Tag Archives: wisdom

… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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… so we stumble along …

Drawing by Claire Finaz

Siva and Shakti, the Divine Couple in Hinduism, are in their heavenly abode watching over the earth. They are touched by the challenges of human life, the complexity of human reactions, and the ever-present place of suffering in the human experience. As they watch, Shakti spies a miserable poor old man walking down the road. His clothes are shabby and his sandals are tied together with rope. Her heart is wrung with compassion, touched by his goodness and his struggle. Shakti turns to her divine husband and begs him to give this man some gold. Siva looks at the man for long moment. ‘My dearest Wife,’ ‘I cannot do that.’

Shakti is astounded. ‘Why, what do you mean, Husband?’ You are Lord of the Universe. Why can’t you do this simple thing?

‘I cannot give this to him because he is not yet ready to receive it,’ Siva replies.

Shakti becomes angry. ‘Do you mean to say you cannot drop a bag of gold in his path?’

‘Surely I can,’ Siva replies, ‘but that is quite another thing.’

‘Please, Husband,’ says Shakti.

And so Siva drops a bag of gold in the man’s path.

The man meanwhile walks along talking to himself, ‘I wonder if I will find dinner tonight – or shall I go hungry again?’ Turning a bend in the road, he sees something on the path in his way. ‘Aha,’ he says. ‘Look there, a large rock. How fortunate that I have seen it. I might have torn these poor sandals of mine further.’ And carefully stepping over the bag of gold, he goes his way.

*    *    *

‘The Bag of Gold,’ like many wisdom tales, has layers of meanings, one being: within each stumbling block is also a treasure. Gold, of old, is associated with the inner sun.

The above version of the story is shared by Elisa Pearmain in ‘Doorways to the Soul.’ See the link in my blogroll at the right. One page on her site features publications. 

To the above story she adds: … Before going to sleep each night, think about all the gold encountered during the day. You may feel quite rich …

The longing remains, expressed in this song by Neil Young:    … I want to live, I want to give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold …

One of my New Year resolutions is to practice tunes on my G Blues Harp – a magical instrument that fits into my pocket –  however bad things get, a little breath and a harmonica can cheer people.

The drawing is by a friend – Claire Finaz – on a Christmas Card many years back. It depicts the inner sun very well.

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… perception & difference …

Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a young-woman-old-hagmoment arrives when black and white spaces inverse and clusters of stars shine from another dimension. The background has moved to the foreground. A tiny shift in our outlook can result in a new interpretation of what we see, like in the gestalt drawing  on the right, which changes the age of the person if you let your eyes wander up and down the image. Visual tricks that open a sudden gap in our seeing reveal how we jump to superficial referencing. Making snap assessments is convenient, safes time, energy, and sometimes lives, but can also trap us in a kind of flatland of rigid divisions.

What do we mean when we say he or she is different – do they look different, act different, think different, or have customs that seem strange to us? Typical brackets are class, gender, cultural background, colour, language, age, ability … and migrants. Defining people by categories clicks in as a default opinion when real or imagined threats require scapegoats. Or resources are scare and solidarity is politically expedient.  Suddenly the need to belong and historical prejudices reasserts themselves.

Beneath all habitual categories prowls what is frequently forgotten … the inherent natural tendency of each individual. Consider relatives, neighbours, familiars, friends and foes. The differences that delight orfoetus-2 irritate us lie foremost in a person’s unique temperament and inherent tendencies. Background does not explain the mystery of characteristics we are born with, the random mix of evolutionary records in our bodies, a wisdom our minds expand upon through resonance with the collective psyche – a shared matrix of past experience and future potential from which we, ideally, emerge as a self-reflective persona. (The theory of a collective unconscious and similar non-evidenced theories relate to my experience.)

Environmental factors can distort the unfolding of latent knowledge in every living organism. Education has a detrimental effect on children when their intuition is belittled and their minds are flattened with facts before they developed the confidence to question these facts.

P1090890 - Copy (2)How come I’m invigorated by rushing waters, calmed by a smooth stone, a golden sunset? How do I sense the pulse in a tree, or what life is like for a boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog –  unless all nature’s qualities also reside in me?

