Friday, January 8, 2010

What do we do? What do we do?



Merriam-Webster defines the word “do” as ways we act, behave, get alone, fare, manage, happen, finish and serve, among others.  Often our actions require our ability to rationally ascertain the context of our actions, the possible consequences of our actions and the ethics of our actions before we do anything.  Or do they?  Our actions, I think, like our words, are very clear indications of our state of mind.  Sociopaths would act differently than saints in the same circumstances, because they bring to the moment, a different frame of reference, different viewpoint and different foundation for action.
There are psychologies to both doing and doing nothing.   Yes, there are rational-emotional models of the factors that predispose humans to do nothing.   And there are theories of the psychology of action, which take into account reasoning abilities, emotion, attitude and other factors.
When our belief system holds God and Divine Action, our state of mind is very different than states that do not hold that belief, and our actions may reflect these differences.  To understand and bridge these differences, The Vatican Observatory (VO) and the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences (CTNS) jointly sponsor a series of conferences on divine action. The theme of each conference is an area of the natural sciences: quantum cosmology and the laws of nature (1992), chaos and complexity (1994), evolutionary and molecular biology (1996), neuroscience (1998), and quantum mechanics (2000). This brings specificity and precision to the discussions of divine action. In one of the papers from these conferences, along with summaries of many others, is posted on the CTNS website:  In “The Metaphysics of Divine Action,” John Polkinghorne notes that any discussion of agency requires the adoption of a metaphysical view of the nature of reality. He claims that there is no “deductive” way of going “from epistemology to ontology,” but the strategy of critical realism is to maximize the connection. This leads most physicists, he claims, to interpret Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as implying an actual indeterminacy in the physical world, rather than an ignorance of its detailed workings.  Polkinghorne’s summary on the nature of Divine Action includes the insight that divine agency has its own special characteristics and that God’s knowledge of the world of becoming will be truly temporal in character.
In his book, Religion in late Modernity   Robert C. Neville,  suggests that these inquires  “concerning divine action takes its rise from people who affirm as a supposition the belief that God is a personal being of some sort.”
In A Search for God In Ancient Egypt, by Jan Assmann, divine action and religious experience are part of the cosmic dimension of the mystic experience.  Here, divine action is implicit in all contact with the divine once transcendence into Divine Presence has been realized.  In other words, our actions become Divine Action, while in the presence of the One within.
To Bernard de Clairvaux, mysticism is the highest degree of the scale of love and “a perfect participation in the love which God has from Himself in the unity of the Spirit…to become thus is to be deified.”  Our actions are naturally inspired from this unity of the Spirit that pervades our state.
This idea is similar to the mystical divine action, our own action, taken as a result of our mystical union with the God with us.  The mystic Jan Ruysbroeck suggests in mystical union God “breathes us out from Himself that we may love and do good works; and again he draws us into Himself, that we may rest in fruition.”
Our efficacy and actions then, may be defined by whether or not we believe in God, and if we believe that God is external and personal, or a state of being within ourselves.  What do YOU think?

Artwork by Beth Nash.  Many thanks.

14 comments:

Mark said...

God and the angels are impotent eunuchs when it comes to impacting the human condition. Like the old New England farmer who's neighbor told him how much the lord had blessed his farm. The farmer replied, "Well I didn't see the lord do a hell of alot around here, but Ma & I have busted our backs to make it thrive." Human needs need human deeds to get things done. If you stand around for God/s to 'do' anything you better have endless patience and take along a sandwich in case you get hungry while waiting.

Andras said...

When you attempting to "do" anything you are actually moving away from god (which is the only true reality)....

A great example is prayer versus meditation. Prayer is an action, a plea, a request from God. We are talking with god when we pray... Meditation is stillness, be-ness and thoughtless...hence a true form of listening to god...

God (infinity) has no concept of time and space. When we dwell in concepts that require a future time such as action or desire then we are actually moving away from the true reality. Doing or desire always includes the future. There is no future or past, it is only NOW.

You can look it at this way; reality is vertical (|), human thinking and time and space, the illusions of this world are horizontal (----).
When you fall into the falsehoods of this world you always think horizontally. Doing and desire are the results of this horizontal thinking. Infinity is vertical. It is ALWAYS NOW! Do not move away from it by false thinking.

Paradoxically the only constant in this universe is the flux, the movement of everything. Nothing stays the same or in the same place for long. This is still part of the Illusion of the world....

Eso said...

Can we do? now that's an interesting question. Gurdjieff approached this through a division of conscious man vs mechanical humanity. The essence vs the personality. Only a conscious man can do, according to "Mr G".

The majority living on the earth are human animal types simply here as a form of battery for the lower end of the ray of creation. Those that begin to awaken have paid the price through countless recurrences and possess something akin to magnetic centre. They then begin to become true self aware, with the realization that external life does not lead anywhere.
("The earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God" and "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together"(Rom viii 19,22)

As for God as a an external entity, I think from the point of view of Macro- cosmos existing alongside the Micro-cosmos exoteric and esoteric. I prefer to look at it from descending laws of creation which would make it impossible for us to know or experience the absolute (God). We would not be able to handle the energy. Instead we should look to that which would be divine to us as the next step up the ladder (octave) of creation. In my opinion that would be at the level of the Sun (Light), who gave birth to and continues to maintain organic life on the Earth.

