That still, small voice…

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As we each begin the conscious journey of the seeker we may become aware of a sense of presence; a realisation that seems to spring from a place deeper than thought. We may have spent a lifetime in study, engaging the brain and its processes, bringing them to bear on the abstract concepts of existence and creation. We apply logic, lose ourselves in meditation, we learn and collate techniques and information, examine perspectives and points of view. We assimilate the useful, discard the inappropriate and file what seems to be correct for our own understanding in the index of the mind. We may hold the acceptance of what we have learned close; guarding it as a precious thing or we can set it free and feel its flight.

There may come a moment when instead of ‘just’ thought, instead of a reaching outwards towards a line of reasoning, there is an opening inwards for inspiration. And this opening brings with it both conscience and imperative…. And yet further questions. What is this awareness and where does it come from? Many names have been given to this presence that seems both separate and part of our selves. Some systems have named it in angelic terms, many feel it is a higher aspect of the self, others perceive the hand of external divinity or a bridge between the human and the divine; many simply call it ‘contact’.

Much is written in esoteric literature about contact. It is something many strive for, seeking perhaps for something that is already there, waiting behind a door that is closed in the mind. We seek and try, looking towards what appears to be a distant goal, yet it is possible that like the guardian angels much loved by Victorian illustrators it stands quietly by until we notice its presence.

We do not know what exactly we are to feel or what to expect if we achieve this contacted state. Some will speak of it in ways that make us feel we are somehow lacking until we attain it. But it need not be such a complex thing.

I can only tell what it feels like subjectively. It is a Presence in whose shadow we stand and learn. Whether this presence is seen as a Being, an Archetype, a divine Intelligence, as part of the psyche or the inner Self, or indeed as something quite different depends, perhaps, on perspective and semantics.

Whether it is seen as external or interior, in practical terms, does not seem to matter. What matters is the relationship one develops with it and the quality of the realisation that comes.

Working with contacts we tend to feel them as distinct personalities, often taking on the form of an ancestor or an ancient godform, created by the created to represent and embody a very real aspect of the divine forces, but animated and vivified for us by a spark of Light.

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We can communicate… some do so in a very direct fashion, some simply feel the brush of a consciousness against their own and learn almost by osmosis. And every shade in between, it seems. Those familiar with esoteric thought will have heard of the mind touch, overshadowing, indwelling, perhaps… there are many terms that have been coined in an attempt to describe something that is ultimately too intimate for words.

At the end, the method or names do not matter any more than the apparent form. It is a Knowing. An understanding that passes the bounds of thought or education, a certainty without references or footnotes. An unshakeable, life-changing conviction that proves itself in the living of it.

We clothe our contacts in forms we can understand and that are congenial to the nature of the forces they embody. For all practical purposes we see them as individual characters. Yet it is not what they are. In fact, even in this we fall into an ever present error, marking a separation between Them and us, between the divine and man. For both they, whatever they are, and we, are but tiny refractions of Light in the multifaceted Jewel that is the One.

In pursuing the dream we have been given, we are challenged to step outside of our comfort zones, forced to reassess and re-examine cherished and long held beliefs. We find ourselves walking paths we would never have expected and which require us to question our own preconceptions. It is right that this should be required.  Setting our feet to the path before us and listening to the whisperings of that still, small voice, should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a beginning.

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Questions of ‘relativity’…

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Einstein as a child

“… so I thought I’d ask ‘Google’.”

“Which is why you phoned me?”

“Precisely. You know everything and you’re quicker than the internet.”

Oh gawd…”

“What do you know about relativity?”

“ Erm… E=mc2?”

“Yeah, that.”

“What exactly do you want to know…?”

***

The conversation is typical of those my son and I have been having half a dozen times a day lately. The phone will ring and we will talk for an hour or so at a time. The subjects he has called to discuss, or that have come up over his morning cuppa, have been as diverse as astrophysics, optics, Chaos theory and quantum mechanics. And that’s without psychology, cats, comparative spirituality and the correct way to make tea.

Quite why he thinks that someone who left school at sixteen should be omniscient, I do not know, though it tickles me that my son should apparently, and mistakenly, think it is so. I recall a time, not so very long ago, when, in common with most youngsters, he believed I knew nothing about anything (apart from baking and helping with school homework).  Parents don’t, do they? Not in the eyes of teenagers. Parents are behind the times, out of touch and so old they are almost obsolete.

