Monday, 4 July 2016

Burned Out!

We have had a house fire. For those 'out there' who will be interested, here is an update - posted by Lucy here.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Would the Christ Come from Galilee?

          Let it be supposed that we have arrived at a theatre where a drama is being performed. That we arrive part way through the performance is of no consequence as the various motifs have been played and replayed, in various guises, from the beginning of human time. And it is likely that they will continue to be played for the foreseeable future. Let us then be seated and read our theatre notes. At the top of the page is an outline of the plot of the act we will be watching.

Title:       The Gospel of John 7:40-52. [Reproduced from the previous post, for reference.]

Scene 1:
40. Some of the crowd who had been listening said, "He is indeed the prophet,"
41. and some said, "He is the Christ," but others said, "Would the Christ come from Galilee?"
42. Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from
Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
43. So the people could not agree about him.
44. Some wanted to arrest him, but no-one actually laid a hand on him.

Scene 2:
45. The guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees [the Sanhedrin] who said to
  them, "Why haven't you brought him?"
46. The guards replied, "No-one has ever spoken like this man."
47. "So," the Pharisees answered, "You, too, have been led astray?
48. Have any of the authorities [the Sanhedrin] come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?
49. This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned."
50. One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them,
51. "But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone without first giving him
      a hearing and discovering what he is doing?"
52. To this they answered, "Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself:
      prophets do not arise in Galilee."

Of course, like any good drama, there are various levels and subplots to engage our attention. Let us begin with the main characters.

The Sanhedrin:      The name by which the Elders and Pharisees are known. This body, which hasn't received a very good press in the Christian world over the years, is the guardian of orthodoxy. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. When faced with a problem the Ego finds a solution, an approach, and continues to value and judge all future and apparently similar problems in the same way, no matter how inappropriate its response may be. This ego is the self-appointed adjudicator of what is right and what is wrong, what is theirs and what is ours, the very essence of duality.

The Rabble:          This false, virtual Ego-state requires help in its proxy confrontation with the true, real self, and enrols the thoughts, emotions and physical senses. Thoughts and emotions are transient and usually uncontrolled, having no leader except the self-serving ego.

Jesus the Nazarene:     This is the figure with whom the Sanhedrin are locked in this timeless confrontation. In the 'out there' world there is much about this man that remains completely unknown, but it may be assumed that most of his time was spent preaching in Galilee, a hotbed of religious and political agitation. In the 'in here' world he represents that part of us that is real, our true selves. Though knowledgeable, our real, higher selves are unorthodox [protestant in the original meaning of that word] in the paths they choose to travel in order to find truth.

The Disciples:              The Nazarene also needs make use of the conscious attributes of the ego but in an organised, truth or reality-oriented way. Of course, nothing is one hundred percent, black and white.

          We live in a universe of probabilities, and so it is not surprising that we find a Nicodemus in the ego-state, just as we will find a Judas Iscariot owing allegiance to the higher self. I would add the further point that each actor on the stage must play their part according to the script. It would, therefore, be highly inappropriate to assume a judgemental stance against or for any of the actors in the drama.

          In Scene 1 we observe the crowd, or less strident rabble, the agent of the ego, trying to get some sense out of its experience of something beyond itself. There is an appeal to the Law, to the Scripture, to fundamentalist orthodoxy. But answer is there none. And how could the Truth possibly arise from any other source but logic, rationale and reason, it asks? Some part of the ego always wishes, self-protectively, to trap and imprison this truth. There seems always to be the desire, even compulsion, to lock spiritial reality safely away even though its ability to do so is ultimately an illusion. "But no one actually [or could] lay a hand on him."
          In Scene 2 we are well and truly back with the ego which is demanding why the real self has not been tamed and imprisoned. Why? Because this truth is something quite beyond the illusions that are normally accepted as our truth. Although the enquiring mind may discern hints of truths beyond the mundane, again it is the rationale of the ego to discount such exploratory questing. "You, too, have been led astray? If we the authorities are not convinced, how can you be?"
          Then the questioning Nicodemus enters the argument. For me, he epitomises the other side of the never-ending inner debate about spiritual truth. As a party to that debate, I have found myself in the same position as the crowd and the guards. What is the Christ? Is it identical to the higher self, or is it some power that infuses the higher self? The possible answers to those questions require more data before I give my response.

