Thursday, 30 January 2014

"Know Thyself!" - Part 1 of 2

I have reached a point with Gwynt where, even though I am unlikely to change my direction, I at least must become more focused on my heading. Over the recent weeks, ever since my experience of "A Different Nativity" (posted 1.1.2014) and its aftermath, my view of my inner, spiritual life has changed markedly. Because of that, I wish to try to retrace my steps, to rediscover and share how it was that I arrived at this point in my inner life. As most of the literature and history of psycho-spirituality has been couched in religious language, the country across which I will be travelling is necessarily going to reflect that bias towards the religious. This cannot be avoided. What I seek are the realities that lie beyond the symbols of language, for those symbols can only point the way, they are not of themselves the realities for which I search. 

As an introduction to the quick journey back to the beginnings of my story, I would like to quote the final three of five lines of one of the sayings, or logia, attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas.  [See the Nag Hammadi Scriptures - ed. Marvin Meyer.]  

Logion 3:

"..........Rather, the kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then will you be known, and you will understand that you are the children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and you are poverty.........."

The source of spiritual wisdom and enlightenment lies within, and that is the direction that needs to be taken, not through some third party or agency, not through literalism and fundamentalism. Furthermore, I would suggest that the way to spiritual wisdom and truth is also indicated by the symbolism that is the universe around us.* "Know Thyself!" This is the key injunction here, and it links the sayings and teaching of Jesus with all other spiritual/wisdom teachings. My experience of "knowing myself" was like living in a foggy matrix that gradually dispersed when I investigated my personality make-up.  When I first saw my ego for what it was, it was as if I were being 'seen' or understood by something else that had been trying to see me through the fog. There has always been that sense of 'otherness', a twinship or relationship with something else that wanted to be known and recognised. (Does this not lie at the heart of the process of 'Individuation'?) This logion goes on to say that I will become aware that 'I' am in some way related to, or even become part of, Spiritual Truth synonymously personified as the living Father. However, it doesn't say what "I" am.

It has been claimed with some justification that we are what we eat;  by that I mean that our physical bodies are built from the substances that we ingest, whether those ingested materials are useful, good, useless or even damaging. Might this not also apply at a spiritual level? If the Hermetic doctrine is correct, "As above, so below!" (or its inverse), then this application might well be appropriate. Put more specifically, perhaps I am that with which I choose to identify. If I identify with the my ego and its attachments, that is what I gradually become. Not only am I in a state of spiritual impoverishment, but through identification I become that impoverishment. That of course does not define what "I" am, but it does suggest the alternative possibility of identification with something which can enrich and enliven my spirit and soul.  

Out of that choice of identification, in one case towards darkness, or spiritual impoverishment, in the other case towards the Light, a great deal flows.  If I choose to identify with my ego and its attachments, (or ahamkara, if my understanding of that term is correct), I cannot claim that the mantra, "I am not my body, my thoughts or my emotions" is true for me, much as I would have it otherwise. Only through a higher identification can I honestly make that claim. To disidentify from my ego does not mean to reject it. It does mean, however, that I need to know it, acknowledge its presence, curb its attachments with the persuasive power of love so that "I", my soul, spirit or Higher Self can gain - or should that really be regain - my spiritual freedom and emancipation.

*It can be demonstrated that everything in the 'outer' universe is known as a product of our brains and minds. Our brains process the inputs from our senses, and our minds interpret the results of that process. In a very real sense, therefore, the universe that we sense exists only in our minds. In other words, the outer universe is perceived only as symbols. That is not to say that a universe does not exist 'out there';  only that it might not quite be as we believe it to be.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Towards a Greater Reality

It can only be with a sense of wonder, coupled with more than a little relief and gratitude, that I see myself at the present stage of my inner journey. It would be pointless to attempt to identify where it all began, but I am aware of the lowest point in my life where events took an upward turn. Of course that could be described as one starting point, but only one of many such beginnings. There must also have been many a preparatory starting point which was to lead me into ever deeper chasms of spiritual destitution, a state I had to endure before being ready to look in an upward direction. 