Contrary to the Yogi's way, we do have to make effort in the form of inner awareness, work and action. Prayer can be a form of acknowledgement to a greater mind. Life is evolution, and for mankind to ascend to higher levels, he must become more aware of his current level of being.

"The path is wide and varied, the gate is narrow and discerning"

Jeff said...

Belief in a literal, personal, external God is not necessary for one to lead a spiritual life of morals and ethics, nor is it necessary to use the word 'God' to define ideas or experience of the spiritual or transcendent.

Perhaps semantics play too big a role in such discussions, but being human and making the effort to commune with our truest nature and higher self would seem the only prerequisites, regardless of our definition or belief in God. The great teachers of Buddhism and of Advaita Vedanta philosophy have given some of the oldest, most precious and timeless spiritual wisdom the world has ever seen - and neither tradition teaches belief in a literal God. Buddhists say there is no God, Vedic scriptures talk about God, but in a non-dual universe, hence our problem here being semantic. They both teach, however, to seek for oneself, then form your opinions or beliefs based on your personal experience.

Solo said...

Hello Molly Brogan, a very good Post.

It does open the door in allowing comments to be made from all members here, in fact it allows the door to swing both ways, which is good. This Post will force our mind to think a little deeper and harder on the existence of God, and what does God actually mean to us..."Personally."

For myself, God is definitely a personal God. Why do I say this, and how do I know; I can only go by what I have seen and experienced for myself. God resides in everyone and everything, there is nothing that God is not. If God resides in us, (which I know without doubt) then He is a personal God where He (in time according to Him) will make Himself known in a personal way. If God resides in you, then when the time is right you will have a "personal" experience of Him. Many will say that God is the eternal witness only. Of course He is, but for us to have a personal experience of Him, we must work towards that.

Arthur said...

Well when I think of "doing" I think of what some people call "Karma Yoga" which can be defined as

"... laying emphasis on selfless action and service. The underlying message of Karma Yoga is very clear- humans must always work in harmony with the great power that controls and runs the universe."

But selfless action and service to me mean ways I can serve others and be useful to them.. in a self less way as in not taking credit.

There are social teachings in most religious and spiritual philosophies.. and much of that could be summed up in the word "Ahimsa" or non-injury.

Do we relate to others in a way that antagonizes or ignores them. How do we seem to others..as arrogant and unfeeling?

Here are the ancient Yamas and Niyamas basic to Yoga:

Yama: Precepts of Social Discipline

Ahimsa -- Non-violence. Not harming other people or other sentient beings. Not harming oneself. Not harming the environment. Tolerance even for that which we dislike. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.

Satya -- Truthfulness. Note that sometimes we may know our words are literally true, but do not convey what we know to be truthful. This is a child's game. Satya means not intending to deceive others in our thoughts, as well as our words and actions.

Asteya -- Non-stealing. Not taking that which is not given.

Brahmacarya -- Sexual responsibility. Regarding others as human beings rather than as male and female bodies. The spirit of this precept is conservation of energy for the purpose of spiritual practice. This includes not only sexual restraint, but protecting our energy for instance by avoiding endless chattering with no clear purpose.

Aparigraha -- Abstention from greed. Not coveting that which is not ours. Avoidance of unnecessary acquisition of objects not essential to maintaining life or spiritual study.

Niyama: Precepts of Invididual Discipline

Sauca -- Cleanliness. Not only external cleanliness of the body, but attending to internal cleanliness such as avoiding the impurities of anger and egoism. Moderation in diet.

Santosa -- Contentment. Not spiritual complacency, but acceptance of the external situation we are allotted in this life.

Tapas -- Austerity. Deep commitment to our yoga practice. "Blazing practice with religious fervor."

Svadhyaya -- Self-study. Spiritual self-education. Contemplation and application of the scriptures or sacred texts of our chosen path.

Isvara pranidhana -- Surrender of the self to God. Acknowledgement that there is a higher principle in the universe than one's own small self. Modesty. Humility.

Jeff said...

Karma Yoga is the excellent example of "doing", indeed.

They all seem to teach the same things, whether preaching faith in God or not, wouldn't you agree? I think most of these things, anyway. I would only add the Buddhist idea of Mindfulness, most of these things all fit into that category. All teach compassion in action, at least to some extent.

I suppose I can add the Buddha's Eightfold Path:

Prajna:
* Prajna is the wisdom that purifies the mind, allowing it to attain spiritual insight into the true nature of all things. It includes:

1. drsti (ditthi): viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
2. samkalpa (sankappa): intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness.

