Saturday, 26 September 2009

Post No. 068 - The selfishness of being selfless

One of the stages of growth identified in Buddhism is overcoming attachment to the existence personal identity (or fear of loss of personality/personal consciousness). It's a big, scary thing, I think, to many people - although I, who am no longer Buddhist, actually question the way this presented: it can, nevertheless, be a useful exercise to work through one's fears, limitations (especially of perspective) and possibly undesirable attachments.

That topic, though, is not what I want to post about now. I'm just starting with the point that growth has a few things along the way that can be hard to work with.

The topic I want to post about is one such topic: genuine selflessness.

Many people in "western cultures" who start on a path of personal/spiritual growth come across the idea that being selfless is good, and being selfish is "bad".

Well, up to a point, I think there is merit in that notion: this world would be better off, in my opinion, if more people believed in abundance, and then shared their love, their generosity, their caring with more than just themselves or a select small group (that is best expressed by the "Pay It Forward" idea).

However, it can be a trap to be selfless for the wrong reason.

If you give to others in some way, but expect some sort of acknowledgment or reward, then I would question your motive to the extent that I challenge whether or not you are being truly generous. Are you trying to help others, or are you after a warm feeling for yourself?

Years ago, when I was Buddhist and vegetarian, I had a series of very good talk with a colleague who came originally from Thailand. In Thailand (well, at the time he was there, at any rate) it was a tradition for the eldest son to become a monk for a month when he turned 21. When my colleague turned 21, he didn't want to become a monk, but, eventually, he agreed on the basis that it would only be for three weeks. Well, he stayed for six months.

This former colleague explained that a certain amount of the "good karma" we get from doing something that is "right" is the inner glow we give ourselves, on some level, even if is something that is hidden well away. So ... getting warm strokes for doing good can be OK - and it is good for all people to appreciate the good things they get in life - which means there is nothing inherently bad about a certain amount of expectation for a thank you: the problem comes when the expectation of a thank you becomes more important than it should, or when one is unaware of one's own, possibly complex motivations for helping others.

I think one of the most complex areas for trying to sort out motivations is being a parent. I suspect too many choose to be a parent because of what is called "the selfish gene": an ingrained drive to pass on one's DNA. Others have children because they wish to keep their partner happy (raising a child is too challenging, too important to take it on for that reason, in my opinion). Some even appear to have kids so they can be looked after when they are old and grey, or to stop their parents nagging about grandkids ... (don't laugh at that lat one: I know someone who did exacty that.) Something I am looking at now is: are the parents who are being parents for selfish reasons the ones who keep expecting other people to adapt their lives to fit around their own kids, like the parents who expect single people to set their houses up to be kid safe? Hm. I'll consider that further - I WILL say, though, that people who have to think the issue through, like same gender couples, are FAR more likely to be genuinely loving, properly motivated parents than some heterosexual couples. (I also consider anyone who has more than two kids to be showing a dinstinct LACK of caring for their kids' futures, as population growth is one of the major environmental pressures this planet is suffering from - in fact, I consider it an environmental crime.)

Whatever the action is that is "helping or caring for others" is, are you doing this helping others, maybe almost frantically, to distract yourself from facing up to shortcomings within yourself? Are you doing this because you are addicted to the good feelings that come with praise? (My last incarnation went a long way to curing me of that problem, incidentally.) Are you doing this for reasons you don't know, or are you inflicting it on others?

If you are, I consider you are actually being selfISH with your selfLESSness.

So, if that is the case, what do you do?

Well, I would SUGGEST - and it is only a suggestion, as I don't know your circumstances, you do a little soul searching. Consider the following:
(1) is your "help" actually genuinely, objectively, helpful? If so, then you should initially continue with it - don't stop out of a knee jerk reaction to finding yourself in error. It may be best to continue giving the help, but be prepared to say, if challenged, "yes, I am doing this for a selfish reason".
(2) consider whether your needs can be better met in other ways, maybe seek some counselling or do some meditation on facing and accepting with equanimity your darker aspects: how do you get to be comfortable with yourself? What would you tell someone else in your shoes?
(3) is there a new, broader perspective that could help you? If so, how do you change yourself so that you can genuinely accept that perspective - without brainwashing yourself into a superficial belief that it is true? You may need to seek some life experiences, or you may need to withdraw from the world (whilst making sure you meet your responsibilities), or in some other way actually DO something to achieve this. (Watch for my coming blog on "the trouble with change: your other yous".)