The upturn in my spiritual fortunes began with some practical work on my personality traits, an experience which I may describe at some future date. What I wish to say here is that whereas many people who went through a similar ordeal reluctantly and painfully, I became fascinated with what I was discovering about myself. It must be said that some of my discoveries were far from pleasant, decidedly uncomfortable in fact, but that did not matter to me. The grand experiment was under way, and it was the collection of data and the possible good uses to which those data could be put that mattered to me. It was a journey of discovery.

At first sight this preamble may seem to have little relevance to the subject I wish to address here, but a start has to be made somewhere. Out of fumbling beginnings, something is bound to emerge. In my case, one of those emergent experiences was one which I struggled to accept in the early days, and even much later, only reluctantly. I was to discover that I was predisposed towards the mystical. It has been suggested that there are three points of entry to the study of spiritual wisdom. One point of entry is through the intellect and speculation; another through purely practical considerations; and, finally, the third entry point, the way of the mystic. Although my way began with a healthy dose of good practice, and additionally I love to think and speculate, my preferred way is that of the mystic. And a great deal naturally follows from that, not the least important being a profound conviction that there is that which I choose to name as God. This has nothing whatsoever to do with religion in its various forms, and certainly not the Church. I will go a step further and say that it has nothing to do those personages who, unfortunately in my view, have become the foci of religious personality cults.

When, recently, I found myself in that place of "brilliant Darkness" there was no doubt in my mind where I was or where I was headed. I was in the place of what has been described as the Eternal Self, the divine Ground, a description so often used by Meister Eckhart, the German 12th./13th. century mystic. And as Prof. Jacob Needleman once observed, the questions of the Self and of God may in the end be the same question, and that may lead to some very exciting possibilities. For now, instead of needing to struggle to find my place in the spiritual universe, I have abundant guides and pointers from many others who have passed this way, whatever their religious, deist or atheist orientations.

Life is never going to be the same as it was, even as it was a few short weeks ago. And when I consider that the overwhelming proportion of the physical universe is thought to be invisible Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and that symbolically reflects the "brilliant Darkness" of the Ground of my being, not only is that a salutary lesson for my visible ego but also an indicator of how much there is yet awaiting discovery and development in all sentient life. Is it not truly wonderful that we are able to take an active part in that process, rather than being dragged along, willy-nilly, uncognisant of the deeper realities within ourselves? 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Into the Eternal

I simply was. To speculate on posture, shape or form, would reveal nothing. I can only repeat that.....I was. There was a plenitude about my being that spoke of development, that a process of becoming was already under way, but beyond that I knew nothing. I could only observe my surroundings. I felt nothing; I thought nothing. Any conclusions that surfaced in the place in which I had my being did not appear to come from me, but appeared like a scene that I observed.

My place of being was in the Darkness, a state that exhibited a brilliance that gave my surroundings a form of filamented clarity. Nothing hid itself in this Darkness, yet there appeared to be nothing that sought to hide. And the Darkness was vast beyond my imagining. Maybe I should have felt fear, but that had passed and I could no longer know what there might be of which to be afraid. 

I was stationary, unable to move, even perhaps disinclined to move if I could have felt inclinations. Yet I was not imprisoned. Rather, it was as if I had been placed - beyond the rim of logic, reason and rationality - in some non-existent place or unattainable state where some indefinable purpose was to be worked out. The only faculty remaining was some intuitive sense that revealed itself as observations, both seemingly visual and also as conclusions.

What would have been on my left side in the material world I 'saw', without seeing, a strange artificial light. It shone beyond a symbolic veil of biological strings and filaments, cells loosely linked, and an aura of impenetrability. Thus I did see the light but without it being able to enter into the Darkness. Only in that one direction was there even a semblance of light, tawdrily artificial as it was, for elsewhere was only the brilliance of the Darkness. If I could have felt anything I might have associated my positioned being with that of a primal cell placed on the wall of a uterine cosmos. But that hardly begins to describe my state. What I did realise, or observe, was that I had been stripped of everything that related to my ego, all of which lay bathed in its own light beyond the symbolic veil.

