Wednesday, June 15, 2005
some thoughts about morals, the transpersonal, the importance of atheism, some problems, art, and change
On moral or conscious development, which is also the development of who or what we identify with and therefore who or what we can care for, researchers Carroll Gilligan and Ken Wilber found that men and women move through three main stages of moral development.
The stages of moral development are selfishness to care to universal care, also known as preconventional care, to conventional care, to postconventional care, or as Wilber calls it, egocentric, to sociocentric, to worldcentric. And it is this third stage of moral development, where the circle of care and concern extend out to include everyone in the world, that is the platform and gateway to all higher "spiritual" dimensions or potentials. I believe it is at this third level of moral development, this world-centric circle of care, where the individual’s identity runs into universal love, or global consciousness, which is also a deep, passionate identity marked with the basic humanity, or a shared feeling of being. It is our sore spot, or sensative, soft spot that hurts when it sees others in pain. At the world-centric level of moral development we can embrace the universal dimension that we all share, that identity deep within us that contains the pain and humanity and desire for happiness that is identical with each and every soul on this earth.
Individuals grow through these moral stages from infancy to adulthood. For example, a child will first just care about the mother (the mother is their entire environment) and then they will care about themselves, their food, their shelter. This is the egocentric, or the selfish level. Then, the child will begin to learn of and care for their family, then close friends, then the whole tribe, or race, or ethnic group, even if it includes strangers. This is the conventional care, or ethnocentric/sociocentric level of moral development. Only after those two levels are developed, the child can begin to care about everyone in the world, regardless of age, gender, race, class, or religion; this is the world-centric level or stage of moral development, and from this perspective, everyone is seen as the family. We can see only our brothers and sisters.
So, the evolution of morals involves an expanding circle of care and concern, or an expanding circle of identity. And the parodox is that this circle expands wider and wider as the depths of your own identity reach deeper and deeper. For example, when you only identify as a member of your family, you only care about your family. When you then identify as something deeper and more basic, like an America,or a member of a nation, then care for Americans emerges. If you go deeper, and find your basic human identity, then a care for all humans can arrive. Deeper still, you find that you are first and formost a mammal, or just a simple sentient being, and a care for all sentient beings without distinktion or descimination can begin to bloom. (Now it is almost impossible to kill another being if it isnt totally nessary.) Here you know by experince that all beings want to be happy and do not want to suffer. So the deeper you go, the wider you go. The deeper the embrace, the wider the embrace. Sounds parodoxical, but it makes sense, I think.
Finally, if we are lucky, the individual can find an identiy with matter, or earth, the mother, and we can confess that we all share this earth and are dependant on it for our lives. All of us breathe the same air, are sustained by the same soil, the same oceans, the same rivers, so the love for Life transforms into an environmental concern that brings tears. This is where the worldcentic level of moral development (or the worldcentic level of identity) actually includes the world herself, and not just all her inhabitants.
Of course, any environmentalist knows that they cannot force people to care about the earth (in the same way all vegans know they cannot force people to care about animal rights). It is not until people have developed a certain amount of depth and understanding about themselves that they will see just how important this environment is. And that, i am afraid, can only take time, so it seems.
After the individual’s identity grows to embrace the humanity deep within that is shared with everyone, and thus, after the individual can actually love everyone equally, she begins to perceive glimpses of what are known as the “transpersonal” bands or dimensions of her being. Here she will discover that shared Self, the "Oversoul", which is the “Devine in me that is the Devine in you”, and it is this transpersonal light that is pure awareness and that shines consciousness onto and within everything equally. It is aware of your ego, or your personality in the same way it is aware of the room and your feelings and thoughts. It is the only self aware of anything, actually. It is very subtle, but there nonetheless, reading this sentence right now.
Also, this Light of Awareness, the transpersonal Self that we are exists outside of time, and can thus never be touched or changed (like the moon in the sky unchanged by the clouds passing by in front of it), and it can therefore never be harmed or imprisoned, it is already a free spaciousness through which all thoughts and experiences are appearing and passing. IN fact, if this aspect of your being were not already open, free, and clear, nothing would be able to be in it at all. No thoughts, no experiences, no sensations. It is the opening or clearing through which all these experiences come and go, and come and go, ceaselessly.
This transpersonal self, connected to all life, opens up to a place where we are not separate, and we can merge as love. We all fall in love, and this soft presence that opens up is a shared space of infinite freedom and infinite power. “God is Love” is meaningful here. Or Gandhi’s “God is Truth.” Or Bjork’s “All is full of Love.” All is full of God. There is nowhere God is not; Truth is Omnipresent, the immediate present moment, the one reality, the Alone. God, Truth, Love, or Life, Reality, and Beauty.
