First impressions…

I met a woman outside the village shop. We had the vaguest of acquaintance to begin with, a greeting over her garden fence, but enough, apparently, for her to decide she had reason to enquire after my entire family and circle of friends before starting to dig up anything she could about my past. It was done with eager curiosity, a toothless smile and no malice whatsoever. The lady is elderly and lives alone; she may simply have wanted the company, or someone to talk to… and possibly something to talk about when she next met her friends.

Walking home, I had to think about that. I had barely arrived when a knock on the door heralded the arrival of a couple of fresh-faced evangelists. Their interest was solely in my religious bias, not even the state of my soul. They did not seem intent on my salvation as much as coercing my cooperation. Brandishing the Bible under my nose they instructed me to pray in a particular manner for Government on Earth by God. Their perception of God, of course, not mine; they had no interest in that. They quoted Bible verses as if I knew nothing, assuming that I would know nothing, and seemed most disconcerted when I could quote them too. They had no interest whatsoever in listening to my view, or even my responses to their questions, only in promulgating their own.

The little old lady was sweet and made me smile, even though her questioning approached the third degree. I parried her curiosity as best I could and listened to her ailments. Although I had a lot to do, I was in no hurry to escape her. The evangelists looked earnest and tired. I can imagine that they had not been well received by the majority of doors upon which they had knocked. They were pleasant enough people, but the blinkers of their fervour placed a barrier between us through which no personality was allowed to shine. I might as well have been speaking with automata.

When we meet someone it is natural for us to be curious, I think. We like to know who it is that we are talking to, like to know something about the person behind the face, the clothes or the front door. Yet our assessment of whether or not we like someone seems to be made almost instantaneously, based not upon a detailed background knowledge of their life story, but simply on the ‘feel’ of them. Body language, a look in the eye, a smile… the ‘vibe’ we pick up from them. And perhaps what they reflect back at us of ourselves.

There is no need to give the third degree and question the past of a friend, their life’s journey is their own and those who become friends will share what they choose, when they choose, as the moment invites. Much is shared simply by them being who they are, without need for detail and history; their lives and choices, good, bad and indifferent; their stories, trials, successes and fears have shaped and made them who they are and it is who they are that we care about. Not who they have been, who they might have been or who they may yet become. Who they are right now, in this moment that they are spending with you, that is what matters.

There is not one of us who has not made mistakes, triumphed over something, suffered embarrassment, given joy or caused hurt to someone somehow. No-one goes through life without writing a story on the pages of time, and all stories call upon the gamut of human behaviour and emotion. Our relationships with people are seldom begun with a knowledge of that story, we simply reach out and ‘touch’ whether a person feels right or not in that first split-second of meeting and our smile or greeting will be warm, absent or polite in response to that feeling… and we are usually right.

And if that first impression is enough, why do we need the inquisition? I have known and loved friends others have disliked; it doesn’t matter at all who was wrong and who was right in their assessment of a character, what matters is whether the friendship was true. We look beyond the surface with a deeper understanding than facts and reason when we exchange that first smile of friendship. We ‘know’ that person in a way we cannot explain and which may bear little relation to the facts of their life or ours.

My little old lady and I will now exchange smiles and talk when we see each other again. The evangelists, their own human warmth closed and curtailed by their mission, I would probably not recognise in the street if I saw them. It felt as if they had not seen me as a person nor had they opened themselves for me to see. I found that sad, an opportunity missed. It seemed as if in opening my door, a door had closed between us. Perhaps they are so used to dismissal or antagonism that their personal shields are up. Or perhaps they had simply looked and not liked what they found. Those first impressions work both ways.

The unseeing eye…

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I had an email with a biblical reference. Not having read the passage to which he referred in any depth for as long as I can remember, but knowing the story as we pretty much all do, I picked up the Bible and started to read Genesis. I was looking for the particular verses to which the email referred, but read, with growing amazement, the details of a story I had never truly seen. And I have read the Bible cover to cover… skipping the genealogies I must add… as well as referring to it frequently in the course of my own studies and research.

It was what, in modern parlance, I can only call one of those WTF moments…

Don’t misunderstand here…I am not picking at the Bible or Christianity, but at something entirely different in the way we choose to see the world. Bear with me…

We all know the story of how the devil in the form of a serpent tempts Eve with the forbidden fruit. She takes it, shares it with Adam, they realise they are naked and go for the fig leaves. God finds out and ejects them from Eden. That is probably pretty much the story as many of us will know it. It is certainly how I was taught it in Sunday School. I knew there was more to it than that… I’d read the book after all.

