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Metaphysical Musings

Calvin: "This whole Santa Clause thing just doesn't make any sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists, why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn't exist, what's the meaning of all this?"

Hobbes: "I dunno... isn't this a religious holiday?"

Calvin: "Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God."

From Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes collection, 'Yukon Ho!'

There is a fundamental phenomenon, discussed as Reflection in this book, at work in the Universe that is evident in all of our lives all of the time, yet because it conflicts with common sense and often directly threatens our self images we have difficulty seeing it and accepting it. Still, we are, as were the generations before us, compelled to try to reconcile its intuitive truth with what our senses and feelings tell us. The result is the myriad of religious, philosophic, and psychological teachings in the world today.

At best these teachings, including this one, can only partially succeed for the same reasons it is difficult to see and accept Reflection. First, the teaching tries to somehow reconcile it with common sense, and second, the teaching is written by a human with a self image to protect. Yet, at the core of all these works is the same sense of that difficult-to-describe something, that fundamental phenomenon. What differs from teaching to teaching is the packaging, which reflects the perspectives and needs of those doing the packaging.

The core idea shows up as God in religions, mystical forces in many philosophies, and the subconscious mind in psychology. All of these are attempts to describe the indescribable. This book is no different, it is just another description of the same phenomenon.

The approach taken with Reflection is to attempt to isolate just the core idea as it appears to us humans. This serves two purposes. One is to provide an intellectual tool for better understanding our lives. The other is to provide a fresh perspective that can be used to better understand existing teachings, helping to focus on those parts of the teaching related to the core idea as opposed to those parts that are more cultural.

The line between the spiritual and cultural is not clearly drawn in Western religion. For example, the Old Testament of the Bible is full of beautiful teachings aimed right at the core, as well as being filled with the culture of the day. The story of God providing manna from heaven for the Israelites in the wilderness is a story of the core truth of God meeting our needs. The Biblical laws specifying what types of animals and grains can be used for offerings and how to prepare them come from the culture of the day.

The confusion about which parts of a teaching are sacred and which are not that leads to the many warring religious factions we have today. The ancient Chinese better separated these two distinct aspects of wisdom and followed different teachings for each. Taoism was concerned with the core truth; Confucianism was concerned with the practicalities of living. They saw the two as complementary teachings.

In recent history, the more mystical side of religious teachings has often been de-emphasized in favor of the more pragmatic aspects of how to live a good life. This is in a large degree due to the advance of science. As science became a more powerful influence in our thinking, the illogical, mystical aspects of religion began to look more like primitive superstitions. Many religions and religious individuals reacted by gradually demystifying religion to the point where the links to the magic were no longer very strong.

But people are still intuitively aware of the mystical aspects of life and continue to search for answers. This is why many of a spiritual bent have turned to Eastern or Western fundamentalist religions, or become involved in New Age philosophies. Those with a more scientific bent have looked for the same answers in scientific sounding psychology.

No matter what your religious or philosophic leanings, Reflection is a tool for taking a very personal path towards the core truth. As such, it does not replace other teachings, but allows one to view those teachings from a different perspective.

I have found today that the vocabularies of religion and psychology address Reflection at different levels. Religion gives us the words to talk about God and the larger oneness of everything implied by Reflection, but religion is semantically weak for digging into the grimy ways we relate to our day-to-day realities. Psychology, on the other hand, gives us the words to talk about the day-to-day effects of Reflection, down to details of slips of the tongue and nervous habits, but is semantically weak when dealing with the full 100-100 responsibility of Reflection.

Some religions, such as Hinduism, do have terms for dealing with the details of Reflection, and some psychologists, starting with Jung, have wrestled with the larger web of acausal connections between us all.

Both religion and psychology have similar goals, which in terms of Reflection can be described as trying to bring the inner and outer selves more in harmony.

In religion, the inner self is God working through us, and the seekers of the spiritual path try to listen to and understand God's will. They reach a point of understanding that their works are not their own, but the work of God through them.

In psychology the inner self is the subconscious mind, and psychotherapy helps to understand the subconscious and bring it more into the conscious mind. Therapy also aims to help people find what they really want, or need in life, and help them move in a direction that will satisfy those needs.

