Why it’s so hard to Attain – Part 1

The development of a spiritually awakened human is the most difficult task in human existence. It is made easier in that it consists of removing what is unneeded rather than adding to what is there. But what is unneeded to a mature adult was once vital to the survival of an infant, so convincing the adult to relinquish the accretions of infancy (the ego and all it entails) is no small task. In fact, it is nothing less than the toughest possible task, since it implies taking the self down to the bare metal, as you might say, to expose its tender heart to God.

There are basic problems about spiritual development these days, as I see it, as opposed to different times. The Qur’an says that in the “latter days” it will be harder to hold to Islam than to hold a “hot rock” (burning coal) in one’s hand.

The first one (here in the West) is obvious. The deafening roar of materialism, and its philosophical endorsement, is louder than at any time in human history and appallingly efficient at seduction. This ensures that only the half-mad and totally desperate turn up at the door of the temple scratching to be let in.

And of those who turn up, most are there to use the spiritual life to achieve temporal goals – the problem addressed in Chogyam Trungpa’s book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. We see it everywhere now: how to follow scriptural advice to get wealth or security or happiness. How to talk God into giving you a break.

But perhaps you are not meant to be happy, right at this moment. Perhaps there is something else you are meant to notice, like the cause of your unhappiness, which is probably something other than the obvious.

Whitley Strieber says that in his decade of meditation with the entities that came to visit with him in upstate New York, he learned that their approach was to “give him problems that cannot be solved and cannot be put aside.”

This is the Sufi approach too, and in both cases a certain attitude is necessary to benefit from the koan-like limitations of the puzzle. A.H. Almaas describes it in this way:

The attitude of trusting without knowing what will happen, of allowing things to emerge, is needed at all levels and stages of the process of inner development. It applies on the external level, the emotional level, the subtle levels, essential levels, all of them. Any idea of how things are going to be will only work as a boundary. The way things are and the way our true nature works cannot be bounded that way. The moment you have an idea of how things should be, you’re creating some walls, and you’re sitting inside them. There is no trust there in yourself, there is no trust in reality, and there is no trust in the process itself of transformation and growth. Then there is restriction, and you’ll suffer and complain as usual. When we allow the natural process of growth to happen, there is expansion, happiness, and joy.

Usually when you feel you don’t know, you want to do something right away. But you don’t have to do anything: you just need to be there. When something happens, you’re there for it. Ultimately, trust is really trusting your Essence. That trust will develop. The trust is not something you have right away. The more you know yourself and the more you see the rightness of your own process as it happens, the more you’ll trust it… Finally, you see that there is nothing you can trust– nobody, no authority, except the process itself. Finally the trust is not trusting in anybody; it is not trusting any theory; it is not trusting any authority; it is trusting reality. It is just trust – confidence in the Essence itself. It will take time for the trust to mature and deepen.

So those who arrive at the door of the temple – even those who sit against the temple wall by the door, month in and month out, while birds sit on their shoulders in the spring and while they are buried in snow in the winter – must empty themselves first before being filled with a new approach to their experience. We discover that the interpretations of our experience – which we mistake for the experience itself – will change as our viewpoint shifts.

Imagine a man standing midstream in a shallow river, looking downstream. From his position he can see creeks flowing into his river downstream. His experience of the river includes what he sees, but does not include the contents of creeks flowing into his river upstream from him, behind him. He feels the water against his legs behind him and infers its presence, but he does not see how the creeks blend into his river and provide its whole being. This is the state of the average man.

The first work of the teacher is to convince the man that there is a river behind him, but to see it he must turn around to look at it. This is not that hard to do, given a promising student.

What the Sufis do, however, is to then teach you how to hike upstream.

We are stardust, we are golden

From David Wilcock’s new book, The Source Field Investigations:

“In 2007, a team of scientists from Russia, Germany, and Australia, led by Dr. V. N. Tsytovitch, discovered that ordinary dust arranged into DNA-like structures when suspended in a plasma full of charged particles – similar to the conditions we find in outer space.

