Crack the Shell of Reality!

Meet Me In The Middle


Beginning with my post “Agony”, I explored the three potential spiritual paths that each person can take, which I named the “Thesis”, “Antithesis”, and “Synthesis”— these names themselves inspired by Hegelian Idealism. Since then my understanding of the three paths has evolved and changed substantially; currently, I believe these paths to be “Separateness” (Individualism), “Conformance” (Collectivism), and “Oneness” (Immersion). Which of these paths we choose when living our live will determine how we respond to the Samsaric cycle of life:

1. Fight against the cycle. The end-result of this is unfulfilled desire, suffering, and rebirth.

2. Conform to the cycle. The end result of this is ignorance, a combination of pain and pleasure, and rebirth.

3. Transcend the cycle. The end result of this is freedom, peace, and Oneness of with God.

Looking at the three possible options, the best course seems obvious, right? From a problem-solving standpoint, Oneness seems to be the only true solution to life, giving me all the incentive in the world to transcend the physical world and all its sinful pleasures, and work towards the abandonment of all selfish desires in pursuit of the greater goal of transcendence. Unfortunately though, theory does not translate well into reality, and the implementation of Oneness is not so simple as the idea of Oneness.

For one thing, we have the mind-body problem: Material versus Spiritual. From the perspective of Oneness, the material world and the spiritual world are really just two different ways of looking at the same thing, and our selfish need to discriminate between light and darkness, evil and good, physical and spiritual– and so on– prevents us from being able to transcend our separate reality and become One with God. Put simply, the physical and spiritual world are just different forms of the same energy, which incidentally an idea popularized by philosophers like Spinoza.

That being said, the implementation of the aforementioned life paths are triadic also: Extreme Spirituality (Asceticism), Extreme Carnality (Hedonism), and Balance (Transcendence).

The interesting thing about this third implementation is that a Balance cannot be “chosen”, it must manifest through transcendence of choice itself. The reason for this is that when a person tries to choose a life of Balance, they have unwittingly put conditions on the quality of their life. This not only results in the limiting of one’s potential as part of God, but also instills a corruption sense of self-righteousness and petty piety. Living a deliberate life of Balance is impossible, because Balance cannot be calculated or controlled, it must simply be known.

Asceticism is considered by many to be a noble pursuit in life, because ascetics are willing to abandon all physical desires, and even abstain from basic physical needs, in order to become more spiritual, closer with God, etc. From the surface, an ascetic lifestyle does seem like the path to Oneness, as the physical pleasures do indeed encourage Separateness, and a carnal life is sure to provide infinite distractions to prevent spiritual growth, evolution, and Oneness with God. However, there are just as many spiritual distractions that prevent Oneness (astral projection, psychic abilities/readings, astrology, telepathy, etc.), and the greatest of these distractions is actually Asceticism!

One of the most renown religions to promote a life of Oneness through Selfless Love, Buddhism, while appearing from the surface to be ascetic in nature, is actually built on the balance between the ascetic and carnal lifestyles– a path which Siddhartha Buddha called “The Middle Way”. After living a life of extreme asceticism in pursuit of greater spirituality, the great Buddha accepted milk and some rice pudding (which I might note is an animal-product, which goes against the vegan lifestyle associated with ascetics), and meditated under a pipal tree, and achieved enlightenment. Buddha found that to find the “truth” (Oneness), one must not only eliminate all desires, but all obsessions and extremities as well. Enlightenment could only be found in “the middle” a life of Balance that both appreciates and transcends physical and spiritual needs.

While asceticism can improve one’s spirituality, it is far too imbalanced to enable Oneness. Even the great Buddha didn’t reach enlightenment until he abandoned the barren ascetic lifestyle and partook in some of the “sinful” pleasures. Living one’s life for God is honorable, but the belief that all interaction with the physical world is sinful and to be avoided as much as possible– that’s more compulsion than anything. I believe that such an approach accomplishes little more than escape from reality, and it is far too extreme in nature for one to achieve enlightenment through these means.

While preoccupation with the physical world is a bad thing, preoccupation with only the spiritual world is equally bad. In order to completely manifest one’s potential, one must live a balanced life, and incorporate an equal portion of the elements of both the physical and spiritual world, with enlightenment coming from a life meeting in the middle, and (more importantly) from the recognition that the physical and spiritual worlds really are just two different ways of looking at the same thing.

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Comments on: "Meet Me In The Middle" (13)

  1. […] “Meet Me In The Middle”, I explained how enlightenment could not be accomplished through extremes and force of will, as […]

  2. You’ve said in your post that three named ways of looking at the world lead to three ways of responding to “samsaric existence”.
    Obviously this requires the person to believe in the hindu/buddhist notion of reincarnation to buy into (and even there it might be problematic because these religions have their own route to solving the problem of “samsara” which goes beyond yours). Having not accepted that much it is difficult for me to argue but I will try on the basis of “if”.

    If the idea of “oneness” leads to the end of rebirth, that is, to not getting to live, to being cut off from the stream of life (supposedly through “transcendence” but how does that differ from simple absence?) it is clear to me this is the last position one should take, since life is wonderful and awesome and getting to experience it is the greatest privilege ever granted to spirit and matter.

    Equally how “individualism” can be equated with “fighting against the cycle” and “collectivism” with “conformance” I am unsure.

    The rest of the post assumes agreement with the notion that pursuit of Oneness is a positive notion and is not something I could address from the subjectivity I currently exist within.

    • “Obviously this requires the person to believe in the hindu/buddhist notion of reincarnation to buy into (and even there it might be problematic because these religions have their own route to solving the problem of “samsara” which goes beyond yours).”

