Woods Walking #17

Navigator of Being

What a winter. It just won’t let go! Here are some impressions from a recent walk:

“What a sky! Winter and spring, Yin and Yang. Cold breezes recall winter’s sting. Days of rain, a stream that drains the stormy waters and cleanses the heart. Waiting for Flora’s season to break open her art. Ready for a languid stare at petals so fair, while birds and bees listen to the trees. The wet leaves glisten for a heart that will listen. I walk with eyes lifted to a nature so gifted.”

From these Woods Walking posts, you know that I love my hikes. It’s a passion that was planted by my parents, as described in “Woods Walking #9: Three Nights of Affirmation,”¹ Continue reading

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Woods Walking #16

The Earth, The Self, The Sky

I have to start this post with sad news. Since my last post, I had to put down my long-time hiking companion, my Irish Setter, Trevor Molloy. “T-Dog” was with us for 14 years, so he had become an integral part of our family.

It is amazing to think about all that transpired in those 14 years; from the death of my parents to career changes to our daughter starting a very successful career as a professional figure skater. Next stop for Mary – Europe!

I didn’t realize how much Trevor drew me out of myself during our hikes until after he was gone. Initially it was harder to get out of my own head and the events and preoccupations of the day on the first walks after he “ran west.” It’s funny how even a pet can draw us out in a beneficial way.

I came across a wonderful article on dogster.com about meditating while walking ones dog.1 Paige Polisner, dog-lover and meditation teacher states, “I teach Buddhist meditation, and it’s all about trying to open our hearts and become less egocentric and more other-centric.” The more “other-centric” aspect helps to clear one’s mind, to become observant of “the other,” whether small “O” or capital “O,” as Thomas Keating, creator of the Snowmass Inter-Religious Conference suggests2.

Valley Trail Stream

Valley Trail Stream

I eventually became more deliberate about meditation when walking alone, particularly this past winter after the stream restoration project at Ault Park was completed.  With the running water and the many cascades stepping down the stream, there is a new, steady, peaceful burble that is a perfect place to wash away the thoughts and distractions of the day; a sound upon which to focus–an external sensory mantra.

I wrote the following meditation after a moonlit walk in January:

It was another delightful evening strolling by the Valley Trail stream under a brilliant, star-struck sky, with a bright moon providing the stage lights for the show that would unfold. The quiet spiritual breezes of last week were now shouting through the limbs; the trees bowing and swaying to the breath of Zeus blowing past, leaving the sound of deep surf crashing across the hills. And I doffed my many hats of the day on those swaying limbs, letting the wind blow them away. Thoughts of the moment, thoughts of the past, thoughts ahead — each chapeau let loose on the wind back to the diffuse breath from whence they came. Centering there, standing along the stream, letting its gentle, constant ripple cleanse my heart of the last chimeras of the day. Ready now for a quiet, warm sleep and a fresh eye on the new day ahead.

Thankfully, the loss of Trevor is followed by the wonderful news that I got an Irish Setter puppy for my birthday. “Rory Fergus” (Christmas was his litter name) is so full of life and fun. It’s delightful to have this new hiking companion. He has restored my sense of unconditional love in a sometimes unforgiving world, and is the picture of unabashed joy in being as he romps, sprints and explores on our walks. He takes particular delight in running up and down the stream, snapping randomly at the water that splashes up ahead of him.

Inspirations of Spring

This spring took its time arriving with late snows and hard freezes to the end of March. Many new buds, including our backyard daffodils, held fast waiting for the warm kiss of Sun to open up and receive its nourishment from across the void of space – that spirited energy from afar. Once Old Man Winter gave way, the buds and blooms opened in all their glory.

The entire community surrounding our beautiful Ault Park anticipates spring and the opening of the weeping cherry tree blooms lining the hills along the park entrance. The late arrival of the season finally rewarded us with a long-lasting, fragrant display of blooms.

Weeping Cherry in Bloom

Weeping Cherry in Bloom

But it was a sight after the blooms that prompted the title of this blog post. This leafed-out weeping cherry reminded me of the idea of constant birthing, originally offered by 14th Century theologian and philosopher Meister Eckhart. Eckhart’s idea, through the lens of today’s scientific observation, yields this thread of contemplation: from seed and egg to womb to birth to life–to second birth into the afterlife.

Our second birth is the destiny and the true birthright of humanity. Our temporal lives are the briefest of sparks when dabbed on the canvas of deep time. We live a caterpillar phase, a metamorphosis before flying on butterfly wings back to Eternal Being, constantly emerging into greater and greater degrees of freedom within our core act of being. It is the density of temporal being birthing us, releasing us into the aether on the wings of grace.

Greened Weeping Cherry

Greened Weeping Cherry

The Allurement: The beauty of the initial blooms is like the wonder of conception; a beautiful, anticipated moment that begets new life. Yet, it is a very brief seasonal flourish that leads to the fruit and greenery of the long, lush summer. As in human conception, the spring blooms are a very intense, alluring moment that brings extraordinary focus to the present.

From a human perspective, and for me personally, when conception was the result, there was an undeniable spiritual echo that distinguished that moment from every other loving encounter. It was a spiritual echo that heralded the eternal presence of a new life, of a new soul–a lightning sprite that flashed into the heavens, sensed by an aware third eye.

For the weeping cherries, the bees of spring that swarm the beautiful blooms are like an angelic, seminal dance that heralds new life and unique new being that can spring from these very blooms.

Yet that joyous moment of fertilization, of conception, of creation, serves as a necessary allurement to the hard work, the duration of life and the painful bookends of human and spiritual birth.

The Emergent Spirit: From Dust to Dust, From Energy to Energy

As it stands there, this mature weeping cherry offers an ideal subject for the metaphor of life and the profound connectedness in being that is found in its emergence, from the dust of Earth to itself to the sky. And it offers analogous testament to the more meaningful, aware human emergence, from our sustaining earth to self to the sky–from earth to self to spirit.

