Ta Ch’u: Black Panther

Black Panther

Photo Credit: Brimack

In this, the third installment of a new series of posts on the blog, I am interpreting the hexagrams of the I Ching through an evolutionary spiritual prism. These reflections are meant to appeal to the divine part of ourselves — including that True Self which is already aware of its unity with all beings, and all of the natural world — giving us access to knowledge unknown to the rational mind.

Those of you already familiar with the I Ching will get the most out of these posts. If you don’t know this Chinese classic, add it to your reading list today.

Having previously looked at Hexagram 21, Shi Ho and Hexagram 35, Jing, let’s look today at Hexagram 26, Ta Ch’u / The Taming Power of the Great.

I Ching Hexagram 26

I Ching Hexagram 26

Ta Ch’u / Black Panther

The subtle energy

The energy in the dominant position
Expresses itself in a masculine form
It moves in an inward direction
Its goal is to embrace itself
The energy in the submissive position
Expresses itself in a masculine form
It moves in an outward direction
Its goal is to transcend itself
Masculine and masculine energies:
Yang-Yin-Yin spiraling with Yang-Yang-Yang.
The energies are opposed in direction;
But the opposition is central, and beneficial.
The masculine presides over the abyss below
The masculine presides in the mountain above
Yang seeking to receive Yang,
Yang seeking to penetrate Yin.
The drive for penetrating power, doubled in its effects.

The image

It is an image like heaven within a mountain, great power which is held firm
It is an image of a strong man of great clarity who is needed by the ruler
It is an image of entering public service 
Today I see it is an image like a Black Panther, prowling at night
Today it is also an image of the need for those in positions of worldly power to submit to the demands of Justice in the course of the world’s evolution

The judgment

Perseverance furthers. It is necessary to stalk prey at night. Good fortune.
There is need to strengthen the body’s athleticism and discipline thought so as to be of greatest service int he world.
If extremes of thinness (superficiality) and thickness (obstinance) can be avoided, there is success in acting ethically.

Dalai Lama tops list of the 100 most powerful spiritual people in the world

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Spiritual power is not an oxymoron. Watkins Books, a British magazine publisher, has begun to rank spiritually influential people. In a new list for 2012, the second such ranking, the Dalai Lama is given the top honors. Watkins Books explains:

His [the Dalai Lama's] visit to Mongolia in November 2011 was criticized by China, but his popularity shows no sign of waning. Time Magazine call him “The most influential person in the world”, while The Times commented “He draws crowds that no other spiritual leader or politician could hope to match…he seems to look at life in a different way to everyone else”. His latest book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World was published in January.

The top 20, according to Watkins Books:

  1. Dalai Lama
  2. Eckhart Tolle
  3. Thich Nhat Hanh
  4. Deepak Chopra
  5. Paulo Coelho
  6. Elizabeth Gilbert
  7. Iyanla Vanzant
  8. Ken Wilber
  9. James Redfield
  10. Rhonda Byrne
  11. Alice Walker
  12. Nelson Mandela
  13. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
  14. Doreen Virtue
  15. Michio Kaku
  16. Oprah Winfrey
  17. Alejandro Jodorowsky
  18. Mantak Chia
  19. Desmond Tutu
  20. Alex Grey

See the whole list, including a headshot and description of each person in the top 10. As I see it, all 20 of these figures are contributing in their own unique way to the emergence of a genuine World Spirituality for the 21st century, to greater or lesser degrees. Ken Wilber, certainly, with his creation of an Integral Framework for evolutionary enlightenment; Deepak Chopra, of course, whose popular and scholarly writings bring religion and science into fruitful embrace; Alex Grey, with his vision of integral art to heal the soul and mend the planet … and many more …

Falling: Last year, Eckhart Tolle had the top spot, but that was then and this is now. The author of Power of Now is still very much in vogue. Dr. Wayne Dyer fell off the top 10 this year, declining 10 notches to No. 13. Also falling out of the top 10 this year is Louise Hay, who takes the No. 46 slot, and Oprah Winfrey, falling eight ranks to No. 16.

