By Bill Neenan
You might have noticed more frequent reports in the news about astronomers finding planets with conditions similar to Earth. The emerging scientific consensus, based on observation and statistical analysis, is that numerous stars have planetary systems. Scientists also believe it likely that many of these planets have liquid water, even oxygen, and could spawn life. The discovery of primitive life elsewhere in the universe could lay bare a realm of strange realities. The most meaningful discovery of all would be that some extraterrestrials are not only technically advanced and widespread, but are far more evolved than humans in intellect and morality, as reflected in their values, social organization, and the ethical norms of individuals.
The late astronomer Carl Sagan was well-known for speaking about the “billions and billions” of stars in the universe, and the probable 10,000 technical civilizations calculated to exist in our galaxy alone. Professor Sagan was also famous for saying, “life is made of star-stuff.” This idea, at times repeated facetiously by some, does have a profound meaning because it refers to a profound fact: the synthesis of “star-stuff” (exploded-star remnants) into beings able to understand what star-stuff is.
Think about that for a moment: throughout the universe the remains of exploded stars eventually become new stars; planets form around them, and out of the mix of elements, molecules and light, life evolves. And we humans having arrived at the apex of evolution on planet Earth, end up understanding cosmology and our genesis; we structure materials and the environment; we imagine things like the gods, or the God.
This reality of energy transforming itself via its evolution into self-conscious, technical beings, gives rise to a monumental question: does this transformation strongly imply that the nature of what we term “energy” is actually a “spiritual” reality? In other words, does the way in which energy (the universe), organizes itself, presumably in countless instances of life elsewhere in the universe, indicate that its nature is purposeful and its meaning, somehow transcendent?
Is having a purpose the ultimate truth about our human nature, and about other such beings in the universe, or is all such existence only the result of material interactions, ultimately without meaning and, in the final analysis, the result of random events?
By way of exploration, another question arises: is there something all of us have in common that moves the process of universal transformation forward, and renders as intuitive, perhaps obvious, the actuality and necessity of advanced life having purpose and transcendent meaning (e.g., our consciousness continues somehow with purpose after death)? The answer to this question is the primary focus of this essay.
Professor Sagan and his successor, Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson make it a point to demonstrate how insignificant we, and our planet, are. We see in the production, “Cosmos,” the image of earth positioned in a spiral galaxy, becoming smaller and smaller, until we are miniscule and finally, too small to be seen.
The reality we call “the universe” is, of course, possibly just a “material machine.” We are certainly not, as Deepak Chopra has said, “spirits having a human experience.” But assuming we believe ourselves to be spiritual beings, or not, either belief ultimately remains a matter of faith, meaning neither belief can be proved to be true or false. I do think, though, that materialism and its creeds (e.g., atheism, agnosticism) are rendered less plausible, less probable, and less attractive alternatives, when it is assumed that highly evolved life in the universe is common.
Absolute certainty or not, I want to understand the meaning of our existence. I want to know if my life has purpose. I want a meaningful answer to the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is my consciousness nothing more than a temporary construct, like my dog’s? Just what is it that makes the (universal) transformation of matter/energy into my consciousness possible?
This is the pivotal question that leads us to the matter of our spiritual purpose. I suggest we begin to address it with consideration of a fundamental, persistent element active in biological and civil evolution: hierarchical, or pyramidal, social order.
Imagine us having god-like vision, and we see and understand the essence of each advanced life form in the universe. From what we know about social organization on earth, it seems reasonable to assume that our grand vision would reveal a vast array of civilizations that constitute a graded series, or a hierarchy. This would be a hierarchical, or pyramidal, order of technical, behavioral and, most important for our inquiry, numerous levels of evolved ethical status.
So wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that the hierarchical order itself is significant because it engenders the progression of knowledge and skills acquisition needed to attain advanced technical status at the minimum (e.g., bronze-age weapons to machine guns)? But what about the things that make such progress possible, the non-technical requirements that enable individuals to act and work cooperatively, like trust, honesty, and fairness? These are among the crucial elements that constitute ethical behavior, and lead individuals and societies to act for the common good.