Our unrelenting thirst for peace, justice, freedom and love, is the fuel generating a wider love and clearer presence or sanity within, a sanity or presence that permeates out across as our shimmering new identity, our new potential or personality, our new protector, and it shimmers across the vast awareness that we ultimately and profoundly already are. Our nature, pure presence, pure love.
The importance of atheism
Atheism will always serve its necessary and honorable position of clearing out the mind. Meaning, atheism is the stage of development between the mythic mind and the rational mind, and thus, it should be honored and understood in that context. It clears away old views and faiths in order for new logic and understanding to blossom within the new mind, and from there, a light can begin grow and grow, a light of a true, altruistic compassion, a true faith, which had not been able to bloom before because of the previous obsession with a previous, self-centered view.
I have heard that in Judaism, for example, atheism isn’t just accepted, it is expected as a necessary stage of development. And almost always, after the young Jew renounces her previous faith, the emergence of a new, truer faith, based upon direct experience and analysis, begins, and the Jew eagerly returns to her roots.
Therefore, it is my belief that without atheism, or some sort of doubt and renunciation, growth is impossible, as well as any true faith. We all must die to our previous ideas in order to be reborn in a new, deeper understanding.
The core error in many spiritual movements is that they see suffering, or attachments, or life in this world as a problem and something that needs to be transcended. And this isn’t “transcend and include,” this is transcend and get rid of. Therefore, they don’t see that suffering is grace, that it can be used as a vehicle for compassion and freedom, and therefore by desiring to get rid of it they are only stuck in the cycle of suffering, desires, and dissatisfaction.
If you are running from suffering, then you are not free. If you want to transcend anything, you are not free. Freedom means not pushing anything away or turning anything off. Freedom is only acceptance, embrace. Radical embrace of everything. Be free to occupy as much of your being as you can. Be free to embrace all levels of understanding, all people and perspectives, simultaneously. Be free to suffer and feel pain and humanity. Suffering, after all, only deepens your compassion for the world. All suffering can really attack is your sense of separateness anyway.
If anything, it is only through fully suffering that you can clearly see that which suffers (and that which wants to transcend suffering) and you can see that part of you that has always already been transcended or free from the suffering (or the part of you that is looking AT the suffering).
You have always noticed, or been aware of, suffering, or problems, or thoughts. You have been seeing them, for you have been the Seer, always. A Seer always free from what is seen.
To me, artists, poets, speakers, and thinkers like you, illustrate possible perspectives, possible human capacities, social attitudes, theologies, experiences, and by demonstrating or illustrating or translating these worldviews, they actually change and transform the collective consciousness. People who see or hear new ideas are forced to not only accept them as new ideas (and thus new possibilities), but also find that they are now invited to explore, even take on, any new capacity mentioned or exhibited. Viewers can take the translation given by the artists to aid in the transformation of their own minds (a transformation toward a more embracing, more whole, more compassionate, more conscious, more responsible mode of living).
Fascination turns to fear
We are fascinated with that which changes. You know…a sunset, fall leaves, water, clouds. Change fascinates us endlessly. However, when the changing phenomenon is our body, or feelings, or emotions, or relationships, then our fascination turns to fear. Things change and our thoughts and feelings and relationships and ideas are things, and those thigns we often do not want to change. And our resistance to those things that change is just old mind patterns that we keep reliving over and over. And as soon as we break those patters, as soon as we look on all changing phenomena equally, then we are free. It just watches with equanimity all the changing phenomena. Sogyal Rinpoche suggests that we look at our changing emotions and thoughts as if we were a wise old person watching children play. It think that is a very powerful suggestion. Look at them as children, or waves, or clouds flowing across the sky. Sit back and relax watching the scenery of the movie of life pass by, and giggle at the predicaments and dramas and coincidences. And rest as the witness, abide as awareness, and feel all the textures and layers of life pass through the space that you are.
We all share this planet of ours, and this means that we are all connected in a very intimate way. Taking care of each other’s happiness only ensures that our own happiness will flourish. Generosity benefits everyone.
If you are sad today, chances are you are sad because you are, or were, feeling and acting selfishly. The remody to this sadness is to look at your sadness as the effect of a past action, to see it as your own suffering that you own and have created for yourself, and, by looking at it this way, it will immediatley move on and change into strength. It always works like this. We always emerge from sadness and suffering stronger.
Posted by David at 10:40 AM
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