Jude the Obscure…

Solved by Walking…

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While the initial idea was to consider all the scriptural references to Michael,

the General Epistle of Jude promised to be problematic.

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It is the first and only scriptural text to refer to Michael

as an Archangel and is important for that reason,

but that aside, for a long time, there seemed little else to commend it,

apart that is for an apparent obscurity.

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The quotation in full runs thus:

‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil,

he disputed about the body of Moses,

dared not bring against him a railing accusation,

but said, “The Lord rebukes you!”

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A couple of things present themselves…

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Firstly, ‘contending’ may not necessarily be ‘warring’ so

that the devil here accords more readily with the ‘Old Dispensation’

notion of Satan as accuser or prosecutor in a court of Law,

a disputant, as it were, in a legal confontation.

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From such a notion, presumably, springs

the age old tradition of playing, ‘Devil’s advocate’.

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And secondly, Michael, albeit, a mighty Archangel

relies exclusively upon ‘The Lord’s’ power in order to ‘win the day’.

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We are here, it seems, a far cry from the, ‘war in heaven’ of Revelation,

and perhaps a little closer to the Hebraic conception of a more orderly

and seemingly purposeful expulsion from the heavenly realms by God.

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But why should the body of Moses be key?

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The body here could be symbolic of the earth realm,

and as such would be the point at issue in any sought after transformation.

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The Old Dispensation relied soley on purification

and a raising of the earthly body through initiation.

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This process was symbolised by a new, clean raiment.

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The New Dispensation appears to have ‘upped the ante’,

by insisting upon a ‘World Apocalypse’,

which eventually results in The New Jerusalem…

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And nobody has ever seen that!

The pan-dimensional mouse

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I have spent a lot of time lately working with two-dimensional representations of multidimensional states. No, I don’t mean anything arcane and mystical… or something that belongs in the realm of science fiction either. I’ve been working with pictures.

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We tend to think of dimensions in spatial terms of height, length and depth. That is how we are first taught about the whole affair in school and why would we question it? We simply accept that we live in an apparently three-dimensional universe, and that an image, for instance, is only a two dimensional representation of a wider reality… a symbol, if you like. It has become widely accepted that ‘time’ makes a fourth dimension… the difference between how things were and how they are. Time travel has become such a popular idea through literature and entertainment that none of us boggle at the possibility… even while we accept it may well be impossible in practical terms. Time, after all, although an abstract idea, is something we can observe in action. Or perhaps have simply learned to accept.

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The Quantum branch of scientific thought throws other dimensions into the mix… it gets more abstract the deeper you go, but even here it can be simplified into the scales we understand through our own experience in many ways. The next two dimensions take into account the idea of the future… again, something that simply does not exist that we take on trust will occur.

242249According to the theory, an infinite number of futures may exist and the determining factor is the act of choice. For example, there may be a perfect three-dimensional cream cake in front of me, placed at this moment in time right within my reach. The future now depends from the point of choice… do I choose to eat it or not? Further futures may run off in all directions from this moment… it may be the tipping point for my waistline or cholesterol levels, it may be the only thing I eat today and so be fuel rather than fancy… or I could feed it to the dog… give it away or drop it on the carpet… you get the idea. My choice determines the future path of the universe, even on this infinitesimal scale.

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Except that the scientists then go on to posit multiple possible universes too, each with their own branching futures from points in time. Last time I looked at the research and theories we were up to a ten-dimensional reality and it seems that science is finally catching up with ancient esoteric thought that captures just such concepts in symbolic imagery. You have only to study some of the pictorial symbols to understand how those multiple dimensions can be expressed in two.

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I was wondering about even further dimensions we can add to the list… okay, perhaps, they are not strictly scientific examples of dimensionality. They may, however, be sub-headings of others, but they are just as abstract, invisible and yet observable. They are closer to home too. Maybe they correlate to the different ‘worlds’ of esoteric thought… modes of expression or levels of function. However you look at them, they are certainly contributing an added dimension to how we observe past, present and future. Not only that, they are determining factors in how the microcosmic universe that is ourselves moves through the fourth dimension of time and, more pertinently, they shape our future as effectively as the act of choice.

