The Knowledge of Good and Evil
There are many methods and belief systems that can teach us to improve our lives by doing something special with our minds. Whether it be through religious beliefs, peaceful meditations, or positive human thinking, there is widespread interest in the idea that our minds can help us. Some systems teach us to peacefully contemplate thoughts, some to actively exercise thoughts, and some to clear out our thoughts and meditate on nothing at all. Many of these can be helpful.
If you think about a beautiful sunset or if you remember some beautiful feeling or experience from your past, there may be something inherent in that image or picture that can give you pleasure or have a subtle positive influence on your mental state. Remembering or even imagining a lovely sunset, you can refresh your mind with pleasant feelings, perhaps with wisps of peace and beauty and grandeur.
Do such thoughts have some intrinsic quality or presence that radiates in the mind to improve our mental atmosphere? Or does the act of imagining and holding lovely thoughts engage us in a creative process, activate our thoughts in an affirmative way, and involve us in generating our own beneficial light?
If we want to attain a sublime point of view, if we want to radically improve the quality of our thought, we might try to think only of things that are good. If you have ever tried to think only positively about something, then you know it is not as easy as one might think, and its effects are not often all one might hope for. When we are finished here, we will be able to understand why this is so.
When we are looking for powerful thought seeds, it is useful to differentiate between the thoughts we can picture humanly and the more abstract spiritual ideas that are, at least initially, beyond imagining. Lovely thoughts we might hold as images or feelings have something essential behind them. They are representations of spiritual ideas. Let us consider the notion that a mental image is not a fundamental thought, but rather a derived thought, a thought conceived, a thought form. Behind every lovely mental image or feeling there are words and essence and spiritual identity. These are the earliest seeds of thought. When we think in terms of images, whether of terrestrial images or even of relatively spiritual images, we are not using the earliest seeds of thought. Thinking in thoughts we can picture, no matter how exalted, is using thoughts that have already been to some extent conceived.
Every mental cause and effect relationship could be considered to involve seeds of thought. In the progression of thoughts from ethereal to concrete, each successive level can prompt the next. We will be looking to examine the earliest and most abstract seeds of thought. To think beyond images is to enter a mental realm of spiritual abstractions, of words and thoughts that may be seen in the mind's eye only as the faintest of wisps. This is where we can go to find the fundamental seeds of goodness. When we reach beyond human beliefs and beyond finite images, spiritual and infinite ideas can begin to dawn to us.
When spiritually mental seeds germinate, they give off spiritual energy. They give off light. One gets to see new spiritual ideas as they appear just at the point of conception. Not only does this enable us to improve the beliefs that make up our sense of things, but it enables us to do it with wonder.
If you wanted to witness the full growth process in your garden, you would plant seeds rather than buying small plants and putting them in the ground. If you planted seeds, you would see, as they germinated, new little plants that had never before existed, and they would have sprung into being right in your garden, perhaps right before your eyes. This is like the relative impact on your mind of using spiritual thoughts and infinite words to conceive ideas to improve your beliefs. When thinking based on spiritual principles or when reaching for words of infinite identity, you can reflect spiritual conception and occasionally sense aspects of it in your mind.
To hold thoughts or beliefs in the mind without the involvement of one's higher thinking is like buying little plants and plugging them in the ground. You may enjoy their fruits, but their germinating energy is released elsewhere. You will be dependent on others to provide you with their conceptions. The most significant transformation occurs during the emergence of conception. That is the process that generates the light.
Having fresh spiritual thoughts is important because the spiritual vitality of your thoughts will, to a large extent, determine their usefulness. It is not the generated images themselves that provide the impetus to move your thoughts and feelings in the right direction. It is their underlying spiritual content, their essential spirit, their accompanying light. It is the spiritually mental energy behind the ideas you conceive that gives them their power to do good for you. This is why it is so useful to reach beyond images in your spiritual thinking. This is not easy at first. It can be a struggle, like going from crawling to walking. But once you have exerted the effort to master it, it will make no sense to go back to the old way, especially when you want to get somewhere.
