Tag Archives: psychology

Ephemeral Phenomena: A Haiku

I could have written a hundred sentences about this topic. Instead, I have chosen to be parsimonious with words, and now I let you puzzle over the meaning of the haiku I have written instead:

Wizened old witness,

Of growing and withering,

Sheds her last leaves. Peace.

Image: By Gabrielle Merk – Own work, Blossoming old-growth fruit tree on Mount Zugerberg, Switzerland, https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Fruit_Tree_in_Bloom.jpg

Dare to Be Bewildered

The forest sets me free. Among those solemn wooden beings I find myself again, innocent curiosity and utter bewilderment leading me along the path, toward the great unknown. My footsteps in a world oblivious to them make me feel insignificant, yet this is a liberating experience. It humbles me, restores the child-like nature stolen from me by life, a nature driven by asking bold big questions with too much of an imagination to be able expect reasonable answers.

Standing in the middle of a lavish nothingness, surrounded by the boisterous silence of infinity, I remember seeing the world as an unsolvable puzzle. It often just dumbfounded me. I was struck with sudden perplexity, admiring the intricate beauty of the universe, while at the same time abhorring it for its horrible tendency to defy full understanding.

Growing up, understanding came as a manipulative trickster, taking on ideas as disguises, answers by too many people to too many questions that all begged answering. Soon my mind became soaked with thinking, the sickness of endless cycles of self-defeating ideas that traverse generations like an ineradicable epidemic. No matter how many answers were administered as medicine, it was never the cure I was looking for.

Sometimes answers did provide some comfort, though. The scientific method taught me to better approach questions and answers, question what needed to be questioned, but also came with the relief of realising that many of the tragic things happening to us humans are due to psychological, genetical, and epigenetical histories, a cause-and-effect dance from which it is often hard to escape. Perhaps that meant I should not hate myself for my wrongs, but rather try to understand the causes, learn from them, and show forgiveness.

Still, there remained this uncharted land, the great unknown of the unexplained. Consciousness, especially self-consciousness, seemed to be one of those logic-escaping demons: The Great Defier of Scientific Understanding. And the darkness, the emptiness, the bewilderment which was both a great joy and terror to me in my younger years, kept making itself known, through mere whispers and, as I failed to pay attention, it became symptomatic instead, resurfacing as everything it was actually not.

Along came a fresh wind of religion and the spiritual, inviting the unknown in a more purposeful way into experience. However, in many instances, there seemed to be too many attempts to deny the void of the unknown as well, by offering alternative answers, moral ones, or pseudo-scientific explanatory ones, and institutionalised rituals of dealing with questions, or rather refraining from asking questions altogether but rather surrender to the answers revealed, and those only. Revelations which, however, came in various flavours, just as many as there seemed to be people claiming to know answers, and it almost seemed a sin to just crave again that innocent bewilderment, that wonder, to just admit not having any answers. Is it a terrible mistake to question default answers to unasked questions about the divine? Or to question the logical fabric of reality when the weirdness of nature at the deepest quantum level makes questionable those scientific frameworks that no longer seem to allow any place for mystery?

In the middle of a forest that asks no questions nor has all the answers, I stand, wondering whether the wilderness that bewilders me is telling me a profound truth: that the true path is to surrender to the eternal questions, the questions that defy answering, as they are beyond answering, forcing us to let go of the need to find answers. That we, spiritual people, religious people and science-minded people, should all stay bewildered, and marvel at how questions unfold by themselves, without expecting reasonable answers, when we submit to them.

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: By Takkk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10059906

The Resplendent Path: Embracing Chaos

Ships in distress: a storm

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” Words attributed to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Insomnia. Sleep seems a vague reference to a faint idea masked as a memory of what should have been a real thing. Now wakefulness is your reality, your ONLY reality. Family, friends and sanity have long abandoned you, as you lost touch with hope. Days and nights you spend glued to the luminescent screen of that relentless monstrosity of a laptop, doing ghostwriting jobs – receiving zero recognition – by the virtue of which you can continue paying the bills and that pitiful excuse for a condo you call home. You are nothing more than a machine, just waiting for the latest updates in order to be allowed to shut down . . . forever.

