Friday, April 29, 2016

Philosopher and Theologian

Philosopher is a weird creature who looks for a black cat in a dark room that is not there... Theologian is a weird creature who looks for a black cat in a dark room that is not there and finds it. - Sam Keen, American philosopher


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Pale Blue Dot

 Happy Earth Day!

By Carl Sagan

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Remember, everyday is an Earth day! - Dominique



Image: This is a section of the Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Australia, captured through a 1200mm lens. (08.22.2010). Source: Incredible Photos from Space, NASA, Astronaut Wheelock

Text: From: "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space" by Carl Sagan

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Bernie Sanders Phenomenon

"For many, the American dream has become a nightmare." - Bernie Sanders, US Senator and a presidential candidate

Bernie Sanders, the  US Senator from Vermont, became a political super-star early on after announcing his candidacy for the presidency. The septuagenarian who was born in Brooklyn managed to mobilize mass support of a rather diverse electorate, but most importantly, the support of millions of young voters whose future right now looks more uncertain than ever. 

Bernie's base consists mostly of grassroots networks working tirelessly to rise funds for the Senator and to popularize his candidacy. He has a populist appeal and his rallies attract large crowds that compare in numbers to the crowds rallying for the Republican maverick candidate, Donal Trump.

"As President, I will: make tuition free at public colleges and universities, lower student loan interest rates for current and future borrowers, ensure all children have access to a quality education by fighting to ensure equal access to educational resources, and make childcare and pre-K universal and affordable." - Bernie Sanders

The populism of Sanders and Trump is nourished by the deep suspicion and distrust for the political "ruling class," the corporate world, and the often biased media. The system is, or at least appears to be, rigged. People demand change.

"Citizens in a democracy need diverse sources of news and information." - Bernie Sanders

No wonder that Sanders came up like a rising super-star. His political and philosophical views quickly attracted masses of disgruntled voters. 

"Finland is no utopia." - Bernie Sanders

Running against a candidate who personifies all that is wrong in American politics today, Sanders did rather well in presidential democratic debates and managed to win a few states, but his loss against Hilary Clinton in New York shook his campaign violently. Although no announcement has been made yet, Sanders might be dropping out of the race. Pennsylvania will probably deliver the final blow.

But did Sanders ever have a chance in the race for the White House? 

Bernie Sanders' supporters strongly believe that he could and should become the next president of the United States. I, on the other hand, do not think that he would ever get the Democratic Party's nomination even if he were winning over Clinton. His seemingly Marxist views, but above all, his strong and genuine belief in social justice, have won him populist support, but would never win over the hearts of the Democratic National Committee whose eyes and minds are lovingly fixed on Hilary Clinton. She probably will become the first female president and, as a part of establishment, she will perpetuate a system that is concerned with its own survival and preservation.

For the same reason, no matter how popular, Donald Trump might not receive his nomination from the Republican Party. Too much "revolution" was never a good thing.

By Dominique Allmon


Image source unknown but greatly appreciated

Monday, April 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

Feeling gratitude 
and not expressing it 
is like wrapping a present 
and not giving it. 

William Arthur Ward 

Image by Dominique Allmon©2016


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Mystery of Time

Time and Space constitute the two greatest mysteries of the human mind. Deeper even than the mystery of space is that of time- so deep, in fact, that it took humanity thousands of years to become conscious of its implications. Apparently the human mind becomes first aware of space and much later of the reality of time. Even a child is more or less conscious of the reality of space, while the time-sense is practically absent and develops at a much later stage. The same happens in the development of human civilization. The discovery of space, as an element of spiritual importance, precedes a similar discovery of time. 

This can be explained by the fact that space-feeling is first and foremost connected with the movement of the body, where as time-feeling is connected with the movement of the mind.

Time is the mind's conception of motion.

Though space-feeling starts with the body, however, it does not remain at this stage, but gradually changes into a spiritual function, by creating a space conception which is independent from the body, independent of material objects, independent even of any kind of limitation: culminating in the experience of pure space or the infinity of space. Here we no longer speak of “conception,” because infinity cannot be conceived, mentally “pictured” or objectivized, it can only be experienced. Only when man has penetrated to this experience and has mentally and spiritually digested and assimilated it, can we speak of the discovery of time as a new dimension of consciousness.

