Scientists tell us that when time began, fourteen billion years ago, something came from nothing. When you awaken to the ground of all Being, in a deep meditative state, you realize that when something came from nothing, the nothing didn’t disappear. That unmanifest, unborn dimension is the ever-present ground out of which everything is still arising in every moment. It is what the Buddha called “the deathless,” and what others call “eternity consciousness.” When you awaken to this dimension in your own awareness, you will find yourself always already resting in the eternal moment before time began. This is the recognition that liberates: Prior to everything, I already am. The experience of this recognition is not one of becoming liberated. It is of being already liberated. What you realize when you awaken to that ground is that there is a part of each and every one of us that is already free—from everything. That part of yourself, which is the ground of Being, has never been bound, trapped, or limited in any way. That’s the part of yourself that I want you to discover. It’s not the part of yourself that needs to become free. It is already free, right now.
Our society is very familiar with apocalyptic thinking—especially when it comes clothed in religious garb. Indeed, it seems that every few years another date for the rapture or end of the world or the return of Christ is set, anticipation reaches a fever pitch, and then the day goes by with no noticeable change in our global social order. Then speculation dies down for some time before another date is set by yet another religious leader filled with messianic conviction. But religions are not the only place we find such convictions. In his latest blog posts, EnlightenNext Executive Editor Carter Phipps argues that messianic thinking has become quite attractive in progressive circles as well, where so many people believe that we are reaching some sort of culmination of history and that we need some sort of era-defining event to pave the way to a new future. He calls our attention to the dangers of this way of thinking and suggests that the hype around 2012 as the final year on the Mayan calendar is just the latest example:
2012 is the progressive version of traditional eschatological thinking. It’s the idea that an event is going to occur that is dramatically outside the normal processes of history and change everything, lifting the majority of humanity to a higher level of consciousness and creating a more enlightened future. There are darker versions as well, where a sort of mini-apocalypse has to occur before we get to the better side of the future, but generally 2012 represents a positive version of eschatological thinking. It’s a more benign strain, we might say, but it’s still the same basic song, just a prettier arrangement.
Read part one of this post, “Apocalypse Now, Progressive Style.”
Read part two of this post, “No More Messiahs (Part II).”
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine who is searching for a middle place between the dogmatic certainties of both religion and science. Between the New Atheists’ unequivocal rejection of God and traditional religious believers’ embrace of the same, a whole host of other possibilities, according to Eagleman, are getting squeezed out of the picture. He even has a name for the person who occupies that middle place—a possibilian. A possibilian is a person who acknowledges that our understanding of how the universe works is extremely limited and our ignorance truly vast. A possibilian shies away from anything that even hints at dogma or final certainty and allows the tools of science to sort out truth from falsehood. The following talk, taken from TED Houston, is an eloquent call for a spirit of humility and an attitude of exploration as we move toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and the universe.
To read our review of David Eagleman’s book Sum, click here (and scroll down the page).
May 21st. Apocalypse now. The rapture has come and gone. At least that’s the story as told by the latest Christian end-times believers who think that the world is coming to an end—oh, a few days ago. People quit jobs, spent their savings, said goodbye to friends and family—all with the firm belief that last exit to heaven was actually here. One couple in Florida spent their life savings, because why would they need it after May 21st? Yes, it’s crazy. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, this seems to happen about once every five years. Yes, it’s hard to believe in a modern age that this kind of thinking can still flourish to such a degree.
In academia they call this sort of thing eschatological thinking or golden age millennialism (the reference is from the Bible where Christ will eventually reign in paradise for 1000 years). Truth be told, this kind of thing has always been a fundamental part of religious traditions. While it may have been weaned out of some over the last few hundred years, it’s hardly a side issue. Just about every major religion, even Buddhism, has some kind of central messianic eschatological tradition. If it’s not the second coming of the Christ, it’s the return of the Mahdi, or the coming of the Maitreya, or the appearance of the Kalki, the end of the Iron Age, the coming of a new Jerusalem, the return of Quezacotl, the…well, you get the idea. And even today, most religious traditions still have a rich and active eschatological strain.
I wrote a great deal about this in an article almost a decade ago (which you can find here). It’s a fascinating subject. And even after failure upon failure, people are shockingly undeterred. End times thinking is one of those mind viruses that simply won’t bow to the reality of failure. Continue reading…
A few news events have caught my eye this past week—particularly, the Orthodox Jewish newspaper that photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of the iconic Situation Room photo and The Atlantic Monthly’s report “Danger: Falling Tyrants” by Jeffrey Goldberg on the move toward democracy in the Middle East. But it was an email exchange with one of our former editors/writers, Maura O’Connor, who is reporting from Afghanistan where she’s embedded among US troops, that made me think about these events in the context of our responsibility, as sophisticated postmodern individuals who are living in a pluralistic global society. We often literally brush up against those who have very different worldviews—radically different ways of understanding reality and human relationship.
