Tuesday, 30 December 2014

An Awareness of Timelessness

          And so we approach the end of the year 2014, a year that ends a few days after a solstice, winter or summer being dependent upon the hemisphere in which one lives. This is not the only way to define the end of the year, of course, but it is the way to which I am accustomed. I find this time of the year a relaxing period, not one in which I choose to become involved in high activity. With half a nod to my animal forebears on the evolutionary tree of life, I feel a desire to hibernate physically, but at the same time keeping my mind awake. I feel a desire to write, yet do not have any grand topic in mind. In fact I would just like to walk and talk awhile with my readers, without becoming involved in deep intellectual debate. It would not seem to be mete for the season.
          When I first began Gwynt, which seems to be a time fast becoming lost in the past, yet was only in the spring of 2013, I felt a need to have a great deal of material held in reserve so that a subject on which to write was always available. I could never, at that time, have countenanced the situation in which I now find myself, and that is writing without any clear idea of what I wish to say. Thus for me, writing has taken on something of an act of faith in something bigger than myself. If I do not wish to become involved in deep intellectual debate, neither do I particularly wish to reminisce unless that activity has a bearing on the present.
          So what can I say of the present in which I find myself? Oddly, I no longer feel as if I am getting older. Obviously certain changes are taking place, imperceptibly; certain bits and pieces are not functioning as well as once they did, with certain bits requiring replacement. Yet all this repair work seems to be taking place in something approaching a timeless now. Even my left shoulder tendon, which has given me such pain in the past, has now reached a point of comfortable living-with-ness. But there is more than just the physical aspect of life to enjoy, or perhaps to contend with. There is a spiritual side that exists almost like a ghostly presence beyond my physical experiences.
          That other side is impossible to describe. Although it has about it a ghostly nature, it also has a sense of being more real and less illusory than my physical form. My physical universe just happens to be more immediate. Yet to describe this duality of beingness as being two different but interconnected states does not adequately convey my feeling, my perception, of this state. It is more like a sense of movement from one to the other, from the physical to the spiritual, a gradual dimming of one and the brightening of the other, as if I am changing, as well as re-ordering my inner priorities. It seems to be a slow process of becoming whilst at the same time happening in an eternal present. Therein lies the paradox of which I am becoming aware. Maybe that is what lies at the root of evolution, although I cannot see how that might be working through me at present.
          It has been said that each of us must pass through various stages or initiations in our inner lives. There would appear to be no escaping that journey, if those who appear to know more about these matters than I are correct. What happens if that journey is not entered into in this life I do not know. What I do know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that I have passed through the experience, the truth, of a spiritual awakening, and appear to be living that experience constantly, and in many different ways. What comes next, or perhaps what is already present but which needs to be brought into consciousness, is still a mystery.  
          We have walked a short way together, and I am still full of wonder and questions. Indeed there are times when I feel that to sit back and simply wonder may be the real name of the game. That state may be the more conducive to the glimpsing of the high realms ahead than any other activity of which I am aware. Some may call that state, contemplation. I call it truly living.
          In closing, may I wish you all, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, the very best that is available, now and throughout the coming year. And if your year ends at some other point on the western calendar, I wish you the best for the remainder of your year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

I Walk in Darkness

          My inner world, a realm which I cannot entirely divorce from my outer consciousness, has taken on a strange aspect of late. It began when I realised that the Winter Solstice had taken on a meaning quite unlike anything that I had attributed to it in the past. This meaning was reinforced by dreams of loss and longing, the loss of a dear, canine companion earlier this year. In my mind I walk across a darkened landscape of death. Here lies buried all my thoughts, my knowing, my questions, my thinking. It is as if nothing that once was has any existence any longer.
          Alongside this experience has been a growing desire to return to that place I visited at the beginning of 2014:-

..........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."]

          It was my wish to experience those moments again, but this time without any intention of running away. This time I wish to remain there, and maybe to understand fully what it means to be lived by that "ineffable unknown-ness." As I continue my walk across my inner, darkened landscape I am suddenly confronted by a manger made of stone. From its awesome depths, and from alien eyes that have lost none of their ferocity, shines a fearsome light. And I look down into those eyes, lost in a sense of awe and wonder.
          It is said that pride precedes a fall. In a similar manner I believe it to be true that sometimes our sense of 'knowing-ness' is deliberately built up to prepare us for the experience of falling into 'non-knowing-ness'. All that we say, write and do may all be perfectly correct, because we cannot experience truth against a backdrop of falsehood. In a sense, that makes the awareness of 'non-knowing-ness' all the more profound.
          When I stared down into that abyss of light I saw, momentarily, a gulf in meaning between the name of that first century teacher who travelled throughout Palestine, and that appellation so often tagged onto him, "the Christ." Here I experienced no 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' so beloved of popular Christianity, but a force that seemed barely to be contained, or even containable, within the living organism.

