Tuesday, 30 December 2014

An Awareness of Timelessness

          And so we approach the end of the year 2014, a year that ends a few days after a solstice, winter or summer being dependent upon the hemisphere in which one lives. This is not the only way to define the end of the year, of course, but it is the way to which I am accustomed. I find this time of the year a relaxing period, not one in which I choose to become involved in high activity. With half a nod to my animal forebears on the evolutionary tree of life, I feel a desire to hibernate physically, but at the same time keeping my mind awake. I feel a desire to write, yet do not have any grand topic in mind. In fact I would just like to walk and talk awhile with my readers, without becoming involved in deep intellectual debate. It would not seem to be mete for the season.
          When I first began Gwynt, which seems to be a time fast becoming lost in the past, yet was only in the spring of 2013, I felt a need to have a great deal of material held in reserve so that a subject on which to write was always available. I could never, at that time, have countenanced the situation in which I now find myself, and that is writing without any clear idea of what I wish to say. Thus for me, writing has taken on something of an act of faith in something bigger than myself. If I do not wish to become involved in deep intellectual debate, neither do I particularly wish to reminisce unless that activity has a bearing on the present.
          So what can I say of the present in which I find myself? Oddly, I no longer feel as if I am getting older. Obviously certain changes are taking place, imperceptibly; certain bits and pieces are not functioning as well as once they did, with certain bits requiring replacement. Yet all this repair work seems to be taking place in something approaching a timeless now. Even my left shoulder tendon, which has given me such pain in the past, has now reached a point of comfortable living-with-ness. But there is more than just the physical aspect of life to enjoy, or perhaps to contend with. There is a spiritual side that exists almost like a ghostly presence beyond my physical experiences.
          That other side is impossible to describe. Although it has about it a ghostly nature, it also has a sense of being more real and less illusory than my physical form. My physical universe just happens to be more immediate. Yet to describe this duality of beingness as being two different but interconnected states does not adequately convey my feeling, my perception, of this state. It is more like a sense of movement from one to the other, from the physical to the spiritual, a gradual dimming of one and the brightening of the other, as if I am changing, as well as re-ordering my inner priorities. It seems to be a slow process of becoming whilst at the same time happening in an eternal present. Therein lies the paradox of which I am becoming aware. Maybe that is what lies at the root of evolution, although I cannot see how that might be working through me at present.
          It has been said that each of us must pass through various stages or initiations in our inner lives. There would appear to be no escaping that journey, if those who appear to know more about these matters than I are correct. What happens if that journey is not entered into in this life I do not know. What I do know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that I have passed through the experience, the truth, of a spiritual awakening, and appear to be living that experience constantly, and in many different ways. What comes next, or perhaps what is already present but which needs to be brought into consciousness, is still a mystery.  
          We have walked a short way together, and I am still full of wonder and questions. Indeed there are times when I feel that to sit back and simply wonder may be the real name of the game. That state may be the more conducive to the glimpsing of the high realms ahead than any other activity of which I am aware. Some may call that state, contemplation. I call it truly living.
          In closing, may I wish you all, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, the very best that is available, now and throughout the coming year. And if your year ends at some other point on the western calendar, I wish you the best for the remainder of your year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I Walk in Darkness

          My inner world, a realm which I cannot entirely divorce from my outer consciousness, has taken on a strange aspect of late. It began when I realised that the Winter Solstice had taken on a meaning quite unlike anything that I had attributed to it in the past. This meaning was reinforced by dreams of loss and longing, the loss of a dear, canine companion earlier this year. In my mind I walk across a darkened landscape of death. Here lies buried all my thoughts, my knowing, my questions, my thinking. It is as if nothing that once was has any existence any longer.
          Alongside this experience has been a growing desire to return to that place I visited at the beginning of 2014:-

..........I walked for hours along the slowly winding, dusty road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. As the advancing night became deeper and ever colder, stars began to appear. Eventually, enough starlight was shed for me to discern Bethlehem as a darker smudge against the darkened landscape. I continued on my way until I arrived at a large cave to the rear of an inn. Entering the cave through a wooden gate, I could see that the cave was furnished with stalls and mangers for animals, together with feed and bedding. The ground was covered with fresh straw which muffled the sound of my footsteps. Thus it was that no-one present seemed to have noticed my arrival.
          I watched awhile from the shadows cast by a stall. A servant girl hurried past my place of concealment, carrying cloths and a container of hot water. When she finally left, I stepped into the soft light and approached a large manger from which emanated a yellowish-white glow. The manger lay across my path so that I approached it from the side. At the right-hand end stood a donkey and a cow looking down into the manger, whilst a sheep rested its chin on the edge, not quite able to see in. At the left-hand end of the manger stood two figures. They were large, painted statues of a man and a woman, presumably representations of Mary and Joseph, constructed from some chalky-looking material
          As I continued to approach the manger, the glow from inside became ever brighter, as if the light had become aware of my presence. The statues did not move; they just seemed to be larger than before. The animals looked at me, and their eyes seemed to be cold, devoid of any warm emotion. I leant over the side of the manger, and looked into the depths of the light.
          The light reached up and held me, and I realised that there was no visible end to, or source of, the light. At the very heart of the light, surrounded by intense whiteness, were two eyes. There was nothing else except those eyes, dark ellipsoids that narrowed to points at their extremities. Held fast, I 'heard' the eyes speak:-

"You are Mine!  Mine!"

Terror washed through me. How could I feel so utterly afraid? I was being drawn down into the light, the eyes coming ever closer. The animals moved slowly to block any retreat I might consider. Deeper and deeper I was drawn until, after summoning all my strength and will, I wrenched myself free, pushed the animals aside, and fled from the cave..........

[Meditation from my private diaries relating to, "The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius."]

          It was my wish to experience those moments again, but this time without any intention of running away. This time I wish to remain there, and maybe to understand fully what it means to be lived by that "ineffable unknown-ness." As I continue my walk across my inner, darkened landscape I am suddenly confronted by a manger made of stone. From its awesome depths, and from alien eyes that have lost none of their ferocity, shines a fearsome light. And I look down into those eyes, lost in a sense of awe and wonder.
          It is said that pride precedes a fall. In a similar manner I believe it to be true that sometimes our sense of 'knowing-ness' is deliberately built up to prepare us for the experience of falling into 'non-knowing-ness'. All that we say, write and do may all be perfectly correct, because we cannot experience truth against a backdrop of falsehood. In a sense, that makes the awareness of 'non-knowing-ness' all the more profound.
          When I stared down into that abyss of light I saw, momentarily, a gulf in meaning between the name of that first century teacher who travelled throughout Palestine, and that appellation so often tagged onto him, "the Christ." Here I experienced no 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' so beloved of popular Christianity, but a force that seemed barely to be contained, or even containable, within the living organism.

          I walk in the Darkness, and I see a great Light. And I do not understand It. Yet accept It I must.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I Do Not Own My Life

          I am not certain of my ground here. I need to probe and search for a safe place to put my foot. It is not too unlike trying to step through a psycho-spiritual minefield where a wrong step will blow me away, without my even being aware. This is often the nature of the continual battle with my ego, and its desire not to allow anything that undermines its sense of divine security.
          Sometimes there are moments when I write something simply because those words flow out of my fingertips, as if I am thinking with a part of me that is disconnected from my intellect. I am learning not to edit out the sense of what I write on those occasions, in case something slips away forever. Consider, for example, something I wrote in my previous post in which I said that neither my Ground nor God can be found in my physical body, they appearing to be the 'effects of being lived by' some ineffable unknown-ness. The more I mull over that, and the more I try to seek simple (but not simplistic) solutions to my questions, the more that phrase takes on a new dimension. That dimension points to a remarkable simplicity that surfaces only when I finally let go of some inner struggle. That is usually the point at which I admit defeat, but a point I need to work through rather than simply giving up because I might be too lazy to seek an answer.
          How does it feel to live? An odd question perhaps, but one I have needed to address of late. I know that I am alive, yet can neither extend nor shorten my life by any act of will. I can certainly appear to shorten my life by making my body unfit for purpose, a state that will eventually come about whether I will it or not. Thus it seems that the feeling of being alive is to experience the effects of some force which uses my physical self for its own ends. That force does not belong to me, I do not own it, yet we seem to get along remarkably well.....at least for now.
          Since I do not own the life force that animates my body, that force is not under my control. I cannot, therefore, manipulate it unless it is open to suggestion. About that I offer no enlightening thoughts. The more I consider this situation, the more exciting the experience of living becomes. Every moment of my life is one lived on the precipice, with no guarantees. That makes life precious of course, but more than that it opens my inner world to something new. That something is a sense of overwhelming relief. It is very difficult for me to describe that feeling of relief, which should perhaps better be called release. Let me take you back to a time in my life when I was in very serious difficulties.
          It was necessary at that time that I come to terms with my inability to stop my, then, live-in companion from sinking ever further into alcoholism. I had to learn about the nature of powerlessness over another person. Often we think we are in control of another human being, but that control is largely an illusion based on the other's willingness to play along with us. That is not control. When, finally, I had to accept the nature of my powerlessness in that situation, a conclusion reached after diligently exploring practical and painful examples from life, a sense of release bordering on a state of euphoria engulfed me. I had given up a battle I could not win, a battle which was not mine to fight.
          The lesson of powerlessness, and the accompanying effect of coming to believe in something greater and better than my own ego, is one that I must continue to learn. So long as I waste time fighting battles I cannot win, which are very largely battles fought by my own ego in protection of its transient security, I close myself off from a reality that is a growing gift of the spirit, a gift that comes free of charge. That reality is not something I can own, grasp or manipulate, it is that to which I can only be alive and aware.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lived by the Unknown



