Mysterious Messengers

Voldemort battling Mary Poppins at the London Olympics

As Jacob Needleman states in our new issue, the greatest unknown is us, ourselves.   We fear the unknown and we try to run from it, even as we try to tame by making it a thing we can name.  We make it the punch line in every equation we can’t solve or else sanctify it and pray for it to be on our side.  But we really can’t run from ourselves.  The unknown will surface.

 

After I saw Elizabeth (see my old post, “A Midsummer Night’s Ghost Story”), I was understandably ambivalent about ghosts and guardian spirits.  I couldn’t move to New York fast enough.  I couldn’t bury the experience deep enough.  I didn’t speak of the experience or even think of it.  I worked hard to build a full life.  But the experience and that strange and terrifying message trailed after me, a prophetic riddle I hadn’t understood.

 

From the distance of all these years, it seems inevitable that I would run blindly into the kinds of situations I was being warned against—situations that would invite me to give up my place in the universe, to lose the awareness that is acceptable for me to be just as I am.  But there are truths that can be learned only by living through them.  As P.L Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins and a founding editor of Parabola, wrote in an early issue the word “understanding” means to stand under, to have the truth rain down on us.   Some truths take a long time to soak in.

 

Years after the experience, I received an assignment from the late, great science and science fiction magazine Omni, to write about how researchers try to use the methods of science to track down ghosts.   The assignment was exciting to me because it allowed me to explore ghosts and related paranormal events under the protective label of work.  I thought that becoming a journalist meant leading a more adventurous life—a more inhabited life—than working in the cubicle of a giant corporation.  The isolation of the writing life dawned on me over time.  And so did another truth.  I discovered that meaning of what I had seen and what I had heard that night in that spooky old house might be found by opening my heart and mind in a new way.

 

In addition to interviewing paranormal researchers and skeptics and doing research, I visited the scene of a few hauntings and paranormal investigations.   One was a rambling apartment on Washington Square.  As I sat at a kitchen table drinking coffee, “Kathleen” (not her real name) described how her sense of reality vastly expanded one night in October in 1973.  She thought she heard the front door slam.  Thinking it was her sister, and thinking ahead to the dinner party that was planned, she rushed happily towards the door.  In the dusty rose-colored hallway she froze and all the bright images in her mind went dark.

 

“There was a hunched over figure in a black robe,” said Kathleen (I quote from my 1988 Omni article).  “I thought it was a robber, though it seemed very sick or old.”  She turned on the light and watched the gigure creep toward the bathroom down the hall. She called to her mother who was in her bedroom up the hall, asking her who just entered the apartment. “Nobody,” her mother answered. “It was almost as if the figure was absorbing light instead of reflecting it,” Kathleen, who happened to be a talented photographer, told me.  “But even then, I never thought of a ghost.”

 

The following night Kathleen looked up from the sofa to see her mother standing in the doorway shaking.  She told Kathleen she had heard a whooshing sound in hall and looked up to see a “transparent blackness” passing down the hallway towards the bathroom.  She yelled “Kathleen! Kathleen!” and ran after the shadow, only to find nothing there.  Eventually a family friend, Michaeleen Maher, who had a Ph.D. in parapsychology from City College in New York, heard about these incidents.  Equipped with a Geiger counter, infrared photography and other equipment, and a team of volunteers, Maher attempted to use the tools and techniques of science to investigate. The results were suggestive but maddeningly elusive in scientific terms.  There a “parabola of fog” in an infrared photo of the hallway; a flurry of Geiger clicks in a particular spot, but nothing that could not be ruled out by ordinary explanations.  But Kathleen couldn’t rule it out.

 

I sat with her and Michaeleen Maher in the freshly renovated kitchen of that apartment on Washington Square. In the years after the haunting, Kathleen became an accomplished photographer and her smoky, evocative photos lined the walls.  I watched Maher and Kathleen study the infrared photo with the parabolic arc of fog.  They also notice a strange dark circle that looked to me a little like the interlocking black and white tear drops of the yin-yang symbol.

 

“To me it looks like a face, a black face up close to the camera,” said Kathleen.  Mayer said that one of the psychics she brought in to read the space reported seeing the figure of an African American as well.   Kathleen and Maher acted out how the mysterious figure moved up the hall.  The tour ended in her late mother’s room and a window overlooking Washington Square Park.  Although I didn’t know it until much later, what Kathleen explained next changed my perspective on such things for good.

