Monday, 26 December 2016

There Is No Time to Lose

          Over these last few days a current has been flowing through me with which I have been feeling less than comfortable. I know that in part it stems from news both from near and from afar, some about friends, that is saddening. However, I am also aware that although events around the world have been shocking, brutal, and cruel there have also been many that fall into the category of "you're-too-sensitive-but-that's-life." Compared with the heavy stuff these latter are light-weight, small events, that seem not to impinge on one's life too much. Yet they too, drip by drip, add to the unloving malaise that seems to be a necessary accompaniment to life.
          At the very heart of life, at the very ground of our being, there is a place beyond flesh and blood, beyond muscle and sinew, a place that is wholly spirit. Push open the door to her realm and she shines out like white, unconsuming fire. She is Wisdom/Discernment. If I try to close the door behind me and still remain in her presence, I discover that I am returned to a place outside, shut off and waiting to enter. The door must remain open. So once again I push open the door to her realm and wait on the threshold. And it seems to me that all my life has been spent at this point, waiting on the threshold, in some liminal space that exists between what was before this life and what will come after. Now is the time to prepare, with all my strength, for I may not pass this way again.
           This year has seen some horrendous events take place, as well as some that seem to shut the door on hope. I would suggest that many of the latter seem to have opened the way for some people to pour out their racist bile, their intolerance of anything that does not fall within their restricted, limited view of life. Yet that stuff has always been there. It is that now, buoyed up and seemingly justified by others who feel and think in the same way, that there has been a reported outpouring of abuse that shows up a world that is far less than it could be.
          But perhaps there is value in the surfacing of all that we might like to ignore and keep hidden. In a sense, many have "come out" and shown the world how truly uncaring, unkind and contemptuous they are; how each of us could be - if we are honest with ourselves. For my part, I must at all times keep the door to Sapientia open. I must remain aware. Every little unkindness, every little slur, every negative little act or thought dwelled upon, simply adds to the steady drip that will lessen me from what I can be.
          But there is yet hope. Not all is doom and gloom. People can rise to tremendous heights of loving-kindness and ego-denial. All too often those beacons become dimmed to our eyes under the welter of bad news that some enjoy making, and the media determined to peddle. We are in the habit of dividing our lives into discrete blocks, when in fact we are passing through a continuum with no breaks. So now is the time to do what must be done; not in six days time. Now is the time to begin again and yet again. The time is coming when the threshold must be crossed, and I will move on. There is no time to lose.

Friday, 16 December 2016

To Travel One's Own Path

          I find myself caught between a place of wanting, and a place of forbidding. Perhaps the word 'forbidding' is too strong. Yet there is a sense of 'it-isn't-appropriate-to-talk-about-it.' How can I even begin to talk about this current experience? Whatever is happening now has its roots in earlier experiences, as perhaps is inevitably the case. There is no clear and obvious event to which I can point and say that that is where this current phase of my journey began. Therefore, I will jump in at random, and that point happens to be my reading of Karen Armstrong's, "The Spiral Staircase." [For my introduction to this book I must thank dear Susan of "phantsythat."]
          For those who may not have heard of Miss Armstrong, she is an ex-nun. Whilst living in her convent she discovered that she had a real problem with God in that no communication developed between them. I have to say that there were moments when reading her account of her search for herself, when my heart bled for her. In saying that, I realise that I was also bleeding for myself, for my own early experiences of living in a 'born again', Victorian household. As I have indicated elsewhere, I never stopped believing that there had to be some experience or process [but never a some-thing or some-one] in this vast universe that could be called God. I simply turned away from what seemed in those earlier years to be an irrelevance in my life.
          For some time now I feel as if I have been living in a spiritual desert. These are difficult times to live through even though they are also times when something profound is taking place at a deep level. All sorts of experiential clues arise to nudge one towards a course of action that needs to be undertaken. "The Spiral Staircase," and even a television series of space fantasy, were two such clues that I discovered. But pride of place has to be given to the book, the television series playing a secondary, but strong, supporting role.
          As I have already said, I find myself in a place of wanting. I want to continue to write here about matters that are of prime interest to me; matters of the psycho-spiritual. I also find myself in a place of forbidding. Deeply spiritual experience needs to be guarded and explored most gently in secret and silence. I have in the past tried to share much that I have experienced, because behind those experiences I have felt a new reality far beyond the realism of the material world. Now I need to move on from that approach. Where this new phase of my inner journey will lead I know not. I only know that lonely and fearsome though the way may be, it must be attempted. The process of renewal allows for nothing less.

