Dialogical Self Theory (DST)[1] has proven to be very helpful to my theological work as well as my personal spiritual practice. Even more so after reflecting on the bestselling books by Eckhart Tolle[2] in terms of multivocality and spiritual evolution.

In order to share my view on the relevance of DST to spiritual evolution in the third paragraph, I will first have to deal with complicated and seemingly unrelated subjectmatters. The first two paragraphs will briefly touch on the theory of evolution, quantum physics, the study of near death experiences, neoplatonistic philosophy and theosophy.

1. Evolution of consciousness is no matter of matter

The scientific study of human evolution seems to be purely a matter of matter. Classical physics sees the universe, including human beings, as solely material. In the materialistic paradigm, which underlies classical physics, everything in the universe is built of molecules, that in turn are built of atoms, that in turn are built of subatomic particles. In accordance with classical physics, most neurologists see human consciousness as a product of matter: molecules build brain cells and brain cells produce consciousness. Even psychologists who deal with the evolution of man focus on the growing capacities of the human brain. Evolutionary psychologists seem to equal the evolution of human consciousness to the growing complexity of activities that the brain can produce.

People are sometimes surprised when I tell them that, as a theology student and even in my first years as a theologian, I used to share this materialistic view on the human species. Like many people today, I was convinced that science dictates that consciousness is the product of the material brain. In this view the human body is basically a bio-electrical machine, the brain controlling its power supply. Human demise is the result of a lack of power supply. At death the brain stops to produce consciousness, hence human existence is over. Even today many theologians understand notions such as ‘eternal life’ and ‘resurrection’ as purely metaphorical. Science and theology parted ways right after the middle ages. Within the materialistic paradigm scientists limit themselves to dealing with empirical facts and theologians limit themselves to dealing with particular human experiences expressed in mythological metaphors. And never the twain shall meet.

It was only fairly recently that I realized that the materialistic paradigm has been outdated for over a century. At the beginning of the 20th century Einstein posed that matter is energy. It doesn’t take an academic degree in quantum physics to understand this. Just visualize an atom. There’s a core consisting of subatomic particles and a number of electrons that circulate this core at mind dazzling velocities. Now visualize the space between the core and the electrons and it becomes clear that the atom is mostly empty. Actually 99,999999999999 % of the atom appears to be totally void. It becomes clear that it is the velocity of the electrons’ circulation that creates the illusion of solidity. And it gets even worse (or better): experiments show that electrons start off as energy waves. Some present-day quantum physicists hold that it is the human perception that slows down the frequencies of waves, turning them into particles. Some of those physicists, such as F.A. Wolf and A. Goswami, even claim that matter is actually condensed consciousness. This makes perfect sense to me: consciousness is energy. The higher the frequencies of energy waves, the higher the consciousness. Some energy waves condense into what we perceive as matter.

This is actually a view on consciousness that philosophers call ‘monistic idealism’. [3] In philosophy ‘idealism’ is the counterpart of ‘materialism’. Philosophical idealism turns the materialistic view upside down. In other words: materialism claims that consciousness is produced by matter (atoms, molecules, brain cells); idealism claims that matter is produced by consciousness. In fact all monotheistic religions are representatives of idealism since they share the belief that God, who is purely spiritual, created the material universe. It is fascinating to me to see the similarities between theories in present day physics such as Zero-Point-Field Theory (ZPFT) and String Theory and the claims of pre-modern monistic-idealistic philosophers. ZPFT holds that the space between objects in the material universe is not empty. There appears to be a vast energyfield underlying, interconnecting and creating everything in the material universe.[4] Similarly string theorists hold that within the atom a multitude of dimensions are, for lack of a better word, ‘rolled up’. These new theories in physics confirm the claims of idealist physicists (Goswami, Wolf a.o.) that the universe is a multidimensional energyfield, the material universe being the outer shell that contains universes ‘built’ of higher energyfrequencies. This so-called ‘monistic idealism’ is not new but rather a confirmation of  philosophies of ancient times, such as Neo-Platonism. In his book ‘The Enneads’ Plotinus (Alexandria, 3nd century A.D.) explains his visions of the purely spiritual ‘One’ who emanates, forming successive non-material realms. The first emanated realm is still highly spiritual. The second realm is non-material, but less spiritual than the first. The emanation of the last non-material realm forms matter. In other words: the physical universe is a material shell holding other non-material realms. Our perception of time and space only applies to this material shell. And the build of the human being correlates with all these realms. The human body is the outer material shell holding the psyche, the soul and the spirit.

