What did you realize - expressed in one sentence - upon spiritual awakening?

“That there is a continuum of insight, burrowing through seemingly endless layers of constructs (one of which is “spiritual awakening”), to mediate encounters with an immediate, nondual rawness of being — an immersion which then tends to be integrated, after-the-fact, by either a) rationalizing the experience to fit with cultural conditioning and language, b) accepting it as what is (roughly, an emergent mystery, navigated and boundarized within the limitations of consciousness), c) interpreting it as an essence or ground from which everything else arises, d) allowing it to infuse us with surprising depths of humility and compassion, e) accepting its stimulation of gnosis and sophia within, f) some combination of all of the above…usually one that relies on discernment, and a specific quality of letting go, to to bear fruit in our lives.”

What are the practical advantages of mysticism?

At least in part, I have engaged in my personal mystical discipline for practical reasons, and it has yielded practical results.

These would include:

1. Much greater clarity about how my inner life is unfolding, what is important to me, what generates forward progress, what aligns with my values hierarchy, etc. — thus improving the ease and concision of knowing, decision-making and day-to-day prioritization of thoughts, relationships, efforts, etc.

2. A broader contextual awareness of the world around me — a multidimensional answer to the causal relationships and “whys” of existence, wellness, society, technology, economy, creativity, knowledge, etc. Appreciating this richer, more holistic interplay has improved efficacy across all of my activities, and helped construct mutual support among them, resulting in both enhanced efficiencies and noticeable multidimensional growth.

3. An improved ability to help others — whether through encouragement and emotional support, counsel regarding personal challenges, insight into situational conundrums, or intuitions about self-knowledge and values-related conflicts.

4. There is more, but ultimately these consequences tend to culminate in a personal directedness, focus and acquiescent contentment that enhances joy and harmony in my own life, and encourages (to some humble degree) the same qualities in the lives of those with whom I have relationship.

My 2 cents.

What was your enlightenment experience like?

It’s still going on. I suspect it will never end. There also seem to be many facets and dimensions to it, only some of which are approachable with words. I wrote about one phase of my experience here: Poetry by T.Collins Logan. See the second poem, “Today’s Libation.” That poem brushes up against many aspects of a persistent unfolding/awakening — and my attempts to express it. I could just as easily answer this question with “a deep and abiding silence,” or “a dense and seemingly endless cascade of aha moments,” or “being arrested by an intense clarity of what agape really is…that is, precisely what it looks like, and why it is the only remaining imperative, after the fires of gnosis have burned everything else away.” I think there are probably as many different expressions of this journey as their are stages in the journey…and my insight thus far is that those stages are infinite. Here is something I wrote after some spiritual adventures earlier in my life that I think captures a central theme in my own awakening (from my book The Vital Mystic):

The Cliff

With all of my being I scrambled and trembled and strove
climbing ever higher
but the most detailed maps, the most disciplined techniques
and the careful advice of sages widely revered
did not avail me – for I could not reach my goal, or even
comprehend it
until, one day, with unexpected insight
I just let go
and began an endless falling into God

— My 2 cents.

Can wisdom be mechanized and proceduralized, and if so, what are some of the issues involved in doing so?

IMO wisdom cannot be mechanized — at least not the spirit of what wisdom is really all about (i.e. multifaceted efficacy). It can be “proceduralized” to a limited degree, in that certain input streams, aptitudes and processing techniques can be encouraged that tend to permit available wisdom to percolate up through our intentions and actions (for example, certain types of meditation). But there is no guaranteed approach in my experience. In this sense we could equate characteristics of wisdom with compassion, in that there are ways to inspire or induce those characteristics (or mimic them), but that a rigid enforcement of authentic compassionate responses is really not a practical or “procedural” possibility. Further, the difference between imitations and the real thing are fairly pronounced.

With that said, I once formulated a “pathway” to wisdom that looked something like this:

data/observation → education/information/contextualization → insight/knowledge → compassionate/inclusive intentionality (i.e. “for the good of All”) → application/testing/efficacy → experiential feedback → ongoing practice + fine-tuning → additional multidimensional input streams (emotional + somatic + spiritual + analytical intelligence) → discernment → consistent operationalization + values alignment→ wisdom.

As you can see, this isn’t really a formula or procedure as much as a loose container for a combination of felt experiences, moments of insight, careful attention to consequences and conditions, and continuous adjustment; it is therefore inherently both multidimensional and emergent.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Can-wisdom-be-mechanized-and-proceduralized-and-if-so-what-are-some-of-the-issues-involved-in-doing-so/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Can an enlightened being feel pride?

LOL. Not if they want to remain enlightened, engage the world around them from an awakened state…or operationalize their insight. Pride indicates regression. I suppose it can and does arise in some vulnerable context (beings being beings), but it won’t have any staying power — there is nothing for it to latch onto. The moment the ego is invoked to be deliberately fed with pride, the I/Me/Mine rises up to obscure the unadorned reality that initially attenuated it. So perhaps we could say this is a case of greater/lesser, rather than either/or. But the lessening can be fairly complete, as a matter of consequential maturation. We might even say that experiencing pride is a good barometer of that maturation process.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Can-an-enlightened-being-feel-pride/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is there a necessary connection between meditation and morality? Is enlightenment linked to goodness? Is there a possibility that an enlightened person still do bad things?

A difficult question to answer — because there isn’t really a universal or absolute correlation between any of the events, qualities or outcomes described in the question. The answer to all three is really: “Sometimes.” Sometimes, with the right kind of meditation, for a person who is receptive and genuine in their intentions, morality is nudged in a more mature direction by meditation alone. In my Integral Lifework system, however, most often meditative practice would only address one or two of thirteen dimensions that require our attention, care and nurturing — and without engaging all the other dimensions as well, moral growth is a lot less likely. And even then, there will still be many moments of choice when a person must intend to grow, change and integrate their transformational experiences — rather than ignore, reject or suppress them (which can indeed happen) — so that moral maturity is emergent. In the same way, a person’s awakening to unitive consciousness/love-consciousness will sometimes inspire them to be kinder and more considerate of others as an organic consequence — to, in effect, develop skillfulness in their compassion — and sometimes, depending on their inherent character, require more deliberate cultivation. But here again there will be choices about whether an intentionality anchored in “the good of All” is acceptable, embraceable, or actualizeable. Again a person’s native propensities inform what is most likely: are they naturally prosocial? Do they have a mental illness? Are they perceptive? On the autism spectrum? Abused as a child? There are a lot of factors in play, and consistent focus over time is another hurdle in this regard. Once again multiple dimensions of a person come into play. But very often, at each stage in the processes of interior development and exterior operationalization, if a person turns away from the difficult realizations they are facing, they sometimes can and do act out in destructive ways towards themselves or others. So at any point along their journey, the option to drop out, act out, or backslide is always present — and usually less inadvertent that previously, because awareness and awakeness has increased. Here again, though, a choice. Over and over…so many choices. In my experience, most folks (myself included) will shy away from embracing really difficult ahas at one point or other…delaying or denying…and that itself can lead to difficult periods in which all three aspects of the question seem like a disconnected or arbitrary struggle — with lots of negative consequences. But…well…this only sometimes becomes a serious derailment or journey’s end.

My 2 cents.

Is it possible to love everyone?

This is a challenging question, IMO, mainly because there is such a diversity of conceptions and attitudes about “love” in modern culture. In ancient Greece, they used several different words for love in different contexts, but in modern English our distinctions get a bit muddied. I have spent the past thirty years or so meditating on this issue and writing about it — and still find it difficult to reduce down to simplified definitions. Which means that answering this question will require laying some groundwork first….

What spiritual traditions are talking about when they use the phrase “loving everyone” is really three distinctly different components:

1) The first is having a certain perspective about all human beings (including ourselves) that recognizes human frailty, bad choices, imperfections and weaknesses in everyone, and nevertheless accepts, forgives and is kind to all. This is really more of a behavioral and intellectual discipline that is grounded in humility and functional compassion regarding the well-being of ourselves and others.

2) The second is a felt experience of affection that occurs through spiritual practice; this is difficult to describe without personally encountering it, but imagine feeling the same depth of love you might feel for your own child, a favorite sibling or your closest friend, but for everyone and everything at once. This is a profound apprehension that can happen spontaneously in peak experiences of consciousness, or as the result of disciplined mystical activation practices (see my book Essential Mysticism for elaboration of this process, online for free here: Essential Mysticism); in fact that is what many spiritual practices in various traditions seek to induce.

3) The third aspect of “loving everyone” is inherent to the ideas of discernment, skillfulness, and understanding the relationship dynamics in play. In other words, whether we are exercising disciplined humility (#1), or experiencing an aha moment of universal love (#2), we will want to know whether our behavior and decisions have efficacy with respect to loving others — that is, that they have the desired trajectory, interplay and consequences. This also means developing some metrics around this objective, and understanding what “unskillful” love (such as codependence) looks like.

In the highest order of what I call the unitive principle — that is, a mature and skillful universal loving kindness — all three of these facets of “loving everyone” are developed and refined. In fact, that process never ends…it is a dynamic and fluid interaction within and without. But there is an important conditionality to this journey: it is dependent on our level of moral development (or ego development, if you will). We will not be able to operate beyond our level of moral maturity — at least not for sustained periods of time without the possibility of burn-out. This is because love-consciousness has everything to do with our personal identity and attachment to that identity, as well as how expansive or inclusive our identity becomes. This is a much more complicated topic, but here is a chart that shows the progression of moral development and its correlation to both identity and our ability to “love everyone” in skillful and sustainable ways:

Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

I hope this was helpful.

The dharma seems to unfold by itself in an awakened mind. What do you think?

Perhaps the critical modifier in this question is “seems.”

It seems as though most everything is mainly “seeming” to us humans. That seems to be our lot — with our limited perceptions and often predictable cognitive and emotional patterns. Further, it seems there is a differentiation between “what seems,” and “what is,” so that we value them differently.

At the same time, we also have tremendous capacity to project our conclusions about “what seems” onto our conceptions about “what is” and vice versa, and there is ongoing debate about whether such projection actually changes “what is,” or is just more seeming.

From another perspective, is this “seeming” actually an undifferentiated part of “what is,” or is it somehow independent from it? Some have concluded that both of these — as well as the questions evoked by the relationship — are constructs abstracted from the ultimate ground from which all of them have arisen, so that the constructs may be different in character or quality, but not in substance.

But can “what is” actually be perceived in an unadorned way, via some special faculty of our consciousness? And can our consciousness then encounter the ultimate ground beyond both “what is” and “what seems?”

If we define “awakening” as being somehow involved in these patterns of discovery, revelation and exploration, then perhaps we could also say that echoes or representations of the dharma filter into this process as a perceived “unfolding.” This might be our subjective experience of our consciousness brushing up against an ultimate ground, and of our hearts, minds and being effectively undergoing a transformative influence — into a more active embodying of those echoes and representations. Or…we could simply be recognizing how we have always been part of the dharma, with nothing really changing except our awareness.

But is our perception accurate in either case? Or is it just more “seeming?” Are we imitating dharma, becoming part of dharma, recognizing the imminence of dharma within and without, reinforcing an invented “dharma construct,” or something else…? Have we clarified an important differentiation, or relinquished that differentiation in our acquiescence? Have we “arrived” somewhere, or have we simply “let go?” Have we created and rationalized a more elaborate set of constructs, or have all constructs been annihilated in the crucible of unadorned perception?

From Quora https://www.quora.com/The-dharma-seems-to-unfold-by-itself-in-an-awakened-mind-What-do-you-think/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is it harder for a rational logical formally educated mind to achieve spiritual awakening?

I think focusing this question a bit more in terms of time and place would be helpful. For example, we could say:

1. In the postmodern era among Western societies, it has become vogue to remain skeptical and even cynical about anything that lacks an emperical basis. In fact, we could say that over-emphasis (in education, but also culturally) on reductionist analysis and purely rational justifications would make it much more challenging to allow other input streams. In particular, anything smacking of “spirituality” seems to have garnered a reflexive disdain for those who gravitate toward empiricism, so that an almost irrational skepticism becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

2. In many Eastern cultures the exploration of ontological questions does not exclude spirituality or non-rational experiences and inputs. In fact various philosophical traditions are as much “spiritual” as they are “rational,” and do not prioritize one input stream over another in the course of self-examination of interpretation of peak experiences. Such a culture (and educational milieux), therefore, does not feel the need to reflexively dismiss the non-empirical in the same manner that Western culture seems to cultivate.

These are gross generalizations, but hopefully you can weave between the obvious extremes here.

My 2 cents.

Given that we can't know for absolute certainty, what are your personal theories regarding the story (legend) (truth) of Christian figure of Jesus?

I don’t mean to be entirely dismissive, but for me this question verges on absurd. Not that I haven’t encountered it before — in fact my first interactions with Christians who were striving to convert me centered around the various approaches to evidence or “proofs” concerning the person of Jesus and his miraculous acts. In the context of many Christian believers I met, it was these proofs that justified their beliefs…and so I think they assumed that the copious amounts of what they considered persuasive evidence would rock my world (though for some I suspect this was more about reinforcing their own self-justifications). But there was always something…well…that felt like a serious falling short on this particular road to any meaningful conclusions about Jesus and the Divine. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…and so I shrugged off this rationalistic approach, along with many of these overeager evangelists.

Time passed.

Then one day - at the encouragement of a friend - I decided to read the Gospel of John. And the more I read it, the more a lot of things began to fall into place for me — in terms of understanding the early Christian message, and also understanding myself and what was really important to me. This has to do with what I would call “the felt reality of truth.” To know something in one’s bones in a non-rational but nevertheless profoundly persuasive way. I didn’t know Rumi at that time, but he spoke to this experience artfully:

“Intellect is good and desirable to the extent it brings you to the King's door. Once you have reached His door, then divorce the intellect! From this time on, the intellect will be to your loss and a brigand. When you reach Him, entrust yourself to Him! You have no business with the how and the wherefore. Know that the intellect's cleverness all belongs to the vestibule. Even if it possesses the knowledge of Plato, it is still outside of the palace.”

