There is only one Life.
But there are a dazzling myriad ways in which it finds expression. Life is very simple to define at this symbolic level: it is the animation of matter, such that it exhibits awareness.
The scale of that awareness varies from the most primitive forms of single-celled response to environment all the way up to the conception of the ‘self’ – literally, that there is an “I” which is separate to the place in which it finds ‘itself’.
So-called ‘manifestation’ is simply an entry of the vivifying principle into the world of separateness; and so called ‘enlightenment’ is a (usually) step by step return to the revelation that nothing is actually separated at all…
Everything is in those three paragraphs–the whole mystery. But to see what lies beneath the words we have to go on a journey. We have to set sail on a voyage that is a mirror of how, where, and why life manifests as it does.
What it does is a given; it is not of ‘our’ choosing. We have to learn to live by the laws that our bit of life was given in our arising. This process, or better, perhaps, this pathway, is designed to bring us face to face with an increasing depth of truth; not science’s experimental truth (good though that is, in its place) but a truth that shouts out its bedrock existence in a way that removes all doubt – an experiential truth, a revelational truth.
We have largely forgotten this kind of truth, but our lives probably contained many instances where something glimpsed in our experience became an idea, then a distinct possibility, then matured into one of those “I told you so” moments. Life and truth are both like that; and it should not surprise us that they are twin sisters on our pathway.
Any modern system of true spirituality needs to harmonise itself with science; and science needs to stop being so arrogant and open itself up to the depths and wonders of subjective experience – consciousness, in other words; something it has no explanation for. We sent the scientists ‘out there’ to find the truth, somewhere back when the age of reason began its necessary assault on our carefully constructed lives. Now, we need to harvest the fruits and put them into the context of the whole human and the whole of Life.
Life began, science tells us, nearly four billion years ago, in the deep primeval oceans, probably near a volcanic vent on a ridge of the sea bed, where the energy gradient was vast. Gradients are important, because life does not thrive on stability – it thrives on the edge of chaos. On a physical level, we are biological machines that convert chaos into order, appearing to cheat entropy – the dreaded ‘heat death’ that the scientists loved to scare us with, not too long ago.
Life began with a stage of evolution that biologists think of as something called LUCA – the Last Universal Common Ancestor. As kids, we used to put soil into an old bottle, add water, and shake it violently in the bright sunshine to see if we could make ‘life’. Later on, watching Frankenstein films, we realised we were missing a lightning-bolt, or, if your chemistry set could be linked to your Meccano generator, an electric current…
The scientists couldn’t get it to work, either; even the really grown up ones. “Life will arise when the conditions are right.” they used to write.
Nope, zip, nada. Life didn’t do that.
In fact life began on the beautiful Earth only once, somewhere around four billion years ago, when a self-replicating set of proteins wrapped themselves in a shroud to protect itself from what had suddenly become the ‘out there’. Big step, that. So big it began not only life, but the gradient of awareness that became consciousness as we know it.
That was LUCA and she’s been with us ever since. Every cell in the trillions that we possess is LUCA in one of her many variants. She’s wilful and beautiful. She is Life on Earth. And in her highest levels, when she’s not fighting to survive, she’s trying to get home…
Every cell is, essentially, a circle. Circles are important in the mystical, the esoteric (which just means ‘hidden’), where the spiritual principles are offered in symbolic form so that something ‘higher’ than the brain can latch onto them and do magical things with our consciousness.
The enneagram is a circle, too…
End Part One.
©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016 images and text. All rights reserved.