It is not hard to find similar links between physics and spirituality in the works of Blavatsky, the 19th century founding mother of theosophy. She claims that the ‘theosophic system’ was actually first taught under this heading in 3ndcentury Alexandria by Ammonius Saccas. He was a dockworker teaching philosophy in his spare time! Amongst his disciples were Plotinus and church-father Origenes. Knowing this history, it comes as no surprise that theosophy teaches that the highest Oneness forms non-material realms, finally forming matter. And the human being corresponds with these non-material realms as the physical body contains various ‘energy bodies’. It was the former theosophist and founder of anthroposophy Steiner who labeled these realms and the corresponding energy bodies with terms that are common with present day anthroposophists and New Agers (‘physical’, ‘etherical’, ‘astral’, ‘spiritual’).

 

 

2. Evolution of consciousness in the idealistic paradigm

 

In this paragraph I will present a hypothetical model of layered human consciousness that is loosely based on Blavatsky and Steiner. It takes some getting used to to see the physical universe, including the human body, as an outer shell, as a manifestation in form of formless reality. When religions tell us that God is ‘the most high’ we tend to look up. But when regarding the universe and the body as multi-layered energy fields, it is more accurate to look for higher energy frequencies within the outer layer.

To most contemporary scientists, who are firmly rooted in the materialistic paradigm, this monistic-idealistic view on consciousness sounds like esoteric nonsense. Still, it seems like more and more serious present day scientists leave the materialistic view behind as the empirical data, supporting an idealistic view, grow. A very important contribution towards empirically founding the idealistic view was handed by Dutch cardiologist Van Lommel.

 

The scientific study of near-death-experiences

Van Lommel caused quite a stir in the Netherlands with his book on near-death-experiences. When he started off his professional career, he rejected reports of patients who had been clinically dead as hallucinations. Later on, many of these reports later, he could no longer hold this position. When scientifically studying these reports he found a number of anomalies. The most important one being that some people reported perceptions of verified events that took place in the period of their clinical death. Some of these events taking place in locations that were far removed from the location the patient was in at the time. His research strongly suggests that consciousness does not stop, but actually widens when clinical death occurs.

Near-death-studies have been around for decades, following Moody’s ‘Life after Life’-research. What is new is Van Lommel’s interpretation of near-death-experiences in terms of quantum physics. He regards the human brain as a sort of TV which receives signals from ‘non-local’ consciousness. Non-locality is a term used in quantum physics to point to a ‘locality’ (for lack of a better word) which is situated outside of what we perceive as time and space.

As far as I am concerned this ‘non-locality’ of consciousness strongly supports the monistic idealistic claim of the human body being the outer material shell containing an energy field that can be stipulated and labeled in terms of energy bodies. Only the outer shell stays in the material realm we call earth. The higher energy bodies leave the outer shell, traveling through the immaterial realms in which the dimensions of time and space are very unlike here on earth. And since the material world contains the immaterial realms, it is no problem whatsoever for the combined higher energy bodies to travel to other locations and even through time. Theosophists actually claim that each of us leave the material body when we sleep, traveling through the immaterial realms (‘astral voyages’). The reason we can return to physical existence, they hold, is that the layered energy body is still connected to the physical body. This seems to be the case as well in near death experiences, seeing that the return to physical existence is still possible.

 

The hypothetical model of human consciousness as a multi-layered energy field

When taking monistic-idealistic philosophers and physicists, as well as near-death researchers, seriously, the materialistic view of human consciousness becomes very questionable. Much like the eye is not the producer but the receiver and processor of light, the brain appears not to be the producer, but the receiver and processor of consciousness.  Consciousness itself is claimed to be ‘non-local’. i.e. ‘located’ in higher realms outside of our physical realm’s space and time.

As stated before, in theosophy it has been common for centuries to stipulate certain layers of human consciousness in connection with corresponding immaterial realms. The actual stipulations and labeling seem arbitrary. Each layer is like a fixated point within a bandwidth of an energy field. Yet, for practical purposes, I propose the hypothetical model of the human body as a sort of matroushka-doll (see the photo above).

