Lament. This begins as a lament not for a time or a place - but a timeline.
I started adulthood just after hippies, not a lovechild, not into drugs but just after. What I thought I saw there was the beginning of a change, there was still hope. Hope for discovery, for learning, for the new way that many greats had been striving for. The most significant for me were Pirsig, Capra and Castaneda.
But now my lament is confused, was this the beginning of a change? I need advice from elders. In those times James was into being hippy, it was fashion, cool then, to take drugs to discuss the meaning of life. “Now they take drugs to forget, to give them strength to face the grind, he thought to himself, “Is it better then or now?” “Then,” his being, his history, cries out strongly. Was it his heart crying out? But then he says no, there is no difference if it is fashion, fashion without consciousness.
Fashion without consciousness!
Even meditation without consciousness? When they were talking of such great things, this lack of consciousness deeply hurts. A tear of regret comes to James' eyes. “That's why the Thatchers made the change back so easily, people wanted money so much that what could have been a deep-rooted change in Evolution was actually proven as fashion,” he wiped his eye wistfully.
Are these movers like Pirsig part of their time or are they in every generation, he asked himself. Does Consciousness always have these movers?? So where are they now? In the clubs on Ecstasy?
They must be there - consciousness!
One evening he had friends round for a meal. This lament for the past was something they tolerated. They were younger, and these times held a fascination for the young, maybe deep inside they regret their part in not continuing. “Move outside the continuum of community, this gives you the context of fashion. Deep-rooted perceptions that once were almost thought of as wisdom are now seen as what they are, ideas born in time, born of fashion. If it is born of time it is fashion, it is reality if it is not .”
He laughed to them “It is brought home when the old of the community say “Times have changed.” Nature doesn't change, it evolves but that is Nature.” They looked at him, he's off again.
- * - * -
One Summer Veronica spent three months being a tourist in the land of her UK birth because in Africa she had learnt the True value of Nature. She had always flirted with it, or maybe whenever she found Nature her ego found a way to intervene, but in Africa no intervention could remove its splendour. Nature is her mentor, her reference and refuge. She cannot fix motor-bikes but she can sit in the shade, centre herself, and experience the wonders of life where the clinging I has not interfered. In the West where are these places? How long will it be before ego has interfered and taken away these places from Africa? That is why she makes her journey, ego must be shown for the enemy that it can be, the enemy that it is now. Last night she felt that somehow her soul was driving her to do this work. Look at the language she uses, and you will see a picture grow of the components of her journey - Spirit, Soul and mind.
“When I first read Castaneda,” she mused “I was young and immediately post-hippy in the Ardennes. One day I walked into the forest and got lost but was not worried because I had been reading Castaneda and I was going to trust in the signs and in myself.” For hours she walked then reached a road. What should she do? Follow the road? “I thought I had chosen right because eventually I reached where I was staying, only to discover a few days later that if I had stayed in the land of my intuition, followed the signs in the forest, and not the man-made path, I would have reached home much quicker.”
Just a small thing, she thinks, sadly I still need that lesson of man-made paths reinforcing.
Pirsig has changed my life, Veronica would tell people. “He put the anguish of his soul on view for us all to see, whilst we learnt of quality. No review can describe the wisdom of that book, nor what wisdom was imparted to my soul. It was shattering and exciting - as was the rereading.”
“People I am going to review for you,” Veronica continued forcefully ”this review will be a tapestry, a tapestry of mind. Join with me in seeing the threads come together, hopefully you can experience them as I do. It is my study, my life so far - this tapestry. It will come together because of that.“
This tapestry is from my soul. This sounds crazy, but that is because Soul and Path are interchangeable - that is something I have only just learned. Castaneda gave me the understanding of Path, I will try to find how for you later. But Path is unmanifest, it is timeless, it is passed on. Wisdom is gained in life somehow - I am sure theosophy will have very technical explanations for how - but somehow will be satisfactory here. Wisdom is also timeless. Let me try to elaborate. We can describe the action of a wise person as wise, we can say a person is wise but we cannot say what Wisdom is.
Knowledge can be gained and described. I know Plato said this, I know how to calculate the roots of a quadratic, I know my name is Veronica. These are not wise things. But somehow in life, treading its difficult path, we internalise something concerned with knowledge, a nub, a core of knowledge, a nub and core that cannot be described. But this is Wisdom. And this Wisdom is then our Soul, our Path, and moves with us next time.
Does this sound vague to you? I suppose it must. But it isn't vague, it is the words that are vague because language dilutes the mind. To the manifest, Wisdom, Soul and Path are timeless. I truly hope that I will help you understand this.
Also we should trust that our Soul can guide us. We do not need an external moral code, we need to trust, we need the strength to live our Path, for our Soul to guide. So why should that worry the ego? Because clinging I is not then in charge, the Soul is. And I want to be in charge. This is the battle.
You could see her laughing, her broad smile showing the contrasting white of her teeth. It was the laugh of the soul, so pure, because it was deep and honest. “I will always remember this old guy I met in theosophy, Nick,” she said moving her hand to her hair to adjust her quiff, careful not to disturb it, it was her style. “I never knew him when younger so this memory of him has to be unfair. Nick, please forgive me for this.
“Mind is the great slayer of the Real”, I don't know where this came from. When I say I don't know where this came from I mean I don't know which text this came from. I am sure there are many theosophists who could tell me but ….” her voice wandered as her mind tried to grasp the thought and text.
“I used to attend meetings and virtually every meeting Nick would stand up and connect a particular piece of learning to this phrase “Mind is the great slayer of the Real”. I'm afraid that I and one or two others laughed quietly at him, but I will always be grateful because his repetition has taught me the phrase.”
It must have been a great experience in Nick's life, a revelation. Pirsig was that for me, reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has been such a great formative experience. Suddenly Nick must have realised in his life that his ego had clouded over the Truth in his life. He saw it for the slayer of Reality, and his eyes were opened. Unfortunately the I had regained some of its control in his old age, but Nick from Veronica I thank you.
“Forgive me,” she suddenly stopped, taken aback by her own realisation. “Before I continue this tapestry I must remember my responsibility - very slack of me, sorry,” she apologised sincerely, “some of this might be disturbing you, disturbing your ego. Emotionally I don't want to cause you disturbance but we know (don't we?) that the world needs disturbing - oh it's in such a mess, a mess we have created. But Nature gives us the tools to cope, and that tool is meditation.
“Meditation is our way back to Nature, to our Path, it is a way of consolidating our Wisdom. People talk of meditation because, of course, the ego has tried to get in there as well. It has tried to confuse us because meditation is I's enemy as it is a tool of the Soul.”
Calmly she looks at you, and in a quiet voice she mellows “Just for now, if you are feeling disturbed, concentrate on calming the mind. Look inside yourself, the mind could be rushing around all over the place, one thought after another, what is this fool, Veronica, writing about? Mind this, ego that. Whatever the mind is saying follow those thoughts and quietly calm them, gently, quietly, calm them. Let them rest. Are they coming back? Bring them to rest, and slowly and gently bring yourself into a state of Peace. Perhaps you could then concentrate on Peace, remember peace and concentrate on that state of Peace.
And when you want to carry on, you can read.
“Please give a great deal of thought to what I say now,” her voice was quiet but it was nonetheless impassioned. “I cannot know when you are getting disturbed. If you do find this difficult, please remember that Nature has given you the answer of meditation; please use it.”
- * - * -
I want to present a problem I have. As individuals we are one person, yet as an individual we are made up of separate parts. People tell me I should try always to function as one being through Spirit. In many ways I agree but I always feel it is useful to understand the parts when trying to understand the whole. But the danger is that I focus on the part and forget the whole.
Bill remembers a clear example of this, you see Bill was a drunk. He would always blame the drink. It was never Bill who was the moron, it was the drink behaving like that. Bill never said those things because he was not compos mentis and therefore not in control. Bill never treated Marcia badly because he was drunk. Bill would never have said these things, they were part truths.
“Marcia, your baggage they hurt me, you know that,” she knew. “Marcia, I love you, but whilst your baggage are driving me up the wall I cannot give you that love. I wake up I love you, then there is noise. I want peace and quiet, Marcia, that is where love is, in peace and quiet” But then there is thud, thud, thud.
And upstairs while Bill is studying and trying to change the world, he is always fearful of the knock on the door. You must feel sorry for Bill, there was no peace in his life. Peace was not a lot to ask, but incident drama even crime they are all there to disturb him. And as he was still foolish enough to drink, all of this disturbance came together, and became viperous. The drink took the anger and pain inside, and out came these viperous comments. Evil, nasty, designed to release his pain by causing Marcia pain.
And he would wake up the next day hungover, and she would be there angry with him. He would apologise, “Marcia I love you, I only say these things because loving you is hurting me. Please get your boys to behave.” But her anger became more and more focussed on him, turning her to the drink but far worse. His drink wouldn't let him see it.
But Bill is talking here of the drink; it is not the drink, it is his ego. When you read this you think what kind of fool believes this, but Bill did.
Bill lived with the drink for nearly 20 years and he allowed the excuses of drink to cloud his judgement all that time. Was he stupid? From all outward appearances he wasn't. Intellectual job, held down with sufficient grip that they thought he drank too much but not that he had a drink problem, that he was an alcoholic.
So why did Bill believe it? His ego wanted him to, this false rationality enabled egoic control. “I hope it hasn't now” he smiles drinking tea with fennel. After sipping his cup, and gently filling up again, he continued “I allowed this to happen because I allowed myself to be separated. I allowed there to be a drunk Bill and a sober one. But there is only one Bill, and I am responsible for all my actions and their consequences.
“The ego is a great trickster, it likes to separate so that it can control - we must know how our parts can function in order to understand the whole better. But we are one person.
“We are not one person at work and a different one at home. Who we are is defined by all our actions including the ones the boss tells us to do. We are one person, one life, one responsibility.
“So when I talk about mind alone, mind cannot ever be alone so the question has no practical meaning. But to ask it helps in my understanding so I put it to you in the hope that it will aid you. The ego will say it is right-minded because then it is the controller, one of its tricks. But ego has control if we let it. To be right-minded means that we do not allow ego to be in control, right-mindedness is when we control, when we direct, we exert will.”
“Bill, Nature is so important,” Veronica smiled at his nodding acknowledgement. “It gives us the clues as well as the tools to enjoy life. Nature is so wonderful that we know that if we are doing things that are destroying Nature then we have to be doing something wrong. This is a clue. How do we live? We live with Nature, if we know what we are doing is damaging Nature then we are not living right. This is easy - we could even say that right-mindedness is living with Nature.”
Bill looked at her style, he always admired it and in bed he often threatened to stroke it to such a squeal of feigned anger and pouting. “Not my style,” she laughed pursing her full lips temptingly. He would look into her beautiful brown eyes and be captured.
He tried to listen attentively, but her beauty did not always allow it. “And when we talk of Nature, we can talk of Evolution,” Veronica continued, conscious of his partial lack of attention but Evolution was something that had become very important to her. “Evolution is Nature changing, it is Nature in time so in many ways Evolution and Nature - they are the same. If we look for clues in Nature we can also look for clues in Evolution. How are we evolving? Are we evolving naturally?
“And a very big question, is our mind evolving naturally?”
- * - * -
Am I alone?
I keep asking this, and I don't know why. I have always thought about loneliness and being alone. But now these are both mind-constructs. Cross the gateless barrier to be with the ancestors - loving God. What mistakes am I making with that?
Was it fashion to talk of being alone but not lonely - the haunting Swedish lilt of the Garbo phrase?
- * - * -
The fashion in Youth Hostels was to run it to give people access to remote areas. James remembered the old guard. He would turn up in the pouring rain, soaked to the skin, on the surface miserable, and some stupid old guard would point to his watch. James tried to look down beneath the kagoules and 20 jumpers. 4.30, he read. Looking hopefully at the warm old man inside, he was pointing. Wiping the rain from his vision he followed the gaze to a little sign “Youth Hostel opens at 5.00, no entry until then”. You could imagine this old man was a real misery, especially as the rain and cold turned your anger into hate, but when you spoke to him his heart was full. He loved the Peaks or the Moors or the Dales or Snowdonia, but they were not to be seen from cars or by warm fires - unless you live there. No wipe away the neshness of city life, let all of Nature's weapons clean you of the silt that is clogging your health. Rain cold, the freezing waters of the potholes that take a layer off your bones, all this is GOOD FOR YOU. You can hear throughout the country all the old guards smiling and pointing and saying it's GOOD FOR YOU.
But now youth hostels are part of the leisure industry. A young man says that he is employable because he has run a catering establishment. You can hear the chorus of GOOD FOR YOU tapering off into the distance as the old guard turn in disgust in their graves.
What is not fashion? We talk of custom and practice but that is just fashion - but slower. However we are slaves to it whether custom or fashion. Why? Because our minds fear - fear loneliness? James feared loneliness, he admitted it openly. He was quick to find a girlfriend, he would join with drinking friends. Can you see friendship there? It was company to feed their habit. It was fear.
James asked “What do our minds fear? They fear losing control, losing control to .... Minds fear silence, peace, and attributes of no-mind. But these attributes cannot exist during chatter, during fear itself. If they cannot exist during fear then mind creates fear. Fear of loneliness, fear of being alone that exists in silence. To this end fashion is created based on fear, not fashion as in clothes but in custom, in society. This social fashion that demands 4by4 in a country that charges excess for petrol with limited off-road driving. Fashion that creates a mind-set that society follows, fashion that has one purpose - maintaining collective control by mind.”
Bill's politics also gave up its twopennyworth “Mind's function also includes greed so whilst mind controls by fear, it also integrates the product of this fear into the political system. Capital requires the product of fear to be paid for to ensure profits that promote the interests of capital and therefore the collective of mind.”
“But community and family - surely these are not issues controlled by fear?” asked Bill, he knew some of the answer but he wanted to hear what she said. “Nature dictates children, and it is the natural instinct of the herd to stay together,” began Veronica. “So how does mind with its fear and desire for control interfere. No sooner asked than the answer is obvious. It is in the excesses, it is in the desire to control nature. It is in the consumerism, it is in the fashion.
“But the greatest problem with family and community is that for many they take over. Why should the family prevent us from following the True Path? Answer, it doesn't. The community does. It says that family duty requires this and that vigilance, this and that consumer item, the children demand this and that fashion. Where do these this and thats come from? Social pressure and consumerism, whose root is mind's fear.
“Even in family we should not be afraid to fight mind's fear, to demand silence, to demand the Right for the Spirit to be free - this Right of Nature, the only Human Right.
- * - * -
Manpher was dissatisfied. Listening to all of these thoughts, yet wanting to live, love, travel and find God. No small task. Leaving the train at Francistown he began to see around squalor and beauty, poverty and in there a wealth of charm, a wealth born out of Nature - or still retaining some of that wealth whilst 20th century civilisation made its cursed inroads.
Philip Alphonse, Phil to his friends, Alf to those who wanted to annoy him. His bags were in his room, and he went to eat in the bar. Drink for him was banned because of his lack of control, but a juice was enough to see the temptation around him. Aids in beauty, he had heard an old-hand say, death in curves and wobbly-bits. His lust rose and he knew he would love Africa.
But the West was still in him, its pace, its anger, is deep-rooted fear, and he avoided the delights. Why? Ah, there must be a safer way.
And that safety lay in an accountant's party, a few days later. How did he not invite that beauty to his room - the one that followed him??
Phil had turned to drink as he left his teens at uni, they all seemed to do it, it was the fashion. He had thought it gave him courage, all it gave him was a look of revulsion as he lurched from one glass to another. What was so strange when he gave up was how that had not mattered. Platforms, work, all arenas where shyness was supposed to control, he had lapped them up. But still the sauce. A sauce of strength, certainly not. But these women had so much, no shyness could overcome it.
Chairs across the garden, short locks almost like a basin cut, her beautiful flat nose seeming too large. This beauty appeared safe. But her legs, as long as Africa herself, a friend saw only legs nothing else. Phil calls her Aphrika - well not really, just a name to protect the guilty. Dumela, Aphrika.
She was pleasant, surprised even that Phil greeted her. Courtesy, no, more a feeling of not needing to rush made the date.
And she arrived three hours late, later to the Tube. The Tube, a dive, a young girl with her boozy white man standing at the bar whilst she rubbed her body up and down this black guy. Was he anything to her?
He reached her house in Area L - you have the Latin Quarter, the West End, Broadway and Francistown has Area L. And there was one abiding memory of this house - mosquitoes.
Despite his loins having been on edge for 6 weeks he didn't come. Can you imagine that? This woman, whose beauty was beginning to dawn on him, along with her middle name, Mathata.
But this was more his stupid Westernness. Sex had been part of love, how could he love the first night? But that is not the reality, as he later found out, his westernness did not allow him that sexual freedom.
But she had beauty, and once he came to know that body, its sexuality, African contours and wonderfully encompassing lips, it made him laugh to think of his “failure”.
He can't remember her being bothered either - not very dutiful? - all he remembered was mosquitoes. His Aphrikan sexual birth was not a night of passion but anger at mosquitoes.
As you can imagine this blockage was soon moved. Phil was reborn - new job, new country, and some wonderful sex.
If it was so great, you ask?
Nothing is for free, and the price .....
Phil's new joy led to strangely-recollected images. The black bike? Here's a thing. A bike without brakes - you peddle backwards to brake, yes. The bike the old Batswana dodder around on had no brakes. How do you describe it? It was black, not like the black taxis down South. The frame was solid, not streamlined, not aerodynamic, but solid. Was it like the old Herculean frames? That comes to mind but to be honest Phil doesn't know enough.
The handlebars are old-fashioned, what he used to use before the bars straightened ie the handle-grips pointed back to his slipstream. Slipstream? The cows went faster.
Riding this bike was also fun. Parts of Botswana were nouveau-riche, namely government servants who had climbed on the back of the diamond deal. For them the bike was an incursion on their roads. By the side of each road was dirt ground that qualified as pavement - a yellow line often demarcating. The only way to escape the displeasure of these nouveau-riche was to ride facing the traffic, and dodge to the dirt if a car came.
For a while Phil found the thrill of this new “experience” a challenge. What was amusing was the contrast. Part of his deal was that if there was no accommodation he would stay in the hotel - the same hotel as the nouveau riche. The same cars that would be chasing his black bike off the road were sharing the car park and food!
Then add to this the nookie ride. Aphrika lived 2 km from the hotel. At approx 9.00 pm he would get on his bike and ride to her house. Apart from dodging the cars, at night he had to dodge the dogs. In Botswana dogs had a function other than the strange sublimated desires of Western pets - they were guard dogs. If a black bike drove past their house the dog saw it as a threat - and barked - and chased. This was not easy.
But at the end of the ride there was reward, and at that time the reward was not complicated by other issues. Maybe it should have been left that way but Phil could not live so loosely - he wanted more. But then he wasn't young any more. What stopped this youthful dalliance was a holiday. There was a circuit for those new to Botswana. The first holiday was Kasane, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Bulawayo, and ....
The problems started the first day. Although this had been planned and agreed, she didn't want to go with the English - “she wanted to speak Tswana” Aphrika bleated. Strange that Phil was English, but .... don't ask! When we reached Kasane she was sat on the step with her bags packed. By that time Phil had given up - he left her there. Eventually she was persuaded, but this was the first sign of the end of the holiday - and of signs of things to come.
Next he reached Vic Falls, and camping was beneath her. They finally got a cabin to ourselves, was this peace? No, he fell ill. She would bend over, and he would feel his manhood grow. But then it would give pain, every time he had an erection there was pain. The pain was so much there was no sex. It was hell. Lust then pain, lust then pain, lust then pain, ......
He looked for help there but could find no-one. By this time the friends had moved on, so they caught the train to Bulawayo.
The pains continued, but in two days she returned to Francistown. Then the most miserable night. Lying there he needed to pee. He would get up go to the toilet, and then there was nothing but dribbles as he tried. The intervals grew shorter, and the volume less. Eventually it was every 10 minutes into a cup that he left at the side of the bed. Can you imagine this need for his penis to dribble into a cup at the side of his bed every 10 minutes?
But his other imaginings - what was this? Eventually he plumped for kidneys, a fault in his kidneys that led to his bladder to be under control. He now had to do something, but how could he leave the room with this desperate need to pee every 10 minutes. And add to this the lack of toilets in Bulawayo, only one in the main square behind City Hall.
He walked around, and saw a clinic - it didn't seem open. He kept walking, almost in panic, feeling desperate, desperately low and miserable. He saw a sign for a GP, and went in - sedate and middle-class. The first thing, he asked for the toilet.
It was his turn, and he can't remember what he said. The doctor put on rubber gloves, and examined the offending object - the penis. He smiled, “I will give you 20 tablets, take 10 now and 10 in 10 hours, that should clear it. You only have good old gonorrhoea, do you use a condom?” Phil looked at him sheepishly, “she says she only sleeps with me”.
- * - * -
Let's be honest, Phil, you have no idea where you are going. Here you are, you listen to talk of fashion, then Nature, then experiences in Africa, where are you going with all this? Are you at a cross-roads? These are extremes. You know you are a religious man but you are talking of gonorrhoea, why? Then the next minute you want to talk about mind, who will listen? Are you serious?
Sometimes nothing matters but God, and then the next moment the mind causes an erection. Religious?! Mu?
- * - * -
“Ego has deceived us into believing that the role of Nature is limited to the environmental sphere,” Gerry began his talk to the Lewisham Ecology Group. He knew his reputation, he had a whole history as a Green activist. He met young people at these meetings, who would make a point of coming to him to greet him because they had heard of Gerry Cooper. In earlier times he had used his notoriety horizontally, but often there were entanglements - and the more entangling the greater the chance for division in the movement. Mind you, as he had gotten older it mattered little. “When we hear of Green groups discussing the state of the planet, we hear of industrial pollution, recycling, nuclear disaster, etc. All of these are important for us to consider but let us examine them carefully. Recycling is common sense. Why wasn't it done before? For two reasons, firstly business said it was not possible. Now they can make a profit from it, it is possible. The other reason is laziness, the individual is too lazy to organise their waste for recycling. Why are we too lazy? Does anyone not believe that the planet is suffering? I think not, therefore we have to say that those people who do not help with recycling do not think it important enough. This is a decision they make, and it is an apathetic decision that belongs to a pattern of decisions that people make. This pattern is that fitting in with Nature is not important enough.” He had them, they were listening, but if you are card carriers you listen to this part.
