William Edelen: The Cosmic Dance

Toward the Mystery

People often ask me “what are you?… what do you believe? Buddhist, Taoist, Christian… what?” In a joking mood I may tell them that I am a Druid, Taoist, Agnostic, Shaman.

But, when serious, I tell them I live within the historical stream of mysticism… and that world view, cosmology, or philosophy of life, is the same whether one lives in a Taoist society, Buddhist, Christian, or secular. With this consciousness, the ultimate reality (or God) is apprehended directly without any mediation. Subject and object become One in a timeless, spaceless act that is ineffable and gloriously joyful. Beauty and light and love are seen pervading the entire universe, including the individual self, now merged in Oneness with all creation. It is a “cosmic dance”.

The experience transcends the reach of any language. The Mystery is within us and every leaf, every atom, every molecule… with all. The universe is a totality and an interrelatedness of all things. For the cohesive Mystery within that totality, we use the word symbol “God”. It is creative love in a “cosmic dance”.

Many still want to apply the word symbol “God” to something “out there”, separate and distinct from us “down here” on this planet earth. It is always God and something else: God and us, God and creation, God and the creatures… as if the word “God” were a symbol for some “It” out there.

Dualism constantly separates man and woman from God, nature from man, and spirit from matter. We must rid ourselves of the dualism that infects so much of our orthodox religious views of the earth and universe.

Several years ago a Zen Master was lecturing at Stanford University. He opened his address by stepping up to the front of the stage, leaning toward the audience and saying: “Man against God. God against man. Man against nature. Nature against man. Nature against God. God against nature. A very, very funny religion.” A roaring ovation followed his remarks.

Today’s physics and quantum mechanics confirm that the classifications of animate and inanimate are archaic and invalid. Of course, Eastern religions and the American Indian traditions have been saying that for centuries.

In The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the author Gary Zukav writes that “contemporary physicists are expressing (are defining) themselves in the language of the mystics. The distinction between the “in here” and the “out there” no longer exists.

Dr. Donald Andrews of Johns Hopkins University used these words: “Every time you lift your finger, the farthest galaxy feels the impulse.” Or, as Physicist James Jeans wrote: “Modern physics has reduced the whole universe to waves, and nothing but waves.” All galaxies, stars, planets and human beings are manifestations of waves. I am talking about the Oneness, the interrelatedness of everything that is tied Together, by the Mystery, that is known only through experience. The “Cosmic Dance”… “will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the Dance,” asked Alice in that memorable story.

The cemeteries of history are filled with the graves of the dead gods and goddesses “out there”: Astarte, Baal, Demeter, Ishtar, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Jupiter, Thor and all the others. Man’s quest to understand his relationship to the cosmos created them all, presented by priests and clergy who dominated through fear.

Not until man began to identify himself as One with all of creation did he begin to understand the mystical experience and to find God within himself. We are alive Now, awake Now, and only in the Now do we experience the beauty and joy of the Mystery within the “Cosmic Dance”.

The mystic Henry David Thoreau gives us the last word: “If for a moment we make way with our petty and trivial selves and cease to be but as a crystal, which reflects a ray, what shall we not reflect! What a universe will appear radiant around us…”