The Christian separation of matter and spirit, of the dynamism of life and the realm of the spirit, of natural grace and supernatural grace, has really castrated nature…The true spirituality, which would have come from the union of matter and spirit, has been killed.
– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
The Dream of the Cosmos is the story of a multi-layered quest to understand the causes of human suffering and to re-connect with a deeper reality than the one we inhabit in this physical dimension of experience. It answers the question “Who are we and why are we here, on this planet?” It is written for those who are looking for something beyond the superficial values of our culture, who may be disillusioned with religious and secular belief systems as currently presented and who question the political values which are deeply mired in the pursuit of power. It is written with two voices: one the voice of a personal quest and the other which explores the historical and psychological causes that have brought our present view of reality into being.
In it I seek to recover a very ancient image of the soul, one that has long been lost. The soul was once imagined as an all-embracing Web of Life—not so much something that belongs to us as something to which we belong, in whose life we participate. The world is crying out for the primary values that have always been associated with soul understood in this wider sense: wisdom, compassion, justice, relationship—values which I will define further as the book proceeds.
Over the course of many centuries, we have developed a formidable intellect, a formidable science, a formidable technology. But what of the soul—source of our deepest instincts and feelings? What of our visions, dreams and hopes as well as our unhealed wounds and the suffering generated by our cruelty and lack of compassion towards each other? What of our need for relationship with this unrecognized dimension of reality? The pressing need for the soul’s recognition has brought us to this time of choice. It is as if mortal danger is forcing us to take a great leap in our evolution that we might never have made were we not driven by the extremity of circumstance.
In one of the medieval Grail Legends, Parsifal asks the question of the wounded Grail Guardian, “What ails thee, Father?” It seems appropriate to ask this question of our culture. Our current worldview rests on the premise of our separation from and mastery of nature, where nature is treated as object with ourselves as controlling subject. This belief has its roots in a far distant past—in the Myth of the Fall in the Book of Genesis and its profound influence on the development of Western civilization. There we find the story of our expulsion from a divine world and our Fall into this world, a Fall that was brought into being by a woman, Eve, who disobeyed the command of God and brought death, sin and suffering into being. From this myth there developed the belief that the whole human race was tainted by original sin, a subject that will be explored in later chapters.
Author Anne Baring, from her magnificent work, The Dream of the Cosmos
Matter is derived from mind or consciousness, and not mind or consciousness from matter.
– Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation
We think the world we see around us is composed of matter–that the stuff of the world is, for the want of a better word, matter stuff. As far as the actual physical reality is concerned, this may be so–uncertain though we may be as to the ultimate nature of this matter stuff. But the world we see around us is not the physical world. The world we actually know is the world that takes form in our mind. And this world is not made of matter stuff, but mind stuff. Everything we know, perceive, and imagine, every color, sound, sensation, thought, and feeling, is a form that consciousness has taken on. As far as this world is concerned, everything is structured in consciousness.
Kant argued that this was even true of space and time. To us, the reality of space and time seems undeniable. They appear to be fundamental dimensions of the physical world, entirely independent of my or your consciousness. This, said Kant, is because we cannot see the world in any other way. The human mind is so constituted that it is forced to construct its experience within the framework of space and time.
SPACE AND TIME ARE NOT, FUNDAMENTAL DIMENSIONS OF AN THE UNDERLYING REALITY. THEY ARE FUNDAMENTAL DIMENSIONS OF CONSCIOUSNESS.