I was initially just scanning through looking for the references. Then realised I would have to go back to the start and read it properly… with attention. For a start, I could find no mention of the devil, just the serpent, ‘more subtle’ than any of the other beasts. No mention of evil at all in fact, except in that the serpent ‘beguiled’ Eve… or so she tells God when questioned, after Adam has cast the blame on her. It seems responsibility wasn’t a strong trait in Eden.  But even before that, a phrase had caught my eye in Genesis 2:7 that stopped me in my tracks. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” I had never noticed that before… a living soul… It made me think… it is a very evocative choice of words.

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Then God tells Adam he may eat of all the fruit in the garden except one tree, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Given that this is God speaking, we can assume He wasn’t telling lies. Yet Adam did not die… he lived, yet the nature of his living changed; by being cast out of Eden to walk upon the Earth you could say he ‘died’ to one state of being and was ‘born’ into another.

Between the words of the serpent and the words of God, the nature of the tree of knowledge itself  is revealing. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evilsaid the serpent to Eve.  And then God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…..” I had to read that bit twice… how on earth could I have missed that? Why was it not part of the common version of the story?

Finally Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden and then “did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them…” So Adam has gone from a ‘living soul’, to ‘one of us’ (and that ‘us’ really begs a few questions…) and is finally clothed in skin… incarnated?… to walk the earth.

Now, I am not about to go into the whole train of thought that crossed my mind here. Much of it must be evident from the comments. What really left me astounded was how very different the actual story is from the one we are generally taught. The one I thought I knew pretty well… the one, I happily admit to having read. How on earth had I, could I have, missed all that?

As we grow our understanding deepens and we can see more in the meaning of a tale, but I had missed even the words themselves it seems. It is also true that understanding comes when the time is ripe. But I had not even seen that there was anything unseen. My assumption of knowledge blinkered me.

In the Silent Eye we ask students to question everything. Yet there was I, decades on, still blithely accepting what I was taught as a small child and even worse, that very act of acceptance had blinkered me to seeing what is really written in that story. How many things do we hold on to in error and blindness? I can’t help but wonder today how many of the things we accept and take for granted in life generally are intrinsically wrong, forged by acceptance into a semblance we recognise, a form which does not in fact reveal, but hides the truth. Question everything? Yes, and perhaps we should begin with our own perceptions and ourselves.

Divination by the book

There is an ancient art of divination known as bibliomancy…divination by books. It has been around a long time…the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, has been in use for at least three thousand years, and who knows how much further back the practice began. The idea was to take a book that is considered to hold truth and allow it to point the way in random fashion.

In more recent centuries, the most common method of bibliomancy in his country used the Bible and, during our visits to churches, following the trail that led us on our adventures, Stuart and I have made a habit of consulting those Bibles we have found on the lecterns.

It isn’t true bibliomancy… we are not exactly doing it by the book…that would require us to let the closed book balance upon its spine and fall open at a random page. Many of these church bibles are old and fragile, so we content ourselves with looking at the open pages, or seeing where the bookmark is placed. The intent is not quite the same either…we do not ascribe magical powers to the printed page..at least not in that particular way… but we have found that the first verse or passage to which the eye is drawn will usually hold something pertinent to where we are on the quest.

A psychologist might suggest that the eye selects what is relevant…I wouldn’t argue with that. What is odd though, is it how frequently the selected verse will shed light on a current problem or clue on the quest. It is as if the mind knows what is needed at some deep level and uses the printed page as an interface through which the deeper levels of mind can communicate with the surface, effectively spelling out for you what you already know but do not realise or understand.

“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:47

That was the verse that caught my eye in the little church in Blore. I pondered it as I wandered the church, taking photographs and studying the mosaic of glass in the window. There were many ways to interpret the phrase beyond the obvious or literal, but, for this to have any relevance, there is usually another clue…and I found it in the window. The largest fragments show the story of St Anne teaching the Virgin to read.

It is a common motif in medieval art and the legends of Mary’s early life and the origins of those stories make interesting reading in themselves. But, spiritual and biblical interpretations aside, the verse and image combined made perfect sense. It is odd, because depending upon which translation or version of the Bible you read, the sense of this verse may be completely changed by the addition of a comma or a slight change of phrasing. In this version, the interpretation is equivocal, but I read it as saying, “What right has anyone to judge another’s readiness when we are all equal.”

