I look forward to seeing you there.
“Everyone knows that …”. “All people are like …”. The completion of these sentences includes an assumption about human nature. What you see as human nature.
What you see AS human nature depends on what you see IN human nature. Our study of four cosmologies (wisdom traditions, physics, daily experience, strategic systems understanding) suggests nine basic dimensions interpenetrating all of reality. As we humans are reality as well, we are also constituted by these nine dimensions. Energy that is purposeful. Experienced because it is reflected off of something and then witnessed. A choosing of the form it takes, which extends in a resonance field over multiple instances (time) and other resonance fields (space). The feedback in what results in form is taken up in the reflector, to be witnessed and a subsequent choice made in the next instance.
Another way that this is often described is that all humans experience a pull towards their unique higher purpose, which they engage with their thinking, feeling, and willing, in a physical and non-physical form. You have morals that guide you. You have thoughts, feelings, and intentions. You have physical experiences connected with your body and its context, and you have non-physical experiences in your thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
The dimensions you include in your understanding of human nature determine what you see as human nature. If you only include the pull, the higher purpose, then humans are moral. If you only include the thinking, then humans are rational. If you only include the feeling, then humans are social. If you only include the willing, then humans are stimulus-response organisms, purely biological. If you only include the physical, then humans are an interesting accident of matter with emergent properties. These simplifying models of what we each know we are, in our own actual experience, are major models of human nature prevalent today. By focusing on one of these dimensions of human nature, these models tend to exclude the other dimensions as irrelevant, unnecessary, emergent and secondary, or misguided.
Another way to approach the question of human nature, other than reading what a philosopher thinks, is to ask yourself, “What do I know, from my own experience, about the dimensions of my experience?” For me, I observe that I have a north star—a purpose that engages and guides me—and I have thoughts, feelings, and intentions, which I experience physically and non-physically. Each dimension seems to be different, in character, and they seem to come together to inform different dimensions of an experience. It is useful to understand that I have these different dimensions, and that integrating them gives me a fuller picture of my experience. I can corroborate this picture with the experience of others, and that is useful.
What I see that is included in human nature affects what I see as human nature. Seeing that I, you, and maybe everyone else, have all of these dimensions of experience within themselves leads me to curiosity, to inquiry, with myself, with you, with others, and the creative process, knowing that the ability to create the now, the future we really want is available here, within each and all of us. There are treasures everywhere to find–I just have to look. Whether one can see and access this infinitely-available creativity depends on what one sees as human nature, which depends on what one sees in human nature. The fuller human nature or a more collapsed form of human nature. It is a choice. Your choice. The difference that choice makes might be infinite.
In a set of lectures, given in 1927, astronomer Arthur Eddington described an emerging understanding of what was known, at the time, about what was real–the nature of the physical world. Eddington’s journey to the west coast of Africa to observe the 1919 solar eclipse provided initial proof for Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. One of the first in the English-speaking world to begin to see the new picture of reality suggested by Einstein’s work and the emerging work in quantum theory, Eddington used his ability to explain very difficult concepts and mathematics in simple analogies, without losing the rigor of the shift in perspective.
In this very accessible set of lectures, Eddington explores the new reality, where there is simultaneously perceived forms that extend over space and time and nothing there. He walks us through the framing and consequences of special relativity, general relativity, matter, space, time, entropy, gravity, and quantum. He then explores what this shift in perception of what is real in nature means for consciousness. While many scientists in the 20th century began to define reality as only that which is physically observable, Eddington who worked with the people who initiated the physics revolution suggested that the physicist is describing some dimensions of reality and the explorers of consciousness are describing other dimensions, of the same reality.
Having read dozens of books on these topics, I find this to be the best entry point into these difficult topics. I now have a much clearer map with which to enter this exploration, for which I am grateful to an astronomer from ninety years ago.
