Category Archives: Worldview

On the Nature of Reality Series

NGC6960 Veil Nebula by Rob Gendler. Click to enlarge.

Message from Okunomichi

Thank you for visiting Okunomichi. I chose my pen-name after the title of haiku master Matsuo Basho’s masterpiece, Oku no Hosomichi, the Narrow Road to the Interior. Okunomichi (Oku no Michi) means the Path to Inner Wisdom. After some decades of studying various Eastern and Western mystery schools, I have finally come to see how they are connected. The answer is obvious, through The Ageless Wisdom found around the world since ageless times. But just how, was beyond me. 

However, at this time, the world is opening to an outpouring of cosmic energies. Earth and its inhabitants of the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms are awakening and evolving to higher frequencies and higher dimensions. We are being infused by energies from outer space as well as within, and assisted and guided by more highly evolved beings than we, so that we can join them as fully realized beings.

As a physicist and mathematician, it has taken a lot to come to this stage of understanding of metaphysics and spiritual matters. I thank all my teachers and supporters, whether scientists or spiritual, whether in body or not, for getting me here. I was always driven by an intention to understand the true nature of reality. I sought it in the physical realm, and I learned a lot about how to conduct research and how the three-dimensional world operates. But not enough. We must open our minds — and our hearts — and go beyond. Just as the name Okunomichi suggests!

Please read and contemplate what I have prepared for you, beginning with the first essay of the series, and continuing in chronological order since they are presented following previous themes. I will endeavor to keep adding new ideas to share, and I would love to hear from you. Please free to Leave a Reply to contact me (click the link at the top of this article). Or write to Okunomichi575 (at) gmail.com.

Thank you for joining me and the rest of us.   —- Okunomichi

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In the Beginning was Chaos

Nebula

The Tarantula is one of the largest known star-forming nebula. Although it looks like chaos, the nebula is really forming stars.

In the Beginning was Chaos

This post was inspired by Elisabet Sahtouris (see previous post) who gave the definition of the Greek word chaos. In many of the creation myths the world began in utter darkness, in chaos, when all was in confusion. How did our orderly world develop out of the confusion? We ask, what is chaos?

Okunomichi has discussed chaos previously. You can find the posts by using the Search box on the right.

Chaos and Gaia’s Dance

The ancient Greek myth of Gaia’s Dance is described in Sahtouris’ Gaia’s Dance (see previous posts):

Once upon a time, there was only a great, dark emptiness called Chaos. There was nothing at all until a beautiful dancing goddess appeared. As she danced and danced, Gaia became Earth with forests and rivers, fishes and birds and animals, and eventually the people of Earth.

In the Greek creation myth, the great darkness and emptiness of Chaos is the great All That Is. How can nothing be everything?

Chaos and Plenum

In ancient Greece, chaos meant the possibility of everything in no-thing. Once things came into being, the universe was called cosmos which means the pattern of All That Is. The Greeks called this fullness in nothingness plenum. Plenum is also used in quantum physics.

The expression, the possibility of everything, reminds me of a benediction by Sanata Kumara (see earlier post). He would say before sending off a mission:

May all possibilities be open to you.

This is equivalent to saying:

May all opportunities be open to you.

Chaos and Plenum

The Greek definition of chaos in emptiness is taken up by physicists who call this emptiness the Quantum Void as well as the Quantum Plenum, for all possibilities are open.

Quantum physicist David Bohm has proposed that the nature of reality as we experience it in our physical world is an explicate order which has its ground in an implicate order. More about about this in the next post.

Order Out of Chaos According to Gaia’s Dance

We refer you again to Gaia’s Dance for the story of how Gaia the goddess and Gaia the Earth solved the problem of creating order in a beautiful and harmonious manner.

Order Out of Chaos According to Science

Order out of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine

Order Out of Chaos is the title of a book by Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine, physical chemist, and Isabelle Stengers, philosopher. As a physical chemist, Prigogine is concerned with the role of entropy:

“A new unity is emerging: irreversibility is a source of order at all levels. Irreversibility is the mechanism that brings order out of chaos.”

It is beyond our scope to go into the exposition, so we limit ourselves to the remark that quantum mechanics plays a role in this.

Science, Order, and Creativity

Another book of collaboration in which they expose their thoughts about order (in a non-technical way) is the book, Science, Order, and Creativity, by David Bohm and F. David Peat, both theoretical physicists, originally published in 1987. Here is an intriguing statement:

“But according to the metaphor that chaos is order, an increase in entropy has to be understood in a different way that is, in terms of a kind of change of order.”