Along with the image of St Anne teaching her daughter, I took that to mean that what we know, we should share…not withhold because it makes someone feel superior to have knowledge others do not possess or because we might think another is not ready to hear it. At worse, unreadiness will not have the understanding to know what to do with what it learns, at best, it will take a leap forward and grow.

It is something seen all too often, that knowledge becomes a weapon of superiority, serving nothing but the ego of the player who keeps their cards to their chest. Knowledge alone serves no purpose without the experience that brings understanding… and the verse had a point; by what right do we judge another’s worth in the bigger picture? What we see in any man or woman is no more than the tip of the iceberg; what lies beyond our vision may be far greater than we realise. We are all recipients of the Holy Spirit… our kinship with each other goes beyond the chemical and physical matter of our bodies.

Does that mean we should give every scrap of knowledge to everyone we meet, robbing them of the chance to learn it for themselves? There is another pertinent verse from the same tome that comes to mind, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. I think that therein lies the clue.

I always believed in answering the questions that my children put to me as honestly and fully as I could. I might speak in terms I knew they would understand, language relevant to their age, but I told them the truth as I understood it. Because that is another problem with exclusivity where knowledge is concerned…regardless of any personal certainties, we could be wrong.

In the Mysteries, it has always been the maxim that if a student can formulate the question, they should be answered. In practical terms, we always have the inner self to whom we can carry those questions even when there is no-one else… and such questions are always answered. Even though you may have to open a book or look at the world in order to find them.

The churches have been off the menu for a while as we have put the books aside to work on more pressing tasks. It is odd that in this, the first new church we have visited in a long time, the message should hit home so directly. Perhaps this bit of bibliomancy was also a nudge to take up our staffs and pens and get back to work.

Stella Interiori

‘…One becomes Two, Two becomes Three…

And out of the Third comes One as the Fourth…’

– Mary the Prophetess.

77Figure 1 – Plate One of Duvet’s Apocalypse.

The Apocalypse of St John serves as more than just a Coda for the New Testament.
Its constant cycling and recyclying of ‘sevens’ also re-works the creation of Genesis,
subsequent Hebraic festal traditions and the calendrical speculations of the Prophets.
We give below a taste of the seven-fold structure which runs throughout the whole of the mighty work…

“It was on the island of Patmos.
I was meditating on the seventh day when I heard behind me a voice as of many waters, “I am the beginning and end, first and the last.”

I turned to see who it was that spoke and I saw a figure resembling the Son of Man.
He was standing in the middle of seven golden candlesticks.
His beard and his hair were like white wool
And his eyes were flames of fire.
His countenance was bright, as the sun when it shines at its height.
He was clothed in a long white robe
And wore a golden girdle about his breast.
In his right hand he held seven stars.

His words rang out of his mouth clearly with the poignancy of a double-edged sword:

“I am he that lives and was dead.
I possess the keys to death and hell.
I shall live forever more.”

I fell down at his feet and they were like fine-brass forged in a furnace.

He laid his hands upon me, “You must write down all you see in a book, and send it
to the Seven Churches of Asia.
Let all the churches know that I am he who searches the reins of the heart and gives to every one, according to their works. Tell them to remember from whence they have fallen, to return to their first love lest I come upon them like a thief and remove their candlestick from its place, thus speaks the ‘Amen’: ‘I know your works, I know that you have a name, I know that you live, and yet, you are as the dead!’

To the guardian of the Church of Ephesus write,
‘He that is the beginning and end, first and the last says this:
‘I know your labours and your patience, yet this I have against you, that you love the Deeds of the Nicolaitans which I hate.
Turn within!
For to those that overcome the tribulations of the world will I give to eat of the tree of
life which is in the paradise of God. Let those with ears hear the words of the Spirit.’”…

– Revelation.

The Kabbalah is a Ten not an Eleven.
The Octave is an Eight not a Seven.
The Tetragrammaton is a Four and not a Three.
The World is a within and a without.

The Word is a Whole; the Not-Whole is the World.
How to make the World Whole?
‘Turn within.’

Metanoia…

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Figure 2 – Future and Past.

Our Cube of Space constantly turns or flips.
One moment the Future holds sway
The next moment the Past.

The Past and Future are
‘Death and Hell’
The Old and the New,
But what of the True?

Where is the Present?
Where is the Now?
Where is the Spirit?

Within.

To be present is to be centred within…

Within is a Temple:
A temple is a Church;
A church is a Kirk:
A kirk is a Circle…

…But what kind of circle can be considered a Star?

Next up we will look in more detail at some of the Geometries involved…