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This article first appeared in Issue 22, “Are You Ready to Change Now?”
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Stacey’s fourth-dimensional, satirical satsang is constructed from direct quotes connected by short, fictional linking words and phrases. All quoted material appears in italics.
One afternoon last spring, I was sitting with my dear, wise friend Vera at the local juice bar, sharing a blue-green algae shake, when she was suddenly overcome with inspiration. “Stacey, your debut in the last issue of What Is Enlightenment? [Issue 21, Spring/Summer 2002] was truly evolutionary. I mean, there you were, hosting luminaries from the Buddha to Teilhard de Chardin, who were popping in to WIE’s new Fourth Dimension Conference Room to offer their views on the latest developments in the spiritual world. You have quite the job, old girl. So, I was thinking, why don’t you continue breaking spiritual ground and present the world’s first fourth-dimensional satsang?!” “Satsang?” I replied. “Vera, I have to admit that even with all the advanced personal growth work I’ve done, like in my lunchtime yoga class and with my holotropic breath counselor, I’ve never actually been to a satsang.” “Well, Stace,” she said, “don’t let that stop you, because you owe your readers the benefit of all spiritual possibilities, even ones you personally don’t know that much about. And these days the ‘satsang circuit,’ with its plethora of new, or ‘neo,’ Advaita teachers, is attracting quite of bit of interest.” Now, don’t worry, dear readers if, like me, you’re in the dark about satsangs and Advaita, because I took Vera’s advice, did some research, made a few calls, and am here now to present, for your spiritual edification (and mine), this very special event: the first Neo-Advaita “satsang,” or spiritual gathering, to take place without the usual impediments of space and time.
The Neo Advaita Panel
Welcome, everyone, to the Fourth Dimension! Wayne Liquorman, Esther Veltheim, Tony Parsons, Gangaji, Francis Lucille, and Isaac Shapiro, I’m just delighted that you could join me for what is certain to be a consciousness-raising event. As some of the most well-known Western teachers on the current Neo-Advaita scene, you trace your roots to Advaita Vedanta, the ancient Hindu philosophy of nonduality, conducting satsangs with people all over the world. This is my first satsang. So, could you begin by telling us what a satsang is, and how it relates to Advaita Vedanta?
GANGAJI: Stacey, somehow, by some stroke of good luck, your individual consciousness has been called to satsang. . . .
[Since] this is your first time in satsang, let me tell you what satsang is. Satsang means in Sanskrit association with the truth. . . . If there is some obstruction to that truth, it is brought out in satsang. . . . Satsang confirms your true identity as pure consciousness. . . . There is only pure pristine consciousness.
WAYNE: Gangaji, it must be God’s will because I’ll confirm that. Pure Advaita points to the understanding that everything is ONE . . . all is Consciousness . . . all is God.
ESTHER: I’ll put it this way: A wave appears in the ocean, but that doesn’t change the nature of the ocean—it’s still water. The wave has never been anything separate to the ocean—they are not-two.
TONY: [And everything is discovered to be] the ground of unconditional love, for there is nothing that is not sacred and . . . grace is continuously available.
ISAAC: Yes, Stacey, and to be with Yourself is to be love, peace, and silence. . . . This is the ultimate truth.
STACEY: Wow, the effect is immediate. I can already feel myself starting to relax and expand . . . “I am love, peace, silence . . . All is consciousness . . .” You know, I really appreciate hearing that because I got stuck in a massive traffic jam on my way to work. And even though, on a deep intuitive level, I know that what you’re all saying is true, it’s really easy to forget that “grace is continuously available” when you’re on the New Jersey Turnpike, not to mention just about everywhere else.
ISAAC: You can be in prison or in any circumstance. . . . This is not dependent on time, place, circumstance, or anything else.
FRANCIS: Right, Isaac. There comes a moment where this feeling of . . . benevolent space around you no longer goes away; you find yourself at home everywhere, even in the packed waiting room of a train station.
STACEY: Or in bumper-to-bumper traffic! Boy, this could totally change my relationship to commuting.
GANGAJI: There is nothing that keeps you from the realization of your inherent, permanent, present freedom except your imagination that somebody or something is keeping you from that.
ESTHER: Which means You are everywhere . . . dimension-less, limit-less, and time-less . . . formless, infinite, and eternal. . . . You aren’t bound or limited by any-thing, You simply ARE.
STACEY: “I am everywhere . . . formless, limitless, timeless . . .” With every word, I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper, as if I were in a warm bath, with little bubbles. The truth is so comforting, reassuring, and freeing!
