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Archive for the ‘Philosophy/Metaphysics’ Category

My chalice runneth over

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest…a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in it’s beauty.”
Albert Einstein

This blog has been horribly neglected over the last few months. Real life has just been too busy to find time to sit down to write it. This state of affairs doesn’t show any sign of changing over the next while either. However I really wanted to find time to write about a recent experience because its poignancy and relevance are begging to be shared.

I was recently at a conference in Glastonbury on the phenomenon of the ‘orbs’ which have been appearing in people’s digital photographs. During his presentation, William Bloom highlighted an observation that really resonated with me. He said that we humans seem to have (relatively) little difficulty relating to the natural world on the one hand, or the transpersonal dimensions on the other. We could even intellectually appreciate the oneness of humanity. But taking that intellectual appreciation to a feeling level presented the single greatest challenge to us all. At the close of his presentation he led a meditation where we were asked to experience what itfelt like, to the extent we could each allow, to accept the entirety of humanity into ourselves, and allow ourselves to enter into the beings of others. Not just our nearest and dearest, but people we disliked or disagreed with. Groups of people we harboured prejudices against. Victims and oppressors alike. Try it some time. It’s extraordinarily powerful, and to me felt something like being repeatedly punched in the solar plexus as I contemplated accepting the people I’ve happily railed against and ranted about in this blog from time to time.

Being somewhat sceptical and suspecting that the vast majority of ‘orbs’ (though not all) are artifacts of the digital photography process, I took time out from the conference the next morning to visit the Chalice Well.

Chalice Well, Glastonbury

“I tell you; we are here on earth to fart around; and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr

The sense of peace, tranquility and the oneness of existence that pervades this amazing garden is incredible and I sat for a while at the well head thinking about William Bloom’s meditation. It was so easy to contemplate accepting humanity in this place, but then, as if to order, the peace of the garden was abruptly shattered by the shouting of a man walking up the path onto Chalice Hill just outside the gardens. Visitors to the garden exchanged frightened glances and communicated in barely audible whispers, eyes constantly roving to see where the shouting was coming from; worried in case the sanctity of the garden itself had been violated.

As a British soldier, the angry man had clearly done a tour or more of duty in Iraq and seemed deeply traumatised by the experience, as well as feeling an immense anger. Whether he’d been drinking or not I don’t know, but his speech was clear and unslurred even if its content was all slur. His anger was directed at the people in Glastonbury and the whole of British society who were “worse than the f—ing Iraqis”. Glastonbury needed “a squad of 500 British soldiers to clean this town up”. (Imagine what it must be like to live life on the edge of death, witness your friends and colleagues lose their lives suddenly, loudly and messily, and come back to a complacent society which seems largely oblivious to the sacrifice you and they have made in its name. How much more unbearable when that same society seems obsessed by the airy fairy, the intangible and immaterial, when it’s blood and gore that haunts your nightmares.) What really came from the heart and conveyed his pain was the exasperated plea “What’s it all for? What’s it all f—ing FOR?”.

Indeed. War, the complete antithesis to the peace of the gardens, in stark and glaring contrast. And what is it all for?

Again it was easy to step back; to intellectualise and rationalise the soldier’s pain and appreciate what he was suffering. Far less easy to feel sympathy and compassion for both him and those who sent him to war when half of you feels frightened and intimidated by his aggression and anger and the other half furious and raging at the inhumanity and arrogance of those who sent him to war on the basis of a lie. The sheer enormity of the task of bringing humanity to accept all of humanity became depressingly clear. I walked away from the gardens and back to the High Street wondering if such a thing could ever be possible.

I wandered into one of the many “new age” shops which was just opening. There was a tape playing of someone speaking. It was a man with an Indian accent. I’ve no idea who. Maybe Deepak Chopra because it sounded like the sort of thing he’d say, but that’s just a wild guess. He said something along the lines of “The only solution to war is for each individual to cease the war in their own hearts. When this happens, war will become impossible.” I was delighted at this bit of synchronicity. Then, as if to doubly underline its profound message, the shopkeeper stopped the tape, rewound it a bit, and played the same section again.

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Eugene V Debs

Irrational rationality

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
Carl Sagan

We seem to be in the midst of a retreat from rationality. At least, so say many commentators in the media at present, and judging by the online comments to their articles, many people appear to agree with them. They point to the rise of ‘New Ageism’ and other assorted ‘illogical’ beliefs like complementary and alternative therapies, bemoaning the failure of Joe Public to take on board the principles of robust science and calling for ever more stringent controls on the spread of such ‘preposterous nonsense’.