Rising: Gaining one notch each in the Top 10 are the Dalai Lama (No. 1), Thich Nhat Hanh (No. 3), Deepak Chopra (No. 4), Ken Wilber (No. 8), and James Redfield (No. 9). Paul Coehlo, author of many popular books including The Alchemist, rises two notches to take the magical No. 5 position.

Debuts: Elizabeth Gilbert debuts on the list at No. 6. Her book, Committed, was released last year. Iyanla Vanzant debuts on the list this year at No. 8. Her website’s bio says she teaches “a variety of classes, workshops and relationship building tools, based on universal laws and spiritual principles … designed to facilitate and support Personal Development and Spiritual Evolution.”

Rhonda Byrne, author and producer of The Secret, holds steady on the list at No. 10. Although the core concept of The Secret is central to the New Age movement, it does have its critics within World Spirituality (such as Wilber) who are uncomfortable with its failure to make appropriate discriminations between pre-rational and trans-rational beliefs.

Situating my own view within a perspective grounded in World Spirituality and the theoretical writings of Ken Wilber, I would point to the rise of Watkins Books’ list itself as a moment in the evolution of consciousness. Before 2011, at no time in history did human beings imagine that there was such a thing as “spiritually powerful people” distributed throughout the world, and that such persons could be identified, compared to one another, and ranked (however imperfectly and subjectively).

The fact that it is now possible to have a conversation about who is influential, why, and for how long is a good thing if it helps people to shed their ethnocentrism towards a more worldcentric spirituality. We must wake up as citizens of the world, and as unique facets of Spirit, in order to harness our power for the greatest benefit.

The Story of Enlightenment, Part 1: Marc Gafni’s TEDx talk in Las Vegas


Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Today I’ll begin a regular series of posts discussing my own views of the Story of Enlightenment, an important theme in the thought of Marc Gafni, one of the world’s brightest lights in terms of awakened consciousness.

Gafni’s pioneering work on the Enlightenment of Fullness — a vision to be set forth more fully in upcoming books and workshops and trainings — has the potential to revolutionize the world’s view of enlightenment. It is already catalyzing a World Spirituality movement based on integral and evolutionary principles. One of its core ideas, a teaching extended from the Kabbalah tradition, is about understanding the distinction between separateness and uniqueness.

Let’s begin with a 20-minute video on “The Future of Enlightenment” from MarcGafni.com which outlines the essentials of the vision.

Here’s a quote from one section near the middle of the talk:

The great [religious] traditions are beautiful, they’re holy, stunning, they’re deep. But they’re pre-modern. So if we are going to actually be guided by the shared depths structures of pre-modernity, we’ve made a regressive move. We’ve gone backwards.

So a World Spirituality has to integrate the best and deepest insights of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. We have to weave those together in a vision that actually allows for a shared story that we can actually transmit  and hold and live in.

It’s not that the story knows everything. There’s so much we don’t know. We hold the uncertainty, we dance in the mystery. But there’s also that which we know. That which we can feel. We know it not because of faith. We’re not interested in faith. We know it not because it’s a dogma someone has told us. We know it because we have first-hand, first-hand experience after having done experiments in Spirit. Having done them in double-blind structures all over the years for thousands of years. We’ve gathered the results. We’ve checked them with the community of the adequate, which is precisely the scientific method, and we have revealed using the faculty of the Eye of the Spirit a shared story, which actually is one which can unite us.

Marc’s first point is that the great traditions are pre-modern. Straightforward enough. Or is it?

Look around at the traditions called “World Religions,” we see that at around 2000 BCE, there were was Judaism and religions in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Brahmanism; Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism emerged close to 500 BCE, Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, around 0 CE, give or take a few hundred years. The last great tradition was the founding of Islam around 610 CE, to say nothing today of the important faiths to emerge in the last 200 years.

Continue reading “The Story of Enlightenment, Part 1: Marc Gafni’s TEDx talk in Las Vegas” »

Rune Soup makes the case for magic: “You Are Made Of Books”


Photo Credit: JohnGoode

Science cannot give us omniscience, but it can clarify how we see things through the power of observation (whether by the naked eye or as extended through scientific apparatus). It does become a problem when coupled with the arrogant attitude which dulls the imagination and disenchants the universe.