What then could I be, this sense of beingness hanging in the Darkness? It came to me that within, but far beyond, my ego lived the Child. This state in which I found myself was not of the squalling, squarking, biochemical machine ejected protestingly into the realm of materiality, with all its innocence, naivety and  vulnerability. This state was of an entirely different order, a state of unknowing knowing, of innocent experience. I knew All, yet Nothing. Time was, yet was not. I was joined and united, yet free. I sensed the untrammeled reach of eternity, and the inconsequentiality of that other, unreal, reality that used to be my ego. If I had had tears, I would have wept with joy at all that was yet to be seen. If I had had a heart, it would have hurt with happiness that I had found what I had so long sought, found that which I had never lost but which nevertheless I still had to discover.

There are no words there, there never were words there that could describe the experience of Truth. Let the Silence of the eternal Darkness Be. It speaks of ultimate, never-ending invitation. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Cease Not from Seeking

Nearly ten days have passed since a certain night-time experience (3rd./4th. Jan.) completely turned me around;  ten days of something akin to lethargy, or the need to rest.

A quote from the Nag Hammadi Codex, Gospel of Thomas, Logion (or Saying) No.2:-

2 Jesus said:
Let him who seeks not cease from seeking
until he finds;
and when he finds,
he will be turned around,
and when he is turned around
he will marvel
and he shall reign over the All.

(In other copies of this logion, 'troubled' and 'astonished' are used rather than 'marvel'. It seems to me that each of those words express an element of deep surprise. One version adds the phrase, "and having reigned, one will rest.")

..........From my own experience, and I recall what I wrote in Gwynt on the subject of the Nativity, not only understanding, but also Wisdom perhaps, arrives unexpectedly. A subject for meditation may be taken over and used for whatever purposes Wisdom has in mind for me.  And yes, I love her, and continue to seek her out. I also know that following the work on those three earlier posts, I was overcome with a sense of lethargy, or rest, in which the thinking and feeling functions played no part, were anaesthetised almost. In finding "The All", that is, Spiritual Truth or Wisdom perhaps, a great deal of energy has been expended, and that energy needs to be replaced. I need to rest awhile.........
[Meditation on Logion 2.]

During the period following my posts on the Nativity, or what might more appropriately called the 'High-jacked Nativity', I have accepted, with some difficulty, the need to rest and let things stew. From time to time of late, certain nudgings and discomforts have surfaced which indicate that my apprehension of what lay beyond the rim of logic, rationality and reason, carries something else within its ambit. That something else relates to my need to be seen as a credible witness of my inner experiences. I have never been a full-bloodied disciple of logic, not committed to rationality with no thought of the irrational in my nature. But reason is something else. Surely, I must fight to my limits to support reason and reasoned analysis, must I not? 

No!........ For now I see that my embattled ego is under threat. I claim that reason is needful because my subject matter, my search for 'knowing', for understanding, for wisdom, is too important - at least to me - to settle for anything less. Yet in that recognition, I find myself bolstering my ego's need to be, and on that I must turn my back. Even sweet reason must take a back seat when Wisdom herself comes knocking on my door.

For a long time I have been aware of this inner priority, but it has been swamped by other considerations. Whether or not I could have willed it otherwise, I know not. Whether or not I could have held rigidly to the placement of Wisdom above reason, I do not know. Such is the power of Spiritual Truth that given even half a chance, it will come more than halfway to meet consciousness. Now isn't that a wonderful thing? And in that coming of the experience of Spiritual Truth, all the ego-slush that was preventing me from stepping into the Darkness, was washed away, dispersed, or simply evaporated. Finally, the way forward was cleared.

It has taken much to put these words to paper, so to speak. But somewhere, somehow, a balance must be achieved, a balance between rest and travel, a balance between lethargy and the will to write. Perhaps it does not matter what I say here, only that I say something. What matters, what truly matters, is what came next.  

Sunday, 5 January 2014


It was the early hours of Friday-night/Saturday-morning. My worlds, both inner and outer, lay in darkness; I was troubled. I had been considering a response to comments made about my two previous posts, "A Different Nativity," and "The Nativity Revisited." Something occurred which I do not feel I am free to discuss. Yet as a result of that occurrence, I will make good on my word and respond to those comments on my earlier posts, but now from a different perspective. I have chosen to post my response, rather than commit it to a comment box, firstly for reasons of space, and secondly because I want a more easily accessible reminder of that night-time experience.