I’m intrigued by, and view as fundamental, the relationship between social hierarchy and the evolution of ethical behavior. That’s because at the root of evolving ethical behavior lies competition, the primordial, ongoing force in human evolution that seeks advantage and survival within the context of family, tribe, environment, etc. Competition (and its lifeblood, conflict) is, firstly, a powerful cause of hierarchical social order (at-peak superior power achieved); competition is also the consequence of this social order (superior power defended/expanded); finally, (but by no means last) competition in the world of natural selection is the primary catalyst for the evolution of ethical rules, principles and behavior. Accordingly, in response to the jungle of competitive forces within and between social groupings, ethical norms have evolved because humans prefer peace to war, stability and safety to stress and fear.
The competitive struggles for influence, sex and love, possession and dominance have produced throughout millennia the myriad pyramidal social orders. These struggles, the aggressive and gentle, daily and sustained patterns of dominance and submission, in all their variety, have evolved throughout the eons—and they have fostered the most essential element that enables life on planets to exist and to survive. That element is plausibly a common thread existing in all civilizations throughout the universe—Why should this be true?
Because this element would be a thread that, more than anything else, enables in the first place the creation and nurturing of life, and facilitates the crucial evolution of beings capable of trust and cooperative behavior. How could we, or any advanced life-form, exist without that as the minimum? We are looking to identify a common thread that transcends in importance any level of technical advancement.
That common thread is “love,” defined here simply as the force of attraction between beings, as distinct from fear-induced repulsion (or paralysis). This elementary and universal force of attraction engenders, in the first place, reproduction; it enables nurturing behavior, cooperation and the formation of cohesive societies, as well as things that guide us to evolve technically. But far more important than technical advancement, our ability to survive in the long run (like our alien visitors) depends upon the evolution of that vital phenomenon, already stressed, as integral to love in its most fundamental, attractive sense: ethical behavior.
* * *
Long before there were stable, encoded, ethical adaptations to aggression, warfare, and daily cooperative endeavors, human consciousness likely had evolved to the point where imagination began to fulfill its transformative purpose in moving the evolutionary process forward. Imagination did this by causing a phenomenon that molded the consciousness, the values, of individuals and civilizations throughout history: belief systems. The evolution of belief systems (primarily “religious”) played a role in late human evolution no less important than the earlier evolution of upright posture, the opposable thumb, language, etc.
This momentous, unique human faculty of imagination enabled us to believe in unseen personalities and forces far greater than ourselves. These imagined external forces became objects of belief, or “faith,” and belief in them played a major, unifying role in affecting the decisions and actions of individuals and tribes, thus creating the routes to becoming highly evolved societies. Here on earth, these forces were given names we still recognize, names like “Yahweh,” “Zeus,” or “Venus.”
Underlying the influence of any religious or mythical belief system, the combination of three abilities, memory, imagination and belief, comprise the biological matrix that facilitates the evolution of creatures into higher forms of consciousness (in concert with upright posture, language, etc.). This evolving consciousness, in the interest of reproduction and survival, also furthers development of the trust, strategies and cooperation required for humans and extraterrestrials to live not only enjoyable lives, but to save themselves from rendering their planets inhospitable through greed, for example.
To summarize, competition, the struggle for survival, advantage and domination, results in hierarchical social order, here, and likely throughout the universe. The forces of attraction and repulsion operating throughout all social pyramids may be viewed as the primordial emotions out of which beliefs are born, and thus the meaning of our perceptions created. This moment to moment creation of meaning through beliefs is what enables individuals and societies to maintain emotional, as well as physical, balance and health; or, to borrow a concept from the science of physiology, “homeostasis.” In this context, the term, “psychological homeostasis” could apply.
So, in our effort to understand the significance of the common thread that likely exists in technical, intelligent societies throughout the universe, and to assess whether or not this thread has an ultimate, spiritual meaning and purpose, it will be useful to discuss in greater detail the role belief systems have played in creating the meaning of our perceptions.