 

 

The outer body holds another consisting of higher energy frequencies, which in turn holds another body consisting of even higher energy frequencies etcetera. And each of these energy bodies is situated in the corresponding non-material realm.

1) The physical body is the outer shell which provides material form. It is built of material we share with minerals. It’s agenda is to stay intact.

2) The second body, which appears when removing the outer shell, is what provides life. It is the energy body we share with plants. Its agenda is survival through reproduction. Basic needs are air, food, warmth and comfort.

3) The third body, which appears when removing the second, is what provides the ability to move and to sense, especially emotions. It is the energy body we share with animals. It’s agenda is pleasure by means of satisfaction of its basic needs (air, food, sex, security, comfort etcetera). Basically emotions either bring pleasure or suffering. Pleasant as well as unpleasant emotions (fear, anger, cold etcetera) guide the animal towards satisfactory situations.

4) The fourth body, which appears when removing the third, is unique to the human species. It provides the rational mind and self-consciousness, which produce a sense of identity: the awareness of being an individual amongst other individuals. It’s main agenda is finding and fulfilling existential meaning. The basic need of the fourth body is purpose.

 

Human evolution in the idealistic paradigm

This idealistic view on consciousness implies a radical shift when considering human evolution. For in the materialistic view consciousness evolves as the brain grows, producing more and more mental complexity. Whereas in the idealistic view growing mental complexity is actually regarded as counterproductive to the evolution of consciousness.

Like other monistic-idealistic philosophers, bestselling author Tolle sees the world of forms (the universe, the body) as an emanation of formless, timeless, unmanifested being. Growing mental complexity has lead the human race to get more and more ‘trapped in form’. This imprisonment, he holds, is the result of falsely identifying consciousness with the physical realm of three-dimensional space and linear time. He laments most people of today who keep looking for their life’s purpose in some kind of acquisition or accomplishment in the future. Instead of looking for fulfillment in the ‘timeless now’ by no longer identifying with form and time, but with the ‘inner body’ which connects us to the formless, unmanifested one life. The compulsive mind has almost completely taken over most people’s lives. Instead of happiness this domination of compulsive thinking brings more unhappiness. Tolle holds that it is the ‘mind dominated egoic self’ that constantly tries to acquire a sense of purpose by striving to be ‘better than’ or have ‘more than’ is presently the case. But instead of finding pleasure and happiness ‘the ego’s constant resistance to the present moment’ produces more pain and unhappiness.

It is contradictory to what regular western philosophy teaches to regard the rational mind as counterproductive to growth of consciousness. As early as Plato and Aristotle it is the rational mind that puts man higher up the ladder of consciousness than plants and animals. And Descartes famous adagium ‘I think therefore I am’ put the rational mind right in the centre of Western culture, ultimately leading to classical physics and, in its wake, modern technology. It could be argued that this was a major step forward in human evolution, as the power of the churches was broken, liberating the individual. But it could also be argued that the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, replacing collective obedience by self willful separateness. I adhere to the view that what mankind needs, is to take another evolutionary step in consciousness, combining the core-qualities of the previous steps: connectedness and freedom. An important condition to be able to take this step collectively is to give up the misconception of (wo)man as a separate entity of consciousness.

I remember how it never used to make any sense to me at all that practitioners of transcendental meditation claimed that their group meditations would benefit millions. Nowadays their claim does make sense to me because I no longer see individual people as separate conscious entities, but as part of the one energy field of consciousness. Using the model of the energy bodies this view is quite easy to understand when stating that the fourth energy body holds a fifth, which in turn holds a sixth etcetera.

- As seen before the fourth body provides self-consciousness and identity. There’s a sense of being a separate conscious entity amongst physical phenomena. There is also a notion of resemblance. Physical objects, plants and animals are seen as resp. other separate entities of being, living and breathing. And other human beings are seen as other conscious entities, fully deserving the kind of rights and privileges that I claim for myself. This sense of alliance is the basis for any liberal society in which tolerance, respect and solidarity are core-values.

