Stephanie is a philosopher, a Gnostic, a writer, an animal lover, a teacher, and most of all, a human being on the never ending Quest.
Stephanie was born and grew up in Northeast, Ohio. She moved to New Orleans in 1997 after graduating from Youngstown State University to live with friends and experience life in the Big Easy. In 1999, she moved to Denver, Colorado to attend graduate school at the University of Denver (2005). She fell in love with the state and has lived there ever since. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with her partner of fourteen years, their two cats and two dogs.
I have stated this before here and here, but I think it bears repeating – we need to stop treating the physical world like it’s less important than the spiritual world! These two worlds are connected to each other and are of equal importance. As above, so below; as within, so without; as the Universe, so the Soul. The material world is not something to be use and be discarded. It’s also not a bad thing to have material things and seek comfort. The problem isn’t having them or wanting them, but rather when we get out of balance and start hoarding all of the things!
But the spiritually-inclined often get into the mindset that this physical existence means less than what is spiritually on the other side of this life. I think this is where things get lopsided and twisted for us on both a conscious and unconscious level. If we incarnate here to learn lessons, have experiences, reach gnosis, awaken to our spiritual reality – whatever term you want to use – then this physical world is of extreme importance. If we could do it without incarnating, I think we probably would. Physical incarnation is part of the process. Recognizing this is part of our spiritual growth. We can’t do it without all of the flesh and bones and sinew and gaseous star stuff and leafy greens and bumble bees.
When we devalue the physical world over the spiritual one, it leads to all sorts of abuses. The environment, women, minority groups, how we produce out food, how we treat animals, how we produce and use non-renewable resources – all are treated as commodities for consumption rather than as precious people and resources that help balance our world. Everything on this planet is intrinsically good and part of a great ecosystem worthy of reverence and respect.
While I know most reading this post would agree with this sentiment and are environmentalists themselves, unconsciously we absorb a lot from our language and the dominant cultures and religions in our communities. Countless times (today in fact) I’ve heard the suit of pentacles or disks in the tarot referred to as the lowest level or least important of the suits. Why? Because it’s the suit that correlates to Earth and material things. The Moon, a symbol of women in the West, is still often associated with concealing, misleading, delusion and lunacy, when it just as often is an illuminating force in the darkness, a force of creativity, and where dreams are forged.
How we use and perceive our language and symbols matter. Becoming aware of how we speak and interact with symbols can help us bring our unconscious biases to the light.
Every once in a while I come across a tarot deck that demands my attention. The Wild Unknown deck is one of these. I resisted getting it for several years because I didn’t need anymore tarot decks. One only has so much storage in their house for such things, and a new deck means a new pouch for it and maybe even a new sparkly cloth for readings. It’s not just a deck, it’s an excuse to buy all the paraphernalia. Anyway, I finally broke down and bought it in June. I’m now not sure what I did without it, it is like having true second sight! Unlike many other decks which work on alchemical symbolism, archetypes, astrological associations and so on, the Wild Unknown functions for me on pure intuition. Oh, the other things are all there, but I don’t need them. I grok this deck and it seems to grok me right back. When it goes both ways, you know you have a winning tarot deck in your possession. So if you feel the call of one for years, it’s probably time to get it even if you have too many. If you feel the need to cut down and simplify, consider gifting an older deck you don’t use to someone else. It’s always good luck to receive a deck from a friend.
And that’s my tarot deck adoption message for today.
The Ace of Swords, which I pulled right before writing this entry, is telling me I need to meditate tonight to find clarity. Off I go to do that…
One of the great questions of philosophy is, can a miracle truly occur? For some, it depends on how the term is defined. If a miracle is merely an unlikely occurrence, then the answer is easy. Yes. We all witness rare occurrences from time to time. From a sports team coming from far behind to win a championship no one thought them capable of, to accidents where someone narrowly escapes death. We often call these “miracles”, when perhaps they are more closely identified with chance occurrences with low probability.
More often we associate a true miracle when the laws of nature are broken. For instance, Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, curing the sick, and his own resurrection from the dead. The Buddha was said to have the power of teleportation, the ability to duplicate himself, and manipulate the elements. The Prophet Muhammad was purported to manifest water, heal the sick and also had power over the elements. Today we also hear of modern day miracles which defy nature, such as shrines where people go to be healed or people claiming to see visions of God, saints or other types of entities.
So the question remains, do miracles really exist or are they just human projections on certain events? While we do have many reports of miracles, there are no proofs of miracles occurring to date. I think that’s a powerful statement in itself. There is no proof that has ever been recorded of a real, bonafide miracle.
Many theologians and theist philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, thought miracles didn’t matter. In fact, Kant though that miracles were actually a distraction from having faith. For Kant, miracles were the exception to the rule so it was better to not count on them in your life. Looking to the message of one’s faith was preferable to signs and wonders.
Philosophers such as J. L. Mackie and Michael Martin argue that interference with the natural order from God would prove that God wasn’t perfect. Why would God need to create miracles in the world if everything is going according to plan? Why would God play favorite and help some people and not others? Why would God let some people starve to death or be horribly injured, but save others from that fate through a miracle? Martin also suggests that somethings that appear as miracles to us, may not be God but anomalies that occur in nature that we simply cannot explain yet.
