Plotinus 5.1.10

I picked up Plotinus again today; right where I left off, 5.1.10. For a few week, I was reading \”A History of God\” by Karen Armstrong, along with my ongoing A Course in Miracles study.

I have to say, I immediately felt inspired and seemed to understand what I was reading. At least, I felt the hope in inspiration and the value of a life of contemplation without any worldly ambition or achievement. Since I live partially in the world, I continually feel the pull towards achievement instead. I fight the draw towards \”more\” but am not always successful.

But Plotinus gives me again the idea of contemplation of The One (first), Being (second), Soul (third). And then I right now achieve inner peace.

Why is it such trouble to turn inward? I struggle at work because the company is always wanting people to have a \”career ladder\” and to be achieving. I see others being promoted and feel jealousy. No really. I see that I don\’t want to do those things but I need to give my ego something instead. So accepting hope from Plotinus allows me to rest. Surprisingly, spirituality is one thing I have control over.

It is Sunday and I stubbornly and rebelliously stayed in bed a long time, even though I more or less woke up quite early. I loathe going outside and I fooled myself into saying I would stay inside for my workout. But as I type this, I have on my heat gear shirt and am planning to go for a walk. The walk will be in some trees and be a slow as necessary; but I know I am going outside. Selah!

10. We have shown the inevitability of certain convictions as to the scheme of things:

There exists a Principle which transcends Being; this is The One, whose nature we have sought to establish in so far as such matters lend themselves to proof. Upon The One follows immediately the Principle which is at once Being and the Intellectual-Principle. Third comes the Principle, Soul.

Now just as these three exist for the system of Nature, so, we must hold, they exist for ourselves. I am not speaking of the material order- all that is separable- but of what lies beyond the sense realm in the same way as the Primals are beyond all the heavens; I mean the corresponding aspect of man, what Plato calls the Interior Man.

Thus our soul, too, is a divine thing, belonging to another order than sense; such is all that holds the rank of soul, but [above the life-principle] there is the soul perfected as containing Intellectual-Principle with its double phase, reasoning and giving the power to reason. The reasoning phase of the soul, needing no bodily organ for its thinking but maintaining, in purity, its distinctive Act that its thought may be uncontaminated- this we cannot err in placing, separate and not mingled into body, within the first Intellectual. We may not seek any point of space in which to seat it; it must be set outside of all space: its distinct quality, its separateness, its immateriality, demand that it be a thing alone, untouched by all of the bodily order. This is why we read of the universe that the Demiurge cast the soul around it from without- understand that phase of soul which is permanently seated in the Intellectual- and of ourselves that the charioteer\’s head reaches upwards towards the heights.

The admonition to sever soul from body is not, of course, to be understood spatially- that separation stands made in Nature- the reference is to holding our rank, to use of our thinking, to an attitude of alienation from the body in the effort to lead up and attach to the over-world, equally with the other, that phase of soul seated here and, alone, having to do with body, creating, moulding, spending its care upon it.

If your thirst is whetted, here is 5.1.12:

12. Possessed of such powers, how does it happen that we do not lay hold of them, but for the most part, let these high activities go idle- some, even, of us never bringing them in any degree to effect?

The answer is that all the Divine Beings are unceasingly about their own act, the Intellectual-Principle and its Prior always self-intent; and so, too, the soul maintains its unfailing movement; for not all that passes in the soul is, by that fact, perceptible; we know just as much as impinges upon the faculty of sense. Any activity not transmitted to the sensitive faculty has not traversed the entire soul: we remain unaware because the human being includes sense-perception; man is not merely a part [the higher part] of the soul but the total.

None the less every being of the order of soul is in continuous activity as long as life holds, continuously executing to itself its characteristic act: knowledge of the act depends upon transmission and perception. If there is to be perception of what is thus present, we must turn the perceptive faculty inward and hold it to attention there. Hoping to hear a desired voice, we let all others pass and are alert for the coming at last of that most welcome of sounds: so here, we must let the hearings of sense go by, save for sheer necessity, and keep the soul\’s perception bright and quick to the sounds from above.


