Awakening to the universal Christ presence – and the love within…
Something that got my attention at a young age when I was 16 – 17, was when I listened to shortwave radio (in the late 60’s and early 70’s) and received regular mailings from over twenty countries because I was a regular listener to their broadcast in English to America.
I often listened to the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Prague, Radio Moscow, Radio Peking, Radio South Africa, Havana, Kiev, Budapest, Bucharest, Lisbon, Quito, the Vatican, etc., etc.
Every year I would get Christmas cards that would express “Merry Christmas” in ten or twelve languages from many of them that infused a guiding principle in me. The message was always that love is expressed as spirit and is universal. That the presence of God’s love, however defined, begins with each of us.
Vydubychi Monastery is an historic monastery in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
That in aligning with divine mind, we become the hope of the world as we awaken to the consciousness, the “Christ presence” found within ourselves. This divine love is the expression of our spirit and knows no boundaries, skin color, language, or other thing that might serve to separate us. It is through this “light and love” we “enlighten” our world and come forth as who we truly are. It is the expression of our innate wisdom acknowledging our connection to the heavens and grounds us to the present, to earth. It is at this time we accept our own spiritual nature and the peace found in this Christ presence. It is nothing more than the true potential of ourselves and the divine simplicity acting within us. Ralph Waldo Emerson did as much as anyone to convey that this oneness permeates all and that we should be open to what our world has to teach us.
Nei-yeh — Inward Training / Emerson and the pull of nature
Those who can transform even a single thing, call them “numinous”; those who can alter even a single situation, call them “wise.”
But to transform without expending vital energy; to alter without expending wisdom:
only exemplary persons who hold fast to the One are able to do this.
Hold fast to the One; do not lose it,
and you will be able to master the myriad things.
Exemplary persons act upon things,
and are not acted upon by them.
Because they grasp the guiding principle of the One.
With a well-ordered mind within you, well-ordered words issue forth from your mouth, and well-ordered tasks are imposed on others.
Then all under heaven will be well-ordered.
“When one word is grasped,
all under the heavens will submit.
When one word is fixed,
all under heavens will listen.”
It is this word “Way or Tao”
to which the saying refers.
The above translation of the Nei-yeh is by Harold Roth, and excerpted from his book, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism.
By way of introduction to the text, Mr. Roth writes:
“Nei-yeh (Inward Training) is a collection of poetic verses on the nature of the Way (Tao) and a method of self-discipline that I call “inner cultivation” — a mystical practice whose goal is a direct apprehension of this all-pervading cosmic force. It contains some of the most beautiful lyrical descriptions of this mysterious cosmic power in early Chinese literature and in both literary form and philosophical content is quite similar to the much more renowned Lao Tzu (also called the Tao Te Ching).
The Nei-yeh is a Taoist scripture, believed to have been written in the 4th century BC, making it — alongside the 6th century BC Te Tao Ching and the 4th century BC Chuang Tzu — one of the earliest articulations of Taoist mysticism.
The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. Though belonging primarily to the Taoist Canon, the Nei-yeh resonates strongly with other non-dual spiritual traditions, Chan / Zen Buddhism in particular. This along with our understanding that any spiritual culture based on a living tradition with a conscious connection to one’s origins and freedom of thought is what really matters.
Beyond any sense of impermanency, or lack, to a place where only immortality dwells as we touch the clouds with our innate wisdom intact and fulfill the purpose for which we are created. It is from here we begin to re-discover who we really are. If we are to follow the “Christ” presence, or spirit within, then for me this is the first step in celebrating our own nature and the nature of others that surrounds us with Christmas and/or other celebratory traditions that help to take us there.
It is as if we each, as with all things found in nature, have a certain permanence or an inseparable element, an attribute that connects everything, including us in continuity with eternity. With no real beginning or ending, only progress towards our own enlightenment. As if there is an unknowable attachment, we cling to like a magnet – if only innately or unconsciously.