“What about industrial pollution and nuclear disaster?” he paused, these were keywords that always pricked up an audience. “What are the sources of these problems? Profit. There is no doubt that we need the products of industry, but at the expense of our environment? At present society's answer is yes. There are some people who murmur, but basically the profit motive dominates. So greed prevents us from fitting in with Nature. This is not an argument that says we do not need the products, far from it. In the state of evolution of our society at present, these products are integral. But the profits aren't, the profits are based on the greed of individuals. There is a balance that could be drawn between the current requirements of our evolving society and Nature that would not mean a return to basics. This balance would not be destructive of Nature but fitting in with Her. Do we do this? No. Why? Because of profits.” They aren't worried about anything yet. OK so it's slightly different but the main themes are there - pollution, nuclear disaster, profit, had he thrown in capitalism and exploitation? “But I am not blaming the other, I am not just blaming the capitalists,” they looked up at this. Their eyes were asking Gerry what are you talking about? Get with it.
“Let's look at that a bit more.” You'd better their silent anger was demanding, who is this Saul to Damascus?
“There are other practices in the computer industry, which are far from ideal. New versions of products are issued on the market that are not backwardly compatible. In other words newer versions of standard software packages intentionally cannot be read by older versions, thus forcing people to buy new. The industry would argue that they include methods to overcome this problem but in the end people buy because it is easier. The motivation behind these strategies is greed. How can we call it fitting in with the Path of Nature when items as vital to our modern way of life as computers are governed by the play of children and the blatant profit motive,” he always used the computer industry and he knew there were faces with the “Oh not the computer industry again” grimace from regulars.
“It is difficult for people who participate in modern living to avoid these processes. But do we actually try to avoid? We accept the marketing, in fact many embrace it in the context of “keeping up with the Jones”; this is where I do not blame the capitalists. How many people would not swap positions with the leading capitalists? The greed that has gestalted into capitalism is present in the individual. Many choose to blame capitalism but few choose to try to change it. Yet we all recognise that capitalism is damaging the environment, that capitalism does not fit in with the Path of Nature but it is not important enough for us to change. Ultimately it is an individual decision, it is the individual who feels it is not important,” oh oh, where's he going with this?
“Although it would be difficult to oppose the status quo, it is clear that we make the decision not to change, that we choose not to fit in with the Path of Nature. Starting from a position where the ecology is suffering due to society's excesses, we can easily determine that individuals in society are making decisions that allow this to happen,” individuals again, what's the matter with him?
“There also appears to be an unnatural split in the way we view the Path of Nature. We give credence to some kind of view that we need to fit in with the environment, not destroy the environment, but this is where our consideration of Nature collectively appears to end. But why does there appear to be this limitation? Is Nature not more than the environment? We use the term “human nature”, is this “human nature” not part of Nature? Yet in practice we treat this human nature as being outside the normal parameters of Nature. But why? The term itself, human nature, recognises humanity as part of Nature, but humanity somehow feels that it is outside the governance of Nature. Hence we have the potential disasters of industrial pollution, greenhouse effects and nuclear disasters, disasters caused by humanity performing actions outside this Real governance,” good grief, he's off the planet now.
“Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, tries to point this out. Through the gimmick of an intelligent gorilla trying to teach humanity, he repeatedly warns of disaster. “The story the Takers have been enacting here for the past ten thousand years is not only disastrous for mankind and for the world, it's fundamentally unhealthy and unsatisfying. It's a megalomaniac's fantasy, and enacting it has given the Takers a culture riddled with greed, cruelty, mental illness, crime. And drug addiction” [Ishmael p147].
“Whose responsibility is this unsatisfying world? “Ishmael thought for a moment “Among the people of your culture, which want to destroy the world?”
“Which want to destroy it? " he asked again. "As far as I know no one specifically wants to destroy the world.”
“And yet you do destroy it, each of you. Each of you contributes daily to the destruction of the world.”
“Yes That's so”
“Why don't you stop?”
I shrugged “Frankly we don't know how”
“You're captives of a civilisation system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live.”
“That's the way it seems.”
“So you are captives - and you have made a captive of the world itself. That's what's at stake, isn't it? - your captivity and the captivity of the world.””[Ishmael p25].
“This means you and me.
“In his book Quinn delineates between two types of humanity - Takers and Leavers; it is his view that the Takers are the people who are destroying the world. I want to examine Quinn's descriptions of humanity as I feel that the categorisation polarises a continuum. Why should individual humans be polarised into two categories? If they are shouldn't there be something which makes some people Takers and others Leavers?
Let's examine the categorisation.
Ishmael began the categorisation [pp38-39] “You're familiar with the expression “Take it or leave it”? …. If I call one group Takers and the other group Leavers …”
“I have a problem with that. …. I don't see how you can lump everyone else in the world into one category like that.”
“This is the way it's done in your own culture, except that you use a pair of heavily loaded terms instead of these relatively neutral terms. You call yourselves civilised and all the rest primitive. You are universally agreed on these terms; I mean that the people of London and Paris and Baghdad and Seoul and Detroit and Buenos Aires and Toronto - whatever else separates them - they are united in being civilised and distinct from Stone Age peoples scattered all over the world; you consider or recognize that, whatever their differences, these Stone Age peoples are likewise united in being primitive.”
“…. Takers and leavers would be fine with me.” [Ishmael pp38-39].
Ishmael is a book of investigation and as such definitions ought not to be dissected with meticulous precision. It appears that Quinn is satisfied with Takers being synonymous with civilised and Leavers with primitive, but not in a loaded sense.
“The Bushmen of Africa, the Alawa of Australia, the Kreen-Akrore of Brazil, and the Navajo of the United States would each give you a different account of themselves, but they are all enacting one basic story - the story of the Leavers [Ishmael p147].” A talking gorilla, and now David Bellamy, I'm leaving - she wasn't the only one.
The story the Leavers “have been enacting here for the past three million years isn't a story of conquest and rule. Enacting it doesn't give them the power. Enacting it gives them lives that are satisfying and meaningful to them. This is what you'll find if you go among them. They're not seething with discontent and rebellion, not incessantly wrangling over what should be allowed and what forbidden, not forever accusing each other of not living the right way, nor living in terror of each other, not going crazy because their lives seem empty and pointless, not having to stupefy themselves with drugs to get through the days, not inventing a new religion every week to give them something to do or something to believe in that will make their lives worth living” [Ishmael p148]. Quinn is contrasting the positive of the primitiveness of the leavers with the negative of the civilisation of the takers.
He mentions a specific demarcation between the Takers and Leavers:-
There is an “offshoot, beginning at about 8000 BC, represents the story line of the Takers”. And according to Ishmael what event triggered this offshoot? “The Agricultural Revolution” [Ishmael p158].
The agricultural revolution is very significant for Ishmael because for Ishmael it begins the time when Man moved away from Natural law. “The law we're looking for here is much like that with respect to civilizations. It's not about civilizations, but it applies to civilizations in the same way that it applies to flocks of birds and herds of deer. It makes no distinction between human civilizations and beehives. It applies to all species without distinction. This is one reason why the law has remained undiscovered in your culture. According to Taker mythology, man is by definition a biological exception. Out of all the millions of species, only one is an end product. The world wasn't made to produce frogs or katydids or sharks or grasshoppers. It was made to produce man. Man therefore stands alone, unique and infinitely apart from all the rest” [Ishmael p102].
The issue for Ishmael was food:- “That is the whole goddamned point! When you have more food than you need, then the gods have no power over you” [Ishmael p 227]. “The disaster occurred when ten thousand years ago, the people of your culture said “We're as wise as the gods and can rule the world as well as they.” When they took into their own hands the power of life and death over the world, their doom was assured” [Ishmael p 166].
“The gods did not exempt man from the law that governs the lives of grubs and ticks and shrimps and rabbits and mollusks and deer and lions and jellyfish. They did not exempt him from this law any more than they exempted him from the law of gravity, and this is going to be the bitterest blow of all to the Takers. To the gods' other dirty tricks, they could adjust. To this one no adjustment is possible” [Ishmael p103].
Let me encapsulate aspects of what is covered in these quotes. Ishmael is saying that humans ought to be subject to Natural Law but a group of humanity, known as Takers, do not subject themselves to this Law. The initial event that triggered this was the Agricultural Revolution, and I suggest he is saying that because humanity now controls their food production they feel that they are not subject to Natural Law.
He traces history from the people between the Tigris and Euphrates, the Fertile Crescent; and says they began the agricultural revolution attributing this revolution initially to a small group of people. Let's consider how this small group have developed according to Ismael. They have become the Takers. What is the dominant force in the world now? Takers or Leavers? Clearly the Takers.
Let me ask are the Takers numerically greater now?
In fact the Leavers are numerically clearly in the minority when you look at the peoples described by Quinn, namely “the Bushmen of Africa, the Alawa of Australia, the Kreen-Akrore of Brazil, and the Navajo of the United States” [Ishmael p147]. One could almost say that the Leavers have disappeared.
Based on this the Takers cannot now be described as a minority but a majority, so the trait that enabled the founding of the Agricultural Revolution in the Fertile Crescent could now be seen as a global human trait. We, of course, are not now all agriculturalists, we have moved on to be industrialists and technologists. Some would argue that we have also moved through an industrial revolution and then an IT revolution.
I would therefore argue that we have evolved from agricultural change, through to industrial change, and then to technological change. Claiming that the agricultural skills would be sufficient to have enabled all these changes would be excessive, although the notion that controlling the food so that people are not subject to Natural vagaries would certainly be a platform for future development.
However to describe this development as one event, or one continuing revolution does not in my view give a complete picture. Why should agricultural skills be the same as industrial or IT skills? I feel that we must consider these changes as having a different source, and that source I claim is in the human mind. How does this source fit in with this historical analysis?
At the stage of history where the agricultural revolution was described as beginning in the Fertile Crescent, people were primarily hunter-gatherers. One could imagine that these people THOUGHT that it would be better if they had food all year round and were not reliant on the seasons. Following this thought process through to a logical conclusion, from initially deciding that they wished to have food all the year round maybe someone imitated the process of growth and then others imitated them. This imitation would also be a mental process. This, of course, is a tenuous conjecture but however the process began it would have required some form of mental consideration for it to happen.
I would further claim that the change from agricultural to industrial and then industrial to technological would more easily be understood as a mental process rather than a consideration that all these changes would immediately develop from Takers creating their own food supply.
I contend that what Quinn refers to as Takers would be better understood as humankind developing initially the evolved thought process that it would be better to control their own food supply through the agricultural revolution. Further it would make sense to make that agricultural work easier to develop tools of a more and more sophisticated nature leading to our current technological civilisation - Takers.
The relationship between this aspect of Mind, Takers and Leavers is very significant. As stated above Ishmael considers Takers to be a minority offshoot, and pushes for us to accept a Leavers mentality. This Back to Nature position I consider to be outmoded although I feel the sentiment is essential. Rather than considering that Takers are a minority separation - a position that does not contain substance on reflection about the development of humankind of today, we could consider that the Takers in their day were those humans whose minds had developed sufficiently to recognise the desire for the agricultural revolution. That vanguard thinking then developed into a human norm, subsequently superseded by industrial development that became the human norm, leading to technological development that is currently being accepted as the human norm. Mind created the Takers, and then as the mind of the Leavers developed they also became Takers leading to a Taker-orientated society - current civilisation.
Rather than categorising people I wish to consider that we are talking about a process of human misdevelopment through the mind. In so doing I have no wish to dismiss Ishmael's conclusions but to target a different source, this misdevelopment of the human mind.”
By this time there were only Bill and Veronica there. Even though they had spoken in depth to Gerry about these things it was still good to listen, Gerry was a clear concise speaker.
“I described earlier examples where we have moved away from the Path of Nature,” Gerry continued. “But this was in the environmental sphere. I tried to demonstrate that there was a pattern to this movement, ultimately humans chose this errant Path. In that context I am claiming that ego made those decisions, it is the clinging I that is not following its Path in Nature. The path of the Takers is not the Path of Nature but it is the egoic path.
“The people of your culture cling with fanatical tenacity to the specialness of man. They want desperately to perceive a vast gulf between man and the rest of creation. This mythology of human superiority justifies their doing whatever they please with the world, ….But in the end this mythology is not deeply satisfying. The Takers are a profoundly lonely people. The world for them is enemy territory, and they live in it like an army of occupation, alienated and isolated by their extraordinary specialness” [Ishmael p146].
Contained within this quote is a flaw that I would like to focus on. Ishmael points to humanity as thinking they are special, and this I feel is where the flaw is. By the “law of the jungle”, is the human being the strongest? I would say not, yet clearly the human is the most feared of creatures, and is surviving better as denoted by proliferation. The only jungle term that might possibly designate a difference between humans and other creatures would be “cunning”.
This “cunningness”, I would claim, is an attribute of the human mind, and I therefore vaguely connect the specialness that Ishmael separates humans from other creatures as the human mind. I say vaguely as I consider this an argument by indication rather than anything proveable.
Whatever Ishmael and others might want to say we cannot ignore the FACT that the human mind is also a natural creation. As humanity we do not fashion our minds out of chips no matter what the artificial intelligence lobby might attempt. The mind is created in Nature, it is natural. We cannot run away from it as a faculty of Nature. Because it is fashioned in Nature it must therefore be subject to Natural Law, and here is a major point “What are the Natural Laws that mind is subjected to?”
So let us look at the second aspect of the quote from Ishmael above. Humans “are a profoundly lonely people. The world for them is enemy territory, and they live in it like an army of occupation, alienated and isolated by their extraordinary specialness”. This specialness, the human mind, is isolating yet it is natural, this is an apparent contradiction. How can something which is natural also be contradictory with nature? Answer, when that which is natural fails to obey natural laws. The human ego.
Here is where I have examined what I consider to be a flaw in Ishmael's arguments. Ishmael (being a gorilla) doesn't want to see the human as special but the human mind makes humans special. This is self-evident because of the proliferation of the species. The human is in enemy territory however because humans fail to obey natural laws. And this is the specialness of humanity, they have the faculty of mind developed but fail to follow the natural laws for the mind and so become alienated from the nature that creates them.
Let us examine some of Ishmael's conjecture concerning the Leavers with more of a pragmatic fine-toothed comb rather than a broad sweep of a romantic idealistic paintbrush. “The story” humans “have been enacting here for the past three million years isn't a story of conquest and rule. Enacting it doesn't give them the power. Enacting it gives them lives that are satisfying and meaningful to them. This is what you'll find if you go among them. They're not seething with discontent and rebellion, not incessantly wrangling over what should be allowed and what forbidden, not forever accusing each other of not living the right way, nor living in terror of each other, not going crazy because their lives seem empty and pointless, not having to stupefy themselves with drugs to get through the days, not inventing a new religion every week to give them something to do or something to believe in that will make their lives worth living” [Ishmael p148].
He further goes on to say that “this is not because they live close to nature or have no formal government or because they're innately noble. This is simply because they're enacting a story that works well for people - a story that worked well for three million years and that still works well” [idem].
I mentioned conjecture, how does Ishmael know this is the way humans thought for three million years? Let me put forward my own conjecture, what if the human mind had evolved? I am suggesting that the mind of earlier humanity did not have the capabilities to experience the actions or emotions. Would Ishmael suggest that animals could experience “lives being empty and pointless” as they move from one waterhole to another? Would Ishmael suggest that “animals would seethe with discontent and rebellion”?
Consider this conjecture. The mind of primitive man was not developed enough to experience the emotions and frustrations for the three million years. Throughout that time the mind was developing, and with its development grew the capabilities referred to above. Doesn't this historical perspective more adequately explain the sudden change? It is a development of mind otherwise why would humanity have changed?
How does the human mind develop, how has it evolved? When we ask that question concerning plants or animals, we answer it by terms such as evolution, in other words we have some kind of understanding that it follows a natural order but we cannot really define it. When we ask about the physical development of humanity we don't worry about the use of a term like evolution yet we don't think of such terms when we consider the development of the mind.
Understanding the concept that the mind evolves places it in context for this discussion. If mind evolves then mind and its evolution must then be subject to some form of Natural Law. Do we think that the human mind is subject to Natural Law? In my view, no. And as a consequence of the failure of the human mind to follow such a Natural Law then the result is described fully in the Ishmael quote above.
Ishmael wants a movement back to the Leavers. “The Bushmen of Africa, the Alawa of Australia, the Kreen-Akrore of Brazil, and the Navajo of the United States would each give you a different account of themselves, but they are all enacting one basic story - the story of the Leavers [Ishmael p147].” I have to question whether these Leavers actually do feel the satisfaction that Ishmael describes; to be perfectly honest I feel this is a romantic view and has limited basis in reality.
Bill remembered Phil talking about Botswana “I lived in Botswana. Although I had no contact with the Xhoi-Xhoi - the name the Bushmen choose for themselves, my experience of Botswana was that the Batswana in general accepted that they were to be dragged into the material wealth the rest of the world wanted. They wanted the material wealth without an altering of lifestyle, some San had also accepted this approach and were being integrated into this. I do not put this forward as proof or strong indication but as a minor pointer I feel it has some value. The West has romantic views of that which they are destroying and continually look for examples to laud, I feel these quotes fall into this category and need to be considered as such.”
Bill brought his mind back to what Gerry was saying “But let's be clear, I am fully supportive of the statement that Ishmael says. “The story” humans “have been enacting here for the past ten thousand years is not only disastrous for mankind and the world, it's fundamentally unhealthy and unsatisfying. It's a megalomaniac's fantasy, and enacting it has given” humans “ a culture riddled with greed, cruelty, mental illness, crime and drug addiction [Ishmael p147]. My only contention with Ishmael is that this riddled culture is not caused because humanity has moved away from being Leavers. This movement was necessitated by the evolution of the mind but the failure is that that failure has not occurred within the framework of Natural Law.
Are we dealing with Humanity as another animal or are we looking at Humanity as being special and different to other animals?
It is quite clear that Ishmael's view of Takers is just that! The Takers' story is “The gods made the world for man, but they botched the job, so we had to take matters into our own, more competent hands” [Ishmael p241]; Takers' humanity sees the world as being for their use. This could be contrasted with the Leavers' view that humanity is simply another species of animal. “The gods made man for the world, the same way they made salmon and sparrows and rabbits for the world; this seems to have worked pretty well so far, so we can take it easy and leave the running of the world to the gods” [Ishmael p241].
Ishmael also sees a role for humanity as a trailblazer. “His destiny is to be the first to learn that creatures like man have a choice. They can try to thwart the gods and perish in the attempt - and make some room for all the rest. But it's more than that. His destiny is to be the father of them all …. By giving all the rest their chance, the whales and the dolphins and the chimps and the raccoons - he becomes in some sense their progenitor” [Ishmael p242]. “Man was the role model for us all” [Ishmael p242]. According to Ishmael humanity is the first to have the choice. Humanity uses the mind to analyse and make that choice, so we again are back to the choice the human ego takes. Are there other creatures which have that capacity of choice? At the moment?
Gonorrhoea had brought Phil to his senses. That night in Bulawayo was miserable; and his dick-led existence in Francistown was not that ennobling, however much fun. Was Aphrika telling him the truth? Now how many times did he ask that?
The gonorrhoea situation hadn't finished because who was the source? Yes she had had sex but that was when she was much younger and stupid. Now she was mature, she only wanted Phil.
Do you believe that? Well neither did Phil so he walked out - well soon anyway. First of all he attended the clinic. He had to go and have his arse jabbed every week or so, and after that sex? Afraid not.
By the end of all that he had learnt the lesson of Africa - monogamy. OK not getting married but you had to be together, build up trust. He laughed out loud at that one. He demanded monogamy and left.
But Aphrika had a terrific sense of timing. She left him to dwell on the memory of those lips that wrapped so tantalisingly round him as she gently moistened to let him enter. Once there moving up and down feeling her squeeze him, she would turn over and he slipped in feeling the warmth of her cushions as he wrapped around her thighs ….
Yes she left him to these thoughts of comfort, and slowly he weighed up the disadvantages. And then he was going to make a move. He was dressing when there was a knock on the door, and he had lost.
Oh yes there were promises. She would come round each evening, and they would spend the time together. Obviously this gave her enough leeway during the rest of the day to play because she managed to do this until they moved in together.
Isn't this what she wanted? And if it worked, then it was what he wanted for sure - who wouldn't she was beautiful and so much fun.
- * - * -
Ian was playing with a book. Recently he had completed academic studies and found that further paths in that direction were obstructed by formal approaches and adherence to the “God” of academia - rationality. Now Ian was considering his study in the form of a book, but what form?
What were his objectives? He had vague notions, and deeply-convicted spiritual notions; it was these latter which had brought him in conflict with the rational establishment. Even starting with a sentence “Spirit is a term that is undefineable.” caused conflict. Why?
“You cannot say something was undefineable in academic work,” his tutor had said. Ian looked back at him quizzically, was there a flicker of doubt in what the tutor said - NO. He smiled, “I will try.”
“But look at what that says,” Ian told his wife Charlotta, “Words which should not be defined but studied, meditated whatever, they have to be defined. They need to have the straightjacket of mental construct placed on them, and then that creates doubt because there can never be enough detail.”
She smiled patiently, listening attentively; he needed to get this off his chest. But deep down they both knew he was fighting a losing battle.
Later Ian used a ruse. Plato had described virtue as incapable of definition, Ian quoting this source was able to sneak the lack of definition past the tutor. But in retrospect that was shallow because diluting the Truth to appease the priests of Pirsig's "Church of Reason" was a gambit that had doubts within it.
“Your study is your study, Ian,” Charlotte told him one day “do you have to do it?” No answer.
“Then do it,” she continued “but think of the advantages of studying for yourself.”
And he did. Ah the quotes, presenting points that ought to be obvious in detail for academic correctness? Suppose it was a book, then a question mark instead of evidence will communicate far more - more than he intended probably. References he could live with except when he forgot to write them down, but proof for statements that should be considered and not accepted. That made him angry but not as angry as looking at what these books said about Spirit, Soul and mind.