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What does it mean to solve a hard problem in life or to make some human situation better? A better situation has two distinct aspects to it. It involves identifying and getting more of what you like, of what is good, and identifying and getting rid of what you do not like, of what is not good. Applying this to yourself, it could mean being more of what you want to be and less of what you do not want to be. These two aspects, getting more of and getting rid of, involve conception and elimination. Conception is the process by which ideas are generated and brought into view. Elimination is the process by which obsolete or untoward mental images vanish or are vanquished. When conception and elimination take place in balance, they complement each other and result in new ideas of wholeness.
If it is true that we tend to experience life within the context of our conscious and unconscious beliefs, we would want to maximize our spiritually mental conception of what we would like and minimize, if not totally eliminate, our conception of what we do not want. In practice, we may need to address both the ideas we want to conceive and the things we want to eliminate.
It is simpler to find seeds we want to plant in our garden than to eliminate the ones we do not want. Just so we don't compound our problems, we will try not to plant seeds of thought, word, or action that could come up as things we do not want. We will not plant weeds or pumpkins in our tomato patch. It is pretty clear that the way to have only tomatoes is to start with clean soil, plant only tomato seeds, and then weed out anything else. There are numerous ways to obtain clean soil and to handle mental weeding. It sometimes seems far too simple to expect only fruits from the seeds we plant.
If we are thinking affirmatively, that is, if we are declaring positively for spiritual words and thoughts and beliefs in our behalf, there is a principle of displacement that can come into play. Powerful positive spiritual thoughts may simply displace negative thoughts, and in this way conception and elimination can go hand in hand. If a thought seed is powerful enough to displace its opposite, it can provide its own empty space. It can make its own good soil.
Clearing one's mind of extraneous thoughts is another way to address the need for good soil. If we have touched the emptiness of the void, maybe that makes us receptive to the fullness of a new idea. Thinking only of goodness or meditating only on nothingness may be human extremes that have practical limitations. Ultimately, our seeds and soil need to be in some balance. When they are most effective, our spiritual seeds and soil complement each other as what we do and don't do, what we believe and disbelieve, what we know to be true and what we understand to be false. The goal of wholeness is realized when seed and soil, conception and elimination, positive and negative declarations, fit together.
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If we are trying to affirmatively maintain human beliefs in goodness or absolute spiritual thoughts, these can transform consciousness increasingly as they differ in a positive way from our settled way of seeing things. For this reason, it makes sense for us to define a maximum on the scale of positive and spiritual thoughts.
Like a vector having direction and magnitude, a thought can be described in terms of quality and quantity. Quality defines how good a thought is, and quantity addresses how big a thought is. The way to maximize our benefit is to seek out and work with the largest and best thoughts that can make sense to us. For quality, let us use the idea of goodness. For quantity, let us use the word infinite. That is at least a starting point. To help with our elimination, to help provide our soil, to make sure we are talking about nothing else, let us add something to say we are dealing purely with those two words. So now our word string has three elements - pure infinite goodness.
Instead of using a mental picture or human thought to play upon the mind, we have sought out to find an ultimate, an absolute essence of goodness. Most positive religious ideals are an attempt to reach for such a spiritual essence. They combine concepts of absolute goodness or power together with humanly conceivable thought pictures. In this way the human mind can derive benefit from powerful extrahuman ideas without having to enter an abstract mental realm that at first might seem too remote.
Sometimes we might get to a place where the thoughts or images or beliefs we have relied upon may no longer make sense to us or where, over time, they may have lost their freshness and force. If we are using finite images, those we can see in our mind's eye in pictures or those made up of human concepts, we will outgrow them. As we grow, our thoughts and ideas and images need to grow with us.
