RECAP AND SYNOPSIS
In the last post on Unlocking The Logion In The Gospel of Thomas we did a sort of contemplative meditation on Logia 3 and perception. We discussed how Christ taught the Kingdom of God being inside of us and outside of us as a means of highlighting how our consciousness shapes our view of the world. One perceives, the other is perceived, yet, neither the one perceiving nor the thing perceived exist independently in the moment right.
From there, we ventured into the old philosophical question ‘who are you’ and essentially exhausted ourselves of everything we are not.
Today I’d like to delve a bit deeper into our conscious perception and how we create our worldview by highlighting how our egos hide our true nature. This requires an introspection that goes well beyond and beautifully written words and requires meditation. I’ve included a meditative practice designed to help one awaken to this deeper nature that will help you grasp the concept of ego. (If you’d like to skip to the meditation it’s under the picture of Christ with light pouring from his heart.)
WHAT DOES CHRIST HAVE TO DO WITH THE PHILOSOPHY OF SELF DISCOVERY?
When we define the Christianities of the West our minds don’t typically wander to Ionian Philosophers. Most of us aren’t recalling guys like Heraclitus when we hear the Prologue of John. Some of us couldn’t connect Fragments to the Gospel no matter how many times we saw the term Logos. The Logos of philosophy being a unifying and liberating revelatory force which reconciles the human with the divine. Words like divine revelation or consciousness just aren’t that common in Sunday School conversations.
The Wisdom tradition isn’t really emphasized here in the West. This idea of kenosis- a gradual stripping of the personality- that detachment from the superfluous: material possessions, personal tastes, affections, family, power- it all seems alien to us. We don’t tend to think of the renewing of our minds as an awakening to our true nature, and yet Luke 11:36 specifically states “the eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”
Opthalmos (ὀφθαλμός)- eye. Not plural. Not eyes. A singular eye. In this case, as with most instances Christ used the term- ayin in Aramaic- it implies the eye of the spirit or what Christ called the lamp of the body.
Almost no one in the Protestant World has any real concept of Christian mysticism or the methods said mystics have used to find God within over the centuries. Obscure uses of a singular eye have gone almost unnoticed because Biblical Scholars either refused to accept the Egyptian concept of the Eye of Horus being used in Christs dialogues or were unaware of the eastern traditions associated with the third eye. Fortunately, that is changing as a growing number of Christians are beginning to seek the depths of the mysteries and realizing where Israel is on a map. There’s this massive awakening happening in the West as we realize how much more there is to know about God, humankind, and our spiritual nature. We are beginning to embrace the Middle Eastern mysticism that serves as the backbone for much of our tradition.
Since we’ve started encompassing our mystic Christian philosophy some of the more obscure statements of Christs begin taking on a new light:
“But if you do not know yourselves, then you live poverty…and you ARE that poverty!”Gospel of Thomas, Logia 3
As we start developing our internal lives we naturally become curious about the mystics of our own tradition. We start studying the works of the ones who came before us that shared their insights. We seek their guidance as we tread into more unfamiliar waters.
Now, one such mystic came to mind almost instantly when I first saw Logia 3 of Thomas; a Dominican Friar by the name of Meister Eckhart. Arguably one of the more intriguing figures of his era but not because he was a particularly prolific writer. If anything he was a prolific thinker who challenged other people to think for themselves. He seemed unwilling to compromise or suppress what he believed to be right and true, especially when it came to dogma. A quality that almost cost him his life. Yet, he remained faithful and continued to write into his last moments of life.
By Gods good grace, some of those pieces Eckhart wrote that almost cost him his life were also some of the first times a Church Father publicly spoke on how God and humankind are interconnected. Like all mystics who get involved in the mysteries my mans dove straight in the deep end. He set out to know the unknowable and gave us the gift of divine paradox.
I chuckle reading these sermons though. At times, Eckhart seems to have more in common with quantum physicists than he does with theologian’s and you can almost see a little Meister toddler putting square pegs into round holes for a long long time. I jest but it’s only because we’ve all benefited greatly from Eckhart s uniqueness. His insights into how we- Creature- are vessels filled with the light and love of Creator- God- remain unparalleled even today.
See, Eckhart followed a line of thinking more akin to Plato’s anamnesis- the belief that we’re born knowing everything and all learning is merely recollection. In similar fashion, Eckhart emphasized the need to empty out all of our conceptions of God to find God. He believed God rests in “the silent middle” of our souls behind all of our thoughts and impressions of the world. Unlocking our spiritual sight becomes a simple process of clearing our minds and entering into the silence of meditation. It’s our souls resting in the silence that know God not the internal chatter of our egos.
