incarnate in the first place? What is so interesting about hanging out in an embodied and matterful dimension?” The richness of using a restricted palette is fascinating – matter, 3 space dimensions and 1 or 2 time dimensions, first-person perspective, impermanence, fallibility, spirit etc.
The view from a mountain top is amazing. We can see very far. We’re above the clouds. We can breath free. All is clear. This is very different from moving about in the valley, the jungle were we can see just a couple of meters, maybe. We’re right in the middle of the blood, sweat and tears, the parties, joys and beauties of deep immersion.
It seems to me incarnation expresses the unending creativity of Soul and it’s fascination with limits, impermanence and diversity.

Which brings me to the third and last question for now, “What about evolution, oneness, enlightenment in the light of a ‘never ending story’ of the Soul?”
Since a human life, a given incarnation, is very much akin to a symphony or a poem, a piece of art, it doesn’t make much sense to insist on the bourgeois imagination that the Soul is learning and moving to some superior state of enlightenment, divinity or some such, taking reincarnations to be a kind of school where with every life we have to learn some lessons or repeat them in a next one.
Obviously, in life, there is learning. And, obviously again, the orchestra and instruments have been evolving on this planet since it came into existence billions of years ago. And, even more obviously, human kind has been developing as a society in a more or less wholesome direction in spite of the numerous challenges we face. But to take that to mean that there is a goal to the Soul’s incarnating activities, and that this goal is some sort of unembodied existence as a post-enlightened being seems to be much more part of a heroic story-line than connected with the ‘goal’ of reincarnating.
Every piece of art is the artist expressing hirself – and possibly getting better at doing that with the given medium of expression – so a human person and particular life is the Soul’s expression, it’s writing in flesh and behavior, dreams and visions, joys and fears and everything else that comes with being alive.

Tat tvam asi! That thou art!Keizaburo Tejima, Swan Sky, 1983a

Body, Soul and Spirit 1: Modes of being alive

This is the very first installment of what I hope will become a Body, Soul and Spirit series of posts that will meander around most of the topics that keep fascinating me since a while.

Starting with a meeting with a great and lovely man in Basel, Switzerland who remembers a long line of incarnations in a, for me, absolutely credible way and context, I’ve started to reconsider most – and in the end probably all – of my convictions connected with body, soul, spirit, consciousness, life and what, who and why we are. (In my hippie-days Death used to be a more or less constant companion, and now s/he is in a new way, faced with the endingness of individual life a couple of times recently. This surely also plays a role: a renewed fascination with each night’s fading of awareness and the life of dreams, and the reappearance of more or less the same person in consciousness upon waking up…)

I will not be very philosophical, in the usual sense of that word, about this, even though I’m in love (philo) with wisdom (Sophia). This inquiry is also very personal, anecdotal and hopefully at times poetical. I might also rave and be full of pathos for something or other… we’ll see. What’ll be my guide, or should I say guides?, are my fascinations with what appears in the theater of what it is to be ‘me’. I could, of course, also call it the arena or the clearing – that space in which matters, things, imaginations, illusions and the real alight; what we ordinarily call consciousness, that mode of being alife that ever eludes our grip of understanding; trying to understand consciousness is as if the eye were trying to see itself, when the best it can do is see itself reflected in a mirror.

Modes of being alive

Being conscious, aware; being taken; in a pensive mood, reflecting on important and not so important, but urgent matters; reverie; witnessing, choiceless awareness; in the flow, totally immersed in sensual immediacy… many of the possible modes of being alive, and some of them mutually exclusive. When, for instance, I’m in a reflective mode – and mood, as often I am these days – I can’t really witness being reflective more than generally, can’t reflect and be choicelessly aware and without judgement at the same time. Isn’t reflecting closely considering a matter, the way the soul participates in life for instance, and looking what this means, what are the concepts being nourished on soul and what are relevant experiences, and what have interesting persons said about this matter? Witnessing this reflection I wouldn’t follow one thread or another but rather I’d let them all unfold as they please as, also, sensations of breath come up and unfold and whatever else unfolds or pops up in consciousness. Witnessing is mostly passive, and only active in extracting oneself from being caught up in any of the phenomena that are witnessed.

adi_da_samraj2Certainly, when in a deeply enlightened mode of awareness, everything can be done or not done – but then there is no witness, no anyone, and, really it is so beyond anything that means something to me as human that I’m not really interested in ‘getting there’ again. Also, those that are supposed to be there – claiming it for themselves or others claiming it on their behalf, the followers or disciples – do not have any characteristics that seems truly valuable; on the contrary, there seems to be an atmosphere of megalomania around them, an air of absolute altitude, an assumed divinity that unpacks as utterly undesirable social context. The unresolved power-issues around that mode of aliveness in our day and age – enlightened teachers abusing their students – are such that however true and beautiful that mode is from the inside of it, it is best left alone.

On the other side of the spectrum, or so it seems, is flow, a mode of being alive that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made popular; flow as total immersion into what you’re doing. In sports it’s been called ‘being in the zone’. Witnessing could be said to be transcendent to everything that appears and flow as being totally immanent – you’re totally in it. You can witness the flow of events but then you’re not in the flow because being in the flow collapses any kind of witnessing as activity that plays a role, even though there is a particular kind of awareness available. But it’s more that the awareness of it is part of the flow as a whole than that the flow would happen within consciousness. For me this happens in dancing with closed eyes, easily, or in something called body-flow, where the body can just do what it feels like doing… It’s mostly a very sensual experience, being in a physical sensing mode.

Seems I had to do some explaining to come to the main dish I’m serving here which is that these modes of being alive are in a very large sense mutually exclusive. We are polymorphs, being with many (poly) forms (morphe) and – something I might pursuit at a later time – maybe there is really no unity below all this; although there is the idea that “Isness” – a German term coming from Meister Eckhart, “Istigkeit” – would describe that essential unity, something Mister Tolle calls The Power of Now. Nevertheless we cannot both be in the flow and witnessing at the same time. We could do that in a team, with a third friend then reflecting on what we’re doing, you in the flow, me being choicelessly aware of all this. Which brings me to another very mysterious mode of being that I’ve been blessed to participate in at times: the mode of we-fullness, as I keep calling it, the mode of being with others in such a way that you are deeply convinced and experience yourself to partake of a collective being, the ‘circle-being’ , the first inkling of a collective consciousness, I think, the becoming aware as a living multi-personal field.

foodBack to the main dish. As we do not eat hors d’oevre, main dish and dessert all at once, as that would maybe not taste so great, or at least very different from tasting them separately, so this goes for the modes of being alive. The “One Taste” (Ken Wilber’s diary-like book on being in non-dual mode most of the time) is really a “special taste”, a “particular taste” that some people like and evangelize about; but it is neither superior to other tastes, unless you like it, of course, nor is it the basic essence of all other dishes. The commonality is that it’s all food, but that doesn’t make it one, dish.

Honoring all meals and dishes we are served by life and psyche, by being and soul, by the gods and whoever else cooks them (including all the cooks inside of us) means neither reducing them to the recipes nor to their essential ingredients but eating them with mouth, nose and everything else, actually tasting the meals and the company we eat them in.

Emperors_New_Clothes

We’re polymorphs, able to take on many forms – or maybe it’s forms that take us on; it’s voices that speak us, maybe the voice of the enlightened spirit, the pensive wizard, the flowing joy, the heroic responsible person, the mystic poet and so endless on. There is no need, whatsoever, to become monotheistic about diversity, to call on our unity, to invoke our oneness, to go for the One that keeps it all together. That, as it reveals itself to me more and more obviously, is the naked emperor whose new clothes of the unity of his realm really do not amount to anything but the ego’s (or hero’s) vanity. Yes, in a certain mode of being alive I have experienced an all-pervading oneness, an ecstatic experience par excellence. But it is only in reflection that I can turn this into the essential or absolute or superior or ‘real’ (maybe even with capital letters); a reflection I’ve followed for most of my life. But not so anymore as I’ve come to honor the multitude of meals and cooks, all feeding the soul.