          I find myself in a state of frustration, wanting to write, wanting to communicate..... something ..... almost anything. What will be the 'out there' response? Will there even be a response? Yet this is not the major part of my frustration, even if it is any part at all. It is a pale reflection of the real source of my frustration which is about how will my inner, real Self respond. Will that part of me that has been termed the eternal Self even choose to respond?
          I would not challenge the suggestion that that which we most love is that which we wish to know most about. I find the path to understanding and enlightenment can often be a struggle, and maybe an obstacle which is insurmountable. Sometimes the mountain seems to be too steep and too high. And I have never been content to live out my spiritual life on the practice slopes at the base of the mountain. When I read about the experiences of the truly mystic, I realise that in so many ways I am a simple man, and a man who is ignorant of so much that others speak of. Their words stir me, sometimes deeply, but still the barriers remain.
          People talk knowingly of God, some believing and some disbelieving, but I do not know what they're talking about. If I say I accept the existence of God, I too am in difficulties when trying to explain what I mean. No words are available to describe my inner experiences, and sometimes that inability to describe something so utterly profound leads me into ways of communicating which may sound too flippant and uncaring. I regret that!
          I probe my inner depths in an effort to discover that of which I am as yet unaware. What do I find on my inner journey? Very largely I find nothing. Let me try to be more precise because this is important to me. The deeper I go the more closely I feel I approach that state that has been described as the eternal Ground. Only there can that God which so many talk about, but which I cannot understand, be truly experienced. That experience promises to be as absolute and pure as it is possible to be, unalloyed by the presence of illusory perceptions generated by my ego. But there can be no-thing, no-where and no-when that is involved in this experience. If there were, my ego would be influencing the experience because it is the ego that experiences thing-ness, place-ness and time.
          What is this eternal Ground about which the mystics speak? It is the place where non-spatially the soul, or very essence of what I am, and God are one or at least akin to one-ness. How can I explain? If I close an electrical switch, a circuit is made and a light comes on. Electricity is said to flow down the wire and power the lighting appliance. Therein lies an illusion. Electricity does not flow as if it were water. An electron bumps against its neighbour, then returns to its starting position. The bumped electron does the same thing to its neighbour, and so on. Electrical current is the effect of all that neighbour-bumping. And a very powerful effect it can be. Alternatively, consider what happens when a pebble is thrown into a pond. The water moves up and down as a reaction to the falling pebble. That is all it does. The non-material wave fronts that travel horizontally across the water surface are effects produced by the vertical movements, the rise and fall, of the physical medium, the water.
          It seems to me that in many ways that which I call my soul, and God, are also effects generated on a no-thing, no-where platform or stage. Those effects I interpret as experiences of knowing, where the knower and the known are one. It has been said that music is not found in the substance of a musical instrument, but is the effect of 'playing' the instrument in a certain way. Similarly, neither my Ground nor God can be found in the substance of my physical body. They appear to me to be the combined effects of being lived by some ineffable unknown-ness.
          Somewhere in the past I said that it seemed to me that the universe is Symbol. By this I meant that the only universe that I can know is the one that lives in my mind. And the mind/brain system deals in symbols. Of the 'out there' projection that is my physical universe, I can never be certain. Now it is thought that a little over 95% of the 'out there' universe is not simply invisible, but is unknowable to us, because it exists as Dark Matter and Dark Energy. That Darkness seems to be a telling symbol that represents just how little I really know and can know of my psycho-spiritual-(divine) universe. It is perhaps a source of wonder, not that there is still so far to go, but that I have gone anywhere at all.

Monday, 8 December 2014

In the Beginning

"In the beginning, Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the sea from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves."

          This beautifully evocative sentence is the opening line of the Pelasgian Creation myth as told by Robert Graves in "The Greek Myths: 1." In common with all creation myths this is, supposedly, a story describing the creation of the physical universe, from the beginning of time up to the creation of humankind. But is this a correct assumption, or is there another explanation? Before attempting to answer my own question, let me delve a little deeper into this myth.

"She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin a work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion."

          To spare your blushes, gentle folk, let me simply say that Eurynome and Ophion 'got together', the result of which was the production of the universe we see around us. The two of them set up home together on Mt. Olympus where Ophion, believe it or not, had the gall to claim that he alone was the author of the Universe. Being more than a little vexed, Eurynome (I like this bit) bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth. The symbolism here is so rich with meaning.
          By way of introduction to the answering of my first question as to the possibly real nature of this myth, let me refer you to an earlier post, ("In Which I Have My Being" dated 15th. June 2013) in which I recorded the following:-

"..........Below me, an airless world of water moves silently through the cosmos.  A wisp of dark, mauve smoke glides across the surface of the deeps.  Shapes, dark, menacing and unidentified, glide below the surface.  In the distance is a galaxy, shining like a brilliant sunset, or a cosmic dawn.  All the while a silvery-white, equal-armed cross hangs in space above the planet. Movement, but no passing.  Serenity, a sense of eternity.  Timelessness.  Spheres within spheres.........."

          I have always assumed that this imagery represented a cosmic symbol of our psycho-spiritual construction. I still accept that as the most likely interpretation, but now with something else added. In my imagery, the waters have been separated from the air/sky, and a wisp of smoke glides across the surface of the waters, not unlike the spirit-wind that follows the dancing Eurynome. What I am saying here is that the Greek myth and my meditation experience appear to be saying that both are a story of creation as well as a current state of psycho-spiritual being. I must say again, this creation story refers to the creation of the psycho-spiritual universe, not the physical cosmos. What then is the role of my Wisp of Smoke, and the great serpent Ophion? Later on in the post to which I refer above, I conclude that the Wisp is my own Ego, a conclusion which must now include Ophion.
          Ophion is he who claims to be the one and only Creator god, an arrogance which he shares with the Gnostic Demiurge. And dare I say that the Old Testament god Jehovah, also seems to fall into this category of divine beings. Now the ego may not claim to be the Creator, but its actions clearly, and all too often, say that it can tolerate no other god besides itself, for it alone is the creator of all our denials, perceptions and illusions.
          There is much more that could be developed on this theme, (including the Genesis myths) but it would only be icing on the Christmas cake. I will add, however, that the egoistic God portrayed in the biblical Old Testament is a far cry from the God of the New Testament, where he is portrayed as Love. Maybe we have treated the old myth makers, who were perhaps living in an age of growing spiritual enlightenment, with too little respect, and fostered our modern thinking with too much hubris.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A Tale of Two Miracles

