Let’s begin this rumination with philosopher Martin Buber’s idea from his 1923 essay “Ich und Du” (I and Thou), “I’m OK, You’re OK.” The core of this idea is the mutuality of the human experience, regardless of gender, creed, race or any other variable. It is the capacity to be in dialogue one with another. Fast forward to today, “Ich und Du” is mindfulness for humanity. It is a full embrace across borders, oceans, and even the chasm of diametrically opposed ideas.
That is how we walk on our City Silence/Woods Walking Walking Meditation hikes; person to person present with the wonders of nature and the Being that underlies everything that we are. We walk with shared breath and shared energy. We walk mindful of Source knowing that we shall ultimately return to Source as the leaves of fall return to the grounds of Being.
Myth and Metaphor
So much that we encounter in our daily living is based on myth and metaphor. They are a screen, as Joseph Campbell said, to help us see through the veil between the immediate, tactile sensing before us into the depths of the abiding hum of the universe.
Myth and metaphor help us make sense of the frequent chaos that surrounds us, whether personal or societal. In a sense, myth and metaphor fly the white flag of surrender to the unknown—or, surrender to that which we think we cannot know.
But in today’s expanding personal mindfulness, in our hero’s journey of self-discovery, we are finding an unprecedented clarity as we peek through the veil of myth and metaphor. As science answers the unanswered, as we pay tribute to ancient wisdom traditions and find common ground between these historic bookends, we come to know ourselves as being from one source, whether the Big Bang or in presence with the Absolute, a real, intimate relationship.
In my Today’s Koan blog post, “From Myth to Analogy” I said that today, myth and metaphor are melting on the altar of personal awakening.1 Knowing that my substance is from the stars, I know, as stated in the great sayings of the Upanishads, that this Atman is Brahman in a new, literal sense. My being manifests from the Absolute grounds of Being.
I have always lived in a sense of literalness based on an objective point of view that surrounded me in relationship to family and friends. Yet, I have spent a lifetime reconciling the empirical with the esoteric, the tested with the sensed, the a posteriori with the a priori.
I had the good fortune to have grown up surrounded by very objective pursuits. My father taught me how to sail and fly, both activities quite literal in their cause and effect. If I sail too close to the wind, the sails luff and the boat stops. If I fly too slow, the wing stalls (loses lift) and the plane drops until airspeed and normal control are regained. On the other end, if I sail in too much wind, the boat will broach and stop making way. If I fly an airplane past its VNE (velocity never exceed) the airframe can experience catastrophic structural failure.
At the helm
As we used to say in sailing, that’s a “wipeout.” I have sailed 26 races to Mackinac Island between both the lakes’ Michigan and Huron “Mac” races, so I’ve been aboard during many wipeouts. In my flying experience, I’ve been part of two emergency landings, both, thankfully, on airports with no injuries to self or airframe.
My desire for literalness follows linear logic as well. In my former sailboat racing days, I became a talented bowman, the one who sets and douses the head sails—genoa jibs and spinnakers. An essential task on the bow was keeping the sheets (the ropes or lines that control the sails) and the halyards (the lines that hoist the sails) organized, untangled and clear. Twisted halyards are bad news, since someone usually has to go up the mast to clear them while other boats go sailing by.
In flying, the linear logic was applied as my older brother and I built two full scale airplanes together. I installed the electrical systems. I had to make all of the linear connections so that when we flipped the switches, everything turned on and worked reliably and repeatedly, whether on a CAVU day or on dark stormy nights.
Rudy in Long-EZ
So in my life-long quest for integral thinking, integral knowing, I had to have literalness that made the right connections, that was linear, that had continuity—that worked! I was weaving my own Net of Indra.
Literalness implies truth. Is there truth? If so, what is true?
My objective point of view says yes, there is truth. There is truth in a well-trimmed sailboat and an airplane that is flown safely within its “envelope,” i.e., permissible airspeeds and tested attitudes on all three axes. All of us are thankful for well-trained airline crews. Truth!
I have a BA in Philosophy (1978) from Xavier University, and by the fates of birth and timing, I studied under a prominent Jesuit metaphysician, the late Robert W. Schmidt, S.J., with whom the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas2 still held primacy as a philosophical systematic. Fr. Schmidt summed up his own philosophical point of view with the acronym IRAR – Immediate Reflective Analytical Realism.
I can still see the moment when he wrote that acronym on the chalkboard. Given my objective avocations, we were a match.
But truth, really? Yes, try this as a starting point: “I am.”
This was a philosophical seed for me planted by my reading of René Descartes in his statement, “Je pense, donc je suis,” or, in the better known Latin, “Cogito ergo sum”: I think therefore I am. That “I am” is what we all awaken to every morning. It is the literal active basis of the manifest conscious perception that allows me to write, and you to read, this blog post right now.
From my fingers to your eyes, we are in a literal, active communication, whether we’ve ever met or not. A key statement from Thomisitc metaphysics is that being—the act to be—is self-communicative; one distinct thing acts on, or communicates with another distinct thing. That communication can be two people talking, or the branches of a tree swaying to a strong wind. But, what both interactions have in common is the dynamism of their shared, fundamental act “to be.” In Thomisitc metaphysics, the act of existence is the most fundamental aspect of the systematic.