In many ways they seem to be right. Though whether this is any kind of ‘retreat’, who can say? Throwing the spotlight on areas that have been lurking in shadow often creates an illusion of some kind of a trend when really things have always been that way. We just didn’t see them before.

But as to where the ‘new’ irrationallism is evidencing itself, well that’s another matter entirely. More and more it seems as if the accusatory finger ought to be pointing straight at its owner’s own reflection in the mirror.

As Holmes et al wrote in a 2006 paper entitled Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism. International Journal of Evidence Based Health 2006; 4: 180–186,

“… the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena. The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.”

Such behaviour might be understandable, but it’s neither rational, nor scientific. The scientific method dictates that theory must always give way to evidence and that, no matter how successful the theory, if the evidence challenges it, then it’s the theory that must adapt. Successful theories mustbe able to explain and predict events which they attempt to describe with precision. Yet increasingly we’re seeing attempts to preserve scientific orthodoxy by denial of conflicting evidence.

At this point in time we’re presented with a situation summed up very well in a 2002 paper by Richard Shoup, Anomalies and Constraints:. Can Clairvoyance, Precognition, and Psychokinesis. Be Accommodated within Known Physics? Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2002; 16; 1, pp3–18.

“Arguably, nowhere in the history of mankind has common human experience so strongly conflicted with mainstream scientific opinion.”

The paper refers to psi phenomena, but Shoup could just as well have been writing about medicine. Crtically, since science can only ever reflect a uniquely human understanding of a uniquely human experience of existence, this discontinuity throws into stark relief the extent to which science is failing its own precepts. Science has become scientism.

It’s interesting too, in this context, that we’re seeing a rise in fundamentalist interpretations of scientific theory which seem to closely parallel the rise in religious fundamentalism. Both are pursued with missionary zeal by some very noisy and angry people. Both seek to make their points of view “the rule” for everyone else to abide by.

Perhaps this is no bad thing in some ways – such attempts to enforce rules which make little sense to large numbers of people generally result in people rejecting them in favour of something more sensible. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that the fundamentalists could soon end up as marginalised minorities while the rest of us adopt a more pragmatic and humane approach to a genuine congruence with experience in both science and spirituality.

“In the Garden of gentle sanity may you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.”
Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Seeing stars again

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007
Chute Causeway formation, July 26 2007

Photo © Steve Alexander

Chute Causeway formation, July 26 2007

Centre point of the formation

Chute Causeway formation, July 26 2007

Swirled nest in star point

Chute Causeway formation, July 26 2007

Swirled nest in star point

Chute Causeway formation, July 26 2007

The different qualities of energy we experienced in each of the 5 stars of this crop formation (see previous post) at Chute Causeway in Hampshire has been nipping at a corner of my mind since we came back like a small dog that wants to play. So I finally got down to working with it.

The formation was discovered on July 26, so it was quite possibly formed the night of July 25. It’s interesting that July 25 was the day designated by Masaru Emoto as the day of giving love and thanks to water, and this formation as a whole is quite reminiscent of Emoto’s water crystal images, as well as evoking a number of watery descriptions from us in our attempts to describe the energies we experienced in it. The majority of Emoto’s water crystal images show 6-fold symmetry though, not 5 as here, so any resonance is likely to be rather more general and thematic than specific. (In the context of what follows, note that water is, of course, equated with emotion.)

The formation appeared as both Venus and the newly-discovered planet Eris were turning retrograde (relative to the Earth’s motion) – Eris turned on July 18, Venus on July 27. A retrograde period is viewed astrologically as a time during which the psychological archetypes represented by the planet in question have an inward focus and call for review and reflection. 5 is a number with strong associations to both Venus and Eris. Note how all the outer stars in the formation are inward-looking – oriented such that they point in toward the centre of the formation.

Venus is associated with love, harmony and proportion, emotional processes and attitudes, and social attitudes and behaviour. But both the Aztecs and Babylonians saw the planet in dual aspect. As the morning star, Venus was regarded as benefic, but as the evening star, malefic, representing what we might now call the Jungian shadow. Interestingly, in medieval astrology the attribution was reversed. The morning star – Lucifer, the light-bringer – came to be seen as malefic and the evening star as heralding good fortune. This crop formation contains 2 pentagons; the outer, larger and darker, with the lighter inner contained within it – the two sides of the same coin? with the larger shadow as yet unseen? – and at their centre the 5-pointed star that represents both Venus’s cycle (below) and the core of the apple in cross section associated with Eris, the goddess of discord.