          To those of my readers who are either unaccustomed to, or undesirous of, reading the Holy Bible, please bear with me for a few moments because I would like to cast some observations about two important miracles, the first of which appears in the New Testament. Before we begin, let us remember what a miracle is. It is an event which defies all the laws of nature.
          It is said that Jesus, at one stage of his journeyings "came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain, and sat down there." He was accompanied by his disciples, and thousands of men, women and children who had come to listen to him preach. Now we must bear in mind that there was not the kind of service infrastructure that we are accustomed to having in modern times. There were no ice-cream stalls, beer tents, burgher bars or the rest. Yet all those people went up the mountain with ne'er, or very little, thought of the consequences. Are we supposed to think that their children were so different from today's kids that they wouldn't get hungry or thirsty? Did no-one say, "Mum, I'm hungry?" "Mum, Rachel's got some sweets, and she won't let me have one?" "Dad, are we there yet?" Oh come on!
          In the Matthew (Chap.15, verse 32) version - one of six tellings of the 'feeding of the multitude' stories - Jesus said that he had compassion on the multitude, because they continued with him for three days, and had nothing to eat. Well you know the rest of the story I'm sure. The disciples collected all the available food, a single digit number of loaves and a few fishes. Amazingly, this meagre collection was shared out amongst the thousands waiting. Not only that, but there were baskets full of leftovers. Some miracle!
          Of course, there have been many interpretations advanced for this miracle, some based on worthy but personal agendas. And the the story is full of interesting symbolism. Yet for all that there are many who choose to believe this story as literal truth. The psycho-spiritual investment in that belief must be enormous to maintain that belief in the face of all that is reasonable, is of reason. In case it should be concluded that this kind of belief is the preserve of the religious, let me now turn to another miracle. It goes something like this.
          All the atoms and their subatomic particles, and all the quanta of energy that are contained within the billions of stars that make up all the trillions of galaxies in the observable universe - not to mention the major portion of the universe consisting of Dark Matter and Dark Energy - came into being in the tiniest fraction of a second, from a singularity of infinitely small dimensions (actually a singularity cannot have dimensions) 13.7 billion years ago, give or take! Now that is some kind of a miracle, and one which is believed by millions of people. Once again, we see a huge investment in scientific authority, just as the religious have invested in religion and the Church. (I use the word Church in its widest possible meaning.)
          So, is the rest of humanity who does not follow the edicts of the Church and/or Science off the hook? Not on your life! In countries which have democratic institutions, we have the right to elect politicians to perform social and economic miracles. That we vote those people into positions of power for reasons that are often self-contradictory appears to escape the notice of many people. Yes, we want more benefits and greater security:  No, we don't want our taxes increased. Yes, we need more homes, roads and other facilities built:  No, we don't want them in our back yards. Yes, we want less pollution:  No we're not prepared to accept the cost and inconvenience. The list goes on and on, and yes, this is a somewhat simplistic picture that I have painted.
          Yet it seems to me to be true that the kind of psycho-spiritual investments to which I have alluded blinds us to the illusory nature of our perceptions and our many denials. Somewhere along the way we need the child who, free of preconceptions, will unabashedly say,

"Look at the King! Look at the the King! Look at the King, the King, the King!
The King is in the all together
But all together the all together
He's all together as naked as the day that he was born." 

Oh to be free of all illusion, and see the naked truth in all its glory. And now, having served its purpose, perhaps I can be freed from this ear worm.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Resurfacing for a Moment

          It has been nearly two months since I put virtual 'pen to paper', a period during which I have wandered, or perhaps more accurately stumbled, through an all-pervading darkness of uncertainty. I have sought answers without knowing what the questions were; sought ways and means without knowing where I was headed, or was being led. I see now that there will never be any kind of denouement to my life, although there will be periodic realisations of truth along the way. Those truths will never be subject to analysis because it is not in the nature of truth to be analysed. All I could ever do would be to talk about what I have experienced as truth, but never be able to describe the actual experience of truth.
          A new day has dawned, the first Sunday of Advent. Whilst I no longer care that much about the rituals so loved by the Church and its adherents, I am aware that somewhere deep inside me, some of the knowledge I carry is being transposed into 'knowing', and in so doing is becoming conscious. That realisation may be seen as a new dawn, an advent in its own right. It will pass as all things do, but the process will continue in a cyclic manner, as it always appears to do, bringing fresh advents built upon those of the past.
          When I look back over the period that constitutes my blogging life, I have talked about many things that have seemed to me to be about truth. What now surprises me is how terrifyingly close I have been. I use that word 'terrifying' with some care because I never, at least as far as I was aware, asked for those experiences of life. All I asked for was some relief from the burdens of a sleeping consciousness which would enable me to 'see' the life I was leading, to be delivered from a way of living that was little more than an egoistic wastefulness. I received so much and could never have imagined how much more I could and have received. There came a moment when I could no longer write a single word which others might read, afraid that I might rush in where angels might have feared to tread.
          To be presented, suddenly it seems, with an inner world that is all-encompassing, a world that is replete with such power of 'knowingness', a vast 'playground of spiritual giant-ness' in which spiritual extinction seems to be an ever-present risk, has been accompanied by an appalling sense of both love and wanting. And I do not know from whence those twin feelings come. I know only that they represent some kind of reflection, rather than an origin of psycho-spiritual energy.
          Where does all this come from? Where do I come from and how did it all happen? Somehow, I believe I am beginning to ask the correct questions. I cannot yet be certain, of course, but when the correct question arises I will also have the answer. Then will I be certain. That moment may not be too far away, because already I am beginning to know that I do not know;  that I am fast losing any desire to debate and argue. Instead I prefer to enter into dialogue, if not with others then with my own internal world. I am finding that as my interest in, and commitment to, the realm of the spirit increases (and it would seem that I no longer have much control over that) my desire for involvement in the non-essentials of the material world is declining. That loss of desire has crept up on me almost unawares. Yet the loss is real enough, as is the mild sense of grief that is its necessary accompaniment.
          Lest it be assumed that my experience of life is slipping into some general state of decline, of which my loss of desire for material involvement is merely a symptom, let me say here and now that in reality the opposite is true. I am beginning to feel a greater sense of aliveness than I have felt in many a year. Detachment, so misunderstood in its vernacular usage, is becoming the reality that I for so long have paid, maybe, only lip service.
          Now, I must bring this script to a close. I have satisfied a need to speak about where I have been, a wish to say to any who may be interested, that all is well - and getting better! I cannot say when next I will write. I would like to add that I continue to read with interest all that you say on your posts. Real friendships are not lightly dropped.
          To you all, including all those who read but decline to comment, I wish the very best of the season.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Touch of Darkness

          Sometimes, my researches travel along strange paths, revealing knowledge that appears to be beyond my understanding. Often this occurs, as with the experience cited in the current script, when "something else, something extraordinary happens". When this does occur, all I can do is to note it, file it, and hope that one day that revealed knowledge will bear the fruit of understanding. Until that time, I have to accept that the understanding I seek is not vital to my inner quest, but a wonderful gift that awaits an unwrapping. Such is what I wish to present in this post. It does not seem to be of mainstream spirituality, whatever that might be, and neither does it appear to relate to more traditional psychology. However, since the gift of understanding is still hidden in its wrappings, I cannot tell with any certainty. I offer this post in a thoughtful spirit of curiosity, intrigue, perhaps wonder, and maybe amusement if that is how it strikes you.
          The following extract is taken from a pathworking diary which I wrote over four years ago. At that time I was researching the possible origins of my individuality. I am not a believer in reincarnation if for no other reason than that I have no robust evidence for it. But it also occurs to me that, as with every branch of science, knowledge is being gained continually. This usually results in new hypotheses and theories being developed, and occasionally a new paradigm emerging. Nothing, even in the world of esotericism, is carved in stone. I will not say that reincarnation does not happen, only that my scepticism runs very deep. It seems to me to be much more likely that it is certain aspects of humankind's psychological history that is carried from generation to generation. Neither do I think that past life regression is anything but a rather dubious process of proving reincarnation. But enough of this talk; let us approach this diary entry in whatever manner best suits our inclination.

..........I was walking through an open, dappled wood which grew in a long, narrow valley. The trees were close enough to form a loose canopy above me, but not so dense that I could not see that beyond the wood the hill tops were bare of trees, and grass covered. As I walked in the dappled sunlight, quite alone except for the companionship, or guardianship, of an atlas-globe-sized point of light that bobbed along beside me, I heard the sounds of chirruping and a murmur of chittering. Occasionally a hunting bird would fly past, single-mindedly intent on its business. In general there was a benign feeling, a joyousness in the valley, yet with a slight edginess associated with the chittering of the insects.
          When, at last, I reached the end of the valley, I discovered that night had fallen. Everything around me was suddenly in darkness even though the moon was full. From a place immediately ahead of me I sensed a miasma, a powerful feeling of active rotting-ness. I hurriedly turned away and retraced my steps. Everything had changed from bright, open joyousness to a dark foreboding. I could not escape the awareness of fear because I appeared to be its source. Animals hurried from my presence to hide shivering in the darkness. The chirruping of the birds had diminished to an uneasy, occasional chirp whilst the insect chittering had increased markedly. I felt emotionally cool, even cold perhaps, as compared with my earlier warm emotions.
          There was an overall sense of conflict, perhaps a battle for survival, in the valley. Perhaps it was about Dark versus Light, Death versus Life. There was a vague and uneasy sense of cruelty present. What distressed me was that I, as the man of power and authority in the valley, might have been the emotionless arbiter of the fate of all that lived within my domain..........
                                                                                   [Extract from my private diaries]

          This experience, of which there is more recorded in my diaries, may simply be reflecting my struggle to come to terms with my inner, destructive forces, the unresolved and unresolvable contradictions inherent in survival. For one life-form to survive, others must die, and that is a fact that I have found increasingly difficult to accept with equanimity. It is not a question of reason or rationality, it is about the seemingly inevitability that the weak must be consumed by the strong, that the defenceless must be sacrificed to the powerful, regardless of any concept of intrinsic worth. Of course, simply because I do not like unpalatable facts of life does not detract from their reality. And I am not exempt from that reality for I, too, play my part in this jungle, and about that I must not try to escape into denial. Unless I accept, at least in part, the Dark side of nature, I will never be able to attain the necessary balance that enables me to experience the Light. But can I accept the Darkness without becoming, even to a small degree, a part of it?  

