RFD, Winter 2001
The U.S. is preparing for war. Very possibly World War III, very possibly the last war for humans, period. Every day I ask myself, “am I preparing?”
They say that if you toss a frog into hot water, it will jump out. But if you place the frog in cold water, you can slowly bring it to a boil without the frog ever jumping out. Part of me says we need to think ahead, to talk about where we’re heading now before it’s too late. I think of the film, The Day After. I remember the Holocaust. I picture martial law, phone lines cut, the internet shut down. That’s for starters.
My worries may seem premature, but in a few weeks or months, they may not be. How do I begin to face the possibility of catastrophic change, disaster, even death?
I remember what I believe: there’s another part of me that knows that everything is all right, even as the shadow of death approaches.
I’ve had the opportunity over the past decade to think a lot about the meaning of life and death, and I’d like to share my findings with you. I’ve studied Eastern religions along with Christian concepts like Revelation, the Apocalypse, evil, sin, and Satan. And since I expect that we’re going to be hearing these terms a lot more in the coming months, I think it would be helpful to look at what they mean. Don’t worry, I haven’t been “born again” into any religion other than my own. I’m inviting you to do some soul-searching too. I think that these big scary words all point to the same thing: fear of change. I hope that my words may help people to be a little less fearful.
I’ve come to believe some pretty radical things. I find them difficult to understand myself and difficult to explain to others. Sometimes I think there’s no point trying to do so briefly. That is why I am writing a book on the subject.
Of course there’s no way to control what people will think. That’s not what this is about. It’s not “the truth” (even though I’ll use that word a lot). It’s a story that works for me. In fact, I believe that no one will ever be able to prove what I have to say. It will always be matter of personal faith, of choice. That is why I try to speak in first person singular (with “I,” not “you” or “we”). This reflects the fact, as I see it, that each of us ultimately chooses not only what we believe, but what we experience. And what a beautiful thing that is.
Perhaps the most important question a person has to answer in their life is, do I believe in God?
“God” for me simply means the universe as a whole. “Believing” in the universe means I trust that everything works out for the best. There is no injustice or tragedy. No loss. I am safe, no one ever “hurts” me, and I cannot hurt others. After 9/11, how can I possibly believe this?
These strange ideas are based on a very different notion of who we are as individuals. I believe we are immortal souls, playing a game we cannot lose.
Why does one fear death? Because death seems like the end: annihilation. But I am convinced that each lifetime is just a day in the life of the soul. I change bodies like my body changes clothes. The Bhagavad Gita puts it plainly: "death is certain for the born, and rebirth is certain for the dead." Death is just change, just as every change is a “little death.”
The changes we go through on a daily basis are miniature mirrors of the entire life, death, and rebirth process… Each day we are challenged to let go of the old and create the new.1
Changes are challenging because we are creatures of habit. Everything that exists has inertia, a tendency to remain the same. This tendency manifests as our physical bodies. But like I said, life and death are just an illusion. It’s the game we play when we incarnate, when we put on mortal clothes. I become a person (from persona, meaning “actor’s mask").
Hiding my true nature, i.e., who I really am underneath this bodily disguise, is the fall from grace, the “original sin.” Sin is a term from archery that means “missing the mark.”2 The important thing here is that “sin” is just part of the game.
On the other end of the “Fall from Grace” is The Apocalypse. This term is used to describe violent change, particularly the end of the world. This Greek word, like Revelation, means “uncovering.” What we’re uncovering is, among other things, our true nature as souls. The events of 9-11 seem apocalyptic. I think it is helpful to see them that way.
The image above is my adaptation of The Tower card in the Rider-Waite Tarot. Here is the Tower in The Haindl Tarot. Notice the “jet liner” glyph, and note that this deck was created more than ten years before 9-11. Here is the traditional meaning for the card (for more on this version of the card, see below):
Bad luck, violent change, disaster. Often, we refuse to let go of our self-delusion without literally having it torn away from us. And so, one way or another, the Tower brings us release from our stagnant condition.
Fortunately, however, the Tower is more often only a warning; a volatile situation is about to explode. If you haven’t already learned the hard way, chances are that something major needs to shift. Some genuine soul searching can save a lot of anguish. If you don’t take action now, be prepared for the worst.
Sometimes the Tower’s teaching comes as a flash of insight, helping us to see exactly what needs to change. This revelation can come at any time and in any form, so be prepared for guidance from unexpected places. And you would be wise to give up your ideas of how things should turn out, for the way down from the Tower is bound to be full of surprises.3
The events on September 11th have meaning. They fit into a pattern, a universal plan. Ideally, they stimulate self-reflection.