As discussed in Woods Walking #15: The Boundaries of Being, pure energy seems to be the Aeternum Patrem, the well of life, the source of being that enables the transition to temporal being. I use “enables” in the present tense, since this birthing is continually happening, just as seedlings continually spring from the forest floor. And in the current thinking of astrophysics, the possibility of multiple universes—a megaverse—means that even on a grand, fantastic scale birthing of new universes is continually happening.

Dr. Eben Alexander III, in his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, relates his visit to “The Core” during his near-death experience. In presence with “OM,” Alexander was told that there are uncountable universes. Imagine counting the leaves on a mature weeping cherry, but then think of each as a universe on the scale of deep time and an eternal megaverse–Spacetime without bounds. The unimaginable Glory of Being!

In contemplation on the order of being, one can follow the river of being to its source. On that journey, in that quiet mindful walking back in time, we find many quantum cascades in this river; turbulent waters that retrace the coalescing of our Sun and planets, the stellar nucleosynthesis that birthed our literal chemistry for life. All of this from the homogeneous effluent from the wellspring of the Big Bang, the loins of Being, the seed of the Absolute First Mover into the cosmos.

As described in my comments following Woods Walking #2: The Metaphysics of a Fork, we are flowing—participating—in the current of our literal “substantial lineage,” in the waters of being that tie us directly to the Source of Being, the non-contingent Source of all that is, the Unmoved Mover. We are personally distinct individuals, yet we participate in this totality of Being—this Oneness. We are apparent in this moment, but connected eternally in the now by our timeless mindfulness.

As I’ve said in other Woods Walking posts, we are the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos. When considered and contemplated on the orders of contingency, causality and continuum, starting from our own “I am,” there can be no other conclusion. And in contemplation of these koans of contingency, causality and continuum, we are present to this Source, this Absolute Being—this Love!

In the literal oneness of creation, of temporal being (I prefer to say ‘Being,’ since the act of ‘creation’ really is more of a transition from one pre-existent order of being to another), we find a dynamic evolution of our very elements from the initial explosion of Spacetime, the homogeneous primordial soup that enabled all that we see and all that we are. It is a sudden explosion from the soil of Being. The parable of the mustard seed bursts forth.3

And as mentioned in earlier posts, this moment of transition is the ultimate ecumenism, both physical and spiritual, the moment when the seed of an entire universe passes through the quantum, cleansing eye of the needle.

From this Primal Energy, and based on an increasing scientific understanding of the quantum sub-atomic maelstrom, stars create the elements that eventually combine in our breath of life. Yet later stars–our very own Sun being one–also provide the literal gravity to coalesce our planets as well as the very energy that sustains us in our emergent form. It is a quantum symbiosis in which every next step follows the other, all emergent from one titanic burst of energy. It is the stage play of the river of being, with every part and plot twist intimately connected and woven into a marvelous balance and synchronicity.4

Energy Emergent from the Soil and the Sky: It is long-accepted science that the energy from the Sun literally provides the energy of life. It powers the chemistry of “Mother Earth”–like fire to make steam, or fuel to an engine. Botanical photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates using energy directly from the Sun. It is a process centered in each individual leaf, each one receiving the kiss of the Sun. These carbohydrates are the stored energy that forms the first literal link of our own food chain.

The human-tree analog that blossoms from the image of the fully greened weeping cherry is the level of energy, the level of attainment of the human spirit, the human heart.

Down among the roots is the base ingestion of water and minerals from Mother Earth. In “Proof of Heaven,” Dr. Alexander calls this spiritual level the “earthworm eye view.”

When the stored energy of life ascends from these nether regions, these lower chakras5, we find an emergent, singular, primitive ‘amygdalic’ trunk that stands and fights against the fierce winds of the seasons and bears the upper branches as they reach for the sky and sustaining sunlight.

From these robust, primitive trunks, finer and finer branching emerges until at the edges, the very fingers of the tree, the leaves bud and interact with the Sun. As with the human brain, the higher one goes, the more complex is the structure and the level of awareness. The leaves of the tree are like the cerebral cortex, the fine covering of the cerebrum and cerebellum. And like the leaves accepting the spirited energy of the Sun, the cerebral cortex is the wiring of the brain that is the home of memory, emotions and our unique, self-reflective awareness. It is the sensitive interface, the human “radio” to a broader consciousness and our own foliage and the scent of sweet spiritual energy and the sky beyond the Sun.

Focus of Light, Focus of Energy: What truly distinguishes men and women—humanity—from all other sentient animal life is this self-reflective awareness, a manifestation of energy that is unique to our being.

John’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying that there are many rooms in His Father’s house. (John 14:2) Similarly, in our human awareness, there are many rooms to our consciousness, from moods and dispositions to disciplines and gifts. One can think of our consciousness as the ultimate open-source platform that responds to our deliberate application of this creative capacity. From a skilled laborer to an esteemed academic to an accomplished artist, the specific focus of an individual is like a spotlight in that area of the brain–that twist of branches; a willful focus of energy in this physically confined, but consciously limitless tabula rasa.

Looking at the synapse-like structure of the greening cherry, we find an image that mimics our own cranial structure, reaching to higher levels through branches of increasing complexity, like ganglia leading to distinct, more refined areas of focus and to the very limits of the leaves that interact with the energy of the Sun. Our energy, our awareness ascends the trunk supporting the trifurcated major limbs branching into an expanse reaching up. Our focus of awareness occupies specific branches, specific spaces–those branches: those rooms.

We are gift to one another when we move from reactive, instinctual action of the lower levels to thoughtful, willful and deliberate action, which action follows a reasoned, discriminating idea and motivation. When we move upward and outward from self-preserving, even self-serving action to generous, loving action, our focus of energy gains a brightness that touches many and extends into the full canopy borne by the feathery twigs of this tree of life.

Energy to Energy: In Woods Walking #10: The First Encounter, I mentioned Dr. Mario Beauregard’s work studying the brain patterns of people having spiritual experiences.

