What is Reality?

by Bruce Carley       * Site Map *


"The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical," Albert Einstein said in The Merging of Spirit and Science. "It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness."

To foster a deep understanding of the sublime or transcendental in fact may be the singular, elusive key to solving most of the world's notorious problems. All societal problems would seem to trace their origins ultimately to ignorance and apathy, and the remedy for ignorance and apathy in any form would seem to be a process of true education - not in the form of prescribed involvement in competitive academic work, but in the form of genuinely inspired exploration of the deepest mysteries of life and the nature of existence.

According to Paul Goodman in his book, Compulsory Mis-Education, "It is simply a superstition, an official superstition and a mass superstition, that the way to educate the majority of the young is to pen them up in schools during their adolescence and early adulthood." In fact, the way to educate people of just about any age would have to be to take the necessary pains to find a way to inspire each of them into an enthusiastic interest in and heartfelt commitment to educating themselves, in whatever ways may be personally suitable or necessary for them. Such a goal may not be as lofty or difficult to accomplish as popular prejudices might have us believe, for all we need to do with our educational systems in order to bring this prospect realistically into our field of vision is purge them of mindless politics and achievement-oriented philosophies of conformity, and replace those barren ideologies with spiritually wholesome goals of free self-determination, personal inspiration, and creative thinking. It does not take much depth of insight to realize that genuine and valuable learning can be accomplished only through inspired, personal initiative in a climate of free inquiry, perhaps through a sharing of inspirations or of principles and ideas with interest value and relevance to the essential experience of life, without being geared strictly to the pragmatic prospect of earning a living.

With all due respect to the subjects taught in academic curriculums, almost invariably they are about as applicable to spiritual growth and fullness of living as is a can of shoe polish to the beauty and well-being of a grand piano. Even philosophy, which comes closer than other disciplines to addressing important questions relevant to the core of life, would seem by its typical academic presentation as something of a trivial pursuit that is hardly practical or relevant to the "real" world of science and business, except by its relatedness to language and debate. The religions, too, rather than encouraging eclectic, independent thinking and deep understanding, are more typically apt to urge complacent conformity and to bias minds in favor of narrow, communal prejudices and archaic doctrines that have become paralyzed through the ages by abstract crystallizations, if not vain misinterpretations. Modern religion seems as pasteurized mysticism, the primeval spark of cosmic truth siphoned through the filter of cultural dogmatism and reduced thereby to trifling jargon, perpetuated by imperishable human attachment to tradition and tribal acceptance. It is quite ironic that such fields as astrology, parapsychology, and magic, so derided and treated as taboo by mainstream religion and science, can furnish in abundance the very germ of deep, inspirational speculation and meaningful relevance that are so conspicuously lacking elsewhere. It seems to have become fashionable along the way to regard with wariness any open addressing of primal truth independently of a collective.

Far from not belonging in schools, mystical philosophy would seem to constitute the essence of education, for true education is that which leads a person to happiness and enlightenment through the inspiration to examine every aspect of nature for the sheer discovery of wonder, to cultivate spiritual virtues in oneself, and to transcend every personally limiting influence one encounters. Far from qualifying as aimless frittering, philosophical contemplation is remarkably practical when it deals with questions that shed inspirational light on the fundamental nature of life and pertain to the realistic prospect of making our lives worthwhile. The absence of the arcane in our schools, churches, and temples, as though in deference to accustomed normalcy and complacency, probably accounts ultimately for the essential barrenness of our educational systems, as well as the widespread prevalence of false fundamental preconceptions that lie embedded in people's minds to the detriment of their own intelligence. "Common sense," according to Einstein, "is merely the deposit of prejudice laid down in the human mind before the age of 18."

Sense Faculties and Cosmic Consciousness

Most of us are taught at an early age that we have no sound reason for giving any credence to images that are perceived by any means other than the five physical sense faculties, that unless we can objectively see, hear, feel, smell, or taste a condition or object, we cannot legitimately believe that it exists. We are taught that "seeing is believing" and that we must interpret the world and express ourselves strictly objectively in order to be dependably correct and honorable. According to this conventional way of thinking, anything that is perceived through intuition deserves to be dismissed as mere fancy and given no serious consideration, and the very idea of psychic faculties even existing, let alone operating for practical purposes, is to be regarded as preposterous if not laughable. Herein are the fundamental premises on which mystically-minded individuals differ from scientifically orthodox thinkers and by which the former are distinguished from the latter.

