Saturday, 16 October 2021

What's the School For?

My new book Earth is a School comes out at the end of the month. Faced with a statement like that in the title the obvious thing to ask is what is the school for? And the short answer is that it is a school for making gods.

When you look around at your friends and neighbours that might seem ridiculous. Indeed, when you look at yourself it might seem positively absurd. Nonetheless, it is true. No doubt most of us are not anywhere near the end of the process but the fact remains that this material environment is the ideal scenario for making self-centred beings into higher forms of life, able to engage with the universe with love and creative energy on its many planes of being. That's what a god is though we give the word a small 'g' to make clear that these gods operate within the parameters of divine creation as laid down by God the Creator. To seek to operate outside these parameters is what makes a devil, basically a being that rejects its Maker and the deepest pattern of its own soul.

We started a long time ago as little different from the animals, fully embedded in nature with no intellectual capacity to speak of and no real sense of an individual self. The forces of evolution worked on us over vast periods of time. The challenges and experiences of the earthly situation moulded us and drove us in a certain direction. Different groups of human beings experienced different challenges but the general direction was similar; to bring out intelligence, creativity and the sense of self. Early man had none of this. He reacted instinctively with unselfconscious awareness, and he was largely one with his environment. But the story of civilisation is the story of becoming more conscious. That is to say, of consciousness contracting and becoming centred on itself so in one way shrinking but in another becoming clearer and sharper. Losing the early spiritual contact with life, using the word spiritual in the loosest of senses, and becoming more focussed on the physical world. Of course, an animal is completely focussed in its physical being and early humans were the same but they retained a connection to the world soul which is a unified field of consciousness encircling the planet and can be regarded as the inner side of Nature. It is, as it were, the outer garment of Spirit, where the forces of Spirit begin to touch matter. It is not Spirit itself.

When the mind is more directed towards the physical world it starts to separate itself from other minds. This leads to the development of individual intelligence. You become a real self and you need a real mind in order to function as a self. We are well into that stage but that is esoterically regarded as the nadir of an arc that stretches from above (the heavens) to below (the earth) and from the esoteric point of view, esoteric here meaning unacknowledged by everyday thought, the process has stalled. Instead of moving on from this stage, back up towards spirit, we are digging ourselves deeper into it. We are solidifying ourselves in matter. 

This material entrenchment has been encouraged by anti-spiritual forces, the recognition of which is probably the most important thing we could do right now to get back on track. For if we fail to see these forces, that they exist and what they seek to do which is trap our consciousness eternally in matter, we face spiritual disaster. This is something that has to be done on an individual level as everything must be at this stage in the evolutionary journey. The school applies to each and every soul and though not all have the same lessons at the same time, all need to recognise the reality of spirit to avoid flunking the course.

Five years ago, I wrote a post which has a bearing on this subject  and I would like to quote from it here.

"The evolution of consciousness is the process that transforms an Adam into a Christ. That is to say, the evolutionary process turns a newly formed spiritual being into a fully functioning son of God. The journey is one from innocence to experience and then back to innocence again but this time as a fully self-conscious state with all the fruits of experience, will, intellect, creativity and so on, added.

The early adamic state is when the newly created individual is not yet conscious of his individuality. He is one with nature and his environment.  He is one with spirit as it is manifested in nature but totally ignorant of his Creator, the transcendent God.  So he has to leave the paradise of union with the Mother principle in order to know the Father.  This means he has to experience the sense of separation and become conscious of duality, and that introduces the possibility of pain and suffering.  So, he has to discover himself as a person and a true individual. Alone but also free. Early man lived in what we now call a participation consciousness. It was a state of unity but natural not spiritual meaning that the union was an unconscious one with the anima mundi not a fully conscious union of love with the Creator. Adam fell in order to know himself. Now, whether this fall was intended or not is an interesting point.  Tradition affirms that it was not intended, not in the way that it happened anyway. Adam was meant to evolve in a more harmonious fashion, one in which death and suffering would not have played so great a part. However, the process was disrupted in the way mythologically presented in the book of Genesis, and sin entered into the equation.
 God had to remake his plans for the evolutionary path but he has to do this constantly in response to the exercising of human free will anyway. He may have a plan but it is not fixed. It is an organic thing, always growing and changing according to how human beings react to it and what they instigate. There is destiny and there is free will and the two necessarily interact at every moment as life unfolds. This is true both on a collective and an individual level. Consequently, God's plan alters second by second, according to events, but its direction remains constant."