Energy to energy

Energy to energy

Specifically, he studied Carmelite nuns during meditation.6 In Beauregard’s work, and in other similar research, brain scans of meditating minds, of mystical minds, show images that are fully “lit up.” The picture from Beauregard’s study images is distinct from those more focused REM sleep brain activity and the associated memory centers of the brain, or even other areas associated with hallucination.

Meditating minds are minds that are fully engaged, where the focus of awareness—the spotlight of specific thought—is released in favor of full, broad presence; the flood of full capacity, true potential and the gifts and grace of the human mind and consciousness. It is consciousness, energy, flowing out in abundance through every branch and fully illuminating the entire cranial canopy, consenting to and dancing with the energy of the sky.

In the metaphor of the tree, we find a canopy of awareness that is fully open to the sky, that enjoys direct light on every leaf, and in full consent to the light; assenting to the alluring warmth and nourishment.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

~ Hermann Hesse ~

It is a presence and awareness where our emerging human energy meets the energy of the Spirit in the echo of Being. When consciousness meets Spirit, it is a moment where the bloom greats the Gardener and every petal of the bloom rejoices in the glow of joy shared between them. This presence and mindfulness is the photosynthesis of prayer and contemplation, the direct nourishment of self from the sky, the Spirit.

The Oneness of Encounter

Unlike the earth-bound human gardener and the bloom, which are distinct species that emerge from this one Earth, the human spirit meets an Absolute Energy that we sense as the Alluring Destination of our personal journey. As described in Woods Walking #9: Three Nights of Affirmation, this encounter of energy to Energy is complete and enveloping, like a drop of water returning to the sea, as though the drop had a choice to consent to its return.

It is a radical peace and presence, that, as Fr. Thomas Keating describes in his 2008 presentation Oneness and the Heart of the World, “does not deny the distinction, but does deny the separation” between the human person and God.

The kiss of warm Sun on a beautiful day, an awe-inspiring gaze at a star-struck sky, or a breath-taking view of a verdant, misty glade—or even that first breath, that first sense of spirit in a quiet contemplative moment—these are the first alluring invitations to that which completes us.

Our response is to pursue this call, to open the focus of light within our awareness, to move our energy from the base, reactive roots of survival to the full light of day, to the Spirit that calls and nourishes our fine cortical canopy of awareness. It is an allurement that unites each thought, each leaf and its own energy to the complete energy of our full consciousness; that third eye that gazes into the heavens, beyond the Sun into the brilliant, eternal depth of Being.

There, the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos returns to its Source and Gardener and greets the other members of the Body of Humanity that reside in that timeless, peaceful celebration.

Abundant Energy

Consent to Abundant Energy

Copyright © 2013 Rudolph Siegel

1 http://www.dogster.com/doggie-style/can-walking-the-dog-be-a-form-of-meditation
2 Fr. Thomas Keating, “Summary of Beliefs”: http://youtu.be/p-Q9ql0Pqo0
3 The Parable of the Mustard Seed, Matthew 13:31-32
4 Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The Most Astounding Fact”: http://youtu.be/9D05ej8u-gU
5 Hindu origins of chakra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
6 Mario Beauregard: http://drmariobeauregard.com/

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Woods Walking #15

The Boundaries of Being

My dog Trevor and I have been hiking the Ault Park trails consistently for almost four years now.  It’s healthy for both body and spirit!

Earlier this week we were walking west on the Forest Loop Trail and it occurred to me that we’ve now walked this trail well over one hundred times, hiking in conditions from beautiful sunset evenings to moonlit snow and a few very dark nights–just because.

It is fascinating that while it is the same trail with the same trees, every passing is different.  On consecutive summer nights one might be dripping with heat and humidity while the next may be dry and cool.  Still on another, a tree may have fallen in the wind, blocking the trail.  And the wildlife changes, too.  The birds of summer fly south for the winter with horned owls taking their place only to exchange seasonal turns in the late spring with the wood thrush and barred owls, among many others.

Even year to year the trails present unique faces.  The colors of the fall of 2009 seemed to happen within a span of ten days, while the colors of the fall of 2010 covered nearly six weeks as drought-stressed trees and shrubs coped with the challenging conditions in different ways, some hanging onto their foliage as long as possible girding for the long winter ahead.

This reflection reminded me that no matter how familiar we are with something, no matter how much we may see it, there will always be more to learn within the infinite variability of our familiar surroundings.

Curiosity

Yesterday I was reviewing my feeds on Facebook and came across a link posted by The Milky Way Scientist to an episode of the DiscoveryHD Channel’s “Curiosity TV.”  This episode featured the renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking discussing his thoughts on whether God created the universe.1

This show follows Hawking’s previous book published in 2010, “The Grand Design,” which I also discussed in Woods Walking #11.2  In his book, written with Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking stated that due to the existence of the laws of nature “it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”  His reasoning, discussed in the Discovery show, is that within a black hole, and before the Big Bang and the beginning of time, there was no time—there was nothing.  There, time and science stop.

Hawking described the three essential elements of our temporal, observable universe as matter, space and energy.  The first two certainly are contingent upon the existence of spacetime from a relativistic point of view.  However, what do we know of energy?  Does it pre-exist the Big Bang?  Is “energy” responsible for the ‘enabling’ of the Big Bang, or spacetime?

In the discourse of the show, Hawking describes the balance between positive and negative particles, that they pop in and out of existence, even now–and spontaneously.

It is an energetic dance of Yin and Yang.  How appropriate that mystical traditions would know this concept a priori over millennia.

The Temporal Boundaries

In Woods Walking #11 (WW#11), I talk about the necessity of some ‘eternal being.’  How can there ever be ‘nothing,’ from an absolute standpoint?  And in the comments following Woods Walking #2 I discuss the prime contingencies of causality: substance and intelligence.  This is relative to the causality that we know in our temporal, relativistc spacetime framework.

In WW#11 I draw the conclusion that the necessary intelligence coexists with, that it manifests from, the eternal substance of being.  It is that substance which is self-sufficient in being and relies on no other for its existence.