The fact that our physical sense faculties are not absolutely reliable is demonstrated by the phenomenon of illusions, of which there are countless examples. When red and green light rays are impressed simultaneously upon the human eye, the consciousness perceives yellow light, even though the actual vibrations do not correspond to the yellow region on the spectrum. When pieces of onion are tasted while the sense of smell is incapacitated, the consciousness can mistake them for apple slices. All five of the objective senses can be deluded, for the sensitivity of each of these faculties is limited to a narrow range of vibratory frequencies, and all realization of stimuli to these senses occurs as a function of interpretation by the limited devices of the material brain. Hence, the images in one's consciousness that arise from interpretations of stimuli to the physical senses do not necessarily correlate with the actual nature of phenomena in the world around us. To presume such realizations to be utterly dependable and to base one's thinking upon them in an absolute way would be to build elaborate systems of theory on fundamental premises that are superficially and incompletely perceived and subject to frequent error. The Western world currently is paying a heavy price for its protocol of strict empirical thinking, for people abound in this part of the world who are superficial in their understandings, spiritually undeveloped, and limited in their ability to be creative or transcendental, just as the majority of people in ages past were illiterate.

Realizations that arise through the psychic centers or chakras, by contrast, are not subject to such deceptiveness, for spiritual energy vibrates, it would seem, to such high frequencies that it does not require any limited or limiting material means by which to commune with us. These realizations correspond always, as such, to the actuality of the vibrations behind them and are necessarily dependable sources of intelligence. In order for us to know original or primal truths with any certainty, it would seem that we must gain the information directly from the universal mind by means of attunement with it, rather than through stretchy interpretations of questionable, physical stimuli, and that only where we know the information to have been channeled directly from the prime, cosmic force can we presume dependably to draw a line between the realities in the consciousness and the physical actualities of the surrounding world. In common instances, reality and illusion may be best considered inseparable, since all realization is in the mind of the beholder, and the realities in the consciousness can be altered. The "illusions" experienced in dreams and psychic projections can be utterly and vividly "real" as far as one's consciousness is concerned, and while such "realities" may not necessarily correspond to actualities in the physical world, they necessarily must correspond somehow to mysterious conditions on a transcendental plane of metaphysical vibrations, arising as they do from the depths of one's inner being. Far from being the psychotic delusion that conventional thinkers may brand it, genuine cosmic consciousness would seem to be the truest of all realities, whereas the empirical domain of orthodox science represents in some ways the truly deluded.

Nevertheless, it is widely understood that the cosmic essence and a subtle consciousness of it flow through us and around us. Whereas many people have been conditioned to look toward the sky when they speak to "heaven" in prayer, it seems more fitting with the nature of being to commune in meditation with the universal consciousness by turning attention inwardly and experiencing the subtle, subjective stirrings of a psychic master within. All of us are constantly in touch with the cosmic consciousness on a deep, inner level, whether we realize it or not, yet some appear to regard it as arrogant or blasphemous to conceive of seeking intimate familiarity with a higher power, and by looking within ourselves, at that. The notion that intimate knowledge or understanding of God is unattainable by human beings living in flesh bodies seems to be frequently and erroneously taken for granted, as we generally are taught that the only way to gain even a limited knowledge of God is to adhere to the particular dogmas that are outlined by the various religious sects. Too few seem to consider that perhaps God's resources and powers are always accessible to those who come to understand the simple laws of nature and learn to attune with their essence. This fact is basic and timeless, and it seems reasonable to postulate that it has been taught countless times in history, and certainly by Jesus, Siddhartha, and other religious leaders.

The high-frequency, metaphysical vibrations of the cosmic consciousness would have to be behind all forms of psychic manifestation, which necessarily must involve natural mechanics even if we are not always able to understand them. When we tap into the vast reservoir of the subconscious mind, as in dreams or meditation, we would seem to be more closely attuned with the sublime essence of the universe and thus potentially more prone to experiencing prophetic vision or hearing, telepathic communication, or projection of the spirit body. The material brain may be best regarded as a worldly channel or vehicle for thoughts which are not necessarily generated by it nor confined to it. Some may deny the energetic, substantial nature of thought merely because thoughts cannot be measured in a laboratory or observed through instruments that cater to the objective senses; however, while matters of metaphysical philosophy may be hardly possible to prove empirically, they are no more possible to disprove, and no one can claim truthfully to have accomplished that. Any school of thought is built on fundamental postulates or inferences that appear to make sense intuitively, and one such basic principle in metaphysics is that the inner, experiential reality of the psychic realm corresponds to an original essence of nature underlying all forms of worldly manifestation, and to a consciousness of spirit apart from material flesh. True intelligence legitimately can be regarded as consisting of energies of uncommonly high frequency which are channeled from the cosmic mind through the human mind and perhaps amplified by the brain, rather than being exclusively or even primarily a function of it.

