The perception of memory

I slowed to let the young lad on the bicycle pull out onto the roundabout. That looks like… I raised my hand to wave to my son’s friend and instantly realised my mistake. It might have been his son, but it certainly was not the boy I had known. It couldn’t be… he would be in his thirties now and this youngster was little more than a child. Even worse, he looked like my son’s best friend when we had first known him, almost twenty years ago, not as I had last seen him a couple of years ago, well over six foot tall and as broad as a tank.

Memory is a funny thing. I recalled a recent conversation where we had discussed how the images that we hold in our minds of people we know are not always accurate. Sometimes we picture them from a single moment in time, often the first time we met them. Sometimes we build up a composite picture, snapshots from across the years we have known them, all melded together and occasionally shifting from one angle to the next. Then again, we always look through the eyes of emotion, seeing a face that may reflect more about the true depth and nature of our feelings for that person than what they actually look like.

Memory and emotion are intimately linked. When we look back from the now, we see both events and people through the emotional eyes of the then. Our memory of events will inevitably be skewed, coloured by the emotions of that moment, rather than being the accurate record we think we hold. In many ways, that does not matter; what we remember is true… for us, as whatever we recall is what will have affected us as we moved through that moment and forward into the rest of our lives.

Some of those impressions will change us for the better, teaching us love, happiness, hope and understanding. They are gifts upon which we will build, little by little, for we are made of such fragments of memory, each one adding, as we grow, to the picture of who we will become. Some of them will leave a darker mark and a deeper scar, especially when we are very young, when we are not always equipped with the experience to see beyond the surface and simply react to the emotions.

Take, for example, the very small child who does something to upset his parents. He does not truly understand, only that he has upset them. He may feel he has let them down and disappointed them. His parents may simply be doing their best to teach the child or keep him safe… but the child cannot comprehend the adults’ motives. He only knows he has failed them…and that is what he feels. He feels it too when he knocks a glass of water over at school and the teacher is disappointed in him… That feeling is stored away as memory and becomes one of the most formative moments for him, though his parents may well have forgotten what was to them just a minor incident.

The child grows, always feeling that he can/has/will let his parents down. He does not necessarily remember the incident either, but its effects are carved on his heart. He tries hard, harder… so much so that he almost inevitably ‘fails’ to achieve his goals, in his own eyes at least, though to all others he seems to be doing well. That insecurity, that feeling of never being able to make his parents proud may go on to colour the rest of his life, actions and future relationships… and neither he, nor his parents, will ever know where it came from.

It is a tragedy that is played out in a hundred different forms, through almost all of our lives.

It is not always what we do that matters, but how it makes other people feel. It is that which imprints itself on their memory. Yet we are not responsible for how others interpret our words and actions, that responsibility lies solely with them. For ourselves, we can only act with consideration and thought, letting empathy be our guide. We will not always get it right… and if we did, we would learn nothing, but we can try.

But what to do about all those invisible scars that have formed and created fragile places in our hearts and minds? A trained therapist might take you safely back into the trauma of childhood dealing with the perceived events and the misconceptions that may have arisen. For most of us, that is probably a step too far and rather unnecessary… we are who we have become, based on our experience of life so far. It doesn’t really matter what or where the cause, what matters is to see the patterns that have formed and begin to address those that are having a negative impact on our lives and wellbeing.

One of the ways we begin that journey in the Silent Eye is to break down the human personality into ‘bite-sized’ pieces so that we can learn to understand them, relate to them… and see how, where and if they relate to our own lives.

We do not have to delve into the deep and murky memories that are buried beneath the weight of years. We do not have to reopen painful wounds. We can simply find the effects and work with them until we can see that the bars they have placed around us no longer hold us. We can learn to see them as gifts, for every experience adds to the richness and depth of our personalities and our possibilities of understanding both ourselves and each other. In this way we can free ourselves from old misunderstanding and, like a flower when the shadows of weeds are removed, grow to our full potential with a better knowledge of who we truly are.

 

Death and the Salesman

We need to understand death and not fear it…

In a few short weeks it will be September. We (the Silent Eye) have been invited to speak at the Unitarian Society of Psychical Studies annual conference at the Nightingale Centre in Derbyshire.

We use this lovely place for our main annual event in April each year. We had our official ‘birth’ there in 2013. It is a very special place to us, and so we were delighted to be asked to be one of this year’s speakers. The Unitarians are an open-minded church and for their annual Psychical Research event they wanted to have someone give them an ‘esoteric view’ on their key topic… which is Life after Death.

The lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow

It’s useful to spend some time establishing our own thoughts on this – and hence this blog. The Silent Eye does not have specific ‘death teachings’, but that’s only because each person needs to approach what should be life’s most spiritual event for themselves. Throughout our folk-history, tales have been told that it is only possible to accompany a dying person ‘so far down that valley’. After that, we must journey alone…

To have a clear mind on death, we need to hold a number of perspectives, and then try to synthesise them. They include the question of what life is, and how its is organised – biologically and psychologically. Then there is the very real idea of the self and the notion of the Self – the higher ‘self’, built during life by what the Buddhism calls ‘right action’, and driven by impulses that are not purely biological. This latter consideration brings with it the idea of the falling away of the boundaries of the body, but the potential of the retention of the essence of a person, albeit without the ability to ‘do’ any longer – at least in the world of the physical.

One thing is certain: to begin to understand death, we must have a deep understanding of life. They are often referred to as opposite sides of the same coin, but, as with many sayings, the over-familiarity of the metaphor takes away what should a trigger to a depth of thought. If death is the twin of life but different, then what’s the difference?

The most precious attributes I possess are my living vitality and my sense of self. The body is a precious gift from all the life that has gone before me on the living Earth. My body is made up of cells, each of which carries in its DNA the organic wisdom – or success story – of what has worked before. I am therefore the inheritor of literally billions of years of ‘what works’, passed through to me by the ones who loved me the most, by a planet which, in my beliefs, also has a composite intelligence and whose life is part of the Sun’s life, as a member of the solar system – the balancing ‘negative’ to the solar positive.

My immediate experience of life is that of my body, but layered over by my self. I’m likely to be far more concerned with the fact that I’ve just cut my face shaving, than with the inheritance of billions of years of biological continuation. I shouldn’t be, but that’s the truth. The self has inherited a complex response network, centred in the brain, that behaves as though the organic mechanisms are there for its entitled continuance and shouldn’t bother it – while it gets on with drinking that favourite red wine with a well cooked steak for dinner…

The self has likes and dislikes. Some of them are linked to survival and are very strong – like the reaction to being burned as a child, which drives my future relationship to flame or heat. This goes beyond preference (French mustard or not with my steak) and into the ‘keep me alive and healthy’ mechanisms. Only when the flow of my normal day is interrupted by, say, the arrival of the knowledge that I have a serious disease, do I begin to expand my sense of self to include all the worlds that are ‘me’. That’s not strictly true, of course. I can seek that expansion any time I want… but I’ll have to work; to put effort into something that is not normally part of my reward system.

In doing that, I might be considered to be ‘growing my soul’, my highest nature. There is a sense of permanence about what is produced when we invest in a higher purpose like this. That feeling of inner growth stays with us, like a the learning of a new language. Our organic nature has not changed, but our sense of self – of Self, possibly – has grown.

Religions are someone else’s idea of spirituality. The only one that should really matter to ‘me’ is my own, because my own will become my truth of dying, whether I like it or not… and most of us try to avoid that for as long as possible, because dying appears to be the end of everything we love, struggles and all.

Religions can create caring communities and have great value if seen like this; but they can also be prisons of someone else’s values. At the same time, the moral values of the west have seldom been under as much threat as they are at present, and we can clearly see how the ‘good’ is being tested in the face of a chaos driven by out of control egoic behaviour.

Wisdom is a hard thing to define, but essential for civilisation; and civilisation is our only hope of working in truth with our beautiful planet.

What am ‘I’, then?

‘I’ am a unique collection of cells made up, literally of the stuff of exploded suns from billions of years ago. In many important ways, my life as a ‘bubble’ seems to mirror that of the smallest cells of which I am composed, and which learned to work together to form what is now my body, hundreds of thousands of years ago.

There is a mirror of learning between the objective (the physics, chemistry, biology and what demonstrably is) and the evolving self – singularly and in society – civilisation. This process of learning is based upon a separation. I live within an ‘in-here’, believing that I am separate from the ‘out-there’. This experienced and very real division is necessary for me to strengthen a self that can describe and hold the essence of its relationship with what is my world. This living description is of great value – and not just to myself.

Many years ago as a Rosicrucian student, I read this sentiment: “Some would say that, in the reverse of what is normally believed, a person is an island of death in a sea of life.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but now, finally, I do… And what it means is the secret to the the end of all fear.

Some of the most powerful truths of what we are have come to us from the civilisation that gave us Yoga – as both inner and outer disciplines. ‘Discipline’ is important, for we must work to find and then strengthen what we ‘are’ – truly and not with self-illusion. The word ‘yoga’ means union.

