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Why?

StarsWhat is it about humans that makes us unique? Although we are very much like a more ‘intelligent’ version of our ape cousins, we also have an awareness that there is something about humans that is distinct, beyond just having bigger brains. Scientists and anthropologists have grappled with this question. Each time we think we have the answer it proves false. We used to think it was our ability to make and use tools, but then it was discovered that apes make and use tools. We thought it might be our capacity for language, but it was discovered that apes can learn language easily, showing their brains are wired for language as well. Finally, scientists found something humans do that apes do not, and it was rather surprising: Humans ask why. In an experiment conducted at the Cognitive Evolution Group Research Center, apes were given a simple task – they had to set two L shaped blocks upright, standing them on the long end, and they would get a treat. After learning this task, the scientists then gave them a trick block which was weighted on one end so that it would always fall over. The apes would then enter the experiment room, try to set the block upright in anticipation of a treat, and the block would fall over. They would try again, and again and again until they eventually gave up. When human children were given the same experiment, they would set up the weighted block and it would fall over. After a couple more tries, the children would begin to examine the block, turning it over, observing it, shaking it, hitting it, doing various things to it to try and understand why it was falling over. They were looking for evidence of the unseen force which caused the block to fall. They were trying to find the why behind it. This is something the apes do not do, it is a human trait.

This desire to understand why has driven humans to discover many things about the world and the universe, looking for the unseen force behind what we see has driven both religion and science to try and explain our existence. It has driven us to discover the science of physics, to understand gravity, to find everything from quarks to other galaxies. It is also what makes us search for some reason behind our very existence. The animal does not question its own existence, it simply is. This is a beautiful state of being and one which allows the animal to be in present moment, and we have a lot to learn from them in this way. In spite of the fact that the animal’s life may be one survival struggle after another, the animal does not question why, they simply experience what they experience in the moment – good, bad or ugly. We, on the other hand, need to know why. Why are we here? Is there some deeper reason, some unseen force which drives my existence? From this line of questioning we discover the soul, and from the soul we re-discover our connection to all things. We are a kind of consciousness which questions itself, it questions why it is conscious in the first place. What is my purpose? Is there a reason for my existence or is it just random and meaningless? Why are things this way, and not some other way?

If you find yourself on a spiritual quest, it is usually driven by these types of questions. These questions are powerful catalysts for growth. In many cases the journey of the wondering soul begins with questions that come from a place of deep pain – questions such as “Why is there suffering? Why is there death?” These were the questions which drove the Buddha, among others. This type of question comes from the child within, the joyful and playful spirit which simply wants to Be, who has been suddenly confronted with a paradox it cannot sort out and cannot ignore. This paradox is the dissonance between what the person feels and ‘knows’ from some deep intuitive place inside themselves – that the universe is a good place – and the apparent evidence before them which seems to show the opposite. Confronted with this paradox, it is human nature to ask – why?

Sometimes as the ego gradually matures it will leave the childlike innocence behind in favor of a more dour view of the world; a view where life, meaninglessness and suffering are part and parcel to one another. From this point of view, nothing has meaning. Since the pain one experiences seems to have no meaning, then by extension nothing else does either. With no meaning, all appears random, nothing seems to connect and there appears to be no God. In other words, there appears to be no ‘why’ behind one’s existence. Because thinking creates reality, things keep showing up in one’s life which further confirm this ‘truth’ that it is all meaningless and disconnected. This is the dark night of the soul, the place where connection to the whole is lost. But, as the Persian mystic and poet Rumi so eloquently says: “Many have died searching for You as You hide behind the scenes, but this pain is not for those who come as Lovers.” The lover is the one who is not in resistance, and seeks beauty. Beauty opens the heart chakra which allows unconditional love to return, and from there you return to the joy of being. The answers to the why questions then become less important than the truth of love and connection. It is true many become lost in the dark night on the journey of life, but the key is maintaining the child-like innocence, the connection to unconditional love and joy of being that we all come into the world with. The pain is not for those who come as lovers. As we resolve this paradox, as we follow beauty through the jungle of ‘why?’, the way will become clear.

Blessings on your journey,
Rhea Jamil

Questions You Can’t Ask in Sunday School: Where did God Come From?

