Suppose you are keen to cross a stormy sea. You have before you a raft and a large boat, both as good as new. What do you decide for your course of action?
Now suppose that you wish to rescue some people who have been thrown overboard in a storm at sea. They can swim, but are being carried quickly away by powerful currents. To save them with your life-boat you cannot ignore the currents!
So how many different combinations are there?
|Number chosen||Combination(s)||No. Combinations|
|1||Elephant; Bear; Panda||3|
|2||Elephant & Bear; Elephant & Panda;
Bear & Panda
|3||Elephant, Bear & Panda||1|
Total number of combinations = 1 + 3 + 3 + 1 = 8.
Bear Elephant Panda --------------------------------------------------- 1. Yes Yes Yes 2. Yes Yes No 3. Yes No Yes 4. Yes No No 5. No Yes Yes 6. No Yes No 7. No No Yes 8. No No NoAs each toy is picked independently of the others, the number of combinations is the product of the number of options for each toy, i.e. 2 * 2 * 2 = 23 = 8.
In general, given n toys in the box, there are 2n different combinations of toys which may be chosen. For large values of n, the second method is evidently quicker in the evaluation of the total number. The key to an easier solution was the finding of an alternative characterisation of the original problem.
For there to be recognisable benefits, there need not be any reference to lofty spirituality. The 'patient' should be mindful of just dutifully accepting and taking the treatment. If the patient benefits as a result without adverse side effects then the method has been seen to work. What is crucial here is that whoever oversees the administering of the prescriptions is spiritually awakened and knows what outcomes are likely (which usually means: has taken such treatment himself/herself). This all sounds mundane, but it is wholly consistent with, for example, the notion that genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Keep applying the treatment and sooner or later the breakthrough is made and there is spiritual transformation.
Someone who is concerned for the spiritual well-being of people can thus shift the view from lofty goals to effective treatments. It is well known that many people approach meditation for only practical reasons and then at some stage they suddenly break through into spiritual aspects. Meditation is thus an effective treatment.
Those who have undergone or who practice (Western) psychotherapy may have had similar experiences. Psychotherapy is potentially another effective treatment. Given the secular nature of society, this could well hold the key to an indirect method of effecting a spiritual re-awakening. It would be judicious if more meditators became involved in psychotherapy.
One should consider further: within meditation there is a repeated process of focusing and expansion of consciousness. How much does consciousness have to expand and in what direction? The potential is infinite, which makes it all the more important that obstacles within the mind are really penetrated systematically. Many of the psychic sideshows may be irrelevant and might easily become hindrances as has been recognised:
"The soul's beauty and capabilities are so immeasurably great that I can't think of anything that I can compare with it ... This being so, there is no point tiring ourselves out trying to take in the castle's beauty."
[Teresa of Avila, 'The Interior Castle', Chapter: 'The First Mansion']
So we should examine methods which, however odd at first sight, have enabled practitioners to demonstrably overcome mental obstacles and become spiritually transformed. These practitioners are sources of inspiration; once again I stress that it is most important that once you are committed to a method, you have a teacher or counsellor who has proceeded along the path you are following. Such transmission is essential, otherwise progress may be rather haphazard.
Once the map is drawn, one is then faced with the consideration of appropriate paths - there is a need for a sense of direction. These two elements are encapsulated in the notion of a vector.
Definition A vector is a quantity which possesses both magnitude (or quantity or scalar component) and direction.
An example of a vector is velocity: e.g., a ferry making a crossing from Uig to Tarbert (Hebridean towns off the coast of Scotland) may be said to have a velocity of 10 knots due West. Its magnitude is its speed of 10 knots and its direction is West.
I shall now construct some vectors for the spiritual path, starting with a description of the scalar component.
Definition: A utility value is the perceived worth of a given item, perhaps a material object, a psychological ability or an emotional state. This value may be expressed as a quantity.
Below I introduce some of my own utility values as guidelines concerning the various levels of mind and bring in also the necessary sense of direction, and their implications for any 'spiritual strategy.' These values are expressed in terms of 'generators' and the direction in terms of 'operators'.
A generator may be regarded as any basic psycho-physical building block. For instance, one may see on separate occasions first a small garden with flowers, sheltered by a couple of trees, and then a simple grassy mound. Later there may arise a vividly 'imagined' scene of a valley in bloom, surrounded by forests: here the two initial scenes acted as generators.
As another example, by listening carefully to a person's voice, for only a few seconds, one may establish the tone patterns which define that voice - generators - through which one may 'speak' thoughts in that voice in the 'mind's ear'.