I buy this. I think when we witness synchronicity, this has something to do with consciousness and quantum entanglement. It’s part of the natural order. I do not think a miracle has occurred. In fact, when I think of how magic, astrology and tarot work, I don’t think any of that is miraculous, but more of just how the world operates. I think our individual consciousness is connected to our higher-self or a higher state of consciousness, which may be thought of as our spirit. It’s the entity which keeps sending our soul on mission in the material world. Beyond that, I believe there is a collective consciousness that is societal which we all tap into on a planetary level, and a Source Consciousness which is singular, which all things in the universe share in as well. We share an archetypal bond and this is how things like astrology and tarot work and evolve over time. When we align with our higher-self and Universal Consciousness, we begin to notice synchronicities occurring in our lives. These may appear miraculous, but it’s merely part of the natural order unfolding.
Do miracles occur where the laws of nature are broken? I don’t think so, no. I think when they occur in sacred texts they are meant as metaphors to explain deeper truths. Does the death and resurrection of Jesus mean more if Christ was killed on our behalf as a sacrifice? Or does it mean more that Jesus was the perfect example to show us how to transform ourselves? The Christ story is the path we take to die to our old selves and be reborn as Divine spirits. It’s not about a physical miracle, but rather our spiritual reality if we choose that path.
Where does consciousness come from? Why do we think the things we think? Why am I blogging and bothering with any of this stuff? Most of us would like to think we do the things we do because we will ourselves to do them. I want to blog because writing helps me to organize my thoughts. There! That’s why I do it! But why do I like to organize my thoughts? Well, it helps me to think more clearly and understand why I think what I think. But why do I want to do that? I can write a litany of reasons why I blog that will eventually take me back to some time long before I even knew that the internet and pens existed. I will never get to the first cause of why I do it. At some point the reality is that the necessary conditions arose for me to write this blog and post it on this WordPress website.
I came across an article today in The Conversation by David A. Oakley and Peter Halligan that examines the question, “What If Consciousness Is Not What Drives the Human Mind?” Fair question. No one knows were consciousness arises from, it just does. The thing that likes to take credit for everything I do in life is just ego. That’s the thing I, and most people who talk to me, call Stephanie. She likes to think she wills stuff to occur. She doesn’t, she just thinks this. I promise this the extent of me talking of myself in third person.
Consciousness studies had advanced so little in the past century that in 2012, famed philosopher of mind, Thomas Nagel, called for a new paradigm in the scientific study in his book Mind and Cosmos. He found that reductive materialism was failing to come up with anything that could explain how consciousness emerged, so something new should take its place. This was not well met by the scientific community back then. And to be fair, this would open up the scientific pursuit of understanding mind and consciousness to all sorts of nonsense. But that didn’t mean that Nagel wasn’t correct about materialism being hopelessly stuck. While I wouldn’t say the mainstream scientific community has come around now, there are more and more scientists taking this call seriously.
Oakley and Halligan haven’t quite thrown their hats in the ring, but they are questioning previous assumptions about consciousness, even if seemingly still in the materialist complex. They are asking us to consider that consciousness springs up from non-conscious things. Our environment, experiences, our body chemistry, genetics, produce certain reactions in the non-conscious part of our brain which are then relayed to the conscious part of the brain through our personal narratives (ego). The thoughts arise in us and we act on them or don’t based on our wiring. So long, free will!
I gave up on free will about 15 years ago. This was difficult, I am a hardcore existentialist. Radical freedom was my thing in my early college years. I was rabid for Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche! I’m happy to say I still am. I don’t think one needs to give up their contradictions, so long as they can resolve the paradox at the end of the day. But free will seems a fool’s quest to me now. I’ve bought into a soft determinism. There are so many variables that make each person who they are, that there remains the illusion of free will. Have you ever noticed how many things in our world turn out to be illusions?
As I was reading this study, I realized that what Oakley and Halligan were describing wasn’t new at all. It was actually proposed about two-thousand years ago by the Gnostics. Carl Jung saw the Gnostics as proto-psychologists. They certainly understood the power of symbols and metaphor! But Gnostics such as Plotinus and Monoimos clearly state that our thoughts and ideas do not come from ourselves, we don’t will them into existence. Monoimos gives direct credit to the Divine found within each of us. Plotinus argues that we are merely passive observers in this life. Our actual thoughts arise from outside of us. We’re basically just along for the ride – the very conclusion of Oakley and Halligan.
In the book Jesus and the Lost Goddess, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy note in Ptolemy’s Gnostic tale of the Demiurge, that neither the Demiurge nor his mother Achamoth (Sophia) are responsible for their actions, both good and evil, in the end. Both are set on a path by the Creator and only think they are their own agents. Their thoughts and subsequent actions arise from a greater consciousness, that of the Creator. Freke and Gandy argue that like Achamoth and the Demiurge, our egos carry the belief that we create our own reality and drive our own destiny, but what we put in motion to design our world are actually the universal archetypes that are already in existence (the Gnostics would call them the Aeons) in Universal Consciousness (pp. 167, 285).
When we realize that we’re just along for the ride, suddenly we have found radical freedom to just fall into who and what we are without the constraints of cultural conditioning. We can allow ourselves to be the sensory units of the Universe, here to experience the wonders of life in all of its forms without fear. It’s all going to be okay, the Universe has our backs! This doesn’t mean we are free of pain and sorry and life will only be sunshine and roses. Pain and sorrow are a part of life, but how we perceive it matters in how we move through the experience.
If we can learn to observe our thoughts and actions, we can have better experiences through our perception.
While I do not believe we have free will in this life, I do believe that we choose our lives in each incarnation to either learn lessons or to have a particular experience. Our freedom exists in where we choose to reside in a particular lifetime in the material realm. But once we get here? We watch. We learn. We come to certain realizations as we encounter different experiences. That’s the point of being here. To be truly free in this life, we must accept and submit to it whatever it is until we leave the material world again.