Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

Parish Pump: Designer wanted

Syntagma Books is looking for a book cover and page-layout designer for future titles.

Location is not important, but accuracy and fault spotting skills essential. We are not particularly looking for a big design agency, although we don’t rule anyone out at this stage. Home workers with competence, flair and experience are welcome to apply.

Please email examples of work to: john@syntagmabooks.com

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DIARY: Hung Parliament, Annoyment, Rompuy and Ashton, Blost in space, Book bash, Business books

Hung A Hung Parliament is in the air again after a roguish poll in today’s Observer which suggests the Conservative lead over Labour has been cut to six points. Owing to a quirk in the electoral arithmetic, the Tories need a 10-point lead to achieve a parity of seats with Labour.

Following on from more than a year of opinion polls showing a much higher lead, the outcome of the next General Election appeared reasonably assured. Now tongues are vibrating again, BlackBerries flashing red, hopes rising and falling, and predictions earnestly reappraised.

If this poll is confirmed by others and a downward trend confirmed, it would certainly be alarming for David Cameron. However, he seemed quite chipper on Andrew Marr’s programme this morning, no doubt comfortable in the knowledge of his party’s private polling results.

Let us assume, though, that in the run-up to the election, the government gets the usual swing back, if only by a few percentage points. Cameron would need to shore up seats where he can on a micro-management basis.

He should immediately take up Syntagma’s suggestion of declaring a referendum on an Association Agreement with the European Union, to be held three years into the next Parliament once the new Government had stabilized the economy. That could mean 20 seats to the Tories, a life-saver in the close result.

I know he has said he will not do this, no doubt based on focus-group results. But such numbers are always skewed by the artificiality of the setting. Big picture tendencies like patriotism and long term national security are swept aside by urgent concerns of the moment.

When 70 percent of voters say they feel cheated of a referendum, you can be sure that anything up to 10 percent or so will vote with that somewhere in mind. Alas, the Tory fiasco over their own promise has lost them a priceless advantage.

It’s not too late to claw back that ground. As I have written here before, a new promise would nullify much of Ukip’s threat in 2010, satisfy the Eurosceptics and the Tory Right, and provide the radical edge that’s missing from Conservative policy without threatening the broad sweep of centrist measures. It would also add a sense of justice being done, and seen to be done, over the most contentious issue in British politics.

I commend it to the Cameroons.

* * * * *

Annoyment of the Week
A Gordon Brown-free zone

It has to be the Queen’s Speech, hasn’t it? And that’s not the Queen’s fault, of course, but the gargantuanly gothic nature of Gordon Brown’s mind-swamp.

Many have pointed out the futility of legislating the ends without thought for the means. It’s not without precedence though. Think of it as a reprise of Red Dannie Cohn-Bendit’s cry of “We have no policies, only demands”, which rang out during the Paris riots of 1968. Brown remains a student Trot at heart.

While there won’t be another Queen’s speech this side of an election, there will be a Pre-Budget Report and possibly a spring Budget too. Brown is widely expected to lay down a scorched-earth policy for an incoming Conservative Government, no matter that it could cost Britain her sovereign Triple A rating.

Alistair Darling should do the decent thing and write an honest Budget report based on Treasury and Bank of England advice. He should deny Gordon Brown any input, even if the shoddy Ed Balls is drafted in the last moment.

Darling would then be the only participant in this rear-end shambles of a government who could leave office with his head held high.

And command a sizzling advance for his memoirs.

* * * * *

At first glance, the two appointees under the Lisbon Treaty look harmless enough. The betting is they’ll hardly figure in the outer show of the EU, and we’ll probably be encouraged to forget them.

President van Rompuy is not a commanding presence, and High Representative Ashton is eminently forgettable.

We should not, though, forget the offices they hold as placestooges. One day, someone much more formidable may emerge and, by sheer force of personality and rhetoric, fight his way to the pinnacle of European power.

In wild scenes of enthusiasm from crowds in the original six member states, he may proclaim a new age of glory for Europe and press all the archetypal buttons of the Great Leader.

God help the Muslims, who could well become the new Jews, and the archetypal “enemy within”. Any policy can be countenanced when there’s a dangerous enemy at large.

