Saturday, 27 July 2013

Life Force

Throughout my life I have, along with most other people I suspect, built subpersonalities or what might be termed 'mind/brain sub-routines' which I use in my dealings with the outside world.  The nature of each subpersonality depends upon my chosen combination of character strengths and weaknesses, and what I decide is the appropriate function of the subpersonality.  These routine behaviour patterns are learned from repeated usage, and may eventually be used in situations where they are no longer appropriate.  Furthermore, I may unthinkingly use my own subpersonalities against myself in a form of inner civil war.

Now keeping an open mind, or choosing to look at situations without preconceptions, is the antithesis of operating under the influence of a subpersonality.  Clearly, the former action would seem to be better than the latter for all sorts of reasons.  The most important reason, perhaps, being that my Self remains awake, alert and fully conscious.  Why then did I choose to develop habit-forming ways of operating? And why did I fall into the associated trap of cocooning myself in shells of prejudice?  Why would I choose to do all that?  The most obvious reason, or so it seems to me, is that subpersonalities are processes with which I appear to be able to effect some control on the world around me.  If I can control, I acquire that something called safety.  This process begins in the crib of course, where the baby learns that by appropriate utterances it can generate immediate and beneficial responses from its parents.  What power a baby wields;  it is almost Godlike. However, when the baby's apparently divine status is removed, fear enters the domain of the growing ego.  That fear is extremely powerful because the infant faces the twin threats of loss and annihilation, states that the ego decides are totally unacceptable. Yet in the end, for all the struggles in which we engage to maintain control and assumed safety, those sought after states are illusions.  

Many years ago I had a quite serious car crash on a busy, dual-carriageway road.  I was driving to work in the morning rush hour.  There was a particular moment that seemed to last for something approaching eternity, when I was totally powerless.  I was in the well of the car, held in place by my seat belt;  I could smell the dust and the petrol.  I felt no pain from the burns caused by the seat belt cutting into my neck and groins.  The silence was wonderful;  the end was near, and I did not care. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change anything.  Learning curves about illusions do not come any steeper........Then another car hit me!  That was no illusion!  During that seemingly long period of powerlessness, it may only have been seconds, the realisation that having no control over the events in my life did not bring instant annihilation, brought a profound sense of relief and, oddly enough, a sense of happiness beyond my normal emotions.

All my subpersonalities, and hence how I habitually use my character traits, combine to create my ego. Just as those habitual forms of behaviour create an illusion of power, so then is my ego, and its supposed reality, also an illusion.  By somehow ignoring the reality that control of my ability to live, and also not-live, is not in my hands, I fall into denial.  Perhaps I need to clarify this point. There is a force or energy within me that keeps my body operating.  It is my Life Force.  Over that force I can exert no control whatsoever.  Throughout the period that my life force continues its purpose within me, my physical body will develop to a certain point and then deteriorate and become unfit for purpose.  That is inevitable.  (I suspect deterioration begins at birth or even earlier, but is outweighed by the process of development.  Thus what we see as physical development and decay is the net effect of these opposing forces. On the other hand, psycho-spiritual growth appears not to be necessarily hampered by destructive forces.)

I am unable to change significantly the conditions required for continued living.  My body is a biological machine suited, as far as is possible, to its environment which sustains but also destroys it.  My body has adapted to existing conditions of gravity, yet it is gravity which causes ageing.  I need oxygen to breathe, yet that gas also produces oxidants that in the end may bring about my downfall.  I cannot win.  One day my body will simply stop and I will be powerless to make it continue.  Similarly I cannot order my body to stop at this moment.  Fortunately, it will ignore me. All suicide can do is to make the body unfit for purpose.  It doesn't destroy the Life Force, because energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When the body can no longer sustain life, the life energy is converted into some other form, or perhaps returns to its source.  I can of course take care of myself to a degree;  I can up to a point maintain my body in a state that is fit for purpose, but that is not control.