And this post, quite obviously, has been created in a reflective mode of being.

Into the Polyverse

My twitter-stream has many tweets like these:

ColinUdeLewis “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” James Allen

WilliamHarryman “95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself.” — Brian Tracy

bfederman A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe. Gita

Good advise, wise words, wonderful and inspirational stuff reflecting, I think, some of what goes on in the larger ‘community’ of world-change agents, spiritually savvy geeks, integralites etc. that I feel part of. Contemplating these and many similar tweets I was inspired to put this statement on twitter:

We might be moving from transpersonal to multipersonal, from transcendence to polysemous diversity, from individual to distinctively plural

Nurturegirls response got me interested to see where this spontaneous tweet takes me when I unwrap what this means for me. So here we go…

Hands1

With “transpersonal” I’m refering to Transpersonal Psychology which put Spirit and metaphysics back into Western psychology. The dean of Integral, Ken Wilber, has expanded it to a much larger system which he calls Integral Psychology – which, in turn, is part of his much larger Theory of Everything. People who have been following this blog probably know that I am critical of Wilber’s views, and most of all his vertical spirituality with an Absolute or Non-dual at it’s pinnacle, implicitly downgrading whatever is ‘below’ – but that’s a different conversation I don’t feel like getting into now except for my tweet’s topic of trancendence, the movement that rises forever up the (spiraling) vertical axis, going beyond body, mind, matter, and endlessly on until it has gone beyond everyone and everything… this is what we’re moving away from and towards polysemous diversity; which I will come to a bit further down.

Vertical spirituality used to be my orientation since I was 14 years old when I first read about yoga and silence (1967) right until the very day I was finally enlightened 33 years later; yep, you’re not supposed to say that, but bear with me. Actually I call this happening Grand Disillusionment because it was basically nilling everything I thought meant anything before this happened. But, silly me, this level-change was just the end of a strand that had been in development since my very young years fuelled by the kind of thought-food one gets as a hippie becoming meditator becoming deep seeker becoming spiritual teacher becoming guru and then, finally, dropping out of that whole game altogether.

You see, my whole journey was fueled by the conviction that a single self or Self actually exists. But the idea of being or having a self/Self is really a nest of meaning and reasoning that very much reflects our cultures’ need for capable individuals (from latin, “non-dividable”) that have a permanence and consistency that can be relied upon and that can be (made to be) responsible. And our type of meaning-making needs a center around which it revolves and to whom it refers, so there you are

This is very sketchy, and much more can be said about the self/Self, its sources and status – maybe another time; for I also want to mention two basic perspectives in Western, and maybe Eastern, culture:
The ‘scientific’ view which is basically saying that ‘out there’ beyond our skin, and even inside of it, there is just accidental matter that we, our mind and consciousness, project onto. So, for instance, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; it is not a feature of a flower or a sunset or a person or the galaxy. The same, obviously, goes for truth and everything else. All of this is “in the mind” and not “out there”. (That there are laws governing energy-matter that are objective and not projected is an interesting conondrum most empiricists carefully avoid; this doesn’t take away the basic conviction, though, that really matter is absolutely devoid of spirit, essence or whatever else you can project on it.)
The other perspective is formed by the ‘absolute truth’ that people, things and even processes have an essence, a soul, a spirit in and of themselves. This is taken to mean that beauty is not really, or only in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is actually part of being a flower, a sunset, a person or galaxy. In this view the beauty in us resonates or in some other manner communicates with the beauty out there – we recognize truth, beauty, the Good or God that is there already whether we know it or not. We find it, it is not projected at all.

These perspectives seem very contrary but they have something in common, the idea of a subject, “in here” and an object “out there” – the idea of a singular “me” and plural “other” or “you”. (An idea that Ken Wilber and his Integralites have expanded to a quadriga, “I, we, they, it” – the 4 quadrants). This subject-object orientation system is so pervasive and seems so natural that we do not often question it. No, and aren’t there enough beautiful and deeply meaningful systems of thinking, spiritual practises and day to day life that show subject and object, I and other, inside and outside to be really real and truly true?

2006-03-17-59To unhinge this a little bit and come to a proximation of what polysemous diversity might allude to let’s look at some experiences we probably share.
Remember your last “silver moment.” You were talking with a friend maybe, or even a stranger, and you forgot all about the time and everything else; the flow of the conversation was so wonderful, you even forgot yourself. And now, as you remember this, you might not recall what exactly you were talking about but you do remember the ‘spirit’ of it, the breath, the “silver in the air” or however you want to characterize it.
Do you remember a critical moment in your life with several people involved? Maybe an accident, a fire, a thunderstorm out in the wilds or something similar? How everybody just acted in unison, nobody being in charge, really, but everything got done in no time at all?
Or do you remember a great moment in sports when your team was suddenly “in the zone” and acted as a unity, unstoppable?

What is characteristic of these moments or times is that there is no self-awareness, no individual consciousness to speak of – you’re present, you’re aware of everything that goes on but in no way as a self or self-aware. There is, rather, a polyphony sounding around a melody common to all participating voices, sometimes taking in even some of the more perceptive spectators as in sports. This, I would say, is a very natural way to be; acutually I think this is the way we often are, only we don’t notice it because the flow is not sparkling so bright as in our “silver moments”.

Does the transpersonal, evolutionary view help us understand this or, and that’s what we’re approaching here, help us turn into artists of polysemous diverse ecologies of being-together? It does, and doesn’t.
It does in that we have co-evolved as aligned (tuned in) groups of humans. To be synchronised with others is wonderfully adaptive and helps along the continued survival mightily – from multicellular beings to swarming insects, flocks of birds, fish-swarms and herds, the same pattern has been used in nature countless times. So it’s not really amazing that such highly complex beings as humans are polyphoniously connected – a great diversity of voices ‘swarm-creating’ meaning, stories, understandings and yes, identities.
And it doesn’t, because the individualistic view that is part of the fundamentals of transpersonal psychology and vertical spiritualities or religions is operating with the assumption that we are a single subject, residing somehow in a skin-encapsuled cell-ensemble, in the head maybe or the heart.

We are also biased towards clear – simple, singular – meanings. Meaning should not be ambiguous or, since that term is often used in a negative sense, polysemous. This basic assumption has taken progressively hold of our collective psyche since the birth of modern science. But we only need to look at children or people who haven’t (been able to) loose their imaginative powers to see what rich meanings things can have. Who would insist to a child that a heap of sand cannot be a mountain in which dwarfs dig for gold?

If these ideas about ‘swarm-creation’ are right than meanings continually flow-emerge between us, in the polyphony of voices and forces that we are embedded in – the so-called internal ones and the external ones. When we experience a “silver hour” with friends diverse meanings flow polysemously between us, and it is the very flow in which we delight. Were one of us to single out a meaning and individualise it, that would be the end of the silver in the hour…

Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe the silver hour to be better than other not so silvery hour. Rather it’s hinting at an evolutionary possibility for human-kind that I see dawning. The subject-object orientation isn’t wrong or illusory, the transpersonal and integral view that proposes a vertical path of transcendence is a beautifully valid orientation – it is the individualized version of being human. We’ve worked very hard as a species to differentiate enough so that we can actually regard ourselves as seperate individuals with rights and responsibilities. Yet this is no end but rather the stage for the next step, where we use what is natural to us – silver houring – develop it into an art and use it to adapt to the challenges we now face in the exponentially complexifying realities we live in. Being an individual with a transpersonal, trancendent agenda was perfect in the much lesser complex times before massive globalisation, the ‘good old times’.
2006-03-17-60But now we’re in realities were two airplanes hitting the WTC can cause worldwide mourning or were political choices in the US can cause a global financial break-down, for instance. That all is one is not a spiritual statement anymore, it’s stating the obvious. The interconnectedness that goes with this has transformed, though. In a less complex world only a decade or two ago interconnectedness did at most linearly influence other beings, systems or processes; now interconnectedness means is a massive, uncontrollable, exponentially influential process. In this situation meaning is always polysemous, diverse and complex.

