Dole, Holographic Psychology III
AN OUTLINE OF A HOLOGRAPHIC PSYCHOLOGY - PART III
Lecture by Rev. Dr. George Dole
Tue, July 10, 1984 -
Fryeburg New Church Assembly
Again, I'd like to review briefly before proceeding. I'm suggesting that we regard ourselves as having both particle properties and wave properties, and I'm paying almost exclusive attention to our wave properties because they seem to be neglected, look promising, and offer some fresh understandings of familiar descriptions in our theology.
In regard to wave properties, then, each of us is primarily a field of intersection of direct and indirect inflows from the Lord, defined essentially by our location in the overall field, and with boundaries varying with our consciousness. As in the holographic model, this makes each of us an image of the whole. We're familiar with the statement that we have been created in the image and likeness of God; to that I'd add the following statement from the Arcana (n. 6057). "Before we say anything about the inflow and working of the soul into the body, it must be clearly recognized that the inner person is formed in the image of heaven and the outer in the image of the world, even to the point that the inner person is a heaven in miniature and the outer a world in miniature-- a microcosm." Or I might cite a more familiar one-- "They are accepted into heaven who accept heaven into themselves in this world (H.H. 420)."
This morning I'd like to deal with the implications of this for our spiritual well-being. This has a lot to do with our physical well-being, I'm sure, but I'm not prepared to go into that in any detail. What I will be dealing with is definitions of good and evil, and we'll be sort of bouncing back and forth between the two.
Evil is charateristic of our level of existence, not of the Lord's. In the holographic model, then, evil has something to do with our participation in the pattern rather than with the essential pattern itself. You'll recall (now that I remind you) that in this model, consciousness plays a very significant role. It's consciousness that gathers us as distinguishable entities, that draws our boundaries. What we call "ours" is of critical importance to us.
The doctrinal material on this theme is to be found mainly under the headings of "proprium" (or "Own") and "appropriate" (meaning to claim as one's own), with additional information under the words "confirm" and "impute." For me, the most succinct statement of principle on this is found in Heaven and Hell (n. 302).
If only people believed the way things really are-- that everything good is from the Lord and everything evil from hell-- then they would not make the good within them a matter of merit, nor would evil be charged to them. For in this case they would focus on the Lord is everything good they thought and did, and everything evil that flowed in they would throw back into the hell it came from. But since people do not believe in any inflow from heaven and from hell, and therefore think that everything they think and do is inside themselves and therefore from themselves, they therefore claim evil as their own, and pollute the inflowing good with a sense of merit.
I've been impressed with this statement for quite a few years. I now see it as a prime example of the difference between the mechanical model of self-contained units and the wave model of intersecting inflows. There would seem to be little question as to the liabilities of the former and the assets of the latter.
It does raise a question, though, which we can ask in two ways. The doctrinal way would be to ask what then is meant by a "heavenly proprium." In the holographic model, this would mean asking what we do about our need of boundaries. The simplest doctrinal answer is that a heavenly proprium is the acceptance of our angelic nature as God-given. The holographic answer sounds different, but isn't really. It is that we can have boundaries without making them absolute, that we can realize that they are lines drawn for our convenience in an essentially seamless totality. I can say that this thought or feeling is "mine" meaning that it is in my consciousness at the present time. This does not assume that it is only mine, or that I am no more than my present consciousness. It just says that it is within the boundary my consciousness is drawing at the present time.
Now, a peculiar thing happens when I manage to do this. The best way I can describe it is to say that my sense of responsibility for this thought or feeling becomes much more natural and acceptable, much less like something unwelcome imposed from the outside. In fact, it happened while I was working on one of these lectures that Dave dropped in, and said that he wished he were as disciplined as I and were working on his lectures. I didn't feel "disciplined" at all. I was working hard, with a strong sense of responsiblity for what I was writing, and I was having a blast doing it. It seemed like a wholly natural thing to be doing, not like something the schedule said I had to do.
In other words, my own experience is that this "letting go" of claiming reponsibility for my thoughts and feelings tends to make it easier for me to be responsible. I'm sure those of you who know me well will hope that if this is true, I'll let go as fast and as completely as I can.
In looking through the Table of Contents of Divine Providence for one particular statement on this general principle, I ran across a dozen or more. I hadn't realized how pervasive a theme this "letting go" is in that particular work. The one I was looking for was this (n. 42): "The more closely we are united to the Lord, the more clearly we seem to be our own, and the more obvious it is to us that we are the Lord's." But the whole section from paragraphs 191 to 213 is about the fact that our prudence is really nothing but ought to appear so. The whole section from paragraphs 308 to 321 is about the fact that providence never attributes either good or evil to us, but that our own prudence does. And the introductory chapter, comprising paragraphs one through twenty-six, presents the essence of divine providence as the intent to make all things one.
