Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Game Is Afoot

         I imagine there will always come a time in the psycho-spiritual life when one feels the urge to take stock, to ask the question about where one is on one's chosen Path. There may well be various reasons advanced for wishing to take stock, some of which may be less that appropriate. It has been said that spiritual teachers will tell their followers or students not to bother, to rely on the teacher. My only teacher dwells inside me, and is not open to the passing of an opinion on the matter, although it must be admitted that this urge may be the only way my inner teacher can pass an opinion. Therefore, I will make the decision to go ahead with my personal inventory.
         It seems to me that there are two possible reasons that stand out as most likely candidates for the stocktaking exercise. The first one is to gaze admiringly on one's progress, and show off to the world what a fine 'spiritual' person one has become. Such a reason clearly shows up the fact that one has not acquired the desired 'spiritual' status at all, having fallen foul of the demon called hubris. (Tut! tut!) The second reason is the one which causes me some concern because I have no desire to continually reinvent  the spiritual wheel. (Beg pardon for the split infinitive!) All too often one sees difficulty where none such exists, one of the problems inherent, for example, in studying a subject to an academic level well beyond that at which one will be examined.
         It is to be hoped that over the coming weeks, or even months, by a careful examination of past work in my chosen field of study, I will be able to gain a clear view of where I am, which in turn may provide me with a map of where I go next. One thing is for certain, I have no desire to relive certain past stages of my journey just for the hell of it. Pain can lead to gain if the facing of that pain is appropriate, but masochism was never a well-developed trait in my personality. And I do not intend to indulge in that trait now.
         When I look over what I have written these many weeks I begin to see that the stocktake has already begun. On a number of occasions I have referred to that single event in my inner life that has had such a profound effect on me. That event has been the Divine Nativity, or spiritual awakening, that has been my joy (and on occasion my fear) to experience in my inner life. Being influenced by the "Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius" naturally means that my psycho-spiritual experiences are going to have, in all probability, a decidedly Christian flavour. Now, no matter how ambivalent or even antipathetic I may feel about organised religion, I cannot allow that feeling to get in the way of gaining new insights by ignoring what possible truths I may acquire from Holy Writ. Everything is grist for the spiritual mill.
         In both the physical and the spiritual lives birth, or the awakening into a new dimension of existence, is the first initiation through which we must pass. That event may only be seen in all its meaning after it has taken place. Only through experience can we truly understand. Indeed, it may only be seen after the event that initiation was a necessary requirement for further development. Without that initiation and by inference further initiatory experiences, we could do no more than, like the unharvested grape, wither on the vine.

So, "Come, Watson my readers, come! The game is afoot. Not another word! Into your clothes and come!"


  1. the whole split infinitive is apparently a post-victorian relic, based on the fact that infinitives cannot be split in latin. i say, split your infinitives and do not apologise!

    i wish you a fruitful stocktaking!

    1. Thank you Agnieszka. I shall now consider all my split infinitives, wherever they may have accidentally appeared, to be rejoined and whole. No more apologies, but an intention "to boldly go" where almost everyone else, at one time or another, "has gone before."

  2. Can I come in my pajamas, or a clothes a must?

    1. Dear RW; Naughty RW; Nothing is a must, except that you feel entirely comfortable. I leave the choice of apparel, or lack of, entirely up to you.

  3. By mistake I deleted Lindsay's comment, but was able to retrieve as follows:-

    Hi Tom,
    I think a stocktake of sorts can occasionally even influence one’s moral compass. For it seems to me, the idea of Jesus, to love your enemies, may be more a matter of being open to see GOD in ones enemies to the extent one is willing to examine alternatives which may not be particularly comfortable. But once resolved, I would think there is usually no need for revisitation, evidenced by that feeling of grace. Certainly that subsequent experience will tell is if we are on the right track, (e.g. the moral compass adjusted and reset through life as is need be) like any good sailor, who remains alert to any new storm clouds appearing on the horizon. Best wishes

    My reply:-

    Hi Lindsay; I must say that it hadn't occurred to me that taking stock could have a moral dimension to it, but I think you make a good point. I have heard the point, as to whether any aspect of the spiritual life needs a revisitation, debated at some length in another context. It would appear that the jury is still out on that one. Certainly I think that all forms of stocktaking, or revisiting should be undertaken, if undertaken at all, with a great deal of care and discrimination.