Considering Hawking’s boundary between ‘time and no time,’ and that energy may pre-exist spacetime, and further considering Einstein’s elegant, fundamental equation E=MC2, where any mass accelerated to the speed of light becomes pure energy, we find ourselves at the precipice of a higher order, pre-existent state of being—a quantum state prior to the Big Bang, where energy does not express itself as mass and therefore does not occupy space as we know it.

“…the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.” ~ Carl Jung

What this implies is that the Big Bang is the diminution of pure, pre-existent energy in a way that yields mass, which also occupies spacetime.  Quite suddenly and explosively!  It is a transition from a higher ordered state of being to a lower ordered state where matter is separated from energy.

In biblical terms, this is analogous to the Genesis story of God taking the rib from Adam to create Eve.  Only part of pre-existent energy is required to enable our universe.

The spacetime that we know is composed of three physical dimensions plus time.  However, quantum mechanics, M-Theory3, specifically, predicts 11 dimensions, inclusive of height, width and depth.  Perhaps we find these extra dimensions beyond the boundary of spacetime within the quantum state of a pure, self-sufficient state of energy.

In WW#11, I talked about intelligence manifesting from this primal substance, i.e., ‘Eternal Being.’  However, within a pure energy state, energy and intelligence are likely one in being and never one without the other as matter is not separated from energy in this realm.

Such a “Grand Intelligence” would equate to what humanity has always referred to in scripture as a diety, or God.  This ‘oneness’ and simplicity of an absolute energy state meets all the tests and historic descriptions of a diety.

The Boundary Between Human Knowledge and Revelation

“Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.” – Albert Einstein

Some weeks back I enjoyed a morning coffee with Al Bischoff, S.J.  I’ve known “Father B” since my grade-school days when I served his Holy Week masses celebrated with the good nuns of the Sisters of Notre Dame at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.  Today, Fr. B opens his masses with his empowering “Welcome Saints!”

One of the things we discussed over coffee was the idea of an ever-expanding bubble of human knowledge.  From the perspective of philosophy of science, we are measuring, testing and quantifying an intelligible reality.  And from humble ‘flat-earth’ beginnings, humanity has evolved to expansive observations and theoretical reach out to and beyond the limits of our observable universe.

Meanwhile, Hawking and others describe the difficulty of verifying M-Theory due to our inability to directly observe that order of reality.  Theoretically, there are five distinct approaches, or models, to M-Theory based on five of the projected extra dimensions.  Known as model-dependent realism4, these approaches to theoretically describing observed phenomena are distinct and are correct in themselves.  Nonetheless, they do overlap with points of similarity and agreement, suggesting a fundamental unity of the parts.

Humanity has arrived at all this in a mere three thousand years after the humble beginnings of flints, snares and spears.

“To help, to continually help and share, that is the sum of all knowledge; that is the meaning of art.” ~ Eleonora Duse

As discussed in Woods Walking #12, there is still so much that we don’t know, and perhaps that we cannot access from our limited quantum state of being.  How many universes are there, is the Big Bang a planned, executed event, or merely a natural occurrence, like the falling of a seed on fertile soil?

So there is a bubble of human knowledge that is ever expanding into the realm of all possible knowledge, i.e., the total extent of intelligible being that resides outside of our current bubble of knowledge.  And our curious, insatiable human need to know will always expand this envelope.

Steady State or Inflation?

Steady State or Inflation?

Nonetheless, even after or within the completeness of theoretical knowledge, there will still be the constant variability at any given moment, whether predicting the instantaneous location of an electron, or observing the current state of the trees on a favorite hiking trail.

As my earlier reference to Yin and Yang suggests, our human intelligence, itself based on a form of energy, must have, does have, access to the Grand Intelligence of Eternal Being.  Therein lays the source of revelation.  It is that fundamental communion between our sentient, reflective, spiritual capacity and the ultimate source of our being.  It is the communication between the reflective, living person and the spiritual order.

Such personal experiences are described in Woods Walking #9 and #10.

As the waters of human knowledge lap at the shores of Eternal Being, our spirit is drawn into the Heavens to be returned to us in the life-giving rain of revelation.

Meanwhile, it can be said that the history of revelation is marked with allegory, stories that help to bridge the chasm between primitive, pre-scientific human knowledge and the radically different pure-energy state of higher being.  Nonetheless such allegory, as with any good story, contains enduring, universal truths.

Perhaps eternal truths such as love and the Beatitudes are those extra quantum dimensions.  However, the details have been ‘lost in translation’!  Perhaps the concurrent encounter with these dimensions, the beatitudes, account for the wondrous effect of the ‘mystical moment.’  It is like no other.

At the close of this glorious Easter Day, blessed with sun, family and love, I will close this edition of Woods Walking with the short prayer from the comments after WW#2.  In the knowledge, revealed and realized, that we are the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos, we say: “Oh Lord God, truly we are of You, and truly we are for You. Amen.”

1 CuriosityHD: http://youtu.be/WQhd05ZVYWg

2 Woods Walking #11: https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/woods-walking-11/

3 M-Theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_M-theory

4 Model-Dependent Realism:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model-dependent_realism

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Woods Walking #14

Human Collaboration

Today’s technology allows us to see and know so much more.  But it also allows us to collaborate in amazing new ways via instant, massive communication.  This link is to a fascinating TED talk by artist Aaron Koblin.  His work features the collaboration of thousands of people combined in amazing online projects made possible by today’s radically connected technology.

http://www.ted.com/talks/aaron_koblin.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2011-05-24&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email

This is a short post, specifically asking you to contemplate the potential of humanity to collaborate for “the good.”

Koblin’s work demonstrates the amazing beauty of a somewhat chaotic collaboration.  Nonetheless, they are all beautiful!

If we think about collaboration within the Spirit, among all members of the Body of Humanity, what beauty is possible there?  How pleasing it is to the Creator.

No wonder God wanted to share the joy of Being with us!  The return is truly limitless — from the sound of a trained and talented chorus to the abstract beauty of  Koblin’s relatively unstructured collaborations.

