Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fidelity to the Source

Discussions in the comments of the thread on "Karma, Causation, Liberation, and Love of the Source", as well as at this Broken Yogi forum thread, suggest my thoughts on the acausal nature of reality need some clarification. John at the BY Forum, who may be the same commentator as "anonymous" in the comments thread above, responds to some things I said:

BY: "To live in that world requires only that we understand and surrender to our own source"
John: Doesn't the word "source" imply a "cause"? Even the word "requires" implies cause and effect.
I made an analogy in the comments section to an orchestra that is playing a symphony written by a composer. In such a universe, the composer is the origin and source of the music that is played, but he does not cause it to occur. The musicians must gather together and cooperate. Neither does the conductor cause the music to come into being, he merely acts as a focal point of attention for the orchestra to coordinate their efforts. Nor do any of the musicians cause one another to play - their individual music simply harmonizes with the source composition. They are not the creators of the music, and their responsibility is not one of literal creation, but of fidelity to the source. Their responsibility is merely to be surrendered to the composition that has been written for them, and to reproduce it with the full power of their mind and bodies and heart, with full feeling and love.

Analogies like these can't be taken entirely literally, because even in this case, one could argue that the sounds themselves are caused by each musician playing his instrument, and if they do not play, there will be no music. That, however, would be to adopt the ego's viewpoint, which presumes that in some way we are the one who acts, that our own volitional acts are the primal source of the life we live. It certainly does appear this way to the ego, but that is precisely my argument: that the ego does not live in reality, but in a fantasy in which he is not only the origin of what occurs in this life, but the willful cause of it, and that the ego can even play whatever variation or improvisation he wishes.

Another variation on this analogy, common to the traditions, is that of actors in a play. Again, the actor is not writing the script as he goes, he is playing the role assigned to him, and reading the lines as written, and going through the drama as it has been arranged by the author, the source of the play. The ego is like an actor who has forgotten that he's in a play, and imagines the story is real and the characters are objectively real as well, rather than fellow actors. He speaks his lines as written, but in his mind he thinks he is actually coming up with the lines on his own. He thinks that he is causing the words to come out of his mouth, and his body to move about the stage, but he is merely doing as written and directed. He is, essentially, unconscious of what he is doing, and where he is, and who he really is.

From this state of unconsciousness, if he starts to question the play he is in, and the source of his actions, he will at first try to interpret everything that is occurring in causal terms, because he thinks that is how the play came into being. He thinks that God is a separate being who has actually caused the play to come into being, and that God acts as writer and director with some kind of absolute power over him. And this is of course how it looks to the ego. But that is only because the ego has a deluded viewpoint, not because this is how it is in reality. The ego merely projects its own presumptions and aspirations on God and the play, and presumes that each of the actors in the play are related to one another by a series of causes and effects. In reality, however, there is no causal force at play, only a synchronization of characters from a common source - the script. There are good actors and bad actors, to be sure, but that is not written into the script, that is a performance issue. An egoic actor who thinks he is creating his own lines and actions will act badly, be a ham, or play his part feelinglessly and with no skill. If he surrenders to the part, however, and plays it with full feeling and love, in fidelity to the source, the play will be performed beautifully and movingly.