The Silent Eye’s enneagram is used as map of the journey from personality to soul, or expressed more accurately, from self to Self

In our own system of self-discovery the Silent Eye uses certain archetypes, found within a map of our lives called the Enneagram (above). Each person has a unique map. Once these are discovered within us, they become friends on an inner journey; gradually revealing their deeper natures and showing us the keys to our own being. Over time, one of these will become a dominant figure, revealing our own driving characteristics, positive and negative.

In my own case, I am (to give it a self-deprecating title) the ‘salesman‘ of this inner pattern of the egoic self. I’m lots of other things, too, but that remains the pattern of my egoic nature, my personality… and this, with some of the dross burned away, has formed the toolset with which I now work to teach the directed evolution of the life-balance of outer and inner living. Each of us has this dominant (but different in each case) set of characteristics. Its refinement is empowering and involves a deep contact with the individual soul whose outer layers it is…

The system known as Yoga has also given the western world many gifts. A good example is the secret of looking at breathing differently. Put simply, each breath is a mirror of the whole of life. We take into our ‘selves’ what is not us. Breath belongs to a collective life that excludes none. When we breathe in, it lends itself and its life-sustaining force to this bubble of individualised life that is us. For that to be so, there must be a great importance – to Nature – about what happens inside that bubble, that ‘in-here’. The harvest of the higher, non-organic things inside that bubble is the justification of the great cost to Nature of sustaining that individual life…

At death, the individual life inside the bubble drops away, opening to the magnificence of the All-Being. There may still be important divisions in that realm, but they will not work as the brain works. The brain is gone, as is our personal memory. Reasoning from cause to effect is gone. Time will be a different thing. The Universe is Life and does what it wills, creating the new now, eternally, in a realm where everything is interlinked. Fear will be a distant and fading memory… but joy won’t.

I have resisted personal ‘pictures’ of what happens at death. But, in writing this, a great sense of both belonging and humour arose in me… and with it a picture. I must speak symbolically, and in the language of one of my favourite life-affirming cultures: ancient Egypt.

At my death, an Isis-like figure will undress me, discarding the layers of my physicality, like used bandages. Possibly with a bit of help , she will open my eyes and turn me to face the great father of the deep who will smile and ask me if I have a heavy or a light heart. If my heart is light with the joy of the life lived, he will ask me to tell him about my life, so that he may add my story to his vast collection of how the Creation looks from within. After that, there will only be his voice, with the dancing and eternal presence of my song as an added part of what he is… But the salesman’s story will have made a small but important difference… As will yours.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Golden Eye of Fiveness (2)

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Sunflower florets are arranged in a natural spiral having a Fibonacci sequence, with different values for clockwise and anticlockwise rotation. Image Wiki CC by SA 2.5 L. Shyamal – Own work.

In Part One, we looked at a very simple sequence of numbers that ‘orbited’ or homed-in on a certain value. Now we need to examine that value and look at the sheer magic of what it represents.

 

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The ‘planet’ which has captured our spaceship emerges in the third line of black numbers from the Fibonacci sequence.

This new number was 1.618. It’s derivation is summarised in the diagram above, and described in the previous post. Simply: (red numbers) we add the two previous numbers to get the next. Next: (green numbers) we offset the first line of numbers one place to the right and, using a calculator to three decimal places, we treat the offset numbers of fractions, one number above the other. The third (black) line gives the calculator results, which stabilise at 1.618.

The ‘series’ that generates it – known as the Fibonacci series – came into existence at the time the world was abandoning the old and (by then) clumsy Roman notation (I, II, IV etc) and moving to the Arab-derived numerals that we use today.

The special number 1.618 is known by many names, such a the Golden Ratio and the Golden Mean. It is a number that shows us how we can divide something to protect its ‘wholeness’ in a harmonic way. By doing this, the divided figure will always exhibit pleasing proportions when placed next to (or within) the ‘parent’ figure. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci used it, extensively, in his most famous pictures.

But there are much deeper implications to this than something that looks or feels good, important though that is.

The materialist sees the world as having numbers by virtue of an ‘accident’ that they fit how we see and describe things. The mystic looks for the experience of ‘oneness’ with the processes that created the universe. You can’t find that experience unless you look for it. The universe owes us no debt of making it happen in our minds and hearts – the search must be ours… then the doors of perception will be opened.

Imagine that we have a strip of paper that we are going to divide by cutting with scissors. Let’s say the length of the initial strip is represented by the letter ‘A’. When we cut the strip we will have three values: the initial length (A); and the lengths of the two pieces we produce. We can name the two ‘child’ pieces (a) – the longest, and (b) – the shortest.