Thought Energy and Karma

Being electrical in nature and existing within some range of ultra-high frequencies in the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, our thoughts necessarily must vibrate freely through the medium of the cosmic energy field into the vast infinity of the universe, in a manner analogous to radio waves emanating from a tower, and they may have the capacity under certain conditions to affect any person who happens to be attuned to them as readily and as powerfully as they can affect the person in whom they originated. More than a mere vehicle for thinking and feeling, the human mind can be regarded justifiably as a channel which directs the creative forces of life that flow through us and around us, and far from being confined to the workings of the material body, every thought can be considered as producing a wave of energy which vibrates like radar into the depths of the universe, carrying with it the intelligence and will of its creator. The conditions which such impulses create in the cosmic domain can lead, according to metaphysical philosophies, to actual, corresponding manifestations in the physical world, under the right conditions. It seems wise for us to guard our thinking at all times, to make sure that our thoughts are habitually healthful and not vicious or potentially harmful to anyone. Even conventional psychology recognizes the dynamic potency of thoughts, at least upon the person holding them.

We commonly like to consider our thoughts as being inherently private, whereas in physical actuality they may not be as private as we would wish. From a metaphysical point of view, the images that we create in our minds live on and vibrate through the medium of cosmic consciousness until they sooner or later reach others and inspire them to act, or collect enough density to assume material form, somewhere and somehow. The very thought that we invest in forming words to describe an idea may tend to create or to perpetuate the object of our vision, rather than lapsing into nothingness or ending as it may seem with its passing from our immediate consciousness; it conceivably may escape from the mind as vibrating energy and materialize in some way. A momentary relishing of a spite is perhaps not nearly so innocuous as it may appear, if it potentially can lend actuality to the very situation that we have so vividly imagined. On the other hand, unpleasant conditions in our lives need not continue if we wish them to change, for we would seem to have it within our power to change them. Nothing potentially attainable should be considered impossible, for such a thought is inherently limiting and creates limitation. As with the Buddhist philosophy of ceasing to fuel the habitual passions of false selfhood, when we recognize errors in our accustomed patterns of thought and eliminate from our consciousness any restrictive mind-sets, their destructive effect in our lives soon meets extinction.

In the possibility of thoughts causing physical vibrations that can lead to material manifestations may lie the mechanics of karma, the natural law by which we are said to reap what we sow and to attract to ourselves in some form whatever we create by the global impact of our actions. Every voluntary act is preceded anyway by energy invested in thought, and it may be our very thoughts interacting with the cosmic totality of being which set in motion our seeming fate. An unkind thought laden with hurtful emotions or vibrations of a low order may produce discordant waves of energy which disturb the harmony in everything they reach and affect others detrimentally, to the ultimate karmic detriment of ourselves, - although being of relatively low frequency, such thoughts also may tend to remain earthbound and unable to reach far beyond their immediate surroundings. Nevertheless, if we go through life believing that our unkind thoughts and visions always pass into oblivion as soon as they leave our minds and never lead to any harm, or that we have no need to take responsibility for guiding our thinking, then there could be an eventual price to pay. On the other hand, a thought that is inspirational, kind, and mindful of the well-being of all would seem to produce a wave of higher frequency which harmonizes with the creative nature of being and reaches far from its place of origin, affecting other beings beneficially and constructively, to the ultimate benefit of ourselves.

The law of karma proclaims that every thought and every act set in motion vibrations which create corresponding conditions in the cosmic domain and reciprocally attract back into our lives corresponding situations according to the nature of our intentions, in a manner that is intelligent, yet as impersonal as the law of gravity. This concept is not incompatible with that of divine intercession, as cosmic mechanisms would seem to be but working tools of the true God. According to the principle of karma, individuals who had loved each other in previous lives may be brought back together in a meaningful "coincidence" and may feel immediately as though they had always known and loved each other, while those who had wronged each other likewise may be brought back in contact in order to create opportunities to compensate or to get beyond past antipathy. The doctrine of synchronicity describes such encounters as "acausal" happenings that parallel subjective events in our inner worlds of thought and fantasy, as opposed to being either coincidental or explicable by classic laws of cause and effect. Einstein once commented similarly, to the effect that coincidence is an illusion, as God would not conceivably throw dice with the universe. It would seem not only that truth is stranger than fiction, but that the dramatic devices of fiction, such as suspense, irony, and foreshadowing, actually tend to be apt illustrations which correspond accurately to the types of true, metaphysical experiences that shape our lives subtly on a subjective level, in effect making us protagonists in real-life dramas that we are meant to live out for spiritual training. A seemingly fated connection or occurrence would seem to reflect simply karma in operation and to be inherently an opportunity for some form of growth on the part of all individuals involved.

