Astromusings

February 3, 2012

Someone asked me the other day, “So, how do you use this astrology stuff?” Good question.

Firstly, I’m not that interested in personal horoscopes, you know, character identikits made from cook book recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there’s a lot to it, it’s just not interesting for me.  Mind you, I have analysed, synthesized and delineated my own horoscope and my immediate family. I have also done it for friends and with the software available now, if you wanted, you could just read the automated printouts and you would find some meaningful statements. Does this mean that a software produced cook book reading of astrological data shows that there may be an objective meaning to astrology? No, not necessarily because of the predisposition of human psychology to find patterns of meaning almost anywhere so that software output can be read as if it is uniquely true for the reader. This is the phenomena called apophenia, a term coined by Klaus Conrad in 1958 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia) which is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random data.

After going through the narcissistic labyrinth that new students of Astrology go through (in ways akin to Freudian psychologists who have to be psychoanalysed before they call themselves psychoanalysts) you are left with the bare essentials. Why does “Mars” mean something different to “Venus”? What is this “something” that elicits the difference? Is this “something” made up in my mind with no connection to the “real” world? Obviously, the “something” that I deal with in astrology does not have to do with Mars rocks and Moon dust or Venusian heat, though in some contexts, it may very well do.

The meaning that arises from considering a horoscope is similar to that which arises from a mandala, or even a playful glance at Rorschach ink blots and clouds drifting by.  The meaning is not implicit in the horoscope or clouds that float by but rather in what is evoked in the reader / observer.

So, if this is the case, then why bother studying something that has no overt connection with the meaning extracted from it? Why don’t we just slaughter an animal and read its entrails, like some ancient people did? Well, it’d be messy and besides, it would not be a loving gesture to another sentient being. Well, why don’t we just read tea leaves, coffee grounds and cracked tortoise shells (the origin of I Ching hexagrams)? All of these carry something other than just the object observed. They carry a history, an accretion of observations and readings that assist the reader ascertain meaning. If someone drops a bucket of sheep entrails, with the liver in a dominant position, how would one know where to start reading it? There would be nothing to inform a beginning, a middle and an end. The history, or the tradition of readings that come with entrail reading would at least give the reader a start. The question then becomes, why would the history / tradition of readings carry any weight in meaning, at all? The tradition may well be full of misguided, random guesses systematised to give the illusion of structured meaning. This is what sceptics of Astrology, Tarot and the I Ching say in their own words. And, you know, I have no problem with this conclusion.

If I have no issues with the stance of a sceptic, then why do I still dowse for meaning in Astrology? If I was dependent on reading passing clouds in the sky for situational prognosis I would not have an on call “object” with which I could play for meaning because, each moment the cloud changes shape and may disappear within a short time. However, a structure, a blueprint that has its origins in Number and can be called on at any time has the possibility of a systematic reading. Astrology and the I Ching, even the Tarot have as their foundation Number. Notice how I use the capital letter “N” here for Number. Number to me is a living Being, it is not just a quantity, but a Quality. Number, for me has Pythagorean connections. Have a look at an earlier post called Time Body https://dodona777.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/time-body/, also check the post https://dodona777.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/is-consciousness-a-function-of-the-brain-or-vice-versa/

It is Number that speaks to me in its geometrical placement. All Astrology is geometry and the meanings that ensue from the horoscope are numerological.

I know this raises more questions and perhaps I will write some more on this later. I also know that I haven’t answered the original question of this post, “So, how do you use this astrology stuff?”. I will attempt a short answer. Astrology gives me the means to step outside my ordinary sense based mindset and to approach a world that is non – sense based. So, is it nonsense? Yes, but in a way different to the ordinary meaning of non sense 🙂


Why dodona777?

December 30, 2010

Someone asked me the other day about my use of dodona777 in my blog’s address and email address dodona777@yahoo.com.au, “What does dodona mean and why 777?”

That’s a fair question.

Dodona is one of the oldest oracles in Greece, located near Yannina, Greece. I was born in a small village, Anatoli (which means East) about 5 kms from Dodona.

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A picture I took when I visited Dodona – the oldest oracle in Greece.

It is here that Zeus speaks through the rustling of oak leaves and doves (pigeons) fly across the sky leaving message trails that punctuate Zeus’ rustling words. The word dodona in my web address is thus connected with my place of birth and its oracular history, since my interests are mantic in nature and this blog expresses some of them.

 

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The triple 7 is interesting from a number of different angles. Whilst I’m aware of the popular meme “666” as the number of the Beast and its associations with the Dark Side I don’t believe this. In many ways 666 can be seen as Cosmic Life with 6 the Hebrew letter vav being life force on Earth in Humanity and the Heavens  6, 6, 6. However my name stavros has 7 letters and when I searched the net for the significance of 777 this is what appeared:

By the way – I did not consider all the many meanings and symbolism of 777 when I used the number in my email and blog address….but it does make interesting reading – one wonders whether 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 888, 999 would also come up with as many meanings :).

Symbolic Properties of the number 777

“This number joins together the principles of the man, 700, the cosmic plans, 70, andtheir image in the Archetype, 7, according to R. Allendy. It is the universal organization, 7 + 7 + 7 = 21, the general evolution. Represent the celestial perfection, 7, on the 3 plans of the manifestation: matter, astral (mental or soul) and spirit. It is the number of the sacred work of the sons of God for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the Earth, mainly for the period of the seventh millennium after Adam where it is written that Satan will be chained for thousand years.

In esotericism, 777 means that virgin spirits (those to which God gave the life with the mission to rise towards the Creator, until to absorb themselves again in Him) will know 777 incarnations during seven revolutions that the wave of life accomplishes around the seven globes of the seven world periods. The symbolism of this number is therefore the ascension of the soul through the physical body. According to the tradition of Himalayan masters, 777 is the number of the celestial man and symbolizes the transmutation which takes place at the time where the man becomes conscious of the necessity to cover the path of initiation, and that he perceives, even of an elementary manner, that the goal is in God. The purity – does not father and is not fathered.

Bible Age of Lamech, father of Noah, when he died. In the posterity of Seth, Lamech is the last patriarch before the flood. (Gn 5,31) The book of the Genesis contains 777+777-21 or 1553 verses.

General question, in the Secret Doctrine of H.-P. Blavatsky, to solve “the problem of the 777 incarnations”.

If seven is the number of cycles and of the divine numbers, in it resides also the secret of the 777 incarnations of the man that should be taken care to not interpret as being the totality of incarnations of the man on earth, but that it should rather be reported to what the humanity must one day realize.

In a study on this number, H.S. Green sees there the triple evolution of Manas, Buddhi and Atma – “The number 777”, in “The Theosophist”, London, n. 9, 1909, p. 326. Raoul Auclair points out that when the Virgin Mary appears in Cova da Iria in Portugal, on August 13, 1385, this country was then 777 years old. And 532 years later, that is to say on May 13, 1917, took place the first appearance of Fatima. In an Ethiopian apocryphal book, named “The Wisdom of Sibyl”, it is written in conclusion of the book: “End the prophecy of the Sibyl. Praise to the Lord, Master of the world. Amen! That the Lord, eternally, makes you mercy. The Sibyl saw nine suns; each space of time is 778 years; the ninth is 777. The cycles of the Sibyl are 800 or 700; each is 800 years. There are 49 cycles of Ezra; each one counts 143 years. The cycles of Enoch are 10 and each cycle is 700 years. The Days of the Lord are 7; for us there are 2548000 days.” By making the calculation, this cycle of the nine suns lasts 7001 years: 8 cycles of 778 years = 6224 years 1 cycle of 777 years = 777 years Total = 7001 years And the 2548000 days of the Sibyl have a duration of 7000 years minus 7000 days.

