Scent of the Divine

 

 

What can we learn from those deprived of fully or normally functioning senses about accessing other ways of being? How can we avoid the domination of visual processing, the consequent ownership of everything we see, and the blind instinct to pin everything down into permanence in the realities we create in our minds? Everything, and often everyone, we see we want to possess and fossilize, preserving them in aspic, making them permanent. These collections often become our reality and naturally, we fear their loss.

For urban dwellers in the developed world, the allure of millions of visual signals pulls us out of our true nature. We are provoked by their sight to make choices, to possess or reject. In modern life, the monopolizing visual sense can generate synthetic conditions in which we ‘see,’ but more importantly ‘are seen,’ and we interpret everything to suit us, on our terms. Whereas the non-visual senses – listening/hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling – receive concrete data from the environment, e.g. sound, scents, textures and shape, flavours and temperatures, etc. that need no interpretation as they are un-seeable, invisible to most humans.  In a series of articles soon to be made into a book, I will explore these ancient senses that I believe link us with our innate divinity.

Our true nature is both visible and invisible, never limitable to man-made concepts like space and time, to merely seeing and being seen. Our sacred responsibility while inhabiting the visible world is to live out our unconditional love and compassion so we can convey the lessons of humanity to others. As well as to revive our divine energy in these days of shocking social deterioration and urban isolation. In simple terms, our senses are out of balance in modern life so by closing down the visual sense and ‘going inside,’ we can make contact with our higher self and the vast magical land of the invisible.

The ‘I,’ the ego, and the physical eye operate in a similar way. As mentioned, the visual sense is the most dominant in our consumerist acquisitive societies, manufactured diversity and pluralism overwhelm us with choices, alternatives, get-out clauses, and so on. If we cannot see something, there is a possibility that we consider it not to exist, or at the very least to have no validity. We need proof either with the naked eye or in writing to make things valid because our trust in others and in our perceptions of reality is so weak.

It is no wonder then that we cling desperately to the ‘self’ as evidence that our flesh and blood actually exist. But in that clinging, there is a possibility that we may have lost all contact with our true self our true nature; that our divine flame is either guttering or has extinguished altogether.

 

 

In respect of the above, the visually impaired are fascinating. If we take away visual data from human existence altogether, then how do we make sense of the world? I have had the privilege of working with visually impaired children and adults as a Music Therapist. They have taught me so much about concrete communication, contributing to my own spiritual insights and helping me to step beyond the straitjacket of duality which most of us wear.

Before writing in detail about my professional experience, I would like to recount a film which movingly depicts how a person deprived of sight as an adult, makes sense of his new world. The title is ‘Scent of a Woman’ 1992, based on an Italian film released in 1974 Profumo di donna, (director Dino Risi, leading role Vittorio Gassman, based on the story Il Buio e il Mieleby Giovanni Arpino).

A colonel is injured in an accident, losing his sight entirely. He adapts badly to his disability by drinking heavily and lashing out obnoxiously at everyone around him. He sees no reason to go on living so he employs a young student paying his way at a local university to accompany him to New York to take his final pleasures before shooting himself, his pristine gun in his suitcase, his practice at assembling and cleaning it copious.

Booking into the best hotel, he lavishes them both during their stay. In the hotel, there is a dance floor, a small band playing Latin American music in the afternoon where guests are dancing formally. The colonel senses the fragrance of a woman sitting nearby them and somehow knows that she is alone. He goes to ask her to join them for a drink, and then to his helper’s incredulity, forcefully invites her to dance the tango with him. He knows the steps intimately and the floor clears to watch the spectacle. His helper is nervous at first but soon relaxes as they stride out together confidently, victoriously.

 

 

Personally, this scene has incredible nobility because of my experience of visual impairment. Apparently, all the visually imapired colonel needs to achieve the impossible is the fragrance of a woman, his healthy body receptive to vibrations, and his kinesthetic memories of dancing the Tango, all of them concrete data.

Is it possible to reconstruct a visually accessed environment in terms of sound and movement? I know first-hand that this is what the visually impaired do to make sense of their world. A young female client blind from birth had never seen anything or anyone; unusually, she did not experience even faint patterns of light or shadow. She had no choice but to utilize sound and movement as her environment, making mountains out of piano chords and snowy summits with her agile voice. She could create a journey in a ship by jumping high to make wave patterns and the rocking of the vessel, using her fingers and voice as the people on board.

She was happiest without words, entirely nourished by the vibrations of sound and sensing them in her body. I often envied her freedom from intellectual assessment or interpretation, craving only spontaneous integration with the stimuli.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, spiritual teacher and visionary, said, “The description is not the described; I can describe the mountain, but the description is not the mountain, and if you get caught up in the description as most people are, then you will never see the mountain.’ Of course, my young client had never seen a mountain and never would be able to do so, so instead, she could sense it made of sound and smells combined with her own bodily movements in space. This can demonstrate just how attached the sighted become to words and their meaning. Being receptive to only the sound of the word and not its meaning can liberate us, so we are able to revert to our true spirit nature beyond mere symbols. As we listen to music, imbibe the fragrance of toasted bread, taste a freshly picked ripe plum, finger fabric made from silk in the dark, words become redundant and shockingly inadequate except in the hands of a talented poet.

Colonel Slade on the other hand, had seen many mountains and had actually experienced their descriptions but was now dependent on memories of mountains. Would he be content with this vagueness when he had made mountains so permanent in his life? Would his awareness of mountains gradually dissolve if it could not be refreshed? Would his sense of loss, of the living reality that everything is impermanent, finally hit home and bring him to an awakening, or would it be utterly unendurable. Perhaps he was now consumed by the description of himself as a blind helpless and pitiable being and failed to see that he was not the described. It would seem that his decision to kill himself in some way represented the final irreversible permanence.