One could even compare the process to the movie "Groundhog Day", which starred Bill Murray, and was written and directed by Harold Ramis, who happens to be a practicing Buddhist. The movie is a parable about reincarnation, in which Bill Murray finds himself reliving the same day over and over again, first in despair, then resignation, and finally, fully embracing the day and living it to its utmost. He finds that he cannot change everything in the day - a homeless man dies no matter what he does to prevent it - but he can nonetheless treat the man with love and care rather than indifference.
I hope this gives some sense of the difference between a cause and a source.
John continues with this comment:
It seems to me that the main motivation behind this anecdotal attack on the concept of causality is actually a veiled desire to avoid personal responsibility. That's the real enemy here: personal responsibility. This essay and the ones' that preceed it strike me as merely the futile yearnings of a guilty conscience gone rogue.
I cannot speak to my own unconscious motivations, but I can say that there is no absence of responsibility in the acausal view of reality. The notion of responsibility merely shifts from the causal notion of our creating the play we live in, to one of showing fidelity to the source. An actor is not responsible for the lines he speaks, but he is responsible for his performance, and the depth of feeling he brings to his role. Likewise, we are not responsible for the bare facts of our life, but we are responsible for the depth of feeling and love we bring to it. We as egos did not create this world, and we did not create our bodies, or the DNA and all the influences which make our bodily life what it is. Most of what we are is simply beyond our control. Likewise, most of what we do is not beyond our control. We act in response to a millions things we cannot be responsible for, and in a fashion that is largely determined by the makeup of our own body and mind, gross and subtle. In that sense, we can barely make any claim to free will in our overt actions. The only true responsibility we can exhibit is in acting with full love and feeling, responding to the role we have in this life and the events that unfold with as deep and subtle a "performance" as we can muster. That is a creative matter, and not merely a rote one, as any actor can tell you. But it is a creativity that occurs within the bounds of a drama that is uncaused, and yet also "predestined". The paradox implied by that seeming contradiction is due to the ego's point of view, however, which presumes that the play and the author and the director and the set are separate from the actor on the stage. In reality, all this occurs in a single living consciousness. If we consciously understand this, and relate directly to that source in the midst of the play, the entire play is transformed in our awareness, and the experience of it is lifted beyond mere repetition of lines in a rote manner, into a powerful drama of overwhelming power and significance.

So the key to the whole process is our conscious fidelity to the source, through living each moment in conscious awareness of the source, and allowing that awareness to transform our participation in the play to one of profound, cathartic awakening, and not merely a series of unconscious, selfish acts of soulless repetition.The viewpoint in which we see ourselves as the cause of our actions, and even of the entire cosmos as a series of causes and effects, each actor acting upon one another and producing the universe as we see it through their own actions and how they effect each other, is what arises when we act without awareness of the source. We may even imagine a God who is the also a cause, and the universe his effect.  And then we wonder why he would create such a dismal universe. But this outlook is artificial, the product of a mind which has been deluded into thinking he is both cause and effect, rather than a part of a synchronous drama in consciousness. The actor who is unconscious of the source and nature of the play will not be able to play his part with any skill or passion, and will only complain about the faulty nature of the production, when it is he who is being irresponsible and taudry. He will think he is the creator of his own life, and will try to force the action, as if he can produce better results by taking charge of the play. He will presume to cause things to turn out better by being "responsible" for the causes and effects he produces. But this is folly, and a false notion of responsibility. No actor can be responsible for the role he plays except by playing it with the utmost skill and passion and love and sensitivity. No ego can presume himself to be the source of the role he plays. It has been given to him as a gift, because it fits his own needs and requirements if he will only recognize these.

John continues:

Simultaneous synchronicity? Isn't this redundant? The whole idea of synchonicity, as I understand it, is that the synchronious events have a common cause. Maybe it's just me, but I sense no objectivity in this exposition. I fail to see the harm in the concept of causation.
The point of synchronicity is precisely that events are not linked to one another by causality, but arise in spontaneous harmony with one another. Imagine a play written by a mad Divine genius, in which he spontaneously harmonizes the roles of billions and trillions of actors in a single production within his own conscious mind, each of his creations being made of consciousness itself and thus able to know themselves as being one with their own source. Each of those roles has a single source, and they act in harmony with one another because they are a part of a single mind, but they are uncaused in any sense that might appear within the drama itself. It is merely an inspired creation, so to speak, not the product of any cause, but the manifestation of a spontaneous movement in the mind of God, if you will. None of those beings can be said to be an effect of some cause, because they are a part of the very mind they are the creation of, not outside of that mind. They live out the dream of the Divine Mind, and can be fully aware of their nature in the midst of the play. Or, they can be unconscious of their nature, and think that they are actually a separate being who has been independently created, and thus caused to come into existence on their own, to act as a cause within the play.