* Sila is the ethics or morality, or abstention from unwholesome deeds. It includes:

3. vac (vaca): speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way
4. karman (kammanta): acting in a non-harmful way
5. ajivana (ajiva): a non-harmful livelihood

* Samadhi is the mental discipline required to develop mastery over one’s own mind. This is done through the practice of various contemplative and meditative practices, and includes:

6. vyayama (vayama): making an effort to improve
7. smṛti (sati): awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion
8. samadhi (samadhi): correct meditation or concentration, explained as the first four jhanas

The main difference I see (and it is a big one) is between those that say theirs is the only faith (Western) and those that encourage a more personal quest of truth-seeking (Eastern).

I could go a step further here in stating that while Buddhists say there is no God, they do teach various visualizations on different 'deities', and when teaching Westerners, often they say that a Westerner may have greater success in visualizing their more familiar holy figures, like the Virgin Mary or the archangels or saints, etc. Vedanta also has thousands of deities, all symbolic representations of those qualities seen as divine but innately human.
Vedanta also teaches that to be incarnated in human form is the most auspicious because human beings alone have the power of transformation within a lifetime.

Perhaps it is the quality of transformation - its very possibility and the effort to accomplish this (and how) that is the kernel (seed) of all these teachings.

I would also like to add, as to the idea of "do this" and "refrain from that" -

From the Hsin-Hsin Ming teachings by Zen Patriarch Seng-ts'an:

"When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain attached to one activity or another,
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the Single Way
cannot be free in either activity or quietude,
in assertion or denial."

Lanoo said...

To do or not to do? Good question, Molly. Whether or not you believe in a personal God who listens to your prayers and gets you out of scrapes, we humans are part of a universe in a constant state of evolution. Theosophy teaches that it is evolving from unaware spirituality through matter towards aware spirituality. We humans must play our part. How do we do that? By meditation and yoga ~ or by doing good deeds? I would suggest that the monk who walks past a damsel in distress is living a sterile life, and the ‘do-gooder’ who never thinks about the consequences of his actions is a loose canon. We need to be well-rounded human beings with right thought, right speech and right action. Or right doing.

HPB says in The Voice of the Silence:
126. If you are taught that sin is born of action
And bliss of inaction,
Then tell them they err.
Thus saith the Doctrine of the Heart.

Nabil said...

It is easy to find logical arguments to prove that God can't be outside us only, and that it must be within every part of every atom within creation. This does not please some of those who want people to believe that God is scary, vengeful, and capable of doing terrible things. If God is within all things, then their argument will lose traction, as the question arises of why would God be cruel to itself?

As far as your question, we do what we do because we live.

Count Sneaky said...

Nabil is close to the idea... without covering up the thought with a mound of words. We live, we do! Become aware. Know what you are doing and why. Perhaps, that is all we can really know.

Jufa said...

Everyone who enters into this dimension is here because of the above statement. People criticize everything man does and does not do in the flesh, but the flesh is a dimension which must be entered because it is, for each and every individual who re-enter it, time to dissolve the mess their conscious accepted and actions continuously display within their conscious world heretofore.

Everything is a circle. Thesre are three hundred and sixty degrees in that circle, and at some point and time in man's existence, that circle has been broken by man. Not broken literally, but figurative by their disobedience to the Promise man make with The Father when the Father appointed man's time to once again consciously realize the substance offlesh.

In re-entering the world of matter, man still carry all the tears, laughters, joys, anger. pains and pleasures he first received from his ancestors, and expanded upon. At the moment of his entrance into the material world of matter, man becomes the sole saviour of the line of thought he used for his entrance back into this world for the purpose of ending the dominance of the flesh mental will in him, thus, free that line from continuing on into the cycle of human universal mentality. Our purpose is to stop the buck here as Jesus did.

You will note that Jesus had nothing in this world to attach Himself to. Jesus freed Himself from the human line of dominance when He would not yield to the temptation of man's mind set. Jesus set the example we must follow for overcoming the world. But we refuse to let go of our family, or fears, or the influencing thoughts of humanism. Thus, until one clears himself of the ways of the world in his consciousness, he cannot freed the captive in hell, or his ancestors from continuing on. We enter this realm to "live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." This must be exclusive, as Jesus demonstrated to hang the old man upon the cross for piercing for the blood and water to go back into the ground, so the Spirit can arise.

Greg said...

God is both external and personal and at that point God is Good and Evil. When you see no difference between Good and Evil in God you are in the cosmic religion.

Kris said...

As much as we live in this objective world, we also live with and within our individual subjective world views. This world view is the frame of reference for all, sociopaths and saints alike. Even our state of mind depends on our world views. Consciously, or otherwise, our actions are guided by our world views.

One cannot speak of Divine Action without implying Divine Will. I think physicists are wise to acknowledge uncertainty in our ability to determine physical reality. At the other dangerous extreme, there are those who claim certain knowledge of the Divine Will. I think it is best not to second guess Divine Will.

Arthur said...

My own view is that God is both immanent in things and also revealed through His Messengers and Prophets.. People project what they think God is like ergo you have human qualities attributed to God or anthropomorphic descriptions of God...