Our approach here will be to define and explore the highest levels of thought that we can. Each may then choose, using the perspective that comes from knowing where everything starts, whether to think at the highest levels or to use lower levels that may engage thought more directly with tangible beliefs and circumstances.
One challenge in dealing with such a word string as pure infinite goodness is that, at least initially, we may feel scant hope of comprehending it. Pure goodness, by itself, may seem to be an ethereal abstraction, but it does not seem too hard to define. When the word infinite is introduced, it brings us into a whole new dimension. Because the idea of infinity cannot be accurately pictured in human dimensions, which is a characteristic of things infinite almost implicit in their definition, it is sometimes a stretch for infinite ideas to make any sense. If you are used to having your thinking reinforced or echoed in your mind's eye by images, it may seem strange to be thinking about ideas for which it takes such great lengths to form visual representations in your mind.
Purely spiritual and infinite ideas may appear to the human mind as abstractions, but they can have a telling effect in the upper reaches of our thought. They may initially seem vague and intangible, and perhaps make little sense, to the lower levels of consciousness that characterize our normal human thinking. This may be a good thing. Our inability to conceive of an infinite abstraction in human terms does not diminish its usefulness. In fact, the striking difference between things infinite and the human dimension is one reason it is so beneficial for us to think about them.
On the other hand, reaching out to abstractions might leave us with thoughts so seemingly ethereal as to lack any efficacy whatever. Holding to such thoughts might be nothing more than mental escapism. The difference between contemplative escapism and deep spiritual thinking to solve real problems may be simply a matter of commitment or intent. What we are looking for here is not escapism, not dreamy contemplation of abstractions, but the development and practice of more effective ways of thinking and being. Rather than escapism, infinitely minded thinking naturally leads to deeper involvement in the issues of life. What we would like to discover are infinite words to reach for, to think about and reflect upon, to be our thought seeds, to bring out new ideas, to transform and transport consciousness, revealing true identity and bringing regeneration.
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Bringing large scale thoughts into practical application requires linkages to the real world. Forging such linkages involves the exercise and embodiment of our best ideas at various levels of action. When our best spiritual thoughts are linked to our beliefs and actions, then optimizing the quality and scale of our thoughts improves and elevates our point of view, generates useful ideas and perceptions, and helps with everything related to our thinking.
Interpreting infinite spiritual abstractions into the beliefs of our everyday human experience can be useful and can give us a feeling that we understand the issues at hand. We need to be careful, however, that we don't hold finite pictures of infinite things too tightly, because this can lead to aberrations of the ideal. The tendency to do this accounts for some of the stilted aspects of human religious behavior. It is best to ponder infinite words and ideas at the least circumscribed levels of thought. There they can more nearly be themselves, and they can reveal to us their own images in their own time. The value of infinite ideas is rarely in their literal interpretation into everyday human life. Trying to drive my car or manage my checkbook as if they were infinite will get me into trouble fast. The value of infinite ideas is in the effect they have in the mind. They do not lend themselves to simple extrapolation into the human scene, and we should carefully examine any tendency to do that.
Infinite ideas entertained in consciousness, that ultimately effect the events of daily life, usually take a different route from the direct. After being contemplated at the highest levels of our thought, infinite ideas often seem to disappear, as if to go underground. Eventually they may reappear in good ideas, in inspirations, in common sense solutions to practical problems, and sometimes in even more.
The reason that infinite ideas, or any ideas for that matter, can effect our surroundings is that things around us are undergirded by mentality. Our surroundings are in some ways defined by individual and collective, conscious and unconscious thought. To the degree that you are able to believe your best thoughts, their quality and scale can contribute significantly to the quality and scale of your life. Thoughts that are causative, thoughts that can regenerate the waning and wanting images of life, are those with the quality and scale to make things happen. They can discover new things into being. These thoughts come in various shapes and sizes, and behind them all are infinite ideas.
Copyright 1994, Jim Chapman
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