Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Blowing our minds

It occured to me whilst I was swimming this morning, that at the heart of the Ecstatic Union project, is the opportunity for humanity to "BLOW OUR MINDS".

The "mind", as the sages tend to point out, acts a little bit like a trap. We stop experiencing life, and instead we see "only what we look for... understand only what we already know". But blowing our minds in a day-by-day moment-by-moment way sounds rather an unstable kind of world?

Could it be possible to establish a stable way of life that nurtures a moment by moment experience of blowing our minds?

It isn't of course for me to make the choice, but my gut instinct is that the best approaches to achieving the ongoing blowing of our minds will not be accomplished with drugs. Not either necessarily any form of practice, chanting, spiritual discipline, meditation, yoga, progressive sexual activity, training course, get together, love-in, discussion, art-work, sport, bell-ringing, rave, music, stadium event, peek experience, danger, bungee jump, sky-dive, theatre performance, religious festival, pilgrimage ... none of these usual suspects.

Yes of course all of these things are great experiences.

Yes of course all of these things may indeed be able to blow your mind.

And perhaps even the blowing of your mind may be sustained by them in an ongoing manner. And by returning to new similar experiences.

Whilst of course it is true that these physical, emotional, community, artistic, scientific, educational, spiritual and other disciplines are able to provide access to deconstructing our trapped ways of experiencing life, possibly even providing a tangible experience of your/my/our relationship with the eternal/atemporal/universal this is not ultimately the point of the Ecstatic Union project.

Rather, the point of the Ecstatic Union project is to construct the very fabric of our communities, institutions and societies, the very fabric of day to day living, in such away that the very fabric of our lives is calling for the deconstruction of the mind's fixated way of blocking out life.

What would it be like to wake up every day into a world that was moving of its own accord in the direction of blowing your mind? ... What if that was the direction in which the river of the world was flowing...

Every day the world blows your mind, and then you get up the next day and it blows your mind all over again.

What if that was the world you were born into?

What if that was the world that was out there every day you woke up?

Every day. Moment by moment. Every moment.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Hello Peace - Calls across the wall

Radio 4 program today about an organisation bringing reconciliation between Palestinian and Israelis.

Reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis


Tuesday, 9 October 2007

My discussion with David McLeish who is an "atheist"

I had an interesting discussion with a fellow who emailed me after a posted a comment on a blog entry titled Spiritual Pornography. If you follow the link you can read David's original post, and my comment. My comment went something like this:

I did a search on "spiritual pornography" hoping to find people having graphic x-rated union with god... Hmmm. No such luck!... ;-) ... Even so your comments are interesting. However it seems to me that your insight points to a different conclusion than the one you draw: that having discarded world-view A for world-view B, and then discarded world-view B in favour of world-view C, and then having discarded world-view C in favour of world-view D, a pattern is emerging. The reasonable conclusion is not world-view D, but rather the discarding of world-views.

David then responded to me, asking "For what definition of 'world-view' does that make sense?"

Here was my response:

If you would allow me I would prefer not to be too precise about definition, and instead try to provide more a flavour of what I’m suggesting.

This is not because I want to weasel out of giving you an adequate account of my meaning.

I was only meaning to suggest that for example in moving on from theism to atheism, and then from atheism on to agnosticism, and then from agnosticism to pragmatism – and so on – any of those sorts of progressions that many people do – I’m not saying that’s what the writer I was responding to did exactly, but it is the kind of thing that some people do – and the writer I was responding to did at least one of these steps, if not 2 – I was just saying that the process of discarding the old ideas and taking up the new ones is more significant than either the old way of thinking or the new way of thinking.

Being able to give up a point of view (to move on from one point of view to another, to leave one point of view behind and move on to another, to 'change my mind'), is at least as useful a skill to have as being able to hold on to a point of view, defend a point of view, and argue for a point of view. And this is still the case even after I have moved on from 20 previous 'conclusions'. Theism, atheism, agnosticism, pragmatism, etcetera, etcetera we might say are 'conclusions'.

And noticing that I have repeatedly through my life abandoned previous ways I had been thinking about the world and seeing the world, has led me to think that the particular place I am currently standing ('my world-view') is less valuable than the direction I am moving in, and the speed with which I am moving.

So you might say the belief is 'no belief'… but I don’t think this quite hits it. Beliefs are so hard to avoid. It is more like the spiritual PRACTICE is no belief. It is something I have to practice – it requires discipline and commitment. Catching myself going off believing something again, and noticing how the experience of life (the universe and everything) is at every turn, and moment, pulling the rug out from under all the conclusions I foolishly (not an insult) keep coming to.

David then very kindly continued the discussion:

Interesting. I can see the sense in what you're saying.

I'd have to argue that the conclusion we're currently at is important in its own way. Not because it's perfect, but because if the direction you're moving in (as you describe it) is a good direction, then your current conclusion is always an improvement over the previous ones.

