Saturday, February 14, 2015
F: 7 a.m. Late start this morning, though I don’t mind. Well, Miss Rita, I certainly do feel like I am riding a runaway horse, not for the first time. Performing in public like this is bringing in questions faster than we can deal with them, and now Charles is offering me several questions and saying, if not this one, try this one, or this one, etc.
So – just a note on the process as I am experiencing it – there is the pull of the continuity of your narrative (you say, “next time we could begin here”) and the pull of past threads to be followed (“bookmark that and we will talk about it another time”) and the pull of individual responses in the form of email and blog comments (“Rita said x and such, but it seems to me…”) and Charles’ own requests for clarification from me, and then as I say the posing of alternate questions we could ask.
None of this bothers me, and I’m delighted that enough people are taking the material seriously enough to wrestle with it and respond to it. But I’m sure glad to have that naval soundings survey analogy to reassure me that in a sense, we can’t really get lost. And I’m glad to have Charles’ presence as a sheet anchor to windward. I can see that it would be easy to lose all sense of direction, exploring these things. In fact, I wonder if that isn’t more or less what I have done, all these years.
R: In wondering that, you are showing yourself to be a child of the age you live in. So do many of your questioners. I mean by that, you are disregarding the continuing presence in your life of your non-physical self. This is a bit of a diversion from the topic of suffering and good and evil, but it won’t take long, perhaps, and pursuing the thread because it presented itself is an example of a way to live connected.
You have a compass.
What good is a compass to a navigator who doesn’t know it exists, or doesn’t consult it? None. But the compass is there, used or unused. Why should you or anybody fear getting lost, as long as you are consulting your compass? And if you don’t consult it – tacitly or not, that is, doing it consciously or automatically, either one – how can you expect to follow any course?
F: Between us, we’re in a nautical mood today, I see. I take it you mean what the church would call conscience, only in a wider sense than knowledge of whether an action or thought or projected action or thought is good and evil.
R: The physical self forms what we loosely call an ego, and that ego is conscious of what the senses report to it, plus what its reactions to its environment report to it as emotions. As long as the ego’s world remains bounded by such limits, you have a very small boat in a very big sea, terrified of storms, navigating at random, subject to course correction by emotional reaction to any stray circumstance. But when that ego realizes that it has a compass, everything changes, or can change, if the compass is intelligently used. The ego’s higher self (call it) not only can read the compass, it can connect to GPS. It not only knows where the boat is, it knows how it got there, and why, and where it set out for. And – stretching the analogy quite a bit, but true to life – the higher self knows that it is the cause as well as the experiencer of the circumstances the little boat finds itself in. Or, not quite. Let’s say, it recognizes that no storm or difficulty or anything that comes to be experienced is either random or purposeless.
But, let’s drop the analogy at that point. You see that I mean to say that if it were up to you (as it often seems to you) to shape your lives, you would be vastly overmatched.
F: Always outnumbered, always outgunned, as I read somewhere.
R: So in this particular instance, if it were up to Charles as his ego exists or you as your ego exists and neither of you were in connection with your “higher selves,” your non-3D components that have never left you nor ever could leave you, then yes, you’d be lost in moments. But it is the very connection with the non-3D that renders this possible. Renders your lives possible.
F: And in the non-3D part of ourselves we live and move and have our being.
R: Well, isn’t that a perfectly valid way to describe your situation?
F: It certainly seems so to me, and of course I find it satisfying to have a way of understanding the 2,000-year old Christian tradition without having to sign on to their contemporary understandings of it. I mean, all that knowledge and wisdom, couched in language that we find unmeaningful – I always knew it meant something, even if it didn’t mean what it was explained to mean.
R: And where do you think that knowing came from, if not your non-3D extension, or source? You tended to think of it as past-life knowledge, I think, but in that case why can’t you read Egyptian?
F: I’d like to know that myself. But, as you always say, let’s consider that at another time. The hour is half over and we haven’t gotten to the question yet.
R: I think you will find that we have, actually. It’s all tied together. How can we discuss the question of good and evil, and of suffering, and of the question of the meaning of life, if we allow ourselves to disregard the fact that appearances are not accurate, that you are not boats afloat in an unknown sea, adrift, with no origin, no purpose, no projected port, no task, no larger purpose?
F: I remember Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain writing somewhere of a moment during the war when he suddenly experienced himself as part of the entire army. (He was a Union officer in the Civil War.) I don’t know how to say it in few words. He had always experienced himself as an officer in the machinery, so to speak, but at this moment he had a sort of mystical sense of himself as an individual participating as part of one large thing. I suspect he was experiencing something similar to what happens when small boats realize they are part of a regatta and couldn’t get lost if they wanted to. Either that, or they are fishermen as in Captains Courageous and work alone but not lost.
But meanwhile, I’m sure people are wondering when we’re going to return more directly to the subject at hand. So let’s take up where you left off, saying, “Since you are well beyond your hour, we can stop here and continue next time with just that question, which after all is the root of all the questions on the topic — what is the purpose of suffering in the world?”
R: Let me suggest a slightly different way of looking at the subject, that may help some people. To say, “what is the purpose of—” is to isolate something that cannot be understood in isolation. If you were to try to say “what is the purpose of a knee in the world?” you couldn’t begin to answer the question even in the simplest of ways without referring to the thigh and the calf, and even if you left it at that, it wouldn’t make any sense, not really. It might, for instance, be looked at as a weakness in the leg, because obviously such a complicated joint would look like a makeshift, compared to the relative simplicity of the bones it connects. And of course if you want to explain about the mobility it offers, you are going to wind up talking about hips and feet and the body in general, and gravity, and musculature, and blood circulation, and the on-going repair of cells – and there’s no end to the things a simple discussion of knees would entail. And every time you tried to put it into context, somebody would be saying, “but I want to know why there have to be knees in the world, and you’re telling me all these irrelevant things!”
F: Explaining how to make a watch.
R: Yes, except in this case there is no other way to do it, if the person asking the question doesn’t even have the concept of time!
So rather than asking, “what is the purpose of suffering in the world? I suggest it would be better to ask, “what is it in the nature of the world that produces suffering as a by-product?” That may sound like the same statement, but it is not. It is like explaining about exercise, and how the deliberate exhaustion of the muscles’ cells produces pain but also produces new growth. In this case, as so often, context is everything. If you were to decree that nothing should ever produce pain, because you have decided that pain is bad, then what have you just done to life? How many doors have you closed off? How many activities of greater interest and with greater rewards have you just foreclosed?
F: I agree, of course, though I don’t know how it will look after I disengage and our joint mind is not shaping my perceptions! – but I predict that some will look at this as merely an apology for evil.
R: No doubt. But you can learn from a lesson or you can reject it – you can’t really do both.
F: And here we are at the end of an hour, unless you want to continue.
R: No, I am content. I think you will find that this was a better session than you think. Right at the moment, you are thinking, “we didn’t even get to the question until it was half over,” but when you come to look at it, you may think differently.
F: Well, we’ll see. Till next time, then.