Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Touch of Darkness

          Sometimes, my researches travel along strange paths, revealing knowledge that appears to be beyond my understanding. Often this occurs, as with the experience cited in the current script, when "something else, something extraordinary happens". When this does occur, all I can do is to note it, file it, and hope that one day that revealed knowledge will bear the fruit of understanding. Until that time, I have to accept that the understanding I seek is not vital to my inner quest, but a wonderful gift that awaits an unwrapping. Such is what I wish to present in this post. It does not seem to be of mainstream spirituality, whatever that might be, and neither does it appear to relate to more traditional psychology. However, since the gift of understanding is still hidden in its wrappings, I cannot tell with any certainty. I offer this post in a thoughtful spirit of curiosity, intrigue, perhaps wonder, and maybe amusement if that is how it strikes you.
          The following extract is taken from a pathworking diary which I wrote over four years ago. At that time I was researching the possible origins of my individuality. I am not a believer in reincarnation if for no other reason than that I have no robust evidence for it. But it also occurs to me that, as with every branch of science, knowledge is being gained continually. This usually results in new hypotheses and theories being developed, and occasionally a new paradigm emerging. Nothing, even in the world of esotericism, is carved in stone. I will not say that reincarnation does not happen, only that my scepticism runs very deep. It seems to me to be much more likely that it is certain aspects of humankind's psychological history that is carried from generation to generation. Neither do I think that past life regression is anything but a rather dubious process of proving reincarnation. But enough of this talk; let us approach this diary entry in whatever manner best suits our inclination.

..........I was walking through an open, dappled wood which grew in a long, narrow valley. The trees were close enough to form a loose canopy above me, but not so dense that I could not see that beyond the wood the hill tops were bare of trees, and grass covered. As I walked in the dappled sunlight, quite alone except for the companionship, or guardianship, of an atlas-globe-sized point of light that bobbed along beside me, I heard the sounds of chirruping and a murmur of chittering. Occasionally a hunting bird would fly past, single-mindedly intent on its business. In general there was a benign feeling, a joyousness in the valley, yet with a slight edginess associated with the chittering of the insects.
          When, at last, I reached the end of the valley, I discovered that night had fallen. Everything around me was suddenly in darkness even though the moon was full. From a place immediately ahead of me I sensed a miasma, a powerful feeling of active rotting-ness. I hurriedly turned away and retraced my steps. Everything had changed from bright, open joyousness to a dark foreboding. I could not escape the awareness of fear because I appeared to be its source. Animals hurried from my presence to hide shivering in the darkness. The chirruping of the birds had diminished to an uneasy, occasional chirp whilst the insect chittering had increased markedly. I felt emotionally cool, even cold perhaps, as compared with my earlier warm emotions.
          There was an overall sense of conflict, perhaps a battle for survival, in the valley. Perhaps it was about Dark versus Light, Death versus Life. There was a vague and uneasy sense of cruelty present. What distressed me was that I, as the man of power and authority in the valley, might have been the emotionless arbiter of the fate of all that lived within my domain..........
                                                                                   [Extract from my private diaries]

          This experience, of which there is more recorded in my diaries, may simply be reflecting my struggle to come to terms with my inner, destructive forces, the unresolved and unresolvable contradictions inherent in survival. For one life-form to survive, others must die, and that is a fact that I have found increasingly difficult to accept with equanimity. It is not a question of reason or rationality, it is about the seemingly inevitability that the weak must be consumed by the strong, that the defenceless must be sacrificed to the powerful, regardless of any concept of intrinsic worth. Of course, simply because I do not like unpalatable facts of life does not detract from their reality. And I am not exempt from that reality for I, too, play my part in this jungle, and about that I must not try to escape into denial. Unless I accept, at least in part, the Dark side of nature, I will never be able to attain the necessary balance that enables me to experience the Light. But can I accept the Darkness without becoming, even to a small degree, a part of it?  

          I would now like to turn to another source from which I will quote, because it was the recent discovery of this latter source that set bells ringing in my mind, that triggered a sense of  - if not synchronicity - something approaching compatibility. The source is, "The Case for God" by Karen Armstrong. At one point she says,

..........We know that shamanism developed in Africa and Europe during the Paleolithic period and that it spread to Siberia and thence to America and Australia, where the shaman is still the chief religious practitioner among indigenous hunting peoples..........Shamans have bird and animal guardians and can converse with the beasts that are revered as messengers of higher powers. The shaman's vision gives meaning to the hunting and killing of animals on which these societies depend.
          The hunters feel profoundly uneasy about slaughtering the beasts who are their friends and patrons, and to assuage this anxiety they surround the hunt with taboos and prohibitions. They believe that long ago the animals made a covenant with humankind, and now a god known as the Animal Master regularly sends flocks from the lower world to be killed on the hunting plains, because the hunters promised to perform the rites that will give them posthumous life.......... 

