Tag Archive | Religion and Spirituality

The Book of Job

ImageI started thinking recently about the story of Job in the Bible.  I don’t know about you, but I always disliked this story.  The story always left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I think many people feel that way about it.  However I recently began to see this story from an angle which makes more sense and teaches us about the nature of the human condition and the nature of suffering.  So the story of Job in a nutshell is:  Job is a happy guy who loves God, has a loving family and lives in abundance.  The devil one day challenges God and says that Job would not love God anymore if he did not have the abundance and happiness that God had given him.  To prove the devil wrong, God allows the devil to take everything from Job.  Job loses his family, his wealth, his land, his health, everything – except his own life.  When Job challenges God asking why, God answers him by telling him that he cannot know the depth and greatness of God, that he cannot understand the infinite nature of God.  So on the surface this appears to be a story about a mean God who would rather win a bet with the devil than protect one of his own.  But let’s go deeper and look at it from the higher perspective of oneness.  First, we know that in actuality God and self are not separate.  Thus God in the story can be seen as the higher self of Job.  The devil is therefore the lower self of Job.  One thing to notice is that things only start going wrong for Job when the devil enters the picture.  When it is just him and God everything is abundance and happiness, it is the devil’s willingness to bet against happiness that starts the cascade of negative events.  I do not believe in the devil, but there is an energy which the devil represents.  The devil represents the polar opposite of the higher self.  The higher self is always in alignment with the universe, the ‘devil’ is that which is not in alignment, it is that which allows you to believe that you are separate from God, separate from your higher self.  Sometimes this part of oneself is referred to as Ego.  To be clear, Ego is not evil, but Ego is the aspect of you which allows you to perceive yourself as a separate entity in the universe, and therefore can lead to a belief that you are separate from God (though it does not have to).  Ego is the ‘lower self’ not because it is bad or wrong, but only because distinct from the whole, rather than the connection to the whole itself, which is what the higher self is.

Many of us live in relative abundance while simultaneously worrying that if we lose what we have, that we would lose ourselves too.  Who would I be if I lost everything?  How would I survive?  If my happiness is gone, what is the purpose anymore?  In other words, if I lost everything, if the things that make me happy go away, would I ever be able to align with my higher self again (and recognize that ‘aligning with higher self’ could be considered another way of saying ‘love God’)?  We think it’s easy to align with our higher selves (i.e. – be ‘happy’, or ‘love God’) while we are in abundance, and that it would be hard if we are not in abundance.  This however is backward thinking, because alignment with source, with higher self, is where abundance flows from.  Abundance is not required first in order to have connection to higher self, rather connection with higher self is required first to have abundance.  Abundance means happiness, it does not mean material wealth alone.  Remember many who are very wealthy are also very unhappy, so that is not true abundance.  True abundance extends to all areas of life and translates into true contentment, joy and peace in life. 

Back to Job.  This is essentially a story, a cautionary tale of you will, of what occurs when the lower self (ego, played here by the devil) is allowed to challenge the higher self (God).  Because we are free beings, we are allowed to do this, we are allowed to follow our ego instead of our highest selves if we choose this.  From this perspective, Job is not a victim, rather this is a choice Job makes on another level.  This leads to disastrous consequences, in a word – suffering.  Job suffers when the ego is allowed to challenge his alignment with higher self.  Then when he is at the bottom, the lowest point, he asks a logical question: “why?”  God’s answer is that he cannot understand the infinite nature of God.  This is Job’s higher self trying speaking to the ego, the higher self trying to re-integrate with Job’s ego, by making him realize that the infinite aspect of who he is, is the part which truly has the power in this universe, and that the ego’s power is an illusion.  The ego of Job is disconnected and cannot know abundance, and will only know suffering.  The ego believes in limits, therefore it cannot know the abundance that the highest self does. 

I always find it interesting to put a new spin on an old story.  This story like many in the bible is easier to understand when we look at the symbolic nature of the story rather than trying to take it literally.  Humanity has evolved since this story was written, and the original way it was presented worked for people of that time perhaps, but it does not work for people now because we have evolved past this notion of the human as separate from the rest of the universe.  We have evolved past the notion of a punishing God.  This story still has a fundamental truth hidden within it, but needs to be looked at from a new angle to see it.

Love and Light,

Rhea Jamil

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

The Sum Total of Creation

Bee-flowerA single and separate omnipotent being is how many envision God. However, on the mystical path one’s view of God expands and it becomes apparent that the creative power of the universe is shared, not controlled by one being. All things in existence have a piece of the universal power – from the smallest bee visiting a flower to the largest of celestial bodies, to all the divine and mortal beings in between. Creation is not limited to a separate omnipotent being. A bee visiting a flower is an act of creation. All life is capable of creation, and in that way the divine creates itself over and over, every second of every day. Creation is not something that happened one day in the distant past, it is something that is inherent in every moment of this experience we call life. All beings are cut from the same divine, eternal cloth. We are all one, and all our energies together are the sum of the whole universal creative omnipotence.

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