Imagination and belief have always been the “mortar” that held civilizations together (e.g., belief in Pharaoh as god on earth; the European divine right of kings). Imagination is the means through which belief systems in the form of “religion,” or “faith,” are created. For example, we imagine, then believe, “God loves us.” Past and future merge into the present if one: remembers something, then imagines/hopes for, an outcome, such as, “Dear God, I’ve been a good boy all week, so please help me get on the foot ball team!”; or, “O great Zeus, I am thy humble servant and beg for success in defeating the Persians.”
* * *
In order for us to survive in the long run, the heart of the matter appears to be: how do we ensure that earth’s social organization and values are determined more by love than fear, and the belief in people being “winners and losers,” becomes the trait of ancient leaders at the pyramid’s summit fighting to have and hold power over others, instead of with others (a distinction noted by Gandhi).
The issue of our human society based more on love than fear points to something that is, I believe, actually a universal principle: ethical progress, or the moral nature of societies, varies directly with the power of fear to diminish or destroy love; or, simply, the power of fear to create evil. Central to our quest for a biological, ethical, sustainable way forward, then, is the ancient, bed-rock, debated-to-death question of “good” vs. “evil.”
I believe that evil is essentially fear-based greed and all of its self-serving forms, because it diminishes, divides, or destroys the unity of love and its crucial offspring, trust. But evil is, fortunately, something we own and have the opportunity to be responsible for. Unfortunately, for ethical progress and social harmony, there are powerful forces throughout the world invested in the idea (sincerely and not) that evil is fathered by a supernatural being, one who thrives on turning human souls over to the “dark (disobedient?) side.” Hence, we have widespread belief in the cosmic war between good and evil, providing the justification for hatred, wars and blame galore.
Throughout the cosmic balancing act between the forces of fear and love, the force of attraction brings us children, most of whom grow up certain that they are loved by their parents and others. When these children have problems and experience pain, they place their trust in those who, they believe, love them.
But there’s a matter of deep significance concerning the origin and nature of evil behavior. Unlike the more fortunate children, those placing their trust in others whose feelings are conflicted, may be making a fearful choice. I’m thinking, for example, of the children who are judged to be “dull”, “ugly,” “brilliant but alienated”? For these individuals fear and its offspring, mistrust, are likely to play a greater role in determining choices and behavior. Such individuals, prompted by fear, are more likely to choose secret, deceptive or otherwise harmful means for protection. Our social scientists are certainly engaged in questions about the origin of harmful behavior in those who experienced little or no love in their young lives.
So how might highly evolved extraterrestrials evaluate us? 1) social structure pyramidal with privileged distribution of resources 2) the forces of lateral networking in progress to adjust same, but 3) powerful interests heavily invested in maintaining top-down control, outcome uncertain; the familiar list of problems: environmental degradation, climate change, wars, extreme poverty, etc. The probability of human survival beyond the next 100 earth-years, 50% at best?
In view of a thorough analysis of us by these beings, what are they likely to conclude is the main obstacle to humanity progressing quickly enough to save ourselves from failure? At this point in history, the answer ought to be obvious: the obstacle to humanity finally taking on the greatest collective effort to save itself is whatever obstructs our ability to love one another! This is an incredibly obvious statement, to say the least; but it is, nonetheless, an extraordinarily essential guiding principle. It is the spiritual message of Christ and, arguably, all spiritual masters.
The common thread is the irrepressible force and predominance of love comprising the foundation of highly evolved social organization manifesting throughout the universe. The key idea—the “spiritual” idea—is this: the purpose of highly evolved life in the universe is for its individuals and societies to evolve in their capacity to experience love in all of its forms.
Powerful attraction to each other is the mode of being that leads us, and others in the universe, to the sustainable path of planetary survival well into the future. This means the rise and fall of empires must now yield to species-wisdom, and the idea of planet-as-viable-home needs to be a priority in the extreme. We are warned: beings dominated by the offspring of fear (greed, jealousy, deceitfulness, the lust for power) create poor conditions for advanced life to thrive, or even survive, beyond a certain point (the environment of mistrust, subterfuge, corruption and violence).