For example, anyone who sits in a public place and watches people stroll by will notice traces of animal features; can spot a temperament in gestures and movements, observe someone dragging their body behind their head, or push their belly out like a shield. Some people dance along with a fluid gait, while others tiptoe and glance nervously about them.

mercats-copy-smallerAt social gatherings we may come upon clusters of meerkats grooming each other, turtles plodding through the crowd looking for a mate or a fresh salad leaf, peacocks, obsessed with their splendour, blustery cockerels, loving old dogs, sharp-eyed falcons, enchanting robins, and so on. …

birds-and-cake

Birds are keen on cake but wary of cats, whereas lions can afford to be relaxed.  How amazing then to observe vastly different temperaments complementing each other – like a person falcon-smaller-stillwith a butterfly nature tying up with a partner who occasionally roars. Given the rich lore of sensibilities mixing and battling in the human psyche, strangers should be less strange than we make them out to be.

Initial likes and dislikes, even among kin, have nothing to do with background, morals or ethics. Wariness goes along with fascination when it comes to difference. We may not be keen to share a nest, but sharing a street is fun. Nature is a mirror that teaches us how to become human. And animals deserve our special appreciation for reminding us of the innumerable diverse idiosyncrasies in ourselves.

Animals have appeared in wonderful stories around the world, like the Aesop’s Fables   or the much older Indian Panchatantra Collection – the chief source of the world’s fable literature.

img131-smallerThe Persian translation became the Fables of Bidpai. Lovely collections of Kalila and Dimna were published by Ramsey Wood,  one with an introduction from Doris Lessing. I got permission from Ramsay Wood to use a short tale from his collection in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’

Programmes on ‘Respecting Difference’ have made it into schools and institutions. But can respect be taught in a few hours? More effective are courses that help people to find self-respect through exploring the diverse feelings and judging voices within themselves, the inner conflicts that manifest for us outside.

Acknowledgement, at least, tolerance and patience with our inner crowd eases snap projections and allows us to rediscover ourselves in the eyes and minds of others day by day. The internet expands this mirroring into timeless realms,  from where echoes of our own dissonance or resonance return.

In the analogue world people are on the move across the planet – for various reasons – war – drought – famine – persecution – fresh meaning – it is happening, and it will continue. The most productive response to this phenomenon is to embrace its creative potential.

The other day woke up with this thought: Migrants, indeed all citizens sans resources but able and willing to work, could be given the spaces to create new towns, be empowered to build their own houses and develop their own businesses, and conducts, as a way towards gaining self-respect, and in addition contribute to the well being of a community. Maybe this is a naive pipe dream, but worth contemplating nevertheless, since creative opportunities nurture self-respect and move us beyond self-concern.

‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts … it has an independent existence.’  –  Kurt Koffka

Related links

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night …

Pattern which connects – Gregory Bateson

Regarding the discovery of what we know, see the visionary work, Involution,  by Philippa Rees, a remarkable poetic adventure, with brilliantly researched additional historic commentaries.  A book to take on a Desert Island.

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… dreams …

Photos by Ashen

Photos by Ashen

I used to host regular dream groups. We did not so much set out to analyse our dreams, but we played with them by engaging with their images, characters and objects. Sometimes we enacted scenes to widen associations and deepen our insights. While there is some excellent literature on working with dreams, a lot of it is boring, misleading and superficial. For me, the main purpose of valuing dreams lies in befriending the unconscious and the bringing to light what is timely and meaningful.

When we have no obvious explanation for events, dreams may bring subtle messages, offering glimpses of dynamics usually hidden from our awareness. A staggering 90 percent of personal and collective psychic dynamics trigger and compel our actions in life, and for good reason. The self-regulating psyche protects us from too much awareness. When encouraged, respected, and left to do its work, much like the immune system, the psyche can encapsulate runaway viruses of the mind by blanking out anxieties and obsessive thoughts, unless a trauma results in an ongoing inner storm. The processing of traumatic experiences is vital for the health of the individual, the family, the tribe, and our collective psyche. Something equally important to consider is that as adults our natural childlike curiosity about life may have become flattened by engrained habits and obsessive needs for security and control, both diminishing the meaning of our lives.

Note: Each embedded link here will not lead you away from this post but bring up a fresh page.