The document “the celestial sanctum” in the order the Rosicrucian A.M.O.R.C., titles also the “liber 777”.

In Korea, in one of the speeches of the reverend Moon, this one declared to have already proceeded to the blessing of 777 couples.

Gematria The Christ said: “I am the resurrection”. In Greek, resurrection is written “h anastasiV”, numbering 777 = 8+1+50+1+200+300+1+200+10+6.

In the first verse of the Bible, it is written: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gn 1,1) This verse consists of 7 Hebrew words and 28 letters, and it also counts three names: God, heavens and earth. The sum of the numerical values of each one gives 777: God = 86, paradise = 395 and earth = 296, where 86+395+296 = 777. Written in Hebrew, “Orthodox Messiah”, gives 777: he, mem, shin, yod, heth, daleth, taw and yod, giving 5+40+300+10+8+4+400+10 = 777. Written in Hebrew, “YHWH in the YESHUA Messiah”, gives 777: yod, he, waw, he, beth, yod, shin, waw, ayin, he, mem, shin, yod and heth, giving 10+5+6+5+2+10+300+6+70+5+40+300+10+8 = 777. Written in Hebrew, “YESHUA saves”, gives 777: yod, shin, waw, ayin, he, waw, shin, yod and ayin, giving 10+300+6+70+5+6+300+10+70 = 777. By using the ASCII table, we find that the French word “EXORCISTES” (exorcists) gives 777. The numerical value of the Hebrew word NMLA IVMM, meaning “filled with light”, gives 777.

Occurrence The number 777 is used 1 time in the Bible. The word priest is used 777 times in the Bible.”


Turning Inwards

April 27, 2010

 

This is a transcript of a talk I gave in Darlinghurst, Sydney quite a few years ago. It is my understanding of the need for Self Observation and Self Remembering which can only truly begin when we turn inwards.  Everything written below is based on my understanding of the Gurdjieff Work. I gave the talk as part of the Sydney Group.

Stavros

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 We always imagine ourselves to be much higher than we actually are. We take it for granted that we are individuals, that we have consciousness and that we can ‘DO’. But there are moments in our life when events and situations might shock us into recognition that we do not know where we are going and that our own efforts to control and direct our lives have been in vain. In these moments we feel an emptiness, a void which cannot be filled by social position, friends or wealth.

It is in moments like these that we are given an opportunity to re-evaluate our so called individuality, consciousness and will, in other words, to re-evaluate the image we have of ourselves. If we are sincere in these moments we recognise that the image we have of ourselves is not us at all but rather a mask which we very rarely see through. Life through our sincerity has brought us to the question of ourselves. If we are not individuals with the power to be conscious of our actions and thus direct our lives, then who and what are we? Who am I? What is my place in the scheme of existence? In the face of such questions, we realise that we have a need to know ourselves for ourselves and through ourselves.

 If I wish to know myself and through this knowledge to know the real world, how do I begin? How do I make the right effort to turn inwards to myself and what is the right effort? It is at this point of our own search that we recognise the necessity to study the methods of self-study, which lead to understanding and eventually knowledge of ourselves. Whether alone or with others we have found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. In this region of the unknown we may hope that the forces active on this level will send us the help we need.

To have any chance of reaching our goal of self-knowledge without losing ourselves we need a guide. Here, as elsewhere, we must learn from those who know and accept to be guided by those who have already trodden the same path.

The guide cannot walk our journey for us, the guide cannot turn my attention inwards to myself. All that the guide may do is to point out the pitfalls and obstacles which lie along our path and whether we understand the methods of self-study. On this path understanding is our only currency and our only means by which we may pay for the help we need. The understanding spoken of here is completely different to the intellectual knowledge which our modern science has accustomed us to. It is for this reason that real self-knowledge requires a school. It cannot be found in books, which can give only theoretical data, mere information, leaving the whole of the real work still to be done – to turn inwards towards our own inner experience and transform information into understanding through consciously living what we are.

 If the turning we are speaking of is not only of the mind, but the whole of us, and if we realise that we are not the image we have of ourselves then what can the words ‘the whole of us’ mean? Here we come across our own doubts, confusion and resistance. The words come easy but the turning required is not as easy as hearing and saying the words. We listen, we speak, but over and over again we are taken by the disorder of outer activity and find ourselves falling prey to doubts, fantasies and sterile words. This is the beginning. It is this awareness which will provide the experience of a real wish to resolve this inner confusion.

When we try to observe ourselves we see that we have to remain attentive both to ourselves and to a particular aspect of ourselves. We realise that this turning is not given to us spontaneously and that the attempt to turn with the whole of ourselves is dependent up the participation of three factors or forces. These are ‘I’ who observe face to face with what ‘I’ observe within myself and the third factor which connects the two – our attention.

Taking these three factors into consideration we will speak firstly about attention. Our usual state of attention is one in which we lose our identity in some activity – be it reading a book, talking to a friend, listening to music, hammering a nail, or just simply daydreaming. This is known as identification. Identification has different ways of manifesting within ourselves depending upon the activity. One of these ways is when we drift from object to object, from sight to sound to thought to a sensation with no apparent aim, no apparent direction: it is automatic. Or, our attention is attracted by something which exercises a strong hold – an argument, a beautiful face, a memory of some place or person. In this way we are drawn by our interest and the situation takes over ourselves. Another way in which our attention is spent is when we direct it by a simple effort for a certain time intentionally – making something, studying, playing a musical instrument, cooking, sewing. The common element we find in each of these ways of paying attention is that we are aware only of one thing at a time. This is our ordinary state. We can be aware either of the person we are talking to, or of our own words, of a pain in my body, of a scene, or of my thoughts about the scene. But, except on very rare occasions, we are not aware simultaneously of our own words and the person we are addressing, of my own pain and someone else’s, of a scene and my thoughts about it, of my situation and my feelings of it. The attention which is needed to turn inwards so that a self study may begin is such a divided attention.

 Divided attention is from another level within ourselves. It is the attention which at the same time of observation takes into account everything we are. This two way attention requires an attitude very different from our usual one. When we first make the effort to turn inwards our attention goes one way, then another, sometimes towards what I observe in myself, alternating at a faster or slower speed. This happens as easily in one direction as another. Though this attention is not given to us naturally, the attempt to observe oneself generates the energy for divided attention artificially. This very attempt is an exercise which develops the needed attention and makes it possible so that it can grow to the point where self-study may begin. In the beginning there is no stable support on which our attention can be based. Real self-observation appears to us to depend as much on this support as on the attention itself. From this we understand that the three forces that must be present are closely interdependent.

