god of the moon, sacred texts, mathematics, the sciences, magic, messenger and recorder of the deities, master of knowledge, and patron of scribes

Thoth Be, or Not Thoth Be

Blog, Mysticism, The Great Work

On Sunday night just past (3-10-21) I was particularly tired, it had been a long week workwise and between doing a few things around the house, keeping the kids busy I was shattered tired by 9pm on Sunday night. But being the good glutton for punishment that I am I soldiered on for another hour and a half before bed.

When I finally did lay my head down it wasn’t long before that feeling came on me again and I knew a vision was coming. There seems to be two times when these are most likely, when I’m fasting or when I’m dog-tired. But honestly, I don’t want to force myself to the point of exhaustion every time I’m to have one of these. Anyway, as I felt it coming on the first thing I could, for want of a better word, see, (or maybe experience is a better way to phrase it?) were fractals, black and silver and white. Where the black met the white there was always a slight line of silver to keep them apart. There was kind of a mirror sheen off of them as well and like a kaleidoscope they were constantly, but slowly changing their form.

1980s Want Their Reference Back Old Timer

What it reminded me of in the instant was…d’ya remember that flip Rubik’s game thing, I’ve just learnt it was called Rubik’s Magic (hmmm) that came out after the initial 1980s Rubik’s Cube madness? Yes, I’m older than you, probably, showing how long in the tooth I am here but, if you don’t, they looked like the image to the right. The one on the right side of the photos is usually what you ended up with, the one on the left is the correctly-completed one. Anyway, what I saw/experienced was a giant fractal, just out of arms reach, constantly changing like a kaleidoscope, black, silver and white all interchanging and evolving and it, well, shined and it’s movements reminded me of this Rubik’s Magic puzzle.

It could have lasted 10 minutes, it could have been 10 seconds. It could have been an hour. I have no idea. Time seems to just disappear when these things happen. One second you’re lying in bed the next you’re just, I don’t know how to explain it but I’ll try, it’s almost like you’re beyond it all, suspended outside time and space. It doesn’t even feel like time stops or slows down, most of us have experienced that, like when you’re in a crash or something dangerous is happening around you, time seems to kind of slow down. It’s to do with becoming intently focused on what’s going on around you so you can react in the best possible way and either get the hell out of danger or face it head on. It’s not the same as that. Time just isn’t a factor, it’s not that it doesn’t exist because if it didn’t exist you’d know what it is for it to not exist. Time just isn’t.

Yea, look, I don’t know what to make of it either. I hope I’m explaining it in a way that you can understand it. In John Higgs new book about William Blake (William Blake Vs the World) he talks about what it must be like to try and explain a feeling to someone that’s never had it before, or explaining a colour to someone who has no concept of colours. This feels a bit like this as I write it. No doubt, this can all be easily dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic but, ah well, I can only stare off into the distance and sigh you-weren’t-there-man, you weren’t there. And then Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son kicks in.

Fractal vs Mandala

This fractal, or was it a mandala? What’s the difference? A fractal is a never-ending pattern that repeats itself at differing scales while a mandala is a geometric doohickey that represents the universe. It would seem then that the difference is the mandala has the complexity within it, while a fractal changes and evolves its complexity as it scales up. OK, what I experienced then was a fractal. The fractal anyway gives way and there’s a pastel ombre, I want to say background but it’s more like a landscape but it’s also not a landscape as in when you watch a film and you know it’s not a real background it’s like a background from a 1970s Clint Eastwood Western. It looks real but it only looks real, it’s not.

This lingers for a while and it it changes from being ‘pretend real’ to having a sense of life about it. Then I notice it moves to the rhythm of my breathing. I didn’t even know I was breathing until I noticed it. Is this what morphic resonance could look like? Is any of this making sense?

Thoth Be, or Not Thoth Be

Then the proverbial hits the fan. From nowhere a massive figure appears from below the pastelgod of the moon, sacred texts, mathematics, the sciences, magic, messenger and recorder of the deities, master of knowledge, and patron of scribes background and he’s suddenly towering above me and I am so utterly and totally tiny and infinitely tiny. It’s Thoth. Well, mostly it’s Thoth. It’s Thoth but with a different beak. Thoth is almost always depicted as having a long beak, from the Ibis bird apparently. However, as he looms above me he seems to have what looks more like a puffin’s beak. Maybe this was done for comedic effect so as not to scare the living bejaysus out of me. No idea.

I grow a pair then and I ask ‘Who are you?’ He says ‘I am Las(s), Lord of Peace.’ He may have said ‘god’ and not ‘lord’ but it was certainly one of them. Then he says ‘Spread Peace’.

And then he’s gone and I’m drifting off to sleep begging myself to remember all this in the morning. Since then I’ve been looking up ‘las’ and getting very little. Las is used in Spanish and it’s basically a plural of ‘the’ so it’s pretty useless for symbolism. The only other language that I could find that has a word ‘las’ is Polish and it means ‘forest’. Maybe there’s a Pan connection here? In Greek mythology Thoth is kind of the same as Hermes but there are some differences and Hermes was Pan’s father. Thanks Bera for pointing it out to me.

Of course I turned to the oracle that is Tommie Kelly and asked for his opinion on it all. Of course he pointed out straight away that it could have been ‘lass’ and not ‘las’. Lass obviously meaning ‘girl,’ a word commonly heard in Scotland, Ulster and Northern England. He also turned up an ancient pre-Arabic goddess called Al-Lat/Allat/Allatu/Alilat who was basically the Devine Feminine from that part of the world.

The Egyptian Museum website describes Thoth as:

‘god of the moon, sacred texts, mathematics, the sciences, magic, messenger and recorder of the deities, master of knowledge, and patron of scribes.’

He’s pretty kickass in fairness but if it was him, why give me a different name? Does ‘las’ here having something to do with knowledge in nature, i.e. the Polish translation of ‘las’ or was he calling himself ‘lass’ as a female to turn my attention to the Devine Feminine again?

The 40 Servants

The 40 Servants, the Librarian, the Depleted, the Guru.I pulled out my 40 Servants Deck on Monday night and did a three card reading. Two cards for interpretation, one for advice. For the first two cards I got The Librarian and the Depleted. Seems to fit, Thoth was a big nerd, so if any 40 Servants card is going to fit him it’s The Librarian. And my old friend, The Depleted, Spud mate, you’ve got to give it all up, exhaust yourself and run to the ends of the earth to get what you’re looking for. You’ve got to get past winter and the tough times but renewal is not far off. Keep going. I like The Depleted in fairness, means there’s a reward at the end of the hard labour.

The Guru then for the advice. Use the lessons you’ll learn or have learnt in your day to day life. I will. Peace man, I love you all. I don’t want to close this chapter yet though, maybe on the next TaSTa we’ll get the bossman to give his interpretation of the cards. 

 

Sunyata

…And God is Empty, Just Like Me

Blog, Philosophy

Eckhart von Hochheim has become a big hit within these four walls I call home. Meister Eckhart was a great man for, well, you could just put a full stop there couldn’t you? What I meant to write was he was a great man for putting his thoughts about God into action. Of course, he’s one of the most well-known Christian mystics but rather than just writing down his ideas, in German rather than Latin to reach more people, he would also give lengthy sermons about what his thoughts were and the more you read up on him the more you will notice than he didn’t just stand on the shoulders of other Christian mystics that came before him, he also delved into Eastern and Ancient philosophies.  

Meister EckhartIn his own words “I have read many writings both of heathen philosophers and sages, of the Old and New Testaments, and I have earnestly and with all diligence sought the best and the highest virtue whereby man may come most closely to God…” (source)

Now, unlike most Christian preachers he would quite often use his sermons as what we’d call ‘thought experiments’ and challenge his congregations and audiences to ponder upon the being-ness and is-ness of both themselves and God. There are numerous occasions where we can read than in his sermons he would say things like, ‘I’ve never said this before,’ or, ‘the thought has just occurred to me,’ thus inviting those listening to engage with the same thoughts. There’s an often overlooked characteristic which most of the best teachers, gurus, yogis, whatever term you prefer to use, all share. They all wanted their students to think for themselves and to find God, being-ness, unity, again, whatever you want to call it, by themselves. They were more than happy to teach but ultimately it was up to the listener to do the work. It would appear that many, many people fall into the trap of following exactly what certain spiritual teachers say and end up idolising the teacher over the teachings. 

Is-ness and Being-ness

There’s two passages in particular I’d like to quote here:

Being is God…God and being are the same – or God has being from another and thus himself is not God…Everything that is has the fact of its being through being and from being. Therefore, if being is something different from God, a thing has its being from something other than God. Besides, there is nothing prior to being, because that which confers being creates and is a creator. To create is to give being out of nothing.

What is Life? God’s being is my life, but if it is so, then what is God’s must be mine and what is mine God’s. God’s is-ness is my is-ness, and neither more nor less. The just live eternally with God, on a par with God, neither deeper nor higher. All their work is done by God and God’s by them. (source for both).

Let’s have a gander at these quotes. In the first one Eckhart is saying that being is the same as God because anything that came into being not created by God wouldn’t be God and therefore just wouldn’t exist. How could something exist in God’s creation if God hasn’t created it? It couldn’t. This is Neoplatonism 101 here lads. I also like the final sentence and I think it’s something artists/writers/musicians/builders, those of us lucky enough to have a job/hobby where we create things should remember; to create is to give existence to something and to really think on that for a while can give some appreciation for how profound it can really be. For example, even just to write a song for a lover that you might only even ever play once for her is a thing of incredible, and heartfelt, beauty. To think of all the little things that had to happen for both you and her to share such tenderness and love to be inspired to write a song about that love and then to let it go out into the aether, back into the nothingness it came from. That’s just majestically mind-blowing.

The second quote then addresses that age-old question of why are we here? If God is life then we’re here living life because the being-ness of living is God itself. It’s almost too simple and yet too deep to really fathom isn’t it? But like Eckhart explains, God’s existence and our existence is the same, it is existence, so they must be one and the same. Our being-ness and is-ness is the same then as the Big Cheese’s. God, Twitter

But Being-ness and Is-ness, well, it’s not exactly tangible is it? OK, I can smack myself in the face and I’ll feel it thus proving I’m alive, to myself anyway, but if we sit down and meditate and really investigate the bejaysus out of is-ness and being-ness it’s not a thing that’s touchable, like my pretty face is anyway. But it’s still there, there’s still an is-ness or a being-ness to that being-ness. And indeed, it self-reflects because it knows that it’s there. We’ll come back to this self-reflecting later, for now let’s look more at emptiness.

Of course when you dip your tootsies into Buddhism the idea of ’emptiness’ is going to come up a fair amount. And it seems to be something that Westerners in particular seem to have a problem with. Even back in Eckhart’s stomping days, the late 13th and early 14th centuries, he wouldn’t have termed what the Buddhists call ’emptiness’ as that. For the most part he used terms like ‘silence,’ ‘stillness,’ and even ‘desert’ for example. If the argument that the Western mind is ‘more logical/rational’ then trying to rationalise ’emptiness’ is always going to be problematic. But we can all appreciate what ‘silence,’ ‘stillness,’ or ‘desert’ could mean in the context of deep contemplation on the mysteries of existence.

