“Are you the product of your environment?”
Posted on 26 August 2014, 9:55
Victor Zammit asks this in this week’s newsletter. Now, I would applaud everything that appears in that newsletter in what it says about ourselves as individuals. I also applaud Victor’s A lawyer presents the evidence for the afterlife. It is excellent and all should read it. Similarly I commend R. Craig Hogan’s Your Eternal Self. Both books discuss the individual and the realm of Spirit, how it is for the individual in the afterlife, how we may communicate with such individuals, and much more. As I say, I have no reservations about these books so far as they go. But Victor raises the question “Are you the product of your environment?”, noting that our beliefs are very much the product of the society we live in. Victor’s book presents one aspect of the picture. But we need other books that think of individuals as inalienable elements in one indivisible Whole. In the realm of physics we speak of quantum entanglement: similarly with Spirit we need to think of some kind of spiritual or mental entanglement, a timeless spaceless realm where all minds are potentially in touch. All paranormal phenomena are dependent on this timeless, spaceless entanglement. Victor Zammit and Craig Hogan quite validly present what they have to say in terms of what the Greeks called “the Many.” But we also need to think in terms of the One. Even with this physical world we can see that everything is dependent on everything else. For example, think where ultimately that slice of breakfast toast came from, or how we came by the languages we speak.
As a person who has experienced much synchronicity, I am very conscious of this lack of separation. I have repeatedly found myself entangled with strangers from other countries in synchronistic episodes, and have puzzled as to how such events could possible occur. I read and discussed the issue in any way I could. On a sabbatical in 1984 I discussed the phenomenon with a number of scholars in Sweden including Lars Haikola of the University of Lund. He saw his synchronistic experiences in terms of his approach to the question in terms of his theology of “ecology of Spirit”. We have to do with Spirit that is in all, through all, and above all. We find ourselves dealing with “Peak experiences”, mystical states of feeling of oneness with All, namely “religious” and “spiritual experiences”. “Enlightened” moderns often contemptuously dismiss the churches. Yes, they are very fallible, and often wrong-headed institutions, but they nevertheless have been vehicles for the transmission of mystical traditions that have inspired humanity, for “dying to self, rising with Christ”, for Communion with the Whole, sometimes for social reform. In these days all are free to change their church allegiance, and decide what may help them best develop spiritually. All are free to use their judgement as to what to accept and what to leave to one side, in a church tradition. We can accept the spiritual gifts that a church may offer, or disregard, as we will. We are citizens of the Cosmos, and we are free to look in any direction we will. Granted that churches can be one-eyed and faulty, we need always to be aware of this: and that includes Spiritualist or Spiritist churches.
We also have to ask whether people seeking to deepen their spirituality might not obtain benefit from hymns, songs, and poems used in church worship, whether the stories told in a particular tradition are not valuable vehicles for the transmission of deeper truth to the young, and those not yet thinking abstractly. Differing traditions can tell a similar story. I recently participated in a Hindu service of worship. I discover that for the Hindus, God is a Trinity: The universal Spirit Brahma is personified as Brahman-Creator, Shiva-Destroyer, Vishnu-Saviour. While there are many points of divergence, many parts of their holy book the Gita, could acceptably be read in Christian worship. I am making the point that there is much in common between the great religious traditions. As I accept reincarnation as a fact, (as did many early Christians) I can also accept the goal of Hinduism of moksha, the process of becoming one with God. St Paul also has it right when he talks about being One in Christ. Yes, all religious traditions have their strengths and their weakness. But can each of us grow in love and spiritual awareness without the companionship and inspiration of souls more advanced than ourselves? Without using the language, stories and imagery of these traditions?
I have participated in many séances, and have been much enriched, and for thirteen years I have published a journal that asserts the reality of we can learn in them. But they are insufficient to present us with the length, breadth, height and depth of the All That Is.
I find this quote from Leo Tolstoy What is religion? And other writings. “True religion is the establishment by man of a relation to the infinite life around him; as long as connecting his life with this infinitude and directing his conduct, is also in agreement with his reason and human knowledge.”
I find this in Simon Parke’s Conversations with Meister Eckhart:
“S.P: So, to start us off, Meister Eckhart, some pastoral advice, please, for anyone feeling a little insecure or battered today. What should they do?
M.E: Do exactly what they would do if they felt secure.
S.P: And that’s it?
M.E: That’s enough. Do exactly what you would do if you felt secure.
S.P: I like it. And I can guess your reason for this sense of security.
M.E: Whoever has God as a companion is with him in all places, both on the street and among people, as well as in church or in the desert or in a monastic cell.
S.P: How is this so?
M.E: It is so because such a person possesses God alone, keeping their gaze fixed on God, and thus all things become God for him or her. Such people bear God in all their deeds and in all the places they go, and it is God alone who is author of all their deeds. If we keep our eyes fixed on God alone, then truly he must work in us; and nothing, neither the crowd, nor any place, can hinder him in this. And so nothing will be able to hinder us, if we desire and seek God alone, and take pleasure in nothing else. We must learn to maintain our inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with.”
Those reading this blog, or contemplating buying a book, are plainly thinking for themselves. So if we are trying to gain a balanced overall picture of Mind and Consciousness studies, both from the point of view of the Many, as well as that of the One, where do we turn? “In every possible direction” would be the short answer.
With regard to the written materials we might like to consult, let’s revisit a previous discussion of the mess that many Skeptic zealots have made to Wikipedia articles on spirituality and consciousness studies. The question is, where to turn for reliable written material? After some research I have listed thirty sites that appear to me to be reliable in the latest issue of The Ground of Faith. There are, no doubt countless others that could be added.
I have several shelves of excellent books about the reality of the afterlife and the spiritual world, including many books by many prominent writers including William James, F. W. H. Myers and several books by Colin Wilson. If you have studied academic psychology, Kelly and Kelly et al.’s landmark Irreducible Mind, a Psychology for the 21st century provides a thorough refutation of any mechanistic understanding of the subject, even suggests the possibility of the afterlife. (Coy about that subject, I think, to escape too withering a fire from colleagues.) But with the breadth and depth of its cover from the point of view of academic studies, the book is most impressive.
What about books that give encyclopaedic accounts of consciousness research, with a special emphasis on spiritual growth? I have been studying The Spirits’ Book recorded by the French Allan Kardec in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, and find myself wanting to come back to it again and again. Here is channelled material that seems to cover the height, width and depth, of Spirit. It takes into consideration both the One and the Many. We are led towards spiritual union with the One, while at the same time taking into consideration a surprisingly modern sounding evaluation of philosophical and scientific issues. I can well understand that it is treated as a kind of Bible by hundreds of thousands Spiritist followers of Kardec, who are most especially to be found in Brazil.
In 2013 was published an English translation of “Fundamentos del Espiritismo “ 2000 as Fundamentals of Spiritism: by Jon Aizpuria. On the back cover we read that it “makes a careful consideration of the teachings of spiritism..but adheres to a more scientific approach. Thus, drawing a specific and definite dividing line between what Spiritism truly is, and the superstitious beliefs and practices that with deplorable frequency is presented in its name.”
The reader may care to pursue the link to Amazon, to read descriptions and reviews of the book.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
His forthcoming book, Into the Wider Dream will be published summer 2014 by White Crow Books.