In an earlier blog post Joe Linker’s comment led me to an article by Oliver Sacks on altered states in The New Yorker  where Sacks pointed out a long tradition of ceremonial drug-use to stimulate the brain. Drugs certainly relax jaded attitudes by activating the senses and bringing insights and fresh perception. Sacks, and many like him, were admiringly fearless and creative, before there was a clamp down on drugs and they became illegal.Dreamseries 2

In dreams as in trance, induced or not, the mind can kick up imaginal representations of feelings, and metaphors. We shift to another realm, escape the logical structure of time and also tap into the collective psyche. We may hit a T junction, one path leading to an illuminating visionary state and the other to a schizophrenic state of confusion, which is why science sticks with rationality and is generally not keen on the imagination. The question as to what pulls us towards Heaven or Hell has no easy answer, yet all inner state, when approached with respect, patience, and most of all, wisdom, can have a healing and effect on our personality, and, in instances, as we know, result in significant works of art.

Dreamseries 3

Freud’s iceberg metaphor illustrates that our individual psyche swims like a mountain of ice in a vast sea, only to reverse into its fluid state once its coherence dissolves back into the sea. As a simple and more intelligent map of various unconscious states I prefer the egg diagram by Alberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.

Active imagination is a gentle way to befriend the unconscious and build bridges towards consciousness and daily life, and a way to explore dreams without messing with the dreamer’s unique meaning. I share here some practical tips:

Remembering dreams:

You can ask for a dream, especially when you feel stuck and ponder a question. You might even write the question on a slip of paper and put it under your pillow.

Try not to move your head after noticing a dream. Place holds memory.

Have a notepad and a soft pencil next to your bed, maybe a microlight, so you can scribble down a memory facet before fully crossing the threshold into waking. Even a single image, phrase, number, colour or feeling can act as a key for recalling a dream later on.

To catch a dream – try disrupting your sleeping pattern with an early alarm clock setting.

Experiment with your head position while sleeping – north, east, south or west.

Towards understanding dreams:

The psyche does not care about logic. The meaning of a dream may however unfold like a seed when we attend to its poetry and rhythm.

Ask yourself … how do I relate to the characters or objects of a dream? What feelings and sensations are evoked? In what context did the dream arise? How does it relate to my present situation?

Write a story or make sketches of the images. Tiny fragments can offer connections via free associations.

Give a voice to the characters and objects appearing in the dream. What do they want? Allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. Such dialogues can reveal surprising insights.

Change the script, create a different outcome, face down a fear or a shadow and follow through to what wants to happen. This approach can move a dream to a different level of understanding.

Ask yourself: Where does the energy want to go? What is emerging?

Dreamseries 4

 

Dreams express the voice of the soul; they are our contact with our deepest self, our inner substance. The mere act of recalling, experiencing and consciously honouring our dreams connects us with our real selves and awakens previously unavailable levels of creativity and vitality, even without interpretation.

Carl G Jung

A related post on altered states.

And if the subject of dreams interests you, here are some more links:

Edward C Whitmont was a Jungian psychoanalyst, who deepened my understanding of the psyche through his exceptionally clear writing. His books may be out of print, which would explain why they’re so expensive:  Dreams – a Portal to the Source and The Symbolic Quest

Other excellent authors to look out for, apart from Jung, are Anthony Stevens, Private Myths – Dreams and Dreaming, and Marie-Louise von Franz – The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.

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… recent instances that caused a smile …

 

Kalu Rinpoche

Kalu Rinpoche

Maybe brought on by the longer days and the increasing sunshine, there were more than the usual instances making me smile during the last few days, so I thought I share some of them …

Exploring with a client what it is that can shine through our eyes, and sharing an image of a Tibetan Lama, Kalu Rinpoche. We reflected on what is communicated  through our eyes. It is certainly informed by our inner attitude, by our projection. The way we look at ourselves, at others, at our surroundings, and at the world at large

Irrespective of the Lama’s Mr Spock ears, I feel deeply nourished by what shines through his eyes.

Hazrat Inayat Khan spoke of the smiling forehead. https://wahiduddin.net/mv2/XIV/XIV_1.htm

 

My resident blackbird family.

My resident blackbird family.

My resident blackbird family – dad plucking worms for his offspring.