Tathātā

Buddhadasa BhikkhuIn Buddhism there’s a term, Tathātā, which has been usually translated as ‘thusness’ or ‘suchness’ and it’s the same as this being- or is-ness that Meister Eckhart spent so much time wrestling with. In Buddhism it’s seen as the absolute nature of things before even ideas or words concerning them exist. So, it is the is-ness of is-ness, again we see the characteristic of self-awareness here.  There’s a nice quote on the Wikipedia page regarding Tathātā that comes from Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, a perennialist and reinterpreter of Buddhist doctrine. Look him up, his rejection of the idea of rebirth rattled a few cages a few years back. Anyway, he said:

When tathātā is seen, the three characteristics of impermanence, dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and no-self are seen, emptiness is seen, and specific conditionality is seen. Tathātā is the summary of them all — merely thus, only thus, not-otherness.

In other words then, is-ness and being-ness is what there is. It’s all there is.

As you’ll no doubt be aware from listening to/watching the podcast, I’ve developed a major grá for Rupert Spira over the last few months and around seven years ago he put out a video about what we’re grappling with here; is-ness and being-ness. 

Matter and Consciousness

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to dissect everything said in the video, do have a watch if you have the time after reading, but here are some thoughts about it. He begins by saying that is-ness is what everything and every object shares in our existence. And this being-ness is a kind of emptiness/void. This is the dreaded ’emptiness’ I wrote about above but here Spira says that it’s a first kind of emptiness. Matter is mostly empty, we perceive it as not being that but science will tell us that the space around atoms is mostly empty and while not empty in the sense of a vacuum, the space is  actually occupied by waves, perceived as points when observed. So, we can say then that matter is energy vibrating, it is a kind of emptiness yet we perceive it as matter. Bizarre isn’t it?Rupert Spira

Spira speaks about this is-ness and says there’s another characteristic though, that this is-ness is known by the objects, people, beings etc. So, is-ness has awareness. Is-ness, or being-ness is self-reflective, i.e. being-ness knows of its own being-ness.

This then is a second kind of emptiness. Consciousness knows of its consciousness, there is no matter involved, only self-knowing of its knowingness. He says: 

The emptiness of matter, which is made of being and the emptiness of thought, or knowing, which is made out of pure consciousness.

But that creates a question; where is the line between these two things? Well, there’s isn’t one. It’s the same as what Meister Eckhart says above, that our being-ness and is-ness is the same as God’s being-ness and is-ness.

Spira says about this:

“The reality out of which things are made, pure being, matter, and the reality out of which knowledge or the mind are made, which seem to be two; I, the inside self, made of mind and you, or it, the outside world, made of matter. If we explore them both, they are both empty…these two emptinesses are identical.”

He goes further and explains that space is what the mind occupies while matter occupies time. Both of which are ‘approximations and both are, as such, empty as well‘.

To end the video he explains that the experience of love (mind) and beauty (matter) are what happens when these two different aspects knowingly experience themselves. And who could argue with that? When you love something you know exactly what it is to feel and to be alive. The same goes for seeing or experiencing a moment of beauty.

What use is all this knowledge though? Well, if being-ness and is-ness and our knowledge of our own is-ness and being-ness is the same as God’s being-ness and is-ness then we can engage with it in three simple ways.

The first is to pay attention to sounds, pick something you hear often, birdsong or cars in traffic for example. When you hear them, pay attention to the moment and simply be present. Feel your body, witness your thoughts without judgement, do whatever it is that makes you feel there in that  moment.

The second is to just stop, engage with one, or more of your senses and say, I’m here and be present. Another is a meditation I made for myself based on Peter Kingsley’s mêtis because “when we live [the illusion] to the full, to its furthest limits, we are nothing but reality fulfilling its own longing” (source). Let’s ignore the ‘illusion’ word though, that’s not my bag at all. I sit or lay down and I say to myself ‘I see, I feel, I think, I taste, I smell, I hear’ as a mantra, repeating and repeating and repeating and doing the things I’m saying seeing, feeling, thinking, tasting, smelling and hearing. It’s not an easy meditation but when it all syncs up together, everything simply is.

Lego Executioner

Spud Must Die!

Blog, Mysticism

In early July I had another vision thing, why do I call them things? I guess I’m still uncomfortable with calling them visions. OK, let’s kill that shadow, the writing is well on the walls by now Spud lad. I had another vision in July and I had some trouble understanding it, thanks to the ever-awesome Tommie Kelly, he was able to decipher it for me. You can listen to it here on a recent episode of TaSTA.

Let me run through it very quickly for you here. I was doing my usual mediation and towards the end I saw two flashes of lightening, both of them contained a word that the flash of fork lightening revealed but I couldn’t make out either of the words. In the first one I could make out the Greek letter Sigma (∑) and in the second word I made out the Greek letter Omega (Ω). However, I’ve just realised now when putting this post together that what I described was Omega upside down, so rather than it being a Greek letter, it was a Latin letter, Upsilon (Ʊ). This is a bit weird I have to admit, that OmniSyn word I was told is also a mix of Latin and Greek. But we’re going to have to park that bus for now. 

I asked Tommie for help to decipher the meaning of this vision and he did a 40 Servants Card reading. We decided to do two cards per scene; for the first one he revealed The Depleted and The Fixer, i.e. to get what is worth getting you’re going to need to sacrifice everything. For the second one; The Depleted and the Master, the same thing but Tommie put it in a far better, musical way, for U2 to become the band they were going to be they had to kill the first version of the band, so again, to get to where you’re going, you need to sacrifice it all for it.  Here’s the link again , if you’d like to listen. 

Now, there’s something staring us in the face and we’re looking right at it but us being caught up in the moment we couldn’t really see it. Tommie decided to call upon one more card, this was the card to give advice; The Devil. This means appraising self-imposed restrictions and seeing if they are mine, are inherited, if they’re useful etc. It’s right there lads, we’re talking about, dum-dum-dum, the dreaded ‘ego death’ of spirituality.

At the end of the vision I heard a voice, she always sounds like Galadriel by the way, she said ‘By first giving love then by receiving love you become God’s love’. Tommie fit it with the cards better than I ever could, “By giving it all, by becoming the tree at the end of winter, The Depleted you’ll become the Master. It’s surrender.”

This all came back to me today after another meditation, although to be truthful on two things here I needed Tommie’s help to find the podcast, thanks man, and I’m not sure why as I write this, but I feel like I haveRupert Spira to mention I came across this on my Instagram feed this morning. Now, for anyone who has been listening to the podcast of late you’ll know that Rupert Spira’s name has come up a fair amount. This post isn’t going to go into what he does but suffice to say he’s an incredible ‘non-daulity’ teacher of the ‘direct path’ as it’s known and his YouTube videos and interviews are simply brilliant. Anyway, it kind of seems fitting that this image popped up today, particularly as it makes so much sense to my new understanding of what’s known around these parts as ‘ego death’.

I’ve been wrestling with Evelyn Underhilll’s Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness for the past while, man, it took a long time to read. It’s suffers from two problems, Number 1 being that it’s so full of well-researched information that it’s just quite a lot to process and Number 2, Underhill wrote like a poet, she loved her flowery prose, although, in fairness I’d probably be moaning if it was delivered in dry, academic language. Anyway, towards the end of her book she dedicated a chapter to ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ where obviously enough the idea of ‘ego death’ pops up. Now, what’s really interesting here is that it became obvious to me that the current crop of occultists and spiritualists obsessed with the Dark Night of the Soul/Crossing the Abyss love the heroic version of it. Evoking and Invoking angels and demons, learning passages and incantations and spells from ancient sages, or douchebags like Crowley, so they can ride triumphantly into some epic battle in the realms of the Shadowland armed with great spiritual muscle and vitality.

Aleister CrowleyIt’s all bullshit though. It’s just more of this constant hero/victim complex we see coated across all forms of spirituality. I’m better than you because I’m doing X and you have no idea how difficult my struggles are because you are not me. I am the greatest victim of circumstances in the world story but I am the hero in my own and I will rise above it all and show you all just how great I am. And then you’ll be sorry. Underhill goes to great lengths to explain that the whole Dark Night of the Soul, which comes from St John of the Cross was really just eroding the selfish acts we do and doing God’s work instead; giving, receiving and being love.

Underhill explains the two different types of ego death that mystics, well, Christian mystics undergo. They are the sudden revelation where an individual sees themselves for what they truly are and turn their back on their old ways and embrace God’s love and do His work. The second type is the slow, self-examination and self-improvement where finally a person emerges from their inner work and  becomes the person they were ‘meant to be’. It’s the same as Carl Jung’s idea of ‘individuation’. 

The first types seems to go with a period of great personal challenge when all seems to be going bad for the individual involved and when they are really at rock bottom in their lives providence seems to stand in, grab the person by the shoulders, give them a good shake and a smack in the gob and get them onto the right road. The second one is a tad less heroic but nonetheless the one that, it would seem, seems to occur far more often to the Christian mystics, according to Underhill’s research anyway. Why you would willingly invite on the first version is beyond my limited brain power. You shouldn’t have to need massive amounts of drama to need to want to make a change. If you want to make a change you already know you need to. Most of the people who go through the first version didn’t ask for it, it’s madness to bring that level of mental anguish into yourself. Then again, we’ll all experienced periods in our lives when we’ve been addicted to personal drama. I’d like to extend an olive branch of hope and help to anyone caught in that loop.

Over the past few weeks, certain elements that I would have identified as fixed parts of myself have seemed to die off, or fallen away, eroded. I’m not quite sure what the best words would be to use here. Let me list them first; making a joke of everything, being an authoritative, father figure with the wee Murfs (or at least being seen as that), my asthma has nearly gone suddenly, horse riding lessons and always experiencing something by comparing it to past experiences. Let me run through these quickly. 

On the podcast where we spoke about my childhood visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tommie put forward the idea that when I was laughed at for sharing my vision with the class that that was where I may have picked up on the need to laugh at things which I dismiss, or indeed that humour became a defence mechanism and it was easier to make a joke of something than to take something seriously. I’ve not stopped joking and messing and having the craic but I’m less likely to poke fun at something. Being authoritative with the kids;  I’ve spoken about my fatherhood struggles aplenty on the podcast so I won’t bore you but I’ve hated being a bossy parent so I stopped. What’s the point? Instead of trying to get them to do stuff, I roll up my sleeves and lead by example. I’ve gone from taking two inhalers up to six or eight times a day to taking one two times and with the horses, sure I thought I knew how to handle any horse in the world, that illusion all came crashing down when we started lessons at a more professional place and while many would question his methods I want to be as good as I can on a horse so I took it on the chin and see it as a chance to become a better rider. The old me, if such a thing is actually a thing, would probably take the lazy option and go back to the easy lessons. Yes I could ride any horse but I wouldn’t be able to master any of them. But I will.

I understand these aren’t huge things for most people but humour and my asthma are huge things for me to see evaporate. That Spud doesn’t need to exist, so why does he? Well, because we have our clinging to our experiences and that brings us back to Spira’s quote above (ha, I knew there was a reason why I wanted to include it) ‘It is not necessary to get rid of thoughts, images and ideas; just cease deriving your sense of identity from them.’ To be the perfect Spud, I don’t need to identify with always trying to come up with a joke, I don’t need to identify with being an authoritative father-figure, I don’t need to identify with having bullshit asthma at 40 years of age, or being a cocky horse rider or always explaining experiences by  comparing them to past ones. That’s a big one.

french guillotine executionerAs much as I can I try now to experience everything as something new;  a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast, I tell myself I’ve never had them before, or they’ve never tasted so good, or I add some different fruit, or dried fruit or nuts to it on different days to make it a new experience. If the kids are being difficult and not doing what we’ve asked them to do, okay, change tact and ask ‘if these were strangers’ kids how would I get them to clean up the strawberries they’ve just mashed into that blanket that belonged to my great-grandmother?’