Far out? It was less than 20 years ago when the last outbreak of ethnic cleansing and mass murders occurred in Europe.

Don’t ever trust the European Union. Its ghosts are never entirely dead.

* * * * *

Blogging fatigue is a well-known syndrome among web workers. I know, I used to be a blogger. Here’s my advice for newbies to the scene.

It’s possible to get so caught up in blogging and the blogosphere that the rest of existence becomes filtered out, like the view when a mist drops silently onto a landscape. I call the effect “Blost”, or lost in blogs.

The result is a narrowing of focus, and an increase in superfical attention. Real attention includes awareness of the world around you. The outcome is a loss of counterbalancing channels of information, and an increasingly eccentric outlook on the world.

The symptoms of Blost
1. An obsession with blogging as lifestyle as well as work.
2. A belief that something called Web 2.0 is changing history — it’s not, it’s just being driven by portable communication devices and is therefore part of the driven universe, like the Blost.
3. A conviction that there’s a moneymaking bonanza somewhere out there if only you can get enough Google juice to light its fire.
4. A determined insistence that blogging is easy and has no downside.

Having said all that, most writers will recognize the tunnel-vision syndrome from the last time they wrote a book. Where blogging differs is that it doesn’t have a cut-off point; a moment when the work unit is finished. It goes on forever, Blost in space and time.

Conclusions:
1. Bloggers should get out of the blogorium at frequent intervals to escape the damnation of the Blost.
2. They should retain other channels of news and information to avoid the idee fixe of the geek mentality.
3. Trim, clip, slice and cut the contents of feed readers. They will eat you alive if you let them. They’re not called “feeds” for nothing.
4. Cull email notifiers. You just have to reply to every white box that rises compellingly from the bottom of the screen.

Actions to take:
1. Write letters occasionally, walk to the Post Office, buy a postage stamp and stick it in the top right-hand corner of the envelope. Place the whole in the slot provided.
2. Read a newspaper offline. You’ll be surprised what’s left out from the screen version.
3. Beg, swipe or borrow a “book”: a bound swatch of paper containing extended arguments and narratives. You might try mine.
4. Re-engage in romantic interludes with that familiar ghost who wanders around the house saying, “Are you still on that computer? I thought we were going out.”
5. Be a better blogger. That mean never spending more than four hours a day online.

It may be your last chance. Ever.

* * * * *

Syntagma Books is currently riding high, with some peripheral talk of my book, The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? becoming a bestseller. As a result we’ve decided to build a proper website for the new publishing house.

At first, I wanted the simplest structure possible, as plain as a white wall, so that the books would stand proud in a shimmer of irridescent glory. Well, something like that.

In the New Year, we have asked our usual maestro, Thord Daniel Hedengren, to weave his customary magic among the pixels and develop a great website for us.

You can buy the book here for a mere £10, including 1st class postage:






Outside the UK, please use Amazon.com, or your usual outlet.

* * * * *

Have you ever read one of those modern business books for busy entrepreneurs in which every page has an acronym and a long list of “to do’s”? If you’re at a new product launch you may be exhorted to BISCUIT:

1. Brand
2. Intuit
3. Sizzle
4. Cut edge
5. Ululate (I’m running out of ideas)
6. Iridesce
7. Tranquillize (as if).

All these books have one fatal flaw, they lack simplicity. The 80-20 Principle (another member of the tribe) claims that 20 percent of our activity yields 80 percent of the results, while the remaining 80 percent produces only 20 percent. The trick is to know which is which, and outsource or eliminate the 80 pecent. Now that speaks to me.

So much of what we do is superfluous to our well being, even to our income. When Thoreau said: “Simplify, simplify, simplify”, he was at his most practical. Here was a man who lived in a hut in the woods as a hermit during the week, returning home for the weekend and the occasional dinner with friends, all the while maintaining his pencil factory to keep the dollar signs ticking over. A man after my own heart.

If you need this type of book, you’re probably beyond help. Remember the words of Socrates in The Way of the Peaceful Warrior: pay attention and learn to make do with less. You will always have enough.

Thoreau would have approved … with a wily wink.