The Rune Soup (Adventures Beyond Chaos Magic) blog is running a series of posts to make an intelligent case for believing in the power of magic. A quote from the latest one:

DNA: Your real autobiography

A single strand of your DNA is only ten atoms wide but stretches for over two feet. It is 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light. This single strand is contained inside the nucleus of one of your cells. A cell nucleus is roughly two millionth of a pinhead. String the DNA from all your cells together and it will go around the earth five million times.

Here’s a quote from the classic pseudohistorical DNA text, The Cosmic Serpent:

All living beings contain DNA, be they bacteria, carrots, or humans. DNA, as a substance, does not vary from one species to another; only the order of its letters changes. This is why biotechnology is possible. For instance, one can extract the DNA sequence in the human genome containing the instructions to build the insulin protein and splice it into the DNA of a bacterium, which will then produce insulin similar to that normally excreted by the human pancreas. The cellular machines called ribosomes, which assemble the proteins inside the bacterium, understand the same four-letter language as the ribosomes inside human pancreatic cells and use the same 20 amino acids as building blocks. Biotechnology by its very existence proves the fundamental unity of life.

Each living being is constructed on the basis of the instructions written in the informational substance that is DNA. A single bacterium contains approximately ten million units of genetic information, whereas a microscopic fungus contains a billion units. In a mere handful of soil there are approximately ten billion bacteria and one million fungi. This means that there is more order, and information, in a handful of earth than there is on all the surfaces of all other known planets combined. The information contained in DNA makes the difference between life and inert matter.

So there is a ten-atom-wide, universal coding language inside every living thing that suddenly appeared one day a few billion years ago, whose double-helix shape was probably discovered while high on LSD, that absolutely refuses to be replicated in lab settings.

Don’t listen if they say it has been. Balls of fatty acid built on PNA rather than DNA, splicing short genomes into empty bacterial cells… this is just moving the building blocks around a bit and saying you’ve discovered where building blocks come from. I call shenanigans on that! Clearly it isn’t just pseudoscience that speculates beyond the data.

To quote New York University chemistry professor, Robert Shapiro, on the most famous ‘recreating DNA’ experiment from the University of Chicago… it’s like accidentally producing the phrase to be by banging randomly on a keyboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of Hamlet is going to follow. “Any sober calculation of the odds reveals that the chances of producing a play or even a sonnet in this way are hopeless, even if every atom of material on earth were a typewriter that had been turning out text without interruption for the last four and a half billion years.”

This is an example of what Rupert Sheldrake, one of Britain’s best wizards-at-large refers to in a recent interview as science’s “recurrent fantasy of omniscience.”

Sheldrake talks a good deal of the fact that, as all good Brian Cox viewers know, 83% of the universe is now thought to be “dark matter” and subject to “dark energy” forces that “nothing in our science can begin to explain”.

Despite this, he suggests, scientists are prone to “the recurrent fantasy of omniscience”. The science delusion, in these terms, consists in the faith that we already understand the nature of reality, in principle, and that all that is left to do is to fill in the details. “In this book, I am just trying to blow the whistle on that attitude which I think is bad for science,” he says…

via You Are Made Of Books: The Whisky Rant (Part 5).

M. Scott Peck on Love: A Critique


Photo Credit: Steve-h

“Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity … Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom …. love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. True love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does’.” — M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled

Actually love is a feeling, I believe, but as a feeling it is only one part of something central and radiant at the heart of all things in the universe … and to the extent that it is a feeling, it is only showing its fleeting and furtive face, not its essential nature.

True, love is an action, an activity. But activity is not its origin or its essence, but its final realization. Its end is activity in the same way that the end of forgiveness may be to mend a divided friendship or the end of giving is to release greatness. The expression is important and conclusive, but it is not really what Love is about.

