The Holy Birthing 2014

This post is an updated version of a post from Christmas 2013:

What is it that is born, again and again – on Christmas day and in each new life, and in each moment of everyday? Perhaps it is symbolic of another ongoing kind of birth – the birth that brings renewal throughout our lifetime as we spiral our way into the mystery that is life.

I ask myself, what is it that is trying to be born now, in me, in you and in the world?

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan

“The decision of the future falls to the soul, depends upon how the soul understands itself, upon its refusal or acceptance of a new birth.” Henry Corbin

But not only a new birth, not one time, but repeatedly throughout a lifetime and many lifetimes.

 
File:Matthijs Maris The Bride, or Novice taking the Veil, c 1887.jpg“Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity. And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God. All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He. To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.” Tom Cheetham

“Masks of the infinite” because who can look into the face of divinity and live? For instance, how difficult is it to look intently into another’s eyes before looking away, or to ponder the depths of either the beauty or horror of this world, or to receive a full presence of true awe? Have you ever experienced a feeling so intense that it literally took your breath away? How difficult it can be to openly and fully receive something not yet known, seen or wordless without turning away and reaching into the safety of the known to identify it and name it. Ah, we say, that’s just…, or that is…which immediately removes the danger and fear of the unknown. “I know, I know,” we say, but do we?

“For if God is known and witnessed by an other than Himself, it is because there is such an Other. However, for there to be an Other, there must be this opacity, this darkness of a being that stops at itself, at the non-being of its pretensions, its ignorance, or even its devotions. If he claims to be an Other, he cannot look at God, as God can only be looked at by Himself.
God can only look at a world which is his own gaze, that is his own eyes which look at him from this world. This is why a world which wishes itself other (either by agnosticism or by piety) is not a world that God looks at. Literally, it is a world that God does not look at.
… [And] there must be a world that God does not look at so that Nietzsche’s tragic exclamation of the last century: God is dead can resound and spread in it. Uttered from the West and since then echoed in all consciousnesses, this cry is precisely what, for a Sufi, is experienced as the Supreme Test, the Test of the Veil , and, facing up to this Test, Sufism opens the way precisely for one who wishes to pass through it.” Henry Corbin

Nietzsche’s freedom is everyone’s freedom, on the one hand to err, ignore and discount the mysterium tremendum and awe of being alive by always knowing, and on the other to bring into expression new possibilities of the numinous. But, in order to pass through the test of the veil, Corbin says we must find our angel, a divine being that is a face of God. Without the accompaniment of the Angel, we feel abandoned, because we are without a guiding presence which creates a vertical connection, curing us of the blindness of literalism, and giving us the second sight to see, at least imaginally, the Face of God in all of creation.

“The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each. Nietzsche’s cry requires a world that God does not look at, a world without His Face, a world that is, without Angels. But in such a world the reality of the person begins to fade. For if God is dead, then so are we.” Henry Corbin

Not so much through belief, but through the experience of seeking that twin, our guide and angel, do we begin to know ourselves and others as persons, as masks of God.

“On the one hand there is the doubt of the intellect, of the philosopher, who, as Corbin says, demands rational proof for realities to which such proof cannot apply. For rational doubt assumes that human reason can cast its net over everything and extend its reach to capture even God. It is this hubris that drives much of modern culture. We are liberated from it if we can take to heart the words attributed to the nineteenth-century British scientist Lord J. B. S. Haldane: “The universe is not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.” “ Tom Cheetham
I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now – Amy Grant

Christmas MorningPeace on earth, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Cheetham, Tom (2012-07-03). All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings (p. 220). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

Stranger Than Fiction

“It has been a long time since most of us have experienced the world. We experience instead a constriction, a selection. We step cautiously out, checking our selves at first, against What Is Allowed, What Is Known To Be True. We constantly throw a world out ahead of ourselves and move safely into it.” Tom Cheetham

In Green Man, Earth Angel, Tom Cheetham begins with a hefty indictment on the state of soul, or Anima Mundi, in this modern age of distraction, extension-by-technology, hall of mirrors. For all of our coming and going, between people, places and things, we risk never fully entering the place of the other, and in so doing, finding that primary means of entering more fully into ourselves. The hall of mirrors we find ourselves in, insulates and protects us from the force of invisibles, shadows, and the powers beyond one’s predictability. What if by breaking through the shell and armour between self and other, crossing over the boundaries that language, perception and sensory limitations impose, every step then becomes a movement into a void, the source of creation, where all being wells up from the unfathomable depths, the place where the unknown, the not yet born, comes into being?