Under all circumstances, the original length (A) would be equal to the sum of the two children (a+b) . We can write this A=b+c, the most simple kind of ‘equation’ we could every want to see.

The miraculous Fibonacci number (given the name Phi in the 20th century) gives us the means to divide the original strip of paper such that the longer of the two child pieces bears the same relationship (ratio) to the original strip, as the larger child does to the smaller…

We can keep on doing this – cutting each successive larger portion – with smaller and smaller divisions of the original strip of paper. The whole ‘creation’ will be in harmonic proportions. This generation of smaller and smaller ‘harmonic’ children is called self-similarity.

Nature uses ‘Phi’ all the time. The recent science of Fractals shows how essential self-similar division is for nature to achieve its purposes. A tree is a fractal, for example, as are our lungs. Our blood vessels can carry oxygen to our cells because they follow fractal rules of becoming smaller and smaller within the finite space of our bodies. Only by using such structures can incredibly large processes fit into small spaces. The generation of Phi is not a fractal process, but it perfectly illustrates the marvel of the related fractal structures in nature.

Examples of this in nature include the petals of flowers, such as the sunflower, and the spirals of nautilus sea shells… But there are innumerable examples.

So, how would we actually work out the Phi-derived point of where to cut our twenty-unit strip of paper? We can arrange the self-similar formula so that we have a quadratic equation to solve, but where’s the fun in that!

Instead, we can look at the workings of the older graphical method carried out with the use of compass and straight edge. This brings home the inclusive and ‘connective’ nature of working by hand and is illustrated below:

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The horizontal line A-B is the length of paper we wish to divide into the harmonic proportions given by the Fibonacci-derived Phi number 1.618. In this example, the length is 20 units.

To begin, we imagine we have turned the base line (A-B) into a square of four sides and select its right-hand vertical halfway point.

To shorten this, I have simply created point C at the correct half-value (10). The compass is placed on point C and set to the distance of C-B. We begin to draw an upward arc from B to the intersection with the hypotenuse A-C. We then set the compass to a base at the origin – A, and extend its pencil to the previous intersection with the hypotenuse. This time we draw downwards until the curve intersects with the original length A-B. The point of crossing is the length of the largest ‘child’ as above.

The length value, the golden ratio, gives us a new ‘longest child’ length of 12.36 units. We could cut at this point. The relationship of the larger child to the smaller is the same relationship as the original full length to the largest child.

This process could be repeated to infinity using the successive larger pieces. The entire family of larger pieces would inherit the divine proportions of the ‘mother’ length.

In the final post, next week, we will examine how the pentagram combines all the above properties into a single figure of dynamic value to mankind.

Other posts in this series:

One This is Two.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Light between the Railway Carriages

The light between the railway carriages…

It was one of the best analogies I ever had given to me; yet it took me years to grasp its fullness. Like any true seed of ‘spiritual’ insight, it was strong enough to lie on the rock till a little pocket of earth developed beneath – a receptive place into which it could extend its roots.

We all grow up thinking, without question, that ‘thought’ is continuous, and the basis for our ‘in-here’ existence. It may take a lifetime to see that the thought-machine that fronts our world is our own creation and coloured with our thinking and emotional history. This colouration paints ‘the’ world, making it our world, familiar in its likes and dislikes, fears and moments of courage – many of them unobserved, except by that mysterious watcher within us.

The world we inhabit is therefore the sum total of our reactions to everything that has happened to us. Many of these reactions protect us – like knowing not to put our hands onto something burningly hot; others fill us with prejudice against threats that are not present in our moment.

The ocean in which this history exists is the internal ‘field’ of our thoughts.

‘Look, there’s a cherry-blossom tree!’ We cry, imposing the history-carrying words over the raw and beautiful experience of the reality. Names are useful, but they also pre-program our seeing. Knowing this, we can work backwards if we choose, and repeatedly use the word so that it temporarily loses its meaning. We may then find ourselves on the edge of a kind of fear. Have we damaged our brain’s memory of what a cherry-blossom tree is?

Of course not… but staying within that uncertainty may teach us something.

Just seeing how the mind takes that defensive stance is instructive. If, instead of allowing that fear, we carry on with the exercise and spend a ‘mute’ few minutes next to the ever-changing perfection of the tree, we may experience the gap – the light – between the railway carriages of the train of consciousness thundering by on its eternal and dominating journey.