Tiny plants in my garden, like Creeping Moss Phlox and London Pride.

Stories shared among friends about invisible presences that have come to say, ‘Hello.’

The intimation found in an old graveyard brushed by the evening sun – ‘Ha, ha, there’s no death – we’re having a wonderful time.’

 

Rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron flowers

A broken rhododendron branch – its budding flowers shouting, ‘Take us home and we’ll open’

The friend for whom I did photographic portraits, saying:

‘I must get to know this stranger.’

Strawberry soup my mother used to make – slice berries, add sugar to draw juices, let it stand, the longer the better, add milk and dabs of whipping cream.

 

And on days like today, the late sunrays visiting my garden.

 

Late sun rays in my garden.

Late sun rays in my garden.

Moments of being – an aware and restful state of mind, an empty sphere from where anything can emerge.

*    *    *   emptiness   *   *   *

… only the unfettered mind holds

the virtual teasing in poise

screeners ponder its Socratic

wisdom in the bright light of day

peals of laughter – a burst of love …

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… what’s your age again? …

Copy Chair in Spider Hut 2 smallerThe question grates, especially when a round number announces yet another decade looming ahead. While the 40s suggests respectable maturity, the 50s have an aura of old gold best valued by insurance and investment companies. Once you enter the 60s, no matter how rich, poor, active, passive or just blissfully sober, public consensus puts you in line for the moot title ‘retired.’

Once you get over this pesky label, there’s a perk – time slows.

Perceiving life in slow motion has been called wisdom ever since people recognised that slow time reveals hidden dimensions, realities other than those experienced in the speed-lane. Within the present digital pulse of life, days, seasons and years skip ahead at a dizzying velocity. The phenomenon has shortened the shelf life of people, ideas, and objects. A few years ago the motherboard of my laptop crashed. The young man at the IT shop looked amazed. ‘They shouldn’t last that long.’ My laptop was 5 years old. I guess it’s supernatural that my 25 year old Bosch washing machine still works perfectly.

When young, I lifted off, ascended, sped across horizons, acted out and engaged intensely with life. Youth in itself brings of course no guarantee of ascending. Age holds similar uncertainties. Ideally, it allows one to slow down, descent inward, assimilate and integrate experiences, develop patience and insight, re-connect, and grasp the myth of one’s life, and the myth of one’s century.

My point is – descent has a vital function in society. If we can manage to work part-time, or independently during the second half of our lifespan, weRa hand, edit 2 may gain the freedom to reflect, attend to the body’s intelligence, and find our inner rhythm. A thought sculpture may develop, a mood may linger. Communicating may happen along deeper wavelengths. The experience and perception of slow time has a calming influence on the collective psyche, like the prayers and contemplations observed by nuns and monks in monasteries are said to keep the world in balance. I truly believe this.

For those who practice a vocation they love, or develop a passion that keeps them curious and focussed, aging is a side-issue. New technical procedures may not be instantly absorbed, but they provide food for thought. The movie occasionally rolls on silently. Memos reappear, which the younger self, swept along by the speed of progress, may have overlooked, but which in a wider context assume new significance.

The manner that informed wisdom in past cultures and classic times may have remained the same, but elders today have a more complex task in finding apt metaphors for what’s been happening during our single lifetime, poignant lessons that could guide us onwards. When young, our mind feels eternal, we make thing happen, are in sync with the pace of progress and create the future. But what if wisdoms assimilated during inner journeys and the deeper comprehension of present lifetimes are not sufficiently communicated?

The next round of ascent may be hampered by ladders with broken steps, leaving us stuck with unsurmountable problems and senseless social systems. All is not well. The ascending and descending energies working through our present decades are askew. Unless elders have acquired eminence, their voices, their stories, the harvest of their unique experiences, are easily considered useless. Wisdom is not equivalent to the IQ flatland that education systems bank on. Wisdom is more about questions than answers, more like a dance, a tracing of patterns and parallels. Wisdom employs the imagination, re-shuffles knowledge, re-interprets and re-connects ideas to create new meaning.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

There’ll always be young ones born old and wise, and old ones who turn young and adventurous. Intangible experiences and the insights of all age groups seek expression and must be circulation, because we are animated by forces not accessible to us. Fate cannot be controlled, but nudges us from the dark. It’s therefor essential to bring our light not only to matter, but to the totality of the psyche, including the unconscious layers of our past and our future, our unknown human potential. We need spaces to make visible what inspires individuals. In this the arts must serve.