“It is the mythic experience, the mythic imagination that opens, reveals depth and mystery, which places the human in the context of the nonhuman, and so, forces retreat, humility, and awe, in the presence of spaces beyond our will.” 

Cheetham quotes Emma Brunner-Traut who writes: “In the ancient past the idea of faith in the sense of belief did not exist; for them it was a matter of “knowing.” For those who “know,” the unspeakable can be uttered without being misunderstood. But already when the smallest distrust creeps in and hidden meaning must be explained, then an integrity is endangered, especially so when the secret becomes a dogmatic formulation. It is placed into the light of critical doubt and demand for proof, and in this light it appears false. Myth is not definition, nor is it proof. It is self-evident. It is endowed with dignity and majesty, perfect in its inner power and validity….”

Andean manBut, isn’t it also true that we humans are not like the other animals, and especially not our imagined primordial mythological past? The human skin does not protect as does shell, fur, scales and wings, but relies as much on psyche, as the medium which senses the invisible, imaginal and fantastic through the use of artifacts such as tools, exotic coverings, airplanes, log cabins, cars and cities where we shelter our thin-skin inside farmhouses, apartment complexes, huts, suburbs, row housing and hi-risers. I’m not as convinced that we humans have a past to return to, for perhaps it has always been the case that “the son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.”

Cheetham says:

“Psyche is communal. But true community transcends any boundaries between the inner and the outer, the public and the private. Community only exists among persons, and persons can only be perceived, perhaps they can only exist, when the walls dividing the inner from the outer begin to crumble. Only when we begin to hear the voices inside can we begin to listen to the voices outside. Then the boundary between what is mine and inside, and what is Other and outside grows ambiguous and unclear. We find ourselves immersed in the conviviurn, in community.”

Sarpedon’s body carried by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), while Hermes watches

Here the god is Hermes, psychopomp, mediator of borders whose essence is liminality. Richard E. palmer suggests, in his paper, The Liminality of Hermes, that liminal states of being are those neither here nor there, but ambiguous. We may liken them to twilight hours, “streets with no name,” rites of passage, or any state in which passing through, fully immerses us between the known and perhaps, towards something newly given.

“During the liminal stage, the between stage, one’s status becomes ambiguous; one is “neither here nor there,” one is “betwixt and between all fixed points of classification,”2 and thus the form and rules of both his earlier state and his state-to-come are suspended. For the moment, one is an outsider; one is on the margins, in an indeterminate state.” Richard E. Palmer

It is Hermes that serves as guide between day and night, dream and waking, underworld and dayworld. In this journey to the unknown, there cannot be a map and every step in this dark world heightens the senses, disorienting us out of the familiar in preparation to receive the invisibles and the gifts they offer us in turn for our sacrifice. Referring to Martin Heidegger’s book, On the Way to Language, Palmer says:

“For Heidegger, it is significant that Hermes is the messenger of the gods and not just other humans; for the message brought by Hermes is not just any message but “fateful tidings” (die Botschaft des Geschickes).7 Interpretation in its highest form, then, is to be able to understand these fateful tidings, indeed the fatefulness of the tidings. To interpret is first to listen and then to become a messenger of the gods oneself, just as the poets do, according to Plato’s Ion.8 Indeed, part of the destiny of man is precisely to stand in a hermeneutical relation to one’s being here and now and to one’s heritage. Human beings, insofar as they are truly human beings, says Heidegger, “are used for hearing the message . . . they are to listen and belong to it as human beings.”9

We are naked, perhaps, for this reason. The state of our being exists between the gods, and the unfathomable depths of being, and our naked, vulnerable, mortal body. Our vulnerability necessitates an imaginal, ensouled perspective whose liveliness depends on that part of us that can and does spontaneously use language, tells stories, and yearn for what is beyond food, water and shelter. We sense and need more than what so-called nature provides; to experience, call it what you will, the invisibles, the gods or God. But we are also that which, as W.H. Auden reminds us, are “lived by the powers we pretend to understand,” powers we mistakenly believe to be us. Yes, like Prometheus, we can steal fire, but as with all gifts of the gods, we receive them at a cost. The gifts themselves have no preset moral value, the fear and respect for their use must come from our better angels.