True, commitment is at the heart of love. So too is communication. So too is communion. So too is understanding. So too is enough-ness.  Luck is at the heart of love. Luster is at the heart of love. Luxury is at the heart of love. So too is the Sun itself, a radiant source of Light and Luminescence, taking us to higher realms above. So much is implied by love that what can we say about it is to point, as the Buddhists say, to its suchness.

I believe that the exercise of wisdom is connected to Love, but the connection may be more elusive than M. Scott Peck said. Very often love seems closer to loopiness than intelligence. When the power of love is too strong, when its sunshine comes too soon, when its fun turns to foolishness, and when its course is run and it becomes ruined … that’s when love is not at all skillfully expressed. The Sun of Love leaves with lustrous loss; the Moon of Love remains with mournful loneliness.

Is the will to love really about extending oneself for the purpose of another’s spiritual growth? That may be so, when one is looking at love as something one person does to another person. But it looks quite a bit different when one looks at Love as what one person is as his Full Self and what another person is as her Full Self, and that One Self which they have in common.

When One is Love as opposed to one self doing love, the will expressing itself is not his or hers, but Ours; the purpose finding itself too is Ours; the nurturing is the We feeding Us; the spiritual growth is nothing but the finding of our True Nature.

Is it so, as M. Scott Peck says, that love is as love does? I would rather say that love does as Love is and as Love evolves. Love is not something which requires a purposeful act; it is a surrender to the power of Light and Aliveness at the heart of all things, a surrender to God.


Poetry reading: “Time” by Percy Bysshe Shelley


Our True Self is a sea unfathomable by the salt of human tears or the wrecks of rationality, ever impermanent with the waves of cosmic evolution. When Shelley asks “Who shall put forth on thee?” we too ask “Who?” to inquire into the nature of our being.

Here’s a new reading of the poem “Time” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, uploaded today to YouTube.

Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,
Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe
Are brackish with the salt of human tears!
Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow
Claspest the limits of mortality,
And sick of prey, yet howling on for more,
Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore;
Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm,
Who shall put forth on thee,
Unfathomable Sea?

A reader comment on stretching sexual boundaries


Photo Credit: ElvertBarnes

As much as I notice all the things that Facebook gets wrong, it’s worth pointing out something that it gets very much right. In terms of the user profile, it allows members to select a sexual preference without forcing them to select a particular label (gay, bi, queer, etc.), but simply by choosing to indicate whether they are interested in women, men, both, or unspecified. Simple and useful.

One thing it forces the average straight guy or gal to do is to consider stating publicly that they are ONLY interested in members of the opposite sex (or at least implying that much). Having to check the box next to “Interested in:” raises the possibility of sexual fluidity in a way that can be awkward especially for men.

Women indicate an interest in women many times more often on Facebook than men indicate an interest in men, even though some research suggests that homosexuality is more prevalent in men than in women. This is probably attributable to the higher degree of social stigma for men to indicate an interest in men. But increasingly today, men who are predominantly heterosexual are facing the choice of indicating a bisexual interest whenever they choose for as long as they choose. The social stigmas are fading, and indications are that in the U.S. at least there is increasing tolerance for men to experiment sexually.

I last addressed this topic with two posts in October on my own efforts to reflect on sexual fluidity in my experience. I suggested that “Fluid” might emerge as a new term to replace older terms for sexual orientation such as gay and straight:

Fluidity is not merely about the gender of one’s sexual partner. It’s about appreciating the nuances and complexities of attraction, a willingness to follow one’s attention into spontaneous enjoyment of whatever arises, without preconceptions. It’s about purity insofar as it insists on a moment-to-moment innocence and friendliness to discovery. It’s about worth insofar as it is grounded in the source of all worth, the sacred force of all life in the cosmos.

As a practical matter, the use of Fluid as a label for sexual identity may face obstacles. Unlike, say, “Bisexual” “Poly,” or even “Pansexual,” the term is a new use of an old word, a usage not recognized in the culture today; and if the term is used in connection with sexuality, as I have noted it is generally thought to refer to the ability of some women and men to be attracted to different genders at different times in their lives (an aspect of the Fluid identity which is not the most important thing).

