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Mistake of Immense Proportion

--by Jacob Needleman (May 11, 2015)


Since the beginning of recorded history, man has been haunted by the intimation that he lives in a world of mere appearances. In every teaching and spiritual philosophy of the past we find the idea that whatever happens to us, for good or ill, is brought about by deeper forces behind the world that seems so real to us. We are further told that this real world is not accessible to the senses or understandable by the ordinary mind.

But, and this is a point that is not usually understood, we live in a world of inner appearances as well. We are not what we perceive ourselves to be. There is another identity, our real self, hidden behind the self that we believe ourselves to be.

It is only through awakening to this deeper self within that we can penetrate behind the veil of appearances and make contact with a truer world outside of ourselves. It is because we live on the surface of ourselves that we live on the surface of the greater world, never participating—except in rare moments which do not last and which are not understood—in the wholeness of reality.

It is this all-important second aspect of the ancient wisdom, the aspect that speaks of our inner world, that modern thought has been blind to. And the question about the meaning of life is inextricably linked to the need for contact with the real self beneath the surface of our everyday thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Without this contact, the external world of appearances assumes for us the proportions of an overwhelmingly compelling force. We cannot see the real world because we are not in contact with the deeper powers of thought and sensing within ourselves that could perceive it. Because of this, it is inevitable that we experience the external world as the strongest force in our lives. This is the meaning and the origin of materialism.

The error, or, to use Christian language, the “sin” of materialism has at its root nothing to do with greed or possessiveness. Nor does it involve, at its root, some philosophical view about matter and spirit in their usual meanings. No, the error of materialism is an error of reality perception, based on lack of experiential contact with the inner world. What we know as greed and possessiveness, with their attendant traits of cruelty and human exploitation, are results of this ignorance of the inner world. We turn to the superficially perceived outer world for that which can only be obtained through deep access to the inner self. Materialism is not a “sin”; it is a mistake.

But a mistake of immense proportions, and with deadly consequences. It is like searching for water on the surface of the moon to search for meaning in the external world. Like grasping a picture of food and trying to eat it. Not only meaning, but also health, safety, service, love, and power can be obtained only through turning to reality. The unreal world can never yield these things to man.

Jacob Needleman is an American philosopher, author and religious scholar.  This reading was excerpted from his book, Money and Meaning of Life, which is also summarized in this interview on Bill Moyers.

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11 Previous Reflections:

 
On May 15, 2015 Lfm wrote:

 I hear you!



On May 13, 2015 Sanjeev Verma wrote:

 Outer World is an Extension of Inner World--Material World and Inner World are made of same sub-atomic particles. Problem happens when start looking for happiness in the outer world--when in reality happiness can be found in the inner world itself. Both inner World and Inner World are governed by the same set of rules. Sin is one when violate the rules of the nature--that govern both inner and outer world. For instance, we eat unhealthy then we suffer. Similarly when violate rules in the outer world then imbalance in the nature happens and as a consequence planet and all of us living in the planets suffer.  Probably this should be the right decision of SIN. SIN is merely a mistake when we escape punishment :-)



On May 13, 2015 Jim Crowfoot wrote:

 The practice that helps me is experiencially connecting emotional and spiritually with nature and more specifically trees that attract me.  Recently in touching such a tree and feeling its presence and its great height I experienced my inner essence...the deeply alive and loving part of me going upward through the tree and connecting with these aspects of my deceased parents with whom I have experienced deep hurts and separations.  For me this is a breakthrough discovery which I experience as inner healing.   It is helping me let go of held pain and the separations that accompany it in my consciousness



On May 12, 2015 Paashi wrote:

I read this twice to allow the gap between grasping the meaning of our  lives versus sensing it as parallel states of being. to sink in.  Practiced stillness allows me  to sense the veil of separateness that perpetuates the mistake of immense proportion that Jacob Needleman is writing about.,  For today, I will be focusing on " Materialism is a not a sin, it's  a mistake". 



On May 12, 2015 Taylor wrote:

 This is a really neat article.. I was actually looking at myself in the mirror the other day and wondering who I was. Not like I'm having an identity crisis but really what am I? What does my soul look like? How does God see my soul? It's weird to think about! 



On May 12, 2015 RS wrote:

There have been a few times when I unexpectedly felt oneness and an unusual experience of peace and universal attunement----during a troubled time in life when I walked in a meadow in Massachusetts on a sunny morning and a feeling of total joy came over me, at the tip of the island of Cos, a Greek island where Hippocrates was supposed to have practiced, in front of one particular statue of Buddha at Schwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon whom I felt in silent dialogue with, in the Pope's Palace at Avignon of all places,  and in the chapel at Union Theological Seminary. I could swear that there was something special about these places--a vortex of energy--but don't know whether there really was or they just triggered a sorely needed connection with something beyond ordinary  consciousness. These were all very surprising and wonderful moments that live on when I remember to remember them. 



On May 12, 2015 Jayanti wrote:

 often I notice I get it wrong, my senses are not reliable, just as much as my thoughts and feelings, and it is only by stopping to go into the silence within to notice, to let go and reboot that self centred programming,  that a much wider opening onto the world occurs. It's as if I am looking through a small pin hole camera onto the world which sees very little of what is really out there



On May 11, 2015 shreenivas wrote:

i'm feeling very happy for reading this awakening 



On May 10, 2015 AJ wrote:

 When I was a youth, I recall my doctor (after checking my reflexes with his little rubber hammer) assessed me to be "hyper reflexive".  As I grew, I wondered if the "hyper" in me extended to other areas as well (hypersensitive).  To God. . . to Jesus . . . to Spirit . . . to people . . . to injustice . . . to TRUTH . . . to nature . . . ect.  (In this, I am not alone.)
For others, sensitivity to the unseen, inner self, undercurrents all around . . . is difficult to "pick up" on.  Working within DNA we have been given, some of us are unable to transmit at all until God draws us in.  One way or another, we will learn The Truth.  He will reveal ALL as He wills.



On May 10, 2015 david doane wrote:

Each of us is very complex, with many layers and facets, with core and surface, with stage and backstage, with conscious and unconscious, with persona and shadow.  My challenge and responsibility is to wake up and become aware that there is a deeper self within, and to know, embrace, and become more and more of myself.  There is more to each of us than what meets the eye.  We are more than appearances.  Getting to know self within is like getting to know the universe outside, that is, we only scratch the surface of both, and we grow in learning about each.  Know thyself is the wisdom of the ages.  The deepest self within is my soul which is connected to Soul of which we are each an expression, and as I awaken to this deeper self I awaken to Unity, to the awareness that we are all one.   Through psychotherapy I entered my inner psychological world and became much more aware of my unconscious/shadow/inner self, and through spiritual reflection/awakenin  See full.

Each of us is very complex, with many layers and facets, with core and surface, with stage and backstage, with conscious and unconscious, with persona and shadow.  My challenge and responsibility is to wake up and become aware that there is a deeper self within, and to know, embrace, and become more and more of myself.  There is more to each of us than what meets the eye.  We are more than appearances.  Getting to know self within is like getting to know the universe outside, that is, we only scratch the surface of both, and we grow in learning about each.  Know thyself is the wisdom of the ages.  The deepest self within is my soul which is connected to Soul of which we are each an expression, and as I awaken to this deeper self I awaken to Unity, to the awareness that we are all one.   Through psychotherapy I entered my inner psychological world and became much more aware of my unconscious/shadow/inner self, and through spiritual reflection/awakening I became much more aware of my spiritual self, and now I know they are different ways of looking at and thinking about the same reality.  Psyche is soul.  Soul is psyche.  What helps me awaken to the unknown is to have the beginner's mind, look inward, be still and open to see and listen.

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On May 8, 2015 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Reading this writing is like  listening to my inner voice with no noise disrupting this deep listening. It feels like being in the infinite sky with no clouds obstructing the clear space. It is indescribable by words. IT IS. I have had glimpses of such REALITY when I was in a state of doing nothing, a state of just being. That happens to me when I am mentally absent and fully present, when I am not looking for something, being it or being in and with it. I had such blissful moments when I was in the presence of Anandimaiya radiating blissful joy by her joyful loving presence. In her presence, my wife and I, merged and flowed in the river of ONENESS. I experience it when I relate to others from my heart and feel that ONENESS. By meditating, self-examining, contemplating, living mindfully and not "sleeping", the extent of such blissful state is expanding and I am grateful to those beings who have showed me a path of living fully. Blessed we are to have such awa  See full.

 Reading this writing is like  listening to my inner voice with no noise disrupting this deep listening. It feels like being in the infinite sky with no clouds obstructing the clear space. It is indescribable by words. IT IS.

I have had glimpses of such REALITY when I was in a state of doing nothing, a state of just being. That happens to me when I am mentally absent and fully present, when I am not looking for something, being it or being in and with it. I had such blissful moments when I was in the presence of Anandimaiya radiating blissful joy by her joyful loving presence. In her presence, my wife and I, merged and flowed in the river of ONENESS. I experience it when I relate to others from my heart and feel that ONENESS.

By meditating, self-examining, contemplating, living mindfully and not "sleeping", the extent of such blissful state is expanding and I am grateful to those beings who have showed me a path of living fully. Blessed we are to have such awakened beings who have been our teachers of life.

Namaste to all who are the pilgrims of light and love.

Jagdish P Dave

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