When he had first made attempts to enter the academic world, he had said to himself, I should look for what the system accepts as the delineation between mind, and Soul/Spirit. It was then he realised that he had made grand assumptions, a standard university text did not make any such delineation. He was shocked. He spent a while bending his head trying to use the book against academia. Where were the contradictions that this position created? He came to the conclusion that the discussions were not in the ballpark, or that they created convenient systems that were internally consistent. But what they didn't do was address the real issues connected to mind and Spirit. And this was a real problem for him because what he had hoped to do was to participate in an academic dialogue about how mind should be taught, how the limitation of mind should be addressed, rather than the existing education practice of filling the memory with facts and ask that memory to regurgitate in exams.
So Ian was stumped, and sadly Charlotte had had to watch as he went through the agonies of first reading the books that had nothing to do with real understanding, and then secondly coming into conflict with the priests who could quote inordinately but did not see the point in what he was doing. She knew nothing of publishing but she hoped he would write a book - if only for his peace of mind.
But then how much is editorial integrity controlled by the mind? Certainly with regards to Pirsig and others, they had been able to get Truth across, as had other religious books.
Ian's thesis had begun “The mind, especially through its shrine of academia, does not like statements of Spirit being undefineable. The mind needs to encapsulate through definition in order to control, without a definition there is no control of Spirit. We spend much of our time imparting facts to young minds but we do not set out to impart any understanding of the problems that mind can cause. It is this “imparting” failure that I am attempting to address in this thesis. In order to address this I need to present to you some kind of understanding of what is mind, and its ontology in terms of mind and Spirit, then I can present its failings.
At this stage I have no wish to do more than indicate that there is a directing Principle. That which directs comes under many names - Allah (Ar-Rashad), God, Atma, Spirit, and many more. One can view the Soul as being the Right Path, and that also could be seen as a directing Principle. In all of these there is another Divine Principle in operation, and that is Immanence. The Laws of Nature apply to all creatures; in other words I contend that this directing Principle is present in all of us, and I will call it Spirit.
Let me ask you to observe your mind. Close your eyes and examine what happens in your mind for several minutes. Does your mind not jump from one thought to another? Have you tried to keep your mind focussed on one thought? It is hard, the mind wants to jump all over the place. Is this not evidence that the mind does not exert control and that there is some kind of direction or control happening to the mind?
One academic book wanted to discuss whether brain and mind were synonymous. There was a convoluted philosophical argument. Ian could not understand why there was a need for such argument.
He was exasperated, and Charlotte listened calmly “isn't it obvious? Take several deep rhythmic breaths. Now move your focus from out of your head - where it was when reading (or should have been?). Move this focus down your body until it reaches your foot. Where is your mind now if the focus is in your foot? Has your brain moved, are they synonymous?” Ah well at least that guy was making a living selling his books.
The academic then looked at several philosophical dispositions of mind - parallelism, occasionalism, Berkeley's idealism, epiphenomenalism. These systems were consistent but there was no purpose. They didn't help us learn, understand life etc.
Ian wanted an ontology that had that purpose, and that purpose is given by the directing Principle and Natural Law. If a philosophy does not help with its explanation does it have a validity? The mind wants to present itself as important. As part of doing this it raises its own importance as being the centre of the philosophy, a world of ideas, creations of minds, a parallel universe of mind covarying having no causation whose only control is the mind universe itself. However the book did discuss Cartesian Dualism, and Ian felt this was at the root of the problems of mind. He remembered a book he had read when younger and which he hoped to bring into his study - Fritjov Capra's “Turning Point”. He often spoke to Charlotte of the impact of the book, “I could never begin to express the importance of ideas like “The Newtonian-World Machine” and “The Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm””
The Cartesian dualism does two things to reality. Firstly it bifurcates, and as such it denies the holistic approach to reality. Secondly it only bifurcates. It claims that there are only two substances, mind and matter. In other words all that is not matter is mind. In terms of my model it aggregates the directing Principle with that of the mind. For this Cartesian model mind Soul Spirit are identical, how can that be?
With this Cartesian dualism all that is not matter is mind, and therefore where is that which controls? It can only be mind itself. “Mind controls itself,” he screamed one time in his study “mind does not have the ability to control itself. The vaguaries of the mind leads to the world's problems, yet this Cartesian model wants to say that mind controls itself.
He remembered one of Bill's hobby horses.
“Do you know about self-regulation that exists in the City?” Ian had heard of it but not given it much thought. “In the Stock Exchange we have organised gambling made legal, this gambling impacts on all our lives, and the only regulation is that those that are most successful at the gambling are in charge.” Ian looked at him and Bill paused.
But what about people like Ernest Saunders and Nic Gleason?
“Tip of the iceberg,” smiled Bill confidently “sacrificial lambs. People who have maybe gone that step too far, so up steps this self-regulation to tell people we care.” Ian nodded, it made sense.
And here is how he correlated it with his argument. “By the Cartesian model mind is in charge of life, yet mind, through greed etc, is the greatest destroyer of life. What then is going to take control of mind and stop its destruction? Sure there will be a few sacrificial lambs but overall mind will stay in charge.
“This aggrandisement of mind decimates the holistic principle, and as such is destroying the unity principle of life, a Natural Law.”
- * - * - At one stage Ian met Lindsay, the Buddhist, and Charlotte had overheard the discussion. Ian is too entrenched in his views, she knew why. Drugs had been an important part of his life at one stage, but not now. He had always looked to blame something for his drugs, for his habit, he never wanted it to be him. It was nice for him to have a Soul and Spirit, and blame the mind.
Lindsay asked "Are you focusing on words? Why is it necessary to have these words that you cannot say "Here it is"?"
"Which words, Lindsay?" he asked.
"Spirit and Soul," he answered quietly. "Why are they necessary?"
"You are the same as the academic church," he said dismissively. But he paused and looked again at Lindsay. This was Lindsay and not a group mind under threat protecting their jobs.
"I have felt Soul, it guides me, it is my Path." enforced Ian.
"That is good that you feel that," answered Lindsay. "But why does that function have a separate name? Why does it have to have a name that conjures up dispute, delineation and separation?"
"Good people stand up and say they have Soul," answered Ian, "it is a way of knowing."
Lindsay thought for a moment , knowing is good. "But does that mean that all people who understand this Soul use Soul? Do you know all such people?"
Ian paused and looked at him. "Maybe not". He paused and then countered "What other way is there of seeing Soul?"
"As part of mind," replied Lindsay succinctly.
"Oh Soul is part of the rational mind," he smiled derisively,arching his back slightly as he pouted.
"No this is not a rational function, it is a function of wisdom, of intuition, of meditation, aspects of mind," he explained.
"This is the Church of Reason again," answered Ian on his hobby horse, "academia wants mind-worship so it makes all these things under its ambit."
"How the mind functions," paused Lindsay, "and how an institution of Man perceives the way the mind functions can be two different things. the institute of Man encompassing desire, the I, the ego, these are the enemy that lead to wrong thinking."
Suddenly they were interrupted by the doorbell, and as Ian went to answer it the thought of drugs crossed his mind. But when he saw the lovely Veronica at the door that thought got lost, especially as it required such a change of mindset.
Robbie never loved Mercy, Dumela Mercy. She called it her homework. “I might grow to love you but you can stay with me when you visit. I think you are a very nice woman.” Not romantic is it Robbie?
It does seem fair and Mercy thought so. Their first night's foreplay was her going to the toilet, and as she came out her skirt had hitched into the top of her knickers. “Shall I lock the gate then?”, and she smiled.
Love-making between them was never special however she insisted on it. Robbie thought that she wanted him to have sex with her so that the next day there would be nothing left for anyone else.
But she was pleasant to be with, and Robbie enjoyed her without ever loving her. He felt he helped her. She used to talk about her mind spinning and he would talk of breathing and meditation, she seemed to like it.
She travelled as did half of Africa's women, this time between Lusaka and Nata, and after several months they were off camping in Namibia. He planned to meet her in Kasane.
The night before a sexual disaster struck. An old flame visited Robbie from out of town. She knocked on the door, and asking if she could come in pushed past him into the living room. He sat down, and she climbed on top of him. Robbie told her that he was going on holiday with Mercy the next day but she would not listen.
Her hand moved inside his trousers but he was still resisting. But she persisted. Robbie kept pleading that he was on holiday the next day but his resistance was lessening - he cared deeply for Serena but she was too wild. Her hand continued its seduction and he gave in. They went to the bedroom, and she sat astride him mounting him moving up and down perhaps too vigorously. He gave up his juice.
Serena was so exciting, Robbie found her difficult to resist. She made him many promises that night and he said he would see her.
The next day he travelled to meet Mercy, and had a fine holiday.
When Mercy came back to Nata, she was thinner. Robbie called her stick, but he treated her well even though he would see Serena when she went. Over the next two months she visited him twice and at the end of the second visit he decided they must finish, it was not fair. She was not that well so he decided he would tell her at the end of the next visit.
There was no visit. A phone call a few weeks later from Mercy's friend asking for money as Mercy was ill in hospital. He sent the money, and asked for a letter. As he didn't get one, he didn't send more money - it was Africa after all.
She didn't return, and Robbie was thankful of avoiding a scene - maybe she knew.
A few months later Serena came to see him. She was smiling but there was a certain distance. “I was talking with friends who said that Mercy had died of Aids. These friends said that Mercy had told Robbie she had Aids, but that Robbie was quite happy to sleep with her unprotected.” She went into the kitchen and came back brandishing a knife. A knife's a knife whoever is holding it, he pushed it aside and struck her a powerful blow on the face. The knife dropped, and he was on top of her preventing her from moving. They lay there for a while, and she asked to get up. He let her move and watched her cagily. He followed her round the house, and she eventually sat down next to him. All she said was “If you have given me Aids you can look after me,” Robbie knew her ill discipline, and this frightened him more than the Aids at the time. The next day he was at the doctor's, and after a nervous few days he was not HIV +ve. Maybe Mbeki has a case for bringing the matter into question, Robbie had had months of unprotected sex.
He had two reflections on Mercy. He remembers their last few sexual relations, and there was a dark dry emptiness inside her - was it a feeling of death? She was such a wonderful woman, so polite, so pleasant, such good company. Mercy why didn't you tell me, screamed Robbie in silence, how could you do that?
- * - * -
Now that Ian had decided to go his own way he wanted to focus, at this stage, on mind and Natural Law. Since Descartes mind and matter dualism has become part of the scientific paradigm, therefore one would expect modern science to separate mind from matter - matter as a closed system. It would also be equally expected that matter would be subjected to natural law, a concept that I could possibly rephrase as laws concerning matter. You know, trees and flowers grow!
Prior to the scientific paradigm birthed by Descartes (and Newton see Turning Point by Fritjov Kapra), natural law was not seen as purely material. Laws of Nature applied to all parts of life including mind, what justification is there for saying that mind is not subject to natural laws, after all it is part of Nature as we humans are part of Nature?
According to Russell Bacon bifurcated knowledge into reason and revelation, and then academia proceeded to marginalise revelation as being faith that was not part of knowledge. “I want to emphasise this point,” Ian pontificated. “Reason AND revelation were accepted as knowledge. Now everything that is accepted by establishment can be verified.”
“If not they'd be sued now,” chirped Bill cynically.
“Maybe so,” conceded Ian, annoyed with the distraction “But what verifies? Logic and rationality. Intuitive experience is not knowledge unless it is verified. Whole spheres of knowledge are lost because reason cannot appreciate it.”
“But what did Descartes do? From within that restricted arena he bifurcated knowledge into mind and matter. In effect the whole issue of knowledge has been withdrawn from that of revelation, yet our early philosophical greats did not marginalise such aspects of knowledge. Nor have our great religious leaders, and their received wisdom within their holy texts.
“Fundamentally contemporary academic philosophers of mind have embraced a study which excludes a whole arena of knowledge/wisdom that was accepted for centuries.”
Ian then went off to look at Bacon, or rather what Russell thought of Bacon. Bill was talking with Charlotte, he had known her many years including the drink - she had known enough to keep away from his excesses. Her good sense had maintained the friendship - she had seen potential in him.
Charlotte was older than Bill - she was a 60s person who had been around. More importantly she had learnt. She took great strength from her work - painting. She had sold some but had earned more respect than a livelihood. She had never learned the knack of being an artist in revolution. Firstly she was nice. Secondly she meant her revolution, and wasn't prepared to massage the egos of the City slickers. They would come they would see her and then spout revolution. Instead of treating it as party rhetoric she questioned their credentials, and slowly the colour would drain from their smugness as they were shown for the greedy heartless hypocrites they were. This never won her sales, nor did her refusal to sleep with them.
She was describing one such creep at the Serpentine when Ian came rushing in. “Here is the link,” he pushed between them insensitively breaking their ambience. “The whole basis of his philosophy was practical: to give mankind mastery over the forces of nature by means of scientific discoveries and inventions,” he quoted from Russell. “Don't you see,” as if they didn't “if what Russell says is true of Bacon and if what Bacon did was the start of the paradigm of modern science, then we have reached an important source of reason's hegemony.”
According to Russell Bacon's purpose of learning was “to give mankind mastery over the forces of nature”.
Charlotte stopped him “Ian, mind yourself.”
Ian's face reddened, “Oh I'm sorry Bill.
“No matter,” Bill smiled “I'm sure if they want to look they will see it.”
“Surely they can't avoid seeing this,” Ian paused and smiled at his naivete. “Look it goes on. How does he want to attain mastery, “through scientific discoveries and inventions. Depending on the influence of Bacon, we have an important stepping stone in the limitation of knowledge.” He paused and looked at them and apologised again.
Back in his study he began again. “Bacon's "Knowledge is power" appears to be some kind of attempt to master nature through scientific experiment, in other words he is limiting knowledge to the arena of experiment. Science is limited to experiment, and as such there are whole areas of knowledge, as traditionally seen, where experimental method cannot discern. This is significant, it is a respectability given to a limitation of knowledge. When Descartes and ensuing modern philosophy bifurcate knowledge they are bifurcating a limitation imposed by Bacon's “scientific inventions and discoveries”. Further Cartesian bifurcation is as a consequence of a philosophy that is attempting “mastery over nature”. This Francis Bacon is a definite source of the excesses of reason trying to control nature where philosophy has taken an unnatural turn.
“He held that philosophy should be held separate from theology, not intimately blended with it as in scholasticism” [p527]. Here Russell is directly saying that philosophy is not about knowledge of all things, but only concerned with knowledge of scientific discoveries and inventions. But is that the way philosophy today sees itself. I would claim not. Let's examine the Concise Oxford English dictionary:-
“1 the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality esp. of the causes and nature of things and of the principles governing existence, the material universe, perception of physical phenomena, and human behaviour.”
I feel this definition encapsulates what has been happening with philosophy in this context of Bacon. Here philosophy is “using reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality”. This definition has completely accepted reason and argument as the means of discerning truth and knowledge, but not in the arena of scientific discovery and invention, but in reality as a whole, reality as decsribed as “the causes and nature of things and of the principles governing existence, the material universe, perception of physical phenomena, and human behaviour”.
Bacon “accepted orthodox religion; he was not the man to quarrel with the government on such a matter” [Russell p527]. Are religion, the Nature of Spirit, Spirituality, not areas of knowledge? Accepted they cannot be demonstrated by scientific discovery or invention, but they are areas of knowledge, or rather Wisdom. Personally I believe they are the most important areas of understanding, and I am not alone in this as evidenced by the fact that people are practising religion throughout the world.
“But while he thought reason could show the existence of God”, reason maybe can but more so revelation. Does that mean that reason is knowledge and revelation isn't?
Bacon “regarded everything else in theology as known only by revelation” [idem]. Does “knowing by revelation” mean that it is not knowledge?
“Philosophy should depend only upon reason” [idem]. Here is the limitation again, but note please that Bacon has not said that knowledge of reality can only be gained through philosophy or reason. Bacon “accepted orthodox religion” ….”he regarded everything else as known only by revelation”. Yet the definition of philosophy claims that “reason and argument seeks truth and knowledge of reality”. Time has taken the Bacon split between reason and revelation, and ascribed philosophy to be reason and knowledge and marginalised revelation …..to where?
“Bacon was thus an advocate of the doctrine of ”double truth”, that of reason and of revelation” [p527]. Modern philosophy, I would suggest in line with the dictionary definition, is an advocate of the single truth of reason as being the only source of knowledge. And where does modern philosophy attribute the source of reason but the mind? And Bacon's attempt to “master nature” has become the modus operandi because the human ego is now attempting to “master nature” even to the extent of gene manipulation. Frightening! This ego-directed change goes against evolution and needs redressing.
- * - * -
Phil knew of a teacher, Mark, who loved Ndeba. Sali Banani, Ndeba. He heard of Ndeba when he visited his friend although from the description he did not recognise her. Not tall but neither short, her beauty was neither stunning nor lacking. From her round face shone a quiet smile that radiated her Inner strength.
He was visiting friends when she was in the kitchen. Just turning round gave such an indelible impression that months later when they were still not together, the memory of that instant was sufficient.
Entanglements freed themselves several months later, and they were able to start. Visiting the friends again Mark met Ndeba and this time it started to happen. But not immediately. Now Ndeba lived in a Bulawayo township so after one night she had to return as her days were up. Days were a big thing in the travelling of these mighty African women. Botswana's diamonds attracted these travelling traders, and their immigration makes the UK appear tolerant - which it isn't.
Botswana needed these people to cross the border illegally because that gave them a scapegoat. Throughout North East Botswana Zimbabweans walk miles from Plumtree towards Francistown in search of some little money. Many were arrested, and being stateless they became rightless, often being arrested for weeks on end before being dumped back in Zimbabwe to start again.
Botswana needed someone to blame for the crime. Undoubtedly these weren't all innocent but in no way did the arrests account for it all. But it was enough for this particular African mind.
Women, of course, crossed in similar fashion but they were more acceptable because they could be ensconced in a rondavel for sexual pleasure - a stateless treasure trove with no rights. Not that any uneducated African woman, ie women with no earning power, was able to reject this exploitation - stateless or not.
So where do the days come in? If a woman crosses the border she has to return within 5 days, this increased if someone would vouch for them officially. Mark's first night with Ndeba was the night of her 4th day and she had to return.
Did Ndeba then make their love simple? Far from it. When she was due to return she didn't, and Mark had to go and collect her. He described the journey. Mark drove his friends to Plumtree then Bulawayo, there was trouble afoot and much African mediation was being dished out to quell the interminable wrangles of the women. In the midst of that Mark collected Ndeba. He was subdued, wanting nothing but to be with her, yet watching her being courteous he was wondering whether she really wanted to come, why hadn't she come before?
They reached Shashe and started their home. The traditions of Africa have certain advantages, roles are known. No great discussion needed, you just fit together leaving the more important path to the bedroom open without mental aberrations and involvements. Mark couldn't sort his sex out, and for days they tried unsuccessfully but he said it didn't matter because he was with her. One can only accept such a statement.
Then her extended days were up so she returned to Bulawayo. But now her passport was finished and it could take her up to a year to get another one. Why had Ndeba let this happen - it was her livelihood? So then started Mark's visits to the township, and this he was conscious of. No-one gave him any trouble but these were townships in Zimbabwe, in Rhodesia, and the Rhodies did not treat black Zimbabweans well. But his Tswana license plates helped.
He visited her on weekends, and apart from certain poverty constraints his love grew. Their final meeting was a wonderful weekend camping at Vic Falls where she seemed on death's door yet insisted on going with him.
The following weekend he visited only to be told that she had gone to South Africa because her sister was ill and Ndeba had to look after the baby. Mark was gutted. He returned to Shashe, and amidst the tears he could be heard singing along to Michael Bolton's greatest hits late into the night. Every fortnight he would climb into his car and drive to Bulawayo, only to return forsaken. Nothing had been heard and Ndeba was still looking after the baby.
Months later after much weeping and crooning, there was news. Ndeba was back. But it couldn't be that simple. It came as a story. Ndeba had never left. She had a boyfriend who used to visit occasionally. Whenever Mark visited she used to hide from him in a neighbour's house.
Mark insisted that she was a good woman, why had the storyteller lied? He had to find out. Bulawayan townships were not the easiest places for white people to blend in, it would be known if he was going to visit her.
So a black friend went to the house whilst he played tracks 13-17 of the Best of Bread repeatedly in his love-lorn stupour in the car. One hour later she turned up at the car, and Mark looked longingly at her. As she got into the car he kissed her, and then held her tightly afraid that she might disappear again.
She told him of the baby, apologised for not writing, and that was it. For all his anguish she just apologised for not writing. But Mark was lovestruck, and he had her back. Their love started again. Friday lunchtime he jumped into the car, and by 5.00pm he reached her house. After a brief stay they would drive to Matobo where they would camp.
Mark loved that camping, it was simple. He made the home, she cooked the food that he had caught earlier at the supermarket. Then they would snuggle up staring at the fire that kept away the mosquitoes, and then to bed to quietly make love before sleeping the short refreshing sleep of the camp. The days they would just potter around the site, he reading she cooking and sitting, and time would fritter lovingly by. Sometimes they would drive to the game park, and Mark described an intimate moment in his later tears. They were sat by the dam Mark with his arm gently round her. Then slowly his hand moved to her sex and he began gently stroking it, just quietly and gently, peacefully as if it was the sort of thing that was regularly done by such a genteel lady in the afternoon sun.
It was now three months of round two, and matters were worsening. He was able to phone, and for the last weekends the excuses had increased. Then finally he was told she had gone to Masvingo to find work, nothing else. His heart had been broken enough, he gave up. He did visit Bulawayo again, as Phil did, but he never went to her again. He couldn't see her, he loved her and he expected she was still there, but he couldn't see her. Even an offer of marriage had not helped Mark.
Yet to this day when he hears of the troubles in Zimbabwe he still cries a tear for Ndeba.
- * - * -
“Academia does not accept a basis of Truth in its works because it is the institution of reason.” When Ian read this all kinds of bells and whistles went off in his head. So the issue is Truth, he thought. Yes, it had to be. If there was Truth, there would be no research, no need for all these institutions. Research means reason looking for something, but what if there were already the answers what would the institution do? The people?
So the big issue for academia was Truth, so what was it? And his mind was spinning. He took a leaf out of Charlotte's book, and began meditating on Truth. He calmed down. Truth, God, and even Pirsig's Quality, it was all there, and not in the institutions. And what was blocking them - ego. Calming his mind allowed an understanding of these Universals to come through. And he understood academia's fear. What life was really about had nothing to do with what went on in those academic places.
