Reflections on Sane Spirituality

On Spirituality and Politics

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I want to talk about one of the key differences in understanding between Eastern and Western spirituality.

I'm talking about the distinction between consciousness and the objects of consciousness. Guild member Robert Jonas writes, "This distinction requires us to pause and to reflect on what this means. Let's close our eyes, take a deep breath and try it. Instead of just thinking, let's notice the thoughts streaming through our little noggins and the various body sensations and emotions that are being kicked up by our thinking. The thoughts, sounds, images, memories, thoughts are the "objects." So, who is it who is being aware of these "objects"? Obviously, I can't see, hear or touch the one within me who is seeing the "objects." In other words, I can't make myself--the one who is seeing the "objects," an object like any other. The "I" who is aware is not available to ourselves. So we notice that within us there is Someone who is seeing "something", listening to "something", feeling "something", thinking about "something." This distinction, that "I" am aware of my thoughts, but that I AM NOT my thoughts" is a key shift that we're after in the meditative life.

When I teach someone to meditate, when I teach someone to speak more truth, as we do in the Soul Jazz program that we'll crank up publicly later this year, I'm trying to help someone touch this new level, become a new kind of person. When we have more touch with that sense of our own consciousness, and bring it to the world, we touch that level of lively newness that this shift in consciousness helps bring about.

The question is, whether and how does this kind of shift in who we are have political implications. And my answer is, I don't see how in any obvious way. Its easy to say, yes, it makes us compassionate, or helps us sense a unity between us and things. But I think this kind of shift is beneath or underneath such actions and feelings.

Jonas suggests that in becoming new in this way, we enter Christ's consciousness. He writes, the "individual consciousness participates in Christ's consciousness. In fact, when our ego interests have been shed, there is only Christ's consciousness and Christ's consciousness-of Creation. If it's true that for Christians, our individual consciousnesses are always, more or less, participating in Christ's consciousness, then one must ask, well, how does Christ's awareness "work"? How does Christ's consciousness relate to objects of consciousness? And the answer is there in the story of Jesus Christ, which stems from the Jewish ground of relatedness to God, a God who creates us and creates both consciousness and objects of consciousness for a larger purpose. If we are created by God in the image of God, then God's consciousness moves within us (and without us) toward justice, healing and love".

Really? How on earth could we know what Christ's consciousness is all about? It would be like asking the fish to declare the nature and purpose of the ocean in which it swims. Isn't this a mite beyond our pay grade, what we can know?

Second, it is very striking that the purpose to which he attributes the direction of God's consciousness is "justice, healing and love." These are suspiciously leftie values, the kind of thing we'd see on a democrat's bumper stickers or hear in an NPR story. How come participating in God's consciousness doesn't point to "responsibility, morality or maybe family values?" Just what is the connection between becoming a new kind of person and these particular attitudes? I absolutely don't question anyone's belief or sincerity in this, just the links here.

In other words, just what are the links between the shift in consciousness and our political views? Help!

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