2022.11.20 The following addendum augments the post.

Edgar Mitchell on Order and Chaos

Edgar Mitchell, astronaut on the 1971 Apollo 14 mission to the moon, wrote a bold book on his “journey through the material and mystical worlds.” The book, The Way of the Explorer, was published in 1996. Here are some of his remarks related to the chaos theory of Ilya Prigogine.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that a physicist by the name of Ilya Prigogine described the most pervasive and important processes in the macroscale universe as far-from-equilibrium processes. He garnered the Nobel Prize for his work on dissipative structures, which he reported in his book, Order Out of Chaos. 

The salient characteristic of Prigogine’s discoveries about dissipative structures is that they are entropic processes, meaning they are not time-reversible. 

In nature, time has only one direction. We call this the arrow of time. … The arrow of time is completely defined by the direction of irreversible processes of which there are two in the macroscale universe: entropic and negentropic. …

But the process of the universe, as understood today, is that of transforming the enormous unstructured potential at the moment of the Big Bang into a structured macroscale reality that ten to eighteen billion years later resulted in human beings who can ask questions about that process. Perhaps we are a star’s way of knowing about itself.

The arrow of time is only knowable at the level of macroscale processes where energy is lost into the larger environment, or organizes into more complex structures through irreversible processes. 

By looking at very nonlinear behaviors in nature, scientists discovered certain repeating patterns of chaos and order, depending upon the scale of size. The closer one looks at the seemingly chaotic behavior of certain systems, new levels of order seem to emerge from the details. And beneath each level of order is another level of chaos, and so on.

End of addendum.

Next: Quantum Plenum of All Possibilities

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Gaia’s Dance: All That Is

Gaia’s Dance by Elisabet Sahtouris

This is the fifth in the series of posts on the true nature of reality. Here we view Reality from a Gaian perspective.

Gaia’s Dance

Gaia’s Dance is a perceptive book about the living nature of our mother planet, Gaia. Scientist Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris can see the evolution of Earth as a dance of powerful energies. Not only does she look into ancient Greek and Vedic myths and past five-billion-year Earth history, but interprets the latest scientific findings and looks ahead into the future as well. She shows us how we’ve crippled Gaia and what we can do to make her healthy again, along with transforming our own human foibles and destiny. The book is entitled, Gaia’s Dance: The Story of Earth and Us, 2018 . This book is written in a comfortable style for non-specialists to understand the complex science. Other titles of Sahtouris include:  Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution, A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us; and Biology Revisioned with Willis Harman.

The Dance of the Universe

“Every piece of matter, everything we know, is a beautiful ballet made of countless invisible dancers’ movements together. It is a dance too small to see, and yet so large it is the whole universe!

“This reminded some physicists that ancient people in India had called the universe the dance of Shiva and his wife, Shakti…and the dance of living nature, of the whole universe, is All That Is.

“Physicists everywhere now understand the universe this way, showing us that matter is a moving dance of energy forming endless patterns. What ‘matters’ is the design of the dance. People everywhere are getting this, too, that we are all One, all individually and together a single energy dance, all of us affecting each other’s lives, all of us co-creating our dance now and always.

“Perhaps the biggest question in science now is about the nature of this basic energy of All That Is. Just like the hunt for the tiniest indivisible ‘original’ particle from which all matter is composed, scientists now hunt for the original energy from which all the matter in the universe is made. Some physicists believe it is what we call consciousness as was, and still is, believed in the Vedic science of India; others disagree.”

Sea of Energy Model

Scientists have begun to abandon the popular Big Bang theory. Now scientists believe that the universe that we know began as ripples of energy like waves on a sea of energy, or like the breath of a living organism. In the 20th century, Einstein’s theory of relativity showed that matter is equivalent to energy. And quantum mechanics theory posits that everything is connected, which agrees with the ancient teachings of sages that All is One. What is it that makes All One?

Keyboard Model

Elisabet Sahtouris suggests we imagine the stuff of the universe as like a musical keyboard. It does make some sense, since musical notes are vibrations of different frequencies. The lowest keys/notes are the particles of Matter, the middle keys are the electromagnetic energies of light, and the highest keys are the high frequencies of Spirit. In this model, each of us is a being of Matter-Energy-Spirit. Einstein showed that matter and energy are the same thing. But what is this “same thing”? We are now beginning to accept the ages-old teaching of the Vedas that this basic stuff is consciousness, consciousness which is Spirit. Consciousness has all these vibrations of energy of the keyboard, from Spirit to Energy to Matter.

