What our Big Sister can teach us

“Nature may well manifest its own forms of knowledge, apart from the knowledge that human beings lay claim to. For instance, we use the principle of evolution to map out the history of life on earth, but could there be patterns and cycles in the dynamic of time that go beyond evolution, that account in a more satisfying way for how life evolved?” Tarthang Tulku, “Challenging Journey, Creative Journey”, Dharma Publishing, 2017, page 153.

One of the more visible differences of world view in recent decades has been the “debate” between “Creationism” and “Evolution”. However, “debate” hardly describes the chasm between these two ways of accounting for our presence in this world. The uncompromising confidence with which these two views are held by their proponents feeds a growing intolerance in our society.

There’s a strange side effect to this combative stance between a God-centric view and a rationality-centric view of experience. It makes it hard to recognize that both these views are human-centric. Not humanity as a God-given perspective from which to view “Creation”, but a self-centered one.

These two philosophies are not so different from one another. One defines the world as an act of Creation on the part of an all-powerful Being. The other as a physical realm—sufficient unto itself—that is open to rational (scientific) exploration. But both these theories—especially when they close ranks against one another—rob Nature of her ancient voice in the conversation. Instead the mystery of life is tamed down to fit with the definitions that a group of humans assigns to it.

Kafka observed: “from a true opponent, boundless courage flows into us.” This seems to be the case for limited viewpoints. Having an apparently irreconcilable alternative allows the proponents of both scientific evolution and fundamentalist creation to point to the limitations of the other—as if another’s limitations could have the power to whitewash our own.

This dynamic makes some sense. After all, when you can point to an alternative that systematically rules out sacred mystery, how can you be wrong when your beliefs pay homage to that mystery? And when you can point to an alternative that systematically denies organic growth and spontaneous change, how can you be wrong when your view celebrates an ongoing well-spring of life?

This philosophic/spiritual dichotomy makes it clear: the cosmos in which we discover ourselves–so mysteriously endowed with a desire and capacity to explore and understand—can’t be fully accounted for either as a gigantic, clock-work mechanism randomly mutating its way through evolution, nor as an immense created artifact set in place by a Being whose power and authority is discontinuous with our own.

Neither of these theories involves a coherent field of knowing that includes its inhabitants as full-fledged participants. Both leave human beings out in the cold: by-standers to the burgeoning energies of what might be called, in a non-sectarian way, an on-going “Creation”—within which our individual lives are unfolding.

Enter stage right, “Nature”. Nature may be just another concept, and so have its own limitations, but at least they are not the self-reflecting limitations of our present polarization between a one-time Creation, in which humans are like orphans begging for another crust of spiritual bread, and an evolving process, to be fathomed by a scientific method that remains so chronically unable to heal our suffering world.

Nature, as source and beneficiary of a fundamental knowing that is not tied to an absentee Creator, and not a construct in which human intelligence is alone in the cockpit, offers us an opportunity to enjoy the company of a larger harmony in which our species is free to discover its rightful place.

If a big sister, who knows the ropes, shows up–as we embark on our own first steps into an unfamiliar world—wouldn’t we listen, take notes, and record in our own curious being, her knowledge about all those vistas that are new to us? And if we listened, without thinking we already know everything that is important, perhaps we would learn something.

Whether we point to our own monkey minds
   As the key to the treasure chest
      Of cosmic vastness

Or bow before the power
   Of a Great Creator God
      On whose majesty we depend

When it comes to the nature world
   We’re all recent arrivals
      Immigrants in an ancient land

Realizing we are prodigals in the land of our birth
   We could know that right here and now
      We are at home where we belong.

6 comments to “What our Big Sister can teach us”
  1. ??? I’ll need to read this again, probably more than once to grasp all you have to say. Wonder if anyone else has that reaction. Maybe my worldview is interfering. I believe God created the universe we see, but there are many mysteries about its development, structure, and future.