And of course the non-rational gravity well that the Gospel of John describes is all about agape — Divine love. Something Rumi and Hafiz also expounded upon extensively, and their writing would later me into “a felt reality of truth” in much the same way that the Gospel of John did. Some other Christian and Jewish texts have had a similar effect — Psalms, Ecclesiastes, The Shepherd of Hermes, The Gospel of Thomas - but the Gospel of John really grabbed me in a way that was meaningful…and enduring. Because it spoke to my heart in a language that my heart knew, but my mind…well…it didn’t really understand anything at all.

In any case, this message of love “rang true” in ways that invited relationship with the Divine. And so I embarked on a journey to intimately know “the enigma in the mirror;” to explore and eventually embrace a deep and abiding love affair with God. And without the Jesus described in the Gospel of John — without the words and deeds attributed to him in that book — I would not have experienced this transformation. I would certainly still be a spiritual person, indeed I would be a mystical person, and perhaps even a person who learned over time how to be more compassionate and kind to others…but I would not have become devoted to love itself. And I don’t think I would have been as empowered in this journey (in a spiritual sense) to seek the good of All.

So for my experience of faith (and I do not mean belief, but Faith as an Intentionally Cultivated Quality of Character), this Quora question is a mighty distraction from what I feel is essential - from what I now discern to be important and vital in my own religious experience. And, further, I would say that I “know” (in the sense of gnosis and sophia) the spiritual truth of love as an “absolute certainty.” How do I know? Because I was willing to practice, as best I could, the mindset, attitude and relating to others that the story of Jesus conveys — and because I was willing to invite holy spirit to assist me in these interior and exterior efforts.

In this context - the context of experiential certainty of transformative power - “personal theories” about Jesus of Nazareth are intellectual exercises, distractions that do little more than inflame egos into defending or assailing them. Perhaps, as the question poses, such theories can form the basis of a “rational discussion” that appeals to some - perhaps to a fruitful dialectic. But for me it is like trying to explain what it feels like to jump naked off of a cliff into an icy lake…using math, when it really should be poetry.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Given-that-we-cant-know-for-absolute-certainty-what-are-your-personal-theories-regarding-the-story-legend-truth-of-Christian-figure-of-Jesus

Why is spiritual awakening often mentioned happening in a single instant?

I would say that “old habits die hard,” and so we try to create new habits. This applies to mental habits, physical habits, spiritual habits, emotional habits - all kinds of habits. So we study and meditate and exercise and learn how to identify our emotions and how all of these impulses and patterns arise in ourselves. Through certain practices over time - and also sometimes spontaneously - we arrive at “aha” moments, peak experiences or insights that strip away the seeming rigidity and force of all these habits. We recognize what they are, and where they are coming from, and for a time they are intrinsically de-energized. At which point there is no more trying, there just is.

However…and this is I think what you may be referring to…there is tremendous momentum behind all of the old habits. What our body desires, what our mind desires, what our heart desires, what our spirit desires…all of the energy may dissipate in an awakening, while the impulses and habits have nevertheless remained available just beneath the surface. Like rabbits sitting on a lawn at night, seemingly still, but ready to bolt into action once we reengage ordinary, routine attention. And what happens then? Many possibilities. Without continuing the practices that led to our aha, the force of our old habits may slowly return. Or, as we get older, we may forget our earlier appreciation or understanding. Or we might try to cling to the aha experience in a nostalgic or needy sort of way - like we are holding our breath - which is also unhelpful. Or we may find ourselves in an environment that reinforces - even demands - reassertion of all of those previous rabbit-habits. And these situations can and do interfere with what we might call “integration” of the aha experience into daily life. So although devotees of various traditions often tend to shy away from it, we could even say that awakening is itself subject to impermanence. And then the rabbits start running all over the place again - not like they were before, because we are conscious of them now, but nonetheless with renewed energy.

However - and this is a fairly hefty contradiction to what I’ve just said - waking up to a new way of seeing and being does change us in permanent ways. The extent of that change depends, I think, on the readiness of the person - both developmentally and in terms of the innate structures they have available. Which again is why ongoing practice is important. For some (perhaps most) it is also fruitful to have a supportive community with whom to share and mutually encourage the “integration” process, as well as a mature tradition that can inform and contextualize our journey. But the point is that changes or consequences of a peak experience persist, whether or not we consciously recognize, energize or integrate hem. It’s just that they may not feel particularly helpful or beneficial - they can even exacerbate suffering. Knowledge and insight without acceptance can be oppressive rather than liberating.

But all of this discussion is really just a shadow-projection on the cave wall until we leave the cave. And so we return to disciplined practice, because this anchors us and invites stillness. Then, when the helpful awareness arises that our witness consciousness is itself just one more of those rabbits…well, when we’re done laughing, we will have the momentum and energy of our actively cultivated habit-disciplines to help us retain a little courage and compassion amid the hilarity, so that we can accept and integrate…and not forget.

My 2 cents.

What would you choose to happen to you after death if you had a choice?

I’d like to have all of the following options available, which I could try out and then revisit after sampling them:

1. Have my consciousness re-enter my younger self with the knowledge and wisdom of an older man - mainly to correct all of the bad choices I made in my youth, but also to re-experience some of the coolest moments.

2. Go to angel training camp so I can learn how to skillfully aid mortals in enlightening themselves.

3. Become a deity on my own planet so that I could experiment with different forms of consciousness and life…you know, just for fun.

4. Become an unfettered consciousness that can travel faster-than-light all around the Universe to observe and explore.

5. Hang out for a while with all my favorite historical peeps, in whatever form they have inhabited the next life.

6. Have my consciousness be extinguished while giving all of my life force back to the Earth, secure in the knowledge that it will amplify love and light in the world.

7. Enter the next phase of the Great Journey - in whatever dimension, manifestation and role that may be - carrying all I have learned and experienced with me.

8. Become a ghost that haunts the Earth, disrupting the commercial spectacle until capitalism is finally abandoned and I can rest in peace.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-would-you-choose-to-happen-to-you-after-death-if-you-had-a-choice/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Are you a spiritual hypocrite?


I got a good laugh from this one, because OF COURSE I am a hypocrite - on spiritual and countless other levels in nearly all of my habits. I think it is part of being human. For example:

1. I detest conspicuous consumerism and rail against it constantly…while also consuming beyond what I really need (that is, for the pleasure of consuming).

2. I believe that compassion is the truest expression of spiritual development - and that I have cultivated manifestations of my spiritual Self - but I make choices that are not compassionate all the time.

3. I decry the irrational stupidity of conservative Americans for their self-contradictory choices and reflexive groupthink…while at the same time I will sometimes defend contradictory progressive values without carefully thinking them through.

4. I encourage my clients and students (in meditation, coaching, etc.) to let go of animalistic reflexes in favor of conscious, skillful self-nourishment…but I feed my inner primitive wolf quite often with my own reptilian frustration and impatience.

5. I am confident that the Universe advances along its given trajectory with or without the involvement of my will…but I can still be willful or try to control outcomes in a way that contradicts that belief.

At the same time, I also do TRY to overcome this rampant hypocrisy by adjusting my thoughts, behaviors and responses to align more with my professed values, and avoid situations that would entice me to undermine them more easily. And of course this is like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Ha. But really I think this should flow effortlessly out of my way of being, not in response to conscious discipline. And so for now I must just accept that I haven’t progressed as far as I sometimes wish that I have…and try not to judge myself (or anyone else) too harshly for being a raging hypocrite.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Are-you-a-spiritual-hypocrite/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Does the Western literature lag behind in mysticism? If yes, why? If no, what are some Western magnum opuses that bring mysticism into prominence?

As you can see by my bio, I myself write about mysticism, and I live in the West.
However, IMO there are three distinctly separate threads of mysticism that have arisen in the West, and it is important to distinguish them:

1. Egoic. Mysticism schools that have some useful information, but tend to amplify the ego and enhance personal power and abilities. These include things like Theosophy, the work of Alistair Crowley and George Gurdjieff, certain New Age literature like The Secret, and esoteric and alchemical practices found among secret organizations (Free Masons, etc.).

2. Contemplative. Mysticism schools that grew out of the Christian and Neoplatonist traditions, but (surprisingly, in my view) have not propagated much throughout Western culture except in very small enclaves, denominations or esoteric schools. This would include the works of the Gnostics, Hermeticists, Neoplatonists, Christian contemplatives (Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhardt, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Jakob Böhme, Thomas Traherne, Thomas Merton, The Cloud of Unknowing, etc.), the Eastern Orthodox Desert Fathers (see the Philokalia), the practices of the Quakers, and some recently revitalized threads found in New Age literature (the writings of Kryon or Richard Bach, for example, or Meditations on the Tarot - A Journey into Christian Hermeticism).

3. Intellectual-Philosophical. This is where we find mainly a left-brained exploration of mystically influenced thought. Here we find the works of folks like Teilhard de Chardin, the German idealists (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel), William James, J. Krishnamurti, Aldus Huxley, Jean Gebser, Joseph Campbell and many others.

As to why these are not more popular, recognized or known - that is likely the result of several factors. Mainly it is because the dominant religious institutions in the West tend towards exoteric ritual and encourage dependence on authority. This is in stark contrast to Eastern religions like Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, which - although they can and do succumb to similar institutional failings - tend to emphasize individual practice, development and “paths to enlightenment” in ways that never really have caught on in the West (other than through cults, self-appointed gurus and expensive weekend retreats). In the West, religion is also often much more commoditized and consumerized as a consequence of the ascendence of capitalism.

As for a magnum opus, I recommend Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism as a useful starting point. You can also read some of my works on mysticism, downloadable for free here: Integral Lifework Books & CDs.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Does-the-Western-literature-lag-behind-in-mysticism-If-yes-why-If-no-what-are-some-Western-magnum-opuses-that-bring-mysticism-into-prominence/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How does one cope with a spiritual crisis or a dark night of the soul?

Some thoughts:

1. Make sure all other dimensions of your being are fully nourished - relationships, learning, creativity and self-expression, healing from past trauma, physical exercise and a good diet, intimacy, affinity groups that share your other interests and passions, and so forth.

2. Read St. John of the Cross’ exploration of THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL. Read both Book I and Book II. Meditate on them. Re-read them. Meditate some more.

3. Have compassion for yourself - be patient, forgiving, and accepting.

4. Let go. Relinquish any clinging to both what you have been and what you expect to become.

5. Read Lao Tzu’s Te-Tao Ching (I like the Robert Hendricks translation)

6. Find support and refuge in a like-minded spiritual community, keeping in mind that the community may not be where, who or what you expect. It may be Sufi or Baha’i; it may be a Buddhist sangha; it may be a Hindu temple; it may be a Christian congregation of an unfamiliar denomination; it may be a Wiccan discussion group; it may be some secular humanists at a Unitarian Universalist church…Be open, check stuff out, and abandon your prejudices.

7. Spend some time with Daniel Ladinsky’s renderings of Hafez.

8. Find an authentic, client-centered spiritual mentor, coach or therapist to help walk you through your experience and provide nonjudgmental support. However…don’t become dependent on them for guidance, but continue to look within.

9. Be careful not to push yourself too far, too quickly. Take a break from spiritual work if necessary; give yourself space and time to process and integrate new insights and information.

10. Read the Bhagavad Gita.

11. Begin to actualize the change in direction you now perceive to be most spiritually authentic. This also doesn’t need to be rushed…but it very likely does need to happen. The most fruitful and facilitative changes in circumstances will arise of their own accord…if we open the door to that process.

12. Disruption of routine is a normal consequence of spiritual crisis…but it is also important to watch out for distractions, old defenses, denial and destructive impulses, any of which can derail positive consequences.
13. Read Lex Hixon’s Mother of the Buddhas.

14. Allow yourself to grieve. There is real loss along this path.

15. Remember that we are never fully aware of where we are in our spiritual journey - and in any case we aren’t where we think we are. However, two helpful metrics I have found are these: How sincere is my felt experience of compassionate affection right now? How sincere and present is my expression of that compassionate affection - towards my own being, in my interactions with those around me, and in consideration of All That Is?

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-does-one-cope-with-a-spiritual-crisis-or-a-dark-night-of-the-soul/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How do religious anarchists reconcile their religion and political views?

Most religions of the world (theistic or non-theistic) teach very similar principles with respect to civil authority: don’t make waves, follow the law, be a good citizen, and practice your faith on a personal and interpersonal level, rather than a political one. In fact, nearly all of them advise against overt political involvement (with respect to applying particular spiritual principles, for example), since politics is about worldly or illusionary power, and religious traditions are “supposed” to be about spiritual or ontological concerns. However, many also encourage compassionate action that could be expressed in one’s voting, or proposing legislation, or working to elect a candidate who seems to embody compassionate values.

Now in reality most wisdom traditions eventually get coopted by dogmatic “orthodoxy” and highly political institutions. This is where the worldly and political overtake spiritual, interpersonal and ontological concerns. It is in this context that the spiritual instruction of a given tradition will apply most directly to politics: that is, the politics of one’s own religious institution. Beyond that, the larger political sphere has little or no intersect with spiritual practices and beliefs (in terms of it competing with them), because it is not focused on the interpersonal. So, because the basis of your question assumes that there is a competing intersection, that is really where the disconnect resides.

