A Unified Vision of Reality


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I have included some of my lectures in this section:
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Lecture 19
The Dream of the Cosmos
The Lunar and Solar Hero
The Great Work: Healing the Wasteland
The Myth of the Solar Hero
Voices of the Ancestors
Lecture 14
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A Unified Vision of Reality
A Metaphysical Revolution? Reflections on the Idea of the Primacy of Consciousness
Lecture 12
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Rebalancing the Psyche: Integrating the Feminine Principle Body, Soul and Spirit
Lecture 11
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Love as the Pulse of the Cosmos: Reconnecting With the Divine Ground
Lecture 10
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Seeing through the Veil: Reuniting Three Dimensions of Reality
Lecture 9
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Unexplored Dimensions of Consciousness
and The Visionary Experience
Lecture 8
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An Alchemical Quest
Lecture 7
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Healing the Heart: An Alchemy of Consciousness
Lecture 6
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The Sleeping Beauty - The Awakening of Instinct into Consciousness
Lecture 5
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Rebalancing the Masculine and Feminine
Lecture 4
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The Dream of the Water: A Quest for the Numinous
Lecture 3
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The Evolution of Consciousness
Lecture 2
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Jung's Septem Sermones ad Mortuos 
Lecture 1
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The Relevance of the Visionary Experience to Culture  



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Lecture 14

A Unified Vision of Reality

©Anne Baring

The Study Society, London, January 22, 2004

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.         Albert Einstein

When the Astronomer-Royal, Sir Martin Rees, writes a book called "Our Final Century", perhaps it is time to ask ourselves some questions. As this image shows, we explore the universe with our instruments. We long to know that we are not alone, that there is life somewhere in the countless billions of galaxies of our universe. But let us suppose the universe is conscious and is trying to get through the thick fog of our consciousness, trying to make us aware of this extraordinary fact. What might the universe want from us at this crucial time of choice and how would it communicate with us? I remember channelled messages received way back in 1943. These said that Great Beings had come from far distant realms of the universe to stand by our poor benighted planet so that it would not become another orphan wandering in space.

In his Christmas address, the Pope asked God to "save mankind from the scourge of terrorism and the wars that were lacerating entire regions of the globe." But if you were God, you might say to yourself, "How can I save them if they will not save themselves?" How can God intervene unless we change our understanding of reality and therefore our behaviour?

I would like to share with you a dream recently sent to me by a friend in America. The dream was told to her by a man who had been in the army for 20 years and who was now enrolled in her PhD course in Clinical Psychology. He had the dream in the autumn of 2001, not long after 9/11. I tell it to you with his permission. "I am back in the army, assigned once again in my old role as a sharpshooter. I have all my equipment, and I am methodically putting it together, preparing to shoot my target, who is some distance away. Finally, I get the telescopic sight attached to the gun and trained on my target so that I can actually see who it is. And, to my great surprise, it is my brother, (who in real life is in another branch of the service.) I am shocked and stopped in my tracks -- I can't continue. Then I wake up."

What does this dream say? If we could see that our enemy was our brother, would we be able to continue as before? Would we wake up? Would we embark on wars and spend colossal sums of money on ever more deadly weapons of destruction? Many millions of people are searching for a new vision - a unified vision that could help to change our current perception of life and our place in the universe. What is needed to birth this vision is a metaphysical and scientific revolution and, above all, a revolution in our values, in the way we relate to each other and to life on this planet. This surely invites us to question all the beliefs we have inherited from the past, theological beliefs as well as scientific ones.

The metaphysical tradition of Kabbalah anticipates such a revolution and calls it the coming of the Messiah - not Messiah as an individual but Messiah as an advance in consciousness for the whole of humanity - when humanity reaches what Kabbalists call 'The Threshold of Awakening'. It also says that every attempt to raise our individual consciousness - through paying attention to the kind of dream I have just told you - contributes to humanity reaching this threshold. A modern kabbalist comments: "Messianic consciousness is not something that comes in the future, it is our intrinsic nature. It is our birthright, available to all of us here and now. Although obscured over the millennia by clouds of ignorance, its light continues to shine in the divine sparks at the core of our being." (Rabbi David Cooper, God is a Verb) To bring about such a revolution, to clarify our vision, we need to understand how we have reached our present perspective on life and to help us to understand this process, I am using the following scheme:

