Thank you for opening this book. I hope that in it you might find inspiration and practical guidance for a more peace-filled, spiritually conscious life.
I don’t use the term “spiritually conscious” to suggest that you would benefit from being more aware of spiritual concepts. There are those who know little or nothing of spiritual concepts and yet are exceptionally spiritually conscious. On the other hand, many people who are very aware of spiritual concepts are quite unconscious, spiritually speaking. That would include most of humanity. I use the term spiritually conscious to refer to an awareness beyond the conceptual mind, beyond thinking.
The insights described in this book are broadly consistent with a huge body of wisdom expressed over thousands of years, particularly by people who have realized their inner nature. They are also consistent with many contemporary understandings about human functioning.
However, most of what has been written and spoken about peace, identity and human consciousness overlooks the simplicity of the insights and practices I describe and the potential immediacy of their realization in experience. That is due partly to the vastness of that body of understandings and the tendency of writers and teachers to be influenced by their particular biography and cultural context. Mostly, however, it is due to problems inherent in expressing in words and understanding with the mind aspects of human experience and consciousness which are beyond the conceptual mind.
One of the most influential philosophical statements of any era was made during the seventeenth century, when philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes famously declared, “I think, therefore I am.” “But,” he admitted, less famously, “I do not yet sufficiently understand what this ‘I’ is that now necessarily exists.” His reasoning led him to conclude that all things, including the “I,” are perceived “by the intellect alone.”1 What else could reasoning, alone, conclude?
Given the backdrop of oppressive religious authority at the time, even the advocacy of the limited authority of reason was a major step forward for humanity. Its consequence, however, was that since that time the emphasis of science, philosophy and education has been on conceptual analysis of the world through its fragmentation into simpler components in a search for certainty and control.2
Most adults in the world today have so lost touch with their inner awareness and have become so identified with the mind and conceptual knowledge that they confuse the spiritual dimension of life with the abstract, rational activity of thinking, talking and writing about philosophical, metaphysical and religious concepts. As a result, adults in general, and specialists in philosophy, psychology and education in particular, tend to neglect, deny and even repress the spiritual consciousness in themselves and others, including children.3
However, my research into the nature of learning, knowledge and behavior revealed that the tide has well and truly begun to turn. There is a large body of insights, in nearly every field, showing the inadequacy of popular assumptions about reality, knowledge and human nature. The old assumptions that we still see reflected in mainstream culture are merely cultural lag.
Around the world, there is a ground-swell of people, in all walks of life, questioning old structures, including conceptual structures, and exploring the deeper possibilities of human consciousness and experience. Behind the scenes, a new era is rapidly unfolding for humanity, in which forms and structures will no longer overshadow the formless dimension of life. This book is a contribution to this growing impulse to spiritual awakening.
I am well aware that in writing this book I myself am attempting to use words to point you, the reader, to who you are beyond words and the mind. While the book necessarily involves some explaining, its purpose is to facilitate recognition and discovery, rather than to persuade you conceptually. More beliefs are not what is needed. As you read through the book, please take the time to do, experience and notice the things I suggest. Use the book as a practical manual for your awakening, rather than as merely another source of food for thought.
My style of expression tends to be fairly direct. At all times, however, the invitation is simply to ask yourself if what I have written rings a bell of recognition. Try to hold the ideas in this book lightly. Don’t overthink them. We are leveraging language and the mind for our subtler purpose, but not wanting to get caught up in playing the mind’s games. If there is something in the book for which you can’t find an inner echo, please follow the advice I heard given by Patricia Sun many years ago, and put it on a mental shelf labeled “Maybe Wrong, Maybe Later.”
1. Descartes 1996, para. 6, 18.
2. It is ironic that this intellectual search for certainty was given such impetus by Descartes, since his own intellectual search for certainty led him to conclude that the only “true thing” left is “Perhaps just the one fact that nothing is certain” (1996, para. 2).
3. See, for example, Hart 2003, pp. 4, 14.