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Editor, John Evans

Midweek Mysticism: The God-Self and the ego-I

God-Self and ego-I
The connection and subtle interaction between the familiar ego-I of the personality, and what might be called the God-Self, is not widely appreciated, even by psychiatrists and academic philosophers. Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time on Radio 4 this morning was a case study of the small circular obsessions of philosophers of the "logical positive" sort -- think Bertrand Russell and a young Ludwig Wittgenstein. At one stage the interviewer, almost in despair, was reduced to: "But where are the big ideas about life, our place in the universe and the meaning of it all?" I paraphrase, but you take the point. It seems the Oxford Philosophers of that era were only interested in language and precision of thought by deriving perfect definitions -- Zzzzz! It must have felt like being among a group of people holding a dance in a small cubicle. Back in the real world, let's look at the inner means of what and how we know anything at all. There are as many names in the world as there are forms. Each thing observed is called A or B to distinguish it from C and D. People also have different names to define their separateness from the rest. These individuals, however, have only one name for themselves, "I". On Earth there are countless millions of “I”s. It is the most common name of all. But, in reality, all these “I”s are merely references to one supreme I, the God-Self. From our ego-ridden viewpoint, we think our own I is the personal property of this body, this person called A or B, Peter or Jane. It is the dualistic barrier that prevents us from seeing into the very nature of ourselves and reality itself. When the writer Paul Brunton was asked who he was by his spiritual teacher, the Englishman could only point to himself. “But that is just your body,” came the rejoinder. “I say again, who are you?” Most of us tend to associate that sense of “I”ness with our bodies and minds. What a person sees in a full-length mirror is “me”, another word for “I”. On the other hand, in the schizoid fashion characteristic of humans, we also say, "my body, my mind, my thoughts” and so forth, thus postulating another entity apart from the body-mind. This is the subtle clue to the conundrum. Who then is this real I that owns the body, mind and thoughts? Why do we refuse to acknowledge its central position in our existence when, as the German philosopher Schelling observed, everyone shares the feeling that they have been as they are since the dawn of time? The answer is that we are almost totally dominated by the ego, which is made up of a string of mental tendencies masquerading as the real I. This ego accredits to itself all the powers of the organism. The God-Self abides within, beyond thought, as the I-without-attributes: I Am. The I-thought, or ego, emerges from the God-Self as the principle of discrimination. It has a tendency to run away with itself. It can be observed to be the first thought to arise on waking in the morning, and the last to set before sleep. Its rise accompanies awareness of the material world, while its fall coincides with the absence of this consciousness in deep sleep. In dreams, the ego is still present, albeit in modified, or causal, form. Some teachers recommend a special method for catching the ego-I off-guard. As you relax just before sleep, you direct your consciousness to be aware of the God-Self immediately upon awakening in the morning. This auto-suggestion switches the attention towards spiritual practice before the ego-I has had time to get into its jamming mode. It allows the contemplator a direct, if brief, feel of the God-Self. The state can be prolonged by simply staying with it while keeping the I-thought quiescent. That comes with practice. The I-thought is the generator of all other thoughts, which constitute the ego's principal activity, mind. This ego-I delineates the “I am this” and “I am that” of relative existence. The ego-I has been described as a knot between the insentient body and the sentient God-Self. This formless and ghostly ego-I comes into being by grasping a form, which gives it a body, whereby it endures. Feeding on other forms it grasps, it waxes more. Leaving one form it grasps another and so on. In short, it is nothing more than a parasite which lives on illusion and grows fat on human suffering which is separation from the God-Self. In the full light of relentless enquiry, the ego-I dissolves away like a phantom apparition: “When sought for, it takes to flight.” Most folk become addicted to the ego-I. They are the lost souls that will continue for life after life on the merry-go-round of physical existence with its endless pain and suffering. There is another way, but you have to want it. The wanting is a sign of spiritual maturity and the desire to move up to another level. John Evans To be published: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com Recent Related Articles
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Midweek Mysticism: The Library Angel and other sprites

