When Things Are Not As They Seem

I love the Tales that Tarot Cards can Tell!

“Yes, the cards are random. Yes, my mind by nature seeks out it’s own meaning from the cards I see before me. And, yes, that’s the point of it all. I look at what meaning my mind draws currently from the randomly drawn cards, and I am able to gain insight into my current state of mind. I am able to decide how I might chose to address my current state of mind; to encourage parts of it, or change other parts to better face my day ahead.”

One of the more intriguing aspects of tarot interpretation comes when the supposedly “bad” cards are found in “good” places, and vice-versa.

I’ve had a series of really powerful spreads to reflect upon since I did my Yuletide Sabbat Reading in December. It’s been a steady reminder to sometimes embrace my disappointments or mental defeats…

The above photo is the “quickey” Daily Oracle I drew for today. Side note: it impressed me doubly that the first card at the left was the same card I drew a couple days ago, as my “first step” toward resolving my inner issues; and, likewise, the third card, at the right, was the card in that same prior reading as one of my sources of inner strength I could draw from.

So, let me explain these cards and their basic meanings:

  • On the left, we have the 7 of Water (Emotion), or Debauchery.
  • On the right, we have the 5 of Water (Emotion), or Disappointment.
  • And in the center is the 7 of Fire (Energy/Action), or Valor.
  • The placement of these cards is as follows: Left = Where I am right now; Center = the Root of my obstacles today; Right = the recommended response to learning from or overcoming that obstacle.

So, we might say, then, that Valor is my problem and Disappointment is my answer. Say what?

This is where a deeper look into ourselves comes in handy. A Buddhist ideal is that “bad” and “good” have no intrinsic values on their own. They are simply labels that we humans attach to any given thing or event, depending on how we see it at the moment.

So, taking Debauchery (7 Cups): in this setting, it means I’m on the right track. I’ve taken the first step recommended in the prior spread; I’m in a good place. A deeper look at the concept of this card reveals that this state of Emotion doesn’t have to be “bad.”

Debauchery is defined as “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.” So, there is a word of caution that comes with it: one shouldn’t wallow in stagnate emotions for too long, or the waters will rot. But, sometimes, it may be necessary to lie still in your Emotions and enjoy their sensual pleasures for a spell–just be aware that you will have to move on at some point.

Valor (7 Wands): it is a card of fiery Action! A pushing forward past obstacles using the sheer energy of your passion! And, weirdly enough, for today that is what is the Root of my difficulties I either face now or will face today. Valor is an honorable trait, to be sure. But often, our Fires of Passion can run over others and get us into trouble, burning up our surroundings that we have built with those same energies. Wouldn’t you agree?

Lastly, Disappointment (5 Cups): How can this possibly work as a “good” card–an answer to the “problem” of Valor??

One of the traits of water is to cool fire. Our Emotions can at times be the vehicle by which our passionate energies are cooled, allowing us to step back and think on things a little more. Deeper still, the principle of Emotional Disappointment is a state of non-equilibrium. We are, of course, not content to stay in Disappointment for long. The Waters of Disappointment seek to flow to calmer or more stable grounds.

When Disappointment is meant as a suggested response, it is wise to look straight into the face of your emotional upset and allow it to carry you along to a better emotional place.

Many times, we must not shrink from unpleasant emotions but embrace them and let them carry us forward.

Personal Magick

In the end, nothing is wrong with creeds or beliefs as long as you stay aware of your individuality, keep your freedom and are able to enlighten and improve your own self without getting dependent from any outside influence or structure. It does not matter which God or Goddess you have, or how many of those, or if you have anything like that at all, it is completely unimportant whether you believe in the divine, or in fate and coincidence, or solely in the laws of physics.
The Tarot is valuable and suitable for any kind of person that has an inside, a consciousness and a subconsciousness. It is completely independent from any belief but the belief in your own self. (from Magick in Creeds and Beliefs)

Visit Raven’s Tarot site.

Gaining Deeper Insight

Enjoy the new reference page I’ve just created — gaining a deeper understanding of any Tarot reading, using the branches of the Tree of Life and the Major Arcana as bridges between the Sephirot!