Let me begin with the feelings of terror that I felt when I leant over the manger-crib. Such an emotional response can be felt only by the ego, as was the subsequent 'flee' reaction. As has happened before in my experience, some overwhelming force seems to have seeped down from some higher psycho-spiritual level into my ego-consciousness. Put another way, my meditation had been taken over for other purposes. But why should I have felt that way in the first place? This experience was ostensibly about the nativity of the Christ child, an event which should, perhaps, have triggered a very different response. From my present perspective, I can conclude only that this was not about the Christ's birth but about some other birth, one which was taking place, or about to take place, within me. Thus events were occurring on two levels, the conscious and sub/unconscious levels. The sense of the presence of evil was, it seems, a reaction to an ego-life threat. 

Now I am not saying that evil is not a potent force in its own right, only that in this instance the presence of an unnerving force was probably misinterpreted. It must be remembered here that a number of psychological events appeared to be happening either simultaneously, or over a very period of time, as measured by the outer world. Everything in my inner world was in a constant state of fluidity, of ebb and flow; a process of becoming at its most obvious. Whilst recognising, correctly, the need to go beyond the limiting rim of logic, reason and rationality, with all its fearful associations, other matters were intruding and requiring resolution. The intuitive function is part of my personality structure. Whilst being underused, perhaps, it would seem strange that I was not exercising that function at least to some significant degree. Something else was intruding into my inner world. At the time, the feeling of evil could not be discounted. It was only later, as seen from a new perspective, that the apparent paradox that I had encountered was resolved.

One matter that required resolution was the question of pairings, or dualities. That was firmly fixed in my consciousness at the time and needed to be circumvented in some way. It seemed, and continues thus, that one side of a duality does not generate its opposite. Thus life does not generate death, nor good generate evil. Both sides of a pairing emerge simultaneously. If I pick up a sheet of paper, I hold in my hands, simultaneously, two sides of that one sheet. One cannot exist without the other, whatever state they may be in. 

It is not necessary that I know or understand my inner world; it is only necessary that as far as is possible I consciously experience it. Truth is experiential and not acquired from the written word. The word, or logos, is a pointer or preparatory stage toward experience. From my, admittedly limited, studies of Gnosticism and Jungian Gnosticism in particular, I discovered that my inner experiences have been shared by others, and that those experiences could be seen to make some kind of sense. This I find exciting, just as I gain similar excitement from the possible, future study of 'heretical' Gnostic gospels. But in my post, "On the Shores of Galilee," I was very clearly told that the way followed by Jesus was his way, it was not mine. Jung had a similar experience with the addition that he could learn nothing from the Christ. Again, it is down to personal experience. Having decided to heed the Christ message, and find my own way, I have no intention of following someone else's way - if that were truly possible - whether that person be a Jung or some other Gnostic. 

Somehow, and in a manner I am unable to describe, my consciousness was cleared and made straight; mountains were made low, and I was ready for my own inner nativity. Each time I make significant progress on my way, it is like coming once more to the starting gate that stands on the path to which many are called, but few there are that find it. I claim no superior rights here, but I do thank, from the bottom of my soul, that in approaching the rim of logic, reason and rationality, I was not required to step out into that terrifying  Darkness. My commitment to this way was made long ago. And so it was that I was taken and placed in a new position. Was I afraid? You bet I was!

All my questions dissolved. All my knowledge disappeared. In the end I realised that Gnosis is paired with Not-knowing in simultaneity. In the stillness, that darkest part of the night, I came to a place that might, in the end, be home. And I must at this point thank those whose comments, both public, and expressed in private communication, have brought me to this point in my life. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

The Nativity Revisited

Since my original experience of the Nativity at Bethlehem as part of my work on the "Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius," which I described in my previous post, "A Different Nativity," I have extended my literature research into areas which I have felt to be relevant to my spiritual studies. As a result, I believe I am now in a position to attempt an analysis of that original experience.