The second factor is “who” observes. We said earlier that self-observation requires “the whole of ourselves” and not just our analytical mind and we realise that with our usual attention and attitude we become identified with the situation at hand. When we are identified we are not present to the situation. We become totally attached and there is no space for the sense of myself. With our normal attention there is no ‘I’ which is the stable support to observe particular aspects of my life. For real self-observation to be possible ‘I’ must be present while the observation is going on. The sense of ‘all of me’ is the ‘I’ which is able to take into account in the field of attention directed toward myself a greater number of elements. The ‘I’ who observes has a field of vision analogous to that seen through a fish eye lens which has a more global perspective when compared to the normal natural view.

When ‘I’ is not present (which is our normal state) we forget ourselves almost uninterruptedly. In us things do themselves – speaking, laughing, feeling, acting – but they do it automatically and we ourselves are not there to witness. One part of ourselves laughs, another speaks, another acts.

There is no feeling that: I speak, I laugh, I act, I observe. Nothing that is done in this way can be integrated into a whole. Life lives itself through us and we are not there to partake of it. From this we understand that what we truly seek is more abundant life.

If our usual state is one of forgetting ourselves then the need to have a stable presence of ‘I’ may be fulfilled by trying to remember ourselves.

 This stable presence is not given to us by merely knowing about it. It can be acquired after long work on ourselves but even now we can have a relative degree of presence, a certain coherence of all that we can collect in ourselves.

Self-remembering is the attempt to have global awareness of oneself. It is the state where I am conscious that I am here in these surroundings and feel a connection with the surroundings around me in the overall presence of something higher. This sense of something higher is connected with the valuation of our own essential question. It may be our own aim in the light of our search, it may be the Sun from which all life on this planet has its on-gen, it may be our own meaning of God, or our own teacher. What is important in this effort to remember oneself is that it must be attempted by the sense of “the whole of ourselves and not just thought about. It is only when we try to make this effort that real self-observation can begin. When we try it we discover that without it we are constantly changing, constantly taken by events both within and without. We discover that all that we have gathered within ourselves is dispersed at the slightest distraction. We also find that in practice nothing is more difficult for us than to be there with enough stability for an observation.

The third factor which is needed to turn inwards is the object of our ob¬servation – the elements of ourselves, what we are. These elements constantly change and escape us altogether.Though the elements are in constant change the field in which these elements move is always there. When we notice other people we see their external behaviour which we all perform as a response to the demands of life. This external behaviour is directed by the functional structures comprising the field towards which our attention is directed. These functional structures are the same in all circumstances and are the result of what we are and what life has made of them. We see through our eyes and hear through our ears, we don’t see through our ears or hear through our eyes. The seeing and hearing are the functional structures of our eyes and ears respectively. Likewise, within ourselves certain behaviours, such as thinking, emotionalising and moving, are possible due to the functional structures which allow them to happen. However, the way things take place in us, the interaction of our functions and the manner in which they associate to produce our personalities and responses, all this goes on in the dark with out our knowing it. So, to observe the elements of ourselves we must do something special to make them visible.

When we strike a match against the chemically treated part of a matchbox the friction between the two creates a spark which becomes a flame, and we have light. For us to see the elements of ourselves we must likewise have friction between the ‘I’ who observes and the field which contains the elements.This inner friction is the struggle against the automatic aspects of ourselves: those moment by moment personages which are always there. The struggle is against the habits which give us the false image of ourselves.

 This struggle arouses the light of double attention which we need and forces us to confront those habits which keep us asleep, automated and engulfed in constant self-forgetfulness.

Self-forgetfulness, sleep, is our lot without struggle with our automatic selves. Mechanicalness and dreams replace our true birthright of freedom and reality. What am I saying?

I will illustrate with an example. I find myself waiting for a bus to take me to the bank. After buying the bus ticket my hands begin fidgeting. Soon my fingers begin to fold the ticket over, and over again, until it is a tiny cube like they have done hundreds of times before in the same manner. My head and left arm, in perfect synchronisation, move to the exact spot where my eyes can see the time on my watch. There is no real need to know the time since a moment earlier this same action was performed. My head is full of associations which whirl by in a random manner – a half-eaten memory of words exchanged over the breakfast table, an image of a television commercial, a song picked up from, I don’t know where, provides the background muzak. The bus arrives. Find my self at the middle of the bus bumping a man who grunts at me. Anger rises – there is no rebuke in words but my posture and face express it all the same. Sitting down, the realisation dawns that the bus ticket is no longer in my hand. My hands search my pockets, my eyes search the floor directly beneath my feet, my body is in all sorts of positions looking for the bus ticket. Simultaneously, the thoughts and emotions race through to the tune of “What will I say if the ticket inspector boards this bus?” No ticket. Soon memories float by and that time on the beach in North Queensland returns. While daydreaming I miss my stop because I find myself two blocks further than the bank which was my original destination. The button is pressed and the bus stops.

The above is what is meant by mechanicalness and sleep. This is how we are living most of our lives, and this state of consciousness which we call ‘normal’, is what we have sold our birthright for. Where is the man here? Where is the ‘I’ which if present and active would make my life real? Below is a description of what struggle with oneself may be.

I find myself on the street. I begin walking back towards the bank, I remember what happened on the bus. From somewhere within me the feeling ari¬ses that there is something wrong with myself. I, who can create grandiose plans for my future life, even to the place beyond the grave, can’t even re¬member to get off the bus in time. The words of Gurdjieff cut through my as¬sociations, ‘Life is Real Only Then When I Am.’ It is remembered with my mind that it is possible to turn inwards so that I may live and be present to my life. I see that I am not present but I know that I can be present. What I am can be remembered by who I am. The matchbox can be struck by the match. Oh! But it is so pleasant, so easy, to remain within my automatic nature, fully asleep to myself and the world. The effort required to struggle with myself is something more than the effort to earn my physical livelihood. Besides, it is an effort not required for my physical survival so why should I bother. Let me sleep on. And yet, if there is no effort, no struggle, to be . I am dead and only an automaton of flesh, bones and memory exists. I wish to live. I – the all of me – wish to be. The emptiness of what I am is passive – it is easily comforted with illusions and imagination that already I am and that I can do.

I long for life but where this longing stems from I don’t know and what this ‘life’ is which is longed for, I don’t know. This longing, this yearning for something which is unknown draws a part of my attention away from the surface associations and for a moment the heat of the sun is sensed on my face and hands. I have a body which is real, concrete and here and now. My body is the anchor of my longing. It is possible to turn inwards. The walking continues back to the bank. The longing for life is now expressed by a wish to see through my own eyes, to sense with my own skin, to hear through my own ears, to feel the ground beneath my own feet. I wish to move with my own whole body.