The capacity to love ourselves, our alien friends would surely emphasize, and many of us already know, resides in the moment to moment quality of the lives we live. It’s no secret that the unhappiness and misery of the many, here and elsewhere, diminishes the happiness of everyone (as it should)—including the fortunate few who would deny they are brought down even a notch by this dangerous situation. (“I’m happy, and I take pride in my armed fortress!”).
* * *
Concerning the matter of our unity, we are at a critical moment in our history and it appears that now is the time to reject the widespread objectification of evil in that greatly imagined person of Satan, who provides the place (Hell) and rationale (sin) for some to condemn others as deserving of damnation and suffering. Thus, we have it: the objectification of “good” and “bad” people, those who deserve Heaven, others Hell, happiness versus suffering. Question: aren’t people more likely to have racist attitudes when they believe certain people deserve eternal damnation?
Pyramidal social order has been with us for millennia. It began with the shaman, the original arbiters of good and bad, right and wrong, in service to their confidants, one’s tribe; and onward through the world’s first civilization, Sumer, with its priests as masters of writing and the keeping of temple records, the cycles of war and peace and the economies of fortune and misfortune these civilizations created.
Our attitudes, habits and behaviors, our social structure itself, all derive from that history—from those gods, from those demons, upon the stony foundations of fear (and love) they helped to create. What can be done to create unity of purpose in such a complicated, fear-entrenched world? A nuclear war with hundreds of millions dead might bring us together, for a while at least. How about the appearance of nasty ETs? That ought to bring us together (and the good ones tear us apart?).
The ugly head of cynicism rises up…Solutions will require the approval and actions of powerful people, some of whom benefit from keeping things exactly as they are, because they feed well at the trough of innocence, ignorance, addiction of every sort.
But, “The Times, They are A-changing” (and “approvals” are growing irrelevant).
Ideally we are joined to the vast realm of highly evolved extraterrestrial life by the common thread of love experienced and destined to ascend in scope and power, beyond the grip of fear and all its challenging limitations. But, and this is probably why the planets are so far apart, we have to find our own way.
Concerning our widespread divisions, and the matter of “what can be done?” doesn’t the path to unity begin with the education of our children? Shouldn’t we teach them that true evil—our greatest divider—is something people do, and not are, and thereby create “hell” for themselves and others? The widespread belief in Satan’s power is an extremely divisive scapegoat that deserves a tomb marked, “Obsolete, But Remains a Danger to Humanity.”
A much more empowering, sustainable belief is needed if we are to overcome our divisions, experience a new dawn for humanity, and survive the long run, like our hypothetical alien visitors. We need to gently, if only for short while, let rest our competing beliefs and concur on the one belief that’s capable of uniting all of us as members of the human family: we are all in essence spiritual beings; we belong to a transcendent reality and upon death we go on somehow…but no one knows how; history shows the arguments to be endless, self-serving and often destructive…better to let them lie still.
For those who reject the idea of our spiritual nature, yet still find themselves in a fog of uncertainty, maybe unsettling, that uncertainty will be eased when the stark idea of our lives as having no ultimate purpose, no continuity whatsoever, is finally faced, clarified, embraced as such, and the ways of living well, and humanely, go on as no less viable.
This brings me to a concluding thought. The dictionary defines the common practice of “worship” as “the reverent love and allegiance accorded a deity, idol, or sacred object.” But why shouldn’t we intend our reverent love and allegiance at least as much for each other? Wouldn’t it be greatly relevant and, we dare to think, not offensive, to gaze into the “windows of our souls,” instead of into the heavens? I believe it benefits us, wherever we look, to embrace, and to herald, the common thread of love that links us all to its sublime purpose.
A suggestion: recall how you felt at a moment of your greatest joy, the birth of your first child, or a wonderful achievement of some sort, where the first thing you wanted to do, and did, was to share the moment with others. Now recall that feeling of sharing, the joy of unity, and multiply its intensity by the trillions, or however far you are able to imagine. That is a rough indication, perhaps, of the love, the spiritual, unified reality of consciousness we are all evolving within, which some may choose to call, “God,” or others, the greatest skeptics among us, the “Singularity.”
