Monday, 18 March 2019

Experience Beyond Understanding

          It was in 1992 that I carried out the following pathworking, that I first went onto a mountain to pray. The purpose of the exercise was to meet with an unspecified "wise one." At that time I saw that other presence as a Druid, rather than a Christ or Christic Self. Looking back to that time, I see that there is much that has some symbolic meaning, but I will comment on the one aspect of this inner journey which I think is the most important. Yet there remains much that can be inferred from this exercise. First, however, comes the description of the inner journey, or conversation.

..........I stood on a narrow track. The black, slick mountain of almost crystalline rock climbed away to my left to the summit. To my right lay a valley in deep shadow, filled with evergreen trees. From this vantage point high above the treetops, the valley appeared to be totally enclosed in the mountains. There was a harsh angularity about these slopes that contrasted with the soft roundness of the full moon. Yet there was also a feeling of cleanliness and purity about the mountains, uncluttered as they were by soil or pebbles. There was nothing to mar the slippery slopes glistening in the moonlight.
          I had difficulty keeping my footing on the slippery track as it wound its way along the mountainside. I continued for some distance until at last the track forked. The right fork continued on much as before, but I chose the left which climbed steeply, in deep shadow, towards a cave. At the entrance to the cave burned a fire. I approached with caution, then waited. I found there was something attractive, magnetic about the fire. I felt the drying heat on my face as it seemed to draw me closer. The desire to step into the fire strengthened steadily, but I resisted. To the right of the fire was a pile of logs which I began to feed to the fire, turning the flames from yellow to white heat. The desire to step into the flames and be purged, to experience catharsis, became overpowering. As I made to take those last steps into the fire, a tall figure dressed in a black, cowled robe appeared at the cave mouth. Though I saw a hint of nose and chin, the newcomer's face was virtually hidden in shadow.
          I opened a conversation by requesting access to my unconscious mind, a request that appeared to be well received. As the Druid touched my right shoulder we exchanged bodies. I became aware that the Druid had waited a long time for me to come, and also that the Druid's powers were not unlimited, though immeasurably greater than mine. We had both wanted this meeting for so long, and now that it had happened there was a sense of having arrived and been accepted. So we re-exchanged bodies.
          I was lost in silence, not knowing what to ask of the Druid. He reached into a large leather bag leaning against the wall at the cave mouth and drew forth a handful of ordinary-looking rock chippings and gave them to me. I carefully placed the apparently worthless gift in my pocket and turned to leave. I walked down the path, westwards, until once again I arrived at the fork. There I stopped to inspect the Druid's gift. The rock chippings had undergone a remarkable transformation. They had joined to form a composite of intensely beautiful, purple-violet crystals surrounded by a circlet of milky white. They seemed to hold such mystery and purity in their depths. They were life in inanimate form, were both weak and strong.
          I began to try to prise the crystal structure apart until my fingers began to bleed with the effort, and my finger bones began to break. So strong was the structure that it defied all my efforts to dismantle it. Then it was that I discovered that I could take the structure apart by lovingly willing the component crystals to slide along their fracture planes. Just as easily I could reassemble the structure. After continuing to dismantle and reassemble the crystals for some while, I saw at last in the depths of the crystal lattice a golden ring containing a single diamond. Around me had developed a mist of glittering particles which had emanated from the crystal, yet the structure had steadily grown larger and more beautiful..........

          "..........and drew forth a handful of ordinary-looking rock chippings and gave them to me.........." 
       
          At the time, I struggled to see the significance of a handful of apparently worthless collection of rock chippings. As time passed, however, I began to see that what passes as ordinary, run-of-the-mill, primordial even, in the realm of the superconscious mind is, in the world of consciousness, something precious and jewel-like. [I have before me a piece of amethyst to remind me for always of that experience.]
          There is much that could be said about the meaning of the amethyst image, its colour, and the appearance of the gold ring in its depths. But that would take too long. It is enough to say that what is represented relates to truth, knowledge, spiritual temperance and repentance, resignation and acceptance. I recall the characteristic 'let-it-happen-to-me' attitude of Mary, the legendary mother of Jesus. And the diamond? Light, life and incorruptibility.
          Spiritual truth, the kingdom of heaven, is not something that can be assailed with force. It requires that a recipient uses truth lovingly and respectfully. I say again, the spiritual life does not conform to dictat but responds only to persuasion. Only in that way can it grow and spread like a living entity. [It is not unlike the taking of five loaves and two fishes, sharing and spreading them and garnering what they become, far more than that from which they grew.]
          This truth, reality, authenticity, so common at the highest realms of our Christic Self, is experience beyond understanding. It is incapable of being subject to mere intellectual analysis. There is also something oddly alien and other-worldly about this kind of truth that is, paradoxically, both powerful and weak or fragile, that can be lived yet not understood. It is lived because it is Life.
          As the Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Monday, 11 March 2019

Why Climb A Mountain To Pray?