 It is remembered that the easiest functional structure to attempt to study is the moving part of myself. I wish to be, I wish to struggle with myself, I wish to slow down my walking pace so that the walking part of myself can be seen. My hand reaches for my coat pocket searching for a cigarette. That part of myself which longs for life gives the strength to say no to my hand but I promise a cigarette later if it allows presence to fill it. My mind is once again occupied with associations which pass through it automatically. I struggle to place in my mind a conscious image of myself being fully present at the entrance of the bank. My walking becomes faster. To be present at the entrance of the bank my walking pace must slow down again. Intimations of the shoe around my foot, sensation of heel touching ground, then the front part of shoe, slight pressure of my trousers around my knee as it bends, the sensation of my collar around my neck comes and goes, a breeze returns my face to myself via sensation. My pace is slower. Emotion arises – it is connected with what happened on the bus – anger with myself. My mind reminds me a little later that the only way to struggle with emotions at first is not to express negative ones. Associations arise with this thought, my mind continues in its deviation from the conscious image of myself being present at the bank’s entrance but the awareness of my walking and the growing sensation of my body keeps some attention on the elements of what I am.

 My body reminds me of the Sun for its heat is once again sensed on my hands and face. The longing, the wish to be, now evokes a decision to try with the whole of myself, with the awareness of my walking, with the denial of the cigarette, with the struggle against self-pity and anger, with the effort to control my thoughts, I now try with the whole of myself to place and feel myself and the immediate surroundings of the street under the Sun. For a split second time slows down and something which connects me and the external world opens and within the traffic noise, within the milk bar sandwich sign, within the garbage bin beside me, within the shop windows displaying goods and the people around me, within my footsteps and the body that senses the clothes on it, within the associations running through the mind, within it all the sense of another realm, a realm which seems to give Life to life enters and the question “Who am I?” echoes back to myself. This sense leaves me with the memory of an otherness and I find myself at the entrance of the bank understanding that I know nothing when it comes to the Real World.

With this effort of struggling with our habitual nature we must remember that the original aim for making the effort is so that the elements of what we are become visible. This is of fundamental importance because at this point lies one of the biggest obstacles on the path of return to ourselves. For something to become visible means that it becomes seen and nothing more. So with turning inwards all that is required at the beginning is that we see ourselves and simply record what we see and nothing more. Within the more lies the obstacle and this more is manifested within us when we try to analyse what we see. This analysis is the deviation of our attention from the whole of ourselves towards the relatively small part of ourselves we call the mind. Once we begin to analyse what we see we cease to observe and begin to imagine that we are observing.

We must also be careful that in hearing about the process of turning inwards and the methods of self-study that we do not fall into the trap of the rational, logical mind and reduce the real meaning of the words self-study, self-observation and self-remembering to mere psychologising. These words are signs on the path back to ourselves and since we do not know who we are, have meaning which goes beyond what contemporary psychology may imbue them with. It is for this reason that Vaysse in his Towards Awakening calls self-observation the secret ally. In a similar vein Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda that the warrior who follows the path of the heart has an ally which is a power a man could bring into his life to help him and give him the strength necessary to perform certain actions. This ally, Don Juan says will make a man see and understand things about which no human being could possibly enlighten him.

At the beginning of this talk we saw that life through certain circumstances brought about a shock which forced us into recognising the futility of living from a false image of ourselves. We have seen that by making certain efforts we may turn inwards consciously. This turning inwards is dependent upon our own essential need and longing for our true home. Sincerity is the key which unlocks the door to ourselves and this door becomes visible through turning inwards. By turning inwards we see what we are and through this seeing we are given the help with which the search for who we are may begin anew with renewed strength and real hope.

 I finish this talk with the words of Rene Daumal which, I believe trace the journey from the false image of ourselves towards the values of our real self:

 I am dead because I lack desire

I lack desire because I think I possess

 I think I possess because I do not try to give

In trying to give, you see that you have nothing

Seeing you have nothing, you try to give of yourself

 Trying to give of yourself, you see you are nothing

Seeing you are nothing, you desire to become

In desiring to become, you begin to live.

stavros

PS Check out the 3 pointed attention idea in my post on Kites and Attention

https://dodona777.wordpress.com/?s=kites+attention


The Triumph of Triviality – John Schumaker (from New Internationalist)

March 31, 2010

The triumph of triviality

John F Schumaker asks if consumer society is too shallow to deal with the deepening crises facing the planet.

The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but there is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living. People like Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May and Viktor Frankl were laying the groundwork for a new social order distinguished by raised consciousness, depth of purpose and ethical refinement. This tantalizing vision was the antithesis of our society of blinkered narcissists and hypnogogic materialists. Dumbness was not our destiny. Planetary annihilation was not the plan. By the 21st century, we were supposed to be the rarefied ‘people of tomorrow’, inhabiting a sagacious and wholesome world.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower

Erich Fromm’s 1955 tome, The Sane Society, signalled the début of the one-dimensional ‘marketing character’ – a robotic, all-consuming creature, ‘well-fed, well-entertained… passive, unalive and lacking in feeling’. But Fromm was also confident that we would avoid further descent into the fatuous. He forecast a utopian society based on ‘humanistic communitarianism’ that would nurture our higher ‘existential needs’.

In his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote: ‘When I look at the world I am pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.’ While acknowledging consumer culture’s seductive dreamland of trinkets and desire, he believed that we – those ‘people of tomorrow’ – would minister over a growth-oriented society, with ‘growth’ defined as the full and positive unfolding of human potential.

We would be upwardly driven toward authenticity, social equality and the welfare of coming generations. We would revere nature, realize the unimportance of material things and hold a healthy scepticism about technology and science. An anti-institutional vision would enable us to fend off dehumanizing bureaucratic and corporate authority as we united to meet our ‘higher needs’.

One of the most famous concepts in the history of psychology is Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, often illustrated by a pyramid. Once widely accepted, it was also inspired by a faith in innate positive human potential. Maslow claimed that human beings naturally switch attention to higher-level needs (intellectual, spiritual, social, existential) once they have met lower-level material ones. In moving up the pyramid and ‘becoming’, we channel ourselves toward wisdom, beauty, truth, love, gratitude and respect for life. Instead of a society that catered to and maintained the lowest common denominator, Maslow imagined one that prospered in the course of promoting mature ‘self-actualized’ individuals.

But something happened along the way. The pyramid collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.

Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.

Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.

Rollo May described it accurately in his 1953 book, Man’s Search for Himself:

‘It’s an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.’ So it’s largely business-as-usual even as the sky is falling.

Some critics did predict the triumph of the trivial. In his 1957 essay, ‘A Theory of Mass Culture’, Dwight MacDonald foresaw our ‘debased trivial culture that voids both the deep realities and also the simple spontaneous pleasures’, adding that ‘the masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial cultural products’.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.

In this dense fog the meaningful and meaningless can easily get reversed. Losers look like winners and the lofty and ludicrous get confused. The caption under a recent ad for men’s underwear read: ‘I’ve got something that’s good for your body, mind and soul.’ Fashion statements become a form of literacy; brand names father pride and celebrity drivel becomes compelling.

Not even God has been spared. Once a potent commander of attention and allegiance, God has been gelded into a sort of celestial lapdog who fetches our wishes for this-world success. Nothing is so great that it can’t be reconceived or rephrased in order to render it insubstantial, non-threatening or – best of all – entertaining.

The age of trivialization has left its mark on marriage, family and love. In a recent AC Nielsen survey, when asked to choose between spending time with their fathers and watching television, 54 per cent of American 4-6 year-olds chose television. The same study reported that American parents spend an average of 3.5 minutes per week in ‘meaningful conversation’ with their children, while the children themselves watch 28 hours of television a week. To which we can add cellphones, computer games and other techno-toys that are inducing a state of digital autism in our young people.