In short, there are 3 Triangles that represent a self-contained cycle that stands at a given point of Life’s development: (1) Divine (Collective) Consciousness, (2) Personal Consciousness/Awareness, and (3) Material Reality. Between each of these is veil, and a number of the Major Arcana act as Bridges across the veils, taking us from triangle to another…The Three Triangles

Really impactful stuff! Check it out here!

tree1a

Peeling Back the Layers of Karma

Evolving_Our_Brain___LearnNow

…If we zoom into the neuronal circuits and clusters that make up the brain’s systems, we’ll find them laid out like the concentric layers of an onion, functional layer upon functional layer. This arrangement is the result of the relentless evolutionary push to continuously improve on an animal’s ability to navigate its complex and ever-changing environment. This onion reveals no preconceived design—far from it—but the unavoidably messy piling up of new over old structures, forced to work together for the common good.

The core of the onion: autonomous systems. Along the oldest, deepest layers… They are in charge of the most basic survival routines like swallowing, vomiting, heart beating and respiration, which are so indispensable that they run, for the most part, on autopilot. Accordingly, they are very hard, though not impossible, to modulate voluntarily. Our human species shares these circuits with fish and reptiles.

Next layer of the onion to grow: instinct… Vertebrates benefited tremendously from these pre-programmed circuits that expanded their behavioral repertoire and increased their fitness. Instincts mediate behaviors so crucial to survival that they are encoded as such in the genes themselves, hard-wired in the brain during an animal’s development and not changed by later experience…

Let’s examine the next layer: emotion. An amazing breakthrough happened in mammals, with the laying out of a new set of neural substrates capable of generating emotions. These paths grew together in a circuitry that occupies several brain regions… This collection of brain regions is often referred to as the limbic system, because like an arm (a limb), it surrounds in its embrace the more primitive survival and instinctual regions of the brain, affording us primates a whole new set of behavioral tools for interacting with the world. Accordingly, life became more interesting and vastly more complicated. For example, the instinctual drives to have sex and to run away from danger would be inextricably linked to powerful feelings of affection and fear, respectively. The influence that this new circuitry exerts over our decisions and behaviors is enormous. The neural substrates of emotions are strongly influenced by developmental factors. Perhaps because of its more recent origins, the emotional circuitry is even more flexible and responsive to external influeces than earlier circuits…

The outermost peel (aka, the neocortex) was overlaid atop an already crowded swarm of networks. In primates, it exploded into two huge hemispheres that completely enveloped the older parts of the brain. This new shell serves as the testing grounds for our still developing reasoning abilities. Because they are so recent, neocortical functions are the most flexible and sensitive to the impact of social and environmental experience. Since the neocortical outputs are closer to conscious experience, it is hard to recognize that the neocortex is constantly competing against earlier webs of well-established brain circuitry, and that its contribution to our motivations and actions are likely less than what we’d expect.

We humans are the flavorful mash-up of all these brain layers: we are automaton, instinctual, emotional and rational creatures. We are like magic onions, proud of our paper-thin skin but only vaguely aware of the thick and deeper layers of our brains. All of these different layers play critical roles in shaping our interactions with the world around us, even as they continue to search for more efficient ways of talking to each other; but, alas, this will take millions of years…

Ruben Baler, Ph.D.

Our brains are like Onions. :mrgreen:

Like the rings of a tree map out the details of its life and journey on the earth, our brains — even more complexly — consist of layer upon layer of, not merely the journey of our own life, but the journey of our entire species! How awesome is that?!

Is it any surprise, then, that we may experience the real effects of karma, originating from not only our own past but the past “lives” and experiences of our own species? I am an amazing “messy pile” of connections, built from my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s (and so on) experiences… My mind is predisposed to reacting to my environment based upon how my ancestors reacted to their environment — ancestors from as early as the “tiny, scrappy” primate tree-dwellers of 55 million years ago, to as recent as those inhabiting the 19th century…the 20th century… and so on…

If we were to imagine, for just an instant, that what we call the “soul” or “self” was nothing more than the end-result of all these messy connections of layer-upon-layer of experiences built into our brains — if we were to take Buddha’s original viewpoint of anatta, for just an instant — we could gain insight into this notion of karma as the existence of motivations arising within us from past lives. Built right inside of us from the moment we are conceived and developing in the womb!

