To Understand Spiritually

buddhaSometimes understanding of the physical and psychological elements and processes involved in a painful situation is not enough to correct the situation, or to prevent the situation from occurring. In such cases it may be helpful to ask questions designed to uncover the greater or deeper context in which the situation has arisen. Understanding a situation from the broadest possible viewpoint I call To Understand Spiritually.

What I consider broad understanding may not be what you consider broad understanding. To the materialist, the broadest possible understanding of a situation may be accomplished by considering the theoretical, philosophical, ethical, moral, historical, or cultural influences on the situation. To the religiously inclined person, the broadest possible understanding may involve exploring the karmic, energic, metaphysical, mythic, or divine influences on the situation.

I consider both approaches useful as long as the seeker of understanding maintains an open mind during the search. Some of us become so attached to a particular way of looking at the world that we become blind to certain truths. It is all too easy to dismiss elements of a situation when they appear to challenge one’s belief systems.

It is vital to bear in mind that the purpose of understanding my painful situation is so that I can take steps to relieve the suffering my situation is causing me. This may seem obvious, but I have found that in many cases, despite years of suffering over a situation of force, threat, or blame, I find that I resist taking the steps necessary to change my situation. Sometimes my resistance is connected to fear of failure or fear of punishment should I succeed in changing my situation (threat). Sometimes my resistance is connected to belief that I do not deserve for my suffering to be relieved (blame). In such cases, I must recognize and accept my resistance with the intention of learning from it, just as I had to do when I began raising myself from control, force, threat, and blame in the first place.

By continuously cultivating an attitude of willingness to accept and learn from reality, I keep my heart open to positive change. And this enables me to attain an even more creative level of consciousness, the level of consciousness that I call To Give.

NEXT: To Give.

Waiting for Messiah: C. S. Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength”

When I was a Fundamentalist Christian, thirty years ago, one of my favorite Christian authors was C. S. Lewis. Lewis was an Oxford theologian best known nowadays for his children’s books set in the magical land of Narnia. But he wrote an adult science fiction trilogy, too, centering around a spacefaring Messianic figure named Ransom.

Ransom’s name suggests the character of Jesus Christ, who in Christian theology, through His sufferings on the cross, ‘ransomed’ believers condemned to eternal torment in Hell for their sins.
Scientifically speaking, Lewis’s trilogy — Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength — makes for somewhat dated reading today for its view of Venus and Mars as nakedly habitable. But as vivid depictions, in a fantasy setting, of the Christian doctrines of spiritual evil and redemption, and how spiritual evil at the corporate level results in the destruction of both the environment and individual resistance to dehumanization and violence — these books show more than a few moments of genius.

The last book in the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, is for me the most powerful. It follows the struggles of a young British married couple — he an atheist and she a feminist intellectual — as they are torn by conflicting loyalties: he to the hellish corporation for which he works, a demonically led and energized group that is attempting to defile and vampirize for itself the last sacred place in England; she to Ransom and his followers, who are leading the fight against her husband’s employers and the hideous strength of the Enemy of humanity that uses, abuses, and works through them.

There are things I dislike heartily about this book: that the only gay character is a demonic, sadistic Lesbian who enjoys torturing and sexually abusing the persons she is told to interrogate; and that the wife’s feminism is portrayed as spiritual short-sightedness masking rejection of her true God-given destiny as womb for the next Messiah. But nobody, except perhaps George Orwell in 1984, does a better job than Lewis of portraying the spiritual sickness at the heart of Fascist corporations and government.

I bring all this up because I have felt for some time that there is a spiritual sickness at the heart of the Washington, D.C. power culture that the last several Republican regimes have epitomized. I feel very strongly that the mass consciousness, out of fear, called into being an oligarchy of sociopaths whose only idea of right and wrong has been what feels right or wrong for them personally, no matter the consequences to the rest of us.

And just as, in That Hideous Strength, the evil corporation’s veneer of civilization drops away when confronted to reveal the hideous visage of pure unrestrained appetite lurking beneath, so did Republican pretense of reasonableness and candor fall away during these last weeks before the election, showing a glimpse of the hideous amorality and desperate, irrational vindictiveness that had come to control and work through them.

I am not the only person to make the connection between That Hideous Strength and the last two Republican administrations. When I googled That Hideous Strength I found a Fundamentalist “End Times” website that equates Bush with the Beast of Revelations. When I was a Christian I, too, longed for the Beast to show up so that history could end, and Christ return to usher in an age of peace. But I no longer believe that there is a Beast, any more than I believe that there is a Messiah. In fact, I feel that yearning for a Messiah to rescue us could be the worst thing humanity can do given the problems facing us.

I am no longer a Christian. And I do not believe that Barack Obama, for whom I voted twice, is the Messiah. He is just a man, and even if he means half of what he has promised he will possess no magic wand to wave over the mess this country is in. It took years and several administrations for us to get sucked into the mire, and it will take years and several administrations at least to get us out.

But the mass consciousness is not rational. It operates on the most primitive level of Thought Reality, a child’s level. And just as it called into being a Father and a Son — Bush Senior and Junior — so it is capable of calling into being a third member of its Trinity. I hope not. For if Obama was called to power by a mass consciousness yearning for salvation from the masters it called into being previously, then there can only be one ultimate fate for him. And I am tired of good people dying for what is right.

What this world needs more than a sacrificial lamb is women and men committed to living in a balanced, compassionate manner — living for what is right rather than dying for it. So let’s not give the mass consciousness a reason to kill another Messiah for our inspiration. Let’s just roll up our sleeves and do what we can, where we are, with all our limitations, to make our tiny corner of the world a more compassionate place. Angels and demons and UFO aliens aside, that’s what the New Age is really all about, and I think that Ransom would agree.