About the author:
Bill Neenan is a native New Yorker, currently living in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Queens College, The City University of New York, where he majored in philosophy and psychology. Bill is also a graduate of New York University, where he earned a degree in physical therapy, and works as a therapist in New Jersey. He is married and the proud father of a twenty-two year-old son. Bill is an avid guitar soloist specializing in improvisation, and plays in art galleries in New York City. Besides his interest in writing about his belief in the spiritual nature of reality, and related matters, he’s writing a novel; the hero a mathematical/encryption savant committed to do whatever it takes to stop the launch of weapons into space in the near future.
We live in a mad, crazy world, and it is easy to become overwhelmed with the pace of life and expectations placed upon us by others.
Bestselling author Ian Tucker takes a look at how we can slow down and begin to take care of ourselves.
He offers ten simple steps towards a happier and more peaceful life.
1. “Live just for today.”
Your past is now your story, nothing more, it has gone forever – regret is a total waste of your time, see that what came to test you is an opportunity to grow, be kind to yourself and focus on cherished memories.
What of the future and it’s total uncertainty? Well, 99.9% of anything that you and I have ever worried about has never happened, think about that for a moment, all that worry sometimes to the point of illness and for nothing, worrying is like praying for things you don’t want.
Once you realise that the current moment is all that you can be certain of you will unlock the shackles that keep you tied to the past or worried about the future and liberate you to live each day.
1. “Remember all that you have in life.”
In a world that tells us everyday that we need more to be happy, it becomes easy to focus on what we don’t have, The latest model becomes dated and the “must have” purchase will gather dust, but consider this, “The simplest things deliver your deepest needs.”
Anything that has truly meant something to me in my life very rarely has a monetary value.
Try this very simple “gratitude” excercise and let it remind you of all that you have in life.
Take a piece of paper and in the centre draw a heart, within the heart place the name of someone or something that you are grateful for, now around the heart fill the page with why you feel blessed to know this person.
At the bottom of the page and with a smile write thank you.
We have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it’s just a matter of stopping to remind ourselves.
“Find the gift.”
Life isn’t about some kind of flat line clinical existence, we can’t truly appreciate happiness until we have felt sad, or know how fortunate we are until we have known lack.
Something or someone who comes to test you in life is no different, you can either let it define you and hold you back or find the gift and embrace the lesson.
Use the gratitude exercise from above, but now place the issue within the heart and find the gift.
The pace and turmoil associated with modern life sweeps us along and lays down markers to how we are supposedly measuring up against everyone else, we seem to often be in a race against time and it can begin to feel like we are simply existing.
This approach to life can stop us truly connecting with other people on a deeper level, and this is a basic component of developing a positive and happy outlook.
A sense of concern for others gives our life meaning, it is at the root of all human happiness.
The easiest way to show we care is to be kind, this may be easy with those we love but what if we could extend this to all living things?
I would like to introduce you to a wonderfully inspiring concept, it will loosen the grip that society places on us to fit in and constantly achieve.
“Every day show a random act of kindness to a stranger”, what may seem nothing to you will change someone’s life, a kind word, a smile, a simple act.
We live in a world where “what’s in it for me?” seems to be the mantra. Try “what can I do for you?” and you will be amazed at what transpires.
The world is desperate for someone just like you, there is a catch however, what goes around comes around, so expect to get it back!
“Enjoy the silence.”
Find time each day to become silent, just ten minutes or so to consciously quieten your mind.
Develop a simple practice where you can be alone, close your eyes and gently deepen your breathing.
In creating a space between the noise and stress associated with our everyday lives we have an opportunity to remind ourselves that all is well.
“Use the F word.”
What is it about forgiveness that frightens us so much? Begin to see forgiveness as a way of freeing yourself from an emotional tie to a person or situation, forgiveness never condones another’s behaviour it simply confirms that you choose to travel light and are not going to let it define or control you any longer.
“What goes around…”
Give as you wish to live. If you want honesty, be honest, if you want respect, be respectful and if you want love, give love. It all comes back to you and that’s without exception
“Follow your heart and not the crowd”
Studies show that when we look back at our lives (and we will) it’s the things we didn’t do that hang heavy, imagine suddenly realising that you’ve never truly lived. This is YOUR life so don’t live another’s version of it, you’re the only person who can stand in your way.