 

Directly across the street stood a massive old elm tree.  Kathleen said that according to her research, the last person to be hanged in New York City was hanged in that tree.  She was an African American woman who worked as a servant in one of the grand buildings lining the square.  The conversation rushed on:  Kathleen saying that ghosts open up a world of forces and influences science can’t understand; Maher suggesting that someday science may have tools fine enough to collect physical evidence for such phenomenon.

 

I kept thinking of that servant, hanged for stealing.  I wondered if there might be situations so grave and critical they have to be impressed on us by extraordinary means.  I wondered if we were asking the wrong questions, looking at things in the wrong way.  Maybe where the ghostly messenger came from was less important than the message she brought.

 

To be continued….

Comments

  1. “I wondered if we were asking the wrong questions, looking at things in the wrong way.” ~T.C.

    This a powerful point. Are we asking the wrong questions? Are we looking in the wrong direction?

    The founder of the Chuang Yen Monastery, C.T. Shen, shared a powerful story in his memoir about what brought him to Buddhism. As a teenager, he happened upon the Shurangama Sutra. In part of the sutra, the Buddha asks Ananda, his disciple, to identify the master who was looking at the Buddha.

    After a series of attempted answers, Ananda is disheartened. The master or self that he is looking for is somehow not there. Perhaps it is just a reflection of the object-clinging mind. Is it as C.T. Shen says a “superficial I”?

    Of course, I am not suggesting that is your intention in this story but it reminds me that often we allow what we think to serve as what is real.

    But is it real?

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    • Thanks, Elizabeth. Our true potential and our true nature is unknown to us. What we take to be the self is unreal. We are larger and far more mysterious than we think we are.

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  2. beautiful story Tracy. I liked the “under” standing, the notion that it comes down to us, into us. With that understanding, the real work can begin – especially if you ask yourself the most basic question: where do I go from here? I think the human experience includes all those knowings and unknowings inexplicable in words and immeasurable.

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    • Thanks for this beautiful comment, Barb. Where do I go from here? These extraordinary moments–openings–come along that reveal that we really do dwell in the midst of mystery–and that who we thought we were and all our knowledge and even our sense of separation from the mystery around us is just a convenient fiction. And where do we go from there? I don’t know but I feel very alive in such a moment…and open in a new way.

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  3. Barb,

    I, like you, love the idea of “standing under.” It reminds me of God’s Grace…we are passive recipients of divine gifts, we are neither deserving nor capable of earning God’s favor. It is a gift freely given.

    These experiences that Tracy relates do strike me as Grace, gifts given to us through no effort of our own. We can only stand underneath and seek to make use of these gifts…

    In my context, the only things I can do with them is to glorify God and to help others. Never should I use them for my own purposes. That would be an abuse and an abrogation of my responsibility to something far greater than I.

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  4. oops, I am an object so it should read, “than me.” As it should be, I am not the subject, only God is!

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  5. thank you Scott, I wonder – regarding the grace aspect, is it really possible to use it for our own purposes? I think that implies a separation, a division which grace would not otherwise recognize or abide. Just a thought. I agree we are all objects, it is only through I-You that we can hope to understand otherwise, however briefly.

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    • Hi Scott and Barb,

      I agree that we are really helpless in such matters. All we can do is surrender to grace.

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  6. Hi Tracy

    I’ve had some experiences with this during my days of being the divorced musician living with the town witch.

    I don’t know if you are familiar with Tulpas, Tibetan Buddhism understands them as thought forms. Alexandra David-Néel in her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet describes describes how she created a fat jolly monk who unfortunately gradually changed into something not so fat and jolly. You may appreciate reading her experience

    http://www.davisanddavis.org/harvey/tulpa.html

    I’m curious about how much of what we call ghosts are actually thought forms from self created crystallizations.