Luke 3:21-22     .....and while He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him.....

Matthew 14:23  .....After He had sent the crowds away, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray.....

Mark 6:46           .....After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.....

Mark 1:35           .....In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.....

Matthew 5:1      .....Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when He was seated his disciples came to Him.....

Luke 5:15-16      .....But the news of Him kept spreading, and large crowds would gather to hear Him and have their illnesses cured, but He would go off to some deserted place and pray.....

          These are just six of a relatively large number of instances where the New Testament talks of Jesus the Nazarene going to pray, or preparing to preach. It would appear that no two sources can ever agree about the exact wording of these quotes but, nonetheless, these passages are often taken to be literal truth.

Quote:          "The reference to going up a mountain prior to preaching [see fifth quote, above] is considered by many to be a reference to Moses on Mount Sinai. Lapide feels that the clumsy phrasing implies that this verse is a transliteration from the Hebrew, and that it was an exact replica of a passage describing Moses. Boring notes that the reference to Jesus sitting may be an allusion to Deuteronomy 9:9, where in some translations Moses is described as sitting on Mount Sinai." [Source - Wikipedia, Matthew 5:1]

          Of course it is quite possible that the Nazarene did take time out to do a little mountaineering or hill walking, although one doubts whether he was dressed or otherwise prepared for such exercise. There is a much more likely interpretation [in my opinion] of the passages quoted above, and that is that these trips were symbolic, a journey upwards into the higher regions of the mind. There is no doubt that the symbolism of the mountain or hill [and I would add that of an ascending flight of stairs, a ladder, or some other means of ascent] is very powerful and of great value in meditation. Similarly, the imagery associated with deserted or secluded spaces can be used in meditation to effect contact with higher processes of the mind. It is in these states of meditation that heaven opens and that the Holy Spirit can be said to descend. Only in these states can one truly escape the 'illnesses' of the chattering ego.
          One does not need to be a religious, to hold a belief in God, to carry out the kind of meditation or spiritual exercise apparently carried out by Jesus, that of mentally climbing a mountain to meet with a 'wise person' in whatever form that image appears. Not only is such a journey greatly uplifting and reinvigorating, but there may also be an added bonus of a gift, perhaps a simple pebble which changes into a precious stone embodying a truth as one descends to everyday consciousness.
          No, I do not believe that the stories of Jesus literally climbing high places, only and simply to commune with God the Father, are anything but elements of the Christ mythology. Guided imagery, pathworking, meditation with symbols, are so much more convenient and practical. And God, to revert to a more religious approach, is to be found in the inner space, not out in the realist and physical world. Heaven, in the form of enlightenment, is open to anyone who seeks.

Monday, 4 March 2019

I Am Only the Bearer

          I would now like to go to a deeper level meditation, before bringing this series to a close. I can see no way at present to probe more deeply. Indeed, there may be a point beyond which one is not be able go, at least for now.

..........I arrived in a wood, illuminated by sunshine. It was a typically English, deciduous wood in springtime. It was so very lovely. Ahead of me in a clearing stood the doorway, the portal into the Temple. I began to walk forward, dressed still in my black habit and supported by my staff. Then I noticed that each of the four paths in and out of the wood, was guarded by a sphinx each facing the doorway; one to the south; one to the north; one to the east, and one to the west.
          On reaching the temple doors, I gently pressed against the dark bronze doors with a word of request. In my present state they seemed to be exceptionally solid, yet they opened inwards with barely a spoken touch. I stepped inside and approached the altar. The immediate impression was one of a sense of definable no-thing-ness, a space, an emptiness yet filled with planes of black perceptiveness. And I sensed a presence like a slight beat of great wings.
          The altar was discernible but filled with nothingness. Placed upon the altar was the transparent bowl filled with the equally transparent liquid. Some distance above the bowl hung a clear Chalice, but one through which I did not seem able to see. The Chalice was being held aloft by a figure made from shapes of nothingness. Apart from the fact that it had huge wings and human form clothed in flowing raiment, this figure had nothing about it that spoke of being human, only vaguely humanoid. It was far beyond the warmth of a human concept, yet implying great power.
          Fiery sparks, said to represent the energies of atoms, were now everywhere as if all the elements of all colours were permeated with the golden sparkle of atomic and subatomic energies in the darkest depths if intra-atomic space. Hints of a deeper level yet, where all is energy, imply a level at which the energy of life itself can be found.
          Slowly I rose upwards to the level of the Chalice, and held it in a shared grasp of that sacred non-object. It was tilted towards me. I believe I drank of its contents, but tasted nothing. Then I descended to the floor, and everything that was no-thing passed away. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that this life is not about me. I am only the carrier, the bearer, the altar on which that which lives its life through me is laid..........
       