          There are two characters that I have not discussed so far. One is the Christ, which I will leave for future writings. The other is the observer of the drama. As we look around the theatre we will notice that each of us seems to be the only observer of this drama. This I-awareness is perhaps the most important part of the play. Without that, what would be the point of enacting the drama?
          As with any drama, we sometimes miss some of the plot details, or even some of the subplots. Often, particularly through discussion and further thought, those missed details come to light at some future time. I trust that this will be the case here.
          Now I will address the question, "Are you a Galilean too?" Insofar as I am non-fundamentalist, and non-religious in the orthodox meaning of that word, I suppose I do tend towards being a Galilean. Yet I must also admit to not being entirely free of egoistic machinations and instincts. I further think that it is that position in which the I-awareness is bound to find itself. It must neither be so focused on the higher self that it is oblivious of the ego and its power, nor so focused on the ego that it is lulled into a not-I sleeping state.
          The foregoing is how I interpret the given scriptural passage. To be of any real value, I think the chosen method of analysis must prove to be consistent. Logic, rationale, even perhaps reason, may be flouted, but not consistency.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Are You a Galilean Too?

The Gospel of John 7:40-52 [Saturday of 4th. Week of Lent]

40. Some of the crowd who had been listening said, "He is indeed the prophet,"
41. and some said, "He is the Christ," but others said, "Would the Christ come from Galilee?"
42. Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
43. So the people could not agree about him.
44. Some wanted to arrest him, but no-one actually laid a hand on him.

45. The guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees [the Sanhedrin] who said to them,
        "Why haven't you brought him?"
46. The guards replied, "No-one has ever spoken like this man."
47. "So," the Pharisees answered, "You, too, have been led astray?
48. Have any of the authorities [the Sanhedrin] come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?
49. This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned."
50. One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them,
51. "But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone without first giving him
        a hearing and discovering what he is doing?"
52. To this they answered, "Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself:   prophets do not arise in Galilee."

            For those of my readers unused to reading, or uninterested in, the Bible, I crave your indulgence. I cited this passage in full because there are a number of ways in which this passage can be interpreted, which I wish to note but not develop. First, this passage can be read as being a true, historical account of the time. It must be said, however, that writers in ancient times were less interested in historical accuracy than in getting across a meaning, an idea, around which they fitted an historical motif. Second, It can be read as an all too human response of the 'Church' to a lay rebellion, applicable to modern times rather than biblical times. Third, and it is this interpretation to which I have been brought, one can see this as an activity which takes place within a person, a psycho-spiritual conflict involving the ego-self. In this case, the Sanhedrin, the rabble, the epithet 'Galilean' take on symbolic meanings.
            It would make this post too long to go into each of these points, so I will close with an extract from my meditations recorded in my private diaries, which relates to this passage from the St. John's Gospel.

            "One is required to descend into an inner hell, perhaps many times in life. To fall unendingly into the Abyss where what one thought was right may be wrong; where what one thought was bad may bear the hope that there is good; where certainties and reassurances disappear. From the pit of that hell there comes a spiritual resurrection, a new life in which the warping dominance of the ego-self is overcome and least in part."
            "Life is uncertain. That may well be its chief characteristic. I breathe a breath. Will there be a next breath, or is this my last? There is a pause, a silence between breaths which opens into eternity. It is the space between the tick and the tock that counts the passing of the seconds. I fall, and continue to fall more through, rather than into, the Abyss for that experience is everywhere. It is what is. If God is seen as the Abyss, I have no choice but to trust it. What else is there? Nothing is certain anymore, except uncertainty. In the days when Newtonian physics was paramount the universe could be seen as a vast machine. It had ever been thus, and would continue so. But why and how? What guarantee existed that this state would continue? Who could guarantee that this breath of mine would be followed by another, and another? No-one!"
            "No-one! No authority! To attempt to turn to authority is to turn to fundamentalism, is to go to sleep. Fundamentalism is another word for Idolatry. And that is an abdication of personal responsibility. To seek human approval over and against the reality of uncertainty is to look the wrong way. Listen, yes! Learn, if possible! Know that one can be mistaken, yes! Accept that I may be walking the wrong path, or walking the path the wrong way!"