  4. Hi Tom
    Herein lies the great challenge, for who can deny the need for periodical stocktakes in the body of the churches, to changes perspectives in the various view of morality as and when hopefully it becomes more enlightened. For I am sure you are aware that what is moral in one country will not necessarily be adopted in another, so that its laws are not be ignored, on the pretext of an assumed superior moral compass. All we can hope for is, thorough desirable outcomes and experience, there may be a change in heart, but in the interim we need to respect the freedom for others to make such choices that are representative of their culture, if we are to facilitate a lasting peace.
    Individually the same spiritual principles apply so that there will have times when a stocktake of sorts can yield both material and spiritual changes. For I am sure you will agree, we are mere mortals, and we can never fully surrender to the spirit , but will always, to some degree cling to some existential power ceded to us as a free gift. Best wishes

  5. Hi Lindsay; I would certainly agree with your opening point as regards periodical stocktaking in the Church. When it comes to perceived morality from country to country, I am less certain. Whilst I think the West is often far too quick to interfere in other countries, the notion that "you must not interfere in our internal affairs" was ever the cry of the tyrant. It matters not one jot whether that tyrant is in place in a totalitarian system or a "democracy". Furthermore, there are also the tyrants that work as mobs under the guise of "public opinion". So on this point I remain uncertain, ever mindful of the desire to look out for minorities, and others who cannot speak for themselves, the aged, the sick, the oppressed, children and less us not forget the rest of the animal kingdom.

    I tend to the view that everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as their actions do not adversely affect others. Being an individual, of course, makes it easier to be censured in a way not applicable to a state, nation, government or large corporation. In the end, it is for the individual to effect those changes that are deemed to be desirable in themselves, and I see no limit to the spiritual changes that may be thus effected. If we are mere mortals, so also were the great spiritual leaders of the past and present. Whilst not blindly following in their footsteps, as spiritual beings I believe it incumbent on us to further our own spiritual advancement as far as is possible. Why set ourselves up to fail when there is so much to be gained? Humanity has not yet reached the evolutionary heights of which it is capable.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Like you, Tom, I do not subscribe to the religious "tick lists" that are a requirement for belief. And yet, in the words of Edna St Vincent Millay's "The Agnostic":
    The tired agnostic longs for prayer
    More than the blessed can ever do:
    Between the chinks in his despair,
    From out his forest he peeps through
    Upon a clearing sunned so bright
    He cups his eyeballs from its light.

    Perhaps I examine too deeply - ask questions - make comparisons - cannot believe in "Father Christmas"

    Thus, while subscribing to some basic tenets of Christ's teaching I have followed the Humanist path and find much in Taoism (the Tao Te Ching) and Buddhism which appeals.

    If people stopped fiercely defending their basic religions and thoroughly embraced basic humanity I feel we would be in a lot happier place.

    1. Hullo Avus; I like this quote from "The Agnostic." I think there is too great a need amongst people to "belong", whether to a political belief system, a religious system, or even a scientific system. If we can only just stop and look and then see, so much is opened up before an honest gaze. Perhaps the difficulty as far as humanity is concerned is that firstly they are unaware, and secondly that the task of gaining awareness seems to be too difficult. Yes, I think the world could be a much happier place, but I fear that such a world will only come about when we are shocked and pitchforked into it.

    2. What I've discovered is that taking stock seems to be an integral part of meditating - or maybe those are periods when my wandering mind takes to ruminating (quite a different thing but, seemingly, unavoidable in my case). Sometimes I'm simply at ease, comfortable both in my skin and the clarity of breath; other times events from my past, times when I wasn't as kind as I'd wish I'd been, come battering at the ramparts of my (likely false) equanimity.

      I too shall keep trying even as I often feel as though I'm currently at a spiritual standstill. One lesson I have learned well from my artistic side is that progress isn't always smooth and sometimes I even go backwards for a while. Meanwhile all I can do is trust that my feet remain on the right path even if my head remains clouded.

      I hope this post of yours means you'll continue to write to us, Tom. I always value your insight.

    3. Susan; There are parts of this comment with which I so easily identify. Sometimes the Path is hard, so very hard. If I trust that my feet remain on the right, that I trust that my feet are indeed on the right Path, it is because I can imagine no other.

      Yes, so long as I feel I have something to say, I (as I have said before) will attempt to say it. And thank you, Susan.