          I would now like to turn to another source from which I will quote, because it was the recent discovery of this latter source that set bells ringing in my mind, that triggered a sense of  - if not synchronicity - something approaching compatibility. The source is, "The Case for God" by Karen Armstrong. At one point she says,

..........We know that shamanism developed in Africa and Europe during the Paleolithic period and that it spread to Siberia and thence to America and Australia, where the shaman is still the chief religious practitioner among indigenous hunting peoples..........Shamans have bird and animal guardians and can converse with the beasts that are revered as messengers of higher powers. The shaman's vision gives meaning to the hunting and killing of animals on which these societies depend.
          The hunters feel profoundly uneasy about slaughtering the beasts who are their friends and patrons, and to assuage this anxiety they surround the hunt with taboos and prohibitions. They believe that long ago the animals made a covenant with humankind, and now a god known as the Animal Master regularly sends flocks from the lower world to be killed on the hunting plains, because the hunters promised to perform the rites that will give them posthumous life.......... 

          It is not my task to analyse, and certainly not to pass judgement on, the beliefs of these people, but it does seem to me that for all our talk about, and belief in, the primitiveness of our ancestors, it may well be that they were far more in tune both with the world around them and also within them than many 'civilised' people of today. Since those far off times, humans have changed at an ever-increasing rate, and I have become more and more convinced that somewhere during just the last five centuries or so, humankind has gone seriously off course. An essential sense of Beingness along with respect, a quality that must be part of the spectrum of love, seems in too many cases to have been jettisoned in favour of an uncritical acceptance of rationality and enlightenment, and a corresponding rise in fundamentalism.
           As I said above, I offer this post in a thoughtful spirit of curiosity, intrigue, perhaps wonder, and maybe amusement if that is how it strikes you. It seems to me now, that I must also offer it in a thoughtful spirit of reflection, and perhaps regret.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Spectrum of Love

          Before getting to the main body of this essay, let me refresh the memory by repeating the quote from Aldous Huxley's "Perennial Philosophy", in which he says,

".........But the nature of this one [divine] Reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit........."

          To come now to the third of those conditions, namely 'making themselves loving', (matters concerning 'pure in heart' and 'poor in spirit' having been dealt with in earlier posts) let me say straightaway that this script is not going to be a treatise on love, an intellectual exercise which, although essayed by many saints and mystics over the millennia, neither serves my purposes nor meets my needs today. I would suggest that if people are asked whether they know what love is, they would readily answer in the affirmative. However, a closer questioning about what love actually is might reveal that their views differ widely for the simple reason that those questioned would be unable to define what love is, even though they know when they love and when they are loved in return. Love and God, to mention only two examples, are beyond definition because neither emanate from the world 'out there' but from the universe 'in here'.
          I propose to approach the subject of 'making myself loving' from the viewpoint of my own experience, taking care to keep things simple, because I strongly suspect that our approach to love, as it is to God, is dependent on our personal experiences of love and lovelessness, rather than on handed down wisdom about love. Let me state as clearly as I am able, that I do not believe love comes from the emotions or the intellect, nor from the physical senses. Love has its origins beyond ego-consciousness, in the realm of the Higher Self (or Identity, a useful term that is used in a comment here), perhaps also known as God. I say again, love does not emanate from the ego, although that is where it is made conscious and is experienced.
          It is probably true to say that, for a major part of my life, I felt that I did not have the capacity to love other human beings, at least in a way that I would recognise as genuine love rather than my ego's need to control my emotional environment. (I specify human beings in this instance because I have never had that problem with the rest of the animal kingdom.) This lack of loving capacity may well have derived from a sense that I was unlovable, a condition born from perceived experiences of my childhood. But all that was to change as a result of a number of factors arising from my complete spiritual reorientation in my middling years. I began to realise that it was not a past, ego-oriented, shame-based unlovability that was the real problem I faced. It was an apparent inability to access something higher in me, and a lack of certain knowledge about how I could put into practice the more positive feelings that I was beginning to experience. This was in complete contradistinction to my earlier years when my efforts at maintaining control had produced reactions and responses on which my ego had been desperately dependent, but which had never been sustained. As a result I retreated into an internal 'ivory tower'. I cut myself off from my Higher Self, a state that was to have spiritually devastating consequences.
          More recently, and against this now more distant background, certain questions have arisen. How is it possible to love my neighbour as myself, which in earlier times might have seemed a pretty poor deal for my neighbour? How is it possible to generate a love for one's enemy? Even, and this matter seems to be more pressing, how can I love a God whose presence I accept, but about which I appear to know nothing? And, finally, why should I love my enemy anyway? It seems obvious to me now that the intellect and the emotions could never supply the answers to my questions, although they could give support to the practice of love. The answer seems to lie in the region of other positive aspects or traits of the personality such as courtesy, cheerfulness, sincerity, kindness, patience and tolerance (the latter two not being the most obvious characteristics of my personality!), and gratitude. The list goes on and on, but every item on that list feeds and sustains the spirit. Over time I began to see that love, or perhaps charity is the better word, is not a single entity, but an energy source that infuses a range of qualities that become inseparable in their cohesiveness, thus producing a spectrum of love. I also saw that had I continued to exercise my negative personality traits they would have continued to shrivel and starve the spirit, just as they had done in the past. They also were a range of qualities, but ones which had their origins in something which at rock bottom was a spectrum of fear and perhaps, in the limit, hatefulness. By refusing to detach from my negative impulses towards those I felt I could not love or show some semblance of respect, I was spiritually damaging myself. I believe that when Jesus said that we should love our enemies, it was not for some woolly-headed, wishy-washy reason, but because he was deeply concerned about the redemption and growth of a person's spirit.
          Clearly then, I can become less judgemental and more open-minded about my neighbour and my enemy. I can be respectful towards my neighbour and my enemy, even if I cannot like them, and although my efforts may be stretched to the limit and possibly beyond. But the question still remains as to whether I can love God, a metaphor for that indescribable otherness for which I aspire to have union, but one which lies beyond sense, emotion and thought. Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the kind of feedback I offer my divine Higher Self, for the ego acts like a portal through which energies pass inwards to the universe 'in here' as well as outwards to the world 'out there'. If I cannot experience divine love directly, then I can behave as if I do, and intent counts for a very great deal.
          In conclusion, it seems to me that I do not have to understand love or even know what love is in order to practise it. I do not have to be able to define love, or God - and the religious claim that God is Love - to be able to experience those indescribables in my life. I do need to live each day in the here and now, unshackled from past perceptions and illusions, or at least make the effort to do so. Alright, no-one said the task would be easy.
          From the recall of memories and the writing of this script, it occurs to me that it may be that my experiences of life will be at odds with those of others. If so, then I am thankful for that. I am also aware that I have flowed backwards and forwards in time, not always very precisely and clearly. But please indulge me a little. What I have now, although not yet complete because I am still part of a process of becoming, is beyond anything I could have ever imagined possible. Surely, somewhere amongst my searchings, I must have discovered some measure of truth.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Poverty of Spirit

