One of the reasons I love my blogging gig, even though I get paid precisely nothing, and even have to pay for the privilege of doing what I do, is getting email messages like this:
I'm in the process of reading Return to the One which led me to your website and blogs. Your writings have made me question, think, and laugh. Thanks!
I have spent many a year searching for something to satisfy this deep longing within. I've known for sometime that I wasn't going to find "it" in the material world and have read zillions of books and tried various spiritual traditions hoping that they would lead me to that place of "final fulfillment."
Long story short, your book and my recent foray into Buddism have led me to the realization that everything I seek is within me already and meditation is the highway to my destination...which really isn't a destination, but you know what I mean.
So, now I'm trying to practice daily meditation and throw in a bit of yoga....
My question for you Brian (keeping in mind I haven't finished the book yet and you may provide an answer on the last page), is why materiality? What's the point? If Spirit residing in the upper realms is complete as it is and needs nothing, why does it take this journey into bodies, animals, and nature? Is it because it wants to "know or experience" itself, is it just an unstoppable desire to move from the simple to the complex?
It's like "we" incarnate here and then we all, in some form or fashion, try to get back to where we came from. Why don't we just stay where we are and kick back?
Once again, thanks for your book and sharing your thoughts and musings online.
Margie, you've asked some excellent questions.
My short response to why materiality? is... "Why" implies a choice; the cosmos isn't a product of choice. My short response to what's the point? is... there isn't one.
Now, these responses aren't incompatible with the Neoplatonic teachings of Plotinus that I described in Return to the One. Plotinus says that all things emanated from the One as if by necessity. And since he viewed the One (ultimate reality) as ineffable, there's no point to the cosmos that could be understood by us humans -- assuming such exists at all.
But if you've read some of my blog posts, almost certainly you know how much my attitude toward life has changed since I wrote that book.
I'm pleased to keep it in print because there is a lot to like about Plotinus. Plus, Amazon sales bring in over half of the cost of my Mini Cooper S loan payment each month. With my turn toward here-and-now materiality-embracing, I get more meaningful enjoyment from driving my Mini than envisioning abstract spiritual possiblities that only exist in the human mind.
Yesterday I was talking with a philosophically-minded friend about the classic "Why is there something rather than nothing?" question. What I said to her was basically how I ended a post I wrote earlier this year.
What is simply is. There is something rather than nothing. I find this eminently satisfying. More than that, actually, much more. It's awesome. Mindblowing. Astoundingly meaningful.
Why? LIke existence itself, there's no why.
Which means, there's no point either. Not to the universe. Not to me. Or to you, to anything.
"Why" and "point" are human intellectualizations. They have their place in certain situations, like my wife asking me why her printer isn't working, or when we're confused about what someone is saying and ask, what's your point?
But when it comes to the cosmos, "why" and "point" are meaningless words.
This is why I've become even more irreligious since writing Return to the One. I'm no longer interested in getting back to where I supposedly came from (heaven, God, the One, pure spirit, whatever) because I no longer believe there's any place but where I am right now.
So, yes, let's kick back.
Yesterday my wife and I had a pleasant private dance lesson. Though we've been learning ballroom/partner dancing for over five years, a lot of moves aren't in our repertoire. So near the end of the swing lesson, when our instructor said "Do you want to learn how to dip?", I told her, "Absolutely. This is what has been missing from my life!"
I could tell that my wife wasn't quite as excited, since after learning a simple Lean to Side Dip, we moved on to the much cooler Woman Goes Way Over dip. (Don't know the actual names of these dance moves.)
With the second dip I embraced my wife with both hands, took a fairly large step to my left, and turned my body, holding my wife up as her back faced the floor and her non-standing leg assumed as much of a feminine, graceful, elegant position as was possible for a woman wondering if I was going to drop her.
The dip took trust. On her part. On my part. My wife had to believe she would be embraced as she relaxed into the dip. I had to believe that I was fully capable of holding her up.
Materiality is what holds us up. It sustains us. We can trust it.
Like you said, Margie, "why don't we just stay where we are and kick back?" No reason not to. We have no choice. No alternative. If we find ourselves in a spiritual realm -- unlikely, but possible -- then that's where we are. For now, though, Earth is our home. Probably the only one we'll ever know.
