Religion and Spirituality
Awakening to Divinity in Our Time
- A Manual of Quantum Sufism (Xlibris, 2004)
Spirituality typically is viewed as a process of transforming an individual towards a desired end state. The goal (enlightenment, liberation, moksha, salvation, illumination, or awakening) varies depending upon which mystical or religious tradition forms the basis for the spiritual path. The purpose is variously described as dissolving oneself in the Absolute, freeing oneself from conditioning, or obtaining a state of paradise in the afterlife.
In Sufism, particularly as emphasized in the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan and Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, the emphasis is on awakening the divine in life and establishing a relationship between oneself and the divine. Hundreds of years ago, a great Sufi named Ibn Arabi used the term bi-unity to refer to the fact that each person has a unique human and divine counterpart, described as one's personal lord or angel. The purpose of existence is the unfoldment and evolution of this unique human/divine relationship. Ibn Arabi states that each person represents a unique aspect of a face of God, and that each person has access to a portion of the divine wisdom that no one else has access to. A deeply meaningful aspect of Ibn Arabi's teachings is the emphasis on the importance of the uniqueness of the individual, and the relationship between each person and his/her unique aspect of manifesting the divine.
Each soul enables a unique means of knowledge and evolution, not only for each individual but also for the unique aspect of the divine being that each of us has a never-ending relationship with. I am proposing a different way of understanding spiritual transformation, with the emphasis shifting from the individual perspective to the unfoldment of the unique human/divine relationship that each of us embodies. Imagine that each person represents a "tendril" of the divine being. The experiences of each soul are potentially available to all other souls as well as to the collective knowledge of the Divine. Rather than viewing spirituality as primarily a vertical relationship between oneself and God, as individual souls awaken to their potential scope of function, then the purpose of life may shift to a process of each person learning to consciously participate in the ongoing creation and evolution of the one being that we are each part of.
Individual awakening is fully realizing and awakening on all of the levels of one's being on all of the planes on which we simultaneously exist. By the experience of our soul on each plane of our being, when we become fully awakened then we bring forth our own unique expression of God fully manifesting through our soul through all of the planes of existence. Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan has used the image of an inverted cone in which the top is infinite and the base represents our finite existence. One could think of each cone as bringing through a unique cross section of the divine being through all of the planes.
On a cosmic level of spiritual community, by means of a network of realized beings, something much vaster and richer of the divine intelligence is able to come through into the manifestation of the planes than would be possible by any one realized being. If one thinks of the notion of each atom having its own moment of awakening, then the next order of magnitude of awakening would be the atoms forming into molecules which are capable of forms of expression (such as the DNA of life) that would be inconceivable from the perspective of solitary atoms. Imagine the image of solar systems or constellations of realized beings, with these solar systems or constellations having existence throughout all of the planes of existence and bringing forth new dimensions of awakening and realization to the divine being. This is a process of evolution of awakening of God beyond the level of mankind awakening to its divinity.
Resurrection is the beginning of a much vaster awakening of the divine being, as networks of beings that have experienced realization and resurrection evolve into new patterns of networks of awakening communities of beings.
Ego as an Organizing Structure
In order to have a means of organizing thoughts, actions, and experiences on each plane of existence, it is necessary for us to develop a functional frame of reference and interaction. On the physical plane, this structure is known as ego . Often, the ego has taken on a negative connotation, e.g., something that keeps us identified with our personal nature and thereby keeping us from experiencing our higher sense of self. If the ego is considered as a dynamic template and an organizing principle, then the ego is limiting only if we identify with a static projection and a fixed structure and try to maintain this image of ourself. This would be analogous to trying to understand the evolution of a neural network by just looking at a few measures of the neural net at particular points in time, instead of experiencing the active, dynamic process of unfoldment of the neural net as it evolves.
If we identify with the divine aspect of our being, then the ego becomes the means of the divine having an increasing scope of function in manifestation. The shift is made from a total personal perspective to being the eyes through which God sees, to becoming the divine glance. The unfoldment of the ego from a static sense of limited self to a dynamic means of awakening and evolution of the divine being in life takes place.
Perception of the Spiritual Path
Most seekers tend to think of their spiritual path as a journey of a limited individual through the course of time and space to try to reach a certain end, whether that be illumination, enlightenment, moksha, nirvana, samadhi, etc. Through a series of methods (the tools of the journey), the seeker experiences growth, through a series of stages (maqam). This perception is valid from the point of view of the individual. A very different way of looking at the spiritual journey is from the divine vantage point.
Our soul may be considered as a unique path of God. The process of God awakening through our soul throughout the planes of existence may be considered as God's spiritual path expressed through the uniqueness of our soul.