But again, these analogies have inherent limits. One cannot take them literally. The uncaused nature of reality is in some sense ultimately not understandable to the ego. To understand it we must become directly and feelingly aware of our source, and surrender to that source. As we do so, we will be able to grasp these principles directly, rather than merely intellectually or abstractly. Even so, grappling with these ideas can help stimulate that process, so it's not a useless exercise to think about and discuss the matter, no matter how frustrating it might seem to be. The mere fact that someone is interested in it indicates a readiness to make use of these arguments.

There is no harm in the concept of causation if it is used within the proper limits. In other words, a scientific viewpoint in which all things are considered to be related either by cause and effect or sheer randomness has its value when one examines things abstractly, as if they are purely material mechanisms operating only in relationship to other material mechanisms. Likewise, a religious viewpoint that sees the universe as the causal creation of God has a limited value in certain contexts as well. It's a metaphysical view, however, and can't be strictly applied on the level of material cause and effect. If it is, it creates a distorted understanding of God. And this is in part what I mean when I say that causation begins to lose its power as a useful description of reality when we expand our context beyond one single plane of existence - in this case, beyond the material plane.

If we try to understand how God might cause the universe to come into being, we encounter paradoxes that cannot be fully resolved. Which leads to John's next question:

BY: "The more dimensions of reality one examines simultaneously, the less they are found to operate on the basis of cause and effect."

John: Can anyone offer an example of how this might work? I'm not getting it.
 I've mentioned before that even our most basic conscious awareness while alive represents a different dimension of existence from the purely physical. While we can abstractly see the material universe itself as operating by cause and effect if we pretend that the observer's presence has no real meaning, when we include the observer in the equation everything immediately gets very strange. I'm not just speaking of the complications of quantum mechanics and relativity, I'm speaking of the simple acts of bodily life themselves. We cannot fully account for our own awareness and its relationship to the body as a causal one. Is consciousness created by the body, or does it act upon the body? When we "will" ourselves to move our fingers, is our consciousness actually causing our fingers to move? Or, is the movement of our brains and body causing consciousness to arise and be aware of itself? One can side with either one of these causal viewpoints, and make decent sense of our experience that way, but genuine flaws and paradoxes are created that are not entirely resolvable. This is what I mean when I say that causality begins to dissolve when we examine two dimensions of existence simultaneously.

Likewise, if we examine this life in relationship to reincarnation, which involves a viewpoint that includes even more dimensions of existence and more deeply requires us to examine how they relate to one another, causality begins to break down even further. The common, egoic solution is to invent the notion of "karma" as a binding law of cause and effect which determines how reincarnation works. But the reality of this is not so simplistic. The circumstances of reincarnation are not so easily fixed by laws of consciousness thought of in the same way as the "unconscious" laws of the mechanistic, material world. Thinking of karma as something like Newton's laws of motion, in which for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, is again an attempt to reduce the process to a single dimension, when it is by its very nature multi-dimensional and thus not strictly causal. Many questions arise, such as how the physical world comes into being at all. Is it "created" by subtle beings or Gods, and is thus caused to come into being by them, or does it merely arise in synchronicity with some larger pattern or play of consciousness? When we come into this life, do we consciously choose the role we play, or is it just assigned to us by some greater "cause". The experience of subtle life suggests that, depending on one's viewpoint, both are true, that we both choose the role we play, and it is assigned to us simultaneously. That paradox is not understandable by purely causal analysis, it requires a deeper understanding of the principle of acausal synchronicity.

The more deeply one observes the process of life, the more inadequate cause and effect notions of how things work becomes. The greatest jnanis seem to agree that from the perspective of genuine enlightenment, all things that occur are predestined, without even the slightest ability for us to change what occurs. In that sense, there is no cause and effect process operative in nature at all. A devotee once picked up a stick and dropped it on the ground in front of Ramana, and asked if this act was predestined, and Ramana said of course it was, that there was no possibility of him having acted differently. But he reminded the man that this could only be accepted in enlightenment, and it wasn't true from the ego's point of view, and therefore we shouldn't try to force this viewpoint on our ego. It would simply become more and more clear to us as we practice self-enquiry and begin to see beyond the ego.