Very young children, on the other hand, think their grown-ups know everything. They trust what they are told, having no reason to question their ‘source of all wisdom’… until they reach an age when they do begin to question. Changes in the developing brain set teenagers to exploring. They need to find their own identity, their own ideas and ideals.  They compare what they know to what they perceive… which may not always be an accurate vision of the world… and build their ideals accordingly.

Finding that their parents are human and fallible is a shock to the system. Parents are inevitably seen as passé in their outlook, speech, dress and musical tastes, belonging as they do, to a previous (and thus embarrassing) generation. They obviously know nothing of the world their children know… and as the child begins to forge its own path, he strides out alone. It is only with the onset of their own hard-earned maturity that he begins to wonder if his elders might not have known a thing or two after all and the dynamics of their relationship changes once again.

Like it or not, we’ve all been children, teenagers and gone through the whole growing up process. Not only did we, in our own way, experience those various stages of change, we also became adults, and our relationship with early parental authority changed too. We still carry it with us, though, as the superego…the internal ‘authority figure’ that is a composite creation to which we are all subject. It is an inner voice that holds the moral compass and which tells us all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’…beside which we are still as children and against which we still rebel.

The odd thing was that answering my son’s queries on subjects about which I know nothing, I realised that I was wrong… I knew stuff. The huge gaps in knowledge were, as the conversation progressed, filled in by experience, common sense, and a fragmentary understanding gleaned from years of curiosity.

I was reminded that there is another part of the self that knows little but understands much… another inner voice, that answers when it is asked. It answers from a place where factual knowledge holds no sway, beyond understanding… a place of wisdom. Like children, we often prefer to make our own mistakes, rather than asking for help… or we don’t listen…  and like children, when we do ask, and learn to listen, that quiet voice can guide us home.

Clocking off?

The road was calling me north and I couldn’t wait to finish work and give in to its blandishments. The sun was shining and warm, the forecast unusually good for England. The fields were ablaze with the brilliant yellow of rapeseed, the hedgerows, bending beneath the weight of May blossom, awash with wildflowers. Pink campions covered the roadside, pale blue forget-me-nots, bright starry ransom and banks of anemones, and, in the shade of the trees, carpets of bluebells linger. The dandelion clocks swayed in the breeze, sending fairy-like seeds up in clouds to dance beneacth the trees. It was a glorious day.

As my job extends over seven days each week and any day off is deducted from my holiday entitlement, I make the most of these trips north for the monthly meeting of the Silent Eye, so the journey is part of the adventure. Refusing the mind-numbing boredom of the motorways, I have a route I now know so well that I could drive it with my eyes closed, if I didn’t enjoy it so much.

South to north, crossing half a dozen counties, I watch the seasons change. In the south, the roses and summer flowers are starting to bloom and spring is almost over… in the north, the bluebells still flourish and all the eager energy of spring is in the air.

The road, though, sometimes has ideas of its own, and beckons me in new directions. Following some inexplicable impulse, I took a new turning, finding a lake had never seen, where golden gorse tumbled down the hillsides, impossibly bright. There was a village that announced itself as a Saxon settlement, where I was obliged to stop and visit a little Norman church that just happened to smile at me as I drove past… and which contained some rather interesting Norman and Saxon artefacts things, given the current state of our research. As I drove through Matlock, I spotted a perfect prop for next April’s workshop in a shop window too…

When I finally arrived in Sheffield, we spent the evening talking through the workshops and, next morning, the discussions continued until we left for the meeting and throughout the drive across the hills to Sale in Greater Manchester, stopping to check in with a friend on the way, leaving a note when he wasn’t home.

The meeting went very well and proved even more productive than we could have hoped, leaving us with yet another avenue to explore with our latest research. We called in on our friend again and this time, found him at home. We stayed an hour or so, catching up, before crossing the hills once again, watching the sun set over the moors.

Next morning, we got down to some serious work for the June workshop in Dorset. It was thirsty work, so by lunchtime, we had adjourned to the Druid Inn, where we continued over cider in the sunshine.

“What are you teaching with that?” asked the gentleman at the next table who had been listening as we read aloud. We explained, and a lengthy discussion ensued. He and is wife were replaced by another family with similar interests… and, after finishing our work, stroking a stray chicken, and wandering down to the churchyard, we headed out to Matlock to buy that ‘perfect prop’… and then in search of a very late lunch.

