Jan 212011

Mysterious Source, may this analogy be faithful in following the light of love back to You.

It is as though within the infinite fertile blackness of Your womb You condense the quintessence of being into the single brilliant ray that is the light of love, and this ray You direct into and through the principle of becoming.Β  In this way, all possible possibilities manifest as the interconnected emanations of Your immanence.Β  So too does each seemingly separate beam not only stream forth uniquely, but also shines as an unerring beacon leading back through the principle of becoming and the ray of love to the quintessence of being, and thus to the primal unity of You.

All creation is a fractalization, myriad reflections mirrored in extension, in and of this process.

So it must also be with the light of consciousness and the principles of religion, science, philosophy, and art – each a prism in the Soul of Humanity receiving the light of Spirit – all pouring forth unique yet interconnected rays that manifest more of Your immanence while also providing the countless paths of love leading back to Your unity in darkness, silence, and mysterious transcendence.

  22 Responses to “A Meditation on Prisms”

  1. I know you are speaking poetically here and not necessarily with a mind toward establishing a systematic theology, but I can’t resist commenting on this, because it has bearing on my thought process right now….

    You wrote: “All creation is a fractalization, myriad reflections mirrored in extension, in and of this process.”

    http://www.shodor.org defines “fractal” as a “Term coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975, referring to objects built using recursion, where some aspect of the limiting object is infinite and another is finite, and where at any iteration, some piece of the object is a scaled down version of the previous iteration”. I’m not sure that we are “fractalizations” of God in this technical sense, but here is the issue that has been rattling around in my brain for the past couple of days: if God is the only one to whom “Being” can be ascribed as an ontological category, this means that – in a manner of speaking – we don’t really exist. Our being is dependent and contingent. Our relationship to God is like the relationship between a reflection and the object reflected. I’m still trying to think this through, but this suggests that God never created a world extrinsic to Himself. Rather, He contains all possibility and all things exist as it were, “in divinis”, like pieces of orange rind suspended in marmelade jelly (to put it rather crudely).

    This brings us down to a point that the Inquisitors laid against Eckhart – that he claimed that creation is “ab aeternum”, possibly even an eternally ongoing process. I’m starting to think he was right. The question isn’t “Creation or Evolution”, since both are contingent, possibly even illusory – but “how did the multiplicity emerge from the One?” And more mysteriously, “Why?”

    • It’s clear that you are doing some profound work in your ruminations relative to non-duality. I’m reminded that last night I had a lucid dream, which you might know means I was aware that I was dreaming while I was dreaming. In that dream I went around experiencing different people and things, each of which apparently had an existence of its own in some way. For example, people did and said things I didn’t foresee, interacting with me in ways that made it seem as if they had minds of their own. Now they are only memories, and memories that my mind has conveniently put in the box of “dream characters”. But where did all the intelligence, free will, and uniqueness that I experienced in each of them come from, and where has it gone?

      And, I agree, the answer to “Why?” is perhaps the biggest mystery. I sometimes think the One’s answer might simply be something like, “Hey, that’s how I roll!”, or an even simpler “Why not?” with a gleam in His/Her All-Seeing Eye. πŸ˜‰

    • β€œhow did the multiplicity emerge from the One?”

      Is multiplicity and singularity just a mater of perception? How do photons “emerge” from an electromagnetic wave? Or is the the other way around?


      I don’t even know if the “how” postulate is true, much less the “how” it would be true, much less the “why” it might be true. I like Chuck’s answer πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the meditation!

  2. This is an amazingly written piece and so full of beautiful insight. Thank you for this medtiation.

  3. I just today became aware of Bernadette Roberts (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernadette_Roberts). Do you know of her? She claims that she is no longer an autonomous “self”. My gut reaction to that is “Oh yeah – then who writes your books?” But there do seem to be some genuine insights in her work. I read the interview that links from the bottom of the Wikipedia page (from 1986!), and was immediately reminded of some of Eckhart’s statements about going beyond the Godhead into the barren wilderness, leaving God behind, etc. I discovered that the local theological seminary has a copy of her book “The Experience of No-Self” – I think I will borrow it.

    What’s interesting to me is that she appears to view her experience as thoroughly Christian. Unlike many people who are interested in this kind of material, she is not promoting an Eastern point of view. Hard to know what to make of this stuff, though. Again the question comes to mind, “If there is no self there – who’s walking around in her shoes?”