Consciousness: All That Is

The universe is All That Is. We are All That Is. 

What is “All That Is”? Well, isn’t it what consciousness is — pure energy? Physicists call All That Is the quantum field, a field of pure energy.

We will go into further consideration of the quantum field and we will be sharing further thoughts on consciousness in following posts.

The Evolving Dance

In the final chapter of Sahtouris’ Gaia’s Dance, she shares her wisdom with the reader.

“We humans, as we have seen, are still quite new compared with so many other species, yet we are already forming a still newer and larger global body of humanity. We are taking evolution to a new stage — one in which we are aware of what we are doing, one in which we organize ourselves by ideas instead of by instincts — one in which we can know ourselves as spirit having a human experience, as some people say, and knowing, or waking up to, our Oneness, our presence in All That Is.”

“If people all over the world come to love their own lives as part of Gaia’s Dance, Gaia’s big brain experiment may prove to be well worth the risk. We will all know that we are still young, as a human species, and can make the future as bright as we would like it to be. With our love and cooperation, Gaia’s Dance will go on in creative balance and harmony — both for itself and as part of the greater harmonies of the whole universe.”

In the Beginning …

The ancient Greeks said that the universe originated with the dance of the goddess Gaia. Dancing brought order out of chaos. Let’s take a further look at chaos.

Next: In the Beginning was Chaos

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Hopi Teachings of Grandfather Martin

Preface: This article is a rendering of the wisdom of Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma who presented the teachings of the Hopi at the Living Wisdom Gathering on April 27, 2002. Grandfather Martin passed away in 2015. His words are herein paraphrased or verbatim, as translated by Emory Holmes. I am grateful to Grandfather Martin for sharing his wisdom with us. 

Introduction 

These are teachings from long ago. It took me a long time to understand it. The words are from elders speaking into the future, about what is happening around us and where this is taking us. They foretold that volcanoes asleep will awaken, and fissures like fingers will extend north, south, east, and west. Polar caps will melt and build up the waters. Mother Earth will get angry. Such events have taken place before. 

I am afraid for people who have disrespect for Mother Earth, nature, and one another. These earth changes will take many lives, and we will see around us wars, starvation, sickness. All these events were foretold to happen all at once. But to me, I think that there will be a chain of events. All these things are connected to our beliefs and teachings which we have ignored. This will happen. 

Teachings 

We are now waiting for the time of purification, a time of endless wars. I am asking you to watch yourselves, to care for one another. It will be everywhere, and it will reach us here also. Be careful with your lives. 

These are some of the things taught. We should watch our food; we should watch for ourselves, with planting of fruits and vegetables. Weather is uncertain and there will be sudden changes. We don’t know if corn will grow, and then freeze. 

These are teachings for us, our beliefs. We’re not pushing you to step on the path. It’s a choice we must all make for ourselves. We talked for so long to so many people everywhere. It’s a choice from your heart. If you follow my path and if it’s not the right path for you, arguments will begin. I’m trying to avoid this. Arguments will arise, and arguments are not the answer 

We should unite as one. Our teachings differ. When it is right and proper they will be one 

This is a critical time. Choices should have been made much earlier. It’s already too late. Spirit must believe in your heart. It does not happen over night – it takes a long time. 

Food becomes scarce. We cannot eat money. Money will become obsolete. Starvation comes again. From teachings and beliefs, we once knew how to take care of that. But we tbrgot, we ignored how and what ceremony to remedy it. 

The teachings also concern economical things such as running water and electricity, things that are being controlled. They will also destroy us. Electrical storms will burn down our houses, and the water system and sewer system will be destroyed. A lot of things are yet to happen, still waiting to happen. A lot of things are not being done right 

One Person 

We are part of a group that is working toward helping so that things will not be so horrible. We are searching for a special someone strong to stand up against these things. The age or race doesn’t matter. It may well be a child. Our elders said that one person is enough. If we find two, that’s a lot. Three is too much. 

We’re still in search of that person or persons. That person will receive all the strength and knowledge that we have. all our power. That person will become our leader. 

The same is true of countries. Countries are coming together to help one another. We are working on this, for everything will come to one at the end. Wars taking place are part of the purification, depleting the population. Whoever is left will come together and become one. Teachings, understanding, and language become one. 

Prayers 

Every morning we pray. It will be our prayers that will make a difference. I encourage you to make prayers each day. When you make prayers, when your prayers are strong enough, your own homeland will remain standing, like a mesa. 

