• April 20, 2018

    We are trapped in mental structures which influence how we think and perceive. Perhaps in meditation, perhaps in prayer, can I catch an insight into another way of perceiving that comes from a less limited frame of mind?

    Let me try to show you what I mean. This is only a thought experiment but perhaps it will help.

    I identify with the solid bits of the universe. I have a material body and I think of myself as living in a material world (thank you Madonna). What are the consequences of this assumption? Space is empty and solids occupy space. Dimension is a clever way of accommodating things so they do not overlap. So, identifying myself as solid, I treat space as just a physical dimension where I am separate and occupy my own space.

    Separation establishes the need for movement and movement creates duration or time. Time is a clever way of making sure that not everything happens at once.

    Within dimension and time, there are events. The only events that I recognize are in dimension and time. Otherwise, they are not real. When events occur within time, one follows another. I try to decide if the event that comes first causes the event that comes after. I also perceive that events begin and end. Can I see the eternal, the unchanging? Can I see possibilities that do not occupy time and space? Probably not. .

    The consequence of identifying with physical reality is that I may lose access to qualities that are formless. My sensory apparatus links to my brain and displays what I see and sense. Who experiences this neurological data? Is it the brain? Scientists search for the correct brain structure, meanwhile confusing perception and content. There is a quality of perceiving that is independent of what is perceived. Have you noticed this? Have you observed that perceiving is not ‘located’? That it seems to exist in space?

    In a similar way, where is attention? Is it in the brain? Attention intimately connects me to what it attends to even over distance. Does it defy the separation of space?

    Where is the presence of my presence in the present? The state when I am present clearly has a spacious, non-physical quality. Can I find in me a place for the experience of love? Yes, love has physical effects but is it contained in my nervous system? Is it only a sensation?

    How does the universe appear from the perspective of space? Can I identify myself as space? Do I contain infinite possibilities which are no less real than the ones that are expressed out of my ‘emptiness’ into the tiny bit of me that has taken ‘form’? Is there distance, or just ‘more’ of myself? Is there time, or just an eternal present where all the events that ever did, are or will happen(ing) are here and now? Perhaps space is where miracles occur but we only know this when we enter the realm of the miraculous.

    From the perspective of space, the universe of a trillion galaxies spanning trillions of light years may be of no definite ‘size’ whatsoever. Without my conceptions of space and time from the physical world, how would I know?

    According to the current findings of physics, every region of space is awash with different kinds of fields composed of waves of varying lengths. Each wave has energy. When physicists calculate the minimum amount of energy a wave can possess, they find that every cubic centimeter of empty space contains more energy than the total energy of all the matter in the known universe.

    Space is not empty. It is full, a plenum not a vacuum, the ground for the existence of every single thing. The physical universe is not separate from this cosmic sea of energy; it is a ripple on its surface, a comparatively small “pattern of excitation” in the midst of an unimaginably vast ocean. “This excitation pattern is relatively autonomous and gives rise to approximately recurrent, stable and separable projections into a three-dimensional explicate order of manifestation,” states Physicist David Bohm.

    In other words, despite its apparent materiality and enormous size, the physical universe does not exist in and of itself, but is the surface of something far more ineffable, a passing shadow over the face of the deep.

    Have you thought about how it is possible for this world to exist? Oh, we are told the story of the big bang and evolution over billions of years. Really? This may explain a process but it tells us nothing of how anything can be, how there can be a big bang to begin with. Can you hold this question and not fill in the blanks or turn away in boredom because the question is unanswerable? If you can do this, you may receive the electric being-shock that confirms: we do not know our origin or purpose and the fact of our existence is an absolute miracle.

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  • July 11, 2015

    There is nothing in our world that is more mysterious than time and there is nothing more intrinsic to our existence. In my view, time has three dimensions, meaning that we can speak of a volume of time just as we can speak of a volume of space.

    The first dimension of time is succession, time’s arrow, the time measured by clocks.  It is difficult to imagine anything existing without this ‘horizontal’ flow of time. Can you see what a brilliant innovation successive time is? If you were to create a universe from nothing, would you not begin with this dimension of time? Because of this time, not everything has to happen at once.

    Succession creates the possibilities of past and future, evolution, cause and effect, fate and free will, uncertainty.

    The word succession means one thing stepping into the place of another. In the present moment, which is an infinitesimally short period of time in the horizontal dimension, the present is immediately replaced by another present, unendingly. This is the very nature of impermanence, instability, non-presence. To identify with the things of this world is to fall under the dominion of time passing and to accept a state of mechanical non-existence, the status of a non-entity.

    In horizontal time, the one who experiences can never catch up to the present moment because it does not actually exist; it is gone before it can be known. By the time we know what it is, it was. It slips through our fingers, leaving only an impression of what was there.

    The second dimension of time is the realm of continuous occurrence. This continuity is not by way of repetition; it is an always resounding, a note that does not diminish or vary. This is eternal time, not eternal in the sense of a long time, which is the first dimension of time, but eternal in the sense of neither beginning nor ending.

    Consider the contemplation of love, a feeling from the second dimension of time. Its nature is never different. To the extent of your capacity to accommodate it, this feeling is an enormous, simultaneous download which includes all of the associated gestures and feelings of love—submission, combustion, tenderness, humility, ecstasy, joy—which are exquisitely excruciating. We can attempt to unbundle these strands but it is their very intrinsic relatedness which makes the experience unsequential, not in successive time.

    The second dimension of time contains and hides the world of being which is available to heart but not to thinking because thinking is successive. Events in the second dimension are made available to thought through myth—stories that construct an apparent sequence from simultaneity so that the essence of these stories can be invoked, such as the life of Christ, the illumination of the Buddha and the salvation of Noah. These ‘events’ are complete, compound entities in the eternal realm, Meanings containing enormous amounts of information, the traces of which are preserved in teaching stories suitable for the ordinary world. These stories do not leave factual evidence in our world because they did not happen here. The stories are meant to point to there, the eternal world, where they have transcendent meaning and continue to occur.

    Events in the second dimension of time occur perpendicular to the first dimension and they behave somewhat like standing waves in physics–a wave in which each point on its axis has an associated constant amplitude. The locations at which the amplitude is at a minimum are called nodes and the locations where the amplitude is at a maximum are called antinodes. In the eternal, a node is the point of non-accessibility while the antinodes are where the wave is available to be experienced.

    To be present is to be at the intersection of the first and second dimensions. The present is made real because presence, being eternal and timeless in relation to the first dimension, is able to exist and continue in the impossibly brief moment of time passing. Only the eternal presence can catch up to the present and make it real. To stand at this intersection is to enter the Real World, as the Sufis say, and to be a Real Human Being.

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