Monday, 14 December 2015

Chapter 9 -"the Way to Nowhere". The Introduction and preceding chapters may be accessed in the archives, right side of page, by clicking on "november".

Chapter 9

Liberation will be won simply through not disbelieving it upon hearing it

Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Corruption of Religion

The devotional approach to spirituality leads nowhere. It is self-indulgent, has the feel-good factor, is directed towards an ingrained interpretation of a transcendental god, but does not question deeply. The fact is that from an early age we are fed with information and are apt to take this information for granted, without questioning its validity. We identify and imitate and accept external authority which leads us to regard past knowledge as important and not present wisdom.

I have always had a curiosity to find out and prefer to act from a gut feeling, which I feel to be “who we are”. First of all we need to investigate who we are not. We are all conditioned to a greater or lesser degree and it is extremely difficult to escape from this conditioning. The mind is a biological machine and thought is mechanical, a tool for survival. So, as Krishnamurti said, how is it possible for thought, which is conditioned, by memory and by habit, to free itself from its conditioning? How can the mind free itself from the known? The first thing is to see the fallacy of belief. Belief results in conflict. “Lief” is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “wish”, so belief is something you wish to be true but it has no meaning in reality.

When a great spiritual master appears on the earth and reiterates the universal message of love, peace, wisdom and compassion (e.g. Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and other prophets, to name a few of the most revered of them) he is recognized by some and feared by others. His message is recorded and is then interpreted and distorted, often out of all recognition. Such is the case in Roman Christianity, which persecuted the early Gnostics. These primitive Christians looked into the true nature of things, rather than seeking salvation from knowledge or belief. They understood the world of illusion in which mankind is trapped self-proclaimed and perceived that the answer lay within, and involved a direct communication with a higher spirit. Similarly the pious Celtic Christian saints took over from the ancient pagan religion which recognised the spirits of nature, of the trees and plants, pure water from the holy wells, and were aware of the inter-relatedness of all living things.

On the other hand, mainstream Christians exerted control and religious authority over their congregations, deified the Pope, and asserted that he was infallible. They introduced the concepts of mortal sin, transubstantiation, virgin birth, heaven and hell, fire and brimstone. This brought them into conflict with other beliefs. In the Middle Ages the Christians and Moslems were engaged in a struggle for dominance, battling over the holy sites of Jerusalem, with the Moslems practically reaching the gates of Paris (they dominated Spain for hundreds of years). The Moslems spread south and east, sweeping through Malaysia and Indonesia and almost took over the Philippines, until in 1534 the Spanish discoverers arrived with the Portuguese explorer Magellan, and the later general Legazpi, and turned back the tide of Islam.

Why has there been such a clash between these two great religions, which continues to this day? Not only are they divided one from another but they are divided within themselves – Catholic and Protestant, Sunni and Shia. The answer lies in ignorance and misinterpretation resulting in the evils of greed, ignorance, fear and hypocrisy and other negative traits in human nature. It lies in the utter fallacy of absolute belief. We are imperfect, yet we are intelligent, and do not of necessity have to succumb to these destructive tendencies and power games. That is why the great prophets of old came to deliver the message of brotherly love, and provide guidelines for right living. Unfortunately, the original message, though initially clear and straight-forward, was lost and obscured, and manipulated by unscrupulous and power-hungry clerics who craved dominance over their fellow men and women. And so the prophets continued, and still continue, to be born into this world, to show mankind the way to live a good and righteous life. Whether anyone with a degree of intelligence takes any notice of their universal message is questionable.

A warrior acts as if nothing ever happened because he doesn't believe in anything, yet he accepts everything at its face value.

The Art of Seeing

What we perceive is not necessarily fact. Our perception is tainted by our conditioned minds. Instead of seeing things as they are we see things as we think they are, from our clouded perception of “what is”. Reality contains within it our condition of illusion but we cannot see it or relate to it out of a clouded or flawed perception. The signals which surround us and motivate our actions are random and haphazard and are filtered and distorted unless we can attune our senses so that the message is loud and clear.  We can only relate to “what is” from a clear perception of truth, from a mind which mirrors reality, not conditions it or interprets it for its own ends. The mechanical mind is always playing tricks, so that we are led farther from reality, and perception and reality are increasingly drawn apart. We need to view any situation from a clear, unclouded mind, a mind which is empty of motive and the vagaries of thought, a mind which is innocent and yet aware.

Perception is not limited to the intellect but involves the whole being, in a state of attention and awareness. Truth is experienced only by a mind which is attentive, aware and uncontaminated. In this state of true perception the observer is the observed. There is a direct relationship and a communication between the observer in his state of clear perception and the observed, in the reality of “what is”. This is the basis of love. Love is a meeting of minds which are attuned, at the same time, on the same level, at the same intensity to the reality of each other and which can possess no motive (Krishnamurti). Any other kind of relationship is no more than an entanglement and, in numerous cases, has no survival value.