- Now, the fifth body provides a sense of connectedness that transcends separateness. This is why mystics and people who were nearly dead report an awareness in which any sense of separateness was gone and the notion of fundamental connectedness set in. This is the kind of ‘a priory connectedness’ that spiritual traditions are about when saying: all men are children of God or all life contains Buddha-nature.

 

Evolutionary dysfunction and multivocality

The model of the energy bodies is hierarchical: the next level or layer is energetically higher than the previous, the fifth level bringing purpose to one’s life. Much like in Maslow’s pyramid this hierarchy suggests that the ‘higher’ need comes in as soon as a ‘lower’ need is satisfied and cancelled out. Similarly, thinking that the ‘higher’ level cancels out the ‘lower’ level, psychologists usually regard a person’s development as a linear process.  For instance in theories of cognitive development (Piaget) and moral development (Kohlberg) a person gradually progresses, leaving behind the lower level when entering the next. The same goes for Fowler’s theory of religious development. In the research for my dissertation, however, I found that in spiritual processes the ‘lower’ and the ‘higher’ level do not cancel eachother out. Each level is like a layer with specific needs and these needs are voiced simultaneously (multivocality). Consequently a person’s spiritual development appears to be a complicated process in which several levels are held simultaneously as a result of an inner dynamics of needs.[5]

Using the model of the energy bodies, it becomes quite obvious that a multitude of inner voices is produced as each energy body has its own agenda with corresponding needs. A lot of these voices are constantly interfering with each other. Dealing with a multitude of interfering inner voices is therefore intrinsic to the human condition. Especially the needs that are voiced by the first three bodies can interfere vehemently with the voices produced by the fourth body. This is because the agendas of survival, pleasure and purpose appear not to necessarily complement each other.

In spiritual australia casino traditions it is a well-known fact that satisfaction will provide pleasure, but not purpose. Fixation on seeking pleasure through satisfaction actually proves to be counterproductive to finding purpose. This is because satisfaction is temporary; it is always followed by a new hunger. And, when fixated on satisfaction, this hunger will cause an inner movement of clutching and clinging. Seeking existential meaning in this way, is like clutching a wet bar of soap: the harder you cling, the further it jumps away. Sadly, this spiritual wisdom is often translated into a moralism in which seeking the pleasure of satisfaction is seen as sinful. I adhere a pragmatic, rather than a moralistic, approach to this problem: fixation on satisfaction simply doesn’t work as it holds a promise of happiness that it simply cannot keep.

I see this as an evolutionary dysfunction, much like having diarrhea before a job-interview or, even worse, a hot date. For a gnu it is highly functional to have fear-induced diarrhea. When running for its life, as it is pursuit by a lion, the loss in bodyweight will increase its chances of survival. For me as a human being, however, to have diarrhea because of fear is the result of interference by an obsolete evolutionary impulse produced by the second body (agenda: ‘survival’). Similarly seeking purpose in satisfaction is an interference by an obsolete evolutionary impulse produced by the third body (agenda: ‘pleasure’).

Tolle speaks of a similar evolutionary dysfunction when the compulsive mind is seeking for life purpose in being ‘more than’ or ‘better than’. This is also a promise that simply cannot be kept since purpose can only be experienced in the present moment. Being ‘more than’ or ‘better than’ is directed towards a future moment that will never come. ‘Reactivity to the present moment’ is produced by the ‘energetic entity’ he calls ‘the pain body’: ‘a kind of monster that periodically raises its ugly head when triggered, mostly by seemingly unimportant events’. It is signalled by emotions such as fear, worry, irritation, boredom, anxiety, impatience, indignation etcetera. This ‘pain body’ seems to be personal, but it is just as collective as genetic traits that evolved through the millennia. The human race is on the edge of the next step in the evolution of consciousness by dissolving ‘the collective pain body’ and leaving behind ‘the collective mind dominated egoic state’. It is obvious that Tolle adheres to the eastern spiritual view that this sense of separateness is actually an illusion. The new kind of awareness corrects the evolutionary dysfunction, that is brought about by this illusion, by putting the rational mind in its rightful place: not in the center of human existence, but in the periphery. Instead a higher level of consciousness is moving to the center. This new level of awareness is entered by experiencing the stillness of being fully present in the ‘timeless now’. The spiritual practice Tolle teaches is accepting the present moment exactly as it is, instead of resisting it. Some critics falsely assume that Tolle, as well as his colleague Byron Katie, are fatalists. But accepting the present moment is not resignation as (social) action may arise out of accepting the present moment, giving it much more power than action instigated by resistance. Also stillness is not a way to withdraw from reality or to return to a vegetative, unconscious state. It is being fully alert and alive by staying in contact with the ‘inner body’ that connects us to ‘the timeless, formless one life’. Very unlike the ‘mind dominated egoic state’ (still according to Tolle) ‘presence’ does provide purpose because it brings the vitality of being, love, joy, inner freedom etcetera. Every individual that enters the new state of consciousness contributes to the evolution of mankind. Tolle holds that this is what great spiritual teachers as how to play pokies the Buddha and Jesus were all about when preaching the possibility of ending suffering resp. salvation through entering Gods kingdom.