Library Angel A strange thing happened to me in the County Library a while ago. I had been to our three local bookshops in search of Colin Wilson's second autobiography Dreaming to Some Purpose, which had just been published. They offered to order it, but had not yet received any copies for sale. I decided to try Amazon, and headed for the library to return some books. As I made my way through the voluminous shelves I found myself suddenly swivelling around to face a particular row of tomes. My eye latched onto one book: it was Dreaming to Some Purpose by Colin Wilson. As a collector of psychological oddities, I was delighted to add this one to my list. When I arrived home I checked online to trace if anyone else had experienced the same phenomenon. As always on these occasions, it even had its own name: the Library Angel. Now, it is usually the case that when you become aware of something unusual, it begins to happen all the time. And so the Angel became a constant companion during my regular trawls through a variety of bookshelves. It doesn't work with lost keys though, presumably they are too prosaic for such otherworldly gentry. As it happened I had been talking to the proprietor of a secondhand bookshop that very morning. We were chatting about Henry David Thoreau when the old fellow -- a Cambridge man and an avalanche of information -- mentioned that he had never known anyone who had read Walden right through to the end. I was sure I had and even retained a copy of my own. When I got home my head was involuntarily jerked upwards to the top of a high series of shelves. There was the Thoreau. Shamingly, a bookmark peeped out halfway through. I too was one of the hoi-polloi who had never finished the famous book. Phenomena, such as the Library Angel, require self-awareness. Most people drift through life in a cloud of daydreams and to-do lists, dashing between one engagement and the next. I had long trained myself to pay attention to what was in front of my face, the alternative is a form of living death. Now, few readers will believe me when I tell you there is a Science Angel too. A famous case involves the pioneer of Organic Chemistry no less. It is told he had been musing on the chemical structure of benzene for some time. He had almost given up, when one night a dream woke him with a start. It showed a snake that had curled up into a circle before him. A Eureka moment followed, the Benzene Ring was born and so was organic chemistry. For those of you who don't believe in angels -- and this is a deficiency, not a case of superiority -- life must be colourless and drab. So let's look at the extreme end of these phenomena just to taunt you into the truth. During the post-war period, a particular Englishwoman, whose name I don't recall, wrote a book about her wartime experiences and later life in a country cottage outside London. She was typical of her upbringing, clipped accent, well organised, and generally one of nature's leaders. Whichever office she was sent to work in, she was running the show in no time at all. Her type was usually played by Virginia Mckenna in the films. However, she had a hidden side. As with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) and quite a few famous people in those days, she could see spirits. A whole host of little folk, fairies, gnomes, perhaps even Hobbits, occupied the bottom of her garden. Imps lived up the chimney, dwarfs made an unholy mess in the kitchen, and ghostly apparitions were part of the family. She got on with all of them just by accepting them. I'm now doing some research into the period, but have no recollection of her name or the title of her book. If anyone out there does, please let me know via the contact form. Otherwise, I may have to summon another one of those helpful angels. John Evans Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com. Author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers. Recent Related Articles
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Midweek Mysticism: The truth about halos

Halo The halo is one of the most recognisable symbols in all art. Often taken to be purely Christian -- the Church hoovered up anything as if it were its own -- it is in fact a symbol of the Sun god and reaches back to early forms of what we know as paganism, or nature religion. The Sea god, Neptune, is represented with one (see below), as is the Egyptian god Horus, and his mother Isis. Early religious art is dripping with halos. In our time, a halo has become an artistic device suggesting holiness, or saintliness in the Church. But modern artists no longer use them because these ideas are seen as of another age when belief was a searing passion and culture-wide. In any case, they don't exist in real life. Has anybody actually seen one hovering around a living head?
Neptune Neptune, Sea god with halo
Halos are fascinating today because they do represent something real in mysticism: the first serious sign an aspirant is given to acknowledge that he has arrived on the Path. He (or she, e.g, Teresa of Avila who called it the Prayer of Quiet) is suddenly bathed in Divine Light. This amazing experience is well documented across the literature, both of religions and mysticism ... even poetry. In John's Gospel it's called the Comforter. Here's a personal description of it by Irish writer and mystic W.B. Yeats: My fiftieth year had come and gone, I sat, a solitary man, In a crowded London shop, An open book and an empty cup On the marble table top. As on the shop and street I gazed My body of a sudden blazed; And twenty minutes more or less It seemed, so great my happiness, That I was blessed and could bless. Regular readers have probably read my own episode of the Divine Light, but here it is for completeness:
In the summer of 1992, I was living in the south of Spain writing a book on mystical experiences. As an escape from writing, I had taken up a kind of walking meditation. The aim was partly exercise, but also to give my mind a rest from constant thought. One day, completely out of the blue, I became aware of a subtle alteration in consciousness. It was as if a grip had been taken on my mind, pleasantly it should be said, and was drawing it back into an area of increasing stillness. As this rather strange quietness built, it became more and more tangible, like a distinct presence. It wasn’t physical, as far as I could tell; it resembled a warm, yellowish light, a golden glow, even a tingling florescence all around and within me. This supremely-benign condition continued for about half an hour, then mysteriously faded. Over the next month or so, the state returned virtually every day at varying levels of intensity. At times I found I could induce it at will merely by walking rhythmically. It was a very welcome presence and I came to look forward to its characteristic onset. The experiences reached a peak one Sunday morning. Unusually I was seated in an armchair reading a book. After a while, the words began to take on a heightened significance and my thought processes slowed right down. I was aware that this was a much deeper experience than anything hitherto. Reading was now difficult, although not impossible. ... I was enjoying this spiritual immersion, which was how it seemed, and after half an hour it left me for good. The presence was with me continuously for about a month, with my awareness of it rising and falling in unpredictable ways. It was partly of the body but also external to it in a way I had not knowingly experienced before.
This light is all around us at all times, but is filtered out by the physical brain. When we are opened up to it, a "Comforter" removes all the cares and woes of physical existence. We get a glimpse of eternity. In India, God is said to place a blue pearl in the heads of aspirants which transforms them and clears the way for the next decisive step: Seeing into the nature of reality. (Link: Proof of consciousness after death). A halo is a way of representing this state in a person. As ever, it has lost its original meaning in popular culture. Only an artist who has experienced it for himself would know what it means and apply it only to one who has taken this first step. How many modern painters and "creators" of unmade beds and grotesque images come anywhere near to understanding that? "Vanishingly small" would be an exaggeration. These two steps prepare the mystic for the afterlife and reassure the mind that all manner of things are ultimately well. And for those scientists who believe that the universe is a great passionless machine: it is not, it's alive and can communicate with those little scraps of flotsam and jetsam, human beings. John Evans ... who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers. Coming eventually: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com. Recent Related Articles
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Broadcasting Commentary: Finite monkeys