This morning I had some very deep meditation sessions. I didn’t sleep well last night and I wanted to allow my body and mind to get some rest for the day ahead. Towards the end of the first one I could see a cave wall coming towards me and there was some resistance and I almost lost it but at the last moment I fell into the vision. I was standing at the bottom of a sheer cliff wall within a cave and water was trickling down it…caves do have cliffs don’t they, or do they have a different name, like steps are outdoor stairs and stairs are indoor steps, anyway, as sure footed as an old, mountain goat I made my way to the top where there was a small passage and the water that was making its way down the cliff face was coming from. I crouched down and I was in a kind of corridor, a bit like underground catacombs. I turned to my left and entered a tiny, domed room where a double-headed iron axe was mounted on the wall. I took the axe, went back to the corridor and made my way to the end. 

When I got there I walked out into a main square of a town, people were dressed like peasants during the French Revolution and in the middle of the town square there was a guillotine with a person with a black sack over their head waiting for their execution and the executioner was standing there. He was looking at me. I stared back at him until I realised, oh, I have his axe. As I approached the stage the crowd began to cheer, they had realised too that I held the axe and I was making my way to the executioner to get the show over with. Why he wanted an axe when the victim was already in a guillotine I’m not sure. Lego Executioner

I walked up the steps and the noise of the crowd was getting louder and louder until as I handed over the axe and a huge cheer erupted. With his eyes he told me to get off the stage so I turned around and walked off the stage, standing at the bottom of the steps. I wondered who was it that was about to be killed. Pretty obvious isn’t it?

The executioner removed the black sack off the would-be victim’s head and, of course, dear reader you’ve put two and two together quicker than me here, it was me. The crowd was silent. I stood there in absolute shock knowing I could do nothing other than watch. The crowd didn’t seem to notice the doomed and the axe-bringer were one in the same. The executioner lifted the axe then iron met skin and…

Suddenly the scene changed and my body and the victim’s body turned into two swarms of bees, they circled around each other in a dance for a while before merging in the sky in the shape of a man. When they were fully merged there was a flash of lightening. I was floating in the sky.

What I’ve learned then is that, for me anyway, what is called ego death isn’t some awe-inducing traumatic, meditation experience but it’s chiseling away at the biases, the conditioning, the self-image, the self-identity of the identified self and revealing that our ‘personal characteristics’ are the clinging of the self to ideas of itself rather than who I am.

So who am I? As we’d say at home, God knows lads!

 

Divine providence

Providence

Blog, Mysticism

Providence is given to those who take it.

I’ve spoken before about this on a recent podcast but a little reminder wouldn’t go astray.  In her book Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Evelyn Underhill labels auditory experience as ‘auditions’. It’s been a fantastic read so far, I’m about halfway through and while it’s a far slower read that I’d want it to be, the fact is that it’s so full of stories and facts regarding mystics and their experiences that the going is slow.

Divine providenceBack to the quote though, I have used a method that’s been very successful for having such auditions. Basically when I wake up, I try to fall back asleep for a few minutes when I can.  Being in that liminal space weird, exciting, inspiring things happen. How many artists have you heard of who would speak about getting their ideas from that moment at where they’re just about to fall asleep or when they’re waking up. Having two small kids means this doesn’t happen as much as I’d like it to but it is what it is. 

I woke up one morning and it was, if I remember correctly, a weekend, so the wee Murfs didn’t need rushing off to playschool so I was able to put my head back on the pillow, closed my eyes and tried to drift off again. What I’ll do is I’ll meditate, just try to keep my mind clear, count 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 for my breaths and if something comes it does, if not then it doesn’t.  As has been the case in all of these audition experiences I heard the voice of a woman, almost a whisper and she said ‘Providence is given to those who take it.’

What is Devine Providence?

What’s that mean? Providence is something to do with god’s will, isn’t it? God’s good will, i.e., God’s Grace? Or is it a spiritual troll and it’s something to do with that place in Road Island as well, no Rhode Island, of course it’s not spelt Road Island ya muppet. Rhode Island isn’t an island, I didn’t know that until today and Martha’s Vineyard, which is an island is close by. The more ya know eh? Back to the game at hand. What are you supposed to do when you hear a whisper in your ear when you’re in one of those liminal places? First of all is it real? Can I trust it? If I can trust it, is the information trustworthy? Who said it? The Big Cheese, the HGA, Mary or has the wife left a walkie talkie behead the headboard and she’s twisting my melon…man?

I’ve pretty much left this experience alone for a while, although I’ve mentioned it on the podcast,Devine Providence which doesn’t feel like it’s public at all, pretty much the conversations between Tommie and I are what a ‘normal’ conversation would more than likely sound like between us, albeit we’d probably swear a lot more. Only two other people know about it, both of which said more or less the same thing when I asked wtf does that mean; a shrug of the shoulders and a heavy exhalation meaning ‘damned if I know Spud man’.  But, I’ve wanted to leave it alone, I felt like I needed it to percolate in the background for a while. Last week’s article brought it back to me and I’ve delved into some possible meanings since then. Hopefully it hasn’t gone rank like coffee that’s been there for too long but then again, I’m not one of those weirdos (I am a weirdo, hands up there lads) who doesn’t drinks coffee for the taste, it’s for the thing that tricks my brain into thinking I’m not tired so we should be fine here. And I actually like cold coffee. Freak, I know.

Providence Definition

Let’s look at some definitions first. The Oxford dictionary defines Providence as: God, or a force that some people believe controls our lives and the things that happen to us, usually in a way that protects us. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as : an influence that is not human in origin and is thought to control people’s lives and Merriam-Webster defines it as: divine guidance or care. All pretty similar definitions there, the first and last ones especially, the care or protection of a supernatural something for our benefit.  The whole idea though of Providence has had people far, far smarter than me scratching their heads and stroking their beards for a long, long time.

In an article on Britannica.com, The Dutch poet, professor and historian of religion Theodorus P.Theodorus P. van Baaren van Baaren writes that there are two basic beliefs when it comes to Providence. The first being: belief in more or less divine beings that are responsible for the world generally and for the welfare of humans specifically. Although omnipotence as an attribute of gods is rare, it is true that, as a rule, gods and other divine beings have considerable power not only over human destiny but also over nature. The gods take care of the world and of humankind, and their intentions toward humans are normally positive.

He writes that the second form is: belief in a cosmic order in which human welfare has its appointed place. This order is usually conceived as a divine order that is well intentioned toward human beings and is working for their well-being as long as they are willing to insert themselves into it, to follow it willingly, and not to upset it by perversion or rebellion. 

Where do you stand on those? I’d have to swing with the first one because the second one seems to be more like (potentially angry) sky god will be upset with you if you’re not a good boy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And especially with what I heard being “Providence is given to those who take it” then god’s grace is given to you if you want it, there are no retributions, if you want it, it is there, if you don’t want it, it’s still going to be there if you should ever change your mind. 

Monkey in the BrainOf course there’s a mighty fat proverbial elephant between the four walls here. What does all this mean for free will. If I have free will to choose to go along with the flow of the world then god’s got my back, right? But, well, where do I start on this one? Is free will a real thing? I’m not so convinced it is, even though I said on a podcast I do believe it, I’ve since changed my mind somewhat and since today have changed it again. Bear with me here…If I seem to make a particular decision, we know now that what I call ‘I’ didn’t really make that decision, it was internal parts of my brain that aren’t what we’d call ‘I’ that make the decisions before I told myself that I made the decisions. In the 1980s, an American scientist thought he’d proven that free will is nonsense. He had an experiment that recorded how the brain told participants’ arms to move before they consciously made a decision to move their arms, and significantly so. This truly was the death of the whole notion of free will for me. Or so I thought until today when I went looking for the scientist’s name, Benjamin Libet, and found that his theory has been debunked. 

Is Free Will Real?

Now, this is important. Seriously, this is really important. So much of new age spirituality and new thought uses Libet’s experiment as a pivot for their arguments for things like surrender, god’s grace, law of attraction etc. In 2012, Aaron Schurger and two colleagues, Jacobo Sitt and Stanislas Dehaene, gave a possible explanation that no, we don’t make decisions before movement, the decision to move and doing the actual morement occur at the same time.  Some Standford researchers couldn’t resist the bait and along with Schurger redid Libet’s experiement with a control this time and found that Schurger was in the rightpeople’s subjective experience of a decision—what Libet’s study seemed to suggest was just an illusion—appeared to match the actual moment their brains showed them making a decision.

Until I read that linked article and a few other this morning I had been convincing myself that free will wasn’t real but now I’m not too sure. I prefer the idea that Bernardo Kastrup has on the subject, we tell ourselves stories about our decisions even though who we call ‘I’ isn’t really in charge of them, as really the decisions are made by different parts of the brain and they can be working with or against other parts and when we do something our inner monologue tells us that the identifiable ‘I’ did it and thus we give ourselves these myths. We play the hero, the victim, the warrior, the sage, the wounded within our little stories. He posits that that’s the reason why myths have been so important in the development of cultures since the year dot. 

So then, let’s solve what Providence is given to those who take it means to me. For now anyway. If you know me at all dear reader you know I am wont to change my mind when I so feel like it. To me then it means that there’s a whole load of good in the world if you’re willing to see it and if you want more of it in your life, make more of it. Basically; be sound lads, just be sound.

Please indulge me the ending of this article with two quotes. The first from William Ames: The efficiency of God may be understood as either creation or providence. And another from St Ignatius: Above all, remember that God looks for solid virtues in us, such as patience, humility, obedience, abnegation of your own will – that is, the good will to serve Him and our neighbor in Him. His providence allows us other devotions only insofar as He sees that they are useful to us.

 

 

 

Virgin Mary LGBTQ

Mary and the Magus

Blog, Christianity, Mysticism

I’ve been reading a good bit about Mysticism and Perennialism of late, devouring YouTube documentaries and deciphering some of the texts of the most well-known mystics and Perennial philosophers. Basically, after my Big Event a while back someone reached out to me and helped me make sense of it all. Being given a word, I was told, put me in the ‘rank’ of Magus in Aleister Crowley’s Thelema and we laughed that in times long gone we’d be known as saints. Imagine trying to convince your wife you’re a walking saint. I’ve tried. I failed. I’ll try again though.

Now, that’s fun to talk about and fun to make fun of but Jesus, what? A saint? Me? I’m a swampdonkey from rural Ireland.  Now, the Magus, though, that’s good craic…

The Magus seeks to attain Wisdom, declares his law, and is a Master of all Magick in its greatest and highest sense. His will is entirely free from internal diversion or external opposition; His work is to create a new Universe in accordance with his Will. This grade corresponds to Chokmah on the Tree of Life. It also bears some resemblance to Nietzsche’s “new philosopher” who creates values, although with more focus on self-transcendence according to Crowley biographer Lawrence Sutin.  

