Morning Meditation: Souls are like Stars

Notes for a meditation session I am to lead this morning:

Typically, Buddhist-inspired forms of meditation invite us to observe the emptiness of all forms, whether those forms are objects in the world around us or we ourselves as subjects, as souls. Nothing abides, all forms are passing away, or changing into other forms as the old dissolve. Panta rhei, as Heraclitus put it: everything flows, everything streams. But what if, instead of trying to identify, paradoxically, with being nobody or being soulless, we see instead that the soul is not a being at all, but a becoming? What would it mean, then, not to be soul, but to become soul?

The ancient analogy likening souls to stars can help us here. Souls are like stars. Stars are not things, they are transformative happenings, alchemical events, streams of activity. Every second our Sun transforms 9 billion pounds of itself into light. In the half hour we spend together this morning, it will have burned up 15 trillion pounds of itself, releasing that mass as energy that streams to Earth to feed and sustain all life. 15 trillion pounds is equivalent to about 7 ½ thousand Golden Gate Bridges (the bridge weighs about 800,000 tons).

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Souls are like stars. Consider this analogy in light of Emerson’s statement from his essay “Over-Soul”:

“From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.”

I invite you in our meditation this morning to consider your soul, not as a fixed identity that sets you apart from me, but as a streaming influence constantly transforming what is within you into something to be shared with others. The soul is what shines between us, what allows us to commune with each other. It is an outward flowing light, and an inward sensitivity to the light of others streaming in. Let’s become souls by becoming like stars; let’s let the light shine through us.

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11 thoughts on “Morning Meditation: Souls are like Stars

  1. This recalls to me what my FB friend Darin Stevenson overheard a child reply when asked, “What is the sky?”. The child said,” Ok, so if you go into the middle of your eye, the black part, you come out up there. And you are everywhere. All the time. And from up there, if you go into one of those lights, you come down here with eyes. And you are someone. Somewhere. Sometimes.”

  2. Thankyou, really beautiful – I’m going to do this meditation tomorrow before work. And how ’bout that child’s reply about the sky!!

  3. Anything that exists can only be the result of a constant construction process. The old castle of europe that are standing today are only standing because there are a constant construction process that maintain them. The soul is the construction of our bodily interaction with others. Since we are this interaction construction we cannot really separate ourself with other.

  4. “From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.”

    In an Aristotelician perspective (meaning : if one abides by the principle of causality, which, incidently, Buddhists don’t), it might seem anachronic, but I’d like to consider Emerson’s statement in light of the following :
    http://jap.physiology.org/content/17/4/689 (full article requires subscription, but it’s worth it…).

    I don’t know Emerson that well, and I haven’t read the essay you’re mentioning, so I don’t know what precedes, nor what follows this statement taken from his 1841 essay. From what I read on Wikipedia, he gradually espoused Spinoza’s metaphysical views, all while being a firm advocate of personal freedom, a freedom which, in light of this quote, taken at face value (!), can only be interpreted as follows : we are free to do whatever we want, but, actually, everything we do is inspired to us, since “we are nihil”, which, in turn, tends to make the question of the alleged emptiness of our souls (whether ‘being’ or ‘becoming’) pertinent again.

    Why is such a conception of individual freedom flawed ? Because it would turn us into mere tools of a higher Will. And, by essence, no tool can be free.

    Furthermore, if indeed “we are nothing [and] the light is all”, why would it need us ? Doesn’t the whole of Humanity, in that case, becomes superfluous ? If it didn’t, it would mean the light has a plan for us, which would make us “something”, even if only a tool…

    What then could be “nothing” ‘s ‘added value’ to “the whole” ? Conscience ? Feelings ? Emotions ? despite the fact the most developed animals share those with us, to some extent. Our ability to feel without being overpowered by what we feel ? Still, that would be “something”…

    “The soul is what shines between us, what allows us to commune with each other. It is an outward flowing light, and an inward sensitivity to the light of others streaming in. Let’s become souls by becoming like stars; let’s let the light shine through us.”

    If it is, why should we become ?…

    Which force, which phenomenon (or collective subconscious interpretation thereof), which social structure, if any, can explain we don’t all spontaneously consider and use the soul that way ?

    If the soul is what enables communion (or religion, from the Latin word ‘religare’) between the fragments, diversity (which is nature’s core feature) is as much what makes freedom possible, in all its forms. Without communion, freedom would lead to destruction. But without freedom, any communion would be unnecessary, since there would be monolithic unity of all forms (aka the state of the universe before the Planck wall, according to some modern scientists’ speculations).

