Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sombrero Galaxy: Seeing the Supreme by the Supreme


"Thus the soul is unlit without that vision; but lit thereby, it possesses what it sought. And this is the true end set before the soul, to take that light, to see the Supreme by the Supreme and not by any other light than that by which it sees; for That by which the illumination comes is That which is to be seen, just as we do not see the sun by light other than its own. But how is this to be accomplished? Let all else go!" -- Plotinus

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In May 1996 I was attending the wedding of a couple who lived and worked at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton 4,200 feet above Silicon Valley's South San Francisco Bay. After the outdoor ceremony and reception we were allowed entry into the 1887-completed dome observatory that houses the 36" refracting Lick Telescope, as well as the body of James Lick who was the observatory's benefactor and lies entombed beneath his telescope. In 1887 this was the largest telescope in the world and the first ever sited permanently on a mountaintop. 

Today's Bay Area light pollution and 125 years of technological advancement has made this telescope more a historical relic than a cutting-edge scientific instrument. But as I was to discover this artifact of another age can open one's eyes to a universe of wonder. There is a world of difference between seeing a beautiful photograph of the Sombrero Galaxy and being stunned by the immediate Presence of 40 million-year-old light falling directly on your retina from the living galaxy.  

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Poem-Journal: Sombrero Galaxy, Lick Observatory, May 19, 1996

I circumambulate the observatory catwalk in dim red light
            under the parted dome and projected telescope
                        preparing my eyes and mind for seeing
                                    40 million year old light.

Through the eyepiece I see
            a spiral galaxy - edge on
                        the nuclear fire of billions of circling suns
                                    flashed across 40 million light years
                                                from wherever they were then
                                                            to wherever we are now.

Whose eye now sees this fossil light of billions of worlds
            that may have burnt out long ago?
How can anyone grasp something so immense
            so far away in space and in time?
Like a paramecium on a microscope slide
            a long-gone galaxy’s shimmering light
                        forms a living image on my retina.

Now I know what Plato meant when he said
            the eye is as great as the Sun
                        because the eye can hold the Sun.

I could dismiss this vision as a curious thing to have seen
            or I could give up being an orphan in this Universe.

Am I ready to accept that I am born of this wonder?
That I am not looking through this eye, through this lens, at this galaxy
            but as this one Light connects galaxy, telescope and eye
                        I am this seeing,
                                    I am this eye,
                                                I am this lens,
                                                            I am this galaxy.

The Mind that conceived this telescope
            that remembers billions of worlds as they were millions of years ago
The Mind that conceived this eye
            that is looking now at these worlds
The Mind that conceived these worlds
            that illumine this eye
This Mind holds you and I and these worlds
            and you and I and these worlds are That!


Dolphin Pentacle with Spiral Galaxy, 1977 Scratchboard © Bob Hare 2012

Journal Update: October 25, 2012, Elk Grove, California

The greatest wilderness is the multi-dimensional Cosmic Ocean that our tiny Spaceship Earth floats and spins within. When I lie out under a High Sierran night sky with the brilliant Milky Way stretching from mountain horizon to mountain horizon I know there is nothing separating me from the Infinite. Twenty-nine year-old John Muir had this revelation on his 1867 Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf of Mexico as evidenced by the inscription he put on the inside cover of his journal, “John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.”

We are all cosmic voyagers in Infinity and Eternity and the cosmos lives within us as well as around us. We are on the greatest voyage of discovery as we awaken, individually and collectively, to who we are and discover how we arrived here, where we are heading, and what is going on around us. 

Out of Great Mystery springs this ever-expanding physical universe of cosmic energy which coalesces into physical elements which organize into galaxies of stars in which elements evolve and which form the planets. And of the billions of planets in the Universe we know that Life has emerged on at least this one blue water-covered marble we call Home-Earth. 

Life evolves into sentient beings which evolve over billions of years into greater consciousness. And in a few species self-consciousness emerges. The most self-aware species we know of is the human individual (with the teen-age human being the most self-conscious!).

