"Uh-oh." This is a common feeling for me these churchless days, as I'm reading along in a book that's been enjoyably non-religious, yet suddenly manifests a scent of unjustified dogmatism.
An "uh-oh" followed by a string of highlighted question marks in the margins... this is a sign that even stronger Religiosity alert! Religiosity alert! warning bells are going off in my brain.
Such happened today, when I got to the "Where is Awareness?" chapter in Tim Freke's The Mystery Experience (blogged about previously here and here). I was flowing along just fine with Freke's seemingly unarguable assertion that everything arises in awareness -- including the experience of "external" objective reality.
As a person I am a form in the flow of time. But the deep self is outside of time. It is timeless being... I think most of us have this sense that our deep self is the same now as when we were much younger. I know I do... What I am is timeless awareness witnessing TIm's journey through time.
When I live lucidly I see that I am both mortal and immortal. The person I appear to be in time had a beginning and will come to an end. But the deep self isn't in time, just like a dreamer isn't in a dream.
As a person, I'm a body that is born to die. But the deep self can't die because it was never born. My essential being is immortal, because being by it's very nature must always be.
...This intuition of immortality raises many profound philosophical questions, which I'm not going to address here. I certainly don't believe that becoming conscious of the timeless presence of being proves that we survive death as a conscious individual. However, understanding that essentially we don't exist in time makes this possibility credible.
...I suggest you become conscious of the deep self and examine your own intuitions.
Well, TIm, I'd say "that's the problem: people believing in their own intutitions when it comes to mysteries that aren't intuitable, nor thinkable, nor researchable, nor seemingly solvable in any way."
As I blogged about a few months ago, it is impossible for us to envision our own existence, because we've always been alive. This is why religions have such a ready audience for their claims of an afterlife.
It just feels right to people, since they have no experience of ever not existing, or of ever not being aware, except during deep sleep and other periods of unconsciousness. And that's a big except, as Stephen Cave says in his book "Immortality."
There is one big problem with the idea that your consciousness or "awareness" can in some form survive the death of your body. It is something with which we are all in fact very familiar, not least from countless Hollywood films: simply that if you get hit on the head with sufficient force, you will be knocked unconscious. Your awareness of the world ceases; your lights go out.
...Similarly, if you are injected with general anesthetic -- a syringe full of chemicals -- your awareness will be extinguished. For anyone who thinks consciousness can survive bodily death, this is an embarassment.
l really like the idea of me being an integral aspect of, well, being.
Timeless being. Eternal being. Universally conscious being. I understand why TIm Freke also is attracted to this possibility, as are, I assume most of the people who attend his WOW workshops about embracing the mystery of life.
I just find Freke's intuitions about how his deep self could be an aspect of timeless being to be at odds with a central premise of his book. Namely, that nobody knows what the mystery of life consists of, or how it could be solved. Freke writes:
When I become embroiled with my story I find myself living in a kind of trance. I'm certain I know what's going on, even though I really don't. I exist in a state of numbness that I call 'normality' and I feel only half alive.
But when I wake up I can see that my story is just a story. If I look deeper I discover that hidden behind my story is the pristine, virgin, untouchable mystery. And that's when the mystery experience spontaneously arises.
So even though I look forward to reading the rest of Freke's book, at the moment (154 pages in) I have an impression that Freke doesn't really embrace the pristine, virgin, untouchable mystery that he says he does.
What's up with all of these "intuitions" about the nature of cosmic mystery? What's wrong with simply leaving mystery mysterious?
Like Freke, I also feel a deep sense of awe at the stark fact of existence. Yes, WOW! (his favorite word) There's at least a hundred billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, which is one of at least a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, which increasingly is being viewed as one of a potentially infinite number of universes in the multiverse.
And here I am, standing at our kitchen counter, typing away on my MacBook in south Salem, Oregon, a 63 year old man trying to grasp my place in a 14 billion year old universe whose mysteries are boundless in every direction of time and space.
I don't know where everything came from or where it is going. Likewise, I don't know where I came from or where I am going.
For many years I wasn't OK with that. I wanted to know! Damn it, I had a right to know! And I believed that someone, in my case a guru, had the key to this cosmic knowledge. Billions of other humans believe that a holy book, a holy practice, or some other holy person is privy to this knowledge.
Now, I'm fine with mystery.
In fact, I love mystery. I'd much rather leave mystery mysterious, then dress it up in some sort of imaginary costume of my own making. That seems disrespectful to mystery.
Some things can be known, if not by us modern humans, than by someone, somewhere, sometime in the cosmos. But it seems to me that some things can't. Like, existence. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd rather leave existence, life, and The Meaning, Or Lack Thereof, Of It All as a mystery.
TIm Freke feels this way also. We just seem to disagree on how much mystery we're willing to leave mysterious.