Reflection does not run counter to any of these other ways of searching for truth. Whether you look for truth in fundamental religion, psychology or new age philosophy, Reflection is simply a tool for gaining clearer insights. Many of the ideas of Reflection overlap perfectly with ideas from these other disciplines, only the means of expression are different. To be sure there are some real differences, such as with the strong cause-and-effect component of psychology, but there are far more similarities. The following sections point out some of the more obvious connections between Reflection and religion.

Linking Reflection with the Western idea of God sheds fresh light on many theological issues. To begin with, think of God as the force behind Reflection, or that Reflection is a manifestation of God—it is how we know God exists. This gives a single idea of God, that is, God of the Jews and thus God of the Christians and thus Allah of Islam.

For all of the reasons Reflection is difficult to come to grips with, this idea of God is difficult to come to grips with. Further, the difficulties with understanding this God are the same as the difficulties most people have with more conventional ideas of God.

This God is difficult to approach because this God is about our inner-most selves and our connection to all around us. Because this is a place we would rather avoid, the spiritual quest is difficult and the way is cloudy. Further, because our leaders on the spiritual path are all ordinary people like ourselves, with common sense to reconcile and self images to protect, they obscure the path as often as they illuminate it.

This God is both fearsome and benevolent, providing not what we want, but filling perfectly our innermost needs. The filling of needs makes God seem perfectly benevolent when our needs are in harmony with our wants, but when our wants are out of harmony with our needs then this is a terrible, fearsome God—perfectly aware of the lies we tell ourselves and revealing them to all through our reality. This God is a God we can all know and understand, each on a personal level, but because of the disharmony between our wants and needs it is a God we would rather try to deny.

This idea of God immediately answers the major question most people raise when questioning the existence of God—why do bad things happen to good people?

The question is actually easy to answer, the problem is the answer isn't pleasant. God perfectly meets our inner needs—whether we call that good or bad is a human activity, not a Godly one. The main point of most of the stories in this book is to show that bad things happening to good people is an illusion—a lie we like to tell ourselves.

We cannot really say bad things happen to good people because we cannot really say what is good and what is bad. We cannot judge whether someone's reality is good or bad for those involved, and we cannot judge whether a person is good or bad. Two examples showing this semantic difficulty are the stories of my being fired from my sales job and the Christmas fight I had with Mary.

In the first case an observer of my work situation might think that I was a good person at work who suffered the bad fate of being fired. To hear me grumble and complain at the time of firing would reinforce that view, but in this case, while maybe I was good at work, the firing was not bad for me—it pushed me along the career path I needed to follow.

In the second case an observer watching us at home might see a good father blocked from his daughter by a bad fight. This example is the opposite of the previous one. Here the reality of the fight was bad, but I was not the good father I appeared to be.

In both cases, the ego of my outer-self certainly tried to project the image of bad things happening to a good person, but looking deeper inside reveals the inner harmony of both situations.

When we look at others it might certainly seem like bad things happen to good people, because that is what they would like us to believe, but when we look honestly within our own lives I don't believe that is the conclusion we will reach. However, for those particularly painful aspects of our own lives, we will continue to create the illusion for others that a bad thing has happened to a good person. On the other hand, we will often freely acknowledge God working for the parts of our lives where our wants are in harmony with our needs.

The problem with evil is not God's problem, but our own. It is a problem with our unwillingness to really accept responsibility for our lives as they exist.

As I look back at my early Christian learning I see many of the old concepts that were abstract and meaningless to me become real as I understand them with God as the force behind Reflection.

Surrender to God's will - A fundamental principle is to surrender yourself to God's will, to let God work through you, and to have faith that God will take care of you. In terms of Reflection, these are all ways of saying we should understand and listen to the inner self, to quiet the ego of the outer self and bring it in harmony with the inner self. The details of exactly how to do this vary but the core idea is the same.

Prayer - The introspection of asking yourself why is prayer. When you pray for what your inner needs are, you recognize your inner needs, you are more true to yourself, blockages are removed, and your prayers are answered. When you pray for what your outer self wants, and those wants are out of harmony with inner-self needs, then those prayers go unanswered.

We often hear stories of the miracles brought about through prayer or other meditative healing techniques, but the miracle is not where we think it is. Prayers for a different reality, such as the healing of an incurable disease, are sometimes answered, but they are answered because the inner needs of those involved have changed so that the disease is no longer necessary.

