J: "I believe the only way for humanity to unite and stop fighting each other would be if we were attacked by aliens from outer space. I cannot conceive of any other way it could happen."
Ellen: I understand you to mean that being attacked by aliens would tease a perspective of a united-as-one "us" against an alien-from-us/earth "them". Indeed, something that extreme might have an effect like that, at least at superficial levels, and at best help catalyze a broadening perspective about our place in the whole. A global threat may motivate our coming together and through that begin to illuminate at deeper levels our illusions of separation. However, as long as we are thinking in "us against them" terms I don't really see that there is a true change in world view or consciousness. It might extend the tribal mind mentality from the family, tribe, religion or nation to the earth and be a step in our development towards life everywhere as "all one tribe". As long as we still identify through a sense of separation and division, that will be mirrored to us through all of our relations in life even if our focus changes in so far as uniting planet earth against an alien-to-earth enemy. Unless we investigate at causal levels our sense of separation from all, I have observed that there is still a self-centric rather than world-centric world-view operating.
J: I think that my hypothetical "attack" might, for a while, unite, as you say,on the surface. My thought was really that I can't think of anything that will eliminate what we have seen for the last several millennia. I agree with what you said. I read it generally to say that as long as we are still humans, we will continue to act like humans act. Eric Fromm, in The Heart of Man, Its Genius for Good and Evil, said something like "most [people] are half-awake children" [pardon the paraphrase-my book is at work and I'm not] He goes on to discuss how most need a narcissistic "leader", a parent figure, who expresses confidence if not competence, to give them the strength to make the mistakes in which the planet's population currently engages. I take him to mean that the average person is in many ways like a child in the developmental progress of his psychological self. Humankind therefore acts as you describe, as history reveals, and the world political scene illustrates. Another book, Dictators and Disciples, by Gustav Bychowski, chronicles the identical effect of leaders and followers from Caesar, Cromwell, Robespierre, Hitler, and Stalin. I hope there is a way to progress beyond that, but I am becoming increasing skeptical of the possibility, hence my original post.
Ellen: I would say that as long as a sense of separation and the appearances that are an outgrowth of that inform our actions and propagate a resistance to feared outcomes, we will continue to suffer and want to protect ourselves from what we perceive as threats. I do not see this as a result of being or acting human or nonhuman per se, (although this is prevalent amongst many humans in western cultures) but as being informed by misunderstanding and ignorance - or simply uninvestigated thoughts. And I think this is also perpetuated, to a large degree, as a cultural phenomenon. The tribal or group mind is not prone to investigate its assumptions because not being based on those assumptions would challenge the foundation of its own existence. Individuals who identify through/as/with the group or culture are also not prone to looking too closely at their assumptions or deconstructing their cherished beliefs because they will have their very sense of survival invested in them. I feel that what is so feared about the unknown is the ideas we have about it and not so much its actuality - and even more than that, being no one. Our beliefs give us a sense of who we are. Denial and resistance take a lot more energy than their lack ... but they are often unconscious and habituated (as well as invested in and giving a sense of value and meaning to life), so a recognition of them might seem less likely than their perpetuation.
I feel that the awareness of the divinely intelligent, all-embracing heart can transcend fear, world-views and differences. The heart is what connects the one to its many faces in relationship without forgetting its essential unity and oneness with all. The heart as it breathes through life is a living tantra, weaving its nondual suchness through relationship with all. The awareness of the heart can hold two sides of a conflict and see the truth within both. It is one with all and therefore unifying. Communicating through the heart is integrative and a channel and pathway of and to transcendent mind. The heart's medium is one of love, acceptance and allowance. It is a medium of sensitivity that meets self and other in and as the heart of its most tender heart. It is a medium of humility that knows that there is "a beyond" and does not need to defend itself. It does not argue with what is. Its sword of truth is a sword that cuts in one.
