Alice in Wonderland revisited or whose rabbit hole are we trapped in, yours or mine?

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A while back my granddaughter and I snuggled up and watched the film Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp. In it Alice tries to pinch herself out of what she assumes to be her dream, but is it a dream? She wanders confused and unable to assert that she is even who she claims to be.

 

“’Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I – I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Like Alice are we in a dream? And like her is it our own unmet fears that keep us there? Is it our unwillingness to assert our true self that keeps us trapped in our own little madness?

Often the whole world seems a confusing place and trying to figure it out is like trying to answer the Mad Hatters oft repeated riddle, “Why is a Raven like a writing desk?” The point is that sometimes there just isn’t an answer, or meaning–sometimes life is just absurd. As one looks closer at the world we’ve made, it all gets “curioser and curioser”.

Falling down the rabbit hole into the dark underworld of our dreams will lead us to a curious and confusing realm. But if you were to imagine falling up the hole and into the daylight might it be the crazy conscious world we’ve all adapted to that is mad and the dark world of the unconscious holding the actual enlightenment we seek? Ah what then?

Trapped in a hole of our own making, preferring to limit ourselves to a very small landscape rather than to open our selves up to the endless view of our real self i.e. to be willing to live in hell for fear of heaven–what madness is that?

 

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Ah, but we all think that it was happenstance that we’re here, that we didn’t choose to be here. Are you sure of that? Maybe that thought is your ego’s way of not having to be responsible for how it all turns out?

But what is madness? Deviating too far from a norm or from what is the standard for common sense? Was it madness to believe that sound and image could be broadcast through the air across great distances? Or that women could ever be the equal of any man and deserved the same rights and privileges? And that there would ever be a willing confederation of traditional enemies as is being witnessed in the European Union? Was it crazy to believe that humans could be made to fly or step foot upon the moon? Or that two young college dropouts could change the way the world communicates? At one time the answer to all of these and more was an unquestioned, “yes, it is madness”!

 

“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

–Lewis Carroll

 

Real madness seems to be a society that fights desperately for its freedom and then votes for someone to restrict and oppress them. Then there’s a society who believes that the answer to personal safety and security against guns is to buy more guns, bigger guns, with more bullets, and more power. Or how about those who believe that if you punish hard enough the transgressor will learn not to do bad things (look how well that works in our penal system) or that if you hit a child for hitting that it will teach him not to hit? And why the human love affair with retribution and revenge, how’s that working?

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I’m sure that the readers of this blog could come up with many more bits of curious madness than I’ve detailed here. The point is that perhaps in our madness we’ve reversed what it means to be sane. Maybe we all ought to be a little more mad? In the best sort of way, of course, I mean, all the best people are.

A little night music

 

Nighttime at a roadside inn somewhere near Mt. Shasta.

 

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Found on Myazdatabase images

Banners of blood red and yellow clouds shining brightly in the distance turn grey silhouette upon a mountain’s edge at days end.

There’s a holy feeling as quiet descends across the valley. In communion I stand in an empty field singing to the night.

A bright flash lights the distant mountain kingdom where war sabers of cold and warm meet. The gods of day and night having one last joust.

A knight of the road dismounts his chuffing beast, fills its hungry belly with a sulfurous black fluid, and again flies into the now inky sky.

 

 

How odd the truth sayers: Most people won’t read this blog because they aren’t interested in truth…real truth

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I Ching on hexagram 61. (The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to the truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they represent.)

 

The gist of this blog came from both John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And a Flannery O’Connor’s quote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.”

We live in an age where truth is whatever you want it to be– that is whatever makes you right (or at least makes you think you are). We also live in an age with unprecedented access to facts. One click of the “return” key on a computer keyboard can give you billions of facts. Never before has the ability to dispel ignorance been so available to so many. And yet…

For the sake of personal need, or greed, or zealous beliefs the truth as it is reflected in facts is ignored at a profound level. It’s as though the world is embracing ignorance at an ever-increasing rate. If you don’t believe this just listen to those who run for political office (or are currently in it), or those who dominate the radio waves with political ranting–twisting and turning truths into macabre representations of reality. Religions no longer represent the truth of the Spirit from whence they were born, but for many have become a form of sanctioned self-delusion.