"..........There is an inner, spiritual path that climbs a mountain. That path is slick, uncertain, only as wide as the width of my foot. On one side of the path the mountain rises sheer to the heights; on the other the mountain falls to the very depths. Always, the path climbs upwards towards its peak, and at the peak there will be a meeting. No matter how often that meeting takes place, I am forever climbing and arriving, simultaneously. Is this the right path? Of that I am not quite certain, but I have been shown no other. In this one path must I trust........."

Saturday, 30 April 2016

A Return to a Source

          It is difficult to know how to begin. I lack the practice I had when I posted regularly and with some frequency. The more contemplative aspects of my life have taken me to places that must remain relatively private. Why is this? Because there are occasions when new inner experiences requires time to mature, and gain no benefit from having intellectual boots walked over them. When a seed bed is sown, it needs time for the germinating seeds to grow.
          Having said that, there has been an ongoing activity that is bearing fruit, and one which I would like to talk about. It all began with a book of daily meditations for Lent and based on the Bible, but one which turned things around so that the meditation came first (based on a sentence), and that was followed by the biblical passage that formed the basis of the meditation. The purpose of the exercise was to look at the chosen passage and interpret it in a non-literal, non-fundamentalist manner. I found the process more and more interesting, even when the meditation period revealed nothing noteworthy. When the book was finished with, at Easter of course, I went on to study further passages with the hope, even expectation, that something of interest would arise. My guide has been the Catholic Daily Missal, chosen for no other reason than it gave me a structure for my meditational studies. In one sense it has been a return, in a roundabout way, to a source but with my inner eyes open. What has emerged has been surprisingly interesting to me.
          Now the question has arisen as to how to introduce my thoughts about this work. Should I even be talking about it? Will it cause offence to those who hold different views from mine? I would most certainly hope not, yet would at the same time wish to be completely frank. Would anything I have to say be of any interest? I simply do not know the answer to that question. And what of that fragile acquisition called reputation? Do I have one that is worth owning? Will my revealed thoughts in the future damage that reputation, assuming I have one? Well that may turn out to be the case, so I must ask myself whether or not I really care, and that is a difficult one to answer.
          I am old enough, and ego-free enough not to care too much about reputation for its own sake. However, does one write anything which one would like to see discarded as the ramblings of someone whose brain has gone soft? I think not. It seems to me that once again I must take a risk and hope for some joining of minds that share my interest in exploring the depths of the spirit, unfettered - as far as that is possible - by preconceptions rigidly held onto.
          If I have achieved nothing else with this post, I have at least overcome my initial difficulty of knowing how to begin. Now I can tentatively move on and see what can be discovered from inner conversations. Yet it would seem that the real point of all this is to hold the conversation. If something is revealed as a result, that will be a bonus.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Of Painting Progress

          As regular readers here will know, I have reduced the frequency of posting of late. Combined with my narrowing of the focus of my studies, this has left me more time to concentrate on trying (desperately!) to improve my ability - if any there be - to paint waterclour pictures. My first task of late, after consulting with Lucy, was to determine whether or not I had even a minimum of ability worth developing. If I have, I am determined to become at least reasonably proficient. This matters to me.
          The first task, on Lucy's advice, was to reduce the number of pigments in my palette. I have tried to do this before, but this time I really did try......hard! For source material, I turned to the work of an artist I greatly admire, Mr. Ray Campbell Smith. I selected two pictures from his, "Watercolour Work-Out" to see if I could make reasonable copies of them. The first picture I managed quite well, and the second picture also even though I began to change the colours he'd used. (Why I chose to change some colours is perhaps more detail than is necessary here.) Below are my efforts. Incidentally, that is a punched hole at the top, not the sun or moon.

The Quayside
Fishermen's Cottages

          My second task was to see if I could make a reasonable fist of painting from a photograph. For this purpose I chose an offered photograph from David Bellamy's, "Watercolour Landscape Course," another artist I greatly admire. The advantage of choosing this photograph was that he also produces a painting (which I took care not to study) for comparison purpose. I show my effort below.