Aspects of our social structures and governments are a projection of our self-tyranny and our conflicts are an expression of our sense of inner division. I see us historically treating others the way we have been treated. The abused abuse. We treat others the way that we have learned to treat ourselves and continue to perpetuate this dynamic generation after generation. I sense that as we learn to listen to ourselves and give ourselves the most compassionate and heartened of what we feel we should get from others; when we recognize the dictators, disciples, tyrants and tyrannized within for what they are, this pattern will no longer continue. I personally feel that recognizing my illusions of separation and the way I contract against life or what is arising within and healing my sense of inner division is my first responsibility in effecting change in the world. Without our recognizing these calls within, they continue to call louder and louder and mirror the distortions of their pain and the thoughts and beliefs that birthed them through their expressions in life and the way in which we perceive and meet our conditions. I see through it all that consciousness, as and through us, is moving towards its self-awareness and recognition, illuminating itself to itself. Whether this results in development that moves from self-centric to world-centric or an evolution of consciousness on a mass scale in my time, I do not know. But I do sense that if in our wanting to effect change in the world, we come from a sense of division, we merely recreate that division in the world and do not facilitate any kind of real transformation.
A: We might prefer to welcome any alien invaders and make peace with them.
Ellen: Yes, and I would like to add that I feel that would best be served by welcoming what we perceive as the alien invaders within and opening our own eyes and hearts to our own folly and making peace. When we do that, we might see that what we thought were invaders were just visitors and what we thought were aliens were merely other faces of our very own self, and once we realize that, our welcome might be of a very different nature then it would have been when we thought we were being invaded by aliens. ;-)
S: You say, "I would say that as long as a sense of separation and the appearances that are an outgrowth of that inform our actions and propagate a resistance to feared outcomes, we will continue to suffer and want to protect ourselves from what we perceive as threats."
Yes, that's exactly what we human beings will continue to do. It's called "life" or "existence," for "existence" IS "a sense [or feeling] of separation." My question: Do you think that the way to solve our very human problems is to feel that we no longer exist? Or, asked another way, how would we overcome our sense of (or our feeling of) separation if that's what life itself is? ("Death" is too easy an answer.)
Ellen: I don't agree with the premise that "existence IS a sense of separation." I think that it can feel like that and an individuated sense of self can even be (and often is) defined by a sense of separation. But I do not feel that essential being is defined by separation or that parts are not holonic (simultaneously whole and part) or sensed as part of a greater whole, or the whole itself in which all phenomena arises. I think that a way to "overcome" our sense of separation is to experience it for what it is and know our essential unity and oneness with all. Recognizing or being able to differentiate our uniqueness does not preclude this. In fact, deeply recognizing both the universality of our individual uniqueness and of the similarities we share within our human condition can facilitate a greater sense of our interconnectedness and oneness. A gateway to being able to recognize our essential oneness is also, as I mention below, the Heart.
Accepting your premise that there is something to overcome, if there is a way to "overcome" something it is to not try and overcome it (you just concretize your illusions of separation from it and "its" reality) but embrace it and see it deeply for what it is.
You asked, "Do you think that the way to solve our very human problems is to feel that we no longer exist?" Realizing that this list seems to be primarily made up of existentialists, I do not know if you meant what I heard you really ask or if you would appreciate in the light that I understand it what my true answer is to that. But, let's give it a go. Someone (Nisargadatta? Ranjit Maharaj? Ramana Maharshi?) once said something like, "Our glory begins when we cease to exist." As I understand this, it was not a reference to dying or what happens when leaving the body. It was not a reference to someone who bypassed the healthy development of ego or a sense of self. This refers to a deep realization of the fiction of identity through a realization of/as the awareness in which it all arises. In not needing to defend any separate sense of self there is a natural willingness that goes along with that to be no one. Because we often substantiate a sense of self with what we believe and think, there is subsequently also no need to "know" for the purpose of that. There is nothing in the way of what IS beyond our preconceptions and the free flow of essential being, consciousness and bliss (satchidananda).
