A Deserter from the Navy

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A deserter from the navy. Image courtesy Lyn Birkbeck.

The Sabian symbol for today, 22 January 2014, in which the sun is in the 4th degree of Aquarius is ‘A Deserter from the Navy.’ These symbols–one for each of the 360 degrees of the solar journey around the zodiacal theatre–are eidetic glyphs, downloaded by turn of the century psychic Elsie Wheeler. Today they are an important component of astrological analysis. It so happens that I have Jupiter, planet of faith, expansiveness, philosophy in the 4th degree of Aquarius [note: in Astrological charts, in which the 1st degree is 0-1 degress, the 4th degree of Aquarius, 3-4 degrees, is written as Aquarius 3].

Master Astrologer Lyn Birkbeck interprets this particular solar glyph like so:

Breaking Away From The Norm

Circumstances urge an outright rebellion against the status quo – especially with respect to what is generally regarded as morally unacceptable. No matter what others think, one is driven to take the consequences as the price one pays for being true to oneself.

I often find myself ‘behind enemy lines’. Perhaps, since the solstice 2012, hard on the heels of that grand establishment coda the London Olympics and the unconcealed Millennium Domish simulated Lizardry behind it, we are all behind enemy lines. We, the people, seem powerless to prevent the insane eco-piracy of fracking. The police lie. The people jerking the strings of  the multi trillion dollar confidence trick that markets itself as the economy interlinking the 8 billion people on the planet could fit on a single double decker bus. In the last 100 years–or is it 1 year, what does it matter the curve is exponential–humanity will have consumed more earthly resource than was consumed in the entire history of humanity.

3.2 billion year old rainbow serpent synapse

3.2 billion year old rainbow serpent synapse

The parade of octogenarian former television and radio personalities on charges of sexually molesting women and children continues through British courts. A 99p shop in Wales erupts into chaos when it’s half price sale ends mid-trading. An African man shows up at the scene of a mob murder to slice the arm off one of the corpses and eat it in front of the ogling crowd. And in a small room in the City of London I hold for a few moments in my hand a 3.2 billion year old octahedral crystal synapse of Pachamama, the Earth Goddess herself.

Of course, no one else there saw the golf ball-sized crystal as such. Rather, the point of this little exercise was a taste of the process by which such crystals are graded according to their shape, size and clarity–first steps in the industrial process that turns them into cut and polished diamonds.

Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent rock painting, Australia

Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent rock painting, Australia

According to various strands of Aboriginal, Amazonian and African indigenous mythology–the correspondences are documented by, for instance, Jeremy Narby in his popular book The Cosmic Serpent–the centre of the Earth is an octahedral crystal. Paintings from these distant regions depict the spirit of the Earth as a serpent chasing, or being led by an octahedral shape.

To hold something 3.2 billion years old, extracted from the Earth by a process which averages 250 tons of rock per carat [the industry measure of weight] of diamond, in your hand in a rather random room in the City of London inspires strange thoughts and feelings. This particular octahedral synapse of the cosmic serpent, valued at 296 carats, required 74,000 tons of the Earth’s crust be moved elsewhere. It’s sheer size and octahedrality has so far saved it from the process that would render it fit for consumption. The first stage of that process is to saw the octahedral crystal synapse in half.

A younger, less mortal me would have had a go. And–as the actual younger less mortal me was on more than one occasion–been fired and turned away to face my shitty little end of the global trillion dollar confidence trick that masquerades as a ‘free’ market economy afresh. A fantasy, utterly immortal me might have swallowed the damned rock and made a bolt for it. And probably gotten no further than the elevator.

The older, more mortal me, swallowed the sadness that oozed into my hands from that piece of Pachamama Earth Serpent’s brain and my judgement of those at that very moment being brainwashed into seeing it as ungraded precursor to several multimillion pound pieces of jewellery.

Despite not letting the mask slip, I was still clocked. I know I was. I could see the presenter’s conscience rise to the surface of her face, where it was quickly masked by the sort of scrunching that passes in such contexts as a smile. And as I write this now I see that I didn’t fail. I didn’t have to martyr myself through awkward questions or standing up to deliver some empassioned plea on behalf of the Earth Goddess. That would have triggered the laser beams and the steel shutters would have come thumping down.