His I allowed reason to dictate knowledge by proof and verification, but this was not all that knowledge was. Wisdom was beyond reason and ego, and then he understood the need for Received Wisdom. And again there was an understanding of the fears that these institutions would have.
He laughed to himself, through his attempted approach he had effectively wanted them to grant him a certificate for content that constituted their own death warrant.
He had written something earlier. “The only basis for acceptability in the institution in general is that if the theory is relatively consistent, and if the theory does not present reason as subject to control by Will or Soul or Spirit ie a Directing Principle, then academia will accept it.” Yes this is the essence of what he is looking at in his dealings with academia. “It is almost like saying that if the theory is not based on Truth such as Received Wisdom then the theory can be accepted. But if we accept Received Wisdom this cannot be academic because it is a form of belief or rather not open to rational verification. The fact that many people in the world know deep inside themselves that the Received Wisdom is True is ignored by the academic, because reason cannot measure it; it is outside the comprehension of reason and ego.” Again he laughed to himself at the irony - Catch 22 +.
This is a very important concept in understanding where the Path of Truth and the path of academia have diverged. One approach to understanding this is reason and revelation, but the process of analytic reasoning cannot possibly encompass the position of accepting Received Wisdom. Why is that work handed from God? Why is there a Universal Soul? Why does the Directing Principle exist? All of these are questions that are beyond the comprehension of the academic mind, and without accepting that limitation, working with Received Wisdom becomes difficult and is often rejected as it is in academia. In fact there appears to be a kind of marginalisation of Received Wisdom. Academics can be fervent believers in God so long as that belief is not used as a substantiation of knowledge. In other words so long as you don't accept the Source of All Knowledge, you can talk about knowledge in an academic sense. This seems a rather strange paradox to me, but would, I suspect, be taken as an unsubstantiated tenet of academia. But it is not unsubstantiated because of the Tradition of Received Wisdom, a Tradition that academia rejects because it is not substantiated by the methods of proof of reason, methods of proof which by their very derivation cannot possibly understand.”
Charlotte enjoyed reading this. These were matters that she felt she had some understanding of, but when Ian grasped it he usually had the words to express it. Maybe that's the artist in me, she thought. “We do however have some access to understanding these matters, and that is through processes of meditation and prayer.” Ian smiled at this because of what he had just been through. But just as he was going to say this, she surprisingly interrupted him. “Meditation is a process by which we can actually determine a relationship with God. Again this is a process that cannot be defined in an academic sense ie through mental concepts (concepts of mind). Religious leaders know of tremendously powerful techniques for trying to establish a relationship with God, but these don't work for all people. If a person is truly trying to find that relationship there will be a method for them but it will not be the same for all people. This type of vagary immediately enables the reason to jump in and say that this cannot be a form of knowledge because there is no consistency, it cannot be repeated in all circumstances.”
Ian's logic continued “So the two most important aspects of understanding in the world, a belief in God and meditation are rejected by academia (thus making academia soulless?).. Of course I can never prove it - nor would I want to.”
- * - * -
Aphrika was now in her home, was this not what she had always wanted? But it wasn't her home, she didn't have absolute control to do everything that she wanted to. Somehow she managed to ignore the fact that the home was tied to Phil's job, and that without Phil the home was not there.
It was her home so she wanted this and that, and who paid? So there started one demand after another. And he tried to meet them even though he did not earn enough. But the demands kept coming and coming. He started to refuse, and became a target. Anger, tantrums, and, of course, withdrawal of conjugalities.
At the same time she was drinking. One night he offered to take her out (he should have done that more on reflection). But she refused to go with him, saying she was not well and was going to stay in. He left and she did.
He was with a friend, the friend's girl-friend and mother, and they agreed to go on a trip the next morning. Arriving back at 11.00pm Phil was angry but not surprised that she was not there. Eventually he fell asleep.
The next morning he woke up at 7.00am, and she still hadn't arrived. He left for his trip. “Where's Aphrika?” they asked. He sheepishly answered, “She hasn't come in yet.” What could they do? They all looked away in embarrassed silence.
Off they went on their trip, and Phil stared enviously at his friend who was locked arm-in-arm. They reached home after a tiring day, and what did he find?
Past midnight she wanders in drunk. No apology, no explanation - nothing. In fact she got indignant “you're not my father, you can't tell me what to do.”
Phil lost it then, she had walked out on him enough. “Pack your bags,” he said.
“Oh OK then,” she said staggering off “All you want is a slave who cooks and fucks whenever you want it. You whites, you can't get white women to cook and fuck, so you try to get black women to do it for you.”
She took her bag and walked off, and then came back five minutes later. She knocked to come in, and he told her to go away. And then there was a thud on the door, and another. He looked out, she was throwing stones. He went out, and she began throwing them at him striking him on the chest. He went inside, and he heard her laughing loudly.
“I am not going until you call the police, and you can explain to them how you are using a daughter of Botswana,” she taunted him.
He found a dustbin lid for protection, and chased after her. But she ran off, thank goodness because if he had caught her he doesn't know what he'd have done.
But then she came back, and the thuds started again. He went out again, she ran off only to return. Thud, thud, thud! There was nothing for it, he called the police.
When they arrived she started ranting at them in Setswana, but he didn't understand. Then one came over to take his statement, and he asked “How old are you?”, and when he told him he said “you are a lot older”.
The other was more sympathetic. “She wants you to carry her things to her servant's quarters.”
By this time he was worn out, he mumbled “Anything to get rid of her.” Then he went through the embarrassing moments of carrying her plants and other items past the crowd of gathered neighbours to the room.”
“Now she wants 100 pula for rent and food,” said the policeman in a neutral voice although his sympathy was clear. Phil gave the man the note.
“Now do you want to press charges?” asked the man in uniform quietly.
“How can I?” Phil asked - he loved her, she was his partner.
- * - * -
When he had been at the uni, Ian had ended up in a row about emotions. “There is a connection between the Soul and emotions,” began his American colleague “maybe the Soul is even the source of the emotions.”
Ian saw reason at work here. "Soul cannot be defined by mind as it cannot be comprehended through reason. There is then an attempt to lessen the importance of Soul by equating it with emotions. We know from our individual practice that emotions can be the baser characteristics of human nature especially when linked with “sins” such as lust and greed, so by linking Soul with emotions Soul is being debased and high-powered reason is having its status raised.
“Sam our emotions are determined by our mental relationship with them and not whether our Soul is the source of them,” countered Ian calmly, “Emotional reactions happen. We see a film, we cry. It is perfectly natural. We get angry with our boss because he makes unreasonable impositions on us. Do we kill him? No because we use our reasoning faculty of the mind to reject that scenario. Our Soul uses the powers of the mind to exert control.”
“So Soul is involved,” Sam latched quickly onto this concession.
“Soul is involved with everything that we do, it is the guide,” stated Ian, seeing where this was going. “Here we have a very interesting interaction between mind and Soul, and logically we cannot separate the two. Suppose we take the example of a religious fanatic committing murders in the Name of God. My interpretation of this is that faith has taken control of a very powerful source, the Directing principle. How can a belief in God justify the murder of creatures of God? Because I believe, I can see this as a self-evident truth. But a non-believer would not necessarily see that truth, they might argue that it was the belief that led to the fanatical atrocities (especially when one examines history and sees the carnage that has been wrought in the name of religion). It is not the belief that causes the atrocities, it is the dubious and harmful rationalisations combined with the religious power that leads to the harmful actions.
“Let me give you another example. An alcoholic is able to rationalise their addiction. Causes such as marital problems, pressure of work, tension, and many more are given to justify the addiction. Why bother? Hey I'm a drunk, it's OK. But it is not seen as OK so we need justifications. But alcohol addiction does not allow the Soul to take its rightful control, and within the alcoholic haze dubious reasoning justifications hold sway. This is a form of the mind taking control using addiction.
“None of this is evidential proof and never can be, and equally it can be seen as an interpretation. However all I am able to do is to indicate the position, the way that ego can take control and be our worst enemy.”
Ian looked at Sam, there was no light of comprehension. “You seem to be splitting hairs, Ian,” answered Sam logically “you say Soul is involved with emotions, and then you say it isn't. You want to blame ego for actions that are clearly not logical, and then you want me to accept that. How can you?”
“But this is the issue that I am always trying to get at," answered Ian with tempered frustration “The ego tries to confuse everything so that it can maintain its control. Logic can never lead to proof of existence of Soul yet you always want me to try to prove it. You accept the existence of Soul then try to understand how it works,” and fail miserably he said to himself, about himself, about people.
“This is the problem,” answered Sam in frustration “I am always willing to listen and try to understand, but you always end with this mystical stuff. It is very frustrating.”
It's your dependence on reason and ego, thought Ian, but he didn't say it. That just led to fireworks. With most people!!
Charlotte had overheard, and there flashed in her mind the conversation with Lindsay. Was this Soul an aspect of mind? It seemed such a big thing, Soul, for it to be part of mind, but then mind could also be seen as a big thing. How could false reason hold sway unless the ego wanted it to. She had tried to discuss this with Ian but he was full on his soapbox.
- * - * -
Veronica never liked stockbrokers; what an awful thing to say, she thought, but she could never accept the harm they did. When she was younger she had worked in a computer firm, and once was involved with the City Brokers, Bent and Rotten. As you might expect she was hit on.
These arrogant young men had heard it all before, so they used it, not a desire for truth but for sex.
Veronica saw it coming but she tried anyway. “A stockbroker uses reason to decide which deals will produce the greatest profits, and as a consequence these actions determine the stockbroker as a success. Apart from the profits engendered, what are the other consequences of the actions? 6 months later the plant in Indonesia is closed down because of asset-stripping as a consequence of the stockbroker's deal. People's homes in Indonesia are broken up because the young people have to leave to go to find work elsewhere. Does the stockbroker pay for the consequences of the actions? No, their house in Surrey still has large beautiful grounds!”
“And they snort in the City,” laughed Andrew whilst doing it, joining in the sentiment.
She looked aglance at him. Andrew genuine, not a chance.
“Whole villages in Yorkshire have been decimated as a consequence of the pit closuress” continued Veronica in vain.
“Yes, but, Veronica, be realistic for a minute.” Andrew started with his plausible business voice. She'd forgotten his title, but there were times when he barely gave her a glance in the office; other brokers had complained about his rudeness. But when he was after something he gave you his undivided attention, and she knew these men who wanted black notches on the bedpost. She used this desire, of course, she wanted to move up. But it would never lead anywhere, the very thought turned her stomach.
“In the long term the pits were not profitable,” continued Andrew clearly. “They had to be closed, and the money invested elsewhere.”
“Yes but what about the people?” she asked.
“The State looks after them,” answered Andrew quickly.
“OK but that costs the State money,” she continued logically “ so the decision to close the pits costs the government elsewhere.”
“Yes, but that's a different budget, so the people will not connect the two decisions,” laughed Andrew “it's a common ploy.”
“And if they need more money they will raise government revenue,” he added “but not in a direct way like taxes” he said forcefully cutting her out. “but in a way that most people won't see what's happening. And then they smile, and say how bad the other lot are.”
She had met Bill briefly at the computer firm, but he had left. He had a bit of a mystique with the company. He was a fresh graduate whom they hoped to groom. They dragged him down the bar, and he loved it - only too much. Then he had chucked it all in and had gone to work in a kids' home.
Mind you, he also wanted a bit of black so he chased her, but that had stopped now. And he just talked to her. She liked that, it was her, not black, not the notch, just her. If she offered she thinks he would but he never asked never bothered her, and he used to come over and talk. For her the problem was the drink, she avoided him when he drank. She remembered a horrible evening when he was drunk and saw him. He started “Veronica, you're beautiful … “ He paused and gulped, was he going to puke? “I have always liked black women,” he looked at her with his strong blue eyes, and she looked at him with barely disguised disgust as the haze which covered his eyes completely cut off his deep and warm soul.
“I know there would be problems,” he slurped his voice “but I think we could bring up a halfcast together. Wait,“ this time he hiccoughed, “she would be black, I know.”
He stood up barely. “Veronica I'm serious, and I want you to think about it.” He staggered towards the door, and she thought he was going to fall as his right shoulder caught the doorway and spun him round. She jumped but his drunken disequilibrium coped with it. He simple moved clockwise through the door, and out.
She waited for an apology, and none came. Maybe he didn't remember. But she resolved that she would never see him when he was drinking. And she never did, and thank God because they are now happy.
At the time she spoke to Bill about Andrew and the like. He was the only one she knew who really understood her dilemma because he understood the Andrews - he had been one almost.
“The problem with Andrew is ego, reason, and the way he was educated.” Bill told her, even though she knew. “Andrew was successful at uni?”
“Yes I think he was doing maths like you but at Oxford,” she said.
“Mmm Oxford,” he continued “I feel small,” he mocked. “Then it is especially true with maths, I know. You are encouraged to become good at your subject but they don't really want you to care. I have always thought that was why they wanted maths grads for stockbrokers. Being a mathematician, you focus your mind completely on theory to the exclusion of everything else. Your education is very unbalanced, you are a success because of reason only.
“That is what is needed for a stockbroker, reason whose ego will focus on the profit only, and not be concerned about the consequences of actions.”
“That is these guys, OK!” she exhaled emphatically.
This issue of using the faculties without Direction, reason or ego lacking Soul or compassion, is a very important issue for society - it is not an academic exercise where the theory has validity because of consistency.
- * - * -
Dumela Kelebogile. Dave remembered his night of passion. She was introduced to him yet so quiet. His first impressions were not that positive, she looked pleasant but no more. As Dave said “Looks aren't everything. In this world beautiful women have to put up with so much temptation, that too often their beauty hides torment. And that torment often turns to control, one-sided selfish control.” Perhaps that's why many beautiful women settle for older men, those men are dependable, comfortable, and often the pleasure of their beauty is enough. They are old enough to savour it without wanting more?
They began talking, well Dave did mainly. “It is necessary to talk in this time of Aids, to know the person to feel safe,” he would say, but on reflection these women were so good at covering up he never learnt.
What was worse in a sense was that when he talked to find out he talked about himself, and when they learned of him the women wanted him. Who wouldn't? He was caring, loving, and only wanted a woman to share with him - his home, his life. Neither was he rich nor poor, but was able to provide comfortably.
They seemed to talk for hours, mainly him, but she seemed to agree. As they talked he felt more and more confident, church, single, no drinking, looking for the right one to share. Dave began to see success at last, his heart was going out to her.
He murmured and she sat next to him. Putting his arm around her he embraced her gently, and she gave willingly. What had been a confidence in her, grew to ardour. He tested her lobes, and then she responded; he could feel her shiver.
He moved his hand to her breasts, and squeezed. They were magnificent. Undoing her top buttons this magnificence became visible. Undoing her bra he buried his head in them their magnificence filling his face with their gentle flesh. He sucked on the nipples and buried his head again. He was loving this.
But it was not the best. He leaned back, and her skirt was riding high revealing the white secret of her panties. He leaned forward and kissed her again as his hand stroked her thigh and moved up to her sex. Wow, the heat. She was so hot. He couldn't take his hand away, he loved that warmth; it was a warmth he would remember a long time.
He wanted to go further but she said not there so they moved to the bedroom. They undressed and she lay on the bed, her magnificent body on full display. He climbed on top of her, and entered her. It felt uncomfortable, each time he moved he seemed to rub up against some bone. He carried on but did not enjoy it, and she came. And they slept.
He woke up and touched her, she responded. He was wrapped around her enfolding her foetally. He kissed the back of her neck, and moved his body next to hers. He entered her. Wow, he entered her. He hadn't touched her. As he kissed her and his sex grew, it seemed to gently move aside her lips and slip into its home. It felt as if it belonged there. He leaned back and holding her breasts they made love, no heavy gymnastics just gentle movement and this time they were both fulfilled. He leaned over turned her chin and kissed her fully on the lips. She smiled and turned onto her stomach, but he didn't - he would wait and savour their love.
They slept and next morning she bathed. It was cold so she dried herself in front of the fire, and as she bent over it was as if her breasts would touch the floor. He couldn't resist her temptation, and he wrapped himself around her grabbing her breasts gently. She smiled offering herself, but he wasn't in a rush. There would be many times like this.
He took her home, and said he would ring. The next day he phoned her at work, and she apologised and said she was busy. He phoned the next day, and she said she had an exam the next week and must study. When is the exam, Tuesday. He phoned her Monday, and wished her luck in the exam, and phoned her Tuesday. She said it was difficult, and she would phone him back.
She didn't phone, and he spoke to the friend who had introduced them. She loved him but she had a boyfriend. How could she have spent a night like that with a boyfriend? Kelebogile, how could you?
He went away heartbroken. But Dave was a sucker for Kelebogile. He tried to make contact 6 months later. He was told that Kelebogile loved him but she was not sure. They met on the street later, she was with friends. He smiled and greeted her, then he moved on. Looking back she was talking to her friend giggling. Was she saying this was the white man who was a fool for her? If she was, maybe he was lucky she only took his heart for a short while.
- * - * -
Lindsay was reflecting on what Ian had said that evening. Sometimes he tries to get Ian to rethink but often he becomes repetitive and doesn't bother as Ian is not ready to listen. But he is so close it is fascinating. When you consider it is so long since Ian was on drugs and yet he cannot see that his analysis is still charged with that failure to control his desires.
Ian read this in a philosophy book “In the past some people have thought of the Soul as a kind of gaseous stuff, very light and airy, which spreads through the body. The mind, when it too is thought of as like a kind of gas is usually given a more specific location: its place is thought to be inside the head”. Why is it necessary to try to substantialise either mind or Soul? Suppose we could substantialise both, what would then happen? Science would want to measure, as they did in the nineteenth century to justify the racism of slavery science claimed that the brain of a black person was smaller than that of a white person. This argument concerning racism is totally preposterous as all thinking people know, but by substantialising mind and Soul are we not in danger of going in the same direction? This person's Soul is not as big as mine, so I want a bigger salary, a better position. The fundamental problem lies in the desire for science to actually measure that which cannot be measured. We are again into an arena where reason does not belong. The rational ego cannot accept the limitation that there are aspects of life that cannot be controlled by it, that cannot be measured by it. So Soul and mind become gaseous so that we can measure the gas, its properties and so define that which is undefineable - the Soul.
One approach to such issues is to consider functionality. Rather than trying to apply dubious definitions or descriptions such as gaseous states, let us consider what functionally constitutes human nature. But first what is the purpose of this description, it is to help us understand. It is not a definition to enable reason to encapsulate by measurement, it is an attempt to help us understand and improve. Let me expand on that later.
If we consider human beings we would consider that they have a presence in the physical world, what is normally termed the body. This body can experience the world through the five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. The function of this physical body is to act as a peripheral, an input/output (IO) machine. I use the term machine advisedly because it is my contention here that there is no understanding, in fact the term experienced might be misguided implying a sense of cognition in that experiencing - a cognition I don't wish to imply. This sensory data is passed to and from the brain , and one could consider the brain as the hardcore of the processing centre but the brain is not the processor in the sense of understanding. It could be seen as a storage medium, although not memory in the sense of active remembering.
One aspect of our input/output presence would be emotions. Our body experiences something and we react with an emotion. Now emotions can be controlled, and we will examine the agent of control in a minute; but our emotions are simply reactions that have no form of cognition within them.
How does the body function? It needs its own source of energy, and it gains this source through food and through breathing. The food and breath enable the body to function. but this breath is more than air, it is a source of life energy that enables more than just the body to function.
This is tricky to explain and is the fundamental issue in Capra's “Tao of Physics”. Electricity has a cohesion as a force, you turn on a switch and the light is on. Yet to define electricity as a flow of electrons does not in any way explain this cohesion. Why doesn't the flow dissipate? Electricity is more than a flow of electrons, it is a flow of electrons with a function. There is something more than a flow of electrons that gives this electricity functionality, electricity if non-physically defined (and tautologically defined) would be a flow of electrons that exhibits the properties of electricity.
Am I playing with words here? In my view, no! I am drawing the distinction between a physical existence - a flow of electrons, and electricity which is a flow of electrons with properties. The human physical body exists in the physicial sense which we can observe, but the physical body is not a functioning without something which makes it a cohesive body with properties. That cohesion is given through the life energy of breathing, and if we don't breathe there is no life!!!
In none of this so far have I addressed the issue of mind and Soul? To get a clear understanding of the distinctions I am drawing between mind and Soul, it has to be placed in the context of the functionality I have just explained.
So far I have described human nature as an IO machine with emotions that has a cohesive life force. So far it is this machine which inputs and outputs through the five senses with emotions, but this machine so far defined does not have the ability to process the data it is experiencing nor does it have any direction or Path.
Let me continue the computer analogy although the question of Artifical Intelligence looms here. The place where the work is done in a computer is called the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Information is fed into a computer (Input) reaches the CPU, and is processed. How is it processed? It follows a set of rules laid down for it through the computer's operating system and the computer programs that we bring in to process the data. So we have an agent for processing - the CPU, and agencies for directing the processing - the operating system and computer programs. When people ask if computers have intelligence my answer is no, for the simple reason that it is the operating system and computer software that direct the activity. Without an operating system or computer software the computer cannot process the data even though the data is stored in computer memory after having been input.
I attach similar principles to mind and Soul. The mind is comparable to the CPU and the Soul is comparable to the operating system and computer software. Data is input through the human body and senses and is stored in the brain. At this stage the mind can process the data if it is directed to. In other words the mind has the ability to process but does not process without direction. The function of the mind is to do the processing if so directed.
What is this function but processing and analytical reasoning? The purpose of the mind is to take the input, process the data into a form that can be interpreted, and analyse it logically until the decisions that have to be made are clear. But then the function of the mind stops (or should stop), and the direction of the Soul takes over. The Soul is the Directing Principle, that which interprets and makes decisions ie gives life its direction and meaning. It is the understanding of these roles and the ways that they have been corrupted that is the essence of this Ph D."
Listening back to this there was really nothing that he had to say, until suddenly there is this need to delineate between mind and Soul; never does he see the human ego, himan desire in what he is discussing. Why can't this reasoning and Directing Principle be two different aspects of the mind. Not that it matters here, he thought. It is when Ian attributes the faliure to follow Natural Law as mind that he has stepped out, and that is his failure to see desire, the clinging I.