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I, for example, have been working with photographs the past few days. Opening each image there is immediately the dimension of memory. With it comes the attendant dimension of emotion… the emotions associated with that captured moment and also with the people and events that cluster around it in memory too. One image of a hillside, for example, recalls both the event, my companions and the warmth of the emotions attached to all of those. I see the image from several perspectives,  through the lens of a present now past… yet which is no longer past because it is once more present; the emotions and thoughts that were then and which are once again now. Yet I also see them from the perspective of now and the passage of time may have altered those emotions, so that the past itself takes on a different hue. This is the dimension of perception… personal perspective.

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Those are personal dimensions we bring to every single second of our lives and they are different for each of us. That same image will, to another observer who participated in that same moment, bring completely different memories, associations, perspectives and emotions. To one who was not present, the view will be different again. The experience and its interpretation… and therefore the effect upon the future… is unique for every one of us. Every time.

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There has been a lot of research done on the nature of perception and memory and their critical link to attention, which seems to be yet another dimension. Basically, it appears that our brain takes shortcuts and the physical world we perceive and believe we interpret is based upon a mixture of actual sensory input, such as an image for example, and our own preconceived beliefs built up over a lifetime. The brain has to both perceive and believe… and if the two don’t match up we either change our beliefs to fit the reality we perceive… or we change reality to fit our beliefs… and behave accordingly. We then simply perceive only that which we allow ourselves to perceive. The trouble with that is the attention we give to the conclusion of that alchemy; once a belief is formed in accordance with our perception it sticks and there is little we can do about it. And whatever our perception of now… even if we have drawn incorrect conclusions… our point of choice starts here and defines our future.

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Considering this, I was reminded of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe where “Mice are merely the protrusion into our dimension of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who, unbeknownst to the human race, are the most intelligent species on the planet Earth. They spend a lot of their time in laboratories running complex experiments on humans.” Just how many dimensions do we live in at once? How many other layers, less scientifically provable are there to our existence? And it begs the question… are we the man or the mouse in the equation of own pan-dimensional reality?

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These incredible examples of optical illusion are the work of Ukranian artist Oleg Shuplyak.

Quis ut Deus?

‘Am I more like God than you because I am stronger?’

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… It was, it seems, the Romans, that most militaristic of empire building peoples

who first insisted that St Michael should be seen, that is, depicted,

in a military light, the Commander-in-Chief of an ‘Army of Angels’, as it were.

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After Constantine’s defeat of Licineus at the Battle of Adrianople AD 324

which the Emperor attributed to the Archangel Michael he had a painting

of the Saint slaying a Dragon commisioned for the Michaelion,

a Christian Sanctuary nearby, which was previously dedicated to healing waters.

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This lead to the now standard iconography of Archangel Michael

as a ‘Warrior Saint’, who slays a single-headed Dragon.

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All empires rely for their dominance, to a certain extent,

on military prowess but the militaristic mind-set of the Romans

infiltrated every aspect of their culture,

and their newly acquired religion, alas, was to be no different…

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In following this route the Holy Roman Empire

made the same mistake that extreme Islamists of today make

when they perpetrate terrorist acts in the name of ‘Jihad’,

that is, they confused the edicts of an inner conflict with its outward projection.

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Or was it just a straightforward case of demonising ‘the opposition’,

and are these the same thing anyway?

Ancient stories

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One of the things that have struck home over the past few years, wandering around the churches of Britain, is just how much we learn and understand from stories and images. The record held in these ancient places goes back over a thousand years, with artefacts much, much older preserved in many of them. And these are not random old buildings, but all aligned with a single tradition, a single faith, a single story that the builders, artisans and holders of the lore saw as paramount.