  4. Hello Seth,
    I just joined the group a few days ago and have been checking out some of the posts here. I couldn’t help but notice your post regarding Bernadette Roberts.
    I attended a retreat given by Bernadette last September entitled “The Essence of Christian Mysticism”. Prior to that I had read “The Experience of No Self” and “What is Self”.
    As I later found out, familiarity with her works is a prerequisite for attending her retreat.
    In any case she seems to make a distinction between the “self” and one’s “personality”. When I went to the retreat I think I was expecting someone much different from who “presented” to me. To me she seemed almost egotistical and arrogant, but as time passed I began to see something quite striking about her. And that was she seemed to be all about explaining her experience of no-self in terms of Christian orthodoxy…period. She was just about her business and although she seemed to be somewhat abrasive, that was just a manifestation of her individual personality which she said God would never think of changing in a person.
    I don’t know if that clears up anything for you. I hope you do read her books. I especially enjoyed “What is Self”. Her description of her own experiences in having the self “drop away” is really amazing.
    Best Regards,
    Steve Schrader

  5. Thanks, Steve – that’s interesting. I’m a little surprised to hear you say that she comes across as arrogant and abrasive. We’ll see what the book is like; I requested it from the library today. One runs into all kinds of paradoxes with this kind of thing. For instance, the question occurs to me “If there is no self (present in Bernadette Roberts), who exactly is it that is having the experience of no self?” If the answer is “nobody”, then there is also no experience of no self.

    • Hi Seth and Steve,

      Yes, I am familiar with Bernadette Roberts work, which I think has a very important place in contemporary Christian mysticism.

      As for questions on personality, self, no-self, Self, etc., it’s very important to know as clearly as possible how a particular person is using those words. Sometimes the Devil is in the semantic details. πŸ˜› As for “me”, I again refer to the experience of lucid dreaming as something that has made a profound impact on my thoughts. That there is a dreamer is “self”-evident, so to speak. That the various elements in the dream seem to be separate and self-directed is also evident, yet it is clear that without the dreamer they never manifest. Please understand that I don’t mean to say that we are nothing more than characters in a Big Dreamer’s dream, but rather that the analogy taps into something intuitively compelling.

      • Thanks for that Chuck. I don’t mean to belabor the issue of Bernadette Roberts, as it doesn’t have much to do with your original post.
        I think my rather pointed comments about her very “unique” personality may have come across a bit too strong. Like you, I feel that Brnadette is likely to make a significant contribution to our understanding of Christian mysticism. In retrospect I think it is quite amazing that her presence among us during the retreat was so wildly different from what most of us expected.
        As you probably know she now believes that the experience of no-self is a step beyond the unitive state which earlier mystics talk about. And it is here that she will make a contribution if she does at all. She does feel that people such as John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart may have reached that state, but were perhaps unable (or unwilling?) to try to describe it.
        As for Seth’s question as to what remains after the experience of no-self, if the self is no longer available to “participate”, I must plead ignorance. She does however go to some lengths to explain this in a couple of her books. For now, I cannot really comprehend it. However, she does frequently mention that it is a “falling away” of the self which to me implies a structural transformation in the individual. In her case anyway, whatever is left to do the experiencing is still functioning at quite a high level.
        I guess that’s enough about Bernadette Roberts. I have much enjoyed the discussion.
        Best Regards,

        • Hi Steve,

          I don’t at all mind the continued discussion of Roberts’ work or related ideas. Her concept of no-self is not without precedent. There have long been similar views in other traditions (among Buddhists & Kabbalists, for example). One can come to such a concept by logic alone, because a truly unitive state cannot have even the smallest degree of subject-object dualism by which a self might recognize itself. (And it therefore can’t be called an “experience” either!) I suspect that other Christian mystics have come to awareness of no-self, but I would not at all be surprised if they would never speak of it as such. On the one hand there is the logical absurdity of claiming an experience of no-self, while on the other hand it risks accusations of blasphemy that might have easily landed persons of earlier generations in a dungeon or at the stake.

