The Nondual Mystic Path: Foundation
The next three posts will focus on the mystic path. This post reflects on the foundations, the second will use metaphor to discuss relation of the Divine to the physical world and the third will discuss the relationship between One and many.
One of the most ubiquitous images in in spiritual thinking over the past several centuries is the division between Spirit and matter. This division is expressed anytime there is a suggestion of a separation between the religious and secular, sacred and profane, body and soul, spiritual and not spiritual. Essentially in these divisions science, reason and logic are on one side and faith, belief, mystery and Spirit on the other. Each side appears poised to do battle with the other. A good example of this is false conflict between Biblical faith and evolution. All of these separations are false dichotomies.
For the mystic there is nothing in life apart from the Divine. All life is part of Spirit and nothing is outside of it. The imprint of the Creator is on all of the creation. And science often discovers the depth, beauty and complexity of that creation.
The foundations of the divisive dualistic thinking were set essentially in the Renaissance. During the middle ages religion, politics, art, medicine and morality were all fused into a single glob. All paintings were required to have religious images and themes. All heads of state were divinely ordained to govern. Scientific theory and research results were dictated by the church as scientists like Galileo discovered when he shared what he learned with his telescope. This was true to such an extent that when someone was tried in the inquisition he or she was found guilty not of heresy but of treason.
The renaissance attempted to create separation of the pursuits and disciplines. So then, for example, physicians cared for the body and priests cared for the soul. Other disciplines studied the material world. Religion held on to the province of mystery and faith. Science, art, politics and medicine were freed to proceed on their own. Huge progress was made. Without this freedom many advances in medicine would probably never have happened. And the ensuing dramatic increase human life span would probably have never occurred. Democracy would not have flourished. And the status of women would have remained similar to property.
Unfortunately, this dualism led to increasingly intense conflict and competition. Religion constantly attacked science as ungodly. Science blindly colonized the territory of religion. With each new scientific discovery from the time of Kepler’s telescopes to the Large Hadron Collider in Lucerne Switzerland the realm of Spirit appeared to shrink. And when physiological mechanisms were discovered to accompany spiritual experiences they were reduced to ONLY those mechanisms. Reductionist and Materialist schools of thought came to dominate practically every aspect the 19th and 20th century thinking. And much religious discourse descended into a life denying, body hating disavowal of the creation. Scientific materialism went on a colonization rampage and religious thinking had a 2-3 century’s long temper tantrum.
This is an unforeseen and unfortunate result of what was originally a positive development. It is time for another course correction.
The mystical, nondual perspective is unwilling to divide reality or to do battle with perspectives which differ. All things emerge from the Divine Creation. To use a very specific example, neurotransmitters which are vital to the chemistry of the brain are a magnificent creation through which The Creator insures that the brain functions well. When they are working well Spirit’s presence shines through them. But when they are damaged or not working well problems like depression result. At those times all of us can be grateful for Spirit’s presence in the creation of the anti-depressant Prozac and its derivatives. Neurochemistry and physiological processes are the pathways that the Divine uses in its continuing creation. Because there is no separation between Spirit and the material there can be no reduction of one to the other or rejection of one by the other.
It is all spirit. Spirit created the Cosmos and everything in it. Thus all things are imbued with its Being. Every rock, plant, drop of water, bit of soil, every animal and person is sacred and none is more sacred than the other.
It is time to expand our senses to fit this. Time to bring back what was banished without banishing science and other advances from the renaissance or seeing disciplines like science as some sort of enemy.
The ideas included in this posting are explored in depth in Ken Wilber’s book A Brief History of Everything.