None of that was necessary. Something in me connected with something in her. Oh Pachamama is clever! Let them have the stones from the ground and cut them with lasers and store them in bank vaults to be brought out at thick, red-carpeted junctures of the Matrix and flashed at the flashing cameras. The light of awareness is faster than flashes for it is outside of time it is the simultaneous recognition of the divine in the divine. In the end there will be no escaping it.

It would be wrong of me not to leave you with a sample of the book currently touching my divinity – The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants, by Martín Prechtel. Page 212:

Modernity’s seemingly bottomless addiction to an endless pursuit of recreation, substances, TV, or religious or scientific promises of another more anesthetized world, of having to constantly “escape” or “get away” from an everyday life of dead, demythologized stuff, and a daily insignificance in a schemeless, unstirred whole is fast creating an anti-existence based on forgetting instead of remembering, which, if it doesn’t first kill the viability of the holy ground we need to live on…we will someday not have enough reality left here on earth in our bodies to remember, much less anything to remember it with; the muscle and its reason for existing would atrophy simultaneously.

© Nizami Thirteen 2014

Acknowledgements

Sabian Symbol interpretations, The Astrological Oracle by Lyn Birkbeck.

The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, by Martín Prechtel, recommended to me by the World’s Most Unlikely Shaman, Davina Mackail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Gateways of the Mind

The Green Earth, Victor Pasmore, courtesy WikiPaintings

Last weekend (9-10 November 2013) I was lucky enough to attend Gateways of the Mind, Europe’s largest lucid dreaming and consciousness convention, organised by Archetype Events, aka husband and wife team Davyd and Emma Farrell. This was the second Gateways event, and the organisers excelled themselves in pulling together a panel of big hitters from the world of lucid dreaming and out of body experiences. Corridors were lined with visionary art – Edward Foster being a particular highlight – books from Tibetan lama Tenzin Wangpal Rinpoche, UK lama Charlie Morley, standup philosopher Tim Freke and others, sacred Amazonian tree essences from Mimi Buttacavoli and many others.

Of the speakers, all of whom were passionate, fluent and engaging, my attention was first grabbed by Michael Winn, Taoist alchemist and former colleague of Mantak Chia. Michael constructed a piece of theatre, placing members of the audience in various seated positions in order to demonstrate the spheres of the self, from conscious to subconscious to soul to collective soul and ultimately to the Tao herself, a fun and very graphic way to communicate this esoteric concept of the self. He also talked about the microcosmic body’s holographic relationship to the macrocosmic universe via the five elements and their ‘housing’ (or quantum entanglement, if you prefer) in the body via the spirits of the five major organs. Approaching these spirits as intelligent, aware beings with their own strengths, weaknesses, feelings and even will is a deep fundamental of Taoist Alchemy. It is the same in the shamanic healing mode I practise over at Spirit13ody. More on that soon…

The ancient but ever youthful and thoroughly pleasant Stanley Krippner gave a delightfully old fashioned US academic style global tour of shamanic dreaming. Here’s a man from the same vein as Richard Evans Schultes and Dennis McKenna, Columbian shaman’s shirt under stained double breasted blazer.

The youthful but perhaps somehow ancient Charlie Morley manages to combine great knowledge with the bouncy style of a children’s television presenter. Indeed it would be a marvelous thing if he did have a television show, talking to children about the flying dreams they’re having and reminding them to remember these early holy grail experiences. Like Parsifal, we spend our lifetimes trying to find them again.

The organisers chose well in putting Tim Freke on last. After William Buhlman’s more urgent talk, Tim’s comic relief worked like magic. In a masterful performance combining his love for his dying mother and barefoot slapstick antics, he brought us to that deeply humanist realisation Jack Kornfield wrote about in The Path with Heart: the twin destinations of the spiritual path, spirit and self. We are, said Tim, that ineffable dreamer that dreams us, AND this dreamed self, with its fears and failings. The idea of annihilating the ego, he said, was a bunch of distorted Indian crap. You can’t annihilate it. Rather, it’s a dance, and you improve it. Having met more than a few spiritual types who thought progress was about minimising their personhood – with all the shadows that creates – it was refreshing to hear Kornfield’s message spelled out in the most delightfully animated and inspiring way. Tim brought the convention to a close with a wonderfully simple exercise that brought to life that deep concept that we are all one, elements of a dream being dreamed by the same dreamer, just as in our own dreams, the myriad characters are all us. As one, we rose for a standing ovation.