          It is not my task to analyse, and certainly not to pass judgement on, the beliefs of these people, but it does seem to me that for all our talk about, and belief in, the primitiveness of our ancestors, it may well be that they were far more in tune both with the world around them and also within them than many 'civilised' people of today. Since those far off times, humans have changed at an ever-increasing rate, and I have become more and more convinced that somewhere during just the last five centuries or so, humankind has gone seriously off course. An essential sense of Beingness along with respect, a quality that must be part of the spectrum of love, seems in too many cases to have been jettisoned in favour of an uncritical acceptance of rationality and enlightenment, and a corresponding rise in fundamentalism.
           As I said above, I offer this post in a thoughtful spirit of curiosity, intrigue, perhaps wonder, and maybe amusement if that is how it strikes you. It seems to me now, that I must also offer it in a thoughtful spirit of reflection, and perhaps regret.


  1. Hi Tom
    Biblically wisdom is said to begin with a fear of the Lord, but fear here means to hold in awe, so maybe we can remain open in wonderment or in awe to all possibilities. As far as Australian aboriginal shamanic influences are concerned, aboriginal artist and Indigenous Council represeantive Miriam Rose has this to say: "We are like the tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt, but inside the tree, the sap is still flowing and under the ground, the roots are still strong. Like the tree, we have endured the flames and yet we still have the power to be reborn."
    Best wishes

  2. Lindsay; I rather like the analogy by Miriam Rose that you present. Not only do we suffer when we face the unwanted contradictions in life, but also the pain of spiritual recovery. If my limited knowledge of Australian botany serves me well, I believe it is necessary of some trees to be burned, in order that they live. Although the ego-self suffers, even death in the end, that is necessary for the True Self to flourish.

  3. There is much in what you say, Tom, both your pathworking vision, your interpretation, the light thrown on both by the observations about the shamans, and your closing paragraphs---all admirably presented, without a trace of taking sides or polemic. I felt carried along with it, convinced, with nothing further to add or challenge.

  4. Vincent; It should be more difficult to say two small words 'thank you', but .....thank you!

  5. Tom. Your memory serves you well. Hormonal production in some species prevents the buds sprouting until suppression by fire. Even in the most severe of bushfires imaginable which seems to destroy everything in its path, to leave behind just blackened skeletons of once great forests devoid of any foliage, the trees recover from buds embedded deep within the main trunk.

    After just a few years the trees and plants attain the same growth status it they had before the fire; to the observer a green landscape has arisen from the ashes, to replace the prion terror of a blackened desolate burnt landscape. Reference mainly Eucalyptus species and some Banksias.
    Evidence suggests Aboriginal burning was central to landscapes sustainable evolution prior to colonization as was evident in ‘fire-stick farming’, for herbivores habitat enlargement and regrowth as mentioned above. But as to the impact more generally on the biology we simply don’t know.
    Even just driving through such regenerated areas, with the vivid memory of what was there just a few years earlier is a spiritual experience.
    Best wishes

  6. Your "experience" in the woods reminds me of some dreams I have had. The fear of dark forests is quite a primal one, isn't it?

    I've often had similar thoughts about our very early ancestors so what you write about them here chimes deeply for me. Modern humans seem to think themselves so much smarter. Thanks, Tom, for this thoughtful post.

  7. It seems to me we are expected to reject experiences of the interconnection of all living things in order to think of ourselves as modern and intelligent.
    I wonder in what way that sort of thinking is dangerous.
    Thank you for this Tom.

  8. Lindsay; Thank you for the confirmation, and more. Clearly, by one and only trip to Australia wasn't wasted.

  9. Marja-Leena; I am always intrigued by, and often surprised at, the positive responses I get to a post like the current one. This is the kind of subject that may well tell us something real about ourselves, other than the fact that we are constructed of quarks and electrons. It is a pity that such experiences as you also describe are too readily written off as something akin to childish fantasies and, therefore, not fit for sophisticated adult thinking.

  10. Halle; Perhaps accepting our obvious, and also the not so apparent, links with the rest of nature might undermine our fragile egos. And our dissociation from the rest of nature, our self-styled title as, Lords of Creation, has been fed by chronic misinterpretations of the Genesis story - a legacy of Christian fundamentalism - into which our species ego has willingly been drawn.

  11. So, it would seem that given the environmental disaster we have created as grand masters of all, we now need to find some way, perhaps an old way to relate our universe.