The arts need public support in providing free spaces, and funding for everyone, young and old, to engage with and share their imagination in any form that moves their heart. In a culture that prizes speed above all else, the inner journey, the long view, listening, trusting, gratitude, the appreciation of difference, small things, and the cultivation of inner silence from which conflict resolution, intuition and creativity can spring, has never been more important.

*    *    *

Re: Elders … there is a group brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 http://www.theelders.org/ Add your support to the eighty thousand follower on twitter –  @TheElders   – This is their mission:

Our vision is of a world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities for each other, for the planet and for future generations. We see a world in which there is universal respect for human rights; in which poverty has been eliminated; in which people are free from fear and oppression and are able to fulfil their true potential.

Initially the concept emerged from a conversation between Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. Together, they took their idea of a group of global elders to Nelson Mandela who agreed to support it.                                                     http://www.virgin.com/unite/leadership-and-advocacy/richard-branson-birth-elders

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… emitting the real …

nothing beats the spiral

nothing beats the spiral

In the spaces between

Harmony and chaos

Wisdom voids the mind

To expose veins of

Hidden avoidances

Where – omniabsent –

Omnivalent in our longing

We exist inverted –

Give in receiving

Receive in giving

While surfing across the deep

To simulate worlds

Sift signals

Endure ironies

For evermore becoming

And emitting realities

Fleeing the ground

Of being …

*    *    *

Dear readers, I hope you stick around, while I’m immersed in writing scenes  for my second book, Shapers – the continuation of an epic search for the real.

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… patterns of eternity humbly opens your mind …

I want to tell you about a friend and writer – Malcolm Stewart – Initially a priest, Malcolm’s life sparkles with many roles – poet, singer-songwriter, editor, book jacket designer, cartoonist, BBC and ITV producer, UN project coordinator, NGO relief-aid and refugee organiser, artist, stained glass designer, lecturer and writer, friend, husband and father to 5 children … He is now in his 70s and lives with his wife, Nora, in Surrey. The Maze below is one of his many designs waiting to be collated and shared.

Maze design by Malcolm Stewart

Maze design by Malcolm Stewart

Having published Patterns of Eternity, of which more later, Malcolm wrote a second book, Symbols of Eternity. In the process of delivering the manuscript to his publisher, Floris Books, in March 2011, Malcolm suffered a stroke, which deeply shocked his family and friends.

He consequently lingered in a coma – drifting in and out of consciousness over a period of 5 weeks. Helped by the extraordinary determination of his wife, Nora, intense rehabilitation, the healing skills of friends, and the prayers of many, Malcolm gradually recovered speech and movement. During 2012/13 he improved in leaps and bounds. He now walks several miles a day, is his old delightful conversationalist, and has made friends with his computer again. He is working on another book, Light of Eternity (landmarks of a soul’s journey) and, in addition, is completing a novel he had kept hidden in drawers for years – Dictionary of Amazement.

Malcolm and Nora Stewart, photo by Peter Langford

Malcolm and Nora Stewart, photo by Peter Langford

We met up last week, and I asked him to sum up Dictionary of Amazement in a single sentence (a question I dread when it comes to my own novels.) His face lit up – A Tall Story – he said. It was one of those moments when you can hear the angels clapping. He read me the first chapter from the screen of his computer, and I can’t wait to read more.

Malcolm’s work inspires me. Even as a child I was in awe of music, forms and patterns in nature, proportions in art and architecture, the cosmos … and though I remained shy of mathematics, I recall my joy on discovering that all these manifestations could be based on mathematical principles of numbers made visible through geometric shapes, revealing a golden mean that pervades all systems. As I see it, evolution is the adventure of discovering the intersections from which new forms forever develop. Or, to re-appropriate the line of a poem by John Masefield I came across the other day (through Brain Pickings) … the mind re-members the beauty of fire from the beauty of embers

Patterns of Eternity - by Malcolm Stewart

At intervals to writing this, I was dashing into the kitchen to check on the setting point of my Damson jam, which requires a fine knack of proportions – fruit, sugar, lemon, a little water. We’re all born with a knack for proportions – though this tends to get obscured by an education that tips the scale of balance by valuing quantity over quality.