ACIM Birthday Weekend

7/29 is the anniversary of my becoming a student of A Course in Miracles. Coming later than sobriety but part of my foundation for inner peace, I bow before the Course and thank Spirit for giving it to me.

From it I get: looking within, looking beyond, non-specialness, trading littleness for magnificence, the Voice for God, the holy instant, the Real Relationship, the end of fear and more.

Friday, text 29.VIII.3: No one believes in idols who has not enslaved himself to littleness and loss. And thus must seek beyond his little self for strength to raise his head, and stand apart from all the misery the world reflects. This is the penalty for looking not within for certainty and quiet calm that liberates you from the world, and lets you stand apart, in quiet and in peace.

My world depends on something else than ordinary daily living. It depends on some infused spiritual reality such that this world is not really the only thing or even the most real thing. I am something different than the physical body. If I don\’t eat for one day, that validates the potentiality of another reality; something else besides ordinary reality. This morning, I was thinking that my years in a monastery did provide a reality non-ordinary. Re-calibration became possible. Every time I don\’t go along or don\’t participate in groups, I am shifting to the something else.

It happens every day that there is a challenge to my commitment to \”other\” reality. Some fear pops up because I have not gone-along with the rules of society. But really, it is getting less and less as time goes on.

I think the natural state of the human animal is to lay around eating and seeking pleasure. It takes a mental effort to go beyond subsistence and personal satisfaction. It takes an even greater effort to aspire to the spiritual reality and find some sense of its reality. Who really wants to go to any effort when you could just lay around the house eating and watching TV?

The entertainment industry provides littleness for the minds of those who watch its products. I refute littleness in favor of magnificence. Under or beyond our littleness is magnificence. I seek to shift there.

I stand by my spiritual stance, my spiritual seeking.

Spiritual Integration

If you come to a fork in the road, take it. I didn\’t make that up, but I like it.

I\’ve been reading a philosopher named Plotinus for 3 months now. He was a student of Plato in around 250 CE.

But my focus is necessarily on my own personal spiritual crisis: how do I connect with a higher power?

In Ennead 2.9.2, P discusses three parts of the Soul. One part standing high, in the presence of Beauty and The Divine Beings. One part concerned with this world. One part in the middle which is tugged higher and lower but never succumbs to the lowest. In this, I am instantly reminded of Freud. I have not studied Freud beyond some idea of ego, super ego and id; not knowing what Freud really meant.

From what is said, I will take in my own words. My soul can dwell in contemplation of the things above it and  \”establishing order by the marvelous efficacy of it contemplation…\” What the soul draws from the contemplation \”it communicates to the lower sphere, illuminated and illuminating always.\”

What I understand from that is the Course in Miracles explanation of \”the real world;\” or the AA Big Book discussion of \”the realm of the spirit;\” or even what Jesus said \”the kingdom of God is within.\” And so we know why I sit in silence, a bit withdrawn from the day to day world. It is to feel this soul above. So I want to direct my attention to the thing above, to gaze on the divine. Plotinus allows this to varying extents. To have a life that is spiritually directed, then I would contemplate higher things and allow divine order and illumination to come down of its own accord.

I still think that contemplation and establishing the order of my life from spirit rather than by my own plans and designs is best done with space between me and the general social order.

There is another call in my mentality, to more involvement in the world. If this call came to fruition, I\’d need to put greater effort into the contemplation despite the time needed to carry out any other worldly commissions. As of now, my only decision is I want God above all else. And I will gaze up in order to draw down.

This is the pearl of great price. I actually have it. But I still wonder what my daily life should be like. I still need money. I will still get old. I don\’t think middle class Americans, and I am one, are capable of saying \”enough.\” My dream is of a tiny cabin hermitage; but I don\’t think my brain would be able to stand it.