Out of this cock-up comes the most pressing question of our age. Can a highly trivialized culture, marooned between fact and fiction, dizzy with distraction and denial, elevate its values and priorities to respond effectively to the multiple planetary emergencies looming? Empty talk and token gestures aside, it doesn’t appear to be happening.

Some of the great humanists felt that there are limits to a culture’s ability to suppress our higher needs. They assumed that we are ethical creatures by nature and that we’ll do the right thing when necessary – we will transcend materialism given the freedom to do so. That seems far-fetched given the ethical coma in which we now find ourselves. Yet the ultimate test is whether or not we can do the right thing by the planet and for future generations.

Ethics and politics have never sat well together. When ‘citizens’ changed into ‘consumers’, political life became an exercise in keeping the customer happy. The imperfect democracies we have today have never been tested with planetary issues like global warming and climate change, which demand radical and unsettling solutions. In the race against the clock, politicians appear almost comical as they try not to disturb the trivial pursuits propping up our dangerously obsolete socio-economic system.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class. Soon centre-stage will belong to culture-change strategists who are able to inspire leaps of consciousness independently of hapless follow-the-leader politics. One such person is Jan Lundberg (www.culturechange.org). Lundberg is an environmental activist and a long-standing voice for pre-emptive culture change. He understands that hyper-consumerism trivializes reality and numbs people, even to prospects of their own destruction. In his essay ‘Interconnections of All in the Universe’, he writes: ‘Unless we broaden and deepen our perception of both the universe and our fellow members of society, we all may perish in persisting to manipulate each other and our ecosystem with materialism and exploitation.’

Culture-change strategists all agree about the urgent need to promote ‘global consciousness’ or ‘cosmic consciousness’ – a broad worldview with a high awareness of the inter-relatedness and sacredness of all living things. It is thought that such a universality of mind leads not only to intellectual illumination, but also to heightened moral sensibilities, compassion and greater community responsibility.

Behind the scenes some noteworthy organizations are working toward the goal of global consciousness, including the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality (www.globalspirit.org), whose members include Nobel laureates, culture theorists, futurists and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. The group points out the huge backlog of positive human potential that is ready to unleash itself once we assume control and carve healthier cultural pathways for people’s energies. According to their mission statement, the fate of humankind and the ecosystem lies in our ability over the next couple of decades actively to revise our cultural blueprints in order to foster global consciousness and create new, more ‘mindful’ political and economic models.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class

Even in the formal education system, a small but growing number of teachers are incorporating a ‘global awareness’ perspective into the curriculum, aimed at dissolving cultural barriers and building a sense of global community (www.globalawareness.com). Some are even encouraging a ‘global grammar’ that links students both to other human beings and to the entire planet.

In the war against trivialization some groups speak of ‘planetization’ – an expansive worldview that can slow our cultural death march. It was the French philosopher, palaeontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined this term in calling for a global mind that fused our ecological, spiritual and political energies, and thereby paved the way for harmonious living and lasting peace. The organization Planetization Rising (www.planetization.com) sees this next phase as the only means by which we can ascend to a higher knowledge and thereby find a life-sustaining path for ourselves and the Earth: ‘It’s the next watershed mark in our evolutionary journey which alone can provide us with the empowerment and insight needed to overcome the gathering forces of ecological devastation, greed and war which now threaten our survival.’

The cultural indoctrination race is not over. The losers are still winning and the odds for a revolution in consciousness are no more than even. But is there an alternative – other than to drown in our own shallowness?

John F Schumaker is a US-born clinical psychologist living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. His latest book is In search of happiness: understanding an endangered state of mind (Penguin, 2006).

also by…
THIS AUTHOR

The happiness conspiracy
What does it mean to be happy in a modern consumer society? John F Schumaker argues that the elusive state has more to do with culture than genetics.

In greed we trust
John F Schumaker takes on the philosophers of greed.

Dead zone
John F Schumaker now lives and works in Aotearoa/New Zealand. But on a recent trip back home he came face-to-face with the monster of American consumer culture. The sobering encounter left him questioning both human greed and the pursuit of materialism.


Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain

September 27, 2009

This is an interesting article that made me feel better about my messy desk and my generally chaotic thinking processes. Sure, it all looks so smooth and organised here on the screen with a blog and its “machinery” to make it all look so “together”. The reality is that I put this stuff up here so that it doesn’t get lost in my personal chaos I call my study. The computer helps a lot to make things seem so organised but I can assure you that what appears pre planned and strategically placed to direct your thinking in a certain way, is purely “chance”….well, you know if you’ve been reading my posts here that I don’t believe in chance but rather in synchronicity.

Anyway, read this article and you who are as chaotic as me and have a messy exterior like me may crack a smile and feel a little better about yourself. Even if you are kidding yourself, because the article is about all human brains 🙂

Oh yeh, the reason I’ve put the text of the article here on my blog is because I just want it contextualised with the other stuff I have here. In other words, I’m using the blog’s  “machinery” to organise my chaos…cool huh? If you click on the link, the New Scientist page will show you videos and all sorts of interesting add ons.

Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain
New Scientist 29 June 2009 by David Robson

HAVE you ever experienced that eerie feeling of a thought popping into your head as if from nowhere, with no clue as to why you had that particular idea at that particular time? You may think that such fleeting thoughts, however random they seem, must be the product of predictable and rational processes. After all, the brain cannot be random, can it? Surely it processes information using ordered, logical operations, like a powerful computer?

Actually, no. In reality, your brain operates on the edge of chaos. Though much of the time it runs in an orderly and stable way, every now and again it suddenly and unpredictably lurches into a blizzard of noise.

Neuroscientists have long suspected as much. Only recently, however, have they come up with proof that brains work this way. Now they are trying to work out why. Some believe that near-chaotic states may be crucial to memory, and could explain why some people are smarter than others.

In technical terms, systems on the edge of chaos are said to be in a state of “self-organised criticality”. These systems are right on the boundary between stable, orderly behaviour – such as a swinging pendulum – and the unpredictable world of chaos, as exemplified by turbulence.

The quintessential example of self-organised criticality is a growing sand pile. As grains build up, the pile grows in a predictable way until, suddenly and without warning, it hits a critical point and collapses. These “sand avalanches” occur spontaneously and are almost impossible to predict, so the system is said to be both critical and self-organising. Earthquakes, avalanches and wildfires are also thought to behave like this, with periods of stability followed by catastrophic periods of instability that rearrange the system into a new, temporarily stable state.

Self-organised criticality has another defining feature: even though individual sand avalanches are impossible to predict, their overall distribution is regular. The avalanches are “scale invariant”, which means that avalanches of all possible sizes occur. They also follow a “power law” distribution, which means bigger avalanches happen less often than smaller avalanches, according to a strict mathematical ratio. Earthquakes offer the best real-world example. Quakes of magnitude 5.0 on the Richter scale happen 10 times as often as quakes of magnitude 6.0, and 100 times as often as quakes of magnitude 7.0.