While much has been written on sacred geometry, Malcolm’s book is unusual. Not only does it welcome lay persons, like me, and entertain with rare, charming stories, and sumptuous illustrations, it also presents a simple device of great significance, the Starcut Diagram.

John Martineau writes in his review about Patterns of Eternity … the single most important addition to the body of sacred geometry to re-emerge in a decade …

Look up the book   Patters of Eternity (first time I try to do an ‘elegant’ link 🙂

An excerpt of my review: … The Star Cut Diagram introduced by Malcolm Stewart is an eye-opener in that it sheds light on one of the simplest and earliest geometric construction known, which he suspects pre-dates Euclid by thousands of years, a mnemonic device, and the template of many significant patterns throughout history and across the world … in architecture, art, rituals … a way of seeing and connecting things up.

Here a few themes from the book …

Chapter 8, The Hidden Geometry of The Divine Raphael. This chapter made me realise why Raphael’s paintings are so appealing. Malcolm first noticed the geometry in his painting The Transformation, which perfectly fitted the boundary rectangle of two circles interlocking as a Vesica Piscis, a ration that is also the perfect 5th harmony in music, like the notes C and G played together, or in sequence. The simple 2:3 ratio, root of all this, is as harmonious to the eye as to the ear or to the mind. What fascinates is how the directional gaze of the characters in the painting brings meaning to the theme.

Raphael - The School of Athens

Raphael – The School of Athens

The chapter also explores Raphael’s fresco set in a semicircle, The School of Athens. In the ceiling medallion (not visible here) it says Causarum Cognito (Knowledge of Causes.) The female figure of philosophy in the medallion holds two books, one vertically, which is titled ‘Morals,’ the other horizontally, titled ‘Nature,’ resonating with the two central philosophers – where Plato points to heaven and Aristotle gestures to the earth. All the well-known philosophical figures in this stage-like painting also represent ideas, and Malcolm expands on their connections in detail, adding inspired meaning by overlaying the diagram of the Starcut.

Chapter 21, The Lyre of Apollo, applies the Starcut diagram to architectural spaces and relates to vibrations and resonances. Images show samples of standing waves created by sound within different elements. And the tonal vibrations of the human voice are discussed, like Psalm singing, the reciting of Indian puja, Sufi Zikhr, Buddhist sutra chanting or mantra. Practising this kind of tuning in groups (as I experienced) powerfully tunes mind and body. The chapter goes on to elaborate on the length, tension and ratio of musical strings, using once more the Starcut diagram to show the consistent harmony of numbers, and the hidden one that remains quiet.

P. of Eternity, ten pebbles

By bringing light and clarity to simple forms, with beautiful illustrations, the materials presented throughout the 25 chapters convey a deep intuitive connectedness, which makes this book a joy to explore.

A surprise at the end of the book introduces 5 Starcut Glass Bead games, not featured here.

You can listen to Malcolm reading a little from Patterns of Eternity on yourtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N8QiyJU_SY

Dip into it at Amazon – PATTERNS OF ETERNITY  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Patterns-Eternity-Geometry-Starcut-Diagram/dp/0863157122/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i

And also look at SYMBOLS OF ETERNITY   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Symbols-Eternity-Landmarks-Soul-Journey/dp/0863158374/ref=pd_sim_b_2

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… the mystery of thoughts …

Every child is truly switched on to the imagination. But frequently the environment belittles the imagination, and the gift can end up suppressed under the blanket of rationality. People with a strong creative drive may settle down to live in a straitjacket, and then find themselves overwhelmed by images, thoughts and associations, especially around full moon.

As a child I was intensely curious about the spaces between things, and about light. Had I not locked horns with an opinionated physics teacher I might have taken up the challenge to study sciences. Another fascination of mine was pattern repetition – how the veins in a leaf resemble the shape of a tree. And scale – how tiny bodies, big bodies, our planet, galaxies, the universe, are all reflected in each other.

 Hindukailash, image from wikipedia.

Hindukailash, image from wikipedia.