Earlier, Celtic shaman Martin Duffy spoke at length about awakening to his own ‘indigenous’ knowledge, catalysed by visits to the Amazon and so on. His first hand accounts of encounters with the Sidhe were riveting. The Shining Ones, he said, were watching the human race very closely, some among them being terminally pissed off with our disregard for nature, others remaining sympathetic, so to speak. This is of course a big theme – the big theme no less. What is the right relationship of mankind to the Earth. Is it ours to do with as we will? Is it the other way around? Who are the Sidhe? The way Martin spoke of them reminded me of the way Judy Satori and others speak of Intergalactic Councils…with factions for and not so for humanity being given time, more time, to work things out in its own way.

According to Juliet Carver’s Bali-published Worldbridger, echoing 1996’s collection of channelings The Only Planet of Choice, Earth is unique in the entire Universe, if not Multiverse, in that it is the only planet of free will. It is thus an adventure playground, a test, an experiment, a game, a riddle. What will we do down here, given we are free to do what we want, free here and only here from the shackles of Divine Will?

In Bible terms we’re talking about The Fall from Grace, the step of The Fool over the edge of Innocence and into the gravitational well of karma in which the Earth and its ever growing coat of attached souls flounders. Yet Fall we must. Only Planet of Choice, channeling one ‘Tom’ of the ‘Council of Nine’ has a crack at this most ineffable Why? Ultimately, says Tom, because God god bored. God split from Oneness into Duality in order to have something to push against. To see what would happen. To make life more interesting. Hence Satan, hence antagonism, hence the hero’s journey. Comparative studies via ironic reversal (see the initiatix series in this blog) reveal deep ironies/paradoxes/truths here. For instance that – and here the wheels of language are truly spinning in the air – God is She and Siva/Satan is He, created in order that He might (almost) destroy God – just as women are turned on by the deathliness of men, so they say. What a thrill. As discussed in Hysteria of Machismo and earlier posts in the initiatix series, the ultimate thrill for the immortal must be guess what – death!

Which brings us to my ulterior motive for writing this review: William Buhlman. In a two hour session he set out the by-now-standard stall for Out of Body Experiences. I am unclear what the distinction between lucid dreams and OBEs is. I suspect the two are industry- distinguished rather than ontologically distinct. Anyway. OBEs present a conscious holodeck in which to conquer fears, access higher levels of self and ultimately train for that most profound and total OBE: death. I subscribe 100% to all of that.

Which is why I was shocked to hear Buhlman, on a roll about the immortality of the soul and the infinitude of the multiverse, say that he didn’t care ‘if the planet died.’ He was emphatic about it. He was also emphatic about the role of war in teaching souls courage. I’ve heard Buhlman speak twice now, the first time more than ten years ago, when he was promoting his first book, Adventures Beyond the Body. Both times he referred to his previous incarnation as a Nazi tank commander. At the weekend he added that both his sons have completed tours of Iraq. Buhlman, if you didn’t know, is a part time commander of OBEs at the Monroe Institute in Virginia, a mere 100 miles from the Pentagon.

Those familiar with my writing will know where I’m going. While Buhlman’s experience of the multiverse is for sure much greater than mine, to hold that the Earth is entirely expendable, given the infinitude of universes, dimensions, other worlds out there, smacks of Lizardry. In other words, those unreconstructed beings of Inner Space who, having destroyed their own planet, invaded ours. In other words, those unreconstructed beings who, having destroyed America, invaded Iraq. If this is the level of consciousness that Buhlman’s mantra Higher self now! has elevated him to, then perhaps something has gone awry in his dance of selves.

I didn’t get the chance to put the matter to Buhlman. Perhaps I misunderstood him. He seems a nice enough bloke, if a little buhlish. Without prejudice then, to present oneself as a guide to greater consciousness, and hold that the Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, is expendable, is highly dangerous.

There is of course further inquiry to be made here, through further gateways of the mind– or rather revolving doors of irony – but that’s another article. Meantime let’s give old Pachamama the benefit of the doubt and show her some love.