These are purely physical systems, but the brain has much in common with them. Networks of brain cells alternate between periods of calm and periods of instability – “avalanches” of electrical activity that cascade through the neurons. Like real avalanches, exactly how these cascades occur and the resulting state of the brain are unpredictable.

It might seem precarious to have a brain that plunges randomly into periods of instability, but the disorder is actually essential to the brain’s ability to transmit information and solve problems. “Lying at the critical point allows the brain to rapidly adapt to new circumstances,” says Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany.

Disorder is essential to the brain’s ability to transmit information and solve problems. The idea that the brain might be fundamentally disordered in some way first emerged in the late 1980s, when physicists working on chaos theory – then a relatively new branch of science – suggested it might help explain how the brain works.

The focus at that time was something called deterministic chaos, in which a small perturbation can lead to a huge change in the system – the famous “butterfly effect”. That would make the brain unpredictable but not actually random, because the butterfly effect is a phenomenon of physical laws that do not depend on chance. Researchers built elaborate computational models to test the idea, but unfortunately they did not behave like real brains. “Although the results were beautiful and elegant, models based on deterministic chaos just didn’t seem applicable when looking at the human brain,” says Karl Friston, a neuroscientist at University College London.

In the 1990s, it emerged that the brain generates random noise, and hence cannot be described by deterministic chaos. When neuroscientists incorporated this randomness into their models, they found that it created systems on the border between order and disorder – self-organised criticality.

More recently, experiments have confirmed that these models accurately describe what real brain tissue does. They build on the observation that when a single neuron fires, it can trigger its neighbours to fire too, causing a cascade or avalanche of activity that can propagate across small networks of brain cells. This results in alternating periods of quiescence and activity – remarkably like the build-up and collapse of a sand pile.

Neural avalanches
In 2003, John Beggs of Indiana University in Bloomington began investigating spontaneous electrical activity in thin slices of rat brain tissue. He found that these neural avalanches are scale invariant and that their size obeys a power law. Importantly, the ratio of large to small avalanches fit the predictions of the computational models that had first suggested that the brain might be in a state of self-organised criticality (The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 23, p 11167).

To investigate further, Beggs’s team measured how many other neurons a single cell in a slice of rat brain activates, on average, when it fires. They followed this line of enquiry because another property of self-organised criticality is that each event, on average, triggers only one other. In forest fires, for example, each burning tree sets alight one other tree on average – that’s why fires keep going, but also why whole forests don’t catch fire all at once.

Sure enough, the team found that each neuron triggered on average only one other. A value much greater than one would lead to a chaotic system, because any small perturbations in the electrical activity would soon be amplified, as in the butterfly effect. “It would be the equivalent of an epileptic seizure,” says Beggs. If the value was much lower than one, on the other hand, the avalanche would soon die out.

Beggs’s work provides good evidence that self-organised criticality is important on the level of small networks of neurons. But what about on a larger scale? More recently, it has become clear that brain activity also shows signs of self-organised criticality on a larger scale.

As it processes information, the brain often synchronises large groups of neurons to fire at the same frequency, a process called “phase-locking”. Like broadcasting different radio stations at different frequencies, this allows different “task forces” of neurons to communicate among themselves without interference from others.

The brain also constantly reorganises its task forces, so the stable periods of phase-locking are interspersed with unstable periods in which the neurons fire out of sync in a blizzard of activity. This, again, is reminiscent of a sand pile. Could it be another example of self-organised criticality in the brain?

In 2006, Meyer-Lindenberg and his team made the first stab at answering that question. They used brain scans to map the connections between regions of the human brain and discovered that they form a “small-world network” – exactly the right architecture to support self-organised criticality.

Small-world networks lie somewhere between regular networks, where each node is connected to its nearest neighbours, and random networks, which have no regular structure but many long-distance connections between nodes at opposite sides of the network (see diagram). Small-world networks take the most useful aspects of both systems. In places, the nodes have many connections with their neighbours, but the network also contains random and often long links between nodes that are very far away from one another.

For the brain, it’s the perfect compromise. One of the characteristics of small-world networks is that you can communicate to any other part of the network through just a few nodes – the “six degrees of separation” reputed to link any two people in the world. In the brain, the number is 13.

Meyer-Lindenberg created a computer simulation of a small-world network with 13 degrees of separation. Each node was represented by an electrical oscillator that approximated a neuron’s activity. The results confirmed that the brain has just the right architecture for its activity to sit on the tipping point between order and disorder, although the team didn’t measure neural activity itself (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 103, p 19518).

That clinching evidence arrived earlier this year, when Ed Bullmore of the University of Cambridge and his team used brain scanners to record neural activity in 19 human volunteers. They looked at the entire range of brainwave frequencies, from 0.05 hertz all the way up to 125 hertz, across 200 different regions of the brain.

Power laws again

The team found that the duration both of phase-locking and unstable resynchronisation periods followed a power-law distribution. Crucially, this was true at all frequencies, which means the phenomenon is scale invariant – the other key criterion for self-organised criticality.

What’s more, when the team tried to reproduce the activity they saw in the volunteers’ brains in computer models, they found that they could only do so if the models were in a state of self-organised criticality (PLoS Computational Biology, vol 5, p e1000314). “The models only showed similar patterns of synchronisation to the brain when they were in the critical state,” says Bullmore.

The work of Bullmore’s team is compelling evidence that self-organised criticality is an essential property of brain activity, says neuroscientist David Liley at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, who has worked on computational models of chaos in the brain.

But why should that be? Perhaps because self-organised criticality is the perfect starting point for many of the brain’s functions.

The neuronal avalanches that Beggs investigated, for example, are perfect for transmitting information across the brain. If the brain was in a more stable state, these avalanches would die out before the message had been transmitted. If it was chaotic, each avalanche could swamp the brain.

At the critical point, however, you get maximum transmission with minimum risk of descending into chaos. “One of the advantages of self-organised criticality is that the avalanches can propagate over many links,” says Beggs. “You can have very long chains that won’t blow up on you.”

Self-organised criticality also appears to allow the brain to adapt to new situations, by quickly rearranging which neurons are synchronised to a particular frequency. “The closer we get to the boundary of instability, the more quickly a particular stimulus will send the brain into a new state,” says Liley.

It may also play a role in memory. Beggs’s team noticed that certain chains of neurons would fire repeatedly in avalanches, sometimes over several hours (The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 24, p 5216). Because an entire chain can be triggered by the firing of one neuron, these chains could be the stuff of memory, argues Beggs: memories may come to mind unexpectedly because a neuron fires randomly or could be triggered unpredictably by a neuronal avalanche.

The balance between phase-locking and instability within the brain has also been linked to intelligence – at least, to IQ. Last year, Robert Thatcher from the University of South Florida in Tampa made EEG measurements of 17 children, aged between 5 and 17 years, who also performed an IQ test.

The balance between stability and instability in the brain has been linked with intelligence, at least as measured by scores on an IQ test. He found that the length of time the children’s brains spent in both the stable phase-locked states and the unstable phase-shifting states correlated with their IQ scores. For example, phase shifts typically last 55 milliseconds, but an additional 1 millisecond seemed to add as many as 20 points to the child’s IQ. A shorter time in the stable phase-locked state also corresponded with greater intelligence – with a difference of 1 millisecond adding 4.6 IQ points to a child’s score (NeuroImage, vol 42, p 1639).