  2. Ah yes… the arrogance of “UNCOMPROMISING CONFIDENCE”… in my cosmic neighborhood it’s a land of lakes… or a foam of bubbles… each circle of thinking held together by the surface tension of an unseen frozen perspective… and “the mystery of life is tamed down to fit within the definitions that a group of humans assigns to it.” I see it often when differing opinions are labeled ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’… by the rigid perspectives of the individuals creating the labels. It seems currently on the ascendance… ‘as if’ a resurgence of a Puritanical mindset, extreme, often excessive strictness… a rigid austerity. At the root an arrogance and bluster of ego… the pomposity of self-importance… It’s the fear or ‘spacephobia’’ from which the not-known resides, a fear of that openness from which the ‘mysteries of life’ engenders form.

  3. Walter, I mainly wanted to suggest that there is a narrowness whenever one viewpoint is unable to find the merit in any other view. As for belief in a “God who has created the universe we see”, I have nothing better than such a belief. i just doubt that we are able to personify that sense of a Creator God without either reducing the infinite to our contrete and limited notions or exporting to another level the infinite in the midst of which we live.

    David, I appreciate your homage to an open perspective that doesn’t get mired in rigidity or an emotional bankrupcy that misses the wonder that surronds us.

  4. Michael
    This is a nice piece, but perhaps it “bottoms out” with” Nature”. What is the nature of Nature?. Knowledge sees nature as time and space. Is there any appearance in nature that is not an appearance of time and space?

  5. a seamless continuum of ecstatic consciousness…

    Harri Aalto: “At the heart of this cosmic Ric of conscious sound and light I saw standing immovably still, dynamically awake, a glorious God, I was also co-occupying the same sublime space. I could hear a deep rumbling roar, like some great stone boulders rubbing together and emanating from this vast hub within and all around my awareness. I saw enormously long, glittering, curving string-like rivers of consciousness composed of uncountable devas and asuras, arrayed on opposing sides pulling together in unison. They were all arranged in distinct eight multi-dimensional spiraling arms up and down the whole length of this liquid mountain of cosmic joy and perception. They were pulling in unison and in complete balance in opposing directions— each layer of personifications maintaining its distinct place and influence, all the while spontaneously integrating the dynamics of the whole churning phenomenon with each other.

    I experience this wonder of an Absolute manifesting point, as a universal multi-layered humming, singing togetherness— the activity of the natural administrators of nature, the very Absolute in its eternal motions of universal wholeness being personal wholeness. Each layer of churning creates an infinitely vibrating point of collapse that further sounds and expands as specific laws of nature being expressed as the wholeness of that element mixing into the universal organizational details of universal reality becoming personal experience.”
    “Heaven is not in a heaven somewhere in the far distant sky. It is right here, right there, wherever we might look or be. The divine beings that reside in these regions are personified, Selfluminous, universal consciousness. They have been perceived and described by ancient cultures and spiritual teachers of the world through religious teachings, myths, fables and in artistic expressions. These beings are very beautiful. Their beauty does not lie in how they look or are attired, though they are of great splendor, but rather in the perfection of their existence and divine purpose. Their existence is the source of our lives and we are the source of theirs.

    Heaven has a very practical function; it is the home and source of the universal activities of nature and from where they are administered for the benefit of all creation. Similarly, on a more personal level, the mother and father in a family look after and love their children and get great fulfillment in return.

    We love our own families most, and when we finally see how closely our daily lives are aligned with our sublimely cosmic family the expansion.”

  6. Jose,
    I appreciate your sharing the writings of Haari Aalto. I hadn’t heard of him, but his words fly with freedom in the space of appreciation and consciousness. Perhaps using words like Heaven and God more than I do, but then I’m still slouching toward Bethlehem. And yes: beauty, light, mother, father, creation, nature, wholeness, selfluminous . . . all wonderful words of appreciation to celebrate the world we all inhabit together. I notice that the website you link to has been posting since 2014, the same year I started . . .
    Thanks for your comment,

Leave a Reply