Each lifetime represents an opportunity for the incarnate soul to learn through experience, expression and experiment. Learning can be intellectual, moral, creative and so on, all of which are good, but the most important area of learning is spiritual and the most important aspect of spiritual growth is acknowledgment of God. Today there are many people who seek spiritual growth without reference to God, but this reflects the crime of our first parents. The school exists to teach you to become a god but you can only do so when you understand that being a god means allowing God to work through you. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do." Here is the whole teaching of the school.

Earth is a School can be pre-ordered here.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

My Current Spiritual Practice

 I practised meditation for over 20 years but then felt it was getting stale so stopped, today meditating in a formal sense only about once a month. I have been a churchgoer during four periods of my life but now just attend at Christmas and Easter. I do say my prayers every morning and before going to bed but my main spiritual practice these days has become walking.

That's not a spiritual practice, I hear you say. It's just taking exercise! True, it is taking physical exercise but I find I derive spiritual benefit from it too, rather like a monk perambulating round the cloisters of his monastery. In fact, I have always been drawn to cloisters since having had the good fortune to know a couple of them quite well. First, there was the one at Westminster Abbey which I walked through most days when at school nearby.


And later on the one at le Mont St Michel in Normandy which I often visited when living in the vicinity.

Walking round these cloisters was always an aid to reflection and thought. The silence, the uplifting medieval architecture and the small central garden all working together to wipe away worldly dust and dirt and clarify the mind. The combination of the dark enclosed stone cloisters and the light-filled space of the green garden opening up to the heavens brings together feelings of immanence and transcendence at the same time. There is an innate peace and purity to be found in a medieval cloister.

My currents excursions have nothing like that, alas. Nevertheless, as I have mentioned in previous posts (for example here and here), there are some pleasant country walks round where I live, and I go out on one every day. It doesn't take long to get away from the town and into woods or onto downs. Once there, the surroundings and actual rhythm of walking itself help one to fall into a contemplative frame of mind quite easily. I often get ideas for what I write here on these walks, seed thoughts that can be developed later on. It's as though the physical act of walking in a natural setting attunes the mind in a certain way.

I am not saying that walking replaces prayer and meditation. Only that it can help to create a prayerful or meditative state. I would also recommend circular walks so that you don't return by exactly the same way that you set out. This suggests the idea of a real journey even if you aren't actually going anywhere. After all, life is a journey. The spiritual path is a path along which you proceed. And the best way to travel is by walking for that takes you at the speed you are naturally fitted to go and the one at which you can best absorb the experiences that come to you as you travel.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

The New Crusades

 In the Middle Ages Christians externalised the spiritual war and fought against the Islamic incursions into the Holy Land as well as their own homelands. We can talk about the rights and wrongs of this but the fact remains that several previously Christian areas, such as North Africa, were brought into the Muslim fold at the point of a sword, and Europe itself had to fight to retain its Christian identity. We look at the Crusades in a different way now but in the minds of the participants of the time they were in a spiritual war and the enemy was clearly identified.

There is a spiritual war now. We are in the middle of it. Unfortunately, most people don't realise it and don't see the enemy. Of those who are aware there is some kind of battle in the world going on today, many are diverted away from the true struggle into a fake one whether that be to do with politics, the environment or social concerns. In other words, worldly issues. They waste their energies on matters that really are not that important, and this is a reflection of their own state of consciousness and lack of a true spiritual awareness. Often they are even projecting their own faults out into the world. This is why so many of them seem to be motivated by hatred and resentment.