 

 

 

 

Cleanliness and godliness

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Devotees making the final approach to the temple, following initiation

Saturday 26 January 2013. The streets and park beneath Sri Balathandayuthapani hilltop temple in Georgetown, Penang, throb with activity, drums and amplified mantras. I and nine other volunteers, brought together under eco-activist banner Sampah Masyarakat, brainchild of Shyam Priyah, unfold from a hired van after the four hour drive up from Kuala Lumpur. Our first concern is the parked car we accidentally scratched manoeuvring around the dark car park. The second is that the overnight tent we were promised is nowhere to be seen. And the third is how close our camping spot is to the already overflowing portable toilet block. I wonder if I have made a mistake coming here. Perhaps the others are also wondering. Shyam is asking if anyone has any Panadol. She’s running a slight fever.

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My mood worsens in the face of further little setbacks. We have one torch between us. The poles of the dome tent are broken. We give up on Shyam’s beach tent: someone can use it as a ground sheet. We decide the smaller members of the group should sleep in the van, the longer ones will have to take their chances in the park. It’s half two in the morning and we have to be up at six. We have volunteered to help clean up the trash generated by the festival.

For a few hours, I drift in and out of the music belting from the temple, which blends with the boom and clatter of drums and chants as group after group of devotees arrive at the foot of the 513 steps that climb to where they lay their kavadi offerings to the deity Murugan, spear-carrying vanquisher of Asuras, after hours of walking. I am too exhausted to crawl out the tent and watch, content to imagine timeless scenes. An explosion of India in Penang.

Dawn comes slowly. The groups dwindle, and with them the drums, but the temple music carries on, interrupted only by loudspeaker announcements. Practical information, probably, but in formal Tamil everything sounds like a mythic transmission.

Thaipusam is the annual Hindu festival commemorating the penance of Murugan, the vel (spear) carrying deity created by Siva from his own Shakti power in order to battle the Asuras. As with many Vedic accounts, tracing the story of Murugan/Karthika/Skanda/ Subrahmanya is somewhat complex. Brother of Ganesa, in India he is also known as Thamizh Kadavul, the God of the Tamils.

There is nothing much for breakfast. One of the volunteers – an Iraqi engineering student – has bought sugary muffins. In fact, we’re too tired to eat. A cup of tea would have been nice though. We raise our banner between two trees. It takes some figuring out how to tie the four eyeholes securely with only one piece of rope.

Thanks to another team operating a food waste reprocessing scheme, we are invited into what seems to be the police hut, right in the middle of the action. The banner is repositioned. Now it’s on the fence, beside the official Welcome to Penang Thaipusam sign, unmissable by anyone on their way to the temple. People are looking, wondering who we are. A Tamil man joins us spontaneously. Shyam’s sister and her husband arrive. The latter is in deep conversation with a man who later turns out to be a member of Special Branch. Questions were asked as to whether we were a political outfit. No, we’re just here to pick up the trash.

After a briefing from Shyam – separate paper and plastic from food waste; raise awareness; represent – we head out into the morning sun. The crowd is thickening by the minute. The gutters along the festival streets are choked with plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers, plastic bags and paper cups originating from a Nestle stall vowing to provide 1 Million cups for Thaipusam. Shyam wades into the queue with a biodegradable bin bag.

Reactions from the crowd to volunteers clearing up rubbish were interesting. Mostly people got the simple message. If you throw your rubbish on the ground, someone else has to pick it up. There were also dirty looks. Religion and politics coinciding to conjure an element of threat. Who are these outsiders at the festival of the God of the Tamils? Two members of our group carried placards: “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and “Would you throw rubbish on the floor at home? Then why on the street?” Perhaps there were those in the crowd who felt morally high-grounded.

The “cleanliness…” message was certainly apt in the vacant lot near the beginning of the festival parade. Here families gathered, chanting vel, vel while devotees received initiations, blessings, steel spears pierced through their cheeks, steel rings hooked into their backs, from which ropes and weights were hung. Then picked their way among mounds of rubbish – milk cartons, coconut shells, bunches of bananas – to carry their burdens to the temple. Many people walked barefoot.

I can understand the Tamil Indian point of view, as it was eloquently explained by one man. Thaipusam is a hindu Indian festival in a muslim country where Indian (and Chinese) civil rights are not yet equal to those of Malay Malaysians. Apart from Shyam, and the man who joined us on the day, the volunteers were neither Indian Malaysian nor hindu. There is something of a fault line here. A hairline crack in the peaceful diversity Malaysia has managed to sustain – with remarkably few interruptions – since the country’s inception. Hence the interest of Special Branch.