That’s taken from here. Now, look, as any of you who listen of the podcast  knows, I dig what Crowley was trying to do, or did, with Thelema but I’ve very little time for the man himself and it’s not so easy for me, yet anyway, to put much distance between the man and what he done that was good and moral and what he done that really, really, really wasn’t. And this isn’t an article about the ranks of Thelema or the qualities of a Magus or the like but the parts about attaining wisdom and the focus on self-transcendence are of the main interest to me. 

Perennialism and Mysticism

Aleister CrowleyLike most of us when I first came across the idea of awakening or having an awakening/becoming enlightened I balked at such a notion that anyone as lowly as me would be able to. Sure, you’d literally need to be a saint to be one with God, like, by definition even. Sure, why would he/she/it/insert favourite pronoun, be bothered with a scumbag like me? But by reading more about non-duality and oneness with the Big Fella and the transcendence of teachers like the Buddha, Jesus etc. you start to say, aye, actually this can be done. And then when I was introduced to the Baptist Head books and saw that two working class lads from England could do it then by God, a working class lad from Ireland could fecking do it too.

Perennialism is basically the idea that at their most basic level all religions are aiming the same thing, i.e.  Union with God. Mysticism is achieving union with God via contemplative practices and/or prayer and, if you’re Christian and into it, some self-mortification (no thanks). The more and more that I read about the Perennialists and the mystics of Christianity in particular and some from Islam and Eastern religions/philosophies the more I reluctantly have to accept that what I’ve been experiencing for longer than I’ve ever admitted have been mystical experiences. That’s a strange and tough sentence to write. I was a card-carrying atheist until not too long ago. But I’d have to admit now that I was only one because I was too ashamed or scared or too unsure of myself to admit I’ve had religious and mystical experiences for quite a while. There isn’t a Christian God, I’d tell myself, but there’s something calling the shots and running it all, or at least behind it all there’s a unity to it all. 

1980s Ireland was still a hotbed of Catholicism, rural Ireland was still very much a hotbed of folk-Catholicism and rural Wexford was no different. Indeed, where I come from, having a local saint,St Fintan Munna, Taghmon St Fintan , who had been a fairly important abbot in the early Celtic church, (St Colmcille claimed God gave him specific instructions for Fintan) religion seemed to be everywhere. I’ll make a point too that the village I’m from has a high population of Irish Travellers and as such their (folk)-Catholic beliefs were very evident, particular at certain times of the year, May and October, when you’d see plenty of May bushes and statues of the Blessed Virgin and lighted candles in windows and the like. Nothing unusual for 1980s Ireland at all. You see less of these traditions now but they’re still around. 

In Catholic countries May is traditionally dedicated to a month-long devotion to the Virgin Mary while October is dedicated to the Rosary and with it having 150 Hail Marys in it, there’s an obvious connection. A classmate of my brother’s had cancer as a child, his older brother was also in my class, and we used to go to Rosary Novenas for him twice a week. They were sad, really heart breaking and it looked very bad for the lad. When it started out damn near half the village were going but as the weeks stretched on and on into months the numbers dwindled as hopes faded. Fair play though to the woman who organised it and said the prayers, Alice was her name, she kept at it and while I didn’t go to all I went to most of them. He recovered anyway. Maybe they had something to do with it, I’m not so sure but years later he thanked us for continuing to go. Least we could do. If nothing else it brought some people closer together. 

Hail Mary

Here’s something I didn’t know until researching this post, the Hail Mary was supposedly given to St Dominic by the bosswoman during the beginnings of conflicts with the Albigensian, more commonly known as the Cathars. The Cathars had some cool beliefs, most notably that theSt Dominic Received the Rosary universe was dualistic and that we (the goodies), had a moral obligation to be good to escape the burdens of the material world. St Dominic founded the Dominicans but during his time he would debate the ‘heretical’ Cathars, he lived the life of an ascetic and didn’t lead any of the genocidal battles against the Albigensian, although it is reported that he supported military involvement. It should be said too that he died before any of the inquisition of the Cathars took place. It’s said that Mary appeared to him and gave him the Rosary to help him get the Cathars to see the error of their ways. The problem though is that until Alanus de Rupe came along and said she appeared to St Dominic and gave him the Rosary two hundred and seventy-odd years later there wasn’t a single document written by any Dominican who said that St Dominic had said she appeared to him. Case closed then. 

Anyway the point I was trying to make before I got lost with Dom and Al there was the Virgin Mary was a bit of a big deal in Ireland and I would have been about three/four years old when all the Moving Statues phenomenon was occurring around Ireland a well. Most people I would have known back then would have had framed pictures of the Blessed Virgin and the Sacred Heart somewhere in their houses, you might have seen the odd Pope and JFK one as well. Unusual now but certainly not back then.

Visions of the Virgin Mary

I’m trying to remember what age I was. I remember the teacher I had in primary school so that would have meant I was in second class, that’s nine years old I reckon. Anyway, I was still sharing a room with my brother and even back then I used to have pretty bad insomnia for a child. I’d usually lose one night a week to not being able to sleep. Just lying there, worrying about everything and anything and trying to fix the world with all the mighty power and desire that a nine year old could wield in his head. My brother was fast asleep and it was a pitch dark night which I don’t remember that being all that usual because being in the middle of the countryside the stars and the moon would usually mean there’d be some light coming in the window. Must have been very overcast. Doesn’t matter.

So there I was, lying awake and then there she was. But not the film-version version that we see on our screens. She wasn’t in blue and white, there was no angelic music, no cheesy, disco fog machine, there was only silence. She was just there, shimmering, well shimmering is the wrong word, is there a word for solidly shimmering, in a kind of ghostly-luminous grey/green. It more had her shape than had her commonly-held features. There was no distinct face but her hand was outstretched, wide and downward and he head was facing downward too.

I was scared out of my tiny mind. Up to that point in my life it was without doubt the scariest thing that had ever happened to me. Thoughts tsumanied my child brain…Why was she, of all people, coming to me? I can’t do anything to help her, I can’t even get to sleep. I didn’t want the responsibility of having seen her. Was I hallucinating? Is this real? Am I already asleep and this is a dream? Why doesn’t see look like what she’s supposed to look like? I remember pulling the bedsheets up closer to my face and looking over at my brother to see if he was awake and had seen her too. Nope. Just me.

Virgin Mary LGBTQShe didn’t speak. I wasn’t given a prophecy. I didn’t receive any knowledge, secret or otherwise. She just hovered there in the top, left corner of the room and looked at me. And I stared back with the absolute fear of God in me. So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. One Hail Mary after another until I must have fallen asleep. 

The next day in school we had a religion class where the teacher was talking about visions that people had, Knock, Fatima and so on. I suppose now I’d call it a synchronicity. Like the idiot I am I put my hand up when she stopped talking and I told the class all about what had happened. Isn’t it a strange thing that a group of people can sit down and listen to someone tell stories about strangers having things occur to them but when someone in that same crowd admits to having a similar experience the crowd will turn on them? Anyway, I was laughed at and made fun of for a good while over that. Nobody believed me. Why would they? I was nine. 

There were two other times, one in a forest locally called Paddy’s Rock, when I’d gotten lost. It was the same thing, she was up in a tree and just looking down at me, although that time she was in her usual white and blue garb. She didn’t point me in any direction or anything, you know, she didn’t help me get unlost. Just was there up in a tree, with that faint smile she’s so often depicted as having. I eventually found my aunts and cousins again anyway, I told them and, yea, they didn’t believe me either.

There was one more at a place very close to that forest, a grotto just down the road. Now, there’s a cross on the top of the grotto as you can see in the pictures in that link and there’s always been a statue of Mary in the rock too. Anyway, I was up at the cross, looking down at the short trail up waiting for my cousins and she popped up again, in the sky. I don’t know the history of the grotto and why there’s a statue there and if she’d been seen there before or if it’s just a place of calm and quiet and a place for prayer. She just appeared in the sky, smiled and was gone again.

Anyway, I had just kind of pushed these experiences away until pretty recently. Literally nobody other than you dear reader knows about these experiences. I realise now what they are/were. I wonder though having pushed them away have I pushed her away? Then again, one of my first HGA visions had the white and blue motif and I saw a shield with IHS on it. Still though, got to be a little bit annoyed at myself for not having the guts to say hello but at the same time when you’re in the middle of these things talking seems to be the last thing on your mind. Things happen the way they happen. I need to accept them and take any lessons I can from them. Kind of bizarre to think and write that I’ve had visions of the Virgin Mary. I don’t really know what to do with this information.

Suggestions are welcome, you know where to get me.

 

 

Jesus Christ at the temple

Jesus Christ, the Child

Blog, Christianity

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas tells some of the stories of the boy Jesus, long before he became the Christ. And, well, there’s no easy way to say this; Jesus wasn’t a good boy. I’ll do my best to keep the language nice, those baddie search engines don’t like articles that slag off religions so let’s keep this one as objective as possible. If child murderers can be spoken about objectively that is? And obviously they can’t.

Jesus Christ at the templeRecently, the Oracle of Woo Wisdom Tommie Kelly and I had one of our usual podcasts. In it we were talking about a Yogananda, the first Indian Hindu guru to really make a mark on America.  Seemed like a sound lad, he became pretty popular at the time, used the fledging Post Office to spread his teachings and he taught about things like non-daulity, self-acceptance and so on. Ladies in bubble baths were a thing too. One of the things he did that was pretty smart when starting out his career in American was to adopt the teachings of Jesus. America at the time was WASP-central so it made sense to incorporate the teachings of Jesus instead of trying to hit people over the head with the arms of Vishnu or the trunk of Ganesha. Know your audience and all that.

Jesus Christ the Child

Of course, Yogananda wasn’t new to teaching, he had set up schools in India but there had been a prophecy prior to his birth that he would spread Hindu teachings to the West. During a vision while meditating Herself came knocking and told him to go to America and, yea, when she comes and tells you what to do you don’t get much of a choice. But enough about that. Anyway, this brought up something that’s become quite an obsession of mine of late, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is all about Jesus as a boy and the bizarre high jinx he was involved with. Mostly though it involved either killing people or bringing people back to life, if he liked them. Here’s a segment from the podcast:

 

We’ll get to the bits about the Irish poetry mentioned in the podcast later but let’s get a wee bit of context out of the way first.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGT) comes from some time in the second century. Kind of. It’s a little complicated. The earliest written version is only from the 13th century but in AD 180 , the Greek bishop Irenaeus writes about it. Scholars are fairly sure though that it’s not from the same Thomas as the (other) Gospel of Thomas, which is believed, by some anyway, to be the only record of the actual words of Jesus Christ. It’s well worth a gander too, it’s very, perennial; we are one, power of now, love is the creative force, Alan Watts has a nice voice etc. etc. The earliest of the Gospel of Thomas fragments date to around 130 AD so, while they come from more or less the same time it’s generally believed they don’t come from the same source as they are so very, very different. The proper Thomas Gospel has verses like this: 

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.”
Jesus said, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For
where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the
beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.” 

Y’know the standard, end is the beginning, transcendence is immortality, run-of-the-mill spirituality stuff. The IGT has one story where Jesus made some birds in some mud from a pool, made them come to life and then when some other child wrecked his pools (after his father Joseph gave him an earful for doing stuff on the Sabbath), Jesus loses his temper and kills him stone dead. Yes. Jesus, kills him. Jesus. Jesus kills a boy. This is a Christian text and it says Jesus killed a boy. Check it out:

This little child Jesus when he was five years old was playing at the ford of a brook: and he gathered together the waters thatJesus and his mud birds flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone. And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things. And there were also many other little children playing with him.