The miracle of a cure is not the reversal of the physical trend of the disease, but the reversal of the inner needs reflected in the disease. Our inner needs are very difficult to get at, and in the case of disease very difficult to admit. Our prayers in these cases are much more driven from our wants to see the disease be healed and a denial of the inner needs filled by the disease. This is why these prayers go unanswered more often than not.

As always with Reflection, cause-and-effect logic confuses thinking about the nature of the power of prayer. We can look at successful prayer as having caused the change, or we can look at a heart-felt desire to pray as an intuitive understanding that we are ready for change. The relationship between the prayer and the outcome is not as it appears.

Sin - Righteous behavior comes from the inner self, in harmony with God's will. Acts of evil, or sin, come from the wants of the outer self, out of harmony with the inner self. Sin and evil are related to being out of harmony, not to any absolute standard of right and wrong. Evil comes when the self-image denies the source within. As humans, it appears impossible for us to fully merge the inner and outer selves—so, each of us is a sinner.

Satan - Satan, the fallen angel, leads us away from the inner truth of Reflection. All of the other angels realized their power and existence were derived from the grace of God working through them. Satan believed he alone was responsible for his deeds, and thus fell from grace. He continues to tempt us into thinking our self-image is accurate and in control. The good things are our own doing and the bad things are out of our control. He takes us away from the search for the inner source.

Confession - Confession is one way to combat the evil, it allows us to circumvent the self-image by revealing our inner most desires and needs. We become more in touch with the force within us. It cleanses us and makes us feel good.

Forgiveness - Forgiveness comes from the fact that each of us is the center for his or her own reality. The evil we do only really affects ourselves. We do not need to feel guilty about the effects on other people because their reality is a reflection of God working through them as well. So we are forgiven in that the God within us is really responsible for everyone's reality, whether we appear to have messed it up or not.

Trials - Christianity speaks of God's trials for us and how to use those trials to learn to lead a life closer to God. This is, of course, identical to the main message of this book, which is to look at the trials in the reality of your life and learn of the inner needs they reflect.

Grace - Finally, grace is the power of God looking after us. If one truly lets go and gives life over to God, then one will lead a more harmonious life by following inner needs without the interference of self-image.

If you understand God as the force behind Reflection, then it is much easier to find God in the Bible and distinguish between the inspired texts and those with a more human agenda. The beginnings of the Old Testament express a view of God very similar to God as defined by Reflection.

The story of the Garden of Eden tells of the split between self-image wants and inner needs. As Adam and Eve became conscious of their inner needs they were ashamed of their nakedness. This is the same sense of shame any of us must feel today if we fully accept Reflection—that our reality perfectly reflects our inner needs. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness, projecting a self-image different from their inner needs, just as we all cover ourselves today.

The story of Joseph and the robe illustrates the difficulty with defining good and bad. He was sold into slavery to the Egyptians by his brothers and basically had a tough time of it, but when he was eventually reunited with his brothers he forgave them because he understood it was God's plan to get him to Egypt and eventually the rest of the Israelites as well. What appeared to be a bad thing happening to a good person was really perfectly in harmony.

Later, when the Egyptians enslaved all of the Israelites and Moses led them out of Egypt, the Bible makes it clear that even though the Pharaoh wanted to let them go many times, God hardened the Pharaoh's heart and made him attempt to stop them. For many, this is a mystifying part of the story, but with God as Reflection it makes perfect sense. God was working through the Egyptians as well as the Israelites. The evil of the Pharaoh was as much God's will as the miracles that saved the Israelites. The good of one could not exist without the bad of the other and both were the work of God.

In the wilderness when the Israelites were out of food, God provided them manna. Each day enough manna for everyone appeared, but it was impossible to hoard it or save it because it spoiled overnight. The Israelites could do nothing else except trust in God to meet their needs each day, and He did.

This idea of trusting in God and not in our own endeavors is the theme of one of the first stories of the Bible. Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, both made sacrifices to God. Cain was a farmer and Abel a shepherd. Cain controlled his own destiny through farming. Abel was a nomad going wherever the grass grew greenest.