    That is the danger of channeling. What is created may not remain so lovely. If the following account of Helen Shucman’s death is accurate it could be the result of a self created thought form. I don’t know but do know that it is one thing to welcome the unknown and quite another to maintain the presence necessary to properly experience it without going off the deep end.
    ********************

    Mrs. Schucman, co-author of “A Course in Miracles”, who said “suffering did not exist” died a painful death from pancreatic cancer barely a year after publishing the book “A Course in Miracles”. Schucman, a Columbia University professor and psychologist, was an acquaintance of Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.. Fr. Groeschel gave a eulogy at her funeral. Fr. Groeschel wrote, “This woman who had written so eloquently that suffering really did not exist spent the last two years of her life in the blackest psychotic depression I have ever witnessed.” Fr. Groeschel is a holy, practical, wise, no nonsense priest, and psychologist. During an October 1994 lecture on “Discernment” given at Holy Cross Church, Rumson, N.J., Fr. Groeschel stated that he believed that Helen Shucman’s experience with the channeled “spirit” was possibly a true diabolic manifestation. Fr. Groeschel’s experience as a psychologist and priest included being called upon by his Bishop to investigate reported diabolic manifestations in his New York City diocese. In the lecture Fr. Groeschel described one experience — called as an exorcist — where he witnessed objects unexplainably being thrown about a room. At the end of a lengthy discussion he attributed that particular experience to paranormal manifestations — but not diabolic in nature. According to Fr. Groeschel, Helen Schucman’s “channeled spirit” denies that our Lord Jesus Christ came to the earth in the flesh. An abstract of “the Course” can be written based solely on two lines of the “spirit” channeled writings.”

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  7. Barb,

    Interesting thought, that grace would not abide being used for one’s own purpose. That would seem just wouldn’t it but methinks it violates our free will. One of the great mysteries of faith is the presence of evil. The only explanation for its existence given God’s grace can be our free will and ability to abuse the graces given to us.

    In a nutshell, free will enables humanity to warp and distort God’s grace, ourselves and others, a clear violation of what we are called to be – perfect in Christ.

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  8. Tracy,

    How do I embed a response below a specific comment rather than just at the end of the comment section.

    Thanks,
    Scott

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    • I am working on the finding a way to allow people to respond to particular comments. In the meantime, I appreciate the lively exchange.

      I was very touched learning about Kierkegaard’s leap of faith in college. I distinctly remember not really getting anything in that class on phenomenology and existentialism. But I got that in a visceral way. I knew how it felt to take a leap and not know if there was going to be a net. Now it strikes me that such an understanding depends on knowing what it means to be in a body.

      We a body to know how it feels to make a leap (or to stand under, for that matter).

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      • that is brilliant Tracy, I think it sums up what it can feel like to “stand under” that level of surrender. The leap that never ends, fully present moment and trusting – using the cognitive capability in its proper context, as a tool of action that is really reaction (to surrender and being present).
        Even though I appreciate the challenges with all the different comment strands, I love how all these divergent comments have swirled together in a beautiful way.

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  9. Scott, I like the free will conundrum. I would respond that if it is complete faith, along the lines of Kierkegaard’s knight of infinite faith in Fear and Trembling, then the level of will surrendered negates the choosing element once it is surrendered and sent out in its utmost absurdity, given over to the divine to make real. I don’t necessarily think faith and evil occupy the same real estate so to speak.

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  10. Barb,

    I am ashamed to say that I have not read enough Kierkegaard to respond in kind. That being said, I think that an argument based on the extremes, complete faith where will is completely surrendered over to God, would by definition create a space where evil and faith could not coexist.

    For a life not lived on the extremes, the space where most of us abide, perhaps grace could be abused for personal gain. That begs the question of whether salvation can be lost. Some say yes, some say no…

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  11. Hi everyone,

    It seems to me that free will is critical to the existance of a valid faith. Were we to live in a deterministic world, then the man made in God’s image is little more than an automaton – pre-programmed by God to respond to any projected stimuli. Imagine the billion – trillion – quadrillion Chineese – made in God’s image by God before the rise of the Abrahamic religions. Are we to believe that a “good God” would condemn all these people, again, made in His image, to at best a future non-existence because, through no fault of their own, they were placed in the wrong place at the wrong time to hear the message of salvation? God is converted into an anti-God – a monster. So first, free will is essential to a valid people making valid choices towards a valid God – it is the possibility of failure that give success it’s meaning.
    More in a couple of minutes.

    Lewis

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  12. Sorry about that.