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Painted walls, carved stone and wood, stained glass… these were marvels of media that recounted the biblical story for all with eyes to see. At a time when books were hand-drawn and precious, the masses untutored, unable to read or follow the Latin of the service, these images were the key to understanding. In many churches there are older, pre-Christian artefacts. Were they a remnant of the desire to convert almost through stealth or a genuine acknowledgement of the sacredness of the older pagan faith? That is not impossible given Pope Gregory’s instructions to Mellitus in the 6th century Mission, “Tell Augustine that he should be no means destroy the temples of the gods but rather the idols within those temples. Let him, after he has purified them with holy water, place altars and relics of the saints in them. For, if those temples are well built, they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God. Thus, seeing that their places of worship are not destroyed, the people will banish error from their hearts and come to places familiar and dear to them in acknowledgement and worship of the true God.” The whole letter is revealing.

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It is fascinating to see how the emphasis of the story has evolved and shifted to suit the needs of the prevalent authorities, secular and religious, and how thought has been subtly directed. Many of the oldest churches, particularly in areas where Celtic Christianity was prevalent, seem to focus simply on a gentle faith not dissimilar to some of the older tales, and we can trace many of the early stories of the saints back to pre-Christian deities, adopted and absorbed into the new story. Then comes the hellfire and brimstone, later still the break from Rome followed by the Puritanical obliteration of imagery in many places. Yet another thread winds through as the local barons and lords endow churches in a display of political power and wealth, matched in kind but surpassed in magnificence by the lords of the Church with the great cathedrals and abbeys. No matter who ruled the land, it was easy to see where the balance of true power resided.

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Yet away from the seat of power was the guy in the street… the you and me… and in spite of a constant bombardment of imagery quietly shaping thought, behaviour and morality, mankind has always had both imagination and questions. There have always been those who do not conform and who, while paying lip service to social necessity, have walked their own inner path of interpretation and discovery. While entry to the clergy was for many a true dedication of service to their God, there must have been many too for whom it was more a career move at a time when such choices were limited. The stories of many minds are preserved in the old churches and not all seem to hold to what would have been the prescribed line.

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A language of symbolism evolved, one that would have been readily readable long ago but which we have lost the habit of reading in the same way we have lost the old languages. Yet it doesn’t take much to begin delving behind the appearances to the inner meaning, for symbols bypass the processes of the surface mind and speak to something deeper, a more archaic and instinctive level of understanding less coloured by the times in which we live. Many can be universally understood, some belong to a specific tradition… on the surface at least… but can be interpreted from the human perspective of emotions or from the viewpoint of the spiritual journey. While stories once widely known may have faded, and traditions are lost in the dust-covered recesses of history, it takes little to begin to glean the meaning behind them from the images that survive.

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Few of us now know the old legends of the pelican, for instance, but this common symbol can be readily understood in Christian terms simply by looking at the picture of the great bird restoring its young through her blood. Even traditional colours and geometrical shapes hold meaning, like the trifoliate leaves for the Trinity for example, and a little thought opens many possibilities to explore. Very quickly you begin to see that no part of the story written in images… or any story for that matter… stands alone, and there are many possible layers of meaning.

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What we read in these ancient symbols is less a reflection of the symbol itself than it is of the knowledge and understanding we bring to them and our openness to new ideas and interpretations. What the artist or the patron who commissioned any work intended should be encoded there may not be what we see… or not all that we see… as our own minds bring their own meaning. I have often wondered about some of the stranger symbols we have found whilst visiting these places to write The Initiate and its sequels… symbols that seem surreal or out of place within the churches. Maybe they were simply a bit of humour, or artistic licence… perhaps they hold the thoughts of another questioning mind touched across the centuries or maybe they were designed to be so surreal we would have to take notice and start thinking instead of blindly accepting.

