Today's Saying: We are inspirited humans, or human spirits, arising from Spirit's diversification. As music manifests in many kinds of tunes, rich in variety, Spirit dons the garb of manifold Nature.
Hiding in this cage of visible matter
is the invisible lifebird
pay attention to her
she is singing your song
*Kabir. The Poetry Of Kabir.
* * *
The Texas Monthly, December 1996, profiled mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. Graham was a rising star in opera. Writer Jamie Schilling Fields tried to compare Graham with one of the legendary mezzo-sopranos, asking if she could be the next Cecilia Bartoli. Graham replied, "I'm not sure I want to be the next anyone. I'd rather be the first Susan Graham."
It seems the only creature in Nature that tries to be itself, rather than being itself, is the human being. How odd, indeed. Yet, the meaning of integrity is the self in harmony with itself, wholly being itself, so in harmony with the Whole. The Way is the unity of the particular self - yourself, myself - with the Presence universal.
* * *
One important matter for consideration before going on is, "What is the self?" The self is not something locatable. When you are not thinking of yourself, the self is only a latent potential. The mind brings the self back into awareness, so self-awareness. The self is an expression of universal Consciousness, or Being, in time and space. We could say the self is energy. The self is a sense-of-Iness.
At times, in this writing, I use "I-thought" and, at other times, "sense-of-self." The self registers presence in the body as sensation, in the mind as a thought.
* * *
The self's evolution is becoming a human being. That we embody these potentials means there is work to do, and being a being does not guarantee we will become human beyond the body common to homo sapiens -
What is most characteristically human is not guaranteed to us by our species or by our culture but given only in potential. A spiritual master once expressed it this way: A person must work to become human.
What is most distinctly human in us is something more than the role we play in society and more than the conditioning, whether for good or bad, of our culture. It is our essential Self, which is our point of contact with infinite Spirit.
*Kabir Edmund Helminski. Living Presence (Rev. Ed.).
Helminski, a Sufi, proceeds to refer to this becoming human, noting humanness meaning being a "carrier of the Creative Spirit" -
If the human being is the most evolved carrier of the Creative Spirit - possessing conscious love, will, and creativity - then our humanity is the degree to which this physical and spiritual vehicle, and particularly our nervous system, can reflect or manifest Spirit. That which is most sacred in us, that which is deeper than our individual personality, is our connection to this Spirit, this Creative Power.
* * *
An acquaintance replied to me in writing, after I posted an essay and Natalie Merchant singing "Wonder" - see below. She said the song reminded her of me. She wrote most persons did not show interest in my writings, for they could not understand what I was saying. I was speaking from and to a place most persons were not ready for. She reminded me to honor who I am, not to fit into some mode whereby what I am and do would be more attractive, or even more understandable, to others.
After years, I accepted I am not on Earth to appeal to persons who cannot understand me, but to encourage and inspire those who can. The others, well, there are selves here to speak their way, but that is not who I am. It felt good for someone to say, "It's okay to be yourself, even if that means most don't understand you and, so, don't give attention to what you offer. You're not here to be understood by most." Hence, being myself means only that - being myself. Again, yes, that simple - the complication arises in the mind, not in the heart, for the heart is who we are.
Her encouragement contains a principle central to this writing - you can only be yourself, otherwise you are not being anyone, not even yourself. Blue cannot be red, blue can only be blue. This is true of all aspects of Nature. Not only is being yourself the only self you can be, it is a wondrous adventure. We can make adjustments in how we present ourselves, but we cannot adjust who we are, and we need not for anyone, anywhere.
* * *
You can access the video online via the upper left-hand artist-song -
* * *
I have written elsewhere on this venue of a church in central Florida, when I served it as a pastor, becoming divided over me. I was too contemplative and inclusive for many in the membership to find tolerable, while the other members seemed to respect me highly as person and pastor. Among the antics of the traditionalist right-wing dissidents, the group formed a protest walk. A Wednesday evening, after leading in a worship meeting, I began walking home. The pastoral home was behind the church building, on the far side of the same block. As I walked the walkway, I came upon a group of these members in the protest walk. I had not been aware of their plans. This startled me; I, also, found it somewhat humorous. I remained silent and walked by as though nothing were happening. I knew this was not about who I was, or am.
Persons who deny their own authenticity find intolerable persons who are real, still, be real, for that is who you are. Do not whittle away at yourself, so others will like you, so who you are will not intimidate others.