The Power of Imagination

Hypnosis demonstrates how a suggestion can be made to bypass the analytical reasoning and executive direction of one's outer, conscious mind, to become incorporated powerfully as a directive or habitual pattern in the depths of the inner, subconscious mind. A suggestion that is impressed successfully into one's deeper consciousness is generally accepted and fulfilled readily, unless it is in conflict with some ethical principle or directive that is already established in one's mind. It is widely known that one effectively can pass suggestions to one's inner consciousness by contemplating them with wholehearted attention for a time, and then dismissing them from conscious thought with full confidence that the process is accomplished, - in view of the fact that genuine, unassumed confidence lends affirmation and vitality to a desired prospect, whereas doubt promotes its inhibition. Giving oneself suggestions in this manner when one is in a drowsy state or on the verge of falling asleep should be particularly effective, since the subconscious mind is more active at such times, whereas the analytical faculty is more passive. But even the science of hypnosis falls short of considering that the subconscious mind is ever in touch with a universal stream of collective, psychic consciousness and has access to its powers, and that a suggestion successfully planted in the subconscious can tap, under the right conditions, into the limitless powers of the universe to receive extrasensory impressions or to create psychokinetic manifestations such as healings, even at great distances from the body.

Because an impression that is dramatically gripping to one's realization can constitute a powerful suggestion to one's subconscious mind, the faculty of imagination seems a valuable tool for reinforcing suggestions, infusing them with lucid vitality. Any thought which incites the imagination can invigorate the impressions realized by the subconscious mind and thereby can tend to promote the subjective "reality" of what we are envisioning. If we are continually telling ourselves with conviction that we have reason to worry about the possibility of forthcoming illness, the subconscious mind is repeatedly receiving images suggesting such a prospect, and the result can be the effective fulfillment of our thoughts, especially to the degree that they are backed by vivid mental pictures laden with emotional impact. If we are habitually confident about our health and other prospects and refuse to entertain any thought of trouble, then we may be attracting situations that are favorable. The subconscious mind by its nature does everything in its power to fulfill at face value the sentimental images back of our convictions, a fact which would seem to qualify as another reason for guarding our thoughts habitually.

The possibility of illuminated imagination fostering attunement with the cosmic consciousness points to its intelligent exercise as a singular key to spiritual illumination, psychic awakening, and the ultimate in human potential. Its development is arguably the primary goal of all esoteric forms of education, for a person who gives the imagination the free play that it craves may be empowered to create his or her destiny and happiness, whereas one who regards all expression of imagination as a sign of immaturity and keeps it suppressed can be effectively enslaved by such practice, confined in spirit to the limitations of the material world. Through the exercising of imagination, we can assume and develop any number of qualities in our worldly characters until we reach a point of being more compatible with our deeper, spiritual natures, which lie dormant and vastly underappreciated in the majority of people, and by so increasing the unity between our outer and inner selves, we may become increasingly able to commune with the cosmos and to attune with its sublime consciousness and reservoir of deep wisdom and power. True personal magnetism depends much more on the quality of one's inner consciousness and aura than on mannerism or physical appearance, and there is nothing more nourishing to the human spirit than rich food for thought to stir the imagination about that which feels magical. Let the rational faculty go ahead and try to bring about this depth of health through a preaching of trite precepts.

A whimsical imagination applied with compassion to one's very perception of oneself or someone else often has a knack of healing and can elicit peace of mind, conscientious awareness, and good will far more readily than any technique within the scope of rationalism. If depression is truly to be dissolved, it may be necessary for a person to get beyond the limitations of an accustomed role or self-concept, and it is only inspired imagination that can empower a person as such to transcend a prescribed identity and to emerge into something infinitely more majestic. The fact that a vivid imagination is regarded at times with wariness (as shown by the controversial aspect of children's entertainment dealing with fantasies of witchcraft and wizardry) may reflect in part an unconscious realization of its power to affect much more than an emotional state - that it potentially can transform the very foundation of acknowledged reality. The prevailing human condition necessarily matches in large measure the nature of its current conception or image in the collective unconscious, and everything that prevails in our current society invariably traces its origin to lucid imaginations which preceded our own.

Transcendence of Dichotomy

Philosophies propound that cosmic power can manifest only where there is a harmonious blending between opposing forces in nature, where opposite charges are working cooperatively to generate creative energy, rather than resisting or suppressing each other. A polarized extreme denying or suppressing its opposite is seen as creating discord, whereas a transcended dichotomy, or harmonious blend of polar opposites, is conducive to personal magnetism and, it would appear, to the cooperation of the forces of nature. The transcendence of polar extremes in our personalities would seem vital not only for all accomplishments of a psychic nature, but even for our most basic personal evolution. If we are to cultivate any particular quality in ourselves, it may be well to consider that giving some expression as well to the opposite quality may tend to bring to life the prospective virtue, just as an artist will bring out the vividness of a particular color through the incorporation of its complementary hue. To promote a particular trait in an absolute manner that does not allow any expression of its polarity is arguably to defeat our own purpose. Arrogance and conceit thus may have their place after all, for a suppression of arrogance is no way to cultivate humility, nor is a suppression of callousness likely to result in an enlightened compassion. One perhaps would do better to acknowledge oneself as a composite of multiple dimensions, each balanced with a complementary vibration that has its place.