We wrap these delusions in something we call “conviction” and once settled these strong beliefs need no evidence, or proof to exist. But it is these convictions that are the enemies of truth. Worse than lies, they keep us bound up and unable to fly free. In short, our beliefs are a prison for they don’t allow for truth.

 

“Truth will have no gods before it. The belief in truth begins with the doubt of all truths in which one has previously believed.”

                                                                         –Nietzsche

 

But many are lazy, too lazy to think for their selves, so they leave the truth up to others. When those truths align with what is already thought then they are embraced as truth. The folly of this approach is that we then only perceive what we believe. How much we miss with this approach especially because God does not exist within the small confines of our beliefs. Heck, even you and I aren’t really reflected in the narrow confines of what we believe ourselves to be.

 

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

                                                         ~ Winston Churchill

 

Deep inside us is an unconscious part of ourselves it is full of shadows, bright glowing spirit, joys and fears. It is the home of our instincts, our intuitions, and stimuli for creativity. It can also be the home of truth for us. Truth is not something that is preached from the outside because it only comes from within.

How to tell if it’s truth vs. just another idea? If it nurtures, if it encourages growth, if it enlivens and frees the spirit, if it engenders love and acceptance, and fosters forbearance and gentleness it is said that it is then the truth. Anything else is an ego-self prejudice.

In the I Ching it is said that when the heart is free of prejudices, it is open to the truth. The intractable mind cannot hear the truth. Any form of self-righteousness prevents the discovery of truth.

I suggest that Truth is the essence of immortality. It is in the prisons of belief and conviction that we are mortal, that we are doomed to the dust of the earth. Truth is also something that can be chased after, something like happiness, but never caught as a function of the chase. The pursuit only prepares you for when truth enters the door.

Is there “the” truth, or is it as the Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran suggested, “I have found ‘a’ truth?” And is it forever a truth, or just in the moment? Is it as the physicist Niels Bohr said “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth?“

I suggest that truth is a state of enlightenment, a place where the ego that you think you are becomes silent, when thought itself becomes still. It is here that you can hear the truth. It is here that you awaken and begin to seek. You may look as though you are alone, but in truth there is God all around you and you begin to glow.

A follower of truth, listens to the inner voice, not the one in your head that is talking right now, or the one in the radio, or TV, or even the pulpit (yes, I know, and even this blog). The true follower surrenders their ideas, their thoughts and beliefs. The student of truth accepts their shadow selves as well as the “self” that they imagine them selves to be, or wish that they were. Truth does not tie itself to any illusion, any time or place. Truth is not a judgment, belief or thought, or anything else that one may have attached themselves to. It cannot be held, or given to another. It cannot be pursued, or sought after and only comes to you when released. It cannot be found in efforting and can only be found in the moment. Truth may only come in the letting go of it, or of anything for that matter.

 

“The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are Illusions.”

                                   – Bodhidharma, founder of Zen

 

Truth is not something apart from you, it’s not something you discover and take in. It’s always been there. It is not in your words, but is sometimes hidden between them. And it can only be found at the moment of death. The death of what you think you are.

Indeed, following the truth might make you odd.

“Forgive them Lord for they do not know what they are doing.”

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“Forgive them Lord for they do not know what they are doing.” This quote by Jesus prior to his death struck me deeply as a young boy. Here was someone enough outside of their own self-interest outside their own ego that they could understand and forgive the wrong thinking of those who not only tormented him but want to kill him.

This could be construed as intercession but it could also be stating a fact about the human condition where most of humankind is unaware of their true nature and therefore can only act out of misunderstanding. Only someone who was conscious of their real self and the reality of the world around them i.e. someone who could transcend their ego could make such a statement.

When people define and categorize each other they cut off their access to love. When they imagine that who and what they see outside themselves is real without the slightest notion of what they personally added to that reality they affect how love is experienced. Too often they experience the love as something outside themselves and the cause of their experience when in fact they are the cause of what they experience.

Later this week I’ll be posting the Love/Hate conflict in the Dark Knight of the Soul blog. Click on the picture link to the right of these posts.

As one begins to see that they are cause of their reality they begin to be more aware of what’s actually out there beyond their skin, what exists beyond the ego. When this happens the next time they experience love they know that it comes from within them and when they experience hate it is because the love has been buried or projected away.