This is the sort of trap those lacking in experience can fall into, whether it is young people lacking (perhaps) in life experience, or someone starting off on spiritual growth who is lacking experience with the subtleties of steps along the way. It may be useful to think of it as being akin to the topic of love in a relationship: at what stage does having your needs met make the love a hollow thing? How does one avoid being so giving and generous to one's loved partner that they become irresponsible, selfish and taking, and you become a puppet that eases into resentment? (On that, I consider people should do some research into polyamory: you may not be polyamorous, but your relationship will probably benefit from the things that polyamory teaches,, such as "communicate, communicate, communicate", and - possibly without being fully aware of this - being self aware. Not only have I wound up in a genuinely loving, mutually supportive relationship with a wonderful woman because of my being in the poly world, but I have grown and become more aware, more genuine and more self aware through just the contact with this set of communities.)

This situation may also change depending on your circumstances. When I was single, I would often not claim tax deductions for donations I had made. Now, I have a family: for their sake, I will make the donations, and then claim the deduction.

And on family, I am now going to end this post, and go spend some time with them :)

Love, light, hugs and blessings

Gnwmythr

This post's photo is yet to be posted

Tags: selfishness, selflessness, about me, attitudes, self knowledge, Buddhism, growth, personal characteristics, personal responsibility, purpose,

First published: Saturday 26th September, 2009
Last edited:Saturday 26th September, 2009

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Post No. 067 - Peace conversion

I recently heard part of an interesting programme on the ABC, which caught my attention when it started talking about "conversion to peace". The programme is about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and a transcript is at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/stories/2009/2652393.htm

See what you think :)

Love, light, hugs and blessings

Gnwmythr

This post's photo is yet to be posted

Tags: peace, attitudes, change, forgiveness, family, growth, guidance, leadership, life lessons, love, mirrorology, morality, priorities, purpose,

First published: Thursday 24th September, 2009
Last edited: Thursday 24th September, 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Post No. 066 - Aliens, and the ubiquity of the "Book religions" symbology

When I was learning Wicca (Correllian), a phrase which I came across was "the Book religions"*. This was used as a generic, "catch all" term for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, based on their connection to Abraham and the various Testaments/books/Bibles which derive from that.

I'm not familiar with Judaism, nor Islam, although I like some Jewish traditions such as having a break from the working week (Shabbat) and the family focus (up to a point - undue emphasis on being married is NOT healthy, and some elements of Judaism suffer - in my opinion - from flaws such as conservatism and being outdated), so this post will be focused on Christianity.

The trigger for this post was finally being able to read Colonel James Churchward's book "The Sacred Symbols of Mu". I've been fascinated with symbols and rituals most of my life (I was recently telling my partner how I used plan rituals for a week when I was a young child - things like getting up early, and meditating on the dawn and bird's chorus), and have enjoyed studying runes in recent years (actually, that would be over a decade now). So ... I have been looking forward to reading this book since I first heard of it, as a teenager. I recently joined the Melbourne Theosophical Society's library service (this is open to members of the public), and this book was one of the ones I borrowed.

I've now started reading it, and am finding it quite a disappointment.

Part of that is the scientific weakness of the content, and - to my engineering viewpoint - poor presentation, which is touched on in the introduction to the online version of this book (at http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/ssm/index.htm):

"Churchward's Mu theory hasn't achieved even the marginal credibility of Atlantis. For one thing, his science is absurd. The Pacific appears to have been free of large land masses for billions of years. In fact, the Pacific basin may mark the place where the Moon was expelled from the proto-earth. Coral atolls that dot the Pacific have taken millions of undisturbed years of activity to form. And the Pacific was one of the last regions on the planet to be settled by humans; this is proven by linguistic evidence, and the well-documented oral traditions which describe the history of the Polynesian migrations.
It doesn't help matters that Churchward's books are largely absent of apparatus such as footnotes or bibliography, and his basic source material cannot be independently confirmed. In his Mu-monomania, he employs circular and tautological reasoning. Often, he will make a startling assertion, and before supporting it, will move on to some other train of thought. At other times, he writes factually about, say, Egyptian mythology, without any clue for the reader as to why this proves anything about Mu. The reader is simultaneously entertained and irritated by this intellectual shell game."
Although this introduction does then continue to say:
"However, Churchward may have the last laugh yet. There was a large land mass in the Pacific that was submerged during prehistoric times: Sundaland, the continental shelf around Indonesia, which was exposed during the ice ages. It was most certainly the route that humans used to get to Australia, as only a few kilometers of water separated Sundaland from Australia at that time. Although it was submerged slowly as the result of rising sea levels at the end of the ice age, the region has some of the most violent volcanoes on Earth (such as the famous Krakatoa). A documented eruption in that region about 60,000 years ago may have decimated the human race, producing a 'population bottleneck' during which our species was reduced to a few hundred individuals; this has emerged from mitochondrial DNA studies. Some have hypothesized that Sundaland may have been home to an early lost civilization, perhaps the home of the mysterious voyagers who charted the anomalous ice-age maps which the early modern map-makers incorporated in their atlases. While not Mu or Lemuria, of all of the nooks and crannies where a lost civilization might have existed, Sundaland is one of the most plausible; only time will tell."

