Article in Odyssey, August – September, 2005
Steven Harrison has written six distinct books in a little over eight years, each one unfolding, within a specific exploration of issues such as meditation, relationships, education. The connecting thread through these investigations has been a perspective of living an authentic, transformative life, one that is about spirituality beyond any belief. In his latest work, What’s Next After Now: Post-Spirituality and the Creative Life, Harrison terms it ‘post-spirituality’. Kriben Pillay reports.
In many ways, readers familiar with Harrison’s writings will see this as his most challenging work, and certainly it is conceptually challenging when we see that he is exploring notions such as acausality, amorality and transactual reality. But unlike other deconstructive explorations, in Harrison’s writings these challenging concepts are not for our intellectual entertainment, but rather they appear as experimentations in energetic movements using words to allow us to touch what is beyond concept. It is inevitable that each reader will be challenged differently by this book, but if we approach it as a dialogue, that is, suspending our mental noise as we read and listen with quiet attention, then the possibility of communion beyond communication with Harrison may be possible. In fact, this is no different to the way Harrison engages participants in a retreat.
In his reply to why he wrote What’s Next, Harrison states clearly the nature of the exploration:
‘Spirituality is often framed in either a mechanistic “practice makes perfect” ideal, or a magical thinking “create your own reality” denial. There is a breakthrough of sorts when we notice that there is a tremendous power in the present that breaks through this kind of dualism and synthesizes a new possibility. In What’s Next After Now?, I wanted to begin to explore the dynamic expression, the actual manifestation of possibility we can discover in leaving behind our ideas of spirituality and taking the risk of creativity. The present moment has been captured by our notions of spirituality, made into a dead space, a place to distance from the energetic qualities of life. In actuality, presence doesn’t exist in the way we have come to think of it. It occurs as the becoming, the creative movement of what is next, and this is the nature of the human potential that has all possibility – quantum possibility and the creative, post-spiritual life. Writing this book is a contribution to this exploration.’
The following excerpts allow the book to speak for itself, and hopefully will ignite in the reader a similar exploration to that of the author’s. I have selected pieces appropriate to the five major parts of the book:
Part 1– Breakdown: The Fires of Transformation
The fundamental deception we construct is the idea of the self. This prime organizing assumption is the progenitor of all the other deceptions, and it is generated by thought itself as an integral part of the arising of the thought form. By the very architecture of thinking we generate a subject-object reality in which we give automatic existence to an entity called me, a complex virtual character worthy of a classic science fiction novel. Utilizing the tool of thought that both generates the me and seeks to create the circumstance of its survival, we set about a life of thinking and surviving.
We apprehend thought as the reflection of life and believe that what we think is in some way accurate. But thought is the projector, not the reflector. It is the creator of our reality, not the mirror of it. Thought is reality, a subjective construction; the actual is something else entirely. While we are the center of this projected universe, the lack of full dimensionality in the flat world of thought suggests to us that there is something fundamentally untrue about everything. This subtle disturbance is the actuality of the universe impinging on our dream world. The awakening from the dream appears from the perspective of the dream as death.
Part 2 – Breakthrough: Post-Spirituality and Actuality
The great liberation is actual and requires nothing, gives nothing, contains nothing, and creates nothing. We are all done, whether we like it or not, whether we are spiritual or not, whether we agree with this or not. When we cease to characterize life as a process with attendant goals, we apprehend what has always been the case, an acausal world in which manifestation is absolutely true and description is relatively not. The actual is, the conceptual is not, other than within itself. The conceptual is always reflective and fragmented, never actual and complete. As such, concept is useless in contacting actuality.
The great liberation then is not a state, but an energetic manifestation, an actuality, not an idea. We could say that this energy is manifest in each of us, if there were an each of us, rather than an all of us. We could say this energy is all of us, if there were any of us, rather than none of us, in the actual. We can find an each, an any, an all of us in the relative world of ideas and in the somatic world of bodies and brains. But in the post-conceptual we know that these are relative worlds and that the energy manifestation, the actual, is not each of us, all of us, or any of us, because we are not.
Part 3 – Breakout: Creativity
The source of quantum creativity is non-located; that is to say that it is located in the entirety. The creative utilizes the locus, utilizes time and space, but it is not of these qualities, certainly not limited to their boundaries. Actual creativity is not sourced from the me that we are so used to maintaining; rather it creates this locus.
That this is so disorienting to us results in an endless struggle to subsume what is beyond me into me, as if this activity had great meaning. We exert effort in an absurd attempt to reach from the created to the creative, as useless as suggesting that a sculpture struggle to chisel the sculptor. This effort leaves us with a sense of pressure and confusion, not creativity, but those qualities motivate a kind of agitation that we regard as creative. This neurosis activates us to do. And this doing agitates more neurosis. But doing is not creative; it is the byproduct of actual creativity.
Part 4 – Love and the Transactual Reality
Transactual love is really quite simple. It’s available in each moment to anyone. But that realisation of stillness has to live as a hyperfluid dynamic. This is where it is a challenge to give up the safety of the spiritual now and step into what is next.
Bring the realisation into the body, the relationships, the work, and see what happens as we slam up against the infrastructure of mind. The mind is very, very resistant. That is where spirituality dies. Transactual love is not alive in the spiritual theories of spiritual teachers in spiritual settings with spiritual acolytes. In these temples of delusion, spirituality is sacrificed to the gods of relative reality.
Where spirituality is least likely is where it is most vital – in the actual life and circumstances of the common person. It’s very easy to be a spiritually special person when you are protected and cared for like a child, always in comfortable and nice environments. You can take most anybody and put them on a cushion in a nice room with a lot of admiration and they would be likely to express great enlightenment. But put them in a house with a gaggle of kids, bills to pay, and a job to go to, and let us see how the enlightenment goes.
Part 5 – Forms and Functions
Corporations are the dinosaurs of our world culture, great plodding beasts, powerful, unstoppable – and doomed because they cannot adapt. They depend on an intricate mass hypnosis that has created a feudal system so convincing in its illusion that the serfs gladly work for the warlords with hardly a murmur about the inequities that seem so obvious. Yet with all their apparent power, the corporations are fragile constructions. The lives of the largest of them are typically measured in mere decades before they collapse, are sold, taken over, or parted out. The structures themselves are not sustainable, nor are their products, nor the culture that grows from them. The corporations are missing the agility to change or, for that matter, to even perceive change. They are born and they grow in aggressive creativity and die on the momentum of structures so inflexible and brittle as to be unresponsive to the rapidly mutating marketplace. These organisations’ inability to change is the very element that will create change.