My Beliefs

Bill Ellis

In 2011, I wrote four versions of this text before it felt complete. Now, as 2013 moves along, and all the supporting data for those beliefs, plus many other things, has been assembled here, I see no need to change anything, except to add a note that I am well aware that some teachers consider beliefs to be limiting things and hence not at all helpful.

On the other hand it is my clear sense that everything that we do, or don’t do, is clearly governed by a belief. Which is not to say that we cannot change a belief if it no longer serves us, but rather to say that beliefs, in my view, are as much a part of us as are our fingers and toes.

Next, I would like to say that fourteen years ago, for a Spiritual Frontiers presentation in Ottawa, I first used the label, A Sailor’s Journey Into Uncharted Spiritual Waters for my title. At that timeI also thought that that would be the title for an intended book which this web-site now replaces.

I also now realize that in my earlier ignorance, I had chosen the wrong title: Those inner waters were mostly unknown to me at that time, but had, as this site now demonstrates, been well charted by both Eastern and Western explorers since human civilizations started to evolve. And, joyfully, are continuing to be built on, and expanded, by today’s “Wisdom Teachers“, many of whose writings appear on their own pages on this site.

Next, life, as I’m sure you know, is filled with paradoxes. So our challenge, as the Jungians would say, is to be able to hold the tension of these “opposites” by flowing with them because none are really Either/Or situations, but rather And and And situations. For example, at this moment, I still cannot find a way to separate Oneness and Duality; it seems to me that they co-exist ~ another paradox? So here, after much searching and contemplation are my current core beliefs:

  • We are all interconnected even though each one of us has a separate Body, Mind and Soul, (Little “I”). It is Spirit, the God-force, that unites us in Oneness with each other and all other beings, including Existence itself. As Meister Eckhart wrote centuries ago, “The eyes with which I see God are the eyes with which God sees me.” So I believe the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is correct when he suggests “We are Spiritual [Divine]Beings on a human journey” and not vice-versa. The Catholic mythologist Joseph Campbell would also agree with both of them as would the Mexican shaman, Miguel Ruiz.  So, too, would Aldous Huxley who gave the name, “The Perennial Philosophy”, to this belief expressed so succinctly by Ken Wilber: “Spirit exists and Spirit is within.” To which, with the clearness of mind for which he is renowned, he adds, “Strictly speaking, God is neither within nor without ~ Spirit transcends all duality. But one discovers this by consistently looking within, until “within” becomes “beyond” which is why we just sit in silence. So the answer given, over time, by all the mystics from both East and West to that important question, “Who am I?” is  ~ and you can choose whichever word resonates best with you ~  Atman, Awareness, Brahma, Consciousness, Existence, God, Love, or Presence. This is what many call the Big “I” ~ tat tvam asi ~ “Thou art that” which Alan Watts, in his manuscript, The Art of Contemplation, describes this way: “The individual is an aperture through which the whole energy of the universe is aware of itself, a vortex of vibrations in which it realizes itself as man or beast, flower or star – not alone but as central to all that surrounds it. These centres are not, as may seem, apart from their surroundings, but stand in mutual relationship to them…. For it could be said, in the rather clumsy language of nouns and verbs … that the individual is something which the whole is doing, and that the whole is something which the individual is doing simultaneously.” Erwin Shroedinger, a Nobel Laureate in physics expressed it this way “It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. The conditions for your existence are almost as old as the rocks. For thousands of years men have striven and suffered and begotten and women have brought forth in pain. A hundred years ago, perhaps, another man sat on this spot; like you he gazed with awe and yearning in his heart at the dying light on the glaciers. Like you he was begotten of man and born of woman. He felt pain and brief joy as you do. Was he someone else? Was it not you yourself?”
  • Before an individual soul, Little “I”, chooses to re-incarnate in human form, it chooses its destiny for that life-time. Plato described that process in Book X of The Republic when he wrote about the near-death battle-field experience of a soldier named Er, son of one Armenius, who witnessed the whole process, which ends when the soul crosses the River of Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. So some of us spend a life-time trying to re-member what it was we chose; and why others then write: “the dynamics of this process … ensures that everything which belongs in an individual’s life shall enter it, whether he (sic) consents or not, or is conscious of what is happening to him or not” (Jung) and “It does not rest with you to accept or reject … the chosen activities. Whatever is destined not to happen, will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it.” (Ramana Marashi). In the Platonic myth this happens when the soul passes under the chair of the Goddess of Necessity which means that all that is necessary, and only that which is necessary, will happen to that soul. Hence the current widely held belief, which I share, that “There are no mistakes in the universe and everything happens for a reason.” And it is clear to me from these latter quotes that Destiny does not mean just one thing, but rather a series of events/experiences. So, as some New Agers believe, each time our soul chooses to come back, it first chooses what lessons it wishes to learn. And will keep on repeating certain behaviours until those lessons are learned  ~ or else return another time to finally get it! Put another way, each of us is, therefore, totally responsible for everything that happens to us, including the parents who gave life to us, because we chose them as well. So there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that happens to any one of us that we can blame another for, even though most of us, regrettably, do just that at some point in our lives.
  • The development of a healthy ego is essential for both human individuation, transcendence, and survival in a material world. Ken Wilber makes this point so clearly in his description of the four levels of his “Spectrum of Consciousness” described in many of his writings. No Boundary(Shambhala, Boston,1985) is an excellent resource in this regard. Carl Jung wrote that “the ego is the fragile precious light of consciousness that must be guarded and cultivated. It is your sense of purpose and identity. A healthy ego balances the conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche.” And the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, wrote” Ego is not sin. Ego is not something that you get rid of. Ego is something that you come to know — something that you befriend by not acting out or repressing all the feelings that you feel.”
  • Each one of us is at the centre of the universe because without personal awareness the universe would not exist for any of us. i.e. the universe is a construct of our minds implanted in us by our parents, teachers et al. Moreover, and in that context, since we are all star-born, the whole history of the universe is in our bodies as we continue to evolve, for example, from having one ancient brain to one that, over time, now has two newer parts and which is far more “plastic” than anyone had realized until very recently. So who knows what is next? And, as far as I am aware, no one really knows how this universe came into being, or even how many universes there are. And when I mentioned to a teacher that I believed the universe was expanding, he simply said “Into what space? ” So that suggests to me that there must have always been some sort of container to hold the energy until it was ready to change from the formless into form. But what caused that to happen is also a mystery to me. And perhaps many others.
  • Some things we know; some we don’t; and some will always be unknowable. So life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be experienced joyfully since, as Campbell writes, “We cannot cure the world of sorrows“. And trying to change that situation ~ “this perfect world,” he says, “has always been, and will always be a mess,”  is not our job, which he sees as simply straightening out our own lives, (Byron Katie says the same thing), which, for me, has been the task of a life-time. And whenever I make the mistake of thinking that that “straightening out” is almost done along comes a new lesson. In that connection, Jung says, “The universe heals one soul at a time.” And I believe that too. Lastly, the fact is that life just is what it is.  i.e. “Life itself,” says Campbell, “has no meaning. It is humans who give meaning to it. And years ago I wrote, “The fact that life has no meaning does not mean that there is no meaning to life” which I thought at the time was just a neat play on words! Little did I know I was about to embark on a long journey seeking meaning.
  • Life is all about Flow. Twenty-five hundred years ago two men on opposite sides of the world wrote about this. One was Lao Tsu whose Taoist teachings are found in that masterpiece that we know as the Tao Te Ching, which changed my life when I found it in my mid-forties. The other was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said “Everything flows, nothing abides. You cannot step in the same river twice.” While at the same time, in the East, the Buddha was teaching about the impermanence of all things. Today, we simply say that Change is the only thing constant, all of which reminds me of a wonderful comment by the late Irish theologian and poet, John O’Donohue: I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding … So the teaching here is to go beyond being in the flow and, instead, be the flow: Be the river. And the paradox here is that life is as much about Stillness as Movement. As Jack Kornfield pointed out in A Path with Heart, the Zen tradition states: “In spiritual practice there are only two things: you sit and you sweep the garden. And it doesn’t matter how big the garden is,” to which he adds” We take time to be quiet, to open and awaken, and then we manifest that awakening in the garden of the world.”  And T. S. Eliot’s thought was this: At the still point of the turning world … there the dance is. And a little humming bird does just the opposite and brings stillness out of movement. So my belief is that an individual human journey can be likened to the ever-changing movement of a cloud against the background of an unchanging sky. The other thing that needs to be emphasized is that this means that we can never always be in one state. e.g. Being happy. So happiness is not some sort of Holy Grail, or form of enlightenment to be pursued. What we need to learn instead is to allow all our emotions the freedom to be expressed and then released, as we continue to live in the ever-changing, but timeless, and hence eternal, Present Moment, the Now, which is our only reality. In that connection, the only request 5 Rhythms teachers make of the dancers is, “Are you willing to show up, be totally present, and leave everything you came in with outside the dance-floor?” It is also extremely important to be aware that what we call Past and Future can only exist in the Present Moment ~ you won’t find them anywhere else.
  • Life is also all about other rhythms and cycles. For example, the annual comings and goings of the four seasons; the ebb and flow of the tides; the expansion and contraction of our heart-beats, with that momentary pause between each inhalation and expiration, which is a wonderful example of how movement and stillness complement and balance each other. Moreover, it seems to me that balance needs to be understood for what it really is: A moment in time which we constantly flow in and out of. Not only that, but to be always in balance is not a desirable state ~ imagine a perfectly balanced teeter-totter that is just going to be stuck forever until something changes. Which is why one of the basic needs of the human body is to move. Otherwise it won’t grow well.
  • Love is all there is in that other place some of us call home whereas on the human journey, Love has to deal with its opposite which is called Fear. So there is a never-ending dance between the two which doesn’t need any commentary at all. It just is what it is even though that dance can be terribly challenging at times.

And there is also one thing that I actually do know. i.e. it is more than a belief. And that is that at this moment in time I have been gifted with more wonderful real friends than at any other time in my life. So, for that, and other reasons such as better health than many people my age or much younger, I now feel totally blessed. And grateful for this amazing gift that we call life, which is not to say that I don’t have some “bad-hair” days ~ usually when relationships go awry, as they must. But that is just another part of the flow. And so it is.

Lastly I now realize that I have a new problem: I believe there is significant agreement on who we really are and the fact that there is no separation anywhere. But I can find no explanation from any of the sages/mystics as to why God/Unity Consciousness had Universes come into being in the first place ~ a question that intrigues Stephen Hawkins ~ nor why any of the entities that have evolved, and still exist, in those universes are actually here. i.e. What is their purpose in being. So, it seems that while we know the Who, What, When and Where, of Existence/Life, we don’t know the Why. And that, perhaps, is what Osho calls the unknowable, the mystery. For which Ken Wilber’s good advice is, “Go have a beer or something” and just Let it Be.