Individuals can’t handle this. Teams like we’ve known them in all kinds of organisations cannot find real solutions. Clear meanings cannot connect multifaceted challenges comprising multiple unknowns with the people and resources needed for the emergence of adequate solutions. We need coherently self-organising collaborative and collective intelligences to adapt to this situation. The technical means are either here already or on the verge of becoming available.

The ‘imaginal cells‘ are realizing who they are and starting to align with each other all over the world. You are one of them. So happy we’re connecting…

Enlightening the Passions – Day 19 (Dark Waves)

Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them. — Anne-Sophie Swetchine; The Writings of Madame Swetchine

The day has only just begun and Madam J. dropped by much more forcefully than she did yesterday. Only now, given the right circumstance for this investigation, I could uncover again the deep, and in a way soft sadness that’s underneath Madam J’s trappings. I don’t know where this somewhat paralyzing feeling comes from. It is connected with a feeling of being forlorn and seems to want to be beyond consolation.
Do I need to go through this again and again and again?
I would so much love to be in my generous heart, and in my sadness I also know, that this cannot be ‘done’. I remember the change I wrote about yesterday, and keep reminding myself of it. And looking out of my window across the street to the houses on the other side of the street I know that behind those windows there are all kinds of people with a multitude of feelings, some maybe even with the type of sad feelings I’m having. All of us are casted in roles and a play that we have both chosen and not chosen, moved or at least effected by the feelings that go with that. And then I think if I should choose a very different course than the one I’m taking now, “Would that make a real difference?”

Reflecting on my life and its different periods, full of all kinds of searches and journeys towards change, toward exploration, towards an enlightened life. And I see now that I’ve always moved, even in the times that were very much enlightened, with my general feeling. Never mind the period of my life, there were always irritating, challenging and even desperate times. Surely there seems to be an overall movement into more encompassing levels of being with and in this world we all share, but that doesn’t seem to effect the feelings other than allowing me to feel more intensely, more fine-grained and more unrestrictedly.
“No salvation from feeling,” I think. But then, would I want to be in a place where there are no feelings at all? No bodies that are prerequisite to feeling? (Not that I remember how it was without a body, but I seem to be convinced that feeling needs a warm-blooded vessel, at least the kind that I’m looking at now – including the extatic and blissfull ones.)
Thinking of the people that I’ve hung out with more or less intensely that are deemed to be ‘enlightened’, they also where feeling everything, and, come to think of it, some were quite unconscious about what they were feeling and how it influenced their behavior. Actually in their teaching and in what they expressed it was clear that they regarded themselves as having transcended this. But from where I stand now I would say that transcending this is not an option. From my perspective, enlightenment as I’ve seen it manifested is just the most sophisticated denial of the fires of the living available for us.

So would I exchange what I’m going through in this situation for another one? If I could pick and choose from the shelves of destiny like it were a super-market, yes certainly, I would. Real life is different though, and there is – apart from miracles that are just that, miraculous – real limits to what is possible.
I’ve chosen to not do the classical things, separate, create pressure, sulk, etc. But even if I would go, there would always be “negative feelings” and the challenge that comes with that. So really, the only true choice is between being fully alive with feeling and opening up to unforeseen possibilities that come out of the feelings themselves…

When the larger waves of sadness crash on me, what I said above doesn’t come to mind, that’s obvious of course. What comes to mind is headlines and scenes that reinforce me feeling sad. And “unrestricting myelf”, being with my feeling, also means to simply not take the easy ways out what most of these headlines and scenes offer – “Close down”, “Create more distance”, “Get angry and take revenge”, “At least change the topic”, etc.. So sadness remains, even if I really have no idea where it comes from, what it does mean beyond the obvious phrases that can be used in such a situation – and which actually are used by some friends if I don’t stop them from consoling me, offering help, advise or righteous anger.
The sadness makes me tired, is incapacitating me. So in the course of the day a slight tinge of anger, a kind of “leave me alone!” vibration, has helped to keep me going, though. If I were to boldly exaggerate I’d say that the sadness makes me want to lie down and fade away whereas the anger channels enough energy to me to keep on going.

In all of this there is also the notion that even though ‘challenging’ feelings might be specific to the state I’m in, feelings of bliss are also state-specific – they come, for instance, in times when my whole soul expands to embrace all existence and non-spacetime as well. So feelings are state-specific, and the states to which these feelings belong exist independent of the developmental level I’m generally on. They can be likened to parts of our body that remain more or less the same, regardless of our development: Just as a hand so is the pain of a baby the same hand and pain that an old, wise man might feel, and the joy of a little kid is the same a wise old lady feels.
If this is more than a notion and holds true – and right now I can’t remember situations in my own life where it hasn’t – then as much as inner growth and maturation is beautiful, the basic challenges remain, at least if one goes for being “aware and feelingly presenct;” this being shorthand for the continual practice of ‘unrestricting’ myself, reality-dialoging my hunches, ideas and yes also what the feelings tell me. By reality-dialoging I mean, if a person is involved asking them, if this or that feeling is correct,  or telling them what touches or moves my heart right now. Even if that is in itself something that makes me feel “ashamed to ask”.


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)

Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)

Right Brain Enlightenment

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

5 Keys to Mastery

George Leonhard has been an inspiration to me for a long time. The morning exercises (German version) I do almost ever day (6 out of 7) come out of the book The Life We Are Given that he wrote together with Michael Murphy; it’s actually a program making it easier to find Mastery, which is the title of the book he wrote also, and now there is a video-trailer of a DVD with the same title. (I found it thanks to Siona’s blog) Very inspiring indeed…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3fO99Uln4

Towards an Integral & Pluralistic Spirituality

deepest pic of the universeAn archetype is emerging – the archetype of a participatory, integral and pluralistic spiritual culture.

People all over the world — caring about the life on and of this planet, and experiencing themselves as embedded in continually expanding networks and environments — are seeking genuine, open and constructive dialogue and mutual support in their work towards a better world and spiritual wholeness: one planet on which all beings are at home.

Until very recently in our history values and practices have been mostly generated in vertical structures, and this is especially true regarding life-guiding or value-generating structures of learning, practice and daily life, the structures of spirituality and religion. Whereas in many ways the Internet has provided ways and means to transcend and surmount verticality and promotes a co-creative, participatory and pluralistic approach to all kinds of matters and processes (P2P, Wikipedia, open source programming, sharing economy, conscious capitalism, distributed research, Web 2.0 & 3.0 etc.) this approach seems to be missing very much in spirituality and religion.

Also the spirituality that is now on the increase in business, psychology, politics, and numerous other fields of human endeavor is almost entirely ‘vertical’ in teaching and structure, being founded mostly on what is often called perennial philosophy. This philosophy acertains that the material world is the shadow of a higher reality, that spirituality and religion (re)establish the link between the human soul and this higher and ultimate reality, and that the Ultimate Reality, whatever name it is given, is the Absolute (principle/space) from which all existence originates and to which all will return.

Copernicus cosmic view with sun in the center

Even the post-60ies, or modern spirituality – after freeing itself from ego- and intrinsically ethnocentric views, from materialism and scientific reductionism – is still enthralled by the perennial philosophy and happily believes itself to aspire to, be informed or blessed by, and basically move around a singular Transcendent Sun common to all faiths, creeds, mysticisms and spiritual paths and practices.