          Energy, and I must assume that that includes the life energy which animates living structures, is related to mass and acceleration [in other words movement] which in turn implies temperature above absolute zero. If the universal life-force comes into being at a fraction of a degree higher than zero, where no known life-form can exist, then life-forms are not required to generate that life-force. Energy would appear to be self-generative. Could this not be the ultimate meaning of virgin birth, the subject we began with when talking about the virgin birth of Jesus the Nazarene?

Footnote:          The appearance of the sphinges came as a great surprise to me, having never crossed their paths, so to speak, in any earlier meditational pathworkings. Yet clearly their presence was significant because they were not props to guide my way to my inner temple. Of the Sphinx it has been said,

"..........To attain the goal which the Sphinx represents is to undertake the journey of purification.  This journey requires long, deliberate effort, motivated by the desire to reach the goal. What is this goal? It is the eternal marriage of Life and Light that love seeks and that the Sphinx represents. It is the Covenant, the purpose for Creation - its beginning, and the place of its return. When the soul reaches a certain stage in its own development, love calls it and inspires it to seek its own higher nature, moved by the stirrings within itself. Then a partnership takes place between human effort and Divine assistance in pursuit of this end. This partnership, this marriage of intention between God's purposes for humanity and human purpose is the meaning of the Covenant. It is also the motive force and the method for that which leads to it - the process of purification.........."

Monday, 25 February 2019

Somewhere That Is No-where

          I have rarely found that a single meditation on any subject brings one to the very heart of the matter under investigation. It requires a number of meditations, each one being deeper than the one before, yet always related in some way. The series of meditations currently being reported began with the goddess Demeter, moved deeper into an interaction with Mary [the mother of Jesus], before experiencing her as an aspect of the psycho-spiritual self. Going now more deeply into this subject I will try to describe my symbolic surroundings, my inner journey/conversation and let them speak as they will. But first, a few pointers.
          To carry out this form of meditation, a pathworking, one needs some props along the way. In this case the props are a temple/church, some place of worship, but with no details given, and an altar. Anything else that spontaneously occurs is the true conversation, and to be greatly valued. Two further symbols that occurred simply showed that I was on the correct path. One symbol was a pair of Gothic, temple doors standing in isolation whilst the other was a crypt. Together they represented a gateway into the shadow of death, into prayer.
       
..........I discovered that I was walking towards the centre of a sunlit glade where there stood double bronze doors surrounded by a stone frame, but nothing else. They stood at the crossover point of four paths leading into the glade from each of the cardinal points of the compass. Pushing open the doors I entered what appeared to be a personal temple, a structure which had been non-existent from the outside. Before me lay an open, darkened crypt accessed by a ramp leading downwards. I walked down the ramp and found myself in a large space which appeared to extend without limit, outwards into darkness.
Immediately before me stood an altar on which stood a transparent bowl, so clear that it seemed to represent form without substance. In the bowl was a similarly clear liquid which I lit from hand fire. To either side of the bowl lay an ear of wheat. Behind the altar appeared a column of light which seemed to be alive. The darkness around me deepened, and with a slight sense of disorientation, I rose upwards above the altar and felt my hands reach out in front of me. In response I sensed a corresponding gesture from the glowing column, until our hands were clasped together. At that moment I discovered also that I was dressed in a black habit, symbolising obedience, chastity and celibacy..........