We know there are spirits watching over us, everywhere and in certain areas. There are sacred areas, where spirits live. So l’m asking you to keep your prayers up. 

Even with prayers you many not be able to see what’s happening. Your dreams can tell you many things, the truth. Reality happens later. Not losing faith in that part of yourself will keep us going forward. If you run into a wall, back up, and continue. 

We are told that, at the Time of Emergence, writings were left behind, writings that tell of our history. These areas are sacred, with spirits. Desecration of sacred areas will turn on you. Maybe Hopi will stand up for you, maybe not. Don’t point fingers or judge. 

Summary 

All the teachings that have been handed down must be taken seriously. At the end will be a world court, judgment day. Listen. Take it seriously. 

This is a lot to be talked about. Keep your prayers up. The outcome depends on our hearts, our souls. I hope that these words spoken today, this message. is taken into your hearts and souls. 

Take this wisdom home. 

Hopi katchina male and female shalako Mother Earth by Roanna Jackson, First Mesa, AZ.

Recommended reading: Meditations with the Hopi by Robert Boissiere, Bear & Company, 1986.

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A Modern View of Shinto:  Scholar and Shinto Priest Minoru Sonoda

Chichibu-Jinja

Entrance of Chichibu Jinja. Photo by Commons Wikimedia

Preface

Dr. Minoru Sonoda (薗田/稔) is chief priest of Chichibu Jinja (秩父神社) Shinto shrine in Saitama, as well as professor emeritus of Kyoto University and professor at Kogakkan University. His doctorate in religious studies is from Tokyo University.

Dr. Sonoda is chairman of the International Shinto Research Association for the exchange of research with people overseas who are studying Shinto. Although Dr. Sonoda is identified with Shinto, he promotes the idea that Shinto is not a “religion” in the Western sense of the word. Rather, Shinto is a type of community tradition that has naturally developed. Instead of being an individual faith-based activity, Shinto is community, culture, and heritage closely tied to nature. When put this way, doesn’t it seem that Shinto is far from being exclusive to Japan, and instead can be understood and practiced by people around the world?

Interview

An interview conducted by Satsuya Tabuchi appeared in SPF Voices Newsletter of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in 2006. Click here for the full report in English. An article about Dr. Sonoda appears here. Click here for Chichibu Jinja’s home page.

Here are some highlights of the topics discussed with SPF. We presume that Dr. Sonoda, as Shinto priest, used the term kami which was translated into gods. Since the word kami does not accurately translate into the Western word gods, we prefer to keep the term kami. 

Kami, unseen spirits behind the scenes

Kami abide in specific places such as sources of water or other places that are important to life. Kami are unseen to the human eye. What is sacred “lurks in the depths of the forest. It is a psychic center behind the community, not in the middle. Even if Japan’s gods don’t have form, they dwell within pure objects as spirits.”

Culture and agriculture

Shinto is the product of agrarian culture. The word culture comes from the Latin colere meaning to inhabit, cultivate, protect, and honor. People who settled peacefully in a particular place developed culture. People grow crops and receive their life. Receiving life and giving thanks for it is how Shinto views life. This world view developed naturally in the agrarian society.

Nature and life

Human beings, imbued with life by nature, live together with nature. Shinto honors the preciousness of life.

What is life?

“Life isn’t something that lasts just one generation. Life is life precisely because it’s passed on from parents to children. This is the most valid way for human beings to view life.”

Afterword

Dr. Sonoda is proactive in the chinju no mori sacred forest movement. What is chinju no mori? Mori means forest. Chinju is written 鎮守. The first character 鎮 is read as shizumeru, to calm the spirit; the second character 守 is mamoru which means to protect. Thus, we may say chinju no mori is a forest whose tranquility is protected. In other words, let’s protect the peace and serenity provided us by forests.

Related to this is the shinrin yoku trend, often translated as “forest bathing.” Shinrin is the compound word, forest-grove, and yoku simply means to bathe. People are going to forested areas for personal peace and tranquility as well as for proven health benefits.

 

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Kimi no Na Wa and Musubi

kumihimo musubi S

Preface

Kimi no Na Wa is an extremely popular and powerful anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai. We say “powerful” in that it is thought-provoking of matters outside the ordinary limits of time and space.

Musubi.  Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding method for making decorative and functional cords, and it is depicted in several scenes in the movie. Musubi is a knot, a tying together, of connecting people and things. The photo shows two kumihimo cords in a musubi knot.