    Anyway, in response to Barb, I can imagine a situation where a man is introduced, under the grace of God, to that mentor whoes guidance will be needed for the next journey on his “hero path”(see Theseus, Freud, Campbell, ect.), but as Tracy has said in the previous blog, we may not be ready at that time for the message. I can further imagine this pre-grace person, being in need of the very grace necissary to “encourage” him not to make the following mistake, falling into old habits and trying to abuse the event or the mentor – in otherwords the grace – for old ignorant purposes. If free-will were further removed from the scenerio, I think that the philosophical and spiritual problems would multiply exponentialy.
    As far as what Nick related about the Tulpas, and my own experience with mentally unstable members of my own family (and my belief that no human is ever 100 percent mentally perfect – otherwise we would be near the level of God), then, if such psycho/spiritual projection is possible, who among us would be ballanced enough to objectively
    deal with it? The problem with this that I see is that, in this world, one would think that there would be so much of this projecting going on from all of us flawed individuals, that the very nature of cause and effect would be blunted. If I can project in such a way that it not only affects my own perceptions, but also thoes of others, such as in things flying around the room, then we would be living in some sort of Matrix-like scenerio where our ability to have any rational faith in anything would be compromised. And again, any God who wouuld create such a reality for His creations would be a monster.
    Which by the way is the reason I don’t believe in Satan – we seem quite capable of misleading ourselves withot any help.
    Sorry for all of the run-on sentences.

    Lewis

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  13. In response to Barb and Tracy’s exchange relating to leap of faith, being in a body and the appropriate use of cognitive function.

    I will respond with an experience. I have practiced centering prayer (meditation) for quite a few years now. So hard to still the mind…the executive function that is so concerned with time, responsibility, who I am in terms of Scott Pitz, tasks that need to be completed…the whole panoply of thoughts that distract us from the sense of oneness…left brain vs. right brain, if you will. I found myself one day with this sense of falling as I meditated. It was so disorienting, this leap of faith, that I jerked myself out of my inner centeredness and wondered what the hell was happening. The next day I went back again with the same result but this time I let it go on a little further, this falling, this training in trusting. This went on for a while until one day I told myself that I would abandon myself to the falling, that I would take this literal leap of faith to see what was at the end.

    I fell…and fell…and fell…it went on for an eternity. Finally, I hit bottom.

    What do you think happened, what was the result of this leap of faith, this act of trust, this surrender. I splashed down into pure love. It was if I had landed in a pool of God’s pure love. My body tingled from head to toe, every cell vibrating with God’s pure love. And it seemed to go on for an eternity…

    What a glorious God…who would take me on a journey of slowly building trust, surrender, and then bless me with the grace of his overwhelming love.

    Barb and Tracy, you are right, it was a cognitive decision. I chose to ignore my rational self and to embrace the physical sensation of falling, the leap of faith that brought me into physical contact with God’s overwhelming love. God is so good.

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  14. We live in a complex universe and no one holds the truth to its very functioning.
    I am only imagining there are many dimensions. I read about it but also I can feel it.
    Tracy seing Elizabeth is to me a kind of confirmation of one of these other dimensions where we have and will evolve again. From what I read it is not all that beautiful out there because some of these dimensions are our own creation as is this world. Beside the natural world there is the one we create with cars, skyscrapers, TV and all. It doesn’t have to be that way but it is our choosing.
    The capacity to go from this earthy standpoint into other dimensions or to witness things from other dimensions remains a privilege and for some a temptation. I would suggest as is the cause for the ozone layer it might be best to live under the protection of the veil that makes us able to live our lives “down” here.
    As long as we will carry on building this material world as we do our experience of other dimension should remain sketchy at best. We are more likely to read this interrelation of the worlds from the past, from people who were less preoccupied by being busy all the time and having none for what could be the essential.
    There was this summer a huge exhibition at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris about shamanism throughout the world called “Master of Chaos” with a sublime catalogue of 9 pounds and hundreds of illustrations and texts that are most interesting to read and help see through, maybe in a more attractive way than only textbooks on the subject that have been published in the last half century.
    http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/programmation/exhibitions/last-exhibitions/masters-of-chaos.html

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    • I tend agree with you, Marc. I think that Elizabeth may have broken through from another dimension. I think there may be times and places that the Celts called “thin places” — where the boundaries between worlds are thinner. Perhaps it was the strange old house itself–and perhaps it was because I was open somehow–not like a shaman, but innocent…maybe I was lost enough to be open.