And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day. And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do.

But the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a branch of a willow and dispersed the waters which Jesus had gathered together. And when Jesus saw what was done, he was wroth and said unto him: O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee? Behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root, nor fruit. And straightway that lad withered up wholly, but Jesus departed and went unto Joseph’s house.

So there you have. Can we forgive him one murder…can we? Maybe we should for fear that he’d lose the rag and call time on our earthly adventure as well. Well, in literally the next verse he kills someone else.

After that again he went through the village, and a child ran and dashed against his shoulder. And Jesus was provoked and said unto him: Thou shalt not finish thy course. And immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said: Whence was this young child born, for that every word of his is an accomplished work? And the parents of him that was dead came unto Joseph, and blamed him, saying: Thou that hast such a child canst not dwell with us in the village: or do thou teach him to bless and not to curse: for he slayeth our children.

Jesus the Child

Well, actually, this is what my Father said….

I cannot stress the importance of this, the Saviour of Man is said to have killed people. Of course it’s not true. Or is it not true? God knows at this stage but at the very least there were Christian teachings knocking about not too long after the real Jesus’ death where they told stories about him killing children. There are stories of him making an eejit of his teachers and elders and the one mentioned in the podcast above where he brings a kid back to life to prove he didn’t kill him and instead of doing the decent thing and keeping him alive he just lets him die again. I must admit here though that in some versions of this one he does keep him alive, in the first one I came across he just let him die again and even blinded the poor chap’s parents for having the audacity of accusing him of murder, as if he’d ever do such a thing.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are miracles: making mud into birds is pretty miraculous, he restores the sight of the blinded parents, he makes dried fish come alive, he carries a load of water in his clothes for his Mammy, produced a huge yield of grain from one seed, he helps out Joseph with some carpentry work, he cures his brother James of a snakebite, helps a man who had a nasty accident with an axe and another chap on a building site. All in all, the good probably outweigh the bad. No, it’s doesn’t. He killed people. This blows my mind, the one sent here to save us, killed people who upset him for pretty trifle things in the grand scheme of things; the first kid boke up his pools of water, the second knocked into him when he was running. 

The Gnostic Gospels

The Gnostic Gospels are, well, a bit strange. A bizarre mix of cosmology, different teachings and hierarchies. Some of them couldn’t even agree on whether Jesus had been human or had been a supernatural being on earth. The Demiurge is a goodie, then a baddie, then a goodie. Sophia has more issues that the cast of Sex and the City. People were even told not to procreate in some texts because this traps God’s light.

Strangest of all though, personally anyway, is that modern occultists seem to hold the Gnostic Gospels in a kind of lofty position of being

The Demiurge

The Demiurge “Am I evil? I am man, yes I am”

‘truer’ than the actual Gospels. Why they should be treated as any ‘truer’ than the others is pretty pointless, they both came from an oral traditions where embellishments were the order of the day. This isn’t to say nothing is true in them but the modern occultist who takes the Gnostic Gospels as, well, gospel, have the wrong end of the sally branch. Gnosticism as an idea, that we all contain a spark of the Devine within us is something I’d wholeheartedly want to be true at the very least, but, the Gnostic Gospels, at least what I’ve read of them, are just as trustworthy as the actual Bible. Not to say we should be cynical of everything but that we should be wary of just believing someone or something based on their word that something is true. 

Before I leave you with the Irish poems though, the translations of them anyway, let’s finish on this. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas really just shows the different attitudes we have now towards life and death regarding young people. Think of your parent’s or grandparent’s generation, it was normal for women to bear five, six, seven children and maybe four would survive past the age of two. Life and death were cheaper and it wasn’t so long ago that attitudes changed. While it’s good craic to make fun of these verses and explore hidden meanings that’s really what this text is saying; death comes fast, be aware and be a good person because judgement is doled out just as quickly.

Jesus the Child, Irish Poetry

The Irish poems mentioned earlier date back to around 700 AD, according to Tony Burke’s research this makes them one of the oldest ‘witnesses’ of the IGT.  These are the translated poems in full, as translated by M. Herbert contained in M. McNamara et al, Apocrypha Hiberniae, t. 1: Evangelia infantiae (CCSA 13 and 14; Turnhout: Brepols, 2001–2002), p. 443-483.

The Pools and the Sparrows

When Jesus, Son of the living God,
was a lad of five years
he blessed twelve little pools of water.
He had enclosed then with clay.

2 He shaped twelve little birds,
called passers
on the Sabbath day
He made them firmly from clay. 

A certain Jew complained about
Jesus, son of the great God.
He brought him by the hand
to his foster-father, Joseph.

“Rebuke your son, Joseph.
What he is doing is not right.
On the Sabbath Day he has fashioned
Images of birds out of clay.”
 
5 Jesus clapped his two hands.
His small voice resounded.
Before their eyes – a wonder of sudden movement –
He scared away the birds.

6 There was heard a gentle, endearing little speech
from the mouth of faultless Jesus:
“Let you find out who created you!
Go to your home!”

7 Someone reported to the people
–  it was a extraordinary tale –
that the cries of the birds
were heard as they flew.

Jesus curses the son of Annas
  

The son of Annas the scribe
approached him at his play
and released each single stream.
He destroyed the construction.

9 “What you have done”, said Jesus,
“has not been to our benefit.
May you be like a little branch
Which falls before its fruit.”

10 The boy fell over
like a withered twig.
It would have been better for him not to have ruined
the game of the King’s son.
 
Jesus curses the boy who caused him annoyance and Joseph rebukes Jesus

11 On a further occasion when Jesus
was at home with Joseph,
another boy who came to him
caused him annoyance.

12 “May the journey which you have made
be one of no return”, said Jesus.
The boy collapsed
and died straight away.

13
 It infuriated the lowly kindred of the boy
to whom he had dealt doom.
“He is declared as your son, Joseph.
Go! Depart from us, indeed!

14 “Unless you reprove your son,
you are to go away somewhere.
Whichever way you go from here,
It would not be too quickly.”

15 “Why, son, have you offended
the people?” asked Joseph.
“Anyone on whom you pronounce your judgement
is taken away from you dead.”

16 “Whomever is innocent”, said Jesus,“
does not die as a result of judgements.
It is only to the accursed
that the malediction adheres.

17 “Sufficient that my ear be offered to them,
and that I be met with hostility,
that strong men should not tear off
my two ears from my head.”

18 “There is great terror”, said the people,
“that your son does this.
We have not heard, up to now
of any boy acting thus.

19 “Quicker than a glance, what he says
is done forthwith.
We have not heard tell of the like
of that boy in the world.”

20 Joseph said: “He is not like
everyone else’s sons.
Whatever the outcome, even cross or death,
he would not attain at all.

21 “Everyone who threatened
to accuse him he punished.
Deafness seized their ears,
Blindness their eyes”

Jesus and Zacharias. The riddle of the alphabet

22 The scholar Zacharias said:
“This is an extraordinary boy.
If he were instructed, he would be
outstanding in that respect

23 Zacharias takes him with him
to his school,
so that he might undertake learning with him
like everyone else.

24 When he had written an alphabet for him,
he said: “Say A.”
Though the son of the King did not answer him,
He knew a greater amount.

25 The master grew angry
and struck him over the head,
[using] whichever he happened on,
either fist or rod.

26 “It is usual”, said Jesus,
“for an anvil when struck
that it teaches whoever strikes it,
[and] that it is not it [the anvil] which is taught.

27 “For what you have taught to all,
what you have written for me,
the letters which you record,
I know their sound.”

28 Jesus recounted his letters
for them before their eyes
each of them with its constituent
and with its hidden design.

Zacharias, confounded, says that Jesus is no mere mortal

29 The scholar Zacharias said:
“Take the boy away from me.
I do not have the means of answering you.
Lad, do not provoke me.

30 “I thought it was a pupil
whom I brought with me to my school.
I saw that it is a master
whom I had taken in charge.

31 “I do not know in any way whether
he be and angel of god.
It seems to me that until today
I did not proceed in confusion.

32 “Who is the mother who conceived
this infant in the womb?
What foster-mother was able
to nurse the suckling?

33 “His proper place will not be on earth.
What is surer
is that he is the child for the cross
who existed before the Deluge.”

Jesus replies to Zacharias as a heavenly Redeemer.

34 The boy Jesus replied:
“Scholar of divine law,
you think that Joseph is
my father. He is not.

35 I existed before your birth.
I am the scholar.
I know every thought
that has been in your heart.

36 “You have certainty of all knowledge.
You have read all.
I have instruction for you
which is not known to anyone.

37 “I have a wonderful tale for you,
absolutely without falsehood.
I have seen Abraham 
at the time when he lived.    

38 “Likewise, I have seen yourself a long time ago,
through the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
O scholar in the Law, I have existed
constantly before you were born.

39 
“That across which you speak of,
he who has come to it for the sake of all,
to redeem every living person,
will encounter it.”

Jesus’ playmate Zeno dies from a fall and is raised by Jesus

40 The sinless son of Mary
played a game with boys.
The extent of his age, which I know,
was then seven year.

41 One of the boys fell over a cliff.
He died forthwith.
They all fled expect Jesus.
He remained, awaiting a crowd. 

42 He was accused of a calculated act,
That it was he who had knocked him down.
“Wait a while for me”, said Jesus,
“until I reach him.

43 “I am accused, O Zeno,
of knocking you down. Is it true?”
“It is not true, Lord, not true.
Let him go. It is not to be attributed to him.”

44 He was dead before, he was dead after,
save that he said this.
When the crowd saw it,
they released him [Jesus].

Jesus takes water home in his cloak.

45 His mother sent him for water –
a great and wonderful boy.
He filled his lap with the water,
And it did not go through his garment.

Jesus sows a field with leeks.

46 He sowed a little field with leeks –
the amount was not great.
Later, after harvesting, there were
a hundred basketfuls of produce.

Jesus miraculously stretches a beam.

47 A piece of craftwork was brought
to the house to Joseph to be adjusted,
for its corner was lopsided,
one side exceeding another.

48 Jesus said: “You take hold of your position,
and I myself will take mine.”
He stretched the shorter side until
it was equivalent to the other.

 

What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?

Blog, Philosophy

Sometimes it’s good to take on a topic that’s a bit taboo so that you can straighten out your thoughts on it. the topic came up on one of the TaSTA podcasts recently and it wanted to go a bit more into it, so What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?

The phrase ‘Man Up’ has a bad reputation but honestly I’ve always seen it as a good thing. I understand why it’s a bit of a sensitive subject but associating the phrase with what has become known as ‘toxic masculinity’ is the absolute opposite of what I’d define it as.

Growing up in 1980s Ireland it wasn’t ‘manly’ to show feelings. I wrote last time about attending tons of funerals growing up and it was a rare event to see a bereaved man crying at a funeral in the village. It wasn’t gossiped about or anything like that, it just wasn’t really a thing. You’d see men crying at funerals on American television programmes or films but hardly ever in real life. The odd time it would happen but more than likely it wasn’t a thing. 

