Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Path

"At the edge of everything you know,
Is something you can't quite imagine..."

At the moment I am preparing a paper on mystical teachings to be delivered this weekend, ahead of a programme of discourses the end of the month by a well known spiritual teacher at the same site. This is not something I have recently acquired an interest in, indeed, I have been studying and practicing both here and in India this topic for somewhere near 25 years. This in no way makes me any nearer to understanding that which can be beyond understanding. In fact, it makes me realise how little I do know. Perhaps once I realise that I know nothing, then I will know everything. Zen and the Art of Becoming Human, or something like that.

It does however, allow me as a member of humanity to look upon the topic of mystical experience with a certain sense of pragmatism. When the scientific community makes announcements about drug- induced mystical experiences that are "descriptively identical" to those of religious nature, I believe they are missing the point. Although this new field of neurotheology does at times raise the issue of where science and faith meet, the proponents exclaim they are not interested in the question of whether "God exists" or not. Psilocybin, as anyone who has read the Carlos Castaneda classics would attest, has long been known to have certain effects on the consciousness. Leary et al in the 60's, and now scientists from John Hopkins University would claim the effect was spiritual in nature. The trouble I find in this thinking is that it is all about the mental parameters. Drugs affect the mind. The concept of three separate bodies: physical (we are in and aware of), mental (we go to with drugs, out of body experiences etc) and spiritual ( beyond mind) is not a new one. The trouble with trying to explain the unexplainable, is that it all has to be done with the mind. And this, the mystics say, is the reason we won't get it until we go beyond the mind. Not with words or drugs, or anything manufactured, but by direct experience. And humanity has been trying to do that for all ages. If it were as easy as taking a pill or a mushroom, everyone would do it. And if it doesn't last (which it doesn't), then how real is it?

Back in the realms of a decidedly mental sphere, this little tester from NZ will let you know if you are tech obsessed, and I would say the author of this fascinating piece from the NY Times is most definitely. The explosion of social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster etc seem to have grabbed a nerve in the generation of 20-somethings that is both cultural and technological. If freedom really does come from belonging rather than belongings, then the deep sense of wanting to stay connected is really a feeling of freedom for those with large and complicated networks, such as the person above. Social intercourse loses much of its inherent value I believe without the physicality of real-life presence. But then I'm not 20.

What I am is an earth-bound boomer trying desperately to hang on to wave after wave of personal technology that changes faster than...well, I can ever remember, that is for sure. I recently has a hard drive failure in my laptop, and realised the importance of regular PC housekeeping. So much so that the last few weeks have somehow added more hours into my day just getting everything back to normal on my "tool of choice". Now I have a full external drive for the programmes etc, a USB memory stick for documents on a daily basis, and CDs for the photos, etc etc I won't know what to do with them all. A gadget for all seasons. Very humbling.

Then of course there is the very Orwellian brain implant patient that works his computer just by looking and thinking about it. How important is important?

In the end, it needs to be about balance. My priorities as a farmer and writer arrange themselves gently around the elements in preparation for simple pleasures that seem to come and go each day. That could quite simply, be as mystical as anything in this life.


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