How do you relate to nature? Do you love it or are you indifferent to it? As humans, are we separate from nature, part of it, or is it part of us? While seemingly simple questions, they have troubled philosophers and practitioners for millennia. And, the perspective you take directly affects how you engage with nature. The six recommended books in this post all explore this relationship and the deep implications for our resilience as humanity of that relationship.
We depend on nature. In The Sacred Balance, David Suzuki reminds us that, “It is nature that cleanses water, creates air, decomposes sewage, absorbs garbage, generates electricity, and produces food, but in cities, these ‘ecosystem services’ are assumed to be performed by the workings of the economy” (p12). Through our reductive approach to science today, we have reduced the whole of nature into pieces, “and as the world around us is examined in pieces, the rhythms, patterns, and cycles within which those pieces are integrated are lost” (p13). “Looked at as biological beings, despite our veneer of civilization, we are no more removed from nature than any other creature, even in the midst of a large city. Our animal nature dictates our essential needs: clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy” (p18). David Suzuki then frames and explores our current understanding of the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (oceans), lithosphere (mineral), where they all mix (soil), the biosphere (fire), and what makes us human in our relationships (kin, love). We need to be aware of the interweaving of these spheres we depend on: “With consciousness, we are able to perceive that there is a relationship between our environment and ourselves” (p267). “Each of us has the ability to act powerfully for change; together we can regain that ancient and sustaining harmony, in which human needs and the needs of all our companions on the planet are held in balance with the sacred, self-renewing processes of Earth” (p330).
In The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, author Thom Hartman reminds us of our intimate relationship with nature. “Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of almost all life on Earth…Every life form on the surface of this planet is here because a plant was able to gather sunlight and store it, and something else was able to eat that plant and take that sunlight energy in to power its body” (p7) In the final analysis, “survival and prosperity both hinge on how much sunlight energy is under your control” (p35). Thom Hartman then explores our relationship with current and stored sunlight.
Nature is dynamic and resilient, whether humans are in the mix or not. In Inheritors of the Earth, biologist Chris Thomas explores the ecological and evolutionary dynamics and resilience of the biological realm of earth. “Ecological and evolutionary changes are both of great importance. Ecological success will determine the species that will live among us in the short term, and evolutionary success will alter the future direction of life on Earth” (p29). While species come and go, the number of species is growing (p62), and human environments are influencing which ones spread and grow, with species finding new niches where they survive, often different from where they originally evolved (pp79,118). Nature is resilient, with new species adapting to ecological and evolutionary changes.
We are nature. In The Orders of Nature, philosopher Lawrence Cahoone provides the context and a current state of understanding for five orders of nature that constitute the reality we humans perceive: the physical; material; biological; mental; and cultural. We exist as an integration of all five orders, partially in relationship with the minerals, plants, and animals that share some of these orders. Students of each order have a different way of making sense of what is real, rarely understanding the logic of another. This leads to difficulties in defining what is real, across orders, which influences the ways in which we interact with the order of our reality.
We better take care of the nature that we are. In Down to Earth, philosopher Bruno Latour suggests that to deal with the level of ecological challenges facing humanity, it is time to shift our underlying understanding. “Saying, ‘We are earthbound, we are terrestrials amid terrestrials,’ does not lead to the same politics as saying, ‘We are humans in nature.’ The two are not made of the same cloth–or rather of the same mud” (p86). “The Terrestrial reorganizes politics. Each of the beings that participate in the composition of a dwelling place has its own way of identifying what is local and what is global, and of defining its entanglements with the others. CO2 is not spatialized in the same way as urban transport systems; aquifers are not local in the same sense as bird flu” (p93). In this reorientation towards the terrestrial, our home of which we are an integral part and which is an integral part of us, Bruno Latour suggests a shift in political focus from the dichotomy of either local-based or global-based to earth-based, which is both local and global.