  12. Halle; Yes, I think that is the case. One problem is that when a strategy is successful, we tend to use it again and again regardless of whether or not it is appropriate (habits and subpersonalities etc.). In addition, and this it seems to me has been particularly so over the last 500 years or so, we have taken the line that because we have been successful using one particular strategy (enlightenment, reason etc.) all other strategies must be discarded for whatever reason. Of course we must not slip into superstition, and all the other traps set for the unwary, unreasoning approach to life, but we must be more discerning.

    1. By all means we must avoid superstition. Aboriginal peoples have managed to walk a fine line that is admirable; remembering the wisdom without creating a religion. The shaman seems to be an important feature of that remembering that also keeps their beliefs vital. I need to understand this more completely, clearly.

  13. Across the industrial world, people have come to assume that they ought to be able to buy ripe strawberries in December and fresh oysters in May, and more generally food in vast quantity and variety on demand, irrespective of season. It would certainly appear to be true that the further we as a race have lost contact with our direct connections to the earth and the sustenance it provides, then the less spiritually conscious have we become. I can't help but have a feeling this will change.

    An excellent post, Tom.

  14. Yes, yes, we need to, we must attend to - "An essential sense of Beingness along with respect, a quality that must be part of the spectrum of love..."

  15. Thank you Susan. I too believe change will come, but for many it will be because change will be forced on them. How diligently we cling to what we have, and what we are.

  16. Hullo Roucheswalwe. An earnest comment on my writing. And that I can understand from your recent experiences.

  17. Great post,Tom, can't add anything to its completeness.

    On reincarnation I have a very naive, stubborn and entirely subjective view with no claim to truth and no need for proof beyond my own intuitive feelings. Since I don't want to convince anyone, that's enough for me. I've written about my connection with ancient Egypt several times on my blog and during my trip to Luxor in 2005 (here's the link about that:

  18. Natalie; I do not recall ever having read anything on your blog about Ancient Egypt, but then I am still something of 'the new kid on the block'. I must trawl back to find your thoughts on the matter of reincarnation. I suspect you are pro the idea, and that tweaks my interest.

  19. My mother, who was a minister in Unity School, a New Thought offshoot of mainstream Christianity claimed that reincarnation was humankind's best guess solution to the perfect justice of God problem - meaning that one lifetime is simply not enough time to work perfect justice at the human level out. Thus you have to make up queer ideas to solve the imperfection of God's creation if you do not accept reincarnation or something like it. Reincarnation and Karma are entwined as essential to each other. That "Justice" demands it either way for good or ill is the basis of rebirth. I concur with my mother. This whole system is the best guess. I provisionally accept it on that basis, waiting for proof or experience to appear, either one. I am sure only of one part: That I am here because I demanded of God that I be here. There was anger in it somehow and a need to prove a point. God permitted. I have jumped the queue. These are statements of feeling not fact yet I am certain of them. I am here because God specifically permitted me personally for whatever reason of his own.

    I am sure of that and again, reincarnation is the best guess for me that I participate in such a world where I can angrily argue and demand of God and He answers me back in His way.

    This is of course useless information.

  20. Christopher; I think, if memory serves, that Emmanuel Kant also put forward a similar theory on the basis that since evil is manifestly present in the world, an afterlife was required to restore balance. Now this does not necessarily support the idea of reincarnation. However, it does seem to me that both an afterlife and reincarnation assume a reality that may be based on personal experience of living in this world.

    As a best guess to the question of reincarnation, it has much to be recommended. The big question then arises, "Reincarnation into which life, a physical or a spiritual one?"

  21. I find intriguing things in here (on a visit prompted by your comment on phantsythat this evening). I will bookmark to return later when I am not on the edge of sleep.

  22. As a lifelong gardener and forester, Tom, I can only contribute the notion that nature is the language of the universe. It speaks through fundamental forces and through the living things they compose. It speaks through us too, even if we don't always like what it's saying. From moment to moment, the entropic arrow of time courses innumerable incarnations in a single body, a single lifetime: we travel into the future and we change. Nature says the universe would like us to grow.

  23. A deep and interesting post, Tom. As a retired physicist you will know all about the conservation of matter - how it will transmute, break down into other forms or atoms but never be lost. So, to me, is the human body - from atoms we have come and to atoms we shall return - transmuted yet again, perhaps that is "reincarnation"?
    Wordsworth came close to this in his "Lucy" poem with,
    "No motion has she now, no force;
    She neither hears nor sees;
    Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
    With rocks, and stones, and trees.."

    The quotation about the ancient hunters love and respect for that which they hunted is very relevant to me at present. I am reading "H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald

    It seems to me a magnificent and deep-thinking book, which I am enjoying immensely and think you might like it, too.