Sunday morning, we had arranged to meet a friend who had been with us on the last two workshops and take her to a stone circle. With the access land closed for the nesting season, we had to rethink, and took her to another one instead, where we did some work with the stones… and by the time we all sat down to lunch, it was tea-time and we were shattered. All that remained was to get up at six next morning for the long drive south to work… even though we had, in a different way, been ‘on duty’ all weekend.

It had been a wonderful and productive couple of days and I had thoroughly enjoyed it all, but, as I drove home, I found it amusing to note that our weekend ‘off’ work had been so busy. Then again, they always are. The day job may be a practical necessity, but the work we do the rest of the time never ceases, even when we do no more than talk. In fact, the weekend itself had been a perfect analogy for how the spiritual path, once its call is accepted, pervades every area and moment of life.

Some of the work had been formal and structured, requiring our concerted effort and attention. Some of it had needed no more than the lightest touch, a response to a moment, or listening to the needs of others or the inner promptings that defy logic. Some of it touched our hearts and called up tears… and some of it had been pure joy. But we had not been ‘off duty’ for a moment.

We walk a spiritual path, whether we are aware of it or not. Once you have chosen to do so in awareness, however, there is a shifting of gears and you cannot move blindly on your journey.  In esoteric circles, it is called ‘the Work’ for a reason. There are no boxes, neatly labelled, into which you can pack different aspects of your life, no Monday to Friday or nine-to-five compartments, no slot on the calendar for ‘being spiritual’. It touches every fibre of your being and informs every moment of your life. Even when you ‘get things wrong’, and that is human and inevitable, you will take responsibility and use each mistake as fuel for growth.

Just like the weekend, sometimes the spiritual path calls upon your full attention, sometimes it feels a hard path to walk, sometimes it is but the lightest of touches… and at others, it is pure joy. You are never ‘off duty’… but it is always an adventure.

Jumping off the cliff…

Ten years or so ago, I was very active on a number of closed forums. I was lucky to be part of that moment when they were active and the energy was vibrant. I made a good many friends, people with whom I became close and some of my dearest and most enduring friendships were born online and within those forums. Other friendships have grown online since then and I have often wondered about the process.

When you meet someone in the virtual world, you have no idea at all who they really are. There may well be clues in where you come across them or what they write, but you do not know…not for sure.  A good con man is always plausible and there are plenty of those out there. Yet there are people with whom you just seem to ‘click’ regardless. They become friends. Should you meet, there is always the worry that the online persona will not be the same and the friendship will be overshadowed by the new and less acceptable reality. Yet, having met very many of my ‘online friends’ in person, I have yet to meet one who was substantially different from their online presence.

There are a number of reasons for that; many people find it easier to reveal themselves through the relative anonymity of the written word. If you are half a world away, you can open your heart to a friend without embarrassment. You already know that you are never likely to meet… except, that quite often you do, regardless of the distance. It may take years, you may have become very close, but often those friendships are ‘tested’ by an encounter in ‘real life’ and once that happens, the bonds grow ever closer.

Whether you meet or not, some online friendships go deep. It is as if, having created this virtual world for ourselves, we have developed a sixth sense that can assess and understand more than appears on the surface. Perhaps we have learned to read between the lines in a more literal sense, picking up emotive cues from the choice of words and phrases in a similar manner to our ability to read the subtle, unspoken signs of body language face to face.

Once the friendship is established, we learn to trust our online friends, just as we would if we met them in person. We may share our joys with them, our sorrows and troubles. We may ask, listen and even take their advice. Yet, unless we have met them face to face, we still have no real idea who they truly are. We simply accept that the disembodied ‘voice’ at the other end of the line exists and is what we believe it to be. In many ways, an online friendship is an act of faith.

Angel, Devil, Female, Guardian, Human

When I was a child and got into the inevitable scrapes with friends, my mother would always come out with the classic, “… and if he told you to jump off a cliff, would you?” We would not act upon any advice we were given by that unseen voice if it went against our own perception of reality, nor against our deepest beliefs or principles. We would listen to a friend, but any subsequent actions that we took would be filtered through our own personality, understanding and common sense. We would be far more careful with that advice if it came from a new ‘friend’ that were it to be given by an old and trusted companion. When you have known someone for years, online and off, looked into their eyes and hearts and know you can trust them, you will value their opinion, knowing they have your best interests at heart…but those same filters will still be applied before you act.