Motohisa Yamakage has taught Koshinto through books such as The Essence of Shinto. Yamakage Sensei writes, “Musubi means to unite or bind together. … the concept of musubi signifies the proliferation of life and spirit. … the very process of creating and giving birth to life and spirit is described as musubi and we [Koshinto] place it in very high regard.”

Time and Space.  We have related the Tanabata Festival tale as the weaving of time and space. This is an observance since early Jomon times that takes place in the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, when the moon is only half-full and the stars in the Milky Way can clearly be seen. The word tanabata means a kind of weaving loom. So picture a fabric being woven with threads of warp and woof. The threads of the warp represent the flow of time, and the shuttling of the woof creates space. See also here and here

Kimi no Na wa (君の名は) is an international hit movie, entitled Your Name in English. The warping and entangling of time and space is the theme of this metaphysical movie. Perhaps that’s why millions of people find the movie so intriguing.

In today’s essay, we consider how the movie conveys the message of Musubi through the imagery of braiding.

Early on in the movie, we see that Mitsuha lives with her sister and grandmother in a very small town in the rural land of Hida. Grandmother is priestess of an old shrine which has as its goshintai sacred object a megalith in the center of a meteor crater. Mitsuha serves as miko-san shrine maiden and performs a ritual at the shrine. Grandmother is also teaching Mitsuha to braid cords in the style of kumihimo. What, we wonder, is the significance of these elements?

Musubi in Kimi no Na wa

Grandmother’s explanation of Musubi uses the imagery of kumihimo. In one scene, Mitsuha and her sister are going with their grandmother on a pilgrimage to the sacred place of the megalith. On the way, Grandmother is explaining Musubi. We have restored the original word, kami, to the subtitles.

Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian kami.

Tying thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi.

These are all the kami’s power.

So the braided cords that we make are the kami’s art and represent the flow of time itself.

They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, then connect again.

Musubi-knotting. That’s time.

Musubi

From the above, we can see that the concept of musubi is that of gathering and connecting. Grandmother has explained how people are connected in time and space, and she stresses the time element. This is the basic theme of the movie.

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David Bohm:  Wholeness and the Nature of Reality 

The question of whether the world we live in is a simulation of some other has recently been raised in the media. For those of our readers who, too, are pondering the nature of reality — and we think that includes most of you — we recommend the study of David Bohm’s work.

Dialogues with Scientists and Sages

imgres-3We first learned about David Bohm in the book by Renee Weber, Dialogues with Scientists and Sages: The Search for Unity, Routledge, 1986. Philosopher Weber interviewed a number of exemplary people of our time: Lama Govinda, Rupert Sheldrake, David Bohm, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Father Bede Griffiths, Ilya Prigogine, Stephen Hawking, and Krishnamurti. This book can be truly transformative and although out of print, should be on our bookshelves to be read and reread. Bohm himself was greatly affected by the Eastern views of Krishnamurti.

David Bohm

220px-David_Bohm

David Bohm, 1917-1992, was a prominent quantum theoretical physicist who had studied and worked with Einstein and Oppenheimer. He made a number of important contributions to quantum mechanics, relativity, plasma theory, and ontology theory. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics and philosophy that is concerned with the nature of reality. His work challenged conventional physical thought and offered an innovative approach, so innovative as to be little understood nor accepted by the mainstream. His work, unfortunately unappreciated until now, will surely become more widely known in this century.

Wholeness and the Implicate Order

imgresDavid Bohm was an extraordinary physicist whose great work, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, was published by Routledge in 1980. In the Introduction of this book, he wrote:

  • “I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment.”
  • “How are we to think coherently of a simple, unbroken, flowing actuality of existence as a whole, containing both thought (consciousness) and external reality as we experience it?
  • “Clearly, this brings us to consider our overall world view, which includes our general notions concerning the nature of reality along with those concerning the total order of the universe, i.e., cosmology.”
  • “My suggestion is that a proper world view, appropriate for its time, is generally one of the basic factors that is essential for harmony in the individua and in society as a whole.”

Topics in his book include the following:

  • Ch. 1 Wholeness as a world view compared with fragmentation world view.
  • Ch. 2 Language can be noun-based or verb-based, divisive or unitive.
  • Ch. 3 Reality as an underlying universal movement/process; world view in which consciousness and reality are not fragmented from each other.
  • Ch. 4, 5, 6 Technical subjects
  • Ch. 7 Consciousness and the enfolding-unfolding universe

There is an important Appendix at the end of Chapter 1 on the Western and Eastern forms of insight into wholeness. Here, he notes that in the East, the immeasurable was seen as the primary reality, for measure is a thought of man. “When measure is identified with the very essence of reality, this is illusion.” It is the immeasurable that Bohm calls the implicate order.

