Thursday, 22 September 2016

All Is Vanity

          In days of yore when computers were computers and not PC's and we wrote our own computer programmes (those were the days!), it sometimes became advisable to write sub-routines to the main programme. These sub-routines were triggered whenever a certain set of mathematical conditions occurred. Unfortunately, it also sometimes happened that as a result of incorrect programming, the sub-routine would go into an endless loop, continuing to repeat itself uselessly until someone noticed the rapidly mounting pile of paper readout on the floor. At that point, drastic measures were call for, and a return to the mathematical drawing board.
          Sub-personalities, those examples of personal behaviour patterns, called into operation when a given set of circumstances emerge, behave in a similar manner to computer sub-routines. When we begin to behave in a certain way, it is often impossible to see anything 'wrong' or dysfunctional in our behaviour until something traumatic occurs. Then a change of behaviour is called for.
          I pointed out in my previous post that our recent house fire has had repercussions on various levels, not only on the material level. I do not know what triggers the switching on of this particular sub-personality that I have, but the trigger results in a focused, almost obsessional, commitment to the project on hand. It may be trying to rescue or make good a dysfunctional relationship, or completing a renovation project, or what-have-you, long after the project should have been halted. I say again, one is unaware that one has become obsessive until that severe event happens that halts one in one's tracks. Thus it is with our recent house fire.
          Interestingly, at least in my experience, enlightenment brings about an immediate and lasting change of attitude and behaviour. That is not to say that something else will not trigger that sub-routine/sub-personality in the future. I just hope I will see it coming, although I have never done so up until now. So why should things change?
          It does seem that the unconscious, psychological event has far more power than the physical/material event. Walking into that unconscious-made-conscious world makes me feel relatively small, powerless and maybe insignificant. On the material level, it is almost possible to shrug off the fire, get stuck in and deal with 'it'. Not so on a deeper level where something else seems to be operating through my life.
          So life will continue on its upward spiral. Patterns will repeat themselves but never in quite the same way again. What may seem to be new may in the end only be a reworking of old patterns. As the preacher said, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mortality Visited, Briefly

          How to begin? Where to begin? May we just chat for awhile? There is much that can be said about these last three months, but I trust I will be let off going into the details of the house fire. There comes a point when enough is enough. Having said that there is a legacy, one which I find very interesting, to be thought about. It would appear, at least from my perspective, that there are many levels which have been influenced by the recent event. Let me begin with the ordinary, material level.
          I don't know whether it is appropriate to think of a dwelling in terms of mortality. If it is, then our house must be considered to be mortal. Even though there is evidence to suggest that some of its roof timbers may date back to the French revolution, our house will probably outlive its current occupants by many a year, even by many a decade. That makes my life something that is passing at a depressingly high rate. Did I mention I am seventy-nine years old today? But what's in a number? It has truly been a lovely day spent in the delightful company of my two greatest loves, Lucy and Elfie.
          Getting back to the house I was very surprised to learn from Lucy, on one of her recent visits to the house, that the staircase had been demolished and was stacked outside in a neat pile of broken timber. Now this has a rather funny side to it. You see, the electrician is supposed to have completed his repairs before the staircase chappie began his work. That was to be followed by more carpenters to repair the floors and then the painters and decorators. It is fast becoming a "Comedy of Interferences." When these two artisans get to meet, we will be many kilometres away receiving lessons on how to behave with a dog. I think that it is supposed to be Elfie receiving the training, but you know how these things turn out.
          We lost a great deal of our possessions in the fire, many of which should probably have been jettisoned long ago. On the other hand, it would have been more pleasurable if all my Indian spices and other commodities had disappeared at a more sedate rate of consumption. Fire is so quick, and the house stank for days of burnt cumin seeds. We did take this opportunity to "downsize" somewhat, a particularly horrible word that. We ditched stuff. That's the long and short of it, and felt lighter and more relieved as a result. It must be said, however, that it wasn't a painfree operation.
          At this stage I think I will leave you to chat amongst yourselves for awhile. Me? I'm having another glass of wine. Please, help yourselves.

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.