There is another disembodied voice, an unseen friend, to which we all have a direct line. It is the voice of something that always has our best interests at heart and knows us better than we think we know ourselves. It sees beyond the masks we wear to face the world or assume for our roles within it. It knows every moment we have ever lived, how we have felt and what we have done. You can call it intuition or ‘gut feeling’, you might think of it as the guardian angel at your shoulder or see it as the voice of the soul. It doesn’t really matter what label you give it… it will whisper anyway. It is the voice of a closer friend than any and we very often fail to hear it, let alone listen, until it takes on the role of ‘conscience’…that one we all hear, whether we listen or not.

We are capable of developing a sixth sense about our online contacts, whose face, life story and personality could all be fabricated for all we know, yet we seem to often fail to use the senses we already have and listen to the advice from within.  If we can find the courage to take a leap of faith online… we should be able to have just as much faith in ourselves.

Pure communication

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The voiceless whisper of laryngitis had made some progress, much to Ani’s relief. The silent reception she had on returning home after her weekend with her friends seems to have upset her… how do you explain a lost voice to a dog? Lost tennis balls she understands. Lost voices are outside of her experience. All you can do is smile and cuddle… and, as a means of communication, such things are pretty good.

It was a bit of an eye-opener having no voice. The old saying remains true, you really do not know what you’ve got until it is gone…or indeed, how much you rely upon those things so familiar they are taken for granted.

Most of us have been aware of our capacity to make a noise since birth and quickly learn to depend upon that ability to have our needs fulfilled. Hearing and vision generally diminishes with age, but, for the vast majority of us, a voice remains from the first cry to the last goodbye.

For several days I had cause to be grateful that much of our daily commerce is conducted through the impersonal avenues of self-service…trying to ask for anything has only resulted in generalised mirth. The mobile phone that plays such a part in our lives became a useless and frustrating encumbrance whenever it rang. You can’t even tell a caller that you can’t speak… and it throws into sharp relief how much we have come to depend on the instantaneous nature of verbal communication.

Yet, though we seldom think about it, most of our communication is not verbal at all. At subliminal levels, we still rely on older senses. We are animals and our animal senses have been forgotten rather than lost. Or perhaps their value, being ‘animal’, is seen as ‘less than’ in some way, rather than being valued as part of the fabulous machine that is the human form.

The sense of smell, for example, tells us much about a person, long before the fragrance of perfume or the acrid smell of stale sweat allows our conscious minds to form a judgement. The smell of fear is not only real but contagious. The pheromones of desire too. Why not other chemical signals that allow us to ‘read’ a person or situation?

Vision allows us to take in a multiplicity of signals and form an instantaneous assessment of the moment in which we stand… or read the body language of our companions, seeing with greater truth than our ears can hear in the words that are spoken… though tone and timbre, even the choice of words, can reveal far more than is said.

Both taste and touch are intimate signals… a kiss or a caress, a hug for no reason, a hand in the night or when sorrow strikes… such things need no words and can go places where words are not enough.

Silence too is a powerful mode of communication. The couple who, after decades together, no longer need to speak… the silence of ostracism… the strained awkwardness of shyness… and the comfortable silence of friendship and contentment. While our verbal conversations tell much about our relationships, the quality of the silence we can share tells much more.

Our minds are subject to the continual chatter of our thoughts. Words flash through them on many levels… we can be actively thinking as we talk to a family member, text on our phones and watch TV,  all at the same time… and somewhere there is an observer within us that can also watch all that happening… layer upon layer of words, all separate, all coherent… yet probably none of it focussed.

When was the last time you sat in silence with yourself?

What do you find? Is this a person you like? Are you comfortable with yourself? Is your inner silence easy and companionable… or strained and awkward? The chances are, because we are human, the answer is a mixture of all of those…and then some!

Have you ever opened yourself enough to sit in silence with your Self? That ‘observer’, that consciousness beyond consciousness… The Humanity there is greater than the human personality. To sit in silence with the Self is to touch a ‘finer’ aspect of self than the ego. It does not judge, nor despise. It cares not if you are articulate, shy, overweight or awkward… it sees and knows only the heart of you, the truth of you, the spark of Light within that is the mirror of eternity.

The voiceless communication of such a silence is healing thing.