“A computer model was built to simulate this environment, and no order or structure was expected – but the dust naturally formed into corkscrew-shaped helical structures. These DNA-like structures were attracted to each other. They would divide and form into two equal copies of the original, similar to the process of reproduction. They would change the structure of their neighbors by simply being near them. They also evolved into increasingly complex structures as the simulation continued.

“According to Tsytovich, ‘These complex, self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter…they are autonomous, they reproduce, and they evolve.'”

Abstraction p.2

According to an article in Discover magazine, Dr. Barbara Shipman, a mathematician at the University of Rochester in New York, has found a possible relationship between the structure of the ’dance” the bee uses to communicate the direction and nature of food resources and the geometries of six-dimensional mathematical abstractions known as flag manifolds. The varieties of the bees’ dances, and the way they change shape and direction in a seemingly discontinuous manner, maps onto two-dimensional cross-sections of the six-dimensional flag manifold model.

As a mathematician (and beekeeper), Dr. Shipman knew that flag manifold descriptions were used in quantum mechanical theory, and bees have been shown to respond to nuclear magnetic resonance events. She is now working with biologists to test the hypothesis that bees can perceive quantum events directly and somehow perform the integration/translation into bee-useful information.

And the Discover article concludes: “Physicists have theorized that quarks are constantly popping up in the vacuum of empty space. This is possible because the vacuum is pervaded by something called the zero-point energy field in which on average no particles exist, but which can have local fluctuations that cause quarks to blink in and out of existence. Shipman believes that bees might sense these fleeting quarks, and use them – somehow – to create the complex and peculiar structure of their dance.

“Now here’s the rub. The flag manifold geometry is an abstraction. It is useful in describing quarks not as the single coherent object physicists can measure in the real world, but as unobserved quantum fields. Once a physicist tries to detect a quark – by bombarding it with another particle in a high-energy accelerator – the flag manifold geometry is lost. If bees are using quarks as a script for their dance, they must be able to observe the quarks not as single coherent objects but as quantum fields. If Shipman’s hunch is correct and bees are able to touch the quantum world of quarks without breaking it, not only would it shake up the field of biology, but physicists would be forced to reinterpret quantum mechanics as well.”

The bee is somehow able to observe the quark without breaking the superposition of states and reducing them to a single reality. From an energetic viewpoint, it is able to observe without effect because it introduces no additional entropy into the quark event to push it over the threshold into reality.

The bee is the symbolic animal of the Naqshbandi Order of Sufis, my own affiliation. It apparently has this amazing ability – to know the mind of God in all humility, without interfering with the generation of reality according to the Divine Will.


A hundred years I slept beneath a thorn,
Until the tree was root and branches of my thought,
Until white petals blossomed in my crown.

A thousand years I floated in a lake
Until my brimful eye could hold
The scattered moonlight and the burning cloud.

Mine is the gaze that knows
Eyebright, asphodel, the briar rose.
I have seen the rainbow open, the sun close.

A wind that blows about the land
I have raised temples of snow, castles of sand
And left them empty as a dead hand.

A winged ephemerid I am born
With myriad eyes and glittering wings
That flames must wither or waters drown.

I must live, I must die,
I am the memory of all desire,
I am the world’s ashes, and the kindling fire.

Kathleen Raine

On the Horizons

I recently read Roger Penrose’s book about the nature of consciousness and how it arises, and I am again surprised and excited by how western science is running into the ’end’ of the universe, not on a macroscopic level, but at the subnuclear level where the most fundamental properties of the macrouniverse seem to dissolve and merge.

If you’re not familiar with Penrose, let me try to summarize his book in a sentence or two. He asked the obvious question – if thought and consciousness and mechanical action/reaction is supposed to arise in nerves and nervous systems, what is going on in single-celled organisms that have no nervous system? They recognize food, avoid danger, and reproduce in predictable ways.

Penrose followed a trail that led to the microtubules within the mitochondia of cells, where he found thousands of sets of protein dimers that have two states, like primitive boolean state machines. He hypothesizes that quantum coherence across a set of these dimers – on the order of 10,000 or so – constitutes the fundamental “signal” that underlies all neural action. What he cannot explain is how coherence arises and is sustained at biological temperatures, where thermal noise should swamp this most faint signalling.

