“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Original Blessing

I completely disagree, which inspired this little rhyme:

Church on Sunday is a fossilized vision,
CPR for a heart-dead religion.
Words dried in ink on pages,
Is not true Tao, say all the sages!

Spirit breathes, it flows! It waltzes in the weather,
It’s found in children’s laughter; not bound in antique leather.
Tired old rituals just make you sleep and nod
While Shakti surges as the Ever-Living God.

So on Sunday, stay in bed and practice Tantra,
Let "O God, I'm coming!" be your honest mantra.
May all lovers feel the real spiritual delight
Of rising up, up, up into the Lotus of Light.

But what if you’re not into Tantra and you’re not a Bhakta?
Well, good old-fashioned passion is guaranteed to rock ya!
Great sex is infinitely more healing than listening to preachings
About imaginary devils and women-hating teachings.

So allow me to introduce my own concept of church
(In the hope that eager readers will start their own research):
I simply worship the Goddess, Who smells and tastes divine.
She gladly blesses me in these hungry prayers of mine.

From morning until noon in the Heaven of Appetite
We dance and we spoon to the fires we ignite.
I kiss her as my liturgy; I lick her as my hymn.
I enter in her temple, which makes her come again.

At last we find our naked souls languishing in the Garden
Where all our roughness and our sins have healed and been pardoned.
Sexual Love is the Original Blessing, not the original curse!
And the congregation of our church is the total universe.

Indeed, Shakti is making love through all the streams of living.
Through birth and death and everything, she is now-ever giving.
The Goddess is not modest! Prudes would scream themselves hoarse
If they knew—truly knew—how Orgasmic is Our Source.

Monday, March 10, 2014

'Self' Emerges

What does it mean to say "self" is an emergent phenomenon? Here's an explanatory excerpt from my novel "Orchard of My Eye":

“Neuroscientists tend to think of ‘self’ as an emergent phenomenon, like team spirit. Let’s say a group of guys get together to play soccer. They pool their talent and skills, enthusiasm and so forth—they interact—and team spirit emerges. Follow me?”


“So the experience of team spirit is real enough while it appears—it’s felt by all the team members and even by others—but team spirit has no vital essence that survives the breakup of the team. Team spirit has no ‘soul.’ As soon as the team disbands—poof!—the phenomenon, or process, called team spirit no longer exists.”


“Now, did team spirit go somewhere? North, South, East, West? Off to heaven?” he asked. “No. It just stopped arising. Another specimen of it will emerge whenever the necessary ingredients come together.”

“Two guys, a football game, and a six-pack of beer,” Aria said.

“In the same way, the self—the sense of ‘yourself’ as an independent entity—is an emergent process. The self emerges from the synergism of the senses, language, memories, and so forth. These simpler parts interact to give rise to a working sense of selfhood. But the self has no essence that exists independently of these senses and thoughts and all the little algorithms busy making something wonderfully complex out of simple parts.”

“What about the soul?”

“No such entity.”

“So you’re saying the self is just an illusion. This is Buddhism you’re throwing at me, Nat.”

“Actually, this is neuroscience I’m throwing at you. And no, I did not say the self is an illusion. Like ‘team spirit,’ it’s very real when it exists, even though it isn’t eternally real at all.”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

“In other words, it’s real enough to say, ‘I feel angry,’ and ‘I am an American,’ and ‘I blew my driver’s test,’ and ‘I can’t stand licorice.’  It’s also correct to say, ‘do not exist aside from a temporary, emergent phenomenon. There is no abiding substance that is self.”

“Yep. Zen Buddhism. Thought so.”

“Not just Zen. Others have said the same thing. The Greek philosopher Epicurus said, ‘Death is nothing to us, because when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist.’”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Infantile Philosophy of "Oops!"

12 Tenets of Holons

Some complain that the contemporary science philosopher Ken Wilber is too tough to understand. Here’s a 6-minute video I made of one of his most important ideas—HOLONS. See if you get it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Awakeness of Those Who Are Awake

A Zen student asked her spiritual guide, “What is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” (This is the same as asking, “What is the awakeness of those who are awake?”)
            “The enlightenment of the Buddhas,” her teacher answered, “is the nature of ordinary awareness.”
            What is the nature of ordinary awareness?

  1. Our real nature is not any knowledge that must be learned.
Studying the Pali language, for example, or learning about the “chakra system,” is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be learned (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not anything that is hidden or secret.
Being initiated into a secret practice, a secret mantra, a secret text, and so forth, is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be kept secret and must be discovered or revealed (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any experience or state that must be attained. Archetypal visions, ecstasies of energy, “rising through the lotus of light,” and so forth, are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Subtle visions,[1] energies, inner lights and other higher psychic phenomena that may occur (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any body-mind condition that must be held in place. Manipulating and controlling the body-mind and life-force by intellectual effort, or by celibacy, diet, or yogic practices (such as concentration on energy channels, or continuous prayer, or breathing techniques) are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever conditions must be maintained through effort (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature can only be that which is always, already real.
We are not identical to any object or changing state of the body-mind, no matter how subtle or glorious. Our truth must be the ever-present capacity of all possible states of body and mind, “low” and “high.” Our original nature is not bound to time (not a matter of becoming), nor bound to space (not “within” or “without”—indeed, not locatable anywhere). Our reality is the Irreducible Mystery that undermines the seeker and all seeking. It is the awakeness of those who are awake, the nature of ordinary awareness, the timeless conscious being, who stands already free as the Heart, the Real Person, depending on nothing.