So there are many battles going on but the real war today is, in St Paul's stirring words, "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." This is the war that every spiritual believer is called upon to fight. It's the one we must fight. We can fight like monks through prayer or like knights dedicated to Christ through action, though in the modern world that action is with pens rather than swords. And not even pens now, of course! But the point is to proclaim the truth as best we can in whatever way we can, through word and through example. And true knights still pray so that aspect of the fight should never be neglected by anyone. God can only really act in this world of men through men calling on him. Ask and you shall receive. You must ask. Prayer is the asking.

Most people have no idea they are in a war. They don't know their enemy and that he can attack them inwardly as well as in the world in general. He can attack them through their own thoughts and even ideas. Therefore, they can be easily led astray and defeated.Those who do know we are in a war have to be very aware that it is conducted in their own minds as well as out there. The dark powers of St Paul's words can and will attack you, probing your weaknesses and playing on these if you let them. This can actually be helpful because when your weaknesses are brought out into the open and exposed you can more effectively deal with them. This is a good example of God turning the devil's weapons against him and using them to his own (God's) advantage. But you have to be attentive and honest with yourself to benefit from the opportunity. If you are not you may succumb.

Unlike before, the new crusades must be fought on two fronts. There is the outer war against the spiritual corruption of the world, whether that be through materialism and atheism and their latest development which is the creeping global totalitarianism with every soul reduced to just a piece of data. The complete quantification of man. And there is the inner war which is the fight against sin in one's own heart and mind. The outer war is clearly hotting up as we are being asked to submit to a kind of branding. It is up to us to resist this even if we don't fully understand why. I'll tell you why. The reason is that we are free beings. God gave us freedom and no one has the right to ask us to give that up which is precisely what the branding is intended to do and doing.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Universality of Christ

People often question what there is in Christianity that is not in other religions since many of the moral teachings are very similar and some even pre-date the birth of Christ. This is missing the point. What there is in Christianity that is nowhere else is Christ himself. The actual person of Christ who through his crucifixion and resurrection transformed the whole world, even those parts of it that had no conscious knowledge of him. He changed the spiritual goal fundamentally, opening up the Kingdom of Heaven to all who accepted him whereas before there were only states analogous to Limbo, Hades, Sheol, Bardo and the like for most souls with Nirvana as a possibility for those who were able to detach themselves completely from identification with their created selves. But the new reality of Heaven (new as far as human beings were concerned) meant that the fallen self could now be redeemed and transformed into a being of light. For Heaven involves the union of spirit and matter instead of their separation. It's a marriage not a divorce.

Regarding teachings of love that may have existed before the time of Christ, I think we can see these as analogous to the twilight that appears at dawn just before the rising of the sun. Prior to the actual Incarnation the spirit of Christ will have begun to permeate the higher worlds, affecting all those able to respond to it on that level. Thus, the teachings of Christ will have begun to be established in the world. A similar thing happened after Christ's death and means that all spiritual forms in the world that were open to it, whether ostensibly Christian or not, will have begun to be influenced by what we can call the Universal or Cosmic Christ. These forms and those that followed them may not know Christ the earthly man but they will know his spiritual presence which explains how non-Christians can be saved. They don't have to know Jesus the human being if, through their religion, they can respond to Christ the spiritual being. Christianity is the religion in which Christ is most fully present but surely you did not think he could not manifest himself and be present as a spiritual force and influence in other religions? He is primarily a spiritual being and as such can be present everywhere to those who are open to him. Such people may not know him by the name Jesus Christ but they can know his spiritual presence and that is what really counts.

This is my belief. I know many Christians won't like it because it says that Christ is present in religions other than Christianity, even though he is most present in Christianity and those who are born in the West should certainly seek their spiritual nourishment at source. And non-Christians won't like it because it puts Christ at the head of the spiritual table. He is the host at the feast to which we are all invited as honoured guests. But consider the matter like this. If Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and he is, then he is the sun towards which all life forms must turn their face if they are to receive spiritual light and warmth.


Friday, 1 October 2021

Leonardo, a Fallen Genius?