Palmer:

” “From the source of the event of appearing something comes toward man that holds the two-fold of presence and present beings,”10 says Heidegger. .The human being stands in this gap, this zone of disclosure. One does not so much act as respond, does not so much speak as listen, does not so much interpret as understand the thing that is unveiled. The primary movement here is understanding as an emergence of being. The human being becomes Hermes, the message-bearer, only because one has first and foremost opened oneself to a process of unconcealment: “The human being is the message-bearer of the message which the two-fold’s unconcealment utters to it.” “

Here we reach a place where a primordial, pre-lingual opening is possible, a listening for what Henry Corbin referred to as the Lost Speech, coming to us as music, where the other as more truly other, and not only reflection is seen, heard, sensed, encountered, waiting to exchange gifts. For what else is a gift if not something given that we do not already have?

Etching of Vendome Green Man misericord

“We meet the Other as Other, in fear and respect. This experience is open, embodied, and mysterious. We are in company. In sympathy with the plants and the sea, and with all the persons of the world, both within and without. To receive, we must give. To be fed, we must feed. To consume we must be consumed. To live, we must die. To assimilate, we must transform-die, empty, and release-letting go of what we defend, of what we fear, of what we hide.” Tom Cheetham

Tom Cheetham quotes from, Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World (S U N Y Series in Western Esoteric Traditions). Kindle Edition.

Richard Palmer quotes from: http://www.mac.edu/faculty/richardpalmer/liminality.html

 

 

 

Break on Through

“I found an island in your arms 
Country in your eyes 
Arms that chain 
Eyes that lie 
Break on through to the other side” Jim Morrison

Oftentimes it is said that ideas are less important and that action is better; what counts then is what is done or made manifest. The favored status of action, an idea itself, has always struck me as a half-truth, which of course it is. An idea is as much an action as the mind is the body. I say this not to blur the lines or resolve that ideas and actions are somehow the same, but more to reveal a hidden relationship and unity between seeming opposites that reflect in many ways our condition. A condition which is itself unified in ways that we perhaps might not be accustomed to seeing or sensing. Separation then, is both a blessing and a curse. “Idea” from idein” is akin to archetype, model or seeing and is very much related to bodily sense. All seeing comes from the body.

The constructs of our mind are also constructs of our bodies; psyche and soma, and in this world anyway happen together. That we are capable of mentally splitting off body from mind and mind from body is an amazing human quality, but it points to a deficiency of perception. A blind spot in our senses. We can think in ways that carve the world up into fragments that don’t exist apart from our mental constructs. Mental constructs can be useful, and even necessary, but when division and separation are not seen as constructs for the sake of convenience, the pain of separation and the threat of loss and death become spectral enemies that haunt us, tempting us to destroy them, either through literal murder, or mentally by splitting them off from awareness. Here the past seems more real than the present, others become “not us,” foreigners, enemies and nature is moved to some place “out there.”

If it is in the realm of ideas that the splitting occurs, that will also be the place where reunification happens. We cannot and do not live without ideas, without thought, without mind or psyche. Broadening our ideas dissolves the hardened sense and boundary of self and other. The place of wounding (splitting) is then the place of healing (unifying). In alchemy there is first the separation of the substances, then a reuniting. But if wholeness is the background, or underlying nature of reality, seeing and sensing it may not come from ignoring the illusions of separation and parts but more from multiplying them, or seeing the many in the one. That is what metaphor, fairy tale, mythology or a good poem does for us. Instead of a literal account of reality, a metaphor intentionally takes us beyond the literal, singleness of meaning, opening up and expanding meaning by “a carrying over.”