[1] A Zen fable goes: A beginning meditator exclaimed to his teacher in a gush of emotion, “I had a vision of the Buddha, seated on a lotus throne, surrounded by beatific beings!” His teacher replied, “Don’t be concerned. Just keep on meditating and such stuff will go away.”

Friday, February 28, 2014

Zombies Need Not Apply

Seekers like to idealize “egoless” persons. Gurus, saints and spiritual masters are supposedly “egoless”. I’ve spent time in the company of a number of famous gurus and not one of them was egoless. A few of them, in fact, were egomaniacs (but that’s a different point).

It’s boorish at best to be an egomaniac. But, on the other hand, there is no use striving to be “egoless.” Even the greatest Buddhas who ever lived had functioning egos. You can be certain of this, because to be without a functioning ego is to be utterly helpless.
There are only four completely egoless states:
  • newborn babies
  • deep (dreamless) sleep
  • coma or vegetative states
  • trance-absorption in formless, super-mental consciousness.[1]
None of these egoless states is permanent (even coma is resolved at death). If you are not presently abiding in one of these temporary egoless states, then be assured, you are not presently egoless.
            In the fullness of enlightenment the ego arises and works just fine. The “I” sense is apparent, but it does not hamper the feeling of free being. Ego—the individual-bodily-self point of view—is recognized as an operating program for organizing experience and functioning in the world.
The operating program called ego emerges from both “hardware” and “software.” The “hardware” of ego pertains to the brain’s wiring for language and thought; the “software” of ego refers to cultural conditionings and individual experiences overlaid on the self-idea.[2]
Ego is handy for driving a car, buying groceries, writing books on enlightenment, cashing huge royalty checks, paying taxes, etc., and it remains transparent to the mood of wonder, humor and freedom. Then, during periods of formal meditation (and also deep sleep), when awareness relaxes beyond even the noticing of external or internal data, ego melts away like a salt doll dropped into the ocean.

There is no need to kill the ego. No possibility of it, either! Just see it for what it is. In periods of stillness and quiet investigation (meditation), learn to see beyond the software. To fear or hate ego is a belly-ache from partially digested Eastern philosophy. Mature teachings have criticized this futile path of trying to destroy the ego.

  1. Ego-“I” is not within (interior) to the body-mind. “I” names the whole body-mind.

  1. Ego-“I” (the whole body itself) is the sophisticated creation of billions of years of psycho-physical evolution.

  1. There is nothing independent about ego. “I” is a functional unit of the total cosmos.

  1. The multi-dimensional human body-mind itself is ego, and it is the crown of creation!

  1. Acknowledge the ordeal of Original Mind evolving in biological form: amoebas to trilobites to dinosaurs to primates to hominids to self-consciousness (ego). Praise the ego!

You can try to eliminate or block the ego. (But ask yourself who is trying, pal.) Or, you can live each moment as Wholeness, in which case, you’ll find that ego comes and goes all by itself. Where is ego during moments of deeply focused involvement—the “flow” of athletes, musicians and artists? Ego also vanishes in deep sleep and meditation, during passionate lovemaking, and in many other moments of “flow.”
Whether ego appears or disappears, ego is not the enemy. The “I”-sense does not prevent happiness or enlightenment. Indeed, even after a person enjoys oceanic states of ego-dissolution, of absolutely selfless being, the ego-“I” comes back on-line, all by itself. This should not be surprising: after all, every night the ego vanishes in deep sleep, and every morning it pops up again in the waking state. This tells you all you need to know about the ordinary usefulness of the “I”-program.
“I” is not our True Nature, and not everlasting. Again, it is only a biologically-based system for organizing experience and bodily functioning. But as long as it appears, “I” is a feature in the process of True Nature. Like the ocean is waving, God (Who else?) is ego-ing. “I” is an aspect of Original Mind.
Not the much-maligned ego, but rather, separative activity—the unwillingness to love, to relate, to participate, to share, to live as peace—is the true obstruction of happiness.


Now let’s live and work and play and die without beating our poor heads against an imaginary problem. You and me.

Zombies need not apply.

[1] A Sanskrit term for this state is nirvikalpa samadhi. I prefer to call it deep wake, or dreamless wake, since it is to enter the previously “unconscious” realm of deep sleep while remaining wide awake. It is the experience of awareness prior to all qualifications—a luminous boundless void that Buddhists have called Original Face or Clear Light Mind.

[2] In large part, the ego-construct is based on language. Prior to about two years old, an infant is basically egoless. Then children rapidly develop the ability to talk and at the same time acquire a conceptual self-image: “I,” “me,” “myself,” “mine.” These factors together—brain-wiring, cultural overlays and personal experiences—form the ego, the self-system named “I.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Archetypes and Synographs

An ARCHETYPE is a collectively-inherited idea or image that shows up as a recurring symbol in literature and art and mythology (and even technology), found in cultures widespread in space and time. SYNOGRAPHS are different graphics (such as the ying-yang symbol and the Star of David) that actually convey the same meaning.