          In this experience I entered that state sometimes called one's inner temple. It is a place of virginal purity where one meets the divine, the hand fire confirming something spiritual was present. A temple is also a symbol for a womb, a place of creativity or procreativity. There one must wait awhile, allowing what will happen to actually happen, doing only what was required of one and not what one might choose to do under the influence of the ego.
          As I was raised from the floor of the temple I moved to a point above or over the altar. What followed was a handing process, or more accurately a handing over process.  From that moment on, I was in something else's hands. This action reflects the attitude of Mary, her acceptance and commitment referred to in the previous post, 'Let It Happen to Me.' The links to my previous meditations on a shallower level are clear enough, even to the appearance of two ears of wheat on the altar.
          It is difficult to describe the sense of otherness, of disorientation combined with stability that I experienced. It was as if my ego were losing its tenuous hold on its own existence, and another part of my self were willingly and gladly changing to a new orientation, going somewhere that is no-where. And in the end, that somewhere is indeed no-where, because the symbols themselves are not that somewhere. What that somewhere truly is lies beyond description.

Footnote:          I wished to concentrate on the inner temple and what occurred there, because I felt that was the focus of my meditation. Yet in so doing I have tended to ignore the fact that just as an altar is a place of sacrifice [and not necessarily of the bloody and cruel variety], so also is the Cross. And I noted that the "gateway into the shadow of death" or into the relationship that is called prayer [the double doors of the temple], was placed where the paths in the sunlit glade crossed each other.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Let It Happen to Me

          It is only in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke that the conception of Mary is described. Neither in Mark nor in John is this event mentioned. Incidentally, the immaculate conception isn't spoken of in the Gnostic Nag Hammadi scriptures either. It is almost as if the conception is something of a mythological sideshow, a literary filler-in to get the show on the road. Yet I do think that story is important because it tells us something about the psycho-spiritual Mary that lives in each one of us.
          Now unless one believes that a woman in the physical world can conceive whilst remaining a virgin, one must look elsewhere for the meaning of her conception, because as the story goes,

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow." [One might add that Joseph was not going to be involved.]

Here is biblical confirmation that Mary's pregnancy is not of the physical kind, any more than the pregnancies of Demeter or Ceres or any other fertility goddess was of the physical kind. Indeed, I have my doubts even about the existence of Mary, except as a literary figure, an armature on which to construct a myth, a story of a creation within the human psyche.
          Clearly, Mary had no choice in the matter. She was there, not to create life, but to carry life. I say again, she had no choice.

"Let it happen to me as you [the archangel Gabriel] have said."

For me, that statement speaks of submission and the complete absence of psychological denial. Therein lies the spiritual strength of Mary, that symbol of inner creation in the fertile soil of the spirit. What was to come was, what some have called, the 'Inner Christ', the true/authentic/real/higher self. Now whether our Christic Selves were always there but covered in an egoistic shroud, I am uncertain. Maybe there was a point in history when we evolved to a state when we could, if we so chose, break free from the dominion of the ego. Mary's wisdom lay in her acknowledgement of, and submission to, that psycho-spiritual evolution.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Descent and Return