One of the reasons why many people fear this inward-looking process is that they are dimly aware that, having discovered one’s real nature, one can no longer pretend in the eyes of the world…and thus the Tower, the edifice which represents the values of the past, must fall… [this] cracks open the defenses and releases those parts of ourselves which have been enslaved.4
The same nakedness which makes me free is what I fear the most. It means I must change.
The universe, and the human mind, will not allow us to stay forever imprisoned in our towers of illusion and repression. If we cannot free ourselves peacefully then the forces of life will arrange an explosion.5
There’s another way to explain repression, shame, inertia, fear of change. There’s something else I hide besides being immortal. The truth, as I and most religions see it, is that we are less separate than we seem.
Evil, sin, the fall of man, in fact, is essentially the attempt to negative this Truth in our thoughts. We try to live apart from God [i.e., the whole]. We try to do without Him [sorry about the gender]. We act as though we had life of our own; as separate minds; as though we could have plans and purposes and interests separate from His [again, the universe’s]. All this, if it were true, would mean that existence is not one and harmonious, but a chaos of competition and strife. It would mean that we are quite separate from our fellow man and could injure him, rob him, or hurt him, or even destroy him, without any damage to ourselves, and, in fact, that the more we took from other people the more we would have for ourselves. It would mean that the more we considered our own interests, and the more indifferent we were to the welfare of others, the better off we would be. Of course it would then follow naturally that it would pay others to treat us in the same way, and that accordingly we might expect many of them to do so. Now if this were true, it would mean that the whole universe is only a jungle, and that sooner or later it must destroy itself by its own inherent weakness and anarchy. But, of course, it is not true, and therein lies the joy of life.6
We are individuals to the degree that we are separate from reality itself… and to this degree, we are also in conflict with life.7
I hide from you. I act as if I am a separate individual. I bomb you without feeling your pain. Not to mention what I do to other species.
The Tower symbolizes an arrogant technology that constantly desires more and bigger monuments to its conquest of nature. Skyscrapers in particular represent this attitude, for they separate humanity from the Earth. For Hermann Haindl, as for many people, skyscrapers epitomize the desire of our civilization to divorce itself from nature, to pretend that we exist apart from the plants and animals that feed us… [but] illusions of separateness lead to a break with reality.8
We are not separate from the natural world that feeds us. The reality is that we must kill and eat other living things in order to survive. That much is easy to see. Where, then, is the line between “bad” violence (like terrorism) and “good” consumption (like eating a salad)? When could there possibly be peace in the world?
The point is not to ‘make the world safe for everyone, once and for all’ either by force or by prayer. That’s not life. That’s boring. Life is the illusion of separation. That can be fun, and it can be painful. But it’s never “wrong.” As long as we are alive we are going to keep on hurting each other. And that’s OK.
I don’t know about you, but I think this must be the wackiest thing I’ve ever heard. Earlier I said we never really hurt each other. How does this make any sense? The only way I can make sense of it is this:
When they say that we are all — people, animals, plants, everything — “one,” it means we are all in this together. But in what? What is the universe? A playground, a movie. Luckily, we are all just playing, just acting. We pretend to destroy each other. Death is but the end of today’s feature presentation.
These movies, these illusions, end every day that I stop kidding myself. I can open my eyes. I can wake up. My choice is this: I can believe that it’s all real, including tragedy and loss, or I can believe in God. I can see the universe as it truly is. You can’t do both.9
As long as I believe there is anything wrong with the world, it will continue to be. As long as I believe in victimhood, there will be victims. How am I to respond to this or that event? The only way I am able to respond is to take responsibility for it. If I choose to be a victim, of course there is nothing I can do. I’m saying that this is a choice.
It’s a beautiful paradox: the more you open your consciousness, the fewer unpleasant events intrude themselves into your awareness.10
Is it really a “paradox” if opening your consciousness means seeing things as they really are? The key question is, who decides what is real?
The Truth, for now at least, is that we are all– terrorists, housewives, Hitler– not just buddies on another plane but reflections of each other in this one. There is a “conspiracy” behind all this, for conspiracy means “God together.” How this works I will explain in my book, Love and Curiosity. Suffice it to say that whether I see life as a projection (i.e., a movie) or a reflection (i.e., a mirror), everything in it is symbolic: everything outside of me represents and corresponds to what’s inside. And what’s “inside” (i.e., my attitude) is the only part I have a choice over. You can’t change the image in a mirror without changing what it’s reflecting.11
So Satan appears in the mirror. Today Satan is dressed up as a terrorist. But satan simply means “adversary” or “opposer."12 It’s crucial to remember that Satan was originally a servant of God. God, the healthy reflective force of the universe, sends Satan, adversity, to tell us that something’s wrong. Don’t just kill the messenger!