          As it is unlikely that I will post again before Christmas, may I wish for the very best to all my readers for the coming festivities, whether they be a celebration of a Christian festival, any other religious festival of which I am unaware, or simply a pagan celebration of midwinter.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Look Up to the Future

          The time of Advent is with us again. I am finding that it brings with it a sense of relief, an end to what at times has been something of a growing psycho-spiritual slog since that last major event of the Christian year, Pentecost. This current period is, I think a period of renewal, a period of great magic, but one to which one needs to open oneself.
          Although my experience tells me that life experience is cyclic, that I am continually heading into a new beginning which necessarily contains within itself an ending, I often sense this feeling of, "been there; done that!" To submit to that feeling can result in great loss of fresh experience, and it is in that experience that a new truth, or a new way of seeing truth, can emerge. As a young man I was perhaps more prone to see the beginnings of things. As a man well past his prime, I suppose I am more prone to see the endings of things. And perhaps that is all right and proper. But I must never forget that both endings and beginnings are always here, that the one cannot be divorced from the other, that in a future final ending is necessarily a final beginning. What a truly wonderful paradox: two diametrically opposed and coexisting phenomena.
          There are a number of places in the Bible where one is warned to "...stay awake!..." "...the time is at hand!..." It is to be noted that the admonition is not to wake up, but to stay awake, to keep one's lamp fuelled and ready. As a child being raised in a Christian family, none of this caused me any concern. After all, my spiritual future was assured...wasn't it? What did cause me more than a little concern was such messages as,
          "For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept them all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. [And here's the crunch line] Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left."
          Yet as is so often the case when one reads scripture sensibly and non-literally, that is, by refusing to sink into fundamentalism, there is tremendous hope and reassurance in these lines. These lines tell far more about being taken into a place of fresh understanding, of enlightenment if you will, than being removed [literally] from the face of the Earth whilst all those naughty sinners and backsliders get their come-uppance. That in turn leads one to look up to the future, to enjoy fresh beginnings with all the joy one has, and the exercise of the imagination one can muster. For no cycle repeats itself exactly as before, and in that truth there is always hope.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Let Life Shine Through

          There come occasions when I sense a longing, an urge, a need to return to some point of experience in my life. It may mean revisiting a particular location, rereading a book by a particular author, or looking again at a painting by a particular artist. These longings are not so frequent that they are a cause for concern, nor so rare that I can easily ignore them. But they do act as goads, or perhaps prompts, for reasons of which I am not clearly aware. This has happened on a couple of occasions of late. The particular incident that I am writing about here refers to the paintings of a particular watercolourist,  Ray Campbell Smith [RCS].
          This artist, I discovered, died in January of this year, a week before his one hundredth birthday. There appears to be no announcement of his death at the time, although it must be probable that there was a local announcement where he lived in Sevenoaks, Kent, UK. ["A last chance to view the renowned artist’s watercolour paintings for the benefit of Barnardo’s, in accordance with his wishes. The exhibition will take place at St Julians Club, Underriver, Sevenoaks, TN15 0RX from Thursday 13th October to Thursday 24th November 2016. Open daily until late. Telephone 01732 458261 for more information."] This bracketed information was taken from the website of SAA - the Society for All Artists.
          I find RSC's paintings symbolic of a deeply, and healthy, psycho-spiritual nature. But why is this so? I will try to answer my own question in the following way. RSC adhered to certain principles in his work. Firstly, keep to a limited palette. Often he used only three colours; raw sienna, light red and Winsor blue, for example. In English landscapes he rarely if ever used more than five or six colours. Secondly, keep detail to a minimum, and use only such detail as is necessary. For example, a picture of a dock would lose much if it failed to show some presence of human activity. Thirdly, paint with quick, clean washes to avoid muddiness, and to allow the paper to shine through.
          This year has shown me the need to "let go" of a great deal in my life. Some material possessions were lost as a result of the house fire; others were deemed to be no longer of such value that they needed to be retained. It was not difficult to see what had been discarded, or what remained. In the case of inner "letting go", what I have dispensed with has been fairly obvious. What remains is far less so. Yet the inner search and questioning must go on. There are details that seem to be important, but which are not. There are ways of behaving, ways of dealing with situations, that must be corrected or eradicated altogether. The problem with clutter, and much of what is retained in life as important can be regarded as such, is that it tends to define us in a particular and inappropriate way.
          Thus by stripping life of unnecessary detail, and reducing one's activities and interests to those which are genuinely important, and not of a pseudo-reality nature, allows one's inner life to shine through into one's consciousness. For this, RSC's paintings are for me so symbolic of right living.
          I will close this script with a taster of his work. I believe he will long be remembered in the field of watercolour painting, and not a little missed as well.


Ray Campbell Smith  1916 - 2016

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

All Things Come to an End

          The end is in sight. Well actually, a number of ends are in sight. This morning I had my second piece of maintenance laser surgery on my eyes. I am pleased to report that everything said in the comments to my previous post has, in the main, been confirmed. I now await a check-up to confirm that all has gone to the surgeon's plan, a confirmation that should come in six weeks' time or thereabouts. So the end of treatment is in sight, with [one hopes] the loss of a particularly annoying floater in my left eye.
          We now have a beautiful, oak staircase to grace our hall, built as part of the ongoing restoration work on the house, after the fire in June of this year. The electrical work has been completed, well sort of. Some changes have not been carried out, because the artisan ran out of time. But these are minor matters which, strictly speaking, did not need to be part of his current contract. We now await the arrival of the painting and decorating team, with their coterie of carpenters, to replace damaged floors, and to spruce up the decor. Appropriate materials have been chosen. In the meantime I am carrying out what work I can complete in the intervening two weeks before the arrival of the latest batch of artisans. So the end of the restoration is in sight.
          We had hoped to place the house on the market this year with [fingers crossed] the possibility of a quick sale and a move to pastures new, or at least newer. Unfortunately, as a result of the Brexit decision to the EU Referendum campaign, the pound has plummeted, and our much needed reserves for a newer house has similarly fallen. However, I hope that what falls down must also rise up - and in not too distant a future. So, although the forecast is not good at present, I do hope that opening stages of house purchase planning are coming to an end. We must wait and see.
          It has been an eventful year. Not only have we been "enjoying" a peripatetic life style for a few months, and a revamping of my eyesight, but have also been adopted by a truly lovely dog. I refer of course to our much loved "Elfie." We continue to grow ever closer both in feelings and understanding. There is now doubt whatsoever who are her adopted carers. So the end of a very changeful year is coming to an end.
          Of course, one usually waits to the actual end of a year before writing in this fashion. There may yet be more to come! On the other hand, a rest would be most welcome, and a girding-up-of-loins period in preparation for whatever fun lies ahead. So, through a still blurry right eye, and a "floaty" [grrrr] left eye, I wish you all a fond au revoir.  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Is the Universe Beginning to Split?