          As I said in an earlier post, "The Word of God" [22nd. January 2019], the Mystical Qabalah has been one of the major influences in my spiritual life. Some months ago, whilst pondering on one particular aspect of the Qabalah's 'Tree of Life', certain thoughts began to emerge. It was perhaps the beginning of the idea that the biblical New Testament gospels should be looked at from a different point of view, as if they contained a mythology of the Christ as told through the legendary stories of a certain Jesus the Nazarene.
          In my studies I find that Greek mythology is often a productive starting point for my thinking. For example, Demeter was the gentle goddess of agriculture, a fertility goddess. She was without a husband of her own and became pregnant, the story goes, by Zeus the king of the gods. When her time was due, she gave birth to her daughter Core, later known as Persephone, and also Iacchus/Bacchus/Dionysus. It is unclear to me whether these were twin siblings, or whether they represented different aspects of some wider process. In time Core, then in the form of the more mature Persephone, descended [by capture] into the underworld of Hades, to return again after three months.
          That is the story of Demeter and Persephone in a nutshell. However, the development of the fertility myth and its relationship to Christian mythology, is not the prime focus of this post. Nevertheless, to add a little meat to the bones of the story [if a nutshell can be imagined to have bones] I must point out that Demeter as the goddess of agriculture is associated with the growth of spelt wheat, the stuff of 'the bread of life'. Furthermore, there are a number of points of convergence with the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The latter also was without a husband of her own when she became pregnant by some mysterious, divine force. In time she gave birth to Jesus who grew to maturity, was executed or cut down, before descending into Hell only to return on the third day thereafter. Jesus is often associated not only with bread ["...take, eat, this is my body...] but also with wine, as was Dionysus of course.
          It seems to me that peoples of olden times committed what was most important in their thinking and culture to forms that we now see as mythology and legend. These are not just idle stories made up by ignorant peoples, but accounts of their wisdom put into words that could be read and, hopefully, understood by lay people. The stories were not required to be historically accurate, but did need to carry meanings that reflected truth. The biblical Jesus employed a similar technique by the use of parables for his listeners. His disciples, however, were expected to read beyond the parable, and understand the meanings behind the stories. I think it is almost impossible to overstate the importance that those ancient peoples attached to their mythologies, and in particular to the fertility myth that spoke of their fundamental means of survival. That being the case, the stories surrounding the life of Jesus of Nazareth, having been written in mythological/legendary form, must also have been considered as vitally important.
          And what meaning can be learned from this particular legend of the Nazarene? Firstly, I would suggest that Jesus did not die and, after descending into Hell, return on the third day. It was not he but the Christ [not an alternative name for Jesus or indeed his surname], that which lived its life through Jesus, that made the descent and return. Secondly, it was not a journey that happened only once at some far off moment in history. It is a journey which can continually be experienced through the Higher, Christic  Self. The very essence of growth of the spirit is a journey of descent and return, and that journey needs to be experienced again and again. But as St. Augustine could possibly have said, "What does it avail me if this journey is always happening, if it does not happen in me?" 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Of Powerlessness and Belief - Part ll

          I ended Part l withe sentence, "It is like looking at starlight after the intervening clouds have passed away." Step Two of the spiritual recovery program:-

"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity"

was a completely different experience from Step One. To begin with, I did not feel that I was 'doing' anything. Rather, it was about what was happening to me. Many people, both in AA and Al-anon, have difficulty with the 'Power greater than ourselves' part of the Step, because it smacks too much of God. I on the other hand, have always baulked at the expression 'Higher Power'. For me it was about finding that presence which I name God and/or the Christ. I was too desperate at that time to waste time over the niceties of mere words.  But let me return to that morning when I was told that my work on the first Step was complete, and I could take time out and ponder on Step Two.
          I have to admit that whenever I read those lovely words, "Came to believe" my throat tightens, I need to swallow hard and look away, whilst all the time refusing to deny my helpless gratitude. I have always known from that morning onwards that I was in the Presence of something divine. My repetitive, futile, controlling behaviour was over; that obsessive behaviour that had been bordering on insanity. From all that, as well as from my denial, I had been rescued. Observing the experience of that Presence I was gloriously defenceless. I think in my heart of hearts I had already made my decision about Step Three.       
          When I was young, I was constantly frustrated by my inability to do what I felt I ought to do, whilst at the same time doing what I felt I should not do. Now I began to see that morality was an empty box, a washed-out force. I longed to make changes to my personality that would get me to a point where I could spiritually 'succeed.' What a hopeless task it was; what a foolish goal to pursue; what a pointless aspiration to follow. Gradually I would become aware that changes were happening, not perhaps with my personality, but with my deepest sense of being. It is not an easy thing to describe and write about. I just realised that the changes were taking place without any interference on my part, and at a level deeper than I could consciously reach.

..........It seemed as if there were a light ahead of me which consumed my focus. It was in me yet also beyond me. I could not tell whether it was small, dim and close by, or large, bright and distant. I had no markers by which I could judge. I have never had markers by which I could gauge the proximity of God. I know only that 'It' is immensely yet gently powerful. And for all my planning, I sometimes miss out bits in my life. There is always that Presence that seems to acknowledge my commitment, and fill in the missing bits. So much of that came later, but that was the moment, that morning, to which I trace my resurrected spiritual life.
          I finally learned that logic, reason and rationality were not the name of the game. I needed to believe, trust and for Heaven's sake just try it. When that happened I was repaid with confirmation and a knowing that my commitment had received some justification. It was as if I had stepped into the darkness then, looking back, saw that sturdy, stone slabs had been placed just where my feet were supposed to tread.
          And now I find that I have rushed onwards and outwards, yet I remain here. It is as if I am experiencing the acorn whilst also being the oak tree which it will become. And all the while there are more acorns to come. Then and now; here and there; living within a great paradox in an ever-present future;  I remain, looking at starlight after the intervening clouds have passed away..........