In my own life, my personal beliefs and spiritual practice will continue regardless of the political environment I happen to live in. However, my investment in left-libertarian political solutions is grounded in my spirituality and informed by my personal beliefs. For me, moving away from individualistic materialism, conspicuous consumption, and corporate exploitation and enslavement is a spiritual as well as pragmatic imperative. Because I care about the well-being of my fellow humans, I would prefer they retain their personal and collective agency and liberty - and have relief from suffering - and the skillfulness with which I approach aiding others in this way is informed by my spiritual beliefs.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-do-religious-anarchists-reconcile-their-religion-and-political-views/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Could someone into Christianic monasticism/mysticism tell of what I describe below?

It is known by some Greek orthodox people as ”άκτιστο θείο φώς”/ non-material-divine-light. Most likely there's a feeling of God, and likely an out of body experience/altered state of consciousness.

Thank you for the A2A Chrysovalantis.

Encountering light, working with light, entering light, being filled with light…these kinds of experienced are referenced in the literature of nearly all mystical traditions - theist and non-theist. Sometimes the light is associated with God, sometimes with a particular Buddha, sometimes with life-force energy, sometimes with the unmanifest aspects of the Divine, sometimes with one’s own soul, sometimes with angels or spirits, sometimes with a particular region in a spiritual realm, sometimes with a particular form of consciousness or peak experience. It’s everywhere. Among the gnostic Christians there seems to have been a major interest with one’s own “light,” as well as the light of Christ, and the gospel of John is replete with references to light as a manifestation of the logos, then stating directly in 1 John 1 that “God is light.” The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5, pretty much spends that whole chapter discussing light, and I would encourage you to read it and meditate upon it. Also, throughout the Bible we find encounters with the Divine - and agents of the Divine - as often accompanied by a blindingly bright light. So again, it is everywhere.

Regardless of mystical tradition, entering the light, dwelling in the light, and/or allowing the light to dwell in you is more than a metaphor. It is part of an initiation and an ongoing practice. And the many forms of meditation or prayer that invite these conditions are central to mystical practice.

My 2 cents.

How would you describe your first real spiritual awakening experience?

Here’s the funny thing about this question: it presumes an “unawakened” is the natural or normal state of human beings. In my case - and for many others I have known - something like the opposite occurred. When I was a child, I was not in school or any structured environment in a regular way until about age 11. This meant I spent most of my youth - from my earliest years - in trees and woods, on beaches, exploring abandoned buildings, and interacting with wild animals and environments. My contact with other people - and other children - was fairly regular, but I could not understand the ordered, constrained, narrowly focused way they went through the world. For me, although I did not call it “spiritual” at the time, the entire experience of life was overflowing with a spiritual dimension. It was normal to sense the life flowing in tree, or pick up on someone’s unspoken intent, or communicate on an emotional level with animals, or even perceive a unifying Presence or individual spiritual intelligences in the world around me. These were my “normal” as a child, and the family I lived with at that point completely understood and accepted this as “normal” as well.

But then, when I moved to a new place, to live with different members of my family, I was put in school and had structure imposed on me in ways I had never tolerated well before. Along with that structure came a strong dismissal of my “spiritual” perceptions and experiences by both my teachers, my new immediate family and my peers. While a few people were curious, most thought I was just “weird.” It was like I spoke a different language. I was then introduced to many disciplines and interests I hadn’t known about before: I learned about electrical theory, acoustic theory, biology and mathematics. I learned how to operate complex audiovisual equipment, how to build hi fidelity electronics, how to domesticate and train horses, how to repair and rebuild a bicycle, how to fix simple combustion engines, how to garden and maximize produce yields, how to build and race go-carts, how to shoot a rifle well, and so on. And all of these took place in an environment where Nature was fairly domesticated, ordered or pretty overrun with human activity. In essence, the wildness - and the spirituality - of my earlier life was replaced with mechanization, rational empiricism and practical analytical skills. It was like a part of my mind “awoke” that I didn’t know was there…and that was really hungry.

I would say that, up until about age seventeen, about the only connection I retained with my earlier relationship with Nature was through reading. A lot. Looking back, I think it was that more “aware” part of me that was trying to stay alive by reading poetry, fantasy, and esoteric fiction. But even in my reading, I eventually veered into philosophy and books about science, so that even that one pressure relief valve wasn’t available anymore. Which is why it probably made sense that an encounter I had at seventeen felt like such a powerful “reawakening,” when I felt the Presence again as I knelt in the ocean at night, arms and heart open wide. But it was just that: a reawakening of a connection I had felt in my youth…not a new experience. It was familiar ground that had been drummed out of me in the years of formal education and living around hyperrational skeptics. Sadly, it would take me almost twenty additional years to arrive back at the level of spiritual awareness and nourishment I had so effortlessly experienced as a younger person. I don’t regret learning how to think critically…it comes in very handy. But I do regret that I was forced to abandon an equally viable mode of being just because it wasn’t accepted or recognized in a materialistic, empirical, mechanistic culture.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-would-you-describe-your-first-real-spiritual-awakening-experience/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Should I stop meditating?

I started experiencing what I was told to be kundalini awakening. My interest in meditation was simply for relaxing and better luck to possibly win the lottery and not any kind of enlightenment. So should I stop meditation because I am supposedly experiencing kundalini awakening?

It is hard to provide feedback on this without knowing all of the details of your situation. However, here are some general guidelines:

1. Meditation - or any such discipline - is most fruitful when it is a voluntary choice, rather than a compulsion or a duty.

2. Focusing on material gain or improving your “luck” is not the purpose of any form of meditation that will be beneficial to you over the long term. If you believe that, you have been misinformed.

3. In my experience, kundalini awakening is not “reversible.” If it’s already begun, it’s impacts will continue even if you stop meditating, you just won’t be consciously engaging in the process. It is, however, possible to repress your own growth and actualization…which is rarely a good idea.

4. If you are experiencing extreme physical discomfort and agitation during or after meditation - or if you feel like your emotions or mentation are becoming “out of control” in some way - then by all means cease meditating. These are indications of improper technique, pushing yourself too hard, or not applying the fruits of meditation to your life in incremental ways.

5. It is possible to do real harm to yourself by not meditating in a productive manner. You can harm your body, mind, heart and spirit. This is why many schools of meditation require a mentor or teacher with years of experience, an authentic in-person relationship to guide the process, and a spiritual tradition that is grounded in centuries of practice. It sounds like you have gotten involved in something fairly unhealthy or gimmicky that doesn’t conform to these best practices.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Should-I-stop-meditating/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What's the difference between a lunatic and a mystic?

Some thoughts on this:

It is quite easy for a mystic to lose their mind and become a lunatic. It is less easy for a mentally deranged person who can’t recover their faculties to practice mystical disciplines.

- A lunatic and a mystic may experience similar peak experiences in a given instant, but the mystic has some idea about how to integrate and interpret them.

- A mystic can differentiate the inventions of imagination and apophenia from spiritual perception-cognition, but a lunatic likely cannot.

- A mystic appreciates the difference between emotional intuitions and impulses, and authentic gnosis. A lunatic may not have access to gnosis at all - and even if they do, they may not recognize it.

- A mystic’s intentionality will tend to center around prosocial behaviors and outcomes - that which is beneficial for the good of all. A lunatic is less predictable in this regard.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-a-lunatic-and-a-mystic/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the best environment for meditation?

A couple of thoughts to echo some of what has already been said and add a thing or two…

- As few distractions as possible - a “safe place” where you won’t be interrupted by abrupt sounds, interactions, electronic devices, etc. This is especially useful when you begin meditation practice…it helps with focus and discipline.

- Natural environments outdoors are great - if you can be alone and undisturbed.

- Creating a “consecrated space” that you revisit each day can reinforce disciplined practice. There is something about returning to the same physical location (and same body position, meditation routine, etc.) that helps strengthen meditation.

- A consistent length of time. This turns out to be quite helpful. Even if you aren’t meditating for the entire duration, knowing that you have a set period to be meditating anchors one’s practice.

- A clear intention for your practice. Why are you meditating? What is the point? Knowing this before you begin (and recalling it to mind afterwards) are useful and productive bookends.

For other suggestions, I recommend reading this book online for free: Integral Lifework: Essential Mysticism

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-environment-for-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What specific beliefs in a religion would tend to indicate that its other beliefs are misguided?

Interestingly, individual beliefs really aren’t that indicative of anything but the viability of the individual belief itself. Believing that a purple rhinoceros mated with the moon to produce the Earth’s sky doesn’t mean that some other belief is, purely by association, misguided or faulty. That is a bit of a classic “composition fallacy,” and can quickly lead to converse errors. Of more import, IMO, are the values, virtues and resulting ethos that a coherent and cohesive body of beliefs consistently support and inspire. That is, for me it is more about the aims of a hierarchy of beliefs - and whether that hierarchy constructively reinforces and enables those aims.

But first, why are coherence and cohesion important? Only in that, over time, if the belief and values hierarchies are rife with contradictions, inaccuracies, fallacies, etc. we can observe this will likely encourage an authoritative, dogmatic orthodoxy - one that seeks to remedy an otherwise ever-enlarging cognitive dissonance, and often becomes institutionalized. In other words, in response to an inherent instability in those hierarchies, its proponents can become more and more rigid, legalistic and controlling of each other, and in increasingly harmful ways. It is an understandable human reflex - though not a particularly attractive one - to avoid questioning if those questions can quickly undress core beliefs or undermine the structure and interdependence of a given set of values - especially if this then destabilizes social cohesion or personal status.

Also, the issue of emphasis is important. I’ve used the term hierarchy to specifically call this out. There are core values and core beliefs that are often intimately related, and tend to be grounded in human relationships and interdependence. For example, if I love my father and observe that - in our family at least - his role is to protect my family and materially provide for them, then it is much easier to cultivate a core belief that he is somehow deserving of that role, and that a “father” is in fact defined by these responsibilities. In this way values and virtues like loyalty, respect, obedience, self-sacrifice and so forth can quickly fall into place as consequences of those core assumptions and experiences. Once this is then observed and agreed upon within a community, supportive beliefs and values - and their cohesive and coherent hierarchy - can become generalized and self-perpetuating.

But what if, at some point, I ask my father where the sky came from, and he tells me about the purple rhino? If I accept the story, it is incorporated into my belief hierarchy…but far down the chain. It’s veracity is dependent on a very large tree of branching beliefs that are rooted in my love for my father and acceptance of his role in my life. Believing in the purple rhino - misguided as it may be - in no way dilutes the importance and operational basis of all the beliefs that came before it. It would only become problematic if I then inverted the belief and values hierarchy, and placed ritual and dogma regarding the purple rhino (or some other core belief or value not grounded in relationship) above my love for my father. This inversion is warned against in most religions. For example, that is the essence of the teaching in 1 John 4 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And of course warnings against dogmatic inversions is a central theme of the New Testament narrative as a whole. More importantly, if a given belief or value isn’t facilitative of a given core set, it’s going to become vestigial or be entirely discarded…eventually. We might call this “pruning the belief tree.”

Circling back to the central question, then, I would recast it in the terms I’ve just described. Are the hierarchies consistent and coherent? Do they align with subjective and observed experiences? Do they facilitate core beliefs and values that have arisen from - and are intrinsic to - human relationship? Viewed as a whole, does a given belief and values system actualize and sustain itself, synthesizing outcomes that reinforce and amplify core beliefs and core values in its final ethos? If not, then there will be “misguided” consequences.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-specific-beliefs-in-a-religion-would-tend-to-indicate-that-its-other-beliefs-are-misguided/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What could St Thomas Aquinas have seen in his mystical experience?

Some possibilities….

“mihi videtur ut palea” or roughly “to me it seems as chaff”

If these were really Aquinas’ words in answer to Reginald’s question, then in the Christian tradition those words say it all: Aquinas didn’t just believe that he had wasted his time in his writing and philosophizing, he believed he had done evil in the eyes of his God. “Chaff” would have been a metaphor for all that was despicable, self-centered, prideful, deceitful, worldly and vain. It would have elicited a gasp from anyone who esteemed Aquinas’ work and heard him utter those words, you can be sure.

To illustrate, here are some excerpts (emphasis added):

From Job 21:

“How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God distributes pains in his anger? That they are like straw before the wind,
and like chaff that the storm carries away? You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’ Let him pay it out to them, that they may know it.”

From Psalms 1:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

From Jeremiah 23 (paraphrased):

“So declares the Lord: Am I a God at hand, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has chaff in common with wheat? Is not my word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them.”

From Amos 8:

“Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

From Luke 3:

“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So what event had occurred that would inspire such repudiation and rejection of his life’s work? Others have speculated it was a mystical insight, a sense of disappointment or exasperation, a stroke that disabled him - and certainly any of these could be the case. However, I suspect the answer could be much simpler: it might just be spiritual maturity. Perhaps Aquinas was simply growing up and seeing his own intellectual musings for what they were: a distraction from the holy of holies; a noisy gong or clanging cymbal; an intellectualization of the Divine. Not that they weren’t a useful exercise in themselves - for both Aquinas and those who later appreciated his writings - but they were a stage of development he suddenly felt compelled to leave behind.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

I suspect that Aquinas simply (though intensely and abruptly) realized what these words meant…it seems in an enduring and meaningful way.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-could-St-Thomas-Aquinas-have-seen-in-his-mystical-experience)

What is kundalini awakening?

Hi Pete - thanks for the A2A.

I only know you through your posts and questions here on Quora, so I’ll assume you want some substance here, and not just something formulaic or trite. That said, I appreciate what both Achintya Idam and Alex Zendo have written, as there posts resonate with my own experiences. Here’s what I would add:

As I mentioned in my post here T Collins Logan's answer to What is the real power of pranayama and meditation?, we should take special care with physiologically-enhanced approaches to state changes. For some people, there can be real damage done if we are not careful, disciplined, diligent and informed.