It could be argued that reactivity to the present moment is an obsolete evolutionary impulse of the fourth body. For the consciousness of the fourth body is that of a separate entity that gains a sense of identity to the extent that it distinguishes itself from other separate entities. Similarly it could be argued that the next level of awareness is provided by the fifth body. Entering this next level of consciousness takes leaving behind the illusion of being a separate conscious entity within the earthly dimensions of linear time and three-dimensional space. The fifth body then provides a sense of being part of the one energy field of formless, timeless and ‘non-local’ consciousness.

Most likely there will be quite a lot of water under the bridge before the shift from the materialistic to the idealistic paradigm is complete. As long as our society is rooted in the materialistic paradigm, theory about human evolution will be mostly about growth of the brain’s capacity to produce more and more complex mental processes. Until convincing empirical proof is provided of the higher realms and bodies, the idealistic on evolution view can, as far as science is concerned, only be a collection of working hypotheses. In the next paragraph I will elaborate on how these working hypotheses help my spiritual practise. DST will appear to be pivotal in dealing with the multivocality produced by the various bodies of the matroushka-doll.

 

 

3. Dialogical Self Theory, spiritual practice and human evolution

 

I do not mind basing my life on hypotheses. Actually, I much prefer holding hypotheses to claiming essential, universal truths. Especially when it comes to religion and spirituality, history has shown that being convinced of essential, universal truths can lead to intolerance, persecution or even holy wars. Still, I am not a relativist. The pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty taught me that it is possible to stand ‘unflichingly’ for one’s beliefs, while still allowing for the possibility that they may turn out to have been lacking or even wrong. This is why I consider myself a spiritual pragmatist: hypotheses are checked and adapted as I go along, making my life, personal as well as professional, a pilot-project of a ‘Tolle-based’ spiritual practice. In this last paragraph I will explain why I find that DST is especially suitable for this spiritual pragmatic approach.

 

Spiritual practice on a day to day basis: non-reactive witnessing and discernment

Obviously there is a big difference between understanding this view on life and actually practicing ‘stillness and presence’. In my daily life stillness is an exception. Most of the time there is the interference of inner resistance as a result of a sense of deficit in the present moment. This sense of deficit produces reactive emotions and reactive compulsive thoughts that direct my attention towards future fulfillment. I like to look at this predicament as an opportunity for spiritual growth. And DST helps me  to consciously deal with what is going on when reactivity kicks in, especially the notion of the ‘meta-position’.[6]

[quotes}The self could be regarded as a session of parliament in which all the chairs are filled with members of various political parties {/quotes}(cf. energy bodies) with conflicting agendas. The president of parliament is supposed to guide all these politicians towards meaningful discussions, leading to decisions that are in the best interest of parliament as a whole. Without a president parliament would be in chaos. Similarly, without a metaposition the ‘self’, a lot of the time, is a cacophony of contradictory voices. Unlike e.g. the ‘higher self’ in Assagioli’s psychosynthesis, metaposition in DST is not claimed to be an essence. Metaposition is an I-position that holds abilities such as looking at various I-positions from a helicopter view, reflection on I-positions, moving to past and future, correlating I-positions, evaluation and course-correction.