What can “be” in the truly radically connected, spiritual communion of the Body of Humanity, the Humanity of all times and all places?

The better question really is, what does happen — now?

Copyright (C) 2011  Rudolph Siegel

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Woods Walking #13

The Instinct for Life

I will not apologize; there was an erotic undercurrent to this evening’s walk.

There was a heavy thunderstorm late in the afternoon with torrents of rain.  By early evening, the park trials were bathed in a soft, clearing twilight gracing the woods with radiant rays through air saturated with moisture.

The temperature was in the low 60s and the humidity was nothing short of tropical.  It tinged the view with a misty paleness, bringing to life realist landscapes of Rousseau or Manet. The lush greens and blues faded at a distance by the breath of Zeus, the misty remnant of his afternoon fury.

The woods were resplendent in their lushness, freshly showered, flaunting their natural beauty with perhaps a blushing feint of vanity.

It was the profuse display of emerging life that suggested the Eros of the wood.  It was impossible to ignore the instinct for life in this rolling carpet of soft, fresh green bursting out among the stand of trees.  The raw intuition for life, the innate force of nature to sustain itself in this lush, riotous profusion was inescapable, intoxicating.  The yearning for propagation of species, the indomitable drive to life was palpable in the moist air.

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. ~ Jean Giraudoux

As I climbed the rolling trails a humid perspiration ran down my back that in this fecund wood put me in mind of a conjugal sweat, revealing my own instinct for life among the revelry of abundance that has risen from this good soil.

This evening was given to a particular aspect of “a taste of existence” – the raw, vibrant instinct, the will to life.  Tonight I was the passive recipient – perhaps an intuitive listener to the naked pulse of life and the drive to sustain it.

The apparent beauty of the scene and the lush display of life — and of the truth of what is “good” and pleasing to behold in a spare, fundamental way, prompts one to proclaim the joy of the scene.  Not only through a communication such as this journal, but also to sense the instinctive desire to sustain life itself and pass the gift forward.

Because it is good and it must be sustained and shared and reflected upon.

As Fr. Norris Clarke posits near the end of his interview, linked in Woods Walking #11, such a drive for life and the communication of its fundamental good – the very joy of existence – points to the most fundamental Will to Be and create new life.

These sweet moments of intuition point to the loving nature of our own “taste of existence” and our personal sampling of these most fundamental instincts.

Copyright © Rudolph Siegel 2011

1  A Taste of Existence: An Interview with W. Norris Clarke, S.J. on the Metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas

http://www.innerexplorations.com/catchmeta/a.htm

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Woods Walking #12

Substantial Lineage: Back to the Roots of Being

As the January moon waxed, its beauty in the woods increased.  We’d had a blanket of snow on the trails over the course of a week and as the moon revealed itself more and more each night, its reflected light yielded more and more contrasting shadows while hiking on the Ault Park trails.

The fresh snow from early that week was delightful to walk on.  With the temperatures in the low twenties, the snow was smooth and silky under foot.  It also made for vigorous walking before any trails were broken across its fresh surface, with feet slipping along each step, much like walking in loose, quicksilver sand on a beach.  Later evenings gave us warmer temperatures, turning the snow into a slushy, slippery mess.  Those were nights to stay on well-trod trails.  Then in later days, with temperatures back in the twenties, the slush was frozen into a hard, icy surface.  Thankfully, the Vibram lugs on my boots provided excellent, necessary traction.

The moon on the snow really is delightful.  With the bare woods, it is easy to make out the rolling terrain ahead and across the valley, all benchmarked by the emerging trunks.  One moonlit night there were high, thin clouds that created a diffuse light effect on the snow that, in the deepest woods, made the snow radiant as if the light of day were turned down low by a dimmer switch, offering the same warm glow of soft, reflected light in a holiday dining room.

I shared a location check-in on my cell phone during that walk saying, “Hello Halo. Radiant Moon, Luminous Snow!”

Causality in Nature

During my walks, it’s natural to revisit the age-old question of “why.”  Why are we here?  Why are we — at all?  In Woods Walking #2 we discussed the metaphysics of a common fork.  We drilled down into the detail of its being, reviewing a fork on the order of causality, from the final cause – the desire to have a fork – to the formal and efficient causes.  The efficient cause being that person or process that imposed the form of the fork on its material substance.

That process of causality is plain enough.  Consumers want forks, so companies develop and market all manner of forks for dining.  Anything that is “man-made” follows this same path: some need arises, a concept for its solution and implementation is developed and that idea is realized in the efficient process of gathering materials and making the desired object.  From the implements on the dining room tabletop to the very homes in which we live, this same process is repeated over and over, creating utility, value and prosperity.

But as I walk through the woods, I wonder: who desired that there be trees and animals – and people?!  There is a distinctly different causality at play in nature.  The efficient cause of a tree coming to life is the innate process of the species’ lifecycle.  Men and women can certainly plant and tend to trees, but their existence is not contingent upon human industry.

A tree is the result of a seed that drops to the ground and germinates and grows in “the good soil.”  No person has acted on it; the tree just “is” as a result of a natural occurrence and evolution.  Each tree results from the tendency for life to arise from the chemistry of nature, given the right environment.

Nature, arising from the very stuff of being, provides the chemicals for the nucleic acid that yielded the first single-celled organisms. And so, as discussed in my comments after Woods Walking #11, the tree that we admire, under which we stand, is the product of a long line of evolution, and a long line of continuous living – trees growing, seeds produced, dropped and germinated into new growth across countless generations.

Given adequate contemplation, it really is an amazing continuum of life, life that began in some primordial soup in the earliest habitable days of this good Earth some 3.8 Billion years ago.1 And from that first life, a long progression of evolution and living and dying has led to the trees of our own woods, and to the people that walk their paths, delighting in the natural beauty of the foliage.

 
 
 
 

The Beauty of Nature

Natural Cause and Substantial Lineage

In the comments following Woods Walking #2, I discussed the idea of substantial lineage:2 the traceable continuum of the “stuff” of being.  Let’s examine this idea in more detail.