Sometimes, because I never could stop asking questions, I wonder if it is possible that the ego is a virtual reflection of the life force, just as it appears to be a virtual reflection of the Higher or True state of the Self.  Are the Life Force and the True state of Being-ness one and the same?  Perhaps the Life Force is what people call God.  I don't know;  in fact there is so much I do not know.  I do know, however, that if I concentrate all my energies onto my ego or virtual self, I will become increasingly identified with it, and thus increasingly out of touch with spiritual reality.  I need to continue to detach from that situation. I need to see that I cannot have, but I can Be.  I must put away childish things, that is the need to have, as St. Paul, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart and others have all said, and become adult with the desire to Be.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ten Virgins

There have doubtless been many books written on the study of symbolism and the meanings of symbols.  I have a couple of such books myself, although their use has been very limited in my experience.  There are some symbols that tend to be universal of course;  we are one species after all.  However, I believe that no matter how general or even universal a symbol may be, or appears to be, in the end it is the task of the individual to discover for their own selves what lies hidden behind a symbol, assuming the task is considered to be one worth undertaking.  For me that task certainly is worth the effort, but that alone is not enough. More than that positive effort of discovery is needed before the task can be completed.  A state of open receptivity is also required, and that can only be achieved by putting aside all preconceptions.  

Jesus was reported to have said, "Seek and you will find;  knock and it will be opened to you."  He didn't say that the answers would come immediately, by the end of next week or even by the end of the month.  It may take years.  One must be constantly open and alert for that which we seek.  I like to think that perhaps the parable of the 'Ten Virgins' (Matt. 25:1-13) refers directly to this state of affairs. From the fountainhead of Truth (the Kingdom of Heaven) and brought to consciousness by means of the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch (the virginal, as yet unfulfilled, areas of receptivity), spiritual truth in the symbolic form of the Bridegroom, or even the Druid in my case, will eventually come.  On the other hand, if the five senses are allowed to fall into a state of slumbering and sleep, like the foolish virgins, truth may come but pass by unnoticed. One must be prepared for the long haul and take sufficient oil for our lamps. 

Let us now turn to the journey up the mountain to the meeting with the 'wise person' described in my previous post, "Voice of Authenticity".  The first thing to notice is that the whole scene is bathed in moonlight.  That is to say, enlightenment comes from a state of receptivity, symbolised by the moon, traditionally a female symbol.  In addition, the mountains are arranged in a ring which again is a female symbol, but also a symbol of the eternal.  Now that enlightenment comes not easily;  the darkness of the unrevealed needs to be persuaded from his cave, his hidden place, by a willingness to listen and to learn with an open mind.  Unless the mind is open and a willingness for purgation of all else expressed, nothing is able to enter it.  It is significant also that truth shows no face, no personality or ego.  It is above all that.  Yet this was not the first time in my experience, nor would it be the last, that an abstraction such as truth would show itself as something living, as something alive.  That experience always makes me tingle with excitement.

Before leaving the mountaintop it is worth considering the inner geography of this place.  One talks from time to time about the 'Higher Self', the 'Lower self', and so on.  Now whilst I agree that talk of such selves can get in the way, can interfere, nevertheless there is some justification for talking about those states in that way, so long as one doesn't fall into the trap of assuming them to be separate, discrete entities.  This particular mountain or high country stands out from all other mountains in the area, thus underscoring a sense of relativity about the Druid's cave.  In a previous post, "A Walk in the Hills" (posted 25.5.2013), the high place was a ring of hills, not mountains, rising from a flat, surrounding plain.  This sense of one thing in relation to another is typical of my inner journeying. Thus one can indeed speak of a 'Higher Self', or at least a higher state of Being-ness within one's Self, but with caution.

Now we must retrace our steps down the strait and narrow way to the place where I stopped to look at the gift that truth had given me.  The amethyst is still worn by Catholic Bishops, or so I am given to understand, being called the Bishop's stone and representing piety, humility, sincerity and spiritual wisdom.  Well that's all very well, but is it really me?  Would I have applied those meanings to my Self? Much as I might like it to be otherwise, they would not be the character traits uppermost in my mind. Rather, I see the amethyst only as an amazingly beautiful jewel, a so wondrous gift.  Yet at that previously experienced higher level within my Self, this gift was just ordinary, run-of-the-mill stuff, rock chippings.  Is that not a staggering revelation? There is so much that is beautiful and wonderful inside us that it is almost commonplace, the normal. Yet as a species we seem to spend so much time searching 'out there' for treasures when there is so much that lies hidden in plain sight 'in here'. As perhaps an afterthought, I must add that there is something about the colour of amethyst, particularly when combined with emerald and white and/or gold, that rings a spiritual bell far down in the deeps of my being.  There are yet exciting, extraordinary journeys still to be undertaken.  