 

 

Although occasionally troubled by the language and words of her carers and therapists, which she was often unable to interpret, my young client was completely happy and reasonably well-adjusted in normal life. But she became aggressive if she was not allowed to move her body through the air or blocked from feeling the vibrations of sound because this was the only way she could be certain that she existed. So, in terms of her inner spiritual life, she was not beleaguered by dialogue from either her demons or her false angels, not attached to concepts and theories, and not hampered by the acquisitive ‘I’ or ‘eye.’ Whatever she needed to affirm her identity came from sounds and smells, touches and tastes. Words were not symbols which developed an intellectual reality of their own to her and caused her to live in an abstract world of the mind.

The visible. The invisible. A famous blind and deaf phenomenon Helen Keller, who eventually learned to live in the visible and audible world said, ‘the best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart.’ This spiritual view of life comes from a grueling heart-breaking training as a child to be able to live in the world of the sighted and the hearing. Her complete adaptation is testimony to our ability to overcome anything if the divine flame in the heart is strong and we do not allow our senses to be out of balance.

As the world is designed for the sighted, it is impossible for the majority of the unsighted to make sense of it. They experience existence more directly, more concretely, often from the higher self. This is an inspiration. Many of us have learned to access the higher self through meditation or prayer, which invariably entails closing the eyes and focusing our listening. But how we struggle with distractions in the form of words – notions, speculations, justifications, judgments, criticisms, ad infinitum.

We naturally want to escape from this relentless barrage of concepts, so look for a path leading away, taking us out of ourselves. It is ironic that all we need is already located inside us if only we can quell the noise of our minds and just be in silence and stillness. The blind cannot escape and have no desire to usually. They are content to finger the complex textures of an item on and on or jump continuously to experiment with their balance or to mingle with concrete energies.

In spiritual practice, we aspire to go beyond words and other habitual interpretations of reality. We can learn to sink down into the firm yielding of now and here, of the great still silence where we too, like the unsighted, can detect vibrations and use other tools accessible to humans such as clairvoyance, perfect pitch, telepathy, that we once utilized. Colonel Slade’s tango with a beautiful fragrant woman almost pushed him over the edge, sending him to lock himself into his room and prepare his gun. Then he felt the love of his young accomplice in an angry invective about his cowardliness and self-pity and knew he could play a useful role in his young life. He could settle for concrete stimuli in time and found wisdom behind his irascible intolerance, and he could still believe in questions and their answers, somnambulating around the visual world learned from memory, at least for a while longer.

The questions the congenitally blind may pose are mere sound-play empty of meaning: hearing their own voices, imitating other voices, projecting the sounds their being can create to chart their environment. They are not desperate jabs at understanding existence, of ‘seeing’ through or behind impressions, of ‘understanding’ and interpreting everything as those of the sighted, because they know there are no questions, so there are no answers.

They are not separated away from existence because they cannot see to measure and compare, to judge and sort, to speculate or criticize. We sighted need to accept everything and step beyond duality to reconnect with our divine origins. Whereas the blind are embedded in existence; they cannot easily move around in their concrete environment as we do in the virtual worlds we invent.

It is difficult for those who have always been able to see the world to imagine the world of the congenital blind. They are like ghosts using their body form as an instrument to detect their environment. They themselves become concrete in the same way that what they perceive best is concrete. They do not take what is visible and transient deep inside them and make it invisible in order to learn lessons and connect with the invisible world. They are invisible already.

They are usually calm and steady because everything is already lost in their world; they can hold onto little and describe nothing. Voices come and go and textures and temperatures are continually changing beyond their control. There is no light or shade. There are no models to imitate except vocally which means they are often excellent mimics because of their exclusive audio focus. We often pity them, their deprivation of the treasures of the visual, but their insight into life is extraordinary and their link with the divine I believe functions strongly.

My blind client knew my inner thoughts as I worked with her. She had clairvoyance without doubt, and she could predict my future. As a music therapist, I was one of the few people she wanted to be with all the time because I could make soundscapes for her and with her, and she could use instruments and her voice and body to act in them.

Our environment can provide concrete data such as resonances, smells, textures and temperatures, tastes and kinesthetic awareness, none of which are open to the same kind of interpretation as visual data perceived only by the physical eyes. These data are invisible, the dimension and substance of our spiritual origin. The shaman in primitive tribes enters into a trance to connect with the world of spirits to access wisdom of the elder ancestors. He or she can no longer ’see’ in the physical sense. Soothsayers and seers have traditionally been visually impaired. We are told by Buddhist Masters that during our time in human life we are living in a dream world in which everything is impermanent and created by our minds.

 

 

The blind colonel on the dance floor moving his own body and his unknown partner’s through space to the majestic rhythms of the Tango inspired by the fragrance she is wearing is a moving feat to the sighted. There is no hesitation, no speculation, just beautiful bodies moving trustingly through space, responding to resonances and scents. This is surely an unconditional act. At first, he intends this performance to be his swan song – resonance, rhythms, fragrance, bodily accompaniment- all that he needs to shift to the invisible world. But soon he realizes that he can adapt and at the same time can find peace with his true self.

 

The Human Papers: an extract

 

greater awareness

Monk of the World

“They have always told me that the first time is the worst, so I should cultivate fear before I jump or enter the freezing torrent inch by inch.  That makes me smile.  They also firmly assure me that to talk to myself indicates madness! Ha!

I was told take this orange and eat it ‘only when you are alone,’ but I protested, saying, ‘I am never alone because I am part of the universe.  I am not separate or different.’

I tried to explain that the shiny peel of the fruit I turned slowly in my hand as I spoke was my skin, its microscopic pores allowing the inside of the fruit out and the outside in.  I said, ‘this fruit can breathe just like me. This concentration of the pungent and dazzling essence of “orange” was made visible exactly to make our human lives possible.  Its heart of sparkle and freshness is my heart too.’

But the subject was quickly changed to something banal and I was condemned as a mad eccentric!  

‘Alone’ is a human excuse, a weakness, an inability to accept that one is not an island. Thinking that we are ‘alone,’ ‘solitary,’ ‘unique’ is the sheer fantasy of a deluded arrogant mind. Indeed, thought itself is a dead thing which disconnects us from the universe. 

