Today—the metaphor of the map, how we seek their guidance and a very basic metaphysical map of the Science of Mind and Spirit.
I love maps. When I’m in a new city, one of the first things I do is pull out a map and orient myself to the layout of my new locale. Online mapping websites and the map app on my iPhone are my frequent friends. I know I’m not alone in my desire to understand where I am, where I want to go and the best route to get there.
Seems like we humans have always had an innate desire to map our surroundings. Where we now employ talking GPS’s in our cars, I can still remember back in the day pulling into the gas station to look at the big map they had on the wall or buying the local foldout map that never quite seemed to have the ability to fold back up in its original condition. I still find it amazing that early settlers of the American west set out in covered wagons with only minimal maps to guide them. Yet they did have some maps – the rough approximations sketched out by those who first traversed the wilderness. And what about those early ocean explorers from the middle of the last millennium? Is it any wonder that one of their main tasks was mapping what they saw producing what we now consider to be quaint old maps with strange continental shapes?
Yes, I truly believe there is something within us that wants to step outside of the limits of our perception and understand the bigger picture. We all want to see the diagram as it provides us a vision to our direction. Physical maps help us move through the material world. Spiritual maps offer us guidance through a different kind of world.
The concept of using the spiritual, philosophical and intellectual wisdom of those who have walked in the mystery of life’s bigger questions so as to create a “map” to our direction is a well-worn metaphor, almost to the point of being a cliché. The intersection of truths gleaned by others onto a so-called map is one of the key aspects of philosopher Ken Wilber’s integral model. Yet the basic notion of the model works well for our greater understanding. In our spiritual lives, just like our material lives, we seek to step outside the limits of our current perception – standing on the shoulders of those who went before us – so that we can understand where we are, where we have come from, where we would like to go and the best route to get there. Sounds like a map to me.
One of the reasons I believe that humanity created religion was for the purpose of laying out a “map of meaning”. Whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or whatever – their founders were laying down charts for us. They were “way showers”. They were offering their wisdom to assist in our desire for understanding and meaning. The same is true of philosophy and science. Being an agnostic or atheist doesn’t make us immune from a desire to comprehend life’s significance and seeking guidance from those who came before us.
All our maps, no matter what their source, assist us in our development of our values and our worldviews. They become touchstones for directing our behavior and personal choices. They become so inherent as a part of who we are, we frequently fail to make the distinction between the map and reality (yes, another cliché). Whether it’s a religious text, a philosophical system or a scientific theory, we need to remember that these are simply maps guiding us – not a greater reality to cling to when the map no longer works!
So what, perhaps, is the map that guides me? I realize that there’s a lot of models or systems that have given me a great deal of guidance through my life. I’ve gleaned a lot from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Graves’ Spiral Dynamics model , Wilber’s AQAL integral model and others. They all still serve me in many ways. But one simple model that I would like to offer here comes from my reflection upon the writings of mystic philosopher Ernest Holmes, the founder of the Science of Mind and Spirit.
Many have taken Holmes’ work and crafted their own “map” of it. Holmes did it himself back in the 1920s when he summarized his “what I believe” statement. Later, spiritual educators created what they called “core concepts” for teaching Holmes’ philosophical model. At the risk of omitting a few important points, I want to cull his philosophy down to two “map like” ideas. I hope you find these visuals as useful as I do for guiding my life choices.
The first aspect of our metaphysical map is the spiral, seeing it as representative of our life. Take a moment and visualize yourself standing on one. You will notice that it looks like a path – your life’s path. It winds down behind you and underneath you to lower levels – to the past. The path continues ahead upward to an unknown future. We have a greater sense of where we have come from than of where we are going.
The spiral turns and turns – continuously returning us to the same spot but at a different level. Our general direction is upward, but we can frequently slide backward or stay stuck in the same location for a long period of time. Yet no matter our direction or lack of movement, we are always on the path. It extends in either direction for an infinite distance representing the eternal nature of our life. As Holmes wrote, “We believe in an eternal upward spiral of existence. This is what Jesus meant when he said ‘In my Father’s house are many mansion’s.” This spiral represents the evolutionary nature not only of our individual life (the micro) but also the evolutionary path of all humanity (the macro).
Although we can’t see clearly the path ahead of us, we can occasionally “jump ahead” to get a sense of our higher future. These glimpses come in the form of intuitive guidance and mystical visions. Their consistent message is one of a realization of the interconnectedness of all of life. They provide a vision of our “coming attractions” which can serve to motivate us.