In Doughnut Economics, economist Kate Raworth frames an “ecologically safe and socially just space for humanity…point(ing) towards a future that can provide for every person’s needs while safeguarding the living world on which we all depend” (p39). To develop this balance between the social foundation and the ecological ceiling, we need to move from an economics of “endless growth to thriving in balance” (p45). Kate Raworth works through the basic tools of endless-growth economics, replacing them with tools of thriving-in-balance economics: from GDP to social and ecological limits; from self-contained markets to embedded economies; from rational economic man to social adaptable humans; from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity; from “growth will even it up” to distributive by design; and from growth addicted to growth agnostic.
Returning to the starting questions, how do you relate to nature? Do you love it or are you indifferent to it? As humans, are we separate from nature, part of it, or is it part of us? These six authors provide updated, easy-to-approach explorations of these questions. They each show that the perspective you take from these explorations directly affects how you engage with nature, and your life depends on it. It is your choice. I recommend the journey.
Do you use your energy mostly for moving through space or for moving through time? Does it matter? Is there a purpose to the question? Yes and yes. It matters how the energy is used, the purpose to which you put it.
A little physics helps us see why. Einstein’s theory of special relativity showed that as more energy goes to moving through space and less to moving through time, time seems to slow down–as velocity (distance in space over a period of time) increases, perceived time slows down. At the extreme velocity, the speed of light, a photon does not experience time. Conversely, the more energy goes to moving through time and less through space, it takes more time to cover a specific distance, or less space is covered in a period of time–as velocity decreases, perceived time speeds up.
Here is the part that seems to be confusing. As time seems to slow down for the observer, more time is passing for the other, the non-observer. Time seems to be going very slow for me, and passes more quickly for others. We will get back to what this means in a minute.
Translating this insight from physics, we see that energy is always purposeful, meaning that energy has an attractive force, a gravity, as shown by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a force that makes it cohere. This energy goes into movement through time and space. According to the founders of quantum physics, the normal understanding and use of time is obsolete. They suggest it is more useful to understand that what we call time is actually a series of instances, in which choices are made. Choices where something reflected the purpose, the state of the environment, the state of the organism, and a choice was made, something happened. Lots of these instances occur in what we normally consider to be a second of time. Energy, by definition, changes. A choice about its changes occurs every instance. Somehow, something makes this choice every instance. The series of choices we experience is what we call time. We also experience this energy as a form with extension–it extends over multiple dimensions, such as the three dimensions of length, width, and depth. This is what we tend to think of as space, extension. In summary, we experience energy over time (a series of choices for each instance) and space (in extension).
When we experience our energy, our purposeful energy, going into time, it goes into our processes of witnessing what is being reflected of our purpose and our own organism, and we choose, consciously or unconsciously, what to do. When we experience our purposeful energy going into space, it goes into form-in-extension. Our purposeful energy goes into time and space, a mix of reflector-witness-choosing and of form-in-extension.
If time seems to be slowing down, more of your purposeful energy is going into space, more into the form-in-extension, and less into reflector-witness-choosing. When time seems to be speeding up, more of your purposeful energy is going into time, more into reflector-witness-choosing, and less into the form-in-extension.
In plain English, this means that when time seems to slow down, you might be focusing your (purposeful) energy more on the outcomes in your immediate environment. When time seems to slow to a creep, when it takes forever for a second to pass, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the immediate outcomes in your surroundings. You could take this as an opportunity to be severely bored or disengaged, like in that endless meeting, or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not giving enough attention to your purposeful energy, your awareness, to being aware of the alignment between your purpose and your choices.
When time seems to go by very quickly, when whole spans of time seem to have passed without you being aware, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the alignment between your purpose and your own organism’s choices. You can take this as an opportunity to be lost in reflection–witnessing the reflection of your purpose and your organism’s choices–or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not being aware of what is manifesting in your immediate environment.