At this moment my critics seeing me standing waist-deep in this deluge would ask indignantly, ‘How can you stand the racket of the water in torrents, let alone stand under them. You seem to welcome the pelting of its icy dollops on your head?’

They are afraid because they have made themselves separate, aloof from nature’s tears of joy. I raise my open hands eagerly towards the cascade to connect with other universal evidence which is identical to me.  Ah!  There I go!  There is no ‘me.’” 

The monk of the world splashes the surface aggressively, sometimes momentarily angry that he has become flesh with all its conditions, its catapults and trip wires. But it is only a lightning flash of what completely consumes and disables most humans.  At these minute incidences of human anger, he knows overwhelmingly that overcoming this is his mission, his very mission.  He must not get tricked, must not fall into the trance that most flesh-dwellers fall into with alacrity, but that also he must never deny his blessed flesh.  It is always a source of sunshine and joy to him with its ever-changing texture, it’s hot and cold spots, its expanding and contracting, dilating and retracting, its inner winds and tides. Planetary. Wandering. This shocks other celibate clerics whose flesh is extinct.

The moment in his childhood when he sat on the deserted beach of his homeland and the sea and sky became one, floats peacefully by before his eyes in the watery chaos.  He knew then that the horizon was just a device of the mind and that the blue and the green were not separate, not water and air distinct from each other.  Their blue and green actually flowed in his own eyes and arteries. And he felt sad for all the people around him who misunderstood their existence and in so doing created a perpetual drama, swinging helplessly between heaven and hell, manufacturing fear and pride from their factories.  Without these fabrications, life was timeless, limitless, positive and exuberant.  

‘The water fall is stingingly silent now and yet deafening at the same time. But I am no longer the listener.  What the trapped would perceive, do perceive, as slapping icy pain, assault, arctic torture, is in truth the universe dancing on my skull and shoulders.  It in itself will never break me, but the thought of it, the fear and anticipation of it might, I realize.

The taste of blood comes from the searing cold pellets scratching and chafing my skin, but how do I know it is blood, or that it is my blood.  No, I cannot know that. It is not my mission to identify with this form I am lodging in to complete my mission, to rise to my next evolution. The manifestation of my vibrations only exists for others, their eyes and ears recurring the birth and death of my flesh.

Audience

The two trapped peers watch from above.  They must always observe this exotic creature asking how he came to exist, jealous of his determination and worst of all of his power. Everything he has touched has benefited and all he has encountered have loved and attended to him. They shout loudly to each other above the din below.

‘How many thousands of years has he been here? And why does he make us feel so insecure?’

‘Perhaps he’s a gongen or god of the mountain forests? He never seems to eat or sleep, only to go in search of beautiful women to woo and flirt with, and to conquer. A shaven-headed being has never been seen in these parts before.’

‘Con, have you ever cut your hair since you became a man?’

‘No, never. Because I know it’s the source of my manhood. That I will get many children with this strength that I cultivate each day with rare herbs and wild garlic oil.’ He caresses it as he speaks sliding his fingers along its length hanging down his back.

‘Why doesn’t he realize that do you think? He just shaves his off with his sword the moment it starts to sprout while staring into a still pool. Or does he know a secret we don’t? Do you think we have been tricked, Doi?’

They both simultaneously lift off their conical straw hats, pulling down the chin strap and letting them float in the steaming bubbling pool they sit dangling their feet into to warm them. Meanwhile, still keeping a watchful eye on their bald charge, they adjust their top knots, gathering the fallen hairs and tightening the leather tie.  Their special lacquered combs are always kept at hand to scrape back fine hairs that fly away when it is so freezing. Hair, after all, is their future happiness.  They must look after it well. 

After checking their top knots and replacing their warmed bamboo hats which bring a smile to their icy cheeks, they simultaneously undo the ties of their top robes, their several under robes, and finally unwrap the silk binding shielding their withered penises from the cold. They are also their future happiness and the source of their descendants so they must tend them carefully.  And at this point, they turn away from each other for privacy and to do what they must individually. 

They each have different beliefs about their body fluids: Con that he should never let sperm escape from his body in order to preserve his essence for forthcoming generations; and Doi that he should let out his sperm every day so that the amount he produces will increase like a bottomless well. So, there they sit, back to back, peeking down into the deep watery valley below, one breathing deeply to make his penis wither even more and to enhance his supply of sperm deep inside him, thanking the ancestors for the cold weather which makes it so much easier, but secretly dreading the hot summer; and Con, caressing and pulling to make himself larger and larger, battling against the freezing cold which touches his pinkening scrotum, occasionally stopping to warm his hands in the steaming water, then continuing on, willing the moment of ejaculation to come. 

Neither of them has a thought or erotic image in their heads, no flashing picture show of slow unveiling or forbidden scenes because humans have not fallen from godhood so nothing has been hidden or become unknown. The evil and distraction of the secular have still not developed so their minds are truly pure and if an impure sensation is detected, they tell each other immediately and help each other to realize that they must not interfere, must not try to go upriver even if unconsciously. It is simply their duty to tend their hair and their manhood because they are told that this is their mission in life, to preserve the generations of their line making them strong and wise. 

Unlike the smiling apparition below in white blood-stained robes standing directly beneath the waterfall waist-deep in the shallow pool, they have been instructed what to do and how to do it to preserve their generations, to hand down the wisdom, to be a respected member of their community. They are all practical, loyal and devoted, while he is ethereal, unidentified with anything or any idea, flowing downwards with the torrent and going where he must.

For both Con and Doi, pleasure and duty are indiscernible. Their clear mission is to follow the wise. They must not be different or stand out in any way.  Con is calm, reduced, his inner storehouse full and potent, his heart somehow warmed and reassured by the concentration of energy down into his feet: he is relieved in one way.  Doi is also calm now, breathing quite quickly and feeling the warmth of his sexual energy rising and then falling. His tide comes well in, crashes hard on the beach with a slapping noise audible to Con despite the waterfall din, and then ebbs away and he sighs and shudders.  He is relieved in another way.  They turn to each other now and check and admire the wilt of their respective vegetables, Doi wiping and commenting on the thickness and quantity of his produce.