1. Phase of Original, Instinctive Participation
Creation emerges from the womb of the Great Mother
Earth and Cosmos are sacred
Human beings experience themselves as living within an organic, sacred and living whole

2. Phase of Separation
God is transcendent to Creation
Earth is a place of punishment for primordial sin
Humanity is no longer part of the Divine Order

3. Phase of Final or Conscious Participation in an Ensouled Universe
Earth and Cosmos are sacred
Humanity is once again part of the Divine Order
Humanity participates consciously and responsibly in that Order

In the greatest cultures of the ancient world there was a stairway between the human and the divine. The earth and the cosmos were addressed as "thou", not "it." People felt they participated in a great cosmic Mystery of which they were a part. People experienced the divine as immanent in the material world. Nature and the cosmos were ensouled with divine presence. Ceremonies like those performed at Stonehenge and Avebury, connected earth with heaven and strengthened the sense of participation in a divine reality. In other early cultures, such as those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, people communicated with gods and goddesses in dream and vision and entered into dialogue with daimons or angels who were seen as personifications of spirit. Birds were recognised as messengers of an invisible dimension, very possibly because people dreamt about them in this role. Oracles were consulted as a way of bringing us into closer alignment with the guidance of an unseen reality. Music was used to heighten sensitivity and receptivity to the presence of that invisible dimension, a world that was considered to be as real as the material world we know and the foundation of this world. The original role of the shaman, the visionary, the seer as well as the artist, poet, musician and also the mathematician and philosopher - I am thinking here of Pythagoras and Parmenides - was to travel through the veil of our "normal" consciousness to that invisible dimension and bring back what was seen and heard in that encounter to help humanity to align its life with the sacred life of the cosmos.

For thousands of years there have been contemplatives, "as ubiquitous as the birds in the trees," (Philip Sherrard, The Rape of Man and Nature) who sought out the solitude of forest and desert and mountain. People went to them for spiritual counsel and healing. The emphasis of this contemplative and shamanic tradition was on a gradual awakening of subtle faculties through practices which heightened the ability to see, hear and understand things which are not accessible to our normal range of consciousness as well as to clear that consciousness from its one-sided focus on what the Taoists called the 10,000 things. The visionary imagination was nourished where these individuals were held in high esteem as messengers of the invisible.

Now we come to the second phase that the philosopher Owen Barfield called the phase of Separation (Saving the Appearances). In this phase, God, Nature and Cosmos begin to be seen as something separate from ourselves, no longer as something we are part of. This phase saw the separation from purely instinctive and unconscious behaviour and the development of the faculty of self-awareness and a highly focussed intellect - everything that we now call human consciousness. It also saw the emergence of the outstanding individual from the collective life of the group. But as this evolutionary process developed, and we drew further and further away from nature, we lost the ancient instinctive and imaginative sense of participation in a sacred earth and a sacred cosmos. What we believe - the mythology that informs our behaviour - has a huge influence on the kind of culture we create. For example, the myth of the Fall of Man is an immensely influential myth because it reflects and also confirms the Phase of Separation. The myth says that Eve took the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. This was interpreted as an act of disobedience to God that brought sin, suffering and death into the world. The interpretation given to this myth in Christian teaching effectively demonised woman, the body, and sexuality and made them the target for every kind of negative projection that we are still not free of today. (Flesh and the Devil Programme, Channel 4, London, January 2004)

Spirit (God)          Nature (Goddess)
Light                     Dark
Life                       Death
Good                    Evil
Masculine             Feminine
Heaven                 Earth
Man                     Woman
Right hand            Left hand
Spirituality            Carnality
Rational Mind       Soul/Body/Matter
Thinking                Feeling/Instinct
Reason                 Imagination
Rational                Non-rational
Order                   Chaos
Observer              Observed