It helps my spiritual practice a great deal to realize that the metaposition can be dominated by another I-position, taking over the president’s chair. I guess that this is basically what Tolle is about when saying ‘the ego is an imposter pretending to be you’. Seeing as how the ‘ego’ can be charactized as reactive I-positions, it is easy to identify them because they simply lack the ability to stay in the present moment. {quotes} Even if the metaposition is driven off the president’s chair, it is still able to focus attention on being in the present. By doing so reactive I-positions will lose their diguise. [/quotes}This is why, bearing in mind what Tolle says about ‘stillness and witnessing presence’, I propose to add ‘non-reactive witnessing’ to the metaposition’s repertoire.

The spiritual practice of cultivating this ‘non-reactive witnessing’ ability of the metaposition is similar to meditation-practices such as ‘mindfullness’: witnessing whatever is, even painful emotions. The difference with meditation-practices is, however, that non-reactive witnessing is not limited to certain periods of the day. It is a constant practice, especially at times when resistance is the heaviest and, in terms of DST, reactive I-positions have become dominant. When I am sick with worry about finances, for instance, the reactive I-positions that come up push my thinking into the future. They urgently want to be put at rest by thoughts about some kind of future scenario in which financial success is guaranteed. Accepting the present includes allowing these reactive I-positions to be, instead of censoring them. By non-reactively witnessing these reactive I-positions, instead of identifying with them, their power will be gradually broken and the sense of deficit in the present gradually dissolves. More so when the metaposition focusses attention inward. I find that physical exercise helps me greatly to reconnect with my (inner) body, especially at the times when the metaposition seems to have been walked over.

It could be argued that adding non-reactive witnessing to the metaposition’s repertoire could make it the gateway in the world of form, space and time to the formless, spaceless and timeless. But, as far as I am concerned, it can hardly ever be really certain that it is not a reactive I-position in disguise that has taken over the president’s chair. One might think that non-reactivity is the metaposition trademark, but non-reactivity can also be the result of withdrawal into a comfort-zone or the illusion of being in total control. As far as I am concerned, to avoid self-delusion, narcissism or even fundamentalism, the president’s motives need to be under constant scrutiny. In Christian spiritual tradition the meditative process of distinguishing between motives is called ‘spiritual discernment’. Especially Ignatius, the founding father of the Jesuit Order, was an advocate of this spiritual practice. Its objective is to recognize the voice of the ‘Holy Spirit’ in a multitude of inner voices in order to hear the ‘will of God’ for one’s life (cf. life purpose). In terms of DST it would have to be the metaposition to do the job of discernment. And obviously there is always the chance that the discernment, in retrospect, actually turns out to have been an error in judgement.

In my life I have found numerous examples of what I like to call ‘spiritual narcissism’. What I thought at the time to be a spiritual motive, in retrospect turned out to have been a wolf in sheep clothing. A lot of the time it is the fruit of actions that shows the tree it originated off. In my personal life I find that loving relationships provide the greatest challenges. The euphoria of being in love can easily be mistaken for true love. If at a certain point reactivity sets in (jealousy, hurt, the desire to hurt back etcetera), it is evident that clutching and clinging I-positions are mixed in. Obviously true love neither clutches nor clings; it sets the other absolutely free. For most people, including myself, this is very hard. {quotes}It helps me to realize that the shift from ‘clingy love’ tot ‘true love’ goes with the evolutionary transition to the next level of consciousness.{/quotes} In what I have labeled in the hypothetical model as the fifth body, true love is the normal state; as there is no sense of deficit, there is no need to cling or clutch whatsoever. When shifting from clingy to true love it’s very likely to get trapped in a vicious circle as long as the false sense of deficit remains. In terms of DST: the sense of deficit is produced by interfering reactive I-positions of the first four bodies. It is the false sense of being a separate conscious entity (4) that brings a feeling of loneliness. And consequently there is a feeling of  enormous pleasure that goes with the acceptance and security of symbioses (3), but also the pain of dependence when this symbiosis is broken. It is interesting to see how an attitude of strategic quasi-surrender can keep a vicious circle intact. What seemed to be surrender, letting the other person go, at the time, may turn out to have been a reactive I-position of control. Its strategy being: letting the other person go in order to regain her love. As Saint Bernard put it: ‘true love is no wageworker, yet its reward is guaranteed’. But onlytrue surrender is rewarded. It can be quite disencouraging to realize that reactive I-positions have taken over. Still, who else but the metaposition could be the one providing this realization? Even at times when the metaposition is overruled and is only able to produce a very faint impuls to disidentify with reactive I-positions, it is still there. Even if it may seem like reactive I-positions never give up kicking the metaposition off the president’s chair, if Tolle is right, no longer fully identifying with reactivity is all it takes to turn the wheel.