      Fascinating what you say about other worlds of our creation, food for thought. But in an “ordinary” way we do that all the time, as others here have said: we project worlds of our own making.

      The show in Paris sounds great!

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  15. Perhaps evil doesn’t exist for man on earth. If we are creatures of reaction performing a necessity while lacking consciousnes and free will, can we be any more capable of conscious evil than a dog? Evil for us is subjective and defined from an earthly social perspective

    Simone Weil provides an extraordinary picture of humanity on earth in the context of a conscious potential for free will we do not understand as we are but have the potential to actualize. Here is pure Simone:

    “The sea is not less beautiful to our eye because we know that sometimes ships sink in it. On the contrary, it is more beautiful still. If the sea modified the movement of its waves to spare a boat, it would be a being possessing discernment and choice, and not this fluid that is perfectly obedient to all external pressures. It is this perfect obedience that is its beauty.” “All the horrors that are produced in this world are like the folds imprinted on the waves by gravity. This is why they contain beauty. Sometimes a poem, like the Iliad, renders this beauty.” “Man can never escape obedience to God. A creature cannot not obey. The only choice offered to man as an intelligent and free creature, is to desire obedience or not to desire it. If he does not desire it, he perpetually obeys nevertheless, as a thing subject to mechanical necessity. If he does desire obedience, he remains subject to mechanical necessity, but a new necessity is added on, a necessity constituted by the laws that are proper to supernatural things. Certain actions become impossible for him, while others happen through him, sometimes despite him.” Excerpt from: Thoughts without order concerning the love of God, in an essay entitled L’amour de Dieu et le malheur (The Love of God and affliction). Simone Weil

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  16. By the way, Parabola hasn’t devoted one issue to shamanism, though throughout the years the topic has been treated one way or the other. An issue devoted to this topic would sell like hot cakes, for there is a revival of interest concerning the ways we can somehow exit differently in our sometimes dull urban existence via disorder, sudden burst of demonstration. I would argue that beyond the protests of Occupy and the Quebec student movement with ordinary people gathering in the streets at night, banging on pots and pans, there is this need to be gently together which our urban environment has deprived us of doing because I would say we live in a far too rational world. The ceremonial gathering of so-called primitive people, the different assembly of people throughout the ages and places are various type of glues building up communities. They have a known purpose but they are alibis for being together as well.

    Marc

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  17. I love the evolution of this discussion! Marc, you raise an excellent point that none of us holds the truth, but I believe we all hold the truth inside of us – if we can wake up and remember who we are, what we are here to do. We are all born with different sensitivities, some of us are very sensitive to different frequencies, the “thin places” as Tracy described. Some of us are more ready to accept and acknowledge that such places of mystery exist, while others cannot recognize or understand them. I think it is all part of the human experience, because each of us having the experience is human. Some of us are able to bridge these worlds better than others. I don’t think it’s an either/or scenario, but again – that is my experience.

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  18. “There is this need to be gently together which our urban environment has deprived us of doing…” ~ Marc

    It is a powerful observation. So much of our collective human experience was experienced as gatherers and hunters. Long before the advent of electricity, the glow of a fire at night and the beating of the drum were imprinted on our consciousness. It is witnessed when you watching a gathering of people dancing and drumming. It calls to everyone and everyone longs to join in.

    Now, we sit in carefully arranged rows far from one another but yearning for some kind of contact yet not quite consciously knowing what we are looking for.

    When I was much younger, I read Carlos Castaneda’s books and would think, “I need a Don Juan. I need a shaman who will reveal my full consciousness.”

    Now, I sit in meditation and get glimpses into that consciousness but meditation even in a sangha or group is a solitary activity.

    Dancing and drumming is communal. We are sorely lacking that communal umbilical cord, that cord that connected us for most of our walk on this planet.