I may find this book less of an annoyance if I had read the other boks first; I'm also interested in how Churchward's concept of Lemurians compares with that of Blavastky and the other early theosophists. (I think it doesn't; I think Blavatsky wrote of humanity now being a "fifth root race", evolving into a sixth, and that Lemurians were an earlier, less capable root race. I also have a recollection that Rampa may have described Lemurians as being purple, with a roundish body ... which ties into something I read recently (possibly in Churchward's book!) about a Greek myth that male and female were created when the round bodied, eight-limbed "people" threatened to roll up Mt Olympus, so the Gods split them into two, male and female.)

However, my main irritation is actually that the point of view from which Col. Churchward interprets the information he (allegedly) has come into contact with is that of a Christian paradigm: Deity comprises a God above Earth.

I'm - in part - Wiccan: to me, the powers, energies and wonders of Earth are AS spiritual as anything that comes from higher realms.

In fact, as a twist on that, in some rituals (particularly Qabbalistic - e.g., the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram), there is use of imagery or physical stances where one is throwing arms up to "the heavens" and drawing down the powers of Heaven or God. I may indeed use that, if I wish to contact higher frequency energies (although the truth of the matter is that such higher frequency worlds are all about us, and all we need to do to tune in to them is change our freuency of focus - much as we just twiddle a knob on a radio rather than physically put or point a radio up or down to change its frequency), but I am also just as liable to use that stance to connect to the powers of the Universe - those from other stars, planets, galaxies and realms in "Outer Space". We all come from material from "Outer Space" anyway: our Sun, our planet and our bodies are ALL made from material scattered through space which aggregated to form stars and planets, and the life on this planet. For more on that, have a look at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stars;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_evolution;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_formation_and_evolution; and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebular_hypothesis.

So Col. Churchward's bias in thinking that the material he is examining is solely related to a "God in Heaven" type of situation is (a) annoying, as it is a put down of Mother Earth (in my opinion), and (b) possibly wrong.

What if, as Erich von Daniken postulated back in the 1970s, These beings appearing from the sky were in fact from alien civilisations? They would, then, be appearing in the skies, but not necessarily from "Heaven".

Since von Daniken, others also have written about alien influence, good and bad, in human affairs. The notion that advances in technology have been, in part, due to a helping "hand" (or whatever they have that corresponds to a hand :) ) from aliens is not new, and has been cast back through history. In fact, an idea I first came across in Lobsang Rampa's book "The Hermit" (see also here) is that aliens cross bred with humans to force evolution to happen a little faster; recently, an Internet post I have come across claim that the alien race is known as the "Annunaki" (the link I gave talks about the other alien races, and their various motivations for being involved with humanity).

This digression on to aliens also raises a question: what are the religious beliefs of aliens? My experience is that this is best expounded on in Stuart Holroyd's excellent book "Briefing for the Landing on Planet Earth". This book is excellent for a whole range of reasons, one of the main being that it provides a genuine, balanced, sceptical viewpoint of the phenomenon being reported. If you haven't read it: please do so (although it does appear to be out of print).

Now, back to the Christian mob.

The other irritating things I have come across which led to this post (I am actually fairly happy - just a little facetious, in case you're wondering :) ), are a couple of films:
"The Seventh Sign"; and
"The Knowing".

"The Seventh Seal" assumes that the Christian Bible is true in its stories of an Apocalypse as interpreted by the Christians. The film "The Knowing" goes even further, and is about the rapture (seen the links where atheists are volunteering to look after pets who have been left behind after "the rapture"? Good publicity for the atheists, and - hopefully - provokes a bit of thought :) ). I don't accept either of those world view points.