Yet, this authenticity is not a reaction against what others expect, as though saying, "I'll show you!" There is nothing commendable about being a non-conformist for the sake of proving you can be one. An authentic self is simply being herself or himself, as blue is being blue, and that self is compassionate. The True Self has no desire to create disharmony for some motive of being a trouble-maker. The True Self is a being of love, of grace. I had, indeed, made concessions to provide a bridge to create a win-win situation with the dissidents, that was my desire - the good of the whole fellowship -, but that proved impossible without denying who I was. I would not do that. It, finally, cost me that pastorate and my career, and of this I have no apologies but feel blessed to have been unwelcome. Yet, again, I know it was not about my being unwelcome. Hence, it is not, finally, personal at all.
This being "not ... personal at all" is, likewise, a key insight into the self. The self evolves from personal to transpersonal. The more we grow into this transpersonal awareness, the more we grow from seeing how others treat us, good or not-good, as personal. Essentially, the dissident members were not afraid of Brian, they were afraid of that in them they were not accepting as the truth. Yet, if we do not evolve beyond location in the personal, we find it difficult not to see how others behave toward us as other than personal - this is called "ego-centricity" - the self turned in on itself.
This highlights another aspect of consciousness. The question is, "How does one remain a person and transcend personhood?" "Person" is best reserved for the self-consciousness of one who sees the self as separate from others. Self evolves: the self moves from pre-"I," to "I," to "we," to "Soul," to "Spirit." This is from: prepersonal, to personal, to transpersonal. Spirit, the transpersonal, embraces and transforms the prior states of consciousness. Hence, to transcend means that the highest state of self's emergence transforms the prior in union with itself. Transcendence is not a disowning, but an including, the center of consciousness shifting from more gross to more subtle. Person remains, yet the function of person shifts when being pulled into "we" and, then, into "nondual" - or Spirit. Simply, you are not a person; instead, person is an aspect of Being speaking of the degree of expression of Pure Spirit manifesting.
* * *
One felt-sense of this returning to your True Self - the transpersonal - is a shift in energy, for matter is energy. Being true to oneself feels lighter and more alive than not being yourself. Others can sense this shift in you, for we are all energies in interaction at a subtle level. Persons so alive resonate with each other, feeding each other in a mutual exchange of bliss, peace, and love.
Cynthia Bourgeault, a Christian contemplative, writing of her beloved one, Ralf, a Trappist monk and hermit, after he had departed to the Other Side:
… Rafe was far from a typical monk, and even among his brothers at St. Benedict’s Monastery, he was largely inscrutable. In all ways his passions ran huge: his passion for God, his passion for Truth, his passion for solitude, his passion for relationships. Out of the deep, paradoxical currents of his being flowed an exuberance for life that refused to stay confined. … Those with Sufi inclinations would recognize him instantly as a dervish … God-intoxicated….
*Love Is Stronger Than Death
Hence, this can assist us to demystify such statements as this by Jesus -
I have come that they might have life and life more abundantly.
*Gospel of John 10.10
Ralf had grounded himself in his God, Who is Life. He enjoyed union with his Beloved. How could he not, then, manifests so clearly Life? Again, this eternal life is not a life outside this world, something we wait for, it is a quality of aliveness now, simply through being reunited with self through union with Life Itself, regardless of how we speak of That. The self requires something, or someone, outside the self to grace the self to this discovery of itself-in-Life. Hereby, we become, not less alive, we manifest more Life's natural exuberance, ecstasy, and vitality. We are drawn into Love by Love, and what is more vital and vitalizing than to love?
* * *
One key to welcoming your True Self is to stop trying to be yourself, then you can be yourself- it is that simple, but for some of us to get to that simplicity is a long journey. I say simplicity, for who we are has been overlaid with layer upon layer of false identities. We are not conscious of all of these layers; hence, the Way includes allowing the repressed contents of the subconscious to be arise into consciousness, being exposed to the Light's transformative power.
An image for this process has been the sculpture chipping away at the stone to create a statue. The sculpture knows the image in the rock, only having to remove what does not belong to it for the image to appear.
We sometimes speak of the False Self and True Self, the False - what is not us - and the True - that which is us. Who we are is not given us; what is not us is removed, so we appear.