          I see a vast flock of birds sweeping and swirling; I see downward flashes of lightning; I see a bedraggled spider floating by me; I see sharply etched spots of black, jagged pressure waves, and I see the universe beginning to split to reveal a vast blackness beyond.
          Now in the world of the spiritual, detachment is good but, by way of a corollary, attachment is not good. Of course detachment does not mean lack of caring and loving. Often it means a non-self-identifying intensification of loving. However, before I get drawn into that subject too far, let me say that there is one case which springs to mind where detachment is not good and attachment is good, even highly desirable. I'm talking here of one's retinas. (Or should that be retinae?)
          Thus it was that when being entertained by the viewings mentioned above, I began to feel a modicum of concern about my eyesight. A quick call to the "polyclinic" and an appointment was made for the same afternoon. I learned from the specialist that I was not about to have retinal detachment (and I assumed that I was not about to fall into the Divine Abyss, which was something of a relief as we are moving back into our home at present!)
          I am developing sacs behind my implanted lenses which are causing (apparently) the strange effects I am observing. So, it's laser surgery next week on one eye, to be followed by similar treatment on the other, a week later. This development is not unusual about eighteen months to two years after cataract surgery. I just hope this kind of maintenance surgery doesn't get to be a habit. I know I can be a driven person on occasion, but if I cannot see properly Lucy gets to be the driving force. As it happens, I am permitted to drive, so long as I take care.
          I think I am beginning to witter on. Must be the relief of moving back into our home, now vacated by the electrical artisan. Yes, he finished with mere hours to spare! And I also must finish.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

All Is Vanity

          In days of yore when computers were computers and not PC's and we wrote our own computer programmes (those were the days!), it sometimes became advisable to write sub-routines to the main programme. These sub-routines were triggered whenever a certain set of mathematical conditions occurred. Unfortunately, it also sometimes happened that as a result of incorrect programming, the sub-routine would go into an endless loop, continuing to repeat itself uselessly until someone noticed the rapidly mounting pile of paper readout on the floor. At that point, drastic measures were call for, and a return to the mathematical drawing board.
          Sub-personalities, those examples of personal behaviour patterns, called into operation when a given set of circumstances emerge, behave in a similar manner to computer sub-routines. When we begin to behave in a certain way, it is often impossible to see anything 'wrong' or dysfunctional in our behaviour until something traumatic occurs. Then a change of behaviour is called for.
          I pointed out in my previous post that our recent house fire has had repercussions on various levels, not only on the material level. I do not know what triggers the switching on of this particular sub-personality that I have, but the trigger results in a focused, almost obsessional, commitment to the project on hand. It may be trying to rescue or make good a dysfunctional relationship, or completing a renovation project, or what-have-you, long after the project should have been halted. I say again, one is unaware that one has become obsessive until that severe event happens that halts one in one's tracks. Thus it is with our recent house fire.
          Interestingly, at least in my experience, enlightenment brings about an immediate and lasting change of attitude and behaviour. That is not to say that something else will not trigger that sub-routine/sub-personality in the future. I just hope I will see it coming, although I have never done so up until now. So why should things change?
          It does seem that the unconscious, psychological event has far more power than the physical/material event. Walking into that unconscious-made-conscious world makes me feel relatively small, powerless and maybe insignificant. On the material level, it is almost possible to shrug off the fire, get stuck in and deal with 'it'. Not so on a deeper level where something else seems to be operating through my life.
          So life will continue on its upward spiral. Patterns will repeat themselves but never in quite the same way again. What may seem to be new may in the end only be a reworking of old patterns. As the preacher said, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mortality Visited, Briefly

