Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Huang-Lao project

I have an abandoned project that I need to resurrect and finish.

Years ago, I started a website entitled '', focusing on my take of Huang-Lao Daoism.  As I understand it, Huang-Lao was the political and spiritual philosophy of the early Han emperors Wen-Di and Jing-Di.  They were influenced greatly by Wen-Di's Daoist wife, the Empress Dou. 

Huang-Lao blends the notion of leadership in the model of Huang-Di, the legendary Yellow Emperor, founder of China (agriculture, the Yi Jing, and a whole raft of other stuff) with the passivist teachings of Lao Tzu; hence the name Huang-Lao.  This style of leadership, living and ruling in harmony with the Way of nature, is distinct from any other philosophy or religion. 

The period of Wen and Jing endured for about 1/2 century, during which there was more peace and prosperity in China than ever before, and perhaps ever since.  Taxes were reduced to 3% or less.  Universal healthcare and social security was in place.  Full employment was assured.  Punishments and jail terms were mostly eliminated.  While there were still issues in the society, especially the intrigue among feudal lords, the society was very prosperous and just.  At the end of the 50 year reign of Wen and Jing, the granaries were so full of excess grains that they began to experience rot among the excess.  All this is not legendary, but rather, the facts of history.

Daoism (Taoism) was at its philosophical peak during this period.  The earliest copies of the full version of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) were discovered in a Han-era tomb for someone buried during this reign.  The Huainanzi, an encyclopedia of scientific and leadership principles representing Huang-Lao thinking was written during this period.  Civil service examinations providing for meritocracy rather than patronage become part of the civil service. Governance and ruling was minimal in harmony with Lao Tzu, but effective.

When Wen-Di's grandson, Wu-Di became emperor, Grand Epress Dowager Dou maintained her Daoist influence for the first few years of Wu-Di's reign.  However, as old as she was at the time, she could not control the rising up of the intelligencia associated with the feudal lords.  Once she died, five years into her grandson's reign, Wu-Di immediately changed the working of affairs from Huang-Lao to a type of Confucian Legalism that became the state ruling philosophy ever after.  Wu-Di also restarted the wars with the Huns (Xiong-Nu), re-instituted penalities, increased taxation, and bankrupted the country within his reign, in trying to expand his borders to the current extant of China.

Wu-Di would become the greatest expander of China, but the basis of China's greatness is the short period of time that Huang-Lao philosophy established prosperous and effective society.

So I think it is time to resurrect the project.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kundalini Rising and the Spirit

I've been reading a bit on spiritual experiences, trying to see if my personal experiences are paralleled by others.  What I'm finding is that they are, perhaps quite commonly, but I am pretty sure that the literature about spiritual experiences does NOT reflect my view of them.

Let me explain. 

A spiritual experience for me is where I feel something extraordinary about my context or thoughts, and am enlightened by new, inspired knowledge that I did not previously have.  For me the experience of the spirit is a feeling in my spine and in my very being that rises to the top of my head and I feel a warmth and a 'presence' surround me.  It's a great feeling.  It's a feeling of bliss, and of joy.

At times in my life, I have been able to cultivate this as a daily feeling, associated with prayer and meditation.  In fact, to me, a satisfying prayer/meditation session is one where this feeling is present at some point, and my very soul is comforted.

At times as well, just prior to engaging in a presentation or where I need to be 100%, and I've felt some stress or anxiety about what I'm about to do, I find that this wordless prayer/meditation I do comes in handy to empty my mind, center my soul, and feel that presence so I can engage into my activity with confidence and with my full self, unencumbered by ego and self-worry.

So far, so good.  I think what I've laid out above is common to a lot of people. 

Having been in India for the past 18 months or so, I have felt this feeling at times very strongly.  When I first came to India in spring of 2010, I certainly knew Hindu philosophy and known a lot of Indian people.  I had years before been impressed with and studied the Bhagavad Gita, and felt some sort of kinship with the place, but had never gone there.  On the way, I decided to watch the movie "Gandhi", again, to refresh my memory of the sense of the place.  The movie was very spiritual to me (i.e., made me have the feelings I described above).

When I arrived, of course, the movie had sensitized me to a sense of the place.  So, when I arrived, and encountered the countryside, with people and animals everywhere, I had the same spiritual feeling I had during the movie, a sense of presence with India.  India is alive: the ground, the trees, the sky, the people, are all so packed together that there is a mutual life and being that surrounds me when I'm there. 