Over many centuries, this dualistic way of looking at life contributed to an increasing polarisation between certain categories of our experience. These oppositions became fixed in our consciousness because of what we were taught to believe as revealed truth, generation after generation. The myth of the Fall of Man reflected an immense change in human consciousness, the beginning of an entirely new perception of life, one where nature becomes dissociated from spirit, emptied of spirit. Religions extol celibacy and virginity. Nature becomes something to be conquered and subjugated. Spirit is projected upon a distant deity in the sky and no longer experienced as the invisible ground of the phenomenal world. In the age-old lunar mythology of the earlier phase of instinctive participation death always held the promise of rebirth. But now the focus changes to solar mythology where life and death become polarised as opposites and death becomes something that is deeply feared. The more we lost the older sense of participation in the life of the cosmos and the life of nature, the more we became disconnected from our own deepest instincts. The more we lost our sense of belonging to the life of the universe, the more we fell victim to the addiction to power, seeing other people, other groups, tribes and clans as enemies whom we had to conquer and subjugate, or as an evil we had to eradicate. Whole cultures engaged in this pathology as a way of life and I stress that this is a pathology. Christianity and Islam copied the ethos of conquest for the greater glory of God. There were tremendous achievements during this stage - all that we call civilisation. But at the same time the increasing dissociation between conscious mind and unconscious instinct within our psyche gave rise to the multiple dissociations, fragmentations and unconscious projections that are at the root of the problems that we face today.

During this phase, the archetypal image of the feminine as goddess or Great Mother is lost. With the loss of this feminine image of spirit, the concept of soul as an invisible, all-embracing dimension of reality was also lost. The other aspects of the feminine archetype - nature and matter, earth and body, and woman herself, were progressively downgraded in relation to the masculine archetype. It is a sobering thought that during this phase of Separation religion, philosophy, science and government are entirely the creation of the male psyche. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Trinity was defined in the masculine gender. Here we see a rare painting of the Virgin being welcomed by the Trinity.

Christianity and other religions during this Phase of Separation placed the emphasis of their teaching on transcending the world, transcending the body, teaching that the world was basically illusory and deceptive. One cannot at one and the same time proclaim that the world is illusory and that nature is sacred. Relationship with nature and its ways of knowing were superseded by the emphasis on transcendent spirit. The loss of connection with nature and the neglect of the feminine archetype were unfortunately transmitted to science and have contributed to the bleak philosophy of scientific materialism which governs modern culture.

In his last book, Man and His Symbols, Jung writes: "As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature, and has lost his emotional "unconscious identity" with natural phenomena…No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them believing they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied."

The end result of this phase of Separation is the current belief that the entire human endeavour is emptied of meaning and purpose because it is the product of blind chance. Hence the scenario that confronts us today where we see not only the huge inflation or hubris of the modern mind but also the increasing devastation of the planet - even the threat to the survival of life through the misuse of our military technology. Politics, religion, science and the media are all transfixed in the mind-set of the phase of Separation. This is a huge problem but not an insoluble one.

Now I come to the Third Phase - what Barfield called Final or Conscious Participation. If we are to survive as a species and undo the harm we have done, we need to move beyond the dualistic thinking that characterises the phase of Separation. We need to bring together the conscious and unconscious aspects of our psyche. We need urgently to recover the lost sense of our being part of a divine order but this time as an act of conscious choice. This would give us a totally new foundation for moral values and a unified vision of reality. Fortunately for us, certain traditions which had to go underground during the phase of Separation because of persecution kept alive the ancient metaphysical awareness of a multi-levelled, interconnected and conscious universe. Kabbalah was one of these traditions. Kabbalists sought to bring together the outer world of appearances with the inner one of Being, so holding together two aspects of reality. They were able to do this by attuning themselves to the hidden withinness of things, cultivating over generations a receptivity to the guidance of an invisible yet ever-present dimension, allowing enough time to reflect on what is inconceivable and indescribable, beyond the reach of mind or intellect, that can only be felt, intuited and experienced at ever greater depth. They discovered that our human lives are woven into a cosmic tapestry whose threads connect us not only with each other at the deepest level but with multitudes of beings in different dimensions of reality and that an immeasurable field of consciousness continually interacts with our own. Their aim was not transcendence but connection and communion. They never rejected the world and saw nature as the garment of God.

Now I want to talk about the soul - that supremely important aspect of the feminine principle which was lost during the phase of Separation. Long before the idea of a personal soul took root, the soul was understood as something inclusive and all-embracing to whose life we belonged, a many-levelled invisible dimension in whose life we lived, and through which we were connected, at the deepest level, to each other. One might call this concept of cosmic soul the feminine face of God. In the First Phase of Original Participation, the image of the Great Mother personified this matrix of cosmic soul - the great womb or container of all. This ancient idea was transmitted through the pre-Socratic philosophers to the image of Plato's World Soul, later called Anima Mundi. The idea of a planetary intelligence integral to the earth's ecosystem is returning to us today in the image of Gaia but the concept of cosmic soul includes planetary life but extends far beyond it to the very limits of the universe.