Maura told me that she and a friend, another young American female journalist, were talking about whether to wear headscarves in Afghanistan. Maura covers her hair out of respect for their religion—much as, she noted, we cover our shoulders when we go into Catholic churches. Yet her young colleague, often doesn’t. She wants to show the Afghan women that they don’t have to cover themselves and believes that showing her hair, contrary to custom in this Muslim country, was a way of taking a stand against their oppression and supporting them. I would imagine that she saw her actions as a way of inspiring change. While her actions were obviously well intentioned, and may even in some way inspire the kind of culture change that she hopes, they may also have very unintended consequences, and be met less than enthusiastically by both men and women in Afghanistan.
That’s where my rumination over these events begins. Continue reading…
Taizan Maezumi Roshi was a Japanese pioneer of Zen Buddhism in America. Like others of his time, he travelled across the Pacific in the mid-twentieth century to teach Zen and establish local schools in the US. As a result of his training in multiple lineages, Roshi was able to combine Rinzai koan study and Soto shikantaza (a specific type or Zazen) which made for a powerful hybrid teaching. His legacy includes institutions and centres across the country as well the gift of dharma transmission to twelve successors. One of those successors was his senior disciple, Bernie Glassman.
Bernie Glassman is a pioneer in his own right. As a spiritual activist Glassman is well known as a leading figure in the “socially engaged Buddhism” movement. His many projects and social initiatives include the successful Greyston Bakery in New York (run primarily by the less fortunate), which gives all profits to other projects such as low-income housing programs, community daycare, and a health centre for those suffering with HIV/AIDS. His famous ‘street retreats’ challenge preconceptions about spirirual practice by inserting participants into daily life lived on the streets. Practitioners eat in soup kitchens, sleep in homeless shelters or in public spaces, practice Zazen in parks and receive dokusan (interview between student and master) in alleys. On March 26 Glassman will speak to EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen about his time with Maezumi Roshi as part of the online celebration “Awakening to Your Highest Self: Tales of Transformation from 25 Spiritual Luminaries”.
During the latter half of the 20th Century, many progressive seekers in the west left the traditions of their upbringing and headed east in search of mystical truth. For many, mainstream Christianity had become devoid of many of the mystical elements that it once possessed, and those hungry for more often looked abroad. Father Thomas Keating took a different approach. Drawing on ancient source texts of the Christian contemplative tradition – such as, The Cloud of Unknowing, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross – Fr. Keating undertook a collaborative effort to revive the Christian mystical and contemplative tradition.
Father Thomas Keating is an American Trappist monk and priest from the Roman Catholic tradition. The Abbot at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, he is one of the founding members of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd., an international, ecumenical spiritual network that teaches the Christian contemplative practice of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. A true living master of the Christian tradition, Father Keating is an advocate for the resurgance of spiritual mystiscism in Catholicism and some consider him to be one of the few genuinely realized Christian saints alive today. He is the latest addition to our ongoing series about spiritual masters.
Next up in our Spiritual Masters Series is the great “non-teacher,” Jiddu Krishnamurti. This south Indian native was adopted at the age of 11 by Dr. Annie Besant, then President of the Theosophical Society, and groomed to be what she called the next “World Teacher,” a role that he would ultimately renounce in 1929. Though he travelled and lectured around the world about his post-traditional Dharma of transformation to hundreds of thousands of people, he explicitly said that he was not a Guru and said that seekers were better to look within themselves for the truth than to a teacher. Nevertheless, his teachings inspired millions and he is known as one of the most significant spiritual and philosophical minds of the 20th century. Continue reading…
If your familiar with the work of Steve McIntosh, then you’ve most likely read his ideas about philosophy (His work has been featured in EnlightenNext magazine). McIntosh, who is a Boulder, Colorado-based author and entrepreneur, is known as one of the leading proponents and cataloguers of a new strain in the the history of philosophy called “integral.” In fact, as a founding member of Ken Wilber’s integral institute and the author of the 2007 book Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, he has established himself as one of the preeminent integral philosophers of our time. But even though he has been involved in many dimensions of the progressive and evolutionary spirituality movements, much less is known about his personal spiritual beliefs.
That’s why we’re so excited to be featuring a conversation between McIntosh and EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen on March 26th about his deep spiritual relationship to Jesus of Nazareth during the virtual celebration,“Awakening to Your Highest Self.”