For me, this spiritual feeling kept arising day after day, often in ways that I found annoying.  As well, the work I am doing in India, to provide inclusion and access to services for the entire nation and its poor using Unique Identity is a very spiritual exercise to me.  I got to the point that these feelings of spirit, like electrical charges going through my spine, were disruptive to my effectiveness.

I had learned a term for this spiritual feeling, "Kundalini Rising".  Kundalini is supposed to be a cultivated feeling, one which requires some skill and expertise to manage.  That skill is called Kundalini Yoga, and, according to Carl Jung, could have adverse impacts on the individual.  True.  It was having adverse impacts on me.  I learned as well that Kundalini rising can have symptoms and effects that are akin to schizophrenia -- very disruptive, and ongoing, uncontrolled bouts of Kundalini rising are harmful.  Yet in moderation, the physiological effects are quite positive.

In learning this, the uncanny thing was that this feeling was exactly what I felt as a missionary or as a Christian in relation to my church or my personal relationship with God.  The idea that the spiritual feeling could be cultivated or harnessed was an entirely foreign concept to me.  The spirit is supposed to be a gift, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  How was this supposed to work?

From what I can tell, Kundalini rising is physiologically a valid phenomenon -- it's a real response to some kind of emotional or physical stimulus, which has cascading effects through the nervous and endocrine systems of the body.  In moderation, Kundalini has a positive effect on brain chemistry.  This is as much as I got from a scientific point of view on the phenomenon. 

On the other hand, there is a lot of non-scientific mumbo-jumbo speculation about it.  Kundalini Yoga is entirely taught within the context of Hindu chakras, having no basis whatsoever in modern, verifiable science.  Kundalini-yoga also proposes that it is the only valid path to cultivating this energy -- something that I categorically reject, because if the feeling is real, then people of all types have been dealing with it for millennia, and just one non-scientific way does not make sense in the light that the feeling is there.

So, I have come to believe that Kundalini rising is the physiological response to that which we perceive as spiritual.  I think it is a phenomenon worth studying in a western context without the mumbo-jumbo, and with sensitivity that we as humans need to feel this spirit to be connected.  I cannot yet find this balance of scientific with spiritual about the subject in the literature, but I'm still looking.

If you read this, and have ideas, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What I believe

I have been dabbling with a personal statement of belief.  Here is my first draft