Maybe the reason both extremes, time goes too slow or too quick, seem to be wasteful, is that you are wasting the opportunity to choose how much of your purposeful energy goes towards being aware of your purpose, your environment, and your choices. Balancing these uses of your purposeful energy allows you to tangibilize, to see what you want (purpose), what is happening outside (environment) and inside (organism), and to choose your response (form-in-extension). When you are not balancing these, you give yourself signals, time goes by too fast or too slow.
You can transform your purposeful energy into an alignment of purpose, reflecting, witnessing, choosing, and extension-in-form, learning from what happens from what you saw, and adjusting what you witness. You can move your energy through time and space, as you choose. It matters, and it has a purpose.
Two sayings. One recent. One very old. Just be yourself. Know thyself. While some people might be referring to the same thing with both of these statements, most people intend very different worlds, processes, experiences, and outcomes with these two sayings.
Is this psychobabble or relevant in everyday life? I suggest that choices are being made for you in every instant of your life. I also suggest that you are not involved consciously in most of those choices. Choices that greatly affect your life. And, you could be. One way of looking at this is, who is choosing. Thus, the two sayings. Just be your self, and know thyself.
This kind of “just” statement–just be yourself–means only or nothing but. You only need to be yourself. Nothing but yourself. Just be you, in whatever comes out. If you are thinking, just be yourself. If you are feeling, just be yourself. If you are following your gut, your intuition, just be yourself. No worries, just be yourself. That is one way of looking at it, at being your self.
Know thyself, expressed in the Ancient Greek as gnōthi seauton (γνῶθι σεαυτόν), means to know your whole self, which includes your thinking, your feeling, your willing, your lower self in waking consciousness, your higher self in your soul, and your highest self in the I AM. The task of know thyself is to integrate these different dimensions of your self into one whole knowing, self-aware here now.
We can expand on the description of the “know thyself” task, using the three ecosynomic levels of perceived reality (light, verb, noun). At the noun level, we only perceive outcomes. What we can pay attention to in this instant of what we perceive through our senses. At this noun level, we see only the capacities we have in this instant, the capacities that are already finished, already here now. This self contains what is already finished in our lives, what we have already created and manifested. These capacities are amazing, and that we are able to manifest them in this reality is even more amazing. These are our sacred nouns, the marvel of everything the universe needed to do to have that much energy hold those capacities together right here right now in the way they do. While what it took to get to this instant is amazing, there are no choices for us, as this instant is already finished. The choices were already made. All ways always. That is what we see of our self, when we focus at the noun level.
At the verb-noun level, we perceive the development of capacities and relationships, and we perceive the outcomes of that development. Both development and outcomes, verb and noun. This self contains what is becoming and what is already finished, what we are creating and what is already created. What is changing over time, and what is also in this instant. What we are learning and what we already know. At this verb-noun level, choices enter. We can choose how we develop these relationships and capacities. We can learn from what we observe in this instance of the noun, and we can choose to alter the verb. At the verb-noun level of our self, we experience our becoming and our already finished.
At the light-verb-noun level, we perceive the potential, the development of that potential, and the outcomes of that development. Potential, development, and outcomes. Light, verb, and noun. This self contains what is in beingness, becoming, and already finished. The potential to create, what we are creating, and the already created. The infinite energy in potential, the energy being used to manifest the potential, and the capacity present in the already finished, the outcome. We can choose what potential we see, what potential we bring into existence and begin to manifest, and what we learn from the feedback presented as the sacred noun, the outcome. What we could learn, what we are learning, and what we already know. At the light-verb-noun level of our self, we experience our potential, our becoming, and our already finished. All three levels are always available to us in all ways.