My brain won\’t stop competing unless I take charge of it. Like today, my ACIM Lesson is \”I am entitled to miracles.\” When I need to take charge of my brain, I think my lesson. The lesson reminds me of a spiritual picture of reality which I want.

Turn the Page 2013

It is the end of the year. Yesterday my wall looked like this:

Today it looks like this:

A blank wall. Turn the page. Let go of 2 years worth of racing. Let go of last year\’s 12 marathons and 4 half marathons. Let go of the DNS due to a March snow storm in Kansas. Let go of the DNSs due to surgery. Let go of the wasted air fares, entry fees, people not seen, miserable results.

I\’m starting a new position in my company in 2014. I have a new heel. I have a new philosopher to study.

I\’m almost 55 years old, just a few more days. My life should be past its mid-life crisis. You would think that I would have accepted everything. But this morning, the pondering carried on. Few dopamine rewards accrue to the solitary.

When I came into sobriety, I had to admit powerlessness and un-manageability over my life. In the monastery, the act of monastic profession was bound up with the idea of total self gift to God. I really wanted to make my total self gift and have it validated by the religious order and Church. Instead, I got kicked out, so no validation of my gift. This morning, reading Plotinus\’ Enneads, the idea of self disposal came up. Self disposal is true if there is no outside master or compulsion over the act; and it is inwards toward The Good. I realized that I have control over this. I can do it.

I return to my life. 55 years of some interesting events, some dopamine rewards in achievements, but no visible purpose. My ego got nothing but older. But I see that self disposal is true. I have been somewhat solitary for about 10 years. In my somewhat ordinary life, dopamine rewards thwarted by solitude, self disposal is possible. Total self gift becomes real in the surrender, in the admission of powerlessness, in the ongoing spiritual practice with no worldly rewards.

This Christmas, my ego got nothing. I got what I wanted.

Not This Not That

Just now, I hopped on my leg scooter and rolled out to the mail box. I don\’t go outside much these days so a trip to the mail box is a chance to pause and feel the sunshine. It is a beautiful morning. Houston has finally cooled off. I could hear birds. It was very peaceful. I know that others are out doing their miles. I am happy that this does not bug me. I am happy that I can be at peace.

During my convalescence, I have spent more time on spiritual study. I am continually integrating the concepts of the 3 traditions I am currently studying: A Course in Miracles, Conscious Contact (AA), Paul Brunton.  These three have the same foundational concepts but say it in very different ways; and my mind is integrating them. Monastic practices I learned in the monastery play a part in this integration, but they have to be separated from denominational Catholicism and Benedictine-ism.

I say \”Not this Not that\” because I realized this morning that I don\’t have to label myself in spiritual terms. I don\’t have to call my self a \”desert dweller\” \”hermit\” \”monk\” or anything. I get to just keep relating to Spirit and going where ever It leads. I don\’t have to prove anything to anybody. In fact, my current status as a handicapped person is an impoverishment in most people\’s eyes.

The good news is that we can have conscious contact with a power greater than ourselves and we don\’t need to leave our homes. We just need to devote ourselves to the quest; and we are guaranteed to succeed. What I want more than anything is the conscious contact, the living of the spiritual identity here and now; not in some ashram or convent or under some guru or after I die. Now.

It is always possible now.

This week I found out I am getting a raise at work. Logically, this baffles me because our company is having austerity, and because I am being transferred to another division so the people who applied for and pushed the raise are not the ones I\’ll be working for in a couple of months. But somehow, it was necessary for the Talent Management program to address my salary for the purpose of retention. I have to mix this occurrence with my metaphysics and accept that my thinking must have been changed by spiritual practice or the raise would not have happened. It is not the money but the recognition that reality is made of thoughts and my thoughts must have risen higher.