          How to begin? Where to begin? May we just chat for awhile? There is much that can be said about these last three months, but I trust I will be let off going into the details of the house fire. There comes a point when enough is enough. Having said that there is a legacy, one which I find very interesting, to be thought about. It would appear, at least from my perspective, that there are many levels which have been influenced by the recent event. Let me begin with the ordinary, material level.
          I don't know whether it is appropriate to think of a dwelling in terms of mortality. If it is, then our house must be considered to be mortal. Even though there is evidence to suggest that some of its roof timbers may date back to the French revolution, our house will probably outlive its current occupants by many a year, even by many a decade. That makes my life something that is passing at a depressingly high rate. Did I mention I am seventy-nine years old today? But what's in a number? It has truly been a lovely day spent in the delightful company of my two greatest loves, Lucy and Elfie.
          Getting back to the house I was very surprised to learn from Lucy, on one of her recent visits to the house, that the staircase had been demolished and was stacked outside in a neat pile of broken timber. Now this has a rather funny side to it. You see, the electrician is supposed to have completed his repairs before the staircase chappie began his work. That was to be followed by more carpenters to repair the floors and then the painters and decorators. It is fast becoming a "Comedy of Interferences." When these two artisans get to meet, we will be many kilometres away receiving lessons on how to behave with a dog. I think that it is supposed to be Elfie receiving the training, but you know how these things turn out.
          We lost a great deal of our possessions in the fire, many of which should probably have been jettisoned long ago. On the other hand, it would have been more pleasurable if all my Indian spices and other commodities had disappeared at a more sedate rate of consumption. Fire is so quick, and the house stank for days of burnt cumin seeds. We did take this opportunity to "downsize" somewhat, a particularly horrible word that. We ditched stuff. That's the long and short of it, and felt lighter and more relieved as a result. It must be said, however, that it wasn't a painfree operation.
          At this stage I think I will leave you to chat amongst yourselves for awhile. Me? I'm having another glass of wine. Please, help yourselves.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Burned Out!

We have had a house fire. For those 'out there' who will be interested, here is an update - posted by Lucy here.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Would the Christ Come from Galilee?

          Let it be supposed that we have arrived at a theatre where a drama is being performed. That we arrive part way through the performance is of no consequence as the various motifs have been played and replayed, in various guises, from the beginning of human time. And it is likely that they will continue to be played for the foreseeable future. Let us then be seated and read our theatre notes. At the top of the page is an outline of the plot of the act we will be watching.

Title:       The Gospel of John 7:40-52. [Reproduced from the previous post, for reference.]

Scene 1:
40. Some of the crowd who had been listening said, "He is indeed the prophet,"
41. and some said, "He is the Christ," but others said, "Would the Christ come from Galilee?"
42. Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from
Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
43. So the people could not agree about him.
44. Some wanted to arrest him, but no-one actually laid a hand on him.

Scene 2:
45. The guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees [the Sanhedrin] who said to
  them, "Why haven't you brought him?"
46. The guards replied, "No-one has ever spoken like this man."
47. "So," the Pharisees answered, "You, too, have been led astray?
48. Have any of the authorities [the Sanhedrin] come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?
49. This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned."
50. One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them,
51. "But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone without first giving him
      a hearing and discovering what he is doing?"
52. To this they answered, "Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself:
      prophets do not arise in Galilee."

Of course, like any good drama, there are various levels and subplots to engage our attention. Let us begin with the main characters.

The Sanhedrin:      The name by which the Elders and Pharisees are known. This body, which hasn't received a very good press in the Christian world over the years, is the guardian of orthodoxy. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. When faced with a problem the Ego finds a solution, an approach, and continues to value and judge all future and apparently similar problems in the same way, no matter how inappropriate its response may be. This ego is the self-appointed adjudicator of what is right and what is wrong, what is theirs and what is ours, the very essence of duality.

The Rabble:          This false, virtual Ego-state requires help in its proxy confrontation with the true, real self, and enrols the thoughts, emotions and physical senses. Thoughts and emotions are transient and usually uncontrolled, having no leader except the self-serving ego.

Jesus the Nazarene:     This is the figure with whom the Sanhedrin are locked in this timeless confrontation. In the 'out there' world there is much about this man that remains completely unknown, but it may be assumed that most of his time was spent preaching in Galilee, a hotbed of religious and political agitation. In the 'in here' world he represents that part of us that is real, our true selves. Though knowledgeable, our real, higher selves are unorthodox [protestant in the original meaning of that word] in the paths they choose to travel in order to find truth.

The Disciples:              The Nazarene also needs make use of the conscious attributes of the ego but in an organised, truth or reality-oriented way. Of course, nothing is one hundred percent, black and white.

          We live in a universe of probabilities, and so it is not surprising that we find a Nicodemus in the ego-state, just as we will find a Judas Iscariot owing allegiance to the higher self. I would add the further point that each actor on the stage must play their part according to the script. It would, therefore, be highly inappropriate to assume a judgemental stance against or for any of the actors in the drama.

          In Scene 1 we observe the crowd, or less strident rabble, the agent of the ego, trying to get some sense out of its experience of something beyond itself. There is an appeal to the Law, to the Scripture, to fundamentalist orthodoxy. But answer is there none. And how could the Truth possibly arise from any other source but logic, rationale and reason, it asks? Some part of the ego always wishes, self-protectively, to trap and imprison this truth. There seems always to be the desire, even compulsion, to lock spiritial reality safely away even though its ability to do so is ultimately an illusion. "But no one actually [or could] lay a hand on him."
          In Scene 2 we are well and truly back with the ego which is demanding why the real self has not been tamed and imprisoned. Why? Because this truth is something quite beyond the illusions that are normally accepted as our truth. Although the enquiring mind may discern hints of truths beyond the mundane, again it is the rationale of the ego to discount such exploratory questing. "You, too, have been led astray? If we the authorities are not convinced, how can you be?"
          Then the questioning Nicodemus enters the argument. For me, he epitomises the other side of the never-ending inner debate about spiritual truth. As a party to that debate, I have found myself in the same position as the crowd and the guards. What is the Christ? Is it identical to the higher self, or is it some power that infuses the higher self? The possible answers to those questions require more data before I give my response.