The point being that in enlightenment we see the universe in its entirely, as a single whole, rather than as a disconnected series of dimensions that we might only be partially aware of. It is our partial awareness of the whole which leads us to think that the world operates by cause and effect, whereas if we see the entire universe in a single vision, it becomes obvious that no cause and effects process is involved at all, from its original creation to its evolutionary development to the very moment of our present participation in it. The ego operates by the principle of separation, and thus of a partial viewpoint, and it thus tends to see things as being caused rather than arising in synchronous uncaused harmony.

There's a false understanding of synchronicity that presumes that it's the result of an underling cause that we just can't see. This even applies to what we might call "psychism". People with psychic abilities of one kind or another tend to presume that there's some causal relationship between the thoughts or visions that arise in their minds and the world around them, as if some mysterious power is entering their minds and informing them about distant events. This is simply not how it happens. Psychism does not involve such causal forces at all. It may look like that, but this is an illusion. What is occuring is merely a conscious alignment with a slightly deeper layer of the source pattern that gives rise to our synchronous experience. By surrendering the mind even a noticable bit into this underlying reality, we become attuned to the pattern that is manifested everywhere, and this produces a synchronous affinity that may even demonstrate a correspondence to outer events. But no force is at work producing an effect at a distance. There is simply a disposition of alignment to the deeper patterns of consciousness.

As I've noted in older posts, astrologers frequently make the mistake of assuming that a cause and effect force governs the universe through astrological influences. They presume that the stars and planets emanate some kind of subtle force which influences people and events in some way, similar to the forces of gravity or magnetism in the material world as scientists understand these things. This is simple hogwash, however. There are no such causal forces, in either the gross or subtle worlds. Instead, there is a synchronicity in all events that can be seen precisely by examining patterns that arise which are clearly NOT the result of causality. Astrology is meaningful precisely because the planets and stars are so far apart that there is little possibility that they can influence human events on earth. By eliminating any clear causal connection, astrology is able to examine the purely acausal patterning that links events together. Which is why science considers astrology meaningless, and why many astrologers fail to understand the meaning of the discipline when they try to explain it by resorting to notions of "subtle influence" of some kind or other. The real meaning of astrology can only be understood as an attempt to see patterns through consciousness, and thus using an interdimensional acausal perspective rather a single-dimensional causal perspective.

The key to the process, therefore, is one of conscious awareness of the source. In exploring spirituality, people generally become aware of deeper dimensions of the psyche, which we might presume are closer to the source than the material world. But this is not actually true. All dimension are equally 'close" to the source. It is only that by becoming aware of multiple dimensions, we are able to "triangulate" the source more effectively. The more dimensions we become aware of, the more aware of the source we can be. But to pursue knowledge of these dimensions for the purpose of knowing the source rather has things backwards. A more direct and effective path is to try to know the source directly, and in so doing, one will naturally become aware of the multidimensional nature of reality. That is why practices such as self-enquiry, in which one directly contemplates the source of one's own self, are supremely useful. The more deeply one enquires into the source of one's own being, the more one will be able to see that we exist in all dimensions simultaneously, that the ego's sense of separation is an illusion, and that in reality we are arising within the singular consciousness of our very source and nature, not through any principle of karmic cause and effect, but through a process of uncaused, synchronous Divine Play. If we are attentive, we can see that even the supposedly material "forces" of the physical world arise in acausal synchronicity with this source, and do not arise through or develop through any causal process at all. it only appears that way because of the perspective of our own material body, but in reality the process we see is not brought about in the way that science presumes. It's not that their material observations are wrong, it is only that their perspective is "flat", so to speak.

One could summarize this process of awareness and surrender to the source by the simple admonition of love. Love is how we become harmonized with the source of our own being, which is not outside us as we might tend to think, but is in our very heart, the very source and center of our conscious being. To love our life and consciousness and to see one another in that light is to become directly aware of the source of our life and consciousness. Love and knowledge of the source are the same thing. That is why it is taught that bhakta and jnana are the same, and that we cannot have the one without the other. They are inseparable, because the source has no separate parts, in reality. By cultivating fidelity to the source, we achieve real responsibility for our lives, and we gain true understanding of our own source and nature. If for the time being we must make use of cause and effect concepts to help us along, that is fine of course, but we must also be willing to surrender these as they outlive their usefulness.

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