Pic of the day: The Light expands the view.
Spiritual aperture science
I think this deserves its own entry. I mentioned it yesterday in the context of my novel, but I am not sure that type of entries has the same audience as this type.
What I write about here is part of what we could call spiritual science. Unlike the hard sciences, which are based on measurements, and unlike the soft sciences, which are based on statistics, spiritual science is based on experience. The problem is that you cannot verify or falsify them without entering the realm in which they are experienced. However, you CAN verify them once there, and you can do so even if you have entered through one of several portals.
This differs from religion which is usually thought to be exclusive: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", "No one comes to the Father except through me", "There is no God except Allah, and Mohammad is his Prophet". Spiritual experience is not acknowledged as a way to salvation, but is often found as a side effect once you are devoted to a religion. Since each person normally has had only one religion in their life, at least if they have wholeheartedly devoted themselves to it, they usually think that the spiritual experiences are also unique to their faith, and that corresponding experiences in other religions are the work of the Devil / Shaitan / Maya.
An alternative explanation is that the human spirit is made in a certain way no matter where you come from and what faith you adhere to. To take a parallel: Some people love brussels sprouts and some people love steak, but their body reacts in much the same way when each of them encounters their favorite meal. This is also so with people's erotic lives: It is very different what "turns them on", but the body reacts in predictable ways. It is no mystery then that spiritual experiences are similar, no matter what "turns you on" to them. If nothing else, then all who are alive to report their experiences have a brain and the experience reaches their typewriter after passing through the human brain, which is similar in us all. After all, we are all close relatives.
This then has no impact on whether a religion is "right" or "wrong". I am not making the statement that all religions are one or that they all lead to the same goal. I am claiming that certain spiritual experiences are common across different religious traditions, and even non- religious. Theravada Buddhism, for instance, does not worship Buddha, but adheres to a strictly agnostic spiritual philosophy and practice. Some schools of psychoanalysis also touch on the same experiences.
The present moment is the aperture through which the Light from Above comes into time. To use the favorite analogy of Robert Godwin, ordinary time is horizontal, eternity is vertical. No matter where we are in our horizontal timeline, all of eternity is always right above us. How much of it comes into our life depends on our spiritual hunger and on grace. Theologians debate whether grace is equally available to all, or whether certain people are destined for more or less or no grace at all. I am not a theologian. I know that I have received more grace than I have made use of, but again this is purely experiential. I cannot read your mind. But I know that it is easy to overlook grace at first.
Why could we overlook something so important? Because the opening of the present is so small, almost no Light can come through. The natural person has a mind that lives almost entirely in the past or the future, or even wanders between them but rarely stops in the present. But time spent in the present is the first condition for increasing the "eternity aperture". For this reason every spiritual tradition has some tool, or tools, to ground people in the present for a while. Meditation, contemplation, worship, the Sabbath, holy songs or dances. They set apart a piece of ordinary time and consecrates it. The idea is that while inside this holy time, the person should for a while let go of the past and the present and gather their mind tightly around them, then "lift" their eyes to eternity. When you are in this receptive state and grace occurs, the Light of grace will flow through the tiny hole in your time. And it will begin to expand your time in a new direction, vertically instead of just horizontally along a narrow line.
At first the expansion of the present is barely noticeable. Well, that was cool, and you return to your ordinary life as the same person. This does not happen to all: In some people, there is an explosive influx of grace and they are changed overnight to a completely different person. I have no idea what sets some people up for this and not all. Consequently I will not write about it. Instead I will write about the ordinary Joe and Jane who faithfully keep the Sabbath or go to church or mosque or temple, or simply sit down on their meditation mat for a certain duration each morning. Not as a mere ritual, but with the conscious expectation that at some point grace will appear, even if only as a twinkling star before the clouds cover it again.
Slowly, their present expands. Where they had to crawl through it on their belly, they can get up on their hands and knees. Soon they can stand up, and eventually they realize that they have a lot of room. They are feeling free. No longer bound to their prayer rug or meditation mat, they can go around their ordinary life and the spiritual space follows them. They are free as they cook dinner or deal with petulant customers. Temptations no longer take them entirely by surprise, like back when they were in the far future planning something entirely different from what happened.
The influx of grace from above, through the spiritual aperture, expands the present. This is something you can experience, but only if you go there. It is in much the same way as the sunrise. If you live in a library without windows, you can read about the sun your whole life. You can know far more than me about its size, its density, its chemical properties, and even its luminosity. You can mock the primitive superstition that the sun rises and sets, knowing from numerous reliable sources that it is actually the earth that rotates and the sun could not care less. But if one morning you leave the dusty library and join us outside waiting, you will eventually see the sun rise. And it is something entirely different from the books. (And yet the books make so much more sense now!)
The various religions, including my own, assure us that bad things will happen if you choose a competing tradition. I won't argue for or against that today. But I can tell you that if you choose any authentic spiritual tradition (pretty much anything that is not recently constructed by a habitual liar) you should be able to find this expansion of the present through even their basic practices. Perhaps you will go to hell eventually, or simply cease to exists (the two may even be the same). But you will definitely live a life of immensely more freedom while you are alive.
In fact, it can be argued that you are not very much alive at all as long as you live in the past and the present exclusively. Please stop your thoughts now and then – as you walk, as you wait for something, or even on the toilet – and say to yourself: "I am alive, now." Then lift your inner eyes and look for the small rift in time.
The birds they sing at the break of day:
Leonard Cohen, Anthem.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.