I believe in the Way.
  • I believe that all things conform to nature.
  • I believe that nothing outside of the natural universe exists.
  • I believe that nature is not a thing, but rather, it is general tendency of the way things work.  Lacking a better term, I call this the Way.
  • I believe that the Way itself, not being a thing, cannot be described or seen.  However, as reflected in the nature of how specific things work, the emergent tendencies of nature/the Way can be observed and discussed.
  • I believe that the Way itself is eternal, unchangeable, and constant.  However, the emergence of the Way, how the Way manifests itself in things, is myriad and diverse.
I believe Truth.
  • I believe that "truth" is a factual description of Way things are and how they work.  However, since the Way itself cannot be described or observed, any "truth" is dependent upon emergent observation.
  • I believe that all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole.  I call this integrated truth, the "gospel".  Hence, if something proves to true, it is part of the gospel.  If something is not true, it is not part of the gospel.
  • I believe that true things can be either undeniably true, or unprovable, meaning things for which proof is not possible.  My attitude is that all things that are undeniably true are truths, and that anything that is proven to be untrue is not truth.  I try to suspend judgment--quite literally agnostic--on things which are not capable of being proven.
  • I believe that truth is often described in myth, metaphor, and symbol.  The extent to which something points to the factual way of nature is what makes it true (using a compass metaphor here).  However, the myth, metaphor, or symbol itself is not truth, nor does it need to be true in any literal sense.
  • I believe that scripture is true to the extent that it points the Way.  I do not accept scripture to be literally true, nor do I limit my definition of scripture to one set of books.  I believe that the acceptance of dogma without question leads to the inability to recognize truth.
I believe that I am.
  • I believe that "being" means existence in the present moment.
  • I believe that all being arises from the Way.  Thus, the Way is the ground of being, or the ground/source from which all being arises.
  • I believe the answer to the fundamental ontological question "Who am I?" is "I am".  That is, I authentically exist here and now, and that my existence is fully dependent upon the Way and fully independent of any other identifying attributes.
  • I believe that being requires one to be fully engaged as a participant in the Way things work.  Withdrawing from life or the Way is the antithesis of being.
I believe in Life.
  • I believe that life is being in harmony with the Way.
  • I believe that to be alive, a being is by choice moving in harmony with the way.
  • I believe that a being that follows the way things work tends to live and thrive.
  • I believe that a being that rejects the way things work tends to die.
  • I believe that the saying "I am" reflects that I am alive, I exist, fully and authentically in the present, and my life depends entirely upon being in harmony with the Way.
I believe in God.
  • I believe that the Way is the power of God.
  • I believe that God is a being fully one with the Way.
  • I believe that a being who is fully one with the Way is God.
  • I believe that a being who is fully one with the Way is one with God.
  • I define ‘fully one with the Way’ as a state of being within the here and now.
  • I believe that God is one, and by virtue of being one with the Way can exist in multiple persons.
  • I believe the scriptures in both the Old and New Testament teach that humans are God in as far as they are one with the Word (logos, the Way)
  • I believe the statement, "I am that I am" accurately represents that God is being itself, one with the ground of being, the Way.
I believe Jesus.
  • I believe that Jesus' statement, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" fully represents the Way to be ("I am"), the Way to think ("Truth"), and the Way to act ("Life").
  • I believe that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God.  This means to me that as a human, he was fully one with the Way, and therefore by his own definition, God.
  • I believe that Jesus understood truth, that is, the emergence of the Way, as well as can be expressed in human terms.
  • I believe that Jesus taught the truth by Way of metaphor and parable.
  • I believe that Jesus taught that to literalize myth and metaphor is to miss his point and lose the Way.
  • I believe that Jesus taught the humans can be one with God in the same Way the Jesus was one with God.
  • I believe that Jesus set the path for true humanity by his example of humility.  As a great leader, he washed the feet of his disciples, demonstrating that great leadership is great service to his flock.
I believe in Spirit
  • I believe that all things in this world are connected in much the same way that cells in the body are connected to a common whole.   I call the connection between things “Spirit”
  • I believe that humans have an innate sense of communicating with others that transcends words.  Much like the natural order that arises in a flock of birds, humans connect to each other in ways not clearly describable in words.
  • I believe that the emergent order among humans is a reflection of the Way things work; of nature.
  • I believe that humans have an innate sense of this Spirit connection, of what feels natural.  This sense seems to be connected to some very specific feelings, sometimes described in terms of ‘burning’, ‘Kundalini’, peace, and the like.  The words to describe the feeling of spirit vary from culture to culture, but the sense of spiritual experience seems quite common among all humans.
  • I believe that to be aware of the Spirit, one needs to empty the mind of thought, so that the sense of spirit through feeling can emerge.
  • I believe that prayer helps align the mind to feeling the spiritual connection between the self and other things.  Such prayer, however, needs to be devoid of desire and want, and often is most effective without words.
  • I believe that due to the innate connection to feelings, Spirit can easily be mislead.  To avoid deception, I believe that spiritual practice and training on a daily basis is required.
I believe in Love
  • I believe that god is love.  That is, the oneness of being and the Way is love itself.
  • I believe true love to be the positive connection and attraction between things in harmony with the Way.
  • I believe that true love is a spiritual thing, and that all manifestations of love are based in the spirit.
  • I believe that true love operates in harmony with the Way, it does not force, it does not bind, it provides freedom of expression and being.
  • I believe that love is the underlying means of dealing with all fellow beings, whether human or otherwise.
I believe in the community of the saints
  • I use the term ‘saints’ in the original Christian sense, that is, those who are attempting to live the enlightened life in harmony with the Way.
  • From what I understand, the first Christians were called, "Followers of the Way".  That is, they believed Jesus’ message about the way, and attempted to follow it.
  • I believe that the way of humans is social – humans, require being part of a community.
  • I believe that in accepting a community, one must accept the norms of that community.
  • I believe that one must balance authenticity of self (being, “I am”) with the need to be part of the community.  In so doing, I believe that personal authenticity should govern dealings with any community of saints.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I believe that there is a thing called 'truth' out there, perhaps in some categories.

1. Factual Truth.  This would be something made up of facts and by virtue of being testable, or falsifiable, something that can be proven.  Scientific method applies here.

2. Historical Truth.  This would be history, where the preponderance of evidence demonstrates the truth of a given history.  Academic, historical methods might apply here.  Myth and legend are generally not in the category of historical truth.

3. Normative Truth.  This would be something that I can act upon, that if I act a certain way, then some positive outcome comes about.  Ethics might be applicable here. -- 'normative truth' connotes anything that affects one's action in this life for the better.