Perhaps a more familiar example is that of DNA. DNA contains genetic code, using what may be modelled as certain permutations of just 4 letters (i.e. just 4 generators). According to theory, from this code there may be determined the inherited characteristics of all life on Earth 1.
The panorama depicted above may be a day-dream or a genuine alert creation; the former is an escapist ploy of the reactive mind when one's attention wanders, the latter a mindful spiritual expresssion. The reactive mind and the Spirit are what I term operators. They are the guiding forces in conduct and where lies in essence the famed duel between 'good and evil' - see also the discussion of memory in the next chapter.
This then is the crucial basis of the sense of direction.
Alternatively, a deep-rooted generator may give rise to a succession of apparently small and insignificant abilities/ deficiencies, just one per level.
Engrams may be considered analogous to computer viruses - once they are 'sown' they act like little programs which are triggered in certain environments, causing advanced systems to suddenly suffer unsuspected abortive routines, causing tremendous inconvenience. It is often the case, however, that the hardware itself continues to function without fault - it just obeys somebody else's instructions! Through the anthropomorphic tendency to personify, one may regard these engrams and viruses as having a malevolent will of their own. However, despite their virulence and toxicity, there is no intelligence in them.
Engrams may occur, I conjecture, across at least all layers of conditioned mind. A healing process could involve the complete eradication of the debilitating source of the engrams, via the conscious recall of the original 'incidents' (which might be beyond linear time).
A systematic eradication is highly problematic and certainly beyond isolated rational analysis: for instance, suppose that for an individual all engrams across the physical level are eradicated (as far as can be seen to arise there at source). It may subsequently be the case that such an individual is somewhat mal-adjusted overall, spiritually quite lost and requiring further help. What we have here is only 'local optimisation' or 'local maximisation'.
Any system of local maximisation should be approached with great caution. Any system which puts forward in isolation e.g. the complete healing of the physical body ignores the essence of spirituality. An example of a 'locally logical' means for developing 'human potential', one that is, as it were, 1-dimensional in 3D reality, is genetic engineering - cracking the code in DNA. Anybody with some spiritual sensitivity can see that this area is highly dangerous - there are other more enlightened ways to human improvement.
However, any narrowly defined healing or purification process may point in the appropriate spiritual direction for some, though for others - e.g. those destined not to be reborn in a physical form - it may be a waste of time. If physical perfection were so important, then the saints would have all been athletes par excellence!
Suppose we give a measure of ability in psychic level x a value between 0 and 2x, the higher the more able. Then one's total ability is the sum of all the abilities in the respective levels with the property that a full ability in level x alone exceeds in value full ability in all lower levels combined.
Suppose further that mind is given a status - ti. Then, we may illustrate a progression of mental states as follows.
e.g. Let x=4:
|'full ability' value:||16||8||4||2||1|
For the status we write using the binary shorthand.
Then, the Total 'ability' Value at t1 is: 4+2+1=7;
whilst the Total 'ability' Value at t2 is: 8.
An individual's or society's evolution may be thus be mapped linearly in time by ascribing at each moment a value equal to the sum of its abilities. In due course, a trend may be observed, one which is approximately a kind of binary clock whereby one reaches the zenith of ability in a succession of levels (e.g., 00111 as above) and, carried on by momentum, crashes through into a higher level, but with great upheaval (hence, 01000). Christ's actions on the cross - his giving up of all material wealth and super-human abilities - effected such a momentous transition.
In this model, one's spiritual worth "has the form":-
d1a1 + d2a2 + ... + dnan, where 0 <= al <= 21, dl = +1 or -1 The objective is to maximise this value.
a0 = 1 * 20 = 1, a1 = 1 * 21 = 2, a2 = 1 * 22 = 4, a3 = 0 * 23 = 0, a4 = 0 * 24 = 0
Now suppose that the respective direction elements are:-
d0 = -1, d1 = -1, d2 = +1, d3 = -1 or +1, d4 = -1 or +1 (d3 and d4 do not affect the total). So, a0d0 = -1 * 1 = -1, a1d1 = -1 * 2 = -2, a2d2 = +1 * 4 = +4, a3d3 = 0, a4d4 = 0. Then, the utility vector is:The overall spiritual worth is the normalised utility vector, i.e. just the sum of the components: +4-2-1 = 1.
From this it is evident that the direction becomes doubly important at each successive level - the greater the ability, the greater the potential good or harm. One must know who handles the generators.
I hope to indicate in the next chapter that such a multi-layered view is no mere flight of fancy since these kind of teachings have already existed for a long time.
- © Paul Trafford 1996,97