Love's Body.jpgEach chapter of Norman O. Brown’s book, Love’s Body, uses the rich history of ideas, mythology, Freud’s psychology, religion and mystical insights to define and resolve the splitting off of pieces of the world into what is mine,  not mine, real, unreal, us, them, history, mythology, life, death. Do we suffer duality because language divides the world into things and we identify with the separateness of our bodies? Did primitive man experience a “participation mystique?” Do animals experience a more unified world? …and what does love got to do with it? Everything of course – because we love what is ours, we incorporate others and all that is “out there” into ourselves when we love. Love is communion, death and hate are then an excommunication, a disowning in which we separate out all that we don’t commune with. A tough pill to swallow.

File:Herz aus Muschelschalen.JPGPerhaps our sense of being a separate self, along with the nature of time – our one-at-a-time perception, powerfully convinces us that the nature of the world is really not unified, but separate pieces and parts. Even language is structured sequentially, one word following another in which we grasp meaning by putting the words together. Many of us sense both the split and the underlying unity of the world to some degree or another. But what is it that moves a sense of unity into the heart, to permeate our daily experience and slowly dissolve the need to take the boundaries literally? And, what does a sense and awareness of unity do for us? Does our sense of “I” as the unique owner and operator of “me” disappear, merging forever into the oneness? That, I believe is a false perception perhaps held by those whose mental constructs, mistaken for “reality,” are still too near and too dear to part with. Or, as Brown suggests, that is the “Fall” into division. He reminds us that “the erection of a boundary does not alter the fact that there is, in reality, no boundary.”

Borrowing largely from Christianity, Brown uses the analogies of rebirth, resurrection, and apocalypse to get at the problem of separation and reunification. Not following any creed or practice – every thinker, poet, mystic or philosopher is included in the conversation, and rightly so, as wisdom can never be “owned,” the exclusive property of any one of us because wisdom’s nature is to free us from our literlisms, possessions, boundaries, framings, and identities used to divide what is by nature whole.

” “The real apocalypse comes, not with the vision of a city or kingdom, which would still be external, but with the identification of the city and kingdom with one’s own body.” Political kingdoms are only shadows – my kingdom is not of this world – because kingdoms of this world are non-bodily. Political freedom is only a prefiguration of true freedom: “The Bastille is really a symbol, that is, an image or form, of the two larger prisons of man’s body and the physical world.” Political and fleshly emancipation are finally one and the same; the god is Dionysus.”

The apocalypse, or unveiling, is Dionysian, a madness in which the god is torn apart, broken, in pieces, no boundaries, moving beyond ordinary meanings into the multiplicity of symbolism, but instead of a breakdown, as in schizophrenia, a breakthrough. “Break on through to the other side,” as Jim Morrison put it. There is a danger here, for sure, but as Brown notes:

“The soul that we can call our own is not a real one. The solution to the problem of identity is, get lost.”

With the unveiling, symbolic consciousness accepts the mystery and empty space creates room for the not-known, the new. No longer do we have to figure it out, but live through our animal sense, in the present where love can find us without a purpose beyond itself.

“Symbolic consciousness is between seeing and not seeing. It does not see self-evident truths of natural reason; or visible saints. It does not distinguish the wheat from the tares; and therefore must, as Roger Williams saw, practice toleration; or forgiveness, for we never know what we do. The basis of freedom is recognition of the unconscious; the invisible dimension;  the not yet realized; leaving a space for the new.”

 

The Unveiling

Perhaps we moderns no longer see ourselves as living under the influence of myths or belief systems. Whatever their source, they no longer serve us because any belief we subscribe to does not necessarily come to us through the culture of our familiars. More than any other period in history, we have become fractionalized as our awareness of the big menu of ideas, belief systems and cultures increases. Even the beliefs we first experience through the childhood lens of family and small communities of fellow believers are contaminated, if not corrupted, as we venture forth into adulthood where we discover a bigger world of competing beliefs.

Perhaps the act of choosing our beliefs rather than adopting what is handed down to us causes some of us to lose the inclination to sign up for any structured system of beliefs, especially as it has become increasingly evident that all communities are susceptible to the failings of their all-too-human members. Modern communication tells all and every belief system is at risk now of being de-mythologized. Even in looking for something to believe in, we find the only way to sustain our true-believer status comes at the price of excluding other beliefs, even of people who we love and respect as rational beings like ourselves.