Imagine this limitless web as a multi-levelled system of dimensions nested within dimensions, with information continually being exchanged between these dimensions - at the molecular level, at the level of our own communication with each other, at the level of planetary life, and at the level of galaxies and perhaps universes of which we know nothing. If we could see through the physical forms which appear so fixed and solid to us, we would see billions of patterns of energy interacting with each other. We would see tiny particles of light flowing through every cell of our bodies and merging with a wider field that we call the planet which, in turn, merges into the field of the cosmos. What we call life is an excitation on the surface of a sea of energy, continually flowing, dancing into being. The ancient tradition of cosmic soul says that this great matrix of life, this immeasurable sea of being is conscious and that this Consciousness longs for us to awaken to awareness of itself, not as something beyond us but as something in whose life we participate.

Because of the phase of Separation, we now experience ourselves as distinct, separate beings, but if the whole of creation, seen and unseen, is one intelligent organism, one flowing, undivided cosmic energy, then our soul, our mind and our body participate in that vastly greater organism and reflect it as microcosm to macrocosm. We are, as William James said, "islands on the surface, yet connected in the Deep." Some people are fortunate enough and courageous enough to know this as an experience. I turn to passages in an extraordinary book by Christopher Bache called Dark Night, Early Dawn, to amplify this:

When one gains access to the inner experience of the universe, one learns that, far from being an accident, our conscious presence here is the result of a supreme and heroic effort. Far from living our lives unnoticed in a distant corner of an insentient universe, we are everywhere surrounded by orders of intelligence beyond reckoning." "What stood out for me in the early stages was the interconnectedness of everything to form a seamless whole. The entire universe is a totally unified organism of extraordinary design reflecting a massive Creative Intelligence. The intelligence and love that was responsible for what I was seeing kept overwhelming me and filling me with reverential awe…The unified field underlying physical existence completely dissolved all boundaries: no boundaries between incarnations, between human beings, between species, even between matter and spirit. The world of individuated existence was not collapsing into an amorphous mass, as it might sound, but rather was revealing itself to be an exquisitely diversified manifestation of a single entity."

From a transpersonal perspective," he writes, "superconscient awareness already exists, and everywhere surrounds us. It has painstakingly created the organic form that finally has the capacity to support an increased measure of this awareness in the physical sphere, but we have not fully actualized this potential because of the mental habits formed during earlier stages of our evolutionary and cultural development. Everywhere this superordinate awareness presses in upon us, looking for points of entry, trying to reach us in our dreams, our meditations, and our moments of undistracted selflessness." "… the most poignant aspect of this experience was not the discovered dimensions of the universe themselves but what my seeing and understanding them meant to the Consciousness I was with. It seemed so pleased to have someone to show Its work to. I felt that it had been waiting for billions of years for embodied consciousness to evolve to the point where we could at long last begin to see, understand and appreciate what had been accomplished. I felt the loneliness of this Intelligence having created such a masterpiece and having no one to appreciate Its work, and I wept. I wept for its isolation and in awe of the profound love which had accepted this isolation as part of a larger plan. Behind creation lies a Love of extraordinary proportions, and all of existence is an expression of this love. The intelligence of the universe's design is equally matched by the depth of love that inspired it."

Now I want to connect this metaphysical insight with a new understanding that is emerging in science. Ervin Laszlo talks about it in a new book called The Connectivity Hypothesis (2003). He talks about the rise of a holistic science that is radically new and that constitutes a scientific revolution even greater than the Copernican or Newtonian one. He details the conceptual foundations of a grand unified theory of quantum, cosmos, life, and consciousness. A major characteristic feature of the metaphysics inspired by the connectivity hypothesis is its bipolar aspect. Reality can be divided into two principal domains: One is the manifest domain of observable particles and systems of particles; the other the unseen (virtual) domain of the cosmic plenum (not vacuum), the sea of infinite energy from which the particles arise, and into which they ultimately fall back. The latter domain is intrinsically unobservable, but it is inferable through its effects on the observable domain. These two domains are in an endless loop of coevolution. If this research comes to fruition, he writes … "what would emerge would be an increased understanding that all of us are immersed, both as living and physical beings, in an overall interpenetrating and interdependent field in ecological balance with the cosmos as a whole, and that even the boundary lines between the physical and "metaphysical" would dissolve into a unitary view point of the universe as a fluid, changing, energetic/informational cosmological unity."

