Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Revelation

Let There Be Light, St. Ignatius of Loyola church, Rome, Italy, September 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/20 sec @ f3.5, ISO 400, no flash © Steven Crisp

Last night I saw something. Or something was downloaded, or uncovered. Or somehow it was revealed to me. It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t a dream, and my recollection of it now is not a memory; more of a knowing (but without conscious knowing). Like a deep-seated intuition that just now resonates. Strange, yet very liberating.

So what was it? Well let me start with a brief review of last evening. I was having dinner with a good friend, and after our 20th piece of sushi, I brought the conversation around to the question: “can we intentionally evolve consciousness?” This is my shorthand summary of the teaching of Andrew Cohen, that I referred to briefly in a recent post.

We went back and forth, and round and round, on what it means to evolve, and to relate that literally to the biological process that includes modifying our genetic code such that evolved traits are handed down to future generations. Sure, by changing the course of events (e.g., by not blowing ourselves up) we are influencing evolution (by giving it more time to work on our species), but that is not actually directing the evolutionary process. Maybe it is not so black and white. Clearly, that is adapting to our environment, another tenant of Darwin’s evolutionary process, but here we refer to somatic adaptation — namely, that process independent of and not directly able to affect the genetic material buried within our DNA and passed on to our offspring. So sure, of course, we “create” our environment moment to moment. And that can alleviate (or create) much suffering in this world through our conscious actions, and potentially affect our societies, and possibly even our species as a whole. But that is not evolution, at least as I see it.

My revelation brought me back to the ego. A necessary device, evolved precisely for the purposes of keeping our biological body alive long enough to procreate and continue the evolutionary process, which is Life, God, Creation, Divinity, call it what you will. It is that remarkable process that permutates offspring and then selects those most adapted to whatever environmental changes have occurred.

The ego provides us with a useful test for all transcendental ideas. If the idea proves to be uniquely positive in any way for the ego, it is suspect, and likely not sourced from your Authentic Self, the Ground of All Being, or God him/her/itself (if you like), but instead is the product of your (or another’s) ego, albeit possibly dressed in some very clever garb.

If you think about the implications of this for a while — reflect upon it, contemplate on it — it is truly mind-boggling (which is in some way the whole point, since the mind is rather attached to the ego). Imagine what the world — our societies — would look like if they were not sculpted by people’s egos. Frankly, it would have some of the most dramatic impact right here in the United States, a society whose culture has come to emphasize individualism (“I” as separate from society), and over the last generation, has been dutifully polishing its narcissistic tendencies (with a few notable exceptions).

There is an article I read recently about an eye doctor named Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy (thankfully known as Dr. V, which itself is an amazing coincidence — if you believe in such things — since I just recently saw a movie about man known only as “V” and wrote about it here). Anyways, his story really began at the age of 57 (giving all of us hope who think we may have been climbing the wrong ladder during our “productive” years ;-). At that point, he had a vision (with a capital V ;-) about giving sight to millions blinded in India as a result of cataracts, and so poor as to never even having conceived of a way to address this limitation. Starting up ophthalmology hospitals, and giving those services away for free to over 70% of their clientele, he has “opened the eyes” of literally millions, not only by his operations, but also by his actions. The metaphors just tumble out of this story.

What I also found interesting about the article, is that it was published in “Fast Company”, surely a metaphor for “capitalism at net-speed”, which, when you stop to think about it, seems about as orthogonal to the actions of Dr V, and the paradigm and philosophies he exposed and espoused, as one could get. And perhaps that is precisely the point, and the poetic beauty of it all. Reveal for the culture most in need of help seeing its society as a whole — and not a collection of 300 million little “I’s” (pun intended) running around trying to get their piece of the pie, at the expense of the 299,999,999 others. Surely you can see the absurdity of that paradigm. It fails the fundamental test — indeed it is the poster child of its antithesis — because it serves the ego first and foremost. And as I have written about elsewhere, it “doesn’t scale”. Therefore, it cannot reflect a universal truth, or offer a solid foundation from which to judge the Truth.