When we push the clock of temporal being back in time, there are several key benchmarks.  The first, and most notable, is the Big Bang,3 or alternatively the Big Bounce.  In either case, from a singularity of absolute density, there was a burst, a moment of “creation.”  Recalling the comments of ancient Philosopher Parmenides, “Nothing comes from nothing,” therefore it is more likely a moment of quantum transition from some primal substance – a meta-substance from Eternal Being, perhaps — to the yielding of a homogenized, inflating soup of super-heated plasma.  In other posts I’ve used the phrase, “The breath of God into the cosmos.”

The key at the Big Bang is the de facto singular point generating not only everything that “is” in our known universe, but also that the initial substance is thought to be a homogeneous plasma, from which all future elements evolved as expansion and cooling permitted.

After approximately 400,000 years, this primal plasma had yielded the first atoms and then, due to gravitational forces, the first stars – the proto stars4 of our universe.  And from these stars we know, thanks to the work of Geoffrey Burbidge5 and his teamin the mid 1950s, about stellar nucleosynthesis – the making of the elements essential for life within the pressure of the stars in the heavens.  Stellar nucleosynthesis creates ever more complex atoms – increasing counts of protons, neutrons and electrons, yielding the elements of the Periodic Table, including heavy metals forged in the largest stars.  The gold in our rings and jewelry only comes from the immense pressures of short-lived super-giant stars.  Our own sun, a yellow dwarf, will not yield gold.

Hold a piece of your gold jewelry and contemplate its real substantial lineage – from the single source of “creation” and the homogenous substance of the Big Bang through the generation of this very gold in the heart of a star that was from hundreds to thousands of times the mass of our own Sun.

These specific gold atoms have followed quite a fascinating cosmic path to our hands!  (As have the very atoms of our bodies!)

The chemicals of the Periodic Table of Elements, which many of us studied in chemistry class, in fact, came about in the billions of stellar furnaces that existed and died (Supernova6) during the 13.7 Billion years since the Big Bang.  All of this material beginning with a single, common source.

I’ve sometimes jokingly (only by half) referred to our human death as being the ultimate religious ecumenism.  Yet, the moment of temporal coming to be truly is an ecumenical moment, both from a religious and a physical perspective.  Humanity is contingent upon this original, primal substance, just as is the “stuff” of the forks we considered in the metaphysical discussion in Woods Walking #2.  It is a fundamental connectedness between the inanimate and the animate, aware and reflective beings that we are.

Again, through evolution and natural processes, we are the human flower of the breath of God into the cosmos.

We all share the common roots of this moment of “creation” of our temporal reality.  And just as the tree, discussed at the beginning of this entry, emerged from a single seed, so did the primal substance of our universe, inflating in space, time and in complexity; flowering into the diverse set of chemical elements that yielded the potential for life.  The life of our tree, the life of our pets and our own uniquely human aware and reflective lives all share this common substantial lineage.

So, what “caused” our trees to exist?  It is the very fact of being – that the underlying substance of being holds the potential for life in its chemical evolution, composition and interactions.

It is reasonable to ask, then, does God sow the seeds of being with the Big Bang?  Is our temporal reality a planned event, or is it like the natural occurrence of a seed falling from a tree that arises from Eternal Being?  Is temporal creation a purely natural occurrence, or is there some degree of Divine “husbandry”?  This answer perhaps awaits us only in the milieu of the afterlife.

Eternal Being, Multiple Universes and The Expanding Body of Humanity         

In Woods Walking #11 we discussed the concept of Eternal Being: the most basic, foundational substance of all being and the likely concurrent manifestation of spirit from the energy that emanates from that primal being.  We also considered the possibility that, given the eternal existence of this primal being, creation of temporal universes is likely regenerative, i.e., our own universe is in an initial phase of expansion to be followed by some contracting, recycling event.  Scientists and researchers use a term “deep time” to describe the imagined “googol” 7 of years for the life span of one universe.

Given the eternal nature of being, there can conceptually be an eternal number of universal generations, and in fact, there could be many that exist concurrently, much like there are many trees that arise from the one earth.  Perhaps many universes (multiverses) arise from Eternal Being, just as many trees arise, live and die within the lush grounds of the woods.

In the fullness of Absolute Being, is the proportion of a single universe similar to that proportion of a single tree to our great, good Earth?  How can we know?

Each Universe Rooted In Eternal Being

Imagine the view of our Earth on a clear day when you can see to the true horizon, with the Earth the analog of Eternal Being.  Now, further using the metaphysical tool, analogy of being, imagine that each tree encountered is a unique universe – each grows from a singular seed and continually branches into smaller and smaller segments, yet is rooted in its earth, its equivalent of eternal being.  And each tree has its own life span, from growth and expansion to death and decay back into the soil of its earth, only to be followed by others; its own progeny as well as the progeny of other nearby trees.

  • “Even the leaves of the tree
    become as pages of the sacred book
    once the eyes of the heart are open.

    -Sa’adi

The implied scales of time and space for all the above are truly mind bending — truly deep time and the ultimate, unimaginable expanse of space.  We can be overwhelmed by the absolute scale of Eternal Being.  Yet the very fact that we have even come to comprehend such concepts is miraculous in its own way.  The very fact of our abstract conception of such a vision is testament to the fundamental value of our personal, individual being, as well as that of the Body of Humanity that naturally arises from this very process of temporal, universal generation.

We, the body of humanity, have arisen from the stuff of creation to comprehend our roots, and to contemplate our Loving Source of Life!

The theology of the above concepts imply many universes and many worlds that harbor intelligent, reflective life.  And many worlds and many universes imply an eternal, yet ever expanding Body of Humanity.  What we know on our own Earth through revealed — and lived — Scripture as the Body of Christ could be God made Man, or in other cases, God Made Woman (depending on the dominant social norms of any given world) offering a Salvific message and the Good News within the core commandments to love ourselves and love one another.

