Summer is officially over, and the beginning of fall has marked a change in daily mindset for me. I’m guessing it has something to do with spending more time outdoors with the warmer weather. Anyway, I spent most of this summer deep in spiritual studies, and I’ve now backed off into my nerdy tech world of learning data science almost full time.
Gosh… it’s almost difficult to remember everything I learned this summer. From reading and appreciating the Bhagavad Gita for the first time to learning more about psychedelics, it felt like no stone went unturned these last few months! It’s been a humbling experience, to say the least.
Perhaps the biggest thing I walked away with this summer is this one grand but simple concept: everything is connected. That’s intentionally a little bit vague as it can be interpreted a number of ways. Physically speaking, this is true in the sense that the atoms that make up this keyboard that I’m typing on are frantically interacting with the atoms that make up my fingers, and I imagine these same atoms will one day be a part of you, a part of the clouds in the sky, or a part of a piece of fried chicken.
That’s undeniable, but I feel like we can’t just stop there. The question big question that remains to me is, how do you make sense of the patterns? Why do these clumps of atoms that form my human body get priority over the clump of atoms that form a pebble? Again speaking physically, the objective answer is that there is no hierarchy of importance here, but we as humans definitely don’t treat it that way. The recent climate change protests are evidence of that. Who’s to say the world doesn’t want to end? (I’m obviously play “devil’s advocate” here — I agree that we need to take care of the earth for humanity’s sake!)
I’m not even going to pretend like I have the answer to that big “why” as it’s basically the same “meaning of life” question everybody asks themselves on a regular basis. But I think it’s naive to say it’s all just bare physicality. Even hardcore atheists would never advocate saving a single iPhone over a single human baby, even if that iPhone is an iPhone 11 Pro Max with 512gb! (The nerd in me is showing…)
So here’s where a lot of theories and metaphors come in, and for as different as they sound, they actually hold a lot of commonality. Richard Rohr’s newest book The Universal Christ helped me to see this through the Christian lens. Likewise, Ram Dass’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita in Paths to God helped me to understand something very similar through a Hindu lens.
Are you ready for that commonality?
Of course, I already spoiled it in the title: We are essentially God in drag.
So think about your conscious human mind. Have you ever wonder how attached your mind actually is to your body? When you stub your toe, sure, it can hurt a lot. But why is it that we can sort of transcend pain through things like meditation? Why do we have the ability to act against our natural instincts?
Who exactly is looking out my eyes right now?
I’m not going to give a full explanation here, but Ram Dass shares interesting thoughts on this in many of his works, including Grist for the Mill. We are familiar with and comfortable with the “ego” level that is basically the experiences and physical composure (e.g. genetics). When you start to change the lens a little—flick—then suddenly it’s two souls looking through the windows of each others eyes. “I’m in this one. You’re in there? How did you get in there?” Change the lens again—flick—we realize that we are truly one consciousness (“God”) manifested in different forms.
If that sounds far out there to you, keep in mind that this is not at all in disagreement with science. We already noted that the whole universe is comprised of the same basic, subatomic building blocks, and it’s just the patterns of these clumped particles that produce an illusion of separateness. The same particles can manifest as you one second and as me another second. We’ve given a lot of weight to these patterns!
(Side note: It’s not good to think of this as pantheism — that everything is God. Rather, Father Richard Rohr encourages viewing this as panentheism — that extra syllable denoting that God is in everything. I hope this distinction is obvious: we as incarnations clearly have very limited capacity to shape our surroundings.)
Now, I obviously can’t empirically verify any of this. And if it’s all conjecture, what good is this thinking for us?
For me personally, it’s made a world of difference, which has honestly surprised me. I don’t see the world the same way, and I literally think this all the time:
If everything is one, then that person I’m looking at is… another incarnation of me.
Let that sink in.
That thought brings a whole new level of empathy and care. I look at that grumpy man on the street and think, “Wow… I must have gone through some really hard stuff in that life.” Or thinking about angry people on Twitter, “Wow… I’m really scared there. Who hurt me in the past?” And yes, I do use those first person pronouns in my thinking. It’s been a truly profound shift. I am not yet to the point that I am fully able to drop my own game, and that’s something I hope I can continue to cultivate.
And if you think this is all a little “woo-woo”, check this out:
[Jesus] the will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” — Matthew 25:40
Do you see how this verse totally shifts in this new light?
This verse is frequently interpreted as metaphor. There’s nothing wrong with a metaphorical interpretation, but what if Jesus was talking in literal terms here? After all, if Jesus understands this unitive consciousness (which Richard Rohr and others call the “Christ consciousness”), then this verse goes far beyond metaphor.
I can’t mention enough how transformative this has been for me. It’s almost made me frustrated — frustrated that I spent 30 years in the church and never heard this. I don’t want to spend much time being negative; I only mention that to illustrate that I clearly haven’t been able to drop my own ego. But what would my 20s have looked like if I understood this sooner…? I’d like to think I’d be in a much better place.
That’s why I share with you, friends. I write the things I wish I would have read myself, although I ironically admit that I’m not sure a 20 year old me would be willing to hear it. But if you’re like me and in a place where you’re wondering what value spiritual teaching has in our lives… this is it. (Or, at least part of “it.”)
Let’s wrap up this post here. Catch you all in the next one.