In early Buddhism the experience of space was recognized as an important factor of meditation, for instance in the Four Divine States of consciousness (brahmavihara), in which the consciously created feelings of selfless love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and spiritual equanimity are projected one after another into the six directions of space, namely the four points of the compass, the zenith and the nadir. These directions had to be vividly imagined, so as to make space and its penetration by the mind a conscious experience. In a similar way, space became the main subject of contemplation in the higher or more advanced stages of meditative absorption (jhana) until consciousness completely identified itself with the infinity of consciousness, in which the mediator becomes one with the subject of his meditation.

In Mahayana Buddhism, space played an even more important part in the development of religious art and its symbolism, in which a universe with myriads of worlds and solar systems and infinite forms of life and dimensions of consciousness was conceived- leading to the creation of new systems of philosophy, metaphysical speculation and a vastly refined psychology. The concept of time, however, was merely treated as a secondary, if not negative, property of existence- namely, as that on account of which existence was illusory, a passing show of transient phenomena.

It was only with the advent of the Kalacakra School in the tenth century A.D. that religious seers and thinkers realized the profound mystery which is hidden under the conventional notion of time, namely the existence of another dimension of consciousness, the presence of which we feel darkly and imperfectly on the plane of our mundane experience. Those, however, who crossed the threshold of mundane consciousness in the advanced stages of meditation, entered into this dimension, in which what we feel as time was experienced not merely as a negative property of our fleeting existence, but as the ever present dynamic aspect of the universe and the inherent nature of life and spirit, which is beyond being and non-being, beyond origination and destruction. It is the vital breath of reality-reality, not in the sense of an abstraction, but as actuality of all levels of experience- which is revealed in the gigantic movements of the universe as much as in the emotions of the human heart and the ecstasies of the spirit. It is revealed in the cosmic dance of heavenly bodies as well as in the dance of protons and electrons, in the “harmony of the spheres” as well as in the “inner sound” of living things, in the breathing of our body as well as in the movements of our mind and the rhythm of our life.

Reality, in other words, is not stagnant existence of “something”; it is neither “thing-ness” nor a state of immovability (like that of an imaginary space), but movement of a kind which goes as much beyond our sense-perceptions, as beyond our mathematical, philosophical and metaphysical abstractions. In fact, space (except the “space” that is merely thought of) does not exist in itself, but is created by movement; and if we speak of the curvature of space, it has nothing to do with its prevailing or existing structure (like the grain in wood or the stratification of rocks), but with its antecedent, the movement that created it. The character of this movement is curved, i.e. concentric, or with a tendency to create its own center- a center which may again be moving in a bigger curve or circle, etc. 

Thus, the universe becomes a gigantic mandala or an intricate system of innumerable mandalas (which, according to the traditional Indian meaning of the word, signifies a system of symbols, based on a circular arrangement or movement, and serves to illustrate the interaction or juxtaposition of spiritual and cosmic forces.) If, instead from a spatial point of view, we regard the universe from the standpoint of audible vibration or sabda, “inner sound,” it becomes a gigantic symphony. In both cases all movements are interdependent, interrelated, each creating its own center, its own focus of power, without ever losing contact with all the other centers thus formed.

“Curvature” in this conception means a movement which recoils upon itself (and which thus possesses both constancy and change, i.e. rhythm) or at least has the tendency to lead back to its origin or starting-point, according to its inherent law. In reality, however, it can never return to the same point in space, since this movement itself moves within the frame of a greater system of relationships. Such a movement combines the principle of change and nonreversibility with a constancy of an unchangeable law, which we may call its rhythm. One might say that this movement contains an element of eternity as well as an element of transiency, which latter we feel as time.

Both time and space (No!) are the outcomes of movement, and if we speak of the “curvature of space” we should speak likewise of the “curvature of time,” because time is not a progression in a straight line- of which the beginning (the past) is lost forever and which pierces into the endless vacuum of an inexorable future- but something that recoils upon itself, something that is subject to the laws of ever-recurrent similar situations, and which thus combines change with stability. Each of these situations is enriched by new contents, while at the same time, retaining its essential character. Thus we cannot speak of a mechanical repetition of the same events, but only of an organic rebirth of its elements, on account of which even within the flux of events the stability of law is discernable. Upon the recognition of such a law which governs the elements (or the elementary forms of appearance) of all events, is the basis upon which the I-Ching or “The Book of Changes,” the oldest work of Chinese wisdom, is built.

