Spirit that can be spoken is not the eternal Spirit
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonders
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders…
Adapted from the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Spirit is beyond words.
Is the word “Moon” really the large rock that orbits earth and casts a light at light reflecting the suns rays for the night dweller to have light to walk by? I would say, “yes in the brain” but “no in reality.” Words start in our little brains and emerge as vocal vibrations. I believe that the words, “Allah,” “God,” “Krishna,” “Nature,” etc. are all pointing to the true Spirit. This morning, I am in deep contemplation on the Taoist idea of Yin and Yang (image from here). Based upon constructive feedback from a good friend on my last post, I meditated on the meaning of the adaptation of the Qur’anic verse 13:12 where the word “Allah” is replaced with “Spirit”:
It is Spirit who shows you lightening,
[causing] fear and aspiration,
and generates heavy clouds, …
Spirit is absolutely pure love. Spirit is pure, infinite Love. Love as expansive as the entire universe, known and unknown. Love as fine as the single quantum mechanical particle in each atom in our bodies. In this, we agree 110%. However, there is the age old questions:
If Spirit is absolutely Love, why is there suffering, war, and evil?
One might go onto ask:
Such questions have been asked for as long and humans have been contemplating the nature of Being. My close friend believes that, “if we really KNOW that Spirit is Love and is incapable of hurting us, there can be no sin, sickness, and death. All that is illusion. We may pass through in a body, but all of it is illusion. Therefore if we really know this, then nothing can harm us even while in a body.” I agree 110% as a person who has studied the Abrahamic traditions, Hinduism, and other dualistic world religions. If I am interpreting the statement correctly, in Western philosophy such a statement falls in line with a long held believe philosophy of Mind, dualism, that can be traced back to such thinkers as Plato and Descartes.
I understand this perspective and have absolutely faith in Spirit as Love. A dualistic perspective is perhaps the most valuable way to view the world when words such as “Spirit” and all her incarnations are used in discourse. In world religions, such a perspective is pervasive. In the following seven poem-drawings Raven and I use the word “Spirit” in this way. However, as a modern scientist many of my peers in the scientific community deny that Cartesian/Platonic dualism is a valid framework given what we know about the nature of reality. For many years, this environment drove me away from a dualistic understanding of Spirit such as found in the Abrahamic traditions. I am not the only one. Leo Tolstoy faced the same opposition as he states in chapter 1 of The Gospel in Brief with regards to Christianity:
“I regard Christianity neither as an inclusive divine revelation nor as an historical phenomenon, but as a teaching which-gives us the meaning of life. I was led to Christianity neither by theological nor historical investigations but by this-that when I was fifty years old, having asked myself and all the learned men around me what I am and what is the meaning of my life, and received the answer that I am a fortuitous concatenation of atoms and that life has no meaning but is itself an evil, I fell into despair and wanted to put an end to my life; but remembered that formerly in childhood when I believed, life had a meaning for me, and that for the great mass of men about me who believe and are not corrupted by riches life has a meaning; and I doubted the validity of the reply given me by the learned men of my circle and I tried to understand the reply Christianity gives to those who live a real life. And I began to seek Christianity in the Christian teaching that guides such men’s lives. I began to study the Christianity which I saw applied in life and to compare that applied Christianity with its source.”
This quote really resonates with me. To Tolstoy, what was the secret to living a life by Spirit was praxis. Live out the gospel, do not proclaim it. Let your actions be an expression of your love of Spirit, not words. It is this perspective that I embrace. Some days that I wake up dualistic perspectives fall short of describing reality for me. In moments of clairity, Being is beyond words and simply is. Even the word “Spirit” fails to capture my experience of living. It is this perspective that explains the appeal of Zen Buddhism and Taoism to me. Having lived in the Cambridge Zen Center in 2010, I have been exposed to the very basics of Korean Zen. Seung Sahn Haeng Won Dae Soen-sa the seventy-eighth Patriarch in his lineage came to Providence, Rhode Island and worked in a laundry mat. There started teaching bowing, chanting, and sitting to a bunch of hippies from Brown University. The idea is that True Enlightenment into the Nature of Spirit is only passed Mind to Mind, brain to brain. While I was at the Zen Center, I did not get it. It was too hard, but the following experience that I recorded on my Facebook page in a note was the start a gradual walk with Spirit:
“The First Time I Served as the Head Dharma Teacher at the Cambridge Zen Center
“The Whole World is a Single Flower” Koan 268.
The first time I served as Head Dharma Teacher at the Cambridge Zen Center.
I read the following Koan from the book entitled “The Whole World is a Single Flower” by Zen Master Seung Sahn:
“The Being of Non-being
Return is the movement of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
All things are born of being.Being is born of non-being.
1. “Yielding is the way of the Tao.” What does this mean?
2. “Being is born of non-being.” What does this mean?
COMMENTARY: The earth goes around the sun. The moon goes around the earth. The stars are always shining in the sky, but at night they are bright while during the daytime they cannot be seen.”
For convenience stake, I now replace the word “Tao” with “Spirit.” There is no easy answer to the questions about where evil, suffering, and war comes from. However, I trust my friend’s faith position and want to test it out for myself. Thus, the Appalachian Trail hike that I am planning on starting 3/1/2015. I created the following seven poems laid out in a particular order with Raven’s stunning art on the right of each panel. These seven poems serve to represent the idea that philosophical arguments can guide a pilgrim’s steps. People who negate the value of the arts do not understand that they are vital to our experience of Life. The arts, poetry and drawing in particular at this present moment for me, are the key to evolving in a life with Spirit. These seven poem drawings represent the evolution of a walk with Spirit through my life so far. The rest of the book remains to be written on the trail. Walking with Spirit in the woods, one step at a time is how I will live out a prayer in the next few months.
Here is a .pdf of the manuscript as it exists currently:
InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.