But perhaps the central notion to all of this discussion of boundaries is simply that marvelous little phrase that keeps cropping up, "distinguishably one." It suggests that there are two primary forms of evil: one is denying the distinguishability, and the other is denying the oneness. To deny the distinguishability is to deny all values, to say that nothing makes any difference. To deny the oneness is to absolutize the boundaries. The paradox is that as we become aware of the oneness and only as we become aware of the oneness, the boundaries really begin to become clear.
This relates also to another favorite passage that I mentioned a couple of years ago. This time, though, I'd like to quote it at greater length, for reasons which I think you'll realize by the time we reach the end of it. It's from the Arcana (n. 3207.3-4), and reads about as follows.
It needs to be realized that no truths are ever pure with any mortal or even with any angel-- pure meaning free from appearances. Each and every one is an appearance of truth, but still they are accepted by the Lord as true if there is something good within them. Pure truths belong to the Lord alone because they are divine; the Lord is in fact the good itself and therefore the true itself. . . .
We can determine what appearances are from what we find in the Word, where things are said according to appearances. But there are different degrees of appearances. Natural appearances of truth are mostly illusions, but when they occur in people who are involved in something good, they they are not called illusions but appearances and even in some sense truths. The good that is in them, which contains the divine, gives them a different essence. Rational appearances of truth, on the other hand, are more and more inward. The heavens are in these appearances-- that is, the angels who are in the heavens-- as described in n. 2576.
To give you some idea of appearances of truth, the following may serve as examples. i. People believe that they are re-formed and regenerated by means of the truth of faith, but this is an appearance. They are re-formed and regenerated through the good of faith, that is, through an active caring [charitatem] about the neighbor and a love for the Lord. ii. People believe that the true allows us to perceive what is good because it teaches, but this is an appearance. It is the good that allows the true to perceive, for the good is the soul or life of the true. iii. People believe that the true introduces them to the good when they live in accord with what the truth teaches; but it is the good that flows into the true and introduces it to itself. iv. It seems to people as though the true completed the good, when instead the good completes the true. v. It seems to people as though the good [works] of life were the fruits of faith, but they are the fruits of charity. We can realize from these few instances what appearances of truth are: things like this are innumerable.
Here are most of our tried and true maxims about the necessity of truth leading, all labelled "appearances." This means they can function as truth as long as there is good in them-- as long as they are used lovingly. But the moment we absolutize them, the moment we regard them as absolute truths rather than appearances of truth, we falsify them. They become then illusions, and block our progress to higher appearances. This is perhaps the prime weakness of mechanical models. They depend on clear and constant boundaries, on mutual exclusiveness.
This is quite clearly stated in D.L.W. (n. 108). "All the misconceptions that are prevalent among evil people and among simple folk originate in confirmed appearances. As long as appearances remain simply appearances, they are apparent truths, and it is all right for anyone to think and talk in terms of them. But once they are accepted as actual truths (which happens when they are confirmed), then these apparent truths become falsities and misconceptions." There's a very nice related image in A.C. (n. 7298.2). " . . . no one should be instantly persuaded about the truth-- that is, the truth should not be instantly so confirmed that there is no doubt left. The reason is that truth inculcated in this way is "second-hand" truth [verum persuasivum]; it has no stretch and no give. In the other life, this kind of truth is portrayed as hard, impervious to the good that would make it applicable." Attending to our wave properties offers the opportunity to encounter "soft truth," truth with stretch and give, truth permeable by the good that makes it applicable.
The absolutizing of boundaries is essentially a denying of the oneness that underlies the appearance of separateness. It is taking the "one" out of the "distinguishably one." A physicist named David Bohm has written a book called Wholeness and the Implicate Order, in which he explores some of the philosophical implications of holographic theory. The "implicate order," whose reality is fundamental to quantum theory, is the holographic arrangement, in which everything is simultaneously present everywhere.
Now for us, that which is simultaneously present everywhere is the divine. It is everything Bohm says it is, and more, because the "everything" must surely include the personal (as he suggests but does not state). Swedenborg is saying something very much along these lines when he says that God is divine order itself. God is the pattern of omnipresence. I mention this primarily because if this is so, then taking the "one" out of the "distinguishably one" is essentially taking the Lord out, for as D.L.W. (n. 44) states, "Divine love and divine wisdom are intrinsic substance and form, and are therefore the authentic and the only."