It was Eris whose golden apple inscribed καλλιστη (kallistei) – “to the fairest” – precipitated a spat between the other Olympian goddesses at the wedding party of Peleus and Thetis. Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed as adjudicator in the dispute, and all 3 goddesses attempted to bribe him to pick them. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite (= Venus) and claimed the most beautiful woman in the world – Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta – as his bribe, precipitating the Trojan War which was waged for 10 years, became one of the most important focal events of Greek mythology, saw the deaths of many heroes including Achilles (the son of Peleus and Thetis) and Ajax, and was eventually ended by the deceptive ruse of the Trojan Horse.

Venus goes into retrograde motion relative to the Earth infrequently and briefly – once every 18 months or so for just a little over a month at a time. Its 584-day cycle completes 5 rounds every 8 years, tracing a 5-pointed star or pentagram around the ecliptic and conforming to the ratio of the Golden Mean. This cycle was known and monitored by both the Mayans and the Babylonians. (See John Major Jenkins’ work here and here.)

Venus relates to how we give value and meaning to life experience. Attempting to attribute value and meaning to a Venusian formation thus becomes a somewhat self-referential and recursive process (Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems anyone?) particularly when the geometry of the formation is itself recursive! That aside, you could either see this formation as a fractalised representation of a single 8-year Venus cycle, or a series of five 8-year cycles totalling 40 years. Perhaps on some level it may represent both.

There are other Venus resonances in this formation. The total of 225 grapeshots equals Venus’s 225-day year. The key angles in the formation of 36° and multiples of 36° (72° and 108°) echo the steps of 36 days or multiples of 36 that feature in each Venus cycle. Maximum brightness occurs 36 days after the inferior conjunction; the next step, maximum elongation, occurs 36 days later; and the superior conjunction occurs 216 days (6 x 36 days) after maximum elongation. In the evening star phase, maximum elongation occurs 216 days after the superior conjunction; maximum brightness takes place 36 days following maximum elongation and 36 days more brings the inferior conjunction. (See article.)

All this appeared highly promising, but I was wondering where the energetic qualities of each star might come into the picture. While thinking of keywords to characterise the different energies, the words ‘cardinal’, ‘mutable’ and ‘fixed’ came into my head. Still without seeing quite where this was going, I figured it might be interesting to see if I could pin the energetic qualities down to the astrological triplicities and quadruplicites and hence to signs and their ruling planets. It was unexpectedly straightforward, though I initially had the two fire signs the other way round (coloured by our starting point in the formation – Aries = beginnings – rather than a more precise appreciation of the exact qualities of the energies). But as soon as I reversed them (the explosiveness of star 4’s energy is far more Martian than solar), it was immediately apparent that the energetic signatures of each of the 5 stars in the formation exactly echoes the pattern, position and order of the signs in the pentagram formed by Venus’s inferior conjunctions over this present 8-year cycle – see below.

The diagram shows the approximate orientation of the formation (within a 10° margin of error – I didn’t have a compass with me). The numbers in the stars are the order in which we walked the lay (see previous post) and the keywords the qualities of energy experienced in each, together with astrological signs (and their ruling planets) that felt appropriate for each of them.

Crop circle at Chute Causeway

Compare this with the pattern of Venus’s inferior conjunctions between 2001 and 2007.

Venus cycle of inferior conjunctions 2001-07

In the context of this pattern and Venus’s current retrograde motion, it was interesting that we unknowingly started our walk of the circle in the star representing the present: the forthcoming inferior conjunction in Leo on August 18, and from there effectively walked back in time in a symbolic repeated ‘rebirthing’ of Venus as Lucifer, the light-bearer.

The juxtaposition of Venus and Eris – harmony and disharmony, accord and discord – and both in retrograde motion and encapsulated in the 5-fold recursive geometry of this formation, emphasise the process of internalisedself-reflection and self-creation.. It’s also interesting to note that the vast majoirty of the posts on the subject of this circle on the Crop Circle Connector forum are not about the circle so much as a squabble between participants. Not particularly unusual for these forums, but an appropriate resonance nevertheless, as was the initial dual posting of information on the formation in the context of the dual aspect of Venus and the connection between Venus and Eris.

It’s worth reiterating perhaps the deeper meaning of Eris, since mere squabbling is a somewhat superficial understanding of the planet’s energies. DIS-CORD (lit. “hearts apart”) is not just about strife. Fundamentally, it’s about dissimilar resonance, and relates to breaking the ties of conditioning – the customs, rules and laws that bind us societally and culturally as well as individually. It’s about the challenge to think for ourselves and to REAL-ise our deeper “truer” natures (which are embedded in chaos to a far greater extent than we take them for). It’s about creating the dissonances in belief systems that shake them at their foundations and wake us up to the full extent of our being and our connection to the entirety of existence. Pure Zen, and just as hilarious, just as anarchic.

With Venus loosely conjunct Saturn (= the customs, rules and laws that bind us societally and culturally as well as individually) for much of this retrograde period and trine Pluto, the planet of transformation, which is stationary over the Galactic Centre, it seems these two intensely creative feminine energies are being chanelled to similar ends. This formation appears to be a very clear heads-up to what we should be paying attention to right now.

Large number of additional images of the formation here.

Lots of articles on Venus retrograde around – just Google.

Seeing stars

Saturday, August 4th, 2007
Crop circle at Chute Causeway

Photo © Steve Alexander

“There is nothing too impossible to have happened, there are only things too impossible to be believed.”
Thomas Carlyle

Just back from the south of England where we had the chance to visit this magnificent crop circle.

It was discovered on July 26 close to the Roman road at Chute Causeway and we visited it on July 29. The LCD screens in the cameras behaved themselves, but the energetic impact of the circle was immediately and strongly apparent. What’s more, the energy in each of the 5 main stars was different. We walked the lay, first following the outer perimeter, then the outer boundary of the inner pentagon (or inner boundary of the outermost stars), then the central part of the formation.

The lay goes clockwise. Around the outer perimeter it simply follows the outline of the formation, but around the inner boundaries of the stars the lay loops back on itself in some of the points. There are some lovely swirled nests in the points, as well as in the grapeshots.

We started in the most south-easterly star (number 1 in the picture left) and the minute we turned to walk with the lay all of us felt as if someone had pulled a rug from under our feet – it was like going down a water slide it was so intense and exciting. The inner walk on this one was similarly intense, ful of movement and impetus, invigorating.

The 2nd star was the opposite – much calmer, very relaxing, like floating into a deep pool. At this point my camera battery went into the red, though all things being equal it should have been good a while longer. The inner walk on this one was noticeably draining.

The outer perimeter of the 3rd star had a compressive heaviness which was much more disorientating. On the inner walk it was hard to quantify – a kind of no-thingness about it, profoundly disorientating, and we were really struggling to remember what we’d encountered in the previous stars so at this stage I switched on the video camera to record our impressions since we were losing it so fast. My daughter wandered off into the centre a couple of times inadvertently and the rest of us were also having difficulty concentrating on following the lay.

The outer boundary of the 4th star produced a sensation of heat which had nothing to do with the sun. When we re-entered it on the inner walk, it felt instantly and almost explosively expansive. There was a sensation of vastness and clarity.

The outer perimeter of the 5th star was light and expansive, disorientating through a sensation of floatiness rather than the compression of the 3rd. On the inner walk, it hit us with a strong thirst and my daughter by this time was complaining of a headache.

We then moved into the centre of the formation, intending to walk the outer part of the lay here, but got pulled straight into the centre very powerfully, so just went with it and sat down in a circle around it a while. My son had us all join hands and started up a mexican wave through our arms. By this time we’d been in the formation a couple of hours and a whole minibus-load plus another couple of groups were arriving. A dog with one of the groups ran straight up to us in the centre and sat with us a while before going back to his group. When we got up to go, the dog ran straight back to the centre spot and plonked itself right down on it.

Dog in crop circle

This formation seems like a “good” one to me. In fact, it’s one of the most energetically powerful ones I’ve visited.

The emperor has no clothes

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest…a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in it’s beauty.”
Albert Einstein

For centuries now, the inclination to defer to the will and opinions of people in positions of authority has been something the average citizen in the majority of societies across the world has accepted as ‘natural’. It’s just what you do. They know best. Our history books are full of accounts of times when it became obvious that various hereditory kings and emperors were as daft as the proverbial brush and had to go, but the mantle of emperorship simply shifted to a different class of ’emperor’ and in no time the citizenship were once more repeating the mantra ‘they know best’. Ditto with religious authority, overturned in favour of science, much of which has now degenerated into little more than religious repetition of assumptions which have long ago been shown to be false. But still we’re singing the same old song “they know best”.

Do they?