For example (and to use an analogy that removes the spiritual element from it), our understanding of how massive objects interact has changed from "celestial spheres" to Newtonian gravity to relativity (and a lot of steps in between). The process of improving on earlier ideas is very important, I agree. But that doesn't mean relativity itself is unimportant. It's almost certainly wrong in some details, but it's the best we've got at the moment, and it's demonstrably better than the ideas that came before it.

I'm currently an atheist. The reason I call myself that is not because I've chosen to adopt it as a world-view; it's because it accurately describes my current opinion about how the world works. It's just a label. If something changed my opinion tomorrow, the label would change. In that sense, I agree with you that the process of changing and improving how you see the world is important, and is independent of where you currently stand. But the process is meaningless if you disregard the places it takes you to. Even if you can never say that you've got the perfect answer, you can still say that your answer has improved over what it used to be.

You can read David's latest blog entries at: David McLeish.

It occured to me that this was quite a interesting discussion, and someone else might have a comment they wanted to add to it.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Pretending to be human

This week my attempts to blend in have reached new heights:

I have:

  • Mowed a lawn

  • Clipped a hedge

  • Shook hands with a new neighbour

  • Drank peppermint tea

  • Rubbed polish into an antique sofa

  • Had lunch with my sister

  • Had a bath every day

  • Made a purchase at Argos

  • Made an insurance claim

  • Re-assembled a self-assembly wardrobe

  • Took hedge clippings to re-cycling centre

Unfortunately some details give me away:

  • The argos purchase was a USB flash drive

  • The insurance claim was for an Imate Jazjar 3G/Wifi/GPRS/Bluetooth PDA phone

  • I spent most of the week trying to stop my web server connections from failing

  • I spent Tuesday recovering data from 2 drives when a windows OS died rather dramatically (if that was your virus, virus writer, I hope you get what's coming to you

Thursday, 23 August 2007

How did this web site become so popular?

This posting should really be titled "How to write propaganda", but I wanted to make a point! (Exactly!) ... You'll see what I mean if you read on.

The best propaganda is the propaganda that you don't realise is propaganda. Soon as you realise it the game is up.

Anyone who is wise to it realises that the celebrity magazines, news media and shows which pretend to document the rises and falls in popularity or notoriety of any given celeb are in fact the very vehicle by which such celebrity is established. It is only because you got the magazine spread last week, and newspaper coverage the week before that you are considered interesting enough for chat show interview this week. It is a virtuous circle for those who manage to get on it and stay on it. The mistake is to think that the latest episode is simply a report on the truth of the matter of a celeb's status... rather it is the very means by which the celebrity's current prominence is being established. We are led to believe that this person is interesting, and that's why we should watch. In fact this person is quite possibly only interesting because media moguls have decided to promote them. Of course it is self-reinforcing. Propaganda is only effective propaganda when you don't notice that it's propaganda. It appears to be reporting on the fact of a celeb's celebrity, but rather it is the very means by which that celebrity is established.

It is a disguised "assumptive close". This week on bbc Radio4 a programme about the British Royal Family apparently reported on how they had managed to survive their rock bottom popularity after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The propaganda which is harder to spot is the assumption that is the premise of the program: the assumption that the Royals have in fact recovered their popularity. If you strip away the learned analysis, you realise that this program is in fact royal propaganda, subtly planting within the minds of the population the idea that the Royal family's popularity has recovered. This is done by asking the question: "How did the royal family recover their popularity?" - a question which is already proposing a view point that they did in fact achieve this. Again we see that propaganda is only effective propaganda when you don't notice that it's propaganda. The program never questions whether the recovery happened - something which at the very least is debateable - it only questions "how it happened".

So asking the question "how x happened?" is one of the cleverest ways of creating propaganda that it has in fact happened, regardless of whether it actually has happened or not, whatever that might mean!

So, as I was saying, How did this site become so popular? ... that's what I want to know?

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

How to reduce levels of violence in society

You may remember, back in April, I mentioned an organisation called the Wave Trust. Recently I was lucky enough to get to interview one of the trustees of Wave. The link shows some of the results of this.

How to reduce levels of violence in society

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Good vs. Evil ?

The idea that the great battle of our time is between GOOD vs. EVIL is a mistaken one.

The idea that the great battle of our time, an idea that is played out in so much popular and children's culture - star wars, harry potter, lord of the rings to name just a few, is a battle between GOOD vs. EVIL is a profoundly mistaken one.

It is also an idea which is doing a lot of mischief around the world. It is a relic of our tribal past, and is something that the sooner humanity transcends, the better off we shall be. "We" always like to characterise ourselves, our group, our family, our country... "people like us"... as the Good Guys.

The REAL battle of out times is between COMPLACENCY vs. ACTION, and between EDUCATION vs. IGNORANCE.