The obstacles on the journey then become seen as the points of awakening and further evolution of the divine being in manifestation (on the earth and in the higher planes, as well). Our problems can be the potential catalysts for triggering off breakthroughs in order to enable the divine being a greater scope of action and understanding in life. Even beyond lending ourself to the divine action, our being can be understood as the divine action emerging into life . Each maqam (stage of our realization) is a deepening and awakening of the divine being, analogous to a neural net or a chaotic system reaching a higher degree of organization.
In the process of evolution of a chaotic system, transformation from one state to a higher state of organization occurs only after moving through a chaotic intermediate state. Spiritual growth and awakening take place in a similar manner (termed fana and baqa by the Sufis). The frame of reference of the individual is an essential element in the spiritual journey. If a person identifies with his/her personal vantage point, then change is limited to a linear reorganization within the framework of existing thoughts and emotions. For awakening beyond the personal sense to take place, a transcendental vision or ideal is necessary.
In order for a thread of continuity of identity to be maintained through the experience of shattering (fana) and emergence of a much vaster sense of self (baqa), the seeds of connection between the current limited identity and the yet to be realized new sense of identity must be established. In a chaotic system, this is analogous to the potentialities for a higher degree of organization being conceived of within the confines of the limited state of evolution of the system. If the higher degree of organization is perceived as being discontinuous form the present state, however, then the system may not be able to evolve to that state, but will rather consider that higher state as not being within the scope of the possibility of transformation.
On the spiritual journey, the perception and conception of the relationship between the individual and the divine undergoes a process of evolution. With each experience of fana and baqa, the relationship changes to one which permits even deeper and further awakening and transformation of the human to the divine and the divine into the human vantage points.
The nature of identity lies at the core of spiritual paths and traditions. In yoga, the aim is seen as overcoming the illusory nature of maya, and merging one's consciousness into the totality of consciousness, as in samadhi. In Buddhism, the notion of a separate sense of self is seen as illusory. In Sufism, the aim is awakening of divinity in life through lending oneself to the divine action.
The question in all of these approaches is who is undergoing the process of transformation, and to what aim? The experience of the seeker on the path is dependent on his/her vantage point or frame of reference of consciousness. If one is primarily identified with one's body, then the process of transformation may be focused on achieving greater health, relaxation, or vitality. If the identification is more with the mind and with one's thinking, then transformation may be directed to greater understanding, insight, creativity, and peace of mind. An emphasis on emotions may result in a desire for more harmonious feelings and greater compassion. If personality is the focus, then one may seek to get rid of or transmute undesirable elements and to become a more beautiful person.
All of these are worthwhile and desirable goals, but if spiritual unfoldment is conditioned and directed by one's personal vantage point, the outcome, however beautiful, will be limited and the ultimate purpose of the spiritual journey will remain unfulfilled.
Similarly, if spiritual practices such as expanding awareness in the cosmic dimension, turning within, or seeking transcendental states of awareness are anchored to the personal vantage point, then some "high" experiences may result, but it will be as if one has taken one's personal vantage point and used the spiritual equivalents of a telescope, microscope, or super computer to temporarily survey different states of consciousness from the perspective of the personal vantage point. The experience of fana will occur when one's attempts at maintaining a limited vantage point are shattered by an experience which compels a broader perspective of consciousness. It is not that the limited ego and personal vantage point get enhanced in a linear, continuous fashion on the spiritual journey, but rather that one's frame of reference of consciousness evolves. Baqa may be thought of as a quantum leap in one's frame of reference of consciousness in which a greater scope of experience, understanding, and action of the divine being replaces one's previously limited frame of reference. Discontinuity is an inevitable and necessary part of unfoldment and awakening on the spiritual journey, just as chaotic systems must undergo transitional states of chaos in order to arrive at a higher state of organization and evolution. Hal is a temporary state of discontinuity, and a maqam is a more evolved state of organization of one's frame of reference on the spiritual path.
In the metaphor of the universe being like a hologram, with each being containing within him/herself the total information of the hologram, the old model would state that by awakening, we become conscious of the total potentiality of the divine being. In a new way of viewing this metaphor, when we discover how to come to the point of meeting between the human and divine aspects of our being, then the new life (or new aspects of the divine qualities as described above) changes the totality of the hologram. The divine being thus evolves through our awakening, and everything is changed by the realizations of each person. By this process, the divine being is freed from a previously constricted level of functioning, and both the human and divine aspects of our being evolve.
When a person awakens to a degree of realization to enable a meeting place between the human and divine aspects of his/her being, so that new life and light can emerge from this point of singularity, one might say that the awakened human being has enabled the divine being (the dreamer) to have a lucid dream. When a person awakens in a dream and realizes he/she is dreaming (the definition of a lucid dream), then the dream can be changed in any manner the dreamer chooses. Similarly, when the human enables the divine to awaken in creation, then the divine dream can be consciously changed so that new evolution of the divine being can occur.
For book: Xlibris