God liked Abel's offering but didn't like Cain's. Why? Because Cain was playing God with the plants and Abel wasn't. And what happened? Cain was jealous and killed Abel, just as today those that are slaved to their work and life style resent those that attempt to live freely. And what was God's punishment for Cain? He and all his descendants were forced to make their own living from the earth, and it would be hard.

Today, there is a little of Cain and Abel in each of us, and just as in the Biblical story, the Cain in us is jealous of the Abel, and the Cain in us drives us to a life of toil and worry as we try to secure our own futures because we fail to trust in God.

Most of the early stories in the Bible are told as true stories about real people and their relationship with God. Good things happened to good people and bad things happened to bad people. God made it clear if the Israelites were good, things would go their way, if not they wouldn't.

This strict view of God, good and evil is first challenged in the book of Job, which raises the question of why bad things happen to good people. But it is interesting to note that, unlike the characters in the preceding books, Job is presented as a purely fictional character. He is a caricature created to illustrate extreme bad things happening to an extremely good person. This is in contrast to all the stories up to that point which clearly connected real individual's righteousness and their fate. Was Job fictional because the author(s) of the book of Job couldn't find any real examples?

Using Reflection to understand God strengthens the idea of God and undermines logical arguments that attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God.

For example, the clock-maker arguments about God are very logical but irrelevant in light of God as the force behind Reflection. That argument is if there is a clock, there must be a clock maker; similarly if there is a Universe it must have a creator. This model comes from a basic assumption that cause-and-effect is an underlying principle of the Universe. If God is the clock maker, then as science pushes further and further into its mechanistic understandings of the universe, the role of a clock-maker God becomes smaller and smaller, and ever more disconnected from our daily lives.

Some people argue over the existence of God by fighting over the story of creation. Those who believe in God are searching for scientific evidence to prove that the creation stories of the Bible are true, but this is a very weak view of God. To argue on that level puts logic supreme over God and says we can salvage God if we can scientifically prove He exists. By letting logic and cause-and-effect thinking define the rules of the game, we will fail to prove God exists. By contrast, understanding God as Reflection shows us that neither logic nor cause-and-effect thinking can explain this fundamental phenomenon.

The evidence for God is not at the origin of the universe, but is instead inside each of us. All we have to look at is our own lives, here and now, to see the force of God at work. By looking at that force we can see that the logic of cause and effect do not make sense when talking of God. But inside is a scary place to look for God, it is a lot safer to hide behind the rules of science and logic.

Because Eastern religions are not as much concerned with the word of God as with the experience of God, it is easier to see the connections between them and Reflection. Many of the ideas that can be jelled from Eastern religions are similar to ideas that result from thinking about Reflection.

Karma-an idea similar to fate, only it carries one through this life and into other lives as well. It presents a cyclical view of life with the message that the cycles must be broken to reach a state of higher peace. If we don't learn the lessons in this life, we will be reincarnated and have to try again. Reincarnation isn't good news, it is more like being left back in school.

The view that life is composed of cycles of lessons that repeat until learned is one that is quickly picked up by looking at life through Reflection. Our realities keep repeating until we get to a state of understanding our connection to that reality, and then we move on.

All within each and each within all—this is a cosmic view shared by many Eastern religions that says the entire Universe is contained within each of us, and each of us is contained within every other part of the Universe. It is exactly the world view that is implied by the 100-100 connections between us all as described by Reflection.

Reality is an illusion-for many in the East, the reality of our senses, called external reality in Reflection, is only an illusion, and true reality is found within. The goal of meditation and other religious disciplines is to get to the true reality within, moving beyond the illusion. An understanding of Reflection is probably an intermediate step on this path. It shows how inner self and external reality are related, and maybe as the truth of this relationship is internalized external reality becomes less important.

Becoming one with the Universe-the goal of some Eastern religious disciplines is to reach a sense of oneness with everything. Reflection implies we are already at that state and only need to look within to discover how. The goal here is to merge inner self, outer self, and external reality, understanding that the lines between them are simply constructs of our minds.

Yin and yang-the world is composed of opposites. There cannot be light without dark, good without evil, male without female. For each pair of opposites, the seeds of each side is contained in the other, that is the two are intimately connected. The realization of the connections between opposites is a step towards a state of spiritual enlightenment in which all duality is seen as a construct of the mind and illusory. The idea of opposites having their seeds in each other describes very closely the sense of Reflection when two people interact. Each person is a reflection of the inner self of the other.