Galway Thatch
          My paintings were about 26 x 18 cm., and proving to be rather restrictive. There began to emerge a tendency to use small brushes, and include too much detail as a result. Throwing caution to the winds (well not really) I chose to paint a picture from a photograph I took in New Zealand some years ago, the picture size being 36 x 51 cm., about four times the area of my initial test paintings. Sweeping, translucent washes were the order of the day; and I had fun. Below are the photograph, and my treatment of it.

Afternoon Light

          Frankly, I am staggered at the change that has taken place in my approach to painting, triggered by what I feel is a modicum of success. Instead of discarding an effort before it is finished, I now find myself eager to get onto the next one. From a short chat with Lucy to a final execution of my first "big" painting has been very short in time, but long in confidence building. Now excuse me; I have another piece to be getting on with.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

There Is No Escape

          This is not the post I intended to write. Indeed it was not my intention to write a post at all today. Yet here I am attempting to share that which refuses to be put into words. But I should first set this post in context.
          I seek truth, through inner experience, but not as a religious. It just so happens that there is a large body of writing that recalls the words of many who have sought, and continue to seek, truth - the most authoritative of which (or so it is claimed) can be found in holy writ. For me, that is a great resource but one which demands a critical approach. Any other approach, a fervent belief in the words, is nothing more than idolatry. As I have said elsewhere, truth does not reside in words but comes from experience about which all words are inadequate. Prayer and meditation, designed to improve my conscious contact with God, is my way forward. I should say at this point that my use of the word "God" is one of convenience since my belief in that which carries that name is more about what God Is Not, rather than what Is. So let's not get hung up over mere words.
          I suppose it is generally known that the current period in the Christian calender is the period of Lent (the 2nd. Sunday thereof), and I am finding this a fascinating period. Why? Because I feel a desire to assess where I am, what I deeply feel and think, why I feel and think in this way, rather than assess where I have been in the past. Of course I cannot put any of that, adequately, into words. In any case, it is all too personal. What I will do, however, is quote what I wrote in my personal diary for this morning, and that is personal enough:-

"..........And I too, allowed myself to be taken up the mountain where I saw symbolic representations of the Law and of Action. I can escape neither! "Stop the world I want to get off" is like whistling in the wind. The universe is subject to a set of scientific-psychospiritual laws - the Law. There are ways of Being and Acting that are in tune with the Law, and ways that attempt to counter - unsuccessfully - the Law. For even in attempting to break the Law, action triggers reaction, and that of itself is in accordance with the Law, one formulated in physics by Sir Isaac Newton.
          There is no escape, and no way of not acting. What a fearful, terrible responsibility that imposes, particularly as all too often I allow my ego to determine what action is appropriate. Yet when I climbed the mountain of transfiguration, I realised that I was taken up. It was not that state I call my ego that took me up. The power that raises and transfigures is the power that is the Christ, or at least what some religious have named as the Christ. Yet even then, the experience of my apparent understanding was overshadowed by the great "cloud of unknowing." And "it was good to be there!" (Luke 9:32-34) If I do not speak of the actual experience, it is because I cannot do so. Talking about the essential experience, the truth, is beyond me. Only the setting, the background, is within the realm of words.........."

          When I am back at ground level, on terra firma, once again, I wonder how I dare speak of this morning. And I shudder at the possible lack of wisdom that has seemed to impel me to write in this way. There may be reasons that I cannot yet see, may never see. But right now, it is all that I have to give.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Selfhood Is An Holistic Experience

