Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In traditional Quakerism there was a tendency to dissect the human consciousness into two warring parts: the 'natural' [aka 'worldly'] mind and 'Christ' ['the Spirit'], the inner light which the natural mind generally kept imprisoned. That 'imprisonment' is a nice metaphor for what people generally do with our more difficult higher urges, but other than that it's a mistaken description.
What's mistaken about that is that it misses the underlying unity between surface self and Christ at work within each person. What, isn't there ongoing 'war' between the two? Well, that's the appearance and the all too common experience. [See this story if you need an example.]
But 'surface' and 'deeper Self' are better metaphors. There has to be a surface, and this will be what's most readily visible, most seemingly in control. But God has, after all, created this arrangement in the first place. God's activity beneath the surface may well move us in unexpected directions; but those directions are, after all, in accord with our deeper, truer identity.
Various spiritual 'practices' are intended to help people attune our surface, 'ego' identity with the 'Self' that's the true Life of all that lives. Life is far more harmonious to the extent we can do this. But doing so comes down to realizing that God is at work even in ego, that ego is at work even in much of what we consider 'holier than me' -- that we needn't keep up an endless internal war -- Because God actually does love us; we don't need to defend ourselves against some 'external' inner tyranny as so many people imagine God wants to impose.
In terms of the coming of the Kingdom of God -- not the destruction of the world, but the arrival of Heaven.
In traditional Quakerism there was a tendency to dissect the human consciousness into two warring parts: the 'natural' [aka 'worldly'] mind and 'Christ' ['the Spirit'], the inner light which the natural mind generally kept imprisoned.
Forrest. This is a misrepresentation and deprecation of early Quaker experience. They did not "dissect" human consciousness, they spoke a new consciousness anchored in and conscience informed by Presence in the world. This is not a cutting up of the old consciousness and conscience, it is the wearing of a new consciousness and conscience.
Also, your characterization of the personal experience of consciousness anchored in and conscience informed by Presence as an "endless internal war" does not match with my experience in the Presence. Again, misrepresentation. Your constant attempts to characterize and represent an experience you admittedly do not share belies a want to avert and obfuscate.
Keith Saylor said:
Forrest. This is a misrepresentation and deprecation of early Quaker experience.
Well, no; you can easily find that very description of Christ as being 'in prison' within various individuals in George Fox's Journal; that seems like early Quaker experience to my mind. The Puritan view of the human 'natural' mind as prone to sin, restrained (if at all) only by Christ (seemingly) conceived as a virtually-outside force seems ubiquitous both in early Friends' writings [Barclay for example] and those of 'traditional' Friends to this day.
In any case, the object in this discussion is not to start an argument about what I experience or don't ["doesn't!" -- "Do!" -- "No you don't!" -- "Am I a cabbage?"] or about what Friends over widely-varying previous centuries experienced and/or said about their experiences.
I would like this discussion to serve as an honest inquiry into a better description of "God", "us", and the relationship "between" these two seemingly divergent, but intricately overlaped aspects of what we in fact are...
Forest, you started the discussion by referring to what "Friends over widely-varying previous centuries experienced and/or said about their experiences." You started the discussion doing the very thing you accuse me of. If you did not wish to discuss what "Friends over widely-varying previous centuries experienced and/or said about their experiences" you should not have started the discussion doing the very same thing.
Whether I should have this or I should have that, what I said is in fact my interpretation of how early Friends thought of and wrote about their experiences, using the ideas that were available to them at the time. Those ideas are still at work among us; if one has a nose for them one can smell it; and the subject I wish to address is whether we have a better model available today, better in terms of more accurately & usefully describing the reality which we all experience more or less completely. You can speak to that, or you can talk about what I should or shouldn't, but I'd rathern't.
someone's picking a fight and hoping you'll take the first swing, i think! well, i don't know if anyone wants to focus on the topic at hand or not but....
Forrest i like your conclusion "Because God actually does love us; we don't need to defend ourselves against some 'external' inner tyranny as so many people imagine God wants to impose.
In terms of the coming of the Kingdom of God -- not the destruction of the world, but the arrival of Heaven."
a focus on the presence of Heaven is much needed, i think.
the thing about ego is outside of my sense of things, but i don't think the way i think about ego is necessary for others. personally i just define it as "the bad stuff" -- the knee jerk reactions and pride and stuff that keeps us from the God-state. so then i see how fully maybe we come with that, but we don't really need it or benefit from hearing from it.
not sure where to go from there though...
I understand that in a good Zen monastery there will be one guy assigned to carry the wakeup stick; he has to really know what he's doing or he could seriously hurt someone. Done & received in the right way, that stick has a valid function. The stick guy will see a monk nodding off, or the monk might feel himself dozing & beckon him over. They bow to each other, the stick guy whacks the monk once lightly on each shoulder, they bow to each other again. Two guys with sticks attempting to Enlighten The Benighted Heathen could be a real clown act. What to do instead?