Perhaps this work would better be called “The Book of the Principles of Transformation” because it demonstrates that change is not arbitrary or accidental but dependent on laws, according to which each thing or state of existence can only change into something already inherent in its own nature, and not into something altogether different. It also demonstrates the equally important law of periodicity, according to which change follows a cyclic movement (like the heavenly bodies, the seasons, the hours of the day, etc.), representing the eternal in time and converting time quasi into a higher space-dimension, in which things and events exist simultaneously, though imperceptible to the senses. They are in a state of potentiality, as invisible germs or elements of future events and phenomena that have not yet stepped into actual reality. 

This sameness- or as we may say just as well, this eternal presence of the “Body of the Law” (dharmakaya), which is common to all Buddhas, to all Enlightened Ones- is the source and spiritual foundation of all enlightenment and is, therefore, placed in the center of the Kalacakra-Mandala, which is the symbolical representation of the universe. Kala means “time” (also “black”), namely the invisible, incommensurable dynamic principle, inherent in all things and represented in Buddhist iconography, as a black, many-headed, many-armed, terrifying figure of simultaneously divine and demoniacal nature. It is “terrible” to the ego-bound individual, whose ego is trampled underfoot, just as are all the gods, created in the ego’s likeness, who are shown prostrate under the feet of this terrifying figure. Time is the power that governs all things and all being, a power to which even the highest gods have to submit.

Cakra means “wheel,” the focalized or concentric manifestation of the dynamic principle in space. In the ancient tradition of Yoga the Chakra signifies the spatial unfoldment of spiritual or universal power, as for instance in the chakras or psychic centers of the human body or in the case of the Cakravartin, the world-ruler who embodies the all-encompassing moral and spiritual powers. 

In one of his previous books on Buddhist Tantrisim, H.V. Guenther compares the Kalacakra symbol to the modern conception of the space-time continuum, pointing out, however, that in Buddhism it is not merely a philosophical or mathematical construction, but is based on the direct perception of inner experience, according to which time and space are inseparable aspects of reality. 

“Only in our minds we tend to separate the three dimensions of space and the one of time. We have an awareness of space and an awareness of time. But this separation is purely subjective. As a matter of fact, modern physics has shown that the time dimension can no more be detached from the space dimension than length can be detached breadth and thickness in an accurate representation of a house, a tree, or Mr X. Space has no objective reality except as an order or arrangement of things we perceive in it, and time has no independent existence from the order of events by which we measure it.” (Guenther, Yuganaddha, The Tantric View of Life, 1952)

Both space and time are two aspects of the most fundamental quality of life: movement. Here we come to the rock-bottom of direct experience, which the Buddha stressed in his emphasis upon the dynamic character of reality, in contrast to the generally prevailing notions and philosophical abstractions of a static Atmavada, in which an eternal and unchangeable ego-entity was proclaimed. (The original concept of atman was that of a universal, rhythmic force, the living breath of life- comparable to the Greek “pneuma” – that pervaded the individual as well as the universe.) 

“We ourselves create mathematical time. It is a mental construct, an abstraction indispensable to the building up of science. We conveniently compare it to a straight line, each successive instant being represented by a point. Since Galileo’s days this abstraction has been substituted for the concrete data resulting from the direct observation of things… In reducing objects to their primary qualities- that is, to what can be measured and is susceptible of mathematical treatment- Galileo deprived them of their secondary qualities, and of duration. This arbitrary simplification made possible the development of physics. At the same time it led to an unwarrantably schematic conception of the world.” (Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown)

Indeed it led to a science which was based on a “post mortem” of our world, on the static end-results of what was once alive, a world of facts and dead matter.

“The concept of time is equivalent to the operation required to estimate duration in the objects of our universe. Duration consists of the superimposition of the different aspects of an identity. It is a kind of intrinsic movement of things… A tree grows and does not lose its identity. The human individual retains his personality throughout the flux of the organic and mental processes that make up his life. Each inanimate or living being comprises an inner motion, a succession of states, a rhythm which is his very own. Such motion is inherent time… In short, time is the specific character of things… It is truly a dimension of ourselves. 