Once I get past these three, then there are things which are not proven to be true.

4.  Speculation on the unknown.  Sometimes speculation or theory postulates 'truth' that is not yet proven or known.  In time, such things might become known, in which case they either become factual truth, or having been disproven, become 'false'.  The biblical speculation of the world being the center of the universe, or that the sun revolves around the earth was speculation of the unknown, and now that we have scientific evidence to the contrary, such biblical speculation is 'false'.

5.  Speculation on the unknowable.  A subset of 4 is the type of premises that are untestable and unknowable.  The existence and attributes of God become part of this. 

6.  Myth and Legend.  Fabrications, fictionalizations, and speculation about historical events and people without basis in fact are myth and legend.

7.  False History.  Historical accounts, portrayed to be literally true (and not a legend or myth), that are provably incorrect.

8.  False Norms.  A normative statement that is not only based upon something false, but also does not accomplish what it is intended, or that causes more harm than good, is a false norm.

9.  Hope.  This is a unique type of speculation of the unknown, where there is a future expectation of something positive.

To be a servant of truth, is to
 - accept without compromise all historical and factual truth
 - act on normative truth. 
 - reject all speculation of the unknown proven to be false
 - reject all false history
 - recognize that myth and legend have positive value, as long as they are not taken to be literal history. 
 - suspend judgment on the unknown, the unknownable, and hope.   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making sense of nonsense

I guess I must be getting old.

I woke up this morning to a major conflict among my team at work, where there was some meltdown between a very high energy white man and a very sensitive black woman.  I'm pretty sure that no-one meant ill, but as the guy was trying to get his point across yesterday (after I left), he got a little menacing and, well, hard to deal with.  The woman said that what he was doing made her feel like he was strong arming her.  He was standing, she was sitting.  He has a lot of experience, she only a little, but is learning.

There was another man in the room, who tried to lesson the tension, but he failed to do so.  The situation got a bit out of hand, as things were said that shouldn't be said.  Or, maybe they should be said, if someone feels uncomfortable with the actions of another, he or she should draw a line.

I guess I expected this when I put this team of strong egos together.  I asked each one of the three what they could do better.  The aggressive guy couldn't think of a thing, whereas all others could.  Not to point blame, because everyone shares in blame when things go awry, but to not be self-aware is to be a disaster waiting to happen.

Yet, throughout all the world, this self-awareness is rare, and lots of situations get out of control.  Painted into a corner, people and institutions are incapable of admitting wrong, and as a result, they create nonsensical situations like what happened yesterday.

So, distance, separation, avoiding the nonsense seems to be the only immediate cure, but does it cure anything?  I think, paradoxically, to consider oneself a fool is to be aware that it is easy for me to be foolish, therefore, i am more aware of when I am foolish.  And being aware, i'm probably less likely to be foolish.

Well if that ain't nonsense of its own?

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I was sitting in a meeting today, hearing people share stories of faith in their lives.  A woman spoke of her onset of Parkinson's disease, and how tragic this was for her.  In the midst of dealing with the pain and suffering, a friend called her and said she was prompted to think of her, to pray about her, but did not know why.  To the woman with Parkinson's, this little gesture, coming as it was a "coincidence" out of the blue, was a witness that God loves her.  It was a touching story.

I have seen coincidences happen throughout my life: little miracles, perhaps, that I cannot explain.  What I can say is that my life has been 'saved' by these little events.  I have prayed, and felt the presence of spirit, and I have had wonderful, amazing spiritual experiences.

What I have found, however, is that the source and meaning of these 'coincidences' defies explanation.  Being objective about this, I hope, I have begun to see that making a conclusion about the source and meaning is beyond my comprehension.  Many years ago, as I meditated on these coincidences, I came to understand that I perceive what I perceive, through the power of my understanding or lack thereof, and I make associations with what I perceive to be a miracle to something tangible -- a religion or god.  But the actual facticity of that association is not real.  I cannot logically conclude that just because I perceive miracles, that there is a 'god' out there with specific attributes, consciousness, and awareness of me. 

I sat pondering this one autumn, and outside were a flock of relatively small birds.  As i carefully observed their movement, they moved as one single being.  There was some underlying capability in the interactions between the individuals in the flock that caused the emergence of a single order, and perhaps a limited combined consciousness of the flock.  I am pretty sure that the individual birds are not conflicted as to where this seeming magical unity comes from, they do it to survive.  They're connected together through what I might call the spirit of the flock.