Without getting unctuous or compulsive about it, it's almost certainly a good idea to assume that your partner in this dance 1) means well and 2) isn't really that much stupider. What makes people sound stupid in an argument is them trying to cure misunderstanding by yelling the same words louder.
Olivia, I believe you are correct that we've got a terminology problem. Either we shouldn't be trying to build this tower; or we need to remain attentive to what I know as God and Keith feels should be called 'The Presence'.
What I'm getting on this this morning? Next comment, coming soon!
Forrest, I just saw your comment above but in a bit of synchronicity was just moved to ask friend Keith (hello Keith!) on the Political Activism post for concise clarification about God v. Presence. So we'll see what the answer to that is soon, with luck.
I do agree with Keith's initial comment to you that your view of traditional Quakerism seemed a bit mired in something that didn't resonate for me...but I do hear the points both of you are making about that (both valid, from their perspective), and was just choosing to focus my comments more on an obvious anger dynamic that the two of you seem to take turns with, maybe.... Keith doing the whacking with the wakeup stick yesterday apparently.
Got to say though -- the whacking with a stick approach seems ill-advised in Quakerism, don't you think? And the ego maybe gets whacked, but my vote is we let that thing go anyway since it only causes problems. So could that leave us with an option that doesn't experience things as whacking one another or being whacked, but as learning from one another and being incomplete without the Divine in one another informing us?
I love discussions of the soul and am always looking for definitions that make sense to me which means they have to answer all the questions about the soul, heart and mind raised by reading the bible. The other day I thought I might be able to resolve this by treating it as a scientist would attempt to resolve a problem by first proposing a hypothesis and then testing that hypothesis to see if it answers the pertinent questions. So my hypothesis is that the Soul is who we are and has a Heart and Mind. The Body is where we reside. It allows us to operate in the physical realm and has senses, hormones and a brain that reacts to its senses and hormones and regulates the mechanics of the body much as the internal chips of a computer operate a computer.
The Soul's heart is the interface between it's mind and the spiritual world drawing nourishment from the spiritual world. The Soul's mind makes decisions based on input from the body's brain and the soul's heart thus providing a self-programing software system to operate the brain. Just as the physical body contains a reproductive system, so too does the soul which contains the seed of Christ which has the ability to transform the soul from one open only to input from the brain(a necessity for survival at an early age) and closed to the spiritual world to one completely open to the spiritual world as well as the physical world(the brain).
Does the above fit into your experiences? How would you improve it?
Please remember this is strictly a hypothesis. I have no way of proving this anatomy. It's just offered as a comment on the subject of this discussion. Please don't hit me too hard with those sticks.
Okay, new formulation:
What confuses everyone is the distinction between you and You. It's a real distinction but it isn't the separation it appears.
Big You transcends 'you' utterly; but if you are a living, 'animate' being [and if you aren't, who's reading this?] then You is what lives and acts as the limited creature 'you' are. There's no other life available to do that; You 'breathes into' you and lives as 'you' or there'd be nobody home in there.
But little 'you' is limited; you aren't experiencing the whole universe-&-etc through all its windows (or at least not, so far as I know.) Big You can presumably do this but specifically wants the little 'you's here seeing how all this Creation looks from your eyes.
Being limited and imagining yourself separate, you make mistakes. Some of these mistakes keep you locked into imagining yourself to be separate. 'Sin', 'bad karma', 'afflictions' are among the religious terms for such blinders. Set within a traditional-Quaker framework this would look like: 'Natural you' is good for nothing but sin plus more sin but can be rescued from that tendency by letting You aka 'Christ' take charge. A common Yogic view is that You and you are already truly one -- but that it can take you considerable effort to realize this.
A message from You to you needs to be pitched to your level, because "Overwhelm!" = "Overwhelm!" would just come down to "Wow!" and the semantic content would be fried along with everything else in your mind. So You usually speaks slowly and gently. Little you can truly see You, but (as with everyone else you know) what you can recognize there is going to resemble you, sometimes all too much so.
So you can trust what you learn from You; but what you can trust it to be is an approximation, like an explanation of sex geared to a child's level of interest and attention-span. You can also trust yourself to make mistakes; but You is at work even in such sometimes-painful teaching aids.
[James, I see your note appearing while I write this -- and will have to think about it more to do it justice.]
Bravo to both of you, James and Forrest! Each of these, separate, "anatomies" of the soul read like a work of art. Both feel true to me in fundamental ways.
James, you wrote "Just as the physical body contains a reproductive system, so too does the soul which contains the seed of Christ which has the ability to transform the soul from one open only to input from the brain(a necessity for survival at an early age) and closed to the spiritual world to one completely open to the spiritual world as well as the physical world(the brain)."