In those precious moments, we may see that there is a landscape beyond the noisy and flashing train, one that comes slowly into focus and reveals itself as a very different place, yet one to which we are, most certainly, closely related – since we and it are now still… gazing upon each other in a new way.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Being present

It was weird. I had set up the blog for while I was away with every post I would usually publish. During my absence, I still managed to visit the blogs I would usually read and answered all the comments. In fact, there was absolutely nothing to show I was not at home and at my desk. Even so, the number of page views halved. That happens every so often for no apparent reason and it is not worth even thinking about. This time, though, the stats had been that way for exactly the duration of my absence. I can understand the change when it is obvious that I am away, when posts and responses might be erratic, but on this occasion, there was nothing at all to even hint that I might not be at home.

“So, in effect,” said my friend as I pondered the enigma, “the only thing that is different is your presence.” He was right and that was an interesting idea. There was no observable alteration in my usual routine, but somehow, my lack of presence was communicating itself.

I suppose it is the same sort of thing as when you are speaking to someone who makes all the right noises at the right moments, but who is not really listening. They may be genuinely preoccupied with something else, or simply not interested, but what they are not is present… and you can feel it.

That you can feel it is easy enough to explain in terms of those infinitesimal changes in tone and body language that we learn to read from the earliest age. But you can generally feel it just as clearly even without the visual and auditory cues. Silence and stillness can communicate presence just as powerfully as they can show disinterest… so I got to thinking about the whole idea of being present.

 

We talk a lot about ‘living in the present’…as if we could ever live anywhere else. We might focus on the past or future, but we can only be in the present. Are we always present though? The answer, for most of us, is ‘probably not’. We spend a lot of our time living on autopilot… a useful knack for routine actions, but not the most effective way to drink the essence of every moment. Our attention, instead of being open wide, is either tight-beamed onto one focus or so diffuse that we take in no more than a general impression. Either way, we can miss not only the details but the heart of the moment too.

Many of us are not even present to our own professed beliefs. We say the words, without paying them a great deal of attention, but fail to put into practice what we truly believe we believe. Most of us are horrified by examples of injustice, prejudice and cruelty… and most of us will be guilty of them at some point in our lives. Teachings of love and kindness are ignored in the pursuit of success, ambition can overrule conscience and ego blinds us to our own reflection.

One of the things we do in the Silent Eye course is to share techniques to combat this lack of presence, and even the simplest exercises can dramatically increase our sense of ‘being here’ and our awareness of the world around and within us. It is surprising how small the changes need to be to open ourselves to being aware of our own presence in the moment. I wonder if it was through some trace of far memory or prescience that we learned to call a ‘present’ a ‘gift’…

For there is another kind of Presence too, that is only felt as we learn to be present. Call it what you will, define it as you must… it is heard in that still, small voice within, that echoes across eons and touches heart, mind and soul, opening the doors of perception to a wider experience of life.

In your own words…

There is a long tradition in esoteric circles of keeping a journal. It is a tradition to which Companions of the Silent Eye adhere, making a record of the thoughts, questions and realisations that arise from their own meditations and the work of the correspondence course.  There are many reasons for doing this, from the simple discipline of writing down these ideas to ‘earth’ them, helping to fix them in memory… for like dreams, such tenuous thoughts can easily dissipate…to leaving a record that might just help someone else who comes after us and reads them one day. Their most important function, though, is as a record for the writer.

When engaged on this inner journey, we stumble into strange areas of the mind, heart and soul and, like a traveller on an unknown path, we may bring back traces of meaning like dust upon our feet. We do not always know the value of what we carry until much later, when we and our understanding have begun to grow.

I picked up one of my early journals and, as is often the way, things written long ago come to my eyes as if written by another hand and heart. Meaning leaps from the page, revelations lurk behind each word and understanding dawns as if for the first time. And yet, the words which bring these gifts are my own.

How could I write what I did not understand? Where did the words arise to capture such ephemeral wisps of thought? Ideas, teachings, wisdom I do not possess stare back at me from the page as if they have materialised from some other reality where the hand that wrote them had far greater depth than I. And yet, I know that hand was mine.

The words written years ago have become part of the yellowed paper. Thoughts were manifested within the letters scrawled across the page. They have not changed. Yet I might have written in invisible ink for all the understanding I had brought to what I wrote. So, what has changed? The only thing that can have changed is me. The years, the continuous learning curve of life, the multitude of experiences, knowledge gained and illusions lost… all contribute to a changed perspective from which many things look different now from how they looked then.