And, yes, when I write freely, rather than trying to write in a certain way to appeal to others, a union of self and act happens. The action corresponds with Harmony. Writing becomes a flow, a celebrating from the accord between self and Spirit. I, then, honor the Beloved, and the act feels blessed. If no one were to read the writing, that would be okay, for I had been true - meaning, I being I - so, likewise, Susan Graham.
* * *
Leaves amaze me. Gazing upon a leaf, I see the leaf and all leaves. I cannot ignore this leaf and know leaf in an abstract sense. I see every leaf by this leaf.
We cannot ignore the particularity of lives in which Life appears and know Spirit in some vague, universal sense. We are intimate with Life by being intimate with how Life shows up moment-to-moment in our world. While we sense beyond appearances the Formless, sensing beyond means beauty and sacredness we could not draw near to before Spirit manifesting in appearances. This is Incarnation: i.e., embodied, enfleshed. The Subtle makes itself accessible in matter, and the human becomes more receptive to the Ineffable through individuation - the process whereby a thing expresses itself as other than all other selves.
* * *
The Scottish mystic theologian John Duns Scotus (b. 1266) is perhaps the most influential Franciscan thinker outside of the Italian Franciscan St. Bonaventure (b. 1221). Scotus' thought was overshadowed by another Italian, a Dominican, Thomas Aquinas' (b. 1274). Like Aquinas, Scotus was mystical in orientation. Unlike Aquinas, Scotus rendered theology in highly affective and creation-centered terms – following the lead of the founder of his order, Francis of Assisi.
Scotus evidenced a deep reverence for the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and Jesus' mother, Mary, and the centrality of mystical affections in his life. Scotus, Christmas night 1299, was immersed in contemplating the mystery of the Word becoming a man, Jesus. Being rapt in ecstasy, Mary appeared and placed the child Jesus in Scotus' arms. The child kissed Scotus and embraced him lovingly.
Scotus, unlike many other Christian theologians, did not see Jesus' crucifixion as payment for humanity's sins or a satisfaction to his Father for sins. Scotus held the Incarnation was an expression of God's Love and, therefore, for God's desire for consummation of oneness with all creation, not only humans.
Therefore, Scotus said, the Word is immersed in creation, to redeem - or free - creation – to bring it into the fullness of its divine destiny to mirror the Divine's wholeness. Each created thing – or aspect of matter – conforms to an ideal pattern by the individuality and uniqueness of its haecceitas (Latin,"thisness"), taught Scotus. A rock has a thisness, a cloud has a thisness, a dust particle has a thisness, and you and I have a thisness – heavenly beings have a thisness.
Love, then, is the expression of each singular thisness in the Absolute. Each thing in the order of matter is destined to return to the Thisness that gives it being and underlies its unique word in and through the one Word (or Creative Principle), often referred to as "Christ."
Therefore, we do not escape the thisness of the natural order, of which we are a part through the human thisness, by a spirituality that fails to include the sacredness of matter. Instead, in its thingness, each thing reflects the One by being itself among all other things.
Hence, contrast magnifies the evolution toward Unity, rather than such difference being a detraction or distraction. That is, the One is more wholly known through differences, for this provides a more whole reflection of the Wholeness the One is. To the image of music and tunes - the more tunes, the wider range of manifestations of the unity of music.
To be engoded, consequently, or sanctified, is not to become less human or more like anyone else for the sake of being like her or him. To be engoded is to become more human and more the one human one is as a single expression of Life. The one Face is seen more wholly through the seeing of many faces.
* * *
C. S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity, of this process in words that would be seen as heretical in much of Christianity, yet he appeals to the Scripture to support his point. He, likewise, agrees with the Eastern Orthodox churches in teaching deification, or theosis - the human, by grace, becoming engoded, or taking on the nature of the Divine Itself. As the early Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373) said, "God became a human, that the human might become God."
[God] said that we were "gods" and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.
* * *
How can I already be myself and be becoming myself? That sounds contradictory.
First, essentially, you are the self - not a self - evolving. The "myself" is an earlier phase in the path, the ego, only one manifestation of the self-spectrum. The self is Being that becomes "I." Actually, however, the self does not have a self, so cannot have a myself, even as there are no yourselves around or themselves. When we say "soul," that is another manifestation of the same self - the self in God-consciousness, or at the point of connection between the I-sense, linked with the body, and universal Spirit. Here, the self is at the point of realizing you are only a self, for all others are the same self. The one consistent in the self-evolving is "self." The Buddhists often jump beyond self and say "no-self," for they are rightly observing the fleeting and insubstantial quality of the I-sense. I have already pointed out when you are not thinking about yourself there is no self present. Yet, back to your question, more directly. The becoming of yourself as the self is, as noted above, removal of the layers of identity that is not you. Strictly, you are simply seeing false identities dissolve, which are coagulated to form what we have called the False Self. Yet, this False Self is false, for it is not a self at all. Outside of thought, however, self remains, as noted above, only a potential in Being. Once Being enters thought, it clothes Itself with the I-thought. When you are in dreamless sleep, for example, where is a myself? When you awaken or in dreams, consciousness clothes itself with self-as-thought, or the I-sense. Hinduism offers us a way to experience this absence of "I" through self-inquiry. Here, one uses the mind to drop the mind, so the "I" drops, for only the mind sustains the "I." "Self," then, is only a way of speaking of a process. I have said there is no self to be found anywhere. Yet, being in duality, when we speak of Truth, we have only words arising from duality to use to point to the Truth, which is the nondual Source of duality.
Then, what is no-self?
It is not a self, so a no-self. "No-self" is simply saying "no self at all, not even a no-self." In Buddhism, this is linked with "emptiness," meaning, not a vacuum, but the interdependence of all life. There is no-self, for there is no one that is self-contained. I am what I am for all else is what it is. Some have called this the Web of Life. We can call this the Christ or Body of Christ, if we do not limit it to persons and those of the Christian faith. Actually, there was never a Christ of Christianity that is truly the Christ. Some refer to the Cosmic Christ, rightly differentiating it from a Jesus or a Christ of a religion. The Body of God is All, so even God is not a self, not even the cosmic self.
Does the ego need to be disappear, then, for me to be my True Self?
The person is a continuum from pure ego to pure Spirit. Hence, we do not engage a spiritual path to destroy the self or simply make it more healthy, more moral, or more cooperative. The self is transformed into more subtle, more expansive states of being, or consciousness. Hence, the paradox -
The more I am drawn out of myself, the more I become myself by unbecoming that I am not and have never been - so you.
This means, while the ego can be defined as the I-consciousness, that consciousness is not apart from Spirit. The self, though simply a felt-sense or I-thought, is a unity with the evolution of consciousness from instinctual to Spirit. Hence, the evolution of consciousness is the evolution of self, simply for the self of the person mirrors the Unity of God.
Hence, the principle - God is, and God is becoming. You are the grounding, the means, yes the sacrament, for God's becoming God in the world. You are Love's birthing of Itself in the particularities of and dualities within life. The polarities provide the context for the manifestation of the Unity Spirit is.
How can one go more into the self while going more out of the self, as you say above?
The more one drops identity as being an "I," the more one is freed to, like Spirit, assume the I-sense as one way, and a major way, Spirit manifests in the world. Before, the self was so stuck on itself as a self - consciousness turned inward in the illusion of a separate self -, this self was a cause of disunity. By Grace, the self becomes a means of the soul, or universal Self, or True Self, being a part of healing the fragmentation through Love. The "I" is part of our earth equipment, and to fulfill our purpose here, we surrender it to be transformed into a servant of the Good, the True, the Beautiful.
* * *
See how the hand is invisible while the pen is writing; the horse careening, yet the rider unseen; the arrow flying, but the bow out of sight; individual souls existing, while the Soul of souls is hidden.
*Mathnawi II:1303-04, in Living Presence(Rev. Ed.).
* * *
We are inspirited humans, or human spirits, arising from Spirit's diversification. Even as music generally manifests in many kinds of tunes, rich in variety, Spirit dons the garb of manifold Nature.
The self is a continuum on the development from matter to Spirit. Hence, the more drawn the self is into formless Spirit, the more Grace summons one to embrace himself or herself as he or she is as a form expressing Life. To evolve means the task of becoming more you. Through this emergence, we become less a partial-lived life and more a whole-lived life: more wholly, so more holy. Like Susan Graham, we appreciate more ourselves as being whole in ourselves, not feeling a need to go outside ourselves to be or become ourselves. Instead, in being yourself, you are most becoming yourself. To say "One with God" is saying, too, "One."
Augustine of Hippo -
... you are the mystery that is placed upon the Lord’s table. You receive the mystery that is yourself. To that which you are, you will respond, ‘Amen.’