Editor’s Note: This item was originally posted one year ago, in January 2001. Now, re-reading it, Nancy has added the following.
Recently we “celebrated” (if that’s the word) the first year anniversary of the death of our sweet German shepherd dog. Re-reading this entry that I posted at that time, I was moved all over again by the poem that graciously crossed my desk in those dark days, and so I am re-posting it again. It is an exquisite poem … what more can I say?
When our beloved dog died, the loss was devastating, and the grief intense. Here was a life with shining eyes, and moving limbs, stilled, gone forever. It was a heart rending moment.
When her ashes were given to us, to do with what we considered appropriate to her memory, I held the little box in my hands, and felt the weight which seemed surprisingly heavy for a small 4” x 4” box of grey ashes. Then, suddenly, suddenly, without warning, it was apparent to me in brilliant clarity, what a body is, what life is, what God is.
I have tried without success to put it into words. But today, in a serendipitous moment, I came across a poem, “This Quiet Dust”, by John Hall Wheelock. He says it exactly as I would wish to say it. There is no doubt in my mind that he too saw with the same clarity at his moment, the truth of living and dying.
Here in my curving hands I cup
The quiet dust. I lift it up.
Here is the mother of all thought;
Of this the shining heavens are wrought,
The laughing lips, the feet that rove,
The face, the body that you love:
Mere dust, no more, yet nothing less,
And this has suffered consciousness,
Passion and terror, this again
Shall suffer passion, death, and pain.
For, as all flesh must die, so all,
Now dust, shall live. ’Tis natural,
Yet hardly do I understand
Here in the hollow of my hand
A bit of God Himself I keep,
Between two vigils fallen asleep.
Recently, a TZF visitor sent us a thoughtful letter that prompted an equally thoughtful response from Nancy. Here is the letter, followed by Nancy’s reaction.
”Doing a web search of ego-centric universe, I came across one of your articles in which you say that you knew God through or as your me.
”This is an interesting approach to the notion of a personal god (if that’s your point), with my question being: Have you ever thought about the Ten Commandment that says (capitalization and paraphrasing mine), Thou shalt have no other God before ME?
”Also, throughout the New Testament, Jesus is said to have made references to himself in the first person, such as (again, my paraphrasing and capitalization), Blessed are the children who come unto ME … No man shall gain the kingdom of God but through ME … Come unto ME all ye … and so on.
”Is this possibly an esoteric pointer to the real nature of God?
”My point here is, Does the possibility exist that there is only ONE me, and each one of us thinks we’re IT?
”What better way could God know us and our activities than to be that aspect of ourselves we have traditionally referred to as “me”?
”Would that not be a constructive attitude toward the idea of ego-centricity?
First, in my reference to “me” knowing God, I meant that I know God via my consciousness. In this sense, my “me” would encompass my consciousness, and more than likely, nothing else. We all know everything, including God, through our consciousness, obviously. It is with this understanding that the term “me” was used. Ultimately, my position is that in reality there is no separate “me”, but only God, and “me” is a construct or process by which God allows himself to know himself, and which includes me, and everything and everybody else as well. This applies, of course, to all sentient beings, not just to “me”. Indeed, this applies to EVERYTHING, and ultimately, EVERYTHING is an expression of God as consciousness.
With that in mind, however, there is undoubtedly merit to considering the use of the “me” of the individual ego as a kind of vehicle for God’s own knowledge of his creation, which does not fly in the face of the above position, but is instead an expression of that very position in the manifest world, I think, and the Bible’s frequent use of the word “me” when quoting Jesus and God no doubt is no accident, and probably indicative of this concept.
It goes without saying that any biblical or theological book has been written with due consideration to the esoteric and exoteric meaning of the choice of words throughout, and in particular, with respect to the words uttered by God or by an incarnation of God such as Jesus. Thus, the use of the word “me” cannot be an accident, and certainly is relevant from an esoteric point of view. Indeed, it supports the ultimate statement in the Bible when Moses asks God who it is that is speaking to him, and God replies “I am that I am”. If one struggles with that statement and searches for the I that is I Am, he or she will find it within.
