It's been a number of weeks since I've been to the canyon beyond town. Driving the last two miles of gravel road and parking near the gate yesterday afternoon, my heart sank. The recent fire has blackened the entire south side of canyon.
With so many huge fires in the area, the 1000-acre fire here barely registered in the news. It did receive a name however, the Stoney Fire, after the volcanic rocks where it started.
I stared across at the charred side of the gorge. The bare meadow, the burnt, brown-leafed oaks, and the charred cliff-face were hard to remain with.
Besides sadness, I felt a sense of urgency. Climate change is now in everyone's backyard, and yet the inadequacy of response is palpable. On the hike, I coincidentally (or not) crossed paths with a couple from North Carolina, which was being battered by a huge hurricane as we spoke.
Humans don't do well with scale, at least where the man-made world is concerned. On the other hand, given all the tremendous discoveries astronomers are making, many people are looking to the stars. Unless the universe becomes a mirror for us however, that's merely another form of escape.
In my last column, I tentatively proposed that the intrinsic intent of the universe is to randomly evolve brains capable of communion with the cosmic mind.
Let's come at it from the other side, so to speak---in terms of the universe rather than brains such as ours, with the capacity for highest awareness. The question becomes: Is the universe in a state of meditation?
What would that mean? It would mean that consciousness is not something that emerges from between the skull bones of potentially sapient species like Homo sapiens. It would mean consciousness is the essence of the universe, and all energy and matter is infused with it.
Since the Big Bang, the evolution of black holes, stars, planets, life and consciousness is a series of thresholds unfolding through random but directional processes. Are there universal laws that apply to the emergence of cosmic consciousness in sentient creatures? I feel so.
The universe didn't just begin 13.7 billion years ago with the Big Bang and is winding down like some quadrillion-year clock. The universe is in a state of eternal beginning. There is no becoming and there is no arrival; there is only perpetual beginning.
Even so, the emergence of consciousness in sentient, potentially sapient creatures is obviously a perilous phenomenon, full of trial and mostly error, and fraught with the danger of things going disastrously wrong, as they presently are on Earth.
Indeed, it's fair to ask, are we devolving in our age from sentient, rudimentarily self-aware creatures of ancient times to pre-human levels of awareness? In America we don't have sacred cows, but it often seems that our sacred dogs are overtaking us.
So if the universe is in a state of meditation, why is it so hard for the human brain to be?
For meditation to occur, the meditator has to end. Can one have sufficient insight to see that the thinker is inseparable from the movement of thought as a totality? Then, as one simply observes the movement of thought in its entirety, attention gathers without effort or direction and the mind-as-thought falls silent.
What happens in a deeper meditative state is that time, which is essentially the continuity of thought, spontaneously ends. Then the brain as a whole is in a state of meditation.
To the degree that there is no 'me'---that is, no movement of images, memories, associations or words---there is simply pure awareness. Therefore when the brain is in a true state of meditation, it's is in the same state of meditation as the universe!
So is God simply the awareness of the universe beyond the human mind, which potentially includes the human brain?
Negation of thought in attention opens the brain to communion with the intelligence that permeates the cosmos. That's not a personal thing, or even an individual phenomenon.
It's a potential in the human brain itself, a capacity locked within each one of us to some degree. Although numbed-out, darkness-saturated people have to come back from the dead to awaken it.
Perhaps it has taken the increasing and now overwhelming noise of the world, which is the expression of the noise of the human mind, to awaken a deep urge and urgency for stillness and silence.
Be that as it may, until the old consciousness catches fire, man will continue to burn up and inundate the Earth. And in direct proportion, ourselves.
Photo by Martin LeFevre
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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