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Whatever the case, we have found without doubt that there are more stories written in these ancient buildings than the laity would have ever seen or understood and few today do more than marvel at their beauty or antiquity. Yet the stories follow common themes, and the closer you look the more obvious it becomes that there is little difference except detail in these stories, through time and space mankind asks the same questions, seeks the same understanding, we simply do so from different starting points and in different clothes. Not just in our little churches, but in the ancient temples the world over, in fairytales and rhymes, in the stones and the very land itself, stories wait to unfold their mysteries, their revelations and their complex simplicity to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear.

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Whitby Weekend: The Crypt at Lastingham

A few of us made our way down the stone steps of St Mary’s in Lastingham, into the crypt where the bones of St Cedd are reputedly buried. To do so is to step back in history and be outside of time; it is a place of quiet reflection, hallowed, one would like to think, by many centuries of prayer… except that, at one point, the crypt was supposed to have also been used as a cock-fighting arena…

Nevertheless, it is the hallowing of space that strikes you… a place to which those of faith have made pilgrimage, when countless have prayed, whether to the God of the saint or to their own vision of divinity. There have always been many who can see beyond the labels of religion to the kernel of truth held in all.

The crypt is part of the original stone church mentioned by the Venerable Bede, built between 664 and 732,  and remains almost untouched since that time. Some believe the stone altar to be even older than the crypt and one single, carved oak beam remains from the early church.

Each of the pillars supporting the vault is carved differently, with a disregard for symmetry typical of the period; artistically, symmetry seems to be a relatively modern concept. From the pillars of the cathedrals at Dunfermline and Durham, to the tiny Saxon crypt at Repton, we have seen this so often. Perhaps the designs had a meaning now lost… or perhaps it was simply the stonemason’s art at play.

There are carved stones and relics of a millennium and more of history ranged around the edges of the crypt, from an old, wooden burial bier to fragments of standing crosses, including the Ana Cross that once stood along the road we had just taken from the moors, to the arms of the great Lastingham Cross, now resting beside the bier.

There are a selection of gravemarkers, carved with crosses or, on one curious stone, what appears to be a chalice and sword as one, which, in esoteric terms, is suggestive of a  melding of the ‘masculine’ and dynamic energies with those that are ‘feminine’ and receptive… the agent of force and the vessel of form as one.

Perhaps the most curious thing, though, was the preponderance of serpents and dragons, from those intertwining up the face of an ancient stone, to the serpentine carvings in the church above and the dragons tucked away in a corner with fragments of masonry. What were they intended to symbolise? The many leys that have been dowsed and reported as meeting in the crypt? Or perhaps the streams that feed the four holy wells in the village?

In spite of there being so much to see in the little crypt, though, its true invitation was to share its silence, in prayer or meditation. Whatever gods the stones now kept here may have served in the far distant past, all may be but fragmentary perceptions of the One, kindled by recognition and reverence to hold a spark of that something that shines in the depths of being.  Joined by the others, we lit our candles together and sent their warmth out into the world.

Keys to Heaven: Gluttony…

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The Norse God, Odin, hangs over all.

His attendant wolves symbolise our lower self,

and both their names can be translated, ‘greed’, which leads us to glut…

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For most people the plan is simple:

to experience all they can in sensations quest,

and this too can lead to a sort of glut…

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One cannot have too much of a good thing, can one?

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After breakfasting we meet at the Whalebone Arch,

and it is difficult not to wonder how

long it will be before our gluttony

as a species empties the oceans…

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From here, framed within the jaw bones of the once great sea beast,

we can see the skeletal remains of Whitby Abbey,

where weighty decisions about the religious tenor

of our country were once made.

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We, though, make our way back into town, and a Cafe…

and from there, eventually, up to the Abbey,

but not before crossing the swing bridge,

which simultaneously separates and joins the new town

from the old, and which, as we approach, is just about to swing…

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For those with eyes to see the swing bridge has something to impart.

Black letters on a yellow board.

‘Krampus Run – Three-Thirty Pee Em!’

