Lord, Lady, Sister, Brother

Beloved, whose heart is heaven
Hallowed be thy pain
Our kingdom come
As will is one
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us today a body bred
From shriven trespasses forgiven

Surprising lilacs out of dead land
Redeeming deserts of isolation
Delivering us from evil.
Thy love is the kingdom, the power and our glory
Now and for ever

The Void, life and all that

When I was a small blonde child I had a nightmare about the void. Utter non existence. Dylan Thomas’ poem about his fathers death, “..rage against the dying of the light” holds that place for and to me.

In February this year, sixty years later I had a cycle accident. The “I”, that is to say – me.. well, it just blinked out. I was rebooted in an ambulance some hours later. I remember nothing of the time or even how the accident happened. Where did I go? Was I meanwhile in that void? I believe my ego simply ceased – being a confection of the brain. But that something – an essence continued. (As do our atoms and our effect also). It seems to me that we fade to white, not to black. That we rejoin our real life which is co-rooted in some different way, place and dimension. This after the separations loneliness and pains of this materialistic world. Indeed that this, here and now is the nightmare, not the return beyond death to our intermingling.

Something like “Life’s a bitch but then you die”.

The purpose of this moment of lonely and fragmented consciousness? Maybe simply to witness the glory of the universe in some way – then to help bring the whole to consciousness of the love the underlies all that is.

My answer to Dylan Thomas’ poem about death? ..

Rather than “ Do not go gentle into that good night..” it should be

“Let us go gentle into that good light, Old age should turn to brave the close of day; Courage guag’d against the flighting of its wight”

Is there life after death?

Doesn’t it feel like everyone is trying to sell you something on this one? As if they “need it”, that they gain if they convert you. There are so many evangelists. The worst in my view are the atheist humanist materialists – because they pretend that their beliefs are backed by science. Non. Sense. There is no unarguable rational line.

So where can you get to, using common sense?

First. What do we mean by the terms in the question. Leaving “life” and “death” till tomorrow – let’s start with “after”.

You can’t have an after unless you have time; and what we know from Einstein is that space and time are one thing. (So is matter and energy). So really the question should be phrased “is there life outside space time”. Suddenly there’s a new complexion – and a whole explosions of thoughts. My only point is this. It would be brilliant surely for each of us to set aside our entrenched positions, reach out and explore all of this together.

.. and in that exploration – David Bohm’s “Dialoguing” – we might just find love and joy in the connecting.

(I don’t know if anyone reads this stuff, but I’ll ramble on tomorrow about why (I think) we don’t die anyway.)

Its Wyrd, Man

The druids and those before them believed in Wyrd. Fate, spinning and spun eternally by the three sisters sitting at the base of the tree of life. World interwoven and changing with tides and currents rippling through it. Reality as flow, connection, relation, context, love). New facets of our connected reality constantly emerging. The same truths at the base of Hinduism – and in Quantum Mechanics ( and Buddhism and Christianity).

Metamorphosis.  Water becoming ice. Caterpillars pupating, emerging into butterflies. We journey together into wondrous new states. Society has a reality separate from the individuals that it is made from. And we as individuals in turn have emerged as something new, from the molecules that constitute us now. We are co-evolving in a phase of emergence from one state to quite another.

Yet; mostly we think of the material world as static and secure. How strange. We manage that by focussing on short time segments.  Thus we ignore the riverine flow of rocks, the evolution from raw plasma to chemicals to biology to ideas; and  we are also blind to  “now”, the window to eternity.

Why? Fear, I suspect, is to blame. The terror, the existential angst that is located in our ego – which of course is definitely an ephemera. This is just a trick of light.  Look past the surface of the pool with its (reversed) image where  we see our “self” reflected. There, within the water, is the flow of life which is our home. We let our egos rule over us, when – just here, just now (always here, now), in the flow  of the universe is our real deathless self. As Rupert Brookes  puts it “..  a pulse in the eternal mind, no less”. Like Narcissus, we are transfixed by inner absorption rather than an awareness of all-that-is.

Neither zero nor infinity have boundary

As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.

Unconsciously we’re already immortal

Carl Jung first wrote about the “collective unconscious”. This lies below and as a foundation of our own individual unconscious. It is a pooling between us, now and in the past. It is also one gateway (I believe) to the shared life beyond the fragility of our mind in the life – our material consciousness – the Brahman of Hinduism or Nirvana of Buddhism, that can be glimpsed through meditation.

The collective unconscious speaks in a language both of archetypes and mandalas. Archetypes are the powerful shared images which make so many movies effective   for instance the monster in the dark of horror films and the ecstasy of union and community of Avatar. Mandalas reflect perfection in images and seem, at least to me to be linked to the beautiful fractals of chaos theory that underlay existence. (look at free fractal apps on your iPhone for a direct view of reality!).

It is only our mind, this particular consciousness that dies, this is anyway an illusion. If we can connect  to the shared stream of unconsciousness now , then we already experience our immortality. Through prayer, meditation, connection with our loved ones or nature – even the cinema. After all, the movies are right, forget what people call it – Avatar is what awaits. May the Force be with us.

Duality, Love and Evolution

We think in terms of opposing forces, opposites. Duality flows  from the fact of boundary created as we separate from the whole of existence – initially physically at birth, and then psychically in infancy. This schism has been expressed in many ways, often as opposing forces.For instance – good / evil ;life / death; aggressive / erotic ; Me / Not Me ; extrovert / introvert. I believe that the point of duality is in our response to it. There is a fundamental difference in outcome between choice between, and integration of – opposites.

Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein conceived of opposing Life and Death instincts. However surely a “Death” instinct is incompatible with evolution, what purpose is served by a “Death” instinct? More natural is Donald Winnicott’s expression of an Aggressive component, born of opposition and an Erotic component, born of complementarity – the birth of these components arising as an infant realises that there is a Me and a Not-Me. Carl Jung conceived of the struggle to integrate opposing forces. Many of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing that arises from Jung with its 4 dimensions –  Extrovert-Introvert; Thinking-Feeling; Sensing-Intuition; and Judging-Perceiving. From the dawn of our species we have observed the difference between Light and Dark and described our nature as Good or Evil. Martin Buber gives us the double-dual-whammy of I-Thou way of being “over against” I-It.

“There is, Buber shows, a radical difference between man’s attitude to other men and his attitude to things. The attitude to other men is a relation between persons, to things it is a connexion with objects. ..These two attitudes represent the basic twofold situation of human life, the former constitutes the world of THOU and the latter the world of IT” Ronald Gregor Smith, translator of Ich Und Du

It appears then that fundamental to our reaction to the fact of our existence; woven into the fabric of our way of thinking and being, is duality – expressed as an opposition of forces.

What then is our response? Is it passive as in choice or balance or active – as in process or integration? Admitting polarity in all things – what should be our reaction. Do we choose – for instance between Good or Evil? Should we seek balance between different drives into a kind of dynamic equilibrium – for instance striving to be at the centre point of extroversion and introversion? Is reality in fact a process budding eternally at the very boundary that arises out of duality – life within Winnicott’s Transitional Space or Whitehead’s point of prehension? Or is it there a further truth behind this duality – the point being what arises out of unification of opposites ? After all paraphrasing Beethoven – there cannot be loud without soft, it is in contrast that music arises.

Perhaps its personal taste. If so then, at least for me, integration of duality is our purpose, and one which is unceasing because there is a counterveiling force of differentiation. There is a flow of existence which is driven by splitting and unification, birth and death. Duality is dynamic not static and the fundamental creative contrast is actually that of differentiation and integration. Freud’s Life/Death instincts replaced by Integration/Differentiation forces. This isn’t an original thought, and it’s not mine. It is inherent in the world-view of eastern tradition (Yin-Yang etc) and possibly our western ancestors (see Wisdom of the Wyrd, Brian Bates). It was  one of Carl Jung’s fundamental insights – “Much of Carl Jung’s writings are linked by the theme that mental illness is characterized by disunity of the personality, whilst mental health is manifested by unity” (Jung: Selected Writings, Anthony Storr).

If then we conceive of a schism-powered flow, what is the destination and what is the fundamental motive impulse? Well there you have Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the fundamental duality being spirit and material – an inner and outer. For him underlying existence is the force of Love, which powers evolution. An evolution conceived as complexification through spheres of the physical, chemical, biological to that of ideas – until we become conscious of God that is Love that is all. “There is a duality of material and spiritual, which he calls the “without” and “within”. He traces the development of the “within”, an evolution of consciousness. He names man as a stage in that process associated with the phase-shift from the evolution of biology to the evolution of ideas”.

In Teilhard de Chardin’s words:

“If there were no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in hominized form. . . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.”

The Long View

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me

For those of us who believe that this is not the only life, whatever our persuasion, then we stand in a similar perspective to that unborn child. What comes next? We don’t know for certain and therefore we are full of fear – as is McNeice’s subject. At least though that baby – all unknowing of what will come in that next life – is assured of there is one.

The poem if applied to most of us, unborn in this life, would be a contemplation of the moment of birth/death rather than of what lies beyond. So many of us get stuck with the question “Is there life after death”, rather than contemplating what it is and beginning to live it now.

Indeed  that we spend so much of our time avoiding the whole subject of death and the wider context of existence –  is I suspect a significant driver behind the rise of materialism. (Consume to forget. Materialism – the opiate of the masses). My hunch is that the most virulent evangelical atheists are those who are most full of fear. Their need is to convert, because like any addict there is at least a temporary relief from their underlying hunger.

I am perhaps fortunate that I almost died as a toddler (meningitis), since they say that this experience in small children – if survived – gives them a glimpse of beyond this life and therefore a context for the living of it. I know someone well who had a different experience though – aged 7 or so their near death experience left them with a knowledge of the short span of this life – much earlier than most – but possibly with the fear of the unknown rather than the hope of life to come.

I will ask their permission to talk further of their experience and journey since (indeed  I would like to understand it better).

However it does seem to me that life is better lived with the long view. The context of what lies beyond this transitory set of experiences. Indeed it is this landscape that gives meaning to existence. Ours, and the worlds.

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the      club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me. I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,      with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,         on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk      to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light         in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words      when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,         my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,            my life when they murder by means of my               hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when      old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains         frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white             waves call me to folly and the desert calls               me to doom and the beggar refuses                  my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me, Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God      come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me With strength against those who would freeze my      humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,         would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with            one face, a thing, and against all those               who would dissipate my entirety, would                  blow me like thistledown hither and                     thither or hither and thither                        like water held in the                           hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. Otherwise kill me.

Louis Macneice