We long for what we are down deep. It is this longing, this connection that moves us when we see love in any of its many forms.

How is a dream like a parable?

 

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Both are allegorical in that they both point to something and teach a lesson. “That’s like a fable! You might say.” Though both parables and fables teach lessons, the former uses people, whereas the latter uses animals. Both teach morals, both are a form of guidance.

However, a parable generally refers to spiritual lessons and in this way is not unlike many dreams that help one to develop a connection with their spirit. Over the centuries many people have claimed to have received messages from God through the medium of the dream. Throughout the history of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) dreams were said to have been sent from God to certain individuals that were supposed to be used for the good of all people, or to advance the understanding of one so that they may do more good for others. Parables were for all of these religions a means for communicating religious and spiritual concepts.

Why do parables, fables and dreams exist? The answer may be because that they are easier to remember than a direct example. “Dreams, easier to remember?” You say incredulously.

We don’t remember many dreams these days because it is not encouraged by the culture, but once a dream comes through, it’s hard to forget, especially if you’ve figured out what it means. But just because we don’t use them much, dreams haven’t gone the way of the appendix. Ever notice how much you dream after you start reading about dreams?

Mysteries bewilder us and tend to make us pay attention and to focus. Few of us would want to leave a mystery unsolved. Bewilderment makes us strive to know why, or what, or how–it is the carrot at the end of the stick. Dream symbols also beg that we interpret them just as we tend to add meaning to every event and person in our waking life (though this is most often an unexamined ego-supporting process where we project ourselves onto everything and then label it as reality).

Unlocking the meaning of a dream is not unlike discovering the meaning of a parable in that the process starts with asking the right questions and noting that these questions are affected by our beliefs regarding the symbols. Certain questions will often determine the answers, or at least bias them. So before you ask the questions, take a look at the foundation that they sit on. If you already have an answer, that will drive the question and bend it toward your answer. You see this phenomenon frequently with regard to news articles. This is just another form of, “We see what we want to see.”

 

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The Good Shepherd*, mosaic in 
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna
1st half of 5th century

 

What did this parable really mean? If the word “shepherd” were a metaphor for soul, your soul (your guide), what would the parable mean?

Is it possible to read this parable in yet another way, other than the traditional shepherd/flock metaphor? Might Jesus be telling us of our own divinity, our own spiritual nature and its connection with God? Might he be showing us how we can be following the wrong shepherd (the ego-self)? Might the guide that is within us all and that can come to us through a dream be the unconscious self?

Parables and dreams encourage us to dig deeper into their meaning and then apply the lessons to our everyday lives. Neither have to be an accurate depiction of actual events– they only need to point to the idea being conveyed in order to be instructive.

 

 

*Photo by-The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

 

Who are you?

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From the Book of Dreams– RJ Cole

An old man tired and at the end of a very long day lay his head upon a rock and soon fell fast asleep.

In his sleep the Other came to him and hovered quietly until noticed.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“Who are you?” Was the reply in turn.

“Awake I am known as Robert. And you?”

“I am the same as you. In sleep I am what I am when awake.”

“What is your purpose here?” asked the old man.

“What is your purpose?” Asked the Other.

“I’m not sure. What is my purpose? I’ve searched my life over to find my purpose. Are you here to show me?”

“It’s not about searching for purpose, in that you cannot find it. Your purpose will find you. When it does you’ll be it.”

“How will I know when it’s found me?” asked the old man.

“When you’re being it.”

And he woke up.

 

 

A trinity within us: The awesome prayer of the three-way conversation.

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Most prayer is for things we want and need such as relief from suffering or for forgiveness, peace, justice, love or health. But the prayer of mindfulness, of just observing and being with what is, is a prayer of communion. In this we are taking care of the God we find within us. In this way we bring the conscious mind and the unconscious mind closer together.

The following is a prayer that came to me in a half-awake reverie that called me to crawl out of my dozing recliner and get it down before it turned to the dust of consciousness. It went something like this…

“Musing on what’s going on in and around me I talk to my familiar, he whom I don’t share with any other.