          There was a time when it was thought that the orbit of the planet Mars around the Sun described a circle containing a series of epicycles. We now know that this is not the case, and that what was being described was how Mars appeared to behave. The true orbit, when viewed from a more external viewpoint than that of Earth, was far simpler. I would suggest that something similar may be happening when we view the question of Ego and its assumed existence, or non-existence. Interestingly, I find, the same can be said of the existence or otherwise of God. The devil is in the definition - or lack thereof! In this post I shall proceed with masterly disregard for the possible impossibility of defining the ego, and state what I think of as that entity, if entity it is. After all, one needs to start somewhere, and I choose not to wade through the history of the ego concept, and how the word has changed (been corrupted?) to mean different things at different times. I would also like to emphasise that much of what we say "is so" only appears to be thus. "It is as if" might be a better approach to matters psycho-spiritual (and to science in general) than "it is" thus and thus.
          I shall make analogous reference to water, or more exactly ice-water-steam, as a model for the existence of the "self", bearing in mind that all analogies appear to break down at some point. Finally, I shall base my thoughts on the only thing I can trust, and that is my own spiritual experience. Truth comes, not from words, but from experience. Unfortunately, the written word has the annoying habit of getting in the way sometimes. But if I am to communicate anything rather than exist, shut off from the rest of humankind, I must concur with the Bee Gees (and others) that "words are all I have."
          Let me now return to the ice-water-steam model to which I referred above. Molecules consisting of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, when viewed en masse, exist in three possible states; as ice, water, or as steam. (For simplicity I leave out the possible plasma state.) The difference between these states is one of heat content, not temperature. Thus ice and water can coexist at the same temperature, but different heat contents (effected by the latent heat of fusion), as can water and steam (effected by the latent heat of vapourisation.) But enough of physics theory.
          What I am suggesting here is that it may be possible to view the psycho-spiritual world as something that can undergo changes of state, with equivalent changes in energy levels.  Thus the ego or lower self (an idea suggested by Thomas Merton) would correspond to the solid ice, the higher self to the liquid water, and........well let us leave it there for the moment. Thus I would propose that the ego exists, but only as a change in state of the psycho-spiritual system. It does not exist as an autonomous little person, hiding somewhere in the brain/mind complex. Similarly, I doubt the existence of an "I" or "Self" as being independent of everything else, but as a raised (energy-wise) state of an overall Self.
          When I underwent that wonderful experience in Iceland, which I tried to describe in my previous post, I was struck by a number of observations, both then and since. First of all, the self when in its lowest state (the ice or egoistic phase), appears to be entirely oblivious of the existence of any higher state until its very existence is threatened by dysfunctionality (melting) and the need to change and adapt. Until that point is reached, the ego defines itself by attachment to thoughts and opinions; feelings/emotions and obsessions/addictions; physical senses and all the aspects of physical existence. Any contact with anything "higher" requires faith and ritual, hence religion for example. However, politics and other causes may be alternative substitutes. It is in this state that the dualities of life are experienced, such as you-me, right-wrong, good-bad and so on, with all the judgementalism those dualities imply.
          Secondly, I clearly perceived in my "Icelandic Experience" that when in the next and higher state (the water or Higher Self phase), the ego is seen only as part - a necessary part - of a whole, a more holistic or holy concept. For me as an intuitive introvert, that part is much smaller than the Higher Self. But I accept that for others this may not reflect their realities. One thing that has struck me quite forcibly is not that the dualities have dissolved into some kind of "One-ness", but that one half of the duality has simply disappeared, or almost so. In effect, when in a higher state of awareness, the machinations of the ego-state appear to be almost unimportant to the point of triviality. This conclusion may well be pointing to an inability to imagine a state above that of the Higher Self. And here we approach the possible use of the ice-water-steam model to infer something energetically higher than the Higher Self, but nevertheless part and parcel of the whole psycho-spiritual Being.
          Christianity might well refer to this state (the steam or Christ phase) as the experiential awareness of the Cosmic Christ, the Inner Christ, or its equivalent. I have referred in earlier posts to my experience of such matters and can, therefore, vouch for such experiences. Now here we are clearly on the borders of conceptual divinity, so much so that I believe it was St. Catherine of Sienna who proclaimed that everything that she was, was God. (Sorry I cannot find the quote.)
          This post does not supply explanations or definitions: it wasn't meant to do so. There is much that I could have said for which there is little time or space. There are many developments I could have pursued, but that might have entailed gilding the lily. What I have tried to do here is to offer a different approach, an alternative model of the Self that is more holistic, in the hope that some questions may more easily be answered, some understanding may be gained. But in the end it is experience that must be paramount, not words.