So in the light of all of this, getting back to your question: "Do you think that the way to solve our very human problems is to feel that we no longer exist?" I would say that a way would be to realize that we no longer and never did exist as separate. I would say that a way would be to realize that we exist essentially, as no one. I would say that at the same time we exist as one with all and the totality of all conditions. I would say that at the same time we exist as radically unique individuals, as soul and as the animating force of the universe. I would say that we are the awareness that is prior to existence and prior to conditions and that when we deeply recognize that there is no division, and no one or no thing to divide against. I think that to realize our essential unity it would be useful to realize the nature of thought and belief. I think it would be useful to ask who it is that sees, thinks, knows, believes and cares. It would be useful to realize what is here now, including the feelings and thoughts that arise and be willing to investigate beliefs and thoughts that lead to suffering.
S: I would be the first to agree with you that oneness and unity is our essence, our "essential being." But how does knowing "our essential unity and oneness with all" negate existence as the feeling of separation?
Ellen: Have you asked yourself what it is that knows this. Does That feel separation? Is that ever not here?
S: No matter how much unity or oneness we feel, we cannot NOT feel a sense of separation.
Ellen: I see that is your belief.
S: Even the fact that "unity" and "oneness" exist as words implies that there are separations to unify and make one.
Ellen: That is true. Hence the limitation of language as a medium of translation and relying solely upon the logic of words for your understanding. and if you speak from a place of awareness without division these words are understood from where they come from, and both the way the illusions of duality are propagated and the nottwo from which they arise are illuminated.
S: To think and talk about oneness is to think and talk about separation. To separate the two is like trying to separate "up" from "down." Therefore, to negate separation is to negate unity, for what is it that you are unifying? I will add that our feeling of separation is an illusion, but that is what life is--an illusion.
Ellen: To whom or to what? What is it that knows this?
S: What do you mean by "no need to know"?
Ellen: In this context what I mean is that we tend to define ourselves as separate identities in relation to something else. How we feel physically, where we are spatially and what we think, believe or know in relation to something else gives meaning and substance to who we think we are as an individuated and separate entity. What I was saying was that in the awareness in which all arises there is no need to "know" for the purpose of substantiating a sense of self. There is no invalidation of self if there is "not knowing" because there is awareness that there is no self as separate from anything in the first place. Most people confabulate some knowing just to placate their insecurity with the unknown. If they do not know, they fear that they will cease to exist - in the sense of being annihilated or obliterated . In fact, many people would rather believe horrible things about what their reality is than be faced with not knowing because not knowing either points them at psychological levels to their lack of worthiness or at deeper levels to what they fear about being no one.
S: Your last sentence (satchidananda) really confuses me. Can you explain it?
Ellen: Satchidananda is a Sanskrit term. It is the trinity of transcendent existence, self-awareness and self-delight. sat: pure beingness or existence - chit: pure consciousness; the essential consciousness of the Spirit - ananda: the bliss of the spirit which is the secret source and support of all existence. I said, "There is nothing in the way of what IS beyond our preconceptions and the free flow of essential being, consciousness and bliss (satchidananda). " In other words, in not needing to know, we do not confabulate knowings and hold onto preconceptions that obstruct the free flow of satchidananda and the truth knowledge/consciousness that comes from beyond a mind that reflects a separate sense of self.
S: To repeat, I don't think the illusion of separation negates the unity or oneness that is.
ElIen: I agree that nothing can negate oneness. In addition, Adyashanti said something like, "the non-dual is not the 'not-dual' but includes the dual.". Nonduality refers to being without division - it does not refer to the absence of the appearances of two or the multiplicity of the one.
S: We human beings have truly a long, long way to go in the investigation of our beliefs and thoughts. And not very many of us are even trying. So, our true goal, should be how to try and how to help others try.
Ellen: hmmm...however well-meaning, I think that as long as we have that as an agenda we are feeding our own uninvestigated thoughts and the ego that they fuel. I feel that we have a lot on our plate investigating our own thoughts and beliefs and that when we recognize them for what they are to the point where we know self and other as one, then the compassion and action that comes from there is naturally transformative and quite different from that which feels divided within and against the world and what it judges as its imperfections.
S: Here's a saying of mine that might give you pause: "Love would truly be wonderful if it could come just by understanding."
Ellen: and without that condition, what would love be?