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  19. Marc,

    I agree with you totally that we need an antidote to the isolation that urban environments engender. I have been told that statistics for loneliness are higher where populations are densest. I think as the entire planet becomes more urbanized that more and more attention will have to be paid to building community, more pedestrian and bicycle space, buildings that are more integrated with the outside to encourage social interaction, more green space, more local farming and gardening, in short, a return to a life with more local connection.

    Now, clearly, spirituality may be the most critical part of building community. I wander the new mixed use developments where I live and I am always disappointed that at the center there is not a bandstand, a green, or a sacred space but a Starbucks. What holds the center together? Surely it is a vertical relation to the sacred and a horizontal relation to each other.

    There is clearly a hunger amongst the young where I live for community and a new relationship with Creation. This may look-like drum circles, flaming hula hoops, or Taize. But, I think it is VERY important that the veil is seen to be transparent, that there are other dimensions, some of which are divine. Ultimately, we are defined by our relationship to the divine. How else can we pattern our lives in a meaningful way? I agree with Barb, all of us are different. This is as it should be. We each have our own gifts.

    And, as has been said, the faith of those who have not seen may be greater than those that have for theirs is a faith based purely on belief, not experience…

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    • I agree with you Barb, I love the evolution of the discussion. We are all different–and I think we are meant to embody the Truth through our different experiences. Our individual truth rendered transparently, honestly, adds to our collective experience of the Truth. We don’t need to see ghosts or angels–we can help one another if we are sincere.

      The need for communal life is not separate from this. For about 25 years I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I loved it because it is very communal–built with little parks, greens, cafes. I could certainly still isolate, but my daily life had a very different flow than my life now–always passing people, talking with people, taking in lessons. I believe there is a heightened awareness now of the need for more public use space, and more gatherings. Not even necessarily drum circles, just people being out together.

      I will ponder having Shamanism as a theme. In the meantime, there is a fabulous bit of shamanism in The Unknown. Check it out.

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      • And I meant to add that I think technology can be used to connect, as we are connecting here. It’s not like sitting around a fire, but it’s something, don’t you think?

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  20. Absolutely Tracy, this is one of the amazing features of the networked world. I am so grateful to have this kind of discussion with all of you, I think the internet does facilitate and promote the evolution of consciousness in many important ways. It certainly eases the isolation that I often feel at being one of those very sensitive persons. . . thank you everyone for this wonderful discussion. I look forward to the next one!

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  21. Tracy,

    I think it is fabulous that we can have these kinds of discussions. Your story of Elizabeth refocused me on my experiences and has led me down a path of more serious consideration of what to do with these encounters. Thank you for that.

    Barb, dare I wrestle with Kierkegaard or should I continue on with the Bible and the Church Fathers (and Mothers)? I have to admit that the ancients draw me in to the text in a way that modern theologians never seem able to do.

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  22. Scott, I also wrestle with “what to do” with some of my information. I am often at a loss, but sometimes it is apparent what the purpose is. Mostly, I think it’s to witness – the mystery of it all. Regarding Kierkegaard, that is completely up to you. I think it’s all a rich tapestry. Some of the most interesting texts I come across are in pretty unlikely places. I peruse them to help me make sense of my human experience.

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  23. Barb,

    Yes, after many years of thought and prayer, I agree that it is to witness, not to myself but to the mystery and love of one so much greater than I.

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  24. Tracy is undoubtedly at the epitome of a career which allows her to have the most effect on the treadmill. Hence her ability to listen and let everyone get involved in the chore of deciphering the surrounding world.
    Through our willingness to get involved we participate one block at a time to the enlightenment by trying to clear out the path.

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  25. “what to do”

    Gurdjieff said: “man cannot do”

    We always want to do something, make situations and ourselves right or better.
    But with ourselves as we are: blind 24/7/365 to anything but our particular and usually selfish and reactive impulses and unable to even see and acknowledge that we are constantly reacting, however subtly, to external stimuli, any action we may undertake is just more rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

    We need to be grounded in the body to see what is now and who is here in me rather than doing something about it.

    And yes I see that I am reacting to you all in posting this, but I feel I must try, however poorly, to express my impressions.

    Many teachers speak of the special and grave need at this time for people to awaken to the higher and become conduits for a fine energy that is required for a successful transition to a new system of human relations appropriate to our changing world situation.

    I wonder how far these sorts of discussions can go.

