LA-CCRS Philosophy (as I understand it in March 1988)
This journal is published by the Astrology division of the Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science. We haven’t often discussed the Psycholinguistics division of the church in The Mutable Dilemma. Last year I again started attending classes (the word sermon just doesn’t fit) of the Psycholinguistics division of LA-CCRS after a gap of a few years. This article is an attempt to write down my current understanding of what we discuss in these classes.
First, a matter of wording: I use the words assume and believe to describe my own position because most of this is at an intellectual level for me and not an area of direct perception. These are not necessarily the best words for other people for whom such matters are more directly experienced. What I am trying to discuss is almost by definition an internal process impossible to share.
Also, the terminology and analogies I use now are not the same as I would have used years ago and may not be the same as I will use in the future. The way we describe our beliefs changes as much as we change. Only an unchanging belief system can be described using unchanging words.
Language and Beliefs
The most basic assumption of our church is that beliefs determine reality. The church logo, which you see every issue on our envelope, includes a very good capsule presentation in the phrase “Your world is Your reflection of Your understanding.” What we believe determines our lives. Language plays a very strong role in determining what we are able to believe. Beliefs which can’t be described by the language one thinks in are very hard to grasp. Beliefs are implicit in the language one thinks in and are hard to notice and harder to move away from. Thus, thinking in English (or almost any other natural human language) naturally contributes to a dualistic world-view.
Beliefs do not change in and of themselves. A change from one belief to another requires an agent or action distinct from both old and new beliefs. The “push” to change a belief can be viewed as coming from within the person or from outside, but there must be some sort of push.
The belief that it is possible to change one’s beliefs and world is, as the word implies, a belief one can accept or reject. If you accept the possibility of change, change is in fact possible for you. If you accept the impossibility of change, then that is your truth. (An appropriate slogan from somewhere: “concrete people are mixed up and set in their ways.”)
In class, we tend to speak of life as going through “stages” or “levels”. The first stage is unthinking and reactive. The second stage is psychologically aware and active. The third stage is mystical and inclusive. We tend to speak of growing or being pushed from one stage to the next. It is very easy with this sort of language to fall into a pattern of thinking each stage is “better” than the “preceding” stage, but this is not the meaning intended. Each stage is a functioning aspect of reality, and all stages always exist. Each stage includes the prior stage or stages within it, and builds on that base.
The first stage is the world which humanity has normally functioned in for millennia. This is a dualistic world: to-from, I-thou, I-world. Life here is reactive: almost all action is some kind of response to an external stimulus. Life here is mostly unthinking, with most reactions taking place at the level of reflexes which require no thought in the circuit. This is a vital stage for living in a physical world: this is the level of being able to walk, talk, write, drive a car, or do almost any other day-to-day activity.
The second stage is a mental world that has had only rare inhabitants for a long time, but has become much more populous in the last century. I call this a trialistic (three-part) world: I-beliefs-world. (Note that this includes the first stage as a subset. Also, this trialistic system is often indistinguishable from dualism because the three components are usually looked at two at a time: I-world, I-beliefs, and beliefs-world.) Life here is active: actions are initiated because of internal stimuli. Life here is psychologically aware: actions and reactions are analyzed and underlying reasons sought. This is a level of growth and change. This is the home of almost all religions and “new thought” and “self actualization” movements, where people actively work on changing themselves, their lives, and their worlds. This is the stage for self-reflection and examining concepts held, through self-image psychology, science of mind, or whatever. This is a stage of mentalism: many mental techniques for promoting change with little attention beyond the self.
The third stage is a spiritual world. This is a monistic world: there is one whole. Life here is inclusive: everything in the other two stages is an accepted part of the one whole. Life here is spiritually aware: the Self is not limited to the self. This is a level of infinities, “God consciousness”, and numinous experiences. This stage is aware that all meaning given to experience is subjective (experiences exist—meanings assigned to experiences are subjective). This stage is aware of the truth behind the phrase “the universe always says yes”.
A couple of images might better convey my idea of the stages or levels. Think of stage one as a small circle, stage two as a larger circle surrounding and including stage one, and stage three as the boundless space surrounding and including stages one and two. For a more down-to-earth image, think of stage one as the roots of a tree, stage two as the trunk and beginning of branches, and stage three as the twigs, leaves, flowers and fruit. No part of the tree functions very well if cut off from the rest, just as no stage of life is complete by itself.