      I don’t believe in Hinduism/Buddhism beliefs necessarily (they are just ideas to me, not beliefs), and my conception of reincarnation and the soul are substantially different than any established religion; if any religion is compatible with my beliefs, it’s probably the Bahai faith. To quote the heroine of the movie “Agora”, I believe in philosophy. I have no dogma in my beliefs whatsoever, so please get that misled preconception out of your mind 😉

      Oneness transcends rebirth, since when you have traded your limited self for an infinite one and all, life and death become different ways of looking at the same thing.

      “to not getting to live, to being cut off from the stream of life” no, quite the opposite. Oneness is how you get the most out of life. Because your life is not limited to your own perception, you are able to experience life in its complete form: infinitely beautiful, infinitely meaningful, infinitely appreciable. Oneness is complete awareness of reality as it truly is, not bound by the limited and distorted perception of the finite self.

      “it is clear to me this is the last position one should take, since life is wonderful and awesome and getting to experience it is the greatest privilege ever granted to spirit and matter.” To the contrary, Oneness is the most wonderful way of experiencing life. Now you see the beauty of life with shades on, Oneness is the taking off the shades of your finite self, and experiencing life as it truly is, in all its wonder, beauty, and brilliance. To quote a relevant Bible verse, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

      “Equally how “individualism” can be equated with “fighting against the cycle” and “collectivism” with “conformance” I am unsure.” Perhaps you could understand this better if you allegorize with the battle between conservativism and progressivism. they are the same thing, only in a political context.

      Oneness is not for everyone, only for those that are satisfied with material experience, and are ready to transcend it. You cannot realize Oneness because you want to, Oneness is the process of abandoning your separate will, and realizing the all-encompassing reality that unites us all.

  3. “Dogma” “Beliefs” “Philosophy” “Opinions” “Ideas” “Impressions” “Sensations” it’s all the same to me.

    I do not want to transcend my own perception, I actively have thought about this, I actively have decided, “I do not wish to observe life from above, but to participate in it from within”. Like I said, I embrace my subjectivity, objectivity is for the dead. I will link to something, I don’t think I explained very well, but it kind of embodies my notion of life on some level, of being a subjective being in the universe:
    http://sophia-marsden.net/dualwarriors.html

    The warriors are us, and the view from above is the view described, the one where they are the same, but that is not the view either can realistically take in the moment. In the moment the other must die, that is how it must be, in the moment it is my world against yours and more than that, if it wasn’t so, it wouldn’t be beautiful. If it wasn’t for the fact that one of the two must die, all their nobility, their strength, their courage, all their virtue and beauty would be irrelevent because it would never be demonstrated. The battle is life and it is good that it is a battle.

    There is no way to know “how it really is”. There are only stories, myths, impressions. This notion of “oneness” is just another myth, another story, another subjectivity. In reality it transcends nothing but it’s fault lies in the fact it believes it does. In that sense it is akin to modernism. The postmodernists won that battle.

    The argument that your subjectivity is overarching above the others makes you as intolerant as the Christians (which is not *wrong* – tolerance is an over-valued quality of late) but you are more arrogant than them because they believe everyone can come to their truth whereas you speak of those who do not as being not “ready” effectively as immature children not yet old enough for strong drink and meat. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that but naturally my subjectivity resents such characterisation of it’s essense.

    • I think I responded to this comment better in my responses to other posts.

      But thanks for the warrior link, I will be sure to check it out! I will also read this comment again later, seeing as how you’ve expressed a lot of good new information in it 🙂

  4. Also lol. Arguing here against the notion of oneness with you, arguing against the notion of identity with these people http://forums.skadi.net/showpost.php?p=1189927&postcount=88

    Life is such a mess of contradictions 😛

    • It’s not an argument, it’s just a perspective. Even if you disagree, it doesn’t mean that either of us are wrong. We are just seeing the same reality from a different view. I believe Oneness is unique in that it is the best view (as fiction calls it, “the God’s eye view”), but that doesn’t make you view any less valid. Just more limited ^_^

  5. Putting a cute face while you call my view “limited” doesn’t make it any less of an insult ^_^

    • you’re the one who said you think limited was better. So I thought that, given your position on the issue, you would take it as a compliment. or did you change you mind? o.O

      • It’s complicated. I don’t think I said limited was better exactly. I also might have gone a bit overboard on the hyperbole regarding finite and infinite. 😛

        I suppose in the sense that what is usually meant by people who say that is that they know the truth as a whole and you are trapping yourself in some half-truth.

        I like to think I am unflinching in pursuit of truth, despite, even because of my subjective place in the world.

      • No matter who close we get to Oneness, we will never realize it completely. A good analogy of the journey towards Oneness is very much like the Fibonacci spiral. See here for elaboration on what I mean by that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIXcq_UPFKc

        We will never realize Oneness 100%, that’s impossible. But the more we realize, the more beautiful and meaningful life becomes.

        What do you mean by “truth”?

  6. Truth is not something I can explain really. I can say unequivically there is a distinction between truth and falsehood. I cannot define either. It’s not as simple as truth is tautology.

    Phillip K Dick said that reality is what trips you up when you walk around with your eyes closed, but I don’t think that captures “truth” either.

    Truth is beauty and beauty is truth.
    But that’s not the end of it either 😛
    (Actually someone said to me more specifically that beauty is the spirit’s recognition of truth in something).

    • “I can say unequivically there is a distinction between truth and falsehood.” I would argue that “fact and fiction” are different ways of looking at the same thing, but I don’t expect anyone to agree with me on that 😉

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