Friday, October 28, 2011

the city and the cross

One day, while driving to downtown Minneapolis, heading east on Interstate 394, I reached the point where the full skyline of western downtown loomed up before my eyes. I have witnessed this sight many times, and each time have marveled at the grandeur of the city, and thought about the mastery we humans have over our material world. There in the city stand huge and complicated buildings, intricately designed and shaped, differing landscapes, transportation systems, and cultural elements all blended into one specific space. This compact space allows a relatively smooth flow of thousands of people in and out of the city to do their business, participate in the arts, or be entertained. The city is a spectacular testament to the creative mind and physical capability, of humans beings.

On this particular day not only did I see the familiar city's western sky line, but also in the southern foreground, I saw a church with a dome and on top of that dome was a cross. What a striking contrast I thought. Here amid a forest of lofty buildings was a church, a dome, and a cross. It did not reach into the sky as high as the city's skyscrapers, but to my mind, it appeared as grand a sight as the skyscrapers. Given the great number of views I have had, I wondered why I had missed seeing the church?

As I pondered that question, the answer clearly came to mind. When we see something that attracts us, we centralize our vision around that which attracts us; especially objects of towering size, odd shapes, or colors. Thus when I first saw the Western Minneapolis Skyline, I was awe struck by its enormity. Its community of skyscrapers, captured my attention to the exclusion of all else within the landscape. Its major attraction for me was its towering size, but with each succeeding view, it became more expected, more normalized. This normalization of view allowed me to decentralize and expand my vision to include the church, the dome, and the cross.

I have learned that there is a basic fallacy built into sense perception, and that fallacy is, not to take appearance for "true" reality. For example, determining the character of a new acquaintance by the kinds of cloths he or she wears, seeing a coiled hose and believing to be a snake, seeing a fallen leaf on the ground and believing to be a squirrel or bird etc. In this regard there is a saying I have heard, it goes, 'Believe none of what you've heard secondhand, and believe half of what see.' I succumbed to the fallacy of sense perception when I first saw the Western Skyline of Minneapolis, believing that its essential reality was in its great physical size, design, and shape. My myopic view stayed until my view was extended to include the domed church with the cross on top. This extended view has taught me to always look beyond appearances to the more universal realities beneath the surface realities.

Although the skyline and the domed church produced a dramatic, visual contrast, I did not feel they were in opposition. Here at once, was a community of skyscrapers, grand complexes of human ingenuity and domination over earth's elements, and here also was a church and a simple cross pointing to the heavens expressing a meaning beyond the physical, and both were created by the mind of human beings. Each creation, an expression of our comprehensive essence in relationship to the realities in which we live our lives. The skyscrapers are an expression of our connection and relationship to our physical/visible realities, and the church and cross are an expression of our connection and relationship to our spiritual/invisible realities. Both connections and relationships are real, but the spiritual connection and relationship is more real, owing to its more universal and immutable characteristic; more simply, it endures longer. It is for this reason we should allow our spiritual aspects to direct and control our mundane aspects, thus building our lives upon an ever-enduring spiritual rock rather than a relatively transient physical foundation. All the masters who have walked upon Earth have recommended this kind of spiritual leadership. It is the way of wisdom.

How do we acquire this inner spiritual leadership? It is acquired by seeing from the eye of your heart, and in order to achieve that you must turn your mind inward. By turning your mind inward you begin to observe the streams of your mind and the patterns of your thoughts and actions. This vision from the eye of your heart arises continuously, yet, at first it may be obstructed by the rigidity of your thoughts. As you continue to cultivate your inner vision, a safe and effective crossing place is created where you may step over a habit of rigid thought that may be causing resistance. Thus, this kind of "multiple vision" of viewing the streams of thought in your mind refines the process of thought and action patterns, making clearer their causal effects and providing an insightful path on which to move towards right action.