In addition to the three levels of perceived reality, we also experience our self through different dimensions of reality. In earlier explorations of our multi-dimensional reality, we saw that physicists to philosophers suggest that maybe we live in and are made up of many more dimensions of reality than the three we are most accustomed to–length, width, depth. My current research explores what it would mean for us human beings to be made up of these dimensions: how being constituted that way affects the choices available to us. One way to see this is to play with our human capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing. What if the thinking capacity is a reflector, where the light inputs of our senses have a surface to reflect off of, so that they can be perceived. [Remember, we don’t see light directly, it is passing by all of the time invisibly; we perceive the reflection of light off of something.] The feeling is the witness that observes what is reflected off of the reflector. The willing is the chooser, engaging our body in action.
If our self is purely in our thinking, engrossed in a feedback loop amongst our own thoughts, then our attention is only in the reflections of our reflector, without the witness (feeling) or the chooser (willing). We get stuck in our thoughts, oblivious to what is happening in this world, until we “come out of it.”
If our self is purely in our feeling, witnessing our witnessing, we get caught in the infinite spiraling up and down in our emotions, our witnessing of witnessing. While we are purely in our being present with what is emerging, the only emerging we are presencing is our witnessing. Again, we are lost in the world of our witnessing, oblivious to the reflector’s sensory perceptions of what is happening and to the chooser’s choices engaging our will.
And, if our self is purely in our willing, with the chooser, then we are following our gut, which means that it–our gut, our intuition–is leading: we are not. We can put our awareness in our chooser, in our willing, our gut, and watch it being chosen for us, oblivious to our reflector and to our witness.
Another option is to put our awareness in the simultaneous integration of all three. What our reflector is showing us about what is being perceived through our senses, what our witness observes from the reflector and from what is being chosen in the will, and how that aligns with our deeper purpose, then consciously choosing how we want to manifest, from the potential, into the context we perceive from our reflector, into the choices being made in our willing. Through this integrating process, we can align our reflector thinking, our witness feeling, and our chooser willing with our self that is perceiving the environment we are in right here right now, with our higher self that guides our deeper purpose toward the future we love and to which we give our will, with our highest self that guides our service in the unique contribution we are uniquely constituted and contextualized to make.
Coming back to where I started, “just be yourself” leaves completely open the question of which self. The invocation to “just” might lead me to pay attention to any one of the many dimensions of the self we explored above. “Know thyself” invites me to bring my awareness to all of these dimensions at the same time, which I can do, because they are all me. My self. The trinity of me, myself, and I. Always all ways. All in one. So, the next time you make a choice, who is making it?
You have superpowers. You share this with some people, and not with a lot of others. You can see or sense things that many others don’t seem to see or sense. The question is not whether this happens at all, or whether it only happens to a few people, everyone has some form of these. It is natural. The question becomes, what is natural, what is nature, what is the ecology of nature we live in, and that we each seem to have the ability to access in different ways?
Here are two ways of entering into an understanding of this nature; what you already know about what is already here. Let’s start with nature. The word nature comes from the Latin nasci “to be born.” So this is an ecology–the relationships of organisms with their surroundings and each other–of what is born. A system of what is real. A system of dimensions of reality that are always present, in everything. What do you know about what is already born?
One way to look at this is through your experience. You experience creative thoughts, insights. They seem to come from somewhere. Some people are better at knowing how and where to access them, on a sporadic or more continuous basis. Possibilities are there for us to access. There are specific ways that groups of us see how to manifest possibilities. It seems that each group of people develops its own way of making meaning out of experience and of finding particular pathways to manifest those possibilities. We often call this a culture. You experience the difference in these cultures when you move from one group to another, whether meeting people in another town, another discipline, another country. Some people are better at seeing the nuances in culture, and others at moving across cultures. You experience outcomes, nouns, things that seem to be “already completed.” These are forms that we see, which we can use for other purposes. A piece of paper, an apple, a profit. Something that, for an instant, is here now, a noun. These forms that we can see and engage with also change over time. Technical and social innovations constantly produce new and obsolete forms. Some people, such as designers and artists, are able to see forms in possibilities and how to shape them. A smart phone, the internet, speed dates, slaves, feudalism. New forms come, old forms go.