Then he remembered Ian saying "But I want to draw on final analogy between the process of computing and human nature before I leave this dangerous analogy. Who wrote the computer's operating system and the software? There was an “outside” intelligence that created these - the programmer. This points to there being an “outside” intelligence for human nature, which I quite obviously agree with from what has been written so far. But why have I put outside in quotes? The programmer is the intelligence that writes the software but her/his intelligence is contained within the software as well in much the same way as an artist's creativity is contained within the work of art. Comparatively our Souls contain in some way the Intelligence that is God's Creation.
"Human Beings are not machines and to choose a simplistic model such as a computer to describe human nature is fraught with danger: I do not believe that Nature can be modelled - I was using it as an analogy to try to get across the way I conceive of the difference between mind and Soul. Fundamentally I perceive that mind has begun usurping the role of Soul by attempting to make decisions and interpret. This sounds petty, so what if mind is making decisions? And here is where I need to ask you to take another jump of acceptance. If our Souls are part of God's Creation then presumably that Soul has a grander Role or Purpose - a Role and Purpose that I hope to demonstrate is a Role as part of Evolution and Nature. If the decisions and interpretations, instead of being made in line with Evolution, are actually made by a mind whose original potential or purpose did not include this, then we can have potential disaster and chaos. Oh dear, look at the world, has technology (created by minds) not invented the nuclear weapon, are natural disasters not unnecessarily rife whilst some people live in splendour in the same world where young are dying of poverty? It is my intention to show that we are living in a world where the mind of Human Nature has expanded beyond its limitations and that because we have forgotten the original Purposes of our Souls we are contributing to human devolution, chaos and disaster. Education has a role to play in recognising the limitations of mind, but unfortunately education is the chief source of those who are educating the minds that create the technology and those who misuse it."
Ian why are you attributing such personal charcteristics to the mind? What are the things that make our drives so personal. They are the desires, desires that we cling to, desires that prevent us from getting at the deeper aspects of mind.
He recalled Ian again. "So how does mind make decisions if the Purpose of the Soul is the decision-maker? Here I am using mind to represent a particular circumstance, the situation where the mind cons the Soul into making a wrong decision - the trickster that Don Juan in Castaneda (a series of books written by Carlos Castaneda about his relationship to a Yaqui Indian and Yaqui knowledge) refers to. Let me try to elaborate. "
Ian, who is the trickster?
"The purpose of mind is not to make decisions but to process and analyse allowing the Soul to make the decisions in line with its Purpose. But what if the mind makes the wrong analysis or incorrectly processes then the Soul has difficulty discerning the Truth and then makes the wrong decision."
Analysing is only one purpose. Ian does your mind do all the bad things and you Soul all the good things. If it does then the Soul is more than a Principle?
"This sounds very abstract, and very esoteric. What is the point in making such distinctions if it is just a theoretical construct much like any mental construct that does not include Soul.
"Let us consider a concrete example, and there is nothing more concrete than sex. How many people have been placed in difficult circumstances through sexual misconduct? Let us consider the relative factors involved in sexual misconduct such as a one-night stand within marriage - a marriage with children. For the sake of argument, and also a basic premise that I believe in, people should remain faithful within marriage so that the unit is a good environment for bringing up children - this is a position espoused by all the major religions. Now let us consider the situation where the man is tempted to have a one-night stand. Clearly the temptation occurs because the body feels a sexual attraction. But is that enough to warrant all the possible consequences of divorce etc? The mind then embellishes that sexual attraction, making the prospect sound more attractive. She is so sexy, beautiful, one night won't hurt anyone. The wife won't find out. Add to this alcohol or other drugs which decrease the capacity for correct decision-making, and there is an unnecessary sexual act. Here I am claiming that the lust that overtakes the decision-making process is actually a mental construct. Yes, there is a basis in physical attraction, and there may be a physical need - perhaps the wife is angry with him or she is menstruating, but this is not the real reason for the indiscretion. It is the lust, the desires that have been created by the mind and exaggerated to such an extent that the man justifies the extra-marital affair even though it could destroy a very important part of his life. Not only the lust comes into play but the man will also feel strong emotions for the woman. We have a circumstance where the mind creates a great lust swirling around with other strong emotions and perhaps alcohol, so the Soul is not given the proper processing and analysis and the wrong decision is made. Basically at this stage the Soul abdicates responsibility for the action as the base urges are so strong, and animal instinct takes over.
"Here the mind exaggerates a natural urge to such an extent that the decision is removed from the Province of the Soul, and instinctive human behaviour occurs - the body's instinct for sex. Here following the Path of the Soul would not cause problems but allowing the mind to take over with its desires leads to much marital, and therefore social, chaos. "
Ian, here you have said it all. What is perhaps the most powerful human desire? Sex. Yet you want to attribute sexual desire to the mind to suit your view of mind. The human ego does build up the desires making them hard to control, it is the swirling mist that prevents the mind from showing wisdom in the situation. What a strange consruct you have built, Ian.
- * - * -
Bill started on the Oppenheimer scenario.
“I can never forgive Oppenheimer,” he exclaimed, Charlotte walked out of the room. “No matter what the provocation, he should not have continued his work.” As usual he got extreme about this issue.
“He wasn't alone at the Alamo,” Janice pointed out.
“OK, the generic Oppenheimer,” conceded Bill begrudgingly “the scientist who buries his head in the sand.”
“They had their reasons,” continued Janice “surely we must have research and study.”
“Undoubtedly,” he answered “but the scientist must be responsible for the consequences of his actions.”
“But the scientists' job is research,” she continued, her brother worked for the Ministry of Defence. She had discussed this with him many times. “It is the role of the politicians to make the decisions.”
“Do you trust the politicians? Do they have your interests at heart - the peoples' interest?” he asked rhetorically, her silence confirming the question's implication.
“If they didn't have the weapons, the politicians would not be able to make their decisions,” he continued, then paused.
“And the problem with this is ego,” his final point was starting, and his oft-repeated argument was reaching the conclusion. “The ego enjoys the work in the laboratory, and the ego wants to continue this work. In such scientific work the mind's processing and analytical capacities are used to the full, the full potentialities of the mind. "
"There is nothing wrong with the reasoning mind making full use of its capacities," answered Lindsay "if that process is compassionate. Your issue here is not with the mind."
Ian ignored Lindsay as he often did.
"If the Soul were to say, it is not morally right to create a nuclear bomb, the mind would not be able to continue using its full capacities. Someone says to the scientist that they have such tremendous abilities they should use them, and the mind's ego gets puffed up with pride."
"It is not mind's ego, it is human desire that is puffed up with pride," responded Lindsay quietly "The human mind makes the moral decision not to create the bomb because of those that will misuse it, but human desire continues with the work anyway because of its misplaced ego."
Ian continued unabated “At the same time the scientist's livelihood depends on his scientific work - his good standard of living etc. Because the scientist is successful, s/he enjoys the work so there is positive emotion connected with this scenario, apart from the positive emotion associated with her/his livelihood. So again we have a swirling situation. The mind is fulfilled in the job, the emotions are all swirling around accepting the situation as it stands, and the Soul is saying this is not right. Unless the scientist is closely connected to her/his Soul, and this is not likely because of our education system, the swirling scenario prevails and the scientist continues with reservations - and perhaps a drink problem.”
Lindsay repeated to himself, the human ego, the human ego. Why does Ian insist on seeing everything in terms of Soul. Yet this was the first time he had heard Ian saying things that didn't make sense. How can he possibly say that the mind develops a life of its own when involved in good scientific work? Does he not see that he has overstepped the mark? His drugs not facing the ego aspect again?
Charlotte walked back into the room to a silence. “Have you told him that with the money around there will always be other Oppenheimers?”
- * - * -
“Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice? Assuredly there is.
And an absolute beauty and absolute good?
But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes? Certainly not.
Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? (and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything)” [CD Phaedo 1 p8].
Here is what Socrates said:-
“Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? Or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?
And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very light of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her. [CD PHAEDO 2 P8]
“Then whatever the soul possesses, to that she comes bearing life?” [CD PHAEDO 3 P39]. Without a soul there is no life. Soul is the Directing Principle that uses life energy to actuate life. This again is a clear description of the process of life as gained through Received Wisdom and as described by Plato p39 above.
- * - * -
They had all tried something alternative - it was the fashion in their set. What is interesting is to compare what is in common with all?
They all loved Krishnamurti. It was only in the 80s that they found Brockwood Park, and they would travel down often staying in Bed and Breakfast for a weekend. Ian particularly found him interesting whereas others criticised “He is not telling us what to do,” he simply loved the mental challenge - removing the contents of consciousness.
Then one day he read “thoughts are never new”. This was one he was going to have read and study and study and …
Meditation clearly came into their circle. Is it a mantra? Do you repeat a phrase? Do you focus on a word? Theosophy gave Charlotte the exercises for concentration and meditation, and they were keen on formality. But Bill reminded them that Krishnamurti had moved away from them.
“That was their adulation of him,” Charlotte answered “Whenever he speaks he always says to listen and to understand, not to accept what he is saying as a form of gospel.” Bill thought back to that huge marquee so conducive to sleeping, and he can remember K's pleas, imploring the active participation in what he was saying, not simply acceptance.
But Krishnamurti had much to say on meditation, for him it was not systems meditation was observation. But they had a Buddhist friend, and she always claimed that daily meditation gave her strength.
But these alternatives had a physical side, the body was the vehicle. If that vehicle is not tuned it does not function as well. Tuning also took many forms, yoga, Tai Chi, and (other?) martial arts.
“I have always found Tai Chi has helped my health,” Ian commented over tea - mint tea or maybe sage tea. “I like the movement, it is like meditation in motion.” “And me yoga,” Janice put in.
“I have trouble with some of the postures, I think it is a birth defect,” Bill tried to explain “I don't know whether it was the football, or even an accident rambling, or it might be a birth defect, but I can never get near the lotus. My hip doesn't allow the movement.
” “You can still meditate in other postures like the Japanese so long as you deal with the vehicle.” He did.
“Yes,” they all agreed “we need to look after the vehicle”.
“And none of this hack and slash of Western medicine, “ Bill jumped in.
“To be avoided,” they murmured.
“And the drugs - only as a last resort if we are absolutely sure,” added Charlotte. “You look after your health, the drug companies look after their profits.”
There are common threads in the alternatives.
- * - * -
“Plato is the benchmark of my philosophy,” Ian told Janice, “Has philosophy always been this duality?” way? Plato clearly does not see a philosopher in this post-Bacon context. In Phaedo Socrates speaking to Simmias ”Does it appear to you to be becoming in a philosopher to be anxious about pleasures, ….such as meats and drink? …. About the pleasures of love? Does he seem to value or despise the possession of magnificent garments and sandals, and other ornaments of the body?” [Vol 1 Phaedo p62]
“Does not the whole employment of such a man appear to you to be ….occupied about his soul?” [idem]
Philosophy has moved from a Platonic occupation with the soul, to “the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality” [Concise Oxford Dictionary]. Is occupation of the soul the same as the use of reason and argument? The distance between these two positions is the purpose of this work, together with an understanding as to how that distance has developed.
Summarily one might assume that reason and argument were the Socratic method. Socrates refers to putting men to the test, he further refers to “young men who have much liesure ….themselves attempt to put others to the test” [Vol 1 Apology p9]. This test, I would feel, could be termed reason and argument.(Socratic method is also discourse, yet academia does not embrace that in its works.) “The greatest pleasure would be to spend my time in questioning and examining the people there as I have done those here, and discovering who among them is wise, and who fancies himself to be so but is not” [Vol 1 Apology pp28-29].
But Plato does not see reason and argument as the ultimate authority. Why was Socrates a philosopher? “When the deity as I thought and believed, assigned it as my duty to pass my life in the study of philosophy, ….through fear of death ….(I) should desert my post” [Vol 1 Apology p16]. “O Athenians I honour and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you; and as long as I breathe and am able, I shall not cease studying philosophy” [Vol 1 Apology p17]. Plato is unequivocal, he uses Socratic method but he himself obeys God. This is significantly different to the position of marginalised revelation in the post-Bacon knowledge. I would like to consider this position as reason and argument within a Divine Order - or Divine Principle, and I will return to this later. Clearly his questioning would also fit into this Divine Order, having a purpose.
If Plato is to be the benchmark, then I need to establish the criteria of the benchmark I intend to use. Here is the deposition for Socrates' trial “Socrates acts wickedly, and is criminally curious in searching into things under the earth, and in the heavens, and in making the worse appear the better cause, and in teaching the same things to others” [Vol 1 Apology p5].
In his defence he cites the Oracle as telling him to search out the wise. “The god however, O Athenians, appears to be really wise, and to mean this by his oracle, that human wisdom is worth little or nothing; ….that man, Socrates, is the wisest among you, who knows that he is in reality worth nothing with respect to wisdom” [Vol 1 Apology p9]. Being wise is knowing how little wisdom we have - a benchmark. And Socrates' final entreaty to his judges “Punish my sons, O judges, ….if they appear to you to care for riches before virture, and if they think themselves something when they are nothing” [Vol 1 Apology p29].
To help me through the 7 volumes of Plato, I began to look at Russell's “History of Western Philosophy”. Throughout his chapter on Plato's Republic [Ch XIV Plato's Utopia pp 125-134], his tone clearly denotes disbelief. But it is a history, you say, and I agree. But take the consideration of belief further. Can Christians believe in Shamanism? Yet Christians, or at least Christian culture, writes academic critiques of Shamanistic practices. If those writers do not believe, how can they possibly present a true picture of the religion? In medicine, if we believe in the cure it happens, if not …. What about faith healers?
So what about philosophy? Can we present a philosophy if we do not believe in it? Socrates presents his philosophy as his way of life, he is seeking to perfect his soul and is following Divine orders to that effect. “And I think that no greater good has befallen you in the city, than my zeal for the service of the god. For I go about doing nothing else than persuading you, both young and old, to take no care either for the body, or for riches, prior to or so much as for the soul, how it may be made most perfect, telling you that virtue does not spring from riches, but riches and all other human blessing, public and private, from virtue” [Vol 1 Apology p17].
Are the views of current vogue that I discussed from Heil presenting a set of beliefs that are their ways of liofe, where they are Divinely given to them. I would suggest not, they are arguments presented to justify a position. What is that position - a job in the philosophy department, notoriety through publishing?? Are these justifications for presenting a theory when Plato has presented a philosophy whose genesis is perfecting the soul through Divine order? Belief in the way of life of the philosophy is a benchmark. When people are presenting academic works, can they say with all honesty that their work in some way is helping perfect their soul? I was writing to people who are trying to follow a Spiritual Path, and I was trying to explain that I considered that this work has a spiritual basis - and I felt guilty. I felt that knowledge through academia was so far removed from the True Path that maybe I was allowing my miond to con me into playing this game, and that I truly was not following my Path. I cannot answer that, but what an appalling state academia has reached where such a question can be legitimately asked?
To be fair to Russell, he is presenting a history and not his philosophy - not his way of life; and in that, of course, there is validity. But one does have to be circumspect concerning those who don't believe in what they write. As a guide Russell's book continues to have validity for me.
In Chapter XV on The Theory of Ideas, he starts with “Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of the world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never rest from these evils - no, nor the human race, as I believe - and then only will this our State have a possiblity of life and behold the light of day” [Russell p135].
Is this a philosopher constructing a philosophy as part of an academic parlour game? No, the purpose of Plato's philosophy is that philosophers are to be kings, that philosophy is to be applied in everyday life from the position of rulership. This is not a game to Plato, it is a way of life of rulers. This, I would suggest, should be a benchmark, that the philosophy is not only a way of life but a way of life of rulers leading to a society that will have a “possibility of life and behold the light of day”.
“A philosopher is a lover of wisdom” [Russell p136]. Again I intend to use this as a benchmark, is the propounded philosophy intended as some form of wisdom? I will try to delve later into the meaning of wisdom, knowledge through the soul, but here I could counter it as not being intellectual parlour games. Wisdom itself also has its application in everyday life, part of the benchmark of a philosophy just described.
And Plato also discusses a notion of good, or is it God? “The soul is like an eye; when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion, and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence …. Now what imparts truth to the known and power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science” [Russell p 140]. Is this reason and argument, this good which “imparts truth to the known and power of knowing to the knower”? I think not, yet this is Plato's science - not experimental evidence.
Lindsay thought Ian would like Plato with his soul.
And to Deana. Mga pagbati Deana. Deana was Filipina, and Andy often talked of Filipinas. Deana was so comfortable and such a joy to be with.
“But she never comes over,” he'd complain over a beer “she says she loves me but she never comes to visit.”
“It's her work,” Andy ranted “her auntie won't let her out. But she never tells me. I want to see her and talk to her but she never tells me what is happening. She always makes her decisions on her own - no sharing.”
“Maybe, she was hurt,” Faisal suggested.
“OK I try to give her time,” Andy said “but each time she doesn't come. She says she will come then she doesn't. It's a phone relationship, not togetherness.“
It finished as quickly as it started. She phoned in the morning in tears, and Andy's heart leapt out to her.
“You will give me money for a flat?” Deana cried “I will come to be with you.”
“You are coming round to talk?” he asked.
“Yes I will call you later,” she sobbed, he could feel her pain. Down went that phone of discommunication.
She phoned later. “I had a row with my Auntie,” she admitted. “What happened?”
“I will tell you later,” she promised - again? “I will phone.” Down clattered discommunication.
Later the call. “I can't see you,” her voice was so faint.
“Because?” he asked.
“I can't tell you,” again her voice barely above a whisper.
“You should call me only when you are serious,” he told her finally, and the discommunication gave out its final tone as he pushed gently the cut-off.
His mind started spinning, was it ….? was it ….?, was he too hasty? But he had control of his life back.
“I cared for her, I might even have grown to love her,” he confided in Faisal “but what was she doing?”
“There is no commitment, you need to be married,” Faisal advised him again. He was now of that opinion, although not to Deana.
- * - * After many years on the fringe of society Charlotte began to dabble with meditation. Because she was in art people around her had always discussed meditation, but here her mental dismissiveness had stepped in. She was creative, being in creation was such a powerful experience, the focus, the intensity, the sheer joy; vaguely she had seen this as a sort of meditation and had been satisfied with that. Whatever after art her head felt clearer and she felt complete.
Then she began to formally educate herself on these matters and moved to theosophy. Theosophy was one of those things that had always been on the fringe of her life because of art. How did art relate to these things, she suddenly thought to herself? Difficult. It did, let's start from there. All these people were near the art scene, if not a part of it. But they were often the talkers of art, those who were able to express in words what was meant by art. One of these had taken her to theosophy. As she moved down Gloucester Place (Road? - she can't remember now), she began to wonder - a bit moneyed? Then she reached #50. Simon took her in, and they moved towards the coffee and biscuits.
She looked around, it was one of Mummy's parties in Surrey. Genteel people being very polite to each other. A real hotbed of spiritual revolution here, she thought. She was introduced to one or two nameless people who were very pleasant and polite.
After this they moved into the lecture theatre and a tall man started talking. There was reverential silence, except that she noticed some started dozing - but then they were getting on, like her mother. The man spoke of the importance of yoga and meditation, and the importance of daily practise. She remembered this, one of those memories.
Then began discussion on the talk, and she heard one man stand up and say “It is important that we meditate because mind is the great slayer of the Real”. That's very interesting she thought, and looked around at Simon who was obviously trying to control a snigger.
She went away impressed, and decided that she must follow this up. They had mentioned a course because they had also said that daily study was important so she decided to buy this and start.
And she did. She changed her routine and got up an hour early. Yoga, meditation, and some time on the course. Later she attended a weekend in Camberley on yoga and meditation theory. Funny, even though I was brought up in Surrey I have never been to Camberley. Getting off at one of those samey Surrey stations she walked up the hill, and along a tree-strewn avenue to reach the grounds. Mmmm, there's money here. She registered and was shown to her room, it was a hall of residence.
Set meal times, she met mummies' party again, but there was an atmosphere here - it was nice. It was not explosive like her creativity but it was generally nice. The courses started and she listened intently. Boy, there is a lot of theory here, isn't yoga sitting cross-logged on the floor? Funnily enough, they never did any yoga that weekend.
As the weekend progressed discussion around the topic developed and it got more interesting, and by the end of the weekend she realised that she was quite enthralled and had learnt a great deal. She went home and back to her study, not quite so ravaged by the creative urge of her art.
Soon there was a week's course somewhere in Hertfordshire, that green belt of London was always somewhere in Herts. She arrived there at some long school-type building - a hall maybe, and there was a chapel.
On this course every morning there was yoga and meditation in the chapel, and she went - why didn't everyone else?
During the week there were very interesting talks, and her mind was full of chains and rounds and layer cakes and all such, it was fascinating. Then she was out on the field at the back of the school, that was it the place reminded her of her school, the long building and the playing field at the back. Some strange old guy was talking with her and her friends, yes she had seen him at Camberley. He told her “Your mind is just full of it, isn't it?”, and laughed. She looked at him quizzically, why was that funny? “Forget the schemes,” he said “just do it.”
She thought about this and remembered that this was the guy who had annoyed her because he was living off stocks and shares. He had dismissed her when she had questioned his ethics, and she had decided that Camberley was not the place for a tirade.
She remembered one other thing about this course, and that was Roots. Her job, and her art to some extent, brought her into contact with black people. She knew the importance of the need for race equality. She thought, well surely theosophists as caring people would be involved with this. There was a barely-used TV room, and she rushed down 10-15 minutes before it was due to start. The room was full, and the news was on. She felt solid, a community commitment. Then the news finished and they all left, well there was about three or four. When it started she felt herself drawn into the power of the portrayal of a real-life struggle, she was engrossed. The next night and for the rest of the nightly programmes she was the only one. Roots, and she was the only one.
At one of their ”mummies' parties” some women had spoken to her about the need for real-life practical commitment, and when she said that she worked on a community project in an Inner City area they seemed to take heart from that. Yes theosophy was being practical.
But soon she realised that although she had learnt a great deal theosophy was not for her - it was a good place for the theory but ….She should not begrudge these people their crutch if it helps, maybe the same people were still going and having tea and cakes and then a lecture - some sleeping.