Two philosophers discover the truth; then one says to the other “Let’s debate it!”
(J. Krishnamurti)

Any interpretation of the truth negates it. When the observer is separated from the observed there is interpretation. The interpretation distorts the perception. Similarly, the same occurs with listening when the mind is constantly comparing, associating and evaluating the words of the speaker. Regularly, after the Talks, small groups would form to discuss what Krishnamurti really meant, and thus the mind would revert to its habitual mode, interpreting the words of the speaker.
This must have been a source of frustration for a man who had penetrated to the core of the problems associated with thought.

The art of listening is to be open to what is being said without the mind getting in the way. A shift in perception is required, and it can be achieved, but not by thought but by intuition. Perception is not locked in one particular place but may shift from place to place in accordance with the ever-changing reality. In the books of Carlos Castaneda, the shamanistic teacher Don Juan sets up the conditions for a radical change in perception in his apprentice which disorientates him so much that he is forced into experiencing a very different reality. Whether or not you regard the writings of Castaneda as literarily true, they have a ring of authenticity which cannot be denied.

Perception conditioned by thought is linked to image, the image that you have of another person which comes out of your conditioned mind and its preconceptions. That person also has a similar image of you, and this is dependent upon his or her conditioning, experiences, associations and preconceptions. Furthermore, you have an image of yourself, and the other person has an image of himself or herself – both out of synch with the reality. So any relationship that exists between both of you is composed of a meeting of unrelated images, and lacks substance and authenticity. When the masks are removed, which hide the original face, the authentic being that is you is revealed. Faced with this truth the other is disarmed and cannot longer dissemble. The art of seeing requires an empty mind, a mind of innocence, without motive.

Unconditioned seeing is different from the activity of the brain. This facility comes from the whole being, the mind and the heart working in harmony, balancing all centres – the intellectual, the emotional, the physical, the instinctive and the sexual. When the divided selves become united and integrated and the individual comes into being, then the masks fall away and consciousness guides his actions through intelligence and awareness and the power of love.

Communities and Self-Sufficiency

In 1975 I sold my trusty Renault 4 and bought a Volkswagen Kombi camper van in burgundy and white, with a split windscreen, and revelled in the joy of driving
it around the Cornish countryside. Then in August of 1976 I took it to the Krishnamurti Talks in Hampshire. At this time I met John Michell, investigating ley-lines in Cornwall.  We had a visit from Clive Palmer, a founder of the Incredible String Band, who gave me his LP record of   “Spirit of Love”.

One day a large van arrived at the gate upon which were a number of long poles and a large quantity of canvas. It was Colin, who had arrived with his girlfriend, and who requested to pitch their tepee on the river bank. I was happy to oblige and they quickly unloaded their van and set up the tepee and we enjoyed chatting with them around the fire which burned in the centre while the smoke drifted up to the top of the tent and emerged into the night where an outlet flap could be positioned to prevent the wind from interfering with its emission. At this time there were a number of self-sufficient experimenters known as the “tepee people” and several of them had set up their camps in Wales.

As well as divining with a dowsing rod I was consulting the I Ching and forming hexagrams by throwing down three Chinese coins, then checking the way they fell for yin and yang, yin being “tails” and yang being “heads”. It was a time of spiritual experimentation and a time when psilocybin mushrooms were found growing on the slopes of Tregonning Hill. Nothing was sacrosanct in the cause of finding out who you are. I would occasionally take a walk on the twin hills of Godolphin and Tregonning, and come across these small and insignificant but potent mushrooms known as “liberty caps”.

In the writings of Castaneda the Yaqui Indian, Don Juan, uses a cactus, peyote, to obtain the hallucinogenic drug mescalin or mescalito, in order to liberate the mind of Carlos from its commonplace perception of reality and gain an expanded awareness of the totality. The shamans of Peru and Ecuador used the datura plant and concocted a drink known as ayahuasca which opened them to visions of an alternate reality. Aldous Huxley wrote “Doors of Perception” and “Island” in which he speaks of mind-altering drugs such as soma and it is said that he took mescalin on his deathbed. It is evident that whatever a man seeks the world of nature provides. The hallucinatory experiences provided by these plants have played a substantial role in the emergence of religion in every continent, and it is unfortunate that the major religions have often been manipulated, distorted and corrupted by scheming or deluded prelates, who wish to control their subjects or convert them to their own limited and unenlightened views.

John Seymour had published his book on living a self-sufficient life-style using alternative technologies – wind-power, hydro-power and solar power. More people were opting to live organically and to buy whole-food and bake bread. I invited others to join me at the farm in west Cornwall and I began to buy stocks of wholefood – flour, brown sugar, honey, hunza apricots, lentils, beans, brown rice – 

– and sell them from the premises. Brian Corvin arrived from Dublin and he presented me with a number of Bahai paintings which he had produced and which I set up in the meditation room. This meditation hall in the barn contained a stained-glass window representing a Tibetan mandala, which I had created and had set into the end wall, with a light behind it which illuminated the room, and every week a meditation took place there led by Gervase Thomas, a friend who was a Sufi practitioner. On one occasion a group of Sufis arrived and asked to stay the night. On the following the morning I glanced out of the window and saw them performing a circle dance on the lawn in front of the house. For several months afterwards rumours were going around the countryside that we were practising black magic and human sacrifice. The Sufis represent the mystical aspect of the religion of Islam, where the trappings of religion have been left behind and a true awareness of the nature of consciousness dawns.

Godolgan sunset
Lighting up the western sky
Steals back to the Void


Candle Power

After the divorce in 1976 I started the candle business. I had been making pottery but following the departure of my former wife and her new partner I sold the pottery equipment and ventured into the business of making sand candles. I called the business Godolgan Crafts and it was a one-man operation. The candles were cast in a sand bed and came in six colours and perfumes and in different shapes. Some looked like lanterns with porthole windows carved into the sides which lit up as the candle burned down. I sold them in craft and gifts shops all over the south and west of England, and even to hotels and restaurants and at mediaeval fairs. I travelled around the countryside in my VW Caravette and a few years later in a yellow Volvo estate car loaded up with boxes of candles until the mud-flaps on the rear wheels just cleared the ground.

At this time I was reading books by Carlos Castaneda and I read them all, concerning the “Teachings of Don Juan – a Yaqui way of knowledge”, which reinforced the fact that true knowledge comes through seeing, not through relying on the thought process, and a shift in perception on what Castaneda termed the “band of emanations”. Seeing “what is” comes through perception, not by employing thought. Thought is extremely good at leading one astray as identifying with it as the only arbiter of reality binds us to the illusion and denies and obscures the true nature of consciousness. 

Candle-making was a very good means of putting one's energies into a creative activity and being with “what is”. One can understand these matters intellectually but real understanding can only come through avoiding the pitfalls and living with essence - being, doing, creating and experiencing. Candle-making, and numerous other handicrafts, are very therapeutic and life-enhancing. Year after year, for six years, I set to work on my bed of sand in one of the outbuildings on the farm, heating up the wax in an electric boiler, forming the holes into which the wax would be poured, carving the candles after the wax had set, setting out the candles and inserting the wicks, pouring more coloured wax into the candle moulds and adding the perfumes. On one occasion I managed to avert a catastrophe when I overfilled one of the heated containers and the wax caught fire sending flames leaping up towards the roof. Without thinking I picked up the searing hot container and removed it from the heat, dowsing the flames at the expense of terribly blistered hands. It was at least three weeks before I could drive the car and get myself back into my working routine.

During these years I was writing poetry, another expression of my intensive creative activities at this time in my life. A poet friend from Swanage in Dorset, who had appeared on my doorstep in Cornwall sometime in 1977 invited me to visit him. This was Owen Davis, who travelled down from Swanage to meet me. He was a friend of Erma, living nearby in Corfe, who was related to the Harveys of Hayle, a famous family of Cornish tin-owners.  I had met Erma on one of her trips to Cornwall and she shared my interests in ley-lines and divining.

This creative period in my life, writing poetry and candle-making helped me greatly to recover from the trauma of divorce. In 1978 I sold 12,000 candles and used 2 ½ tons of wax. I carried on with the candle business for six years and travelled all over the south and west of England and up to the Home Counties after the summer season to catch the Christmas market. I made several trips to Swanage to sell my candles and visit friends, occasionally stayed with Erma and Dion. On one of these visits I was accompanied by two poets, Owen and his friend Jeremy, and we decided to take a walk on the cliffs of Purbeck. It was a perfect summer's day and I wrote this poem while lying on the grassy slopes. Before my friends continued their walk they instructed me to write a poem before their return, and this I did:

Butterfly                         1975

"Back in an hour perhaps", they said,
setting off along the track;
but here there is no sense of time,
and the blue-winged butterfly
flitting from flower to flower,
shares with the bees, the gull,
the grasshopper - and me -
each precious moment in the Always-Now.
And a solitary sail, close in to shore,
now here ................. now gone ..................
glides listlessly across the sunlit sea;
and there is music in the lapping of the waves
upon the rocks of Purbeck stone.

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