    I believe that writing about about our ideas and opinions is certainly a necessary first step, to establish a bit of trust, but the search for truth is a supremely practical and necessarily experimental process. Much could be exchanged about how we try to come to enter the truth, what has been useful and what not so valuable. There are risks in speaking openly of inner realities, but I feel there are even greater risks in keeping silent and hiding our light under a basket.

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  26. Hi Bruce.

    I agree we are blind but Gurdjieff spoke of being third force blind which is different from just being oblivious within duality. Being in the body is one thing but recognizing we are third force blind in the World is another.

    That is one reason I have such appreciation for Simone Weil. She wasn’t in the Work but the Work was in her. She had the intelligence necessary to see that thought isn’t a dirty word but a necessary attribute the fullness of which we don’t appreciate being third force blind. Simone just lays it out there as one whose eyes had opened and anyone open to a cosmological perspective benefits from her writings that remind us we are third force blind.

    People speak of bettering society and as you suggest we are “rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

    Yet Simone helps in furthering remembering. Consider her affect on Christine Howe. She has written an article on the influence of a certain quality of literature on “metaxu.” Most have never heard of the word yet anyone seeking the means for a better world should become familiar with it. Simone’s ingluence is obvious.

    Christine offers food for thought but in the absence of thought and quality discussion it will just die. That is why I participate in furthering Simone. She offers a quality of thought that virtually doesn’t exist in public. Nothing wonderful but just the verticality of pure third force awareness

    Metaxu is a third force concept but requires being intellectually open to what third force means in order to appreciate it and not just further its devolution into dualistic expressions of wonderful thoughts.

    Now that I’ve spoken favorably of Christine’s article I should post it for those interested in “metaxu” and how a certain quality of literature contributes to a beneficial metaxu. It does require non typical thought that IMO is a beneficial mind stretch.

    http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/ptb/persons/hope/h1/howe%20paper.pdf

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  27. Alienation, seeking community and common truths, discerning the divine and all in the context of beings in a body. Kind of hits the high point of existence doesn’t it? The only thing missing is what happens when we die…

    For what it’s worth, I am a fan of ancient traditions that have stood the test of time. Traditions that are based in real-world historical experiences combined with the divine. Traditions that have been vetted and where communities of faith have shown the world how it can be done in its fullest and finest form. Traditions that are both systematic and also contain the potential for devotion and personal relationships with the divine.

    Marc, if you will pardon me for this is just my opinion, my problem with Shamanism is that it is not systematic but idiosyncratic. It has not been vetted by communities through time. Clearly there are archetypes that are consistent across cultures, philosophies and religions. Another whole topic unto itself but these archetypes point to deeper meanings that cut across time, space, and cultures.

    I fear with Shamanism that it is built on a foundation of sand. It may be communal and social but can it stand the test of time? The shamanism of Asia and Africa did last but they never spread, never took hold. This speaks to an underlying weakness and depth, the center does not hold.

    With the major traditions, there is a coherence and profundity that allows them to take root, blossom, and yield good fruit. Clearly, one can criticize and see all the mistakes that we as humans perpetrate when we institutionalize faith, but it seems to me that this is another truth. We are not capable of creating heaven on earth. We may be able, in short bursts, to come closer for a time but methinks only a divinity will ever be capable of creating heaven on earth.

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  28. Bruce,

    Forgive a poor, ignorant attempt to add to anything that has been said, but if “any action we may undertake is just more rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship.”, then what is the purpose -is there a purpose in everything if free-will actions have no discernable, positive cause – to – effect? We may indeed be “third force blind” – perhaps this should be part of our definition as a species, but I worry that some might use the concepts of blindness as a cop-out not to do anything to improove society, or avoid placing oneself in a politicaly incorrect zone where others might be offended. To roughly quote Bill Maher, when Martin Luther King stood on the Mall, he didn’t say “Now these good southerneres with their firehoses and German Shepards have their point too, so their isn’t much we should do right now. He said, “I have a dream” – and in effect, they have a nightmare. What kind of world would we have if we all decided never to rearrange the deck chairs? Perhaps at given intersections of our lives we especially need to be open to “metaxu”, “so grave a critical ‘it has’ to be impressed on us by extraordinary means” (even if a ghost isnt involved).

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  29. Nick,

    Thanks for pointing me to Christina Howe’s article. I like the concept of metaxu, intermediaries that allow us to experience the divine and the divine in ourselves. I also compelled by the symmetry of Simone having an ecstatic experience in St. Francis’ home church and then dying young, mostly due to a life lived as an ascetic, again like St. Francis. A love most powerful existed in both of them.

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  30. Scott, that’s Simone’s great value now. There seems to be division between the academics and the dreamers. The academics view the dreamers as naive and the dreamers consider the academics oblivious of mans spritual nature.

    Gurdjieff said in his nineteenth Aphorism: “Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West—and then seek.”

    But when wisdom devolves into imagination and thought becomes rigidly literal, we must have the artificial division between them all to easily evidenced in modern culture.

    Simone lived in accordance with Gurdjieff’s nineteenth Aphorism uniting science and religion which makes her so vital for keeping the importance of the awareness of the quality of metaxu alive in an increasingly technological society.

    These people are few and far between and we are fortunate IMO when we become aware of their influence.

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  31. Very interesting thread the last couple day.I wanted to respond to Bruce and that “man cannot do.” I am not a student of Gurdjieff, but I think it is important to not make assumptions about others’ levels of consciousness – whatever that means. If the Fourth Way is the way of consciousness, then I have to admit I don’t see the point of staying there. This is a mystery I grapple with often. For me, the “Fifth Way” is the only one that makes sense. It is the extension of the self-nullification necessary to deeper consciousness, but this time the abandonment of self is in the service and context of love – the “I-I.” This is what makes sense to me.

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  32. Barb,

    Would you define I-I for me. It get Buber’s I-it and I-thou, but please help me with I-I. I went to one of the most Spirit-filled worship services I have ever attended last night. What was so striking was the outflowing of love, the amount of touch, and the clear responsibility for being in I-Thou relationships through the holding of hands while facing each other in pairs and praying for the other.

    Private experience is a blessing and a gift but, wow, I think corporate worship done in love for God and neighbor can be as ecstatic. I-thou on the vertical AND horizontal plane.

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  33. I’m reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s book “Love is Stronger than Death” published in 1997. In her chapter on “The Abler Soul,” she mentions Boris Mouravieff’s “fifth way,” as a context for the conjoing of two souls to form an “abler soul.” This not for the purpose of happiness but for that alchemical completion via purification of our worst features to get to that place of oneness in communion with another. She uses a Rainer Maria Rilke poem (at 138) to come up with the equation: hidden essence (awakened soul) + tranformed in love unconditional with another = Real I (the “I-I” that is really the forging of two souls into one,transformed by love.

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  34. Hi Barb

    Very interesting thread the last couple day.I wanted to respond to Bruce and that “man cannot do.” I am not a student of Gurdjieff, but I think it is important to not make assumptions about others’ levels of consciousness – whatever that means. If the Fourth Way is the way of consciousness, then I have to admit I don’t see the point of staying there. This is a mystery I grapple with often. For me, the “Fifth Way” is the only one that makes sense. It is the extension of the self-nullification necessary to deeper consciousness, but this time the abandonment of self is in the service and context of love – the “I-I.” This is what makes sense to me.
    ************************

    First I believe you are describing the biblical concept of marriage and its purpose of uniting what was initially divided at a higher quality.

    Genesis 2:21-25 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

    Secondly, it may only be through consciousness that the quality of love you describe is possible. Gurdjieff wrote in the thirty fourth Aphorism:

    34. Conscious love evokes the same in response. Emotional love evokes the opposite. Physical love depends on type and polarity.

    The way of consciousness may also be what makes conscious love possible.

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  35. Scott and Nick, I agree. Nick, I wasn’t thinking of the Genesis marriage description, but this is the beauty of language and all that it conveys inside its package. The purpose of consciousness, if there can be one – which I think there is, especially here on Earth, is to honor and pursue conscious love, lovingness toward each other and ourselves. In my experience, this is what consciousness is for. There are so many mysteries in our world and beyond, and I think love is the biggest mystery among all of them.

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    • This is also the beauty of exchanges like this, Barb. Together we can draw out the meaning in things, point out different facets in the jewel.

      The idea of the Fifth Way that you shared, beautiful.

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