Try resting in the embrace of God, spirit, or some other supposed supernatural entity. No one can do it, because these are abstractions, concepts, neurological brain-firings that we humans mistake for substantial reality.
I'm not saying that materiality always dances with us as we want it to. Quite the contrary. Just as with person-to-person dancing, there are bumps, missteps, awkward moments, feelings of "what the hell is happening?" (That's how my wife and I dance, at least.)
But it's the rhythm of the dance between us and materiality that's important, not the specific steps. This is a lesson that's been drummed into us by our dance instructors: stay in harmony with the music, and you'll be dancing the way you should, even if how you move is simple and basic.
Same with the music of life.
The only band that's really playing is that of materiality, the physical universe. Thoughts about spirituality, Platonic forms, divine beings, they're just... (duh) thoughts. They can't sustain you, because they exist only within your own brain.
There's no point to materiality because it simply is. It holds us up because there is nothing else. We trust it because there is no other option for us.
Well, now that's not what I expected to hear. I feel like someone has picked up all the cool toys and left me alone in the spiritual sandbox!
So, you're saying that this is it, all there is, because it is, and there are no "other" realms that we can gain entry to by "waking up" and merging with "the one".
I'm so curious about the process you went through that brought you from where you were when you wrote Return to the One and where you find yourself now. It would appear to be an about face in the opposite direction.
Have you abandoned the search for explanations as to why the world is the way it is and materiality as a reflection of some unseen spiritual form?
In one of your posts you talked about death and having the man call your death "gerbil"...which cracks me up by the way...what do you suppose happens when we die? My sense is that this spirit or energy that makes my body move, my heart beat, and my brain cogitate goes somewhere, perhaps reuniting with something greater. What is is that enlivens the materiality? One minute its there and the next...boom! It can vanish.
Well, you've given me something to ponder. Thanks and enjoy that Mini!
Posted by: margie | December 17, 2011 at 06:35 PM
margie, be assured that you're not alone in the spiritual sandbox. You've got about six billion people for company, since almost everybody on the planet believes in a spiritual side of existence.
I used to. I don't anymore. But I could be wrong, just as the six billion people could be wrong. Each of us will find out after death -- unless I'm right, then there won't be anything to find out. Or experience.
Hopefully you're correct: some sort of conscious energy survives, while the body dies.
However, the answer to your question "what enlivens the materiality?" could be simply "life." Do we ask, what enlivens photons which come from the sun and illuminate Earth? What's wrong with saying "electromagnetic energy is what photons are; nothing else is needed to explain them."
I still embrace the notion of returning to the One. But perhaps what we seek is right in front of us. Maybe our sense of seeking is what keeps us from finding. It could be that the thought "something is missing from my life" is the reason we feel that lack. Could ending the search be the key to returning to what we really are?
Posted by: Brian Hines | December 18, 2011 at 12:06 AM
I am aware that there have been belief systems that envisage our 'essence' as being a trapped 'divine spark' trapped in an evil body, and nature (Orphism, Gnosticism), and that via 'purification' rituals this trapped spark could return to its 'spiritual home' beyond the planets and 'Archons' (Gnosticism)--knowing their names would help the initiated escape their power to send them 'back' to the material realm.
Now, Orphism--an ancient Greek mystical school, was influenced by Eastern mysticism which also posits a 'oneness' from which the 'many' are in exile from until via various means, meditation, and lifetimes and 'karma' they may once again become the 'one'--so you can see the same theme going on here.
Orphism influenced Christianity, and there agin we see the belief of 'fallen' nature and the person born with 'original sin', and the goal once again is purification so as to gain a heavenly reward and eventually a transfigured life in a transfigured world-------------All these belief systems (and these aspiration become unconscious in the secualr world whose goals act OUT these unresolved divisive religious memes. Such as Transhumanism--upgrading the body and nature for 'immortality' via man-made technology etc)
HOWEVER, I am far more attractwed to the Pagan (countrydewller) understanding of the Land of Faerie which is believed to be the warp and woof of so-called ordinary reality. This has been suppressed both by orthodox religion and orthodox science which reveals its taboo nature. In this understanding materiality isn't only 'materiality' and 'spirituality' isn't only spirituality---it is 'something else'---some thing ungraspable but very very 'real'. Ie., if i say 'real' I leave out 'not-real', but reality is both, and more. Ungraspable
Posted by: Juliano | December 18, 2011 at 04:52 AM