This spirituality seems to resonate with the situation in astronomy when we believed that our sun was the center of the universe.
We have had to learn, though, that obviously this universe does not have a center at all or, to put it differently and just as true, the universal center is everywhere. And yet, when it comes to our spirituality we are very reluctant to take serious what we have learnt from studying the heavens astronomically. We object to the image that there are numerous Transcendent Suns around which meaning, understanding, love, devotion and divine, true and valid mystic experience revolves. And even then, surrendering one’s defenses against this understanding, one still would love to salvage some of perennial philosophy’s tenets by believing these Suns to turn around a common Center. And indeed, it seems that some Suns do; for instance the Suns of most Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths turn around the Monotheistic Galactic Center. Yet, other Suns do not turn that way, they participate in and form other constellations in different Galaxies of our local cluster.

The present day spiritual explorer, teacher and finder is having to face a huge challenge – to come to grips with the undeniable non-centeredness of the cosmos, the plurality of suns and galaxies, the undoing of all ‘cosmic justifications’ for vertical structure and certainties. This might be as scary for us as it wasn’t when it was possible anymore to reasonably doubt Kepler’s, Copernicus’ and Newton’s discoveries. The beautiful certainties of old are evaporating, and with it what gave purpose and meaning to life. All of a sudden we find ourselves in an endlessly open universe that doesn’t turn around us or around what we hold sacred anymore. The One Transcendent Sun setting and a multitude of Stars lighting up the mysterious darkness we now find ourselves in.

This is the challenge: seeing that there are no pre-given and objective constellations in the skies anywhere, and wholeheartedly facing and embracing this freedom; moving from a bi-directional, vertical understanding of the Highest and Lowest towards an omnidirectional, participatory, co-created, radically pluralistic reality.

It dawns on us, a cosmos with innumerable Suns around which a multitude of constellations of experience, understanding, faith and meaning are configured and brought forth, all participating in the dynamic matrix of the mystery we call reality

Formerly embedded in what I’ve been calling “vertical spirituality” it was a personal existential/spiritual crisis which made me realize what I’ve tried to sketch above. Since then I have come in touch with numerous people all over the world moving in this general direction. This in turn has convinced me that, indeed, what is emerging at this time and age is more than a personal revelation. It is an archetype emerging, the archetype of a pluralistic, polycentric, participatory spirituality which is surfacing in many ways, reckognized and not yet reckognized, and being explored with numerous methods which mostly are still very much experimental.
Now, after the the crisis has led me into these truly awesome and beautiful whereabouts, exploring the consequences of such a sea-change in understanding, living, feeling and teaching, I have started assembling material for a book that I hope to write – a portrait of the emerging archetype and how it translates into action, teaching and community all over the world.

Hopefully the book-project in due time will also become a web-plattform for people wishing to communicate what is emerging here, and finally an Academy that will provide an institution where teachers can learn, where students can connect, where all of us can study and learn from each other what richness this emergence offers to us and all of mankind.

At this moment I am seeking financial support of ca. 30.000 for this project.

Thank you.

Why I left my spiritual teacher – vlog

Here I’m telling why I left my spiritual teacher, and a little bit about vertical and cooperative spirituality – and why we need much more of the second variety (ca 9:30 min)

The Lure of Cognition

As I was watching one of the I-I videos I downloaded a week ago I was again struck by the enormous cognitive slant in the presentation of the “self” – what the self is, who we really, really are…

Not that there is no talk about feelings. Not that there is no mention of the shadow, and all of that. No, all these ‘matters’ are mentioned and talked about at length sometimes. Nevertheless is is all this cognitive understanding that somehow gets on my nerves – I’m positively irritated.

Now that might be, of course, because I’m just one of these dumb guys – easily irritatable, fast in their judgement, and so on. Maybe. But maybe there is something to this: “I miss the feeling side of things.”
As if we knew what we are dealing with when we cognitively know phenomena. ..

So here is a question for you: When Adam knew Eve and she begot their first son Kain, what kind of knowing is meant there?

Well, I think it’s called “carnal knowledge” and making love is just a prt of it, I presume – I’m not English (my mothers tongue is German and I grew up speaking Dutch). So there is this cognitive knowledge which is what people at I-I are very good at, I think. And there is feeling knowledge which, in my understanding mind which deals with language, is more like an expert participation in what’s going on.

And then there is mystic knowledge. I think it fuctions in everyone as ‘intuition’ and comes into bloom when you’re into all kinds of spiritual practises of which meditation is the quietistic one. That’s the kind of knowledge that goes by the name of ‘revelation’ or ‘enlightenment*’ I think.

I simply wish that I-I could go more into those kinds of ‘presentations’ – but don’t ask me how, because I have no idea.

The Divine in us…

In my dream I sit across an enlightened teacher teaching ‘vertical spirituality’. He says that many great things have happened because of this teaching and education. In the course of history, he says, there have been many enlightened beings and this way has managed to carry the essence of spirituality to this very day.

I agree. Human kind has much to thank this Way and I gladly appreciate and honor that. Nevertheless, I say, in cooperative spirituality we come from seeing that the Divine – or what the enlightened have realized – is in everyone and everything. And we act accordingly. We don’t have to – like in vertical spirituality – have the enlightened experience to ‘move on’. We don’t have to feel, see or perceive the Divine to come from It being immanently present in him or her. Yes, I say, the Divine can actually be in hiding in him or her. What is important is to live with and from the acknowledgement that It is in him and her. That makes it much easier and more effective as in vertical spirituality to tease the Divine out, if one wishes to do so.
After our conversation we decide to create a huge oasis in the desert.

Abuse in spiritual circles

Following what goes on elsewhere on this world and the ‘integral Blogosphere’ in my German blog on June 12th I published a post called “Houston, we’ve got a problem”.
It is clear that abuse by spiritual leaders & gurus is a difficult topic; one that raises eyebrows and much more than that. And whoever raises this topic has got to deal not only with applause from all kinds of quarters that one surely doesn’t want it from, critique and stunning silence from quarters that one would like to have emotional support from, and the accusation that it is actually all about oneself and one’s immature look on things.

So let’s take it from the beginning: On my travels in the internet I stumbled on this piece of info “Cohen Collaborator Gafni Removed For Sexual Misconduct“. It is about Rabbi Gafni, a much celebrated spokesman of the Jewish Renewal movement, who also is in high esteem of Ken Wilber and prominently featured in his Integral Institute (I-I). The sexual misconduct (abuse) is not just one of these Internet-rumours, it is a fact that has been admitted openly by Gafni himself: He writes: “Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it.” I find that courageous, and want to honor him for that.
What struck me, though, was that even now his work is still plugged on the I-I site with such works as “The Mystery of Love”, “The Ultimate Erotic Art” or “The Kabbalah of Surrender”. I don’t mean to say that theses teachings are not valid regarded on their own. But it does seem a bit – tasteless? Especially to the women who have been at the receiving end of the ‘misconduct’.