          There are two characters that I have not discussed so far. One is the Christ, which I will leave for future writings. The other is the observer of the drama. As we look around the theatre we will notice that each of us seems to be the only observer of this drama. This I-awareness is perhaps the most important part of the play. Without that, what would be the point of enacting the drama?
          As with any drama, we sometimes miss some of the plot details, or even some of the subplots. Often, particularly through discussion and further thought, those missed details come to light at some future time. I trust that this will be the case here.
          Now I will address the question, "Are you a Galilean too?" Insofar as I am non-fundamentalist, and non-religious in the orthodox meaning of that word, I suppose I do tend towards being a Galilean. Yet I must also admit to not being entirely free of egoistic machinations and instincts. I further think that it is that position in which the I-awareness is bound to find itself. It must neither be so focused on the higher self that it is oblivious of the ego and its power, nor so focused on the ego that it is lulled into a not-I sleeping state.
          The foregoing is how I interpret the given scriptural passage. To be of any real value, I think the chosen method of analysis must prove to be consistent. Logic, rationale, even perhaps reason, may be flouted, but not consistency.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Are You a Galilean Too?

The Gospel of John 7:40-52 [Saturday of 4th. Week of Lent]

40. Some of the crowd who had been listening said, "He is indeed the prophet,"
41. and some said, "He is the Christ," but others said, "Would the Christ come from Galilee?"
42. Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
43. So the people could not agree about him.
44. Some wanted to arrest him, but no-one actually laid a hand on him.

45. The guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees [the Sanhedrin] who said to them,
        "Why haven't you brought him?"
46. The guards replied, "No-one has ever spoken like this man."
47. "So," the Pharisees answered, "You, too, have been led astray?
48. Have any of the authorities [the Sanhedrin] come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?
49. This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned."
50. One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them,
51. "But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone without first giving him
        a hearing and discovering what he is doing?"
52. To this they answered, "Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself:   prophets do not arise in Galilee."

            For those of my readers unused to reading, or uninterested in, the Bible, I crave your indulgence. I cited this passage in full because there are a number of ways in which this passage can be interpreted, which I wish to note but not develop. First, this passage can be read as being a true, historical account of the time. It must be said, however, that writers in ancient times were less interested in historical accuracy than in getting across a meaning, an idea, around which they fitted an historical motif. Second, It can be read as an all too human response of the 'Church' to a lay rebellion, applicable to modern times rather than biblical times. Third, and it is this interpretation to which I have been brought, one can see this as an activity which takes place within a person, a psycho-spiritual conflict involving the ego-self. In this case, the Sanhedrin, the rabble, the epithet 'Galilean' take on symbolic meanings.
            It would make this post too long to go into each of these points, so I will close with an extract from my meditations recorded in my private diaries, which relates to this passage from the St. John's Gospel.

            "One is required to descend into an inner hell, perhaps many times in life. To fall unendingly into the Abyss where what one thought was right may be wrong; where what one thought was bad may bear the hope that there is good; where certainties and reassurances disappear. From the pit of that hell there comes a spiritual resurrection, a new life in which the warping dominance of the ego-self is overcome and least in part."
            "Life is uncertain. That may well be its chief characteristic. I breathe a breath. Will there be a next breath, or is this my last? There is a pause, a silence between breaths which opens into eternity. It is the space between the tick and the tock that counts the passing of the seconds. I fall, and continue to fall more through, rather than into, the Abyss for that experience is everywhere. It is what is. If God is seen as the Abyss, I have no choice but to trust it. What else is there? Nothing is certain anymore, except uncertainty. In the days when Newtonian physics was paramount the universe could be seen as a vast machine. It had ever been thus, and would continue so. But why and how? What guarantee existed that this state would continue? Who could guarantee that this breath of mine would be followed by another, and another? No-one!"
            "No-one! No authority! To attempt to turn to authority is to turn to fundamentalism, is to go to sleep. Fundamentalism is another word for Idolatry. And that is an abdication of personal responsibility. To seek human approval over and against the reality of uncertainty is to look the wrong way. Listen, yes! Learn, if possible! Know that one can be mistaken, yes! Accept that I may be walking the wrong path, or walking the path the wrong way!"

"..........There is an inner, spiritual path that climbs a mountain. That path is slick, uncertain, only as wide as the width of my foot. On one side of the path the mountain rises sheer to the heights; on the other the mountain falls to the very depths. Always, the path climbs upwards towards its peak, and at the peak there will be a meeting. No matter how often that meeting takes place, I am forever climbing and arriving, simultaneously. Is this the right path? Of that I am not quite certain, but I have been shown no other. In this one path must I trust........."