“Take care of yourself.”
Trust your instincts. Say exactly what you mean. Don’t be a people pleaser. Never put yourself down. It’s OK to say yes. It’s OK to say no. Let go of what you can’t control. Dare
to dream …
“ And so to what really matters in life”
As you get older you will begin to understand more and more that it’s not what you look like or what you own, it’s all about the person that you’ve become, and that how at peace you feel is your true measure of success in life.
About the author:
Ian Tucker is an inspirational author and speaker who lives in Devon, England. After spending over twenty years in the corporate world he reached a point in his life and realised that what he had once thought important no longer served him. Like so many of us, he felt that there just had to be more to life, and this set him on a decade of discovery in search of meaning and his true purpose. He now spends much of his time writing, giving talks and running workshops that encourage us all to develop a simple, caring outlook whilst looking to follow our heart and not the crowd. His new best selling book titled Your Simple Path was born out of his desire to create a straightforward daily approach that recognises a philosophy for a happier and more fulfilling way of life.
For more information please visit www.iantucker.co.uk
By Dan Millman
With the pace of life accelerating, in a world of change, it’s not easy to maintain our balance and sense of direction. Yet we strive to do so, because a sense of direction, toward a meaningful goal, may be the better part of happiness. In this pursuit, the journey may indeed matter more than the destination — but without a destination to aim for there is no journey; we can only wander.
We humans are goal seekers from infancy, drawn by the objects of our desire. But somewhere along the way, most often in the dilemmas and angst of adolescence, a sense of confusion obscures the simple desires of childhood. What we want is muddied by expectations about what we (or others) think we should do. We begin to doubt our desires, mistrust our motives, and wonder where we’re going and why.
In my first book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, the old service station mechanic I called Socrates suggested that all seeking — for knowledge or achievement, for power or pleasure, for love or wealth or even spiritual experience — is driven by the promise of happiness. But the search only reinforces the sense of dilemma that sent us seeking in the first place. So he advised me to replace the search for future happiness with the practice of “unreasonable happiness” in each arising moment.
When my seeking ended and the practice began, I came to understand that what we all need, even more than a happy feeling, is a clear purpose — a meaningful goal or mission that connects us with other human beings. As Viktor Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, this fundamental need for purpose and direction may be as important to our psychological growth as eating is to our biological survival.
But the duties of our daily lives leave little time to contemplate life’s larger questions, except on rare occasions, in the silent hours or in times of transition or trauma, when we are compelled to ask: What do I really want? How would I know if I had it? What would happen if I got it? Is getting what I want going to take me to where I want to be? And finally, What is the purpose of my life?
Maybe you’ve wondered why you’re here on Earth or what you’re here to do — what the French call your raison d’être, your reason for being, an organizing principle and sense of direction that gives shape and meaning to your life. History provides numerous examples of iconic figures like Joan of Arc, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama, whose clarity of purpose drew others to their missions like moths to the light.
The Four Purposes of Life, which proposes some fundamental “reasons for being,” contains elements from my previous works, presenting them in their full context for the first time. The book was inspired by my own quest for a purpose in life. I once believed that my purpose was all about work, and I searched through my twenties and well into my thirties for a career and calling. It took another decade of exploration and intro-spection before I understood that career is only one of four primary purposes in life.
But why four purposes? Some might argue that our sole (or soul) purpose is learning to love — that whatever the question, love is the answer — or that spiritual awakening or surrender to God is our ultimate aim. Others point out that our primary biological purpose is family — bonding with a mate, and bearing and caring for children. Still others might propose three or five or more purposes, or even suggest that there are as many purposes as there are people. Yet just as we divide all the days of the year into four seasons, and points on a compass into four primary directions, sorting our experience into four fundamental purposes helps us to create a sense of structure to better organize our lives.. These four purposes also prepare us for, and point toward, the ultimate or transcendental awakening promised by all the great spiritual traditions.