 I saw another programme in the Ancient Aliens series recently, a series I enjoy for its examination of unexplained phenomena and ancient mysteries without going along with its central premise of "It's all aliens!". The programme was about Leonardo da Vinci and how he may have been inspired by encounters with extraterrestrials (don't ask) to include strands of esoteric thought in his work, some of which he encoded in his paintings. There was a best selling novel about this not so long ago though I haven't read it and don't plan to do so. One of the ideas was that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. As far as I can see this was suggested for no better reason than that, as a Jewish man of around 30, he must have been married to someone. But why? He was Jesus. He had a unique mission. There was no reason he should have done what was customary at the time. If he was married why would that have been left out of the story of his life? And how could he have asked his disciples to leave their wives and family if he had a wife himself? No, this idea seems to be a bit of wishful thinking to me.

The image of the admittedly female-looking St John in the painting of The Last Supper was brought up to support this contention along with the fact that this figure and that of Jesus next to it form an M shape but, frankly, so what? Leonardo may well have believed this story but that doesn't make it true. There were dozens of underground sects and heretical offshoots in the Middle Ages, mostly descending from some form of Gnosticism, whose members might have been convinced they were the possessors of hidden knowledge but that doesn't make it so. The temptation of being a possessor of esoteric wisdom hidden from the masses is  a great spiritual trap, designed to induce exclusivity and spiritual pride. So, Leonardo may have belonged to a group that fished in the pool of the occult but there's a lot of murky stuff down there. Truths and deceptions are often all mixed up in those waters.

None of that is why I am writing this post though. The programme showed us the 15 or so (I can't recall the exact number but it's not high) surviving paintings by the master. And a master of art he clearly was which makes the question I am about to ask (which was not a point made by the programme) all the more relevant. It is this. Why are so many of the faces in Leonardo's paintings so weird, and not in a good way? I find them disquieting and I assume he meant them to be. He was too great an artist for this to be an accident or the result of incompetence. Look at this picture of Christ, for example, currently the most expensive painting in the world.

Is that a good face? I don't think so. I find there is something almost evil in it, especially the eyes. There is a certain beauty and mystery but there is also something uncanny, even cruel and I don't like it. I am certainly not inspired by it as I am by many pictures of Christ.

Then there's the Virgin of the Rocks from the National Gallery in London.

The babies are too plump and ugly, especially Jesus, look at his left hand and legs, but that was the style of the time. But then the expression on the baby Jesus's face suggests just a bit too much self-assurance (you bow down to me) while the faces of the Virgin Mary and the angel seem somewhat complacent, even narcissistic. The style of their faces is spiritualised but the actual execution puts a kink in that to create a kind of unsettling discord. Something is not quite right.

Am I being over-imaginative? Then look at this picture of John the Baptist.

Come on! This is sly, seductive, sexual. The finger is supposed to be pointing to heaven but it doesn't come off like that. This is not John the Baptist by any stretch of the imagination. Leonardo's homosexuality is well-known and it seems to have affected his approach to spirituality. Maybe it drove him to hidden things and rebellion against convention and orthodoxy but it also seems to me that he was trying to create a kind of spiritual corruption in his work. The famous smile of the Mona Lisa, which I shan't bother to include here since I assume you are familiar with it, has always seemed to me more like a self-satisfied smirk of superiority and I find this in most of Leonardo's paintings as though he was deliberately trying to poison beauty by creating beautiful things and then putting a worm in the apple. One can only speculate as to why but I have to say that, despite his inarguable genius, I don't see him as on the side of the angels.

Obviously not everyone will agree!

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Even the Greatest Saints Prayed

 So the Masters told me when I was in the first flush of enthusiasm for meditation. But actually you could say especially the greatest saints prayed.

Something I have noticed more and more, though it's been around a long time, is that if you ask someone if they believe in God they will often, assuming they say yes, redefine God to mean something else. So they might say that yes, I believe in God. He is the One Life or he is the Self that exists within us all or he is the unmanifested Void that exists in the space between vibrations or he is what I am in my truest and best self. But all this means he is not he at all. He is it.