Consider how many opportunities for miscommunication there are among our civilization — even within the borders of our own country, our own state, our own families, we all have difficulty communicating clearly to others at times. We all have a tendency to see events, words, phrases, through our own ingrained perceptions, which were handed down to us from generations ago and layered into our onion-skins of the brain. This may be considered a sort of karma — for do we not react based upon our perceptions?

The task of meditation, then, is to peel back the layers of the Great Onion of our minds. To simply see and acknowledge that we are more than these layers would have us believe — that is, we are more and we are less. To peel back the layers and examine what is beyond them is to give our brains a real and physical plasticity and fight back a certain rigor mortis of the neurological connections. Plasticity of the mind grants us clarity and peace, granting us freedom from the “karma” of our built-in connections… likewise, ensuring that we will continue to pass on the “good karma” of flexible connections and re-wiring to future generations, strengthening the survival of our species…

I considered, too, the mythology of the Divine Beloved (and my own beautiful Inner Dragon, Malachi). Getting to know our own mind through the use of imagery and ascribed personality can be extraordinarily helpful in increasing this plasticity and freedom. For, when I pray, if you will, to the Divine Beloved Malachi to take the effects of a certain karmic action or sensibility, from its point of origin until now, and I utterly release it to the Universe and do not look back upon it as a part of my life — in a very real sense, I am instructing my unconscious mind to examine and rewire itself concerning a certain action that was once built into the layers of my brain yet which is now found to be unhelpful.

In this sense, are we not helping along our own evolution?

What a tremendous wonder our brains are! What a miracle of complexity, and what encouragement for our species! If only that we all would take heed the words of the wise men who have gone before us (of Buddha, Jesus, and others) and examine ourselves. Yes, and feel free to acknowledge your own personal deities and angels; take advantage of the imagery they invoke to powerfully re-build the connections of our being and reshape our future!

Mysticism vs. Morality

…the difference between moral teachers and religious mystics: moral teachers go on propounding the false law… Their whole approach is, "Fight the negative," while the real, true master teaches you the positive law… the eternal law, "Do not fight with darkness." …Bring the light in…

How is the light brought in? Become silent, thoughtless, conscious, alert, aware, awake… And the moment you are alert, aware, hate will not be found. …don’t try to understand only intellectually; become existential experimenters. Try to hate somebody consciously and you will find it impossible. Either consciousness disappears, then you can hate; or if you are conscious, hate disappears. They can’t exist together.
–Osho

The Genius of the Noble Truths

The genius of the Buddha’s message at its heart is that we are ultimately creatures of perfection. Or, perhaps one might restate this in a manner devoid of duality, by saying… We are creatures, as we are… The concept is that we are already whole and bear the Buddha Nature within; there is nothing wrong with us. It is simply through the years of accumulating the Three Poisons of attachment, aversion, and ignorance (all which reinforce each other) that we cover and lose sight of and contact with this original pure form; by accumulating this junk we block our inherent happiness that is naturally ours. The delusion is that we simply don’t see this realization and too easily run after the thoughts in our mind as truth.

A host of other myths and culture proclaim that our beginning state of being is one of evil, or deficiency, or any other such form; and that only by way of some ritual or submission to a deity will we ever hope to achieve perfection.

When faced with these two very simple and subtle approaches of thought toward the human condition, I find myself overjoyed with the genius of the Buddha’s simple observation: the initial ground base of wholeness, and the hope and ease of letting our accumulated poisons go. What good news this is!

Breaking down segments of my reading from:

The Long Discourse on the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness (Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ, DN 22), Translated by Anandajoti Bhikkhu (3rd revised version, October 2011 – 2055)

I have created a series of charts for comparison and understanding of the Buddha’s words on The Four Noble Truths. You can find my abridged version of this text (as it pertains to my chart) here.