          I walk in the Darkness, and I see a great Light. And I do not understand It. Yet accept It I must.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I Do Not Own My Life

          I am not certain of my ground here. I need to probe and search for a safe place to put my foot. It is not too unlike trying to step through a psycho-spiritual minefield where a wrong step will blow me away, without my even being aware. This is often the nature of the continual battle with my ego, and its desire not to allow anything that undermines its sense of divine security.
          Sometimes there are moments when I write something simply because those words flow out of my fingertips, as if I am thinking with a part of me that is disconnected from my intellect. I am learning not to edit out the sense of what I write on those occasions, in case something slips away forever. Consider, for example, something I wrote in my previous post in which I said that neither my Ground nor God can be found in my physical body, they appearing to be the 'effects of being lived by' some ineffable unknown-ness. The more I mull over that, and the more I try to seek simple (but not simplistic) solutions to my questions, the more that phrase takes on a new dimension. That dimension points to a remarkable simplicity that surfaces only when I finally let go of some inner struggle. That is usually the point at which I admit defeat, but a point I need to work through rather than simply giving up because I might be too lazy to seek an answer.
          How does it feel to live? An odd question perhaps, but one I have needed to address of late. I know that I am alive, yet can neither extend nor shorten my life by any act of will. I can certainly appear to shorten my life by making my body unfit for purpose, a state that will eventually come about whether I will it or not. Thus it seems that the feeling of being alive is to experience the effects of some force which uses my physical self for its own ends. That force does not belong to me, I do not own it, yet we seem to get along remarkably well.....at least for now.
          Since I do not own the life force that animates my body, that force is not under my control. I cannot, therefore, manipulate it unless it is open to suggestion. About that I offer no enlightening thoughts. The more I consider this situation, the more exciting the experience of living becomes. Every moment of my life is one lived on the precipice, with no guarantees. That makes life precious of course, but more than that it opens my inner world to something new. That something is a sense of overwhelming relief. It is very difficult for me to describe that feeling of relief, which should perhaps better be called release. Let me take you back to a time in my life when I was in very serious difficulties.
          It was necessary at that time that I come to terms with my inability to stop my, then, live-in companion from sinking ever further into alcoholism. I had to learn about the nature of powerlessness over another person. Often we think we are in control of another human being, but that control is largely an illusion based on the other's willingness to play along with us. That is not control. When, finally, I had to accept the nature of my powerlessness in that situation, a conclusion reached after diligently exploring practical and painful examples from life, a sense of release bordering on a state of euphoria engulfed me. I had given up a battle I could not win, a battle which was not mine to fight.
          The lesson of powerlessness, and the accompanying effect of coming to believe in something greater and better than my own ego, is one that I must continue to learn. So long as I waste time fighting battles I cannot win, which are very largely battles fought by my own ego in protection of its transient security, I close myself off from a reality that is a growing gift of the spirit, a gift that comes free of charge. That reality is not something I can own, grasp or manipulate, it is that to which I can only be alive and aware.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lived by the Unknown