Within the depths of the amethyst, and after a great deal of loving exercising, appeared a gold ring. Once again, much has been written on the symbolic significance of gold, and gold rings.  For me a gold ring represents something of precious union.  "Union with what?" one might ask.  Union with God, or whatever that word may be a synonym for, the nostalgic longing of all mystics, the union that already exists here and now.  How could it have ever been otherwise?  And at the very heart of the jewel and the ring lies the diamond, perhaps a symbol of my mystic centre.  Would that be what is referred to as the soul, I wonder?

On this visit to the Higher state of Being-ness, the source of Truth, two positive actions were carried out.  The first was the ridding of all preconceptions, to allow an opening of the mind to receive what was on offer.  The second action was to exercise, with loving willing-ness, the gift thus received. Truth needs to be used and exercised, not returned to some dark place of unknowing.  Without Truth offered through contemplation, without a constant renewal of inner life, the soul will wither for want of spiritual sustenance.  This I believe.   

Finally, and as I continue on my inner journey, a question comes to mind which arises from my search for meaning and truth,

"Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom, are these not also part of the spectrum of Truth?"

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Voice of Authenticity

In the early 1990's, when my inner life appeared to be settling into some kind of short-term pattern of spiritual study and meditation, something very unexpected occurred. I say a short-term pattern because I had no clear and specific idea about where I was headed, except that as a matter of faith it was in a generally upward direction.  The trauma of living with a woman suffering from severe alcoholism was in the past, but only the recent past.  A particular morning came when, having gone through my usual preparations for my morning meditation (the subject of which I have long since forgotten) I suddenly found myself, in my inner state, on a mountainside. I was climbing upwards to meet with a 'wise person', whomsoever that might turn out to be.  This was not my first experience of 'imaging' or 'pathworking', as it is sometimes known.  It was, however, the first time (though it wasn't to be the last) that I had been taken willy-nilly on a path not of my choosing.  It was clear that my unconscious mind needed to communicate something, and although I could have refused to listen, I agreed to travel that particular journey.  This post is a sharing of the start of that journey, the first time I met my 'wise person', the Druid.

For many years I could not say what the Druid himself represented, beyond the fact that he was an inner guide and guardian.  Only now do I recognise him for what he was and still remains, my inner 'Voice of Authenticity', or in other words the psychological truth of what has really happened in my life. Although this journey is rich in symbolism it is not my intent, at least at this stage, to enter into what could be an imperfect interpretation of that journey.  Whatever was to come later, that first meeting was an experience of joy, wonder and hope.  It is something of that experience which I hope to convey, if only in part.

Amethyst with Gold Ring

..........I stood on a precariously narrow track no wider than the width of one of my feet.  The slick, shiny mountain, composed of some unidentifiable but igneous-looking rock, slowly curved to my right to enclose a roughly circular valley filled with trees.  From overhead a full moon illuminated the face of the mountain and just the tops of the trees below me, to produce a gently mottled light on a sea of deep shadow.  I continued my slow but steady progress along the mountainside until I came to a cleft in the rock.  There I waited awhile, taking in the scene around me, and deciding on my next move.  There was a harsh angularity about the mountain that contrasted starkly with the roundness of the full moon, and the softness of the forest.  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 had some difficulty keeping my footing on the slippery track as it wound its way onwards above the treetops.  The cleft not only offered me some relief from that dangerous path but also a way upwards to the summit.  The cleft lay in deep shadow but offered a safer, wider path upwards towards the mountaintop where I could see a cave at the entrance of which burned a fire.  I climbed steadily towards the cave, approached with caution, then waited just beyond the light cast by the fire.  I found there was something attractive, deeply magnetic about the fire.  I could feel the drying heat on my face as the flames drew me ever closer.  The desire to step into the fire strengthened steadily, but I resisted.  Then I saw that to the right of the fire was a pile of logs.  With these logs I began to feed 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, the tall figure of a Druid, dressed in a black, cowled robe appeared at the cave mouth. Although I thought I could see what might have been the barest hint of a nose and a chin, the newcomer's face was completely hidden from me.
          I began to talk with the Druid, but not by word of mouth.  I knew that I wanted access to my unconscious mind, which I felt he could give me, and that desire appeared to be well received.  He approached me, and the moment he touched my right shoulder we fused, then drew apart but having in that fusing exchanged bodies.  As a result of that joining I became aware of his feelings and his thoughts as I imagine he must have become aware of mine.  I discovered 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.  Again he approached me, momentarily fused and withdrew.  We were once more in our own, original bodies.
          For a while I was lost in silence, not knowing what to ask of the Druid.  Just when the silence began to become unbearable, 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.  Carefully placing the apparently worthless gift in my pocket, I turned to leave.  I walked down the path, westwards, until once again I arrived at the bottom end of the cleft. There I stopped to inspect the Druid's gift. 
          The first thing that I noticed was that in some strange way the light had changed.  It was as if the night had passed and the day had returned.  At the same time it seemed as if this new light was localised to the area in which I stood.  Furthermore, the rock chippings had undergone a remarkable transformation.  They had joined to form a composite of intensely beautiful amethyst crystals, purple and 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 under the strain, yet I felt no pain.  So strong was the structure that it defied all my efforts to dismantle it. Then it was that I discovered that I could easily 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. At the same time a mist of glittering particles which had emanated from the amethyst crystals, had formed around me.  Yet for all the apparent detritus that had been formed by my playing with the amethyst crystals, the structure had steadily grown larger and ever more beautiful..........

