Questions of ‘relativity’…

File:Albert Einstein as a child.jpg
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.

The spiritual minefield

“’Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought,’” said my son, reading out the daily inspirational quote he has delivered to his phone. “It says it is by Basho. Who’s he?”
“Seventeenth century Japanese poet.” It was a short answer, but enough for the question.
“Okay, Google,” he said with disgust. He was not using voice commands…that is one of the politer names he calls me.

It was a good quote though, when I had just been writing up another of our visits to an ancient sacred site. It summed up perfectly why these places matter so much to us and what it is we find there. We do not seek to return to an earlier time or belief system, but to move beyond the imposed and acquired dogma of our times. Somewhere, beyond both the beliefs of the ancients and our own, is the source of the questions mankind has asked of both his heart and the heavens; whatever path we have chosen to follow and in whatever era we have lived, ultimately our goal is the same.

The symbols we use, the stories we believe, or in which we have faith, all arose from a need to understand. We want to know about the origins of life and our planetary home, our place in the cosmos and the forces that shape all we know. We want to know why we are here, and what is the purpose of it all.

We have sought answers to how we should live and developed moral codes by which we are supposed to abide. Some are practical… if we must live as part of a community, then there are basic behaviours by which we abide. Other rules we have made and think of as universal, yet across time and culture, they too have changed and shifted their parameters so much, and so often, that mankind starts wars because we cannot agree on the basic details of how we ought to live. Or how our gods should behave.

At one point in history, gods could be vengeful, jealous, permissively polyamorous and sometimes downright vicious. Another era sees its gods…or at least their priests… exercising strict control over every aspect of their people, while yet another time sees the gods as loving, forgiving and nurturing. And sometimes, the same god, over the course of time, will run the gamut of all of the above.

Within their time and place, all these manifestations were acceptable to the populace. They filled a need that matched the era and culture… and when they ceased to fill it, new gods came in to supplant them. But the same questions remained.

There is knowledge to be had about our planet and solar system. We now know a great deal about how nature actually works. We can see brain activity and are busily engineering nano-robots to send into the body to fix its problems. The scope of human knowledge is vast, even if there is still far more to learn than we can know or imagine at this moment. But all these things are just facts.

The questions held in the recesses of the human heart and mind cannot be answered so simply and the answers must be found by each of us, in our own way and our own time. Only knowledge can be transmitted. Knowledge may point a way, but it cannot grant understanding, only show us what and where someone else sought and found their own answers.

And then there is the dichotomy of seeking and not-seeking. The only way we know how to find anything is to look for it, or stumble across it by accident. We are told by spiritual teachers and philosophers that we should seek and strive to grow… and told by just as many of them that we should neither seek nor strive, but just be. We are promised paradise if we adhere to one set of rules or another, and a thousand shades of torment if we choose the wrong path. And that path can be any or all of the ones who promised paradise in the first place.

Spirituality is a minefield. So, what is a seeker, especially when we are not supposed to seek, supposed to do?

Seek what they sought. Look beyond the stories to why they were told… beyond the dogma, the rules and conventions and listen for what sings to your heart. We may be too small to encompass the entire understanding of Creation, but we may get a glimpse that sheds enough light on our path to carry us forward. It matters little upon which path we begin, for once we have found a song of the soul that calls to us, the path chooses us and it lives in truth within us.

Clueless…

The past few days have seen us up to our eyeballs in research, planning and speculation. With the December Living Land workshop less than two weeks away, this was our last chance to get out in the field and check the details… so out into the fields and hills we went.

We were lucky with the weather, in spite of the frost that whitened the world. The chill of mid-November was mitigated by clear skies and a hint of sun on the coppery carpets of beech leaves. The emerald leaves of bluebells, reminding us that spring is just on the other side of winter, cluster thickly around stone and tree.  Wherever we went, a robin seemed to be watching and busy squirrels worked frantically at secreting their winter hoard. And, wherever we ventured, odd and intriguing clues seemed to laugh at our blindness.

Places we have visited many times before suddenly seemed to be revealing secrets. Not that they had ever been hidden. Most of them had been seen, even photographed, before… but we had not seen them to any purpose. The familiar was made new in our eyes and, as we finally considered what we thought we already knew, intriguing lines of exploration wandered across time and history, opening our eyes and minds to possibilities we had never noticed.

There is a curious ‘blindness’, as if some things may not be known until the time is right…or until you are equipped with sufficient knowledge or experience to begin to appreciate the insights they are offering. Their presence is registered, you can call them up on memory, yet their significance is veiled and does not impinge upon conscious thought. What goes on in the subconscious mind, though, is another matter.

All that which has apparently passed unnoticed is filed in a dark corner that might as well be labelled ‘classified’ for all the good it appears to serve. Yet, beneath the surface, everything we see, hear, read or experience is busy ferreting out the connections needed to give it enough relevance to be useful. It may eventually resurface with the flourish of a pantomime fairy, throwing off its dark cloak to reveal the magic it has kept hidden…and leaving you wondering at your own lack of vision.

Whether it is a clue in the landscape that elucidates a mystery, or something that was within you all along that illuminates your vision of yourself, we are all blinkered from time to time. The conscious mind and its hidden counterpart seem to work at different speeds and have a differing view of the world. Then sometimes they work in tandem, needing only a single clue cast into the cup to create an elixir that clears the mist to leave you speechless at what was right there in front of your eyes all along. Knowledge becomes understanding and your world takes on a new depth and dimension. How could you possibly have missed that for so long..? But you did, and you undoubtedly will again… until the moment is right.

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…