“At what point should we expect the contact with the universe to become deep and personal?”
The red-haired man in the corner had asked the question. He always sat in the corner of the room at the talks and always asked a stupid question. I could feel my lips curl… As a field officer in this particular mystical organisation, I had the notional responsibility for making sure such events went smoothly; and that such dumb questions were kept to a minimum.
I half turned from my reserved seat at the front and shot him a look – the kind of look that said, listen, fella, you should know better…
He always sat in the rear left corner, always asked the kind of question to which you could not supply a clear-cut answer. Deep and personal! Who did he think he was, a guru or something?
Of such occasions is wisdom made; but often, not until much later. The character of the red-haired questioner did not fit the usual profile of those following the course of study that the venerable organisation provided. He was not exactly a trouble-maker, but had the potential to be so. I didn’t want anyone of that ilk upsetting my carefully constructed agenda.
Of course, that was exactly what he was doing: upsetting my carefully constructed agenda. He was trying – and succeeding – in injecting a real question of the spirit into the mechanical, though precise, vision that I had of how the teachings should be discussed.
It’s a classic question: at what point should we expect the contact with the universe to become deep and personal. A scientist would very likely hate it. It would imply the kind of soggy thinking that, in such a mind, typifies mysticism. We might follow his train of thought thus:
‘The universe is an ongoing sequence of events, triggered by the Big Bang. Life on Earth began through a random creation of a self-sustaining proto-cell, probably in the deep oceans, near a thermal vent; and the long cycle of increasingly intelligent life began with primitive awareness of inside and outside, which eventually gave rise to consciousness as we know it. None of this requires a belief in there being intelligence behind such an event. The notion of a personal relationship of the distant relatives of such a single cell with the mechanical universe that gave it birth is nonsense.’
Deep breath… because there’s nothing wrong with that view, except the findings of consciousness, itself; and thankfully, science can’t get hold of that or measure it.
A good course of mystical study will not actually be study. It will be involvement. If it’s really good you may not know that’s happening, as you investigate how the part of you that considers itself to be a ‘self’ is put together. You will find that, as you journey into or alongside your self, the world begins to look different. This strange occurrence produces the beginnings of a question: where, exactly, is the world… and where am I?
Everything we know, or think we know, derives from signals received in the brain. These signals are the fruit of our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Each takes a section of the ‘out-there’ and feeds it to the magnificent super-computer that is the brain. Our lives are programmed to enable the question ‘who am I’ to be answered. Our own arising is the biggest mystery of all. What was I before I was born, cries our self; what will I be after my supercomputer dies?
Fear is at the root of much of our ordinary learning. A better equipped machine can defend itself more capably. The human race mirrors this at the national level. Fear is the key to most madness.
A truly mystical journey must concern itself with the dismantling of fear, and that requires an understand of where the notion of ‘authority’ comes from in our developing consciousness.
In our search for the true Self we encounter the false self – false only in that fear made it the centre of the only universe that counts – ours. Finding the edge of that cellular bubble called organic life brings us face to face with the division that never was…and then things can really begin to unfold.
The irritating man with the red hair knew this. He knew that we do not become real mystics by knocking on the edge of the cellular universe; we do so when that universe gets deep and personal and knocks on our door…
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com