A year and a half ago, in June 2015, CSS member Luke Weiss had a Gnostic Awakening. After meeting with Luke several times since then, Joel invited Luke to give an account of his Awakening at our community night meeting on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.
Luke started by sharing some personal background, including his physical trauma during birth and the associated challenges coping with that. He then described his spiritual path which included extensive practices from the shamanic and Taoist traditions before joining CSS.
After giving an account of the moment of Realization, Luke described how his experience has changed. He then took questions from the group. Luke is now an official CSS teacher. Thank you, Luke, for sharing your experience and insight with our community!
The previous issue of the newsletter was the last for outgoing editor Mark Hurwit. Editing the Center Community News is a significant undertaking, and it was only one of the several ways Mark has served CSS. We thank him for his service. The newsletter will not be the same without him.
With this issue of the Center Community News, the newsletter is also changing in another way: It is now both produced and published exclusively for the web. This web format allows for integration of multimedia content, and easier viewing on various screen sizes.
Web design is a significant paradigm shift, where content layout is no longer fixed to the printed page but dynamically flows, adapting to each user's specific screen and browser. Notice that you can change the width of your browser window and the layout dynamically changes. It also displays much better on mobile devices. As with any web page, you can also shrink or enlarge the font size to suit your reading comfort.
Members with computer skills who are interested in helping with web production of the newsletter are encouraged to contact the CSS Publications Director. Members of our community are also invited to submit original spiritual reflections, reports, poetry or art to the newsletter for publication using the newsletter submission form.
CSS Choir performing on Light of Love Day
Light of Love Day
Although the 2016 Light of Love Celebration was canceled due to an ice storm, power to our building was restored in time for Light of Love Day on December 25.
The Center has two official holidays: Light of Love Day and Light of Truth Day, which complement each other as Love complements Truth. Each holiday is accompanied by a celebration. Formerly known as Enlightenment Day, the Light of Truth Day focuses on the Truth testified to by the mystics of all traditions, which is the Truth of Selflessness. The Light of Love Day focuses on the expression of Selflessness. In short, Love is Truth in action.
In his Light of Love Day teaching, Joel compared the self with a brick wall that we build to protect ourselves, but which ends up becoming our prison and source of suffering. Spiritual practice involves dismantling this wall. Practices of inquiry are like picking away at the mortar between the bricks, while practices of love and compassion help dissolve it away. Together, they both break down the wall, first brick by brick, letting in some light, until the whole wall is so weak that it collapses under its own weight. The CSS Choir then led us in inspirational song.
The Chain of Delusion, by Todd
According to the mystics, the ‘reified’ story of “I” unfolds moment by moment through a chain of conditioning within eternal Consciousness. This imagined ‘self’ seems to experience itself as absolutely real, while its seemingly concealed undivided and infinite nature remains seamlessly whole and unaffected. In the beginning of this delusion (which is just now), a cognitive error results in a reified distinction between subject and object arising as an imagined perception of space, time and otherness. This error, if not recognized, commences a cascade of conditioned impressions and reactions we call ‘self’. And although this conditioning describes a chain of delusion that seems to be occurring in time, it can be seen to be arising ‘fully formed’ in the microcosm of ‘just now.’
This bliss of original nature is never absent at all, but is driving all self-centered activity — the striving for a happiness it knows intuitively to be real.
In the absence of this instigating cognitive error, the nature of consciousness is eternally aware of itself within itself, and is described in the ancient Hindu Upanishads as inherently blissful. But once an imagined distinction between ‘self’ and other is reified, the bliss or happiness of eternal Consciousness suddenly seems to be eclipsed. In that instant, an energized sense of autonomous self suddenly looms as ‘my’ identity, while the bliss, wholeness and contentedness of primordial nature appears to be far away. The paradox here is that this bliss of original nature is never absent at all, but is driving all self-centered activity — the striving for a happiness it knows intuitively to be real. The fundamental excitement of self-autonomy is driven by this sense of isolation, restlessness, and longing as it surges forth within cascading distinctions. All of this derives from a longing for the bliss and wholeness, which only appear to be lacking.