                                                                                   (Extract from a private diary)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Exploring Nostalgia

There came a time when I first felt a wanting to return home, or a sense of being called home, but in this life not in some possible hereafter. That wanting has never gone away. The situation is reminiscent of that of the Prodigal Son, a parable which tells of a similar sense of nostalgia. It would appear to be related to a wanting to re-experience a state of true Being, a return to my spiritual home. Naturally, the question arises as to whether I have ever truly experienced a state of true Being to which I could return. The sense of nostalgia would imply that I have, but I can no longer remember it. Then who and what am I?  Perhaps the 'who' relates to the personality, the Virtual self*, my everyday consciousness, whilst the 'what' refers to the True Self**.

My Drawing of an Egyptian Queen

"Man, know thyself.......and thou shalt know the Gods," it allegedly says in the inner temple at Luxor. Who or what must know what?  I can know my Virtual self by means of my intellect, emotions and sensations, and have travelled far down that road already, discovering many of the lesser gods that have ruled my life. However, that cannot be enough. There would clearly seem to be a call to know something much more, namely my True and Higher Self. However, that would appear to be a process I am unable to enter into, at least of my own volition. Yet, surely, if meditation and contemplation are the recommended means by which my contact with God can be improved, then just as surely there must be some process by which I can know my Higher Self, as a first step towards that ultimate end. Of course it may be that God and my Higher Self are one and the same state of true Being. Now meditation and contemplation do not of themselves improve my conscious contact with God, but they appear to trigger the process (like a spiritual catalyst) of opening a channel to, or drawing down a response from, a higher state of Being; to clear away, or find a way round, the distractions of the material life.  Or put another way, their practice indicates a willingness to be open to a process of consciousness expansion.

If the desire for some form of higher contact exists from beyond my everyday consciousness, and the means are available to concentrate the mind in the appropriate manner, then there must also be hope that contact can be established, that a way home can be found. "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you," was the encouraging exhortation offered by the first century, Jewish spiritual master, Jesus. Since I can know my Virtual self and, as I have said, I have done a great deal of work to that end, is it possible that I can use that knowledge to infer any conclusions about my True Self? Is there any truth in the  Hermetic assertion that "as above so below", that some distorted projection of my Higher Self appears as my Lower self? Can a study of one's personality profile lead to any conclusions about what has been called the divine aspects of one's nature? Or must it be that the path to knowledge of my Virtual self must be rejected in the cause of detachment from that state, hidden perhaps by a cloud of unknowing, so that one's gaze is focused on a higher level?

It has been said, and quite rightly in my experience, that I cannot do this alone. I cannot force contact to be made with a higher level of Being. That process of meditation and contemplation will only lead to the ultimate discovery of answers if God/(True Self?) chooses to respond. Yet it has also been said that the question, "Who am I?" cannot be answered until I at the very least begin to obey the injunction, "Know thyself!" It would thus appear that both the roots of the problem and its solution may indeed begin with the consciousness of the Virtual self and the inferences that can be made from it, but end with a requirement to hold that self and the Higher Self in some kind of balance. For that process to be effective, some level of spiritual detachment becomes necessary.

The next question is, who or what is it, what state exists, that creates the balance? What is the tacitly assumed observer in this process, that presence that feels a nostalgia for its spiritual home?

* Virtual self:  a synonym for the Ego.
** True Self:  a synonym for the Real or Higher Self.