          I find myself in a state of frustration, wanting to write, wanting to communicate..... something ..... almost anything. What will be the 'out there' response? Will there even be a response? Yet this is not the major part of my frustration, even if it is any part at all. It is a pale reflection of the real source of my frustration which is about how will my inner, real Self respond. Will that part of me that has been termed the eternal Self even choose to respond?
          I would not challenge the suggestion that that which we most love is that which we wish to know most about. I find the path to understanding and enlightenment can often be a struggle, and maybe an obstacle which is insurmountable. Sometimes the mountain seems to be too steep and too high. And I have never been content to live out my spiritual life on the practice slopes at the base of the mountain. When I read about the experiences of the truly mystic, I realise that in so many ways I am a simple man, and a man who is ignorant of so much that others speak of. Their words stir me, sometimes deeply, but still the barriers remain.
          People talk knowingly of God, some believing and some disbelieving, but I do not know what they're talking about. If I say I accept the existence of God, I too am in difficulties when trying to explain what I mean. No words are available to describe my inner experiences, and sometimes that inability to describe something so utterly profound leads me into ways of communicating which may sound too flippant and uncaring. I regret that!
          I probe my inner depths in an effort to discover that of which I am as yet unaware. What do I find on my inner journey? Very largely I find nothing. Let me try to be more precise because this is important to me. The deeper I go the more closely I feel I approach that state that has been described as the eternal Ground. Only there can that God which so many talk about, but which I cannot understand, be truly experienced. That experience promises to be as absolute and pure as it is possible to be, unalloyed by the presence of illusory perceptions generated by my ego. But there can be no-thing, no-where and no-when that is involved in this experience. If there were, my ego would be influencing the experience because it is the ego that experiences thing-ness, place-ness and time.
          What is this eternal Ground about which the mystics speak? It is the place where non-spatially the soul, or very essence of what I am, and God are one or at least akin to one-ness. How can I explain? If I close an electrical switch, a circuit is made and a light comes on. Electricity is said to flow down the wire and power the lighting appliance. Therein lies an illusion. Electricity does not flow as if it were water. An electron bumps against its neighbour, then returns to its starting position. The bumped electron does the same thing to its neighbour, and so on. Electrical current is the effect of all that neighbour-bumping. And a very powerful effect it can be. Alternatively, consider what happens when a pebble is thrown into a pond. The water moves up and down as a reaction to the falling pebble. That is all it does. The non-material wave fronts that travel horizontally across the water surface are effects produced by the vertical movements, the rise and fall, of the physical medium, the water.
          It seems to me that in many ways that which I call my soul, and God, are also effects generated on a no-thing, no-where platform or stage. Those effects I interpret as experiences of knowing, where the knower and the known are one. It has been said that music is not found in the substance of a musical instrument, but is the effect of 'playing' the instrument in a certain way. Similarly, neither my Ground nor God can be found in the substance of my physical body. They appear to me to be the combined effects of being lived by some ineffable unknown-ness.
          Somewhere in the past I said that it seemed to me that the universe is Symbol. By this I meant that the only universe that I can know is the one that lives in my mind. And the mind/brain system deals in symbols. Of the 'out there' projection that is my physical universe, I can never be certain. Now it is thought that a little over 95% of the 'out there' universe is not simply invisible, but is unknowable to us, because it exists as Dark Matter and Dark Energy. That Darkness seems to be a telling symbol that represents just how little I really know and can know of my psycho-spiritual-(divine) universe. It is perhaps a source of wonder, not that there is still so far to go, but that I have gone anywhere at all.

Monday, 8 December 2014

In the Beginning

"In the beginning, Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the sea from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves."

          This beautifully evocative sentence is the opening line of the Pelasgian Creation myth as told by Robert Graves in "The Greek Myths: 1." In common with all creation myths this is, supposedly, a story describing the creation of the physical universe, from the beginning of time up to the creation of humankind. But is this a correct assumption, or is there another explanation? Before attempting to answer my own question, let me delve a little deeper into this myth.

"She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin a work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion."

          To spare your blushes, gentle folk, let me simply say that Eurynome and Ophion 'got together', the result of which was the production of the universe we see around us. The two of them set up home together on Mt. Olympus where Ophion, believe it or not, had the gall to claim that he alone was the author of the Universe. Being more than a little vexed, Eurynome (I like this bit) bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth. The symbolism here is so rich with meaning.
          By way of introduction to the answering of my first question as to the possibly real nature of this myth, let me refer you to an earlier post, ("In Which I Have My Being" dated 15th. June 2013) in which I recorded the following:-

"..........Below me, an airless world of water moves silently through the cosmos.  A wisp of dark, mauve smoke glides across the surface of the deeps.  Shapes, dark, menacing and unidentified, glide below the surface.  In the distance is a galaxy, shining like a brilliant sunset, or a cosmic dawn.  All the while a silvery-white, equal-armed cross hangs in space above the planet. Movement, but no passing.  Serenity, a sense of eternity.  Timelessness.  Spheres within spheres.........."