          What does it mean to be poor in spirit, and what are its advantages? Certainly there are advantages deriving from that state, in terms of potential for spiritual growth and healing which does not need to be tied into religion unless it be so desired. Those questions have lain at the back of my mind for a long time, questions that have been constant companions nudging me towards some denouement that at times I would have preferred to have avoided. But this path I follow is all or nothing, and nothing is now almost unimaginable. And it will be recalled from an earlier essay, "Purity of Heart," that to be poor in spirit is one of the conditions given in the perennial philosophy for the direct apprehension of the one Reality.
          So let me return to the question of what it means to be poor in spirit. For me it represents an ego-state which, when compared with what has been called the Higher Self, is shown to be threadbare of truthful substance. It means to be spiritually beggarly, bankrupt, psycho-spiritually sick, poorly if you will. It is an existence within, not a living of, what I see as my life. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I agree. But it requires more than examination to turn the potential offered by poverty of spirit into something of real value. As it has been said, the attainment offered to the poor in spirit is the kingdom of God, a metaphor, perhaps, for the experience of that which is most fundamental to the healthy life of the spirit. What Jesus does not say in the 'beatitudes' is that the attainment of the metaphorical kingdom is not handed out on a plate. Work is required to turn that potential into something real.
          It seems to me that spiritual poverty occurs when the ego, my everyday consciousness, is cut off from my Higher Self. If, as some would claim, the Higher Self and God are one and the same, or at the very least intimately connected, then the loss of contact can deprive one of direct contact with God, the direct apprehension of the one Reality. Prolonged loss will inevitably lead to a form of insanity, a loss of right-mindedness. I find it of interest that the first thing St. John of the Cross talks about in his great spiritual treatise, "Ascent of Mount Carmel," is not a re-ordering of one's morality, and one's personality traits (that comes later) but a coming to terms with inordinate longings or cravings, obsessions and addictions, impulses not rightly ordered to a person's spiritual good. Coming to terms with anything requires both acknowledgement and acceptance.
          I count myself as fortunate in that the only drug to which I was addicted was nicotine. As a result, my "Dark Nights" were dealt with in reverse order from that given by St. John. In the end, what was important was not what order I chose, not what Saints Matthew and Mark said in the New Testament, not what Jesus might or might not have said or meant in that same testament, or elsewhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, but what practical effort I chose to exert on this individual, in today's world, in the here and now. Of course, this presumes a prior knowledge of what those spiritual luminaries said and meant, an understanding which was denied me, until I had lived through the experience of spiritual recovery.
          As I have already said, compared with the life of the Higher Self, the life of the ego will always be one lived in poverty. There appears not to be absolute poverty here, but a growing awareness of comparative psycho-spiritual bankruptcy. Thus no matter how full and satisfying the life of my ego may seem to be, that of my Higher Self is so much more so. And that higher life can be brought down into consciousness, at least in part, through the practice of 'prayer and meditation', as it says in the Twelve Step programmes for spiritual recovery. Some might claim that poverty of spirit may not be a precondition for beginning the spiritual life. It was the case for me, as it has been for millions of people. I needed to be convinced of that poverty, otherwise why bother to change tack?
          Finally, it has been suggested by various commentators on the Bible that the poverty being referred to in the beatitudes was material poverty. Now I was raised in a family in which material poverty was a way of life. I can, therefore, say with absolute confidence that material poverty is not a state that has anything of value to recommend it. Material poverty does not turn the heart and soul towards matters spiritual, but towards ways and means of material survival. Before you can speak philosophy to a person you need first to fill the stomach. Only then is there time to deal with other matters.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Anyone Fancy a Curry?

         I am finding it a little difficult settling down to writing a script on the kind of subjects which particularly interest me, namely matters of the spirit. In part that difficulty arises from a gentle seething inside me, a mild excitement if you like, which in turn arises from a new awareness of an experiential truth written about in my previous post on purity of heart. So instead of trying to produce when I need to reflect, I have decided to try my hand, yet again, at a watercolour painting.
         Now this an exercise which has always been fraught with difficulties for me, a project which produces partly finished (or even barely begun) paintings which I quickly fall-out-of-love with, as a result of not getting things right, the way I want them. Thus it is that my efforts almost invariably end their days in my waste bin. But 'hope springs eternal' and so once again I take my brushes in one hand, and something resembling courage (or is it obstinacy?) in the other, and attempt to do battle. This time, however, I was determined to have some fun.          
         It just so happened that whilst on one of our short holidays, we happened to espy an attractive Indian restaurant. Now this is nowhere as usual in France as it is in the United Kingdom, a unity which may, perhaps, not last for very much longer. Ever ready to support restaurants which specialise in foreign cuisines we entered and were offered a table for two.  I surreptitiously took a few photographs of the interior décor for future reference. The following are the results of the inspiration accorded me by a lovely evening sharing a curry with my lovely wife.

         First I show a simple line drawing developed from certain features that I found of interest. This line drawing is a composite of three bits and pieces, produced so that if one part was ruined, the rest would avoid a terminal visit to the waste bin.



         Second comes a tonal drawing, developed from the line drawing. Now if my past efforts are anything to go by, this is the point of highest enjoyment. Wisdom would indicate that I should stop at this point, but in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes. Yes, I put paint to paper ..... sort of.



         So, third comes the completed effort. It was unclear to me just how I was going to treat certain features of this picture, but if (as did by happy accident) the piece took on some aspects of fantasy, then I would not be displeased. The important things about this picture are that I enjoyed the very experience to the end; I did actually complete it; and although I will now file it away out of sight, I felt I did learn from the experience.


         And now I can turn to other matters.

[Note:  I do not know how a reader will be viewing this picture, but the original colours are quite deep and strong - quite the opposite of pastel.]

Friday, 12 September 2014

Purity of Heart

".........But the nature of this one [divine] Reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit........."

          This quote from the introduction to, "The Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley, briefly describes the skeleton of the necessary groundwork that needs to be covered if one is to tread the spiritual path. He goes on to say that we do not know why this should be so. It is just one of those facts we have to accept, whether we like them or not, and however implausible and unlikely they may seem.
          Recently, I said that if I were to be cast away on a desert island, the book that I quoted above would be one of my choices. At the time of making that choice it was not entirely clear to me why I should choose that particular book. Only later did it become apparent that I needed to re-read this anthology in some depth, and compare it with my own experiences. Why? The answer to that question would require that I lay out so many more questions, concerns and doubts before my readers that I must forgo such a task for fear of becoming bogged down in unnecessary detail. I will simply say, therefore, that it is not my intent merely to quote, second-hand, the spiritual experiences of others, but to compare them with my own in order to cast some light on my chosen way, to avoid certain pitfalls that may lie ahead, and finally quell any doubts I might have about the chosen route I follow. For time will always seem to be of the essence, and I will always have too little to waste.
          Here I will deal with just one of the conditions mentioned by Huxley, that I must become pure in heart. The others I will deal with in due time. At first glance I would have to say that I really have no idea what it means to be pure of heart. Any hypothesis that I might advance about its possible meaning would seem to be contradicted by another, and in any case be as far from practicality as it is possible to get. And I am talking about me here, this admittedly flawed individual, for whom the whole idea of purity of heart would seem to be nothing short of a pipe dream.

"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."  (Matthew 5:8)

The evangelist simply doesn't let up. At first sight it would appear that I fell at the first hurdle, and have continued to fall, no matter how many times I have attempted to clear that impossibly difficult obstacle. Is it even possible that purity of heart is something that I could ever experience?
          But wait a moment! There is a tacit assumption here that there is a task that I must complete, and a reward that I will gain on the successful completion of that task. Yet Jesus, that first century master of religious philosophy, never said that. It is my ego that says it, along with the implied notion that I will fail. For reasons which lie beyond the scope of this essay, I can say that, regardless of any inability to define God, that divinity I will one day see, maybe in the guise of Truth. It will be noted, further, that I have avoided giving any definition to the word 'see'. Whatever is meant by 'see', it is clear to me that if the final clause of that beatitude is correct then purity of heart will follow, at night follows day. It may be that the desired purity of heart is already present. I simply will not, or do not recognise it. The reason for that is in all probability because 'seeing' is neither a physical sensation, nor the product of the thinking or feeling (i.e. emotion) functions. It lies far beyond the ego's ability to understand, and that is something my ego cannot tolerate. If I accept that impurity of heart and its implied failure is my lot, then I turn my face away from the spiritual path I wish to follow, and accept the rule of that false god, my ego.
          Purity of heart, then, is not a goal that I must strive to achieve but a gift, or a grace, that comes with the earnest commitment to the spiritual path. I am certain that the gift of purity is one of those things that "will be added unto you." If I might echo Huxley, I do not know why this should be so. I only know this to be an experiential fact of my spiritual life.
          When I first made a genuine commitment to my current path, I did not know any of this. All I did know was that I was in desperate straits, sick to the bottom of my soul. But I made a beginning, a fresh start which initially entailed dealing with certain preliminaries necessary, not only to be restored to spiritual health, but also to discover that there was indeed a path to the recovery of my sanity that was available. The earliest steps along my chosen path, although it wasn't clear at that time that I had made any such choice, was to follow that dictum pronounced by the ancients and their mystery religions, namely to "Know Thyself!" Although some people have felt the need to repeat that experience, I am thankful that by carrying out that procedure to the utter limits of my being, once only was sufficient for me. What I gained from that inner search was knowledge and understanding of myself, the wisdom (or more often perhaps) and futility of my choices and the hurts I had caused people. It was tough, but it was what I needed. Purity of heart came later as a result of the continued commitment to the way of life that I now follow.
          It was whilst I was preparing this script that I remembered that some years ago, whilst undertaking a series of meditations on the question of what hurts I had caused people, and whether I had made sufficient amends for those hurts, the following imagery came to me. (This type of meditation is one that I have talked about here.)

