We human beings live between the two realities of earth and sky. Earth stands for all that is practical, material, tangible and incarnate. It is the material world. We learn about it through living a life of discovery and observation. We experience this world and its knowledge through the vast door of personal accumulated and collective experience. There is one word for all this. It is Nature.
Nature is composed of the five elements which we characterised as earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space as it’s now known). Consequently the body is made up of the same five elements which is why we also use the term human nature for the body.
When space shuttles bring back rocks from the moon to study them, they are studying Nature. When we calculate the temperature on the surface of the sun, we are observing Nature. When we observe DNA or speed particles around a spectrometer or examine the leaf of a tree we are studying Nature. Whether we study planetary Nature or cosmic Nature, it is Nature. Such study is endlessly fascinating because nature is full of variety. Not only is it full of variety, it is also constantly changing, so there is always something new to see.
We are constantly checking, so we’re always looking at Nature from a different viewpoint. We are a little piece of continual change looking at an infinite quantity of continual change. Small wonder that it gets quite exciting. The most important thing we can learn about nature is the inherent and innate laws by which it functions.
Even hundreds of years ago ancient explorers were trying to see some pattern in the seemingly chaotic fluctuations of nature. The infinite variety of natural phenomena gives an appearance of chaos but, they ask, is it possible that the laws that govern the amount unending turbulence of Nature end up orderly and comprehendible? And if we grasp how they work would it not be possible for us to emerge from chaos into order? All games are meaningless if you do not know the rules. When you do they can become very good fun. You still take a few knocks and and lose a few games, but at least you are participating: you are playing the game. In life you are playing the game with body and soul. By playing you can learn the rules, and if you observe them, you have a far better chance of success in life as well as of gaining illumination and freedom.
So humankind stands with its feet planted squarely on the earth, and it’s head in the sky. But what then do we mean by sky? Clearly we do not mean the first biosphere or anywhere that physically exists however far away. We could have said “our feet on the Earth and our head in the heavens,” but this is confusing as many languages do not have two separate words for sky and heaven as English does. The word heaven is useful as it suggests something that is not physical. This opens possibilities; a) that it is perfect, as nothing physical can be perfect since all phenomena are unstable: b) that it is universal c) that it is everywhere, omnipresence, not being physical is not limited or defined by location (time or space) – and d) that it is supremely real or eternal.
For example our body is physical and substance and limited whereas the changing of our lives is immensely possible in the unveiling opportunities looking to the sky for visions from space itself.
So in the real world everything physical is always changing, therefore its reality is not constant, not eternal. Human Nature is in this sense like an actor who is only playing different roles and never takes off its costume and make-up and goes home, but just changes from one role to another, for ever and ever. Therefore focussing on the intangible real world of the body Nature we never quite know where we are, especially as we too are part of this ever changing real world of nature.
The nonphysical reality, however difficult to grasp, must have the advantage of always being the same. This has a consequence. Whatever is real and unchanging must offer us a fixed point, an orientation, like a perfect north on a compass. And how does a compass work? By an attraction between magnetic North and a magnet in our compass. The compass is ourselves. So I want to infer that there is a universal reality in ourselves that aligns us with universal reality that is everywhere else. Do not forget the word align. It is through the alignment of our body that we discover the alignment of our mind, self, and intelligence. Alignment from the outermost body or sheaths to the innermost is the way we bring our own personal reality into contact with the universal reality.
We connect to this universal reality with selfless love, which is founded in the perception of unity, like the mothers love derives from the unity with the child. In unity there’s no position, it is a beautiful state containing me and it. No separation. Soul is unchanging, eternal and constant it always remains as witness, divine origin and oneness. The whole practice of life is exploring the relationship between human nature and soul.
We are learning to live between Earth and Sky. That’s the human predicament our joy and our woe, our salvation or our downfall. Nature and Soul are mingled together. Some would say they are married. It is through the correct practice of life and balance perception that the individual experiences the communication and connection between them. To an average person it might seem that the marriage of Human Nature and Soul is one of strife and mutual incomprehension. But by communing with them both, they come closer to each other for the purpose of a blessed union.
That union removes the veil of ignorance that covers our intelligence. To achieve this union, you have to look both within as well as looking out to the frame of the body and Soul. We have to grasp and underlying law or else we will remain in Human Nature and the Soul will remain merely a concept. Everything that exists in the macrocosm is to be found existing in the microcosm or individual. And this is where the universal laws of nature have an amazing value and purpose.
But it is simply not a matter of understanding the universal laws of nature. We must harness those inclinations of the body that wish to become independent and lead us off into behaviours and habits that are not in the interests of the Soul. For this we need some sense of principal ethic and moral on which we stand to manage our actions in the external world. Then the journey continues with a process of self purification or more simply, self-discipline. We simply learn not to do harm to others and towards ourselves.
After all, the goal of life maybe the ultimate freedom but even before this is achieved, there is an incremental experience of greater freedom as we discover even more self-control, sensitivity and awareness that permit us to live a life we aspire to, one of decency, clean, honest human relations, goodwill and fellowship, trust, self reliance, joy in the fortune of others, and equanimity in the face of our misfortune. From this state of human goodness, we can progress towards greater freedom. From doubt, confusion and advice we cannot.
Progression in life is a moral one for a very practical reason rather than a judgemental one. It is almost impossible to jump from bad to best without passing through good. So, by holding goodness as a high virtue you transition easily from bad, to good, to best.
The stages of development are the same in each area of life:
- Mind Control (Discard is the skill)
- Body Alignment (Posture is Prana)
- Goodwill (we are the environment we create)
- Self Reliance (Inspiration – I need/want nothing. Therefore I have everything)
- Joy in the fortune of others (Vision)
- Equanimity in the face of our own misfortune (Purpose)
- Selfless Love (Result – Impression)