Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

–Luke 17:21, KJV

On Cosmology

We are all con­nect­ed to mys­tery through our inner worlds. Each of us pos­sess­es that sub­jec­tive inte­ri­or win­dow. The ques­tion is what we have cho­sen to do with the mys­tery we find there. Reli­gions most­ly attempt to reframe it into an adapt­able cos­mol­o­gy con­vinc­ing enough to spread viral­ly, becom­ing a shared real­i­ty and belief sys­tem, a “shared truth” pro­ject­ed onto both inner and out­er expe­ri­ence. Sci­ence does pret­ty much the same thing — with the caveat of a more reli­able empiri­cism — while tech­nol­o­gy trans­lates “truth” into arti­facts that rein­force that shared empir­i­cal ver­sion of how things are. Anthro­pol­o­gists such as Claude Levi-Strauss under­stood that reli­gion and sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy were not absolutes, that there are many kinds of sci­ence, for exam­ple. A shaman’s incan­ta­tion filled with mytho­log­i­cal fig­ures and a sto­ry to help a woman through a dif­fi­cult child­birth might be just as effec­tive (with­in con­text) as tech­niques employed in a West­ern, “civ­i­lized” hos­pi­tal. What we believe in becomes our effi­ca­cy — and our destiny.

In this sense for­mal reli­gion may well be hard as stone while sci­ence may be viewed as being in the busi­ness of suc­ces­sive frac­tures, and tech­nol­o­gy emerges as the phys­i­cal rebuild­ing of frac­tured mate­r­i­al around a human pur­pose. In any event, these are all belief sys­tems that trans­late the orig­i­nal mys­tery with­in each of us and that, in fact, is what mat­ters. In this process of mak­ing order out of mys­tery all forms of social con­di­tion­ing per­tain, includ­ing fam­i­ly dynam­ic, edu­ca­tion, polit­i­cal real­i­ty, eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion and his­tor­i­cal moment. We end up believ­ing in God, liv­ing in a home­less shel­ter, aspir­ing to mon­ey — or hav­ing it, writ­ing a poem, or join­ing ISIS. These paths are all pow­ered by our inner cos­molo­gies, which is to say, how we have inter­pret­ed the mys­tery of being alive and what it means to be human. All this lives in us accord­ing to our pri­vate sys­tem of mean­ings, whether these mean­ings con­spire to merge with or to chal­lenge the cur­rents of the world. 

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Is there a way to shat­ter all sys­tems of belief so that we drink direct­ly from the waters of this mys­tery? Is there any real pos­si­bil­i­ty of unmedi­at­ed expe­ri­ence? The most and least sophis­ti­cat­ed of us claim such expe­ri­ence and some (I think in this moment of Rumi) may well have lived there. But sure­ly there are many more claimants than peo­ple who have tru­ly shat­tered the glass. After all, the nature of belief is to believe that the belief is ulti­mate­ly a prod­uct of unmedi­at­ed expe­ri­ence, a true reflec­tion of the mean­ing of the mys­tery expe­ri­enced. Hence our attach­ment to con­structs of real­i­ty, not real­i­ty itself (should any such thing actu­al­ly exist). 

The point is that these inner worlds, our sub­jec­tive frames of ref­er­ence pro­ject­ed onto the world and oth­er peo­ple have result­ed in the tor­ture and deaths of count­less human beings, the star­va­tion of many while the few are ensconced in impen­e­tra­ble lux­u­ry, the ero­sion of the plan­et on a grand scale for pur­pos­es of greed, with tech­nolo­gies as ruinous as cre­ative and life-giv­ing. There are sure­ly as many noto­ri­ous exam­ples of blind, ulti­mate­ly self-destruc­tive vio­lence as there are pos­i­tive exam­ples of human tri­umph. Is there any­thing in this bal­ance that sug­gests we are advanc­ing or evolv­ing in any mean­ing­ful way? Or is it the same old stuff?

Well, that notion of evo­lu­tion, that too, it often seems to me is a myth, a sense of his­to­ry that can also be a self-serv­ing adjunct to a sense of per­son­al and in-group supe­ri­or­i­ty — even when it is claimed not to be so — at best anoth­er flawed mythol­o­gy, a sto­ry we can ill afford to hold onto. There ought to be a word, instead, for redis­cov­er­ing what we’ve known all along. Maybe that’s the bet­ter essence.

Cos­mol­o­gy, mine, yours, is inescapable it seems. And yet, that very notion is cos­mol­o­gy, too.

What’s left after the glass has broken? 

The mys­tery of the human spir­it. What we don’t know, not what we are sure we do. An open­ness. A pos­si­bil­i­ty. Wild­flow­ers of indi­vid­ual thought and feel­ing. A free­ing space, intu­it­ed. Enough time and a host of pre­cious moments. The chance for a cer­tain reclaimed whole­ness. Our com­mon cel­e­bra­tions of of life and its pass­ing. A lit­tle music. A shared meal. A fire with voic­es around it and peo­ple laugh­ing, reach­ing out to one another.

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11 Comments

  • Excel­lent post as usu­al Dan. 

    I’ve been read­ing a book (one of many so it’s tak­ing me a while) called War and the Soul by Edward Tick, Phd. Fan­tas­tic read on the work he has done with vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from PTSD. It’s of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to me because he also empha­sizes treat­ing the soul and address­ing spir­i­tu­al per­spec­tives to pro­vide a more holis­tic heal­ing ‘cur­ricu­lum’ for the wound­ed warrior.