    Hence these two questions : if the condition to being is being free, and if freedom is merely an illusion made possible by our lack of science (> Latin word ‘scire’, to know), is ‘becoming’ not one also ? And if ‘becoming’ (in the eyes of someone or something else) is to be our new relational matrix, what freedom of being does that leave us ?…

    1. Thanks for your questions. They are good ones. If we are all becoming-with one another, why should we not all know ourselves to be in communion with one another all the time? Why do we ever feel separated, alienated? I don’t know, but it must have something to do with the way genuine infinity includes and so does not simply negate the finite.

      I would not say Emerson was (or became late in life) a Spinozist. I think he was always a Platonist or Plotinist (neo-Platonist), the difference being that for Plotinus, the One beyond being spontaneously overflows itself as a series of emanations (–>Nous–>Anima Mundi–>Physis–>chaos), and so unlike Spinoza, the One is productive of something other than itself, even if in the end there is “nothing” other than the One (since chaos, the lowest emanation, is in fact nothing at all). Emerson was also influenced by Indian texts like the Bhagavadgita, and so largely adopted the Brahman-Atman symmetry (which he knew also from his own Western Hermetic studies: “As above, so below”). Such comparison are pregnant with many other possibilities, no doubt. Consider this a first pass.

      I’m giving more thought to your questions about freedom, being, and becoming…

  5. Thank you for your answer…

    “I don’t know, but it must have something to do with the way genuine infinity includes and so does not simply negate the finite.”

    What exactly do you mean by ‘genuine’ ? Are there variants of infinity ? Or is the word just meant to dissociate human perspectives ? Could there be contrary forces at play “at the highest level” ? Even if there are, do they all emanate from one and the same Principle ? Which is most relevant to us, humans ? Perhaps I’m too lazy and if I weren’t, I’d find your answer by skimming through your blog, but how close is your conception of infinity to the one developed by Jung in his ‘Seven Sermons’ (conclusion included) ?…

    “Emerson was also influenced by Indian texts like the Bhagavadgita, and so largely adopted the Brahman-Atman symmetry (which he knew also from his own Western Hermetic studies: “As above, so below”).”

    But isn’t that the antithesis of Plato’s philosophy ?

    “(–>Nous–>Anima Mundi–>Physis–>chaos), and so unlike Spinoza, the One is productive of something other than itself, even if in the end there is “nothing” other than the One (since chaos, the lowest emanation, is in fact nothing at all).”

    Where do you “locate” chaos on a linear time scale ?

    “I’m giving more thought to your questions about freedom, being, and becoming…”

    I think it’s crucial, on the level of ‘politeia’ : how to articulate principles the human mind can barely grasp, if at all, with the way we organize the City ? Which equilibrium to find that wouldn’t force us into submission (whether conscious or not) ? Are we merely holograms feeding on an illusion ? Is everything written or is there room for some kind of entropy, in which case “becoming” would really mean something, other than simply discovering the script as it unfolds before our very eyes, unless, of course, entropy itself is part of it, which would make it null and void as such. If infinity contains every single possibility, why wouldn’t it contain a/ the possibility of fusion ?; b/ the possibility of its own destruction ?; c/ the possibility of anarchy as a middle way between order and chaos ? What makes the possible become fact ?

  6. Great composer Yehudi Menuhin formulated the same idea as follows : “the only freedom is to give of oneself, like the falling petals of a flower”.

    Obviously, some people (Dan Eudy f.i.) create a blog just to post a comment on another blog, and then deactivate their own in order to make any exchange impossible.

    Paradoxically, this indicates their refusal to start a debate and a feeling of superiority based on the false presumption they are holding The Truth, and said Truth doesn’t need any argumentation. This, I would say, is the sign of ego…

    First of all, the stars are not giving themselves away, at least not in a timespan compatible with a human life. Second, they answer to a very elaborate chemical process, and not to the process of thought (at least not as far as we know : perhaps there’s an incandescent genie hiding in there somewhere, but if so, we still have to spot him…). As for the flower’s falling petals, not only are they deprived of any free will, they’re also dead. British poet Shelley wrote : “no more let life divide what dead can join together”. In all likelihood, based on his comparison, Menuhin must have agreed, though his sources were perhaps a little different…

    What Dan Eudy’s promoting is a doctrine, and because it is, it should be rejected, for no doctrine allows contradiction : doctrine is pure authority ! It should also be overruled for another reason, namely that “the giving away of one’s self” doesn’t hold into account which type of environment one is giving oneself away to. Perhaps if he hadn’t fled, Dan Eudy might have explained whether he would give himself away to a fascist society, on a sheer theoretical level of course…

    As an antidote to this doctrine, I would suggest reading the following : http://antiques.gift/adresse-aux-vivants-sur-la-mort-qui-les-gouverne-et-lopportunite-de-sen-defaire_4849111.html
    Unfortunately, to my knowledge, it hasn’t been translated into English yet.

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