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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