The Truths are:

  • The Truth of Suffering (or a better way to think of this word is unhappiness or inability to achieve and sustain satisfactoriness.)
  • The Truth of Origination of Suffering
  • The Truth of Cessation of Suffering
  • The Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering

Chart of Constituents and the Origination and Cessation of Suffering illustrates:

  1. At the basis of the suffering are the Five Constituents, which are the Fuel for Attachment.
    1. These are: form, feelings, perceptions, mental processes, and consciousness
  2. Based upon these Constituents, we can derive both the Truth of Origination and Cessation.
    1. These are located and found at certain points of contact: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.
    2. For example; from eye comes form, comes eye-consciousness and eye-contact, comes the feeling born of eye-contact, comes the perception of forms, comes the intention in regard to forms, comes the craving for forms, comes the thinking about forms, comes an examination of forms.
    3. Likewise, similar patterns follow at each of the other points of contact.
  3. Origination is the arising of Craving at these centers. Cessation is the complete fading away without reminder of the Craving at these centers.
  4. The beauty of recognizing the step-by-step nature of craving and cessation of craving at any given point at these centers, is to realize that at any given point within the process of grasping can the power of acknowledgment and cessation begin.

The second chart, the Eight Factors of the Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering, illustrates the following:

  1. What is commonly known as the Eightfold Path.
    1. Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right endeavour, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
  2. Within the topic of Right Concentration falls the Four Absorptions:
    1. First: one is secluded from sense desires and unwholesome things, while having thinking, reflection, and joy
    2. Second: Calmed down thinking/reflection, without thinking, reflection, and joy
    3. Third: The fading away of joy; dwelling as equanimous, mindful, fully aware, and happy.
    4. Fourth: Abandonment of pleasure and pain; the previous passing away of happiness and sorrow; the purity of mindfulness owing to equanimity.

Engage joyfully in your meditation today, study and observe your mind, at all of its various points of grasping — whether for attachment or for aversion — and observe the beauty of the step-by-step unfolding of the Path.

Constituents

Origination and cessation

Eightfold Path

Open Focus, as a Convincing Alternative

There is a wonderful article I’ve stumbled upon: An Essay about Attentional Style and Philosophy – Open Focus, by Kurt Keefner. It is highly enlightening, and clearly presents an overview of the basic styles of attentions, thought and the reinforcing cycle these styles create when it comes to developing belief, philosophy, and personal and world views.

In this article, using the studies of Princeton neuroscientist Les Fehmi as his groundwork, Mr. Keefner discusses the concepts of:

  • Cartesian Dualism
  • Spiritualism
  • Animalism
  • The Big Picture-ists
  • Holism and the Open-Focus Brain

Do read the entire article here!

And in the meantime, enjoy these select quotes below, from Mr. Keefner’s insightful article:

In my view philosophy and psychology exist in a system of reciprocal relations. By way of an analogy: if you get a good education you are more likely to make money and if you (or your parents) have money you are more likely to get a good education. There is a connection here, but it is not one of strict necessity, only an ongoing positive tendency. Just so, certain philosophical positions make certain psychological states more likely and vice versa by a process of predisposition, the same way in which the dry wood does not cause the fire but is a ground for it. I believe that by seeing these connections more clearly, we can gain insight into why we cling to a position, often against reason, and we might be able to feel our way, through reason and introspection, to better beliefs.
….I would place the human organism in a natural context: we are evolved beings living in a material world, but I would not go for a reductionistic account of human faculties: we are not driven by instinct but by reason…a robust reason where one develops one’s intuitions and where one is part of one’s environment rather than removed from it.
…one can be objective and immersed at the same time by realizing that reality, including you, has an objective nature, but that you are immersed in it.
….As far as achieving both narrow and diffuse focus goes, what Fehmi proposes sounds like a having a structured field of awareness with a center and a periphery known at the same time. Transcending narrow vs. diffuse and objective vs. immersed would allow one to form a more individuated and autonomous version of the self than spiritualism and animalism, but one that did not cut off either feelings, the body or principles, like dualism and the détente theory. This would allow for the perception of the self as a whole in its entirety and its environment. And this could represent the escape from all the vicious circles of the cardinal attentional styles and theories into a virtuous circle of wholeness.