This week I am going to a Process Safety symposium. I am going as a semi-mobile person. It will be interesting how the accessibility goes and which people take an interest in me or not. I worry about stuff like what size of luggage to take and how to lug it around. How easy will it be to get in and out of the hotel. What will the shower be like? I am bringing plastic bags so I can wear my boot in the shower. It is doubtful that a bench will be available. What about the convention center? Can I access the plenary session? I am going to case the convention center the afternoon before.

By the way, my foot is doing fantastic. Now I just need to be patient and not stupid.

Easter 2013 Multi-Day

On Thursday, I got in 3 hours of workout plus strength.
On Friday, I got the private marathon done plus strength.
On Saturday, I did the half marathon plus elliptical plus strength.

Now it is Sunday. I\’m headed to the park for a long walk, plus additional cross training this evening.

Pretty decent 4 days of workout; a multi-day. Just for me. Part of the anti-dopamine project. Downward Mobility in the material world. Drinking the dregs of my personal energy.

But down in my guts, the one thing I always wanted was the spiritual connection. From the start, I observed strange religious behavior and I believed that those people knew God, or Jesus. I tried everything to achieve the reality.

I never made it.

Now that I am studying neuro philosophy/science (brain books), I can\’t claim that beliefs are based on anything other than warped survival instinct.

But study of A Course in Miracles does help me deal with my fear and have happy days. So do endorphins. But I don\’t know more than that.

I hope some day I have the spiritual connection. It is the hope and dream of a lifetime; which is slowly and depressingly eroding.

I think I\’ll go buy something.

Yes My Soul Yes

It is better to have tried to climb the mountain. There is nothing to think about. No carrot and stick reward systems. The soul can be found; even with the rudimentary spiritual tools available to American suburbanites. These will be refined with consistent use. The main thing is to stay on the path. Don\’t go to an Ashram for life. Go to work. Listen. The soul will come.

It is not a quest for the most marathons, or 100 miles in one race or money. It is self transcendence, which could look like anything.

I am but dust, and to dust I will return. Mental asceticism is for now. I will just walk this weekend.

Character Necessities:

  • cognitive restraint
  • situational consistency
  • remorselessly critical
  • Prime interest
  • mental asceticism
  • dimensions

Spiritual tools: silence, listening, ego deflation.

I sang this while running on Sunday (Peter Paul and Mary?):

How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

A curious thing happened this week. I had my annual review and all is great. As a technical professional, one doesn\’t expect advancement, but a happy career performing a function. So, I have that where I am. But, after the review, I went back to my office and received a phone call from a person I know in another division of the company. They asked if I would consider a new posting in that division.

I wondered what this meant as a result of my spiritual work. But I had mostly forgotten it on Friday. Today, I wonder if the white bird has landed or if she will sail again.

For now, its off to walk in the park.

Listening To The Call

Long ago, I went to university, a school of engineering, and I became and engineer. Then, years later, I desired to shamelessly follow Jesus and live a life of prayer. I entered a Benedictine monastery, a school for the Lord\’s service. The monastery gave me tools of contemplation and prayer. These tools have stuck with me just as much as engineering. I didn\’t stay at the Benedictine school to teach. I finished my novitiate and moved on to be a journeyman of sorts.

After a strange and sudden ejection from the monastery, I re-entered secular life. I spent a couple of years as a Roman Catholic. During this time, I realized that the Church was not an institution I could support with my personal moral fibers. I also came to believe that denominational Christianity was doing very little in helping people realize their true Christ nature. No one was \”doing the things he did.\”

I continued to investigate various ideas: meditation, raw foods, fasting, Essenes, hermits; and eventually A Course in Miracles. Somehow, this Course has became my area of spiritual specialization post graduating from the school for the Lord\’s service.

I have spent a great deal of time being upset that 4 years of monastic life divorced me from society. I simply can\’t join with the normal societal flow of eating and drinking and watching TV and gabbing away about nothing. But it is also true that I can only hear one voice at a time. If I want to hear The Voice for God, then I must stop listening to the voice of the world.