    One of the quotes from him I’ve tweet­ed more than once: 

    Once you know the truth, you can no longer believe in the fic­tion. ~Edward Tick, Phd 

    Whether it’s the shat­tered illu­sions of our own gov­ern­ment and the dehu­man­iza­tion of our own sol­diers and it’s REAL impact on not only oth­er nations, but our own…or those of reli­gion, this quote has been very true for me.

    How­ev­er, there is a dan­ger zone when an illu­sion shat­ters because even a false belief has a cer­tain pow­er because our faith is linked to it. As mis­placed as it may be.

    So it has been a long and painstak­ing jour­ney for me strip­ping cer­tain spir­i­tu­al beliefs back to the bare bones and suf­fer­ing a sort of loss from the shat­ter­ing of these illusions.

    The MYSTERY is what I cling to and yet what is left from the prun­ing of false beliefs have left a very lim­it­ed spir­i­tu­al imag­i­na­tion for the past few years that I’m still work­ing through. Tap­ping into the essence of mean­ing behind and under­neath some beliefs and con­nect­ing with what feels true while remain­ing open to what I do not understand. 

    The spir­i­tu­al jour­ney is so deeply per­son­al yet, in my opin­ion, a crit­i­cal one for the soul…even an athe­ist has faith in ‘some­thing’. Even if it’s nothing. 

    I’m far from being an athe­ist yet strip­ping back the bare bones of my faith cer­tain­ly seemed to have that qual­i­ty at times. Although i was­n’t real­ly reject­ing ‘God’…just the ver­sion that had been force fed to me and linked to dehu­man­iz­ing beliefs and ones that have only served to keep females in one down posi­tions and sec­ond class cit­i­zens. ( but I digress and is not the focal point of this comment…only shar­ing to pro­vide insight into the spir­i­tu­al journey) 

    Love this post Dan and I was delight­ed to see it in my feed. You’ve been away for quite awhile! 

    Wel­come back!

  • Jan Watterson wrote:

    Love the post Dan. It has been awhile since I have looked at your web­site. I saw your blog, and was very inspired.

    I just returned from the Grand Canyon.

    Look for­ward to read­ing more blogs.

    Jan

  • Dear Saman­tha~

    Of course it is easy to fall into despair — there are so many illu­sions we car­ry. Reli­gions often do a most pow­er­ful job of cre­at­ing order for peo­ple, lock­ing us into vio­lence even as oth­er parts of the sto­ry seem to fos­ter peace. We need to be able to look at the whole cos­mol­o­gy that is cre­at­ed and decide for our­selves whether to buy in, giv­ing over our under­stand­ing of the mys­tery into the hands of rigid, dehu­man­iz­ing tra­di­tions that have lit­tle respect for indi­vid­ual per­cep­tion — and some­times lit­tle respect for human life.

    Strip­ping back the bare bones” is good lan­guage for the deep inquiry we can make. And maybe crack­ing the bones them­selves to find the marrow.

    Thank you so much, Samantha. 

    All the best
    ~Dan

    PS. Anoth­er good book on war and the soul is Achilles in Viet Nam by Jonathan Shay.

  • Dear Jan!

    So nice to see your com­ments here and on the pre­vi­ous post. I hope you are doing well! I don’t post fre­quent­ly, so a good way to make sure you get my writ­ings is via email sub­scrip­tion or RSS. You can find those by going back to the front page (just click the head­er block), then click­ing “Fur­ther infor­ma­tion” at the very bot­tom of the front page.

    All the best to you!
    Dan

  • Thanks for the book link Dan. I added to my ama­zon wishlist! 

    : )

  • Dear Dan,
    I am moved being words right down to my spir­it. I love Rumi. You make him and the mys­tery and mag­ni­fi­cience of liv­ing… singing! I wished I could hug you right now! There’s so much depth and ener­gy in your post, I had to pause time and time again to cel­e­brate the truth of your words. That’s how pow­er­ful this post is for me! For some rea­son, I am imag­in­ing the two of us col­lab­o­rat­ing on a project this year. I’ve always loved and admired your writ­ing and poet­ry. That is a pre­cious gift of life and cel­e­brat­ing it that you are offer­ing. If that’s a mys­tery, then I am glad­ly cel­e­brat­ing daily!
    Much hugs and love,
    Johann

  • Dear Johann~

    What a won­der­ful, won­der­ful note! It’s very ful­fill­ing to know that this post cre­at­ed such a deep res­o­nance and sense of the mys­ter­ies and mag­nif­i­cence of life. I am so hon­ored! Thank you, hugs in return, and let’s see where the year takes us!

    All the best in friend­ship and kin­dred celebration,

    Dan

  • […] ages.  We get to wit­ness their attempts to describe, deci­pher, and make sense of our world and the cos­mos. Basi­cal­ly, each mytho­log­i­cal sto­ry can be con­sid­ered a map of the col­lec­tive psy­che and […]

  • Bless­ings to you Dan. I appre­ci­ate your kind words. Namaste.
    Johann

  • Dan your writ­ing is beau­ti­ful as is the intent behind the words. Like you said, it seems to be about “how we have inter­pret­ed the mys­tery of being alive and what it means to be human”. I often con­tem­plate what it means to have the unique­ly pre­cious con­scious­ness of a human. See my post at this link

  • Dear Tom~

    Thank you! I real­ly enjoyed your fine arti­cle on Time con­scious­ness. It very much speaks to the mys­tery and our pos­si­bil­i­ties for aware­ness. This in par­tic­u­lar: “you and I intu­itive­ly know that time is sim­ply a con­cept and not the root cause of expand­ing aware­ness.” I stopped read­ing and quick­ly found myself in a deeply reflec­tive state. Beau­ti­ful­ly expressed, and with a gor­geous image of canyon coun­try and snow! 

    All the best
    Dan

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