Monkey Cage Monkey
Those finite monkeys are back rampaging around their infinite cage again. Prof Brian Cox, and scientifically-literate comedian Robin Ince, with a couple of guests mostly of a scientific bent, returned to their berth on Radio 4 Monday afternoon, giggling their way through the hilarious subject of death. The thing is, I had an eerie feeling that they had culled the topic from this very website, Syntagma, which is big on death. Druids were mentioned, a dead giveaway! And ghosts, ye gods! It's nice to be appreciated by the godlings of BBC radio broadcasting. As Brian Cox said at the outset, he is a scientist and could only judge the topic scientifically. This meant that a lot of what followed was a bit arid and centred on genes, DNA and cells, surely the most boring entities in the whole wide universe. Naturally, when you reduce death to a cellular level, it sort of kills it stone dead, as 'twere. As always with this anarchic show, though, it was hilarious. Dead strawberries were examined in detail, but the possibility of their resurrection was disappointingly ignored. It seems the Jesus factor is missing from the lawns of Wimbledon. A little background: When I started writing about God, the soul, life, death and everything in between, I guessed that in this scientific age it was no good using medieval nomenclature, so I defined soul as personal consciousness, God as impersonal consciousness, and mind as the contents of consciousness. Note the holy precision of them. Given that ancient words take on many meanings, they are, I think, much clearer to a modern audience, which is really all that counts. Naturally, I avoid writing for academics, even if they do nick my ideas like smarties (double entendre alert). To clarify my very slight qualifications to write about such weighty matters, I did physics, maths and chemistry at A Level and read psychology at university. The study of religion, especially mysticism, has become my life's work, if I may be so ponderous. Monkey Cage covered the physical aspects very well; only one of the cast, a guest, whose name escapes me, dealt with the psychological side. She mused that humans are scared of ghosts and that must be significant. Indeed it is, for it shows that we accept their reality even if they are a bit hazy on the eye. As for Brian: ever thought about seeing a shrink? Living in a world of sub-atomic particles must be a terrible burden, especially as you would have to graft a molecular microscope onto your face to make life workable. And don't you keep tripping over anything bigger than a dot? One final question. However did you persuade the staid old Beeb to put on a programme like that? John Evans ... who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers. Coming eventually: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com. Recent Related Articles
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Midweek Mysticism: We are quite popular, folks

Nirvana
When I started writing the Midweek Mysticism column here, I assumed it would attract a relatively small audience compared with the political commentary and critiques of current science, both of which have quite chunky readerships. What I was unprepared for is the great spike of visitors for these pieces which has just kept on growing. The popularity is palpable and has confounded all my expectations. But is it just "mysticism" or my particular take on it? I don't know. My guess is that it is probably 80/20 in favour of the former. Naturally, I hope it's the reverse, but how can one tell. I know one thing, judging by other sites with similar content, if comments were left open, there would be a vast tsunami of choleric, spluttering bile that would have me questioning the sanity of the human race. So no, I will not have the contemplative calm of Syntagma disturbed by ... er ... the disturbed. If you want to say something though, you can write to me using the Contact link at top right. I might then devote one piece a week to publish the best of them -- and not just the favourable ones. John Evans ... who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers. Coming eventually: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com. Recent Related Articles
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