Whoa, let’s get back on track. This story was about a revelation. So what was revealed? Only this: The world will be an unimaginably different place when we awaken to our Authentic Self and begin to live those principles. And that is the most we can and should ask of any one — any ego — out there. Work on yourself, and then live your life from the revealed truths, and let that be your example. Try not to “change others” for that can lead to only different futures, not to the Truth. Try not even to awaken others, for they will, must, and can only, awaken themselves. Your true guidance to them comes from your life, not your words, no matter how much you may wish it to be otherwise. Otherwise, it is your ego, looking to be right, or respected, or God-forbid, revered.

So no, we cannot intentionally influence the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness, a manifestation of life, or perhaps that which life manifests from, is indeed evolving. Just roll the evolutionary clock back a thousand generations ago and you will see that our species had not evolved enough to even ask these questions. Now, there are some who feel confident they can not only ask but answer them (don’t worry, I do not count myself among them ;-) And I am confident that as the evolutionary process continues, more and more of us will choose to ask ourselves these questions, and of course, once the student is ready ...

So if you are at that point in your own development where you are asking yourself these questions, continue to probe deeply — for you have been given a gift. A mind savvy enough to know there is more than itself to satisfy. An ego clever enough to try to trap you into its survival model, but supple enough to bend under the weight of insight into your Authentic Self. A will strong enough to resist the onslaught of societal messages looking to inflate your narcissism and deflate your wallet, and of course, in the process, enslave you into the mechanization of progress. And under it all, ever present to your sincere inquiry, a wisdom and truth revealed upon which your new life can be built, and from such action and recognition, fundamentally new societies will be built over time. Do not wish to rush them, for like all great ideas, first they are ridiculed, then denounced, then opposed (violently if the stakes are high enough, which they surely are here), then accepted as obvious. This, I believe, is the end state that evolution is moving toward, and why at this time we are asking these questions. But we are still a long way away. We may even be an evolutionary dead end (only the ego would presuppose we are the “chosen ones”). Do not be discouraged by that. It gives you time to understand these principles, to know these truths, and to demonstrate them in your daily life. From that point, there is only peace. Inner peace that can handle all of the vicissitudes of life (small “l”) that Life (big “L”) has to offer.

And I will meet you on this journey, in fact, I already see you on the path. Keep walking. When the journey becomes difficult, keep walking. When you see beauty and solitude and grace at every corner, take them in, but keep walking. Remain ever present, and keep walking. And then, as Rumi said,
"Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field - I'll meet you there."


Anonymous said...

After reading this post suddenly I recalled a Thomas Merton quote that I had long forgotten. It does seem to be connected in some way, but I have no idea if it really is connected with what you wrote (except in my mind).

"Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the Divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable. It is true."

Is awakening to this vision of life described by Merton the same as awakening to the Authentic Self? Maybe...probably needs more study to find this out.

Steven Crisp said...

That's an interesting observation. I think on the one hand, it makes perfect sense, and yes, it really is just that simple.

On the other hand, it's not, becuase our ego has camouflaged this simplicity. 'Transparent' would be the last word people picked who have not yet awakened.

So if it is transparent to you -- bravo. And if it is not, keep looking inward, and let there be light.

Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Pat said...

Simply, yes, and I love your photo.
I agree that we cannot change others, yet don't agree that our words don't matter. But somewhere out in that field I suspect we agree at a deeper level.

Steven Crisp said...


Even though I wrote: "Your true guidance to them comes from your life, not your words, no matter how much you may wish it to be otherwise.", I didn't mean to imply that words do not matter.

Consider so many times words are used to provoke, motivate, and regulate behavior and yet they are in fact just manifestations of people's egos looking out for what they want. Those are the words I meant to condemn in that passage.

But words that bubble up from an authentic life are just one reflection of that life lived. And that is precisely what I meant to emphasize. But of course, the life and the words have to match. It really doesn't work to "do as I say, not as I do". In the end, it would be your life that provides that guidance. Through your actions, your patience, your peacefulness, your wisdom, and yes, your words that communicate your insights. However much words have their limitations, they do help us communicate with many more people than could otherwise observe our behavior.

Once again, though, that pushes me back to "work on yourself, first".

Thanks much for the visit and comment. I enjoy all of your insights.