The dichotomy of masculinity and femininity seems particularly commanding of attention and effort to transcend, regardless of whether the two genders are defined biologically, culturally, or in the metaphysical sense of opposite magnetic polarities. Because of persistent sex taboos and tendencies toward strictly physiological theorizing, stereotypes and roles pertaining to gender can be especially limiting to a person's fundamental sense of identity, self-image, and direction in life. It is well established in behavioral science that those who blend more or less equally the qualities that are associated with masculinity and femininity, who accept themselves as consisting of a multitude of personal traits to which the sex of the body is entirely and inherently incidental, tend to be healthier and happier than those who do not. There is nothing overly deep about the fact that within every male there is an abundance of female essence that deserves expression, as well as male essence, and vice versa. Far from being neurotic disorders, homosexual and transsexual inclinations of mind are easily explicable by the viable notion that people commonly have lived in previous incarnations in bodies of the other sex, retaining the memory of such experience on a subconscious level. Since the uniting of the male and female polarities of the cosmic energy field is theoretically the process by which all manifestations are created, an androgynous constitution would seem to be conducive to creativeness, even in the divine sense. From a metaphysical point of view, one form of energy without the other is incomplete and impotent, whereas the two polarities functioning together without strife are all-powerful and lend themselves to the process of creation.

All forms of creative or regenerative power are said to consist of a blend of primordial yin and yang energies, negative and positive polarities of the cosmic force which permeates all phenomena in nature, and each polarity is considered to be fundamentally challenged by the presence of its opposite and attracted to it in a primal impulse to complete itself. In blending or interacting magnetically, the two polarities are conceived as generating the essential vibrations that comprise all objects and phenomena in existence, resulting alchemically in creation or manifestation. For there to be any kind of growth, creativity, or enlightenment in a living being, both polarities are considered necessary to work together in more or less equal proportions. The cells comprising a living organism have the power to propagate themselves and to rebuild damaged tissues because they contain, according to this philosophy, a more or less balanced blend of feminine and masculine charges of cosmic energy. Individuals who blend the polarities most effectively within themselves by their way of thinking and living would appear to be the ones who are most likely to be creative and powerful in every sense, whereas those who suppress one polarity in an effort to carry the other to an extreme may be particularly apt to become mentally and spiritually dull. Too much of either polarity at the expense of the other may translate into an unpleasant disposition and an unhappy life.

Since cultural conditioning in regard to sex often tends to promote imagery that is emotionally loaded and thus readily prone to breeding reactionary misinterpretation, it seems prudent to remain skeptical of any popular or conventional belief that regards contrasting behavioral tendencies of males and females as naturally inherent in gender, aside from obvious differences that relate directly to reproduction. If any psychological differences do exist intrinsically between the sexes, such differences in the broad light of cosmic principles seem negligible, as well as infinitely subject to common exceptions, impressive ranges of individual variation, and the realistic prospect of practical transcendence. It must be all too easy to overlook the spiritual side of life in assessing such a question, as well as to fall into the trap of being persuaded too readily under an ever-present, pervasive influence of vast reservoirs of popular superstition and stereotyping connected culturally with the entire topic of sexuality.

The ultimate source of the majority of problems in human society is probably the widespread failure of people to dissociate their true, inner sense of self or personal identity from the preconceived roles assigned to them by cultural heritage, especially if those roles are defined by such material trifles as bodily age and sex. Communication is confused too often with role playing, as though it entailed an orientation to stage dramatics or depended on the limited imagination of a culture. Any narrowly defined role expectation or preconception about the particular nature of manhood, womanhood, youth, or elderliness can damage the innocent integrity and breadth of a person's self-concept and very sense of identity and purpose. The simple demeanor of free-spirited children, freshly arrived from the spirit world and relatively uncontaminated by cultural conditioning, would seem to indicate that the actual, archetypal character of the human spirit is not "feminine," but honest; not "masculine," but compassionate; not fashionable, but innocent, imaginative, inquisitive, full of wonder, and unrelated to biological age and sex, which are strictly attributes of the outer shells which we inhabit during our incarnations. The very existence of a sex taboo is perhaps attributable in part to a subconscious awareness of the androgynous nature of alchemical power.

The Real Meaning of Maturity

One's concept of maturity is necessarily shaped by the extent of one's realizations of the scope of human spirit and can be erroneous if one's views of human growth are limited to the development of sexual functioning, aptitude, and charm. Maturity in the true, existential sense that counts for who we are has nothing to do with resigning oneself to protocols or identifying with sophisticated models of prowess. However popular it may be to suppose that wisdom comes from prestigious circles or so-called high places, real wisdom is noted for originating more typically in circumstances of humble, natural character, such as dreams, living nature, and the imaginative essence of childhood, just as the life of Jesus began symbolically in a manger. A truly mature person would seem to be someone who is fully alive, responsible to righteousness, and in tune with the vital forces of life, and to be fully alive is to be actively engaged, playfully and imaginatively, in exploring, discovering, and sharing wondrous truths of nature, - to be in the habit of thinking deeply and "sucking the marrow out of life," regardless of the age or sex of one's physical body. In other words, to be truly mature is to be unshakably a child at heart.

