- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- What is the purpose of life?
- What is good and evil?
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- Is our universe real?
- Do we have free will?
- Does God exist?
- Is there life after death?
- Can you really experience anything objectively?
- What is the best moral system?
Yes. Philosophy, when taken down to its Greek roots, means “love of wisdom.” Love and appreciation are closely tied to each other. But philosophy is more than just love of wise thoughts and wisdom. It is the analysis of answers to the basic questions of life:
The mind and soul are two different entities. Some mentally challenged people express spiritual and loving qualities because they allow their souls to shine through. Our clever minds can often be an impediment to these beautiful qualities. We are constantly judging, comparing, seeing what is wrong, being unhappy because reality doesn’t match up to the ideal we hold in our heads. And we must be right about it all.
Mentally challenged people are not so heavily invested in their minds and therefore they can be freer and more in touch with their inner selves.
I have personally known people with Downs syndrome and other learning disabilities who have shown wisdom, tolerance, and a love of life that far more educated people were never able to attain.
Several years ago I had a personal trainer who had Downs syndrome. He understood the human body with intuitive acuity and communicated it well in his own way. I learned a great deal from him and his sage-like approach to strength and skill. He was patient and kind and I will never forget him. The strength of his soul far outshone the limitations of his physical brain.
It is a big mistake to think that intellectual giftedness and the Soul are interrelated. Again, the intellect has very little to to with the soul and can often block its manifestation in our lives. The mind is a very good analytical tool but the soul come from a different area, more like from a combination of the heart and the gut. Therefore, if a person is mentally challenged, he or she may be more receptive to the qualities of Soul and be more tuned into the pulse of the Universe than those of us who think we are our minds.
Asking, “What is the meaning of life?” is like asking what is the meaning of a flower. You can say that the meaning of a flower is its function—to attract insects to propagate the plant and to produce seeds and fruit. But this is not the meaning, it is its utility and purpose on a very practical level.
A flower is much more beautiful than the function it performs actually requires it to be. Merely attracting bugs and spreading its seed doesn’t require roses to display the richness and variety of colors and fragrances it produces. So if life had meaning, it wouldn’t need to go overboard with so much beauty, it’s simply enough for everything to serve its purpose in one big biological dance of birth, reproduction, and death.
Life is in and of itself. The human mind assigns whatever meaning makes sense to it at the time. Some people don’t even think about it, they just go through every day on the level of the insects: Running around, feeding and expelling food, driven by instincts they never examine or question,. Other people put a religious spin on the meaning of life. God has set out a path for our estrangement and reunion with Him and that is enough for them to know.
Some people think that because there is no meaning it’s all a big, horrible joke, that inevitably ends in disease and death. This is because the human mind demands a story. It wants a neat little beginning , middle, and end. It must assign a purpose to everything so it can feel in control of something that is way beyond its grasp. But to know that life just is, is very freeing. We can sit back and admire its beauty, ingenuity, and perfection without demanding that it stands for something else.
What ways does New Age philosophy promote narcissism (aside from teaching we are god, create our reality & victim blaming)?
New Age philosophy does not promote narcissism but narcissists can use New Age philosophy to promote their own agendas. Then again, narcissists can use any philosophy to get what they want out of others. And what narcissists want is adulation, praise, and validation from strangers to create a sense of self that continues to elude them.
We really can’t blame New Age philosophy for what people have interpreted it to be. In essence, New Age philosophy is innocent. It looks forward to a “New Age” of love and light through personal transformation and healing. There is nothing narcissistic about that.
Here is where the problem comes in: The New Age Movement encourages self love. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how are you gonna love anyone else?” There is so much truth in this. Taken the way it’s intended, it means we have to care enough about developing our own inner light before we are even capable of seeing it in another.
Loving yourself can be misinterpreted to mean a puffed up, conceited over-evaluation of your gifts and abilities. Or it can mean grab everything for yourself in a never-ending quest for more, more, and more. But this has never been stated as an aim of the New Age movement. Loving yourself is deep, respectful humility in your recognition of the magnificent Universe of which you partake. It has nothing to do with petty egos bolstering themselves with magical thinking.
If people have cheapened the New Age movement by using it for their own ego gratification, it is nothing new. All the spiritual movements of this planet have been corrupted through egotistical human interpretation. The golden embroidery on velvet priestly vestments is very different from the unadorned robe and sandals Jesus wore in the desert. Charismatic, egotistical, and narcissistic individuals will use any belief system for their personal advancement. The New Age Movement is no exception.