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The ‘Krampus’, it turns out, is a sort of shadow

side to the European St Niklaus,

who instead of giving gifts to good children,

punishes those that have been bad!

An antidote to wanton gluttony, perhaps,

or a living, breathing, walking Baphomet?

Initially, there will be more than one of them,

 a whole parade full vying for the dubious crown.

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We count the steps to the Abbey and breeze through

the Abbey gift shop where, historical, religious and fantasy

items all, peculiarly levelled, jostle for attention.

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The once grandiose and resplendant Abbey interior,

now stands open to the elements…

Wind whistled bare,

was Odin a Lord of Air?

We try to feel St Cedd’s presence there,

but he is long gone.

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As bitter grey clouds-of-cold skit in from the sea,

we perform the second run of our ‘ritual’,

before heading back down into town, for more food.

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Keys to Heaven: Planning…

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Baldrick, famously, hatches cunning plans which always back-fire.

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Dick Dastardly, equally famously, hatches devious plans which always back-fire,

and he usually has to be saved from destruction by his pet dog, Muttley.

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So, what is it that they are doing wrong?

The plans they hatch purport to deliver the best possible outcome

but from their own, limited perspective, alone.

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But surely, having some form of plan

is better than having no plan at all?

The key may be in the phrase, ‘some form of plan’.

Meticulous planning to the ‘nth’ degree is destined to fail

if it leaves no space for spirit…

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Before we convened on Runswick beach at dusk, for our

inaugural ‘ritual’, the first of four, we visited St Oswald’s Church in Lythe.

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We had been to St Oswald’s before, one bitterly cold January day,

on our way back from our first stone inspired foray

into Scotland, which was now, almost five years ago…

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Curiously, neither of us recognised the spire of the church,

even though we, were on the right road and, were

expecting it to be where it was.

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St Oswald’s is famous for its ‘Ginger-Bread-Man’.

A depiction of the Norse God, Odin, swallowed by wolves

at Ragnarok, carved onto a Viking, Hog-Back, gravestone.

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The image is justly iconic and we speculated on its relevance to one

of our themes for the weekend: Unity from Duality.

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Were the wolves, swallowing, or regurgitating the Wide Wanderer?

And does it have to be wolves, in the well known fable it is a fox?

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Alongside the display of old stones were photographs

of the old church with its old spire, which, almost impossibly

is how we had remembered the church even though it had

not looked like that for over one hundred years.

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A pattern in the night

Image: Pixabay

I couldn’t sleep. I’d gone to bed sleepy, read until I could read no more, then snuggled down expecting the inner lights to go out within minutes. An hour later I was still waiting… and wide awake. It might have had something to do with the discomfort in my hand. Nothing to do with typing too much of course… not possible. I gave in and got up, heading for hot milk and more of the damnable painkillers. I wasn’t best pleased about the whole affair as I need to be up by six at the latest, Sunday or not, and it had been after midnight when I had finally gone to bed in the first place.

The previous night it had been the wind howling outside. It is odd, I have no qualms about being high on a hilltop in the wind, buffeted by gusts and struggling to stay upright. That I enjoy. But I don’t like the noises the house makes in a gale. I hadn’t particularly cared for the creaks and groans of the trees either when Ani and I had been out for our walk. But I had slept as soon as the rain began to batter the windows. That I find soothing.

It is strange the associations we make with sensory impressions and how deeply they are ingrained and affect behaviour. The smell of candlewax I find both comfortable and uplifting. The sound of rain on an umbrella is happy… and on canvas the memories of camping trips and laughter come back. The list is endless…

I was thinking about it when I was cuddling my granddaughter. The small sounds of a sleepy child seem to trigger the competence of motherhood again. The body knows what to do…how to lift and hold, how to rock and calm. Probably with far more confidence now than when the skills were first learned. The smell of paint reminds fingers what to do to create an image. The touch of flour tells them how to make pastry. The sound of a waltz reminds the feet how to dance.