John Evans

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Midweek Discussion: A meditation on nothing

Mind Only

Generally, we take matter as solid and real, and we recognize a rather ineffable substance called mind, which in some way interacts with matter to produce our consciousness of the hard, metallic landscape out there. This duality of matter and mind, however, serves to fracture the actual reality of the world and gives rise to all our false notions of separateness and alienation.

Non-materialists do not talk of mind and matter, but of mind and form, where form is not a separate substance like matter, but the shape that mind assumes in this case and that. Mind is the only reality. Form is the way that mind works, its play and way of expressing itself.

“All very well,” say the materialists, “but how do you explain the solidity of the world? If I hit you on the head with this hammer, will you still believe that the hammer is ‘mind only’?” The reply is that both the hammer, the interaction and the pain are all products of mind’s activity.

A stage hypnotist, for example, tells his subject that there is a fierce dog on the stage. Immediately, the subject sees the dog and moves away from it. Later he is told to pat it on the head. Now he feels the solidity of the animal, its skin and bones, its hot breath. To the hypnotised man, the dog is totally real.

The same effect occurs during dreaming. We recognize the absolute presence of the dream world, until, that is, we awaken and realize that it was all the product of our mind.

Objects, then, are concentrations of mind activity brought about by concentration. To the One Mind school of Buddhism, the universe is the vast concentration of the Buddha–mind. We ourselves are clusters of concentrated thought–energy. But since in a single ocean the part is inseparable from the whole, we are also the whole of the contemplating mind.

This “idealism” can be off–putting to many people. We sense a kind of existential abyss here and back away from it. The question we should ask, though, is who is it who is afraid? The answer is that it’s fear that fears because, in a non–dual perspective, the ego–entity does not have a separative existence. It is only its “death” that opens the way to the picture of eternity. In other words, you have to lose your life in order to find it.

The Zen master Huang Po recognized the difficulty: “Men are afraid to forget their own minds, fearing to fall through the void with nothing on to which they can cling. They do not know that the void is not really the void but the real realm of the Buddha–mind.”

The English author Paul Brunton expressed this paradox, or reverse perspective thus, “What the unenlightened regard as substance, that is, the form of things, is really its negation, whereas true substance, that is the essence out of which those forms emerge, is disregarded by them as non–existent. The hardest barricade for our Western understanding to break through is this simple acceptance of the Unmanifest as ultimate reality.”

If you suppose a universe full of nothing, as scientists sometimes do in describing the world before the “big bang”, there is still the void of nothingness, and this space is itself something, and yet nothing.

You can never reach the end of negation, because at that point it slips back into an affirmation. Wherever you want to place the end of the universe, perhaps with a wall, there must be something else beyond the wall, even if it is only nothing, which in itself is something. This is the “plenum void” of the Mahayana, which “holds in it infinite rays of light, and swallows all the multiplicities there are in the world”.

The nothingness of this void would be untenable without a consciousness to void it. Try to imagine, intuitively, an empty space without any form of consciousness to observe it. Thus consciousness and space are identical, as the Chogyam Upanishad implies.

In a world of something and nothing, our normal reality realm, there is always a pit into which we can fall. If we step away from the comforting solidity provided by the ego viewpoint, we are in a dreadful limbo, an emptiness so profound that it is sometimes described as the “dark night of the soul”.

In a world of mind only, however, there is nowhere to fall, nowhere to disappear, nowhere to face obliteration, and, more to the point, there is no “thing” to fall, disappear, or face annihilation.

As Huang Po put it: “That which is before your face is it, in all its fullness, utterly complete.”

“This pure mind, the source of everything, shines forever and on all with the brilliance of its own perfection. But the people of the world do not awake to it, regarding only that which sees, hears, feels and knows as mind. Blinded by their own sight, hearing, feeling and knowing, they do not perceive the spiritual brilliance of the source–substance.”

From: The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face by John Evans. Available soon for Christmas ordering.

John Evans

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Saturday Ramble: For ever and a day

Immortality The conference season is over and I’m guessing we’ve all had enough of politics for now. I know I have … at least until the Sunday papers are out.

Instead of politics, I thought I would for a change regale you with another of my favourite subjects — immortality.