Sometimes it’s as a prayer, deep, fervent, grateful or pleading and it is then that the third in me joins in.

We three are always talking though all too often I think that only the two of us closest to the outside are in private discourse.

But the third is always there, noticed or not, and always informing the conversation.

It is not the third who joins, but I as first and second who joins it. It is the primordial me that continuously touches but is often hidden by the chatter of the other two.

Lost in our incessant conversation and removed from immediate experience. Number one and number two going on and on in abstraction are often brought to kneel by the true touch experience of the third.

We treat our third as Other, apart as though outside but in prayer we hear it coming from within and as part of. When it comes to our table it is as though it’s always been there though we hadn’t noticed. We can only see this when we pay attention and are not lost in our own thoughts.

We are always in relationship, never alone, though it most often seems so when we are running amok and aren’t being quiet sort of like perennial kindergarten school children.

Afraid to look beyond the me of one and two all my energy goes into how I look to myself and to others and I ignore the void within me shunning the contribution of the third.

Nearly always lost in the meaningless conversation of the first two it’s only when he and I include the third that we touch real meaning. In the three-way conversation what seems like me and what seems like not me join together and no longer need perform as though we’ve got it altogether and I begin to see wholeness without the void.

It is the aware conversation of the three in relationship that creates the existence of fully being.”

Two more synchronistic events

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I tend to think that the world or the soul of the world– God, spirit, Gaia, is always talking to me through what events it puts before me. I call these events synchronicities– or as stated in the dictionary, “The simultaneous occurrence of causally unrelated events and the belief that the simultaneity has meaning beyond mere coincidence.”

Have you ever been thinking of someone you haven’t seen for quite a while and the phone rings and it’s them? How about a couple who have almost identical thoughts at the same time or when you’re looking for a thing to pry something and there on the ground is the perfect tool? That’s synchronicity.

Carl Jung called them “meaningful coincidences” i.e. some kind of spooky connecting principle and something that takes place in the field of energy that surrounds us all. He thought of life as having a deeper order and not just a jumble of random events and that we are imbedded in this deeper order. He suggested that sensitivity to this might be part of the process of awakening to this deeper aspect of the universe. Religious people might label these events as “grace”. This awareness might also show up in our dreams. If one were to imagine that we are always at some level “dreaming” then it is possible that some focused attention to both sides of our consciousness, awake and sleeping, might be useful to understanding what’s going on in this phenomenon called reality.

To this end I share the following two synchronistic events as an illustration.

 

1) One morning I walked into my favorite coffee shop wearing all blue and one of the Baristas playfully exclaimed, “It’s Blue Bob”. I then told her the story of a student I once met when volunteering some years back who had painted her face blue and wore a blue bob haircut. They laughed and at that very moment in walked a girl with blue hair cut in a Bob and everyone nodded at her to get my attention. Was this coincidence or a synchronistic event? I don’t know. The meaning? Who knows, but I am now programmed to notice how many things seem to be blue in my environment and the effect that the color has on me e.g. energizing.

 

 2) Today I’ve been worried about my rather passionate, and somewhat aggressive, response to a friend claiming that autism was caused by the vaccine given to children. Knowing that all studies claiming this have been unequivocally discredited and rejected I argued most loudly. Later feeling bad that I tried to bully his position into submission and yet still trying to support what I considered a reasoned position I wanted to apologize for my behavior, but how to do this without looking like I as weakening the position?

As I sat in the coffee shop I struggled with what I would say to my friend when a young boy perhaps 9 or 10 years old walked up to me and while making no eye contact he reached out and ran an index finger across the length of my mustache. Satisfied, he then walked off. “Must be autistic.” I thought to myself, which I confirmed later with his parent. What was he trying to tell me? Was it that it was all right to have been upset with the person I’d been talking to about the causes of Autism and that my approach of apologizing for my type of behavior without apologizing for what I was defending would work out? When I later approached my friend I shared my apology and then calmly reinforced my position through reason at which my friend said that he understood and took no offense to my earlier behavior. He said that I had given him something to think about.

 

Enough said?