One of the cruelties of first stage belief systems is a denial of power. In these belief systems a powerless individual is constantly being acted on by a powerful world. The pop version of “Karma” fits in here—the world is getting back at you for something in your past.
One of the cruelties common to many expressions of second stage belief systems is an assumption of power. These systems often say the individual has total power and total responsibility for everything in his/her life and everything in the whole universe, and can lead to a lot of guilt for people who accept personal responsibility for things in the universe they don’t like. When someone accepts this belief and then finds that they can’t change those things in the universe which they don’t like and want to change, massive frustration is possible.
The second stage has begun to be aware of the equation between “inner” beliefs and “outer” world. This beginning awareness of this equation leads to the cruelty of power I described above. Since this stage is operating with a causal world view in which beliefs and the world are separate, the equation observed is viewed as causal. The beliefs are viewed as the side of the equation doing the causing, so the person and their beliefs have power. Attempts to describe this equation lead to the term synchronicity.
In the third stage, the equation between inner and outer worlds is central. This stage has a monistic, acausal world view and the “inner” and “outer” sides of the equation are realized to be “parts” of one phenomenon. The “parts” are not really separate at all, but are a matter of different perspectives on the single reality which exists. There is neither “outer causes inner” nor “inner causes outer”, there is just one world. Saying one causes the other is like saying one end of a two-by-four causes the other end to move.
Odds and ends
The whole question of “good” and “evil” is a serious problem for religions with a good, omnipotent God. With a world view which accepts everything in existence as a single whole, all such dichotomies (good-evil, better-worse, true-false, etc.) become a simple matter of how you choose to view aspects of that whole. I have very strong opinions about what kinds of actions I would characterize as good and evil, but they are all a part of the universe. There is no need to invent a devil or an indifferent God as a source of evil. A full acceptance and living of this point of view leads to a major reduction in time and energy spent being judgmental since all judgments assume dichotomies.
Fear also requires a dualistic belief system. Separation is required to have anything to be “afraid of”. In a monistic belief system there is no fear.
To vary a currently popular slogan: “Just say NO to NO!”. Negatives do not exist (even this sentence is really saying only positives exist). Any belief and any world experienced is a positive assertion of some kind. Any attempt to pin down a negative eventually turns up an underlying positive description of something else. In my world-view, reality is what has been accepted. The phrase “the universe always says yes” is literally true because the “internal” belief and “external” world are parts of a single unbroken reality.
Also on the issue of negatives: what we often view as the constant denial of specific methods and answers of many eastern philosophies is actually a misunderstanding. What is being denied by the eastern way of speaking is that all verbalization is accurately conveying experience—instead it is asserted that it is an illusion to believe that experience is outside or external. What a person is learning is directly, internally experienced, and any attempt to teach it is missing the point. In class, we call this subjective awareness “location of comprehension”.
The fallacy of “getting” is another variation on the issue of negatives. Any mental exercise in which you practice “getting” what you “don’t have” is actually reinforcing the “don’t have”. Rather, practice “being” or “having”. (This is mostly in the realm of theory for me since it is very different from my day-to-day pattern of thought.)
Because all experience is internal, it is impossible for one person to teach another person anything. It is possible for people to learn. Learning occurs when a person is ready for the change, and whatever external reality is needed to “justify” the internal change will be present. The guru, book, teacher, tape or whatever will be there when you are ready for it.
A passing thought that popped up during one class: the widespread tendency of people to act and think conservatively makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. During a lot of the development of the human race, there was a good chance that anything new was dangerous. With our current level of culture and technology we can start to enjoy change, but a lot of old fear reflexes are still around.
The following sequence is a pattern I have seen in myself and in society and history: “It ain’t so”, “It’s possible”, “I’ll do it”, “It’s done”. First we deny the new and different, then we grudgingly accept that something new is possible, then we decide to incorporate it into our lives, then we do so.
Who Am I?