An experience of reality (and that is all we can talk of, because “reality as such” is another abstraction) cannot be defined but only circumscribed, i.e., it cannot be approached by the straight line of two-dimensional logic, but only in a concentric way, by moving around it, approaching it not only from one side, but from all sides, without stopping at any particular point. Only in this way can we avoid a one-sided and perspectively foreshortened and distorted view, and arrive at a balanced, unprejudiced perception and knowledge. This concentric approach (which moves closer and closer around its object, in order finally- in the ideal case- to become one with it) is the exact opposite of the Western analytical and dissecting way of observation: it is the integral concentration of inner vision (dhyana).

What does time mean from the standpoint of experience? Most people would answer: duration! But duration we have, even when there is no experience of time, as in deep sleep. The experience of time, therefore, is something more than duration: it is movement. Movement of what? Either of ourselves or of something within or outside ourselves.

But now the paradox:

The less we move (inwardly or outwardly) the more we are aware of time. The more we move ourselves, the less we are aware of time. A person who is mentally and bodily inactive feels time as a burden, while one who is active hardly notices the passage of time. Those who move in perfect harmony with the innermost rhythm of their being, the pulsating rhythm of the universe within them, are timeless in the sense that they do not experience time anymore. Those who move and live in disharmony with this inner rhythm, have existence without inherent duration, i.e., merely momentary existence without direction or spiritual continuity and, therefore, without meaning. 

What we call “eternal” is not an indefinite duration of time (which is a mere thought-construction, unrelated to any experience) but the experience of timelessness.

Time cannot be reversed. Even if we go back the same way, it is not the same, because the sequence of landmarks is changed, and moreover, we see them from the opposite direction- or as in memory, with the added knowledge of previous experience. The experience of time is due to movement plus memory. Memory is comparable to the layers of year-rings in a tree. Each layer is a material addition, an addition of experience-material, which alters the value of any new experience, so that even repetition can never produce identical results. 

Life- like time- is an irreversible process, and those who speak of eternal recurrence of identical events and individuals (as Ouspensky in his book, A New Model of the Universe) mistake rhythm or periodicity for mechanical repetition. It is the most shallow view that any thinker can arrive at, and it shows the dilemma into which scientific determinism is bound to lead. It is typical of the intellect which has lost its connection with reality and which replaces life with the phantoms of empty abstraction. This kind of reasoning leads to a purely stagnant and mechanical world-view, ending in a blind alley.

Whether the universe as a whole can change or not is quite irrelevant; important alone is that there is a genuine creative advance possible for the individual and that the past that is ever growing in him as a widening horizon of experience and wisdom will continue so to grow until the individual has reached the state in which the universe becomes conscious in him as one living organism, not only as an abstract unity or a state of featureless oneness. This is the highest dimension of consciousness.

What do we understand by dimension? The capacity to extend or to move in a certain direction. If we move outward, we can only do so in three dimensions, i.e. we cannot go beyond our three-dimensional space. The movement, however, which produces and contains these dimensions is felt as time, as long as the movement is incomplete or as long as the dimensions are in the making, i.e. not conceived as a complete whole. The feeling of time is the feeling of incompleteness. For this reason there is no time in moments of higher awareness, intuitive vision or perfect realization. There is no time for the Enlightened Ones. 

This does not mean that for an Enlightened One the past has been extinguished or memory blotted out. On the contrary, the past ceases to be a quality of time and becomes a new order of space, which we may call the Fourth Dimension, in which things and events which we have experienced piecemeal can be seen simultaneously, in their entirety, and in the present. Thus the Buddha in the process of his enlightenment surveyed innumerable previous lives in ever widening vistas, until his vision encompassed the entire universe. Only if we recognize the past as “a true dimension of ourselves,” and not only as an abstract property of time, shall we be able to see ourselves in proper perspective to the universe, which is not an alien element that surrounds us mysteriously, but the very body of our past, in whose womb we dream until we awake into the freedom of enlightenment. 