Galaxy

This would have been a blasphemous question at one time, and there is always part of me that loves these kinds of questions.  If it was once blasphemous, and it still can’t be asked in Sunday school, then it must be onto something.  Growing up in a traditional religious fashion, this was one of my earliest questions – if God created everything, then who or what created God?  I remember hearing a story once about a culture of people who believed that the earth rested on the back of a giant turtle.  When an anthropologist asked what the turtle was standing on, the reply was – ‘that’s easy, it’s turtles all the way down.’  I’m not even sure this is a true story but is illustrates my point – the elephant in the room of all thinking about any God, or turtles holding up the earth – is where did they come from in the first place?  What creates them?  What is the origin?  Then, as I grew spiritually and begin to see God as consciousness itself, as consciousness which is the creative force behind all things and is also in all things including me and you, the question of where did God come from also becomes the question of where did we come from, where did everything come from?  What was the original impetus that created all there is?  Just as scientists struggle to explain the beginning of the universe, we begin to realize it is all the same question.  How did the Universe, or God, come into being in the first place, and why?

So, what does science tell us about where it all came from?  We know there was the big bang, but where did the energy for the big bang come from?  The answer is (drum roll please…) from nothing.  From nothing, came everything.  The truth is, scientists don’t really understand what banged or what caused it to bang, and all the evidence suggests that before there was everything, there was nothing.  The big bang was the creation of time itself, of matter, energy and space, none of which existed before the big bang.  So, as we grabble with the scientific explanation, let’s turn to religion to see what it has to say.  I’m no biblical scholar and I rarely quote the Bible (for me the truest scripture is within), but there are some gems in there and I always liked the first line of the book of John which describes the beginning of creation – it says – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Everything was made through Him and without Him was not anything made.”  The “Word,” used in this sense, is the essence of creation itself.  It is the impetus, the vibration that has awakened consciousness and existence.  The Word is with God and is God.  “With” God implies outside of God – as something that is with something else is separate from it, even though it is with it.  But the Word also is God.  So God is simultaneously along side of creation (“with” it) and creation itself, and creation itself happens at the beginning – which must be the beginning of time.  God is both the subject and object of creation.

Furthermore, and here’s the kicker for me – “…without God was not anything made”.  It is the term “without” that strikes me here.  “Without” implying the lack of existence of God.  So, without God, there was nothing, with God, there was everything.  So, from nothing, came everything.  Sounding familiar?  This is what the science tells us as well, as strange as it is – everything came from nothing.  This first sentence in the Bible is not implying that God existed before creation, but that God was, and is, creation itself.  God is the big bang.  God is everything that exists.  God is the word, the word is creation, creation is God, and so on in an eternal loop.  There are others who will interpret this differently, but I believe this is a valid interpretation that is in harmony with what science tells us – that nothing, not even time, or God, existed “before” the moment of creation, and that everything, including time, and God, existed and was created at the moment of creation or what we call the big bang.  God popped into existence out of nothing.  God is creator and the creation itself.  The beginning and the end.  Ultimately, neither science nor the Bible give any specific cause for creation.  It seems that it simply happened.  The Universe has no cause.  But really this is not a surprise, after all the concept of ‘God’ would be the one who has no cause, but is the cause itself.  It appears the last turtle is standing on itself, and thus it is, in fact, turtles all the way down.

This is something I was spurred to write in response to Seven Hawking’s assertion that there is no God because there was nothing before the moment of creation – there was no energy, matter, space or time before the big bang, so there could not be a God.  He’s both right and wrong in my opinion, and much of it hinges on your perception of God.  Since I see God and creation as one, I see no conflict between the science of the big bang and the philosophy of God as creation itself and the creative force within creation.

Love and light

Rhea Jamil

The infinite moment

infinity

When I was a child I became fascinated the concept of forever. I tried to imaging it – forever – something that never ends. Since I grew up with the notion that eternity in heaven awaits us, I would try and imagine that. I tried to imagine existing in heaven, or in any form, forever. I tried to imagine a timeline stretching out into space and going on and on forever. And try as I might, I just could not. It even frightened me a little. How can something go on forever? Have no beginning and no end? If you really put your mind to that question it is bound to drive you a little insane. That is because we are wired to think in a linear manner. If you are thinking linearly, there is no way to understand the infinite. A line has to have a beginning and an end. Something has to come before, then after, then again after that, etc. The infinite is non-linear, it does not have a before and an after. In fact it does not have any quantity at all. You cannot add or subtract from infinity. What is infinity minus 1, or infinity minus a zillion? There is no such number. Even a zillion is still a set quantity, large as it is, it is not infinite. There is no number in existence that can express the infinite, because there are no quantities in the infinite, it simply is.  To help begin to grasp this concept let’s look at something which is infinite which is part of your common experience: the moment that we refer to as “now.” When did that ‘now’ moment begin? You could say, well, it began a second ago. But that is not the case, because that second is now in the past, it is no longer now. When does now end? You could say it will end in a second, but again, that second is in the future, it is not now. In reality, now has no beginning, and it has no end. You cannot add or subtract from the moment we call now. It is infinite. It is the only moment in existence. It is the only moment you ever have creative access to, so it is all there is.  Past and future are only in the mind.

