Sunday, March 22, 2009

Atlas Shrugged and The Third Eye

One of the first books that impacted me was Atlas Shrugged. I was sixteen when I read it. The first book I remember that effected me was The Third Eye, by T. Lobsang Rampa. I was thirteen and read this on a train going to California. My parents had given me a choice of having a Bar Mitzvah party or a trip to California.

These books describe very different perspectives of reality. Atlas Shrugged is in the Aristotelian tradition of a=a, what you see is what you get. There is no reality other than what we experience and it is up to each of us to create our own world. Our first responsibility is to ourselves and it is only in meeting this responsibility that the world can prosper.

The Third Eye tells the story of an Englishmen who begins having dreams about Tibet and feels drawn to go there. When he does go there he remembers a life in which he grew up in Tibet, was trained in a monastery, and a hole was put into his head that enabled him to have psychic powers. He was taught that he must use these powers to help others. This book is in the mystical tradition, favored by Plato, that believes there is a reality beyond our senses. The path to freedom comes from our recognition of our insignificance and our willingness to submerge our selfish interests for the greater good.

What to do? What to do? How do you determine what to believe when both sides make so much sense and each point of view is backed by the thoughts of history's greatest minds? On one hand we are told that there is a virtue in selfishness and on the other that we must transform our desires to receive for ourselves alone into the desire to receive for the purpose of sharing.

After many years of contemplation of this philosophical dilemma I have come to see that both points of view are valid. We cannot help others unless we help ourselves. We must live in the world and respect the things of this world but also recognize that there is something more. We need to listen and observe with attention and go about our lives with a respect for both reason and magic. Truth is revealed in different ways at different times to those who don't already believe they know. When we can simultaneously accept opposite points of view as equally valid we are beginning to understand life in all its fullness and variety. There is no requirement to take a stand except against that which blocks our progress.

1 comment:

  1. The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.

    ~F Scott Fitzgerald