As a Wiccan, I have thoughts about the Descent of the Goddess when talking about creation myths: it would be nice to see those in a film, although I acknowledge the financial reality that we probably aren't a big enough market.

I suspect my main concern is that people - including me - are at risk of getting caught up in biases that are so pervasive and subtle that we won't even recognise them for what they are.

I've been blest by the Goddess in that most of my life, particularly the personal growth and spiritual experiences I've had, have been of a nature that breaks those barriers down. Some of the shamanic journeys I've been on at times (without drugs, by the way: I think techniques like using the Assemblage Point are far more powerful and useful) have been particularly helpful at breaking viewpoints I have been socialised into.

Well, I suppose I shall just have to keep on trying to break free of limitations. At least there were some redeeming aspects to the film "The Seventh Sign", messages about hope, life and caring for others.

And now, for a final thought: my partner has just pointed out that I am writing all this stuff about Christianity on a Sunday :) I should also point out that I have friends who are Christian, and have respect for parts of both the original form of Christianity, and some of the neoChristian forms now practised.

Love, light, hugs and blessings

Gnwmythr

* I think this term was created by Orpheis Caroline High-Correll, who is mentioned at the Corellian Nativist Tradition website. The Correllian tradition split a few years ago (I might post about that, one day, from the point of view of an Australian); I'm on the side of the CNCI mob, incidentally.

This post's photo is yet to be posted

Tags: aliens, creation, about me, cross-fertilisation (ideas), Lobsang Rampa, myths, perceptions, religion, self knowledge, society,

First published: Sunday 13th September, 2009
Last edited: Sunday 13th September, 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Post No. 065 - Three faces of the Goddess and four seasons

I was recently sent a link to an interesting discussion on an LJ account regarding the number of aspects of the Goddess (that's a simplification: you'll have to follow the original link [which I will seek permission to post] if you to find out more). One comment in that debate took my attention: it was that there are three aspects of the Goddess commonly acknowledged, but four quarters are commonly invoked in circle, so how does three go into four (more or less - I'm rephrasing from memory)?

Well, let's start.

First off, the quarters.

When I began working with magic, I didn't know you were supposed to call one element per quarter, so I drew a pentagram and invoked all five elements (the fifth being spirit; the other four being earth, air, water and fire) from every quarter, and sometimes from above and below as well. Since then, I've been taught to call one element from each quarter, but:
(1) as my teacher has said, does it matter where a radio antenna is placed in a space, so long as it is tuned correctly? In fact, I hve invoked the four energies without moving - and consider that a basic, fundamental aspect of training.
(2) I have seen (and sometimes participated in) debates, not only about the swapping of fire and earth from northern to southern hemisphere (northern correspondences generally having fire where the sun is [in the south], and southern correspondences having the fire where the sun is [in the north]*), but also about swapping water and air (e.g. invoking water in the east if one is working on the west side of Port Phillip Bay).
(3) When I started working magic, I was living in the tropics, so I had the sun both north and south of me in the same year: how do develop an association between elements an quarter under those circumstances? Perhaps change depending on where the sun is?
(4) There are sometimes seasonal associations built into the elements/quarters (earth winter, air spring, fire summer and water autumn). Those don't necessarily fit the places the magic is being worked - for instance, here in Melbourne, a better seasonal association would be to use the local indigenous seasons described here. Of course, one could also consider just calling the energies by name (e.g., inspiration, manifestation, emotion/flow and strength.
(5) With respect to associations with aspects of the Goddess:
- I normally call maiden from east (spring), mother from north (summer) and crone from west (autumn), and from the south I either call Lilith or the God in his aspect as Lord of Time (which governs the flow of the seasons). I feel absolutely no need to have some sort of equality of number of aspects of the Goddess and God: I consider balance to be a long term (as in "many lifetimes") issue anyway.
- the maiden-mother-crone aspects of the Goddess could be reportrayed as: (i) maiden - interacting with the world in a self absorbed way (stereotypically [which means this does not apply to everyone] a child wants to have it all , and have it now); (ii) mother - interacting with the world through focus on nurturing one's family and loved ones; (iii) crone - interacting with the world in a more dispassionate way, with the broader idea of family (clan, tribe, society, Gaia, etc). Taking this a step further, there is a fourth aspect, which is interacting with oneself - perhaps this is the darker face of the Goddess, akin to the self-reflection and learning between lives. This would certainly fit winter, which has associations for many people of being indoors, perhaps slightly isolated, and a bit cut off in that one is less willing (or able, in extreme winters) to go out and spend time with friends and family.
- our histories generally (this is much debated and argued) tell us that Wicca evolved as a fertility religion. In that context, it would tend to have a focus on having children, as that is what the tribe would have needed, along with those who were no longer raising children sharing their wisdom. We are no longer in a struggle to survive in the same way. In fact, population growth is one of the pressures that is directly harming this planet. We have moved on and changed as a world; it is time, in my opinion, for us to embrace the changing circumstances and let go of arguments about whether we are truly pagan or are neopagan: I consider we should embrace making paganism relevant to this world, which needs an earth based awareness (including awareness of how the seasons are passing) to prevent a focus on materialism destroying this world. Part of that is making the faces of the Goddess more relevant to our society - including options other than just mother. Maybe we should start talking about mother / warrior / priestess / ... for the "middle" aspect? Maybe we should acknowledge the introspective face(s) of the Goddess? Of course, this probably ends the debates about pagan vs. neopagan (except, maybe, for the various reconstructionists), but then, I've said (and written) "Christians" should stop calling themselves that and start dealing with the fact that they are - by the means of every argument used to say we are neopagans, neoChristians. At least some of them have discussions about changing to be more relevant in a changing world.