ISAAC: Yes, beautiful. Simply be. . . . Because . . . the entire universe is appearing in you. . . . All of eternity, every known universe, every known reality, every known galaxy is appearing in you.
WAYNE: And speaking of the universe, my dear teacher wrote: “The Universe is uncaused, like a net of jewels in which each is only the reflection of all the others, in a fantastic interrelated harmony without end.”
STACEY: Wow, “a net of jewels.” I just love that. My beloved grandmother Bertha, may she rest in peace, used to call me her jewel. And now you’re telling me that all these jewels are appearing inside me. How perfect! I could rest in this blissful feeling forever, but for the sake of my readers, I have to inquire further. Could you please say more about Advaita?
WAYNE: God wills me to, Stacey. Consciousness [is] the Source and the Substance of everything. . . . It is infinite potentiality. . . . And whether you call that Genesis or the Big Bang, doesn’t matter; this is the point at which that which is infinite potential expresses into manifestation . . . into all this stuff of life.
STACEY: Infinite potentiality . . . You know, at the end of my last interview I learned something extraordinary from one of my guests, Father Teilhard de Chardin. I learned that I had significance, evolutionary significance, and potential. And I discovered how the universe, which includes me, is evolving.
(. . . Of course your life has evolutionary significance.)
STACEY: Oh Father, how kind of you to drop in.
TEILHARD DE CHARDIN: Bonjour, Stacey, it is just wonderful to see you again. I was on my way to the Omega Point, and knew that even a short visit here would be evolutionary. So remember, in us, the evolution of the world towards spirit becomes conscious . . . as the terms of a vast process in which the whole mass of the universe is involved.
WAYNE: It is an appealing notion . . . because it gives a purpose to this incredible manifestation that is comprehensible to the human mind, “Ah, this is God setting in motion a process whereby there is a disidentification seeking reunification.” Such a concept is an overlay on this existence which is as valid as any. But understand that it is a human mental construct that is overlaying this phenomenal Reality.
TEILHARD: Our perfection, our interest and our salvation as elements of creation can only be to press on with this evolution with all our strength. . . . Remember, we hold the earth’s future in our hands. But the Omega Point is calling. I’ll have to be on my way now.
WAYNE: Stacey, let me describe the nature of Reality another way. Out of this incredible potentiality extrudes Universes and Solar Systems, and out of the Solar Systems is extruded this planetary system, and this little planetary system here is extruding out into Earth, and out of this Earth are extruding all of these various body-mind mechanisms. And they arise and they live a little span and then they fall back into this infinite potentiality; and new ones are created . . . so that you have this one particular extrusion—we’ll call it ‘you’. . . .
STACEY: I, Stacey Heartspring, “an extrusion that merely arises and falls back into potentiality”? To be honest, I think I liked being a timeless jewel better. And getting back to my evolutionary potential—
GANGAJI: This idea of you becoming more of what you are, or of the world becoming something different, is nonsense.
ISAAC: As funny as that sounds, there is nothing you have to do, because you cannot control anything.
There is not a you to do it!
TONY: We are so locked into the belief that our lives have some sort of purpose . . . but when there is an acceptance and a resting in there being no purpose, a new wonder can arise.
STACEY: A “new wonder” can arise through accepting that my life has no purpose? I think Father Teilhard would have certainly put his two cents in here!
TONY: Stacey, I really have to disagree with your friend Teilhard. Consciousness simply is. It is energy manifesting without any interest in any of the concepts that our minds have about . . . purpose or meaning. It is absolutely impersonal and has no particular direction. It is playing the game of creation and destruction.
ESTHER: And with each arising and subsiding of the Absolute, universes are created and destroyed. With the appearance of each bodymind, one could say a droplet of Consciousness is superimposed upon, or assumes a manifest appearance. Each droplet is unique in its own way, but all the droplets are still only Consciousness. The droplet plus the bodymind give rise to “I am.”
STACEY: So, let me see if I’m getting this right. According to Advaita there is no real evolution, no becoming, no purpose. Instead, I’m a droplet of consciousness that’s fallen onto my bodymind? I can relate to the droplet part—you know, consciousness—but “bodymind ”. . .? That sounds a little dry, even with the droplet.
ESTHER: And to use you as an example, Stacey , your “birth” is simply part of a coincidental chain of events, a synchronicity that comes about spontaneously and for no particular reason. . . . One could say that your “birth” is just an accident. There is no particular reason for it.