It was this truism that people like Aristotle, Plato, Meister Ekhart, Emmanuel Kant, and others were speaking to… that moved the sense of God to the place that fit with the practical application for how people were to first find the spirit within, then replicate that spirit through their actions and how to live their lives. In Eastern thought, as demonstrated here in Inward Training, a similar response to the universe was to also first recognize that the greatness outside of oneself (nature) is only a mirror of our inner selves. Looking to the West, as I seem to go back and forth, the next great leap of faith from Emmanuel Kant and extension of transcendentalism was Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and the “New Thought” movement. Hundreds of books and writers have attempted to emulate, and convey their impact on what was to become known as the transcendental movement. For myself, I will try to convey their importance both in a personal sense, and looking outwardly as to their impact on others. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, Gandhi, MLK, Bobby Kennedy and others come readily to mind. As if finding, or looking for, the purpose for which we are created and not dying before we have delivered the great message that is paramount above all else which is embodied in each of us. Or conveying the thread for others to find and follow. As we attune to the vibrations and voices of those who have imparted the wisdom that guides us on our way.
But first is to focus on Emerson. Everything seems to begin with his influence and wisdom that directs so many others.
In this short synopsis, I will try to relay how the universe as we know it changed with him. Thoreau’s work will follow shortly after. Emerson’s work on Nature could have just as easily been written by Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and others who directed what was to become Taoism in China for over a thousand years prior to Emerson’s time in early America. The similarities are astounding. No one before or since bridged the gap or space between Eastern and Western philosophy and thought more than Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many in Asian studies feel Emerson was a true Taoist as heart.
In his essay “Nature”, Emerson lays out and attempts to solve an abstract problem: that humans do not fully accept nature’s beauty. He writes that people are distracted by the demands of the world, whereas nature gives but humans fail to reciprocate. The essay consists of eight sections: Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit and Prospects. Each section takes a different perspective on the relationship between humans and nature.
In the essay Emerson explains that to experience the “wholeness” with nature for which we are naturally suited, we must be separate from the flaws and distractions imposed on us by society. Emerson believed that solitude is the single mechanism through which we can be fully engaged in the world of nature, writing “To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.”
Illustration of Emerson’s transparent eyeball metaphor in “Nature” by Christopher Pearse Cranch, ca. 1836-1838
When a person experiences true solitude, in nature, it “takes him away”. Society, he says, destroys wholeness, whereas “Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus, the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.”
Emerson defines a spiritual relationship in nature as when a person finds it’s spirit and accepts it as the Universal Being as if simply an extension of himself. He writes: “Nature is not fixed but fluid; to a pure spirit, nature is everything.”
It’s almost like he is channeling all those who came before him. As if his own awakening spirit could not only see the connection, but become one with it. The sacredness of the Black Hills to the Lakota Sioux Indians come to mind. That with nature comes constant renewal. For my own indulgence, I can’t seem to get enough of trying to understand how he reached the conclusions he did. It was as though he was the Chuang Tzu of his day. Challenging the status quo, i.e., what others had decided what were givens as pre-determined thought and philosophy. He wasn’t having it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and had a prescient knowledge of things or events before they existed or happened. He had foresight as to where things were headed and did not like the direction of what was considered as common knowledge of the day. With this, he became a critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. What most interests me now is that Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism expressed in his 1836 essay “Nature”. Nature is an essay written by Emerson, and published by James Munroe and Company in 1836. In the essay Emerson put forth the foundation of transcendentalism, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional appreciation of nature. Transcendentalism suggests that the divine, or God, suffuses nature, and suggests that reality can be understood by studying nature.
There was also a direct correlation and connection to transcendentalism from the East by Indian religions and Thoreau in his book Walden where he spoke of the transcendentalists’ debt to Indian religions directly through the universal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta and the first English translation of the Lotus Sutra that was included in The Dial, a publication of the New England Transcendentalists that had been translated from French by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody.
The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion, Volume 1, 1841
So, the connection was clear from the 1840’s going forward between what was the become “New Thought” and the East. Although, this connection was primarily from the Hindu Bhagavat Geeta and Buddhist Lotus Sutra. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching had been translated by this time and was available as well.
The Bhagavad Gita was written at some point between 400 BC and 200 AD. Like the Vedas and the Upanishads, the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita is unclear. However, the credit for this text is traditionally given to a man named Vyasa, who is more of a legend than an actual historical figure; because of this, Vyasa has been compared to Homer, the great figure of ancient Greek epic poetry.