There are forces acting upon us to pull us upward to the higher levels. Holmes referred to one of these forces as the “divine urge”- an inner feeling which inspires us to express our special creative ability and talent – our calling – for our life. This power continuously brings us back towards urging us in the expression of this gift no matter how we might try to deny it. According to Holmes, our fulfilling this capability is how spirit experiences that part of life “through us” and serves our evolutionary growth. And, as we live our calling and move up our spiritual path, we are also serving the greater collective good of the One.
Another force directing us up the spiral is love. We may feel that we want to go it alone in life, but the desire for the experience of love draws us out of our desire for and our sense of separation. Giving and receiving love connects us to others serving that ultimate realization of our oneness. Love, simply stated, is an evolutionary force. As French Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard De Chardin stated, “Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.”
The combination of the expression of our divine urge with the evolutionary force of love calls us to be in service to others. Living and giving our gift means giving it to the world which ultimately is giving it to the one and that experience moves us up the spiral.
The second aspect of my spiritual map of Ernest Holmes is what I call the “compass” of our attention – where we choose to direct our gaze is the direction we will move. Consider for a moment the powers of Cyclops in the X-Men comic books with his ability to project a beam of heatless ruby colored force from his eyes. This force is only directed where he chooses to look. Similarly, our creative abilities are directed by where our gaze is pointing. Where we focus our attention, our intention, our mental coin, our energy, our thoughts, words and deeds – the compass of our attention – that is the direction that our life moves.
When there is no interference, our compass points true North – towards our calling and up the spiral of life. When there is interference, our compass directs us in different directions, spinning and turning us up and down and around in circles. What causes this interference? It comes from our believing that our lives are directed by external events. When we see something “out there” in life as happening “to us” and we react to it, and it spins our compass in a different direction and off we go!
As long as we’re living in reaction mode then we spin about,” stuck on the spiral”, failing to grow and evolve to our highest possibilities. As long as we fail to explore and heal the inner causes which are misdirecting the compass of our gaze, we will continue to be buffeted about by the winds of life experiences and the tides of our hidden beliefs. Gaining awareness of these powerful influences provides us choice so that we can turn our gaze away from the conditions in our life and towards the vision of what we would like to experience. In the first steps of awareness we learn that by directing our gaze, life can be created “by us”. As we continue to grow and to let go of our desire to control, we expand our listening to our intuitive guidance allowing us to get out of the way of our highest possible growth. We allow life to move “through us” and experience everything as being “as us” – and with that there is a greater force pulling us to higher levels as we “let go and let God” — aligning our vision to true North – our highest calling.
So as you continue with the visual of your standing on the spiral of life moving in the direction of the compass of your attention, note that where ever you are on the spiral is simply your current location on your evolutionary spiritual path. Your past lays below you, your ultimate destination up ahead. Similarly, on the macro level, all of humanity is moving along the spiral in a collective manner. It’s okay that you and I may be standing in different locations. Sometimes you may be ahead, sometimes I may leapfrog over you. It makes no difference as all our paths lead to the same higher destination.
As we look backwards to the past, both individually and collectively, we see that all of the experiences that we had to go through were perfect to lead us to the spot where we are right now. It was all necessary for our unfoldment so that we could be at this exact location on our evolutionary journey. Knowing this allows us to release any pains that past experiences may still hold over us.
As we look up the spiral to our higher possibilities, the call of the future, we see a world where we experience our interconnected – where we are living in peace, harmony, and cooperation – where each person is living their passion and expressing their special talent. An expansion that continues on and on to higher and higher levels of expression. As Holmes stated it in describing how we will never arrive at some static destination, “There are no finalities in any science, any philosophy, or any religion. Through the continual emergence of the creative Principle any last finality proves to be but the beginning of a new creative series. This eternal spiral, finding its base in the everlasting Reality, will never cease to emerge.”
So as you stand on the spiral directing your gaze – using your free will to move up the spiral, down the spiral or simply twirl around right where you are – recognize that each of us has that choice in our own lives. We can stay mired in the world of effects blaming events out there for the travails of our life – all the while interfering with our compasses ability to direct us to our personal true North. Your life and your direction on the spiral is your choice. We cannot control others, but we can learn from them, to gain wisdom from the contrast or gap we sense between the limiting aspects of their life choice and the greater possibilities we desire in life. All of us are teachers. All of us are learners.
However, at some point in time, all of us, either via the push of the pain of repeatedly experiencing our lives as a victim or by way of the pull to express our divine urge coupled with the evolutionary power of love, one force or the other will get us unstuck and foster our growth. Ultimately, we all head upward. The choice is whether it’s now or whether its later.
So where are you on the spiral of life? Where is the compass of your attention directing you? What map is guiding you these days?
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!