BEING or DOING: our use of “is” words very subtly locks us in to many things. In common English usage I say “I am a programmer, I am a writer, I am a science fiction reader”. A clearer wording might be “I write computer programs, I write articles, I read science fiction”. Saying “I am” instead of “I do” has unconscious connotations of a fixed reality rather than a changeable expression. “I am a slow reader” and “I am shy” do not leave open the options of “I have read slowly in the past” and “I have expressed shyness” or “I have acted shyly”. Keep watch for “I am”, “he/she is”, “you/they are” and see what implications for alternatives appear with a wording change.
BEING or BELIEVING: even more strongly than with actions, we have a tendency to identify ourselves with our belief systems. We say “I am a (fill in the blank)” rather than “I believe (fill in the blank)”. With this identification of self with beliefs, any attempt to change the beliefs is treated as a threat to the self and gets strong reactions. When we are unaware of a distinction between identifying with an acceptance or belief and the “I” that has the acceptance it seems that the “I” will be locked into its beliefs.
None of the above says anything about the nature of the “I” referred to. I’m not sure I’m really ready to tackle the question or who “I” am here, but I do have one extended analogy for this below.
I have found that analogies and images are often easier to grasp than more abstract concepts. The following are a few analogies trying to convey some of the philosophy under discussion.
Beliefs are like a series of specially shaped filters. No sensation or perception can get through the filter of beliefs (to the “person”?) unless it fits (or can be forced to seem to fit) the shape of one of the beliefs. If your glasses are a series of square holes, you might have a hard time seeing round pegs.
Beliefs are like a series of oddly shaped pigeonholes. Nothing can be retained (remembered) unless it can be made to fit into a pigeonhole. Anything which can’t fit a belief pigeonhole is dropped rather than being kept, or reacted to as false or untrue. We often distort new ideas and perception to force them to fit old pigeonholes. On a quick look, a unicorn is just a funny-looking horse.
Beliefs are like stage props. A person’s life is the play being acted out on the stage. Props for many plays come from a common prop room (collective unconscious). Props go back to the prop room when they are no longer being used in a particular play. Walls and barriers in a person’s life are only as real as a person believes them to be. As long as you act in character and stick to the script, the prop wall (belief) is a real barrier. When you stop being the character in the play and act as the actor who knows about props, you can move, remove, or bypass barriers that are impenetrable to the character. If you do some re-writing of the script, you can completely get rid of some walls.
“New” beliefs in this context are only new to the particular play on the particular stage. They were in the prop room before and will return to the prop room after use. “Change” is a matter of trading props.
People’s lives are like planet or satellite orbits. Once something is in orbit it will tend to stay in orbit unless an external or internal force is applied. The consequences of applied forces are not always intuitively obvious. With satellite orbits, you need to speed up to slow down and vice versa. With people’s lives, the end results of changes are also often unexpected.
Most lives are lived like a person walking through a lightless room full of sharp-edged furniture. We learn the layout of the room through a series of painful encounters. Understanding is like turning a light on in the room. You are still in the same room, and you still have to move around the same furniture to cross the room, but being able to see lets you move a little more smoothly or quickly, with a few less barked shins. It is even possible that with the light on one can see what one is going toward at the other side of the room.
This last analogy is my attempt to deal with the question of identity (“Who Am I?”) mentioned earlier. It feels right and extensions to the basic idea keep coming up.
People’s individuality is like a colander or tea ball or permeable membrane in the middle of the ocean. The individual is a distinct volume of water out of the total ocean, but is still a part of the ocean. There is no real separation of the individual volume from the larger ocean—the boundaries are completely porous and allow free flow of currents. The small volume of the self has free access to the larger Self. The equation of “inner” and “outer” worlds is obvious because they are a single continuous fluid. One can believe in a separate self and focus on the metal frame or one can believe in a totality and focus on the open connection to the ocean.
The memories that lead to the idea of reincarnation might be particular chemical compositions within the ocean. A chemical (idea or memory) can be present in many parts of the ocean at once. More than one individual can be including that particular chemical within the boundaries of their “self”. Because all time and space is in this ocean, there are no restrictions of perception to a single “present”—”past” and “future” are equally accessible. Telepathy might also be a sharing of particular chemicals (thoughts). Precognition might be tapping into a chemical (memory) which is partly in the direction we usually think of as “future”.
A “push” to “cause” a change can start within the small volume or the larger ocean, but it always acts on the whole ocean. Asking whether “I” or “God” did something becomes irrelevant because the answer is always “yes”.