And what’s wrong? Nothing, really. It all depends on what game you’re playing. There’s plenty of talk about what’s wrong, and on that level, we’re all “sinners.” We are all playing the game of being separate individuals, separate nations, a separate species. If we ever get around to meeting ETs, it’ll be us against them.
Before you blame anything on anyone else again, answer this question: is there really more than one of us, one consciousness, in the world?
Why do we play this game of separation, of diversity? If we even knew we were playing, much less why, it would not be the same game. We would enter a higher level, a new game. Imagine being a little less separate: imagine what it would be like if everyone could read each other’s minds. What a big change, the death of privacy! I fear it and look forward to it at the same time (like jumping into a mountain stream).13
We don’t have to end the game to start enjoying it. And enjoying it will transform it.
See how beautiful our future really is? See how everything begins to fit together? Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Don’t be ashamed of our race. Don’t blow off religion and don’t let it scare you. Every person, every religion has a piece of the puzzle — is a piece of God. In fact, religion means “to put back together.” And what a beautiful puzzle it is.
As the “powers of evil” (i.e., my own fears) build up in resistance, things will quicken and get scarier. It may already be hard to think straight. Trust in truth, not in illusion. Don’t be distracted by the drama. Decide what you believe in your heart and remember that. Build your ark now. It will carry you through these growing pains, this storm before the calm.
1. Ted Andrews, Animal Speak, 24.
2. Michael Ryce, Why is this Happening to Me... Again?, 73. There are several Hebrew words, ranging in meaning from “mistake” to “intentional transgression,” which are all commonly translated as “sin.” See here.
3. Jessica Godino and Alan Muskat, “The Tower,” The World Spirit Tarot, 41-2.
4. Juliette Sharman-Burke and Liz Greene, The Mythic Tarot, 68.
5. Rachel Pollack, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, 118.
6. Emmet Fox, The Sermon on the Mount, 184. I do find this passage a bit simplistic. “Anarchy,” for instance, can mean cooperative self-governance.
7. Manly P. Hall, Past Lives and Present Problems, 2.
8. Rachel Pollack, The Haindl Tarot, 142-3.
9. Paxton Robey, Shortcuts to Enlightenment (audiocassette). For more on life as a movie, see Paxton Robey’s No Time for Karma.
10. Thaddeus Golas, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, 72.
11. Countless new age authors (Weil, Myss, Chopra, etc.) have written on the power of the mind in healing. For a broader treatment of the idea that “consciousness creates reality,” see Richard Bach’s Illusions, as well as works by Emmet Fox (particularly The Sermon on the Mount) and Paxton Robey (see above). Keep in mind, however, as I will explain in Love and Curiosity, that consciousness and the mind are not the same thing.
12. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1044.
13. Thought-transfer, with no possibility of lying or misunderstanding, is in fact a regular component of the near death experience. See Raymond Moody’s Life After Life (pp. 52, 60, 124), Reflections on Life After Life (p. 34), and The Light Beyond (pp. 120, 172).
More on the Haindl Tower
from Rachel Pollack, The Haindl Tarot
In the Tower we see the dangers of the human will completely unchecked, dominating nature with a kind of insanity that can lead to humanity’s own destruction…
The Tower is built on pride…
The Hebrew letter, Peh [in the upper left-hand corner of the card], means “Mouth,” and by extension, speech, communication. In this case, the implication is ironic. The Tower of Babel symbolizes lack of communication, language as a means of separating people rather than bringing them together. There is, however, an esoteric side to the Tower, in which the lightening bolt represents revelation, rather than destruction. Illusions become destroyed by sudden knowledge of the truth. “Speech” in this sense means God communicating directly with humanity. Instead of Babel, we have the Biblical account of Pentacost, in which Spirit descended into a group of worshippers and they all began “speaking in tongues,” that is, in many different languages, just as in the story of Babel. In the story of Pentecost, however, everyone understood what others said. The barriers had broken down.
The Rune [the symbol at the top right corner of the card, the one that happens to look like a jet liner] is Yr, or Irr. In German, irren means “to be wrong.” The English is err, almost the same. The Rune, like the card, tells us we have followed an irrweg, a wrong path…
The tower can mean violent release of repressed energy. If a bad situation goes on for a long time, the pressure can build to an explosion. Psychologically, this can be an outburst of rage. Politically, this can mean revolution. Ecologically, it refers to disasters brought on by years of abusing nature…
However grim the card looks, the Tarot remains optimistic. The sunrise, the blue sky behind the clouds, these suggest hope. They lead us to the next card, the Star, in which Gaia, the Earth Mother, renews the power of life.