This does not at all mean I hate the other people. I just can\’t participate in their world. I can look with the Christ Vision given by the Voice for God; and accept its peace at any time. This practice is what I am doing out here. When I look with Christ vision, I am projecting peace; and this is all The Spirit asks of me.

Inspired by Chapter 31.I of the ACIM text:
Hear not the call for pain within yourself.
But listen rather to the deeper call
of love which asks in quiet for peace and love.
And all the world will give you peace and joy.

2012 has turned to 2013.
I am about to turn from 53 to 54.
I run another mile. I drive another mile.
I work another day. Another dollar is deposited into my account.

In spiritual dollars, I am rich. That is enough for me.

Not as the World Gives….

….do I give unto you.

Our company has a \”women\’s initiative\” asking for 30% of level 2 management be female by some date. Here in the plant, that\’s impossible since there are so few women who work here to begin with. But because of said initiative, I was invited to a focus group this week. And after work last night, I chatted with one of the other ladies involved with the focus group. This discussion added to the fact I didn\’t get promoted earlier this year because I\’m currently the only who can do what I do at this plant. And add in that I have applied for 2 more job transfers to other locations which would also be promotions.

Add these occurrences and I realize that I am mentally provoked. My brain keeps looking at the male corporate hierarchy and wondering how on earth certain individuals make it to the top. Or fuming about guys who have failed but continued to be employed and highly paid but shuffled to lower jobs; where I, outstanding performer, don\’t get that money.

They say around Missouri, \”the only fair is in Sedalia.\”

When I go home in the evening however, I remember spirituality. Spirituality, whether it is a false reliance on platitudes or not, does bring relief from mental haranguing. Remembering spirit, I seem to remember other values beside corporate power and salary competitions. And I find myself filled with peace and gratitude.

Yesterday eve, I put my ear plugs in my ears and worked my Nordic Track for an hour. I closed my eyes and found the Bible speaking to me: Not as the world gives do I give unto you, Be still and know, I am the bread of life, Into thy hands I commend my spirit.

The workout goes much faster when I go blind and deaf than when I have the radio on NPR. Listening to NPR is like listening to commercials for the poor and downtrodden. I find myself somewhat angry at the subtle guilt and anger producing presentations. Blind and deaf, I retreat into my inner world and leave the outer world. Right or wrong, this retreat brings peace and mental quiet.

When I got kicked out of the monastery, I felt strongly that it was to be a monk in the world. Since then, my ideas about God have undergone huge de-construction. I continue to struggle with vocation versus career. I find myself completely unable to communicate with others about spiritual topics or practices. I find myself judged for drinking coffee or putting salt on food or having a cookie. I continue to abhor alcohol and meat-eating as spiritual (or actual) poisons and spiritual death. I don\’t try to explain but get criticized for not joining work groups when they go out for drinks and dinner.

Additionally: we are so conditioned to think money and power are the best if not only rewards. What we are trained to think of a rewarding is usually material in nature. Seeking rewards from higher notions of character is not that easy.

I cannot prove there is a God, or that my relationship to a higher consciousness is true. It could just be brain chemistry. But I return to the spiritual practice since I\’d otherwise have to kill myself. Selah!

The Business of Enlightenment

Today I am traveling to Chapel Hill, NC, for the kickoff dinner and meetings of my company\’s Passport Leadership Program. The two days seem like the antithesis of monastic perfection: staying at the elegant Carolina Inn, being wined and dined, brushing shoulders with executives, being driven around in limos, listening to career planning talks.

All situations can be used by the inner divine self for detachment from the ego and identification with the inner. It is consistent between A Course in Miracles, Paul Brunton, science, what Jesus said, what Buddha said: this world is an illusion and I am not my ego. My spiritual life is about detachment from ego so I can identify with the inner divine self. My priority is spiritual listening and learning, not necessarily corporate promotion.

The shortest spiritual program is this: Silence in the mind, bringing my thoughts to The Spirit, continuously deflating my ego, dependence on God.