STACEY: No particular reason for my being here? My birth just an accident? Just try and explain that to my dear Grandma Bertha, who always called me her jewel. You know, I’ve done a lot of personal growth work to deal with my anger, but Esther, that’s hitting below the belt.
ESTHER: Angry? Well, if you think others make you feel and act a certain way, you are saying they have power over you. This would mean that you blame them for how you feel. If you think it’s your fault that you act a certain way, you are saying you are to blame. Either way, you are saying that you and others have personal will, personal volition—aren’t you?
STACEY: Absolutely yes, of course. I mean, if I’m not doing it, who is?
TONY: So what is it that is angry?
STACEY: Me. I am.
TONY: And who are you?
STACEY: I am myself, Stacey.
TONY: So are you your name?
STACEY: No, but that is my identity.
TONY: But it is not constant and it arises from memory. It can change—and so who are you?
STACEY: Boy, is this how you talk in Advaita? I’m not only feeling confused, I’m feeling dizzy, like I’m in a trance, and let me tell you, not the kind of trance I would recommend to anyone.
ESTHER: Don’t worry, confusion is good because it means your mind has been thrown off balance. But of course this isn’t to say it was actually balanced in the first place!
STACEY: Esther, did you actually say that?! I’m beginning to feel a little desperate here!
GANGAJI: Find who is feeling desperate. The feeling of desperation only continues because you assume that you are, in fact, something that the feeling is hooked on to.
ESTHER: Right. And what you have given lip service to up until now is being questioned. And about “purpose,” to find your life’s purpose may help you cope and feel better about yourself. But if you are unable to then carry out that purpose . . . you discover that it helped you feel in control. Don’t you think that is what finding a purpose is all about—control?
STACEY: Control? I don’t want to be in control. I want to have evolutionary significance. I want to help create a brighter future. I mean, the future is calling, can’t you just feel it? And my intuition tells me that my personal evolutionary significance is about more than just being a bodymind extrusion—
TONY: Relax, Stacey, you are the divine expression exactly as [you] are, right here, right now. [You do not have to] surrender, be purified, or go through any kind of change or process. . . . [You] don’t need to be serious, honest, dishonest, moral or immoral, aesthetic, or gross. . . . The infinite is not somewhere else waiting for us to become worthy.
FRANCIS: In this welcoming we live in the Now. There is nothing to gain, nothing to lose. . . . We already have all we need.
STACEY: Gosh, I’d love to be reassured that it was all so simple. But what about evolution and the fact that everything’s obviously changing? And not only that—if I’m honest, I’d also have to admit that there are things I need to change about myself—you know, like more than just my taste in jewelry. And I’m reminded of that fact every day when I’m ready to kill the guy who cuts me off on the freeway, and I avoid acting on my impulses.
WAYNE: But you will “choose” one way in one moment and entirely differently in the very next moment. . . . Because a moment from now . . . another thought will have gone through the mind, or another hormonal change will have taken place in the body. . . .
STACEY: Yes, that impulse is definitely stronger at certain times of the month.
WAYNE: And in any case, all of these bodymind mechanisms are created by Consciousness and operated by Consciousness, [so] that every thought, every action, every emotion and every response is the thought, the action, the emotion, and the response of Consciousness.
STACEY: The response of Consciousness? Does this mean that I, Stacey, actually have no free will of my own?
WAYNE: Yup. Everything IS. The script is written. The entire film is in the can. . . . Everything [is] happening in accordance with the will of God, or the play of Consciousness, or the dance of Shiva, or whatever you want to call it.
ISAAC: Right, Wayne. It’s simply a functioning of this bodymind: it has nothing to do with You.
TONY: So relax and let it all happen—because it will anyway. . . . You have no responsibility in any way for anyone or anything. There is no one there, and there never has been anyone there who can take responsibility.
ESTHER: And, anyway, in certain areas of the world a very different value is placed on human life. Very different “laws” exist in different areas of the world. What one culture sees as bad, another finds quite acceptable. You may say they are wrong, but who made you the morals police? . . . The actions themselves aren’t the problem. It’s the belief systems that accompany actions that are the problem.
(. . . Esther, that is music to my ears! After all, it is all relative, a matter of perception, a point of view.)
STACEY: Who’s that?! The Marquis de Sade, the notorious and scandalous French author?! Well, for obvious reasons, you most certainly were not invited. But since you made the trip all the way from the eighteenth century, what have you got to add?