I knew you’d be pleased. It does affect you, you know. Yes, you.

On the 22nd of May, 2005, The Observer newspaper published an article by Ian Pearson, Head of the Futurology Unit at BT (British Telecom). It was titled: “2050 – and immortality is within our grasp.”

The indefatigable Pearson wrote, “If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it’s not a major career problem. … If you’re rich enough then by 2050 it’s feasible. If you’re poor you’ll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it’s routine. We are very serious about it. That’s how fast this technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long time in IT.”

But is downloading the contents of your brain to a computer, immortality? An alternative approach is to fix our bodies so that we live to 200. Strictly speaking that’s not immortality either, just a very long innings. Even so, some people would settle for it, despite the tedium of an almost endless dotage.

Other commentators believe we will become posthumans if we simply live long enough to understand all things. George Bernard Shaw wanted to exist for 300 years, convinced he would know everything by then. Many agree with him, even though it seems more like a fear of death than a step in the right direction. In the end he lived to a ripe 94, quite long enough for most people.

Interestingly, our psychology changes as we get older. The Swiss thinker and psychiatrist C.G. Jung realized that our deep mind prepares us for physical death with intimations of immortality. It acts as if we were going to live forever.

So what is immortality if not bodily survival? The gnostic Gospel of Thomas is quite clear: “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death. Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. The kingdom is within you and it is outside you. Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you.”

Nothing could be more explicit. And it’s your own choice, not a priesthood’s. The essence of those sayings is found in mystical practices all around the world. Another is: “Become a disciple of your own mind,” — Christianity bordering on Buddhism and modern psychology. These were the hidden books, not the ones redacted for popular consumption.

Here’s a proposition based on those insights — the universe exists solely for the evolution of consciousness, not physical evolution, as Darwin thought. Of course, bodily complexity would be expected to increase in step with the growing sophistication of consciousness.

Contrarily, the materialists of science insist that matter precedes mind. Some even believe that consciousness is a disease of matter. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to spot that mind creates matter and must certainly precede it. Once that principle is grasped, anything is possible. Immortality is a piece of cake.

From: The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face by John Evans. Available soon for Christmas ordering.

John Evans

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Saturday Ramble: Immortality — new book

Order now for Christmas

Immortality

“This is really excellent.”
Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider, and New Pathways in Psychology.

The Eternal Quest for Immortality includes an examination of what immortality is, plus a look at the lives of some who have experienced glimpses of it. The book has two main strands: examples of intimations of immortality, and the methods used to experience them.

The process involves a “flipping” of something living from out of the body, almost like another birth. The living body remains unaware that the separated part has gone, albeit on a temporary basis. The carrier, or soul, is therefore the essence of a person and is the part that survives bodily dissolution at death. That it can leave a living body suggests that anecdotal reports of the soul departing a person in pain and distress, as in near-death experiences, are true. Death is not the fearful thing it seems to outside observers. It’s as if a “lifeboat” removes consciousness from the worst aspects of physical shut-down.

There is also anecdotal evidence in some mystical traditions, particularly Taoism and a few Hindu sects, that the first part of the process — the golden-glow stillness described in the Prelude to this book — builds the power to escape the body almost at will. It may also indicate a step that needs to be made to rise permanently above earthly life and death.

The way the world works is much simpler than some suppose. It is fully explained for those with eyes-to-see what is “staring them in the face”. This book’s intention is to wake up those with ears-to-hear to the real purpose of life and the opportunities it offers.

CONTENTS
Prologue
Prelude

1. What is Immortality?
2. The Christian Dilemma
3. Mysticism
4. Nirvanic Experiences
5. A 20th-century Sage
6. Evanescence and Immortality
7. T’ang Chinese Enlightenment
8. Women and Immortality
9. The Hermit Way
10. Immortality for Jung and Suzuki
11. The Amazing Flower Garland Document
12. The Philosophers’ Stone

Acknowledgements
Index

ISBN: 978-0-9563656-0-6

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Immortality

Order now in time for Christmas
£12.99 inc shipping.





UK and Europe only.
Other countries: Use Amazon and many other outlets
Coming soon.


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