In this spiritual practice there is a constant sense of inhabiting various levels of existence simultaneously: the level of form and time and the level of the formless and timeless. It’s being present in this physical world – with its illusion of separateness - while realizing, some moments more strongly than others, the oneness with the formless. And obviously in this physical world with its linear time it is very useful to set goals and make plans. But, contrary to fully identifying with form and time, there’s also the awareness that the future moment that these goals and plans are set at, will never come. Because that moment will be ‘now’ and it will hold other goals and plans pointing towards the future. So instead of projecting fulfillment and purpose into the future, the metaposition focusses attention  inward in order to fully connect with being in the timeless now.

In my work the main challenge is not to get stuck on the results of my many projects. Obviously, the word ‘pro-ject’ refers to fulfillment in the future. Reactivity to the present moment kicks in as soon as my goals for the future are in jeopardy. And the constant practice is to realize that identification with these reactive I-positions will only make things worse. It is a process similar to finding true love in which a vicious circle can only be broken by true surrender to whatever is. Paradoxically, I have found that this attitude improves the results of the work.

Basically, this spiritual practice is the constant challenge to enjoy the world of form and time, without getting trapped in it by clutching and clinging. The agendas of the first bodies only interfere when ‘staying in tact’ and ‘survival’ become obsessive. As long as there is the metaposition’s notion that it will be possible to let go of these agendas when the time has come, there is no problem. Similarly there is no problem when enjoying the pleasure of food or sex as long as the need of satisfaction is not obsessive. And the rational mind is a very useful tool, as long as there is no compulsive thinking that constantly projects fulfillment into the future. Obviously, even the concept of spiritual growth, development or evolution points towards future fulfillment. I guess this is why buddhists say that it is impossible to reach enlightenment by striving for it. And similarly, this is why Jesus said that children are closer to God’s Kingdom than adults. The way children play may seem point-less to adults as it is not directed towards future fulfillment; it finds joy in the ‘timeless now’.

 

Conclusion

The way quantum physics and the study of near-death-experiences are advancing, it seems likely that the working hypothesis of consciousness as one energy field will one day be empirically verified and scientifically recognized. I like to compare scientists as Goswami and Van Lommel to mediaeval colleagues who concluded the earth must be a sphere when looking over the ocean and seeing the ship’s masttop first. Most of their contemporaries didn’t take these conclusions seriously because in their premodern paradigm the earth was flat. This discussion became obsolete when pictures from space showed the earth to be a sphere. Similarly, I think it is only a matter of time until the existence of energetically higher realms and higher energy bodies can be empirically verified, making the next shift in paradigm complete. This would mean a reunification of the paths of natural science and spirituality that were split after the Middle Ages, when the materialistic paradigm set in. {quotes}As far as the topic of human evolution is concerned this reunion of science and spirituality is pivotal.{/quotes} As in the materialistic view of consciousness spirituality has no scientific validity whatsoever, which makes spiritual practice, at best, an interesting choice in lifestyle. Whereas in the idealistic view of consciousness spirituality has full scientific validity. This makes spiritual practice not just an interesting choice in lifestyle, but a verifiably necessary contribution to human evolution. For it is the spiritual practice of individuals that opens up the next level of consciousness for mankind.

 


[1] H.J.M. Hermans, The construction and reconstruction of a dialogical self. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 16: 89–130.

[2] E. Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Vancouver 1997; A New Earth, Awakening to your life’s purpose, New York 2005.

[3] A. Goswami, Physics of the soul, The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation and immortality, Charlottesville 2001.

[4] E. Laszlo, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything, Rochester, 2004. Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos:The Rise of the Integral Vision of Reality, Rochester 2006.

[5] An English summary of my dissertation can be found on: http://home.planet.nl/~wsmeets/summ.doc.

[6] [6] H.J.M. Hermans, Hermans, H.J.M., (2003). The construction and reconstruction of a dialogical self. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 16: 89–130 .