However, the lack of general awareness of a Fluid identity could be beneficial. The label could be taken up as a moniker especially well suited for post-conventional sexual identities, a way of describing sexual identity not in gross terms (i.e., by the genitalia of one’s object of desire), not merely in subtle terms (i.e., the masculine essence or feminine essence of one’s partner), but in causal terms (i.e., identification with the ground of Being) and nondual terms (i.e., the indistinct force of Eros itself expressing itself through the uniqueness of one’s object of desire).

This post caught a readers attention. He writes:

I was interested to read your post on sexual fluidity in men. It strikes me as true for myself as a man engaged in opening his mind to the world.

I always considered myself straight, and spent a lot of time in life engaging with women as lovers. I was married, since-divorced, and afterwards began to give voice slowly to thoughts I had about being sexually attracted to men. After several years of this questioning, I began to speak it aloud recently, and I have opened a pandora’s box of intense feeling with regard to other men – alienation from them, attraction to and admiration of their bodies, fear, desire, and fundamentally the glimmerings of a closer intimacy with them – and my own father – than I had ever had in the past. In the process I myself feel more like a man in many ways, more intense, more sexual – and not only towards men but towards women.

Continue reading “A reader comment on stretching sexual boundaries” »

Hallelujah! It’s gay marriage for Washington State!

Lesbian Wedding

Photo Credit: stevendamron

Today my home state of Washington becomes the seventh state in the USA to legalize same-sex marriage. I am grateful for the wisdom and discernment of Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state legislature, including many Democrats and some Republicans, who have given me and many thousands of fellow citizens equal rights on this day.

I almost didn’t vote for her in 2004 because I hated her stand against gay marriage.  I’m glad I did. What I didn’t realize then was how important it is to keep forgiving and giving our political leaders a chance to change their hearts and minds. With time and lots of work and the grace of God, miracles happen.

They made a courageous choice, for sure, but not perilously so. The governor conveniently opposed gay marriage until a few weeks ago, when polls had accumulated showing that gradually public opinion in the state turned decisively towards equal marriage rights.

I don’t know when I will get married, and can’t even be certain that such a day will arrive for me, but if it does then I know that I am free to follow my God-given path without having to experience irrational discrimination from the government. Hallelujah!

To many people with a traditional worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign of the decay of modern culture into wickedness and perversion, proof that we have entered into a New Dark Age.

To many people with a modern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a good sign that the liberating state, focused on individual rights, is finally becoming separated from the control of oppressive religion.

To many people with a postmodern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign that Queers have forsaken their rebellious, bohemian queerness with its potential to critique the bourgeois, patriarchal, and oppressive sexual institution of marriage, which really needs to be jettisoned altogether in favor of an anarchic paradise of “vive la différence!”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Parts of each of these worldviews probably lives in each of us to some degree or another, if we have listened to other people and tried to give them a fair hearing. But from an integral worldview, no one of these worldviews is adequate.

Our vision is evolutionary, inclusive, and spiritual. Gay marriage is an evolution of culture and society in all its dimensions — a sign of God and Spirit in our midst — a holy and good thing not merely because it lets gay people have hospital visitation rights but because it is an expression of the inherent dignity of gay people as equally manifestations of God.

Our view is not anti-liberal; it is pro-liberal. It is not anti-conservative; it is pro-conservative. Gay spirituality includes both conservatism and liberalism and transcends them (as I wrote in 2004).

We make room for parts of traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews, because these views have lived within us at one time in our own development, and to hate these views in others is also to reject a part of ourselves. We allow for difference, but we do not say that all differences are okay; differences evolve ever towards our True Nature, uniquely expressed.

We celebrate a victory which brings greater justice to a minority population. Today’s victory in Washington is a victory for the human spirit, that gayness which lives in all of us, whether we are homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual … because we are all members of the Catholic Church, the Universal Sangha, the Universal Mosque, the Universal Synagogue, and the divine fellowship of humankind.

A true World Spirituality affirms the dignity of all people and will not rest in complacency so long as justice remains to be delivered for so many people around the world.

Joe Perez is an author who has published books on Gay and Bi Men’s Spirituality.

