THE HEART OF THE MATTER
What is Essential and How Can We Come to Know It?
Over the last two centuries, science trumped spirit with fact. But then philosophy, radicalized by two cataclysmic wars, demonstrated conclusively that fact is not truth. In fact, there is no “truth”. The result is the post-modernist faith that all reality is merely relative. Real truth, the “essence,” is an ancient lie. This spiritual cataclysm, the “death of God”, is today the malign nihilism that gnaws at the human spirit.
How can we live without truth?
Obsessed with information, we have lost the essential understanding of Being itself, the innate knowing hidden in the spirit but available to all of us. This “gnosis” can never be reached by calculation, but only by contemplation, an art lost to the West and to all who come under its sway.
The primordial form to be contemplated is the body; more precisely, consciousness in its connection to the body in its natural state. But the body has been objectified, materialized and sold out to technology and the profit motive, even as the earth has been sold out.
The institutions by which gnosis feeds into culture — religion and education — are bereft of the essential. Symbol and myth, vehicles of the divine, have been dismissed as superstition. Religion has become a fanatical attempt to establish the lost ground. Education, intended to draw out the essential, instead serves the bottom line of profit.
Now, severed from the essential, we are uploading our souls into virtual reality.
Error. Foolishness. Depravity.
What is essential and how can we return to it?
What is Essential and Non-Essential?
All my life, even as a boy playing in streams and forests with my Irish setter, Shamrock, I have longed for something that I found in nature. As I grew into my thinking life, I came to the sense that we — our civilization, the West — have strayed from the center, the primordial relationship to nature and the true nature of things. As I was educated and traveled the world, I realized that by virtue of our White Man hegemony, we have influenced the world to follow our course. The hubris of this arrogant entitlement has created the environmental crisis and the nemesis of Islamic extremism. Our world is on a collision course with our own excesses.
Anyone who has come of age since the sixties and is at all sensitive has felt a similar dis-ease. For many of us, the quest for possible ways of correcting the situation has become the mission of our lives. Our efforts to fix this dis-ease came to be known as the counter-culture. The sexual revolution, the movements for the rights of minorities, gays and women, and a dawning ecological awareness — all are outgrowths of this core impulse to regain the true nature of things.
Since the sixties, this unease manifested also in the flight to other cultures — an unprecedented diaspora of privileged Westerners into ancient Asian and indigenous cultures in search of more essential life paradigms. How can we relate internally and externally to the inherent equilibrium of the biosphere and all that is? Many of us have adopted life work and practices originating in cultures that accomplish these ends.
Nevertheless, for all that we restless baby-boomers and the sensitive discontents who followed have participated in this secret alliance to correct our collective error, we have not succeeded. We watch with horror as the misaligned world continues down its crazed course towards self-destruction.
The Sanskrit word dukha, means dis-ease – literally, a wheel no longer centered on its axle. If we want to save our world, we have to find a way to return the wheel of life back onto its center, the essential nature of things.