The first of four purposes we’ll explore in this book — learning life’s lessons — centers around the premise that Earth is a school and daily life is our classroom, and that our daily challenges (in the core arenas of relationship, work and finances, and health) bring learning, growth, and perspective. The value of our life experience resides in what we learn in the process. Difficult days may provide the most important lessons, helping us develop the awareness and self-reflection that lead to higher wisdom.
The second purpose — finding your career and calling — underscores the critical importance of self-knowledge, as well as integrating both logic and intuition, in making the wisest possible life decisions. This section also shows how the service you provide in the world can become a meaningful path of personal and spiritual growth.
The third purpose — discovering your life path — addresses a hidden calling you’re here to explore, a personal path that for most people remains obscure. The information in this section sheds light on the strengths you possess and challenges you face, highlighting a deeper mission you’re here to fulfill.
The fourth purpose — attending to this arising moment — brings the first three into sharp focus and down to earth, enabling you to integrate all the others with awareness and grace, here and now.
I wrote The Four Purposes of Life for anyone seeking deeper insight into themselves and their lives, but especially for those at a crossroads, facing a challenge or change, when “business as usual” no longer applies. I invite you to explore the four key purposes that can provide meaning and direction in your life, and in a changing world.
About the author:
Dan Millman is the author of 17 books read by millions of people in 29 languages. He teaches worldwide, speaking to men and women from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment and the arts. His lives in Northern California and his website is www.peacefulwarrior.com.
Hacking Consciousness: The Stanford University Video Series
Reviewed by William T. Hathaway
This new Stanford video series investigates consciousness as the source of not only the human mind but also of all energy and matter. Consciousness is seen as the essence of the universe, a unified field which gives rise to and pervades all manifest phenomena. Five scientists from different disciplines describe how we can contact this field and use it to improve our lives. The series, designed by Michael Heinrich, is now available free on YouTube.
The intellectual background of the series is a fascinating conflict affecting all of us that is now going on in science and philosophy, centering on the question, What is the basis of the universe? In the 19th century advances in physics, chemistry, and biology led to an empiricist understanding of nature, and Enlightenment philosophy replaced superstition and myth. Leading thinkers in all these disciplines agreed that the universe is just matter in motion governed by natural laws which are open to human understanding. Reality is fundamentally material. Humans and other animals interact with an objective, external world through sensory input mediated by our consciousness, which is a neuro-chemical phenomenon of our brain cells. Thoughts are just reflections of the material world in the brain.
Early in the 20th century, though, experiments by physicists shattered this view of the world. Their studies of subatomic particles revealed facts incompatible with the classical materialist paradigm. Matter, supposedly the basis of the universe, proved to be insubstantial at the quantum scale, disappearing into wave functions that have only potential existence. Also at this scale the position and speed of an elementary particle are interrelated in such a way that it is impossible to know both of them. The more exactly one is determined, the more uncertain the other becomes, so motion can’t be predicted.
More amazing yet, an objective world independent of the observer doesn’t exist. The particles and the observer are linked at the quantum scale; the very act of observation affects the matter being observed. The realm of discrete objects is transcended and everything becomes united in an indivisible whole that is inherently subjective, since nothing else exists but that. Matter is continually emerging from and dissolving back into an abstract, nonmaterial unified field. The unified field is the ultimate reality, the source of the manifest universe. The frontier of science now lies in discovering more about this transcendental field.
This research sent shock waves not just through science but through the whole culture. Idealist philosophers, who maintain that the universe is fundamentally just thoughts and who had been pushed out to the fringes of philosophy by 19th-century empiricism, now seized upon these facts as proof that matter doesn’t exist. Even some distinguished physicists such as Niels Bohr and James Jeans went to the extreme of trying to replace physical reality with human consciousness. The new knowledge also inspired postmodern philosophy, which declares reality to be a totally subjective collection of individual narratives without any overarching coherence.