Thatcher says this is because a longer phase shift allows the brain to recruit many more neurons for the problem at hand. “It’s like casting a net and capturing as many neurons as possible at any one time,” he says. The result is a greater overall processing power that contributes to higher intelligence.

Hovering on the edge of chaos provides brains with their amazing capacity to process information and rapidly adapt to our ever-changing environment, but what happens if we stray either side of the boundary? The most obvious assumption would be that all of us are a short step away from mental illness. Meyer-Lindenberg suggests that schizophrenia may be caused by parts of the brain straying away from the critical point. However, for now that is purely speculative.

Thatcher, meanwhile, has found that certain regions in the brains of people with autism spend less time than average in the unstable, phase-shifting states. These abnormalities reduce the capacity to process information and, suggestively, are found only in the regions associated with social behaviour. “These regions have shifted from chaos to more stable activity,” he says. The work might also help us understand epilepsy better: in an epileptic fit, the brain has a tendency to suddenly fire synchronously, and deviation from the critical point could explain this.

“They say it’s a fine line between genius and madness,” says Liley. “Maybe we’re finally beginning to understand the wisdom of this statement.”

David Robson is a junior editor at New Scientist


As I write this ……

September 17, 2009

twitter-snake-handAs I write this and you consider the meaning of what I write I doubt that you will take the factual, scientific way to understand what I write.

The scientific “objective” way dictates that you look at only the empirically observable and measurable to ascertain meaning. This means, taking it “literally” (and this is the only scientific way to take it) that you will look at the scribbles or the type, analyze the chemical constituents of the ink, the angle of pressure of the scribble or the level of impact pressure of the fonts, consider the type of ball point pen, fountain pen, pencil or printer or screen. If you are considering a hand written piece, you will consider the forces that pushed the pen, the fingers attached to the hand. You may perhaps even analyse the skin and the temperature which surrounded the hand when the writing occurred.

In short, you would have looked at all the physically observable items and still would not get to the MEANING. I write, “The sky is blue.” You can verify the statement only after understanding its meaning by looking up at the sky. However, if you only analysed the ink, my fingers and room temperature, you would not get the MEANING.

Now, taking this one step or leap further, perhaps our life is a kind of writing, a kind of story written in flesh and blood and its MEANING is not measured with scientific rulers and scales but something else. Perhaps the lineaments of meaning are drawn between synchronous events, which may be called chance or even coincidence. When does chance, coincidence become synchronicity? It does so when we put in our own individual subjective feeling / understanding to it ie our MEANING.

Science has no place in this sacred space of MAKING MEANING.

Carl G Jung originally wrote the "philosophical" understanding of synchronicity.

Carl G Jung originally wrote the “philosophical” understanding of synchronicity.


Guerilla Ontology – Robert Anton Wilson

September 12, 2009

A great quote:

Robert Anton Wilson (1932 - 2007)

Robert Anton Wilson (1932 – 2007)

‘I don’t trust the people as much as anarchists do.” He states that all Belief Systems are just that: BS:

“The Western World has been brainwashed by Aristotle for the last 2,500 years. The unconscious, not quite articulate, belief of most Occidentals is that there is one map which adequately represents reality. By sheer good luck, every Occidental thinks he or she has the map that fits. Guerrilla ontology, to me, involves shaking up that certainty. I use what in modern physics is called the “multi-model” approach, which is the idea that there is more than one model to cover a given set of facts. As I’ve said, novel writing involves learning to think like other people. My novels are written so as to force the reader to see things through different reality grids rather than through a single grid. It’s important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it. That’s what guerilla ontology is — breaking down this one-model view and giving people a multi-model perspective.”

Robert Anton Wilson


I’m a Holy Man

September 9, 2009

I wrote this rhyming “poem” on a day when I was pissed off reading stories about gurus and fake “holy” ones who have expensive cars and luxurious life styles so that they can smash the stereotype that the “sacred” is somehow tied in with voluntary poverty. You don’t need me to point out the orange and the lemon people, the boy swami who smiles with a diamond glint from his teeth, the guru who teaches prosperity while touching up sweet  boys and girls.

I know, it’s not just the New Age types that do this, what with paedophilia and rampant materialism in the church, the synagogue, the mosque and the temple.

Getting back to my “I’m a Holy Man”, I know that I wasn’t cool and detached. In many ways it is a childish rant but, hey, that’s OK…..here it is >>>

====================================================

I’m a Holy Man.

Sitting on top of this icy mountain                              
my eye gazes on this dicy situation.
Nation on nation fall in rotation
while I’m on my long vacation,
here in my last reincarnation.

I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t  need  no  mama  to  hold my  hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, the only man, oh yeh!

Liberation is here in my corporation
sign off your isolation with a donation.
Give me your adulation and veneration,
I’ll guarantee there’ll be no more damnation
here in this holy reservation.

I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t need no mama to hold my hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, the only man, oh yeh!

If you freak out in this wasteland
you can sneak out to this dreamland.
You can howl out what’s been unchained.
You can throw out what’s been retained.
You can swallow what’s been profaned.

Yeh, I’m a holy man, that’s what I am.
Don’t need no mama to hold my hand,
just need a mantra to be what I am,
cos’ I’m a holy man, a holy, holy man,
the only man, a lonely, lonely man, oh yeh!

phil_at-the-gurus-feet


Time Body

August 23, 2009

 “Being in the timeless moment without the coercion of time is to dream, while lacking any sense of the timeless is to be only a machine.” Anthony Blake, “A Seminar on Time”

spiral clock-animated-gif-18

I have been long thinking about the Time Body since I turned 40. My interest in this was not only aroused by my entering the 40’s Chamber but also because I have read in the esoteric / occult tradition that the Path of Initiation cannot truly begin until the aspirant is at least 40 years old. So, all the Sufi practices, all the Gurdjieff exercises, all the attempts at the Jesus Prayer in Rhythm to the Breath, all the quiet desperation in a cube, all the immobility of mind, “Stopping the World” and the sacred wish arousing in the Heart….all of these things and more are only a preparation. Note, however, that when we speak of 40’s we are speaking of 4 to a number of degrees. Four is not 40 but shares attributes of four-ness with 40 as does 400 and 0.04 and 0.4.

Preparation for what? For the next phase of one’s life – the 40’s and the next few decades left in the mortal coil of three score and ten and beyond. Let’s remember that women, generally go through menapause in their 40’s, and men go through a “midlife crisis”. Why then? There’s something happening to us, just as powerful as puberty but this time it is the “puberty of old age”. What I mean by this is if I live to be 84 (a good number to work with because of the 12 X 7 connection), then 42 is the mid point (6 X 7). During the period of the 40’s we are laying the foundation (if we wish to) for a healthy, vibrant old age – my 60’s and the rest.
So, who is it that sees someone in the mirror that isn’t them? It’s me and all of us who are in mid life. In me there is a cry for the youth that I was and a fear of what I may be in old age. I have decided that this decade will and is the decade of consolidation. Actually, this is pompous. I didn’t decide anything, it’s more that there is a period of consolidation in one’s Time Body. The Time Body is the body of your mortal coil, it is the moment of your birth, like an Ourbouros, eating the moment of your death..this whole picture of one’s life/body is spatially perceived as 0 – 84 years long.