Martin Lindstrom predicts how brands will become more ethical in the future


Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom

World Spirituality as I understand it includes a practice of right livelihood, conscious business. The overarching perspective gives us the framework in which we recognize that the ethical center at the heart of work is Love, the force of evolution itself. It is from this capacity that our own individual work lives have an ethical livelihood and from the collective ethos of an organization that it has (or fails to have) an ethical brand.

The world may be evolving better, more ethical, businesses. How, specifically? One possible future: the Internet will empower consumer to hold brands responsible to ethical standards by punishing those which do not deliver. Businesses, anticipating a shift in power in relationship to consumers, will begin to act with greater responsibility rather than be punished.

Martin Lindstrom, once named one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People,” by Time Magazine, tells us that the world of product branding is changing. In an article in Fast Company, he says that he predicts that Wikileaks sorts of organizations will emerge in the future which are focused on keeping brands honest. Smart people in business today have to realize the importance of putting ethics first. He writes:

Last year, I began a study of 2,000 consumers in which I asked for their ethical perspectives [on branding]. Their advice proved invaluable. We would be wise to take note of it:

  • Don’t do anything to kids and consumers that you would not do to your own children, friends, and family.
  • Every time you launch a campaign, a new product, or a service, secure an “ethical” sign-off from your target group. Develop your own independent consumer panel (a representative target audience) and disclose the perception of the product, as well as the reality. Let the consumers make the final call.
  • Align perception with reality. Your talents might very well lie in brilliantly creating convincing perceptions, but how do they stack up against the reality? If there’s a mismatch, one or the other must be adjusted in order for them to be in sync.
  • Be 100% transparent. Nothing less. The consumer needs to know what you know about them. Furthermore, they must be told exactly how you intend to use the information. If they don’t like what they see, they need a fair and easy way to opt out.
  • Almost any product or service has a downside, so don’t hide it. Tell it as it is. Be open and frank, and communicate the negatives in a simple and straightforward way.
  • All your endorsements and testimonials must be real–don’t fake them. Continue reading “Martin Lindstrom predicts how brands will become more ethical in the future” »

Jing: Cows in the Field

Cow in Field

Photo Credit: Eduardo Amorim

In this, the second installment of a new series of posts on the blog, I will be offering a few short poetic relfections on the hexagrams of the I Ching. These reflections are meant to appeal to our spiritual imagination and ethical intuition, not the rational mind.

If you are familiar with the I Ching, you will get more out of these posts than if you are not. But at the very least, consider the poetic remarks as an invitation to look closer at your own experience and let the imagery and hexagram be greeted by your unconscious mind.

Having previously looked at Hexagram 21, Shi Ho, let us turn now to Hexagram 35, Jing. This hexagram is the next in the sequence when the 64 hexagrams are arranged in ascending order according to the numeric value in a binary numbering system.

I Ching Hexagram 35

I Ching Hexagram 35

Jing / Cows in the Field

The subtle energy

The energy in the dominant position
Expresses itself in a masculine form
It moves in an inward direction
Its goal is to transcend itself
The energy in the submissive position
Expresses itself in a feminine form
It moves in an inward direction
Its goal is to embrace itself
Masculine and feminine energies:
Yang-Yin-Yang spiraling with Yin-Yin-Yin
Both energies flow inward
Both seek that which is like itself
The masculine leads over the cosmos
The feminine serves in the light
Yang seeking like to Yang, Yin seeking like to Yin
Yang wanting freedom from Yang,
Yin wanting to embrace Yin,
The drive for freedom overtakes the drive for embrace

The image

It is an image like an enlightened ruler presiding over an obedient court
It is an image of the sun rising over the earth
It is an image of making progress by virtue of purity of motive
Today I see it is an image like a Cow eating grass in a Field
Today it is also an image of making progress towards Justice in the course of evolution

The judgment

It is favorable to consider one’s effects in the world
There is the risk of proceeding without authenticity of purpose, generating only artificial and temporary successes
If fakeness and fickleness can be avoided, there is grace in the folk wisdom of crowds.