I shouldn't be so cynical, she thought, theosophy has helped me a great deal and introduced me to a great world of thought. And even meditation.
- * - * - Charlotte was talking about her art. “Artists infuriate me, it is their nearness that has created their distance from True Reality,” she claimed enigmatically. Bill smiled, having come from one of the bastions of the mind, maths he enjoyed exposes of the duplicity of some in art.
“Their gift gives them a head start on Reality,” she continued “By their very intuition, their creativity, they have tapped into that Great Wonder.”
She paused as she felt the disappointment in herself, her personal history “But that very closeness came too easily. It was not a closeness that came from right understanding, it was luck?”
“Or maybe kamma,” asked Jeanette.
She would always come up with astute questions, but where was her consciousness? She seemed to ask but never move on.
“From birth their art was a gift, a present from the Gods, the Muse,” she emphasised “but instead of taking that as a starting point many artists stagnate, they don't move forward. Their work becomes imitation, maybe of earlier work, they copy masters (perhaps their own). Their art joins the realm of the mind where no thought is ever new, as Krishnamurti would have said.
“To begin their intuition is present as a gift, then as their life progresses this intuition gets hidden behind experience and the mind's grasp of it.
“The intuition becomes buried, the artist is blocked,” she exclaimed decisively.
“But it needn't remain that way?” asked Jeanette.
“Because of that initial gift the artist forgets the Path, they indulge the gift, they indulge what life offers them not in terms of wealth, but in terms of people, their social life, their mutual adulation. And the adulation of the majority of society whose minds never get near these arenas,” Charlotte harps on angry at her own failure early on.
“But if that artist attempts to follow the Path, they have a head start because they are able to recognise the Reality when it comes to them. They can recognise the intuition, and so long as they don't let mind hold to it, they can use their art to move forward to the True Reality” she continued being carried away.
“Which might include art?” piped in Jeanette, and Charlotte eyed her, puzzled. “Yes, it might include art” she answered slowly “the outward form is not important. What is important is the Path, the Truth."
“I think this is one up for the maths guys,” biffed in Bill jauntily.
“Maybe so,” conciliated Charlotte “ I am unsure. But certainly with such a mind-controlled branch of knowledge there are not the pointers, the intuition.”
“I disagree,” he said “the process of maths is logic and reason - the avenues of the tools of the mind. But where do you start? Once on the way the tools can lead you through, but where do you start? It is this ability to start which is what makes the Einsteins. And those starting points are intuition.”
“So these are just different paths?” chimed Jeanette.
- * - * - /-------------------- / ------------------------- /
Deana phoned Andy at 5.00 am.
“Andy I am in the Phillipines,” she said softly in a voice echoing of long distance.
“I cannot afford the fare. Will you pay for me and I will come and live with you?” she asked politely. Plans plans and plans must have run round her confused mind to tink that was now a realistic offer.
Andy thought for a while, and simply replied. “No I can't,” he said gently but finally. After a pause he put the phone down quietly. He didn't go back to sleep.
/-------------------- / ------------------------- /
Bill planned it. For some reason he and Andrew still kept in touch from the computer days. He knew why in Andrew's case. Andrew liked Bill and his friends for doing something. All that Andrew did in life was work, drink to excess after work, and chase women. Sure Andrew at times showed a spark, but it was all bar talk. He wanted to teach, he wanted to help in Africa, Rwanda, Roumania, whatever came up, but he never did it. Bill did it, and Andrew liked the contact - maybe something rubbed off on him. Or maybe the guilt made him feel better.
As for Bill he was less sure. There were many times they were talking, and he was saying to himself what am I doing here? Why am I bothering to try to talk sense to this man? But he always came back, and he always tried.
But Andrew's mind was sharp, if misdirected, and this time he was going to use it to sharpen his own thoughts. He had woken up one night, and thought “Socialism is part of Nature”.
“You have got to be joking,” laughed Andrew, a mock laugh but a laugh that meant to ridicule.
“No, I'm deadly serious,” he answered, knowing how ludicrous the idea would sound to Andrew.
There was a pause. Andrew was knocked back and didn't know where to begin, and Bill was waiting to have his position sharpened.
Then Andrew came out with the usual City boy argument. “Nature is about survival of the fittest, evolution removes the species that cannot survive. The survivors in our society are the capitalists, the people who can use the system, make their stack, their houses ….”.
“I know, cars,” interrupted Bill “women ….”. A poignant pause here, they both thought of Veronica. “But there is a big jump in your argument. Let's break it down. Yes, Nature is about survival, but it is not about excess - She has balance. Lions don't kill when they have just eaten, they rest. They will protect themselves if attacked, as you will have recognised if you disturbed their rest.
“So survival is part of Nature but it is not the overall rule. Nature has checks and balances, and animals follow those checks and balances. But humanity doesn't, humanity indulges its excesses because their minds are out of control.”
“So what has that got to do with socialism?” asked Andrew with interest, his mind was being challenged here.
“Look at lions, they live together in packs, prides,” answered Bill. “Species have a need to work for each other.”
“No problem, it's not just survival of the individual there is a group Nature, a species survival,” conceded Andrew. “But that is far from socialism.”
“OK give me time,” countered Bill quickly “Let me give you another example. Dolphins. Their survival activities lead some to consider dolphins to be intelligent, I think it's just a more developed survival strategy.
“Dolphins have scouts. When they swim around and they see a shoal of fish - food, they will drive that food towards the rest of the dolphins. I wouldn't call this caring but if humans were doing this, it would be a caring act on the part of the scout.
“In my view there is in Nature a notion of species survival, it might not be as strong as survival of the individual but it is there.”
“Again I can concede that,” said Andrew, “but wait I'm empty. You're still not drinking?” Bill just smiled.
Andrew returned with his poison, and Bill's fruit juice and went to empty his damaged bladder.
“Just because there is a species survival component that is still a long way from socialism,” Andrew pronounced as he sat down. “It is well known in our society that we care, we look after our families but we care.”
Bill ignored this chestnut. “OK so let's take this notion a step further. We look after ourselves and our families but the way we do this is very short-sighted.
“We live in one world, one economy, one communication, one Nature. Look at that oneness in the world. Historically we deprived Africa of its people, its food and natural resources, and this gave us a leg-up in terms of the industrial revolution. And our houses and standard of living have just continued to develop from there, once ahead careful manipulation keeps us there.”
“Yes, the manipulation of capitalists, not socialists, it is our skills in the market that now keep us ahead,” Andrew was up here.
“Undoubtedly true now,” agreed Bill “The country's strategy of survival of the fittest country - the species Britain - is clearly maintained by the coke freaks of the City.”
“But this is a conflict situation,” argued Bill “Whilst the species Britain is taking from the species Africa, then there is an inherent conflict in species Africa. What are the results of that? We cannot continue to exploit, eventually what we are exploiting will run out. If we run out of the species Africa what does that mean?
“I maintain Nature won't allow that to happen. Africa is part of herself she will not allow Africa to “run out”,” Bill continued and admitted “I don't actually know what that means practically but ….”
“OK I can see where you are going with this but it is still not socialism. What you are actually talking about is caring capitalism,” concluded Andrew.
“Brinkmanship,” Bill chimed in.
“OK maybe brinkmanship but it works.” Bill started to interrupt “No wait. If it avoids the conflict then that's enough. In Nature lions are king, they have the lions' share, others, the hyenas feed off their scraps. So long as the food chain is maintained then we all have our roles in Nature. Number 1) US, Number 2) Europe, Number 1000)Africa. We have our places in the Nature of things.”
Bill liked that, it was sharp. “I can see that but there is a difference. Lions and hyenas are different species, but westerners and Africans are the same species. So when you feed the same species scraps then they start to fight back.”
“Yes but there's still a pecking order in the pride of lions and when there is not enough food the weakest dies out - survival of the fittest,” Bill seemed to be struggling, Andrew was gloating, mind shining.
“I can see this,” mumbled Bill, then light started shining “Nature can't allow a people and its continent to die out - OK maybe the people but not the continent.”
“But don't you see there is always this adversity, conflict, there is no balance. What if there was balance, Nature would be happy,” he was clearer now. “We can continue as we are. The West continues to exploit Africa. The West will continue to value its materialism, and the mind can continue to think that it is living a superior life.
“But the future lies with working with Nature, without the conflict. Conflict means wars, we will continue to have wars, whenever people start to think that their exploitation is excessive.
“But what about peace? Can't we have peace? Can't we find a balanced way that avoids all those conflicts?” entreated Bill.
“And you're going to tell me that the way of peace is socialism?” laughed Andrew.
“Of course I am,” smiled Bill “because it is - if the people are ready for it.” Bill looked at his watch, he saw the state of Andrew's eyes and decided there was not much more here.
“We will continue this,” Bill got up and left. Maybe they would.
- * - * -
“There was something about Thailand”, Jon once said, but this is getting ahead of ourselves.
In our doscussions we have lamented about Africa's women, such tremendous beauties. But Africa had a different beauty that matches its peace. Isn't peaceful a strange word for the West to hear Africa described as? But of course the West wants Africa to be considered as lacking peace, in the same way nineteenth century scientists measured the capacity of the African brain as less than its white counterpart. Intellectuals can enslave stupid people in the same way that capitalists can exploit the warlike.
But whatever wars its leaders fight, whatever the satraps the West's puppets create, there still lies in Africa a peace. Is it its people? It must be but you can see much quarrelsomeness there. You can see minds unable to make minor adjustments to accommodate, yet within this conflict there is peace.
It must be the land, what else? Can a land be peaceful? But there is a harmony between the people and the land despite European incursions.
What about a land called Shashe? Here is a dam created to water the thirsts of Francistown. The river mostly is a dry river bed, was it dry before the dam? In the Summer with the rains the dam is “full”, the people know what that means. Then as the rains disappear the water level in the dam lessens and lessens. Around about April the level has dropped dramatically, and you can start to drive round part of the dam, until by June you can almost do a full circuit - Mark hopes he's got the months right.
So what you may say? Or even does this not cause water shortages? Mark didn't think so. But with the change of level comes the bird life. In his chauvinism he always laughed at ornithologists who take delight at briefly spotting the greater speckled, lesser spotted mini-sparrow warbler.
But at the dam Mark came to love the sight of birds. First he noted the vultures. Flocks of these ugly scavengers mingled freely with the cows on the cud, on the reeds, or whatever they could find. The first time, he thought vultures and was frightened. But for no reason. He used to sit under the now exposed reeds sheltering from the sun watching these beasts. This was not a glimpse, the flocks were just there. A man in a chair under reeds was not blending with nature, this was not a hide hoping for a glimpse. It was just the scene. The meandering edge of the dam could be seen as a lagoon. Round the corner his bakkie would trundle, and this flock would be there. He drove round to his spot under the reeds, and watched and slept, and stared at the blue and green of the bush and dam. And to his right were Shashe Dam Vultures.
Now the flamingoes, they were more like glimpsed. Is this what they call a shy bird? Anyway there would be maybe a hundred of these pinks on sticks growing in this shallow dam water. But you couldn't go near. As you moved towards them on foot they would lugubriously stalk off, and where they were you didn't follow for fear of “getting stuck”.
And then at the end of the Shashe Dam circuit were the pelicans. These were not fearless like the vultures but were not as timid as the flamingoes. They would stand their ground on their trees whilst you played around at the edge.
Yet this Africa is not a reknowned game park, to Mark it was just Africa. He supposed it was an Africa that Africans might know, not the Africa of the tourist's game drives, just an Africa of the village, an Africa the villagers took for granted maybe. He didn't know, he never asked.
But there were the game parks, many giraffe, the dreaded baboons and monkeys, and the elephants that roamed the streets of Kasane at night whilst the hippo shared the camp-site in the same Kasane. Then there was the camp-site built on an elephant trail on the Ngoma(?) border between Namibia and Botswana. Sitting there Mark thought it was a joke, when some hardened white guy tried to frighten him as is their wont. “Yes I built the camp-site on a trial the elephant follow at night down to the water.” Mark laughed with him until that night when he heard rustling and chomping. There they were chomping away at the bark of the trees, maybe 50 yards away. Laughably he placed his chair across the entrance to his tent, oh yeah these guys could have walked on the tent, let alone be worried by some fold-away comfort.
Yet just up the road in Katima Mulilo Mark camped, and at night he was warned to put all his belongings inside his tent as the scavengers from across the river, the Zambians, would steal. Was this true? But he did it.
“But you loved this Africa,” Mark would say, “or you never stayed.” This is the Africa that gets in your blood. It is the Africa with all its problems that calls you back every time you see a Nature programme on the box. It isn't a place, it's a feeling, it's a love of freedom, freedom in the place, freedom in its people. Sadly a freedom that leads to poor discipline but it is still freedom.
“Where else do you get this freedom?” asked Mark. And this was when Jon suggested to Mark that he come out of Africa and move towards Thailand.
“When I first visited Thailand I was in Chiang Mai as a tourist. Well that's not quite true but I had one day to be a tourist. And there was a ubiquitous tour, in this land of tours and tourists. Elephants, waterfalls and punting in the forest of the North, with a hill-tribe village thrown in,” began Jon. Mark had visited Jon's parents and there, sitting on the TV, was the obligatory 100 baht photo of Jon on top of the elephant.
“I knew this freedom when I went up on this tour,” said Jon. Neither had visited the other's freedom but the voice, the distant sound, the words that carried them respectively out of the room to a distant land. This freedom was there for both.
“But it wasn't the tour, Mark” pleaded Jon.
“I know,” empathised Mark “you can't tell anyone they have to know.”
They nodded together into silence.
Phil hadn't known Faisal for long. When they had first met it had been religion, or discussions about religion that had been their common ground. Phil was beginning to see himself as a religious man, a man of religion. But he always floundered when asked which religion? For he had none. Yet he now tried to live a religious life, maybe what Plato would have called a True Philosopher; certainly Pirsig would claim his life had quality - no technical rationality or blind dogma in Phil's religion. Mind you there was no dogma if there was no religion!
“I seem to oscillate between the need for the love of a woman, and an almost hermit-like need for spirituality,” he confessed one day to Faisal.
Now Faisal was a man of contentment, perhaps even complacency. His faith was to imitate the life of his Sheikh and he had a beautiful wife and three children he was devoted to - devoted to only secondly to his daily immense devotion to Allah.
“Your searches have lacked commitment,” Faisal explained patiently.
“Agreed,” his breath carried the word in exasperation “but how can I be committed to the women who have betrayed my love?”
“Maybe they wouldn't?” intoned Faisal “women need to know that you will be there.”
“But how can I be there if they will deceive and dishonour?” pleaded Phil abjectly.
“It seems that each time I sense in these women a bond, a cosmic bond?” he mused rhetorically. “But then when we get together I find only glimpses of this bond.”
“Are you actually glimpsing a bond between the two of you?” asked Faisal.
Phil began to latch onto this, here was a moment, a pregnant moment, a moment that was leading to insight.
“That bond is not love between us, it is Love and Compassion,” he sparked “That love that we search for whose origins are Divine.”
“I think you can say that,” hedged Faisal.
“Our relationships need to be second to our religious lives - if we are truly men of religion,” he continued following the insight. “But if that love is not between us, but that of Divine Love, then our relationships are not themselves about love between two people. They are about Divine Love, and their purpose is to help that Loving.”
“Exactly, and you will never find that purpose casually - one night stands, a relationship now, one in six months - however caring or religious you may feel you are.” Faisal drew this conclusion and further.
“So you're relationship must be built on religion, on a shared religious life.”
“I can see that Faisal now, even though,“ Phil paused “you have said this to me before.”
“All my life I have searched for the spark. I have jumped headlong into turbulent waters, swam to the edge, and then jumped back in looking for the spark again. But that spark is not a lifeline between two, it is the lifeline that is the Unity in all of us if we only allowed it to shine.”
“But rather than let it shine, we dive back into the turbulent waters. It is the love that comes from discipline, commitment, and sharing the devotion to Allah that will give you happiness in a relationship.”
Phil had already told Faisal that he could never follow Islam, but they knew both that Allah was Divine. Happiness was not a love created between two but a Love that existed around for all to enjoy. Should he write to Barbara Cartland?
*-*-* - * - * -
Was Jon a Buddhist? For all his life Jon had rejected labels. He had been a theosophist, and yet he wasn't one. He was into Tai Chi but in no way was it his life? His job was a teacher, and education was his life. But he wasn't a teacher because the way the system practised teaching was not to teach.
He had recently realised that he was a religious man. He believed in God, whether it was the Christian God, the God Named Allah, or the God that was Buddhist Enlightenment. He was a religious man, but was he a Buddhist?
There was Zen Buddhism for which the essential was zazen. He practised zazen regularly, he always said how wonderful it was, how lucky he was. But then there were other forms of Buddhism, Thera Vada, Mahayana, Tantric and ….He was ignorant, there would be many more.
There were the four Noble Truths. Life is suffering and he believed there was a reason for this - Karma, and his meditation helped a great deal.
And then the 8-fold path. He looked at those, his language was appalling - some would describe his having the mouth of a trooper. His livelihood had great clouds hanging over it, it disturbed his meditation. But it was improving, would it be worse elsewhere? His mind fell into traps of thoughts of violence, yet violence was never an answer. Yet even as he thought that he also thought sometimes - maybe? Hitler? Thumping his boss? When he thought Right Effort, his mindset could improve - he could be far more positive.
The question was the need of the label. He had decided on the need for commitment in a relationship - marriage. He wanted marriage, he wanted to love someone, to share those times that were not dedicated to God with her. But where is her?
Ah, relationships were so hard, but they were wonderful in their experience and joy in life. But when God is more important then these experiences have to be secondary. And how many women would accept being number two in life? Only a religious woman, a woman who loved God, and wanted to share the love of a man who also loved God.
Was he a Buddhist? Some would say no, because of his use of God.
Was he a Buddhist? It felt dishonest of him to say he was a Buddhist so that he could offer himself for a Buddhist partner. Ah he didn't say. He had met a friend. This friend had met a beautiful woman of 35 who was a Buddhist, and she was saving herself for marriage.
This idea thrilled Jon. Was he a Buddhist or was this another mind-search for a woman?
Was he a Buddhist?
- * - * -
One day they were all together talking. Jon was calm but somewhat distant, he wasn't with them, he seemed not to be interested in what they were saying. This was unusual for Jon. He was not often with them, usually away on his own studying but when he visited he made a special effort to pay attention.
“Is there a God?” he blurted out completely against the flow of the conversation - a Tina concert I think.
“Not that old chestnut,” laughed Brian but not completely derisorily because if Jon had said it there was something brewing.
“No seriously, is there a God?” he repeated, then he looked towards Faisal where he could see a storm of anger brewing.
“Please excuse me for the arrogance, but I don't think this will completely offend you,” he appealed to Faisal. Faisal's storm was abated temporarily for the simple reason that his anger had been respected.
“You cannot be excused for that statement,” he said gently “Be aware of the games that the mind can play”.
“I understand” Jon continued “but I would not have made the statement in your presence if the question was not respectful to Allah.”
Faisal gave him a sideways glance but deferred begrudgingly yet still gently. There was much mutual respect.
“I'd like to explain my history of this question,” Jon began “My childhood image of the white man with a beard was soon dispelled as clearly being racist as is the prejudice shown by the image of the black God in a church in St Lucia that I saw on the television. But at least in St Lucia there is an element of conscious decision as opposed to the ignorance shown in white communities where they don't even question the race of the image.
“Maybe it is helpful for some people to personalise the image of God, I don't know, but for a long time now I recognised that any image of God whether conceptual or physical detracts from any form of understanding of God.
“But even that statement also detracts because quite simply we cannot understand the Nature of God. For God is Unmanifest, and we are in the world of manifestation, and our tool for comprehending the world of manifestation - the mind - is limited to the manifest.
“When we hear all the adjectives to describe God - the 99 Names and others, they are all limitations of the True Power of the Unmanifest because our minds cannot know God.
“The nearest tool we have is meditation. By detaching our minds from the contents of consciousness, we can begin to comprehend the higher levels of the mind - the Buddha Nature? But this is not comprehending the Unmanifest, just using the tools that we were born with.
“Now His Highness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) says in his book the Four Noble Truths that we must understand the principle of “interdependent origination” [p12]. I know I don't understand that.
“But then he says that this principle “precludes two possibilities. One is the possibility that things can arise from nowhere, with no causes and conditions, and the second is that things can arise on account of a transcendent designer of creator. Both these possibilities are negated.
“In his introduction HHDL made much reference to being tolerant of all religions and that the people of those religions were maybe born in the location of those religions - my interpretation, but this is staggering to me. I am lost, I don't know what to say. HHDL does not believe in a transcendent designer or creator. Does this mean he does not believe in God?
“This has started me questioning and I have raised it here, and I don't want to say HHDL believes this or that because the man is wise and I can only say what I quote. But in my ignorance I am beginning to ask “is there a God?”.
“I have never doubted the existence of God. What is Nirvana? Cessation of suffering, ultimate Peace. But I could see that Peace as being the Soul returning to God. The Soul reincarnates, and through that reincarnation achieved Nirvana, returned to God. This God or Allah or Nature is that Immanence which Causes and Directs All Things. But HHDL does not believe in a transcendent designer or creator.
“I am lost,” and Jon went silent. As did they all, they knew how serious Jon took all of this and they could see that he was deeply troubled. Were they troubled themselves?
The silence continued.
At a later date Jon reread the Four Noble Truths, and then he was struck; this process of looking at God was part of a clearing away process - clearing away the contents of consciousness.
We are on this earth, and the explanation of humanity's existence on this earth has to be the same for all people irrespective of race, creed or colour. HHDL clearly states that one's religion is connected to one's place of birth. Islam suits the Arab character, Christianity Western decadence, and many more.
But the Truth of religion has to be True for all peoples, hence there is a need to examine the common core. This is the theosophical “There is no religion higher than Truth”.
God? We cannot Know Him. We cannot say this is not God, this is God. We cannot say there is no God but the principle of Interdependent Origination in Buddhism has to be examined to see what is the Truth there. And he said there was no Creator. But is that God?
And is that Creation causal? Why cannot Creation just be? Then we are saying the same as Interdependent Origination.
There was now some light in Jon's silence.
