Friday, January 29, 2010

An Assemblage of Separate Things: Part 1 - I Don't Know

"We feel that this world is indeed an assemblage of separate things that have somehow come together or, perhaps, fallen apart, and that we are each only one of them. We see them all alone-born alone, dying alone-maybe as bits and fragments of a universal whole, or expandable parts of a big machine."

The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, by Alan Watts. pg.35

When and where does this feeling of separation originate? Or is that the wrong question to ask. We may guess that it arose at the traumatic moment of birth when we are torn away from the comforting womb of our mothers, or even that our sense of separateness developed at a young age. Are we raised to believe we are separate by others who've also been taught the same thing by their parents? How then do we break the chain of illusion and embrace that lost connection of unity?

Growing up in the church one constantly hears about the urgent need to develop a long lasting and strong relationship with Jesus Christ. But we were also told that because of our sinful nature the Divine will always be transcendentally unreachable. Since we are unable to reach towards the eternal, the eternal must then reach down to us. Within Christianity, the bridge between the created and the creator manifested itself as Jesus Christ. It is then through the sacrificial act of Jesus that once again bridged the mortal and the Divine. For many, Christians are united in one body with the Divine. This is all well and good for Christians, but then, which expression of Christianity has it right, or worse, what about everyone else? If God and man alike are desperately trying to reconnect with each other would it not hinder the cause by having one exclusive path to reconnection?

On Thursday during my American Spirituality class we spoke and debated on the concept of "I" and how we regard our identity within an interconnected universe. One of our textbooks for the class happens to be The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts which I have found incredibly intriguing. Alan Watts makes clear that when he speaks of the "I" it is not the same as Freud's structural model of the psyche but how we individually define as "I" when we speak of ourselves. He begins chapter three with an intriguing question: "for what specific sensation do they (us) use the word 'I'?" This is something most of us don't usually give much thought to and simply reduce it to proper grammar ("I have a body" vs. "I am a body"). For example when we point to ourselves saying, in a sense, "this is the real me" we don't point to an ear, toe, or kidney. We tend to point towards our chest or head. Yet if we were to open up the human body we would not see anything that resembles a collective of various elements that make up our "I", just human tissue. Also, the "I" is in a constant state of flux, the "I" of today is completely different from the "I" of yesterday. To give a more personal example, there are those who've stated that I've changed and are clueless as to who "I am" solely based on my change of beliefs. I don't feel any different, nor does my inner-self feel any different since I started my present spiritual journey. But "I" have changed although I Feel the same, but what is it that I am actually feeling and is this feeling a separate element from my "I"?

Questions within questions! And down the rabbit hole my classmates and I went. I understood the concept and theory but what do we make of what it means? A few of my classmates spiraled into a defense of Christianity which brings up my initial musing on the separateness of the sacred and the non-sacred: why are we so bound to erect borders between God and man? Is it our high ideals and descriptions of God? Is it our horrid human nature? Do we need something Good (if one defines God as good) in our lives to balance out the Evil of humanity? What do we fear by questioning these boundaries? The best I can summarize my thoughts after Thursday's class is "I" don't know.

An edited and extended version of this post is up on my class blog, American Spirituality, where my classmates and I will be posting our thoughts on our class readings.


Don said...

I would recommend "The Eye of the I", by Dr. David Hawkins. I believe you will really like it.You would probably find "The Moses Code", by James F. Twyman, especially interesting.

Sydnii said...

This post made me think of the scene in "What Dreams May Come" where Chris is at the bottom of the lake and Albert is trying to explain to him that he can walk on the water. "If you lose your leg or your arm, aren't you still you?"

Sabio Lantz said...

I agree and think that an understanding of self ("I") is essential to understanding all our interactions. I wrote a short piece called "No Self, Many-Self" to illustrate how I view this fluxing self. I use this model in understanding religious dialogue too -- or I try to.

I think orthodox notions of survival of some self as either a soul or resurrected new self in Christianity are both significantly different that Watt's view. But ironically, I think it takes strength of self (selves) to let go of the boundaries and understand no self. (hmmm, too abstract, eh?)

Interesting blog -- it was fun visiting. Are you in seminary? Where? (didn't see it in your info)

Unknown said...

"I think orthodox notions of survival of some self as either a soul or resurrected new self in Christianity are both significantly different than Watt's view."

Sabio- This is what I noticed in class when a few of my classmates were so bound to defend their belief system (or I should say our belief system since Christianity is my background). I understand and accept that this life may be it, but man's fear of any form of conclusion is so overwhelming that we must build a reality which comforts us into believing that it's not the end (and I could very well be wrong). And any attack on the system (including attacks on the creator of the system, God, the church, etc) is so blindly resisted that we at times end up causing the very things we strive to avoid, suffering and death. I can grasp the idea of no self but I find it difficult to hold onto and eventually ends up in a headache. (I think Watts uses the imagery of trying to wrap up and mail water, in "The Wisdom of Insecurity")

No, I'm not in seminary although at times I've considered it. I'm currently finishing my Audio Engineering Major at MTSU with a Religious Studies Minor. Thanks for stopping by!

libramoon said...

I hope you don't mind that I posted this and
You Must Believe: Part 1- Hear No Evil
to the Seers and Seekers Yahoo Group

You are invited to help to form what we continue to become:

Unknown said...

Libramoon- Thanks for visiting. I don't mind at all and I thoroughly enjoy dialoging and discussing with others.

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