I would describe “awakening” in this context as an ongoing process with many components (a continuous series of “awakenings”), rather than a single event. Yes, there are occurrences that have a more lasting impact or a greater sense of breakthrough, but I sincerely wonder whether we should give more attention to any of those. Each expansion of (inward-outward) awareness has its own value and edification, and informs us regarding a specific plane of relating (mind-to-body, self-to-other, ego-to-Self, Self-to-Universe, etc.). Also, to be aware in such depth and breadth is not always a blessing; sometimes it is a burden. Again, this is yet another reason to exercise care and patience - though this is equally true of any form of meditation.

As with all processes of spiritual consciousness and peak experience, knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If we do not rapidly and persistently translate the consequences of rising kundalini into love-conscious action in all of our relationships, goals and planning, then we are basically engaging in a form of spiritual masturbation. For some practitioners (and indeed even some traditions) this is an okay state of affairs. In my view, it is akin to alleviating one’s own suffering and not caring about the suffering of others - it is essentially endorsing a selfish and petty spiritual practice.

The energization of higher-order spiritual consciousness (in this context, the kundalini rising through the sahasrara/crown chakra) is a turning point which cannot be reversed. This is a critical concept to appreciate IMO. Once this energization has taken place, there is no turning back without willful denial and a consequent, often persisting experience of cognitive dissonance. Now it is also true that without adequate preparation, the experience may be misunderstood (and either trivialized or exaggerated), but with care, discipline and diligence it can be transformative.

Lastly I wanted to speak to gratitude. A kundalini awakening evokes powerful emotions, insights and understanding that are essentially ineffable. Our human tendency is to then contextualize those within a) our personal knowledge base; b) the teachings of the tradition within which we practice; c) neurophysiological explanations that appeal to our analytical mind; or d) some other equally ill-fitting window dressing. If we can resist this impulse, and allow ourselves to endure the unknowable without such supports and security, then I believe both we as practitioners will benefit immensely and in unanticipated ways, and those around us will also benefit to a greater degree. I think of this as akin to feeling perpetual gratitude without a specific locus; a praying-without-ceasing as a substantive felt connection without a reflexively or dogmatically confined object.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-real-power-of-pranayama-and-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

Would a psychologist understand enlightenment experience in a patient or would it be perceived as irrelevant garden variety delusion?

First and foremost in any therapeutic relationship is pursuing what is most beneficial for the client. The therapist’s spiritual beliefs and practices are separate from this - though of course they may influence therapeutic choices. What is more relevant is whether the client’s beliefs and practices are beneficial to them, or causing distress. And even if they are causing distress, the objective would be to alleviate that distress rather than reform a client’s entire belief system or dismiss it as delusion. That would be pretty irresponsible. A skilled therapist can even utilize the spiritual convictions of a client (along with other techniques that have proved efficacious) to help a client through what they perceive as a spiritual crisis - and this can happen whether the therapist shares those beliefs or not. Again, this is about what is beneficial to the client. Now of course this would also be true of delusion…but again the delusion need not be contradicted or dismissed out-of-hand, and only requires attention if it is interfering with well-being or day-to-day functioning. To give an example let’s say a client says, “I’m totally in love with this person but because they don’t want anything to do with me I just want to kill myself.” Okay well their earnest emotional conviction has everything to do with why they are suffering, but a solution has a lot more to do with how to manage emotional impulses and suicidal ideation than negating that belief (or treating it as unreal, delusional or suspect). In fact, for some personality and cognitive disorders, if a therapist betrays even the slightest skepticism about the validity of a client’s emotional state - if they so much as hint that it isn’t real or important, and that the client needs to accept this - then the therapeutic relationship will be finished. Kaput.

So I suppose my point is that it doesn’t matter - at all - if a psychologist understands, appreciates or recognizes an enlightenment experience in someone they are treating. What matter are outcomes. And so all that a therapist should be concerned with is how the enlightenment experience is impacting their client. Is it having a positive, constructive and enriching effect? That’s great! Is it having a debilitating, paralyzing, depressive or anxiety-producing effect? That’s not great, and the question becomes how to help a client manage their responses to the experience. It’s really that simple.

Now in my own work I of course have encountered this issue often. I have taught courses in meditation, helped people through spiritual crises, and generally encourage a deepening of spiritual experience. But what if a person’s spiritual journey is destroying their relationships, their health, their happiness, their means of support, etc.? Unless such destruction was the deliberate objective the client expressed when they sought my help, then my job is to help restore balance. That is one reason why the emphasis in Integral Lifework (what I teach and coach) is nurturing all thirteen dimensions of self. Spirituality is only one dimension, and all dimensions need to support and harmonize with all the others. Overemphasizing one or more of these is just as injurious as neglecting one or more.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Would-a-psychologist-understand-enlightenment-experience-in-a-patient-or-would-it-be-perceived-as-irrelevant-garden-variety-delusion)

Is mankind's overall failure to know God actually a failure of imagination?

I think the failure of imagination occurs after ineffable encounters with the Divine, when we try to shoehorn that experience into existing language and concepts, subjugating it to our own ego and intellect. If instead we accept the tenuousness of an initial knowing (in the sense of gnosis), and let go of our compulsion to process, contextualize or communicate the experience definitively, then we can rest lightly in nondiscursive awareness…and in fact deepen it over time. We could say that imagination is involved here, as close kin to the willing suspension of conclusiveness; to be curious and open regarding spiritual perception-cognition demands a frame of mind not unlike imagination. What is possible? What is not possible? The creative mind can tolerate ambiguity, possibility and uncertainty here, whereas the mechanistic mind cannot. However, the term “imagination” hints at perceptions and constructions well beyond the intuitive - even into the realm of apophenia and self-delusion - so I would shy away from using that word. Instead, I might say such failure is one of genuine openness, willingness and humility when exploring nondiscursive, contentless or contextless states.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-mankinds-overall-failure-to-know-God-actually-a-failure-of-imagination)

Why do large portions of Abrahamic-religions followers dismiss the eastern "inward" technologies and embrace the western outward?

I think this question has many answer which work in concert to annihilate reliance on the “inward.” These include:

1. It is easier to control people when they are not self-reliant but dependent on external authority and exoteric rituals, and religious institutions often end up being all about hierarchy and control. I’m quite certain this is why early Christian orthodoxy was so eager to purge the gnostic movement, for example, and why mysticism in general is often belittled (or forgotten) by mainstream Abrahamic institutions.

2. After the enlightenment it became increasingly unpopular to give any weight to non-emperical information of any kind - including introspection, intuition, contemplation or spiritual “ahas.” By the time postmodernism came into play, it was unpopular to include “spirit” in discourse at all. All of this has led to a Cartesian reductionism that excises the esoteric heart (and practices) of all religion.

3. Commercialism and commoditization have further eroded self-reliance and inward-looking discernment in service to profit: it is much easier to persuade people to buy things when they believe solutions to all of their needs are external rather than internal. In this way the profit motive has also infected religion as a cultural meme.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-large-portions-of-Abrahamic-religions-followers-dismiss-the-eastern-inward-technologies-and-embrace-the-western-outward-please-read-below/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

The Sex Appeal of A Bullying Hater

After watching the second Presidential debate last night I finally realized what makes Trump attractive to so many people. There are countless ways to describe the phenomenon, but I think a lot of the language is either inaccessible to modern sensibilities, or perhaps too casually dismissed by them. Culturally, probably as a consequence of postmodern skepticism and doubt, we have simply forgotten what certain kinds of evil look and sound like – and why they can be so seductive. And I think this is one reason why nearly half the U.S. electorate has fallen under Trump’s spell. Allow me to illustrate what I mean with some quotes from a previous time – a time when it was still considered “politically correct” to view the world in terms of good and evil, or darkness and light.

From Proverbs 6 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/6.htm)

A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord

There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

From Proverbs 18 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/18.htm)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.

A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.

From Matthew 12 (http://biblehub.com/esv/matthew/12.htm)

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

In modern parlance, we tend to view destructive forces and habits more psychologically. In Trump's case, that he is obsessed with enlarging his own ego, or that he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or that he is stuck in an early stage of social and moral development, or that his inherited wealth has allowed him to maintain various self-aggrandizing delusions, or that emotional abuse at an early age has made him mean and vindictive, or simply that he has spent so much of his life satisfying his most base and animalistic impulses that he is now wantonly compelled to keep doing so. And these may be ways to frame parts of his behavior – and indeed they may have contributed to Trump’s corrupted condition, opening the door to the deeper currents in play. But I think there is clearly also a spiritual archetype involved that should not be ignored. There is real “evil” at work here – not just a bad-boy persona run amok, but a force intent on perpetuating and amplifying chaos, destruction and death by any means possible. And a bullying hater with daddy issues is a perfect collaborator and vehicle for this agenda.

This is, I sincerely believe, one reason why so many people are drawn to Trump. He has the age-old allure of the Rapacious One – exciting us with his passionate vitriolic invective, distracting us away from his faults and failings by aggressively attacking those around him, casually shrugging off the hurt he has done to others, dissembling and deceiving as easily as breathing, stirring up fear and resentment to serve his own ends, surrounding himself with people who are hungry for hate and blame, and doggedly propping up his own self-importance. Anyone can be drawn into this glamor, but particularly those who lack discernment, or who have numbed themselves to the darker impulses of human nature. As an embodied archetype, their have been many "Donald Trumps" throughout history, always striving for the same aims: To pull as many people as possible down into a maelstrom of vicious loathing and spite, to excite them with prideful arrogance and a writhing lust for vengeance, and to saw away at the foundations of civil society itself in order to amass more self-serving praise, attention, mammon and power. In the sense that “pride goes before a fall,” Trump is greedily herding as many followers as possible off that cliff with him.

From Proverbs 24 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/24.htm)

Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.

A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.
Whoever plans to do evil
will be called a schemer.
The devising of folly is sin,
and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.

From John 8 (http://biblehub.com/esv/john/8.htm)

“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Folks, the Donald Trump archetype is what seductive evil looks like. Plain and simple. We have either just forgotten how to see it clearly, have softened our convictions about the persistence of such archetypes, or we are deluding ourselves…almost as much as we are being deceived. There is perhaps no clearer evidence of this than a widespread pattern: The same people who devoutly suspect Hilary Clinton of nefarious dealings and a lust for power will embrace Donald Trump who transparently and boastfully celebrates these same traits in himself. In recognizing this – and, in particular, perceiving the bent and deceitful will of Donald Trump so clearly during last night’s debate – I felt additional shards of worry pierce my well-being. Remember how easy it was to laugh off this absurd buffoon when he first started running for POTUS? Remember the chagrined disbelief when Trump won the Republican nomination? Remember being stupefied – and perhaps even a little impressed – by how effortlessly Trump continued to dodge all criticism and accountability? Or the growing incredulity as his polling numbers remained so high and his supporters so loyal, despite one revelation after another about his casual cruelty, brutish appetites and banal character? This is one way such evil succeeds – by encouraging our skepticism that it has any real influence or chance of winning; by glossing over all incompetence, ignorance and discrediting facts with pompous bluster…while maintaining the illusion of strength as it thrashes past the finish line. When I shared my reflections with my wife Mollie this morning, she said “I thought evil would be smarter.” Indeed, didn’t we all?

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

In terms of our response, I think we can return to the same wisdom traditions for insight. We can stand up to evil, call it out for what it is, and press it back into the dark crevices from which it sprang. Those skilled to do so can also radically embrace the Shadow - healing and integrating its pain with compassionate affection. In either case, drawing courage from the Light, we are no longer swayed by fear.

From Proverbs 24 (http://biblehub.com/esv/proverbs/24.htm):

If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength is small.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

From John 11 (http://biblehub.com/esv/john/11.htm):

"Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."

My 2 cents.

“Faith” as an Intentionally Cultivated Quality of Character

Wedding Celebration!
Let's explore a concept of “faith” that seems to be missing from most popular discourse. Before we begin, why is this important? For me it's important because when I discuss any idea, I want to fully appreciate the words used to define it. Relying on reflexive cultural vernacular or tropish shorthand to describe a multidimensional experience or concept isn’t just sloppy, it’s disrespectful to consciousness. Why? Because if we fill our headspace with watery, half-formed pablum – whether it's the grandiose distortions of combative political rhetoric, the caustic brevity of texted or tweeted communications, the excremental deceptions of commercialistic manipulation, or any particular ideology’s hifalutin propaganda – that is all we will be able to offer back into the world. We will add nothing but the burden of our consuming and excreting, a regurgitation so shallow it can barely convey self-referential egotism. So why not actively participate in this amazing process called the Universe? Why not give back some paltry morsel of wonder by actually engaging our consciousness, nourishing it with nuance and complexity, and holding back those oversimplified regurgitations? Even though I myself all too often violate the principle of meaningful consciousness, I earnestly yearn for a revivification of discourse and language that stimulates greater depth and breadth of understanding – more gritty and wholesome substance to chew through, savor and carefully ingest. This, then, is my attempt to explore the concept of “faith” in just such a manner. My only caveat: as a consequence of honoring consciousness, this post may require a slower, more concentrated read.

Okay…what is “faith?” Here is how Merriam-Webster defines it:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
b (1) : fidelity to one's promises
__(2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God
__(2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
__(2) : complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

In countless interactions over the years – and ongoing Internet exchanges – “faith” has almost universally been reduced to some sort of belief. Many Christians often seem to explicitly intend definition 2 a (1), “belief and trust in and loyalty to God,” and implicitly definition 2 a (2), “belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.” For Atheists, “faith” most often seems to mean 2 b, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” From perusing debates between Atheists and Christians (on Quora for example) both parties appear to be exhibiting a similar flavor of “faith,” that of definition 3: “something that is believed especially with strong conviction.” However, in my view, none of these approaches to “faith” are the real deal. In the same way that Tang, Cheez Whiz, Crab Sticks, Wonder Bread, Maple-Flavored Syrup and Chicken Nuggets are unhealthy imitations of food, these popular conceptions that infer belief from faith (or rigidly equate the two) are heavily diluted echoes of the genuine article, full of ideological flavorings and non-thought fillers.

