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..:: Materialism ::..


Alan Schneider


             As I write this, I seem to be surrounded by a dense condition that more or less defines my capacities to act. I cannot, for example, rise out of my chair and float about the room – I seem to be dependent on an extended set of consistent capabilities that I have come to know as “my body” to achieve surface locomotion from location to location. This body has, to my knowledge, always been with me – I cannot recall a time when it has not informed me of its presence through the action of my senses. And my body, in turn, seems to be spatially located in a much more extensive condition that I have come to regard as “the world”, or “the universe”, or “external reality”. It is this additional condition that I must navigate through, and come to terms with, for the sake of my ongoing existence – or so I believe, at any rate! If I do not eat, I become notably uncomfortable; if I do not seek shelter, I suffer through exposure to the elements (and the derision of my fellow creatures); if I do not participate in my culture of origin, I am cast out by the others around me who do – perhaps violently, and even fatally. All of these are consequences of my involvement with the “dense conditions” that I seem to be surrounded with, and, most significantly, this involvement seems to be arbitrary and inflexible in the extreme – it has, for all appearances, been thrust upon me without the least regard for my personal concerns or wishes or preferences. It is what I have come to accept as “life” – my life – the specific personal existence that belongs to my body and my circumstances. Perhaps the overarching fact of this condition is that I am effectively isolated in and by my life and body – others seem to have similar conditions that they are involved with, but I do not experience their states directly. I only directly experience my condition through the action of my senses and my interpretation of what those senses tell me about, first, my world, and then the extended world beyond my direct control, but not beyond my perception. A most un-free condition...material, dense form!

          I may be fortunate enough to attain the realization that this frequently oppressive experience of materialism is only one of a set of perceptions that compose my total consciousness – the expanded field of all that I know and am aware of. Although I may find myself compelled to pay homage to materialism as the price of ongoing existence, I will also have come to a certain understanding, based on the deep study of that very state of experience, that there is much more to the total picture of consciousness than my evident material manifestation. There appear to be many additional expressions of conscious awareness, in fact entire hierarchies and worlds of such awareness, attainable to my perception through the application of the correct techniques, such as meditation, for example. As an intelligent, aware, and responsible man, I have established and continued the process of moving my life and lifestyle into compatible orientation with the most positive aspects of existence which I have been able to identify. It goes without saying that devotion to materialism is not one of those aspects. Devotion to God and higher consciousness are...

          Now, this brings me to a most interesting paradox, perhaps the central paradox, of existence – the growth paradox. Essentially, we can only experience legitimate spiritual growth by allowing the process to manifest in our consciousness. The personal, ego-level choices that we certify in daily life may have little or nothing to do with this deep growth process, and frequently may even obstruct it! The ego is heavily influenced by subjective desire, a condition identified as the bain of consciousness development across the millennia of history by all of the Great Seers. This is the condition of apparent separation from objects of gratification, and is essentially fallacious, because it portrays consciousness as composed of subjects – the perceivers of experience – and objects – the goals of experience, when the ultimate truth is that no such distinction exists – we are all simultaneously both subject and object, and beyond both states, occurring in the Consciousness of God. In his excellent book on the evolution of consciousness, entitled A Brief History of Everything, Ken Wilber refers to this level of perception as “nondual” manifestation, and suggests that it is the highest possible state of awareness humanly attainable, one characterized by the merging of subject and object into that same unified Consciousness.  Hinduism refers to this level of being as “The Dance of Shiva” – a “dance” of manifestation that continuously creates and destroys all other forms of perception, including the material form and the physical body.  And without my body, what becomes of all of my myriad desires, of all the objects and conditions “I” thought were needed to experience “happiness”? Is it not clearly better to seek God as the Source of lasting fulfillment, than to pursue the transitory little gratifications of the material condition that always come and go, and leave us empty in the final analysis?

          It can, and does, take a long, long time to learn about the error of desire, and of acting upon desire as the motivation in living. Why? In a word, because I cannot desire my way out of the condition of desire, even if that condition becomes apparent as one of life’s most aggravating deceptions. This attempt simply becomes another level of desire! Nor can I use desire to promote authentic growth in either the physical or spiritual context. All I can do is permit growth in those areas to occur. No amount of spiritual motivation to achieve anything – any state of higher consciousness, any level of beatific grace, any level of ascension – will have the slightest effect on this process – it simply proceeds at its own pace in Shiva’s Dance of Life regardless of any other factors. Once inner awareness of the spiritual growth process is awakened, that awareness will simply continue. Perhaps the only thing that serves to augment this process is the maintenance of a certain level of good will toward others in this life. The practice of yoga may be helpful as well, with the precautionary observation that all postural yoga works with the body, and what works with the body inevitably tends to aggrandize the ego in the process, an ego that is, above all things, the custodian of the body as our material anchor in the material illusion. Once again, we are left with patient acceptance of our apparent entrapment in our material condition, accompanied by simultaneous experimentation with the states of higher realization that we may be able to attain, as the real measure of legitimate spiritual attainment. Those who yield to their impatience and attempt to force the process forward inevitably find themselves retracing their steps back to the starting point upon being confronted with one of the countless numbers of moral and philosophical dead ends in God’s endless labyrinth!

          I am frequently amazed by the multitude of zealots that I encounter in the world who throw themselves into any number of spiritual philosophies with utter abandon, and without the slightest understanding that we can only release, not compel, ourselves into authentic spiritual growth. No matter how lonely, frustrating, or discouraging the quest for higher consciousness and divine guidance may become, we must remain patient with the development process manifesting at the natural pace at which it occurs. To paraphrase the title of Barry Stevens’ inspirational book on personal growth – Don’t Push the River! This is the single most important and empowering lesson that we can learn as egos confronted with materialism, the body, and sensory experience.

- With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2007, Alan Schneider)


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