In the famous synthesis of Aquinas, the merging of the empiricism of Aristotle with the theological esoterica of Augustine, we step beyond the esse, or the essence of a thing as its most fundamental meaning, to its act of being—that it is at all, so that it can be as it is.
Every morning, when we awake to this “I am,” we are faced with the radical freedom to act, to be in communication with everyone we meet and the environment with which we interact. The quality of our interactions, our “communication,” forms the basis of ethics, ethics itself being a distinct philosophical discipline under the crown of metaphysics.
All of the preceding begs the question, is there literalness in spirituality and mindfulness? My direct experience says yes. Biographically, that direct experience spans my near death experience (NDE) at the age of three3 to what I’ll refer to as a Kundalini Direct Rising while studying metaphysics in college4 to my more recent instances of spiritual infusion and actualization on my Woods Walking meditation hikes.
How does one go from the empiricism of the relative activities of flying and sailing to the esoterica of spirituality? I refer to this journey as walking the isthmus of isness—from the relative tactile known, to presence with the sound AUM, or what Joseph Campbell called “the hum of the universe.” The hum of the universe is actually found in science on the relative scale as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). It’s the hiss on your old analog radio as you tune between stations. CMB is the remnant background radiation from the Big Bang discovered in 1964 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.
A signpost on this journey through the thin places is Carl Jung’s statement, “…the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.” A key to the journey is being mindful to the nuanced instances of spiritual experience, listening for, and to, Jung’s everywhere. The soul is everywhere.
A simple example that virtually anyone can relate to is what I call telephone telepathy; you answer a phone call from a friend or relative and say, “I was just thinking about you.” And indeed you were. In the science of quantum mechanics, such a siren of an impending call, or literally sensing the intention of the other to call you, is entanglement. In esoterica, this is the gift of psychic capability or being an empath.
Here, scholarly knowledge of quantum mechanics hints at what’s happening in this subtle communication between an entangled pair of friends. Of course, quantum mechanics refers to entangled pairs of particles instantly interacting even across vast cosmic distances. By analogy, this process applies to two apparently interacting people.
It’s easy to scoff at such an inference, but tell me this hasn’t happened to you even with some frequency. Nonetheless, what are we but a vast, organized assemblage of just such fundamental paired particles? If a pair of simple particles is proven to interact, what can a vast, organized, aware pair of organisms do? There is a literalness, a truth, in this experience, regardless its scientific validation.
Science helps us take the leap of faith further. Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2 states that matter accelerated to the speed of light becomes energy. Also, the theorized Higgs boson was verified by work at the Large Hadron Collider in 2012 at CERN in Switzerland. The Higgs boson is essentially densities of energy that express as matter from an infinite field of energy, the Higgs Field.
These are important scientific facts that have been explored and expanded upon over the last thirty years by physicists such as Dr. John Hagelin. Hagelin’s work takes the matter-to-energy research across a threshold that says that the Unified Field, that which underlies our sensed relative temporal universe, is Consciousness. The Unified Field, the primal Energy of Being, is Campbell’s “hum of the universe.” It is the sound AUM. The CMB is the sound of the hand-clap of Creation that literally plays on your radio.
We have seen through the veil of myth and metaphor.
Hagelin’s work is not currently accepted by main stream science since it is not yet “verifiable” in a laboratory setting. Nonetheless, intuition, or a priori knowledge, will always lead us on this journey through the discovery of what literally underlies that which we are, that in which we participate with every breath, every drink and every Presence.
The good news is that “accepted science” may be on the verge of stepping through the veiled door to the groundedness described by mystics in the idea of “Oneness.”
Here is a quote from an article in “Nautilus” on March 12, 2020—just two days before this was written—by main stream physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Tim Palmer: “We think it’s about time to revisit a long-forgotten solution [to the measurement problem], Superdeterminism, the idea that no two places in the universe are truly independent of each other.”5
Oh my, this is oneness, this is literalness. Or, mindfulness writ large in an active presence, one with another—or everything!
I’ll close this rumination with another famous synthesis, a quote that hints at the deep relationship between quantum mechanics and the Hindu Vedas by physicist Erwin Schrödinger: “The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one.”
Schrödinger knew that this Atman is Brahman.
In the silence of our meditation we know literal Presence, everywhere. This spiritual Presence is as intimate as a kiss and as sure as the crown of the tree communicating with the infinite sky.
From this a mantra:
I am from Source.
I am Present to Source.
Since I am OK and you are OK, let’s walk!
Crown Chakras of the trees
Copyright (c) 2020 Rudolph Siegel
1 Siegel, Today’s Koan: From Myth to Metaphor: https://wp.me/p4cmRf-7x
2 Norris & Arraj: A Taste of Existence: https://www.innerexplorations.com/catchmeta/a.htm
3 Siegel, Woods Walking #10: The First Encounter: https://wp.me/p11gpL-1l
4 Siegel, Woods Walking #9: Three Night of Affirmation” https://wp.me/p11gpL-15
5 Hossenfelder & Palmer, How to Make Sense of Quantum Physics: