A Cabinet of Wonder: Museum for the Soul

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Cabinets of Wonder, Cabinets of Curiosity, Wunderkammer, and Chambers of Art were sort of the first museums and often served their owners as a place for retreat and reflection, which is how I use my section of the Den where I do my writing and have my own cabinet.

They’ve been around in one form or the other (as whole rooms, warehouses, or in a piece of furniture) since about the 16th century. Click on this Wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities ) and you can scroll through a number of different Cabinets and read a little background on the subject.

I also include this link to the Idols of the Cave that as it says in its introduction is, “a site devoted to the experience of Wonder, cultivated according to Renaissance rite and custom.” http://idolsofthecave.com/about-this-site/

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Over the years I’ve collected objects that move my imagination in some way and have placed many of them on display that I frequently just gaze at and let whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings surface as a result. They also seem to serve as food for the soul and help me enter into the imaginal realm. To that end I have collected poems and quotes that inspire and transport me into this realm as well.

The cabinet includes such items as Bismuth (the modern Philosophers Stone), Merlinite, Galena, Aragonite, Lapis, Amethyst, Ruby, Hematite, and translucent slices of agate. Fossils of Ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras share the dishes of a brass apothecary scale with old compasses, sundials, antique pocket watches and a bronze hourglass crowding the corners.

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There’s a Theodolite surveyors instrument, an 1890s microscope, an armillary and orrerary (planetary models), a brass scale and assorted dragons including a bat skeleton that I’ve relabeled as “Draco Infantia (Latin for ‘baby dragon’). North American butterflies, dragonflies. Bats, a flying Dragon Lizard, and shells from the deepest regions of the ocean adorn the walls while some vintage laboratory glassware sits on a bookcase full of old books and artifacts that have caught my imagination over the years. A taxidermist’s black crow stands watch over a sculpture of old magnifying glasses that serves to remind me that it is the realm of the hardly noticed that can open a whole new world if one were to look more closely at life.

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I believe that anything that opens a link between our soul and us is worth exploring and experimenting with and our own expression of that can be immensely fulfilling.

Books that I’ve collected include the research of alchemists, psychotherapists, shaman, mystics, artists, poets, mythologists, physicists, theologians, fantasists, and holy books, collected dreams, and journals also share the crowded space along the wall and stacked upon the floor all representing a lifetime of interests.

 

 

 

What is a True Human Being?

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“A true human being is high without wine.

A true human being is full without dinner.

A true human being seems lost and befuddled.

A true human being is not ruled by eating and sleeping.

A true human being is the king in disguise.

A true human being is a jewel in the dust.

A true human being is not fashioned of elements.

A true human being is a shoreless wide ocean.

A true human being is a rain without clouds.

A true human being sees truth face to face.

A true human being is wise without reading.

A true human being is without belief or falsehood.

A true human being is not burdened with right or wrongness.

A true human being steps out of emptiness, arrives in a glory.

A true human being is secret and hidden.

Oh my dear and beloved you shine like the sun!

Oh my heart, go and find a true human being.”

 

–Rumi

What I hear in this poem is that our true nature is not of the material Earth, the body and what feeds it. We’re much, much bigger than that. Who we are is not of the dust that returns to dust but lies quietly surrounding us within and without.

 

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There is another world inside this one–no words can describe it.There is living, but no fear of death;There is Spring, but never a turn to Autumn.There are legends and storiescoming from the walls and ceilings. Even the rocks and trees recite poetry. 

Here an owl becomes a peacock,A wolf becomes a beautiful shepherd.To change the scenery, change your mood;To move around, just will it. 

Stand for a momentAnd look at a desert of thorns–it becomes a flowery garden.”
–Rumi

 

The world to each of us is the product of what we project, what we see, what we hear and what we feel. It is determined by our own minds and our own prejudices.

To Rumi, those who see their true nature fall in love and it is through that reality that they can live in the “Heaven on Earth” that so many religions speak of.

 

“Without love,all worship is a burden,all dancing is a chore,all music is mere noise. 

All the rain of heaven may fall into the sea– Without love,not one drop would become a pearl.For those in love,Moslem, Christian, and Jew do not exist.For those in love,faith and infidelity do not exist.For those in love,body, mind, heart, and soul do not exist. 

Why listen to those who see it another way?–if they’re not in lovetheir eyes do not exist. 

If you hurt others, don’t expect kindness in return.One who sows rotten seeds will get rotten fruit.God is great and compassionatebut if you plant barley,don’t expect a harvest of wheat.”
-Rumi

 

Basically we live, see and become what we project. Another way of saying that is, “we reap what we sew”. We can only feed ourselves, our inner selves, by the projections that we have put out there. If we see only fear, or anger, or hatred, then it’s only their council we can hear. In short, we are only listening to our own egos.

 

“We can’t be what we can’t see”
-Marian Wright Edelman

 

Another way of saying this is that peace in the world does not exist outside ourselves. It is only when we find it in ourselves that we can make a difference in the peace of the world. Angry, hateful and dismissive people cannot find peace or comfort because they are not being that which they seek.

We need nothing to tell us how we should feel, what we should believe and how we should act. At our core all of this is known. At our core is the “true human being”. It is only at the surface where our egos lie that we are forced to listen to that which is outside of us, because the ego-self does not know what’s inside and because it so desperately wants to remain in control, it depends on extensions of itself to provide the guidance and wisdoms it lacks. But being only extensions of itself it can only project the ignorance it lives within.

Once one finds their core being, their true human self, there is no need for the others outside us.

What’s the sound of one hand clapping? Think on that for the next 30 seconds before continuing to read. No cheating, now!

 

 

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By Karl Kempton

If you have the answer, then don’t bother to read on, because it’s not about finding an answer. It’s about the paradox and about unsticking the mind by grasping the unknowing, because it is only in the unknowing that something new can enter. This is a type of Zen Koan and is designed to put the mind into a double-bind and thus paralyze the ego-self, that which thinks it needs all the answers.

 

There’s another Zen story about the professor who comes to a Zen master for the purpose of learning something about Zen. The master offers him a cup and asks if he would like some tea. “Yes, of course!” Replied the professor and the master began to pour and pour until the cup ran over and filled the saucer then ran across the table. “But the cup is full!” Cried the professor. “And so are your ideas about Zen!” Suggested the master. Again, it is with your mind full, when you think you already know something, that there is no room for anything new.

Here’s a third story where Chuang Tzu, a Taoist teacher, told of a time when a man traveling in a boat sees another boat heading right toward him. In reaction he yells in anger and shakes his fist at the other boat to come about and change course, but nothing happens and they close the gap getting closer and closer. But now he notes that there’s no one in the other boat and his anger subsides and he himself steers clear. His preconceived notion nearly got him killed.

These stories lead to three more lessons in wielding magic, 1) Embrace the double-bind–the paradoxes of life, but embrace them as mysteries; 2) Give up what you know–actually, give up what you think you know. Until you do, you cannot learn anything; and 3) Learn to respond, not react–don’t operate out of your preconceptions, or your expectations e.g. be appropriate to the moment and action will flow easily.

Actually all three require letting go of the ego-self, the “I” and this leads me to a fourth lesson.

The “I” divides us from the magic that is all around us. It separates us from one another and makes us less than whole. In a men’s group this morning we got to talking about how so often we humans get caught up in dichotomies separating left thinkers from right, conservative from liberal, etc. We talk about diversity being a good thing but rankle when it bumps up against us. Every time a group doesn’t think or act the way we think they should we take our game somewhere else, church denominations split, political parties cut each other off, friends and lovers walk out on each other–separation, separation, separation.

However, I think that the very divisions can point to the whole and we can become more aware of what the whole looks like through the diversity. Each point of view is valid none are superior, or inferior, to the other except through the lens of our egos. And I contend that it’s only when we embrace our opposites that we can feed our souls.

Speaking of opposites, there’s an old Chinese fable that tells the story of the difference between heaven and hell. In both places there is a large banquet table. Each of the people sitting around the table is given 5-foot long chopsticks to eat with. In hell the people try in vain to feed themselves with their 5-foot long chopsticks while in heaven each person just feeds the person across from them. In heaven they surrender their individuality and rid themselves of their self-imposed division.

In church on Sunday we passed the peace of Christ amongst us when I came upon two folks who were deaf. In their signing the peace of Christ I noted that the sign for peace was the clasping of the left and right hands back and forth–how appropriate, peace comes from the inclusion and union of opposites.

Here’s to feeding and clasping your opposite.