This sounds like a scientific description of cosmic soul although he does not go as far as to say that the cosmic plenum has consciousness. Possibly he would say that the consciousness is implicit in the way the two domains interact. I think that, ultimately, as we move into the Final Phase of Conscious Participation, metaphysics and science will come together in a grand unified theory of life, consciousness and the universe. Because each domain, as Laszlo puts it, affects the other, it follows that what we do here has an affect on the cosmic plenum and vice-versa. Kabbalah teaches that what we do here, on this planet, is of vital importance to the cosmos. Because at the quantum level, we are all connected, when thousands of us begin to change our consciousness, millions are affected. The more conscious and connected we become, the more help and inspiration can flow to us from the cosmos. Humanity and Cosmos become partners, co-creators.

I see the field of human consciousness and the memory of all the experience of our individual lives embedded in a greater field of the collective consciousness of all the experience of life on this planet from the beginning, and that in turn embedded or held within the field of the quantum plenum - the ocean or sea of Being - of Spirit. All this is what might be called Cosmic Soul. (see physicist's David Bohm's last book, The Undivided Universe).

In all spiritual traditions we have the witness of individuals who, like an advance guard of our race, personify and embody the participatory consciousness of the Final Phase. They offer us a unified vision of reality and of how a transformed, illumined consciousness acts in the world. The basis of their teaching is that:
       Everything is sacred.
       Everything is connected to an invisible divine ground.
       We and the whole of what we call nature are part of that sacredness.
       Those we designate as our enemies are also part of that sacredness.
       Love is the creative, containing, animating power of the universe

To move into this state of conscious awareness we need not only time for contemplation and meditation but also the help of the creative imagination. The role of the imagination is to help us enter empathically into the life we observe, the life we are intrinsically part of, so that we understand that our well-being is contingent upon its well-being. The imagination could help us to develop respect and compassion for what, in the dualistic phase, was seen as other and separate from ourselves. It could help us to marry the capacity to know with the capacity to feel. At the same time the imagination can connect us with invisible dimensions that we cannot perceive with our senses, can render diaphanous or transparent what seems so opaque and solid to our uninitiated eyes.

This painting represents to me the unified consciousness of the Final Phase. As we move into the phase of Final Participation, we will be able, as Einstein said, to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We will also know, as a great kabbalist (Abraham Abulafia) of the thirteenth century said, that we are the Source and the Source is us. We will be so intimately united with It that we cannot be separated from It because we are It. Moving into the final phase of Conscious Participation is a lonely task, a task for individuals, not a group, institute or programme. Barfield suggests that "the preservation of continuity in Western Civilisation depends on how many and how active may be the spirits which shall succeed in doing this."

To end, I would like to read you these few lines written by a poet. (Rowena Ryle, widow of the last Astronomer-Royal, Sir Martin Ryle)

I sat in quiet on the Downs,
Looking across a vale I loved,
Quiet and normal, peaceful there;
And then it came:
There was no difference in the scene,
It stood the same in beauty bright,
But shone vibratingly, in Light
Such as I'd never known before.

And all expanded into One,
And all the world was wholly One,
And all vibrated in a Light
That spoke of love and unity.

I sat, and quiet, felt it given.
I sat, and quiet, knew it there.
I sat and apprehended heaven
About, and in, and everywhere.


The visible and invisible dimensions of life will no longer be separated but united in a sacred marriage.

We will no longer be isolated from the universe but connected to the heart of its being,

We will be able to communicate consciously with beings in other dimensions, asking for and receiving their help and guidance.

Spirit will no longer be imagined as remote and transcendent to ourselves but experienced as the very process of life continually pouring into manifestation - expressing Itself as our life as well as the life of the universe.

Nature will no longer be treated as our servant but respected and protected as the expression of Spirit in this manifest dimension of reality.

Body, mind, soul and spirit will be seen as vital components of a single cosmic organism.

Death will no longer be feared because it will be seen as a rite of passage into another dimension of reality.

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