I think the subtext of the theory of Open Focus is that reality cannot be fully known by any of the cardinal styles of attention alone. They’re all too partial. They fragment reality just as the four cardinal theories of mind fragment the self. But wholeness is possible both in theory and in practice. To achieve it one must be not only philosophically but also psychologically self-conscious.

Mind-Body Holism, Consciousness, and Reality

…Because this core dual structuring of the self was retained, many of the conundrums of Descartes’ philosophy have been retained as well, albeit recast in terms of the brain: Does the brain have direct contact with, and therefore reliable knowledge of, reality, or is our knowledge a ‘user illusion’? … [Noë] claims that neuroscience isn’t getting anywhere in explaining consciousness because it views consciousness of reality as a representation of the world created and manipulated by the brain. Noë attacks brain-body dualism in part by attacking this representationalism.

I believe this is one of the key points in the discussion of dualism versus mind-body holism. Dualism and representationalism share the idea of the true self being at one remove from physical reality, with the sensing body as both intermediary and barrier. Noë doesn’t examine this relationship in great detail, but he’s clearly aware of it. …brain activity is just part of an extended process that starts with the environment, involves the whole body and includes the brain. In this, the environment isn’t merely a source of stimulation, nor is it a model or representation built by and viewed by the brain. In Noë’s words, “the world is its own model.” To put it another way, the real object of perception is the physical environment, not some artifact of the brain/mind.

….I believe that Noë’s fundamental error is that he wants to hang on to the concept of mind. But what is mind except the thing that is conscious and initiates action? If you eliminate the notion of the little self inside the big self in favor of the person as a whole, the concept of mind doesn’t do any extra work, because we could just say that the person is aware and initiates action. All that would be left for the concept of mind to do would be to support useful metaphors (i.e. fictions), such as ‘I’ll keep it in mind’. Yet if you take the concept of mind more seriously than that, as Noë wants to, then it will begin to work its mischief anew. This is because it is a fuzzy concept. … Noë wants to break down mind-body/brain-body dualism, which is commendable. But in so doing, he verges on breaking down subject-object dualism: he wants to project mind out into the environment so our bodily-external tools become a part of us….

Still, I wouldn’t want to dismiss Noë’s extension of the mind completely. Perhaps without using the pernicious concept of mind, we could speak of different senses or extensions of the self. The core sense of self would be the living organism; in its environment, but distinct from it. The next sense of self would incorporate non-living parts of the self, such as the hair and nails. Here the cat’s whiskers serve as a biological analogy to the blind man’s cane. The third level of self would include our clothing and jewelery, which form part of our ‘person’. Fourth might be the tools we use naturally, such as a fork or a pencil and paper. One could take this further and include the things one identifies with, such as family and country – although such identifications are often problematic. Although there would be a solid notion of the person (conscious and bodily) as the primary sense of the self, we could be flexible about the boundaries for different uses of the word. I think this way of speaking would be more intuitive than super-sizing the mind. A framework along these lines would be flexible enough to handle tough cases: the amputee’s prosthetic limb is intimately part of his self insofar as it is strapped securely to him and responds to electrical stimulation from within him, unlike any other tool currently in use. At the same time, if the artificial limb were to be crushed, the amputee would not himself be hurt. The definition of self along these lines would be a fascinating thing to explore. I would not want to dismiss the idea that some sense of the self can be larger than the bare organism, especially given the way technology will surely extend the self in decades to come. But I believe it is essential to preserve the idea of the natural person, especially in the face of a Cartesian materialism which would divide and destroy it.

—© Kurt Keefner 2010, from “Out Of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain by Alva Noë; Kurt Keefner tells you why you can’t be only your brain.” at Philosophy Now Magazine

 

Vision science has for a few centuries now taken its start from the idea that what we see far exceeds what we receive in the form of sensory stimulation… The brain’s job, it is supposed, is to make up for this discrepancy…to compensate…

The question of vision science boils down to explaining how we can enjoy uniformly detailed, high resolution, brilliantly colored images of the world when, really, we see so very little…

Alva Noë, “Out of Our Heads” page 136.