We can contemplate not only the loving being of our Creator, but we can also encounter the joyous, eternal heavenly host of the Body of Humanity; to those of us on this good Earth, the Body of Christ.

Copyright © 2011 Rudolph Siegel

Footnotes:

An entertaining perspective on our substantial makeup – The Atoms Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBjZz0iQrzI

E.T. has phoned home!  Microbes in Meteorites: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/03/05/exclusive-nasa-scientists-claims-evidence-alien-life-meteorite/

A contemplation of our personal soil:  http://www.loyolapress.com/assets/Bookcovers/119529_ears-to-hear.swf 

1 Hecht, Jeff Glimpses of an Evolving Planet. Sky and Telescope, August 2010

2 Woods Walking #2: https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/woods-walking-2/#comments

3 Big Bang: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

4 Hotz, Robert Lee, The Making of the First Star, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008

Geoffrey Burbidge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Burbidge

6 A Supernova yielding its diverse elements:  http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070215.html

7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googol

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Woods Walking #11

Eternal Being and Manifestation of Spirit                              

This installment is long so I’ll give you a quick preview.  It covers Stephen Hawking’s recent take on God’s creative role, some relevant opinions on cosmology, and, finally, my thoughts on the manifestation of spirit from the individual person, as well as the aggregated manifestation from all persons, and then to the manifestation of a greater spirit that resides in the fullness of being.  I’ll close by looking at some implications that arise from all the above.     

Trevor and I went out to walk tonight just after sunset.  There was no doubt about the appearance of the first star of the evening.  Actually, it was the planet Jupiter, still very large and bright in opposition, as it arose over the eastern horizon in its transit past the sea of “The Great One,” Aquarius. 

In spite of the gathering darkness, we ventured onto the western end of the Forest Loop Trail getting a hill-climb in for the evening, raising pulse and respiration while stepping high to avoid stubbing my toes on stumps, roots and rocks. It was dark enough, without the waning moon, that in the most-dense portions of the woods, it was almost impossible to see the path ahead.  So, rather than press my luck against the hard obstacles on the trails, we went up the path to the parking lot trailhead into Ault Park. 

Once out of the woods, it was dark enough to make out the brightest stars.  Immediately in front of us Sagittarius hung over the southern horizon surrounded by fully five percent of the Messier Catalog including, M4, 6, 7, 8, 20 and 22.  As we walked out of the park down the Observatory hill, the Big Dipper clocked the creeping change of seasons, with its handle falling toward the approaching winter horizon.

“The Grand Design”

So, not long after I posted Woods Walking #9, the circumstances and experience of my own Beatific Encounter, publicity broke surrounding the release of Stephen Hawking’s new book, “The Grand Design,” co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow.  The element of the book that has created the most buzz is Hawking’s proposition that God was not necessary to create the universe; that the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.   

According to the Reuters story, “Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant.”

Hawking states, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

 Of course, Hawking’s comments are based on theories so their validation awaits testing with accepted scientific methods.  The mechanics of such testing–perhaps on a universal scale–would seem to be daunting!  Although, the research currently underway at the Large Hadron Collider, may eventually shed some observable scientific light on such foundational questions.          

So for the person of faith, does the new learning of men and women, such as Hawking’s, diminish or eliminate the concept of “omnipotence” assigned to the traditional concept of “Creator”?  A strict Creationist view would emphatically say no; that we demonstrate the deadly sin of pride with such statements. 

Nonetheless, humanity has altered its perception of the heavens, and even our very Earth, many times over, as our capacity to observe and measure the nature before us has benefited from the evolution of our scientific technologies.  To provide some historic perspective, think of the cosmological challenges presented against the 1,500 year-old Ptolemaic geocentric model of the day by Copernicus and Galileo.  These great men became outcasts in their own day only to have their Heliocentric model of the cosmos later validated, as their leading edge thinking became accepted as the scientific norm, and eventually embraced by the major religions of the world. 

It is clear over time that humanity gradually uncovers, observes and comprehends an extant reality that patiently awaits our study and understanding.  After all, humanity itself arises from and is sustained by this very reality. And in this process of human development and discovery–uncovering, really–there are still questions that we simply cannot answer today.  And some questions may always remain beyond our temporal and theoretical reach.  To wit: how many universes are there? 

Cosmology at the Limits

Some astrophysicists propose that theories point to there being more than just the inflating bubble of our own observable universe.  So, is there a universal twin, a multiplicity, or are universal “bubbles” as numerous as the billions of galaxies in our own universe?  Most notable among “multiverse” theorists is MIT’s Max Tegmark, author of “Ultimate ensemble theory of everything”, and his postulate that “all structures that exist mathematically exist also physically.” 

Tegmark need only to spend some time with consumer packed goods (CPG) professionals to know that not every idea on the “drawing board” sees the light of day.      

The number and nature of universes is essentially an un-testable question currently, much like the unknown that Columbus faced before he set off to establish new trade routes to the Far East.  How much ocean lay ahead of him and his frail, modest fleet? 

To further compound the questioning, some cosmologists, such as Martin Bojowald of Pennsylvania State University, posit that there is a universal cycle of inflation and contraction. Instead of there being a singular creative “Big Bang,” there is a cyclical “Big Bounce.” 

It is reasonable, in such a cosmic model of universal cycling, that a “Creator” is not necessary as an efficient agent since the cycle is the natural outcome of physical laws.  Reconciling to Hawking’s current thinking, perhaps omnipotence is lessened in such a model, but what of omniscience? 

Manifestation of Spirit 

In my comments after Woods Walking #2, “The Metaphysics of a Fork,” I recalled the words of the Ancient philosopher Parmenides,  “ex nihilo nihil fit:” Latin meaning nothing comes from nothing. 

The traditional idea of creation is that of making something from nothing, and thus, the idea of an Omnipotent Creator is attractive.  It is a convenient answer to the ageless question, “Where and how did all of this start?”  After all, humanity is faced with beginnings and endings as a fact of our own existence: from night to day; from birth to death; from freshman to graduation; from star formation to super nova; from the Alpha to the Omega. 