‘There! Duty done. And all the warmer for it too!’

They wrap themselves away, binding their testicles separately to their scrotums in a matter of fact way, lifting a leg or a buttock to make sure the silk is straight and does not later irritate or chafe them as they climb and descend the forest slopes in pursuit of the ice-bather. Then they pull down their various layers, straighten their dresses and check themselves once more, settling down to observe in silence, turning their satisfied gaze to the waterfall. But in simultaneous tension, they guffaw that the creature has gone.  Vanished!  Not a trace!

They cautiously inch down the steep path to look for traces of him.  The ice is thick in places but they lower themselves down with bendable bamboo holding onto each other.  Once standing at the edge of the pool shivering, holding their ears, they comb the surface for a trace of his blood, a shred of his white robe, a scatter of stones as he staggered out stiffly to run for cover.

They look at each other dumbfounded.  Perhaps they also had dreamed they saw him, as others reported they had done. 

cold water ablution

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONG

incense smoke

‘There is a room around this song.’ 

Shocked, she wondered who thought of that?  She asked who put this room in this library of other rooms to hold all the songs? It is called a ‘college of music,’ but an original college was a partnership, like ‘colleague’ today, not a huge institution with a whole unique ethos, surging forward, attracting fame and sponsorship, competing with other such urban necessities.  Walls within walls, never still.

Everything is encased, captured.  Then we must build a wall around it to hold it still, to make it stay so we can perpetuate it. Even the strings of this magical instrument ‘the piano’ that I am permitted to caress only the black and white teeth of are secreted away beneath designed wood, constructed, boxed.  Must I play with these limits? Must I be held back? But wait! Questions are also constructed, their answers filed away in drawers.

Then suddenly amidst all this obsessive division, we will begin the song.  I have seen your face once or twice appearing and disappearing through doors and mirrors, your wine red lips, the hushed eyes of others with voice, the mutterings of your reputation, your talent.  The light of you switches off and on again as you perambulate through the banal between songs, eating and drinking of necessity, speaking if spoken to, but saying as little as possible. You have always known that speaking the mundane is the poison, and you have found the perfect antidote in song.

You appear in this room indicating with your paper mantras, your score, as a talking point to get started, holding on to it scarcely with singing fingers.  My mantras stand upright on the music desk only touched at the edges, but yours are cradled against the opaque skin of your forearms. Both are heavily marked, pencil, scratches, another kind of mantra made with numbers and symbols in Italian.

Before we start, oh how I long to get started, must there be this kind of foreplay?  We both know that the poison is slowly killing us. Should we prolong the suffering for the sake of others?  Should we stay to be like those who have not taken the antidote, comfort in numbers, not to stand out for fear of being condemned as arrogant, different?

The poison of containment behind walls and below roof, tugging hopelessly at the fixed anchor of time. Oh, the tyranny of the visible, the prolongation of object permanence well into adulthood.  Close the door, the drawer, the coffin lid, and now it’s gone. And the demented denial of the invisible, the inaudible, the untouchable, all the time the clammy jacket of space squeezing us tightly, holding us still until we are certain we really exist.  They do not realize that the poison of our ignorance and blindness hold us back, confine us, suffocating because we monopolize oxygen and are terrified that it will run out.

But once the learned conventions have been delivered, we can concentrate on the mirrors, polishing them up, breathing on them, rubbing, and they soon start to reflect.  No decision to make about which of these miraculous antidotes to apply because they all work. The pages of scores are vague references, tacit, of no more concern so tossed aside. We begin. We breathe as one in gratitude for the loan of just this one breath, and then the next, one at a time: gratitude and breath are key conditions that will make the antidote work.

I will start the song with breath-placed bent fingers perched on the cool ivory. Their tips are singing, and they are calmed by air which convinces them that their nails should not tear away the wooden confines boxing in the gorgeous strings.

Seated beneath you, I am thrilled to be the soft underbelly of our union.  My legs and feet drive the pedals, operate the dampers, on and off, to promote the resonance or stop it summarily.  I must be master of the used air in this song’s room because breath is required between strings and dampers, one for each key, an airiness which keeps the vibrations regular, oxygen at the felt pads. Breath is also necessary for the highest treble strings, fine, taught, connected to the heavens; and the lowest bass, thick, loose, connected to earth which I never need to dampen with my foot pressure.

The convention of vocal song says that the accompanying instrument will start to set the mood.  But I fail to notice the start because the antidote is already working. I am no longer conscious. ‘I’ has disappeared,leaving behind only poised fingers and forearms to weight them down. Fingertips and joints ripple and pivot, merging with you even before you let out a sound. There can be no human insubordination now.

The ethereal kiss is a delusion in the showcase of romance.  The poison of possession, of fixing each appointed victim completely still with lips and arms, of pressing body weight, of the burn of skin friction and static. Crude, abstract, a stab in the dark, mirrors filthied by the poison and no antidote in sight. Separate humans jammed together, confined, last-ditch, crammed in drawers and behind doors.

This airy kiss of fingertips on strings is the perfect reflection of yours on lips like wild geese.  Air and sound are only an apparition in the visible.

Forward to my new book: Glorious Death: Glorious Life

Buddhists and Cathars jacket

author’s forward

Glorious Death? Human beings are curious of and frightened by their own death and the death of others they love. Death is taboo to most of us, and it is understandable that the complete unknown is terrifying so we evade it, clinging to what we know even more tightly.  But I will show you in this book that there is a way to understand and to embrace death, and that when we do our lives are transformed. 