- * - * -
Jon was even more lost in Bangkok. How can Buddha allow this to these beautiful children of his? He was racked the first night there. Thinking his hotel would be in a reputable area, he was driven to Sukhumvit. It had the minimal trappings of a Third world ”classy” hotel. A big reception where the girls could wait.
“Ah Bangkok, ah Thailand,” Jon lamented “how can you mothers and fathers not look in anger at the bloated bellies and ageing faces of Western money that are tempting the pulchritude of your youth?”
“The more people travel the world and talk about it,” Jon paused “I feel guilt - I want to change my skin. Africa's society was raped for three hundred years, and if that was not enough the rape continued through pulling puppet's purse strings.
“I don't think I could take going to all the places the west has “helped”, I would die of shame.
“And what of the Bangkok temples? To watch these people in worship, and then go onto the streets and see the defoliation.
He remembered a row he had with a Christian. “Where are the guides in Christianity? A religious life cannot simply be a set of rules, there have to be the avenues into a spiritual life. Where were they?
“A religious life has to have discipline - mind control -to control the temptations. Do we gain these strengths to withhold temptation by default? Or is it a training? Where is that training in Christianity? In the monasteries - this wasn't clear.
Jon thought Jesuits, they seemed to have a spiritual discipline.
He then thought about the faiths. There was one religion with many faiths, this is a frightening thought. What is the purpose of the faith? And he thought control. The faiths were appropriate to the peoples, Islam for the Arabs, Buddhism in the East, and for the West - Christianity.
And with this control comes responsibility, how responsible is Christianity? This is frightening, how can the religion cope with the devastation its people have caused?
There are branches that run over the world trying to convert still. How can they look with integrity at what their society had produced and the death and misery it causes, and then want to export it.
Christianity is free. It allows the mind to be free, to wander uncontrolled, to imagine, to avoid, to invent, but not to face its truth. The truth that its people have created devastation. Why do they create this destruction? Their minds are never still, they are always chasing, chasing money, chasing other people's children, chasing the next fix. And why? Their minds are never still, under control. Their minds are running so they run as well.
But how can their minds not run, their religion does not teach them to be still. Where is the discipline?
Jon cried in Bangkok - he cried again with his shame.
Greg had also been to Bangkok. Greg had been looking for work, he wanted to stay. He was attracted by the women but he was old enough to know that a woman he met at a hotel in a tourist area might not offer the mature commitment he sought.
But they were tempting these lovelies. Naturally enough his first night was filled with disgust at the pot-bellied heroes. He wanted none of that and ordered hotel food. At 6.30 am his room door opened and one then two then three and a final fourth of these girls walked into his room and stared at him in bed. His heart jumped as he asked them to leave politely, and afterwards he felt the palpitations.
A couple of days later Greg was returning to the hotel late afternoon early evening, and the fronds in front of him moved. Out poked this beautiful face and called out “Wow” and blew him a kiss. He smiled gently at her and moved on, ten yard later his knees buckled because she was just absolutely gorgeous. Greg loved these women, they had such grace. Just walking they had grace, or was it gliding?
As a Tai Chi man, who often used acupuncture, Greg wanted a Thai massage, but he was frightened. He was afraid of his own erection and he was afraid of falling into unwanted intercourse. In Chiang Mai he took the plunge. He asked the hotel's Thai massager for the therapy, he thought he was safe because it was a reputable hotel.
But he was still wary of the erection. But there was none, and she did the massage to his great satisfaction. He was amused when she was elbowing his thigh - massaging his thigh with her elbow. As she moved to the top of his thigh his penis was in the way and she simply elbowed it away. He was amused but felt safe. She told him that he needed two hours which he agreed later in the week. And it was more thorough and better.
But at the end she sat on the bed waiting and ….
He knew ….
She was not one of the more voluptuous graceful creatures he had seen attached to the pot-bellies. He was sure she had once been a beauty, but now she was just nice. And he looked at her … and thanked her for her good work. He saw her a few times walking around the hotel before he left. He thinks she was upset. Did she feel that sex should have been the outcome and that he had insulted her? He was not an arrogant man, and he knew that his attraction to some women was based on the bank balance of an employed westerner. Was she genuinely insulted? Or had she just hoped for a little extra? Aren't these awful questions?
Still when he got work in Thailand he could learn about these things. The last Jon heard he hadn't found a position but was still looking.
Jon finished with a story that upset both of them. When he had been in Chiang Mai he visited the cybercafes. He noticed many young girls in there. Rather rudely he caught the following start to a message:-
I am so glad you are coming back to visit me, I hope it will be forever. ….”
Jon briefly glimpsed the girl; she had barely formed breasts. He dismissed his anger, he could have been wrong.
Jon was thinking about holidays; well actually he was on holiday in New Mexico. He was at a commercial ski lodge part way between Las Vegas and Taos. “Doesn't it sound exciting,” he thought.
Jon had just been back to the UK and had visited friends. He was now changing jobs, had holidayed in Thailand, was going to New Mexico, and all in all life was just so exciting. It was and it wasn't.
Jon thought back on his holidays. When he was younger he had travelled in Europe, nothing too much, but they were often very formative. They weren't sexual encounters, he couldn't write about that. In fact he had never had a sexual encounter on holiday.
There was almost one on a holiday in Saint-Valery-en-Caux with a fellow worker, but that didn't happen. And it never happened. He had always wanted a romantic holiday, either one where he met someone or one where they had gone together. He wanted to screw in the sea, he wanted to walk hand-in-hand on the beach lost in each other. But it had never happened. Was it going to happen now that he was thinking about Buddhism?
He remembers Greece for Jane Roberts and Seth, and the frightening revelation that the devil can hide himself in many ways but needs to call himself the devil.
Trips around the Rings of Kerry and Dingle remind him of the source of Kirramura - a failed Sci-Fi book. What was I reading in Corsica? What was I reading on the Algarve? He searched inside but couldn't find the answers. He thought back to Summer vacations away from school. There was the Doris Lessing Summer when he read all of Shikasta and most of Martha Quest. Oh what a joy it was to hear of Mark visiting the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, to find on open bookshelf on a farm B&B with signed copies for her brother of first editions. Mark had told him ”Out of respect I wanted to nick them so that they could be “worshipped” on my bookshelves.”
“It is no wonder she is such a great writer. I sat under the tree out the back for nearly four days, staring at Mozambique and working a little way through an Ascension programme. It was bliss.”
“So your holidays have different meanings as well,” thought Jon. Do I really want Ibiza? Ah I want it but I know I can't do it. It would just be nice for two weeks just to be happy raving and hopefully screwing. But it isn't me.
Here I am, travelling different jobs different places. Returning to the UK and worrying because the people I talk to find it difficult to talk to me because there is so little in common.
That is true but it's not the travelling. It is not the travelling that is now important to me, but Buddhism.
My work involves travel, travel gets in the way of meditation. Travel breaks my routine and maybe my routine is what is needed. Holidays!
I am not ungrateful, he thought, but it is not what I want. Then there was that night in the monastery. Listening to the monks chant their liturgy and sitting there on my stool trying to hold back the tears that were welling up inside me crying “you have found a home at last”.
Jon thought further on the holidays because he was being down on himself. Holidays offered him something far more important than Ibiza, they offered him insight. He was telling Mark “People talk about centring themselves, the western world looks at different cosmologies, the latest mysticism, when all they are looking for is insight. Insight makes you see yourself clearly when practised at sufficient depth. Although these are insights I am not simply talking about the passing bright lights. These are important but what if those bright lights became part of your daily existence. That is a much better form of insight.
“My holidays gave me insight. The travel took me away from my usual routines. Because I travelled alone I only had myself for company, and this meant I had to see into myself for that time. What did I do on holiday? I walked. Magillicuddy Reeks. Even in the Algarve, I walked up a mountain.
Bill had described the importance of a holiday to Jon. At that time he was still with Marcia gradually being dragged down by her baggage. Whilst with her he had walked, centred himself, and said he should put up with it because he loved her. But it was getting no better.
He went to Dieppe for a week, and he went back clear in his mind. They talked, she rejected him. They promised to still see each other but it never happened.
He had still loved her, maybe now they could have travelled together, touching in and out of the mess she had lived through.
Ah that was a terrible time in my life. To love someone so completely and be treated so badly. Often I would walk searching for insight, and it was always that I loved her and had to put up with all the problems. But eventually it was destroying me. And how did I know but through insight I got being a week alone in Dieppe. Ultimately I asked her to choose me, and she didn't.
“Do you know it was 16 years later in Taos that I realised that? I suppose in the back of my mind there was always the guilt that had been instilled by an African friend who said “you took her from her environment and then left her”. And from an African point of view this was true. But from an African point of view she should have chosen me, and she didn't. For all that time she never chose me, and her kids knew it; this was why they were so much trouble. They knew that if push came to shove, she would choose them so they never respected me enough. They respected me a bit, maybe a respect I earned by being who I was. But having to know and act on right from wrong they never did, because she would intervene and they knew she would always intervene. They treated me as they did because they knew she would eventually choose them.
“But if she had chosen me life would have been better for her kids because they would have had to choose right from wrong, they would have had to be better people.
“But she didn't choose me. I forgive her though despite all the pain and difficulties she caused me, in her own way she was trying to do some kind of right. But she messed up as she always said she did. But if she had chosen me, we might still be together now travelling floating in and out of the appalling mess that was her background. And being happy.
“Those children who give new partners so many problems, they also must know that the parent has not made a thorough choice. And it is hard but the parent must insightfully know about the choice. When they haven't clearly chosen, then the children battle to gain control. So we have another example of that appalling western situation where children are in control. When will people learn that children do not have the ability to be in control, it is not the natural way.
“The first thing Buddhism teaches children after the Three Refuges is that they must respect their parents. It is even the case that many Thai girls will sell themselves, and even accept being sold, in order to fulfil that respect through money (when perhaps their parents might not deserve it).
“Children must respect their parents, this is so important and without it society will break down. Despite all the money finding its way into the West their societies are still breaking down because the children do not respect their parents - they are not taught to. Where will it end?
“And one more thing about insight, Mark,” said Jon “and that is vipassana meditation. They call it insight meditation, it is the meditation that the Lord Buddha has returned to us. It saves a lot of travelling.
“I am not good enough in my practise but all that I gained on my holidays could have been gained through proper daily practise. Who could know?
“But the bright lights of creative insight - the creativity of the first time that artists crave to recreate, that can be gained through insight meditation. The Lord Buddha gave us this and we forget, or we don't remember.
“That is a great sadness. I look back on my own life, I look at the new fads that are around, every new western mind needing to originate thinking, needing to originate a system of coping with life. They may help but they don't bring to life the Insight of the Lord Buddha because that was His Purpose - to show us the Way.
“But you don't have to believe that - try it for yourself Mark,” Jon paused.
“I'm sorry Mark, I'm preaching again - rambling then preaching.”
“Jon, you listen to me talk about Ndeba and Africa,” said Mark understandingly. Jon wanted to say that Insight was not the same thing, but he had said enough. Mark had enough to know if he wanted to.
Jon was talking to Phil “you say this Divine Love is what relationships bring out in you.”
Phil nodded, remembering briefly mentioning his conversation with Faisal.
“Do you think a Buddhist doesn't feel this love?” asked Jon.
“How can you ask me that?” replied Phil “you know that it is the love and compassion I get from Buddhists that attracts me to the religion.”
“But a Buddhist doesn't believe in a Creator, do they believe in this Divine Love?” said Jon. “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is clearly a loving man and yet ….”
“You have spoken before about the existence of God, so how do you explain it?” asked Phil.
“States of mind and meditation,” answered Jon, and paused.
“You'll have to give me more than that,” Phil chided mildly “that might mean much to you but….”
“Yes of course, because you don't meditate. And you can't understand without understanding meditation …. I have asked you to try,” Jon put up his hand to stop the mild protest.
“There is much that I don't know about meditation but one of its functions is the tool by which we can control the mind in this hectic irresponsible life we are driven into - especially in the West.
“I met this Buddhist who was teaching in a terrible school in the Middle East. You cannot believe the awful things the administration did to Karen and her fellow teachers. Now Karen had a terrific sense of justice, and when she arrived at the school she would always get angry at the injustices of the administration. And this anger would cause her deep dissatisfaction.
“Phil, you have to understand that this dissatisfaction was completely justified because of this appalling administration. But it did nothing for Karen except upset her.
“Now her contract was for two years, and whilst she was on her Summer break she became a Buddhist. She told me that the most important part of her Buddhism was the daily meditation, and it was this meditation that made life in the second year of the contract bearable. The administration didn't change but through her meditation she found the state of mind that gave her control - mostly, despite what her administration did.
“Phil I can understand that because meditation gives you that inner strength to know what is important and what isn't.
“But we were talking about Divine Love, and yet I have spoken to you about this inner strength. You see for me meditation is a natural state, and included in this natural state is this love that Buddhists call compassion. Once you have the insight into your true self you can begin to see what these states are. But it comes from the practise.
“Before I was a Buddhist I would talk of Spirit and Divine Love. I would see meditation as a process of unity with God, whatever God was. And if I were meditating well then I would develop this unity and would feel tremendous. But how can we know God? I have always thought of God as being Immanent and Unmanifest, how can I know what That is? Take that a step further, how can I know what Divine Love is.
“However what I felt was what I felt, it was real. This state of Divine Love that underlay relationships was real because we experienced it. If we experienced then we need a tool to understand what we experienced. That tool is meditation. The experience is real, the tool shows us that it is a state of mind, what might be called a higher state of mind.
“But now we are using the terms of the drug culture, and I don't want to do that because this has nothing to do with drugs, a Buddhist will not use any mind-altering drugs whether it is alcohol or the drugs associated with states of mind. What is the need of drugs when there is meditation. The Divine Love is a state of mind, albeit powerful and important, and you don't end up making impossible contradictory judgements about a God that is not manifest and yet we try to give human mind conclusions about Him.”
At the end of this both Phil and Jon were silent, it was a silence of recognising that what had been said was of great importance. And there was no need to finish the conversation with pointless niceties or ongoing debate. They must both think about what had been said, and Phil thought that he must ask Jon about the techniques of Vipassana meditation.
Isn't silence amazing? And why do so many people run away from it? Africa had an amazing silence, but funnily enough it took a Sandy Tostvik TV prog comment to make Mark realise that throughout Africa the whites tried to make noise. I think white, and not black Africans. Ndeba was happy with him in silence, or was that an interpretation of her not having anything to say to him? His love was suspicious after the way she treated him. Was his insecurity a separation or an excuse she used to divide them?
Educated minds especially cannot cope with silence, is it the channels? “That is an interesting question,” said Karen; talking with Jeanette they had drifted into an educational issue, a typical but understandable result for teachers.
“A mind that is silent can allow insight but education doesn't want insight, is that right or am I just rejecting the system again?” asked Jeanette.
“It is certainly true that there is no insight if the mind has no stillness,” she continued “can the educated mind be still? It can be still if it has controlled the education. The education we impart is not Education, let's call it schooling. This schooling is what creates the channels ….”
“I don't like the word channel here either,” interrupted Karen “Focussing the mind is a channelling process, and that is positive. By creating a channel towards unity through concentration is only positive, but following the system route of schooling is not positive….
“No the school route can be positive,” countered Jeanette fairly strongly “but we have to know its limitations. It is a system route, and as such it is an entry into the system. Its limitations are shown if you try to go beyond that. When we ask for a broad education, an understanding for life, a spiritual awakening, this is beyond limitations for schools. We can understand that.”
“But if we don't that is when the school routes become a problem,” Karen followed on. “A mind already has its Path, what Jon would call its karmic seed. If we start to believe that the school routes are to replace the Path then we have a problem.”
“Agreed, but I don't think that is what happens,” suggested Jeanette “Look at the time factor. Schools impose their routes on children before they have an inkling of their Paths.”
“Ahhh, this is so true,” lamented Karen “any child who has an inkling of a Path, a seed, will immediately have a conflict because of the routes created in the mind.”
“Look at Bill with his maths,” Jeanette pointed out “his maths routes clearly strangled part of his mind so that initially he appeared only receptive to logic or rationality.”
“That was why Pirsig was such an important book to him,” Karen remarked.
“Yes that side of the Zen book could have been written for him,” agreed Jeanette.
“But these schooling routes are not as clear-cut as they were for Bill. Consider English Lit,” Karen pointed out “that too becomes a rational process of criticism instead of intuitive appreciation. I know many teachers get hurt when I say this but I still think it is true. I now more kids who have been turned off good books because of what they had to do for lit”
“The teachers get hurt because we are criticising their rationales for doing good,” continued Jeanette. “A maths or science teacher is much more developing system routes, it's obvious, we in the arts pretend we are really looking for creativity. Whatever we think we do, in practise we just create other routes.”
“As Bill would say, would they pay us if we were really being creative?” Karen added.
“I agree with him,” nodded Jeanette “Whenever I have wanted to develop anything which is truly creative, I am blocked one way or another. What happened when I was asked to teach about Development for Personal and Social Education? I was refused because of my politics. I was still a professional teacher in another subject but I was refused. And what did I have to offer, because I was doing it - working with them!!”
“There are all kinds of subtle ways they have to make sure you do what they want,” mused Karen.
“They can create routes in the teacher's mind as well as in the minds of the children,” added Jeanette.
“I'll get some more coffee?” Jeanette stood up as Karen nodded - just as the bell went. Bill walked in and they laughed at the coincidence. Whilst Jeanette made the coffee Karen explained why they laughed.
“I heard Jon talk about education and meditation, I thought it was very interesting,” Bill said to them both when Jeanette sat down.
“It is to do with this silence and stillness,” Jon had said “Silence and stillness allows the mind to be open, the routes that schooling creates wants to close the mind. It is a closure in the sense that the system routes are needed to be seen as the required ie you require these routes to be successful and happy.
“But that isn't happiness,” he continued “happiness came to me through Buddhism. When I am meditating I am happy, the more I do the better, but at the moment if I do an hour in the morning then usually during the day I am happy. Not always because life is dukkha - suffering.”
“Yeah OK, he says that and he is happy with that because he is a Buddhist,” interrupted Karen slightly impatiently “but I am not a Buddhist what does that mean to me?”
“Can we be happy if we are not being true to ourselves?” asked Bill. “Can we reach that happiness if we cannot be silent and still with ourselves?”
“No we can't,” said Jeanette emphatically. When younger Jeanette had been a fashion victim, she and James used to follow all that they could. Clubs, clothes, and even drugs - but only the fashionable ones. Why did they stop? Debt, they couldn't keep up with their debt and what was it for? Did their fashion have any meaning? Did those fashionable friends help with their debt? They had bought a fashionable property in the Docklands when it was the place to be. They lost it, and almost their freedom. As it was they were both paying back still, and luckily they still respect each other even though they are not together or the debt could be worse.
“It was my ego,” she had said once “it was as if it was rushing everywhere and I was trying to catch it. I was never in control. My desire would tell me buy this name, and I had to find a way to buy it. I justified it by saying I needed it because others had it. What I was competing with was more important than whether I could pay. I never stopped desire from running ahead, until the money men came and stopped us. Ah it was hell!
“And did I enjoy getting in this hell? I can remember times when we were shattered. There would be a phone call, a party we had to attend, and off we went. Did we enjoy ourselves when we were there? No we pretended to, we had to, it was the thing to do - it was expected of us. We didn't think like that at the time, it was what we did and we thought we were enjoying ourselves on one level. But deep down we knew it was a charade and we were unhappy.
“That's why I say we should be true to ourselves and then we will be happy,” Jeanette returned to the point after her diatribe.
“Subtly these fashion routes are given to us at school,” she continued. “That is not the school of the teachers but the school of the students - peer group pressure. But this peer group pressure is an integral part of school. Whether the consumer elders planned it or not, this school route is one that is very hard to defeat.
“You attend school,” Jeanette explained “and immediately there is a student hierarchy. The leader is usually the person who can afford the latest whatever, clothes video games. Relationships are formed as with James and I, based on his having the best clothes and then car. We actually matched our clothes together, the same label, that was why we were so popular. We did what everyone wanted us to do, expected us to do. I suppose we were leaders but we were not we were sheep.
“We had to buy the magazines to find out what was going on, we had to appear to know everything. We would spend hours studying - not reading - studying magazines to find the latest. If someone said something we didn't know, we developed strategies so that we appeared to know, and then went away to find out more so that we could appear the most knowledgeable.
“And we had to appear to be in agreement, an ideal couple, but not in everything. James had to be one of the boys and had to be in charge. I had to let him be in charge while I convinced the girls I controlled him. And how did we do that - by connivance. We knew what was expected of us we discussed it together and we did it. Neither of us ever did anything for ourselves we were cardboard people, we were what the fashion and music magazines wanted us to be because that is what our friends wanted us to be.
“God it was so sad but we did it,” she sighed “I just wish there was some way to prevent others doing what we did because there are many young people who get in debt through this school route.”
“As teachers we don't control much of what the kids in school receive,” said Karen.
“Teachers get the blame for it though,” said Bill. It mostly came down to politics with him but doesn't it?
Michael walked amongst mountains and rivers, and told Jon on his holidays that the Mountain Crows believed that they had come through the Earth from the mountains of Tibet. They are the same people, they have the same tradition? Is the tradition of Buddhism the same as the tradition of the Native Americans?
Where they were in Taos there was so much exploitation and duplicity that Jon could not find the truth. But why should he be arrogant enough to think he could find out. He had been lucky to find the idea. What would he do with the idea whilst Michael walked up mountains and down rivers.
And if that wasn't enough, when Michael came back from walking up mountains and down rivers, he said “If you want to get a prayer mat then maybe you should get it woven as this might be more than a lifetime's work.” Jon freaked he could not take this in. He thought and thought but still could not take it on. But he knew enough to listen to people who walk up mountains and down rivers.
And he had been called one of the others.
Jon had been completely disturbed by this notion that the traditions were the same. What were the similarities? The first that came to mind was walking meditation. He remembered the way Castaneda's Don Juan had taught him to walk, curling his hands and watching where he placed each foot. From there he had embellished by moving the Hara.
This led him to think about the awareness of walking, leading to constant awareness, and this is the purpose of vipassana meditation - insight meditation. Is it the philosophy, the meditation is the same? The Noble Truths, 8-fold path? This didn't seem to work.
