Saturday, March 11, 2006

Follow Up: The Absolute and the Manifest

In response to my original post on this topic, Nagarjuna asked why Spirit would bother to go through the hassle of manifesting if it is already perfect. Today, Tom came to the rescue and pointed me toward the Wilber interview that answers this question. Thanks!

From the interview, which was conducted for Pathways: A Magazine of Psychological and Spiritual Transformation:
Pathways: Why does Spirit bother to manifest at all, especially when that manifestation is necessarily painful and requires that It become amnesiac to Its true identity? Why does God incarnate?

Ken Wilber: Oh, I see you’re starting with the easy questions. Well, I’ll give you a few theoretical answers that have been offered over the years, and then I’ll give you my personal experience, such as it is.

I have actually asked this same question of several spiritual teachers, and one of them gave a quick, classic answer: “It’s no fun having dinner alone.”

That’s sort of flip or flippant, I suppose, but the more you think about it, the more it starts to make sense. What if, just for the fun of it, we pretend -- you and I blasphemously pretend, just for a moment -- that we are Spirit, that Tat Tvam Asi? Why would you, if you were God Almighty, why would you manifest a world? A world that, as you say, is necessarily one of separation and turmoil and pain? Why would you, as the One, ever give rise to the Many?

Pathways: It’s no fun having dinner alone?

Ken Wilber: Doesn’t that start to make sense? Here you are, the One and Only, the Alone and the Infinite. What are you going to do next? You bathe in your own glory for all eternity, you bask in your own delight for ages upon ages, and then what? Sooner or later, you might decide that it would be fun -- just fun -- to pretend that you were not you. I mean, what else are you going to do? What else can you do?

Pathways: Manifest a world.

Ken Wilber: Don’t you think? But then it starts to get interesting. When I was a child, I used to try to play checkers with myself. You ever tried that?

Pathways: Yes, I remember doing something like that.

Ken Wilber: Does it work?

Pathways: Not exactly, because I always knew what my “opponent’s” move was going to be. I was playing both sides, so I couldn’t “surprise” myself. I always knew what I was going to do on both sides, so it wasn’t much of a game. You need somebody “else” to play the game.

Ken Wilber: Yes, exactly, that’s the problem. You need an “other.” So if you are the only Being in all existence, and you want to play -- you want to play any sort of game -- you have to take the role of the other, and then forget that you are playing both sides. Otherwise the game is no fun, as you say. You have to pretend you are the other player with such conviction that you forget that you are playing all the roles. If you don’t forget, then you got no game, it’s just no fun.
There you have it. The Ken has spoken.

But seriously, I like the idea that Spirit would create the manifest Kosmos out of a sense of play. Not out of ego-driven ideas, or even to further evolve, but to play.

We are the Other in the game that Spirit has created. Our proper relationship to Spirit, under this pretext, should be playfulness. Life should be joyful and fun.

The only way to get to that place where we can relate to Spirit in playfulness is to transcend the ego that feels pain and loss and craving. As long as we are bound by ego, we can never know the joy of freely playing with Spirit.
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