Pythagoras

Pythagoras

Taking the Time Body as 84 and working with a hint from Schwaller de Lubicz’s insight into Ancient Egyptian understanding we will enter a realm of geometrical/numerological correspondences. Though one is inclined in this Age of Techno-Scientism to use words like “mathematics” to denote a respectable regard for dead abstractions, I like to think that the magico-mythico-Pythagoro Number is where I’m working from. Status quo respectability, when it comes to such life and death considerations such as,  “Where am I going? Why am I here on this Earth? Who am I? Is there Life after Death?” can go in the dustbin of history. The danger of leaving the table of consensus reality – the current technoscience rationalism, is that you may end up sitting alone at  the table of insanity. An unbending intent, a purity of heart and a constant need to grow will at least provide some assurance that one’s understanding may not be crazy, but just the way things are if we live in an onion layered world.

Let’s get back to de Lubicz’s hint.  His insight is to consider that at every 7 years of one’s life a “life” has been and a new 7 year lot is coming up. Like layers of skin, each layer 7 years thick is a time-onion-skin where each skin is a period of 7 years. Consider that at 7 years old – the Church and Institutionalised understanding has it that a child has reason. Let’s go to 14 – puberty ….21 adulthood…..
A few clues: get Dane Rudyar’s  “Astrology of Personality” and read about The Dial of Life. It is interesting because he considers the language of Astrology as the Algebra of Life. Read P D Ouspensky’s account of the Enneagram in In Search of the Miraculous. Also Ouspensky’s “Tertium Organum”, a classic book which gives some semblence of “rationality” to the mystic vision and his other classic “A New Model of the Universe” where he introduces the idea of Eternal Recurrence (not the same as Nietzsche’s concept). My account of the onion skin layers of time is dependent on all of the above and a generous helping of experience.
Try this as an experiment:  Write out in 7 year lots X 7 a table like this:

time body table

To make it “user friendly” you can include the year of the age eg 1(1962)   2(1963)   3(1964)   4(65)……etc
As you write the number and year beginning from your birth year try to notice any images/memories arising and what year they pertain to. These memories as they arise become “key symbols”, they become in a very personal sense the x,y,z and the a,b,c ‘s of one’s own algebra of life. If focussed enough you create your own memory body. Now, look at your “algebra of life” through the prism of your meaning/memory. Like, what happened to you when you were 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42 ? Looking across and down the table: what happened at 4,11,18, 25, 32, 39, 46 ? You will find that there is a corresponding change in “motion” for each layer of 7. With each lot of 7 years there is a noticeable change and experience that suggest layers of octave experience. Each year is a note in the scale Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do. What is interesting is that there is a discernible signature for each octave period. Later on you can then put the table of years onto the Enneagram.

Enneagram

Enneagram

The Circle depicts daily life, the life of the diary - sequential time.

The Circle depicts daily life, the life of the diary – sequential time.

The inner movement 1-4-2-8-5-7 depicts the "notebook", the method and know how, the Sadhana. In the events of one's life, this is where synchronicity resides.

The inner movement 1-4-2-8-5-7 depicts the “notebook”, the method and know how, the Sadhana. In the events of one’s life, this is where synchronicity resides.

The Triangle depicts the idea of a creed, one's faith. It is Timelessness.

The Triangle depicts the idea of a creed, one’s faith. It is Timelessness.

The Enneagram with all three aspects of one's experience together as a whole. See A G E Blake's "The Intelligent Enneagram" for a detailed discussion of this symbol.

The Enneagram with all three aspects of one’s experience together as a whole. See A G E Blake’s “The Intelligent Enneagram” for a detailed discussion of this symbol.

I have done all this and more with my own life numbers. If you are astrologically inclined, do the Solar Returns of each year and see what you find. The whole purpose of this is to focus the mind onto one’s own life stream. This focussing is not analytical, indeed, the process abhors analysis. It is the realm of imagining and then self remembering – or at least a preparation for this. The exercise itself is another version of “Recapitulation” which Carlos Castaneda refers to. Indeed, you will, if you delve a little deeper in what I’ve just given above,  find not only clues to the notion of Fate but also clues to one’s Destiny. These clues are not uttered in any way by me, but rather by the very simplicity of the gods – Numbers. The Ancient Egyptian concept of Neter is close in meaning to the Pythagorean concept of Number.

The cover of R A Schwaller de Lubicz's magnum opus "Temple of Man"

The cover of R A Schwaller de Lubicz’s magnum opus “Temple of Man”

What are you looking for in the numbers of the years of your life? Just a few hints that can help name the years. Maybe then, your heart will play around with mystic circles and triangles with the Numbers of Life turning off and on like a  light show.
All this may sound weird, but I can assure you, if you try this experiment, you will be pleasantly surprised by the octave “correspondence” you will see in your life experience. It will be as if there is a pattern, unknown to you, unfolding in a manner totally unexpected. A kind of music of your life, a hidden melody that you were not able to hear notes of until this moment. At times you may experience a déjà vu  , the feeling that you have been here before,and this is interpreted exactly as that through the Great Idea of Eternal Recurrence as expressed through P D Ouspensky in his “A New Model of the Universe”. A good summary of this idea & its connection with Nietzche’s and Steiner’s take on it is here.

I’ve been influenced much by the 4th Way – through Gurdjieff and other teachings. Is it any wonder that I have become a middle aged Gnostic seeker carrying the lantern of wonder?

Try it  and see if it isn’t true. You will find a pattern that will truly spook you. If you follow the clues and hints you will see the synchronicity of events

and

maybe the big question will arise:

WHOSE SHOW IS THIS ANYWAY?

Now clock animated


Communicating with Alien Intelligence

August 21, 2009

 I am sometimes mystified how people always seem to connect alien intelligence with Extra Terrestials (ET’s) as if there aren’t
enough alien intelligences on Earth when you compare our human intelligence with other forms. OK – we have the obvious differences between us and monkeys and dolphins and dogs and cats and snails and snakes etc but when we move away from
so called “sentient” beings into the realm of plants and minerals, most people assume that intelligence is non existent. Peter Tompkins wrote a book called “The Secret Life of Plants” where he showed plants having feelings and that they communicate
these feelings.  Secret-life-plants-coverNow, I can’t remember whether it was Terence McKenna who pointed this out or someone else, I do know that it didn’t spring from my forehead, that one can look at communication across species in a unique way.

We know that bees communicate by dancing in the air, that octopii (or is that octopussies 🙂 communicate visually with colour changes in their skin; that whales through singing – now, this is communication amongst themselves. How would communication occur between two very different orders of life eg humans and plants? Well, someone (I can’t remember who), wrote that communication between plants and humans happens when humans ingest either by eating or smoking, plants. The
altered state of consciousness that occurs by this act is the plant itself communicating with humans!!

So, from this point of view an alien intelligence communicates eloquently with human intelligence by the pharmocological exchange within our being. Way beyond words and images something occurs in our consciousness which is a communion with the Earth via the “priestly” mediation of sacred plants.

Food of the gods indeed!


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