Also on the same I-I website there is a lengthy discussion about ‘integral ethics’ between Wilber and Roger Walsh which I found quite inspiring at the time I listened to it. So what then to think of Ken Wilbers reaction in his blog to the case of Gafni? It has ten numbered paragraphs. In #1 he says that indeed something happened that is not quite kosher. And in #2 he immediatly starts bashing the ‘mean green meme’ people for how they react pathologically. In #3 he says that Gafnis behaviour is pathological (something strange between the order of pathologies here, don’t you think?) to then says in #4 that Gafni has admitted to being sick in his letter. In #5 Wilber states that Gafni therefor is not fit as a teacher at the Integral Center until he has undergone therapy (which makes me wonder all the more how he is still fit to teach, for instance, “The Kabbalah of Surrender” at I-I). In #6 to #9 the therapy is thouroughly mentioned, and in #10 Wilber is saying that Gafni should nevertheless be allowed to write. And finally, in the very last paragraph of his statement Wilber finds words for the women, saying that his heart goes out to them.
I do understand, and appreciate Ken Wilber’s support for his friend Marc Gafni. Nevertheless it seems to me that mentioning these women only at the very end says something about ‘integral ethics’ in the practise of one of its proponents.
Maybe I wouldn’t have spent this much time on this happening if it wouldn’t have coincided with reading extended reports by former students of Andrew Cohen about his teaching-methods. Sure, ex-students can and will reinterpret what happened for them, once they leave their teacher behind, and not always fevourable. But what is astonishing is both the consistency of these renderings and the loving way in which most still regard their former teacher. These are, among others, stories (undenied by the defenders of ‘the faith’) of Cohen ordering senior students to slap others in the face as hard as they could for being ‘ego-ruled’ or other things that he didn’t see fit in his community, extorting great sums of money from people in deep distress, sending a student to a prostitute against his will, forcing a father to tell his teeange daughter about the sexual escapades of his mother from long years back to break her attachement to her, and so endlessly on. And all of this, you could have guessed, to help his students overcome the ‘ego’. (And Andrew Cohen is a good buddy of Ken Wilber who, remember, doesn’t have a problem in severly criticising the ‘mean green meme’ for reacting pathologically to the Gafni-incident; there does seem a great difference of ethical standards at work here which I, and maybe that’s my fault, have not found a way to reconcile).

And the story goes on: Wilber is not only criticised for being buddy-pal of Andrew Cohen but also by many others for flaws in his work. And recently he has greatly ranted “Wyatt Earp style” – his way of headlining his verbal bashing: The Unbearable Lightness of Wyatt Earp – against his critcs. Then he explains it away in “On the Nature of Shadow Projections in Forums” where he says (quite rightly, I think) that if something hurts us it is because there is a disowned part of us projected out there. But let’s look at this matter in a simpler way.

If I slap you in the face, and then say that you respond angrily because you project your shadow on me, than not only am I right, of course, because the anger is in you after all, but I am also being very nasty at the same time if I am an authority (rightly or wrongly) to you. Because deep down you know I’m right and are thus utterly helpless. The Wilber question is in this case, “Are you mature enough to get my lesson?” If you are, you didn’t need it. And if you aren’t, not only will you not get get my meaning this way but you will probably also be estranged enough to henceforth scheme behind my back to slap me back in some way.

Well, all of this looks confusingly (not convincingly!) abusive to me. I can’t understand this anymore. Here is Ken Wilber pleading for his friend Gafni: Give him a chance to rehabilitate. Then Ken Wilber has no problem whatsoever in supporting a guru that is very clearly quite violent in his teaching methods. And now he strikes out with verbal furor against his critics (punching some old friend, Frank Visser, wickedly hard who has the audacity to be a harbour to critiques of his work he doesn’t approve of – read Visser’s answer here) and then blames the people who cry ‘ouch’ for projection their shadow on his rant. (An insightful comment on the cultic attitude of Wilber in this regard here)
It is too early for any kind of conclusive learning from this situation for me. But it seems to be time to question the basic teachings where such behaviour comes from. As it looks to me these are the top 4 questions on my agenda:

  • What is the effect of the prolonged distancing of the observer (“I am not his body; I am not these feelings; I am not these thoughts; etc”), the prolonged ‘neutral witnessing’ of the phenomena inside/outside in a ‘mirror of pure consciousness’?
  • What is the effect of the trans-ethical’ stance that regards all human values as merely relative, and only the Spirit as absolute?
  • Are so called higher levels of evolution (yellow, turquoise etc. in SDi language as used by Wilber and his adherents) right in using all kinds of violence to raise lower levels up to their standard?
  • Is the non-participatory nature of the ‘pure witness’ in situations and phenomena in ‘the world’ – which will eventually dissolve according to Wilber et al in non-dual One Taste – maybe a cause for the kind of abuse we have recently seen in the integral world of Ken Wilber?

Enlightenment at the Padmafarm

Yesterday Janshi, Madrina, Nirdosh and I visited the Padmafarm, where I had a talk (you’ll find the audio here in some time) and facilitated a mini-seminar of 4 hours…

In the first hour of the event we explored the non-verbal, subtle dimension, and in the 3 hours after a little break we did the “Heart & Mind Clearing Process”, a method that via Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, Hal and Idra Stone’s Voice-Dialogue and Genpo Roshis “Big Mind Process” in my seminar-work found its present form.

When some weeks ago in Brno in the Czech Rep. I did this process in my seminar there a physicist was participating, and I thought it would be interesting to do this process according to empirical scientific rules. So I started by explaining my working hypothesis somewhat like this: “We are/have one Self that manifests in the world as different ‘personalities’ (or ‘sub-personalities’ in Assagioli’s language) or `perspectives’ (as I like to call it). These ‘personalities’ can be called forth or activated, and then you can see things in life from this point of view and speak as that voice, exploring being in the world.”

Then I explained the experimental protocoll by which we as a group of poeople – having activated this or that personality – would explore the world through these eyes (and how we would go about activating and deactivating these perspectives). And that we would mostly concentrate on questions surrounding these issues: “What do you do?/What is your ‘job’?” And probably also: “How do you see the worldand things?” And: “What do you do or what are you for the ‘whole’ Self?”

And finally I made a prediction because that is part of the empirical process as I understand it; you can only check the validity of a hypothesis if it will be verified through what happens in reality. My prediction was: “Most – or maybe even all – of you will be enlightened for at least one minute, and you will not only know this to be so but you will also confirm it publicly here.”

When I did this for the first time in Brno I was wondering if I hadn’t gone too far doing this, because maybe the expectations I awakend would thwart the process. But it functioned beautifully. So much so that the scientist said that my results (95% of the participants confirmed their – temporary – enlightenment, and the energy-signature was very deep and rich) were truly remarkable from a scientific point of view: “In ordinary physical experiments you don’t have such high percentages”

Strengthened by this and similar experiences since in my talk I predicted yesterday at the Padmafarm what would happen later at the mini-seminar. And again the prediction held. An there was another thing I could observe: persons that have a greater difficulty to activate the ‘personalities/perspectives’ are helping the entire group to go deeper into the active voice (including the enlightened one). A paradox I hope to research more in depth in the future.

The True Embrace & The Integral Village

August last year I sat on the mountainside on the Cotes d’ Azur 800 meter above Nice and meditated. It was a star spangled night and I could see the city lights glittering. The day before I had read that U2 would arrive the next day in their private jet, so I knew that there would be quite a party down there.
In my meditation – my eyes were open – the world was present to me as was my knowing about that party. Then the field of my inner perception expanded and I also saw the suffering that people caused each other at the same time, the sex that was surely going on down there and everywhere, the passers by and the television viewers, and the entire busy and difficult goings-on of the world. By and by my meditation deepened and the world disappeared. The phenomena were still present, the lights of the city shimmering, the darkness of the night, the soft warm wind of August, the chirping of the insects and much more. But it wasn’t the world anymore, neither outside nor inside… it had become transparent. And then there was only emptiness, the non-being of all form, the formless.
But I didn’t abide in this state, and something surprising happened. Words are not quite adequate to express what happened then, so the only way to express it is to say that now something beyond the world and nothingness revealed itself: pure compassion. Compassion for everything, for the world and nothingness, for form and the formless. It was as if this compassion was a being, a presence, a living heart, a source. And from this source waves of compassion were streaming through the dimensions of form and the formless, like a heartbeat pumping the light of compassion through nothingness into everything: Boom, boom, boom!
I don’t know how long this revelation lasted but it changed me as it transformed all phenomena. And I also don’t know what really happened there. I just know: Whatever is calling forth the unending universe and emptiness, the I and the other, being and non-being and enlivening it, shows itself to a human being like me as all encompassing compassion. Compassion for all beings, for everyone and even no-one and nothing. No exceptions.