Saturday, 30 April 2016

A Return to a Source

          It is difficult to know how to begin. I lack the practice I had when I posted regularly and with some frequency. The more contemplative aspects of my life have taken me to places that must remain relatively private. Why is this? Because there are occasions when new inner experiences requires time to mature, and gain no benefit from having intellectual boots walked over them. When a seed bed is sown, it needs time for the germinating seeds to grow.
          Having said that, there has been an ongoing activity that is bearing fruit, and one which I would like to talk about. It all began with a book of daily meditations for Lent and based on the Bible, but one which turned things around so that the meditation came first (based on a sentence), and that was followed by the biblical passage that formed the basis of the meditation. The purpose of the exercise was to look at the chosen passage and interpret it in a non-literal, non-fundamentalist manner. I found the process more and more interesting, even when the meditation period revealed nothing noteworthy. When the book was finished with, at Easter of course, I went on to study further passages with the hope, even expectation, that something of interest would arise. My guide has been the Catholic Daily Missal, chosen for no other reason than it gave me a structure for my meditational studies. In one sense it has been a return, in a roundabout way, to a source but with my inner eyes open. What has emerged has been surprisingly interesting to me.
          Now the question has arisen as to how to introduce my thoughts about this work. Should I even be talking about it? Will it cause offence to those who hold different views from mine? I would most certainly hope not, yet would at the same time wish to be completely frank. Would anything I have to say be of any interest? I simply do not know the answer to that question. And what of that fragile acquisition called reputation? Do I have one that is worth owning? Will my revealed thoughts in the future damage that reputation, assuming I have one? Well that may turn out to be the case, so I must ask myself whether or not I really care, and that is a difficult one to answer.
          I am old enough, and ego-free enough not to care too much about reputation for its own sake. However, does one write anything which one would like to see discarded as the ramblings of someone whose brain has gone soft? I think not. It seems to me that once again I must take a risk and hope for some joining of minds that share my interest in exploring the depths of the spirit, unfettered - as far as that is possible - by preconceptions rigidly held onto.
          If I have achieved nothing else with this post, I have at least overcome my initial difficulty of knowing how to begin. Now I can tentatively move on and see what can be discovered from inner conversations. Yet it would seem that the real point of all this is to hold the conversation. If something is revealed as a result, that will be a bonus.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Of Painting Progress

          As regular readers here will know, I have reduced the frequency of posting of late. Combined with my narrowing of the focus of my studies, this has left me more time to concentrate on trying (desperately!) to improve my ability - if any there be - to paint waterclour pictures. My first task of late, after consulting with Lucy, was to determine whether or not I had even a minimum of ability worth developing. If I have, I am determined to become at least reasonably proficient. This matters to me.
          The first task, on Lucy's advice, was to reduce the number of pigments in my palette. I have tried to do this before, but this time I really did try......hard! For source material, I turned to the work of an artist I greatly admire, Mr. Ray Campbell Smith. I selected two pictures from his, "Watercolour Work-Out" to see if I could make reasonable copies of them. The first picture I managed quite well, and the second picture also even though I began to change the colours he'd used. (Why I chose to change some colours is perhaps more detail than is necessary here.) Below are my efforts. Incidentally, that is a punched hole at the top, not the sun or moon.

The Quayside
Fishermen's Cottages

          My second task was to see if I could make a reasonable fist of painting from a photograph. For this purpose I chose an offered photograph from David Bellamy's, "Watercolour Landscape Course," another artist I greatly admire. The advantage of choosing this photograph was that he also produces a painting (which I took care not to study) for comparison purpose. I show my effort below.

Galway Thatch
          My paintings were about 26 x 18 cm., and proving to be rather restrictive. There began to emerge a tendency to use small brushes, and include too much detail as a result. Throwing caution to the winds (well not really) I chose to paint a picture from a photograph I took in New Zealand some years ago, the picture size being 36 x 51 cm., about four times the area of my initial test paintings. Sweeping, translucent washes were the order of the day; and I had fun. Below are the photograph, and my treatment of it.

Afternoon Light

          Frankly, I am staggered at the change that has taken place in my approach to painting, triggered by what I feel is a modicum of success. Instead of discarding an effort before it is finished, I now find myself eager to get onto the next one. From a short chat with Lucy to a final execution of my first "big" painting has been very short in time, but long in confidence building. Now excuse me; I have another piece to be getting on with.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

There Is No Escape

          This is not the post I intended to write. Indeed it was not my intention to write a post at all today. Yet here I am attempting to share that which refuses to be put into words. But I should first set this post in context.
          I seek truth, through inner experience, but not as a religious. It just so happens that there is a large body of writing that recalls the words of many who have sought, and continue to seek, truth - the most authoritative of which (or so it is claimed) can be found in holy writ. For me, that is a great resource but one which demands a critical approach. Any other approach, a fervent belief in the words, is nothing more than idolatry. As I have said elsewhere, truth does not reside in words but comes from experience about which all words are inadequate. Prayer and meditation, designed to improve my conscious contact with God, is my way forward. I should say at this point that my use of the word "God" is one of convenience since my belief in that which carries that name is more about what God Is Not, rather than what Is. So let's not get hung up over mere words.
          I suppose it is generally known that the current period in the Christian calender is the period of Lent (the 2nd. Sunday thereof), and I am finding this a fascinating period. Why? Because I feel a desire to assess where I am, what I deeply feel and think, why I feel and think in this way, rather than assess where I have been in the past. Of course I cannot put any of that, adequately, into words. In any case, it is all too personal. What I will do, however, is quote what I wrote in my personal diary for this morning, and that is personal enough:-