I wondered how much our memory is rooted in the physical. All of it in some ways, as we can only experience through the senses. We know there is muscle memory, a pattern known to the body that it can repeat with increasing ease and accuracy as we learn new skills. Then we add the overlay of emotion, of course… a context that frames and defines each memory and colours our perception each time they are triggered. It is all part of the constant programming that builds up the layers of individuality that make us who we are.

Our experiences of the world are pretty limited really… limited by the portals of the senses themselves as to how we can perceive. Yet even if we experience the same event, emotion will make our perception of it different for each of us. A lifetime of such differences makes each of us a unique combination… individuals.

It shouldn’t be a surprise really, that pattern of infinite possibility born of limitation is all around us. Nine numbers can go on indefinitely producing other numbers that are unique unto themselves. Twenty-six letters of the alphabet combine to make over a million words in English alone… three primary colours combine with light and shadow to produce millions of tints, hues and shades… seven notes create every song ever sung, every symphony played…

It is within this limitation itself that harmony is established. Paradoxically, their very restriction creates the relationship between them that permits harmony, dissonance and growth and gives their distance both meaning and beauty as they spiral outwards towards infinity, allowing us to trace their patterns and begin to know them.

Within ourselves the five senses allow us to ‘harmonise’ too, understanding each other through the empathy of common experience. Seven billion humans alive today, have common ground through five shared senses. Untold numbers of other creatures share those senses too, and by their presence or absence, their experience is defined. Yet every single one of us is unique, perhaps solely because of the thoughts and emotions with which we respond to those experiences. The jury is out on which of those two come first… whether emotion gives rise to thought or vice versa. I’m not sure they are separable or separate, regardless of precedence. Perhaps they are the manifestation of the same process on a different arc of the spiral.

Looking out of the door, open to the night at the insistence of the dog, I look up at the stars; visible traces of our own spiral galaxy, and wonder of what it too may be a part… what its relationships may be to other galaxies… what harmonies might be brought into being out there in the blackness… Billions of point of light. From here they all look pretty much the same and yet I can discern the patterns of the constellations; remember their stories and mythology… know that man is already out there exploring…

My senses have taken me from pain to infinity; my thoughts have travelled the universe, through both the inner uniqueness of man and the vast wonderment of space. My emotions have spiralled from annoyance to awe… all in the time it took to recognise a pattern in the night.

Triads: Derivations…

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DERIVATION OF THE TRINITY  Contd

THEREFORE…

  1. 136 = 1 (1 + 3 + 6 = 10 = 1)
  2. 163 = 1 (1 + 6 + 3 = 10 = 1)
  3. 199 = 1 (1 + 9 + 9 = 19 = 1)

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HENCE…

  1. 1…
  2. 1…
  3. 1…

Within the set of whole numbers, then, we have three different formulations of One.

As all other numbers can be reduced to this set the formulation is universally binding for all numbers.

One is intrinsic…

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Recognising the numerical basis of a religious doctrine is no mean feat.

It has ramifications for our thinking.

We may wish to reformulate our definition of this doctrine.

It would be remiss to regard such a notion as irrational when, by definition, it could not be more rational.

One-ness is intrinsic.

Three-ness is essential.

We may also wish to play…

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…  For obvious reasons, three of anything, is traditionally depicted as a triangle…

Not withstanding our preoccupation with purely symbolic notions of dimension the triangle of number appears to have a base of points one and two and a peak of point three.

Put simply, this is because the qualities of points one and two reflect, and are summed in point three.

As this is an accumulative process it may be as well to move clockwise around the triangle.

Triangle of Number

3. (1 as 199)2. (1 as 163)                        1. (1 as 136) 

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And this is where the fun really kicks in…

Triangle of Cosmology

Moon

Earth                 Sun

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Triangle of Generation

Child

Father                 Mother

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Triangle of Psychology

Sun

Moon                    Earth

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