Every evening before I go to sleep I read a bit. Last night I was reading a few lines from the Jewish-Christian tradition saying that in prayer one should stand totally naked and alone before Gods face. And I asked myself, “Am I willing to do so?”
Those who know me know that I’m not perfect in the least – hanging out with myself 24 hours per day I am quite sure about this. So the question was really, “With these characteristics, with this imperfection, these stupidities, mistakes, with all my habits good and bad, am I ready to stand naked and alone facing the Godhead knowing and seeing my totality?”
If God were righteous as many people in our culture believe, if He were to judge me, if justice would be His essential quality I could never stand before His face. I would be turned into a pile of ashes or a pillar of salt because of my failings. If God were like the Judaeo-Christian tradition depicts Him I could stand before Him at most in sackcloth und ashes but never naked.
But the Godhead is not interested in righteousness; at most this is a human endeavour. God is beyond all and nothing, beyond all form and formlessness. And from my own anschauung I have absolute certainty that She is compassion – God is beginningless and endless love and therefore I can stand there alone and absolutely naked. It is Her Grace that allows me to.
So last night it was given me to stand there in Her lovelight enlightening all with compassion – God sees me, totally naked and with all my imperfections, overflowing me with pure unending compassion. But, being imperfect, after a while thoughts and pictures appeared that took me away from Her face. I thought of tomorrow and the people here that I serve and want to serve better every day, so that they too might taste of Her undying beauty… and with these thoughts I disappeared from Her presence. I drifted back again into the darker regions… the presence of this unending light of compassion disappeared from my awareness.
That is what darkness means. It is paradoxical: I am aware when I come before Her face, and I am also aware of being totally encompassed by divine love, but when I lose this presence I am not aware of it… the clouds of unconsciousness spread their mist wholly unaware.
But after a while I awoke to this and noticed. This is not new to me, by the way. I have experienced many mystical ecstasies in which I stepped out of my darkness into a greater light – only to then lose it again. And in the past there was always a sense of loss and the question, “How do I go back there? What can I do or not do to bathe again in this light?” Yesterday it was given to me to pose a different question, though, “Am I ready to be compassionate towards those inner aspects and forces that have taken me out of Gods presence? Can I be as compassionate towards these as God is towards me?” And I know I can, and I do. And so in the midst of my darkness I felt light-hearted because I saw that I can be just as full of compassion for the endarkening aspects of my self as God is full of compassion towards me… and not only me.

What is of most value in this world that is a place of suffering for most people – for even the greatest pleasures and joys of the world are bleak and dark if we remember whose light’s child we are? It is compassion. And if I speak of me and my work, if I speak of my vision that I wish to realize with everyone who wants to commit to it in the midst of this world – what is it about? It is about bringing this lovelight down to earth, bringing it into daily life, into relationships, projects, buildings, businesses, in short: to turn it into a manifest way of life. That is the vision that is alive in the Serenity-Community, and I hope this vision will lead eventually to an integral village. But this is not just a vision of a future reality; it is also a metaphor for a present process in which every step mirrors what the goal will manifest in a larger way and with more depth and power.
The world in which most people live is not a manifestation of compassion and love but rather a manifestation of greed and media-spawned bright sparkling lies, it is a world of not so beautiful pretences and mediocracy, a world of ignorance. That is the darkness we have to face, and much more than that it is the darkness inside us that comes into being through our failings to be lead by intelligent love and compassion, living our light; it comes from giving space to greed, pretence, mediocracy and ignorance in our behaviour and communication and relationships That is the shadow we have to face – and that is what we have to be compassionate about.
Where will we manifest the vision of an intelligently loving and compassionately intelligent society? Amidst the darkness, amidst the world of ignorance, misunderstanding and a crazed individualism in which we live. So if you are asking yourself in which way you can become part of that vision you could ask, “In which way can I best reflect this compassion?” And if you’ve found the answer to that you have defined your comfort-zone. That realm is very important. Foster and strengthen that realm, keep it alive, this realm where it is not such a big challenge to manifest compassion.
It is easy to be compassionate with people that are somewhat similar to us or who move in the same direction. And it is good and helpful – maybe even indispensable – to surround ourselves with such people or live in a community with them. The Serenity-Community is such a place. And the integral village – if it will manifest at some time and become a reality in which we all live together with many others – will also be such a place. Here at Serenity it is already much easier to love people that you don’t particularly like or with whom you are having problems. Here you are supported continually, day by day and hour by hour, to accept your own shadow and that of others lovingly, just as the Godhead compassionately accepts us when we stand naked in front of Her. And then it is much easier to face the challenges and handle the shadows where being and acting compassionate is not so easy because it simply not fostered or supported. So surround yourself with such people or even better, become part of such a community.

If you feel, like I do, that a spark of the Godhead is present in every soul then you certainly see that this spark wants to kindle a fire – your soul wants to be on fire. The light in you wants to engulf all of your soul and enlighten it. It wants to burn in your sex-life, it wants to shine in the bathroom, it wants to set your meditations ablaze as it does your work or your business; it wants to shine brightly in every aspect of your life. The Godhead doesn’t only want to be transcendentally present everywhere, which is the case already, but it wants to be manifest in all of creation – and that isn’t the case. And as much as God wants to set your soul on fire it wants to enlighten the whole world and everyone in it. For that She needs your willing and feeling cooperation. And She is very patient. She loves us all the way, as we are slowly opening up to what we truly are.
I have a vision of a society, starting maybe with a small village that is ruled by intelligent love and compassionate intelligence. (I use the terms intelligent love and compassionate intelligence to free love & compassion from its romantic, naive, Hollywood-like associations and intelligence from its often construed coldness.) This vision can only become manifest, though, if the people committed to this are prepared to let the lovelight enlighten all aspects of their lives. What I can contribute are all kinds of seminars, trainings and learning occasions which empower people to embrace the shadows and, of course, to experience and explore the deep dimensions of their spirituality and humanity. And just as I am serving the Serenity-Community and many other people who are connected with me I am an instrument and servant to an integral lifestyle and hopefully an integral village; a village in which the cooks and the toilet-cleaners, the accountants and the seminar facilitators, the farmers and shopkeepers, and whoever else is going to live there, can do their work in the spirit of compassion.
This vision has countless dimensions. That’s why everyone who wants to connect with it can contribute to it on the level they choose. I cannot and will not decide which level that can be. Because I know this is not only my vision or the vision of a few people. I know this is the vision of all of humanity. For thousands of years people have been touched by compassion and manifest it in their way. So it isn’t just my vision. And to transform this vision in flesh and blood, pathways and streets, houses and shops and businesses, gardens and flowers many more people have to turn it into their vision and realize it in their daily life now. The vision is either reflecting in every step of its realization or it will lead at best to a nice little village full of good-doing people – and honestly, I wouldn’t want to live there.
The vision is simple. On the way upwards from below, where we are selfishly seeking our own profit and that of our clan to where we really care for the well-being of all mankind and beyond, this vision depicts an individual and collective way of development. On the way downwards from above it is the gesture of true embrace, as the Godhead embraces us with compassion so we take all lower levels and realms – including even the selfishly governed spaces – in the arms of our love and compassion. The very same power that moves us to develop our highest potential makes us lovingly embrace that which may not have developed so far yet, including ourselves.
We are asked as human beings to do the next step in our evolution. And I will cooperate no matter how this adventure will turn out in the end. And every step, everything you do out of love and compassion is already a contribution to this development. If you want to do more, if you want to contribute so that in due time this way of life turns into an integral village – welcome!

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“Solange der Mensch keine Verantwortung bernimmt, hegt er Zweifel, hat die Mglichkeit, sich zurckzuziehen und handelt wenig effektiv. Fr jedes schpferische Handeln gilt eine elementare Wahrheit: sowie der Mensch sich endgltig verpflichtet, bewegt sich die Vorsehung. Alles Mgliche, das sonst nicht geschehen wre, steht ihm hilfreich bei. Ein ganzer Strom der Ereignisse folgt der Entscheidung und begnstigt sie durch allerlei Vorflle, Begegnungen und materielle Frderung, von denen keiner zuvor geglaubt htte, sie knnten ihm auf diesem Wege beistehen. Was immer du meinst oder glaubst, tun zu knnen, beginne es. Denn dein Tun enthlt Magie, Anmut und Kraft.”