Now imagine fear. You are a fugitive, on the run for the long arm of the law, representing the ignorance of the crowd. Only you know the true value of the secrets they are trying to take from you. Who can you trust, with assassins lurking behind every corner? Even your once formidable reasoning skills are starting to desert your cause, leaving you high and dry. And all of a sudden the men in white coats finally take you by surprise, wrestle you into a van, and with vicious intent bring you to their agency, which they euphemistically call “mental hospital”. When they force dangerous chemicals into your bloodstream, and you are sure it is a truth serum that will allow them to finally get the information you had been protecting all this time, they call it “treatment.” You wake up after a rough night of sweating, swearing, and screaming. What that so called psychiatrist calls “schizophrenia” is now starting to become a state of total confusion, fear, and desperation. Everything is falling apart . . . even your conception of self, your identity as a world-class spy.

We can all imagine such scenarios because of the movies we see and, I would say, more profoundly due to the novels we read. Though it is not likely that our lives resemble those of the main characters in these two short narratives, I assume that you have had periods in life when your felt “stuck”, and periods when you felt “confused.” You might have had a monotonous job with no perspective, but which you could not give up because of financial reasons. Or you might have been overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and challenges as a new mother.

Whatever the case, and whatever the extent, those fluctuations between what I would call “order” and “chaos”, are very common.

The concept of chaos has its roots in Ancient Greek philosophy, possibly starting with Orpheus introducing the term, “Chaos condenses into the giant Cosmic Egg, whose rupture resulted in the creation of Phanes and Ouranos and of all the gods who symbolise the creation of the Universe.”

“Yet they have a nature that can be interpreted, for in all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order, in all caprice a fixed law, for everything that works is grounded on its opposite,” Carl Jung said in Archetypes of the Collective Unconsciousness.

The concepts of chaos and order are also familiar to physicists, like for instance in thermodynamics where it is referred to as entropy. There is a distinct field called Chaos Theory, which has been very helpful to me in more methodologically describing the ideas which I have already wrestled with philosophically and intuitively.

Let’s describe it in more imaginative terms, as I have done in an earlier blog post. On the extreme left side of the spectrum you may imagine a perfect block of ice, completely inert. On the more extreme right visualize a wild stream, a ferocious river, a waterfall if you will. The block of ice represents order, a static state of being, unchangeable (for the sake of the argument, refrain from thinking about the possibility of melting or other exceptions). The wild river represents chaos, it is never the same, ever changing.

Now, if you would carefully examine snow flakes from up-close, you might marvel at their wonderfully complex pattern, which is unique and intricate, but with a sense of order to it that clearly distinguishes it from randomness. That snowflake represents complexity, the optimal mean (resplendent, as it is so miraculous, if you think about it) between order and chaos, between inertia and random change.

Snow flakes are just snow flakes, however, ice blocks are nothing more than ice blocks, and rivers, however important for the sustenance of life, are merely rivers. Complexity in our universe is infinitely more profound – and I think it even describes things like intelligence and conscious growth – so why should we care about the different states of H2O? Because it can help us understand the three concepts which I want to use to describe not only natural phenomena, as is the domain of physicists, but also psychological growth, the dynamics of society, and the spiritual – though the latter requires quite a leap of faith.

Complexity in a static universe is just that: complexity. However, movement, and change, are an inextricable part of existence. In a system that allows for change and movement, order might also mean “cyclic”, “linear”, “predictable” or “continuous”, whereas chaos (which I intellectually conveniently, but perhaps incorrectly, equal to “disorder”) might also mean “random”, “alinear”, “unpredictable”, or “discontinuous”. In the same way, complexity might be called “growth” or “dynamics” in such a system.

Complexity, dynamics, and growth are, as I said, the optimal mean (a moving equilibrium if you will) between order and chaos (between continuity and discontinuity). This is the hot spot where miracles happen: intelligent life that evolves, and all else that is complex and dynamic. In its most optimal form, it is the ideal path, the resplendent path (Yes, I know it sounds like your average new age fluff, but bear with me).

If you use such denominations, it is easier to apply them to other fields, like the ones I mentioned earlier – which is, of course, a mere intellectual exercise of imagination, if not warranted by sound argumentation and proof. In the book which I am currently working on, I will establish more sound reasoning to back up my claims where possible and desirable. Backed by science and philosophy or not, I am confident that such intellectual exercises are very helpful in approaching the many challenges which people, from individuals to societies as a whole, are facing every single day.

I will just share various examples for the three different aspects of complexity, for different fields: psychology, sociology, the spiritual. Just the terms, as I want you to draw your own conclusions.

What I write is not new or revolutionary, it might even be rooted in the very ancient foundations or western culture and philosophy, like for example the origins of the concept of chaos I have referred to earlier.

However, what I do hope to have demonstrated through this writing – and I will do so in much more details in my upcoming book – , is that these ideas, although à première vue  they might seem overly simplistic, are an amazingly helpful framework to approach the complex issues in psychological development (and pathology), in the dynamics of society, and perhaps even spiritual growth.

One might even go as far as to say that the ancient question “What is the meaning of life?” may simply be answered with: “To find and follow the golden mean between order and chaos: the resplendent path, where miracles happen and everything falls into place.”

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: Ludolf Bakhuizen – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6259173

What Does the Future Hold in Store for Us?

Greetings, pioneers of the future!

It seems fairly fashionable to fantasize about the future. A regular appearance in the reality show of wild futuristic foretelling is Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions are said to come true with exciting, or, if you are a pessimist, frightening accuracy, give or take a few decennia. 

The mysterious abyss between mind and body will, if we follow his optimism, be bridged by many body-mind integrating technological developments, perhaps even leading to eternal life, a metamorphosis into a digitized entity.

Technology will then also become smarter itself: “2029 is the consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence.”

Famous modern philosopher Sam Harris shares this idea that superhuman intelligence will emerge, but is perhaps a tad less hopeful in stating that “it’s the most worrisome future possible because we’re talking about the most powerful possible technology.” He fears that AI will improve itself, leading to a runaway effect.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurial and technological prodigy Elon Musk, on similar lines agreeing that there should be constraints on AI to prevent such a runaway effect, keeps building his brave new world of automated cars, affordable Lego brick houses, flying cars, Starlink global internet through satellites, increased solar power, Neuralink implants and SpaceX reusable rockets, with serious intentions of colonizing Mars.

What else, if we may believe the digital prophets of our time, are marvels of science just waiting around the corner?

Zero-size intelligence?

Neuro-hacking?

Quantum Computing?

Surrogates?

VR and augmented realities that cannot be distinguished from the real thing?

Cheap 3d printers that can create just about anything?

Will we see a decline in simple jobs that can be automated and an increasing demand for “deep work”, as Cal Newport argues in his book of the same title, all in an age of increasing distractions?

May we embrace an era of peace, because “the decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon,” as Steven Pinker has argued?

“You can see it over millennia, over centuries, over decades and over years.”

Will man be able to take (epi)genetical manipulation to the next level, a salvation from illnesses and handicaps – or creating its own kind of threats?

Will robotics help advance our society, make us inferior and dependent, or will it, together with the parallel development of AI, lead to a Terminator Judgment Day style of apocalypse?

How will  the sciences advance, will they help increase our understanding beyond what our fallible minds and senses allow us to currently experience, or will they become corrupted by market forces, or perhaps turn into instruments of death, as had been forseen during the creation of the atomic bomb?

Will we see the end of our planet, solar system, universe, or just our species? 

Or will we finally unequivocally uncover the fabric of a final reality, beyond current scientific and spiritual reach, something that will unite us all and disprove the assumption of individual existence?

I am no futurist or storyteller. Nor do I have an outspoken opinion about the “good” or “evil” of future phenomena and inventions. New technology has always raised suspicion, and that must have been the case even in the Stone Age. And now we are comfortably reading this post on a digital screen, a technological feat made possible by the manipulation of electricity, a force of nature which frightened our dear ancestors so.

My concern is of a different nature: the search for meaning and our true humanity. Cal Newport warns of shallowness in work and focus, I warn of shallowness in existentialism, in spiritual experience, in morality, in wisdom, in philosophical inquiry, and in the critical thinking and intuition required to distinguish the truly beneficial from the irrevocably harmful. Whatever the conditions, whatever the substrate of reality we will inhabit, let us not abandon the path toward realization of our greater selves, and by that I am not referring to physical or technologically greater selves, but spiritually greater selves – however that expresses itself in your own unique experience!

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Image: Kyoto Station, by Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53618739

The Fallacy of the Divine Self

The mind can be a frightful thing to behold.

On November 18, 1978, the charismatic cult leader Jim Jones successfully convinced hundreds of cult members of the People’s Temple to commit “revolutionary suicide” through the intake of a mixture containing, as one of the lethal ingredients, cyanide. Victims included more than 200 hundred children. Hence, it became known as the “Jonestown Massacre.” More information about this man-made tragedy can be found online, including audio recordings of the final moments before the suicide. However, I do want to caution you: they will be shocking.

The mind is an awe-inspiring phenomenon, beautiful yet terrible. It is the most dangerous weapon in the world. If wielded benevolently, it may lead to Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, the internet, or frozen yogurt. If wielded malevolently, it may lead to the Spanish Inquisition, the atomic bomb, or the Jerry Springer Show.

A mind which can turn evil and cause catastrophes is an extremity, but the core problem is the difference between what I call “the higher self” and “the thinking mind.” The thinking mind might also be called “the ego”, however there are so many conceptions and definitions, that this would be misleading. The higher self has spiritual connotations, which relate to the ideas I discuss in other writing, be it blog posts or books.

The thinking mind is a unity of self, or rather an experience of a consistent perspective of perceptions and concepts related to a sense of self and identity, which involves believing in the narratives told about this self.

The mind is what it believes it is, what it thinks itself to be. It is like an impostor, claiming to be the creator of its own existence and narrative, even if those narratives (science may have proven this) are derived from other people’s narratives about the applicable person.

The thinking mind:

  • Acts like a “god” within, a divine “I”, originator of its own unique self and ideas;
  • Takes credit for ideas which come from beyond the thinking mind, like a boss who writes his name under the work of an employee;
  • Manipulates and deceives for gain like a con artist;
  • Is self-righteous and charismatic, like the leader of a cult;
  • Forcibly supresses opposition and brutally resists change like a narcissistic dictator.

The thinking mind, however, fails miserably, like a clown with Alzheimer, in perfectly performing its tricks. It suffers from biases, is fooled by optical illusions, falls pray to stereotyped and irrational thinking, follows flawed heuristics, has a low capacity short term memory, and an unreliable long term memory storage and retrieval system which is susceptible to suggestions.

Its powers are mainly derived by conviction and belief: as long as the higher self believes the (self-)narratives and identifies with the constructs of the thinking mind, it grows, like a totalitarian state with propaganda.

Unfortunate things may happen when beliefs are taken too far in the direction of glorification of the individual self, for instance when the spiritual, pantheistic idea of “everything is identical with divinity” leads the self to identify itself as a god, mixing intuitive spiritual experiences with individuality, a sense of self, and other dualistic ideas. That’s when the ego, the thinking mind, takes over as divine soevereign. That might even be the origin of evil, although this would be a very bold statement.

The higher self is indeed majestic, however, it is not a self in the sense of an individual entity with a clearly defined identity. It is not a godly figure, not the “divine I,” but rather something beyond the world of individual forms of manifested existence, the great indescribable mystery, or the void of emptiness in which everything dissolves, but from which everything also emerges, in endless possibilities of limitless conceptions, with infinite characteristics.

If you allow yourself to be sucked into that black hole of apparent silence, inertia and nonexistence, showing the willingness to sacrifice your noisy, pretentious souvereign called the thinking mind, including everything it is identified with, you will be struck with horror upon disintegration, after which you will reemerge integrated with a smile on your face, as you have then looked into the eyes of truth, the higher reality of your higher self.

Rather than being lured into a trap set by your thinking mind, allowing yourself to be convinced to consume the cyanide of ignorance, you will awaken with a clear awareness, steering clear of the manipulated realities and conceptions of the thinking mind, with absolute confidence.

Image: The Death of Caesar, by Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain]

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Ignorance is Bliss, acknowledging it wisdom

All I know is that I know nothing.

Socrates has supposedly said something along those lines. In Ancient Greek: Ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα.

We live in an age of strong beliefs, values, and judgments, fiercely fought over on battlefields real and digital.

Social media are engineered to transform healthy communication into addictive connection and appraisal seeking; and rational into irrational, highly emotional decision making. Even to the extent that it influences voting outcomes.

Beauty standards taken to extremes, with digital retouching creating demigods and goddesses setting unobtainable goals for unfortunate souls who seek to resemble them.

Material wealth and the prestige of fake selves and fake lives are forming the foundations of a new religion, lacking, however, meaning and purpose, damaging the environment, and increasing the gap between the rich and poor.

The increasing disconnectedness of digital connectivity and the meaninglessness of many 21st century endeavours create a void that is filled by fake news, fake beliefs, unfounded claims, and fancy cults that pretend to aid humanity but in fact hide a network for sexual abuse and exploitation.

Seemingly religious people dressing like religious people, without the heart of  virtuous people, promising those who do follow them extrinsic rewards before or after death, but preaching hell and damnation for those skeptical minds who seek the intrinsic reward of pure truth and virtue by becoming virtuous for the sake of becoming virtuous.

The void of meaninglessness is also filled with the claims of spiritual people who pretend to be “scientific”, without really understanding science.

And even scientists seeking prestige or needing funding commit intellectual sins by publishing “fake” science funded by stakeholders, or science without meeting proper methodological standards.

The lonely voice voicing rare truths cries out but is overwhelmed and silenced by the majority of voices who seek only the confirmation of beliefs they are invested in too much.

We are deafened by the shouts and noises of irrational manifestations, the suppressing totalitarian regime of the fake and judgmental, and the pretensions of ignorance.

Only in the silence of the acknowledgment of ignorance, the knowledge of not knowing or pretending to know anything, do we find the clarity of consciousness to answer the question: what do we truly know? For although we may well be inclined to believe many things – and to some extent rightfully so – we are ignorant of many, if not all things predicating by truthfulness and reality.

Socrates might have known a thing or two, but never claimed to know what he did not actually know. He challenged people with fixed beliefs who claimed to know what they did not know. And he was, if we may believe Plato’s narrative, poisoned for it.

Descartes came to cogito, ergo sum. Only knowing that he existed through his thinking, starting from an almost nihilistic standpoint of not knowing anything.

We may learn many things, but shouldn’t we be skeptical, be humble about what we truly know?

The world is full of stakeholders that want us to belief something, because they make money out of it, because it increases their status, or because it makes them feel more elevated as a social, religious, or spiritual idol.

Always return to the void, and keep asking yourself the question: what can I truly know, and how does it – whatever it is – truly benefit me and others?

Painting: François-Xavier Fabre – Museum of Art and History, Geneva

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

We Know, Yet, We Resist

Man loses his job, then, feeling quite the loser, instead becomes a boozer.

Woman escapes abusive relationship, then falls prey to exactly the same type of misogynistic, masochistic monster.

Our true selves know. They have always known. They are knocking on our doors, yet we do not open, as if they were pertinacious Yehova’s Witnesses or relentless debt collectors.

We dread the ill news they bring, the news of hope and change, of purpose, the real news we need to hear.

Since we are naturally inclined to revolt against needs which cause such dismay and unrest, we are tempted to follow wants instead of needs.

The list of wants may seem endless: consumer goods, drugs, alcohol, sex, enchanting sights, squishies, seductive smells, self-serving ideas, intellectual achievements, Girl Scouts Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, comforts, repetition, instincts, emotions, depression, patterns, and familiar, but horrific types of (abusive) partners.

When good news – and I do not mean Yehova’s Witnesses here – knocks gently on our doors, we often crawl back under the safety of our blanket of familiarity.

If it bangs on the door and adversity strikes, we dig deep into the seemingly rich soil of those wants, which develop into extremities, monstrosities of addiction and derealization, anything that can numb the pain.

Tragically, even at the bottom, when we realize that none of the tempest’s promises have come true, we are often unwilling to exchange wants for needs, and grow bitter in contempt or denial.

And the more we deny, eventually, the louder our true selves will come knocking at the door. It is us who have to find the courage and strength of will to open it, for it will never open by itself. And once the door is opened, something majestic happens, that humbles us and makes us wish we could take back all our wrongs. Why didn’t we choose needs rather than wants, why didn’t we submit to purpose and fulfillment rather than to denial and escapism?

Painting: Vladimir Makovsky

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

The Amorphous Ocean: From the Dynamics of the Manifested World to the Unmanifested Nature of Higher Reality

Water.

H2O.

Water is the key to life, it covers most of the Earth’s surface, it is one of the main ingredients for the recipe of our body, and we need to drink plenty of it in order to survive. It is used in spiritual rituals, cools us comfortably during hot summers, and also dampens the spirits of forlorn creatures in autumn, when it pours down relentlessly for days on end.

It can also be a destructive force, for instance when a massive tsunami wave crashes down onto a hapless coastal settlement, ruining the forsaken coast dwellers.

Water can be a perfect ice cube, all it’s power and virility seemingly contained.

When evaporated, it becomes like a ghost, unseen yet present, transforming into raindrops or even snowflakes if conditions allow it.

Such is the versatility of the phenomenon called water, and what does that tell us, at least as an analogy? Much, but let’s focus on the different states.

The ice cube. Frozen water. On first impression flawless and motionless. In reality more complex than that, but for the sake of my argument, let’s assume it is in a perfect state of order. Fascinating as it might be, it is also rather lifeless. Imagine being turned into a statue, like in a fairy tale, frozen in a certain state, never able to get out of it. Or, if you still want to allow for some mobility, being stuck in a day, a day that keeps repeating itself in exactly the same order and manner in an endless cycle. Both the static and cyclic state seem rather miserable, right? Let that be the extreme of perfect order.

Now let’s zoom in on the tsunami again. A huge wave creating havoc. Death, destruction, despair. Only miracles of a spiritual nature, or marvels of a scientific origin, could heal what was hurt, and restore what was lost. Some will be traumatized for life, others will be financially ruined. Such is the cost of chaos, the other extreme.

Neither extreme seems desirable. Neither the state of order nor the state of chaos can sustain life. And yet both are necessary. The magic happens at a very small area in the middle, a kind of “golden zone”, where chaos provides the degrees of freedom, and order helps maintain some kind of continuity, an equilibrium. Not a static equilibrium, but one that is fed by chaos, adapts, grows, and even learns. This is where complexity occurs, where all that makes existence beautiful and lively emerges, and where intelligence comes into existence.

Chaos is like total freedom, randomness, meaninglessness, unpredictability, and instability. It is movement without purpose, without direction.

Order is the opposite: it is control, rigidity, predictability, and stability. It is either static or cyclic (though the latter seems more apparent in this universe, which seems to be always in motion).

Complexity is the moving equilibrium between those two extremes, a delicate balance where order maintains form, but chaos allows it to grow more complex and better adapt to the conditions of its context of existence. Going to either of these extremes will lead to either stagnation and maladaptation (too much order) or decay and annihilation (chaos).

These ideas of order, chaos, and complexity, if you ask me, can be used, to describe things that happen in the universe, from the smaller scales of particles (like in thermodynamics) to the larger scales of galaxy formation. They can be used to describe the dynamics of the human mind, and those of human society. Something I am trying to do in my book, which is still in progress.

If the conditions of the early universe would have been too random, or rather too rigid, galaxies, and life as we know it, would probably never have evolved.

These concepts of order, chaos and complexity seem to be very useful in describing what I see and experience, what I rationalize about, whatever their scientific worth may be.

However, what does all of this tell us about the more spiritual side of existence, on which I have been writing stubbornly for the last few years?

Let’s consider the ocean: vast, seemingly endless, borderless, shapeless, humbling, inspiring, majestic, and remorseless. If you behold her like a poet would, not a scientist, she takes no definite shape, but incessantly flows and brings forth waves. She consists of countless individual drops, yet those drops are part of the whole and have sacrificed their stricter individuality, they are “one”. Everything that could be formed out of the ocean’s water, either as a whole or as a part of her, is in a way already there, like ice cubes, snow flakes, or even ice sculptures. However, none of those forms are manifested, they remain latent yet are always potentially there.

When water evaporates from the ocean, cooling down and eventually transforming into hailstones, these hailstones are like “manifested order”. Like Erwin Schrödinger’s proverbial “cat”, from the Quantum Mechanics thought experiment, which seems to be in two conflicting states: alive and dead, suddenly coming alive as a manifested creature, as in the collapse of a quantum wave describing the possible states of existence.

The ocean, the unmanifested, called Brahman in Hindu philosophy – the Absolute, the pure and formless ground of being from which creation and manifestation arise – is NOT chaos, or change. It is absolute flow, but as it is formless, it is not change. Change and chaos (the extreme version of change) only occur when there is order, when something has already been manifested, when something has arisen out of nothingness. So when the tsunami wave crashes down onto the coastal settlement, it causes chaos because the coast and the settlement were already there in the first place.

In the unmanifested ocean which I will now call the “higher reality”, and to which I have referred many times in earlier writings, all those things that can be described using the concepts of chaos, order, and complexity also exist, but not as a manifested form, as they are always in motion, and always “whole”, divided yet one. As it seems impossible to fully comprehend, let alone clearly describe, what this vast ocean of the unmanifested actually is, we mortal manifestations of that higher reality might refer to it in various abstract or comforting terms, and from a religious perspective that could be what is meant by “God”.

Like the drops in the ocean, at the deepest level, we are part of this higher reality, and yet we experience existence as something that is manifested in a certain mold we refer to as the physical universe. We experience a distinct self, related to a distinct body, in a world full of other distinct forms and other distinct, conscious beings, behaving as if separated, following sets of physical rules which may be uncovered through the various sciences, within a framework of space and time which, at least at the macroscopic level, to the conscious mind, seems to unfold as a one way deterministic trip from past to future; and even science, probing this manifested universe only, has a thing or two to teach about this seemingly unidirectional movement of time and space – especially at the smallest scales, where past and future states, or rather even time itself, seem nonexistent.

Again, order must be manifested in order for chaos to emerge, and growth (complexity) arises due to the interplay of those two extremes, at a very specific, optimal intersection. Complexity, therefore, must seem nonexistent too in the formless ocean that is unmanifested higher reality, right? It is like everything you will ever be, and everything you ever can be, already exists. What is the point of growth? In manifested reality, you might want to find and embrace the ocean, which you had forgotten when you embraced (or were determined to embrace) mortal life. Then the whole journey toward spiritual enlightenment would just be an uncovering of what was lost, and finally overcoming that amnesia fully, forever forsaking the distinct self that had forgotten its true origins.

It is my belief, therefore, that through life in the manifested world, something is gained, a way of perceiving the unmanifested that would otherwise have been impossible. And I am confident that we are each on our own personal quest to find our own purpose in this bewildering enrichment of consciousness, to find our own true voice in the all-encompassing, time and space-independent heavenly choir of meaningful experience, a unique unity which may only be achieved by overcoming all our shortcomings, and our egocentric self, as those lead to the state of duality which traps us in the illusion of conflicting manifestations, in its most extreme form a kind of hell of separateness and isolation.

So embark on this journey, defy the odds, embrace the ocean fully, and, once discovering your true sound, add your own fabulous voice to the orchestra of spiritual existence.

Image: Albert Bierstadt – The Shore of the Turquoise Sea

© 2019 Marcel van Delft

Satisfaction or Sacrifice for the Sake of Salvation

Attachment, attraction, affiliation, aversion.

Four A’s.

Four horrible, but omnipresent A’s.

We are attracted to things, possessions, achievements, pleasures, people, ideals, values, concepts, and anything between heaven and earth that rewards us temporarily with neurological highs.

At the same time we feel aversion towards things that hinder satisfaction, or that put as in any kind of disadvantage, even suffering.

When we attain certain things, and they become valuable, like luxury goods, titles, money, a partner and, especially, our own self, our ego, we feel affiliation with them – identify with them – and they become part of who we are, of the who we present to the world, and the who we enjoy looking at in the mirror. We grow attached to those shiny rubies of experience.

The thing is, none of it is durable, none of it lasts, so we keep on looking for reinforcements or replacements. It does NOT work. We can fool ourselves, and fool others, but deep inside, our TRUE SELF knows it is just a load of utter codswallop.

Once we embrace and start feeding our true self, we will become conflicted. We might get stressed, frustrated, scared, or even angry. The mind does not like such conflict, but it is for the best, we have to overcome and persevere.

I have talked about the true self before. Let’s introduce the concept of sacrifice. In some cultures it is commonplace to perform ritual sacrifice. Such ceremonies might be aimed at feeding the poor and creating greater social awareness, but sacrifice goes much deeper than that.

In certain religious traditions (especially the Abrahamic ones) it is narrated that certain people who were searching God, were asked to sacrifice the lives of their spouse or children. Now, most would (hopefully) not agree with actually killing family members to appease God, but it is paramount to try to appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the willingness to “give up everything.”

What matters, it seems to me, in such extreme cases, is the coming to a realization that nothing in this world should be hold so dearly as to never wanting to part with it under any circumstance. It should be clearly stated, however, that I do not intend for this to mean “to not hold anything dearly”, or to actually give those things up. On the contrary, I encourage holding dearly to what matters, to people who matter, in life, however, not to the extent of sacrificing one’s true self. The crucial lesson here is to let go of all identification with anything else than the true self. One can still love, care, and even achieve – as a matter of fact, when embracing the true self primarily, such love can become even more profound! – but one is no longer bound by them to the realm of the finite and manifested, the universe of unavoidable tragedy. It will transform the self from a self of wants into a self of needs, and from a self of needs into a self of being. A self that simply is, without any need of becoming anything else than itself.

Sacrifices do not need to be drastic and dramatic, like in the case of hermit monks or the people told about in religious traditions. Small sacrifices are small steps, but small steps can lead to bigger ones, and even the change in awareness, and the willingness to change associated with these small steps, can bring about a whole chain reaction in the self.

The sacrifices made are not just for the sake of those who might benefit from them, even more so they are for the sake of our own betterment, for the salvation of our true self. And the salvation of our true self is the best gift we can provide our loved ones with, a beautiful self is worth more than the world’s most expensive jewels.

Photography by Peter van Delft

Why Acceptance is a superpower

Beauty hides around every corner of existence, if we but only use our true eyes to see it

We mortals seem to be doomed to live our lives as slaves, ruled by the ruthless slaver called emotional response, a relentless beast that gets a firmer grip on our well-being the more painful experiences are added to our experience.


Are we destined to suffer the life of slaves, the life of agony?
Are we programmed to get angry every time we hit heavy traffic or encounter a case of severe weather when it is least opportune to us, even though part of us knows it is pointless?

If you read about the science of the brain and free will, you might come to such a mortifying conclusion.

That, however, does not take into account the superpower of acceptance.Generations of philosophers and countless mystic traditions have inspired us to find that power, but most of us take no heed. I was no different. Always got frustrated, depressed or scared when life lashed out with its whip of confrontation.
I finally figured out that there are only two choices: be a puppet of pain, or a superhero; be enslaved, or free.


Whatever we resist, becomes a blockade, which drains us of energy, spirit and creativity, and eventually can lead to chaos: a disruption of the system in the form of psychological illness and misbehavior. We either shut down in depression, explode into fury, or tremble out of fear.


Acceptance is the only way to go, and in intercourse with other beings, but even in relation to the whole of existence – which is all interconnected – forgiveness is a power not to be reckoned with.
The MORE you can accept AND forgive, the more FREEDOM you will attain! You can abide in traffic like a wise master, and sit out a violent storm like an enlightened being, by virtue of the elegant power of acceptance.

Emotions are intentions, directions, masters of their own, but struggling in endless conflict with their irrational opposites and extremes, and with the impossibility of their realisation.
Freedom lies not in want or will, it lies in an absence of want, the blissful void of acceptance. 

Acceptance of yourself and of small setbacks leads to a small state of flow, like when playing tennis. Acceptance of all the exists and happens, even the most horrific truths and immeasurable agony, is the key to ultimate freedom, the path to be truly human, superhuman.

Conquering the final frontier of existential bondage, the serfdom that binds us to our experiential overlords, is the only true freedom that can be acquired in mankind’s tragic existence.

The question is, do you want to serve, or rule? Use your superpower or be subdued by it?The choice, albeit a hard one, is yours to make.

Photography by Peter van Delft