          I have always assumed that this imagery represented a cosmic symbol of our psycho-spiritual construction. I still accept that as the most likely interpretation, but now with something else added. In my imagery, the waters have been separated from the air/sky, and a wisp of smoke glides across the surface of the waters, not unlike the spirit-wind that follows the dancing Eurynome. What I am saying here is that the Greek myth and my meditation experience appear to be saying that both are a story of creation as well as a current state of psycho-spiritual being. I must say again, this creation story refers to the creation of the psycho-spiritual universe, not the physical cosmos. What then is the role of my Wisp of Smoke, and the great serpent Ophion? Later on in the post to which I refer above, I conclude that the Wisp is my own Ego, a conclusion which must now include Ophion.
          Ophion is he who claims to be the one and only Creator god, an arrogance which he shares with the Gnostic Demiurge. And dare I say that the Old Testament god Jehovah, also seems to fall into this category of divine beings. Now the ego may not claim to be the Creator, but its actions clearly, and all too often, say that it can tolerate no other god besides itself, for it alone is the creator of all our denials, perceptions and illusions.
          There is much more that could be developed on this theme, (including the Genesis myths) but it would only be icing on the Christmas cake. I will add, however, that the egoistic God portrayed in the biblical Old Testament is a far cry from the God of the New Testament, where he is portrayed as Love. Maybe we have treated the old myth makers, who were perhaps living in an age of growing spiritual enlightenment, with too little respect, and fostered our modern thinking with too much hubris.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A Tale of Two Miracles

          To those of my readers who are either unaccustomed to, or undesirous of, reading the Holy Bible, please bear with me for a few moments because I would like to cast some observations about two important miracles, the first of which appears in the New Testament. Before we begin, let us remember what a miracle is. It is an event which defies all the laws of nature.
          It is said that Jesus, at one stage of his journeyings "came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain, and sat down there." He was accompanied by his disciples, and thousands of men, women and children who had come to listen to him preach. Now we must bear in mind that there was not the kind of service infrastructure that we are accustomed to having in modern times. There were no ice-cream stalls, beer tents, burgher bars or the rest. Yet all those people went up the mountain with ne'er, or very little, thought of the consequences. Are we supposed to think that their children were so different from today's kids that they wouldn't get hungry or thirsty? Did no-one say, "Mum, I'm hungry?" "Mum, Rachel's got some sweets, and she won't let me have one?" "Dad, are we there yet?" Oh come on!
          In the Matthew (Chap.15, verse 32) version - one of six tellings of the 'feeding of the multitude' stories - Jesus said that he had compassion on the multitude, because they continued with him for three days, and had nothing to eat. Well you know the rest of the story I'm sure. The disciples collected all the available food, a single digit number of loaves and a few fishes. Amazingly, this meagre collection was shared out amongst the thousands waiting. Not only that, but there were baskets full of leftovers. Some miracle!
          Of course, there have been many interpretations advanced for this miracle, some based on worthy but personal agendas. And the the story is full of interesting symbolism. Yet for all that there are many who choose to believe this story as literal truth. The psycho-spiritual investment in that belief must be enormous to maintain that belief in the face of all that is reasonable, is of reason. In case it should be concluded that this kind of belief is the preserve of the religious, let me now turn to another miracle. It goes something like this.
          All the atoms and their subatomic particles, and all the quanta of energy that are contained within the billions of stars that make up all the trillions of galaxies in the observable universe - not to mention the major portion of the universe consisting of Dark Matter and Dark Energy - came into being in the tiniest fraction of a second, from a singularity of infinitely small dimensions (actually a singularity cannot have dimensions) 13.7 billion years ago, give or take! Now that is some kind of a miracle, and one which is believed by millions of people. Once again, we see a huge investment in scientific authority, just as the religious have invested in religion and the Church. (I use the word Church in its widest possible meaning.)
          So, is the rest of humanity who does not follow the edicts of the Church and/or Science off the hook? Not on your life! In countries which have democratic institutions, we have the right to elect politicians to perform social and economic miracles. That we vote those people into positions of power for reasons that are often self-contradictory appears to escape the notice of many people. Yes, we want more benefits and greater security:  No, we don't want our taxes increased. Yes, we need more homes, roads and other facilities built:  No, we don't want them in our back yards. Yes, we want less pollution:  No we're not prepared to accept the cost and inconvenience. The list goes on and on, and yes, this is a somewhat simplistic picture that I have painted.
          Yet it seems to me to be true that the kind of psycho-spiritual investments to which I have alluded blinds us to the illusory nature of our perceptions and our many denials. Somewhere along the way we need the child who, free of preconceptions, will unabashedly say,

"Look at the King! Look at the the King! Look at the King, the King, the King!
The King is in the all together
But all together the all together
He's all together as naked as the day that he was born." 

Oh to be free of all illusion, and see the naked truth in all its glory. And now, having served its purpose, perhaps I can be freed from this ear worm.