Now before we go any further, it seems pertinent to confess my perspectival bias: I am a big fan of the New Testament, have studied Christian scripture for many years, and love digging into the Greek texts for nuggets of wisdom that English translators may have missed (or understated) over the centuries. I also grew up mainly in the U.S., with a brief sojourn in Germany during my late teens, and so I am understandably mired in Western cultural memes. And although I believe it is possible to break free from the prejudices inculcated through these experiences, they have also provided some useful tools and resources. So I'll be relying on those to explore the meaning of “faith.” If this bias leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, please bear with me…there may still be some paltry morsels to be found.

Clearly a lot has been written about “faith,” and over the centuries. We have Thomas Aquinas artfully describing faith as a virtue of the mind; a supernatural cognition that reinforces itself through the knowledge it acquires; a habit of thought “which makes the intellect assent to things that are not apparent.” We have the fideism of Tertullian, Erasmus, Martin Luther, Pascal, Hamann, and possibly Kierkegaard, who actively dissociate faith from reason, insisting that faith can be productively nonrational – or indeed practically superior to theoretical thought – in its passionate convictions. We have William James’ similar exploration of religious belief as a leap in the dark that provides access to a “vital good” - a good otherwise inaccessible without taking this pragmatic risk. We have Bertrand Russell’s fervent skepticism and dismissal of all such risk-taking without sufficient evidence, asserting that all “faith” is purely emotionally based. We have the empiricism of Locke, who finds faith complimentary to reason – as long as that faith is proportionate to evidence, and a broad enough variety of evidence is allowed. We have Hegel’s immediate knowledge of the Absolute, the certainty that “my spirit knows itself, it knows its essence,” which develops from the subjective to higher and higher levels of objective knowledge. We have Eric Fromm’s differentiation of rational faith from irrational faith, which we will explore further later on. We have John Hick’s insistence that faith is a contextualization (“interpretation”) of felt realities in a given cultural milieu; a personal experience of God rather than a reaction to propositional evidence. We have James Fowler’s six psychological stages of faith development, which center around the source, shape, scope and stability of one’s evolving convictions over time. We have the modern tug-of-war between Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christian apologists like John Lennox, where the central knot of inquiry sets blind trust that defies all evidence against evidence-based belief that has sufficient warrant/credibility. This is just a smattering, of course, but still, among many of these explorations of faith, the concept of belief remains extraordinarily central. And this, I think, is a fatal amplification.

To understand why, let’s start with the Greek. The word most consistently translated to “faith” in the New Testament is πίστις (pistis), which is derived from πείθω (Peithó), the Greek goddess of persuasion and seduction. Peithó (called Suada in ancient Rome) was an attendant and possibly daughter to Aphrodite, and among ancient Greek authors was consistently associated with the divine force of love – the persuasion by which the human heart is moved, enchanted, transfixed and ultimately won over. In fact, she is described as “the Lady of the bridal chamber,” “handmaiden of marriage” and “friend of marriage” (Nonnus), not because of sexual desire (this would be Pothos’s domain), but because “wise Peithó” holds the keys “to love’s true sanctities” (Pindar) and guides all forms of love – Erotes – into fruition (Nonnus). Either despite or because of her wiliness, Peithó deserves “holy reverence” for the sweetness and charm she empowers in speech (Aeschylus). And this last from Nonnus’ Dionysiaca:

“And there came running thirsty at midday Aura herself, seeking if anywhere she could find raindrops from Zeus, or some fountain, or the stream of a river pouring from the hills; and Eros cast a mist over her eyelids. But when she saw the deceitful fountain of Bacchos, Peitho dispersed the shadowy cloud from her eyelids, and called out to Aura like a herald of her marriage: ‘Maiden, come this way! Take into your lips the stream of this nuptial fountain, and into your bosom a lover.’ Gladly the maiden saw it, and throwing herself down before the fountain drew in the liquid of Bacchos with open lips. When she had drunk, the girl exclaimed: ‘Naiads, what marvel is this? Whence comes this balmy water? Who made this bubbling drink…Certainly after drinking this I can run no more. No, my feat are heavy, sweet sleep bewitches me, nothing comes from my lips but a soft stammering sound.’ She spoke, and went stumbling on her way. She moved this way and that way with erring motions, her brow shook with throbbing temples, her head leaned and lay on her shoulder, she fell asleep on the ground beside a tall branching tree, and entrusted to the bare earth her maidenhood unguarded.”

To be clear, then, though the goddess Peithó offered the Greeks a doorway into the loves of marriage, her means are not always fair, rational or even truthful. But without submitting to her persuasion and guidance – and indeed the bridal chamber itself – we would never come to understand or even recognize what the many mysteries of love (or the many varieties of Erotes) are about. In this context it is important to recognize that it is our love, our understanding, our response to Peithó’s seduction and persuasion that moves us past an initial choice to a deepening fruition. Is pistis offering us a similar doorway via similar means? As an interesting correlation, perhaps the Gnostic (Valentinian) scriptures allude to such a process in the Bridal Chamber sacrament: for Gnostics, this was where redemption occurred, perhaps because this is where a unity of spirit, light, love and truth could be experientially validated. More abstractly, the sentiment of William James in The Will to Believe offers some parallel experiential variables: “He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed;” and later “We cannot escape the issue by remaining skeptical and waiting for more light, because, although we do avoid error in that way if religion be untrue, we lose the good, if it be true, just as certainly as if we positively chose to disbelieve. It is as if a man should hesitate indefinitely to ask a certain woman to marry him because he was not perfectly sure that she would prove an angel after he brought her home. Would he not cut himself off from that particular angel-possibility as decisively as if he went and married someone else?” Here again, marriage is a handy metaphor for James, just as it was for Hafiz:

"I want both of us
To start talking about this great love
As if you, I, and the Sun were all married
And living in a tiny room,

Helping each other to cook,
Do the wash,
Weave and sew,
Care for our beautiful

We all leave each morning
To labor on the earth's field.
No one does not lift a great pack.

I want both of us to start singing like two
Travelling minstrels
About this extraordinary existence
We share,

As if
You, I, and God were all married
And living in
A tiny

And of course New Testament itself alludes to the profound mystery in Ephesians 5:

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."

To introduce a more personal experience into the mix, I would recall my own baptism at age nineteen. The act itself was a sort of emotional catharsis, a relief that I was finally making a decision after nearly two years on the fence exploring Christian scripture and community. And of course I was expecting something of spiritual significance to occur – this was after all an invitation for holy spirit to take up residence within me. But, although my senses did seem more heightened during the ceremony, there was no heavenly vision, no doves descending, no infusion of blazing gnosis. I initially accepted this because baptism in the Church of Christ was mainly about contrition, humility and acknowledgement of my separation from God were it not for the gracious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And I did feel these conditions acutely. Nevertheless, I was just the tiniest bit disappointed.

That is, until I went to change my clothes. My baptismal gown was a simple white robe, easily removed as I reached for a towel. The changing room itself had a large mirror on one wall, and as I finished drying off I looked over at the reflection of my naked body. In that instant, a force of insight as abrupt, thunderous and intense as a symphony erupting in a silent hall made itself known: this was not me, this was just flesh; a vessel, but not my primary identity. I felt this truth deeply. I studied the familiar lines, tones and shapes with a mixture of sadness, chagrin and acquiescence. It would be the first of many moments of letting go in my spiritual journey. And then, when my gaze met itself in the mirror, I encountered a hint of something even more alien, harsh and unyielding. I didn’t have words for it at that time, but now I would call it a subsuming suchness; a constructive negation. I was not ready for that encounter – in fact I would not be able to fully endure or integrate it for twenty more years – and so I suppressed it.

The insights about my temporal flesh I could accept, the possible glimpse of annihilative absolutes I could not, but the vehicle that delivered these conceptions was the same baptismal act. A simple intentional ceremony immediately manifested unanticipated, potentially far-reaching consequences. This correlation of personal choice and encompassing outcome – of disciplined volition followed by new insight – repeated itself countless times over the years. And those acts have not always had spiritual inspiration. Sometimes an aha-evoking moment was prompted by lust; sometimes by physical discipline or routine; sometimes by emotional anguish; sometimes by extreme stress; sometimes by deep depression; sometimes by willfully striving for some end and failing; sometimes by an unexpected surge of compassionate affection. By any measure, it seems to me this pattern of consciousness is endemic to human experience and growth, and that intentionality isn’t always predictive. As Rumi reminds us:

“Intellect is good and desirable to the extent it brings you to the King's door. Once you have reached His door, then divorce the intellect! From this time on, the intellect will be to your loss and a brigand. When you reach Him, entrust yourself to Him! You have no business with the how and the wherefore. Know that the intellect's cleverness all belongs to the vestibule. Even if it possesses the knowledge of Plato, it is still outside of the palace.”

But wait! Such choices that lead to new awareness and deepening understanding are still “leaps in the dark,” aren’t they? There can never be adequate preparation or certainty around them, just a hope of outcomes that plots across a continuum of motivations (some rational, some impulsive, some felt, some intuited). And couldn’t these “leaps in the dark” simply be inviting all sorts of post-rationalized justifications, rather than stimulating substantive ahas? Mightn’t all the insight and wisdom we construct be an artificial narrative to help organize our experience? A reflexive will to meaning? If so, then any insistence on objectively conclusive causality – as independent from subjective felt experience or various forms of intuition – will likely create an endless, arduous and fruitless tension. In terms of pistis, must we then return to a fideism where faith and reason are inherently antagonistic? Well I honestly think this tension only arises when we restrict our discussion of faith to the impulse of belief. In fact I think this conflation or association is fundamentally disruptive to comprehending the dynamics of faith’s processes. For the sake of brevity and sanity, let’s depart from that assumption altogether.

How do we do that? For one thing, we can remind ourselves of other modern definitions of faith, and of other translations and usages of pistis over the centuries. Take Merriam-Webster’s primary definition, for example: allegiance to duty or person; fidelity to one’s promises; sincerity of intentions. Setting aside the prescriptive vs. descriptive debates in lexicology, this primary definition of “faith” has nothing to do with belief. Instead, it describes a quality of character, a mode of being and doing, a deliberate intentionality – none of which necessarily needs to be associated with particular beliefs. Erich Fromm touched on this in his writing, describing “rational faith” as “a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief,” insisting also that such faith does not require a specific object. Contrasting it with “irrational faith” (which he viewed as an “emotional submission to authority”), Fromm asserted rational faith to be an essential component nonreligious as well as the religious thought, writing in The Art of Loving: “at every step from the conception of a rational vision to the formulation of a theory, faith is necessary: faith in the vision as a rationally valid aim to pursue, faith in the hypothesis as a likely and plausible proposition, and faith in the final theory, at least until a general consensus about its validity has been reached. This faith is rooted in one’s own experience, in the confidence in one’s power of thought, observation and judgment.” And when we look into pistis in the New Testament and other early literature, we encounter kindred conceptions of faith that are more aspects of character than dependent on belief: faithfulness, trust, trustworthiness, to be entrusted, to put one’s trust in, to give credence to, allegiance, loyalty, confidence and so forth. All of these are choices, volitions, responses and relationships with a consistent underlying theme: a stick-to-it-ive flavor of trust and hope. In fact Christians were described in the early literature as “those who trust” and “those who hope.” But what inspires this quality of hope and trust, if not belief…?

Closing the Circle

This is, I suspect, where the argument quickly breaks down for those who hesitate to look deeper, as it is so easy to fall back on the faith=belief misconception. After all, the majority of interpretations of the word “faith” – in modern contexts as well as the New Testament – do involve a kind of wishful thinking about speculative possibilities. Yet even as Christians acknowledge that belief needs to be active rather than passive (recalling the admonition of James 2: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!”), what motivates the activity of faith expressed in good works? It is, I think, the same question as before: what inspires hope and trust? The answer has been consistent within the New Testament and across centuries of theology; to summarize it with an oft-used metaphor: how does a child come to trust its parent? In part it is a confidence born of observed reliability and the power dynamics inherent to a parent-child relationship – this is true; but more than this it is the child’s deeply grokked intuition that they are understood, appreciated and loved. As a five-year-old, when a parent asks us to trust their judgment and instruction, we do so not because we always discern the rightness of their insights, but because they have demonstrated that a substantial focus of their existence is to care for us, nurture us, encourage us, protect us…love us. Because they have gently held us at our lowest and most desperate moments, we trust them to lift us up. In the same way, the Christian’s initial venture into “trusting God” is a consequence of appreciating the loving, gracious sacrifice of Jesus Christ – we are persuaded by this demonstration of God’s depth of love that we can take the risk. Thus our choice to “leap in the dark” is grounded in a trust and hope inspired by God’s compassionate affection for our well-being – not our fear, not blind obedience, not compulsory acceptance or Fromm’s “irrational faith.” It is a consequence of agape, that divine force of love that bears copious fruit in the hearts, minds and deeds of “those who trust.” And if this trust isn’t inspired by love…well, then it probably isn’t authentic faith.

For the Greeks, it was Peithó who opened the door to love’s true sanctities; for Christians, it is pistis that shepherds forth the many expressions of a charitable character. In both cases, there is a dance of human and divine – a Greek goddess for the former, and holy spirit for the latter. In both cases, a divine intervention and inspiration to love is answered by a human heart, mind and will responding in kind. Beyond the initial persuasion to trust and invite love in, the fruits of that decision – an indwelling “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” – amplify themselves in word and deed. And this becomes an active, engaged, disciplined response, deliberately and persistently cultivated by “those who have their powers of discernment trained through constant practice,” and love’s expression becomes more effortless. This is the child’s growing up, learning to operate from a love that extends beyond parental dependency to an ever-enlarging sphere of love-consciousness. This is a journey of persistence, devotion and a single-mindedness of focus. That stick-to-it-iveness again. And while this may still be a co-creative effort, the emphasis of responsibility and accountability shifts to the faithful as they mature.