More and more these days it seems that what reaches us through the media concerning government, corporate and scientific reasoning and endeavour, and in the op-eds and interpretations of the stories by the media itself, are so lacking in basic common sense as to appear little short of idiotic (for recent examples from this blog alone, see Bees on their kneesAnti-nonscience and Dumb and dumber). More insidiously and significantly, fear-based psychic epidemics are whipped up and propagated to justify actions that no citizen of a democracy could possibly condone were they not spinning hopelessly in the vortex of terror that they’ve bought into by reason of their faith in the various ‘authorities’ involved. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Bird flu? It’s becoming ever more obvious that not only the emperor, but his entire entourage, administration, advisors and reporting structure, have barely a stitch of clothing between them.

Emperor's new clothes

The Emperor’s New clothes. Illustration by Cyril Bouda, 1956

And while all this is going on, ‘ordinary’ people communicating through the internet are showing more and more evidence of having worked things out for themselves and come to rational conclusions that have much greater coherence, make far more sense than anything the supposed ‘experts’ have to say on the subject. It seems the ‘experts’ have been barking so long up the individual tree of their particular niche specialty, that they’ve long ago lost all sight of the wood.

I’m old enough now to look back and say once there was a time when we could trust ‘the experts’ to come out with something sensible, and if we couldn’t, then the independent intelligent media would soon sniff them out and expose their mistakes. Or was that just an illusion too, based on a belief I held then which I no longer do now? In many ways, the degeneration of the whole set-up into the pastiche it’s now become forces us to face the fundamental mechanisms underlying this misguided behaviour and finally see it for what it is. This is the only thing that will ensure it’s not continualy repeated as we once more come to the threshold of deposing one set of authority figures in favour of another.

Ultimately it all seems to boil down to the belief in an objective reality in which there can be only one ‘correct’ interpretation, one way of doing things, one ‘truth’. Despite all the evidence to show that there are innumerable valid perspectives on things, that even ‘our’ perspective, ‘truth’ and methods are constantly changing so can hardly amount to ‘the one true way’, we are collectively driven to trumpet the supremacy of our own particular perspective, bully others into accepting it, and discredit any evidence to the contrary.

Yet invariably it’s the case that there’s truth lurking in our basic impulses. It’s in the interpretation that we get it all back to front and inside out. The sense of ‘there can be only one’ is true. At the level of collective consciousness, we are inseparable from the entirety of existence. We are one, purely and simply. But unity is NOT uniformity. It becomes uniformity when the basic apprehension of unity becomes warped and twisted by the illusion of separation, and by virtue of its torsion acquires kinetic potential – ie. it creates an impulse to move, to motivate, to enforce uniformity, which is a warped expression of unity.

In realising that we are fundamentally, completely and utterly inseparable from the entirety of existence, no matter what, the illusion of separation and disconnection melts away, resulting in far greater tolerance of individual variation in perspective, method, thought. Quite simply, if you can’t be disconnected, then you always ‘belong’ and are free to REALise the expression of your relatively individualised consciousness with its unique perspective which is no more and no less valid and valuable than every other single perspective on the planet. You are your own authority, your own expert, and nothing can invalidate your point of view. Even if it’s apparently incoherent with a collectively-held viewpoint, your point of view is what in-forms your own experience of reality and is thus ‘true’ at your own individualised level of experience. But equally well, it’s no more ‘true’ than anyone else’s viewpoint, and thus cannot be forced on others as ‘the only way’. The validity of your viewpoint cannot invalidate anyone else’s.

The solution to the question of what has wider or ultimate truth emerges most readily on a level playing field where conscious unity is taken as a basic premise. In such an environment, the sense of ‘self’ is recognised as largely illusory, contingent on a sense of separated existence. The concept of ‘ownership’ of ideas thus becomes an irrelevance, and ego games don’t get a look-in. It’s only in putting all our collective subjective expertise together and testing its coherence in relation to the whole that we finally comprehend that no viewpoints are mutually exclusive and all are informed by our connection with the whole. Each viewpoint is just a different facet of the same gem, and only when you turn a gemstone over in your hand and see all its facets do you understand what the gemstone really is. The ‘expert’ studying a process in minute detail has no more ‘authority’ than the person seeing it in a wider context. To be coherent, both perspectives require inclusion and rationalisation within an overall process which connects with every other process in existence.

And such is the level of synchronicity at the moment, that just as I was finishing up on this, Paul Levy’s latest essay Breaking the vow of silence came in, which addresses much the same dynamic.

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard