Hidden Teachings in Rumi’s Divan-e-Shams

By Doug Marman

I gave a talk at the University of Toronto on September 27 about a new book that I wrote with Farzad Khalvati and Mitra Shafaei. The new book is titled: The Hidden Teachings of Rumi. A separate post will describe the book in more detail.

We have been working on the book for the last year and a half. It offers new insights into how to understand the hidden teachings in Rumi’s deepest spiritual poetry that he dedicated to his spiritual teacher, Shams of Tabriz. You can watch the talk below. The talk lasts for about an hour, followed by about half an hour of questions and answers at the end.

The audience was made up of scholars who specialize in the study of Rumi, and a large number of students, and visitors who love Rumi’s poetry. The talk was well received, and the discussion at the end was lively.

The Call of the Unknown

By Doug Marman

Here is the talk that I gave in Toronto at the end of September. It is titled: The Call of the Unknown. You can see a video of this talk below.

In this talk I approach one of the most important elements that distinguishes a spiritual search from a typical search for knowledge. This is hardly ever talked about.

When we search for knowledge, we usually set out with a plan of some kind to learn about something that we already have some idea about. For example, we look for a book that can give us a better understanding of some era in history, or added insights into some field of science, or some pointers on how to find a job, how to paint, or how to raise children.

A spiritual search, however, is a search to gain something that is beyond our understanding. We don’t even know what it is that moves us or calls us to this search. We might think that we have an idea of the information that we would like to find, but the farther we follow the call of the unknown, the more it changes us. And we soon realize that we knew nothing about the real meaning of the spiritual path when we started.

This “not knowing” turns out to be more important than we realize because the things that we think we know are generally obstacles on the spiritual path.

The true spiritual search requires a completely different approach because it is a quest for something beyond us. It is a search to find out the real meaning of the spiritual path. There is no one who can give us the answer to what this meaning is. It can only be understood through experience. It is the search itself that changes us. It is the search itself that is the path.

This talk was set up by Farzad Khalvati and Mitra Shafaei of Toronto, as part of an ongoing series called The Hidden Teachings of Rumi.

Just before the talk, Farzad came up with the idea of projecting spiritual art and photos of nature on the screen behind me when I was talking. The images change as I give my talk.

I wanted to mention this because one of the surprising outcomes, that a number of people asked about afterwards, was how well the changes of these images seem to be synchronized to my talk. Surprisingly, there is no direct connection. I could not see the images on the screen behind me or when they were changing, and the images switched by a simple timing mechanism.

Why did so many people experience a connection? I don’t know. Perhaps the images on the screen, when they changed, changed the audience, and I unconsciously sensed this and changed what I was saying. Or perhaps when we see a change in the background, it changes our perspective on what is being said at that time, and since I was talking about changes in perspective, it seemed to be connected.

Rather than trying to guess at the explanation, I just point it out so that you might enjoy the mystery of it, if you find yourself experiencing this same feeling that there is a connection.

One thing that I’ve learned is that the spiritual path seems to bring about more of these events of synchronicity as we become more deeply entangled with life at a deeper level. Explaining it in order to understand it with our mind is not nearly as important as experiencing it and how the experience of synchronicity seems to wake us up to an awe of life itself.


Upcoming Talk: The Call of the Unknown — A Spiritual Adventure

By Doug Marman

I’ve been invited back to Toronto, Canada, to give another talk about The Hidden Teachings of Rumi.

The talk will be held Sunday, September 30, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM, EDT, at the Aurora Public Library, just north of Toronto. I hope to see you there.

Here is a quick description of what I will be talking about:

The spiritual path is not a path where we find answers that bring an end to our questions. It is a path that leads deeper and deeper into the unknown.

As the Sufi poet, Rumi, says, we have to continually give up everything we think we know to take the next step on the spiritual path. This means, over and over again, becoming a beginner, like a child who sees life as completely new. We need to keep starting over because our experience with life changes us as we grow spiritually. We are changed so deeply that we see the world through different eyes.

We like to reassure ourselves about how much we know and how much we have learned, especially as we grow older. It gives us the feeling that we are standing on firm ground and that we know who we are. However, this won’t do us much good if we are seeking what Rumi calls the real jewel of life—the treasures hidden in the unknown. To find the wisdom of the invisible worlds within us we must let go of the firm ground beneath our feet and who we think we are. We must risk everything. This is every bit a true adventure.

You can find more information at these links:
Facebook, Meetup, The Hidden Teachings of Rumi webpage

If you are interested in a dialogue on this subject, please feel free to start the discussion below.


You can now see a video of the talk I gave by clicking this link: https://spiritualdialogues.com/2018/11/the-call-of-the-unknown/

Seeing the Invisible

—From Rumi’s Poetry to the Fullness of Atoms

By Doug Marman

“Whirling Dervish” by Mitra Shafaei

Last summer I was invited to speak at a talk for “Spiritual Dialogues on Rumi’s Legacy and Teachings,” in Toronto, Canada. It is part of an on-going series of public talks on Rumi and Consciousness. The group has been using my book, “It Is What It Is — The Personal Discourses of Rumi,” along with Rumi’s poetry, to explore the hidden teachings behind Rumi’s teachings. I gave the talk based on a simple lesson I’ve learned:

Something extraordinary takes place when discovering new insights into life through deep discussions with friends. Time seems to stand still as new perspectives suddenly open up before us. In such moments we sense the scope of truth so fully, as a whole, that it alters our experience, giving us the feeling we are touching life itself. This is the magic of spiritual dialogue.

A thirty minute video captures a portion of this talk. It is called, “Seeing the Invisible — From Rumi’s Poetry to the Fullness of Atoms. You can see the video below:

Not Everything

By Doug Marman

Not everything can be explained with words. Not every situation can be understood. Not everyone fits into the boxes we try to put them in.

Tree Sky. Photo by Kim Lessel.

Life is a mystery. Some questions should not be answered. Some questions are for living with, like a companion. Not every picture needs words. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss.

Not every day can be extraordinary, or extraordinary days would be ordinary. But every moment is meaningful and seeps deeper into our beingness than we realize.

Our mind desperately wants to understand, but not knowing is also a gift because it keeps us learning. Not everything has a beginning and an end. Sometimes it just is.

Where is life taking us? Ask life.

Do you know how to ask life? Do you know how to listen to life’s answers? Can you hear the questions of life? What is life asking you?

Not every teaching can be found in books. Not every teacher has a name. Sometimes the core of our being sails beyond all worlds, leaving names behind.

Not every pause should be filled with words. Moments of silence are never empty. Some speech is noise, some is singing.

Can you hear the stories of the trees? Do you know why they stand in one place for years with outstretched arms? Sit beneath their branches for a while. Listen to their tales.

Sometimes we need to step off our path and see where it is taking us, to appreciate the adventure we are on. Not every gift is visible. Not everyone realizes what a gift they are to others.

Our paths of learning reach back lifetimes. We are not the same as we were when we first began. The world is not the same. Is there an end to this path? How can we understand the meaning of a story that never ends?

Not everything is finite. Our mind can’t grasp infinity—it really can’t grasp it. But we can experience it, and in that experience we too become infinite. How can this be?

Not everything can be explained with words.

Finding Spiritual Love

By Doug Marman

My wife, Karen, recently remembered a dream she had many years ago. In her dream she was at a seminar, in a roundtable discussion. Paul Twitchell was there. He started talking:

“Love connects everything,” he said. “All of life is held together by love. Every rock, every tree…everything.”

Paiting by Grev Kafi.

Paiting by Grev Kafi.

Thinking about this dream and looking across the decades since she had it, she said to me, “Listening to what Paul said was one thing, but knowing it is altogether different.”

This goes to the heart of the spiritual path: How do we know, really know, the meaning of spiritual love?

We won’t find it by reading books or listening to talks—although the stories of others can increase our hunger for it. Knowingness doesn’t come from thinking about love or trying to understand it with our mind. In fact, if we try to go after love directly, the very thing we are pursuing runs away from us.

The reality of spiritual love—the love that flows into this physical world from the inner and connects all things—doesn’t come from hunting it down. We can’t catch it or trap it like a wild animal.

How do we find it? To put it simply, we need experience. Once we have spiritual experiences, we begin to see and understand the reality of spirit lurking in the heart of everything around us.

This presents us with a paradox: We need spiritual experiences, but we can’t get them by going after them.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Love isn’t something that can be owned or possessed because it only blossoms in relationships. So, to understand spiritual love, we must foster a relationship with all of Life.

It needs to develop the same way all relationships do. It takes time. It needs care. We must welcome Life into our home—invite her in. We need to ask and listen to what she wants of us. We need to make sacrifices, just as we would with any lover.

Some people long for a spiritual experience so powerful that it will prove to them, once and for all, the reality of spiritual love. But, even if you’re fortunate enough to have such an experience, it will fade over time. After a while, you’ll feel as if you once found the secret of life but lost it.

More important than dramatic encounters are the small spiritual blessings that come to us in our daily lives. Everyone has moments when they feel lifted by a subtle feeling that changes their mood. It might happen while we’re watching children playing or when we take a walk in the woods. Something comes over us and touches us deeply.

These are spiritual experiences. They can be so subtle that they’re barely noticeable. But they are gifts that Life sends our way. They’re invitations to enter a relationship with something larger than we can imagine. Life is opening a door for us. Don’t let these moments slip by.

These gifts are like ocean waves knocking at our door. Since when does the ocean come to someone’s door? These are extraordinary occasions. Dive in and let the waves carry you out, far beyond all doorways. Follow them wherever they take you. Their depths will surprise you.

Once you start to appreciate these blessings, they will change you. They will also start happening more often. Wait expectantly for another secret visit, another subtle feeling that lifts and moves you, and your relationship with Life will deepen. Make time in your life for her, wait by your door for her, and she will greet you every day.

The more you welcome Life into your home, the more doors she’ll open for you. She’ll show you all the secrets of love. Once you’ve felt her kiss a thousand times, you will know. You will know that you and Life find meaning in each other. Your secret rendezvous with her will continue as long as you keep awaiting her arrival.

A Three Thousand Year Secret — Part II

By Doug Marman

In part I of this series, I wrote about the enigma at the heart of quantum physics that has baffled physicists for a hundred years. It’s a mystery that can finally be explained: Relationships are the true causes of everything we see in the world.

"Mountain Hall." Painting by Dong Yuan.

“Mountain Hall.” Painting by Dong Yuan.

The forces of physics start as relationships between particles. They produce patterns that look like external forces only when billions of particles are involved. As soon as we dive down to the level of electrons and quarks, the whole picture of cause-and-effect reactions falls apart. Instead, we find the unpredictable nature of relationships driving everything.

We find the same thing on the human level. When you look at countries with millions of people, customs change slowly. Large institutions are the same way. They often act more like lumbering, mindless machines that move at the speed of glaciers. But once we look closer, at the lives of individuals, we see creativity, learning, and the dynamism of relationships.

In part I, I wrote about the influence of relationships on the outer world—our physical universe. But before we explore the inner side of this story, there are a few things worth mentioning.

Scientists can’t actually see forces. They can only observe changes. From this, they deduce the forces that cause those changes.

The I Ching also studies changes. In fact, I Ching means “the book of changes.” But it looks at these changes, not through the traditional scientific lens of external forces acting on objects. Rather it sees all changes as the result of relationships. In other words, the I Ching is looking at nature from the quantum view—the level of individuals.

However, the I Ching goes further. It opens doors that scientists haven’t explored yet. For example, physicists tell us that forces act independently. They don’t influence each other. Electromagnetism never affects gravity and gravity doesn’t change the ‘strong force’ that binds atoms together.

The I Ching, however, says that behind the four forces of physics are three types of relationships. These relationships are the true causes and, more importantly, they do influence each other. They change each other in clear ways. The I Ching displays these relationships as eight combinations. Each represents a unique state.

I-Ching_Trigrams_with_NamesSeeing these states allows us to peer deeper into the underlying currents of life. But we can’t understand them by thinking about them analytically. We need to get to know them like friends, until their nature is familiar to us. The following is how the I Ching describes this—but remember, it is best to read this as descriptions of subtle relationships:

"Early Autumn." Painting by Qian Xuan.

“Early Autumn.” Painting by Qian Xuan.

“Heaven and earth set the direction. The forces of mountain and lake are aligned. Thunder and wind arouse each other. Water and fire are not at odds. Thus the eight trigrams influence each other.

“Thunder moves, wind disperses. Rain brings water, the fire of the sun brings warmth. Standing still is a rest point, open joy is appreciation. The creative empowers leadership, as the receptive offers shelter.”

“The Book of Changes…enables us to comprehend the nature (the Tao) of heaven and earth, and its order.”

“A kind person sees it and considers it kind. A wise person discovers it and calls it wise. People use it day by day without knowing it, for the way of knowing is rare.”

“It shows itself as kindness but hides its ways. It gives life to all things but is free from the anxieties of the world.”

“It includes everything—that is its field of action. It renews all living things daily—that is its glorious power.

“As the cause of all causes, it is called change.”[1]

All of life’s changes are contained in the trigrams. Birth and death. Day and night. The four seasons. The formation of seeds and the falling of leaves. People and nations rise to prominence and then fade into oblivion. Every moment is filled with change because the spirit of life moves everything in its own way, by its own nature.

The quote above says, “Heaven and earth set the direction.” This means that the natural flow of spirit is from the inner spirit to outer form.

It also tells us that the top line in the trigram is the original source. It gives birth to and influences the middle line. The middle line then gives birth to and affects the bottom line. However, the bottom line also sways the middle line above it, and the middle line influences the top. In other words, the impact of these three relationships clearly depend on each other.

To understand this better, let’s review what each line in the trigram means.

As we saw in part I, the top line represents one-on-one relationships between individuals, whether those individuals are particles, cells, or human beings. Forces of attraction and repulsion emerge from these relationships. For example, in biology we see symbiotic bonds between males and females, and between bees and flowers. Their lives become aligned. We also find opposing relationships, such as predators and prey. In physics, attraction and repulsion between particles create electricity and light.[2]

The middle line represents what I call “all-for-one bonds,” which are the relationships we experience when we belong to a group working for a common cause. This might be a team, a family, or a company. The relationship is strongest when we feel the spirit of all-for-one and one-for-all holding the group together. All bodies and forms in the world are created by this power. Physicists call it “the strong force.” It is the binding power that holds protons and atoms together, as physicists know well, but it also forms stars and galaxies, as well as cells, the bodies of animals, and families.[3]

Trigram-relationshipsThe bottom line represents the group consciousness that individuals form when in groups. It’s an impersonal relationship with others. For example, when watching a movie or listening to a lecture, we might be surrounded by people we’ve never met before, but we still experience the group consciousness around us. We sense it when the audience laughs or becomes upset.

If our own feelings are in line with the group, we feel connected. When we’re at odds with the audience, we feel estranged. This is where peer pressure comes from. Whether we realize it or not, we all have unconscious desires to feel normal. As I’ve shown in Lenses of Perception, peer pressure between particles creates gravity[4] and the subatomic weak force.[5]

That’s a quick recap. A book could be written on these three types of relationships. It takes time to understand how they work together. But once they are familiar, you’ll see them everywhere.

"I Ching" means "Book of Changes." Calligraphy by White Whirlwind.

“I Ching” means “Book of Changes.” Calligraphy by White Whirlwind.

According to Lenses of Perception and the I Ching, only three types of relationships exist. There are no others. But, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to tell the difference between them. It isn’t, because they influence each other. We can’t completely pull them apart and study them independently, because they’re continually shaping and changing each other. This is the way nature unfolds and evolves.

This brings us to a new understanding of life, beyond the scientific knowledge of today. It offers a richer picture. It shows the hidden pattern of nature.

It also offers a new way of understanding the inner worlds and how they influence the outer. Seeing these three relationships allows us to probe deeper into the spiritual reality, taking us beyond the borders of most religions, as well as science.

For example, look at the trinity of Christianity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Without realizing it, this describes the all-for-one bond behind the Christian religious experience. The Father is God, above everything. The Son is the one who people look up to, who connects them to the Father, because a focal point is needed for an all-for-one bond. Holy Spirit is the grace and inspiration that flows into and uplifts those who are united by this bond.

Hinduism offers a different trinity—Brahma, the creator; Shiva, the destroyer; and Vishnu, the preserver. This describes the cycle of creation, which is also the story of the all-for-one bond, since this is the relationship behind the process of formation itself. It is the force of creation that brings even the world itself into being.

Almost all major religions have a trinity, and, from what I’ve seen, they all relate to the all-for-one bond behind the religious experience and the act of creation.

But the I Ching and Lenses of Perception show us something different: Creation is not the highest power. It’s the middle force. The Creator God is only part of the story, because the power of creation is in the middle. It isn’t the original source. There is something more.

I-Ching-trigramsThis is why the religions of China—Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism (including Zen)—avoid the image of God as the Creator. Their teachings don’t push the idea that everyone must be bound to their religion to be saved. This shows the influence of the I Ching, because it teaches that behind creation is a spiritual spring that flows into and gives birth to all-for-one bonds. It is the same spirit that brings seeds to life. The same energy that sparks cells to reproduce and develop into the bodies of animals. It is the source behind all-for-one bonds.

The force that I’m talking about comes from one-on-one relationships between beings.

In other words, the top-line relationship comes first. It gives birth to the middle line. One-on-one relationships provide the energy for all-for-one bonds. In fact, look carefully and you’ll see that all-for-one bonds are nothing but shared relationships between individuals. Brothers and sisters in a religion feel a connection to each other. At the same time, each individual feels a personal bond to the one they look up to. When people follow the same leader, the connection between them grows stronger. This is where the all-for-one experience comes from.

This means that while power seems to flow down from the leader, it also flows up from the followers—from the grass roots.

A similar relationship exists between the bottom line and the middle line. The bottom line relates to the peer pressure that coaxes people to the norm of a group. But before this is possible, the group must exist. And groups always start with all-for-one bonds. Thus, behind every group, even an audience formed by people who don’t know each other, is an all-for-one bond that influences it from the inside. You can think of it as an over-soul. Every species, company, family and nation has a subtle inner connection.

The power of the bottom-line relationship grows as the group gets larger. Tradition then becomes more important to the group, and resistance to change gets stronger. This is exactly what we see in all large institutions, where stagnation and red tape are the order of the day.

Start-up companies are faster and nimbler because they’re smaller. The all-for-one relationship is stronger for them. They feel more like a family. However, as the company expands into a corporation, everyone’s roles become more stilted and solidified. Following rules becomes more important than the entrepreneurial spirit. All of this happens when a group grows larger.

This is why large organizations suffer from a form of insanity. The force to maintain stasis and tradition is mindless. This is why crowds and audiences don’t have the ability to act. They’re receptive and passive. A group consciousness doesn’t have the creativity that we find in all-for-one bonds and one-on-one relationships. It isn’t driven by a goal. It has no other purpose than to establish a standard for what is normal. This is why it opposes change.

For a healthy society, we need a mixture of large institutions, medium sized corporations, and small businesses. If leaders want their companies to survive in a changing world, they need to find a way to make space for small teams that develop new products and new processes in the organization. It’s a mistake to ask government to solve the problems of a country, because deep changes start first with smaller groups. The process of evolution begins with those who feel free to try new things. Government, on the other hand, is best for giving us stability, by keeping and enforcing laws.

Now, let’s turn our spotlight on the inner worlds. Religions, philosophies, and metaphysics have various names and ways of describing the subtle dimensions that influence the world subjectively and shape the destinies of people and nations. Differing terminology is used, but most agree that there are many inner mansions, heavens, layers, and levels.

I’m going to use terms that are well-known across many groups, but the I Ching and Lenses of Perceptions offer a clearer picture of what this inner reality is and how it influences us.

As I said in Part I, two trigrams are used in the I Ching. One represents outer changes. The other captures the influences of the inner planes. Studying the inner trigram reveals an amazing insight: The top line describes the ‘Mental world,’ the middle line represents the ‘Causal world,’ and the bottom line relates to the ‘Astral world.’

Trigram-planesYou can think of the Astral plane as inwardly influencing all aspects of the outer trigram—the physical world. The Causal dimension subtly shapes everything that happens on the Astral, and the Mental plane has a hidden effect on every Causal event.

However, if we step back and look at the big changes taking place in these worlds, we can also look at the physical universe as living within the larger space of the Astral world, just as the Astral inhabits a small region of the Causal world, and the Causal is but one little area of the Mental.

Don’t get hung up on the names for these levels. The Astral is the source of our emotions. It influences our imagination. When we feel subtle shifts in attitude as the weather changes, or waves of emotion that move across a nation in the wake of a disaster, those are Astral experiences. They may be invisible, but they affect all living things.

It is easiest to see the connection between these inner worlds and the inner trigram by looking at the Causal plane first. So, let’s start there.

This plane is called Causal because all of creation starts here. The idea of a Creator God comes from this world. The form of every seed, the germ of every great thought, originates in this dimension.

If you read the records of those who have inwardly seen this world, you will see how they describe the God of this world. He says to those who come before him, “I am the all-in-all, the source of everything. Worship me and find life. Nothing exists beyond me.” But this isn’t quite true. This is only what seems to be true in that world, because this is the nature of the all-for-one bond. It creates a reality that seems complete in itself, as if nothing else matters.

This is where many problems in religion come from, when people feel that only their religion is valid and all outsiders are ‘heathens.’ The same problems show up in organizations, even scientific institutions, when insiders are seen as more powerful. Outsiders are either ignored or attacked, to defend the all-for-one bond.

However, conflicts like these are rare in the Causal world, because each individual is in their proper place. Everything is as it should be. Everyone knows this because the lord of that plane, the Creator God, bathes that world with his Universal Mind, showing how his hand—the all-for-one bond—is behind all things.

The Mental Plane is filled with Light. "Abode of Light" by Grev Kafi.

The Mental Plane is filled with Light. “Abode of Light” by Grev Kafi.

When we leave this world and cross into the Mental plane, we experience a greater sense of freedom. With it comes a change in the moral sense of right and wrong. On the Causal plane, truth seems like a divine law that comes from the Creator God. In the Mental world truth is relative.

This doesn’t mean that people in the Mental world have a slippery sense of right and wrong. On the contrary, the experience of truth is deeper and stronger there. However, it is relative to the situation and people involved. There is no universal truth in that world, except that everyone must find what is true for themselves in each moment.

The reason for this is that truth in the Mental world emerges from one-on-one relations. It springs from shared experiences between beings. The great discovery in that world is that our relationships are the most meaningful part of our lives because they reflect life itself. They are the keys to understanding life and its nature. As a result, everything in that world is an active expression of teamwork, comradery, and working together.

We learn so much from each other because we’re different. Look into the eyes of others and you will discover new worlds that expand your understanding. A new dimension opens up when you spend time with friends and co-workers. Spiritual growth is the result.

Communication in the Mental world is through symbols and is hardly ever direct, because, like poetry, the meaning being conveyed is hidden between the lines for those share it. It is never used to share concrete ideas or facts, but as a fluid art form. Everyone in the Mental world is involved in creative work, whether teaching wisdom or creating artistic works for others. Relationships are the mode of creation behind every force and every change in that world.

One-on-one relationships are also the originating force behind teams, companies, and nations. The spirit of cooperation is needed for all of them. That’s how every group starts. When people form a common goal and work together behind a leader, the group takes form on the Causal plane. This is how an all-for-one bond is born. It starts with personal relationships.

If the Mental world is the home and original source of one-on-one relationships, and the Causal plane is where all-for-one bonds begin, then the Astral plane must relate to the bottom line on the trigram. It does, and the connection is remarkable.

Remember, the bottom line represents two forces in physics: gravity and the subatomic weak force. These two forces explain exactly why the Astral plane is different from the Physical.

The force of gravity comes from a relationship that connects every real particle to the physical universe. It forms one group consciousness. Particles have mass only because they’re tied to this group. Scientists call it the field of space. Mass is nothing more than the resistance that particles have to outside forces. Remember, resistance to change is what peer pressure is all about. This is what makes this universe a material world.

The Astral Plane is like a more refined and illuminated reflection of the Physical World. "Kitez" by Grev Kafi.

The Astral Plane is like a more refined and illuminated reflection of the Physical World. “Kitez” by Grev Kafi.

Gravity doesn’t exist in the Astral world because there no single field connects all Astral particles together. What the Astral plane has, however, is the stabilizing force of communities. People share common emotions and imagination, the same way that TV broadcasts create a culture shared by fans with common interests.

These communities exist like islands, each with their own group consciousness that align its members. They each have a unique society, with their own history, laws, and leaders. The experience of exotic cultures is alive and well on the Astral.

This influence is reflected on Earth. That’s why we have so many religions, countries, and cities. We have societies of artists, scientists, politicians, and actors. Each of these groups has a consciousness that aligns the group and establishes a norm, a reference frame. However, the continuing force toward conformity in our world gradually eliminates much of the cultural richness of the past. This is the difference between the Astral and Physical.

The Causal plane also has continents and islands, but they’re all aligned to the Creator God, who stands at the apex. The force of stability in Astral cultures is so strong that they seem to exist on their own. But this isn’t really true, since behind each culture is a subtle all-for-one bond that ties directly back to the Causal plane.

Therefore, each of the inner worlds shapes what happens in the worlds below it.

The original writers of the I Ching didn’t label these inner dimensions with names like Astral, Causal, or Mental. We use these terms because it is easier for us to think of them as places. To the authors of the I Ching, however, they are inner relationships.

For example, hidden behind the country of ancient China, the writers of the I Ching saw an inner China. Their country on earth was but a reflection of that inner reality. This is why they taught the leaders of their day the importance of seeing these inner influences. China, as a whole, prospered when it was aligned to the inner changes taking place. This is the wisdom of the I Ching that has inspired people for thousands of years. It shows how to find lenses that allow us to see The Way, The Tao—the current of life behind nature.

As I said in part I of this series, both Taoism and Confucianism sprang from the I Ching. If you study these two teachings, you can see that Confucianism is more closely associated with the outer trigram, and Taoism focuses more on the inner trigram.

This is interesting because a similar split took place in the West, when science and religion separated. However, the original authors of the I Ching saw no such separation, and I believe that with the new insights gained from Lenses of Perception, we can now, once more, return to this way of seeing. The outer and inner are interrelated. No complete understanding of life is possible without seeing both.

While writing this article, I remembered something that I wrote a decade ago, long before I started Lenses of Perception. (See pages 507-520 in my book, The Whole Truth.) In that section, I showed that some groups, such as religions and countries, have survived for thousands of years, while most last for but a few decades at best. The secret to longevity is that a group must be inwardly aligned to two or more modes of creation based on the inner worlds we’ve been talking about. For example:

“The Jewish religion has been passed down through their families from generation to generation. This is one mode of creation, since the family is the way that life comes into existence in this physical world. Birth comes through a woman, and there must be a father who provides the seed. This is the law of this world established at the formation of the physical plane, billions of years ago. Therefore, everything that is born into this world must enter through the life that already exists here. That is the meaning of family.

“But Jewish teachers also draw upon a group consciousness to center their teachings. Rabbis spread their tradition of words and wisdom to link Jewish families together. Their synagogues are assemblies for uniting their people, as well as a place of worship to connect them to the consciousness that watches over them. This shows how their family traditions are held together by their teaching.

“Group consciousness is the mode of creation on the astral plane, just as families are the source of life in the physical world. Communities on the astral plane are formed through united feelings and ways of seeing. They draw sustenance from common emotions and imagination, the same way that TV broadcasts create a bond between fans with common interests. All new forms of life come into existence in that world through waves of group enthusiasm.”

Jesus was a Jew, but Christian religion is different because it opened its teachings to everyone, no matter what family they come from. So, it doesn’t depend on the physical mode of creation. It still uses group consciousness, through its traditions and teachings, but to this it adds a hierarchical organization. Organization is the mode of creation on the Causal plane.

Compare the Jewish and Christian religions to the Masonic Lodge. Surprisingly, it has also existed for a long time, for hundreds of years. Why? Because, like all long lasting groups, it creates a bridge between modes of creation from two or more inner worlds.

We can see in the Masonic Lodge, from their love of titles, order, and rituals, that organization plays an important role. But any group based on this alone won’t survive for long. The key to the life of the Masons is that they worked together to actively change to the cultures they lived in. They instigated countless initiatives that have influenced the course of governments and leaders. But they did so in secret, because they were not trying to gain credit for the Masons. That was not their motivation. They wanted to share their love of comradery by helping others. This was the second mode of creation that they used.

This reveals an important principle that has been overlooked by leaders in our modern world. No business can live for long if it works only for its own profits and its own survival. Every movement will fade like a fad, if it only promotes its own group consciousness. Even families fall apart over time if they aren’t involved in some other work together.

The lessons we just learned show us why this principle is a law of nature. Longevity comes from building bridges between two or more worlds because none of these relationships can survive on their own. They all need each other.

"The Magical Source" by Grev Kafi/

“The Magical Source” by Grev Kafi/

A group consciousness— the creative force behind a movement—will continue evolving and growing only as long as it recognizes and looks up to the subtle all-for-one bond behind it. This means that it needs to evolve a sense of organization or align itself to an organization. This is exactly what happened when Christianity changed from its early days as a movement into becoming the official religion of Rome.

The group consciousness of a community, by itself, is passive, like a crowd or an audience. It can only move people to a norm or tradition, because that’s what it does. For a while, when it is small, a movement can create a wave of enthusiasm that spreads. However, if a group consciousness wants to leave a lasting mark on the world, organization is needed.

This means leadership needs to recognize the importance of all-for-one bonds. Organizations create lasting forms because they actively focus energies toward a common goal. This is a powerful force. But if the only aim of an organization is to perpetuate itself, it won’t survive for long. It will stop growing and wither away.

Leaders need to make space for renegades who bring new ways of seeing and new perspectives, because organizations need free-flowing comradery to grow. The spirit of working together is the energy that underlies all organizations. This can come from every level in an organization, but it needs freedom to blossom.

One-on-one relationships are the source of this spirit, which comes from the Mental plane. All-for-one bonds create the forms in our world, which begins in the Causal world. Group consciousness creates the richness of culture, which is the influence of the Astral.

The physical world is the least dynamic. Everything is slowed down by mass here, because every particle is tied to the field of space. We need effort to do anything in this world. Particles don’t have mass in any of the worlds above the physical, so they are freer and more energetic. On the Astral, this energy goes into the forming of communities. These communities, however, depend on all-for-one bonds, and the energy that creates those bonds comes from one-on-one relationships.

Therefore, each of the lines looks up to the line above for their source and inspiration. Their lifeline literally depends on the flow of spirit and energy from above. The more we develop a relationship with life itself, the clearer we see that this is a spiritual law. As the I Ching said, “Heaven and earth set the direction,” because Spirit flows from the inner to the outer, where it takes form. And then, all of life evolves as it returns to its source.

It’s easy to see why the influence of the I Ching has lasted so long, and why it describes a spiritual teaching that will last until the ends of time—because it combines all three modes of creation together. This is why the I Ching says of its teaching:

“It includes everything—that is its field of action. It renews all living things daily—that is its glorious power.”

However, this leaves us with a question: If all of this is true, then where does the spirit of one-on-one relationships come from? What is the power source of the Mental world and what does the I Ching say about this?

The I Ching is silent about this question, but not because it isn’t aware of the answer. It is silent intentionally, because there are no words or symbolic lines to describe it.

To understand this, we need one more part to this series. This will take us into a secret that has been hidden for three-thousand-years. Even followers of the I Ching have not seen this teaching before.

In Part III we will move from the lower worlds to the higher worlds. Beyond the worlds of yin and yang, the worlds of duality, to the pure positive realms of spirit.

[1] Derived from: Richard Wilhelm, English translation by Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1967, p. 293-299.

[2] Doug Marman, Lenses of Perception: A Surprising New Look at the Origin of Life, the Laws of Nature, and Our Universe (Washington: Lenses of Perception Press, 2016), p. 242-247.

[3] Ibid, p. 248-258.

[4] Ibid, p. 411-418.

[5] Ibid, p. 450-462.

Making Life Your Friend

By Doug Marman

What’s everywhere but is hard to find? The spiritual path. Discovering it is never easy. First we must to go through a major struggle and search. Only a deep hunger and desire for the inner meaning of life can bring us to the threshold where the spiritual path is possible.

"Stairway to Heaven" by Beniamin Pop

“Stairway to Heaven” by Beniamin Pop

Why? Why is it that no matter how openly the path is taught and how simply it is explained, it’s still so difficult to find? This is the age-old paradox.

With the new understanding described in the book, Lenses of Perception, we have a new way of explaining what is happening: A new lens—a new way of seeing—is needed to recognize the spiritual path. It can’t be seen by only looking at the world as if we were standing on the outside looking in.

The problem is that changing our fundamental way of seeing is traumatic. We need to let go of how we view ourselves and our place in the world. Then we must pass through a zone of not-knowing, before we can recognize the reality of a new perspective.

As a result, people feel lost just before finding the spiritual path. This is a universal experience. It feels as if the whole foundation of life disappears before a new light dawns.

The spiritual path only opens up for us after we make an inner connection with life. This is why many people feel that something is missing. They felt closer to life as children, but they don’t know how to get that joy of discovery back. How do we restore the link?

The good news is that we never lose this ability. We’ve simply forgotten the path because we change our way of seeing when we grow up. Our objective, third-person view of ‘the world out there’ blinds us to our inner experiences. This is why we miss the subtle opportunities of the spiritual path all around us. The solution is simply to remember the lens we used as children.

"Boys Will Be Boys" by Amy Burton

“Boys Will Be Boys” by Amy Burton

Our childlike sense if wonder comes from a second-person point of view. This way of seeing doesn’t look at the world as an object. It sees everything as if it were alive, as if it were a living being.

Think of the words you write to a lover or a close friend. “I wish you were here. I miss you. I thought of you today…” You call your friends YOU. That’s a second-person perspective. Spending time with your friends creates invisible connections. These bonds are made from the second-person perceptions you share with them.

We can feel the same relationship with all of life. We only need to change our lens. That’s when we remember that we have always been connected and always will be.

But remember: If you want to make the whole of life your friend, you must be a friend. Look forward to every day. Greet your mornings and evenings with a kiss. Become a lover—not of the outer world—but of life itself.

However, this is just the first step in finding the spiritual path. Waking up to our second-person connection with life isn’t enough. The real change takes place after we find the “all-for-one” bond. This is what lifts us up out of our limited consciousness into something larger.

As I explained in, Lenses of Perception, the all-for-one bond is a special relationship that forms from second-person connections. It only happens when conscious beings connect with beings at a higher level, such as living cells bonding with an organism, forming its body. We see the same thing when employees follow leaders in an organization.

"Magic Forest" by Rodrigo Lozano

“Magic Forest” by Rodrigo Lozano

Therefore, the spiritual path begins when we find an Inner Master. That’s where our search is leading us.

Finding a true inner teacher links us to a higher consciousness that uplifts us. This connection is what allows us to experience the magic of the spiritual path. It’s an inner experience, and once we see it working in our lives the whole meaning of life changes for us.

Following the spiritual path requires a commitment, but not to an outer form or person—it’s an inner relationship. The same is true with all second-person relationships, they’re not held together by outer forms, they are inner bonds. Friendships and families survive because people are willing to make sacrifices for each other. That’s what keeps the bonds alive. The same is true for the spiritual path.

However, we need a whole new way of seeing, to understand what it means. This has nothing to do with belief. It’s all a matter of perception.

The commitment we make is not to the Inner Master directly, but to the uplifting wave of spirituality that flows through the all-for-one bond. This only works if the Inner Master is also working for a higher state of consciousness. As Lenses of Perception shows, the same force drives all of evolution. That’s why we see a hierarchy in the structure of life forms, with genes working for cells, cells working for organisms, and organisms coming together for the sake of societies.

The difference with the all-for-one bond on the spiritual path is that it connects us to an inner hierarchy. Thus, no matter where we might stand in that hierarchy, we always seem to be in the middle, since there are always those above us who we can learn from, and those below who we can help.

With the right lens, the invisible path becomes visible.

The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion

Meteora Monastery - photo by Dragan Sasic

Meteora Monastery in Greece (upper left). Photo by Dragan Sasic.

By Doug Marman

There is only one way to see the difference between spirituality and religion: Through experience. Only by walking the two paths can we see how different they really are.

They start off similarly. A person finds a connection to something larger than themselves. It might come from a book they read, a person they meet, or they could discover it by just being in a certain place. Whatever form it takes, it inspires the person and uplifts their view of life to a new perspective.

At first, it is just a glimmer, but the sensation grows that life is more meaningful than they realized. They find themselves involved in a new reality, at a higher level than ordinary life. This isn’t yet an idea, a pattern, or a teaching. In the beginning, it is simply an experience.

This is where the path forks. Actually, the difference is so subtle that it is easy to miss, because everyone takes the same next step. If we want to experience inspiration, we naturally return to the book, person, or place where we first found it, to feel that spark again.

The similarities diverge here. For religious followers, the form that uplifts them becomes the object of their worship. It becomes holy and sacred to them. They see it as the source of their experience.

On the other hand, for those who walk the spiritual path, whether they realize it or not, it is the experience, itself, that draws them on. Something comes through the words, or the personality of a leader, or the atmosphere of a location that inspires them. This flow of what we might call Spirit is what they are after.

The difference is subtle. In fact, religion begins with spiritual experiences. Therefore, it is almost impossible to distinguish a religious follower from a seeker of spirituality, based on the first steps of their journey. It is the tests of time that prove out which path they are on.

The most significant parting of the ways takes place when a person stops feeling inspired by the form that once awakened them. What do they do now?

Religious followers often question themselves, first. Was there something they did wrong, to lose the feeling of grace they once felt? Most religious teachers encourage this. There is actually a valid reason for this, since the experience of Spirit requires a delicate state of receptiveness; a willingness to align with a new perspective. The flow of spirituality is most dramatic when we willingly let go of our moorings to move with Spirit. This is so subtle we often don’t even realize what we are doing.

If we learn to grow into the new way of life that Spirit shows us, the spiritual experience changes us. It is as if we found a new state of being. This is the promise of inspiration: It alters us and the way we see life. However, once we’ve learned to see with new eyes, the books, teachers, or sacred grounds that moved us, may not uplift us as they once did. In fact, sooner or later the form can hold us back.

This is when we make a choice: Will we place our loyalty to the form above all else, or will we follow Spirit, itself? It isn’t easy choosing, especially if we realize how valuable the gift is that we received. We grew into a new life through the grace of that form. However, there is no middle ground on this decision. We must take one path or the other.

It is this crossroad where questioning one’s self produces different results. The religious follower concludes that the problem is with themselves. They are not worthy. They must have sinned in some way, to bring about this dark night of Soul, as it is called. This is the only conclusion they can come to, because they see the form as sacred, and this holiness exists outside of themselves. Therefore, they are dependent on that form.

Seekers of spirituality take a different course. The experience of Spirit has changed them in such a deeply personal way that it has become a part of them. It exists within them – not as if it took root – but more as if they remembered it was always a part of their being. Therefore, it is no longer something external. It is this experience of Spirit that matters, and nothing but this experience.

This is when they discover an amazing truth that changes their lives forever. They learn that when one door closes, another always opens up. Spirit shows itself through another form, leading us on, to change us again and again, until we can’t see any separation between who we are and Spirit.

When followers of spirituality question themselves, it is to see how they might be holding themselves back, or standing in their own way. What new change do they need to make? What new lesson is life trying to teach them?

The challenges of Soul’s dark nights are no easier. In fact, they can become more difficult as one grows spiritually…until the day comes when we realize that when we feel absolutely alone, with no purpose, this is Soul emptying itself of old meanings. After we’ve experienced this emptiness over and over again, we eventually realize that darkness comes before a dawn. A new beginning. A whole new life is ahead.

The difference between these two paths begins as something too subtle to recognize. Over time, they diverge in dramatic ways. Is it the form that is sacred, or the experience of spirituality, itself? There is only one way to learn the answer: Through experience.