I recognize that the word "spirit" often connotes a spiritual being, or something that goes to ghosts, spirits, etc.  I wonder, though, if this is a misuse of the concept.  Perhaps earlier people, lacking scientific understanding, would attribute phenomena they didn't understand to spiritual beings messing with things.  My use of the word "spirit" has more to do with some uses: "Spirit of harmony" "spirit of contention", "team spirit", "spiritual experience".  What I find in common in these uses is how the term conveys something that connects people together, not in terms of words or specific concrete action, but rather, the overall connection to each other. 

Then i've noticed that the connection we feel with people can be very spiritual.  There are moments in my life when I have felt very connected to another being, to myself, and to something 'out there'.  This connection is accompanied with warmth, with feelings of comfort and familiarity, and when mutually felt, the experience is utterly amazing.  In a moment, an entire eternity of connection is felt.  These moments are rare and precious, but they testify to me of the importance of spiritual connection.

How does this work? I think spiritual connection is only possible when one sets aside one's own thoughts, and concentrates fully on the moment and deeply listening to the interaction between oneself and the other person.  In personal meditation, the other person is myself or perhaps god.  Not all interaction is verbal, and in fact, spiritual listening, in my impression, really seeks to understand nonverbally what is going on.

This is not hocus pocus.  There are many things about our nonverbal communication that we do not understand intellectually.  But, our natural selves, absent higher thought, can sense feelings on the part of the other person, and by paying attention to those feelings, can much better understand the other person.  When two people connect in this way, the result is true understanding; and in light of true understanding, the miracle of spiritual connection happens -- both are edified together.

I had dinner last night with one of my adult daughters.  She's had issues with me for many years, around whether I accept her and am proud of her.  She especially hates being called 'mom junior', which I think i did once or twice in teasing years ago, but to her, it was a scar on her soul.  My dear wife has suffered from depression, and although much better now, many of my daughters fear that they will become depressed as well.  They don't want to be 'mom junior', and the especially would like to be loved and appreciated for their own selves.

This is something I really needed to work through last night with her as we talked.  I could tell that each time I said the phrase 'mom junior', there was a reaction, very subtle, in her countenance as I used the words, regardless of their context.  I'm not usually observant, but in being observant, aware of the impacts, and empathizing with what she is feeling the words, we can together start to move aside the barriers to spiritual connection, and begin to have a closer relationship.

We're not all the way there yet, but I could tell that the spirit of negativism and resentment she feels toward me is beginning to melt, and we can feel something else -- a unity of hearts and minds eventually. 

And this, to me, is what spirit is about.  Awareness to the unspoken allows us to perceive things that need to be done to connect people.  The coincidences at the beginning of this blog sometimes arise from that awareness; or more to the point, our spiritual awareness allows us to be edified by the coincidences, and we get what we need, day by day, to survive.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


For years, I have been participating in various groups connected with certain religions and philosophies.  From a religion point of view, I grew up in and participate in the Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) faith.  From a philosophical point of view, I follow what may be called philosophical daoism. From a personal sanity point of view, I follow advaita vedanta, seeing unity of all that is, and practicing detached action.  I get tremendous spirituality from listening to the Quran being chanted in Arabic, in participating in the latin mass, especially where the music is Palestrina, in worshiping in temples where I can sit in silent awe.

I deeply appreciate a comment attributed the great soul, Mohandas K. Gandhi: "I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew, and so are all of you".

I do not think my beliefs, however, are typical of any of these great traditions, but I believe that my beliefs are consistent with many of the their core beliefs, and represent what I believe these faith systems point to.

There is something beyond what words can define and what thoughts can grasp.  I believe that most people feel it, and seek for an understanding of what "it" is.  Faith traditions often provide the answers people seek, claiming revelation that lays "it" out -- the meaning and purpose of life and what lies beyond.  My sense is that when we dispute about the unknowable, we miss the point of the journey. 

Because the destination is unknown and unknowable, because the origins are equally so, it occurs to me that the journey is really all that matters.  The great benefit I have found in all faith traditions is when they concern them with the journey, the way to act, in the here and now.  Some may think it foolish of me to just enjoy the journey and to not be concerned about the destination or origins, and indeed a fool am I for that reason. 

An interesting quote from Isaiah 35:8 expresses my identity here:

And an highway shall be there, and a Way, and it shall be called the Way of holiness; and it shall be for those: the wayfaring ones, though fools, shall not err therein.

This being the case, I have come to identify myself as a wayfaring fool.

Welcome to my blog.