You experience extension over space and time. A fabric in which we live. Some of us perceive these dimensions in very subtle ways, some perceive over great spans of spacetime, and some of us experience the expanse of spacetime more unconsciously. You experience movement through space and time. Some of us are more subtle in our awareness of this movement and some more expansive. You experience the ability to witness, to experience that something is happening. You experience this as learning, as change, as evolution. You are not the same person as ten years ago, or as one year ago, or even as one hour ago. Things have changed. Some people are very attuned to this evolutionary process, the cyclic spiral of coming back to the same experience from a new place in spacetime, seeing it anew.
You experience things in their reflections. We perceive things in their reflection off of something else. We do not see light: we see the reflection of light off of something else. Psychologists suggest that we also learn about ourselves by seeing ourselves reflected off of others. Some people are very aware of these reflections, experiencing very subtle dimensions of what is happening in the reflections off surfaces, off of faces, in body gestures. You experience form and direction. Something pulls you in life, to other people, to your avocation. It is an attraction, a calling, a purpose. Most people feel the attraction, the pull, and respond to it, consciously and unconsciously, all of the time. Some people are highly attuned to this attractive force, to recognizing it, naming it, and inviting others into engaging with it. You experience energy. Whether it is the energy of life that sustains us, the energy in a relationship or an activity, the electricity in life, or the lack of energy in many groups, we sense it. Some people are finely adjusted to different forms of energy, able to synch with it or be highly affected by its presence or the lack of it. You experience love. Whether it is the love of another person, what you do, a place, an animal, an activity, nature or spirit, you experience it. Some people are deeply moved by this love, orienting their lives to its expression.
Ten properties or dimensions of nature that are present in everything always, some of which you access more consciously, more readily, than others. They are all there, all of the time, properties if you will of what is already born, of nature, of your reality. Whether you access them frequently or infrequently is more a question of your awareness and your practice. They are there, so they are available, always.
Another way to look at what is already born, what is real, is through physics (from Greek for the knowledge of nature), which has developed supersymmetric string theory. Through the math of physics, attempting to develop a theory that explains the phenomenon we experience, physicists have come up with 10+ dimensions of reality. The first three dimensions are length, height, and depth. The fourth dimension is time. These first four constitute the spacetime fabric we experience. The fifth dimension is a different expression of the same 4-dimensional spacetime, where other outcomes, cultures, and possibilities come into being.
The sixth dimension starts with the same initial conditions as our reality, allowing for a plane of different expressions of 4-dimensional space. The seventh dimension starts with the same universal constants, allowing for different initial conditions. The mirrors or reflections are constant, and the witnessing forms of evolution vary. The eighth dimension starts with different universal constants. Energy still reflects, but is witnessed in different ways.
The ninth dimension is a plane of all the different laws of physics possible, with different universal constants and different initial conditions. Pure energy. The tenth dimension starts with all possible reasons for existence of all possible forms, with different expressions of energy or not energy, other purposes, other pulls, the ultimate reason for existence. After that, there is the before existence, the primordial (from the Latin primordium for the first beginning), the creative force. Existence comes after or from this force.
Each of these dimensions described by physics seems to relate to the dimensions of reality we experience, as described above. Adding these dimensions up, I experience that I exist. I have form that extends over space. I evolve over time. I witness my experience. I co-create my experience. I form the pull to love. I am love and energy. Subtracting these dimensions, I also feel the pull of intention, I see the calling, I experience a call, I experience change, and I am here now.
So, as beings of nature, we all experience all of these dimensions of reality, of nature, all of the time. This means that they are part of us, part of everything in and around us, always. The trick is to know how to work with these dimensions. Each of us seems to be wired, whether through evolution, mutation, or curiosity, to be able to work directly with some of these dimensions more so than others. And, there they are. Available to all of us all of the time, if we want. Part of what is already here, already born, and we already knew that.