          As to her personality, while I have never met her, in her writing I have found hints of what you reported. That doesn’t trouble me too much. I often find it refreshing when mystics speak with authority about their experiences and are unapologetic about what they have come to understand. Jesus did that, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees clearly thought he was a real jerk because of it!

          Thanks for your contributions to the discussion, Steve. They are always welcome.


  6. hey, Chuck, nice piece.
    for myself, it’s obvious that we’re fragments of the divine energy — small flames, candles, from the same central fire that is the source of things/beings. in effect, we’re both part of and subject to god, at the same time. it’s a workable paradox, rather like the Heisenberg physics. both are true, even though they may seem separate. it’s that old thing about the ocean in the drop, and the drop in the ocean — both contain the entirety of the ocean, one is macrocosmic, the other, micro.

    my understanding about how/why the divine energy splits itself into so many self-aware(ish) fragments is this: the Silence, the nothingness, the void, which is nothing more than bliss awake in itself, wants to know itself. there’s like a motion in the primordial silence, a stirring. the moment there is motion, there is time. the moment there is time, there is desire — in this case, the cosmic’s desire to know itself. that union creates all the worlds, forms, beings…. each as a mini-reflection to the big mirror that is the silence.

    ultimately, you could say (and I would say), what we are, essentially, is silence. the soul of a person, the inner essence, is nothing but that. hence “be still and know that I am god.” but that silence has become so overlaid with disturbances, personalities, egoism, characteristics, that it has a hard time peeling back the false layers to again recognize — really, re-cognize! — itself.

    hence, the process of meditation and spiritual practices.

    and the why? I think it’s the divine’s entertainment, actually, kinda like writing a script and then watching the movie come to life; only It’s playing all of the roles! the job of any good actor — lose yourself in the role for while! then it’s really convincing! (but once we walk offstage…. who are we, really?)

    thanks for letting me know about this discussion……

  7. Thanks for your comments on silence, Alx. As a UK Quaker they have very special depth of meaning for me.


    • Welcome, Tone. Agreed!

      To all, this morning I awoke remembering that a problem we can have with the phrase “no-self” is that it, like the word “silence”, automatically implies a lacking to our modern minds, rather than an indescribable transcendent fullness from which something like a self is emanated.

    • hi, Tony — thanks for your reflection…

      one thing I also notice, another interesting paradox and commentary on life in this planet — that in the silence, there is actually a violence. and in the violence, there is a silence. it seems like there’s a central point, in human consciousness experiences, where the opposite streams meet and find a stasis, or more like a reconciliation in our own systems.

  8. I guess I should have started a forum discussion on “Bernadette Roberts and the Self” instead of cluttering up your blog, Chuck – sorry about that.

    Alx U: It sounds like you’re saying that we are the result of God talking to himself. That is a distinct possibility, but it still raises the issue of individual identity. It is pretty clear that there is something distinct in me that makes me “me” and something distinct in you that makes you “you”. Where does that come from? I’m reminded that on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus – and they had been dead for centuries. This suggests to me that no matter how deeply we have been submerged in the Godhead, we still retain some spark of our original identity. Eckhart discusses this (can’t remember the sermon number) when he says that a person could “sink” into the Godhead for all eternity. In other words, we move beyond the drop in the ocean metaphor, since a drop is assimilated once it lands in the ocean, but something that sinks still retains it distinctiveness (like a rock or a piece of iron). If a person can sink in God’s ocean for all eternity, he retains some measure of distinction and is not merely annihilated.

    • Seth, no worries! I’m not one to be upset by long discussions in the comments on a post. They don’t show up on the home page of the blog anyway.

      Good questions for Alx. I’ll enjoy seeing how she reponds. πŸ™‚

    • Hi, Seth !

      hey, thanks for continuing the discussion, and asking this:

      “It sounds like you’re saying that we are the result of God talking to himself.”

      in effect, yes.