File:The Caxton Celebration - William Caxton showing specimens of his printing to King Edward IV and his Queen.jpgOr, maybe we can no longer “believe,” because our exposure to competing beliefs leaves us with the belief (ironically) that any belief system is man-made, constructed, and so we come to acknowledge the fantastical nature of all sets of ideas which drives us to conclude that the only viable search for truth left for us moderns is one we have come to call reality. Secular, if not down right atheist, we will not be fooled again, or so we believe.

In pondering this idea of reality, I have wondered why we moderns seem to be so much under its spell. What do we mean when we make reference to reality, declaring something to be real (or not), and how is it that this modern usage came into being? What new shift in our experience does it reflect?

Reality as a belief, perhaps brings us to the ultimate supposition that there is one true background to all that exists, and paradoxically seems to show us that we live amid a multiplicity of perspectives, but at the same time insist, either that one of them is true, or perhaps something grander, that an as yet to be known truth does in fact exist. This now makes sense to me – to see our notion of reality as that which refers to the Whole, a sense that there is an undivided nature of all that was, is and will be.

File:Motorway (7858495690).jpgHow did we get here, to this point where we now experience ourselves as separated parts that make up a whole? We might agree that what has changed is our ability to both relocate and communicate at the speed of light and to any geographical distance, either physically or virtually, through the technology of travel and telecommunications. We no longer live in small localized communities that stay together generation upon generation, because we are not as confined and limited as were previous generations. We now have the means to move, in varying degrees, through both physical travel and the use of the internet to anywhere around the globe. As both the speed and frequency in which we move increases, perhaps so does our sense of separation from others and from the past. Especially in Western cultures, our independence reinforces the notion that we are separate, forging our own paths and no longer bound to a collective set of beliefs or the past.

Recently, I have been entertaining that notion that in order to restore the feeling of belonging and caring more for each other and for earth our home, we need a new myth. Some of us can see that it is a common mythology that holds a culture together. Only in our modern, historical, non-mythological culture could we think it possible that if we could just find the right myth all will be well – returning us to a paradise we imagine was once there.  Our de-mythologized state may be what allows us to entertain a notion like that but as well curses us with a mythology that says there is no myth, only reality! That is our myth, that there is a reality, even if we don’t feel ourselves to belong to it. Totally unreal! 🙂

File:Ottheinrich Folio296r Rev13.jpgWhat is it then that we need? Perhaps the historical perspective needs its grand finale, transforming us out of its myth of progress, and at last freeing us from the sins of the fathers.

I would guess, that the more we try to power our way out of the current global storm, the stormier it will get. If something must die, and it’s not a literal dying, what is it?

Maybe all that is left is to see is that there will never be an escape from myth. We are myth makers, and whether we call it reality, fantasy, science or religion, we are bound and contained, limited ultimately by our sense of who we are. The more we try to and need to define ourselves, the more caught we’ll be. If we are not who we think we are, then who are we?

The Holy Birthing

If Christmas is about a birthday, and the Holy birthday of the Christ child, what is it that is trying to be born in the repeating of this holiday each year? Why do we celebrate birthdays or Christmas? What does the ritual want with us? What is it that is born, again and again – on Christmas and in each new life, or even in each moment of everyday? Perhaps it is symbolic of another ongoing kind of birth – the birth that brings renewal throughout our lifetime as we spiral our way through to another new year.

I ask myself, what is it that is trying to be born now, in me, in you and in the world?

And isn’t is so fitting that Christmas is celebrated between the Solstice, the longest night when the darkness nearly overcomes the light, and the birth of the New Year? Is Christmas then a twilight moment?

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan

“The decision of the future falls to the soul, depends upon how the soul understands itself, upon its refusal or acceptance of a new birth.” Henry Corbin

I was so struck by Tom Cheetham’s remarks on what is called The Test of the Veil in Sufism and also the coincidence of being at this point in the book on Christmas Eve, that I wanted to share some of his words and quotes by Henry Corbin here with you.