“As long as you mind yourself or any thing at all, you know no more of God than my mouth knows of color or my eye of taste: so little do you know or discern what God is.”Meister Eckhart, Sermon 144
Essentially, if a person desires to be filled with God then they must empty themselves out completely. Somewhere deep within the soul beyond anything relative to the reality we create for ourselves lies something unified and completely whole unto itself that holds us all. So long as the mind stays busy with its own activity it remains unable to experience it. If we can just move beyond our limited interpretations of the world and be silent we can experience our true selves sitting in quiet observation.
The following is a simple meditation designed to bring awareness of the true self into your waking mind:
MEDITATION: LIGHTING THE LAMP OF THE BODY
Sit in a comfortable position with your back as straight as possible and take a few moments to come into yourself. Breathe deeply as you take note of your presence in the room. Note the things around you in the visible world in relation to you. One being seen and the other seeing.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose into your diaphragm following the sensation of the air as it passes through your nostrils and into your lungs. Feel the expansion in your chest and abdomen as the air fills you. Follow these sensations out as you exhale noting the air as it passes through the lungs, throat and nostrils. Continue to breathe deeply until you feel yourself relax. Observe the air entering in and out of you as many times as you like.
When you’re ready, turn your attention to any sensations that may be present in your body: heartbeat. the breath passing your nostrils, any discomforts present in your body. Just notice it and recognize the two parts, an experience and the one who is experiencing. Sit with that observation a moment.
Relax even deeper still, anchoring your attention to your nostrils and follow your breathing in and out.
Dive even deeper and observe the river of thoughts and emotions trickling through your mind while keeping your focus docked to your breath. You may even recall times you’ve tried to dam up the stream of thoughts and noticed all of the memories and emotions just continued to flow unchecked. Intimate details of all you hold dear just glimmer across the internal terrain of your consciousness. The point isn’t to stop the deluge of thoughts from flowing or even moderate them, but rather to monitor them without your observation getting caught in the current and swept away. (It’s a difficult skill to develop so be patient with yourself)
If you’re able to remain alert and relaxed you may be able to sense something very still and observant within you beyond your focused will. While it exerts no influence in and of itself it is that within you that is always aware of whatever passes by. In layman’s terms, it can’t even be observed because it is that which observes. If you chase after it you find it receded deeper and deeper because there’s no limit to this eye that experiences.
This silent observer is the source of our conscious awareness of being.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”Corinthians 13:12
THE EYE IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY & EGO IS THE DARKNESS
Put simply, everything we perceive materializing inside and outside of us is what scripture calls the world. The entire sphere of phenomenon in our lives and all of its action is that which is experienced. The one who consciously experiences has had many names: the true self, the lamp of the body, the true eye, the logos, the silent observer, metacognitive consciousness, the eye of Horus, the third eye, etc. This distinction is what Christ is calling us to grasp:
“if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”Matthew 6:22-23
Nothing would be experienced if the lamp of the body wasn’t there to share its light of awareness. In other words, this essence within you isn’t something apart from your conscious experience but absolutely integral to it.
In fact, the more time we spend practicing looking through our true eye the more surprise and wonder we discover. We begin to understand how many of the things we’ve identified with actually come from outside of us. A lot of the ideas and character traits we thought were embedded in our DNA turn out to be cultural norms and conditioned behavior. We begin to recognize that our personalities, ambitions, desires, and attitudes are merely our internalized concepts of the world.
We don’t tend to notice our spirit observing the things we experience because they’re hidden behind the characters we play in the world. There’s this part of us that is identified with our encounters. It’s the persona we put on display for ourselves and others. It’s not who we truly are but rather how we want to be perceived and remembered. It is ego and it’s the part of our mind that we allow to mediate between our true selves and the world because it holds our sense of personal identity.
As you did the Lamp of the Body meditation you may have sensed that there’s this part of your mind that wants to be occupied with distractions and wants to live in the darkness. That’s the ego. It’s the part of ourselves that wants to be taken in by impressions instead of entering into the silent observation of the true eye. This, Is what we need to empty out in order to be filled with God.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”Matthew 6:24
Don’t forget to take this meditative experience into your daily lives. We’re always breathing. We always have that anchor to come back to. Observing our thoughts and behaviors as we live our lives is a vital part of spiritual growth.
Thank you for reading. Peace be with you all!!!