Thursday, January 30, 2014

Image and Spirit

Incoming classes fill out a sheet of questions that enable me to get to know them better. I got a sadly familiar answer to the question of what they see as most destructive in today’s world. The failure of historic religions shows in the feeling of so many young people that religion is one of the most dangerous forces in the world today. Fundamentalism in any form with its need to enforce it’s own worldview separates groups of people and pushes aside spirituality which connects us all. The focus on rules and codes limits freedom and feels righteous while committing horrors in order to control others. The most visible forms of today’s religion have more to do with politics and obedience than spirit and connectedness. Spirit is less apt to pin things down, write rules of absolute truth and fight to protect them. It’s beyond verbalization. The words and codification bleed the spirit away, so what people really want from religion, the immersion in something larger and more meaningful than themselves is cut away. By dominating the representation of religion in the public mind the impression is largely negative and people can’t benefit from the beauty in spiritual imagery that can attune us with a bigger picture.

There are so many fine images throughout the world’s religions that could help facilitate the sense of connection that comes with mystical vision. It begins with the personal resonance with the insight creating a link with the artist. The right image can help us see in a way that makes sense, how we might be embedded in intelligence that includes but goes beyond our own, cannot be properly communicated in words and dogma. We might be neural nodes of a universal mind, local inputs participating in an overall awareness, threads within a larger tapestry of mind. The Net of Indra is a beautiful image from Buddhism that envisions cosmic unity and our interconnectedness as a net of reflective pearls each of which reflect the whole and are reflected in all the others. There are many wonderful artists’ conceptions of this on the Internet.  The net metaphor pervades the modern world so it feels natural to our realty of being in a web of information. The I Ching looks at the different pairings of elements in nature as dynamic patterns with suggestions regarding the best way to harmonize with them.

The anthropocentric notion that we are the pinnacle of intelligence is losing its hold. If magnetic fields and radiation can penetrate our bodies, then why not more inclusive layers of consciousness? Sri Aurobindo talks about a supraconsciousness that presses in on the personal consciousness like an outer form that shapes our experience and guides us in what we are capable of. As Leonard Shlain pointed out in “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” the unifying images of older cultures got crushed under the armies of the word. This may now be changing as those seeking deeper meaning reconnect with the power of spiritual vision.

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