But then where are white people in this, a link between East and West? West is a land-based people, Eastern people are just being disturbed from their land. Is Buddhism about land? Is the similarity between Hinduism and Buddhism a land-based thing? Monasteries in mountains?
Then there is the Collective Unconscious - Universal Mind. And the conclusion of Phra Farang's book - the planet as a life. The force that is the mountain is part of the planet's lifeforce - the Winds of Kirramura - are they all coming together? It could explain his travel.
Michael had this habit of appearing to agree when he didn't - maybe Michael was tired of arguing. This infuriated Jon who wanted to learn, and didn't mind being contradicted - or so he thought. When Michael and Jon had talked of the traditions being the same, Jon had focussed on meditation - Michael had listened. Meditation was so important in Buddhism. The Sangha as the Third Refuge were, in Jon's words, the keepers of the tradition. Following the Lord Buddha's sutta, the monks carried out their precepts to maintain this tradition, and wasn't their purpose in taking Refuge meditation? At least that was how Phra Farang put it.
But, and Jon was guessing now, maybe Michael was talking of the devas, land spirits, mountain spirits. Maybe the constant awareness of meditation was the ability to be in tune with these spirits. And didn't he always think that meditation was about being in tune? Perhaps the daily tune-up required to cope with earning a living away from the land could simply be an awareness of the spirits of the land if you walked up mountains and down rivers.
Jon had avoided devas. Ever since he had heard Veronica talk about the hierarchies of spirits after a Camberley theosophy weekend he had avoided them. Rationalising he had said that belief in them didn't matter to him, what was important was to understand himself. But if he was this mini-traveller between East and West, then it had an importance. To understand the unity there was a need to understand the spirit-world, a spirit-world that was laos in Africa.
In Africa they had always said muti does not work on whites. Whites in Africa have no land, they only have other peoples'. Because they have no link with the land then muti has no power? If they have no link with the land are they some sort of errant spirits anyway? Jon decided that one way he would try to learn would be to design his own meditation mat, he was very pleased with this decision but didn't know how he was going to do it. He had bought a commercial mat but he was not sure whether it was disturbing his tune-up.
But more than this he would try and relate the designs to mandalas, were the mandalas saying the same thing? But this then raised the question of Mahayana Buddhism.
Jon had chosen Theravada Buddhism for two reasons. Firstly the Theravadans had claimed that they only believed in the suttas that were definitely spoken by the Lord Buddha. Now this was not clear and open to interpretation and there was much academic argument about this - as you would expect. Jon did not at this stage have a clear answer but believed that he knew which ones to study. But he wasn't studying them.
Furthermore he was concerned with Theravada about their apparent worship. His second reason for Theravada was the Thais. He had felt on visiting that the Thais themselves showed a personal conduct that so impressed him, and he associated this with Buddhism. Having said that he couldn't properly say why - it was a feeling.
Mahayana Buddhism had worried Jon, apparently what they studied were texts that were not directly sourced to the Lord Buddha. Yet again he wasn't up with it. The Tibetans were Mahayana, and Jon associated mandalas with Tibetans. But he would put his doubts aside for the moment.
By studying and designing the mat for himself he would try to find that which was important to him. There seems so much idolatry around the Thai practise he needed to learn more; his mat quest maybe would do it.
Or maybe this idolatry was what Michael saw as equivalent traditions?
For years Sam had worked in the UK, he had brought his US rules mentality with him but it was not out of place. He had needed to understand home so he had left the US like many did. But what was home?
People think of home as family, customs - these were important, but were not the answer to his question. But the question was wrong. Jeanette and he were happily married, they had their way of life, they might even return to New Mexico as she had loved it there and her own UK ties were limited. So what was wrong with the question, or what did home mean? What is home if it is not family?
Tradition. That is something he had been looking for. Despite the jokes about the tea party that he was the continuous butt of, he had still thought of his tradition as being Western or partly British. But then what is that tradition? The British were the major colonial power, and now it was the Americans, that is no tradition.
The British talk proudly of tradition, but what is it? It is just a longer history of exploitation, it is not a tradition. But why isn't it?
Look at the minds of both people, the Americans and the British. They are always on the lookout, moving this way and that. Why? The minds are not grounded, they are powerful minds that are not grounded. That is why they are minds that have done so much damage. Historically they are minds that are looking for something, and that is the grounding. A mind without roots is a dangerous thing. If it has no roots then it has nothing to hold it back, it fantasises. The earth can give the mind visions but without the earth the fantasies have no meaning - the purpose of fantasy is to have the meaning of vision.
But where do these fantasies lead these western minds? It leads them all over to get more money, dabble and get more money. New traditions are at their mercy because they have no tradition to respect. Their traditions are based on mind and money, neither of which are tangible, they are not grounded.
Look at the damage that is done by the Western media. All over we see cultures beginning to incorporate this groundless acceptance of Reebok, Nike, Hollywood - fantasy.
Look at the damage the fantasies are doing on the Internet. Groundless acceptance of all kinds of poor standards. It is a haven for groundless minds. Information is presented with no accountability. It is a haven for those to attack standards of cultures that have traditions that are grounded. Traditions that have resisted these groundless minds are now under attack in this mind-powered thoughtless way.
But if the cultures promoting this attack had tradition there would not be the attack. That was the reason that Sam was in the UK, he was searching for his tradition. But the so-called tradition of the UK is no different. There is no tradition, there is only exploitation.
So where does he look? Where was he born? Taos.
It was only when he met Jon that he realised Taos. Jon had spoken of Taos, spoken of Buddhism and Native American tradition. Then he realised that Native America was his. It was not his history, but it was his tradition. It was why his particular group of “whites” had been called there. It was a tradition because it was the land - grounded.
He thought about all the white people wandering the world groundless, and he thought of all the damage. Maybe the British tradition was Celtic, he knew little of it except the fantasy attached to it. Maybe the British people do have a tradition that can ground them but the Europeans in America don't. Or rather they have rejected theirs.
He was saddened and then burdened by the guilt. He had much learning to do, and then even more teaching.
Jon was rethinking. For the moment the mandala must wait although not the mat. What was his relationship to the land? A land that he had always returned to on holiday - to ground himself. What had stopped him from seeing that? Having moved to warmer climes - OK boiling in the Middle East, he had taken up camping. This had grounded him. He realised that his time with nature there had helped him establish his tradition - Buddhism. He had thought it was just Thailand that had consolidated that. But Thailand had shown him the greatness of its monasteries and the qualities of its people, but the land had grounded him in Buddhism. He must ensure that he maintained a root to the land.
“I know this is an arrogant question to ask,” said Jon “but is the American tradition strong enough? If you look at the eastern tradition, whatever the politics the tradition has carried on unopposed. But the way the “wandering whites” behave, their groundless minds try to destroy what is in their path.
“Michael told me that there is an esoteric tradition, but the fact that it has to be hidden is a concern. This tradition might also be oral, and could be lost over time.”
“I think you need to look at what the Americans are doing,” countered Sam hopefully “these travelling whites have not remained stagnant. Whilst their leaders have been destroying the world for profit, the people have been trying to learn. In the 60s there was a tremendous movement for hope. In the UK this movement was virtually wiped out by Thatcher, but in the US it was stronger.
“Unfortunately because of the lack of tradition it became faddish including the emergence of respect for the Native Americans as a fad. That is the movement that needs to be consolidated. Red men and white men need to work together to rebuild the tradition that was lost. But there is always the land to teach us both.”
“Yes that is the true sign of hope for all Americans, red and white,” Jon added, and then forlornly “that is not the case for the UK, British land is almost drowned under the pressure of its numbers. You cannot move to peace as there are always so many trying to find that peace.”
Leaving Albuquerque Jon had one final thought concerning the land. Bill had always seen the land as an integral political question but Jon began to see more. Land was a deeply spiritual question. Suppose Michael was not able to walk up mountains and down rivers, then where was Michael's potential for enlightenment? Simply he was deprived of it, he was deprived of his Tradition. The white men present a vague notion of greed concerning the land. The old liberal Sam would have said “Sure we were wrong the way we treated the red man, we murdered them and deprived them of their land. Now they want it back, and we should give it back. But all of it in this day and age, that can't be right. After all the red man is part of the US economy now, and if we return all the land then the economy and the red man will suffer.”
“Which part of the mountains and rivers do they not give up?” asked Michael. Which part is not his spirit, his tradition?
And the mountains they are key focal points of the spirit of the planet - its life, ask the mountain devas?
Bill lamented ”It's all addiction, life's all addiction. Attachment is addiction, why? Well if you know better then you shouldn't do it. Since being attached to life experience is something that we should know better then it is clearly addiction. But it doesn't get called addiction - why? Because only excess that causes social problems is called addiction. Drugs, are they addiction? No, only to excess.
“Consider alcohol. As a person who used to drink and has stopped I can see both sides. When I drank to excess society was critical - understandably. But the reactions I get as a tee-totaller are almost as strong. There is admiration for quitting, but annoyance and threat(?) for not drinking.
“Why? I think control. As a drunk I couldn't control it, now I can but can they? Why should that worry someone else? Because people know they should control what is happening. Deep down they have that insight - their true nature of mind, but instead of controlling their addiction to allow the insight to come through, they delude themselves into thinking that what they are addicted to is important, and is therefore worth doing. But their insight knows this is an illusion, and the ensuing mental battle leads to addiction.
“We don't understand addiction because we are so addicted, this is the delusion that drug addicts know when they have quit. Their rationales are amazingly shallow but sufficient to continue the addiction.
“Is this not true of daily life? Why do we do it? Why are bombs dropped? Why do we fight wars? Are they right?
“So why do we do it? We become addicted to a way of life, and senselessly we cling to that way of life irrespective if the consequences. It is addiction. A drunk destroys his marriage, why addiction? He cannot do anything else without giving up his craving.
“Why is our way of life so important? Because collectively we have convinced ourselves tat it is. Money, fashion, cars, beautiful women that drive you crazy, we are addicted to these. Are they important? Why do we want to be with a beautiful woman? Is she as good to be with as a gentle graceful woman? No. But the beauty brings admiration, social acceptance, it fits with the social addiction of image, the illusion of our society's aims. In other words common sense is defeated by addiction vis-à-vis the drunk.
“We need to learn to control our minds to let go of the carvings - of the addictions.
“My teacher said that the natural state of the mind is stillness,” said Jon, “But we are not still. All our lives we are running around, our minds are attaching themselves to this cause, this activity, this drug, but where is stillness?
“And all the time we are not still, we are suffering because we are not comfortable, not at peace. We are chasing this dream or that dream, this money or that house, this shirt or that dress, this promotion or that social acceptance. We are following our minds running from one desire to another.
“And when will this chasing end? My Buddhist teacher has an answer for that, there is only one way to live our lives and that is to seek liberation from suffering by understanding what is temporary, what is suffering itself, and what is not the mind but mind that is fashioned in the world of illusion. I just wish I understood more of what he meant.”
Bill looked at Jon, thought to speak …. but thought better of it. This was a litany but then maybe not. Is litany not truth if it is understood? *-*-*
Bill had been mathsed out of Vietnam, and drowned, at that time he was still a successful product of the education system. He went to university in 69, that should have been old enough for him to have understood that a whole area of the life of the planet was being devastated. But all he heard was music “4 Dead in Ohio”, nothing more radical but that didn't register either. He had hit bottom by the time the US had left but he said “I just did not feel anything at the time. I suppose I should feel ashamed but how can I truly feel ashamed I really knew nothing.”
When he was speaking with Jon, Vietnam started to come up. Jon was moving towards Thailand and had just visited the US. They sound distinct events but they are not, for the US and Far East Asia are so inextricably linked. It was this link of East and West through tradition. But of course there was the physical involvement.
When Jon visited Thailand there was the shadow of the US, it was just there. Then Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam itself.
There was Buddhism and the monks torching themselves.
And then in Taos, there were the scars on the people - people who were still travelling, bikers, Michael, for whom Vietnam was there. He had listened to Michael describe a monk he had watched. “He poured petrol on himself, and set it alight. Towards the end there was a pouf - a kind of air escaping.” Did he say that if the monk had screamed he would have failed? Were the soldiers trying to say that he had screamed whereas Michael had said that it was just the air escaping? Jon had listened and not understood. There was much about Vietnam that was not understood, to be re-membered.
That seat, or at least it started with that seat. The kid was in the seat and was screaming himself to death. And it was on the plane - Jon was returning from Taos; can you imagine the embarrassment of the parents? And where was Jon? Next to them on an overnight flight.
He looked at the kid but does not interfere. But that seat was magnificent. Once the child was inside the seat, it folded down over him. And he was comfortable and oh so safe.
Eventually the mother pulled out the kid, and held him close to her chest. He mostly settled except he kicked out a little. The mother was young he guessed Thai but for the purpose of this story she is Kim from Bangkok. She leant to one side hugging the child close to her breast, and the child started to settle. Jon felt her arse on his thigh, it was warm and comforting. Mark had talked of the comfort of the black arse, perhaps this was similar.
Eventually the child slept and she put him back in the contraption. Jon whispered “Peace” to her, and they both smiled. There was relief on the aircraft.
But only temporary.
He wanted to watch this Thai mother. He had heard Thai parents were so loving and of course Thai kids were so well behaved. Jon wanted to find out what they did, and she was just loving.
But a couple of times she snapped at the child, understandable as the child was so irritating but that didn't sound Thai. Maybe Kim was very young.
In the middle of the night the child started and the aircraft shook. She reached over and withdrew him from the contraption, and the legs were flailing. She asked Jon if he minded if the kid rested his legs on him. Of course not. He gave her a thumbs up. But the kid kicked the chair in front and woke them - they were not happy. They didn't say anything.
Jon began meditating on Peace. He wanted to give the child peace. Little boy what is your pain? Let me feel your pain, and soon he did. The child was in pain. He looked at Kim, why was he in pain? Was she on heroine when he was born? She was pretty, maybe she was. After a while he seemed to feel a release of his pain, and he seemed to settle.
Whether that's true or not didn't matter, it was what Jon felt.
He continued to meditate on peace for both mother and child, then he started to meditate on love for them. And he started to focus on Kim. He began to feel her isolation. He wanted to ask her whether she had sought her mother's advice. He felt her isolation, and he meditated more on love. He told the kid he must let Kim love her.
Then he thought about Kim's isolation. Where were her ancestors? Her family and ancestors? Where were the kid's? The kid could not be grounded, have its roots with the land, it's ancestors.
She leaned over and called “Hans”. And the seat became understood as functional. He was quiet throughout all of this, slept then read a book. He probably couldn't do anything. Maybe he thought the child had something wrong, maybe the mother ….
Jon knew Kim had been grateful, but when the flight ended she never thanked him. Hans got up folded the seat and got off the plane. Kim followed him without saying goodbye.
Jon was left with a sadness for Kim's isolation and the child's pain. He hoped her love would carry them through - it was clear that Hans provided materially. It frightened Jon when he had been thinking of a Thai bride.
They were hearing Harry. “I haven't been in such a mess as this in a long time …. a long long time. I thought all of this had gone out of the window with the Buddhism. I had got the mind under some control, and there's not going to be all this chopping and changing.
But suffering doesn't let you do that. Life is suffering. You want this, you want that but life says no. These are only “normal” things, nothing exceptional, but it doesn't let you. That's because you want something from life, and life will not give it to you. Because life is Mara, life is illusion, it won't give it to you. It will try to convince you that what it is offering is important is true, but it isn't.
“What about the goods? Surely I should just be able to keep those.” But again they are illusion. What about the reference the track record, especially when you worked so hard. It is all illusion. It would be easy if you had all these things but then none of that is permanent - anicca.
“All of this stuff going through my mind is all illusion, ok not run-of-the-mill illusion but illusion. So I don't have a career job but I will not have the stress that I cannot get rid of because I am forced to jump through hoops and not meditate. All of these doubts are the same. Am I meditating? Am I recognising that the purpose of life is liberation from suffering? No Because I am suffering. Because I am preoccupied with temporary things. Worry about the permanent and let the temporary take care of itself.
“There is no permanence at the crazyhouse, there is no happiness, there is no peace. There is no possibility of liberation from suffering so therefore it is wrong livelihood. That is why I cannot get rid of it this holiday.
“Then when I do get rid of it Mara comes in with these illusions of career, my possessions, no reference, and possibly no job. Then do I want to live in the UK? Do I want this temporary thing or that temporary thing. Mara begone. I want to get back to liberating myself from suffering. I am very weak at that but it is impossible at the crazyhouse. Answer is done.”
Harry turned to Margaret one evening. “Margaret let me explain a little to you about what the crazyhouse is doing to me. I started at the crazyhouse in August. Well I didn't, I gave them extra time. In a week early, training in the States, solving problems between the two.
“And then I arrive and what do you find in a crazyhouse but craziness. All kinds of crazy things, things that would not be happening if the house wasn't crazy. And there is a crazy man who squeezes in charge. If you are not doing the crazy things then he squeezes, but you don't see him squeezing others squeeze for him. And the things he tries to squeeze are not always crazy but the effect is craziness.”
And that craziness is not right livelihood. And it is Mara, and all the squeezing is Mara, and all the guilt is Mara, and all the doubts is Mara. And if you are trying to be liberated from suffering then you will defeat Mara even though the Path appears strange.
And why was Harry so keen on this crazy job? Because he wanted a career, an illusion. So he argued it was to give me a job in Thailand but that is not the answer. He can teach words in Thailand if he wants, figures would be better but words is OK. Because words and figures are illusions, they do not liberate you from suffering.
He became involved in illusion by taking the job seriously. OK he thought it was good mind training, and maybe the reactions it produced in wealthy people shows that it was good mind training but it is Mara - illusion. More positive illusion but illusion - so move on. Work is to provide the resources to allow you to be happy and work towards liberation from suffering. No more of these Arab squeezes, they are illusion. Move on. Move on. Move on. Mara begone.
The whole issue of Thai women got to Hazz. Hazz wanted a Thai bride, or before now he thought he did. Hazz thinks he is a nice man, he believes he would provide properly for a wife. Maybe he is not the best husband material because he is not malleable, but he would provide. Hazz was willing to commit, make the decision and stick with her whatever. Is this not the traditional way - the Thai way?
Hazz was in Thailand, and he had his usual dilemma. His meditation continually comes up against a block and that is renouncing sexual attachment. Hazz was past needing sex, his last attempts had failed miserably although he enjoyed the failure - except for the look of disgust on her face, was that look disgust at his failure or disgust as she watched his failure?
Now as the world knows Thai women are absolutely gorgeous but sex tourism has created a tremendous callous on the hand of Thai society. Historically Hazz knew little snippets but was not truly sure. The women were brought up to serve, including serving up the sex. Such women, whose spiritual purpose has been subjugated to a measure of beauty and sexual athleticism, can become little more than Siamese dolls, and there are many of these dolls.
Hazz was in a hotel room in Pattaya, and learnt two things. Firstly he voyeured with his ears through a wall an encounter that went something like this:-
How much? How much? How much? And the figure of 500 baht.
Then there were squeals of pleasure, based on the previous conversation, presumably acted, but if it was true it would have been good sex. And then the tap running and a plaintive “is that it?”. She stayed so presumably more money passed hands.
And it of course disturbed Hazz's balance.
But he learned more about holidays than anything. Holidays had been a way of learning and getting away, but what is there to be learnt by lying next to a man having sex with a prostitute when you want sex with someone you want to share your life with, when you are lonely because this world is separate and you want someone to help you walk through the loneliness whilst not destroying the ultimate purpose of liberation.
Hazz has learnt now that the world only offers suffering. Before there were good bits, learning experiences in the joys of the Latin Quarter, up the mountains of the Macgillicuddy Reeks or quality and alienation at the foot of Chimanimani, and these good bits then made the holiday feel good. Hazz felt good about his first trip to Thailand, but he now realised that the goodness was that he finally learnt that he was a Buddhist at the foot of the Emerald Buddha. But now Thailand is not just that learning any more, it is beautiful women enslaved for their beauty and cultural heritage.
Hazz thought about his hopeful but unrealistic plans, they were completely fanciful. He was hoping somehow to meet a 35-40 year old Thai Buddhist woman who would want to help him make the journey whilst he supported her family. Now there were a set of rules given by a friend who uses the sex game of Thailand. The bars provide the women. They hold their identity cards so that if the women rip off the customers then they are in trouble with the police. If the man wants the Thai girl he pays the bar and then he pays her. Then courtship proceeds. This courtship based on money consists of the girl taking the man around the gold shops, and the man somehow convincing himself that the gifts have meaning. Some men will take these girls touring Thailand but the bar will have a package deal for this meaningful romance.
So you don't go to the bars for the girls and then what? You pick a girl from a café etc, and then take her back to your room and she rips you off. Now maybe she doesn't? But what if she had been a bar girl and couldn't hold down a regular job, having to pay the bar fee herself, and then decided to go it alone because she could get more money that way? By ripping off the customer?
Where is Hazz's bride? Hazz had heard mixed stories concerning these brides. Poor girls had been taken to the outback of Australia and kept virtual prisoners until they fled to Thai and Filipina refuges. But then he had heard other stories where these brides had brought nothing but stability to someone looking for comfort.
But Hazz recalled an interpretation of the Dhammapada 78:-
Do not seek the company of misguided friends, beware of degenerate companions. Seek and enjoy the company of well-guided friends, those who support insight.
Pattaya is not a place for Hazz, he should not have been there. A holiday needs to be guided by discernment and not drifting into what might be a nice or interesting entanglement. The world is suffering, the entanglements of the world are Mara's illusions. Choose to avoid the suffering as much as possible by planning to be apart from suffering in environments that are new.
Monasteries are good places to avoid Pattaya, and are usually good places to avoid the temptations of Thai beauties. They are also good places to know about mind, in some ways this could be Musings on a Journey to a Monastery. Labels are appalling things to get hung up about, is it mind, is it soul, is it spirit? If the functioning is the same, how important is the word? But what is the source of the problem, that is the issue. To condemn mind because the rational mind cannot fulfil all functions is limiting. Ok, saying there is something else that provides non-rational functioning eg soul is fine, but in doing that where is desire? Where is the faltering ego? In mind, soul and spirit there is no ego, where is the I that clings to all the debris in our lives. This is the issue, do we understand the impact of desire? Do we know the freedom of renunciation? No label makes a real difference but some labels hide the demon ego.