From the ideas of opposites being connected and reality being an illusion comes the idea that the problems of good and evil are really problems of our minds. The Eastern mystics understand this and do not try to isolate them—rather they try to reach a peaceful place in between. Reflection also makes the problems of good and evil look different from our conventional Western view of them. The evil in the world is a reflection of our inner selves and perfectly connected to each of us, as is the good.

There are many popular philosophies today that recognize a connection between inner-self and reality, but most suffer from a lack of willingness to accept or understand the "bad" aspects of life. In the simplest terms, if you think good thoughts, good things will happen in your life. But just consciously trying to think good thoughts is an act of the will, a conscious effort that denies the reality of the drives from the inner self.

This thinking leads to a problem—if good thinking leads to good things, then the bad things must come from not thinking enough good thoughts. This makes it difficult to admit that anything is wrong in your life. It can also lead to a hierarchy of spiritually correct people with associated ego involvement. One can be proud of how highly spiritually evolved one is, and look condescendingly on those below.

This encourages and leads to the telling of more lies. It becomes even more important to cover up the bad in our lives, so as not to reveal that we might not be as high on the spiritual ladder as we might like others to believe.

It is interesting that older concepts of religion, such as Christianity, avoid this trap, although some of its practitioners fall into it anyway. The Christian concept recognizes that we are all sinners, disconnected from our inner selves. It also recognizes that it is all right. Jesus made it clear that the lowliest sinners are as welcome, if not more so, than the high priests. This recognizes the depth of the lies at both places. The lies of the high priests are more complex and damaging than those of the lowly sinners.

But while this is a part of Christianity, I have not found many of today's Christians who really take it seriously. It is a symptom of our age that we do not want to know about or understand the darker sides of ourselves and our lives. It is this part that is missing from much New Age thinking, and this part that is pushed to the rear in much current popular Christian thinking.

Psychology's appeal is probably in large part due to its acceptance and understanding of the dark forces within us. Yet even today that is being weakened by more "feel good" forms of therapy that deny the darkness.

Reflection is an attempt to explain both the light and the dark, show them as one and the same, and bring about a more honest understanding of ourselves and our lives.

Given that the ideas presented here represent something close to a fundamental view of God, then specific religions can be understood as having built on top of that view the more elaborate religious structures we know today. They include rules for behavior, which, come more from wise men than God. The rules of behavior are usually good rules that have helped spiritual people on the path of righteousness, but each of us is different and the rules of one group might fit us better than the rules of another.

These rules of behavior can steal the focus of religion, actually taking people further from the God at the center of the religion. The rules become primary, the idea of God becomes more abstract, and life becomes a series of random events.

One clear example of human rules destroying the essence of a religious movement was the early Mendicants, who started with the purest of religious ideas. They decided that instead of concentrating in the monastery on their own food and shelter, they would go out and preach without concern for where their food or shelter would come from. They were to trust God to provide.

This is a glorious idea, but their own ideas of how God should provide blocked them from being open to God. They set rules. They would only carry one bowl to be filled with food. They would live lives of poverty. They would only accept so much. So instead of preaching and letting God take care of them, they instead followed rigid man-made rules of what they thought was God-like behavior. The Mendicant movement died out with its members being just beggars and nuisances to the rest of society.

By accepting the dogma of another we become lazy and avoid the real work of philosophy or religion. We avoid looking within for the force behind our existence. What is defined as good and bad for one is not necessarily good and bad for another. We each need to find our own truth.

This conflict between dogma and finding spirituality at our center is illustrated by the Christian church today. The goal of Christianity might be said that each of us should attempt to live Christ-like lives. The more like Jesus we can be, the better off we and the world will be, but Jesus refused to follow any of the dogma of his day. He made it a point not to follow any dictates, rebelled against them, and instead followed the spirit within himself. He was moved directly by God. His preaching was aimed at getting others to understand this. So the paradox of Christianity is you cannot live like Jesus by following anyone's guidelines on how to live like Jesus, including those written down by Jesus' disciples. The answer is within.

 

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Copyright ©1992 Dennis Merritt. All Rights Reserved.