In a sense, I believe pistis ultimately becomes a stripping away of distractions, a distillation of effort, so that there is nothing else left but the fire – the consciousness of consciousness – which is the highest order of love; the Godhead beyond being-in-itself; the Absolute. And this, in turn, continuously manifests as integrity of mind, heart, spirit, being and will – all working in unison, dancing to the same music, filled and energized by the same flame. For me this is the essence of loving skillfully, of demonstrating coherent faith through compassionate action, of developing spiritual reliability and trustworthiness. The Christian demonstrates their faithfulness by welcoming and maintaining agape’s residence at the core of all sincere intentions, all confidence and credence, all allegiances and loyalties, all trust, and all beliefs. For any belief (or faith, or trust, or fidelity, or commitment) that does not flow from love is empty and pointless – a gong clanging soundlessly in the void. But with sufficient love…well, we can eventually develop the courage to accept that disconcerting enigma in the mirror, and embrace any absolutes reflecting back at us.

This kind of “faith” has an entirely different sense, flavor and feel than the pablum vernacular form so prevalent in modern discourse. This faith is grounded in reciprocal affections and trust, clarified intentions and observable actions. Again, a straightforward way of describing and evaluating this construction is an intentionally cultivated quality of character. And such faith has distinct benefits as well, because its practice (or praxis, if you will) evokes and reinforces those ahas mentioned previously. We might even call these fruits “faith-wisdom” (Pistis Sophia!), which is experientially validated and has obvious pragmatic utility, but more importantly harmonizes our thoughts and actions around the very love that inspires and nurtures us. For this and the more commonly asserted benefits (answered prayers, etc.) again mere belief seems insufficient – there must be a deeper conviction-in-action, bound to a deeper connectedness of being; there must be agape as the ever-present cofactor, the beacon that draws the angels nigh. For what is Divine pneuma if not an expression of purest and highest love?

Lastly, as a useful contrast, I’ll leave you with religious belief that eventually becomes devoid of faith altogether. From Eric Fromm’s The Art of Loving:

“It follows that the belief in power (in the sense of domination) and the use of power are the reverse of faith. To believe in power that exists is identical with disbelief in the growth of potentialities which are as yet unrealized. It is a prediction of the future based solely on the manifest present; but it turns out to be a grave miscalculation, profoundly irrational in its oversight of the human potentialities and human growth. There is no rational faith in power. There is submission to it or, on the part of those who have it, the wish to keep it. While to many power seems to be the most real of all things, the history of man has proved it to be the most unstable of all human achievements. Because of the fact that faith and power are mutually exclusive, all religions and political systems which originally are built on rational faith become corrupt and eventually lose what strength they have, if they rely on power or ally themselves with it.”

T.Collins Logan, 8/28/2016

Does the human psyche actually contain self-destructive impulses and even a death wish?

Hinrich I think this is a very interesting question, and one that has come up for many thinkers over the years. Freud called it Thanatos. Jung attributed self-destructive impulses to things we don’t bring into the light of consciousness - the shadow aspect of ourselves. Modern theory frames self-destructive acts (including deliberate self-harm and suicide) as expressions of psychological and emotional pain which, for the person who is suffering, may seem otherwise inescapable or inexpressible to them; this pain may be the result of psychological illness, an emotional consequence of childhood trauma, a genetic susceptibility to depression or heightened experience of pain - or some other unmitigated clinical condition. From an evolutionary perspective, extreme antisocial behavior is not conducive to group survival, and it would not be inconceivable that a person who recognizes themselves to be an antisocial outlier might become self-destructive or suicidal because all these traits naturally coincide as a result of millennia of group selection; in other words, there may be a fitness advantage for the species when an antisocial phenotype voluntarily removes itself from the group (I haven’t seen any research on this, but it’s an interesting hypothesis!). Lastly, I would not discount a spiritual dimension to these dynamics: if deprivation of sunlight can lead to life-crushing depression, whose to say that deprivation of spiritual connection (be it to ones innermost Self or Soul, to Nature, to the Divine, to the Ground of Being, to the Absolute, to the Tao, etc….) cannot lead to a longing for nonexistence?

My 2 cents.

(From Quora https://www.quora.com/Does-the-human-psyche-actually-contain-self-destructive-impulses-and-even-a-death-wish)

What is mental force? Is it needed physical force to understand or is the mental pronunciation of words which evokes mental energy?

Thanks for the A2A. I expect you are referring to Jeffrey Schwartz’s work on “self-directed neuroplasticity,” along with its broader implications a la quantum mind.

I don’t think anyone knows the answer to your question for certain, though there are a lot of opinions out there. Even as Schwartz acknowledges, this has been a topic of spiritual philosophical traditions for millennia - so there is a lot of material to choose from. Here are some recent books you might consider reading that offer different perspectives as they have percolated up into the present day:

Trance: From Magic to Technology by Dennis R. Wier.

Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything by Ervin Laszlo

Morphic Resonance, by Rupert Sheldrake

Meditations on the Tarot, A Journey into Christian Hermeticism

Personally, I believe we must be very careful and disciplined with our thoughts, as the conjunction of will, spirit and conception can - with or without a deliberate focus - result in manifestations that operate independently (and even in spite of) of our conscious ideation. In other words, whatever the mechanism may be, our thoughts can spawn seemingly independent actors that influence what occurs inside us and around us. This is, I suspect, why so many spiritual traditions encourage a maturing emphasis on ordering thoughts and emotions according to a constructive values hierarchy - and in particular a relinquishment of personal ego - rather than encouraging those thoughts and emotions to run amok in response to mere whim, self-aggrandizement or animalistic impulses. As above, so below; as within, so without.

At the same time, there is always the danger of apophenia and magical thinking when navigating these particular waters, as well as an unconstrained enlargement of ego that often occurs when the heart, mind and spirit are not properly conditioned and prepared.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-mental-force-Is-it-needed-physical-force-to-understand-or-is-the-mental-pronunciation-of-words-which-evokes-mental-energy)

When someone is being reactive or ignorant because of their ego, how do I bring them into the now or their true self?

Thanks for the A2A. Some good answers here. I would add some additional options…

- Laugh. Just laugh and accept what is.

- If they are a close friend asking for help, share with them what you are observing about their behavior, while validating their perspective and their feelings at the same time. Ask them what they think is really going on, and listen carefully to their answer in a supportive and empathic way. This takes skill and practice, however your job here is to not be attached to the outcome of your efforts, and to avoid trying to control the other person - otherwise you are just being enslaved by your ego.

- If they are a stranger who tries to engage you on some topic, you can simply ask “You seem very attached to this idea. Why is that?” and see how they respond. Listen carefully. If there is openness, you can go deeper (with empathy and without attachment as in #2). If there is no opennes, then you can thank them for engaging you, politely excuse yourself, and walk away.

- Look within yourself for reasons why you are feeling this way, and see if your reaction authentically stems from compassionate concern, or from a need to challenge or correct others.

- Actively meditate for a few days on the best course of action regarding this person.

- Acknowledge contrition within your heart for judging this person, try to see the Light that radiates from the core of their being (and which ultimately will encourage them to heal and grow), and ask for guidance about how to encourage that Light to shine more brightly in them and in yourself.

- Be so completely present and ego-free in your being that you radiate the suchness of each moment, drawing others to be fully present with you.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/When-someone-is-being-reactive-or-ignorant-because-of-their-ego-how-do-I-bring-them-into-the-now-or-their-true-self)

What is the difference between the self and the Self?

Thanks for the A2A Pete. I think I’ve touched on this before: T Collins Logan's answer to What is Self (capitalized)?

However, there is always more to muse upon. So, to be trite:

The “self” asks questions about itself on Quora; the “Self” already fully groks the incompleteness of those answers.

To be less trite:

“self” is often ascribed more primitive or reflexive identity constructs, as operating in a “self”-perpetuating momentum of differentiating “self” from everything else. This “self” also seems to be very attached to itself - and very “self”-protective and egoic formation.

“Self” is often ascribed a more evolved or spiritual identity construct - Divine Spark, Atman-Brahman, Ground of Being…or some other expression of unitive, less differentiated essence. And I think this is probably because this version of Self - though uniquely defined or expressed in different traditions - is a formation of various spiritual practices that many folks can readily intuit. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the idea that as the sense of Self becomes more pronounced, the smaller self attenuates.

For some, a continuation of this particular journey is a realization of No Self (not a “self” or a “Self”). This is a further attrition of egoic constructs - a further unitive non-differentiation. So one person might say that the two - the self and Self - become equivalent in their constructed sense…and that they then both cease to exist in any real way.

For others, No Self is a dark night or empty desert to appreciate and integrate along a path that continues farther still. There is more letting go of differentiation and concepts of differentiation. This is where the One - as a felt experience of undifferentiated unity - envelopes and diffuses previous conceptions (and indeed all conceptions).

And of course that’s not the end, either. Let’s say, for example, that the self is finite, the Self absolute, that No Self relinquishes both “self” and “Self” in emptiness, and that the One anticipates and transcends all of these in unmanifest potential. Yet what if this entire journey is a veil - a deceit of consciousness if you will - and beyond that veil is a pure fire that entirely consumes and obliterates every insight? And what if that fire has consciousness…or rather, what if the fire is a sort of consciousness of consciousness? What if the most penetrating and sustained gnosis of humanity is like…I dunno…a sense of humor for this fire? A kind of joke that makes all such formations and awareness so much giggle-jam on laughter-toast…?

But, in the meantime, there is still wood to chop, water to carry, and agape to refine in the skillfulness of good work. Oh…and of course more meditation, too. And (I feel the laughter welling up as I re-read my post here) a certainty and humility regarding disruptive revisions to our understanding.

My 2 cents.

Why is mysticism found in all religions?

Thanks for the A2A. Many fingers here already pointing to the moon, so I have little to add. Here are some thoughts:

- All religions are grounded in the same mystical experience - the direct apprehension of ineffable and unknowable; the felt experience of a shared ground of being (or a shared ground of consciousness, if you prefer).

- Different (cultural) traditions express that experience in different ways, and this leads to diverging religious systems. But it is the same fundamental experience.

- Esoteric schools or practices within each religious tradition attempt to recapture that initial flame of gnosis/insight/dhawq/aha. And to the extent that they do, their practitioners report conditions of mind, heart, body and spirit that parallel each other to an extraordinary degree.

- Exoteric practices are the “window dressing” on the core mystical experience, But form the enduring structures of many religions. As those systems and institutions (along with their power structures) evolve, the distance from the core mystical/esoteric ground becomes so exaggerated that - all to often - what remains is dogmatic legalism.

I think what adds confusion is the insistence on exclusivity or efficacy of one tradition over another, and this is an expression of spiritual immaturity. Other confusing factors are differences in language and concepts between traditions, which in turn make different practices or beliefs feel foreign to each other. But in my experience and observation, the differences are superficial. In reality, one practice resonates more with one individual than it does for another, perhaps because of culture, or because of each individual’s unique stage in their journey.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-mysticism-found-in-all-religions)

What should one do if they feel they should keep their Dukkha?

Question details: If the cause of suffering is desire yet one desires justice (not from spite, but out of an ernest heart), and this desire brings them pain, should they let it go even though their suffering might bring justice to others?

I would agree with Pete Ashly’s approach - in fact I would encourage meditating on his answer for a while to see what arises for you.

When I read your question, for me it translated into this: “Does a boddhisattva suffer while helping liberate others?” What do you think? If they have fully realized emptiness - even within their decision to help liberate others - why would they suffer as a result of craving? And even if they experience personal pain because of their choice to remain, that pain is understood differently, isn’t it? To remain in the world but operate outside the (internal) dynamics of suffering does not mean there is no pain, but that the subjective importance, power and active perpetuation of pain attenuates. In this context, then, the coincidence of justice and pain parallels the coincidence of active compassion in postponing Nirvana.

Then I read what I believe to be your comments regarding “justice” as “having a person know that what they did was wrong while hindering their ability to further commit their crime,” and another regarding intervening in abuse. Is hindering harm not right action? Of course it is, when it arises out of compassion. If you are provided a compassionate means of intervening where there is abuse, is this not right action as well? It is only a question of what degree of resistance you present to the wrongdoer, and the state of your mind and heart while doing so. To understand this and skillfully embody it is, I think, part of the intimate unfolding of ahimsa for any practitioner who subscribes to that precept. There are a number of diverging views about this in the sutras - and indeed among the scriptures of many other traditions as well. Which for many of us illustrates why this is an emergent personal journey.

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-should-one-do-if-they-feel-they-should-keep-their-Dukkha)

How do we know that the experience of spiritual enlightenment (Satori, "Waking Up") is not itself an illusion?

Why does this matter to you? Is it intellectual curiosity? A longing to grow spiritually? A journey of understanding within a particular tradition? Something else?

I like Sid Kemp’s answer most out of the 48 I have read so far. If breaking free of illusions (or ego, self-construct, etc.) has no observable consequences in how we engage the world, then what is the value of such freedom?

IMO the convictions and post-rationalizations that follow a profound felt/intuited aha experience are just that: sensations, justifications and explanations after-the-fact.

One common trap is finding others who have shared in the experience and reinforcing the constructive illusion as a group. A very comforting trap - especially for teachers (and perhaps Quora users?).

Here is an interesting phenomenon to mediate on in the context of your question: Apophenia

Lastly, in my Integral Lifework practice, spiritual discipline and nourishment is one of thirteen dimensions of being we do well to attend to in an ongoing way. For devout spiritual practitioners it is sometimes easy to forget or neglect the other twelve, but they are equally important to our well-being, growth and development.

But all of this is just so much blah blah blah outside of personal experience. To paraphrase Rumi: “Even if we possess the knowledge of Plato, we are still outside of the Palace.”