Now this can be put down to a few things. The man was supposed to be the rock for other people to turn too. He would put his feelings aside for the time being and be there for others. At least that was the way I saw it, it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I understood that for many people in rural Ireland showing emotions publicly, particularly sadness, was showing a weakness. Thankfully things have changed now and men are a bit more open in public with their emotions and there’s no stigma surrounding it at funerals anymore. 

It’s a weird thing to think that telling someone to ‘man up’ or ‘be a man’ has become entrenched with the whole idea of what we now call ‘toxic masculinity’. But first let me explain what I believe ‘man up’ to mean. 

What does ‘Man Up’ Mean?

 Luckily for me there was usually a bit of philosophy around my house, my uncle is a priest and he used to tell me about various philosophers, from Aristotle to Zoroaster, Plato to Nietzsche to Sts Francis and Thomas Aquinas. Martin Luther always got a bashing, not a philosopher of course but his name came up a fair bit, particularly as he came from the order of priests that ran my school, which wasn’t the one he’d gone to. Anyway, the wee geek that I am, I thought it was interesting stuff. These men of history wrote books and gave teachings on what were basically the ethics of being a good person. What’s not to like about that? It was back then I learnt about the four virtues, also known as the cardinal virtues in Christianity. They are; Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance. The Christian versions would list them as; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. 

So that was it for me and always has been. To be a good person you lead by example and try to strive towards seeking wisdom, being fair, being brave and having self-control. To ‘man up’ meant to be a good citizen of the world, an ethical person. Of course this is very much easier said than done but these four little words hold much power and you’d be hard pressed to argue against living a life that doesn’t involve them. They’re the opposite of what I’d think of when I hear the words ‘toxic masculinity’. Total opposite. Men who display toxic behaviour aren’t wise, just, brave or temperate. They’ve failed on all four counts. Failed spectacularly.

What’s gone wrong then? Or maybe I’ve misunderstood the term all this time? But for me, ‘man-ning up’ has always meant ‘be virtuous’. How could it possibly mean anything else? The Chinese philosopher Confusious once wrote “The virtuous is driven by responsibility, the non-virtuous is driven by profit.” and St Thomas Aquinas wrote “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man’s own will.” Confucius saying there that a good person is driven by his inherent responsibility to be good while Thomas Aquinas says that man’s will is to be virtuous, which is what brings true happiness. While these ideals of eastern and western philosophy are nice to think about and to try and live up to growing up in a culture/society or household where emotions are denied cannot lead to emotional happiness at all. But we can all take it on ourselves to break the chain of emotional denial. It’s not ‘manly’ to push down your feelings, it’s cowardly. The courageous thing to do would be to face them head on and deal with them and the consequences.  

Toxic Masculinity

There’s no need to go into a tirade about ‘toxic masculinity’ here. We all know what it means by now. There was a very interesting article I came across last week from Psyche.co entitled “Talk of toxic masculinity puts the blame in all the wrong places” where the author really went into why labelling a problem isn’t good enough to tackle it. There’s this common parlance on Irish radio where some pundit will come on a show and when they run out of ideas they’ll toss out something like ‘we need to have a conversation about XYZ’ all the while being totally unaware that they’re actually involved in a conversation at that very moment. But this is part of it, labelling something as a problem does very little, all it does is give it a name. Admittedly it’s a start but all too often we get stuck at the start of something and never progress, let alone bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Anyway, the article is quite good and really makes a great point of showing up middle class pontificating for what it really is; just that, all talk and very little action. If the west is to put an end to ‘toxic masculinity’ it has to tackle the root causes of social inequality.

Mirror NeuronsSo much of our behaviour comes from what we saw growing up and being raised by whoever it was that raised us and by our peers. If you’ve heard of mirror neurons you’ll know they’re bloody fascinating. Basically a neuron is a bit like a path builder in your brain, you take up a new habit and after a while a new neuron is established in your brain and it becomes associated with associated behaviours and triggers and the like. Mirror neurons pick up on the behaviour of others in your circle and your brain learns a behaviour from them. A bit like a crossroads or an intersection on a motorway. Fascinating stuff. This is probably why I would have voted for the same political party as me auld lad, or supported the same football team, or why we use the same swear words at similar moments. It’s hardwired into your brain from an awful long time ago.

But this is where we can break the chain of bad behaviour. Like stopping smoking or drinking it’s not easy because the brain has built some hardwired neurons in there and they’ve now part of the infrastructure. Finding a detour around them, over them, under them or just plain bulldozing right through them is how to break them on a personal level. If you want to give up smoking you need to stop the behaviour of having one while waiting on the bus, having a last one before bed, having one with a coffee at lunch etc. 

I’d like to think that most people want to be a good example for others around them. Some are, obviously many aren’t. But I want to be and I try to be and on my bad days I even try to want to be. None of us are getting out of here as a perfect specimen but if we want to leave this world a better place when we depart it then we have a responsibility to be virtuous, to be brave, just, temperate, wise; to man up.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius and Quietening the Monkey Mind

Blog, Stoicism

Marcus Aurelius is a name familiar with us all and with Stoicism making a bit of a comeback over the last few years (what a weird thing to write, a philosophy making a comeback, well, y’know what I mean, there are tons of Stoic-themed podcasts and YouTube channels now) his name has become even more widespread. Which is no bad thing. I hadn’t read Meditations until late last year so I can make no claims to be some kind of stoic hipster that was doing it before anyone else. What exactly would a stoic hipster be anyway? Wasn’t the school of thought prior to the early stoics Cynicism? No matter, Meditations is a belter of a book, it’s as simple as that and one of those rare books that you find yourself going back to time and time again because it’s full of globs of wisdom and pearls of philosophy. 

There’s a passage in particular I want to have a look at for this post. If you have a copy of the book, it’s from Book 4, verse 1-3. What really struck me here about these few sentences is Aurelius’ way of acknowledging that the world is full of distractions and our minds will follow them to their unending ends but learning to quieten the mind and appreciating its connection to the universe/the One/etc./ gives us not only our sense of our true place in the cosmos but also total freedom within ourselves.

Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Emperor

He starts off with acknowledging his, and all of ours, propensity to give in to desires…

“Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself.”

Poor auld Marcus gives out to himself quite a bit in the book, it was his personal diary after all, and here he is telling himself off for the horrible crime of even wanting a holiday. But here’s the thing; there comes a time when we all have to admit it; holidays aren’t relaxing. The preparation, the packing, the travelling, the puking kids, the getting lost, the tourist traps, being ripped off by taxi drivers, upset stomachs from water you’re not used to drinking, sleepless nights because the place is noisier or not as dark as your bedroom. We don’t need holidays to relax. You have everything you’ll ever need right between those floppy ears of yours. And yes, you might roll your eyes but give the former Roman Emperor a chance here…

 “No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

Here’s a man who ruled over the biggest empire in the world at the time, saw off rebellions and won wars against invading forces, deflated the Roman denarius so more people would afford food and did what he could to save people from an outbreak of Plague during his reign. And, here he is, in his personal diary, telling himself not to become distracted by the outside world and to enjoy the fruits of a steady mind. A mind that knows its place in the world…

“Look at the speed of universal oblivion, the gulf of immeasurable time both before and after, the vacuity of applause, the indiscriminate fickleness of your apparent supporters, the tiny room in which all this is confined. The whole earth is a mere point in space: what a minute cranny within this is your own habitation, and how many and what sort will sing your praises here!”

Memento Mori

We’ve a saying in Ireland ‘You’re a long time dead’ and the Stoics were big on this. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘memento mori’ before, if not then please do look it up. Nothing gives life more meaning than to know it’s all incredibly temporary. I’ve had a streak of existentialism in me for pretty much as long as I can remember and I’m not really sure where it came from. Maybe it was growing up in rural Ireland where there’s another saying ‘a good funeral is better than a bad wedding’ although this probably, well, more than probably, can be traced back to the Bible where in Ecclesiastes 7:2 it says “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart.”

Death was everywhere when I was growing up, it was, well, still is, a small village and when someone died you usually went to the funeral. You just become accustomed to it. Living in the different places I have over the years it always blew my mind that people didn’t attend the funerals of neighbours. I think it’s good to give the dead a good send off and to celebrate their lives with other mourners and as sad as it usually is it’s good to share stories about the deceased and even get to know them a bit better after the fact. 

Anyway, we’re a long time dead and we’re not very significant. That’s something I’ve always believed. But we are significant to our friends and family and we should be able to set an example for how to live a good life. That doesn’t mean hedonism though, it means striving to live a moral life.

Back to Marcus…

Finally, then, remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgement.”

Quietening the Monkey Mind

Once you quieten the monkey mind you have the reigns and are the master. Can it ever really be mastered though? I think even the most enlightened of people still lose their grip of the reigns and the horse is always waiting for his chance to bolt. I’m reading this beast of a book of late: Living Theurgy and the author explains the ins and outs of what the Neoplatonists believed made up the soul/mind. It evolved as time went on but in early Greek legends the soul was made up of two parts, the rational and irrational, both were thought of as horses pulling a chariot (showing your Proto-Indo roots there lads) with one pulling in one direction and the other in the other. Balance being the key to a happy soul/mind it would seem. Funny how so many philosophies all hint at the same thing isn’t it?

Everything is temporary and as Aurelius says our anxieties come from our internal judgement meaning they are the fault of our monkey minds and when we control that beast we can control our reactions to what is causing the anxiety. Even hopefully being able to catch it early enough to stop it completely. All is change though and ever-changing, we have very little, if any, control of what happens around us, we can though, at least, attempt to control our minds and how we react. Indeed, we have a moral responsibility as good citizens of the world to do so.

An Encounter with Sophia

Blog, OmniSyn

On May 17th 2021, I had a vision. I was given a piece of paper on which nine things were written. I was told to teach them. They lead to All Together-ness; Oneness; OmniSyn. On the TaSTA podcast released on May 19th (you can listen here) we spoke about what I had experienced. Here’s the transcript:

Spud: I had this dream a while ago where, and I spoke about this on the end of the last podcast, where I became lucid in a dream and I was in a forest and I ended up walking down into a cave with something that I now know is called a torch…

Tommie: hahahaha…ahh so many people made a point of telling you. Haha, that was brilliant…

Spud: I’m so stupid…just because I wear glasses doesn’t mean I’m smart, it means I’m blind…

Tommie: I actually saw it on Discord, on YouTube and on Twitter…it was brilliant, I was so happy…

Spud: Hahaha! Well, I mean, thanks everyone for telling me…

Tommie: Some people even sent pictures which were extremely helpful. I found that really good.

monty python handSpud: Hahaha! Yea, so I ended up down in this cave and the stalagmites and the stalactites have grown together but it’s this ice cave and the whole way through the dream like, these different stages had happened; I’m in the forest or I’m in a meadow, I come to the cave, I always had this trudging sense of (sighs) ok, let’s get this over with because I kinda know what’s coming, y’know?

Tommie: Yea…

Spud: Or I know who I’m going to meet kind of thing. So, yea, I get down into the cave and even though I don’t see her I see this kinda thing, this lady passing between the pillars y’know? I don’t know who it is but I’m kind of thinking it’s Persephone, right? But then just as I’m about to meet her this like Monthy Python hand comes down and grabs me and pulls me back up to consciousness and I’m awake. Haha! It’s quite bizarre. But like, it’s happened before when I have these, when I’m lying down and I’m…I’m…I’m up somewhere, I’m not dreaming but I’m not awake either and it’s happened a few times where this hand, haha, just comes in and just grabs me and (shouting), Naw, you’re not ready! No, no, no, no! Don’t go there man.

So, again I find myself in a forest Tommie,  right. So, not like the last one I’m….I have notes here in front of me so I might go to them every now and then…

Tommie: yea, yea, yea, yea, yea…

Spud: …because when this was all over that evening I went for a walk with the dog and I took out my phone and just blurted out what I could remember. Ended up being like half an hour long, like me, just talking. Maybe it was like channelling or I dunno…

Tommie: Right, yea?

Spud: like, I don’t know what the fuck was going on. I have no idea. Alright? Make of this what you will…

Tommie: Transcribe it. Stick it in a book! (laughs)

Sophia?

 

Spud: (laughs) hahaha. I’d like your opinion and I, like, I texted one or two of the lads on Discord yesterday coz there’s something coming tomorrow lads and I want yous to listen coz I’d like to know what yous think and some help with it or whatever. 

Tommie: OK

Spud: Might be nothing, might be something. I don’t know. We’ll see. So, erm, like, erm, the last time I was kind of like (sigh) oh, let’s get this over with. This time I wasn’t like that at all. This time I was like, right, here I am, let’s see what happens. So I’m walking through this forest and then there’s this meadow; gorgeous sunrise is coming up, there’s, er, big, long grass, meadow, flowers, rabbits, hares, whatever…it’s gorgeous. It’s idyllic, y’know, this beautiful morning, a dew on the grass…

Tommie: A jew on the grass…?

Spud: …a heavy dew on the grass, just one. Rabbi! Shalom! 

Tommie: Just a rabbi, just there, haha!

Spud: I didn’t say rabbit did I? I meant rabbi. A rabbi and a hare, the curly hairs, y’know those guys…?

Tommie: Yea, fine, fine, that’s normal….

Spud: hahaha, y’know, I was worried that this bit might get too serious, hahaha!

Tommie: (laughs)

Spud: Anyway, so there’s this door. I don’t know like…sometimes they have these at like music festivals at Ireland, they’ll just have a door frame and a door and like there’s no wall, it’s just a door frame and a door and you open the door…

Tommie: yea, yea, yea….

Spud: …it’s like an Alice in Wonderland or Narnia-type situation. I think it was Narnia, wasn’t it? There was a door beside a lamppost? Anway…

Tommie: A wardrobe? I couldn’t tell ya I never read the books…

Spud: Well, the wardrobe was on our side and I think the door was on their side in Narnia. I think. But anyway, I open this door and straight away it reminds me of when we were scrying the Aethers. (accent) Ate-hers! 

Tommie: (heavy West of Ireland accent) The Ate’hers! Scryting the auld Eigh’Hers!

Spud: (heavy West or Ireland accents) Scrything the Eigh’Hers!…and there’s this massive…hallway of doors. Just fuckin huge. And I’m a bit over-…very, very similar to the Aethers, it was the same kind of thing there were doors and she was saying ‘right, I’ll show yous around, where do you want to go’ type of thing. 

Tommie: …right…OK…

Spud: But this was just me with all these doors out in front of me. And there were corridors off corridors kind of thing, just…all labyrinth-y style, just doors, doors, doors, doors. Kinda like a hotel if you’re looking down on it, y’know?

Tommie: Yea, yea, yea, or Scooby-doo cartoon (laughs)

Corridor of EntrancesSpud: (laughs) hahahaha! Oh jinkies! So I, eh, hahahaha, I eh, oh man! So…Next thing I get a bit discombobulated and everything is…becomes overwhelming for me and there’s too much of a choice and I don’t know where to go. It all starts spinning, revolving, moving and I start feeling nauseous, and I’m going, shit…I’m losing this and I want to stay in this and see where this goes. So, I’m like, right, I know where to go and so, my HGA’s number is 317 alright?

Tommie: OK

Spud: So I decide that’s the number I need to find, that’s the room I need to find…

Tommie: …can I inter…is the HGA number different from your number?

Spud: I’ve never looked up my own number, I don’t think…

Tommie: Do you not have a number, a three digit number that we’ve talked about before that follows you around that you can…

Spud: Ah yea, yea yea! Well, mines, four, but yea, naw, that’s different. Ha, I didn’t even think of that one actually. Funny. But as well like, even with say, looking up my own number, I mean what name do I go by? Spud, Paddy, Patrick? Do I use my surname? I’ve too many fuckin names y’know what I mean like, I don’t know…

Shekhinah?

 

Tommie: yea, yea yea. Ken Wilber would say, what was your name before you were born? What was your name before your parents were born? 

Spud: Well, I know what my name would’ve been if I’d been a girl. They were gonna call me Dawn. That would have been..

Tommie: …awww…

Spud: …atrocious

Tommie: Dawn, like the morning…

Spud: …Get up on the crack of Dawn. Get up at Dawn, get up on Dawn. Get on top of Dawn. I mean imagine the bullying. It would have been horrendous. 

Tommie: What’s that Irish for Dawn? It’s probably really pretty?

Spud: (laughs) Hair-in-moch-a-loch-a-toch…

Tommie: ….ár fad (laughts)

Spud: (laughs) So….317 is the number right?

Tommie: …sorry…is that the same number as the Stanley Kubrick documentary?

Spud: ohhhhh I don’t know. Maybe.Have a look. Google it there. And em, so err, yea, so I realise where I have to go and as I locate kind of where I need to go, the direction of where 317 is…as I get up to the door, herself is standing there.In her full, fuckin battle dress y’know. She has the…as, as she appears as a Roman goddess, right, she has the war helmet, she has the spear, she has the fuckin shield wrapped around her arm, the way the centurians used to do. Medusa’s head is on it.

Tommie: Right, right!

Spud: …and the little owl is around her too. She looks fuckin ready for fighting and I’m….

Tommie: So, it’s like the HGA in Dark Song, that similar? That kinda Roman…

Spud: Oh yea, yea, yea. Huh, that’s mad. Roman Goddess Minerva

Tommie: Yea, Room 317 is a song and a comic but nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick. There’s actually a lot of stuff you could look at there…

Spud: Yea???

Tommie: Yep. 

Spud: OK, this is getting weirder then. So, I say to her ‘What’s going on?” And she said ‘Now you’re ready.’ I say..’Woah, like, for what?’ And she says ‘You know.’ (sighs) ‘Alright’ So, we open the door and there’s these steps going down to the cave like from the last one (vision) but the cave is a bit different, it’s not….I grab another torch…

Tommie: …Coz you know what it is this time…(laughs)

Spud: (laugh) Yea, coz I know what a torch is this time…

Tommie: Now, you’re ready…you were missing that information previously (laughs)

Spud: (laughing) so…(laughs) we’re both going down these steps looking like fucking Gandalf and Gimli, I’m Gimli obviously…

Tommie: haha!

Spud: (makes angry Drawf noises and accent) …with my axe and my torch…Oh these beautiful caves, what it must have been like in the hayday of….anyway, so we go down but it doesn’t turn to ice like the last time with the pillars and the stalagmites and all this but it turns into…a bit like, maybe what the Mines of Moria were like in the Lord of the Rings book, well, not in the book because they were deserted but when they were busy. There’s this massive cavernous, huge cathedral-like…just huge bastard of a room, pillars, arches, yadda-yadda…it’s amazing, it looks like…it reminds me of…even in the dream I thought this is like the Salt Mines in Krakow because all along the walls, the walls were black or very, very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue, like Fr. Teds socks…

Tommie: haha, yea, yea…

Spud: Priests don’t wear black socks, just very, very, very, very dark blue ones…but in the rock there’s some minerals so it looks kinda shiny, it looks like a starry night, but on the walls y’know? So we’re standing there and over in the far corner of the cavern we can see there’s this, eh, table or an altar, big candles on either side of a box. So, I walk over to the box and on top of it is written The Great Work. So, I look at her and she looks at me and I open it up…and there’s another box…

Tommie: Ohhhh.

Spud: And I says ‘So, I open the box yea?’ and she says ‘Yes, open the box.’ So, I open the box and there’s another box and I’m like, Ahhh c’mon…

Tommie: hahaha…

Spud: haha, even in my dreams I’m taking the piss out of myself…So, I open the third box and there’s this er…. There’s a tree drawn on it and the numbers one to nine. But the numbers one to three are from the ground to the branches…

Tree of LifeTommie: OK

Spud: …and four to six are the roots underneath the ground and seven to nine are the branches and the upper parts of it. And so, one to three says ‘The Three ‘Shons’, and they are Meditation, Exploration and Divination. Four to six is Shadowland or Underworld, it has both of them, and this is The Guardian and Ancestors, Confrontation & Rebirth. And then seven to nine is Strengthening, Wisdom and Unity. Right….

Tommie: Niiiiiceeeeee!

Spud: So, I’m looking at this going, ehh, wow, like, what the hell is going on? And then she comes in. There’s this voice and she just starts…I’m getting all shaky now trying to remember…

Tommie: laughs…

Spud: It’s not Persephone though, I know it’s not her but I don’t know who it is…

Tommie: OK…

Spud: This is like the master of feminine something. I don’t even know what she’s called.

Tommie: Well, Sophia? Sophia is the thing, yea?

Arthur Daley

Take my wife…please…

Spud: Sophia, Gaia is another name? I dunno. This feminine…I dunno, is it Yin Yang. Ying? No Yang? Yang, yea? Maybe it’s her. I don’t know. It’s just this….woman. OK. (puts on angry Dublin accent) It’s just this feckin’ woman…)

Tommie: hahaha, yea, yea…women!

Spud: This is awful…It’s ‘her’ OK? It is her…

Tommie: Oh, that’s her name…what’s the film? Her that cannot be named? 

Spud: She who cannot…isn’t that Minder?

Tommie: She…

Spud: No, that’s ‘her indoors’ isn’t it? Hahaha

Tommie: 1950s stand-up comedy. Take my wife…please, ba-dum-tish.

Spud: Wa-hey. So, it’s, it’s, her. It’s the feminine of the One. I’m not making any sense here. It’s so hard to…

Tommie: No, you are, you absolutely are…

Spud: OK. So, I finish reading this and the voice comes to me and she says ‘You can help teach people to be at ease with themselves, to be at peace, to live with love and compassion for the betterment of all and living this way people will learn their true nature and what they really are and that is One.’ So, there’s a few other bits and pieces, but I dunno how far you wanna go into it but there’s other stuff as well…

Tommie: Ohhh, I want to go into it…

Spud: You wanna keep going? 

Tommie: Oh yea, oh yea…

Spud: I’m not freaking you out here, starting to freak myself out here bringing it back. She said to me…look this isn’t everything alright? When I clean up the audio… coz like I’m walking the dog, the dog’s barking, there’s people talking kinda stuff, even a kid ran out in front of me at one stage…

Tommie: hahaha

Spud: I’ll edit down the audio and I’ll send it to you, you can have a proper listen to it. And it’s weird as well, during the audio…

Tommie: D’you wanna put it on the feed or you want to keep it? We’ll see, we’ll talk about it…

Spud: I dunno, I think I’d rather have the opinion of people before releasing it. 

Tommie: Oh right, OK, yea, yea. Haha, don’t release that audio! Haha

Babalon?