In addition to the information given in the previous post, further mulling over has revealed something, the significance of which can hardly be underestimated. That 'something' relates to the nature of the manger that was used as a crib. Whereas every other construct in the cave, for example the animal stalls, was built from wood, the manger was made from stone. In fact it can only have been produced by the process of hollowing out a rectangular block of stone, resulting in something resembling a Roman sarcophagus. With that realisation in mind, I am advancing an hypothesis which, even if not entirely correct, may form some basis for further, future development.

The sarcophagus I take to be a symbol of death, existing in the presence of life, the manger brought into service as a crib. Thus we have a death/life duality, a pairing that is manifest only in the material world experienced by the ego, or psyche. On spiritually higher levels, it is taught that dualities are subsumed into Unity. I would like to quote from, "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead":

"Binaries, or Syzgies as they are more often called, are a time-honored feature of Gnosticism. Primal being was conceived as going forth from itself in a series of existencies, each at a farther distance from the centre. One of the chief hallmarks of these emanations is that they are represented in pairs.........In Jung's Sermons the Syzgies are called pairs of opposites....."

The passage then goes on to list a series of opposites, which include good and evil, energy and matter, and significantly in this context, living and dead. It would appear, therefore, that the nativity experience is a Gnostic experience. But can anything further be usefully extracted from the experience? I think there can be. Consider, if you will, the tenor of alienation I felt in the nativity cave. My conclusion that it related to the alienation of my intuitive faculty was in all probability a faulty conclusion. It was too specific in a situation that required a more general understanding.

The coexistence of life and death as a duality would seem to indicate that moving from a higher psycho-spiritual level into a manifestation at a lower level, requires a 'dying' to the higher level, a slipping into the 'death' that we experience as living consciousness. By its very nature, this new state of consciousness (or death) must seem alien to that which has undergone this transformation. And because the ego is involved, it necessarily means that the sense of great power is present. That this great power may seem to be evil may simply be a result of psychic disorientation, or a meeting with a force as yet not understood. That latter point awaits confirmation or rejection. That the ego/material level feels alien raises a further and more interesting question. Who or what is the "I" that experiences this alienation, that is present during this experience? Who or what is the presence that becomes independent of the ego during meditation? That question must, regrettably, be shelved for future consideration. 

All my experience of meditation indicates that a journey, such as the one I have described in the previous post, may have more than one meaning. In this instance, and bearing in mind the sense of alien-ness in the presence of the donkey and the cow - which may be symbolic of my emotions, or feeling function, an integral part of the ego - I think the sense of alienation means much more than I previously thought. I have to say that I am very partial to donkeys, and even somewhat partial to cows in a please-don't-barge-or-slurp-me kind of way. In the donkey, the gentleness, and in both animals the dark, soft, thoughtful eyes are irresistible. In this nativity scene, however, their eyes were emotionally cold. What appears to be emerging here is, not only evidence in support of Gnostic-psychological teaching, but also a piece of newly-made, conscious advice symbolised by the presence of the sheep who is unable, or who is not required, to look down into the manger. That advice would seem to be that it would be inappropriate for a developing spirituality to follow, like a sheep, the path of others.

The presence of Joseph and Mary as rather dilapidated, chalky statues, so reminiscent - or so it seems to me - of some old church statuary, and the Roman feel about the manger, may point in the direction of Christianity, particularly as a spiritual philosophy from which I must escape. At this point care must be taken not to gild the lily, if a lily I have indeed hypothesised. 