 
File:Matthijs Maris The Bride, or Novice taking the Veil, c 1887.jpg“Insofar as anything is perceived as determinate and comprehensible, to that degree it is a Veil of the divinity. And yet in truth all things are masks of the infinite, and their being is the gift of God. All things are organs by which God contemplates Himself and are not other than He. To overcome the Test of the Veil requires that we not become trapped in the literal face of any being, that we not idolize it but rather see in it a Face of God.” Tom Cheetham

He is discussing nihilism and confronting it head on. This speaks to a nagging sense that I have had since childhood which perhaps many of us experience. Why be there anything? Have you ever stared out at the vastness of the night sky, or looked at child’s face, struck by awe for what can’t be known or understood and thought to yourself, where and who are we? Why is there anything at all? And more amazing than the fact of our existence, we know we’re here, or somewhere anyway.

“For if God is known and witnessed by an other than Himself, it is because there is such an Other. However, for there to be an Other, there must be this opacity, this darkness of a being that stops at itself, at the non-being of its pretensions, its ignorance, or even its devotions. If he claims to be an Other, he cannot look at God, as God can only be looked at by Himself.
God can only look at a world which is his own gaze, that is his own eyes which look at him from this world. This is why a world which wishes itself other (either by agnosticism or by piety) is not a world that God looks at. Literally, it is a world that God does not look at.
… [And] there must be a world that God does not look at so that Nietzsche’s tragic exclamation of the last century: God is dead can resound and spread in it. Uttered from the West and since then echoed in all consciousnesses, this cry is precisely what, for a Sufi, is experienced as the Supreme Test, the Test of the Veil , and, facing up to this Test, Sufism opens the way precisely for one who wishes to pass through it.” Henry Corbin

In order to pass through the test of the veil, Corbin says we must look to our angel, a divine being that is a face of God. Without the accompaniment of the Angel, we feel abandoned, because we are without a guiding presence which creates a vertical connection curing us of the blindness of literalism, giving us the second sight to see the Face of God in all of creation.

“The paradox of monotheism is equally the paradox of individualism, for the Angel as a Face of God is linked to the soul of whom it is the Twin in a bond of love that is essential for the being of each. Nietzsche’s cry requires a world that God does not look at, a world without His Face, a world that is, without Angels. But in such a world the reality of the person begins to fade. For if God is dead, then so are we.” Henry Corbin

“On the one hand there is the doubt of the intellect, of the philosopher, who, as Corbin says, demands rational proof for realities to which such proof cannot apply. For rational doubt assumes that human reason can cast its net over everything and extend its reach to capture even God. It is this hubris that drives much of modern culture. We are liberated from it if we can take to heart the words attributed to the nineteenth-century British scientist Lord J. B. S. Haldane: “The universe is not only stranger than we suppose , but stranger than we can suppose.” “ Tom Cheetham

Peace on earth, Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday everyone!

Cheetham, Tom (2012-07-03). All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings (p. 220). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

In a Nutshell

A quick tour of C.G. Jung’s idea of the Self is featured in the video below. Jung’s notion of the Self is a more modern term for describing an experience of what has had in the past many names and which Alan Watts called At-One-Ness. Humans from various times and places, have acknowledged a place in their culture for transpersonal experience – understood and assimilated through stories, myth, symbols, language, initiation. Support was given for assimilating these profound experiences that were understood to benefit the whole community. A whole that people knew themselves to be a part of and could not exist apart from.

Not to idealize the past, for all ages have had their share of miseries and hardship, and we carry the past with us and hopefully carry it forward into the future remembering and honoring what we’re here for.

For many in our day, an experience of deep unity, relatedness or what Jung  called the Self is not easily reconciled with our day to day living and can be ridiculed and considered suspect, unreal, or if you’re really hip – something your brain is doing to you. Yes, that’s how separate some of us feel today, not only the separation from God or the Garden, the gods or each other, but from the very body that we are! Amazing!

What caught my attention while listening to the video was the mention of the idea of assimilation, living with one foot in the conventional world, one foot in that other place, which has been called by many names – The Tao, the Underworld, Anima Mundi, Hades, The Light, Heaven, Cosmos, Nirvana. Many of us have glimpsed these places now and then. But like a dream that we wake up from, suddenly realizing we’re not dreaming,  little is left but the fluttering as that other world quickly fades away. Not without a trace however, or thankfully without leaving its mark.