Like Indra’s net of pearls in Vedic mythology, where the surface of each pearl mirrors all other pearls, a metaphor for the interconnected networks of mutual relationships between parts and systems. Mount Kailash is depicted here as the timeless and motionless centre of this net, housing Shiva’s family.

Not only visible structures are held together by interactive nets, our social systems, political systems, spiritual systems and the internet operate within a network. We can observe that the invisible psyche (mind) functions not only through logic, but also through aesthetics, independent of space/time, and is held by another kind of coherence – a net of meaning. And what is generated from this net of meaning is a finer kind of energy, not evidenced by present scientific methods – namely intelligence.

We knew it all along – research established that our emotional experiences leave an imprint in the cells of our body, that the brain is more than the squishy mass under our skull but a medium spread throughout the body via a network of neurotransmitters. There have been hair-splitting arguments for and against the idea that the recipient of an organ can experience personality traits of the donor, based on the speculation that each cell carries a hologram of the whole body and its memory.

Feelings and thoughts arising in my consciousness are filtered through my body’s memory. They also depend on my state of anxiety or calm, my interest, attitude and other variables, such as the weather, my relationship with the elements, with people, the collective mood, solar flares, or the constellation of planets. On some days, maybe after a meaningful dream, or a spell of mantras, thoughts are forming clearly on the breath, like reflections in a still pond, on other days, thoughts rush in on water rapids threatening to drown me, or they plod in like turtles, slow and guarded.

Objective reality is not the only game there is – what in the universe has not interacted at some point in time, irrespective of distance? Everything is linked up. Einstein called it the ‘spooky action.’

The motherboard for this wonderful instrument we call the brain, which comprises our whole body, is formed in the womb. I believe the intelligence involved in creating any specific body must lay in more than known DNA codes, must include the indeterminable non-local DNA of a spirit world. Our body foremost operates like a receiver and transmitter for as many wavelengths our radio station in time attracts or is able to tune into.

From this station, stabilized by repetition, I sort clusters of sensations and feelings, and process thoughts and ideas attracted to me from the collective psyche, a vast sea, which the individual mind must learn to navigate. Images and signifiers are coloured by whatever I consciously or unconsciously mirror and relate to.

No matter how much information we absorb, through our senses, through language and concepts, through comparing patterns, reasoning and calculation, everything, comprehended or not, will be filtered through the body’s motherboard that keeps adjusting to experiences and expanding fields of perception, fields that extend way beyond personal memory. All this information is continuously re-shuffled, as is the meaning we assign to it.

Our body is a motherboard – planet earth is a motherboard – the whole cosmos is a motherboard for a spirit we cannot comprehend, an invisible hand that touches us like a breeze, made visible through what it animates.

All we know is that images, thoughts and ideas are reflected in us. They travel via synapses in the neurons of our body, they travel on the air between minds, they travel among stars, they echo from under the sea, waving to us as plankton, they speak to us from every creature, from every blade of grass, from every stone, and they beep from within our bodies through tweaks of pleasure or pain. All matter, all people and objects we interact with store the memory of that interaction, including interactions with things we hate or nurture, and with places we live in.

We don’t invent anything, we re-discover, re-connect and re-create from the vast storehouse of knowledge and information provided to us by nature, and by the spirit between matter that makes up the cosmos, an embodied being that is becoming conscious of itself.

We are on the air, sent, programmed, radioed and broadcast, identified with all manner of things, ideas and beliefs. Yet if we look deep inside our emptiness, we know, the non-material aspects of us can potentially detach and be free, maybe enjoy tea with Shiva’s family and witness the world turn on its axis – a state some people experience spontaneously or through meditation. A state of pure consciousness not identified with this or that. In the meantime, we could at least be kind to ourselves …

‘Thoughts are beings that generate … One thought of kindness gathers a thousand beings of love and kindness around one.’            Hazrat Inayat Khan

I don’t know if a singular mind/psyche, the incredible art of a lifetime, survives the physical death of the body. Maybe a coherent individuated mind leaves a dent, an influence within the collective psyche. Like the organ of the heart, over time, achieved its definite function. But does it matter? Nothing is lost. All information is continuously re-shuffled into new forms and constellations.

