Collected Essays on Spiritual Unfolding, Cafh, Science, Life, Death and Renouncement


This manuscript is a compilation of essays written over many years. Each is complete in itself, though the themes of each essay are related. I have preceded most essays with a work of my art as a meditation relating to the essay but not a simple illustration. My hope is that the images elicit in you different, expansive thoughts and feelings, perhaps present in the essay but unvoiced.

This manuscript is an outgrowth of my attempt to grasp the realities of medicine and science as they relate to the mystery at the heart of Being. Inevitably the topics of space and time, life and death, arise, as well as truth and love. Renouncement and what I might term “spiritual unfolding” emerge from the shadows to appear and reappear. I have spent more than 40 years applying the methods of a spiritual path known as Cafh to my life, and inevitably these tenants shape my ideas. I am indebted to all my teachers, patients, friends, and family for all I have been taught or have learned. I recognize that none of my thoughts are original or mine alone, but are shaped by the events of my life.

In 1995, I had a near-fatal heart attack, cardiac arrest and near-death experience. While this experience lasted only a brief period, it led to permanent changes in my overall perspective. That perspective is the lens that focuses these “lights in dark places”.

Three Lessons by Robert Magrisso

1. Three Lessons

I came back to the hospital after office hours just to tell Seana the operative findings. As her general internist, I knew there was no real need for me to tell her, as she would be just coming out of general anesthesia and was, technically, on the surgery service. But I felt that I should. This would be her fourth major surgery to try and defeat the inexorably metastasizing colon cancer.

Continuity by Robert Magrisso

2. Continuity

She’d been preoccupied with death for several years now; but one aspect had never before crossed her mind: dying, you don’t get to see how it all turns out. Questions you have asked will go unanswered forever. Will this one of my children settle down? Will that one learn to be happier? Will I…

Robert Magrisso The God of Spinoza

3. The God of Spinoza

“We can survive death to the extent that we have already let go of our singular solitary selves… Immortality, for Spinoza, is impersonal. I survive my necessary death to the extent that I have ceased identifying with the mere thing that I am, and identify with the whole intricate web I…

Robert Magrisso Mystical Death and Deconstruction

4. Mystical Death, Divine Union and Deconstruction of the Self

If I look objectively at my body, I see that it is made of cells, which are made of atoms. These atoms have been elsewhere before they were me. They were part of the food I ate, the water I drank, the air I breathed. Of course, what I call…

Robert Magrisso Reverie At Antelope Ruins, Canyon De Chelly

6. Reverie At Antelope Ruins, Canyon De Chelly

Sitting on the rock mantle, moon up ahead, vast canyon below, bottom layer 250 million years old: We are little bursts of life in the well of space-timeformed by our pebble in the cosmos and our nuclear furnace-star/sun. Human history is the history of small mammals with extraordinary potential. Is…

Robert Magrisso Mostly Space

7. (mostly) Space

“When a relaxed spirit meditates and dreams… the mind sees and continues to see objects, while the spirit finds the nest of immensity in the object.” If we were to look with finer detail into that which perceive as “matter”, we would see it to be mostly space. Atomic physicists…


8. The Big Bang, Science, Death, and the Unknown

Suddenly, Einstein lifted his head, looked upward at the clear skies and said: “We know nothing about it all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of school children.” “Do you think we shall ever probe the secret?” “Possibly we shall know a little more than we now know, but…”

Robert Magrisso Inpatient Hospice Rounds

9. Inpatient Hospice Rounds

This has been my first weekend covering the inpatient hospice unit. I suppose that I secretly hoped for a place of ecstatic mystical death, but this has been more like death–row than St. Theresa of Avila.

Robert Magrisso Model Making in Science and Daily Life

10. Model Making in Science and Daily Life

“The search for truth is more precious than its possession.” — Albert Einstein Introduction The process of science is one my inspirations for spiritual life. The expansion of consciousness brought to humanity by science is something from which I have tried to learn. The open-ended nature of science, always seeking…

The God of Spinoza by Robert Magrisso

11. Discernment: Improving the Signal to Noise Ratio

Discernment is a word that we do not use lightly. It is often defined as that of being able to grasp or comprehend that which is obscure. In the Christian tradition, it refers to discovering God’s will for one’s life, that is, one’s spiritual vocation.

Robert Magrisso Science and Inner Life

12. Science and Inner Life

To live and work as a scientist is to live at the edge of the unknown. You are at the frontier of knowledge about the mostly hidden order of the way things work. There is the awareness that not everything is as it seems and that there are unifying general…

Robert Magrisso Dying To Live

13. Dying To Live

This morning, riding out to Glenbrook Hospital, I did a calculation. It is 95 days since my heart attack and cardiac arrest. I see this as a “second life”, one I almost did not have. This part of my life feels like a gift. It also gives life a “borrowed” quality. We are all living on “borrowed time”, though it is rare to think of it that way.

Robert Magrisso The Spiral Path

14. The Spiral Path

Renouncement is an old idea. It comes from the monasteries, both East and West. The monks, nuns, sannyasins, and yogis all practice some forms of renouncement. While a few of us may want to choose such a life, most do not. There are communities in Cafh devoted to living the…

Robert Magrisso Renouncement: An Old Idea for a New World

15. Renouncement: An Old Idea For a New World

A hate filled white supremacist enters a black church and murders nine people in cold blood in an effort to incite a race war. He is captured and imprisoned. The families of the victims offer forgiveness rather than return hate. They renounce violence and revenge. A professional basketball superstar player…

Piet Hut

16. Deep Questions: An Interview With Piet Hut

Piet Hut is an astrophysicist and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, an institute whose members have included such luminaries as Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Kurt Gödel and Freeman Dyson.

Robert Magrisso Butterfly Woman

17. Butterfly Woman

In a dream we live seventy years and discover, on awakening, that it was a quarter of an hour. In our life, which passes like a dream, we live seventy years and then we awaken to a greater understanding which shows us that it was a quarter of an hour.