Thus, from this perspective, the “me” of the individual may be more than the simple ego-centric “me” that we think it is ’ useful for survival and self-interest ’ at least within a spiritual context, and in this particular instance, within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic perspective. (Of course, the caveat “within a spiritual context” is crucial to a proper understanding of this point, and a protection from tragic misuse of the function of “me” within the individual human being, I think.)
If one approaches this idea, and attempts to integrate it within the eastern religious perspective which encourages the diminishment of that ego in favor of a kind of God Realization or God vision (which, from my own understanding, implies the ability of an individual to see his world from a more transcendent, and less individualistic point of view) then, perhaps, reference to the “me” of the spiritual aspirant might be useful as a kind of pointer to God’s own point of view, at any point in time, “within” that individual. At the same time, at any point in time, the spiritual seeker could then use that “me” not only to determine where God resides (as Jesus) states, “within”), but also to what extent our “me” embraces God consciousness. In other words, it becomes a kind of litmus test as to where we are, who we are, and what our state of consciousness is.
Now, while this may initially appear to be obvious ’ our understanding of the “me” within me indicates and expresses who I am at any moment in time ’ it takes on a more esoteric and important position with respect to one’s own evolution or consciousness if one embraces the concept that God within is “me”. Indeed, in this case, the behavior and disposition of “me” determines not only my relationship to God, but my entire universe for that matter, if one accepts the concept that our consciousness determines our reality, quite literally, and that God within is expressed as “me”.
It also sets up an intimate relationship between the “me” of the individual and one’s God. It indicates how close one is, or how far one is, from union with God and an internalization of all that God stands for and demands of us. Reference to the “me”, and how it reacts, thinks, presumes, and ruminates, will indicate, at any moment, our stage along the spiritual path. In this instance, it no longer becomes esoteric, but becomes instead very obvious. If my “me” is spending most of its time in anger, or hankering after stuff and nonsense, then my “God” within is buried under all of that as well. (After all, God is only real to us to the extent that we can consciously know him, “conceive” of him. And that knowing is determined by the consciousness of the individual or his “me”, no?)
With all that said, the embracing of “me” or “I” as indicative of the presence of God, under whatever religious language or paradigm or tradition we may find ourselves, is a fine line, and can be a dangerous presumption to the young spiritual seeker, or even the mature one, for that matter. It seems to me that there is no getting around a personal God external to us, whether or not he resides within or without, so long as an individual has a separate and distinct ego which he or she considers to be limited by the very fact of his or her existence as a body/mind. If we do not acknowledge this individually, we risk the real possibility of falling into the trap of megalomania, or extreme narcissism. (It is too easy to mask a small limited, separated ego with our “idea” or concept of God and all that entails.) Indeed, it is probably the reason for the great emphasis, and in some cases fear, of what is called Satan in some traditions and the “ego” in other disciplines. We have good reason to alert ourselves to this potential mutiny or usurping of consciousness, whether within or without, since it may destroy all hope of truly understanding or knowing the benevolent God for each of us, much less of attaining peace, or of allowing God to work through us, or indeed, of ever submitting our small petty and separate ego to a benevolent, infinite force of love, which in turn, allows us to begin to know God, as I see it.
However, on the flip side, in order to “know” God there must be something or someone who knows it; if there is not “me”, or no delineated “I” to know or understand, then, the ability to know God is lost. So, as usual, it is a tightrope we walk when it comes to spiritual work and wisdom. The more we know, the more we realize our source and therefore, divinity, but the more we know, the more we must understand our present limitations and position within the hierarchy, so long as we consider ourselves as individuals. This is of course, a paradox, as all esoterica is. We begin to know ourselves as something all inclusive, while at the same time we know ourselves to be separated, and individual. It is when the latter is subsumed by the former that the dance is finished. But here, again, who is left then to know anything?