There is within all human beings this great capacity of mind that stretches and penetrates every aspect, from the mundane to the cosmic. Yet because our intent lies within the mundane we live behind a mind veil that prevents and limits us from the opportunity to recognize the light of true reality that lies beyond the veil. When Gautama the Buddha walked the earth, curious people would ask him what he was, "Are you a devil, an angle, a god?" The Buddha would answer, "I am awakened." In this simple answer the Buddha exposed a great insight into the make up of human beings, and extended a hand of hope for the lifting of the veil covering our mind. As an awakened human being, the Buddha shows us that we have an innate connection to the spiritual realms, and that the great abilities he had developed are within the scope of human possibilities. Therefore, in order to fulfill our destiny as human beings we must awaken from our deep, sleep of ignorance. We must lift the veil of mere appearances in order to see and follow the light of true reality that leads us to our true destiny.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

the path of the mystic worrior

In my last blog, I used the term "mystic warrior." The term is used in connection with our awareness of the duality of our human nature, and the discovery that a battle is waging between our higher self and our lower self. As we turn our will towards entering the battle we symbolically become a mystic warrior. I first head that term while I was listening to Ed McGaa, the narrator of a tape on Black Elk's power-vision. For those of you who have never heard of Black Elk, there is a famous book written by John G. Neihardt, called "Black Elk Speaks" dictated from the Ogalala Indian's narrative of his life. Black Elk was the forth generation Holy Man of his band.

In his power-vision, he describes a place, ..."where three streams make one big one-a source of mighty waters-and something terrible was there. Flames were rising from the waters and in the flames a blue man lived. The dust was floating all about him in the air, the grass was short and withered, the trees were wilting, two legged and four legged beings lay there thin and panting, and wings were too weak to fly."

This part of Black Elk's vision expresses a universal, mythological theme rooted in the essential composition and collective experience of all human beings. The theme represented is the duality of our human composition; our shadow side/material side in opposition to our light side/spiritual side. We have seen this theme repeated over and over through out all human cultures: in the bible, by the allegory of Cain and Able; in India's epic, The Mahabharata; in European Literature, with King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail; in the U.S.A., Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter.

The blue man symbolizes our shadow side with its negative expressions of selfishness, greed, deceit, untruth, corruption. Black Elk symbolizes (not the physical Black Elk, but spirit Black Elk which the Grandfather named Eagle Wing Stretches) our spiritual side.

In Black Elk's vision, the blue man is defeated. ..."Then the black horse riders shouted, "Hoka Hey!" and charged down upon the blue man, but were driven back. And the white troop shouted charging and was beaten; then the red troop and yellow. And when each had failed, they all cried together, "Eagle Wing Stretches! Hurry!" And the world was filled with voices of all kinds that cheered me, so I charged. I had a cup of water in one hand and in the other a bow (gifts given to Eagle Wing Stretches by the West Power) that turned into a spear as the bay (the horse Eagle Wing Stretches was riding) and I swooped down, and on the spear's head was sharp lightening. It stabbed the blue man's heart, and as it struck I could hear the thunder rolling and many voices that cried "Un-hee!" meaning I had killed. The flames died"... "then the four troops of horsemen charged down and struck the dead body of the blue man, counting coup, (the act of striking an enemy, dead or alive, with a stick conferring distinction) and suddenly it was only a harmless turtle."

Eagle Wings Stretches, successfully defeats the blue man, not by using brute force, but by using the spear of knowledge. The troops of horsemen that first attacked the blue man relied on their physical might and their material weapons, and were quickly beaten and driven back. The gift of the cup of water and the bow given by the West Power represented, respectively, the power to make live and and to destroy.

Taking the symbolism of this part of Black Elk's vision and applying it correspondingly to the actual history of Black Elk, it is clear that his spear of knowledge is his book, "Black Elk Speaks." That book is the light of knowledge which has, and continues to attack and defeat the ignorance of our ego side. The moment we decide to enter upon the path of spiritual actualization, we are enlisting in the great war of knowing thy self. Of all wars, this is the most fearsome and terrible. It has great men like Goethe to say, "Know thy self? If I knew myself, I'd run away" or C.G. Jung to say, "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." What is so terrifying is that we do battle with kindred aspects of ourselves-the light side and the dark side; and conflict not only comes from outside sources, but also from habits of mind, laden with deep and powerful emotions, caused by experiences from both this life and past lives. All these aggregate, kindred aspects of ourselves confront and vie for conscious domination in rapid and continuous succession.

As warriors of the mystic realm, we are granted access to the symbols of the power of the Soul: the sword of power, the spear of will, the helmet of knowledge, and a coat of mail, the links of which are made of all of our past experiences. These symbols provide us with a crystal clear vision of the means of which we are to do battle.

The many spirit voices are calling you, saying, "Hurry!" You reply, "Hoka-Hay!" and charge until final liberation. Fair well, my brothers, my sisters.