That the gods of Buddhist iconography and their symbols and functions do not belong in the realm of metaphysics, but to that of psychology, has been correctly pointed out by C.G. Jung in his Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower. Speaking of the great Eastern philosophers, he says: “I suspect them of being symbolical psychologists, to whom no greater wrong could be done than to take them literally. If it were really metaphysics that they mean, it would be useless to try to understand them. But if it is psychology, we can not only understand them, but we can greatly profit greatly by them, for then the so-called ‘metaphysical’ comes within the range of experience. If I accept the fact that a god is absolute and beyond all human experiences, he leaves me cold. I do not affect him, nor does he affect me. But if I know that a god is a powerful impulse in my soul, at once I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important… like everything belonging to the sphere of reality.” 

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977

Article source here
Image source unknown but greatly appreciated


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How to Destroy a Relationship in a Few Easy Steps

So, you have been waiting for this one ideal person and here she or he is. As soon as the love rush is over you start working on your lover like a sculptor trying to improve what bothers you. Stop, or you will destroy your relationship. But if this is what you really want, here is how to do it right.

By Gina Lake
  • Be honest about everything you don't like about your partner.
  • Get angry every time your partner doesn't live up to your expectations or do what you want. Or whine and complain a lot or withhold sex.
  • Try to improve your partner and shape him or her into your ideal mate, presumably for his or her own good.
  • Expect your partner to make you feel good and make you happy.
  • Blame your partner whenever anything goes wrong.
  • Remind your partner of his or her past mistakes.
  • Carry a negative image around of your partner, and notice all the ways your partner fits that image.
  • Reinforce your negative image of your partner by complaining about him or her to your friends.
  • Don't notice all the good and helpful things your partner does or what you love about your partner, just what he or she doesn't do well or what you don't like.
  • Expect your partner to change just because you want him or her to change.
  • Express your negative feelings to your partner whenever they come up.
  • Don't do things just to please him or her.
  • Don't ever say "I'm sorry," "Thank you," or other nice things.
  • Fantasize about being with someone else, especially while you're having sex with your partner.
  • Constantly process your feelings with your partner. Try to be each other's therapist.

We all have done these things in our relationships. We do some of these things because doing them is the path of least resistance, even though the results don't bring us the love we want. In other cases, we believe it is the way to relate to others. However, relationships work much better when certain principles are followed. Here are just a few:

• Keep your judgments and negative thoughts and feelings to yourself. If there is something you don't like about your partner, the problem is not your partner, but that you don't like something. Once you realize this, it is possible to choose love over your preferences and desires. When we choose to accept our partner the way he or she is, love flows outward from within us to our partner, and that love is likely to be returned. But when we judge or try to change our partner to fit our "needs," expectations, and preferences, it is not a loving act: We stop the outflow of love from within us, and we are likely to stop the outflow of love from within the person we are judging or trying to change. Judgment stops and eventually kills love. No matter what you think or what you might prefer, your opinions, judgments, beliefs, and desires are not more important than love. If you make them more important than love, you will lose love.

• Recognize and express gratitude often for what you appreciate about your partner. Notice what you love, and ignore and don't focus on what you don't like. Noticing what you love will get the love flowing between you. Noticing what you don't like will stop the love flowing.

• Don't bring the past into the present moment. The past is gone, and only the present moment is real. Respond to the person who is in front of you, not to your images and ideas about him or her that you carry around with you. Try to see your partner freshly in this moment. And don't bring fantasies into the present moment. Be with the one you are with fully for as long as you are with that person. Don't waste your attention on memories or fantasies. Put your attention on what is real and true now. Love flows to whatever you give your attention to. If you give your attention to memories and fantasies, you won't be giving it to the real person in front of you. Love is attention.

• Take responsibility for your feelings. If you have a negative feeling, you created it by telling yourself something. What did you just tell yourself that caused you to feel that way? Your partner can't cause you to feel a certain way, and it isn't in his or her power to change how you feel. You create your experience of life by what you tell yourself about life and whatever is happening.

• Let your partner be the way he or she is. You are not in this world to change and improve your partner. That is your partner's business - and life's. Life has a way of evolving all of us. Accepting others is the greatest gift you can give them, and they will love you for that.

• Make yourself happy. It isn't your partner's responsibility to make you happy. Learn to be happy within yourself. Happiness isn't something you get from something or someone outside yourself, but an attitude that you choose. You become happy by choosing to love life just as it happens to be showing up in the moment and by choosing to love your partner just as he or she happens to be showing up in the moment.


Image source here

Friday, April 1, 2016

April, April

It was a bright cold day in April, 
and the clocks were striking 

George Orwell in "1984"