The genuine transcendence of the false dignity of worldly ego would seem to constitute the very kernel of true maturity, whereas the sense of being "grown up" is a vain illusion which perhaps should be termed, "Grown-up Syndrome." Maturity is not the state of having renounced one's spark of creativity in deference to proud fashion or etiquette; it is the state of having retained genuinely the qualities that characterize childhood in the spiritual sense: the free and playful spirit, the vivid imagination, the fascination with life, the determination to be nobody but oneself no matter what people say, the genuine compassion and honesty, the carefree humor that prevents one from even knowing how to take oneself too seriously, and the inclination to live for and to enjoy the present moment with fresh appreciation. Dogs commonly outshine judges, prosecutors, and police in these departments and can be fine models to imitate in some ways. True maturity is the state in which humility and innocence prevail over "grown-up" pompousness in a person, and in which the imaginative child within a person reigns supreme over the rational, dogmatic adult that may have rudely vanquished it long ago. An outstanding person in any capacity, in addition to being competent, is humble in character almost by definition. An outstanding teacher, parent, and employer are all best defined by the quality of respectful humility, as something of "a good friend and a bad boss," although by no means necessarily an inept supervisor.

Possessing the innocent, imaginative mind and heart of a child can empower a person to be more fully human, so that certain acts that once may have been difficult or uncomfortable become second nature, such as connecting with children or animals, relating to the opposite sex or to people in general, expressing tenderness or vulnerability, forgiving people their trespasses, or merely lightening up and being playful. True self-fulfillment in any form is gained through free-spirited individuality and whimsical originality, and not through undue discipline, worldly ambition, or uniformity with masses of people. As the message in Fred Tate's fortune cookie stated, "Only when all those around you are different will you truly belong." Excellence in any undertaking is a fruit of intrinsic motivation, and where inspiration is absent, all the self-discipline one may exercise is unlikely to yield better than mediocre results. In the words of Albert Einstein, "All means prove but a blunt instrument, if they have not behind them a living spirit." Often the key to fine accomplishment lies in renouncing the element of tedious discipline and replacing it with a process conducive to inspiration. Success often comes as if by itself to the one who, having been truly inspired, simply practices the refined art of not trying too hard.

"The goal of many educators, albeit unconfessed," writes Gerry Spence in his book, How to Argue and Win Every Time, "is to condition our young, who are perfectly alive with perfect feelings, to become separated from their feelings, to repress them, to deaden them." Such notions of what constitutes maturity are not only misguided, but dangerous, for suppressing the very spark of human inspiration leads people away from the core experience of life and into spiritual stagnation. Why anyone would want to see such an affront to humanity is perhaps explained in Spence's words, "The dead never speak up or cause trouble." Those folkways that demand strict limits on the expression of imagination and unorthodox sentiment from childhood to old age are probably the ultimate culprits behind the many forms of despondency that we see today in all age groups. Not to overstate the case, the primary problem behind the majority of society's woes would seem to be that the majority of adults, in their stereotyped views and biases for precious logic and common sense, have turned their backs on their inner, spiritual urgings, their sense of wonder, and all of the relevant attributes of human nature that keep life innocent, happy, and worth living. If some people are inclined to look with disdain upon the very essence that makes fulfilled living possible, perhaps it is because these noblest of virtues - those that transcend the ordinary and commonplace and thereby keep life interesting and worthwhile - are commonly associated with childhood, whereas childhood may not be commonly associated with maturity. Perhaps some people have not stopped to consider that a child may be a refreshed version of a previous adult life and as likely as any adult to be an old soul, inwardly seasoned and wise.

While traditional views of mature adulthood are devoid of the essence of happy, creative living, the humble, inspirational conception of maturity seems a vital key to spiritual unfolding. To cultivate confidently in oneself the free-spirited mind and heart of a child, and to do so in spite of any pressures to imitate fashionable models, could be considered perhaps the first positive step toward facilitating the prospect of one's own enlightenment. Spence refers to a certain "courage of innocence" in his book, suggesting that it may call for substance or resolve to "fight against the adulthood demanded by the therapists," but he adds that traditional notions of "maturity and death are cousins." It seems reckless to go with the flow of cultural fashions when such forces are inclining us in the direction of darkness and ignorance rather than enlightenment, as by urging us to disregard our inner, intuitive stirrings in favor of dead protocols which may pass for common sense. Any possible consequence of resisting the enculturating agents of a half-witted mainstream would seem insignificant compared with that of disregarding the illuminated, conscientious voice of the master within.