I suspect that the mechanism of organic superconduction could be partly or wholly reponsible for maintaining such coherence. I have personally experienced the phenomenon that the vedic theorists describe as the “kundalini” force, and it subjectively feels like the cerebrospinal fluid starts to superconduct. The process begins at the base of the spine, where the “kundalini gland” is supposed to lie, and rapidly proceeds upward as the compound diffuses.

But within the cells of organisms, perhaps creation of such a superconducting chemical acts as a stabilizer or amplifying force. Perhaps the meditative/concentrative techniques evolved over the years in many different paths are ways to stimulate production of this substance, and/or to quiet the thermal noise of the “monkey mind” enough to let kindling of quantum-coherent state information arise from the Dirac sea into these primary receptors.

The mechanisms governing virtual particle production are not subject to the same space/time/causality considerations that already created matter is subject to. If Allah has left His signs “on the horizons” as the Koran says over and over, along with, “Surely there are signs for those who reflect” and “for those who ponder”, what better place to seek Him out that at that very twilight borderland of physical reality. Experiment after experiment in that land verifies His attributes – such as the recent Bose-Einstein condensate experiment, which projected unity of material identity across 2000 “separate” atoms as they approached close to absolute zero.

In my experience, the reception of information from outside the accustomed sources takes place, at first, at levels that fluctuate around one’s own threshold of awareness, and are only understandable as “spliced-into-normal-consciousness” by observing that the action-reaction thought flow is interrupted by a non-mechanistic thought/perception. It took me many years to catch the nonsequential element in this (this is also how telepathic information presents to me.)

Perhaps as individuals mature they separate more and more from the deterministic stream and become more and more aware of a non-process-oriented nondeterministic reality, corresponding to Ibn al’ Arabi’s “Realms”, which he describes as “the substrata in which experience actually occurs”, or to the ideational platonic realm described by Shaykh Hasan Shushud as fana’ al-af ’al , or the “annihilation of actions”, the first stage of separation from material creation, i.e., time-bound action/reaction mechanism.

Experience occurs there because what we perceive as “identity” is the ideational aspect of reality transferred from that realm to ours in simultaneous coterminous quantum flux throughout spacetime. Without that transference, we would have no existence or only have beingness as a formless “quark fog”, as one theorist put it.

I have experienced states of awareness, as an adult (I imagine that young children do it spontaneously until they learn to observe compulsively), where I was aware of process without being aware of myself. The quality of my awareness was such that it seemed to be floating frictionless on experience without any self-referential interaction. If there was a way to sustain that level of awareness, not of process but of the “objects of knowledge”, what might we learn?

Finding the Essence

What is the element common to all experience – in whatever realm you wish to consider? That is the Essence, the unit of identity that exists and has experience. It is the very spark of life.

Ibn al-Arabi maintained that the realms are basically six in number, though they may present themselves as multiplicities. He names them as the state we were in before incarnation; our life here in the material world; the “interval”, or barzakh, after we have left this life and before moving into the metaeternity of God; the Garden and the Fire, and the sand dunes outside the garden.

It is not clear how much of this metaphysics we are capable of understanding, while in the human form, or outside of it. Ibn al-Arabi says that the number of realms is limitless and beyond our understanding whatever our state.

Our Essence is eternal and with us in whatever realm we inhabit, but our perception of those realms is colored by all the noise collected in our personalities and experience. We have and have always had every potential within us, but they remain obscured by coarser accidental responses to our world and states.

The Essence is what remains when the accidental and temporal is removed. In the “journey without distance”, Ibn al-Arabi explains, limitless expansions and elaborations of reality occur, both upward (toward an endless multidimensional spiritual abstraction) and downward (to an endless multidimensional infolding of significance and meaning). The realms are the states of being conducive to these experiences, and according to the Greatest Shaykh, they are where these manifestations “actually appear”.

It is important to realize that since these states arise in awareness, not consciousness, they are part of our own experience of ourselves, not our considerations, beliefs, opinions, fears, hopes, or phantasies. In that sense, the realms are not part of the human form itself, but the matrix from which the human form arises, indeed from which all form and identity and potential arises.