It might be worth pointing out that because the basis of this experience is Gnostic in character, what has been described in the nativity cave may have less to do with the nativity of the Christ child and rather more to do with the spiritual nativity of humanity in general, and this writer in particular. Now it has always been my aim in my psycho-spiritual work to seek for personal, experiential evidence to support or reject the claims of others' teachings, whether they be religious, spiritual, or psychological (which in many ways are the same thing). We grow from our own experience, not from that of others. This particular experience seems to have justified that approach in full measure. Jung put his words into the mouth of Basilides, but I have no such authority to whom I can turn. But I do thank the source from which my realisations have come, even if I cannot name it.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Different Nativity

..........I walked for hours along the slowly winding, dusty road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. As the advancing night became deeper and ever colder, stars began to appear. Eventually, enough starlight was shed for me to discern Bethlehem as a darker smudge against the darkened landscape. I continued on my way until I arrived at a large cave to the rear of an inn. Entering the cave through a wooden gate, I could see that the cave was furnished with stalls and mangers for animals, together with feed and bedding. The ground was covered with fresh straw which muffled the sound of my footsteps. Thus it was that no-one present seemed to have noticed my arrival.
I watched awhile from the shadows cast by a stall. A servant girl hurried past my place of concealment, carrying cloths and a container of hot water. When she finally left, I stepped into the soft light and approached a large manger from which emanated a yellowish-white glow. The manger lay across my path so that I approached it from the side. At the right-hand end stood a donkey and a cow looking down into the manger, whilst a sheep rested its chin on the edge, not quite able to see in. At the left-hand end of the manger stood two figures. They were large, painted statues of a man and a woman, presumably representations of Mary and Joseph, constructed from some chalky-looking material.
As I continued to approach the manger, the glow from inside became ever brighter, as if the light had become aware of my presence. The statues did not move; they just seemed to be larger than before. The animals looked at me, and their eyes seemed to be cold, devoid of any warm emotion. I leant over the side of the manger, and looked into the depths of the light.
The light reached up and held me, and I realised that there was no visible end to, or source of, the light. At the very heart of the light, surrounded by intense whiteness, were two eyes. There was nothing else except those eyes, dark ellipsoids that narrowed to points at their extremities. Held fast, I 'heard' the eyes speak:

"You are Mine!  Mine!"

Terror washed through me. How could I feel so utterly afraid? I was being drawn down into the light, the eyes coming ever closer. The animals moved slowly to block any retreat I might consider. Deeper and deeper I was drawn until, after summoning all my strength and will, I wrenched myself free, pushed the animals aside, and fled from the cave..........
        [Meditation from my private diaries relating to, "The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius."]

I was so dumbfounded by this experience that for a long time I simply would not accept the feelings of sheer terror that had engulfed me. Never had I felt anything so utterly alien as those eyes. As time passed, I began to forget about that experience, the wrongness and apparent artificiality of the scene. The birth of the Christ child was supposed to have been a joyous event, when divine love was poured into the world. Yet instead of love, I felt terror; instead of liberation, I felt entrapment; instead of gentle familiarity and desire, I felt alien-ness and demand, demand for my very being regardless of whether I willed it or not.

Since that time there has been an unending struggle going on deep inside me. Most of the time that struggle has been beyond my conscious awareness, but sometimes something has surfaced, full of fearful doubts, a longing to escape I know not what. It has been as if I were ratting on a friend, the same kind of agony that I had experienced when I finally decided to stop smoking after having indulged in that addiction for some thirty to forty years. The sense of inner devastation was unbelievably intense. Yet here I stand at another crossroads that has been awaiting my arrival for a long time.

The pain arises, not because I have largely ignored Christianity as being of no concern any longer, but because I must make a conscious, positive decision to let it go. The pain arises, not because I am choosing to leave behind me a spiritual safety net, but because my path may take me beyond the outer rim of logic, rationality and reason into the outer darkness of sheer intuition, a natural but largely unexplored part of my Self, a faculty that has become alienated perhaps. This is a part, maybe the major part, of the extreme discomfort I have lately felt about submitting certain written thoughts to Gwynt. It is as if I have done something with my senses and my intellect, but my heart still needs to follow. It is as if I am reliving in a few short weeks an alienation that has been going on for years. And that concentratedness is obliging me to take action, no longer merely to cope with a slowly changing, spiritual environment, but to do something. What that something is, I cannot yet know, not until at the very least I am able to interpret this experience of the nativity more completely. Maybe in letting go of something I need now to find a new home, one for which I sense with nostalgia still lies in the future. I fear that it is going to demand a great deal of faith on my part, and I do not do faith very well. But we shall see what we shall see.