Physics even tells us that time is an illusion.  Physicists cannot come up with any ‘proof’ that time exists.  In truth there really is no time, there is only now. However, what we perceive as time is actually the space in which evolution occurs.   Evolution can only go in one direction, thus our perception of the linear nature of time.  The past is therefore the space that contains our earlier forms, it contains the progression of evolution of your being to what you are.  The past can be learned from, but does not need to influence your Now.  The Now moment is a new creation, an opportunity to evolve and to release what needs to be released.  Quantum leaps are possible and happen all the time, former ways of being do not need to be clung to in order to evolve, in fact clinging is what impedes evolution.  In actuality the past has no bearing on the Now other than what we give it. 

The future, like the past, does not really exist, however the ‘future’ is about trusting within the Now moment, which means living without fear.  Future is where fear lives for most of us.  When we learn to live in trust instead of fear is when we begin to awaken to the infinite Now, and that is when those quantum leaps of insight, awareness or inspiration become possible.  We cannot cross the gap with fear, it will always block our path.  Trust is the only way forward.  That is when we embrace the moment and harness its creative power, without needing the past to tell us what to do or how to do it.  Are you an athlete who has experienced the ‘zone’, or an artist who has become completely consumed in your art form to the point you lose track of anything but your own self expression?  Have you ever had a lightning bolt of insight or inspiration that just ‘comes’ to you? These are the experiences of knowing the infinite moment.  You have no fear in those moments, you also have nothing from the past which holds you back.  You are connected to the infinite.   Meditation is the quickest way to find this space intentionally.  Sit quietly and observe your breath.  Let all thoughts that come to you pass through without judgment.  Observe your thoughts without becoming or identifying with them.  Find the awareness behind your thoughts.  Slowly the stillness will seep in and in that stillness, you will find the infinite Now. 

-Rhea Jamil

 

Limiting the Infinite

  

The Adoration of the Golden Calf

The Adoration of the Golden Calf

The divine has no limits. The more limits one tries to put on the divine, the farther they are from the whole truth. Those who tend to cling to narrow, dogmatic or fanatic belief systems are putting strict limits on something that is limitless. In some ways this is necessary. It is hard for the human mind to grasp something infinite, so putting some boundary conditions on the divine helps us. However the stricter those boundaries are, the more they constrict the whole infinite truth, and then it begins to look like something that is not divine at all. It can turn into something intolerant. One is only seeing a tiny point of the whole and is convinced that tiny point is the whole, insisting that anyone seeing something different is wrong. Since they have captured the whole of the divine inside a tiny, narrow point of view, they can tolerate very little opposition to that. One who sees a bigger picture will be less likely to be offended if something in their perspective is challenged, in fact they may welcome the challenge because they can see how it might help them expand. Someone who sees only the narrow view of the divine will cling to it since any challenge could be the final blow to their entire belief system. It is like having a house of cards instead of a house made of bricks. The slightest wind will blow down the house of cards, so the owner of that house feels a desperate need to defend it against all potential opposition, even a gentle breeze. The one in the brick house has no need to fear a gentle breeze. I believe this is the true message behind the much miss-interpreted meaning of the prohibition against idol worship in Judeo-Christian religion. It is not that one should never try and express the divine through symbols, for that in and of itself is basic to human nature and poses no problem. The problem is when you limit the totality of the divine within something that is too small or narrow to contain it. If all the power of the divine resides inside a golden calf for you, then you are in trouble. What happens if someone destroys the golden calf? If you truly believe the divine resides there, you will easily become terrified that anything will happen to it. That fear then becomes your driver, it becomes the place that you react from instead of love. Even though your original motivation, to protect what you perceive as divine, is not inherently evil. Most of the more orthodox traditions are meant to create peace and harmony within a group. This is a noble cause. It backfires only because the narrow point of view becomes difficult to defend. The traditions that take a broader view, or the individuals who choose a broader view of the divine are less likely to react from fear. The divine encompasses so much they do not feel the defensiveness. They can see the divine in the pages of a book as well as the tree, the sky, the love in their partners’ eyes, the song of the sea, the vastness of space, the laughter of their child. It is not contained in a small, narrow place where it needs defending.

Rhea Jamil