What the West can do, Bohm states, is to

  • “develop new insight into fragmentation and wholeness [that] requires a creative work even more difficult than that needed to make fundamental new discoveries in science, or great and original works of art.”
  • “assimilate [the great wisdom from the whole of the past, both in the East and in the West] and to go on to new and original perception relevant to our present condition of life.”

In the rest of the book, Bohm lays out the results of his own creative work. We, now, can take up the reins and move ahead into greater wholeness and harmony in our world view and in our lives. This is one of the great books of the twentieth century.

David Bohm and F. David Peat:  Science, Order, and Creativityimgres-2

This book was published in 1987. It is a more descriptive book and may be easier to understand. It takes up topics such as creativity in science, what is order?, the implicate order, consciousness, and creativity in the whole of life. Certainly well worth reading.

D. Bohm and B.J. Hiley, The Undivided Universe: An ontological interpretation of quantum theory

imgres-1The Undivided Universe by Bohm and his long-time collaborator was published in 1993, a year after Bohm’s passing. This epitome of Bohm’s work elucidates the implicate order and its role in quantum theory, as well as in consciousness.

  • “As we develop this idea, we shall see that the notion of enfoldment is not merely a metaphor, but that it has to be taken fairly literally. To emphasise this point, we shall therefore say that the order in the hologram is implicate. The order in the object, as well as in the image, will then be unfolded and we shall call it explicate. The process, in this case wave movement, in which this order is conveyed from the object to the hologram will be called enfoldment or implication. The process in which the order in the hologram becomes manifest to the viewer in an image will be called unfoldment or explication.”
  • “What all this suggests is that our most primary experience in consciousness actually is of an implicate order. And our perception of the explicate order is constituted mostly by a series of abstractions from this.”
  • “The implicate order is not only the ground of perception, but also of the actual process of thought.”
  • “All of this is clearly compatible with the notion that the basic order of the mind is implicate and that the explicate arises as a particular case of this implicate order in much the way that we have suggested.”

Links

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“Dying Gods” of the Japanese Worldview

Okunomichi:  We have just come across an essay by  Yamaori Tetsuo, a distingished scholar of religious studies. Written originally in Japanese, its clear English translation evokes in the Western reader a better understanding of what it is to be Japanese. We offer a few paragraphs and suggest that the full essay be read at http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02903/.

Keywords: Environment, worldview, religion, mythology, Shinto, kami, society.

The Japanese World View: Three Keys to Understanding

by Yamaori Tetsuo

“Along with a sense of transience, the natural environment also fostered a comforting awareness of the cycle of the seasons and the rebirth that invariably follows death. Flowers bloomed in the spring, leaves turned color and fell in the autumn, freezing winds swept the trees bare in the winter. But invariably the old year gave way to the new, and spring arrived once again. The knowledge that sunny days inevitably followed cloudy ones gave people the strength to live from day to day. Armed with this awareness, they learned to face life with grace and patience, flexibility and fortitude, and to face impending death with quiet acceptance, returning to the earth to become one with nature again.”

“Shintō is translated “the way of the kami,” and the kami of Japan are very different in character from the divinities with which most Westerners are familiar. From prehistoric times countless kami were believed to dwell deep within nature, in the mountains, forests, and waters of the archipelago. These were not anthropomorphic beings with distinct personalities and physical attributes. The vast majority were nameless but potent spirits of the sort believed to inhabit places and objects of all kinds. For that reason, there was a tendency to refer to them collectively, as kami-gami, rather than in the singular.”

“In ancient Japan, however, the relationship between mythological and historical events was viewed quite differently. In the Japanese cosmology, human society was subject to the same laws and rhythms as the deities who helped found it. For this reason, the Japanese viewed the origins of their country in a very different light from the kind of historical view common in the West. …The perception that the kami died just as human beings enabled the Japanese to view myth and history as seamlessly linked and nurtured a distinctive view of the cosmos, of life and death, and of the human condition.”

“What is the relationship between dying gods and a political system predicated on pluralism? Both reflect a view of the cosmos, human life, and human society shaped by a keen awareness of the impermanent, ever-changing nature of the world in which we live.”