Once you’ve been there, touched by it, you cannot unknow it. No one, no matter their expertise, lack of belief, teasing, logic or ability to talk you back into life’s conventional stream of activity, can take away – not only your memory of where you’ve been, but the knowing that enveloped you while there, building the bridge you are now learning to traverse.

The intuition, the non-verbal radar that connects you to the bigger picture where everything is related  – you now know it is not in you, but that you are in it, or are it and always have been, as is everyone else. And if you look for the relatedness between seemingly separated beings, things, ideas, you’ll see the necessity of each and every thing, place and time.

Photo credit: http://margopayne.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/worldviews-in-a-nutshell-two/

Reflections

Not sure why I never thought to poke around in the blogosphere here on WordPress but having recently done so, am happy to have found a few kindred spirits who also have a passion for ideas and writing. Many of you have been quite kind and inspiring, which is very much appreciated! Thank you!

185This morning I woke up a little earlier than usual with a vague, dreamlike, can’t-quite-remember-it, song from the past trying to find its way into my waking world. All I could recall from the lyrics was the word reflection. No surprise, as I have been pondering how much the reflections between self and other shape us after having a sudden insight and appreciation that so much of my analytical nature comes from my relationship with my father.

Eventually enough snippets of the song, Reflections, by a Scottish band called Marmalade, surfaced just enough to go to the computer and look up the song. So, it prompts me to reflect here a bit about the self/other relationship, opposition and ideas.

Perhaps I am slow to realize this, but it occurs to me recently how absolutely necessary the other is to self and how throughout our human experience we assume and consume the self/other relationship. It is only over time that we slowly build a self of our own out of all that we take in, as it is reflected back to us from others.

Little wonder that our primary experience of family and friends is not only a lasting impression, but incorporated into all that we are and continue becoming. Our language, our sense of meaning and purpose, assumptions, choices we make, all are reflected in the back and forth between ourselves and the people we experience early on, and expanded upon throughout our lives, as we continue to engage others which in turn shapes and forms who we are.

Not that we necessarily become like others, for each of us seems to have a unique way of taking the other in; digesting and making sense of the world that shapes us, and frees us to a certain extent – depending on how much daring and separation both we and those around us can tolerate. And it seems too that we each are called, in a most mysterious way, to articulate and express some facet of human beingness, whether it be through a creative pursuit, or relational pursuit or more likely a little of both.

Pondering just how much we humans are always in relationship – to people, things, places, ideas, it occurs to me that ideas too are in relationship with each other.

Seeing that ideas are in relationship helps me to understand the emotional tone that seems immediate in their presence. For example, there is often a temptation to polarize ideas and so to view things in opposition. Perhaps because oppositional pairing is so primary to our experience:

Dead, alive

Good, bad

You, me

Male, female

Day, night

Coming, going

North, south, east, west

Hero, villain

…and my favorite:

Fantasy, reality

Ideas, whether oppositional or not, are as much in relationship to each other as we are to them. They sit face to face and define each other having meaning only in relationship to what connects them. The temptation in language is to forget that words are words, giving them the power to concretize our understanding, removing the fluidity and gradations that we know from experience, in much the same way as a picture might come to define an entire era of our personal or shared history.

But face to face, I try to remind myself, does not necessarily mean a conflict, a battle stance, but may also be a lover’s embrace, a visit with a long-lost friend, a confession to a priest, therapist or family member. Here is where the emotional tone can change from one of anger, fear, loss or hatred, to curiosity, admiration, compassion and abundance. Perhaps when we broaden the possibilities of meaning  in our ideas, the meaning of the oppositions that we find between us may also expand – inviting curiosity, admiration, compassion and abundance as we look into every strangers eyes.

I am reminded of, and will leave you with a lyric from Roger Waters’ album, Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking;

In truck stops and hamburger joints

In Cadillac limousines

In the company of has-beens

And bent-backs

And sleeping forms on pavement steps

In libraries and railway stations

In books and banks

In the pages of history

In suicidal cavalry attacks

I recognise…Myself in every stranger’s eyes

And thanks to the Marmalades for the theme…