There is a current trend toward “Religion without God” –churches are cropping up without God as the center of attention and simply building community. This is not entirely new, Ernest Holmes’ Science of Mind has been in this area, along with questionable movements like Scientology for some time.
But with the growth of technology, atheism has also become more active. Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and other popular atheists ridicule literal interpretations of scripture and denial of evolution, but this is the low hanging fruit.
This, Sam Harris does very eloquently, and he is a proponent of Spirituality without Religion, which is a very popular movement.
Harris says in the trailer for the video based on his best seller ‘Waking Up,’
“If you are thinking without knowing that you’re thinking you are confused about who and what you are.”
I could not agree more. I have now experienced this space and also written about it, but unlike Harris and his cohorts it has opened me up to a sense of much higher intelligence that must be deemed, for lack of a better term, “Sacred.” But what truly happens when you notice your thoughts?
Harris and many others seem to imply that the only conclusion is a secular deconstruction that results in a thoroughly Eastern emptiness –one of his most thought provoking ideas that echoes much of modern neuroscience is that there is no “self” and no free will.
But is there no “Meaning” possible without or beyond thought? Is all Meaning purely “conceptual”? Does Sam Harris’ revision of Religion –without an angry anthropomorphic “Personal” God also necessitate the end of the Sacred? Is the Sacred a “concept” or an intrinsic byproduct and ineffable component of Awareness and Being?
Is Sacredness Relative To Our Level Of Being?
Perhaps we can begin to acknowledge that Sacred IS an undeniable aspect of being beyond our own “scale” – beyond what we “know” as mind and linked to our being as “organic life.” Eckhart Tolle certainly seems to think so. He says that the intelligence that runs your body, for example, is infinitely intelligent and of a magnitude of perfection beyond thought and seems to imply that Being is the Sacred. He equates it to “God” as those he is writing for commonly conceive of a deity.
But I suspect that even Eckhart would say that this Sacredness is by virtue of its dimensional scale relative to our level of being -that Infinite is beyond what we can ever know or comprehend –or is such a sense of the Infinite yet again another concept?
Eckhart and other modern thinkers take the notion of Being beyond the material –he calls it “no thing.” And even the science that has spawned the new Atheism has discovered ethereal existence as energy –just look at the phenomenon of wireless transmission of data. Is it purely delusional conditioning to believe that the force behind organic life MUST be intelligent and Sacred? Or could artificial intelligence via technology ever become truly conscious so that nothing “more” is required?
My deepest instinct is NO but some very bright people seem to disagree.
What Exactly Is Consciousness?
First let us recognize that Consciousness is NOT merely more complex or calculated THOUGHT. The Consciousness that is US is organic Life and our neural function of thinking is only a small fraction of its scope. Again as Eckhart Tolle points out, the Consciousness that runs our organic system harmoniously—circulation, breath, elimination and so on, is infinitely greater than our thinking mind.
Our deeply felt recognition of this changes our Being, and perhaps begins to open to a profound comprehension of the “level of Scale” on which Consciousness actually operates. If you consider it deeply, unlike what the artificial intelligence folks would have you believe –Consciousness or the non-conceptual REALITY of Infinity does not equal greater complexity.
Infinity is not what the thinking mind thinks is “just one more” or plus one. Infinite is INFINITE.
For example the calculations of supercomputers have “discovered” larger and number Prime Numbers. With additional calculation, there will always be “just one more”. But none of the just one more Prime Numbers will ever be Infinite.
INFINITE is of a scale BEYOND MIND.
Proof Of Infinity Is Right Before Our Eyes
To “see” this for yourself, on a clear and star filled night, just go outside and look out there. Your mind will tell you that Infinite is just the next star, solar system, galaxy, universe, cluster or whatever. But out there, IN REALITY, is INFINITY and your mind cannot comprehend “the next” beyond what it sees.
And yet THERE IT IS, staring back at you. INFINITY. Not the next anything. Just WHAT IS. Can the scale of something so far outside or normal comprehension be anything but Sacred?
Now the question becomes, is the Sacred or Infinite a potential subject for scientific inquiry? Or does it need to remain outside the scope of scientific inquiry –are “facts” sacred? Sam Harris is an interesting author on this subject because he is an eminent scientist who both denies the existence of free will, and at the same time holds “reverence” for the ordinary. He is a proponent of mindfulness and presence.
So How Do We Scientifically “Investigate” The Nature of Consciousness & Mind?
Sam Harris: “We know we are downstream of causes of which we are not conscious and of which we cannot be conscious.” And yet our beliefs and thoughts convince us that we are the initiators of all our actions.
Eckhart Tolle’s identification of all reactive and conditioned thought as the “voice in the head” (and not the self) is enormously helpful as far as it goes, but with our own evolution and presence I think we will eventually go deeper and discover layers and frequencies that can be differentiated and serve us better in the future–perhaps as “evolved communities of thought.”
I suspect that when biophysicists and neuroscientists like Sam Harris get better instruments they will discover that like the Eskimos, who have many words for “snow” we will need to develop a more thorough understanding of “thought” –probably along the lines of our current understanding of electromagnetic frequencies.
As Dr. Kumar said, we currently “see” or even measure only a slight fraction of frequencies of the electronic spectrum. Perhaps we may eventually discover an equally widely disparate source and frequency range within our thoughts. None of this may lead to the discovery of a permanent “I” (with “free will”) but rather a much more complex interrelationship with our environment.
Epigenetics is a current field that is investigating our “nature” as part of a much larger dynamic in which the individual is a part of a larger community just as one’s cells form a “unit” to create organs, and organs do so to comprise an “organism”—which we take our “selves” to be.
The Internet, as a “planetary nervous system,” or as I like to call it, an Awareness System takes us as individuals to the next level, potentially as a much higher “Organism” on a global scale—perhaps as a community of evolved thought. Perhaps it is from this “platform” of comprehension that a Science of Consciousness might emerge that combines the factual data of “science” with an understanding of its limitations due to our own minds and organic being.
One teacher who anticipated this development was Gurdjieff in the early 20th century who like Eckhart Tolle saw most men and women as “asleep” and conditioned by the habitual thoughts that they took them “selves” to be. What Gurdjieff also sought to do was “merge the science of the west with the philosophy of the east” and reintroduce a sense of the “Sacred” into modern life.
The Sacred, after all, is just the recognition of a dimension of Being higher than oneself, or perhaps what one can conceptually understand.
While Sam Harris ridicules the ideas of Gurdjieff for (probably figuratively) suggesting that the Moon is alive (page 155 of “Waking Up”). However, from a perfectly pragmatic point of view, can there be any doubt from the standpoint of organic life on Earth THAT THE SUN IS SACRED?
Existence would not “be happening” for us without the Sun. Every scientific system we have underscores that knowledge and as Carl Sagan said, “We are the stuff that stars are made of.”
All Life in this solar system depends upon the existence of the Sun as a physical and (perhaps?) organic entity. To call it “alive” in the truest sense of the word is not much of a stretch. Indeed if the Artificial Intelligence proponents want to consider an “Information System” of nearly infinite complexity and a network of combustible energy within our purview they need no further than the thermonuclear reality that “rises and sets” every day at the horizon of what we know as our planet.
By any truly visceral sense of scale, our science has discovered that a star exists in size and power on an order of magnitude that shrinks any human being or ego to the level of total insignificance. Perhaps the Sun IS conscious on a scale we simply cannot currently comprehend, and of which we may become aware only in our newly evolved role as a Global Consciousness reconnected to the Sacred.
Interestingly I found the following passage in Transcripts of Gurdjieff’s Meetings 1941-1946:
“Gurdiieff: Then one must change the way of working. Instead of accumulating during one hour one must try to keep constantly the organic sensation of the body. Sense one’s body again, continually without interrupting one’s ordinary occupations-to keep a little energy, to take the habit, I thought the exercises would allow you to keep the energy a long time. But I see it is not so. Wet a handkerchief, wring it out, put it on your skin. The contact will remind you. When it is dry, begin again. The key to everything—remain apart. Our aim is to have constantly a sensation of oneself. Of one’s individuality. This sensation cannot be expressed intellectually, because it is organic. lt is something which makes you independent when you are with other people.”
From the perspective of Eckhart Tolle‘s work, what resonates for me is the pointer beyond the self-talk of the Mind. Knowing now that you are not your thoughts, connecting organically and without thinking–physically, emotionally and with all of “You” with what you truly are as Being, moment to moment…
Three Great Minds, One Ultimate Definition
And it takes us back to the work of Sam Harris, and the focus of his inquiry. I was blown away at the conclusion of Sam Harris’ best seller “Waking Up.” He comes very close to actually defining spirituality along the same lines as Eckhart Tolle and even Gurdjieff.
But he never actually defines it, he merely describes it eloquently and when he says “Something in you at this moment is pristine” the only difference from Eckhart Tolle is that Eckhart would probably use the term, “No-Thing” to take it entirely out of the realm of materiality.
Here is Harris’ conclusion:
“Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experiences that are anything but ordinary. And the conventional opposition between humility and hubris has no place here. Yes, the cosmos is vast and appears indifferent to our mortal schemes, but every present moment of consciousness is profound. In subjective terms, each of us is identical to the very principle that brings value to the universe. Experiencing this directly–directly—not merely thinking about it—is the true beginning of spiritual life…
This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to he you in the present. However numerous your faults. Something in you at this moment is pristine—-and only you can recognize it.
Open your eyes and sec.”
What I love about Harris’ concept is that the “sacred” is implied but not bludgeoned into us. The word reverence is sufficient to make us aware of how unlikely it is that we are even here at all right now—that is reverence for the ordinary. Because the biggest miracle of all is that “I Am” writing this right now at all. But Harris nails it with some deft dancing between authoritarian Science and fundamental Religion.
For after all, the terms “religion,” “science,” “God” and even “human” are purely conceptual and therefore abstractions; but a sincere meaning into the reality that exists as “the ordinary” must include a study of consciousness itself, and inevitably point to something far higher and more intelligent, and ultimately, Sacred.
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