Facilitating Enlightenment

Facilitating another person's enlightenment in most cases is a process of respecting the freedom to err, rather than of intervening with insistent advice. Deep wisdom cannot be instilled in one person by another; it merely can be encouraged to develop naturally from within, and only by inspiring deep thought about life's myriad aspects and trusting people to their own devices in interpreting any experience according to their particular styles and needs. It is always risky if not presumptuous to judge what is "correct" for someone other than oneself. Far from implying a regard for what is communally sanctioned, "correct" is probably best defined as consistent with individual conscience or that which seems universally ethical, beyond the narrow mores of particular cultures. Protecting one's kin from the humiliation of making mistakes in real life situations interferes with the process of enlightenment, for regardless of whose judgment is more sensible, when one has someone forcibly intervening against one's judgment of one's own best interests, one is being deprived of a learning experience, possibly at considerable cost. Allowing a person to yield to temptation and to learn from the consequences of error without the smothering, patronizing influence of corrective supervision is usually far more constructive than to deny a person the experience of error and shock.

To regard a person according to any cultural image of age, sex, economic level, or ethnic background is to stereotype life and to miss the actual person. To treat a child dismissively for reasons of age alone is to deny a human being the basic respect to which humanness alone entitles him or her. Young age is hardly a foolproof sign of inferior skill or wisdom, and subordinate ranks are mere illusions of ego-culture, with no basis in actuality. "Social status" is but an abstract institution, the actual function of which is to preserve recognized clarity about who gets to criticize whom, without taking heat for it. The very concept seems oriented around obsessive aspirations to superior renown. A real friend would seem to be, first and foremost, someone who regards us with no such illusions in mind, who appreciates us genuinely for who we actually are and does not presume to us. A true ally avoids pressuring us to adopt any custom or fad that is not our own, least of all, that which would make us "like everyone else" in one way or another. A genuine companion understands that trust is fostered by an almost absolute respect for individual style, privacy, and freedom of expression, - that a trusting exchange can occur only when we know that we can feel free to be ourselves and to keep to ourselves what we may prefer not to share. Respecting the personal before all else is the mark of a true support, whereas persistent milking is for farmers.

That friends are never perfect is common knowledge, yet the "nobody's perfect" cliche can be downright dangerous if it is ever used to rationalize hypocrisy or continual, frivolous impatience. Being respectful of others involves bearing or perhaps addressing minor provocations without unnecessary irritability or voice-raising, for dignity is, if nothing else, the state of not being spoken to in an emphatic or dismissive manner. Restlessly robbing a person of the simple ability to finish a sentence would seem to make us thereby responsible for knowing accurately what a person was about to say. Boring as requests may be, they can be presented in most instances without crossing the line of respectful decency. When people reflect more often and adeptly than they voice justification for exasperation, we will have a fine world.

The habit of stifling unsolicited advice and projecting instead a relaxed compassion would seem to characterize a developed character much more aptly than the ability to "take" advice. Unlike the imposing care which seems to characterize too many mothers, constructive support entails a respectful restraint from smothering a person with indulgent concern, sympathetic pity, or excessive affection. Genuine love in the divine or cosmic sense would seem to be the kind of compassion that inspires the act of gently, unimposingly comforting or assisting a person who is distraught or afflicted with misfortune, forgiving errors and weaknesses, and showing confidence in a person, even in spite of possible appearances. Such compassion tends to heal an ailing self-regard, whereas criticism is notorious only for boring the mind and making hurts fester. We all need to feel heard in earnest and respected as individuals when we express our feelings; when a person talks incessantly about a particular subject and seems to be dwelling obsessively on it, perhaps it is because the feelings have not been heard in earnest without disrespectful, reactionary wincing, and perhaps the habit will be relaxed if we listen actively and empathize genuinely, without emoting or passing judgment. With the most vicious criminal offenders more than any other class of people, compassionate understanding and humble listening would seem to have unrivaled value for all parties involved. To help an errant person heal through the creative energy of genuine, heartfelt compassion would seem conducive to attunement with divine consciousness and to favorable karma.

The Inalienable Integrity of Conscience

Important as it may be to have patience with human failings, it is a denial of one's own personhood to endure without protest any act that infringes upon one's rights as a self-respecting individual. There is nothing cryptic in Shakespeare's admonition, "This above all, to thine own self be true." It hardly seems "pragmatic" under any circumstances to shelve human dignity by submitting gracefully to abusive pomp, invasion of privacy, or insistent harassment by power figures who mistakenly prioritize ordered regimentation over respect for individuality. It cannot be in the best interests of personal karma to stifle for an instant one's divine uniqueness or sense of integrity, deferring one's conscience to someone's common power to issue a paycheck or to wield a badge. Cosmic intelligence could not have intended for mundane, practical necessities ever in any way to take precedence over a person's spiritual integrity, dignity, or freedom of self-determination. That it is imperative to be true to oneself always and to respect that right in others is perhaps the most frequently illustrated point in Aesop's many fables.