Within the “Nature” essay, Emerson divides nature into four usages: Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline. These distinctions define the ways by which humans use nature for their basic needs, their desire for delight, their communication with one another and their understanding of the world. Emerson followed the success of “Nature” with a speech, The American Scholar, which together with his previous lectures laid the foundation for transcendentalism and his literary career. In his lecture, Emerson suggests that it is time to create a new American cultural identity. Something we certainly could use today. Also, for myself, as someone immersed in Eastern thought and philosophy I was especially struck by portions in the speech, after the introduction. The first part of his lecture discusses the importance and influence of nature on our minds. A person should be educated by observing the natural world. In doing so, we will eventually discover the similarities between our minds and nature. Both nature and the human spirit have a circular power with no beginning or end. One can find order in both nature and in the mind. In studying nature, a scholar will realize that as knowledge of nature increases, so too does knowledge of the self. The reverse is also true. As with the I Ching… and the essence of Taoism and self-cultivation, as we structure knowledge, practice, and experience our attitude determines our altitude.
Emerson uses spirituality as a major theme in the essay. He believed in re-imagining the divine as something large and visible, which he referred to as nature; such an idea is known as transcendentalism as mentioned above, in which one perceives God and their body (their innate nature), and becomes one with their surroundings. Emerson confidently exemplifies transcendentalism, stating, “From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind”, postulating that humans and wind are one. (I love this) Becoming one with the wind is commonplace in Eastern philosophy and Taoist belief as you immerse yourself in nature. Emerson referred to nature as the “Universal Being”; he believed that there was a spiritual sense of the natural world around him. Depicting this sense of “Universal Being”, Emerson states, “The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship”.
According to Emerson, there were three spiritual problems addressed about nature for humans to solve: “What is matter? Whence is it? And Where to?” What is matter? Matter is a phenomenon, not a substance; rather, nature is something that is experienced by humans, and grows with humans’ emotions. Whence is it and Where to? Such questions can be answered with a single answer, nature’s spirit is expressed through humans, “Therefore, that spirit, that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us”, states Emerson. Emerson clearly depicts that everything must be spiritual and moral, in which there should be goodness between nature and humans.
“Nature” was controversial to some. One review published in January 1837 criticized the philosophies in “Nature” and disparagingly referred to beliefs as “Transcendentalist”, coining the term by which the group would become known. Henry David Thoreau had read “Nature” while at Harvard and took it to heart.
It eventually became an essential influence for Thoreau’s later writings, including his seminal Walden. Thoreau wrote Walden after living in a cabin on land that Emerson owned. Their longstanding acquaintance offered Thoreau great encouragement in pursuing his desire to be a published author. My next entry here will focus on Thoreau because of his influence on what was to become the “transcendental movement” in America. But a little more here… and this sense of unity of spirit that connects all. Two of my most favorite quotes by Thoreau are “It’s not important what you look at, it’s important what you see”. A second quote would be, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”.
In philosophical terms, I like to think of Henry David Thoreau as more the “common man” mirroring Lieh Tzu in Chinese history. Back to nature, living a simple life exploring man’s connection with his environment. Whereas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was more in keeping with Chuang Tzu’s “perfected man”. Questioning the folly of following accepted norms and looking to the rights of the individual over the need to conform with society. For now though, this from my manuscript… “My travels with Lieh Tzu” found here on my website.
The sway of Nature
Knowing and not knowing. In accord with all things, with all things remaining forever equal.
The final sway of nature never a concern in the end. To be as Kuan yin says: “If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond as an echo.” One asks, how can this be so? The answer is simple. The Way is in constant accord with all other things. To be as a droplet of water flowing down life’s current unconcerned with the events around you, only going along for the ride.
Following life’s current, not swimming upstream against things as they should be. Unconcerned with using eyes and ears or the mind to find the way to follow.
Always letting events determine whatever outcome that may come. Seeing without sight. Hearing without ears. Knowing without knowledge. Where then, can be the way?
The gatekeeper Kuan yin reminds us: “Peer at it in front of you suddenly it is behind you. Use it, and it will fill every quarter of the void; neglect it, and you will never know where it is. It is not something that the presence of the mind can dismiss and can bring nearer. It is grasped only by one who grasps it in silence and lets it mature naturally. To know without passion, be able but not do is truly knowing and truly being able. Discard ignorance, and how can you feel passion? Discard inability, and what can you do?”
To remain as the dirt beneath your feet as you walk. Yet doing nothing, just doing by being. Knowing that without the dirt or earth there could be no flowers to beautify your surroundings nor food to sustain you. Remaining forever constant, simply in nature’s sway. 3/26/95