Sunday, March 20, 2011

Render unto Caesar

They came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere. You don't favor any individual, because you pay no attention to external appearance. Rather, you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or should we not?"

Seeing through their hypocrisy, Jesus replied to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it."

So they brought one. Then he asked them, "Whose face and name are on this?" They said to him, "Caesar's."

So Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were utterly amazed at him.

As we hover on the border between the First and Second Tiers, the ego/mind has many questions. And as Wilber noted drily in his amazing essay “The Great Search,” first published in The Eye of Spirit, that while “[t]he separate-self is, at bottom, simply a sensation of seeking,” part of the very structure of evolution involves the inescapability of undertaking the Great Search regardless of our mental conviction of its ultimate futility. “You and I are already convinced that there are things we need to do in order to realize Spirit. We feel that there are places that Spirit is not (namely, in me), and we are going to correct this state of affairs.”

And so we take on the journey to enlightenment. We read the sacred texts, we study the injunctions of the avatars, we sit on our cushions and meditate, we open our hearts to the Divine. We do the work. Wilber continues:
William Blake said that “a fool who persists in his folly will become wise.” So nondual meditation simply speeds up the folly. If you really think you lack Spirit, then try this folly: try to become Spirit, try to discover Spirit, try to contact Spirit, try to reach Spirit, meditate and meditate and meditate in order to get Spirit!
But of course, you see, you cannot really do this. You cannot reach Spirit any more than you can reach your feet. You always already are Spirit, you are not going to reach it in any sort of temporal thrashing around. But if this is not obvious, then try it. Nondual meditation is a serious effort to do the impossible, until you become utterly exhausted of the Great Search, sit down completely worn out, and notice your feet.
So perhaps the work is nothing more or less than an extended Zen lesson: indulging the Orange ego/mind’s endless demand for definitive and absolute information until even the mind has to throw in the towel and let go.

But the entire journey to what is begins at the beginningless beginning: we begin by simply recognizing that which is always already the case. (“If you understand this, then rest in that which understands, and that is exactly Spirit. If you do not understand this, then rest in that which does not understand, and just that is exactly Spirit.”) We allow this recognition of ever-present awareness to arise—gently, randomly, spontaneously, through the day and into the night. This simple, ever-present awareness is not hard to attain but impossible to avoid, and we simply notice that.
So as we straddle the Great Divide between Green and Teal, between the First and Second Tiers, we note the struggle to give the mind its place while aware of its utter inability to find for us the answers it seeks. In the images of the parable from Matthew 22: 18 – 21, the mind as a feature of the finite world represents the things of Caesar, and the taxes we owe him represent the cost of the Great Search. The “things of God” comprise the nondual ever-present awareness, in which however we answer the questions, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or should we not?" is equally valid—or not, because such considerations do not concern us there.

The Second Tier is characterized by the “momentous leap” past the personal levels of consciousness, so that our identity—“who am I?”—transcends the presumption that “I am my individual autonomous self.” As Wilber has noted, Teal (the first transpersonal wave) is characterized by a marked diminution of fear, which is the emotion generated by the ego to warn of violations of its sanctity and integrity. This is a result of the receding or relaxing of the identification with one’s limited self.

A key dimension of Teal awareness is the presumption that the entire spectrum of consciousness, whole and complete as it is, is perfect in its many shadings. Thus we move past our assumptions in the First Tier, where we “know” that the way we understand and interpret the world is the “correct” way. We come to appreciate that the waves of the First Tier, unfolding in the order and structures that they do, are all beautiful and necessary in themselves, limited though they also are in the grand scheme of things.

When Jesus asks the Pharisees to show him a denarius, it’s as if he were saying, “Show me a token of how you perceive the world,” i.e., of your First Tier wave of consciousness. The denarius could be the personal ego.

So when Jesus suggests that we “give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,” he asserts that, even though these “things” (First Tier waves) may be of lesser depth in the spectrum of evolution, they are still necessary and therefore to be accepted as they are. Rather than reject or rebel against them, we let them be as they are. We give each structure of the stages of consciousness its due.

But because we also “give back to God the things that are God’s,” we never mistake the one for the other. Our honoring and embracing each wave of consciousness for its inherent divinity does not create the incentive to end the Great Search. The “things that are Caesar’s” are the elements of the manifest world; the “things that are God’s” include both the Created and Uncreated realms.
When you rest in the brilliant clarity of ever-present awareness [“the things that are God’s”], you are not Buddha or Bodhisattva, you are not this or that, you are not here or there. When you rest in simple, ever-present awareness, you are the great Unborn, free of all qualities whatsoever. Aware of color, you are colorless. Aware of time, you are timeless. Aware of form, you are formless. In the vast expanse of primordial Emptiness, you are forever invisible to this world.

It is simply that, as embodied being, you also arise in the world of form [“the things that are Caesar’s”] that is your own manifestation.
So we can see this story from Matthew as another instruction from the Master Teacher Jesus about the nature of transcendence. We appreciate that the manifest realm has its structure of the evolution of consciousness, while recognizing that the generation of the objects of awareness is a mysterious process of the Divine. We embrace both the Form and the Void, open to the experience of them as equally arising from our own Original Self.

The ways of the mind, of the mental realm—the great advances of the Orange and the Green—give way in Teal and the higher realms to new ways of knowing, ways that transcend and include the mental, but are of an order of magnitude greater and deeper. We appreciate the First Tier, but freed from its specific gravity, we open to unimagined possibilities, never eschewing the Great Search that got us to the realization, because until all separation falls away, the Search continues.

The openings of the Second Tier remain incomplete, and more work has to be done and undone. The nature of that work shifts, and the terrain of the Great Search becomes wildly unfamiliar and enticing. Always drawn by the Spirit whose expression we already are, we intuit the Face of God that we glimpse in the mirror.
Soon enough, through all three states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping, this recognition will grow of its own accord and by its own intrinsic power, outshining the obstacles that pretend to hide its nature, until this simple, ever-present awareness announces itself in an unbroken continuity through all the changes of state, through all changes of space and time, whereupon space and time lose all meaning whatsoever, exposed for what they are, the shining veils of the radiant Emptiness that you alone now are.

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