Equally important to the discussion of creation is consideration of the matter of degree. It is impossible for something to be spontaneously created from nothing — “nothing” taken as an absolute state, in an absolute sense–from nothing to something.  However, what can be spontaneous is the creation of an idea, or concept of “something new.” But that new “thing,” that new idea will be the form given to some underlying substance.  And that new idea, that new form, will only be realized when it is imposed on its intended substance: the potter throwing clay–the artistic idea comes to life under creative hands.        

And further, from Woods Walking #2, the most fundamental causal elements are intelligence, i.e., Final Cause (extrinsic), and substance, i.e., Material Cause (intrinsic).  The Final Cause, i.e., intelligence is one of the two extrinsic causes, Efficient Cause being the other. Intelligence is the reflective, aware entity wherein the idea resides and also possesses the will toward creation of something apparently new and drives the creative process.  Meanwhile, substance is the essential intrinsic causal element, i.e., the material cause; as calcium is to bone and cellulose is to wood.  Formal Cause is the other intrinsic cause.   

So, all of this begs the traditional question from the vernacular, what comes first, the chicken or the egg; the substance or the intelligence?  Given that human intelligence is contingent upon the substance and proper functioning of the human brain, the apparent answer is that substance “came first.”  But this solution implies a “first intelligence,” in the sense of “none before.”  Then, however, some new intelligence comes to be upon a pre-existing substance. 

Either case seems to violate Parmenides statement, “nothing comes from nothing.”    

Seemingly the only logical solution is the idea of “Eternal Being,” i.e., some substance has always existed.  How could there ever be nothing, in an absolute sense, because nothing comes from nothing?  Even for Stephen Hawking’s idea of “spontaneous creation,” the contingent prior condition was some natural law or laws.  Are these laws contingent upon some pre-existent substance, or a pre-existent intelligence?  The existence of laws presupposes “some thing” upon which they are based.      

The solution seems to be that concurrent with Eternal Being there is the intelligence that manifests itself from this fundamental, eternal being, and on a universal scale. Such a “Grand Intelligence” would be defined as the Supreme Being, if not at least the Supreme Intelligence, the awareness that manifests from the primal act of being.    

That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.
~ Albert Einstein

 

Each Universe Rooted In Eternal Being

Assuming the idea of “eternal being,” and revisiting the competing cosmological concepts of The Big Bang or The Big Bounce, it would seem that the Big Bounce is the most logical solution consistent with eternal being.  Given a likely permanent, eternal state of “existence,” whatever the quantum state of the most fundamental substance in being might be, temporal being would likely be cyclical and repeating.         

The idea of Grand Intelligence requires some degree of “faith.”  In fact, from a rigorous scientific perspective, the concept cannot be supported.  And what has traditionally been challenged is the idea of Intelligent Design, the centuries-old, classical concept toward a teleological systematic; one where some prior design yields an ordered existence toward an end.

An idea that reconciles a seemingly random universe that obeys certain physical laws with a well ordered universe that follows a preconceived “plan” is that of a Grand Intelligence that inseparably emanates from the basic “stuff” of “existence,” from all being on a universal scale. 

The substance and intelligence together would be Eternal Being, a concurrent, inseparable foundation to all that is on an absolute scale.    

Human intelligence is manifest upon a living person and is scientifically recognized, and given the vast energies of the cosmos, is it not possible that there is some awareness that arises from the aggregate energies of the very act of existence?  Humanity has only recently recognized the existence of dark matter and dark energy, and neither of these are fully understood.  Yet both are suggested within the limits of our own observable universe by virtue of observation and theoretical calculation.  Dark energy currently drives universal inflation, as confirmed by red shift measurements observed and calculated by astrophysicists.

How can humanity authoritatively affirm or deny a Grand Intelligence via empirical methods?        

All Souls Day & Galilean Implications for Our Age 

Faith traditions over the past 5,000-plus years of recorded history point to such an intelligent presence that manifests from being.  And as described in Woods Walking #10, there is personal, experiential evidence of a non-corporal state–a spiritual state of being.  My recounting is only one of many.  Both personal experience and recorded religious traditions point to a Loving Presence that we call God. 

Beginning with Woods Walking #2, I’ve talked about “substantial lineage,” the idea that the very stuff we are made from is traceable along a continuum, perhaps back to the “Big Bang,” or maybe the “Big Bounce,” and by extension to the fundamental being that exists outside of our observable universe.  The idea of Eternal Being points to the source of this substance upon which we base our corporal existence. 

If this “stuff” is from Eternal Being—the sands of time–something that has always been, and from which a Grand Intelligence manifests, we gain a new concept of the eternal.

But these concepts also point to a regenerative universe.  This very idea implies an infinite progression of temporal coming to be, that we are 13.8 billion years into our current generation.  From a religious perspective, this implies an infinite, yet constantly growing Body of Humanity.

Perhaps we are in “the day of temporal existence,” which would be followed by an equally long period of rest.  Such cycles are in our very being, in proper proportion.    

The echoes of contemplation then are both Eternal and Infinite.  It also implies that God so loves the Body of Humanity that the Grand Intelligence would send Its “Only Son,” or perhaps in some instances, Its “Only Daughter” to deliver a Salvific message over many generations, both universal and to many “worlds” within each universal generation.  Again, these are questions of Holy Mystery that lay before us, now.    

Nonetheless, tonight, on the eve of All Souls Day, I will look deep into the starry night, giving thanks for my own being, and observe the humility that comes from being part of an Eternal, Loving and Expanding Whole.

Glory to God in the Highest for All.           

Copyright © 2010 Rudolph Siegel

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

First Light

                

Sagittarius via the Interactive Sky Chart:  http://skychart.skytonight.com/observing/skychart/getjava.html

Reuters: “The Grand Design”:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100902/lf_nm_life/us_britain_hawking

Max Tegmark:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Tegmark

Martin Bojowald:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Bojowald

Woods Walking #2:  https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/woods-walking-2/

 
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