The notion that nobody is above the law is patently false, as Thoreau explains in his essay, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. "It is not desirable," he writes, "to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right," adding that "There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly." Thoreau was above the Fugitive Slave Law, and he knew it: "If [the injustice] is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say break the law." The turbulence which engulfed the southern United States a century later illustrates how entire communities can be above volumes of laws, such as those requiring individuals with pigmented skin to defer to others in acknowledgment of allegedly inferior worth. Some of us may remember being above draft laws which presumed to force people into participation in mortal combat against their wills and consciences. Thoreau was not trifling around when he prophesied that one day, when humankind is better educated and evolved, we will have a government "which governs not at all," reflecting "a progress toward a true respect for the individual." In view of the cyclical nature of societal movements over the generations, it would not be outrageously naive to repeat his prediction today. In truth, nobody is above the right, whereas law in some instances can deserve only irreverence. While there may not always be clear consensus as to what constitutes rightness, the channel of revelation is not consensus, but the individual, and hence an enlightened conscience can be above consensus as well as law.

If you were a black person living in the American south in an earlier decade and found yourself unable to make favorable impressions on your contemporaries because of prevailing racial prejudice, would it be within your dignity to minister courteously and respectfully to the prejudices of the mass and to humor the majority by painting your face white and assuming the mannerisms of someone with a European cultural background? If not, would you forever take kindly to relentless pressures to cave in and do so? Just as we all have the right to be dark-skinned if we were born that way, so do we have the right to present and to express ourselves after our own individual fashions exclusively at all times, even at formal occasions, without being mocked or pressured by prejudiced individuals with reactionary notions of what is "appropriate." This darkest word in the English language is probably defined most aptly as, "Having been appropriated for you by some agent of enculturation presuming to know better than you what is in your best interests." To present or to express an unorthodox personal style that one honestly feels to be a genuine and comfortable reflection of one's inner nature or sense of integrity is in no way an act of arrogance, for truth in expression is not arrogant; in contrast, Einstein comments on the depth of substance inherent in conventional roles by saying, "When men come together on ceremonial occasions attired in their dress clothes, they create about themselves as a matter of routine an atmosphere from which the realities of life with their severity are excluded." Thoreau likewise urges us to "beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." One who feels morally impelled to resist all pressures to conform to communally established formalities of personal expression, who refuses to subdue individuality and to submit to being made uniform with a stereotyped role or compulsory ritual, is entitled to the same full respect that is grantedly due racial minorities, and failure to show such respect is directly comparable to ethnic intolerance.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow defines a "fully human" outlook in terms of "greater autonomy and resistance to enculturation." Thoreau comments similarly: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." These words in the conclusion of Walden have been available long enough that one may wonder why their reiteration would be necessary; yet not all who have encountered these words have taken them seriously, or we would have conquered quiet desperation as thoroughly as we have conquered polio. It is in fact our spiritual duty to be nobody but ourselves in appearance as well as intrinsically, for we are not born to deny full expression to any aspect of our higher natures to the least degree at any time. Where etiquette is at odds with this principle, etiquette itches to be dismissed and purged. To cater to the prejudiced expectations of bigots, making any move to appease them by acting out the role of something that one is not, and pretending to be what they prefer to see, would be to participate in the disrespect of one's very soul. To assume any stereotype or habit as one's own style, if it is sharply at odds with what one honestly and intuitively feels to be the true character of one's inner nature, would be not only unbecoming of the human potential, but literally sacrilegious and subject to karmic reproach. "If a plant cannot live according to its nature it dies," writes Thoreau, "and so a man."

While some people operate by the same mentality that made earlier populations insist fearfully that the Earth is flat even after the idea was disproven, others open-mindedly question every precept with visions of embracing truth, interwoven as it may be with orthodox notions of superstition. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Where a culture is predominantly superficial in its supposed wisdom and limited for whatever reason in its respect for nature, the deep-thinking seeker of truth and fulfilled living finds sooner or later that conventional counsel is empty, mainstream prejudice against individual personhood. Pressuring an eccentric individual to succumb to the rantings of fashionable society - judging openly what is the "correct" way for another person to communicate, in knowing opposition to a style already adopted - is analogous to coercing a Christian to convert to atheism. In view of the fact that a water-lily planted in the desert often fails to blossom with its most virtuous fragrance, one may be forced to look outside the norm to find meaning in life. Deep within our inner natures, far removed from obnoxious shallow norms of social behavior, lies the essence of esoteric truth in all of its splendor and divine power, silently awaiting our discovery. Let us occupy ourselves with that which is uplifting, to the exclusion of that which is not, and thereby facilitate our grand journey to the cosmic light.

* * * * * * *

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." - Albert Einstein

"Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions." - Edgar Cayce

"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion." - Jack Kerouac

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Simple Payday
(c) 2003 by Bruce Carley. The text of this article may be shared freely in its entirety if it is left unaltered.