 

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

Through the Looking-Glass– Lewis Carroll

The Dark Matter and energy of the universe

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I was reading an article on Dark Matter the other evening. This is the hypothetical matter that many astrophysicists believe may account for the majority of the total mass of the universe. It’s the matter that seems to be missing when we add up all the mass that we can see and deduce. They suggest that we can’t see it, but it’s there! It is in all of us, just as are the physical building blocks of the galaxies.

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Physicists also suggest that this matter is not like the matter we see, that it is comprised of something quite different than the usual protons and electrons whose conglomerates we see in the stars and our everyday world.

As I read I was reminded that the “dark matter” of the mind is what is known as the unconscious and that the unconscious as it is expressed in our dreams, visions, musings, and meditations is also not ordinary in form–it doesn’t seem to be cohesive or linear, appearing fragmented and unwilling to follow the conscious world’s physics i.e. it defies, or functions in opposition to, the physical realities of the waking world.

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The unconscious is a realm of all manner of magic where one can render objects to do any bidding without fear of failure e.g. where the dead can be resurrected, and we can breathe underwater, fly, and cause all manner of levitation. In the mind beneath our consciousness time itself can be without either cause or effect, be non-sequential, and even run in reverse. People and animals become interchangeable and often morph into one another.

In the waking world, this world at the bottom of Alice’s rabbit hole would seem irrational and chaotic and yet there’s just a hint of common sense that can lead us to make greater sense of the waking world at the top of the hole.

The dream world is I believe very much like the so-called Dark Matter that makes up most of the universe. Is it a coincidence that both the unconscious mind and dark matter account for approximately 70- 95% + of their respective totals e.g. for the total psyche* or the total physical universe?

 

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All of our myths, creation stories, fiction, poetry, art, and wondrous inventions are allegories of the observable universe. Anything that we find within ourselves may only reflect what is found in nature.

In the Hermetic  tradition of the druids, and Wiccans, there is a saying, “As above, so below”– that which is below corresponds to that which is above**. In this case the ‘above’ is represented by all that is conscious and seen while the ‘below’ is manifest in the unconscious or unseen. It would seem that both the physical and mental realities follow this dictum as well.

It also appears that there is movement toward bringing seeming opposites together to form a whole e.g. visible and dark matter, the conscious and unconscious mind. Both the physics world and the world of human psychology are working toward a Grand Unified Model of reality. Researchers such as James Hillman, Carl Jung, and other Depth Psychologists might also suggest that that’s what all humans are doing i.e. developing toward a unified whole–a process known as Individuation–the recognition of differences and then their reconciliation toward being fully human.

Like with Dark Matter, whether you know of it, or see it, the unconscious is there and a part of you.

 

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

 –T. S. Eliot

 

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*The psyche is the individual’s perceived and perceivable universe and is comprised of both the conscious and unconscious.

**From the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. It’s also preceded by a Vedic philosophy. The Hermetic philosophy portrays God as a transcendent God i.e. absolute in which we all participate.

Rumi wisdom: A different take on “what you seek you shall find”

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You are searching the world for

treasure but the real treasure is

yourself. If you are tempted by

bread, you will find only bread.

What you seek for you become.”

–Rumi

 

Search for intellectual understanding and you’ll miss the spirit. Understanding is the booby prize in life. It will not help you find your soul or manifest your spiritual self. It will not fill the void in your life or provide any lasting meaning. Seek ways to love, to manifest your soul, and find your spiritual self and you will find your true self.

Seek beauty and you’ll become it. Seek outer pleasures and they will fail you. Be in wonder and awe and you will be filled with the spirit. Seek to satisfy the desires of the ego and you’ll miss your real self.

Seek anger and hate and you will become it. Seek mystery and it will fill you with love for self and others. Seek out your shadow self and it will set you free for it is only when you hide it or hide from it that it has control over you. Seek only things and you’ll miss the intangibles, the ethereal, and divine. Seek to give and you’ll receive the whole world. Seek to possess and be possessed. Seek to just be and nothing will own you but you.

Seeking to find that which agrees with you results in missing the truth. If seeking to keep someone you will lose them. Trying to find a truth that fits your reality will forever blind you to reality.

None of these need your understanding in order to become, just their practice will make it so.

 

“You have woken up late,

lost and perplexed

but don’t rush to your books

looking for knowledge.

Pick up a flute instead and

let your heart play.”

–Rumi