Mike Glinsky's Experience with the CSS Distance Studies Course
I am writing to share my thoughts on the Way of Selflessness Distance Studies Course in hopes that others might be encouraged to participate. It would be great to report that there has been a Gnostic Awakening on my part as a result of the Distance Studies Course. That is not the case. Gnostic flashes and episodes for sure. I can say with certainly that many of the entanglements of self have loosened substantially, resulting in a much more fluid flow to life. I strongly feel that, given the right effort and grace, a full Awakening is possible with the guidance received in the Distance Studies Course.
Over a thirty-year period of seeking I tried many avenues before finding Joel’s book and CSS. From my perspective this method resonates deeper than any of the other approaches. I have no recollection of how I first stumbled onto Joel’s books, but after reading The Way of Selflessness I knew there was the ring of truth to his teaching. I had a thirty-year, off and on, history of seeking behind me and was familiar with many of the basic concepts in the book. Joel’s approach of bringing the perennial teachings of many of the religions and philosophies to light was a new and welcome approach. I had always wondered why we tended to focus attention on differences rather than common threads.
There is an ease toward life which was not present prior to engaging in the Distance Studies Course. But, as I said, so many of the self-referencing mental elements still lurk... Leaving only one alternative: to press on. There’s clearly no going back.
After going through the book in a somewhat haphazard way I went to the CCS website and listened to a number of Joel’s talks. I saw that a distance studies course was offered. I signed up and was given Fred as my guide. I’ve spent 6 years off-and-on corresponding with Fred. He has always been very patient. I have completed the book and audios a couple of times because there was the urge to go back and revisit different elements. One thing that has been crystal clear throughout this process is the seemingly endless ways self-centered thought and action manifests, some being incredibly subtle.
Last fall it didn’t seem like there was anywhere else to go with it. Fred suggested I come out for the spring retreat, which I did. It was nice to meet with Fred, Joel and all the other CSS sangha members I had read so much about. Reading all the Awakening accounts of different CSS teachers, it’s clear that while I’ve had some fairly intense shifts, there is not the unmistakable sense that seeking is over. Fred advised that if there is a feeling of unfinished business it would be best to keep practicing.
There is an ease toward life which was not present prior to engaging in the Distance Studies Course. But, as I said, so many of the self-referencing mental elements still lurk, even though they are most often viewed as part of an unfolding story. I remember Joel referencing a stage where ordinary life no longer dangles the carrot of promised satisfaction but the spiritual life has not blossomed to full clarity. That seems to be true of this experience. Leaving only one alternative: to press on. There’s clearly no going back.
A final point I feel compelled to make is unless you are truly driven to this path, I would not recommend it. I have said to Fred many times that I feel like I’m on a high railroad bridge over a deep ravine and there are trains coming from both directions.
Sacred Art at CSS
Storm South of Brownsville
The walls of the CSS meeting space are adorned with sacred art shared by CSS members. In January and February, 2017, paintings by long-time CSS member Peggy Prentice were on display. For 26 years, Peggy was a Professor in the Art Department at the University of Oregon. She has exhibited her work in over 250 exhibitions nationally and internationally
As Peggy describes her work,
"The subject matter in my paintings is realism found in the observation of nature and landscape. I want to express what fascinates me when I experience nature, a joy of form, color and the unity of composition on the canvas as it tells a story of place.
I'm interested in expressing a sense of space with the unique light and atmosphere seen at different times of the day and in all kinds of weather, found in all four seasons. I usually create a series of paintings with a common theme like “Wetlands”, which I am currently painting. I'm fascinated by the unique reflections on the surrounding landscape and sky found on the surface of water, sometimes obscured by a breeze. Since my paintings are usually large, I often paint them in my studio from photo references."
Library Corner — Tribute to Huston Smith
Prof. Huston Smith died peacefully at his home on Dec. 30, 2016, at age 97. He devoted his long and admirable personal and professional life to living and communicating to others the teachings of the religions of the world. Although a lifelong Methodist, he also practiced Zen, Sufism, and Vedanta. His books and lectures are exceptionally lucid. Personally, he embodied the qualities of kindness, wisdom, clarity, and joy. We were blessed to have him among us.
Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief
by Huston Smith
With his inspired and lucid style, the modern master of world religions exposes the cause of our modern global crisis: the modern worldview of scientism which marginalizes the religious dimensions of reality. Smith then makes a passionate plea for the revival of the religious dimension of life — in individuals, in societies, and in civilizations. With engaging personal experiences and insights drawn from a lifetime of interaction with leading religious, philosophical, and scientific thinkers, Smith illustrates how the tunnel vision of scientism pervades scientific, political, educational, and media sectors of our society to the point that we do not even see our blindness.
Smith sees light at the end of the tunnel, however. His vision for the third millennium is to combine the best of modernism (science) and postmodernism (social justice) with the traditional worldview shared by the world's religions. Like the Center's "Challenge and Response," Smith's book provides us with a clear guide for responding to the challenges of our times based on a deep understanding of why religion matters.
— reviewed by Thomas McFarlane
Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions
by Huston Smith
Huston Smith's first book, The World's Religions, was for several decades a classic text in world religion courses at American universities. It presents the diverse major world religions individually. It then took Smith twenty more years to see how these religions converge. Forgotten Truth presents that vision.
One of his major theses is that there is an "invisible geometry" behind the diverse traditional worldviews of human cultures, all of which were based upon a religious cosmology. Just as our various human bodies share the same skeletal structure, these various worldviews share a hidden unity beneath their apparent differences, a "human unanimity." Except for the modern Western worldview, that is. Due to the materialistic interpretation of science, the worldview of the West became an anomaly, a radical break from the basic structure of the human unanimity. Smith does not argue that the traditional worldviews were, or are, completely valid. Indeed, many aspects of them, such as their claims about the natural world, are now obsolete. But the materialistic worldview is no longer consistent with science itself. Now, Smith argues, the time is ripe to correct this mistake. It is a basic thesis of the book that the "invisible geometry" can help us create a viable worldview.
— reviewed by Thomas McFarlane
Franklin Merrell-Wolff & the Owens Valley
On the first Sunday of each month, our public program at CSS features a video of or about a mystic. The Dec. 2016 video featured a biography of the 20th-century American mystic and philosopher Franklin Merrell-Wolff, with whom our own teacher Joel Morwood spent two years (1983-1985) in the high desert country of the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.
The video is a very special production by John Flinn, one of Franklin's students and one of his caretakers during the last years of his life. The video gives a wonderful feel for Franklin's long life, and also features a cameo by a young Joel Morwood.
Mission and Programs of the Center for Sacred Sciences
The Center for Sacred Sciences is dedicated to the study, practice, and dissemination of the spiritual teachings of the mystics, saints, and sages of the major religious traditions. The Center endeavors to present these teachings in forms appropriate to our contemporary scientific culture. The Center also works to create and disseminate a sacred worldview which expresses the compatibility between universal mystical truths and the evidence of modern science.
Among the Center’s ongoing events are Sunday public services, with meditations and talks given by the Center’s spiritual teachers; monthly Sunday video presentations; and — for committed spiritual seekers — weekly practitioners groups and periodic meditation retreats. The Center is accessible. We are a welcoming and inclusive community.
The Center also maintains an extensive lending library of books, audios, videos, and periodicals covering spiritual, psychological, philosophical, and scientific subjects. In addition, the Center provides a website containing a great deal of information and resources related to the teachings of the world’s mystics, the universality of mystical truth, and the relationship between science and mysticism. The Center publishes this newsletter providing community news, upcoming programs, book reviews, and other contributions and resources related to the Center’s mission.
The Center for Sacred Sciences is a non-profit, tax-exempt church based in Eugene, Oregon, USA. We rely chiefly on volunteer staff to support our programs, and on public donations and membership pledges to meet our operating expenses. Our spiritual teachers give their teachings freely as a labor of love, and receive no financial compensation from the Center.
About the Center Community News
The Center Community News is published on the CSS website several times a year. Its primary purpose is to help foster a community of spiritual practitioners by sharing original teachings, experiences, reflections, artistic expressions, and reports among members of our community.
To submit your original spiritual reflection, report, poetry or art to the newsletter for publication, please use the newsletter submission form.
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The CSS building is closed until further notice to help prevent spread of COVID-19. All library hours, Sunday public meetings, morning meditations, and Saturday meditations are canceled. Taiji has moved off-site. Practitioners groups have switched to Zoom video conference format.