My 2 cents.

Is there a relation between human brain's ability to switch to Default Mode and the development of ego stages?

Thanks for the A2A.

I had to laugh when I saw your question because…well this is an extremely complex topic and there seems to be very little agreement among neuroscientists regarding these kinds of correlations. You could, in effect, say “Sure! DMN activation has a direct impact on ego development and stages. Why not?” And you could probably find some research to at least marginally support your view. But in reality…we just don’t know - in fact we don’t even know (for certain) if the DMN actually exists, or just captures a current picture of a certain combination/distribution of brain functions. In other words, it may only be a placeholder for a more complex understanding still waiting in the wings.

That said, here’s my take using what I believe to be a relatively current inclusion of relevant placeholders….

I suspect that ego formation and development relies on equal involvement from several systems and regions of the brain. These probably include the Default Mode Network, the Salience Network, the Central Executive Network, various avenues of inter-hemispheric exchange, MTL structures and their communication with higher level cortical regions/functions, and many more contributive regions, structures and functions. In fact I would further assert that without all of these components interacting smoothly and in healthy harmony with each other, ego formation and development would be difficult - and perhaps not occur predictably, or at all. This balance is so orchestral in nature that emotional trauma or physiological disruption to any of these components could sabotage the expected course of how narrative self relates to ego, how ego relates to the perceived world around it, how egoic impulses are managed and so on. And then there are the more conscious or deliberate modes of ego-transformation, which likely depend on additional variables and involvements.

So I suppose the moral of this answer is: we should be wary of overzealous reductionism.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Prasanth Chandrahasan: There is a background to this question. Unfortunately, when trying to add this as a question detail, I am exceeding Quora’s word limit. Please don’t downvote and collapse because this is important.

Ken Wilber has argued, citing the work of developmental psychologist late Skip Alexander that only meditation can bring about a change in ego development between the ages of 25 to 55. Specifically, any one who meditates regularly for at least five years is shown to jump two levels in an ego development cycle. Wilber refers to Loevinger's stages of ego development and also to several other models as well.

Alexander’s research focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is known to activate the Default Mode in the brain (I am aware of the ambiguity of this term but herein it is referred as per the research papers). So putting these together, one could argue that the brain’s ability to wander around (or be in Default Mode) is actually helpful in ego development.

Sure enough, there is a lot of research in the field all of which are coming from the TM organization (Alexander too). Not that I don’t trust it, just wondering if this is an area of active research and if so, is there any definitive results.

I have read your post Prasanth. I appreciate Ken’s work but he is mistaken in this regard - I think he is probably referencing his own experience, but there are many different ways to encourage development along any trajectory (that is, whether one agrees with Loevinger’s stages or not). Consider, for example, the different non-meditative paths of yoga, any of which could enhance the maturation of ego state. As for research to support this assertion, that is sparse. Additionally, some forms of meditation activate the DMN, but others do not, so that is not a reliable touchstone for comparison. In fact I would return you to my original answer, in that even with meditation, unless there is integration and harmony via all of the components referenced, ego development will not occur. Incidentally, I would offer a slightly different take on ego development that I think exceeds Loevinger’s schema and is inclusive of moral development. You can view that here (just scroll down page to view document): Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

(see https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-relation-between-human-brains-ability-to-switch-to-Default-Mode-and-the-development-of-ego-stages)

What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?

Thanks for the A2A Pete. I had to laugh when I saw this…it’s a big question with a simple experiential answer: try it and you’ll see. So as to be less trite, however, I’ll offer a few nuggets to mull over:

- After seven years of self inquiry Jorge realized there was nothing there. Nothing at all. Self was annihilated and only emptiness filled the place it had once occupied.

- After fifteen years of self inquiry Martha became God; that is, she recognized a complete absence of differentiation between her Self and the Divine. It was a very humbling experience.

- After a lifetime of self inquiry Wu Wei encountered a unitive substrate of being that consumed all independent and personal aspects of identity, so that all that remained was the Tao.

- After twenty-seven lifetimes of self-inquiry, Advika became extremely bored with the practice and began living her life very simply and without artifice, with an endless well of compassion for everyone around her, and with plenty of time to watch children at play.

As for negative effects: self-obsession, attachment to spiritual progress, and a breakdown of survival functions can occur if more constructive intentions are not cultivated from the beginning. Because of this, whenever any form of meditation is taught, I believe students should be encouraged to set this intention in their hearts and minds, and to try to feel it deeply in their bones, before each session: “May this be for the good of All.”

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-goals-and-effects-of-self-inquiry-meditation-on-who-am-I)

Is it wise to go ahead of the meditation programs of Headspace app?

Answering the question: "Is it wise to go ahead of the meditation programs of Headspace app?"

Thanks to Amir All for the A2A. I have tried such apps (including Headspace), along with other guided meditation, audio aids (shamanic drumming; audio entrainment, etc.), visual stimulators, biofeedback devices, etc. at different points in my practice over the years. My experience is that, in the very beginning of one’s practice, they can be helpful in the training and conditioning of mind for meditation…but later on (and actually fairly quickly IMO) they become a hinderance and can even become counterproductive. My understanding is that (beyond the initial free guided meditation) Headspace also encourages self-directed exercises in its programs, so that is a good thing I think. It is also my experience when teaching meditation that different people benefit from different techniques - and even the same person may benefit from different meditation techniques over time - so that relying on one technique, set of tools or practice may not be as productive or helpful over time.

As to your question about “going faster,” if you are just beginning that is rarely a good idea. IMO it is helpful to allow the results of meditation to percolate through your mind, heart and body, giving lots of space and time for different aspects of your being to process and integrate them. Patience (and letting go of expected results or outcomes) is an important part of meditative practice. Maintaining balance with other dimensions of our lives is also important. However, I would say that a regularity of at least once a day can be helpful - in fact just as with any self-care or training technique, a consistent and regular discipline is much more important than duration, frequency or speed of progress in my experience and observation.

One final thought is that I am not a big fan of the commercialistic, “consumer” model of meditation training. Which is why I offer most of my books as free downloads (including three that include meditation exercises), and why my audio entrainment CD (for introductory meditation training) is offered at the lowest price my retailers allow me to sell it. There are also many, many free smartphone apps and websites that offer useful meditation training tools, techniques and tips.

My 2 cents.

What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?

Answering the question: "What are the goals and effects of self inquiry meditation on who am I?"

Thanks for the A2A Pete. I had to laugh when I saw this…it’s a big question with a simple experiential answer: try it and you’ll see. So as to be less trite, however, I’ll offer a few nuggets to mull over:

- After seven years of self inquiry Jorge realized there was nothing there. Nothing at all. Self was annihilated and only emptiness filled the place it had once occupied.\

- After fifteen years of self inquiry Martha became God; that is, she recognized a complete absence of differentiation between her Self and the Divine. It was a very humbling experience.

- After a lifetime of self inquiry Wu Wei encountered a unitive substrate of being that consumed all independent and personal aspects of identity, so that all that remained was the Tao.

- After twenty-seven lifetimes of self-inquiry, Advika became extremely bored with the practice and began living her life very simply and without artifice, with an endless well of compassion for everyone around her, and with plenty of time to watch children at play.

As for negative effects: self-obsession, attachment to spiritual progress, and a breakdown of survival functions can occur if more constructive intentions are not cultivated from the beginning. Because of this, whenever any form of meditation is taught, I believe students should be encouraged to set this intention in their hearts and minds, and to try to feel it deeply in their bones, before each session: “May this be for the good of All.”

My 2 cents.

Do Christians believe chanting the Om mani padme hum sacrilege?

From Do Christians believe chanting the Om mani padme hum sacrilege? Quora A2A

Thanks for the A2A Deanna.

This is not a simple question to answer. Firstly, there are many different branches of Christianity; secondly, there are subtle differences within Buddhism regarding the Mani mantra’s intrinsic mechanisms. Taking these two variables into account, you can juxtapose one Buddhist take on the Mani with one denomination of Christianity and conclude that, yes indeed, reciting this mantra would be considered sacrilege. But then you could immediately juxtapose a different interpretation with a different denomination and conclude that, no, this would not be sacrilegious at all, but highly facilitative.

Let me turn this question around a little, placing it in a different context. Suppose you asked “Do Buddhists believe that reciting the Orthodox Jesus Prayer perpetuates delusion and suffering?” Here again, you will arrive at different conclusions depending one which Buddhists you ask, and what interpretations of the Jesus Prayer are being applied.

Personally, as a mystic whose practice is informed by both Buddhism and Christianity, I have no problem at all reciting either the Jesus Prayer or the Mani mantra. Why? Because I believe that, if a person practices either approach diligently, with the persistent shaping of underlying intent encouraged by each, they will arrive at the same interior space, the same fundamental ground of awareness, and extraordinarily similar ineffable insights. Via either path, a practitioner of either faith tradition will annihilate egoic identifications of self, explode a felt experience of compassionate understanding within their heart, and abruptly find themselves afloat in profoundly deep and swift river of unconditional acceptance, kindness and charity. At that point, any dogmatic differences between the two traditions becomes utterly irrelevant.

However, because of both misunderstanding between traditions, and substantive differences between the cultures within which various schools of spiritual thought have emerged (and are contextualized or interpreted), it is easy to find intellectual, legalistic or traditional grounds for rejecting the practices of other traditions. And of course this even occurs between particular disciplines of Buddhist teaching, and between particular disciplines of Christian teaching. It also occurs between different practitioners of the same teachings in each tradition, when those practitioners are at different stages of practice and maturity. IMO this is human nature.

I also suspect folks in each tradition want to enjoy a certain superiority over other traditions - and this also seems to be human nature. I attended a lecture of a well-known Buddhist monk a few years ago, and felt strong resonance with everything he said….until this statement: “A Catholic Priest once asked me to explain emptiness, but emptiness is for Buddhists. A Christian should have nothing to do with *emptiness*.” Well he was simply mistaken. In the Christian contemplative tradition, there are stages of awareness, insight and being that parallel the Buddhist experiences of emptiness, and they are extremely important in that tradition. Again, though, this may just be evidence of either an uninformed disconnect - or a pride in one’s own tradition - that interferes with folks grokking the suchness of each others’ particularity. Ultimately, when we find ourselves awakening to culminations (peak experiences) of Buddha-nature, luminous mind, the cloud of unknowing, a dark night of the soul, etc. those awakenings are One - without difference, and without even a concept of difference. Only when we begin to discuss, contextualize and integrate such encounters do language and culture demand we differentiate and contrast them.

I hope this was helpful.

How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?

In answer to Quora question "How can you be existential and religious and in the same time, what does it mean to be existential?"

Thanks for the A2A Alba.

This question can be answered many different ways, so I'll offer a few thoughts for you to chew over:

1. If a felt experience of existential angst persuades me that existence has no inherent meaning, I might reflexively cling to a shallow religious conviction that injects meaning into that apprehension of meaninglessness as a way to comfort myself. If I recognize what I am doing, I may still be existential in my orientation towards existence, but still cling to shallow religiosity as a coping mechanism.

2. I could also have a mystical experience in which I sense a unitive ground of being that connects all life - indeed all of existence. From this I glean a sense of spiritual unity within myself and inclusive of my surroundings, which seems to align with certain mystical branches of religious experience among various traditions (indeed nearly all traditions have such a branch). However, I may also at the same time feel separated or alienated from any traditional concepts of God or human society, so that much of mainstream "religiosity" really doesn't conform to my experiences or worldview. I may also feel that this unitive mystical state - and the entire interdependence of existence I am witnessing - has intrinsic meaning that is ineffable; in other words, it has no intellectually framable value, and cannot be communicated in words at all. As a consequence, the meaning that I sense or intuit is so inchoate that I can't rely on it to justify my existence to anyone else - or really even to myself without a fair amount of self-questioning doubt. In this sense, I may be both spiritual (or religious in a mystical sense) and existential at the same time.

3. Another variation is that I might discover that the material world really is mostly a pointless, futile creation, inherently prone to perpetual suffering, and that its only meaningful qualities arise from a profound felt experience of compassionate affection that I must consciously choose to pursue. In other words, I might recognize that all of life and existence are indeed utterly futile without the presence of love, and so I commit myself to cultivating and generating that love to imbue my own existence with purpose (and indeed to justify all existence) and to help alleviate the suffering around me. And, since this same perspective can be found among many different religious traditions, I am willing to adopt one of those traditions to help actualize this love-in-action. As I practice this faith, however, I never lose sight of the felt reality that all of this existence is a meaningless farce, illusion or dream.

4. Yet another variation of being both religious and existentialist is to progress through all of the phases of St John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. I do not mean the watered-down pop-psyche version of this experience, I mean the real deal...all the way to the end. Anyone who has committed themselves to this path understands what it means to be both religious and existentialist at the same time.

5. And actually, I would say that someone who really commits to delve deeply into almost any spiritual tradition, moving beyond dogma and conformance to the most authentic praxis of faith, will begin to sense the intersection of existential perceptions and religious convictions. A profound commitment to spiritual discipline will, IMO, lead almost everyone to a very similar experience of this intersect. I think this is likely why, for example, Thomas Merton, a Trappist Catholic, felt such a strong affinity with Zen Buddhist monks.

Apart from these examples, there are still others that illustrate how existentialism and religion or spirituality coexist, most notably Kierkegaard's elucidation of the (necessary) absurdity of faith when confronting the "infinite qualitative disjunction" of the Divine. In another vein, there is the choice of nihilism, but here also we can find spiritual traditions where being both religious and nihilistic is an acceptable stage of development.

My 2 cents.

On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?

In answer to Quora question: "On what basis do people argue that the universe is conscious?"

