There is a difference between being a master of thought and a prisoner of thought. These two lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem If speak to the difference:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim….
Thoughts can be imprisoning. They can embody beliefs that form a veil that shields us from a primal knowing of our life and the most important things in it. Thought can be an intermediary, so that we don’t actually experience the reality of the world we’re living in or the reality of ourselves because we’re engaging with that world through some pattern of thought and idea, and therefore cheating ourselves of the primal experience, the firsthand knowing of ourselves and that world. This happens in all kinds of areas. If it happens in our spiritual experience, we turn our experience of spiritual reality into a religion of one sort or another. We settle for a belief in something or an idea about something or a name for something, instead of having the actual experience of that reality.
I was speaking with friends recently about gender roles and the way we relate to other people. In most cultures there are fixed beliefs about what it means to be a man or a woman, and what it means to relate to a man or a woman. Those beliefs are often imprisoning for all concerned. I said to one of the people I was with, who was obviously a woman, “I don’t relate to you as a woman. I relate to you as you. You are you, not just ‘a woman.’” I used their name to name the reality of who they are. But to relate through a thought form or a belief or an idea about this person as a woman would cheat me of the primal knowing of who this person is. And isn’t that the point? Not some idea, image or belief.
There are all kinds of areas in people’s lives where they end up being prisoners of their own thought. We are not here to be a prisoner of thought. We are here to be originators of thought. We are here to think, and the realm of thought is born out of a core awareness, a core reality of being, our being. It is a whole different matter to be giving birth to thought as opposed to being a consumer and therefore a victim of thought, whether they are our own or someone else’s.
So here we are, all of us an aspect of eternal Being living in human form. The energy of life is present, and we, in our system of ideas about that, probably speak of it as “my life.” In any event, life is present and there is consciousness and, with that, thought. So do you have beliefs about all that? Beliefs about where the life and consciousness within us come from? Whether they exist anyplace else? Were the life and the consciousness we know built through eons of evolution? Is the quality of thought and awareness we know something unique to us as human beings? And what about the energy of life that animates our human form—is that unique to us as human beings? Or, if we wanted to be more broad-minded about it, is that a biological thing? In other words, is the life force we know something we share only with other biological forms?
These questions may help free ourselves from being a prisoner of thought. Regardless of whether we have named a certain aspect of creation as animate or inanimate, it is all in motion. It is all powered by the same universal energy. The atoms of all creation are in motion. It’s all alive. Is it possible that the energy of creation is the same energy throughout all creation? The atoms on Planet Earth don’t have a different energy in them than the ones on the sun or the ones in a galaxy light-years away. They are all atoms, and the energy in those atoms is all the same energy.
It is energy, but it isn’t just energy, because that energy is creating patterns that have a rhyme and a reason to them. It’s not just stuff all over the place; it’s not just some cosmic goo oozing everywhere. There is a pattern, there is a beautiful design, and there is control within that, a beautiful movement through time. And isn’t that the very essence of what intelligence is? Intelligence is all about pattern and design—understanding it, knowing it, and being able to create it. To move in concert with the pattern in your world—that’s being intelligent. And then to give expression to a pattern, in whatever field it is, which is in concert with the already-existing pattern. So intelligence isn’t just a human invention. Intelligence is embodied in all creation.
And what about consciousness? We pride ourselves, as human beings, on having consciousness, or what we call self-consciousness, as if nothing else anyplace else is conscious. Really? All throughout the universe, there is no other consciousness present? At the Creative Field Conference at Sunrise Ranch last September, Dr. Claude Swanson performed and reported on scientific demonstrations showing that plants and animals recoil if you think negative thoughts about them. Is that not consciousness?
We have the most amazing birds at Sunrise Ranch! They land in our valley as they are flying north and south in their migratory patterns, and we say, “It’s instinct. They are not really conscious. It’s just instinct.” As I watch them flock together and fly about, they look pretty conscious to me. So what is instinct? Isn’t that consciousness moving at whatever level it’s moving? Some kind of inner awareness, some kind of inner intelligence that says, “It’s getting cold—we’d better fly south.” In our aloof way as human beings, we attribute consciousness to ourselves and say all the rest of it is just stuff. And then let’s see how much of that stuff we can get for ourselves. As the comedian George Carlin said, we tend to make it all about my stuff!Stuff is unconscious. Is it possible that all of creation is actually conscious?
Traditionally, humanity thinks of itself as the crowning creation, put here for a very special purpose. There is something special and wonderful about us as human beings. But it might help to become aware of how we are the same as all of creation before we become a prisoner of our thoughts about how special we are. Otherwise, a sense of specialness can go to aloofness and arrogance.
Fundamentally, we are the same as all creation. Seeing our sameness brings a primal knowing that transcends our ideas about who we are. We are conscious, just like everything else is conscious. That kind of consciousness is primal knowing. We have the ability not just to navigate the world via our ideas. We have the ability to read the patterns of our world, to see them, to feel and perceive their presence and know that we are a part of them.
If all of creation is moved by one universal energy, and there is consciousness throughout, is there not also the presence of being in all that? In other words, the world is not just stuff. It is not just an interesting, even intelligent, pattern. This is Being itself that is living through creation. When we deny that beingness for the things in our world that we make into stuff, it is easy to go on from there and objectify other people. It is well known that men have tended to objectify women. But people are objectifying each other all the time, denying the presence of Being and treating each other as objects. Is it possible that, when we do that, we are denying our own beingness? I think it is hard to deny the beingness of all creation and all the people around you, and then somehow save your own soul.
That is often the attempt of religion and spirituality. We are going to save our souls, or Jesus is going to save our souls. We are going to deny the soul of everyone and everything else, but Jesus is going to come along and save ours. That is the attempt of some who consider themselves Christians. But that same attempt is made by people in all kinds of religious and spiritual patterns. The truth is that the way we are treating the rest of creation is the way we are treating ourselves.
So how we think about the rest of creation reflects how we think about ourselves. In some traditions, people attempt to stop thinking. I’ve never been successful at that, possibly because it does not have a lot of appeal to me. At a point in my life when I was a prisoner of my own thinking, what I found was that what I believed was making me miserable. I found somebody who taught me that thought itself isn’t evil, and that there is a way to think so that you are a creator of thought. Those thoughts give life. They are life-giving for the person and they are life-giving for their world.
Here is the thought that arises for me now: the energy, the intelligence and the soul of Creation is present in me. It is present in you and within all people. It manifests through all of us in a way that is unique and distinctive. I understand that best as I embrace my kinship with all of Being.