We volunteers were interested in masses of people gathering for some single focus – as they do at other festivals, at pop concerts, sports events and so on – and behaving irresponsibly towards their immediate environment. As much as they are temporary crises, such gatherings are opportunities for raising awareness, where even a token effort gets noticed by many. In today’s age of imminent, irreversible human ecological impact, no activity can be condoned – or sustained – that does not take this sword of damocles into account. At one level it’s a no brainer. Mountains of trash on the ground, someone has to pick it up. If deeper questions are asked, it’s no bad thing.

Indeed what has happened to spirituality if a spiritual task is undertaken – preparation of an offering, say, or an initiation – and afterwards the stuff is heaved into the nearest river? What if a family make their annual pilgrimage to the temple – or the mosque or church or whatever spiritual locus – and eat takeaway food in the temple grounds or the park outside or the beach on the way home and stuff their styrofoam containers into the bole of the nearest tree?

We are talking of course of the compartmentalisation of spirituality. A box is drawn around behaviours deemed to be spiritual – the done thing. Outside it, Spiritual is set to off. We can despoil the park, defraud our fellow man, beat our wife. The box – the shell, if you prefer – limits Spirit, which is instantly and obviously suspect. With spirit boxed, with the genie back in the bottle, we are prone to some dangerous confusions. Religion and culture. Religion and politics. Religion and race. We can say that religion itself is a confusion.

All religions trace their roots back to the words and actions of an individual. Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad. Thousands of years later, the actions are only words. Perhaps even minutes later actions are only words. Some of those words still carry great power. But some carry a different sort of power. Divine words are powerful tools. Tempting to use them, manage them, adjust them. Inevitable that something is missed, something withers. We are dealing with husks – husks refitted with something else. Religion has been hijacked.

And with a few twists and turns, collecting trash from the bole of a tree becomes a threat.

There is a way out of this mess. I take my hat off to Shyam and other activists (in one sense many of them, in another they are still so few) who go out of their way to raise awareness. And of course there are plenty of people – at religious festivals and football matches alike – who understand that stuffing your takeaway packaging into the bole of a tree is bad behaviour. But there are still plenty who don’t.

The prevailing mindset is that the environment is some sort of innate surface, a bottomless pit from which nice things like food and diamonds magically appear, and into which not nice things can be stuffed and forgotten about. If the prevailing mindset thinks about the environment at all. The prevailing mindset is one severed from the environment, from Nature. The prevailing mindset has been hijacked.

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Shyam and team preparing for action

The way out of the mess is simply to reconnect. To rejoin the conversation with Nature. In a way, it’s a very simple thing. And when we do it we realise that Nature has been talking to us all along. The transmission never loses power because it is constant. You may have noticed words like ‘shamanism’ elsewhere on this site. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you are skeptical. Perhaps you think I am secretly referring to some sort of drug, or making a walk in the park and a breath of fresh air into something complicated.

In any case, simply consider this: everything in our bodies – our skin, hair, eyes, nails, even blood – comes from plants or from animals who eat plants, or in some cases from animals that eat other animals that eat plants. You get the idea. Everything. Tea, coffee, sugar and biscuits. Petrol. We can say that it is we humans that have, over the ages, perfected agriculture and industry that we can extract – take – what we need, what we want. Sure, we’ve been ingenious. So ingenious that we are scraping the bottom of the bottomless pit. We can drill the arctic for oil and turn rainforest into golf courses, blow up the Atlantic Ocean and race speedboats on it the next day.

Are we ingenious enough for this little thought experiment: What if all those good things – tea, coffee, biscuits – are given?

I had forgotten my tiredness, and any irritation over tent poles a few minutes into the work. It was satisfying work, which is reward in itself, but look at this: Interesting that Penang Thaipusam culminates on Jalan Waterfall. The Sampah Masyarakat volunteers ended up at a waterfall outside town, where we bathed in sun and sparkling clean water. Freely given, and most lovingly and gratefully received. That is the spirit of the conversation with Nature. Indeed, that is the conversation with Spirit.

Acknowledgements

Sampah Masyarakat

Shyam Priah, My Khatulistiwa