".........Before me stood a high pyramid with many steps, like a series of platforms of ever-decreasing size. At the top, on a level with the faces of the forty two Lords of Karma, stood a lectern holding the closed Book of Life, and a high-backed chair. I passed before those mighty Lords, one at a time, as each asked me a question. To each I made answer. On the completion of their inaudible, gentle but penetrating interrogation, I stood at the lectern and asked a question of my own. Had sufficient amends been made? In answer, the cover of my Book of Life sprang open and the pages flipped over rapidly one by one as if driven by a strong wind. There were snatches of gold writing, but nothing that I could focus on, or even begin to understand. It seemed to have been written in a script unknown to me. In seconds the Book had closed once more. I sat and I waited.
  After a while, blood began to seep from between the pages of the Book, running out onto the white-covered, altar-like table that the lectern had become. Then, what appeared to be a hazy cloud of golden stardust showered twinkling down onto the blood and absorbed it, leaving the table pristine clean once more.
  The pyramid of steps had disappeared, to be replaced by an invisible path along which I hurried away, leaving the Lords of Karma in darkness. All that could be seen was a single, old figure with a light shining down upon him. I knelt before him and asked for forgiveness for all the hurt I had caused, not for my peace of mind but for the sakes of those who had been hurt. He blessed me, and I left that place........"
[Excerpt from my personal diaries]

          Now of course this cleansing experience is very personal, and the imagery may be particular to me. Others will, no doubt, experience matters in a different way. But in the end the conclusion is clear. Purity of heart is not a precondition for the start of the spiritual life, but a gift which, nevertheless, is essential to the continuation of that life. Without that gift, it does not seem to be possible to apprehend, directly and immediately the nature of the one divine Reality.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Day in the Life Of

         It was Sunday morning and I didn't have any plans for the day, except a want to sink into my books and relax. It was suggested that we might go into the local town and visit the donkeys. So off we went. Now I have to say that I love donkeys, and particularly their streak of obstinacy and self-will. It is so little compared with the scorn and bad treatment dealt out to these lovely creatures by humans. However, it wasn't the donkeys themselves that were to prove the major attraction of the morning but the couple with their terrier and three, black cocker spaniels. We chatted at some length, obviously, and by the time we left them my emotions were bordering on the uncontrolled. They were healthy spaniels, everything our Mol should have been. I realised at that moment of recognition that I loved Mol even more because of her problems. She never bore any grudges, I'm sure.
         Later, at home, I delved into "A Course in Miracles" downloaded from the internet. There is much wisdom in that course, but I found myself at a loss to relate some of the teachings to my own experience. Maybe it's simply a matter of difference; maybe it's that I am losing my intuitive edge with the passing years. If so, then there is something that I may well learn to regret. It was when I broke off my studies, with not a little frustration, that a question came to mind:-

"If I were stranded on a desert island, what books would I want with me?" The first was, "The Perennial Philosophy" (by Aldous Huxley), because there is so much there that is of direct spiritual experience of people committed to the spiritual life. The second was, "The Reality of Being" (by Jeanne de Salzmann), a description of the Fourth Way of Gurdjieff. And finally I would take all my personal notes from my studies of the Mystical Qabalah.

Of course it would be nice to supplement them with the writings of, for example, Prof. Jacob Needleman, and others. Much as I enjoy reading theology, books on that subject would be far down the list, as would other forms of intellectual philosophy.
         Whilst thinking about all this, I felt a great wish to play some music; not any music but a particular piece. Thankfully, I have a recording of this piece. It's not a great recording, and my hearing aids do not allow perfect reception, but it sufficed. For those interested, it was Telemann's "Viola Concerto in G." The opening movement is a delightfully slow and melancholic experience. I recall that it is always the slow movements of concerti and symphonies that attract me, as well as other pieces of the same ilk. I remember the first time I heard the Telemann. It was played by a young woman from music college who had played in two of the youth orchestras with whom I had worked many years ago. Now I am not basically an unhappy person; very far from it. But I do find that the sense of melancholy has an attraction in that it seems to open me up to a depth of feeling that I might otherwise shun. And she played with such feeling.
          So where am I going with this. 'day in the life of' post? I feel that I continually run the risk of intellectualisation, rather than reliance on my feelings, when I write. I am not an anti-intellectual by any means, but I do recognise the risks of that approach to life. I am not so much an analytical thinker as a geometrical thinker, that is to say I do not think my way logically to what may be an unreasonable or unacceptable endpoint, but intuitively to a desired endpoint by whichever path appears to me. But I want more: I want a balancing factor. Somewhere, mixed up in all this, is a question of where I am supposed to be going. And all around is the growing awareness that 'I do not know'. What it is that I do not know, I don't know!
         In its way it has been a full day of inner activity. There have been musings and questionings. Maybe life is about the questions we ask, and whether we are asking the right ones. If I could only know the question, I would be halfway to the answer. Is that an outcome of an intellectual pursuit, or will it be experiential? I don't know.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

'Iffy' About Revelation

         Inwardly, it has been a difficult time of late. As I mentioned, as a response to the comments to my previous post, "A Step Closer to Reality", my ego was not slow in berating me for my actions, or lack of them. The result has been that I have felt entirely cut off from that Presence of Realness which is my constant companion. It has felt like a sickness that I could not shake off, and had to endure until it felt moved to release me. Now, I feel once more in touch with the Real and can at last settle down to writing again.
         When I described that 'near miss' in my previous post, I knew that my description of my inner experience was quite inadequate. Yet how else could I describe a happening that was beyond words? I must emphasise that I am not dealing here with the physical event, the appalling lack of attention, but to the inner experience from which I must learn all that I am able.
         I came across some interesting reading today that might just be the answer for which I am looking. Here are some quotes which seem to reflect the psycho-spiritual experience I tried to describe:

".........Revelation induces complete but temporary suspension of doubt and fear. It reflects the original form of communication between God and his creations.........[Revelation does not] emanate from consciousness but [is] experienced there.........Revelation unites you directly with God. [It] is intensely personal and cannot be meaningfully translated. That is why any attempt to describe it in words is impossible. Revelation induces only experience........."

         I have always been rather 'iffy' about revelation even though I have been unable to come up with a better way of understanding past experiences in my spiritual life. This has never unduly bothered me, but then I have never been moved to describe such an experience to outsiders before. The words I have quoted above clearly come from a religious source and therefore require some further, careful examination on my part. As it may have been guessed, I am not a christian, although I could, perhaps, as Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch once said, be considered a friend of christianity.....alright a willing acquaintance.
         Thus it is I present some evidence of my restoration to spiritual reality, and the sincere hope that any further 'revelations' that may be forthcoming will arrive without the risk to life and limb that accompanied the recent experience. Beyond that, I can only say that it has been insightful to see a life-incident through faculties other than the intellect, and that insight is both unnerving and pregnant with possibilities.

Monday, 25 August 2014

A Step Closer to Reality

         Whilst accepting that God cannot be defined, is it possible to draw any conclusions about the nature of a true God without resorting to analogy? Before drawing any conclusions about a true God, can it be assumed that any form of God exists? In general, I would suggest that anything, any person, any calling can be said to be a god if it becomes the prime focus of our psycho-spirituality to which all other considerations are subservient. For some, a god may take the form of wealth, a career, a personal relationship. For others it may appear as alcohol, drugs, an icon, the tribe or state. The gods are many and various, and often dysfunctional. Taken to the limit, we can arrive once again at the supreme false God, an amalgam of all lesser false gods. If it can be assumed that the existence of a false God can be demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, then so must a true God exist as the partner in a paradoxical pairing of opposites (or gnostic Syzygy), an observable fact about the universe around us.
         As I cannot know God with the intellect, and I shall refuse to resort to analogy which implies a pre-existent knowledge of God, I must seek an empirical approach through personal experience. Now experience of itself may not be the truth of God, but it may be a finger that  points in the correct direction.
         Let me tell you of a very recent experience. It had not started out as a good day, but neither was it excessively bad. In short, it was manageable, or so I had convinced myself. I had awoken with but a single thought, namely that more than anything else in the world I wanted our dog, Molly, restored to us, alive and in perfect health. But that could not be. So once more I had to endure the grief of her passing. The remainder of the morning passed in a mood of depression. I had not slept well for weeks, maybe months, I don't know. I was tired in mind and body. We had lunch, and I was determined not to take a post-prandial snooze. I was fine, and in full control. My body would do as it was told, when it was told. So I worked through the afternoon before taking a shower and going out to tea with friends. We had tea and cake, and I had a very generous helping of cream, and seconds to follow. I should have been warned, but I was in control was I not? Cream I do not eat! It is nothing more than a calorie-ridden, sickly indulgence as far as I am concerned. (Champagne falls into a similar category!) Oh yes, I should most certainly have been warned.
         It was whilst driving home that the incident occurred. We had come to a crossroads, and I had stopped, momentarily. It was odd, but I simply did not see the other car, a big, Japanese 4x4 approaching at high speed. I heard a gasp from Lucy, and as I looked once again at the approaching vehicle I realised that there was nothing I could do to avert a collision. My final thought at that point was that I simply did not care! The physical details of the rest of the encounter are not important here, but disaster was averted by the thinking and action of the other driver. Suffice it to say that at the time my perception was that the likelihood of death or severe injury was extremely high. What is important is my recollection of my spiritual state at the time.
         I have spent days going over that experience of 'I do not care'. Certainly I care deeply about my wife. I also care about the car, but far less so. No, this was something quite different from that kind of caring, but I must take this one step at a time. It seemed as if my ego, so loathe to acknowledge the truth of its own fallibility and imminent demise, had decided to let me go and disappear from the scene. I could not think; I could not feel; I could not sense anything except what my eyes were seeing. Devoid of my ego, or most of it at least, I found myself in the presence of, and totally identified with, some sense of otherness, a presence that I assumed to be my true Self. That Self was not concerned by cares of any sort. It simply observed without passing judgement. It felt nothing because It was completely detached. The whole incident was not dissimilar to a peak experience. I was also aware that there was no tension present, for that had disappeared with my ego. I can only say that presence has always been there, and it will always continue to be there, even when I cannot see it.
         Now what, one might ask, has all this to do with the experience of a true God? Perhaps nothing, and I do not claim to have been in contact with God, and certainly not that he saved us that day. That salvation was in the hands, not of otherworldly agencies, but of very this-worldly agencies. I would claim, however, that in being rejected by my ego-consciousness I was left in the figurative hands of my true Self, and that finger was likely to be pointing in the direction of God. The enforced state of detachment, of letting go, is a characteristic of a meeting with God, or at least some divine intermediary. You see, I realised at that time that it is the ego that is the 'Ancient of Days'. The true God is still young, is still in a state of becoming. It lives in the eternal here-and-now, a state that is so very difficult to enter voluntarily.