"..........And I too, allowed myself to be taken up the mountain where I saw symbolic representations of the Law and of Action. I can escape neither! "Stop the world I want to get off" is like whistling in the wind. The universe is subject to a set of scientific-psychospiritual laws - the Law. There are ways of Being and Acting that are in tune with the Law, and ways that attempt to counter - unsuccessfully - the Law. For even in attempting to break the Law, action triggers reaction, and that of itself is in accordance with the Law, one formulated in physics by Sir Isaac Newton.
          There is no escape, and no way of not acting. What a fearful, terrible responsibility that imposes, particularly as all too often I allow my ego to determine what action is appropriate. Yet when I climbed the mountain of transfiguration, I realised that I was taken up. It was not that state I call my ego that took me up. The power that raises and transfigures is the power that is the Christ, or at least what some religious have named as the Christ. Yet even then, the experience of my apparent understanding was overshadowed by the great "cloud of unknowing." And "it was good to be there!" (Luke 9:32-34) If I do not speak of the actual experience, it is because I cannot do so. Talking about the essential experience, the truth, is beyond me. Only the setting, the background, is within the realm of words.........."

          When I am back at ground level, on terra firma, once again, I wonder how I dare speak of this morning. And I shudder at the possible lack of wisdom that has seemed to impel me to write in this way. There may be reasons that I cannot yet see, may never see. But right now, it is all that I have to give.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Selfhood Is An Holistic Experience

          There was a time when it was thought that the orbit of the planet Mars around the Sun described a circle containing a series of epicycles. We now know that this is not the case, and that what was being described was how Mars appeared to behave. The true orbit, when viewed from a more external viewpoint than that of Earth, was far simpler. I would suggest that something similar may be happening when we view the question of Ego and its assumed existence, or non-existence. Interestingly, I find, the same can be said of the existence or otherwise of God. The devil is in the definition - or lack thereof! In this post I shall proceed with masterly disregard for the possible impossibility of defining the ego, and state what I think of as that entity, if entity it is. After all, one needs to start somewhere, and I choose not to wade through the history of the ego concept, and how the word has changed (been corrupted?) to mean different things at different times. I would also like to emphasise that much of what we say "is so" only appears to be thus. "It is as if" might be a better approach to matters psycho-spiritual (and to science in general) than "it is" thus and thus.
          I shall make analogous reference to water, or more exactly ice-water-steam, as a model for the existence of the "self", bearing in mind that all analogies appear to break down at some point. Finally, I shall base my thoughts on the only thing I can trust, and that is my own spiritual experience. Truth comes, not from words, but from experience. Unfortunately, the written word has the annoying habit of getting in the way sometimes. But if I am to communicate anything rather than exist, shut off from the rest of humankind, I must concur with the Bee Gees (and others) that "words are all I have."
          Let me now return to the ice-water-steam model to which I referred above. Molecules consisting of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, when viewed en masse, exist in three possible states; as ice, water, or as steam. (For simplicity I leave out the possible plasma state.) The difference between these states is one of heat content, not temperature. Thus ice and water can coexist at the same temperature, but different heat contents (effected by the latent heat of fusion), as can water and steam (effected by the latent heat of vapourisation.) But enough of physics theory.
          What I am suggesting here is that it may be possible to view the psycho-spiritual world as something that can undergo changes of state, with equivalent changes in energy levels.  Thus the ego or lower self (an idea suggested by Thomas Merton) would correspond to the solid ice, the higher self to the liquid water, and........well let us leave it there for the moment. Thus I would propose that the ego exists, but only as a change in state of the psycho-spiritual system. It does not exist as an autonomous little person, hiding somewhere in the brain/mind complex. Similarly, I doubt the existence of an "I" or "Self" as being independent of everything else, but as a raised (energy-wise) state of an overall Self.
          When I underwent that wonderful experience in Iceland, which I tried to describe in my previous post, I was struck by a number of observations, both then and since. First of all, the self when in its lowest state (the ice or egoistic phase), appears to be entirely oblivious of the existence of any higher state until its very existence is threatened by dysfunctionality (melting) and the need to change and adapt. Until that point is reached, the ego defines itself by attachment to thoughts and opinions; feelings/emotions and obsessions/addictions; physical senses and all the aspects of physical existence. Any contact with anything "higher" requires faith and ritual, hence religion for example. However, politics and other causes may be alternative substitutes. It is in this state that the dualities of life are experienced, such as you-me, right-wrong, good-bad and so on, with all the judgementalism those dualities imply.
          Secondly, I clearly perceived in my "Icelandic Experience" that when in the next and higher state (the water or Higher Self phase), the ego is seen only as part - a necessary part - of a whole, a more holistic or holy concept. For me as an intuitive introvert, that part is much smaller than the Higher Self. But I accept that for others this may not reflect their realities. One thing that has struck me quite forcibly is not that the dualities have dissolved into some kind of "One-ness", but that one half of the duality has simply disappeared, or almost so. In effect, when in a higher state of awareness, the machinations of the ego-state appear to be almost unimportant to the point of triviality. This conclusion may well be pointing to an inability to imagine a state above that of the Higher Self. And here we approach the possible use of the ice-water-steam model to infer something energetically higher than the Higher Self, but nevertheless part and parcel of the whole psycho-spiritual Being.
          Christianity might well refer to this state (the steam or Christ phase) as the experiential awareness of the Cosmic Christ, the Inner Christ, or its equivalent. I have referred in earlier posts to my experience of such matters and can, therefore, vouch for such experiences. Now here we are clearly on the borders of conceptual divinity, so much so that I believe it was St. Catherine of Sienna who proclaimed that everything that she was, was God. (Sorry I cannot find the quote.)
          This post does not supply explanations or definitions: it wasn't meant to do so. There is much that I could have said for which there is little time or space. There are many developments I could have pursued, but that might have entailed gilding the lily. What I have tried to do here is to offer a different approach, an alternative model of the Self that is more holistic, in the hope that some questions may more easily be answered, some understanding may be gained. But in the end it is experience that must be paramount, not words.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Iceland: A Very Personal Experience