You asked about a basis. For a mystic that basis is the personal experience of a unitive condition inclusive of subject and object - and indeed all objects -as the result of disciplined mental, emotional and physical practices. Direct experience of this felt reality is profoundly persuasive. However, how we react to or interpret such unitive apperceptions tends to reflect the structural sophistication and moral development within which our own consciousness currently operates. Wilber examines this idea in his discussion of a "pre/trans fallacy." Panpsychism is one response or explanation in a spectrum of responses and explanations to unitive apperception, but is really an abstraction of the core experience. Another response was Gutei raising a single finger. Another is immersion in profound love-consciousness. Another is worshipful gratitude toward the Divine. Thought-without-thought, action-without-action, no-self, Atman Brahman, supramentalisation...this list is varied and endless, but the core experience that inspired these reactions or conditions is the same; it has undifferentiated unity. So to appreciate the "mechanism of consciousness" in seemingly inanimate objects, you would need to commit to a mystical practice that could eventually offer you a directly apprehended answer. Then again, you might interpret your experience differently. But if you constrain your answers to rational arguments, you will tend to become mired in endless loops that can't resolve themselves. It would be equivalent, say, to trying to explain the relationship between manifest and unmanifest, or characteristics of the Ayn Soph, or what Buddhist "emptiness" is, etc. without experiencing these directly.

I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Why don't philosophers speak normal understandable language? You probably said something interesting and meaningful, but I only understood a few words"

Dimage I apologize. Sometimes trying to be precise with words can result in less easy-to-understand language. If I try to simplify what I'm saying, it may also be misunderstood, but I'll give it a try: If I meditate, and have a sudden "aha" moment in which I perceive everything as one - completely the same in its essence or in its relationship to everything else - I may conclude that "everything is conscious," because I cannot separate my own consciousness from my mind's penetration of (or entanglement with?) everything that I perceive. In fact, I may discover that what I believe to be "real consciousness" is actually something very different than my own "monkey mind," and that aspects of this "real consciousness" are in fact present in everything around me. But this experience is extremely personal and subjective...it is challenging to explain it in rational terms. However, as a basis for "universal consciousness," it feels very convincing to the person experiencing it.

Comment from Dimage Sapelkin: "Yep, but if you think about the experience of other people who feel quite the same, you know that they have very different experience from yours. Their consciousness actually doesn't get included with yours while you feel as one with the universe. Isn't that a contradiction to what you are saying?"

From my discussions with others who have shared their mystical experiences with me, and from my readings of those mystics who have tried to write down their experiences, compared them with the experiences of mystics from other traditions, and so on...I would say that we all have encountered some pretty profoundly similar felt realities, and indeed "shared in the same consciousness." Sometimes our sensations and insights seem almost identical, but, I think more importantly, these mystical "ahas" share powerful central characteristics, such as feeling deep compassion for all human beings that endures into our daily lives, and never fades away entirely. Then again, their are many doors to the palace of wisdom, many paths up the mountain, and even if they at first may seem contradictory, they are ultimately reconciled in mystical union. I hope this was helpful.

Comment from Martin Silvertant: "A really excellent answer, and beautifully worded. I don't at all share Sapelkin's sentiment. I understood everything and didn't feel you were being pretentious in your choice of words.

One question though. What are you referring to exactly when you say one can't explain the relationship between the characteristics of the Ayn Soph? Are you implying it's inherently spiritual rather than rational?"

We can discuss or frame this rationally after encountering it in peak experiences, but I would say the experience itself is "transrational;" it integrates many different input streams, and rationality (or more accurately a "hyperrationality" that excludes felt sense, intuition, spiritual cognition, etc. from the mix) can actually get in the way - or at least cause us to stumble. My 2 cents.

What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?a

In answer to Quora question "What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?"

Thanks for the A2A David. I am coming late to this party, it appears, since there are already 100+ answers. Usually I like to read through what has already been posted to see if I can add anything new. Alas, there's just too much here for me to do that! However, I find this an interesting topic, so I will take a crack at it. :-)

First we should define some terms - or at least explore them a bit. In order to for this question to have maximum utility, we need to know what is "rational," what is "evidence" and what is "God." For depending on how we frame our language and the question itself, we can end up with a lot of different answers.

For example: Do we mean "rational" in a concrete sequential way, where the vocabulary and syntax of our discourse is limited to rigidly systematized relationships (such as mathematics, computer coding, etc.)? Do we want "evidence" in a strict empiricist sense, confining our evaluation to observations that can be independently replicated and validated by any reasonably competent researcher, using metrics and instruments that are widely accepted in the scientific community? And do we intend "God" to mean an independent, conscious being with the power to create the Universe and everything in it...? Well, if we insist on these definitions, we might be able to address one or two of these requirements in a given argument...maybe...but I think it likely impossible to meet all three.

And this creates a problem in itself, because we've made a classic error in logic: we've framed things so narrowly that it impossible to satisfy all of the criteria. Whether this comes from an overzealousness regarding the scientific method, or a belief bias of some kind, or a lack of experience exploring this particular a topic...who can say? But the result will always be the same IMO: we will limit the quality of any argument so much that it can be easily dismissed.

So what's to be done? Well here's a thought experiment to consider. Imagine you and I are members of two tribes, and that I speak a language that you don't speak - in fact, no one else from your tribe speaks my language either. Others of my tribe speak it, and you can observe me interacting with them in what seems like real communication. But the language itself is just nonsense to you. Okay then, how can I prove to you that my language is actually a language, and not just some made up silliness? Well, one way to do this would be to ask me to ask someone from my tribe, in my language, to go do some detailed physical sequence of actions. If you can then observe that person fulfilling your "translated" request, then you have confirmation that my language is probably real! But what if you ask me to ask them about more personal or subjective things, like what their favorite food might be, or where they've traveled? Well, you can't ever know - not really - whether what I relay back to you is actually what they said, or just something I made up.

Taking this one step further, what if you ask me to ask them about God? What if they babble a long string of excited words you don't understand in response to my asking them, and I turn to you and say, "Well, they actually had dinner with God last night, and God apparently doesn't like lentils." Perhaps you believe I misunderstood your question, so you try repeatedly to nail down the conception of "God" so that you are sure our understanding agrees, and to confirm that my other tribe member comprehends your definition. And this goes on for...I dunno...a few hours, at the end of which you still aren't confident we are all talking about the same thing, because the answers you receive make no sense to you. The idea that "God" is flatulent, or has excellent taste in wine, or likes to sing bawdy songs when drunk, doesn't align with your preconceived notion of what "God" is supposed to be. So...well...you remain incredulous, and perhaps suspicious that I'm just pulling your leg.

And I think this story hints at the nature of the disconnect when trying to explore any mystical, esoteric or spiritual topics on Quora. To paraphrase Rumi: you can't parse spirit with logic; they just aren't the same language. Oh sure, lots of people have tried to close the gap between an ineffable *aha, *intuitive insights and (seemingly) rational philosophical constructs...it's a time-honored Western tradition. But IMO it consistently falls short. As an example, spend a year or so working through all of Hegel's writing on "spirit," summarize your conclusions about his conceptions, and then compare those conclusions to the writings of others about what Hegel means. In my experience, reading a few lines of Hafez will provide more cogent insight into the nature of spiritual love, for example, than a thousand dissertations on the topic. Again, it's about being able to speak the same language - and to speak about the same shared experiences within cultural contexts and operating assumptions that are at least similar in nature.

To put a finer point on this: what if "God" doesn't speak "rational?" What if the only meaningful conversation you can have with spirit is grounded in subjectively felt experience or intuitive gnosis? If that is true, then we might translate the question "What is the most rational evidence, if there is any, of the existence of God?" into spirit-speak as "What type of cotton candy can you melt with your eyes and eat with your heart?"

Now, just in case you think I am being flippant, let me assure you: my confidence in certain spiritual realities easily and readily harmonizes with my rational mind, and I see absolutely no contradictions there. And if I were put on the spot, I would probably answer the OP's question with one word: "Agape." But that might not be satisfactory to someone from a different tribe, who does not speak the language of spirit, and for whom such declarations sound like nonsense. In reality, however, it is simply a variation of the Hard Problem, where instead of consciousness attempting to understand itself, it is spirit attempting to prove and/or interpret its own existence.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Kasey Warner: "Thanks for a great answer, especially as to the semantics. I believe in a spiritual God and have come to an extremely simplistic personal position upon which I'd enjoy your comment if you see fit, in line with the answer you just gave.

In short, I see that we live in a 3 or 4 dimensional (again, a semantics problem whether time is a dimension) world. My God said He was not of this world; by nature, He is of another dimension (interestingly, science is beginning to realize "other" dimensions may well exist) and chooses whether, when, where, and under what conditions He and His dimension will intersect with one or more of our dimensions, thereby allowing our direct experience of Him and affecting our layer beliefs. Limited by the dimensions in our world, of which He is not, we are then incapable of proving His existence in another dimension. It is a matter of belief. I am not sure of your position on God, but wonder whether you see your recognition of "spirit" as an extradimensional matter.

Thanks in advance."

My response to Casey: Interestingly physics is a hobby of mine. I'm not a physicist, and I don't pretend to comprehend mathematics at that level, but I follow developments, discussions and various theories with interest. When a number of writers, physicists and mystics began to focus on what they perceived to be intersects between quantum theory and mysticism years back, I was all ears and avidly absorbed as much as I could. There is some interesting speculation there - particularly in work exploring correlations between very old Hindu concepts and quantum mechanics - but, ultimately, I was disappointed. Why? Because I feel it is a distraction. The way I believe we should engage spiritual realities is not through mathematical proofs or philosophical rationalizations, but through our heart's promptings and our spiritual intuitions. For me it is similar to falling in love: can we prove to ourselves or someone else that we are shaken to our very core with how we feel, or is the feeling itself sufficient justification and validation? When I say "I love you" to someone I care deeply about, should I be required to prove that this is true? In most spiritual traditions, the evidence of faith is love-in-action; the skillful engagement in service to others with compassionate affection. In a sense, then, the greatest "recognition of spirit" is in the quality of empathy and compassion with which we see ourselves and others, and the wisdom with which we conduct those relationships. Are there other dimensions of existence than those we have discovered to date? I'm certain there are. Will science increasingly recognize and explore them over time? Very probably. Is this the most fruitful avenue to spiritual experience and understanding? In my opinion, it is not.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Abhinaya Mary Koshy: "So you believe in God, then?"

My response to Abhinaya: Thanks for asking, but "belief" has very little to do with how I feel about spiritual matters. I think having an atheistic clinical psychologist as a father made me both skeptical and cynical about anything otherworldly. That said, a lifetime of intense challenges, profound experiences, exposure to different philosophies and faith traditions, meditative discipline, recurring insights and life-changing gnosis has led me to conclude (sometimes tentatively, but persistently) that I do have a spiritual dimension, and that there is spiritual knowledge, whether I choose to recognize these or not, and whether I choose to adopt some traditional label for them or not. For me, spiritual perception-cognition is as real to me as any other of my senses. I strongly suspect that science will catch up with this fact some day - likely using more neutral and clinical language - and it won't be the debate it seems to be now. But, at the same time, my cultivation of spiritual perception-cognition has helped me realize that religious institutions are often the greatest antagonists of authentic spirituality. So when someone asks "Do you believe in God?" in an online discussion, I of course wonder what, exactly, they are describing with that term, and am perpetually nervous about getting bogged down in someone else's version of reality. On the other hand, I have interacted with people of many different faiths who completely "get" my experiences and insights simply because they have been there too; and whether this is just a comforting mass-delusion isn't really relevant to the prosocial consequences and moral maturation it evokes. Well, perhaps it is relevant for some, but not for me. But the concept of "God" in an online forum is so context-dependent as to be an almost useless semantic container (without days of back-and-forth). In any case, to fully appreciate my perspective, you would probably have to read a good number of my books and articles - but that's not a fair expectation. Nevertheless, that's the only way you'll arrive at a definitive answer to your question. :-0

Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?

In answer to Quora question "Are religious and non-religious people inherently different when it comes to morality?"

Question details: "Most of us know it's wrong to steal or kill, but if a person believes there's a supernatural entity keeping an eye on him, would he try harder to resist the urge to do either?"

Thank you for the A2A. I believe you may be asking the wrong question. Perhaps you see spirituality as "belief in a supernatural entity" that keeps an eye on people. I think there probably are "religious" people who operate this way, but personally I think that orientation is pretty immature. It's a 5-year-old's view of an authoritarian "God." I think the more interesting question is: does spirituality itself inform morality in some unique way that a person who resists their own spirituality can't access? But that is not what you asked. So I would say that prosocial impulses are, and always have been, a genetically programmed result of group selection and evolutionary fitness. Which means that human beings as a species have access to the same "conscience," regardless of spiritual insights or religious affiliation. What religion has historically provided is a formalized, institutionalized, often dogmatic form of moral education and social enforcement. And I'm sure that has benefited some people who for some reason have limited access to their own moral compass - but, in general, no more than any other social constraints would. Perhaps, for some, fear of the "Boogeyman in the closet" (i.e. a Devil or other evil force) or deferential respect for a benevolent Deity may have some impact on personal discipline, so that moral commitments and guidelines are adhered to more enthusiastically. It's also true that someone's religious devotion - their love and faith - could encourage a more conscious intentionality that aligns with moral beliefs. But this same devotion could also be arrived at by, for example, a secular humanist who feels compassion for other people, and so aspires to a higher standard of moral conduct, and actively invites others to hold them accountable to that standard. So, in this sense, a "religion" can be invented by almost anyone to systematize and reinforce their values. But I would say that profound spiritual experiences, deeply felt spiritual connections, and an intimate relationship with spiritual intelligence all contribute to a clearer and more refined values hierarchy, so that someone who relies upon these dimensions of being not only can hear their conscience more clearly, but attain insights that evolve their moral perspective beyond social expectation or religious dogma, and mature their mind and heart in the light of skillful compassion.

My 2 cents.