 

Spud: haha, No Spud, you’re batshit, you need help hahaha. Or y’know…So, this isn’t everything but I will share ya that. So, I’m asking her questions about like who are we, where do we come from, all this kind of stuff that I want to know. But, towards the end of it she says ‘look, it’s not your responsibility to have places of worship, or dogmatic rules or even to look for people. People will find you when they need you or when they’re ready to learn. But, you will need help.’ And then she says ‘There are many teachings of this teaching but they all say the same thing; We’re all one, there is no separation, other than what is perceived. By teaching you learn more and by learning you’ll know more and teach more. Help your brothers and sisters and they, in turn, can help theirs when called on. 

If you can help, then help. If you cannot, at least do not add to strife. Do good, accept yourself with love and compassion and others with the same love and compassion.’ She gave me a word, which is…

Tommie: Don’t say it…

Spud: ha

Tommie: No, don’t. You can tell me later but don’t say it. 

Spud: haha, what?

Tommie: Yea, you can tell me later but don’t say it…

Spud: hahaha

Tommie: I’ve always a hesitation, don’t share the word(s) man.

Spud: Ok, ok, ok, we’ll keep that one. She spoke for a bit then about that and…there was a conversation and I was asking her more stuff. But I finished up and I said ‘So, the box said The Great Work, am I finished now with this?’ And she laughed (haha) and she said…but like, it was this…aww man, it’s hard to explain this…it was a laugh that cut me in two.

Tommie: Uhh.

Spud: Destroyed me!

Tommie: right, right…

Spud: Abso-…just killed me. But at the same time there was a bliss in it as well. 

Tommie: Yea, yea…

Spud: Does that make sense..?

Tommie: Yea, absolutely…

Spud: It’s this thing of she destroyed me and brought it all back again…

Tommie: It’s like that thing of realising you’re a arsehole but also realising you don’t have to be it anymore….the shameFool Tarot Cards and the release…

Spud: …And then she said something like “My darling fool, the wheel is round and ever turning until you get off. This is a beginning, an end and a continuation.’ After that then she kinda faded off and yea, we were left alone. Minerva stooped down and gave me a hug and we just kinda…fused and there was just this light. Fuckin starlight man…

Tommie: Ohhh so weird when you did that…

Spud: (mumbles)

Tommie: Your webcam totally lit up…that’s mental…hahaha. I wonder will that record?

Spud: hahahaha! Yea, fused into one and I just…I just came back to myself and err…yea, I just kind of lay there in silence. Nothing happened for a while. Now, I’ve no idea how long this…I was there for two, three, five minutes, an hour, I’ve no fuckin idea…

Tommie: yea, yea, yea

Spud: But even this after bit when I’m just lying there in thought. There was no bliss, no dejection, there was nothing. Just nothing. Emptiness. Emptiness isn’t even the right word coz emptiness means that there was something there…y’know, there’s a box where inside it is emptiness. Just nothing…

Tommie: A Void

Spud: Void, yea, blank. My mind is blank. And then a doubt starts coming in and I’m like…ah shit, she’s gone. Aww fuck, like..oh no and I start getting upset. Oh no, what have I done? Where’s this gone? But then I was able to see that because I’m upset about it I’m only upset because I’m perceiving that…I’m putting that onto it…

Tommie: OK

Spud: It’s a…ah what’s the word, I’m looking for…ah…a projection, I’m projecting that..

Tommie: Yes!

Spud: I’m projecting being upset onto it. If I can put being upset on it then what the fuck am I doing being upset about it, this is amazing. Y’know and then booooommmmmm (head explosion)

Tommie: Niiiice.

Spud: Just…woooooooowwww. Just amazing….ehh, Molly..

Tommie: hahaha

Spud: Holy fuckin shit. But it didn’t last very long. I’ve had these bliss moments before and they do last quite long. One time it lasted for a couple of days. 

Tommie: Yea, I remember that. The Doctor’s one?

Spud: Yea, yea, yea, but this was just..bang! Fast. Boom! Explosion in my head and just going…and then I started crying…hahah, it was like that, y’know… men are so ugly when they cry, horrible…

Tommie: I’m extremely sexy when I cry. How dare you! 

Spud: hahaha..

Tommie: I’m at my most beautiful…

Spud: The thing I wrote down here was Sylvester Stallone crying ‘Adriannnn!’ 

Tommie: hahaha

Spud: I’m like that, I’m just this sobbing mess..of just…emotions and yuaauauaa, what the fuck is going on? That was it then. Then I stopped crying and I eh, I gathered myself together and I went down and started carving some wood…

Tommie: …giving out to the kids hahaha

Spud: hahaha….that evening then I went for a walk with the dog and recorded everything I could remember. 

Ireland’s First Rap Battle

Blog, Celtic

I am a son of Poetry
Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill. 

The quote is taken from Mark William’s Ireland Immortals – A History of the Gods of Irish Myth, page 166.

Many moons ago now when I was making flirty eyes at music journalism, like all good, failed musicians, I had a thing for Irish rap. Of course this led to plenty of interviews, free albums and gig passes but, unlike, the vast amount of musical genres what makes rap a load of fun is the rap battle.

Obviously enough you’re going to be thinking of lads in tracksuits free-styling lyrics over a beat with the aim of bettering their opponents. Lots of swearing and belittling goes on. You’re almost correct with your mental image though. In Ireland and Britain most rap battles don’t involve any music and it looks like what the Septics call Slam Poetry. It’s pretty bizarre in fairness, seeing working-class lads abuse the bejaysus out of each other in front of a crowd of young people in what is, basically poetry. But don’t call it poetry, it’s rap, but it’s rap without the beat, which is pretty much poetry but you just can’t call it poetry.

The Book of Leinster holds the oldest known Irish example of something not a million miles from today’s rap battles, the Colloquy of the Two Sages (Immacallam in dá Thuarad ). This 12th Century, 187-page book is home to some of the founding stories of Irish mythology. The Book of Invasions , Lebor Gabála Érenn (Irelands’ creation myths) is included in its pages, as is the most complete version of Táin Bó Cuailnge, the legendary story of a civil war in Ireland over a bull, and, used to hold, the Martyrology of Tallaght until the pages were lost. Why mention this last one? Well, the Martyrology of Tallaght was a book used by Irish clergy as it contains the Saint Days and an general entry about the day regarding Irish history, usually. It dated though from some time in the 8th-9th century meaning that our epic rap battle could be from around that time, although must accept it as coming from closer to the time of the Book of Leinster.

It’s quite a long poem and we don’t really need to go into it all here but the section at the beginning of the article is what really caught my peepers. But we need to have a quick synopses to get an understanding of it.

There was an ollamh called Adnae in Ulster. He was the foremost ollamh of  science and poetry. An ollamh was a high-ranking poet or fili. Now the filí were basically the remnants of the druids. Men of learning. Adnae was a poet of the court of Conchobar mac Nessa, probably the most famous of the Ulster kings. Poets back then were also historians, story-tellers, bards, and what we would call these days genealogists. If you told this lad your full name he’d be able to trace back your roots to earlier tribes and chieftains. Adnae died suddenly and his role needed to be filled. His son, Néde, was studying the ‘sciences’ of the time in Scotland and one day at the seashore he heard the waves tell him of his father’s death and that another fili, Ferchertne, had been given his father’s fili robe after his death by a chap called Bricriu.

Bricriu’s name pops up a bit in the Ulster cycle and he’s a bit like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. Scheming and disrespectful towards the Ulstermen he finds himself in a position of power but does get him comeuppance in the end. Anyway, for this Colloquy of the Two Sages he meets Néde on his return to Ireland and tells the young fili that he cannot become the ollamh as he’s too young. Néde casts a spell and the grass in his hand becomes a long, flowing beard and takes his place in Adnae’s vacant chair close to the king. Bricriu, being the whiny sod that he was, goes off and tells Ferchertne about it, who then storms into the court demanding an explanation as to why Adnae’s son is sitting in his courtly chair.

What follows then is a battle of wits and intelligence, guile and spirit in the form of a poem. Ferchertne ends up winning but is so impressed by Néde’s intelligence that he takes on the young fili to help him finish his education.  A reminder then of the lyrics that caught my eyes:

I am a son of Poetry

Poetry son of Scrutiny,
Scrutiny son of Meditation,
Meditation son of Great Knowledge,
Great Knowledge son of Enquiry,
Enquiry son of Investigation,
Investigation son of Great Knowledge
Great Knowledge son of Great Sense,
Great Sense son of Understanding,
Understanding son of Wisdom,
Wisdom, son of Three Gods of Skill.

Just prior to this section Néde asks Ferchertne what gives him the right to be where he is. Ferchertne replies that he’s basically a lynchpin element in important things and without him they couldn’t work. Obviously enough implying the court wouldn’t function without him in his role. He asks Néde what does he know of the art of poetry and the scene is set for Néde  to play his aces and make his argument to win.

Poetry was the highest artform in Ireland, it was through poetry and the oral tradition (eh now, stop the teenage jokes) that the druids and the later fili learnt their trade, or indeed, trades as the case was. Druids and fili were actually divided into subcategories, some were experts in history, some in law, some in spells, some in divination etc. But to be one you had to learn the ways of the language inside out so that you could eventually bend it to your will once you became a druid/fili. Here, Néde lays out his case that he’s the son of Poetry, i.e. the highest form of knowledge and that his knowledge comes from a long tradition of scrutiny, meditation, instinct, wisdom and so on. The last lines claim he comes from the line of the Three Gods of Skill who were Tuath dé gods.

The gods of skill were: Guibniu, a blacksmith, Credne, a bronze smith and Luchta, a wright (a master of woodwork). The three brothers were sons of the Tuath dé goddess Bridgit, herself the daughter of the All-Father god, the Dagda. So you see here that Néde is saying that the very roots of his wisdom and knowledge started with the three gods who worked with their hands to form masterful crafts. This mastery led on to wisdom, which then led to understanding, great sense etc.

From: http://bit.ly/2KjcxzW

What’s also implied here is that meditation, insight and investigation were all of great importance to the druids/filí. Something which has all but been washed out of Irish history and mythology. But the druids came from the Vedic tradition of India, of course they meditated. It was from the Vedic tradition that the Buddha himself learned to meditate after all. Eventually I’ll get around to an article about Celtic/Druidic mediation but to shorten an already long article it went like this:

Teinm Láida (a bit like today’s mindfullness meditation), Dichetal Do Chennaib (akin to mantra meditation) and Imbas Forosnai (forsight meditation/a bit like incubation or sensory deprivation meditation).

Looking back into our mythology we can at times catch real glimpses of what the spiritual practicioners did. There’s not much evidence but from what we do have we can put together pieces that show the druids weren’t just beardy-biker-looking dudes with sickles chopping mistletoe and sleeping under oak trees but were actually insightful mediators obsessed with acquiring knowledge, wisdom and mastering crafts.

Finally then, the Colloquy of the Two Sages, would seem to be an Irish version of Flyting, which dated from around the same time too, Flyting was an exchange of insults between two people. They weren’t usually written down but again, what’s interesting is that it wasn’t really the trading of insults here, but it’s more like they’re fighting verbally for a job that’s going. Imagine you had to do a rap battle to bag your next job, now that would be fun. Oh and Mark William’s book is fantastic. I’ll be writing a good bit more in it in the coming weeks and months.