      ” That is a distinct possibility, but it still raises the issue of individual identity. It is pretty clear that there is something distinct in me that makes me β€œme” and something distinct in you that makes you β€œyou”. Where does that come from?”

      it’s the jivan, that’s how they’d call it in Sanskrit — the individual soul that breaks off of the giant light that is the god energy in its purest sense, as a spark of that same light. each of us is both part of and subject to god, because we’re made of the same material inside that came from the essence of god.

      so, yes, it’s like the ocean in the drop and the drop in the ocean.

      the illusion is that each individual particle, human beings, THINKS itself separate from the divine light/source. at that point, the ego has started to play its games, and from the egoism we perform actions (karmas) which lead to reactions….. and pretty soon the soul itself is obscured by so many layers of karmas — dust on the mirror — that we’re lost completely in the illusion that we are separate from god.

      in terms of the divine souls, like Jesus, Moses, etc., being able to assume a form and re-appear in this world — my understanding is that they don’t exactly dissolve back into the Mother, but stay — some small part of their consciousness does — separated enough, as souls, that they can be like bridges, in this world of illusion, between the deluded souls who think they’re independent from god, and god itself.

      divine souls are in a little special category — in that they have already unified their consciousness with the divine WHILE they were alive. (many people have the option to dissolve back into the cosmic after death. especially if they receive that blessing, that liberation, from a divine soul.)

      but the divine souls, they already know what that dissolution is, and have the option to take it — but they don’t. it’s like the Boddhisatva vow. they keep coming, in one way or another, through their immense soul power, to help humanity. again, and again, and again.

      so, these are a few of the things I think about, in terms of what you’re asking.



  9. I stumbled on this page through a search engine because I’ve been feeling a “tugging” towards a taoist philosophy towards Christianity. In other words, if I follow the flow (such as the taoists teach) than my Christian beliefs seems to be melding with the ideas at the core of taoism (action through inaction, opposites make the opposite, etc). There was a nice article on this site comparing the teachings of Jesus with the sayings from the Tao Te Ching. Anyway, I say all of this only to introduce myself and the stream by which I drifted in on. After reading this particular page, I’ve been given a lot to chew on. Thanks to everyone for the meditations. As for the moment, I’m perplexed about the non-dualism vs. dualism argument, which I think is critical to this whole discussion. I don’t believe that violence is in the silence and silence is in the violence. I believe they are opposite as one is filled with chaos and hate and the other is filled with calmness and love. They do not seem to merge easily (to me anyway). But the question is: Are they still part of the same ocean? Does the violence need to be quelled before we sink into the ocean? Does the chaos have to be muted? If anything was allowed to merge into the One in it’s raw state, Then why do we have the need to even discuss these things or meditate on these things or even strive for a moral existance? This is why I hold to my Christian views that we must first be purified before we go back into the sea. And if we cannot exist in the sea in our chaotic, violent, hateful condition, where will we exist? This raises the whole question about duality and what all really stems from the Great Light through the prism.

    • Hi, Jerry,

      yes, welcome, and thanks for what you wrote.

      for me, my opinion, and my experience is that in this world of polarity, and duality (for anything in this creation, in the material world, is subject to the opposite poles, for sure), often opposites are perfectly contained in each other. we think of them as opposites, because we still have a strong sense of attraction to ‘good’ things and repulsion to ‘bad’ things. I would propose that at a certain point, the two seem to be part and parcel of each other, like the yin and yang symbol, in which each contains some seed of the other.

      purification, to me, is the name of the game in spirituality — but it’s not necessarily an antidote to the violence, chaos, suffering, and pain in the world in the sense of one-to-one (ie, “if I purify myself enough, I won’t experience any of those things.”) — I would venture to say that Jesus Christ was the purest soul this world has ever seen, and his enormous, unbelievable crystal pure soul attracted huge negativity, violence, pain, aggression and even torture — and he was happy to take it, transform it, and help humanity through that transformation.

      it’s really important, I think, to understand that positivity and negativity are in direct relationship with one another — the positive is always attracted to an excess of negativity, to help it purify, and the negativity is always attracted to an excess of positivity — to try to divert it or stop it from being successful.

      it’s like a beautiful woman trying to walk, alone, down a city street in the middle of the night — any way she’ll remain unattacked? what did she ever do to anyone? she’s an innocent lady, just walking from point A to point B — but her beauty, it’s a high positivity. automatically the negativity is attracted, and seeking to destroy the beauty, the positivity.

      if one knows these levers deeply (like Jesus did), then one can also leverage these dynamics to create more beauty and peace, bliss and relief from suffering in this world — usually by being willing to experience the suffering, ourselves.

      at least, that’s my experience — please take what you like, and leave the rest.

      = )


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