Therefore, as we progress, I believe we need to monitor closely who it is that considers itself to be “me”, and who it is in fact that is “me”. If we monitor it, however, it becomes obvious, I think. Thus, if one can remember to do so, it might be wise when using the “me” in this way, to approach it from an all inclusive, or perhaps more transcendent perspective, to the extent that we can. I suppose in the long run, it always depends upon WHO is saying whatever it is that is said, doesn’t it?
Finally, regarding does “the possibility exist that there is only ONE me, and each one of us think we’re IT?” I would suggest that the answer to this question is yes, and more than likely explains our ego-centric predisposition, from an esoteric point of view. (As above, so below.) But again, if you look at the statement closely, EVERYTHING depends upon who it is within “each one of us” that “thinks” it’s IT. I would also suggest that one have a clear understanding of what the term “me” entails as well as what we mean by the term “think”. If that “me” believes and behaves, and is conditioned to think that it is limited, etc., then its understanding and knowledge of God will reflect that. If, on the other hand, the “me” that “thinks” the thought, is mostly unlimited, etc., then that too will be reflected. I would suggest that the majority of us fall into the former conditioned “me”, which explains most of the misery and suffering we experience, and therefore the work required to “escape”, transform, or transcend that conditioned “me.”
With this in mind, if you take it one more step, then you come away amazed and awed at the genius and Grace of the Creator. EVERYTHING, literally, EVERYTHING, therefore, in each life is reflective and appropriate and manifests according to that consciousness, whether limited or unlimited, depending upon the state of the consciousness being manifest through each individual. God stacked the cards in his favor, and we, as his reflection, reflect that as well, if we will but understand it. (Even if we don’t, the rule still exists … or does it?!) Of course, if “each one of us” thinks “we’re IT”, and thinks nobody ELSE is IT, then we find a consciousness that is limited very tightly by its own limitations, and thus, from my own perspective, is nowhere near an understanding or knowledge of God and its limitless divinity. However, that said, his universe WILL reflect that very tight consciousness ’ so, then, I cannot even make that call, can I?
Here is a portion of a great letter we received from a friend of TZF. Part of Nancy’s response follows.
”This notion of God or Consciousness alone existing, let’s take it a step further. Is God, Totality, Consciousness, This Which Alone IS, whatever one wishes to call it, is ‘it’ a thing? Is it a concept or object? Of course, the answer is, no. It could be said that it is All things and No particular thing. Truly inconceivable. The point here being that ‘no thing is’ is the only ultimate understanding, and that any word, concept, idea, apparent thing, is yet another attempt to divide this which is whole and cannot be divided. Nor can it be named or described. Only perhaps laid bare, pointed at and intuitively understood. God alone is is a positive teaching that merges the apparent many or separateness into One (but there’s not a thing for that ‘One’ to be). No thing is is a negative indicator that negates all existence, including it’s own.”
And part of Nancy’s response:
What can I say? You are exactly right.
The genius of your paragraph is that you cut away all the fluff, dangles and bells, and with those few words, you say it all.
In essence, your paragraph effectively stops the inner dialogue of the mind, and creates a point from which to leap into the space of “no-mind”. Most folks are frightened by the concept of “no-mind” and a state of silence, which, if one follows your paragraph to its conclusion, is inevitable. Certainly, there was a time when the very idea terrified me. Now, in retrospect, I see that the “me” that was terrified by it was also the very obstruction to experiencing it (fancy that?!), because the “me” was mind with all its concepts, differentiations, etc. That “me” of course is vitally important if one considers oneself to be that “me” and nothing further. Indeed, that “me” depends upon itself to continue its existence, no?
This brings up another interesting perspective — If something exists only because it believes it exists, and its belief in its existence is dependent upon its continuing existence, we have a closed circle, which depends entirely on its own assumptions, whether or not they have any reality beyond themselves, and a tape loop, which replays itself over and over again indefinitely.
This of course explains the process of manifestation, both from the limited capacities of the separative self, and the infinite capacities of God, the One, or the Creative Force. So, in sum, may the Force be with you — or is it, may the Force be you!