I began reading Lao Tsu when I was 12 years old. It planted a new a way of looking at life within me. I didn’t understand it all, only very little. But I felt what he was getting at. He was talking about The Way, the underlying principle of the Universe: The Tao. He was describing something beyond the stories I had learned from my family’s religion about the meaning of life and why things were the way they were.
Part of the reason I couldn’t understand Lao Tsu at first was that what he addresses is difficult to put into words. It is beyond the limited concepts of the human mind. Lao Tsu hints at it. He suggests it, quietly, simply. He knows that if you think you know the answer, you haven’t really seen the immensity of It All. It is a philosophy of humility and surrendering the human need to control everything.
I was raised in a religious tradition that placed heavy judgments on sinful behavior. Also we were evaluated about how loving and pure we were. Lao Tsu was not as concerned with moral and value judgments. He wasn’t interested in judgments at all, because he saw they are human-based, relative to each culture, and are changeable. Instead, he advised us to go with the flow. Don’t resist life. Be like the river. In this way, we will find happiness and inner peace.
I could see that following the Tao, people would behave in a naturally compassionate and decent way—not because they are being judged by The Man in the Sky, but because it is the simplest way that leads to the least amount of drama and unhappiness. This gave me tremendous freedom and allowed me to break away from the frightening idea that God was watching me all the time and taking notes on how evil I was, so I could be punished later.
Gotama the Buddha was one of the first Ascended Masters to show us how to transcend the fearful human mind. He showed us that suffering was based on fear: Fear of not getting what we want, fear of getting what we want and losing it, fear of getting old and not being able to care for ourselves, fear of dying.
This fearful state is hard-wired into the ego mind and it is the root of most of our actions. We fear pain, we seek pleasure but know it won’t last very long. The Buddha says, “Let’s get beyond this turmoil and get to inner peace.”
Because he had achieved this inner peace himself, and was able to communicate it to others, I believe that he was 98% fearless. He may have had some lapses, for the ego mind does not want to die and it lives on fear, like food. Maybe it asserted itself 2% of the time. But like a good a good surfer, the Buddha could get himself back into balance quickly and easily.
We will never know. No lapses into the fearful hauntings of his mind were recorded and he said nothing about them, that we know of. Even Jesus had his moment on the Mount of Olives. Later he released his fear and said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”
The human mind comes equipped with fear and worry as its survival mechanism. The Buddha, though a perfect receptacle for the Divine and perfect order of the Universe, still was human and had a human mind. If he didn’t he would not have been able to pinpoint why we suffer so much and find a way out of it. So that 2% was beneficial to all of us.
It’s fascinating to see how many times fools are mentioned in Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs mentions wise people too but the fool is mentioned 42 times! Fools are called out and so are the foolish, sometimes divided into foolish men and women.
For example, in Proverbs 9:13—”A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.”
In general, the fools in proverbs a divided into the categories of:
Here are some verses to illustrate:
Proverbs 1:7 - . . . .fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 10:14 - Wise [men] lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish [is] near destruction.
Proverbs 18:2 - A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. (This means he only wants to get his point of view across and is not interested in hearing others).
Proverbs 29:11 - A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise [man] keepeth it in till afterwards.
These are all from Proverbs 26:
3: A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back. (This is a little harsh but hints that we must deal strongly with the undisciplined ego-mind and put it in its place or it will ride us).
4: Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. (This is a great reminder not to get down into the slime and mud with someone who is immersed in their ego-minds. Otherwise, we will be fools too and be reduced to their level).
5: Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. (Again, do not lower yourself by disputing or arguing with him; he will not understand your meaning, and will think he has got the better of you, and maybe insult you too).
6: He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, [and] drinketh damage. (Don’t think you can trust the foolish ego mind. It will lead you down the path of destruction every time).
7: The legs of the lame are not equal: so [is] a parable in the mouth of fools. (Even fools can spout wisdom, but they are only mouthing the words because they sound good at the moment. They don’t really get it).
8: As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so [is] he that giveth honor to a fool. (If you try to be nice to the ego mind and cajole it along in its folly, you are taking yourself down).
9: [As] a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so [is] a parable in the mouth of fools. (Wise sayings are a mockery when a fool, who does not live them, spouts them out of his mouth).
10: The great [God] that formed all [things] both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors. (Even if you are a fool and completely off base, the Universe, in its eternal love, will treat you as fairly as anyone else, including people who do hurtful and harmful things).
11: As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly. (The ego mind is automatic and repetitive. It does the same thing over and over again. Thinks the same thoughts. Most of these thoughts are foolish but we go back to them and hash them over and over to no avail).
12: Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him. (If you think you are All That and think you have all the answers, you are even worse than a fool).