Some revelations are simply that transition from knowledge to understanding; from an abstract and intellectualised concept to a living awareness. Some ideas become clearer as we are distanced from them; we can be so close sometimes that we cannot see anything but the detail and the shift in perception afforded by the passage of time allows us to take a wider view. There are many things in those pages that I did not even know I knew, but on some level, at least, I must have done so or they would not now be staring back at me from the past. It is an interesting experience when you realise that you have become your own teacher.

Although, we always are. No matter what life gives us to work with, we can only shape what we can hold in awareness… what we can perceive… and our perception is not pure but clouded by the accumulated layers of experience and reaction that have built up around us, so that anything that comes to us is seen only ‘through a glass darkly’. It can be a lifetime and the devil’s own job to chip away that accretion and change our perspective, because, , first we have to realise how securely we have immured ourselves, and the walls built by our emotions can be a veritable bastion.

Occasionally, though, the mortar crumbles and a gleam of light blazes through, illuminating that which was before our eyes all the time and then we sit back in wonder at how we missed something so obvious that it shines. And yet, when the gem we have missed comes from our own pen, we have to wonder where it sprang from in the first place.

Perhaps it was there all along. Perhaps there is a part of each of us that Knows… that doesn’t need to seek the answers, but which needs our conscious mind and heart to seek the questions.

I think, that on some level of being, we do have both the questions and the answers. We just don’t realise that we do. We can spend a lifetime in our search, only to find that what we sought had never been lost. The words on these old pages are gifts laid unknowingly aside in our blindness, waiting, like slumbering seeds, to spring into life and bloom when we are ready.

WHAT’S UP DOC? Lines of communication III…

*

… Bugs… The small rabbit came closer to his companion, lolloping on long hind legs.

“Let’s go a bit further, Hazel,’ he said. “You know, there’s something strange about the warren this evening, although I can’t tell exactly what it is. Shall we go down to the brook?”

*

Cara… “All right, Fiver,” answered Hazel, “and you can find me a cowslip when we’re there. If you can’t find one, no-one can.”

*

Bugs… Hazel led the way down the slope, his shadow stretching behind him on the grass.

They reached the brook and began nibbling and searching beside the wheel-ruts of the track.

It was not long before Fiver found what they were looking for.

Cowslips are a delicacy among rabbits, and as a rule there are very few left by late May in the neighbourhood of even a small warren.

This one had not bloomed, and its flat spread of leaves was almost hidden under the long grass.

They were just starting on it when two large rabbits came running across from the other side of the near-by cattle-wade.

Fiver had already turned away.

*

Cara… Hazel caught up with him by the culvert, “I tell you what, let’s go across the brook. There’ll be fewer rabbits and we can have a bit of peace, so long as you think it’s safe?”

*

Bugs… “No, it’s safe enough,” answered Fiver. “If I start feeling there’s any danger I’ll tell you. It’s not danger I feel tonight, it’s, oh, I don’t know, something oppressive, like thunder. I’m not sure what, but it worries me. All the same, I’ll come across the brook with you.”

*

Cara… The two rabbits ran over the culvert.

The grass was wet and thick near the stream and they made their way up the opposite slope, looking for drier ground.

Part of the slope was in shadow, for the sun was sinking ahead of them, and Hazel, who wanted a warm, sunny spot, went on until they were quite near the lane.

As they approached the gate he stopped, staring…

“Fiver, what’s that? Look!”

*

Bugs… A little way in front of them, the ground had been freshly disturbed.

Two piles of earth lay on the grass.

Heavy posts reeking of creosote and paint, towered up as high as the holly trees in the hedge, and the board they carried threw a long shadow across the top of the field.

Near one of the posts, a hammer and a few nails had been left behind.

The two rabbits went up to the board at a hopping run and crouched in a patch of nettles on the far side, wrinkling their noses at the smell of a dead cigarette-end somewhere in the grass.

*

Cara… Suddenly Fiver shivered and cowered down. “Oh, Hazel! This it where it comes from! I know now – something very bad! Some terrible thing – coming closer and closer.”

He began to whimper…

*

Bugs… “What sort of thing – what do you mean?  I thought you said there was no danger? “

Cara… “I don’t know what it is,” answered Fiver wretchedly. “There isn’t any danger here, at this moment. But it’s coming – it’s coming. Oh, Hazel, look! The field! It’s covered in blood!”

*

Bugs… “Don’t be silly, it’s only the light of the sunset. Fiver, come on, don’t talk like this, you’re frightening me!”

*

Cara…The sun set behind the opposite slope.

The wind turned colder, with a scatter of rain, and in less than an hour it was dark.