I would question anyone who says he believes in God but then turns God into an impersonal force or abstraction or cosmic absolute. God is not an energy that we can tap into to further ourselves, even further ourselves spiritually. He is not an impersonal Nothingness even if that nothingness be regarded as the seedbed of all existence. That concept, by the way, applies more to the chaos of matter before it is 'breathed' on by God and stirred into active existence, and those who plunge in their meditations into the Void might consider whether they are actually engaging in a positive spiritual practice or returning their consciousness to its pre-created state which is not necessarily the way forward.

Mystical spirituality attracts two types of people. Those who love God and those who want to become God or believe they already are God. At the extremes these are represented by Christ and Satan which should sound a note of warning to the latter type who might see God as impersonal being and therefore regard the spiritual path as one of knowledge or awareness. So it is but it is primarily a path of love and if love is not the driving force for your spiritual journey you risk going off the road. Prayer is love. That is what it essentially is, and love is directed towards a personal being. God is a personal being not an impersonal energy and that is why the saints all pray. Certainly there are deep states of consciousness available to those who seek a God of impersonal being but these are outside Heaven. The perfection of prayer is what heaven is.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Secular Spirituality

 One of the problems of living at the present time is that not only is it a time of materialism and atheism but that when individuals do turn to the spiritual they often take large chunks of the materialistic, atheistic culture in which they grew up with them. They retain inbuilt assumptions of the secular world.  Nowadays this is usually (though not always) in the form of leftist ideology which most people don't realise is formed from a rejection of God and religion and an attempt to supplement these spiritual realities with an earthly simulacrum of them with the earthly human being at the centre. This means that their version of spirituality is a post-Enlightenment, post-French Revolution version, both of which were actively anti-spiritual. Such people are left with a form of spirituality which is focussed on humanity rather than God which gives them a kind of cognitive dissonance. As I said in a previous post, we need to see the spiritual in its own terms and from its own perspective not in our worldly, human terms. And yet this latter is precisely what so many people now do. They see the spiritual as something that should operate to benefit the human being as the human being is here and now in its fallen state. This effectively means you can have spirituality without repentance which is a sad distortion of the truth.

I have heard people claim that spiritual feelings are natural human feelings and that you can pursue spiritual values and believe in transcendence, love, peace, wisdom etc without worrying about God or Christ or the afterlife or anything religious. They are mistaken. Your feelings are not truth. They might be based on truth (they might be based on a lot of other things too) but they are still just your personal feelings. You must  go beyond them to their real source. And their real source, if they are authentic and not just wishy-washy indulgences, is God. You cannot separate the fruit from the tree and if you do so the fruit will quickly rot. That is the problem. Unless you root your spiritual feelings in their source they will remain shallow and then decay and become caricatures of themselves, pale copies of reality, things that you feel you feel but don't really feel. 

Modern forms of spirituality are often just forms of psychological therapy and ignore the spiritual fundamentals of repentance and belief in God. You are not a child of God now simply by believing yourself to be so. The bridge to that state remains narrow, the sacrifice demanded remains extreme for it is that of your worldly self. That self as it is cannot be spiritualised which is a common error made by those whose idea of spirituality is their feelings. It must be given to God. Not as a theory but in reality, and for this to be real demands complete acceptance of God as a real being not just some vague, amorphous abstraction that you keep at a safe distance.

You might think you can have spirituality without God but that is a trick of the devil. The only valid approach that has ever tried that is the Buddhist one which is why Buddhism is popular among the spiritually deracinated these days. But two things need to be understood. Firstly, Buddhism was traditionally always a monastic religion, and I emphasise both words. Buddhism may not have been theistic but it still demanded an intense religious approach not a secular one. And two, for all the later attempts to compensate for this, Buddhism is essentially a creation-rejecting spirituality which denies the goodness of the self. But God had a purpose in creation. His aim was not to return to the unformed state but to bring the beauty of matter into harmony with the truth of spirit and make something new.

But anyway, contemporary secular spirituality often owes more to Jung than the Buddha, and while Jung is praised for bringing the spiritual to the psychological you could equally well say he did the opposite and brought the spiritual down to the psychological level thereby secularising it and robbing it of its spiritual truth.