I look forward to a time when popular culture reflects this, as I think this is going to need to happen before ACTION and EDUCATION has got any chance of winning.

There are a few positive signs here and there. The last episode of the Christopher Eccleston series of Doctor Who shows "ordinary girl" Rose Tyler, realising that it is her and her family who are the only people anywhere who can save the universe from the Daleks.

The moral is not that the good doctor wins out over the evil daleks. The moral is that the ordinary girl, Rose, overcomes her only lack of self-belief and the complacency of her family... the "complacency of the chip shop", and turns out to be the only person who can save the universe.

The moral is a good one!

It is always the ordinary, unheard of, uncelebrated person - it is always them who must save the universe, if it is to stand any chance of being saved.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

God made man in his own image

In many of the religious traditions there is some equivalent to this. God made man in his own image... or to be PC, we might alternatively say Goddess made woman in her own image... whatever, right?

The thing that is interesting about this as far as I'm concerned is that several of the major faith traditions have an idea at their core that the creator created us, the createds you might call us, according to his/her own pattern, in the image of him/herself, i.e. to be some kind copy of the creator.

There is a consequence of this which I think is crucially important. The creator created us in the image of the creator. It strikes me that there is a drastically important consequence of this which these faith traditions tend to miss out on, even though it is something they all believe in...

If the creator created us in the image of the creator, there is surely something that follows from this? Surely this has got to imply that we, you and me, have ourselves been given the capacity to be creators... so what are we going to create?

Monday, 14 May 2007

A world full of radical spiritual leadership

In a way obvious, but in a way not, the Budha was not a follower of the Budha, Jesus was not a follower of Jesus, and Mohammed was not a follower of Mohammed.

All of our great religious prophets engaged in their relation with the eternal, with God, with Allah - that is to say their relationship with "all of it", their relationship with the universe, their relationship with "the whole", in such a deep and profound way that their engagement became a blessing and gift to others.

What would a world be like in which every one did that?

None of the great religious prophets were very much followers of any kind. They were radicals. They often occurred in radical opposition to the spiritual status quo. Jesus was born into the community of Judaism, and within that community he showed up as a religious revolutionary. All of these great prophets provided radical spiritual leadership, but to interpret that radical spiritual leadership as a call to be non-radical blind-faith followers of any religion is to completely miss the profound point of these people's lives.

The fundamental message of all these prophets lives is not that human beings should "be christians", or "be muslims" or "be buddhists" or etc. The fundamental message is that we (you and me, all your friends and family and my friends and family, all your community and my community, each one us) could ourselves engage with our relationship with god/allah/the eternal/the human condition/the etc. in such a deep and profound way that our own engagement becomes a blessing and a gift for those around us and thence on outwards.

The examples set by the lives of Christ, Mohamed and the Budha, is not to follow Christ, Mohamed or Budha. The example set by the lives of Christ, Mohamed and the Budha is ultimately to not be a follower of anyone. They certainly weren't.

What would a world be like in which a part of every persons life was a profound engagement in their relationship with the eternal, or god, or whatever you want to call that?

What would a world be like which was full up of radical spiritual leadership?

Ultimately successful leaders do NOT inspire followers. Rather they inspire others to become leaders themselves and provide leadership into even more unchartered territory. The ultimate compliment you can pay to any true leader is not to be a follower. It is to become a leader yourself, to build on what has been accomplished, and take it further - transcend, transform, re-invent, re-discover.

To transform and re-invent spiritual leadership for a new generation, or a new kind of sentient being, or a new environment or circumstance. The transformation of ancient religions in a way that abandons some of their historic artifacts is not the sacriligious or blasphemous corruption that fundamentalists mistake it for. Rather it is the exact fulfillment of the original essence and intention that has always been at the heart of spirtual devotion.

Monday, 7 May 2007

How do we make the world a better place?

Most of us have no idea. Except maybe to be caring towards our children and family, nice to our neighbours, kind to our in-laws, compassionate to strangers, as loving as we can bare to be to as many people as we can bare. Not that any of that is easy, but even if we achieve all that, it still leaves most of us with a sense of hopelessness in the face of wider world. All of our praying and church-going and charity appeals and self-sacrifice and love-giving, all of our volunteering and generosity, but still in the face of the famines and genocides, the terrorism and war-monegering, the loss of civil liberties and crazed gun-men... in the face of all of it, do we experience our lives as making the world a better place for our children and for the future?

So how do we make the world a better place? I certainly have no idea. And yet, despite my foolishness, helplessness and incompetence, my feeling has always been, since the first moment I found out that there are people who are suffering, and each subsequent moment I found out about more of them, and other kinds of suffering, is that I must devote my life to a resolution of this question, or else I have not really lived at all. What have I done today that makes me feel proud?