There is, I think, another way we can visualize evil in the holographic model. It is quite simply mistaking our center-- operating from some place remote from it, and not recognizing that fact. If we visualize ourselves schematically in the simultaneous arrangement of our discrete degrees, our absolute center is that inmost of which we are never conscious. As we move out from that center, we come to successively more external levels of reality. When we are operating from a strictly natural, or "natural-natural" consciousness, we have a very confusing and oblique view of what is going on, because the basic pattern makes most sense when it is viewed from the center.
This seems to me to be what happens to people in the hells. They are operating from the lower or outer levels of their spiritual being, and denying the existence of any other center. Yet our theology is quite clear in its assertion that the Lord's life is flowing into them through their inmost, which has been kept unharmed and always will be.
In the remaining time, I want to focus more directly on ways we can understand spiritual health. The holographic model suggests that health is more than having all the parts in working order. In the holographic model, there is no room for the concept of "parts" other than as possibly convenient smaller versions of the whole. Health is rather perception of and willing participation in the overall pattern, which reminds me of one of Swedenborg's rules of life-- "To be content under the dispensations of providence." Health is permeability. It requires "soft truth," truth with stretch and give. "Perception of and willing participation in the overall pattern" takes on special meaning, too, if we realize that the Lord is that overall pattern.
In more familiar doctrinal terms, which I find closely related to this same image, spiritual health requires our acceptance of our actual status as constant recipients, as originators of nothing. It requires that love which is defined in D.L.W. (n. 47) as follows: "Love consists of this-- that what is ours is others', and that we feel their joy as joy in ourselves." I'd ask you to reflect on how hard this is as long as we think in mechanical models, and how very simple, in fact how inevitable, it is given the reality of our wave properties. Thoughts and affections are constantly rippling out from me and from you. My actual perception is always an intersection of waves from the inside with waves from the outside. I cannot be "good" without being permeable.
Intrinsically, I am permeable. Part of the problem is that, as we have already seen, the lower levels of consciousness are so viscous, so slow to respond, that absorption in them creates the illusion that I am clearly marked off from the rest of reality, that I have fixed and impermeable boundaries. This leads me to call "mine" anything I think or feel within myself. But as I become aware that everything is flowing in, either directly or indirectly, and that my thoughts and feelings are not happening only within the boundaries of my present consciousness, then there begins to be some sense of participation in the overall pattern.
In one delightful essay among many in The Lives of a Cell, Lewis Thomas speculates on the impossible idea of attaching radioactive isotopes to ideas, and suggests that if we could, we would begin to see patterns whose existence we hardly suspect, global patterns of human thought. As a biologist, he has noted that there seems to be something like a communal intelligence among some creatures, and cites termites as an example. It is physically possible for a single termite to build an arch, but a single termite will just move grains of sand at random. If it is joined by a few others, there will be the beginnings of some pattern of activity-- maybe they'll make a little pile of sand. But as the group grows, so does its apparent intelligence, until it reaches a critical size and starts constructing the arches that make up a nest.
Thomas suspects on biological grounds that there's a lot of this going around, even, and perhaps especially, on the human level. His image of an overall pattern of human thought is in many ways very close to Swedenborg's descriptions of spiritual geography, where likeness in affection and therefore in thought brings proximity, where the arrangements of people and things are indicative of what we might loosely term mental kinship or likeness. The visible patterns are meaningful. This is again very strange and difficult to take seriously as long as we restrict ourselves to mechanical images, but makes all kinds of sense in the holographic model. After all, what happens when we die is not really that we move to the community where we belong, but that we gradually become conscious closer and closer to our own chosen center, and find out where we actually are in the overall design.
Well, I have to quit, and I feel as though I've just begun to scratch the surface. I feel a little bit, in fact, like a single termite, with a dim awareness that there's something here to be built, something that will take a real confluence of hearts and minds. What impresses me most about the holographic model is the way things jump out of the writings with new meaning, the way it undercuts ego-concerns and the defensiveness I associate with "turf-mentality" in general. It fosters health by encouraging a willing acceptance of the way things profoundly are.
I'll be presenting some of this to the Eastern Regional Meeting of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology in the late fall; I'll be exploring it with students and faculty at the School, and I'm trying to get the main points clear enough to be publishable. It's my unbidden expectation that models from the new physics will inevitably influence our self-understanding, just as models from Newtonian physics have. It looks like an influence congenial to our theology, and I'd like us to participate in it.