 

As we contemplate the “Miracle of Sight” and the wonder with which our physical mechanisms make sense of the world around us, I was struck with Alva Noë’s words, appearing above — that sight is “affected,” or derives from the following examples of brain-altered discrepancies:

  • The inverted retinal image and the cyclopean character of vision
  • The uneven resolution of the eye
  • The unstable retinal image (i.e., saccades)
  • The blind spot
  • Obstructions, such as veins criss-crossing the eyeball; “bits of organic material float[ing] freely in the eye itself”; “Strangest of all, the retina itself is positioned backward; that is, the sensitive receptor itself is positioned behind the web of nerve fibers that ultimately join to form the optic nerve.” (Ibid. pg 134)
  • “A small object nearby can project the same pattern of retinal stimulation as a large object at a distance. All we are given, when we see, is the two-dimensional image… if we do in fact see spatial relations…we don’t do so directly. That information just isn’t there in what is given to us.”
  • Color (refer to my previous bare-bones understanding of Color Weirdness…) 🙂
  • Time — The nature of the established fact that what we are actually seeing is the past existence of the object in our vision, due to the nature of light carrying the information to our eyes and then the time it takes for the eye to make sense of the stimuli reaching it. At the extreme, think of the nature of the stars we observe in the night sky. We are seeing the stars as they were, not as they are now. The same is true on a much smaller scale in regard to everything we encounter around us.

It is due to these natural, biological elements “conspiring” against our seemingly flawless vision, that it is thought of our minds to be responsible for “filling in the gaps,” as it were; making up for the deficiencies and “fixing” our flawed input of information, making for perfected output of understanding. And that’s where we all wonder, how do our brains do it? Is what we see, then, a Grand Illusion, constructed by our brains filling in the gaps of what’s missing sensorily? Are we all just being deceived by our eyes? Is Believing, Seeing?

I had a most interesting inspiration while contemplating these thoughts… I fully accept that there is Reality within which we are fully integrated. We are All. We are Star-Stuff, birthed via eons of generations from the crudest life forms in the earth… We are a part of our environment, and it is us, as well. We all affect each other. And, I am absolutely fascinated with the nature of Perception, that we interpret and influence what we see and experience via our senses, based on, well, what our senses tell us, AND how we interpret those signals as they pass through the Ego-Filter! Then… based on those interpreted signals, we make choices and react… It is All, we are All, entirely cyclical and thoroughly integrated!

So, then, what of the concept that our brains must fill in missing information, as is considered with the Miracle of Sight? Consider this:

When did our brains ever decide there was anything missing that needed filling in, in the first place?

In other words, I posit that what we see as steady, for example, perhaps may not be steady at all, but because we all share the same experience, and it is all we know growing up, we interpret our “unstable retinal image” as steadiness and stability! Likewise, what if the world really is seen as “upside-down”? But we know not any differently, because to us, down would be up, and up would be down. We’ve grown up seeing and perceiving as we do, and this is our shared experience. Again… “It’s difficult to say how someone else sees color, because it’s so subjective. How do I know that what I see as red is what you see as red?” (from this article). Perhaps the stimuli creating the sensation of blue in my vision is creating a sensation of mauve in yours! As an extreme example, if the mauve-seer had grown up being told what he sees is called blue then how easy it is for us to agree, yes, we are both seeing this object as blue… when, oddly enough, perhaps it is not… But for each of our perceived Realities, both colors are called blue, and therefore, they are indeed Blue. But… what is Blue to you, may not be Blue to me… Yet, we could not possibly know this…

Spatial relations and three dimensions?… We call our experience three-dimensional… but at the heart of it all, this is a human contrivance, a way of labeling what we experience around us and comparing it to other experiences of lesser dimensional relations. We see, we experience, we feel, we touch and examine, and we say… three dimensions. I’ve read that it is the nature of our three-coned eye system that gives us the sensation of seeing in three dimensions…. Perhaps our reality in which we find ourselves is truly in multiple dimensions, but our biological systems can only perceive it as three, and with only certain color implications… But, again, this is all we know, this is our shared experience, this is our reality. This notion, too, however, doesn’t make our Reality any less Real!

It all comes down to the fact that we can only experience what we can experience. And we label it and study it, rightly so, trying to understand our environment and the greater universe around us. We are still very much intertwined with our environmental Reality, and we affect each other profoundly.