Glorious Life?  Life is both predictable and unpredictable; both happy and sad; both satisfying and dissatisfying, but what is certain is that we do not have control of it.  Like setting sail on a stormy sea, we are at once battered by waves and wind, and the next becalmed or shrouded in dense fog. However, acceptance of our impermanence is the master key to dealing with such fluctuations; we need to have complete mastery of our sails and rudder and to learn to sail with the weather, into the weather, instead of against it. Realizing that all the challenges that the wild ocean throws up are spiritual tests and messages provided for us to overcome and interpret, allows us to strap in and actualize our human potential. 

Buddhists? Cathars? People of the Earth? There are so many spiritual pathways available to us in these days of diversity, but I have discovered that although they may have different appearances and structures, they are all reaching for the same lasting happiness and joy. They are all about mastering our restless fearful minds. The serenity and wisdom of the Buddhist way are well known.

The way of the Cathars (the Good), a medieval group of Christian mystics in Europe branded as heretics by the Church of Rome because of their spiritual beliefs, may not be so well-known because they were exterminated by the close of the 14th century. 

But now is the time of the revival they predicted 700 years later at a time when the Earth and its people are rapidly deteriorating.  The Cathar Creed is the perfect blueprint for us to fully realize that we special humans with our essence of pure love are not aliens here on Earth, but we are the good way for the Earth and its community to heal. 

People of the Earth? The surviving indigenous tribes of our world possess the wisdom to save the planet and to live in harmony. In fact, they are the only people who dedicate themselves entirely as custodians of the Earth, protecting species and living in awe and respect for what the Great Mother Nature has supplied to allow humans to evolve spiritually. The natural world which we moderns have made ourselves separate from provides the perfect conditions for us to excel in love and light, and to bring our intrinsic goodness to bear.

All three of these traditions have brought me personally to a breath-taking watershed.  I look down into the great oceans and I have no fear of death or life, and I have come to surrender to the truth that the world we think we know is just a tiny part of the vast invisible world, the ocean of spirits of love. This is our origin.  In other words, I have fully awoken to the reality of the supremacy of universal love, and that everything else is simply weather. 

I write this work, not from a place of dazzling qualifications or impeccable experience, exhaustive scholarly research or struggles for recognition or advancement. In fact, I have deliberately put aside such accolades and indicators of success, and instead offer a different kind of intelligence and a world of perceptions unique to their expresser. They are testimony above all to being a human spirit. My motivation is to share my view of the world as honestly as I can, striving to write from my true nature which I have consciously worked to uncover during my enchanted life.

I find my true nature to be akin not to heroes or celebrities, state leaders or explorers, but more to mystics and castaways, contemplatives and psychics. In my short human life, I have found the great truth in my own mind as I create it for myself, for it does not exist without my creation. By virtue of our dazzling consciousness, human beings are extraordinary creators.

Living and working in Japan, I have been given a unique opportunity not only to experience an ancient and bizarre culture first-hand but also to question or reappraise many aspects of life that ‘westerners’ take for granted. As a person of faith, one of those aspects is exactly that, faith.  It is well-known that most Japanese reject notions of religious affiliation and look both uncomfortable and incredulous when asked in public what they truly believe in or at any mention of spirituality.

It has been said that Japanese have little imagination which on the surface may be attributable to their passivity and conformity to the greater social conscience.  It is the social system and customs which expect them to be self-contained, restrained, and so they are often reluctant to exchange true feelings or experiences. They are however skilled readers of the air once they have trust.

Therefore, when a westerner, usually born, brought-up and educated in a Christian, Moslem or Hindu atmosphere, talks freely about faith feelings, it seems that it is almost impossible for them to grasp another life course outside superficially secular Japan.  In fact, many Japanese are rarely if ever exposed to foreigners: there are still strong traces of xenophobia from the 250-year period of the country’s closure.

Surely faith has to be recognized by those who realize its personal importance?  Faith?  Conviction?  Trust? These are not qualities that come easily to many Japanese because there are so many types of fear running through their veins. There is also a formidable sense of national pride and duty under the skin, a sense that everything Japanese is best, superior. Here religion and spirituality are very much a social pursuit.  This is part of the necessity of belonging so that the countless temples (Buddhist) and shrines (Shintoist) double as community, culture, and mental health centres.

It is from my stance as a person with a commitment to the intrinsic power of the human race and with indestructible confidence in my own true nature, that I write this book.  My life is unimaginable to most mono-cultural and mono-linguistic Japanese – packing up two suitcases and leaving my ‘homeland’ to live in this land of endemic shyness and nationalism, sampling many spiritual teachings and alternative disciplines along my route, and so on.

You Japan, though we are now one, cannot imagine my life.  So, I dedicate this work to you.  It is a bringing out of the roots of my faith, my origins, and the process of my life as a spiritual seeker.  I want you to experience my invisible Christian upbringing and education, the purity of my lineage; in fact, the whole purpose of my being; to experience my brushes with Islam and Taoism, Sufism and Hinduism, Judaism and Jesuits in the multicultural environment of my birth.

This is my mission: to share my blessed life with a nation which Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism created a form of Chinese Buddhism especially for. He is recognized as, one of the very few Japanese who have attained a universality far beyond the limitations of nation or race.

In 1950, after the Pacific War was resolved and Japan was occupied by the United States, there was a purging of religion and education.  In Buddhist terms, it was called the Dharma Crisis, and through my involvement for 11 years with a Shingon Buddhist teaching, I have encountered this first-hand, although it has mostly been buried under recorded Japanese history of the period so it is difficult to research. Indeed, as a result of the government inquisition, all religious organizations, no matter what denomination, were scrutinized and subjected to a vicious authenticity check. 

The founder of the teaching was in fact thrown into prison for his deep convictions and faith with murderers and other capital criminals, his Buddhist instruments confiscated, and his qualifications and motivations examined microscopically.  This truly tested the faith of his small sangha (community), most of whom disassociated themselves, but those remaining deepened their conviction leading to worldwide strength of the teaching today. This Dharma Crisis was an enormous test of faith for the whole nation, and it has clearly engendered the moral and religious cowardice or seeming indifference that exists today as a result.

It seems that people, in general, are divided into two groups: those who need to know, and those who just-know. Those driven by fear and doubt, and those who are fearless and accepting. Those who think and those who do not. Those who consider the physical sun to be the only source of light in the world shining down on them, and those who are their own sun shining on themselves and others. Those who have taken up permanent residence in their minds, and those who have stepped on to the bridge of their mind and walked out into the limitless field of their consciousness.

As I write, I find myself conflicted and separated by trying to cater for both of these groups, not wanting to leave anyone out. For example, when writing about sincerity and secrecy in relation to the Cathar creed, The Church of Love, I have to describe the Cathar-Catholic history and struggle in great detail so that permanent residents can understand the background; meanwhile, I am longing to get to the spiritual centre of things, and do not want to be pinned down by the time-space continuum.

It feels as if there is a dense web of doubt and proof-seeking, a kind of contagion emanating from the thinkers, the limited, which threatens to draw me in.  So, I want to kick free of it and unconditionally dart around the infinite field which has no horizons or divisions, or tenant agreements, without any appointments or duration. I, therefore, have inserted small articles into the text so that the received knowledge concerning Buddhism, Catharism and Creation Spiritualism is available to those who need it.

Thinkers habitually make questions and construct opinions, which can potentially tyrannize a writer, blocking him or her from writing anything at all. They are natural fighters with an obsession with analysis and understanding on their terms, but they have the power to sway others in this modern life dominated by the intellect. Surely it must be an affliction to always need to justify and debate in order to be accepted, or to gain approval from the intelligentsia fashion leaders, but that is the norm in developed nations.

As Buddha is reputed to have said, People with opinions just go around bothering people all the time. What I write in this book is not opinion but insight gleaned from my spiritual training and awakening mind. And yet, I am unable to exclude this majority group because my message concerns them most of all. I have no dispute with anyone. (Buddha)

In the end, readers will make up their own minds about my Glorious Death: Glorious Life based on so many conditional factors. Therefore, writing anything using abstract symbols capable of such beauty, such harm, such hypnosis, such confusion, is a leap of faith into an abyss. I leap willingly.

And as for my own Glorious Death, the title of this book? I die every night in my dreams. It is no stranger to me.

Evenings had always been our special time back in the city, each one a life in its own right. It was usually initiated with flames and candles, and the opening of corks. Each a make or break, visible or invisible, irresistible attraction or cold polarization. Now, in the mountains, evenings ended in small deaths in the full darkness and silence. We two isolated souls, which might sting or flee at any moment, were entirely invisible here. (Veil, a novel of Cathars and Troubadours by Linden Thorp)

To wake each morning is a blessing, a new start, a stand against the fear that the human mind throws up like the jackknife of a bully.  During all my moments, the Veil of my physical death flutters above me, giving me glimpses of the invisible world beyond the bridge.

My motivation in writing this book then is to share my journey and to drop seeds into fertile earth.  As a Buddhist practitioner, I have already written a great deal, but it was my discovery of the universal Cathar Creed combined with the realization that I was a member of the 20th-century Cathar revival behind the scenes, that made me sit down and determine to create it.  I believe this perfect Creed entitled The Church of Love, will suit all beings regardless of their supposed level, caste, status, thinking or no-thinking in the visible world. All beings are perfectly equal in the invisible world.

In order to familiarize the territory before revealing the Creed, I share my blueprints and the spiritual schemes which have brought me to this Glorious point, this watershed.  Some would say perhaps that Buddhists, Cathars, and Indigenous Australians have no fear or doubt because they are at liberty to embody their beliefs. But I would go a step further and suggest that beliefs are dead thoughts, museum pieces, plastic flowers compared with the energy stream that these three breeds of spiritual giants stand knee deep in.

The energy flow of all humans without exception consists of light and love and humanity is itself the Church of Love.

The Church of Love recognizes that the way we (humans) are may be the way of those around us because we (humans) are the way.

Embodying love, being the universal energy of love, cannot be limited to inert thoughts or beliefs, or added to a tomorrow to-do list. It happens right now and here inside us.

Once we have put our visual accessories time and space aside, then reality consists only of now – this moment, not the next or the one before, and here – without borders or differences, regardless of weather or religion. The conditioned mind may think this notion embodying love is an interesting concept, an intriguing theory even, but it will immediately disappear as thoughts and theories always do the moment it is made conscious. By thinking about it, it is immediately made indirect, a mere interpretation. So, it is useful to create a mindful gap around this seed that has been dropped into your being and stay quietly in that gap. In other words, resist thinking about it or even giving it a name. Mark it as that thingy, or your favourite song – music is concrete so cannot be erased as abstracts such as words can.

The thingy must be gently held back outside the gap, prevented from its usual destructive, interfering activities. Then the love can flow freely, indiscriminately, for all of the people around you: like a fresh mountain stream cascading across everything in its path.

In this gap, this opening, you can use your borrowed human muscles and limbs to flow or swim into your day ahead. Staying in this fluid state you enter a crowded space, a train carriage, a shopping centre, or a classroom. With every square inch of your body and your energy field, you can live the divine love that you have eternally embodied once the conditioned mind is quiet.

Then you make eye contact only to love. You spread your lips in a smile only to love. You extend your arms and stride forward with your legs only to love. It is absolutely the only agenda your spirit has. Next, staying for as long as you can in that identity-less gap, just radiate into now and here, and others around you will radiate in response. They will use their eyes only to acknowledge your light and being.  They will spread their lips in a smile only to radiate.  They will extend their physical form in a sincere gesture of appreciation only for the light you bring. And they will expect nothing in return.

Inside this gap is where we belong. It is our true nature. There are no labels or identities, no hierarchies or structure. It is the flow and flux of our energy origins, the wide river of our indestructible human love and light.

Those who are, know.

(Church of Love, Cathar Creed, circa 1244)

 

March 2016, Osaka.     

 

Gratitude to Mariko Kinoshita for her gorgeous artwork

Temple Chronicle: 28th February

knowledge 6

We are living in the age of space travel so there are many images and films appearing. This is no coincidence. We are getting further and further away from ourselves, from putting our own Earth in order. We are moving into a gravitation-less state, in pressurised capsules full of flashing alerts and less and less direct contact with other humans, unable to put our feet firmly on the Earth. Such space exploration demands courage and vision, but they are visible emotions, displayed on large screens. It is probable that we are running away from our invisible Earthly responsibilities. We cannot afford yet another clean slate: indeed, there is no such thing except for those who are deluded.

It is salutary that indigenous peoples have no desire to physically conquer space and the universe. They are custodians, not conquerors, content in their spiritual territories. ‘Developed’-humans are marooned in a spiritual wilderness, in a neon-lit world, and so they restlessly search for new thrills, playing with their special toys, and feeling so proud of their advancement, their sophistication.

As they zoom through inner and outer space, they look back at the beautiful planet with sentimentality. It is ‘home’ with all mod-cons, and they created it from scratch. They turn a blind eye to all the destruction and conflict, all the failed states and ecological deterioration – sweep it under the carpet so they can see only a broad expanse of gleaming living space.

But more significant than this ignorance created by extreme filtering is that the gravitational field of Earth is brought about by the special consciousness of divine love, and we are choosing to look elsewhere for it as aliens might. Love is the special energy we and only we are endowed with. No other creation can utilise it. But we squander it, converting it into a possession, a commodity, a currency because we have become so arrogant and gone so far away from our true nature. We prefer instead to float around in our heads synthesising to embodying our divine energy here on Earth. Our blindness and defiant pursuit of pleasure and kudos help us to justify our lack of responsibility, to turn away from the mess we have created as a race.

Fear and delusion drive us into the stratosphere and beyond, breathing artificial air instead of pure oxygen and ozone reserved for our beings of love in the field, encapsulated away behind ever thicker artificial, space-resistant materials, and lost perhaps forever to the Lands of Pure Love.

link between father and son image

Temple Chronicle: 22nd February

drinking

We need to work so hard to get approval from our societies at large. If we are different and honest about our differences, then we are shunned. There is silence when we walk into a room, averted eyes, deliberate disinterest displayed. We are a threat to the masked committees and there will be no compassion, no concessions of any kind until we decide to put aside our honesty and our difference, put our masks back on, and behave in the interests of uniformity and social rank. How can we expect to be accepted if we are living our true nature?

Social groups are often empty and congealed with their dishonesty, so the members busy themselves auditing credentials. Is their behavior exemplary according to the rules? But most important of all, what are their sexual proclivities and urges? They form a group but they are separate liars behind their masks.

To live according to your true urges and nature takes enormous courage and the dropping away of all fear. But you are no longer separate when you refuse to lie and go along with other fabrications and bullying. You are integrated into the flow of goodness and love, back swimming in the river instead of sitting on the banks. We may not get approval but we have been honest with ourselves and that matters more than anything.

Entering the world of form, our spirits need a clear purpose. They need to bring light, but also be a model of self-truth for others, bringing the light and holding it high so others can ignite their own lights.

Buddha clearly instructed that we should not associate with those who gossiped and bad-mouthed others. We should avoid negative influences; we should stay silent rather than talk carelessly, but we can use eyes and hands to gently display our purity and inspire courage with our own courage while we do so. We should not be scared of losing our reputation and not say anything detrimental about others because it only makes us look better in people’s eyes. We have above all to be true to ourselves. How else can we be honest with others if not?

The tiny hummingbird moves around so quickly and quietly that it is almost impossible to detect. It takes the pollen it needs from the bells of tropical flowers and then moves on its way unnoticed. It does not disturb anyone or anything. This is how we should live, quietly, stealthily, without making any disturbance. But many of us put so much energy into interfering in other people’s lives and business when we should be just playing with light and love. We take life so seriously, trying to teach others and instruct, to over-protect them, when they could instead just notice our playful lightness and imitate us. All we need to be careful of is obstacles which break the flow of energy.

We allow others to tear us away from integration, to distract us from our breathing and our awareness. They deter us with their needless words and gestures from our gratitude and awe for our existence and all things natural. Our core should be solid and not so easily distracted from its joy and contentment. After all, we are so lucky to have become flesh and been given so many opportunities and messages to elevate ourselves spiritually.

sensory deprivation

Temple Chronicle: 15th February

imprints 3

Hindu deities are fashioned out of mud exactly so that there is no danger of them or the spirits behind them becoming permanent. Tibetan Buddhists make the most exquisite mandalas out of coloured sand outdoors and then walk away abandoning their delicacy to the weather. Japanese Buddhists copy sutras and prayers on to parchment and hang them from trees or bury them to welcome future Buddhas millions of years in the future. Indigenous people place their dead on high platforms or in the upper limbs of trees so that the weather and creatures can clean the flesh from their bones. There is no clinging in these acts. There is nothing to be saved and stored away.

If we can live in this way, avoiding sticking to anything, avoiding the heat of static, then we can find happiness in everything, every moment. Our emotions may flare up – anger, hatred, envy – but we can just walk away from the hot flames. Turn away our faces from such violent heat, and walk away from the site realizing that nothing can be accomplished by projecting these distortions on to other targets. Emotions spark a fire in the mind which burns others. We must ask ourselves if we truly want to be responsible for burning and mutilating other humans.

Everything except our loving kindness and our unique energy is impermanent. This human life as tenants flows on towards the great ocean of Nirvana. Our best contribution is to join the flow and shower our loving kindness on all our fellow bathers.

bones

Courtesy of Gilles Asselin: wisdom from the Hebrew divinities

Elohim

Stilling the Mental Body

The Mighty Elohim Speaks on the Seven Steps of Perception, p 36

The mental body is two-fold. It is the receptive consciousness into which the Pattern comes; then, it is perceived, accepted, and when it has been grounded in the mind, the great creative power of the mental body begins to act in a controlled, channeled and rhythmic manner. It creates around the seed idea the form thereof, cutting out of Universal Light the pattern which is necessary to enable that form to become a manifest expression.

Then the mental body summons the feelings and asks the light thereof to flood through that thought-form rhythmically until that form is filled and lowered into etheric substance. From the etheric substance, it is lowered into precipitate manifest form. The rhythm and uniformity of the nourishment of your pattern and design will determine the speed of its manifestation; will determine the quality of your thought externalised; will determine how long it will live in this world of form, and will also determine the blessings which such a precipitation will be to the rest of this race.

There is nothing new under the sun!  If we open our spiritual eyes, all the patterns we can ever need are there!  

 

Temple Chronicle: 5th February

 

higher mind

The objective of all Buddhist training, of any spiritual training, is to first become a better, happier person, and then to look after other sentient beings, developing unwavering respect and compassion in that pursuit. The majority of humans aspire to ascend and so get clarity on themselves and their place in the world. They have deliberately sought a method of getting control of their negative emotions so that they can allow their natural goodness to prevail at every moment.

According to the Buddha, we are each a stupa, a shining tower to house the essence of the Great Truth (Tathata {Skt} Shinnyo {Jpn}), but the divine can only work in us when we are empty of delusions, self-serving desires and attachments. There are numerous ways we can ‘practice’ to realize this emptiness, but there is a danger that we ‘practice’ with ego, becoming attached to the practices themselves, forcing and striving to achieve these states. The word ‘practice’ is unfortunate in many ways because it implies imperfection, apprenticeship, and an impending performance. However, immediate realisations are numerous in the same way that performances can be spontaneous and their performers unknown.

This struggling against the current of the natural, this shouldering and manipulation and grasping by religious means, is perhaps burying our true nature even more deeply. Aspirants in Japan must start from scratch in terms of their faith, so are often initially benefit seekers, believing that they can acquire protection and benefit from the deities. These expectations are ingrained in the popular Shinto practices, and the line between Shintoism and Buddhism is quite blurred. So, they often barge into zealous practice, giving it their best for a probation time, and then, if they are not happier, wealthier and wiser, they may go on to try some other faith path.  These tactics often come from fear and superstition in my experience.

It is interesting and at the same time quite shocking that human beings often long to wipe clean the slate of their beings, to erase everything so that they can be reborn, totally transformed. Many of us view our thinking as flawed so we block it, hide it away; we experience a frisson of guilt at having such thoughts and then bury them, perhaps forever. We have rendered thoughts permanent and visible as everything and everyone else is. But it is possible to just let our thoughts appear, let them surface as detritus or debris in water. We do not need to condemn ourselves for having so-called bad thoughts, in the same way as we do not applaud ourselves for having so-called good thoughts. Thoughts are epehemera.

It is impossible to wipe the slate of our human existence and our spirit entirely clean, unless we synthesize amnesia or undergo brain-washing. Instead, we can adapt and accept – making the effort to free the flow of the water of our life. We humans are essentially beings of light, formless tennants. Water is similarly formless; in its natural state it flows wherever it wants to, wherever it can. Sometimes over-zealous practice can freeze that flow, fixing our nature into a glacier. Emptiness is the free flow of our waters, which are healing and cleansing, refreshing and exuberant.

Once we did not need to make an effort to keep our divine flame alight by spiritual practice. We were truly living out our original nature, flowing freely, merging with the fluid natures of those around us in loving harmony. Then, we learned to utilize the intellectual mind to interfere in this natural process, and our blindness began, leading us to go our own egocentric way towards the secular and personal power.

We may meditate, we may reflect, we may take empowerments and initiations, we may doggedly follow the letter of our teacher’s advice, but we must not lose sight of the truth, the suchness, which is deep inside ourselves, inside our unique stupa. We must not rule out the possibility that our ancestors were divine beings who handed on their divinity through the generations to us, and that in simply being, sitting with ourselves exactly as we are, that spark will burst into joyful flame once again.

The master invites us to appreciate ourselves, our inner beauty, while at the same time making certain we are completely honest with ourselves.  What are we really feeling?  What are we imagining we are feeling?  What are we hoping we will feel?  This is the true basis and function of meditation. Before embarking on a spiritual path, we must come face to face with our deep selves, naked, so that our true nature will be revealed.

Do we truly feel the icy stab of the first pail of water poured over our own warm flesh? Or do we feel it vicariously as our Master pours it? Do we rise before dawn with our entire consciousness, 100% present, in order to watch the reality of the sun rise in the sky, the sun rising inside our sky? Is it really our true nature which takes the prayer beads now, in the centre of the moment, completing it with all our might? Is our stupa dedicated and perfectly purified in order to embody the light of the great truth?

Mindfullness engenders enlightenment.

stupa

Temple Chronicle: February 3rd

interfering

Those who follow.  Those who are followed.  Followers or leaders, there need be no division.  What prevents us from taking the first step to being different from the conformists surrounding us?  Fear?  Prohibitive karma?  Ignorance of the millions of opportunities staring us in the face each moment?

Followers are by their very existence separated from the followed one.  They are the victims of a small act of violence which places them at a disadvantage, rendering them passive to superior instruction.  This is not the Buddha’s way, not the middle way. In adulating even a Buddha, we are being excessive, servile, insincere, because we turn away from our own Buddhahood.   By maintaining an even breath and softening our gaze on what is not real, we become one again, in one heart.  We become one with the master because we are the master.

Such purity is hobbled by a complex system of filters and refineries designed to keep us back, keep us quiet in our sprawling communities, to make way for so-called leaders. This is all enacted in the blind tyranny of the visual world.  Close your eyes and mute your memories and conditioning by embodying your breath, and you will quickly realize that such differences, such separations, are imaginary.

In each tiny interaction with others – a smile, a murmur, a passing fragrance on skin, a positive thought, a word – we leave our traces behind. We cannot see them, count them, or erase them. But our influence endures and we echo it.  Each entity of goodness sparkles and  remains, eternal, but we are blind to them because of our deluded view.

Only when each unique moon of goodness is glowing in its place will the chaos of the sighted be dispelled, and the ocean its original calm.    

Gaia