Saturday 11 May 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Had Charles Dickens been writing about my father in "A Christmas Carol", instead of Marley, he might well have said,

"Father was dead, to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed...........Father was as dead as a door-nail...........This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.........He had been dead these seven eleven years."

In every ending there is a beginning;  in every beginning there is an ending.  However, the apparent ending and beginning may not be coincident with the real event, which may lay hidden deep in the underground of the mind.  Although my father was dead, the effects of his parenting, as well as my mother's of course, were to linger on for many a long year.  The perceived damage to both my childhood and later adult life was, and has always remained, my responsibility to deal with.  First, however, had to come consciousness and the removal of denial.

There sometimes come moments in life when one feels urged to give out a 'statement of intent'.  I must do this, become that, or deal with....whatever.  In effect, a new beginning is initiated.  Of course that new beginning may simply be an old beginning which has surfaced in a different guise.  Another and related event may be a 'statement of what is'.  Those two statements may be so inextricably intertwined that it is difficult if not impossible to distinguish between them.  Now whereas the former statement clearly heralds an intended beginning, the latter appears to be a yet-to-be-realised state, the presence of which may only be inferred by the sense of something powerful bubbling up from the underground of the mind like a refreshing stream of life-giving water.  The end-point, that 'statement of what is', may take many years, to reach the light of full consciousness.  It seems to me that I have spent large parts of my life in that state of catching up, of bringing into realisation statements of 'what is'.

In my late twenties I decided to reject God utterly.  That was my 'statement of intent'.  It was never part of that particular scenario to 'choose not to believe in' the existence of God.  Such a choice would have seemed eminently nonsensical, as indeed it would today.  Surely, unbelief comes of its own volition;  one realises it is there only after it has arrived.  It doesn't come from a choosing.  So, I never became an atheist but could see that atheism was as valid a creed as any creed advanced by religion.  It seems to me that in many ways, atheism and religion are simply the two opposite sides of the same coin.  The plane of separation lies in the unattainable definition of God.  Neither philosophy has any lasting value if they are not allowed to develop.  They need to be part of a process of becoming, on the way to somewhere else that is ever closer to Truth.

The real wonder of my tale (as Dickens might have said) lay not in the intended rejection of the God of my childhood, for as it transpired that was bound to happen anyway.  Rather it was that within my original 'statement of intent', and far beneath the surface of my mind, lay an acknowledgement or warning of the existence of another, but false, God.  It was that other god that needed to be rejected.  That other god so clever, so obsessionally intent on its own survival, and operating with all the subtlety of the biblical serpent, is a master of disguise and denial.  Because it had so effectively diverted my conscious attention onto the fictitious God of my childhood, I did not see until long afterwards, until that 'statement of what is' began at last to be revealed, what the nature of that false god was, that virtual image with which I had chosen to identify myself.

In seeking to rid myself of what I assumed was the dominating influence in my life, the God of my childhood, I seemed to have attacked the false god also, a kind of psychic/spiritual lateral damage.  Nothing could have prepared me for the shock of great loss, of the feeling of desolation and loneliness, and the unremitting, inner darkness and sense of annihilation.  It was a terrifying revelation that the death of my father had never shown me.  It was almost as if my relationship with God, even after all that time, was closer to and more important than my relationships with my biological parents.  What was that false god that had the power to wreak such desolation and despair?

It was my own ego, built up over a lifetime and having its roots far back in my early childhood. That entity had been fed and fostered by a religious system and its adherents that acknowledged no God except humanity's ego writ large across the cosmos.  But my ego didn't die way back then.  It returned  stronger than ever, and would continue to do so until it was correctly identified.

As for the Christ, that sadly misunderstood figure to whom so many claim allegiance, he has had no chance, no chance at all.  However, that is yet another tale to tell.

"Father was dead to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that...........He had been dead these seven eleven years."  Or had he?


A View of the Garden - 11.5.2013


  1. Surely, that other non-God entity goes under the admirably concise name of The Devil. He comes in different forms, virtually all of them tempting. Given our respective ages he may have arrived to both of us as a perception of Julie Christie (not the actual lass herself, of course) and the initial appeal may have resulted in a localised increase in blood pressure - far harder to resist than being shown a huge arid expanse of wasteland in the Middle East and being told "All this could be yours - and I could arrange development funding on favourable terms."

    I cannot tackle this knotty sequence head on, and comprehensively, but I would dispute "atheism and religion are simply the two opposite sides of the same coin." A few years ago Jonathan Miller, that well-ordered misanthrope, did a series about atheism on BBC4. The first point he made concerned the word itself. Atheists, and I am one, should have stepped in and said "Delete the -ism." Why? Because it suggests a coherent set of beliefs instead of an absence of belief. Atheists don't believe in science (or capitalism, Arsenal FC or the novels of Elizabeth Goodge) as a substitute for God, they take these subjects up because they are interesting.