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Wave Trust, Worldwide alternatives to violence

The Wave Trust ("Worldwide Alternatives To Violence") seems to be a very useful organisation. It is a UK registered charity and provides lots of rigorous expert analysis. Also they have a very useful looking page of links, here:
World wide alternatives to violence

Monday, 23 April 2007

When I was four...

... I thought the world was filled with love and light in every corner and nook and cranny. Now I am fourty, I think the world could be filled with love and light in every nook and cranny.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

On the subject of "BEING a 'Christian' "

If Jesus of Nazareth, the man, was alive today, I would probably be a follower, if not a disciple. However I am less inclined to follow any of the various groups or leaders who claim to understand and disseminate his message currently - who claim to have "direct experience" of God or Jesus. I believe many of them are misguided and ignorant, and even antithetical to what Jesus represented.

I believe in love above all else. I believe in putting reality above appearances. I prefer our own fantasy in preference to someone else's.

I believe that love should be our ultimate guide in all matters. Love, in the sense of Christian "agape" love, sometimes called "charity" (although that word has come to mean something different these days) is a more significant guide to the actions we should be taking, than the recorded ancient words of any faith, regardless of how wise those words may be.

The phrophets and leaders of the world's most popular religions very often led lives and delivered teachings that pointed, like a signpost, in the direction of love. But then we take those signposts, and turn them into idols. We idolise and worship the signposts, instead of celebrating the love that those signposts point us towards.

I am not suggesting any kind of abandonment of ancient wisdom. Simply that our ultimate yardstick must be love. Ancient wisdom should be measured against this yardstick, in preference to what is sometimes called "faith". "Faith" is often used as a cover for the abandonment of reason and good judgement based on love.

Real faith, is a consequence of having an experiential relationship with the eternal and is multifacited - a consequence of spiritual learning and practice, community participation, and artistic exploration. I am working for a world in which this is a readily available aspect of life for all people.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Relationship in the light of our relationship with the eternal

Don't get me started or before you know it I'll be sending you the 4th chapter of my dissertation on designing a relationship with the eternal. I do come down to earth for brief periods. The short version is that our time (for example yours and mine) in the universe is finite and relatively short. What would a world be like in which all human relationship occured in the light of our relationship with the eternal?

Monday, 5 February 2007

Michael Lipp

I recently discovered, or maybe rediscovered (sometimes I forget whole years, or even whole lives), that a fellow called Michael Lipp who is a life coach, and who has been sending me his newsletter for several years, has an blog on blogger. You can see his latest entry here: Michael Lipp, Perspectives

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Giving up

I would guess that most people would find it unbelievable how happy I am. I find it somewhat unbelievable myself. Because having spent a life time basically failing to achieve every adult desire my heart wished for, I discover as it looks more and more likely that I will never achieve those things, that actually - and this is the funny part - I don't care all that much. Perhaps I never did. Who knows. And in seeing the fineness of not having my heart's every desire, I feel curiously blissful. Someone told me the other day that there is a Taoist maxim: Go nowhere, do nothing! Strangely without meaning to at all, I have become an absolute master at this.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The Relaxation Centre

Thank you for getting in touch about the "Relaxation Centre". This is the "english" spelling. If you are that way inclined you are welcome to call it the "Relaxation Center". The idea is to build a kind of "temple to pleasure and relaxation" on a small patch of land in the azores.

I have bought a piece of land to build it on, on the lower slopes of the volcano on Pico. I had a land surveyor do a survey of it which I have as an AutoCAD file.

I know well a Portuguese architect who works on the island, and has built many inspiring buildings, so I have it in mind to commission him with the project.

You can watch a video showing a tour and discussion of the land, and also a 3D architectural fly round of a VERY rough sketch of central building of the relaxation centre by visiting this link: Pico Azores Relaxation Centre

My hope is to hold medidation and yoga holidays... that sort of thing... but with a strong emphasis on pleasure, relaxation and enjoyment. Plausibly it could be the venue for all sorts of socially positive activities... cultural experiences, good food, sun and sea, surrounded by the extraordinary natural beauty of Pico.

Plausibly, an alternative name could be the "Ecstatic Union Centre" ! ... ;-)

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The "Project"

I am working on a project which I have been calling “ecstatic union”… although perhaps this is not the best name for the project, it is the best name I have come up with so far.

The project aims to have ecstatic union with life be a readily available ground of being (readily available to every person) on which people can live their every day lives… grocery-shopping-ecstatic-union, driving-in-traffic-ecstatic-union, having-an-argument-with-their-life-partner-ecstatic-union, earning-a-living-ecstatic-union, any-old-which-thing-ecstatic-union, … (etc. etc.)

I have come to believe that a way I can fulfil on this is by participating in a public discourse with people in the world, such as yourself, who seem to be providing an access to this, either for others or for themselves or both.