"The most beautiful and most profound emotion one can experience is the source of the mystical. It is the source of all true science."
In our culture the prevalent belief is that we are separate individuals. The average person believes that they begin and end at their skin. The highly developed Sage has the ability to see the world as an immense field of energy.
Indigenous cultures perceive the world as a vast interconnected field. I remember walking with a group of Aboriginal elders from the central desert of Australia. We walked a distance of three hundred meters from our campsite to a meeting place. The entire journey took nearly an hour to perform. As we walked every interesting plant and leaf was observed, and every step was savored. The elders felt as if they were part of the entire landscape. It is a perspective that has allowed the Australian Aboriginal culture to live in harmony with the land for somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 years.
To understand this difference in perception, imagine walking with an Aboriginal elder on their traditional homeland. As you approach a group of trees you decide to sit under its leafy shade to rest from the hot noon sun. With your backs resting against the tree, you see a particularly beautiful eucalyptus twenty meters away. You turn to the elder and begin to describe this tree. You give a very accurate description of the dark brown bark, singed at the base from an old bush fire. From the trunk spread three distinct limbs covered in dusty green leaves.
The elder looks at you with eyes from another time and describes an entirely different scenario. She describes the tree in relationship to the tree you are sitting under and all the other trees in the nearby area. From the Aboriginal perspective, how can you describe one tree on its own when everything is related? They see nature as a cohesive, integrated landscape.
Our mechanical view of the world as a series of separate events has allowed us to make phenomenal technological progress. However, in the process, we have lost much of the mystery of life. Even when I listen to well-intentioned environmental groups, I sometimes see this separatist viewpoint. Some people believe they are trying to save something that is "out there." This is like a fish that is swimming in polluted water wanting to "save" the water. The fish and the water are inseparable. Without the water the fish would not survive.
Indigenous cultures don't see the world as "out there." They feel connected to the world. To them, a separatist viewpoint leads to loneliness. When you hold this separatist viewpoint it confines you to a narrow range of experience. The Sage is able to perceive themselves as part of this great interconnected field.
I recall a time when I witnessed first-hand someone who had direct access to this interconnected field. My wife and I were studying with Pak Jero. Pak is a dukun; a healer, holy man and shaman rolled into one. He has calm twinkling eyes set in an oval face. He has the energy of a quiet, powerful dynamo and yet has the slowest, most deliberate walk I have ever seen. I often wonder if he even knows the meaning of "stress.”
Although he only speaks less than ten words of English, he has the ability to make a deep impact on people who speak halting Indonesian. He is so extremely "present" that outsiders who manage to find their way to his remote location often become agitated being around him. Like a still pond, he is a reflection of their own busy minds.
This particular time, we were sitting outside Pak's house on the raised wooden platform where he gave all his talks. Pak was wearing his traditional yellow sarong, an immaculate white shirt and a white headband. We were taking refuge from the intense tropical heat. We were talking about the area where we lived when Pak, in a very matter of fact tone, began to describe in detail the layout of our home. We had never told him, or any of the villagers, anything about our house, and he had never been outside of his own country, yet he was able to tell us from thousands of miles away what it looked like. Finally, at the end of his "tour" he described where my daughter's bedroom was and concluded saying, "Your daughter is busy with some project, she doesn't know I am in the room." Pak was obviously not physically present in our house, however, some part of him was there with the ability to "see" inside.
The discoveries of physicists have confirmed what shamans have understood for a long time, that energy seems to arise out of the very "nothingness" of space. It appears that there is some huge invisible energy field. From this field, particles of matter seem to come into existence only to eventually "decay" back into the field.
This vast energy field has been known to indigenous cultures and eastern mystics for thousands of years. Chief Seattle said in 1854, "All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected... Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it." The ancient Vaisesika philosopher Kanada of India talked of atoms, the relativity of space and time, and the dissolution of atomic particles, 2,800 years ago. Ancient cultures have known many things that we are only beginning to discover.
All of us have the ability to perceive our connection to a greater web of life. My wife's grandfather, who always regarded himself as a very conservative person, was so moved by a vivid dream he once had that he told the whole family. In the dream he was jogging in his familiar gray track suit when he collapsed on the sidewalk. As a group of people gathered around him, he had the sensation of looking down at his body and calling out to everyone, "Hey that's not me, I'm up here!" Three months later he was out jogging on the sidewalk, in his gray track suit, when he collapsed and died of a heart attack. As he lay on the footpath a crowd gathered over his body, just as he had seen in his dream, three months earlier.
The Sage who knows they are inextricably linked to this vast field of energy, is free to be part of that larger world. They experience a sense of freedom and expansion that is exalting. They know that the world is a wondrous place. From their standpoint they are not a single, lonely individual trying to find their place in the great scheme. Rather than being a solo violinist, they see themselves as part of a great orchestra. They belong to a universe that is in constant relationship. This sense of communion nourishes and inspires them.
If you would like to embrace more of your own inner sage, try the following exercise that was often used by the Toltec shamans of Mexico. Look at a tree and instead of seeing the branches and leaves of the tree, see the spaces between the limbs and leaves. In other words you are looking at the “empty” spaces within the tree and allowing this to be at the forefront of your perception. When most people first try this, they find it quite difficult, only because we have been conditioned to look at a tree in a certain way. As you keep practicing, it will become easier and your ability to think outside the square and perceive the world in a new way, will also grow.