This is beautiful. I personally believe that we actually come into this life very intuitive and centered in a more heart-based way of living (just letting it all CRRRYY out, and stuff like that), and that we learn as we grow up and via our families to keep that stuff in and be "appropriate", so that our spiritual evolution is in very deep ways a return to innocence (like Jesus offers us the example of being a wise and divinely powerful person but also still being a child to God, his Abba).
Forrest you wrote "A message from You to you needs to be pitched to your level, because "Overwhelm!" = "Overwhelm!" would just come down to "Wow!" and the semantic content would be fried along with everything else in your mind. So You usually speaks slowly and gently. Little you can truly see You, but (as with everyone else you know) what you can recognize there is going to resemble you, sometimes all too much so."
This is sooo sweet and authentic, I love it. One thing this reminds me of is when we were taught in the new agey energy work class about energy coming from our Source (God) and that it "steps down" like energy does as it moves from the power company to an outlet in your home, going through gradual steps of refinement and "less overwhelm" so that it can be used in such small and specific ways as plugging in a small lamp without blowing the whole thing to smithereens. In the body, they taught that this happens as it steps down from the higher chakras to the lower ones (chakra centers corresponding with endocrine centers, as understood in western medicine).
Forrest. I think that the mistake that you're making is in saying that because God loves us and "created this arrangement" and moves in "unexpected directions... [that] are in accord with our deeper, truer identity," we needn't make any effort to rise above our present consciousness. Early Friends, though, (and I think that Keith Saylor is referring to this) discovered a new consciousness or state of being in Christ, that made our present ego-consciousness appear for what it is: "darkness, death, temptations, the unrighteous, the ungodly; all [this]," says Fox, " was manifest and seen in the Light." In other words, you don't know exactly what's wrong until you see what's right - from the vantage point of the Light. However, we are given a clue: we're absolutely miserable until we discover this consciousness, at least some of us are - like Fox who was tempted to despair beforehand. But many are "whole and at ease in that condition which was [his] misery, and they loved that which [he] would have been rid of." You don't do people any favor, Forrest, with your "Don't worry; be happy" philosophy. It just obscures the distinction between what is and what could be. And it has nothing to do with the valiant work of the Spirit that early Friends did.
James, bringing 'the brain' and the rest of 'the body' into the discussion definitely deserves some thoughtful consideration; I do intend to take up that and your other points when some local outward fuss eases sufficiently!
Patricia, I am not -- nobody that I know is -- an Early Friend. I too am unhappy with some developments in human consciousness since their time, but some others are definite improvements; all undoubtedly have some place in the development of God's intention for humanity -- even those we agree are negative & to be avoided.
I think you are imagining my stance to be like 'Remain children as long as you want' where I see it more as: 'Trust God, who made you, to help and unfold your development to adulthood. Neither cling to babyhood nor strive to stand on tippytoes.' Occasions for guilt and shame are almost certain to arrive, but their only value is in moving a person to turn to God, after which happiness and lack of worry are appropriate, n'est pas?
Back to the body and that pesky brain. I haven't seen my brain and hope not to, but I understand that you find such things in people if you go out of your way to look -- and that there's a real correspondence between the structure of the human nervous system and the ways we think and experience. The interplay between left and right hemispheres raises some interesting metaphors -- and this kind of asymmetry seems to be a functional design feature in many (if not all) forms of complex life. That is, you have one system that works as a generalist and can deal with unfamiliar situations (but which is utterly flaky about details) and another that sees nothing but details, can't make sense of them as a whole -- and most of their connections seem designed to keep them from interfering in each other's operations. The part that does the talking is embedded in the detail-processing-idiot half and the part that does the understanding is embedded in the fuzzy-thinking-idiot half; and they need to both 1) work independently and 2) put those independent results together to arrive at an adequate sense of 'where are we?' and 'what are we doing?' before we can quite begin to consider 'should we be?' and 'how, then?'
[I gather that if those connections are really thick one can integrate both views in a way most people don't do as readily -- but then one trips over the cables every now & then!]
Bodies! Jesus had one; he was born with one and he evidently came back with one. We have them when we're awake; and we generally have them when we dream. [I am not sure about dreams in which I'm thinking intently, because "Do I have a body now?" hasn't come up in those so far.] The body we have in dreams seems more durable than this one; ie things can happen to it and be utterly forgotten in a moment -- but we don't just locate ourselves "in" these bodies; we identify with them: hurt when they're hurt, fear when they're threatened, enjoy when that's on the program. They embody us as 'part-of' a situation; I could imagine them being differently-formed but being 'in some form' seems to be a given.
I dismiss as absurd the modern [and ancient, as well] notion of the soul/mind/heart as a product of complicated processes in a physical structure. It isn't that you can't get interesting responses and 'spontaneous' behavior from complex physical structures; what I can't find in such a structure is the me that is here, the I that am here.
But the whole human condition is messier than I've got time to say right now...