Now, with regard to "fitting" three aspects of the Goddess into four elements, how about we stop thinking in a flat earth viewpoint? There are four elements, which are commonly called from one direction each: how about above and below? Perhaps we could call the four elements from various quarters, then maiden from above, mother from this level of reality, and crone from the underworld?

This is an issue which crops up in other faiths as well, and I currently contemplating how the Norse pagan system (which I am NOT an expert or even skilled in) works:
- all aspects comes from earth
- there are three aspects: yeast (birth), salt (life) and venom (death)
- there are also four elements (fire, ice, earth, water)
- all of which combines to create iron

I've been visualising this a little bit like an hierarchy: above a disk of earth is a disk split into three wedges (yeast, salt and venom - I'll call them humours), above which is a disk split into the four elements (incidentally, a friend who is well versed in rune lore has said it is possible to create all the runes from fire and ice: the two primordial polarities of the cold Nordic world), and above that is a disk of iron.

So ... how do I line up the four elements and the three humours? Well, perhaps I've got that wrong. Perhaps the disk with the three humours should actually be below earth (or the four elements disk)? Perhaps the three humours disk should be at right angles to the elements disk?

We live in a three dimensional world (in the sense that most of us do not have much control over the fourth dimension of time). Let's think that way, instead of just two dimensionally. (Thinking two dimensionally is particularly bad if you are setting up wards or other psychic defences: for those to be effective, you MUST cover above and below also.)

Perhaps we should be thinking more about, say, things two interlocking trigrams, or hexagrams (which fits both the Melbourne seasons, a concept of maiden-mother-crone where each aspect has both an involutionary [self reflective, or internal growth] and evolutionary aspect [interact with the outer world, and an oblique view of the sides a cube).

I like the volknut because it allows three interlocking aspects of three - which is why I use it on the base on my talismanic tetrahedrons (which are talismans created three dimensionally: I'll post about them in due course, probably next year).

The point here is that combinations of three can create more than three things:
- for instance, if we have three energies, A, B and C, we can create A+B, A+C, B+C and A+B+C, r four. Hmmmmm. Could the three aspects of the Goddess be mixed in a way that creates four elements? When I pose this, I am very much aware that the primary colours create many colours. Maybe air is, say, 80% maiden, 10% mother and 10% crone (as a rough, just invented and not based on anything example!)?

In this sense, I can see three going "into" four. I could also three times four creating twelve, so if, say, maiden-mother-crone corresponded to cardinal-mutable-fixed, then combining that with the four elements leads to the twelve signs of the zodiac.

The original debate was interesting. I look forward to more debates in the pagan / neopagan / Wiccan worlds, and hope to be around long enough to see what our belief system evolves into.

I'll leave it at that.

* One comment was to the effect that people in the southern hemisphere should simply follow the northern hemisphere - to the extent of celebrating Yule in the middle of our winter and Litha in the middle of our winter!

Love, light, hugs and blessings

Gnwmythr

This post's photo is yet to be posted.

Tags: invocation, correspondences, cross-fertilisation (ideas), rituals, deities, elements, frequencies,

First published: Saturday 12th September, 2009

Last edited: Sunday 13th September, 2009