Scientists say that some dinosaurs were only capable of seeing movement – changes in their visual environment. Consciousness is like this. It exists by, for, and about differences and discrimination. Even though perception of the realms is very different from our normal consciousness, that perception does not present as another distinction, but as a change in state.

The process of disentangling the Essence from the overgrown weeds of consciousness requires making these kinds of distinctions in your own experience, and makes such perception possible.You may ask, “How is it that awareness can perceive its own change of state without invoking differential consciousness?” This is a level of mystery I cannot understand; it is deeply buried in the metaphysical significance of unity and separation, and I do not know. My own Shaykh explains it this way: absence of knowing is not a state of being; it is a blankness, not even a potential, but the hidden is there in its own special state, waiting for you to discover it, and questions like the above pertain to the hidden, not the unknown.

Ibn al-Arabi notes that when you view the greater reality from within the treasures laid up within you, they appear as “miracles and wonders” that occur continuously in your perception. This is the state of the mazjubs, the Madmen of God, who are transfixed by the parade of meaning and wonder so thoroughly that they may appear to be unconscious of events around them in “reality”.

The Greatest Shaykh advises us to appreciate this level of experience, but to look away from it and continue the Journey. At each such waystation, the temptation is there to lose yourself in it (as this is what we long for above all else), but it is what you lose yourself in that determines your ultimate destination. He says that beings and states and understanding will all appear before you and present themselves as God, upon which you must say, “God is far beyond you,” and continue on the path without being absorbed in the significance of that moment.

The Essence is the window into God. It is of God and not of God; it reveals and obscures. More importantly, all we can know of God, while wearing the human form, is of and through the Essence. It is the metaphysical – ontological layer of the human form.

Thus, development of the Essence (or more properly, the revealing of the Essence) is “cutting to the chase” in spiritual development. Any exercise or experience that “works” to develop your Being is work on the Essence.

I recommend A. H. Almaas’s book Essence as the best discursive onramp to a study of it. An indirect approach to developing the tools to meet your Essence is the traditional corpus of the Mullah Nasruddin stories.


Abstraction p.1

Human contact with the Divine has changed and evolved as man has. At one time that was through magical-animist “religion”; later it was through the monotheisms, such as the primitive religion of Ikhnaton, later Zoroaster, Abraham, the Buddha, Moses, Christ, and Mohammed.

Each prophet prescribes a new religion built upon the new spiritual capacity developed by earlier worship. The earlier paradigm still works, but it has been superseded by another more suited to the character of mankind in a new age. The esoteric knowledge that forms the inner link between them fades over time (generally a half to a full millennium) and the differences in worship between the earlier and later groups become issues to fight over as the religion degenerates into ritual and superstition. This has been called the phenomena of “Truth Decay”.

Paganisms, which are ultra-concrete (especially when deteriorated into animism, where rocks, trees, and whatnot contain gods and spiritual law has degenerated to mindless taboo), infiltrate into the esoteric studies. In time the esoteric sweetness is lost and all that remains are empty rules about what to eat or not or what color to paint your nose and when.

Primitive paganisms were, as has been said of the C programming language and the Torah, “Lots of rules and no mercy”. If there was a great harvest the year Og chopped off his big toe in the cornfield, in ten years time the whole population will be hobbling around. Worse, preliterate civilizations had to rely on memorization and didn’t have the logical tools or context to speculate very much about their beliefs. Blind repetition was the only way to ensure that you got it right. And their religion was tied to life and death issues, like getting enough rain for the harvest, so pagan priesthoods probably viewed innovations and innovators like priesthoods do today.

The mental ability to figure out patterns and make deductions and predictions is part of abstract thought, and as this faculty has developed in man we have been able to understand the Divine in a new and exciting way –  in a fundamentally more accurate way.

Why should this be so? Because the universe we live in uses abstraction to infold and unfold its meaning. The fractal dimensionality of a Mandelbrot set of images is the “packed” version, while the images (or patterns in Romanesco cauliflower) are the “unpacked” version. Likewise, the Fibonacci series is a mathematical concept, but it blooms as the arrangement of sunflower seeds.

What relevance does this have for day to day life?

(Continued in Part 2)