“As long as a man does not take his responsibility he has doubts and the possibility to withdraw, and his acting is not effective. For all creativity there is an elementary truth: as soon as a man definitely commits himself destiny moves as well. All manner of things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise come to his aid. A veritable stream of happenings follow his decision and further it by all kinds of happenstances, meetings and material blessings of which no-one could have thought beforehand that they could have helped him on his way.
Whatever you believe or think you can do, begin with it. Because your doing works magic, beauty and strength.”
– I saw this quote first in the Internet where it was accredited to Goethe. Fred Kofman in his book Metamanagement accredits to Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first human to climb Mount Everest (and survive) –

How can you take part?

Just pick & choose what you’d love to do

  • Connect every morning
  • remember that Compassion is already engulfing you with its Lovelight shining from the Heart
  • decide to regard yourself and others, including your and their shadows, with compassion today
  • bless this day with intelligent love and loving intelligence
  • let your Heart shine
  • any day
  • when confronted with difficult behaviour, stop, listen to your Heart and respond from there
  • regard your failings and shadows with compassion
  • make a stranger smile
  • Commit
  • to a lifestyle of compassion
  • to support people trying to realize a lifestyle of the True Embrace
  • Involve
  • rather then speaking about love and compassion live it on a daily basis
  • as much as is appropriate turn your working place and/or business into an example of the power and beauty of the compassionate way of life
  • create a community (or join one) that is dedicated to the True Embrace
  • Learn
  • to meditate, communicate, relate, make love, make money in such a way that you can forever expand your and other peoples ability to live a compassionate life.
  • Communicate
  • tell us how you are doing – in private or in a comment to this article
  • tell us how we can support and serve you
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Beyond the Enlightenment Disease

[Published in Connection Magazine, 2001. Aimed at taking an in depth look at what became famous around that time, Neo-Advaita]

It is the year 1984. I am sitting at the feet of the man who is to become my spiritual teacher a while later. He asks me, “What do you want?”
“I want to be enlightened,” I reply. He laughs and asks me whether I’d be prepared to walk through Berlin naked. ‘If that’s all it takes,’ I think to myself, let’s go! So I start to undress and then he really starts to laugh, and says, “You have to do everything you possibly can. You must want enlightenment like a drowning man grabs at the proverbial straw and then you have to let that go, too.”

This was the first time I realized that I wanted to be enlightened, in this lifetime! But I didn’t really know what enlightenment was, although I had some ideas, of course, ideas that changed in the course of time, naturally. Anyway, I read a lot and learned that what I was striving for could be called ‘Cosmic Consciousness’ (R. Bucke), and that in the Buddhist literature enlightenment was the end of suffering, and that in Zen it was Satori, a breakthrough to this most desirable state of nirvana. And in the course of time I learnt that the highest achievement was called Samadhi, or Moksha (Hindu), Fana, (Sufi) Wu (Taoism), Objective Consciousness (Gurdjieff), the Supramental (Sri Aurobindo), etc.

So I put myself, struggling, for as a former hippie I was rather anti-authoritarian, in the hands of a Master, Michael Barnett, whom I took to be enlightened. He had what I was looking for, and therefore he could give it to me, at least that’s what I thought. And in the many years to follow I experienced small and slightly bigger breakthroughs, moved in transcendental spaces, divine dimensions, visionary states and spiritual places. And at times I felt myself to be enlightened, I was filled with light and blissed out, I saw beings and things like they are in essence, and my eyes shone like the floodlights in the stadium during the Euro cup. If then I reported my “progress” to my teacher, he only told me time and again that this wasn’t It. “Everything you think is It – isn’t,” he used to say. And anyway, my spiritual hunger hadn’t been satisfied, and I still lacked the Big Insight.

The Big Insight: “If I am enlightened,” I was convinced, “than I’ll have no more problems, not with myself, not in relationships, nor financially; I’m free of the world and it’s inadequacies.” I wished for a kind inviolability, wanted to be above all things, untouched by the problems and suffering of mortals. That would be enlightenment. And, arrogant or not, I set out my own conditions too, “I will become enlightened in the city, because if it is only to be attained on a mountainside or in the woods it is unattainable for most people (who live in cities).”

A very male view: Enlightenment as the peak of human possibilities that must be attained. So I became more radical in my behavior and thinking towards everybody, except towards my son. In that regard I had decided irrevocably: If I had to decide between enlightenment or my son I would drop enlightenment until he reached his 18th birthday and could take care of himself. But he was the only exception. Not his mother, not my friends and acquaintances; here I experimented regardless, breaking quite a few of my own (and their!) taboos and hearts more than once, living low budget, meeting many situations head on that I hadn’t encountered before and were new to me, situations that promised important lessons but put me on the line, too, to put it mildly. Like when the head of the community of my teacher one day stormed into the office in which I was sitting and working like 8 other people. She started to shout at me in front of all the others, reprimanding me for stuff I hadn’t done. And every time I wanted to protest, “but…!” she would stop me and shout at me even more. After ten minutes, an eternity, she went out just as fast as she had come in without giving me the slightest chance to defend myself.

“I’ve had it!” I fumed. I was not going to take this! But when I wanted to pack my bags all of a sudden I realized that my reaction had been an automatic stereotype. And that I had decided to break free of all automatisms. I dropped what I was doing and sat down in a meadow to look at it: my whole movie on this topic.

That was only one of the hundreds of films that I had to watch as time passed by; every conviction was based on such a movie and started others, about my masculinity, the inner child, my wish for inviolability, my relationships, profession, deficiencies, what I took to be truth, my strengths and weaknesses, in short the whole hotchpotch one takes oneself to be, and of which one says: That’s me.

Over the years my idea of enlightenment changed of course. Experience taught me that even states of consciousness in which I saw as clear as clear can be or in which I was at one with everything that is, in which I was flooded by transparent joy, in which the subtly profound delight of the cosmos was looking through my eyes to behold the human frenzy, that all of these states come and go. So whatever I experienced in these states couldn’t have been enlightenment because the “holy” scriptures all seem to speak of something that lasts forever. Even meeting the then deceased Osho in a humbling vision in which he showed me where he was, in the heart of all his students, nay of all people, did not finish my search; when this vision overwhelmed me my body bowed down to all hearts and then all hearts bowed down to me and I collapsed in my chair and cried for hours — this experience also, which happened to me during one of his video-discourses in which he said something that would be characteristic for the next phase on my way to enlightenment, has now turned into a memory; one of the most beautiful ones…

Osho in this discourse said, “Human beings are the most vulnerable beings of all, more vulnerable than the petals of roses.” And it became obvious to me that all my striving for enlightenment so far was rooted in the wish to be invulnerable. The scales fell from my eyes: Enlightenment does not make one invulnerable and places one beyond everything. So that finished that part of my search, and the quest continued but now the focus turned very much towards this world. The entire deep spiritual, sometimes even divine, experiences were all right with me but now I was going to incarnate, become flesh and bones to be here in this world and this body.

So whenever I found myself drifting into spiritual dimensions I immediately anchored in the body again, in the senses, the present breath. I began to engage socially and put much more value on the exchange with others than before. Friendliness, mutual respect, even courteousness were again essential achievements of human relating in my eyes. People striving for transcendence now looked like hard and dry rocks, deserts in the midst of the flourishing jungle of feelings and sensations. I was not much interested in spirituality anymore. Not being was important but living, not floating above the world of things, no more moving beyond the given and present but rather diving deep into it, that’s the way I used to put it at the time.