Digital storage provides a metaphor – information exists and roams freely in the wind of the collective psyche (unconscious) until it is embodied and gathered towards a purpose. Every event has a consequence. Nature is exacting, but also generous, what has been repressed in the flow of evolution will always return in one form or another.

Everything alive speaks to us, and all such relationships are processed in the stories we share, stories being containers of the richest kind of information. 

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You can source other posts on the theme of reflection in the tag cloud on the right of this page. Like this sequenc of posts: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/hazrat-inayat-khan/

And you might want to check out posts under the tag ‘psychology,’ especially the one on ‘awareness,’ where I share R. Assagioli’s 10 psychological laws – how the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/psychology/

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This post also appeared at  Third Sunday Blog Carnival: September 2013 | Third Sunday Blog Carnival

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… consciousness – the mystery …

People who engage in therapeutic work with me often ask – why dig up my past, it holds pain, why look at attachment patterns, why explore the theme (myth) of my life? What a waste of time. I only want to get rid of my symptoms.

We all, without exception, suffered injuries. The creative question to ask is – how has the injury shaped my life, and what purpose does it serve? Many years ago, during a group dialogue following the inspirational talk of my Sufi teacher, we discussed three basic kinds of injuries. I connect my own experience to the third injury.

1        Having experienced physical injury can result in fight and flight behaviour – it brings a heightened sensitivity and develops a sharpening of the senses.

2        Having experienced sexual, sensual and emotional injury can result in escape from one’s self into others, estrangement from self, lack of differentiation and boundaries – the great challenge is to accept one’s self, differentiate as an individual from the tribe and take responsibility for one’s unique potential.

3        Having experienced injury on a cognitive level accelerates individuation – the escape is into deeper realities, a search for authenticity and truth and the development of symbolic reality – universal reality.

My novel, Course of Mirrors, is the fictionalised account of an aspect of my personal myth made universal – in the sense that memories of events don’t have to be real for a story to be true.

@ Natasha Tonkin

@ Natasha Tonkin

Even the most die-hard materialists among us grok that life is animated and guided by an all-pervading spirit? We are vessels, psychic switchboards for the spirit that animates and records all life.

An ungraspable phenomenon we try to name in vain.

Mental states pass through us. We call in and then process thoughts and feelings, seeking coherence, and – given we assign meaning to what happens to us – are gaining wider perspectives and deeper insights. With every new connection made and every little light brought to what is forgotten and unknown – collective consciousness grows.

Our body knows, if we care to notice, what stirs in our psyche, what wants to unfold and emerge. When energy flows freely through us our essential nature is uplifted, and our desire is aligned with the potential in us that seeks actualisation – in the way a cocoon reveals the butterfly. Our life has many cocoon and wing stages. The proverbial flutter that causes a stir in all spheres of the universe is like yet another love-transcended aspect of us emerging from yet another cocoon.

Presence, responding to situations, accepting differences and contradictions, frees energy that is ghosted and stagnant. While blocked energy creates frustrations and often painful symptoms, it is totally inevitable, since every organism evolves through condensed experiences. Life enhancing and life destroying events subject us to a pattern of repetition in time until we embrace change.

‘A truth outgrown crushes you under its weight.’   Fazal Inayat-Khan

To bring a repeating pattern to a higher level of flow requires a kind of quantum leap of consciousness. Small leaps occur frequently, especially when we befriend the unconscious and allow fresh symbols into awareness. The released light/energy brings new meaning and allows the self-actualisation of new potential.

‘It is obvious that the percolation of a timeless NOW is penetrating everything!’  –  Philippa Rees

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The image above is by Natasha Tonkin, my son’s partner. It was done two years ago as Christmas card and gift idea towards illustrating my novel, to help bring it to life. I scanned and inversed the image for the mirror to appear light. Natasha’s animation website: http://pandahorse.com/

Link to a book I co-edited about the Sufi teacher I mentioned above, Fazal Inayat-Khan. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Sufi-Inayat-Khan-Reflections-ebook/dp/B00BFUO0T6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369084226&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+of+a+sufi

Link to ‘Involution,’ an exceptional book by a kindred spirit, Philippa Rees.                                         http://involution-odyssey.com/  her book will soon hit the market. Her site is being developed.

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