The materialists, including many conventional physicists, fought back, deriding these theories as solipsistic nonsense based on unwarranted conclusions drawn from scanty evidence. They were confident that research in the future would confirm their view. But none has appeared, and the two sides have been at loggerheads for decades now. In true dialectical fashion a materialist thesis has been challenged by an idealist antithesis, and the two sides are locked in conflict. According to dialectics, this clash of mutually exclusive opposites will lead to a new synthesis that incorporates elements of both but at a higher level of knowledge. This is how science progresses, how our understanding of the world increases.
In the first session of Hacking Consciousness, John Hagelin, who has a PhD from Harvard in quantum physics, discusses how that synthesis is emerging now and from a surprising angle. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had a master’s degree in physics and then studied metaphysics with one of the great swamis of India, was able to fuse these two contradictory positions into a new wholeness. His knowledge of both sides of the dichotomy enabled him to develop a new paradigm that overcomes the binary opposition and gives us a deeper understanding of matter.
His starting point was the fact that both the universe and our minds have a similar, parallel structure. Both are composed of layers progressing from gross to subtle, from manifest to potential, each state very different from the previous. The gross, macroscopic level of the universe is the reality we perceive with our senses. The laws of classical mechanics accurately describe its activities.
Beneath it lie molecular, atomic, and subatomic levels whose activities can’t be accurately described by classical mechanics. The new science of quantum mechanics was developed to explain these levels of reality. Then physicists discovered that quanta — the tiniest physical unit — manifest out of quantum fields which in turn have their source in a unified field of unmanifest potentiality. The laws of nature differ enough at these levels so that each needs to be dealt with on its own terms. We can’t necessarily apply the laws of one level to another; they are related but still quite different realities. For example, dynamism is far greater at the finer levels than at the surface: nuclear power is millions of times stronger than chemical power.
The mind has a similar progression. The surface level is our ordinary thinking awareness which mediates our sense impressions of the macroscopic level of the universe. Beneath that surface lie subtler, subconscious levels of mental activity that science is beginning to explore. Underlying it all is a transcendental field out of which thoughts arise and which mystics, artists, and philosophers of all cultures have contacted and described as a reservoir of creativity and dynamism.
Maharishi revived the ancient Vedic technique of Transcendental Meditation, which allows the mind to effortlessly move from the surface down through the subconscious until it reaches this source of thought, an abstract, unbounded field where all thoughts fall away and the mind is left alert but nonactive, aware of its own nature, of its oneness with the universe. Here in the silent, thought-free state of transcendental consciousness the split between subject and object, observer and observed, is overcome, and the ultimate reality of unity is experienced. This is the state of samadhi, in which the mind absorbs some of the concentrated energy of that unified field and emerges ready for more fulfilling activity.
Maharishi realized that thoughts are the mental equivalent of quanta and that the unified field we experience in samadhi is the same as the unified field underlying the universe. This discovery affects all of our lives because it shows that each of us contains the essence of the universe; in fact in the state of samadhi, where our individual boundaries fade and we merge with wholeness, each of us is the universe. But when we come out, we’re back in the boundaries of surface reality, and there to say that we are the universe is mere solipsism. Each reality needs to be respected on its own terms.
Other teachers from the Orient have taken the idealist position and stated that the manifest universe is just maya, an illusion. But Maharishi integrated the materialist and idealist positions and showed that both are true at their own level. These levels are different realities with their own laws of nature that are valid there. Our surface world really is composed of matter in motion, and that matter and its motions can be reliably measured. The fact that it manifests out of a nonmaterial unified field doesn’t make it an illusion. Manifestations are real at their level.
Hagelin presents theoretical and experimental evidence that the unified field of physics and the unified field of consciousness are identical — i.e., that during the meditative state, human awareness directly experiences the unified field at the foundation of the universe.
The other speakers in the series discuss the implications of this new knowledge for their disciplines. They include Tony Nader, an MD with a PhD in physiology from MIT; Jon Lipman, an architect and vastu expert; Pamela Peeke, an MD and nutritionist; and Fred Travis, a brain-wave expert with a PhD in neuroscience.
Like most cutting edge research, their findings are controversial. After watching the videos you should decide for yourself how they fit with your ideas. One of the good features of YouTube is that you can share your opinions there with others.
About William T. Hathaway:
William T. Hathaway’s new book, Lila, The Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.