.......... I reached out to the slowly spinning sphere, that is both God-like and foetal-like, full of nascent life. And I can hear it.  It is the sound of an ageless child humming to itself, alone, engaged in a gentle activity of concentrated observation. Here, around this Child-God, or perhaps God-child, is the missing input that I need.  That input is love..........
                                                                               [Extract from my Qabalah Diaries]

         If this were the only experience I have had, I would note it with interest and leave it to vegetate in a diary somewhere. But there have been too many supportive writings and experiences by others, including saints and mystics down the years, to allow this experience to be discarded. The way to God is inwards. One must detach and, as the author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" once wrote, look upwards to the Cloud of Unknowing, and downwards at the Cloud of Forgetting.
         I have offered all such detail as seems relevant lest it be assumed that I have drawn erroneous conclusions drawn from highly selective data. It will be the task, if so chosen, for you my readers to comment, and to decide whether my conclusions are valid or not. It will be my task to listen. In any case my search will continue.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Can God Be Said To Be a Person?

         To answer any question of this nature requires some definition of what a person is, and what we mean by personality. Without wishing to get bogged down in debates about the detail that can arise from this question, let it be generally accepted that a person is an individual human, someone having certain characteristics by which that individual can be identified. Going further, a person is capable of entering into relationships with other persons, and as a result, capable of developing a personality in response to those around him/her. Now the word 'personality' has its origins in the Latin 'persona' which relates to a 'mask', something used by someone whilst acting out a role. Therefore it must be tacitly assumed that a person, as we understand that term, is engaged in activities that are essentially not of the true self, but of the false self. Put another way, personality is a property of the ego. It also follows from these opening thoughts that if the 'personal' is to be investigated, so must the 'impersonal' as well.
         Now if God can be said to be a person then he has a personality; that his personality is merely an act; that he can enter into relationships with other persons; and that he is capable of thought, feeling, and physically sensing his surroundings, this last-mentioned ability arising from the nature of his ego. And let it not be forgotten that the impersonal attributes of God must also be considered.
         Clearly, I have removed the lid from a can, if not full of worms, then certainly full of subjects that cannot be covered in a single essay. I have shared some thoughts in my previous essay on the issue of the supposed gender of God. Here I would like to say something about another aspect of the supposed personality of God, bearing in mind that personality is a function of the ego. I have made the point on a number of occasions that, from readings of the Old Testament which describe, for example, how Jahweh instructs his chosen people to wreak all sorts of vengeance on Israel's enemies, it is inescapable that what is being described is the workings of ego writ large across the cosmos. It is to the credit of his people that they tended to ignore his divine rantings.
         In the (unreferenced) instances to which I have alluded, both the power of the thinking function and that of the feeling function have been brought into play, as well as Jahweh's ability to strike, when necessary, by physical force. On the surface one might consider that all this is a great nonsense. But no, there is something very real going on here, and something we all need to address at some stage in our lives, and it is this. Human beings have a predisposition to indulge in:-

1.          Seeing order, cause and effect, where no such order exists,
2.          Projection of the workings of the inner, psychological world onto the outer world, and
3.          Anthropopathy and anthropomorphism, in short creating God in our egoistic image.

Thus in endowing God with a personality, treating him as a person, is nothing short of a projection of the human ego onto a divinity which, because it is nothing but a projection, is false. I must insist that such a God is a false God, but one which is, nevertheless, worshipped the world over. As is so often the case, blame and judgements tend to be levelled 'out there', onto our projections, rather than ridding ourselves of our denials and seeking reality 'in here'. I shudder at the waste of time that I have indulged in, blaming and judging others when I would have been better occupied seeking my inner truth.
         The statement that the egoistic God is a false God implies the possibility of a true God that has nothing to do with person, personality, ego, gender or relationship as we usually use that word. The search for that kind of God is, in my opinion, a task worthy of humankind, as is the task of addressing our own psycho-spiritual origins and make-up. In the final analysis these activities may be more closely related than we might choose to acknowledge.  

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Does God Really Have a Gender?

         I think that I have always known that, somewhere along the way, I was going to have to confront the problem of God. Until now I have accepted this inner Presence, which I experience from time to time as a manifestation, or an emergent property, of God, but have considered any intellectual or analytical approach to God to be too fraught with difficulties. My tentative approach to the problem of God is going to be what might be considered as somewhat negative in that I will try to determine what God is not. Only then, hopefully from what is left, may I gain some idea in which direction I need to travel in order to reach my desired goal of knowing something of what God is. There are no guarantees of course, but at least the opening steps are clear enough. To find God one must seek inside oneself.
         The question I would like to address here is whether or not the christian God is male. Now God, and please stay with me because this has implications far beyond religion, has traditionally been called the Father. He might just as easily have been called God the Mother, if his origins had not been rooted in the Jewish religion but in a matriarchal belief system. It was considered that the notion of fatherhood, drawn from the rural world of the ancient Near East, was an apt analogy for the description of the experience of God. But an analogy it always was, and an analogy is what it remains. Somewhere along the centuries, the boundaries of analogy and perceived truth have become blurred to the extent that the one has become totally identified with the other. In other words the analogy is the truth. Incidentally, a similar argument can be applied to the idea of Jesus being the Son of God.
         In her "Models of God", Sallie McFague says,

"God as mother does does not mean that God is mother (or father). We imagine God as both mother and father, but we realize how inadequate these and other metaphors are to express the creative love of God....... Nevertheless, we speak of this love in language that is familiar and dear to us......"

         Now the analogy of father (or mother) may be useful for people who were raised in a loving, caring family, but what of those who were raised under different circumstances? I would suggest that such an analogy lacks a certain authenticity which cannot be overcome simply by citing the experiences of others. In short, the language of loving parenthood is neither familiar nor dear. Whether or not God can love, creatively or otherwise, is a subject which I will pass over for possible future discussion.
         If I can assume to have successfully disposed of the idea that God is Father, I must add that there is one aspect of the male/female analogy that is universally useful, and that is the use of the words male and female in the strictly biological sense, as used for example in engineering. Where two matching components come together to form a joint or union, those components are described as being male or female, depending on whether they are inserted into or fitted around the other component. Pipe fittings would be one example of this. And here is the crux of the matter, that the two are united to form the one, analogously an inner union of the soul, the ground of our being, and some 'otherness' which may be called God. When that mystical union takes place, there follows a new sense of balance and completion, the uniting of the Bride and the Groom, yet another analogy.
         Lest it be assumed that some form of gender analogy is required to describe the idea of union, (assumed always to be of a loving and caring variety), please consider another analogy which in the end may be closer to reality that one using gender, as well as being free of emotive issues. When two (or more, but not let us complicate matters) chemical elements are brought together chemically, a new substance or compound is created. I stress the point that the elements come into chemical union, a process which follows strict rules. The result of physical union produces a mixture (which obeys no rules) in which the components retain their identity. The chosen elements may be very different from each other, for example sodium (symbol Na) a silvery, reactive metal, and chlorine (symbol Cl) a pungent, yellowy-green gas, will combine to form common salt (symbol NaCl). In this compound these two elements combine strictly in the ratio of 1:1.
         What I like about the chemical analogy is that one can experience the apparent paradox of combining elements of opposite (or at least dissimilar) nature to produce a compound whose properties are completely different from its constituent elements. Furthermore, some chemical reactions can take place only in the presence of a catalyst, a substance which allows the reaction to take place without being a chemical part of that reaction. Thus one might introduce the Holy Spirit, or some other concept, into the reckoning of personal experience.
         I would like to conclude by reiterating that the notions of God as Father or Mother are only analogies based on what seemed in the past to be meaningful, family relationships. Those notions never were other than analogies, and are no more than that now. There are other ways of trying to put into words the ineffable, such as the chemical analogy, which avoids the family concept. And it must be remembered that at some point all analogies break down. If the analogy of fatherhood and the principle it had attempted to model had not become confused over the centuries, we might by now be much closer to a greater understanding of the fundamentals of our psycho-spirituality. And there is much to be understood.
         It may be argued that I have set out on a fool's errand to discover the nature of God, if such a nature can be said to exist. That may well be the case, but I will never know until I at least try to seek answers to my interminable questions.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Suffering, A Necessity for True Living