    Nor do they extrapolate the Goodgean philosophy (or evolution, for that matter) as proof that God doesn't exist; atheists' avoidance of the supernatural means that this is unnecessary. Pointless, in fact. Reading Dawkins and Hitchens may suggest otherwise but to preach atheism is a contradiction in terms. As ridiculous as saying: "I'd like you to subscribe to my belief that Arsenal FC - Hartlepool United, if you prefer - is unimportant."

    I am trying to mount a campaign to find a substitite for atheism, preferably based on the elegant word néant. All English-speaking snobs, and I'm one of those too, respond to French words, the more airy-fairy the better. I have high hopes.

  2. Robbie: Your comment demands more than I am able to offer at present. I would, however, like to make one or two points. First, this a subject that I might like to develop over the coming weeks and months, not as a subject for debate - I have no interest in "winning" or scoring points - but to share experience.

    Second, I love science, but I'm not sure I know what it means "to believe" in science. It simply is, and can be studied and experienced. That is how I view the matter of God. One major difficulty here is that because science deals with the "out there", definitions are possible. That cannot be said of matters "in here", and God was never "out there".

    Thirdly, I do enjoy listening to Dawkins, but if Hitchens is the Oxford professor that I think you are referring to, I must confess I have no time for his opinions.

    Finally, thank you for your response.

  3. Your bookend paragraphs placed me in a cosy sitting room, dear Tom. I imagine there are glasses of Cider (Ebbelwoi') on the table as we settle in for a good long talk. "Listening" to your seekings and wonderings, I was struck by the portions of your struggle similar to mine and I found myself honestly attempting to understand less familiar portions so important to you. This is huge, as the young ones around here would say, because I live in an area where too many people seem to be constantly attempting to sway others, to "save" them. As a result, I tune out completely the moment I catch a whiff of the big G or hear the J word.

    Not this time. You've got me thinking on a few things you mentioned, such as the subtlety of the biblical serpent (not equal to the Devil in my mind), identity and rejection, psychic/spiritual lateral damage, the "in here" and "out there" and humanity's ego.

    Allow me to pour you a glass of Ebbelwoi' in thanks and in hopes that we'll continue this talk.

  4. Sorry about that. Wasn't trying to score points. Tanks off your lawn from now on.

  5. Robbie: No! No! No! Carry on the way you're going, please. Honest talk is of value, even if we disagree. At least there is the possibility of opening new ways of seeing things. It didn't occur to me that you were scoring points, I was only trying to express my desire to reach further into that "somewhere" closer to truth, or maybe the experience of truth.

  6. Rouchswalwe: In thought, I will down your proffered glass of Ebbelwoi' in thanks, and a celebration to our friendship. We will most certainly continue this talk for as long as you wish.

  7. "... It seems to me that I have spent large parts of my life in that state of catching up, of bringing into realisation statements of 'what is'."

    Tom,this whole post (and especially the above sentence) speaks to me deeply, too deeply to comment adequately in this little box. But at least I can tell you that I will be continuing to read attentively everything that you'll be writing in follow-up. These things matter, they matter a great deal to me.

  8. Tom, you are such a wonderful writer, where have you been all these years!? I ponder your words about this eternal struggle for many. Though brought up Christian, I've left it behind without much angst or questioning. There are certain aspects of religions that I still love, such as the churches and the art, but dislike the organized practise and the still continuing religious wars. The nature based faiths of our earliest ancestors and the natives here feel closer to me.

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this, Tom.

  9. Natalie: I cannot adequately express what a boost all the comments to this post have given me. I do understand that sometimes this little box is too small; even words themselves are too "small". I will continue.

  10. Suddenly, I imagined atheists as ants, standing in cartoonish melodramatic stance, defiant against the onslaught of a foot. Probably because I dealt with a bunch of ants yesterday.

    Have you read Single & Single?

  11. Marja-Leena: I think it is a pity bordering on tragedy that as a species we tend to project our inner world onto the outer and call it reality. Firstly, it is a projection and therefore not real. Secondly, the projection is filtered through personal, national and religious egos that warp and twist paths that could have led to some awareness of reality. Instead, we have conflict. On the matter of religious practice, well that's a whole can of worms that I'll put to one side.

  12. Zhoen: We-e-e-e-ll! Into every post a little fun must fall. ☺ No, but will follow up on Single & Single.

  13. Wow! Thomas, please keep writing. Your words are stirring me. Thank you.

  14. Bruce: Thank you; I will continue to write. And welcome to Gwynt.

  15. Oh Tom, I knew it would happen.
    I lack the words to comment on your thoughts.
    How can we become free enough to get closer and closer to the truth? Or, can we define our own motifs for our actions and and or or. Thank you.

  16. Ellena: It is an ever-present problem, how to describe the indescribable, how to define the indefinable. I think what is important is that we don't simply walk away from something like that and say it doesn't exist. The journey is at least as important as the arrival; maybe more so.