All colour had faded from the sky and although the big board by the gate creaked slightly in the night wind, there was no passer-by to read the sharp, hard letters that cut straight as black knives across its white surface.

They said…

to be continued…

Non-linear thought

“How could they have known?”
This is a question I have often asked myself… how could those who have gone before us have known where to begin with an idea that has changed the human world. Take radio, for example. Wiki says that ‘James Clerk Maxwell showed in theoretical and mathematical form in 1864 that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space…’ That’s all well and dandy, but why and how did he ever start thinking along those lines in the first place? What was it that made him start looking for ways in which it might work? Where did he get the idea?

Where do ideas come from? You can imagine that faced, for instance, with a sealed can of beans, someone might come up with the idea of a can opener… but where did the idea of the tin can come from? Or, for that matter, the idea of pre-cooking already-preserved beans and putting them in metal tubes? You can see where necessity may have prompted that idea, but a can of beans is, after all, a small thing when placed against the grand scheme of human evolution. What about the big ideas? Those that have transformed the human condition and fuelled a leap forward in knowledge and understanding?

“Reverse reincarnation…” Stuart‘s descriptive definition was perhaps less than accurate, but it captured the essence of the conversation perfectly. It was one of those long and involved discussions where inspiration flows as freely as water. We had been talking about time, evolution and how the very first spark of an idea might come into being.

The concept of reincarnation is, for many, not so much a matter of faith but one of inexplicable certainty. A study conducted in 2016 by the Global Research Society and the Institute for Social Research suggests that over half the world’s population believes in some form of reincarnation. The details may vary, tradition to tradition, but the basic premise is the same. The soul, that fragment of the divine at the core of our being, returns life after life, in order to learn, assimilating the knowledge and understanding gleaned during each lifetime before moving on to the next.

It is a commonly held belief in esoteric circles that what has been learned in a previous life can be rapidly regained in this one if a person is exposed to the right circumstances. It has also been argued that those exceptionally gifted individuals, like child prodigies and those who bring something special to the world may have ‘carried over’ skills and talents acquired in former lifetimes.

We are accustomed to think of reincarnation as a linear progression over time, with souls coming into being early in the life of the earth and evolving with it. Perhaps a lifetime in ancient Egypt…always a favourite… followed by Rome, then the Dark Ages, the Renaissance…and so on. What, we wondered, if this was not the case?

Within the Mysteries, it has long been held that time is not linear, only our need for organised perception makes it appear so to the human mind. It might explain those glitches in memory we call déjà vu. Science puts it down to a processing fault in the mind where we only think we have recalled an event prior to its happening. If time is non-linear, perhaps the explanation is simpler than that and the phenomenon is merely a momentary widening of temporal perception.

The concept of non-linear time is now being ever more widely explored and accepted by reputable physicists and, while we of the ‘lunatic fringe’ may rejoice at science and mysticism approaching each other by yet another step, it does raise some interesting questions. Some of them can tie your mind in knots or make your head explode, but they are well worth exploring…

What, we thought, if non-linear time means that we do not necessarily reincarnate in a neat and linear fashion? If all time is but one time, we could begin a new life at any point in past, present or future. What if the man who made, say, the first radio, knew at some deep and unconscious level, that it could be done… because he had already experienced it in a previous but future life? It could explain the birth of so many incredible ideas and so many of the apparent leaps mankind has made over the millennia…

The conversation went on for some time becoming ever more complex and convoluted…and throwing up many more possibilities for consideration. But how could it possibly be of any use in day-to-day life to think that everything that will happen has already happened? There is little point in theoretical knowledge unless it can be applied and fulfil a practical purpose.

Within the Mysteries we are taught to ‘ask the question’…and that is where such theories may find their home. If the soul stands outside of temporal constraints and carries with it the essence of all experience, life upon life…and if time is not a straight line, heading off into the unseen distance…then we each carry within us all the answers we will ever need. ‘The answers are within you’ is one of those oft quoted phrases that may offer little practical help to life’s problems. Yet maybe it is more practical than it seems… and maybe those elusive answers really are within us, because we have already lived enough to know…

The go-ons and the come-ons…

Georgette Heyer is probably best known for her Regency romances and her knack of capturing an era and bringing it to light-hearted life. She also wrote detective novels and the two works for which I admire her the most… An Infamous Army, which is an account of the Battle of Waterloo and The Spanish Bride, about the Peninsula campaign of the Napoleonic wars. In both cases, the author builds her story around the lives of individuals, making the trials of the campaign personal and engaging the reader’s emotions.