         Although I do have a strong tendency to write in theistic language, this does not mean that I am an apologist for christianity or, for that matter, any religion. To be candid, what I see as the mythology of christianity is too esoteric for my understanding. I suspect this is the same for many people: why else the descent into fundamentalism and the supposed literal truth of holy writ? I find that I hold a similar position as regards psychology, including transpersonal psychology which recognises the existence of a spiritual side to humanity's nature. For me, the healthy development of my psycho-spiritual nature must go hand-in-hand with the continued practice of maintaining my physical body in a state that is 'fit for purpose', at least as far as that is reasonably possible. To pursue the one aspect of my being without pursuing the other seems to me to be lopsided, as well as denying myself the advantages and joys of a holistic life. That is what I feel and wish for, and requires a great deal of detachment from my ego, insofar as I can achieve that. However, this life-style is not what everyone wants, and as the saying goes, 'you pays yer money and you makes yer choice'. Perhaps we need a greater desire to celebrate our diversity.
         Moving to the subject of coping, I find it increasingly difficult to define the word 'cope' in such a way that clearly differentiates between my understanding of the word, and the more vernacular usage. Or perhaps there is only one meaning, and it's simply a matter of degree. Certainly, it is true that we develop ways and means of getting over or around the humps and bumps of everyday living. That would seem to be quite acceptable. However, when coping means that actions are felt continually to be required to enable us to run at top speed in order to stand still, something is going wrong. My experience of the first fifty years or so of my life was precisely that, at least when times were manageable. When, finally, after living with another's substance addiction and I had my back to the wall, I was fighting a rearguard action to save some remnant of my sanity. I had to let go, to stop trying to cope. By that time I existed but could hardly have been said to be living. To let go gave me the opportunity to see life differently, to reassess my priorities.
         Once having let go, and having been relieved of the burden that was dragging me beneath the surface of the 'Slough of Despond', so much else fell into place; so much about my unacknowledged psycho-spiritual world began to be revealed. It needed for me to experience my suffering depths and acknowledge them before I could begin an ascent into real life, a life in which I began to respond to life rather than react to it like some latter day Pavlov dog. And it is a cause of great regret, and almost-despair, to me that everywhere I look I see a world teeming with Pavlov dogs, unthinkingly reacting to every incoming impulse, ever seeking to control and manipulate, rather than stopping and realising there are other ways of being. It is more than simply unfortunate that the lack of that realisation is what represents normality for most of us.
         Fr. Richard Rohr said recently,

         "People who have never loved or never suffered will normally try to control everything with an either-or attitude or all-or-nothing thinking. This closed system is all they are prepared for. The mentality that divides the world into “deserving and undeserving” has not yet experienced the absolute gratuity of grace or the undeserved character of mercy. This lack of in-depth God-experience leaves all of us judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, and weak in empathy and sympathy."

         Once one has plumbed the depths of psycho-spiritual suffering, at least as far as I have been there, and having that ineffable experience of 'coming to believe', or having discovered another way of being, it is almost impossible to turn back. And is this not something to be shared? I do not wish, even if it were possible, to keep this all to and for myself. Yet I recognise that, in the final analysis, it is my life and only my life that I can seek to nurture.
         It had been my intent to write in answer to the comments made about my previous post, "Coping Is Not Living." I do not know whether I have achieved that aim. I do know that in the course of writing, I suddenly had a glimpse of a spiritually healthy world that could happen. Yet I fear that world is, and will always be, a stillborn entity. I will end this essay in the same way that I ended the previous one, with all the commitment and devotion that I can muster,

         "It starts with the individual, not them 'out there'; it starts with me.....'in here'. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Coping Is Not Living

          Over these recent weeks it has become increasingly clear to me that we are ill-served by spiritual teachers and writings that can appeal to the non-religious reader. People beset by problems of a psycho-spiritual nature are often, and all too readily perhaps, placed in the hands of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors who adopt an approach to healing that is nothing more than the integration of dysfunctional personalities into a society which is itself dysfunctional. This can never be a healing procedure but one in which further suffering is imposed by the 'washing of hands' rather than 'the laying on of hands'. The genuinely 'spiritual' approach to healing is almost overwhelmingly in the hands of the Church whose leaders all too often may be classified as the blind leading the blind. Thankfully, there are exceptions.
          But it seems to me that if we would undertake the task of panning for the gold nuggets that can be found amongst the dross of religious teaching, the rewards could be very worthwhile. If that endeavour is to attract those who search unavailingly, or who are unaware of the psycho-spiritual benefits that are available, then, to change the metaphor, the banquet must be prepared and served in a more mouth-watering, appetising manner than that which is all too often adopted. The dishes need to be adapted to modern tastes. We in these modern times are educationally ill-equipped to understand religious mythology. We need some plain speaking.
          And this banquet is not simply for a few who just happen to have an interest in matters psycho-spiritual, an activity which may be gently condemned by 'normal people' (God preserve us from normality!) as a waste of time indulged in by cranks, eccentrics and others of highly dubious mental capacity. It actually goes right to the heart of the activities of a dysfunctional world living under the false glow of excessive materialism on the one hand, and the equally false, fundamentalist religiosity on the other. The banquet must be laid for everybody; yes, even for those who are unaware that there is nourishment to be had at the high table.
          Humanity is never going to experience genuine growth and psycho-spiritual maturity until we as a species are forced to face a worldwide crisis with which we are unable to cope. So long as we can merely cope, that is continually to adjust our management of an ever-increasingly dysfunctional life, we will never experience what it is to truly live. So long as we settle for coping strategies, there will never be any impetus to change. It starts with the individual, not them 'out there'; it starts with me.....'in here'.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Comes the Morning

          It had been a puzzling rather than a difficult day. After all, time passes whether we will it or not, so the passing of the day was not a difficulty. But in an odd sort of way small events, that I had become accustomed to happening, were not occurring at least in the almost-but-not-quite present. This experience, which seemed to be almost-but-not-quite attached to the passing of the day, left me feeling not being quite present in the here and now. It was a relief, therefore, when tiredness decided that it was time for bed.....and dream time.

..........She came to me, the female Presence of the Morning, and asked whether I was still wedded to the Presence of the Evening. I affirmed that I was, that the breaking away from all-that-has-been was proving to be too difficult. My questioner, the younger Presence, still too immature to have any knowledge, but yet full of knowing, replied that I could not touch her. I could not experience the touch of the one whilst holding onto the other.
          In my dream I turned to that older other, the Presence of the Evening, so full of knowledge yet with so little knowing.  She would not respond to my entreaties but chose, rather, to communicate with her younger rival across the intervening Dark Night. There seemed to be no animosity between them, and this I did not understand. They spoke in quiet tones, too quiet for me to hear. But it seemed as if much passed between them with an authority around the Presence of the Morning, the spirit of all-that-might-yet-be, that was unmatched by the Presence of the Evening, the spirit of all-that-has-been.
          I was assailed by words, beating at my head and my heart. Blackness lay in the words shouted like hammer blows by the Presence of the Evening. I felt so wretched and powerless, unable to justify my desire to put aside all the enlightenment that she had given me. Thankless wretch! And the black words came ever more rapidly until they filled the space around me. I could have no direct response to her. Instead I went to my inner, private room and began to destroy everything that I owned, everything that gave any clue as to what and who I was, to what I have been. Yet still came the attacks.
          And on the third day came peace. There were no more words of assault. The spirit of all-that-has-been had returned to the evening. Between her and the spirit of all-that-might-yet-be, God's promise and perfection, stood, in all its intensity, the Dark Night of my continuation..........

          Time passes wearily, yet I seem to be caught in a kind of timelessness, a not quite here-ness. The Presence of the Evening has become ever more fixed in the past, like once joyful stars imprisoned in a static opacity; the times of all that once was. The Presence of the Morning approaches in the world of the spirit, as surely as the day follows the night in the temporal world. Around and through her is fluidity and transparency, an avatar from what might yet be. And I must be ready; I must be ready.