          I suppose I first became aware of this liminal experience, some years ago whilst walking on a beach in the northern island of New Zealand. Whilst photographs of the region show clear demarcations between beach, sand dunes, ocean and distant hills, my abiding memory is very different. It is one in which there is no clear distinction between the various parts of the scene; there was no clear form. It was as if the world were in a process of manifestation, a world neither one thing nor the other. It was a world in process.
          As we approached the coast of Iceland in our most recent journeyings, I was struck by the liminal surreality of what I was experiencing. Below me was what appeared to be a snowy ice cap, delineated by a sharp, black line - the shore. I felt I was moving into a new, unknown realm. As our stay extended, day by day, I realised that this was not a new, unknown realm, but one which I have been experiencing ever more clearly as the years and months and, most certainly, the recent weeks have passed. I will try to explain.
          At this time of the year, Iceland is a land of low light levels, a country sitting barely south of the Arctic Circle. It sits in a borderland. To the south is all that which sees change occurring twice daily, whilst to the north is that which which changes twice annually. One area sees the midday sun, the other the midnight sun. Somewhere between the two sits Iceland. In the cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean there lies a split between two great tectonic plates. From the heated interior of the Earth boils lava into the cold, wild and heavy ocean. And in the borderlands between the two there is life....Life! On top of the great ridge sits a mountain that seems forever to be splitting apart......Iceland.
          From the cold depths of space flows the solar wind originating from truly titanic outbursts from the sun. At some point in its journey, that solar wind interacts with the Earth's protective shield. Stupendous outpourings of energy. And it is close. Beautiful, yes! And also dangerous. That night, standing under the Northern Lights, at the bottom of a vast tunnel reaching up into the heavens, is one I will never forget. It was (thank you Natalie) a night of amazement. So small, so powerless, was I, yet.......
          I could go on and on offering examples of my awareness of living in these borderlands, of walking on the liminal edge. But there is something more important yet. As humans, we are adept at, or highly predisposed towards, projecting our inner worlds onto the outer, material world. And the distinction between the two worlds is not as clearly defined as one might expect or, I suspect, as clearly defined as one would like. The great 'out there' can only be experienced through our brain/mind complex. In that sense, everything is 'in here.' It almost seems that if there were any kind of guidance operating at all, I was in Iceland to understand a great truth, a truth that required my inner eyes to be wide open.
          There is another land with indistinct borders, the land of the mind. It is our way to chop the mind up into bits so that we can better understand it. Yet, in reality - and because it is all part of a process of becoming (or so I think) - the borders we construct are artificial. Consciousness is different from unconsciousness, but the inbetween place is blurry and indistinct; it is without form as if the unconscious is trying to become manifest. My consciousness exists in the lowering light which shows a little more awarefully the darkness of my unconsciousness. It is said that there lives - and life abounds at all levels - a place where all our repressed and suppressed memories live on, memories and traumas that have great power. Yet hardly too distinct from that is another place of great power, and one in which exists, what I would like to call, impresenced awareness.
          Between the world of consciousness and that of unconsciousness, there runs a path, a narrow and strait path. It runs between the mountain heights and the great Abyss. It is a path which I am obliged to travel whether I choose or not. This is living. It is a path that separates false security from the frightful powers of the depths of reality. For although the Way may be filled with excitement, joy, happiness and the peace of letting go, it is also a place of great fear. Consciousness does not make the choice as to when we are subjected to the one or the other.
          That path or Way travels through the veils of indistinction that hang between the lower or ego-self on the one hand, and the higher or true self on the other. The ego-self seeks knowledge and safety, the higher self seeks "knowing" and the risk of awareness of reality. It is a path, I realise now, I have walked for years without understanding, without feeling, without knowing. This is what I needed to see. I have found what I needed to find, what was there all the time.
          The inner journey continues. Why it must be like this I don't know. Yet this is how it has to be. I sense a surging upwards in my being which is my Being. I no longer work to my own agenda, but to the agenda of that which seems to live its life through me. How truly amazing life is.
          In the darkened dawn of Keflavik, with the snow ploughs out clearing the ground, an aeroplane took off and flew us south. There is always, or so it seems, a need to return; and I was returning to my physical home, as also I must now return to the silence of my inner "home." What I have taken with me from Iceland I have tried to share. In the end the real experience, my experience of reality, is ineffable. Yet we are all in this together, knowingly or not. Of that I am certain.