The amazing opportunity of human self-awareness is that we can become aware that we are the eyes, mind, heart, and soul of this Universe. We can further the Universe's evolution by transcending (and integrating) our limiting ego consciousness. We can realize that the light of consciousness that illumines my thoughts is the same light of awareness that flows through and animates all things and beings. One essential Spirit-Life-Force shows up differently according to each species' capacity (such as ant-awareness, ant-eater awareness, and dolphin awareness). All beings have the same essential Being but different expressions of the One Being.

This Great Mystery of Being precedes and transcends this universe. Scientific cosmologists tell us that the "Big Bang" birth of the universe exploded 13.7 billion years ago from a point with no dimension and before time called the "singularity." This infinite and timeless Potential gave birth to all the energy, matter, and spacetime that make up this universe as well as the evolutionary order that has been unfolding in beauty and power for these last 13.7 billion years.  

This mysterious singularity seems to have all the transcendent "immeasurables" traditionally associated with deity, namely omnipotence (the source of all matter and energy), infinity (occupying no defined space yet being the source of all expanding space), eternity (occupying no defined time yet being the source of all time-change-process), and omniscience (being the source of 13.7 years of ongoing orderly and perfectly unfolding physical-biological-consciousness evolution). The singularity is just another name for Great Spirit-Great Mystery. The great mystery of the pre-Big Bang singularity is where the measured science of the outer world meets the immeasurable Being of the inner spiritual world. These two realms of experience and inquiry are ultimately one and the same Reality seen from two seemingly different perspectives. Uniting these inner-outer realms is Plotinus' Supreme which can never be measured or photographed by science but which can be directly experienced. 

To join John Muir as a citizen of the universe we must give up the ego's idea that my individual awareness is a unique one-time creation that must struggle against the universe to avoid extinction. In its place we discover that the essence of my awareness is universal and eternal. This unborn and never-dying Essence is the One Light of Awareness that sees through all eyes and minds and is the same Source and Mover of all things.

The chaos in our world today indicates that we are struggling to make this huge shift in how we see ourselves and our universe. The old materialist model of separate self-existent egos locked in isolated bodies struggling to survive in a hostile alien universe is literally killing us and our planet. The emerging worldview is that everything we can sense and name, including ourselves and our bodies, is an evolving ever-changing part of an ever-evolving process, the whole and essence of which is our true identity. This is Muir's "Earth-planet, Universe" ecological identity. This is also the mystical worldview heralded for millennia by innumerable sages, shamans, saints, yogis, and world teachers such as Christ and the Buddha. Now is the time for many more of us to internalize the essential and ecological message of the world's wisdom traditions: "we are all one in the spirit so let's love and take care of each other and all beings!"   

One can and we must learn to live this kind of practical mysticism--taking care of business while taking care of the planet. In the experience of unity the usual physical division of seer, seeing, and seen is superseded by a direct experience that there is one seamless reality behind this world of separate appearances. We don't usually experience this unity perspective because our word-thoughts break the seamless world-process into apparently separate thing-events so we can focus on life's most pressing challenges. But this useful narrowing of awareness also causes unnecessary suffering when we confuse this word-map of reality with the actual territory of reality. When we think we are just one small thing knocking about in a hostile universe of much larger and more powerful things we become frightened and defensive and love is lost. Remembering the One behind the many brings the lost and confused soul back to its true evolving course and goal. And, it is the only way we will create a peaceful, sane, and sustainable world.

As Plotinus said, "....this is the true end set before the soul, to take that light, to see the Supreme by the Supreme and not by any other light than that by which it sees."

Thou art That! May you walk in Beauty. Yours in Peace, Bob 

Note: Unless attributed to other sources all text, poems, photographs and artwork in this blog and other blogs entitled "Wilderness Adventures with Bob Hare" are copyrighted © 2012 by Bob Hare. The phrase "Wilderness Adventures with Bob Hare" is a trademark of Bob Hare.