And a serious separation with my teacher occurred. Because of the way the students related to each other and, in a critical situation, how he behaved towards me. Only later did I learn that this hadn’t been my true reason, but for the time being the break-up provided the opportunity to emancipate myself from him and his community. And indeed emancipate myself from the spiritual world itself. This went so far that just looking at a spiritual book and reading a couple of lines made me physically sick. It didn’t matter whether these were books of my former teacher, New Age, Buddhism, Zen, Sufi or science and philosophy! The world, the senses, other people, relationships, feelings – that was all there was for me, nothing else really mattered.
And then, one day as I was just sitting in my room looking out of my window it dawned on me, and almost took my breath away: It’s all about nothing! Life, the cosmos, the world, my development, and enlightenment, all of this is nothing special at all. Life is about living not about any goal! Striving for enlightenment had gotten me to move, and now the reason for this movement had disappeared from me: I would still have countless experiences but they had no goal anymore; they did have a characteristic though, and that was to broaden my horizon. Nothing was more present than any other thing, everything and everyone is equally here (everything actual has this one quality: it being here now, its Isness, as Meister Eckhard used to put it), as if every phenomenon is celebrating its being, and I came to see it with these very eyes: Being is synonymous with bliss.

And then I was only in awe: That there is anything at all, that anything or anyone exists and that there’s an awareness to go with it recognizing phenomena and makes sense out of them, that is enlightenment! That everything is! It is remarkable and at the same time absolutely obvious, like the air we breathe. The obviousness of all things, states and situations, and of all experiences no matter what they are! What connects me with you, you with the world, and everything with everything else: That we are here, and just the way we are, with the consciousness that is available to us.

Suddenly and out of the blue I was free indeed. Nobody who could or had to okay me anymore, no more inner or outer authority, no guru or master, no god or Buddha, not even myself: I was nothing but the streaming of tendencies and inclinations that meanders through this time and world, that took himself for unenlightened and sometimes for enlightened and now for nothing in particular anymore; just one among the multitudes, not separated from what happens to be the case, always in the flow that’s flowing just now, and at the same time free of it — but not in a way that I could describe, even to myself. The old questions (Who am I? What is all of this? What is the meaning of life?) fell away or answered themselves.

And now I could read spiritual literature again. Much that had been dark or mystical to me before was now quite obvious and evident, often I even had to grin, saying, “Why be so complicated?” But what I noticed most was that hardly any of the enlightened ones said clearly that it was all about nothing. Clearest was Nagarjuna who had said about 1000 years ago: “Emptiness of all views is prescribed by the Buddha’s as the ‘way of liberation’. Incurable indeed are they who take Emptiness itself as a view. It is as if one were to ask, when told that there is nothing to give, to be given that nothing.”
A very beautiful old description of the way I go, the way of liberation.

When I met an old friend, now a sword-master, a few weeks later, and told him that I was still a bit angry with my former spiritual teacher who had withheld the most obvious of all facts, he smiled and asked, “And what is your anger good for?” I had to grin; that I had been so attached to my irritation, what an irony, it had only been there to give me enough space to look with my own eyes. Breaking up with spirituality had given me space, free of opinions and convictions, scriptures and teachings that I had taken in until that time, free of the idea of enlightenment. And all the anger disappeared. I contacted my former master again. And only now could I really start to appreciate his work.

Before my spiritual crises I had done energy-work once a week, and had thought of myself as a competent facilitator, someone who could give the participants essential experiences. Then I wasn’t so sure anymore and finished working. And with the distance from spirituality grew the distance from that kind of work. And the end of the crisis didn’t really change that, as I believed that it wouldn’t be right to ‘sit by the side of the river and sell water.’ What I had found is already given to all whether they know it or not. And I was far away from perfect wisdom, total emptiness, all-encompassing love, egolessness or some such. Sure, sometimes I look at people and look deep into their nature, sometimes I know all I need to know without knowing where that comes from, sometimes there is a silence that comes down on everything without smothering a single sound, sometimes I am flooded with compassion for a human being or other beings, and sometimes I’m not there although everything is there. But not one of these states can be taught anyway. I thought. Wrongly.

Factual happenings I bow down to: Sometimes when I am with people these days they suddenly see that all their endeavors are really all about nothing, and a huge load falls of their shoulders and they are free, and smile, for a moment; until they believe again that it can‘t be that simple or because of something else that bothers them. In my spiritual work I actually only work to reveal that smile in the background of all experiencing, if it has a real purpose at all. Even if I work with chakras, the flow of energies, or lead meditations or dance or whatever is happening, the real work is about the freedom from all attachment to experiences. Bowing down to the endless beauty that‘s here, the happiness of being alive, the pearls of insight that befall us; all of this is to be treasured, but sticking to experiences or the one that experiences them doesn‘t make sense, as it is all nothing special. That one has to discover for oneself though.

„Enlightenment is that which one hasn‘t got when one has got it,“ Sugata, publisher of a prominent German magazine devoted to ‚essentials‘ writes in an email to me. And hits the bull‘s eye. That‘s why I feel a bit awkward towards the army of neo-enlightened ones (I don‘t mean to put them down with terming them thus, but I simply use the pre-fix „neo“ to distinguish them from the enlightened ones so far; 23 of them are mentioned in the Satsang-Kalender of Connection 5/2000) especially if they speak of their enlightenment experiences, an experience which authorizes them to give Satsang and teach the „true nature“, „the one moment“, „total freedom“, „the reconnection to the original nature“ (all quotes are… well, quotes).

But if the enlightenment-experience is not an experience at all, as I tried to point out earlier from the example of my journey, if enlightenment is rather „that which one hasn‘t got when one has got it,” then what? What if the way in truth leads to nowhere? What if there is only a natural development, only beautiful places and vistas from the edge of the road, forever expanding horizons, but simply no end, and most of all no final end-solution to the problems of the world or our being in it? What if the enlightenment-experiences of the Satsang teachers are beautiful („I was one with Osho, god, all being“ for instance) but nothing but experiences? And what if, and this is the main point, the holding on to these enlightenment-experiences, the attachment to this state as the Real, True, Only State isn‘t different from attachment to other beautiful states, like making love for instance? Then these people are suffering from the enlightenment-disease, because that‘s how we could call this spiritual contraction where one is stuck with the enlightenment-experience or the one who experienced it.

I don‘t mean to say the enlightenment-experience of the neo-enlightened ones is irrelevant, no, not at all! I do believe they all had deep experiences far beyond the ordinary, and they can help others to make similar experiences. But to turn these experiences into the foundation of one‘s enlightenment or awakening misses the mark, as I have tried to show.

The opposite of this, to deny that one is attached to certain special experiences; enlightenment, freedom, etc. misses the mark just as much. To deny the dimension one is in at a particular moment only leads to detours, confusion and perplexity. One is then casting a mist. It doesn‘t make sense to deny the actually perceived state, the feeling of not being enlightened or being stuck in all kinds of structures or the ego, denying that would be even worse. To believe one is what one isn‘t doesn‘t confuse anyone else, apart from those people who already kid themselves into believing they are different from what they are.

What helps us on this journey is truthfulness, openness and authenticity. The spiritual city slicker has to clear himself of many things before he can accept the obvious. As long as reincarnation, Satsang, energy-work, retreats, therapies, esotericism of all denominations, astro- and other logics or even enlightenment are still essential questions or answers, how could one accept that all of this isn‘t special at all but just weather; clouds and sunshine and rain and snow and falling leaves?

So as long as one is searching it helps to do so with all one‘s heart, because whatever one does wholeheartedly and engages in totally will reveal its secret sooner or later. And that never stops. Any horizon can be broadened, and there will still be all kinds of things to master, and difficulties to rise above; but the unknown is without end. That‘s where my trust lies, without a shadow of a doubt. I accept what the unknown puts on my path, no matter what, being a free human being I have no choice: How could I possibly say no to what comes and goes on this journey?