In The Spanish Bride, Heyer tells the romantic and true story of Juana María de los Dolores de León, a child just out of the convent who was brought to the battlefield and consigned to the care of the British troops by her sister when their home was sacked after the fourth siege of Badajos. Fourteen year-old Juana was married a few days later to Harry Smith, a young officer with the 95th Rifles. It was no marriage of convenience, but a love-match and, refusing to be sent to England, Juana ‘followed the drum’, accompanying her firebrand of a husband on almost all of his campaigns.

Juana Maria de los Delores Ponce de Leon Smith, at the age of 17.

In spite of the romance of Juana and Harry Smith’s tale, the books are exceptionally well crafted. Heyer draws upon historical documents  and journals such as John Kinkaid’s ‘Adventures in the Rifle Brigade’ to capture the small details and atmosphere of the army on campaign. The books were responsible for an early fascination with the people who had lived and died during those wars and I spent a good deal of time as a teenager trawling through reference libraries to learn more about them in their own words.

Lt General Sir Harry Smith in later life

It is impossible, without delving back through those forgotten tomes, to say with any certainty which parts are dramatised fact and which are pure invention. One phrase that had a ring of truth came to mind, however,  when we were discussing the spiritual teachers, genuine and otherwise and how they gather a following in spiritual circles.

“The men say there are only two kinds of officers; the go-ons and the come-ons.”
Harry Smith in The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer.

The ‘go-ons and the come-ons’… it is an evocative phrase. In battle, it refers to the difference between those officers who lead the charge, inspiring their men to follow their example and those officers who stand safely behind the lines, urging the men onwards from the rear. There are practical considerations that may excuse the latter… but for the men in the field, risking their lives, it was clear that it was the ‘come-ons’, those officers who led from the front and shared the dirt and danger, who inspired the troops and gained their respect and loyalty.

It struck me how apt this phrase could be for describing some of those who become spiritual leaders and teachers. Most of them genuinely try to lead from the front… accepting their own role as no more than one amongst many, with just as much work to do as everyone else, teaching only that which they attempt to put into practice in their own lives. But there are undoubtedly a few ‘go-ons’… those who seem to sit safely ‘behind the lines’, raking in money and/or adulation from their followers, yet seeming to feel themselves above the need to adhere to their own teachings. Sadly, they can be very plausible too, presenting themselves as immaculate examples of humanity clad in souls of purest white.

Where does that leave the seeker trying to find a guide for those first steps on a spiritual journey? Myself, I think it leaves them in need of the very first of the ‘magical weapons’ with which he or she will have to gird themselves… wielding common sense in one hand and discernment in the other.

Spiritual teachings that speak directly to you can come from anywhere… a phrase in a book or conversation, an image or a dream, the lyrics of a song or poem… or even the life and land around you. You can stumble across them in the oddest places… and the source matters not at all. Only the effect on your life and understanding. The worst facets of human nature can still teach valuable lessons or be inadvertent agents of enlightenment… but you would not wish to follow their example.

The ideal situation for the seeker would be to follow the lead of that inner voice that never lies, but it is not always easy to hear above the ‘white noise’ of everyday life and uncertainty. Most of us will look for more accessible guidance in one form or another. It may be found in as abstract a manner as through the writings of a favourite author. We may seek it through a group or organisation…or we may choose to follow one of those charismatic people who are seen as spiritual teachers.

Before you commit your time, attention and energy to any path, system or organisation, let common sense be your guide. Does your chosen guide inspire you and lead you forward? Are they doing their best to walk the path they preach? Or do they make claims about themselves that make you feel uneasy? Ask for unreasonable contributions to their cause or coffers in either time or money? It is one thing to pay for a service, another altogether to be expected to put your wallet at their service.

It is to be expected that you should commit time to your progress and studies… you may have to buy books or pay for formal lessons, you will have to set aside time and attention for the work. You may choose to attend courses, seminars or workshops. But there is a vast difference between covering reasonable costs for which you can see a return and the demands made by those ‘prophets’ who appear to be pursuing nothing but profit.

Speak to other students or observe for yourself how or if their chosen path has changed them; the results of any spiritual path should be measurable. Those who  have walked away may not give the truest insight, but those who have followed any valid path should be marked by a growing joy, confidence and awareness of both themselves and the world. The best teachers are not always those who shine the brightest, but those who serve both their fellow seekers and the Light that guides us all.

The heart and the quiet inner voice will always lead us forward if we listen. The spiritual journey should not be a battle, but a joy… and the best guides we have are within.