The Buddhist concept of emptiness means we are not adding anything of our own psychological personality to what we are observing. It doesn’t mean we are vacant zombies that sit in numb trance-like states trying to overcome the upsets of life. It doesn’t mean we are brainless blocks of wood.
We are active observers and participants in our myriad experiences. But we do not add mental clutter and garbage to the scene, whether we are meditating, taking a walk, or doing a job. This clutter takes the form of annoying ego-based musings, regrets, and anxiety about the future. Even sitting on a beach watching the waves can turn into a harrowing experience if we bring all our drama into it.
“Look at those waves. They remind me of the day when my father and I used to play at the beach. Now he is gone and I miss him so much. All the people I love are leaving me. No one really loved me the way he did and now I’m all alone! Poor me, I guess I will always be alone. I hate all this sun, sand, and water!”
With an empty mind, we sit at the beach, feel the unity of sun, sea, sand and beauty. We let it stir our hearts without an inner discussion of judgment, regret, hope, and evaluation. It is just the beach. It is not the stage and backdrop for our unfortunate mind-stream of constant inner chatter. It is peaceful and and natural.
Modern psychology centers itself on a sense of self that seeks actualization and fulfillment. It looks for the blocks that keep people from attaining their full potential in whatever endeavor they undertake. It actually affirms that each one of us is a self or has a self that needs to move towards completion. Whether we are artists or office workers, we are looking for happiness and rewards. Modern psychology attempts to help us navigate through our paths and come out happier and more successful in a meaningful life.
Buddhism, on the other hand, sees this whole striving to complete and perfect the self as illusion. It is part of the suffering of being in the physical to think that anything impermanent is of lasting value. Better to find out who you really are, behind your cultural conditioning and personality traits. You can still do a great job and fulfill all your talents, but don’t think that’s all there is. Any of that can be destroyed in an instant.
Modern psychology is a failure on many fronts, as we can see by the huge numbers of depressed people on medications. Ultimately, this is what it has come to. People who can afford it either talking about their egos and blaming their parents to the tune of thousands of dollars, or people taking massive doses of medications to keep their miserable thoughts at bay.
Modern psychology does not go deeply enough into the problem of mental health. It is still treating the mind, which is dysfunctional, with the dysfunctional mind’s arsenal: Pills, talking, and intense interest in me, me, me. The numbers of mentally ill people wandering the urban centers attest to the failure of modern psychology. They are stuck in their minds and their minds have created a catastrophe.
Buddhism is not about the human mind. It’s about recognizing the mind as a tool but not as anything that is truly who we are. The Buddha understood that it can be an enormous source of suffering for anyone who pays attention to it. So he proposed a way around its tricks. Buddhism is not a failure. After thousands of years it has proven to be a sure way to peace and inner wisdom. It bypasses the mind and goes straight to the Soul, which beats in harmony with the rhythm of the Universe.
The human brain, with its amazing complication, imposes laws onto the world through its observations. The stars are in the sky in a certain pattern, so we think there must be a law that governs them. It helps us to feel secure if we can master these laws and therefore control our destinies.
Some explain the position of the stars by saying that God, the Man in the Sky Who sees and records everything, put them there because He wanted them there.
This kind of explanation makes everything easy to understand. A higher being, whom we are too humble to comprehend the extent of, created all this. And even if it doesn’t make sense to us—such as all the suffering in the world of innocent people and animals—God has His purpose and that is all we need to know. This is the structure that allows so many to make sense out of all this confusion.
Because of the way the human mind thinks, we must have a cause and effect. It is so much easier to say that some big guy in the sky did all this and we must spend our lives making sure this guy doesn’t punish us too much. However, the way of the cosmos is not really a bunch of separate events impacting each other. It is more of a unity of all events happening at once—a simultaneity, a network, in which everything depends on everything else.
This is too big for most brains to comprehend. Then, too, we add our own conditioning from our culture, parents, schools, religious institutions, as a way of looking at life. We receive so many of our notions before we even have the capacity to say whether we believe them or not. A 4-year-old is not going to question the fundamental ideas Mommy and Daddy explain to him or her. “You are the servant and subject of God, so you better obey us and Him.” You will be an outcast, we won’t love you, you will be punished.
A dog, or any other animal, does not need to impose any explanations on Life. They do not think in terms of why does this and that happen? It just is. That is enough. They do not need to control the universe by trying to understand what makes everything happen. Humans, in their fearful desire to control, try to explain events as a long line of cause and effect that they can grasp with their intellect. This is a fallacy and reflects the limitations of the human mind and its own thinking patterns.
As a spiritual guide, healer, and lecturer, I have had the privilege to touch the lives of people who long to understand their higher selves. Please leave questions and comments for me. Hope to see you often here!