Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

REPRISE: Here’s something we published earlier: C.G. Jung

C.G. Jung

Carl Jung, the great Swiss thinker and psychologist, did not mince his words when referring to immortality: “When the summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges … and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation, he … will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come.”

A more perfect apotheosis could hardly be imagined, for Jung had spent his whole life rummaging about in his own mind and those of others. As a scientist he was naturally reticent – colleagues could be dismissive of any apparent “descent into the swamp of mysticism”. But, as the final chapters of his late memoirs, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, show, Jung had penetrated to the soul of the matter even while playing the part of a dull, diligent, boffin of the mind.

Extracted from The Eternal Quest for Immortality – Is it staring you in the face? by John Evans, published by Syntagma Books.

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Saturday Ramble: The ageing mind is more resourceful than you might think

Immortality Some years ago, as her eldest child it fell to me to secure my mother’s welfare when she developed a species of Alzheimer’s disease in her mid-70s. She had suffered a series of mini strokes which cruelly diminished her competence over a four-year period before her death.

Although I did my best in the circumstances, I was painfully aware of my deficiencies, until, that is, I discovered a strange property of the damaged mind and its wonderfully resourceful powers.

Regular readers will know that I’m a sort of mystical contemplative with a deep interest in all matters relating to the psycho-spiritual aspects of the brain, mind and soul. While my own dying mother could hardly be a case study, I was ever alert to the wider implications of her situation.

One day, the doorbell rang. Outside was a man with rather odd eyes. Whether he was blind in one, or had a false eye, I couldn’t tell, but he had a peculiar way of looking at you. I can’t now remember whether he was selling something or had another purpose. At that time, my mother was confined to her bed after another episode of her illness.

Later, she said something that rocked me back on my heels: “A man with strange eyes just called.” It was spoken as if she herself had answered the door.

I realised then, that in some way her waning mind had found a way of understanding the world around her through mine. It was a weird feeling, but perhaps a mirror image of childhood.

When we are new to this world, we often use our parents’ minds to make sense of what is happening around us. We don’t know we are doing it because we have no experience of anything else, but we absorb attitudes and opinions that we couldn’t possibly attain for ourselves. What, then, is more natural than the reverse process occurring in later life?

There were other examples too. One sleepless night, I remembered a girl I knew at university, called Victoria. I wondered idly what had become of her. Next morning my mother asked if someone had been with me overnight. No, I said, who did you have in mind? Victoria, she said.

These incidents became quite frequent until I just took them for granted as part of the natural order of things. But as psychic phenomena they are powerful indications of mind over matter and its tendency to slip its moorings when necessary. Dr Rupert Sheldrake’s “extended mind” seems ever-present in the elderly.

We should never write off the deeper abilities of the apparently comatose or confused, nor ever interfere with the moment they choose to pass on for our own selfish ends.

John Evans

John Evans is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

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Saturday Ramble: Do you know Evelyn Underhill?

Evelyn Underhill Alas, hardly anyone does nowadays, so your ignorance is forgiven.

This year is the 70th anniversary of her death, which means few of us are old enough to have known her personally. The occasional assiduous scholar might recognise the name through her books, which are still available if you know where to look. Otherwise, she has entered the realm of darkness. An undeserved fate.

Some years ago I wrote an essay on Evelyn Underhill and recently reused it in a book*. Time for a third outing, I think:

An almost perfect example of the Indian term, a “householder-mystic” is Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), author of Mysticism (1911), Practical Mysticism (1914), Worship (1936) and dozens of literary pieces of many kinds.

She was at first a Neoplatonist, and even flirted with the occult Golden Dawn, which was more famous for its personnel — W.B. Yeats, Arthur Waite, Arthur Machen, Aleister Crowley — than its mysticism.

Despite being brought up as an Anglican, her early Christian leanings were to Rome and the Romantic. Resisting the former, she eventually settled for a committed role in the Church of England as a lay retreat director and, to many people, a sage.

Although Evelyn had a large number of critics, especially among theologians, she largely stuck to her guns throughout her life, and only became “respectable” towards the end following a natural process of evolution and maturity. She was rarely knocked off course by the back-biting and jealousy which any literary success, of which she had plenty, often brings in its wake. Fiercely honest with herself, in later years she was described as serene and “giving off light” as she entered a room, a description which jars somewhat with the occasionally anguished contents of her notebooks and private correspondence.

Her life was fairly typical of an upper-middle class woman in the Edwardian era. She enjoyed a comfortable house in London, with servants to take care of her domestic needs, and could easily have taken the path of least resistance and dissolved into an agreeable round of social calls and charity work. That she escaped this snare, is tribute either to her demons or, more likely, to a call from the spirit which impelled her to work in the mystical field.

Said Lord Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury: “I think that in the twenties and thirties there were few, if indeed any, in the Church of England who did more to help people to grasp the priority of prayer in the Christian life and the place of the contemplative within it.”

Evelyn’s mystical experiences are not well documented in her writings or general correspondence, and she admits to a use of imagination when describing the later stages of contemplative practice. One can assume however, that such a driving, all-absorbing passion for the mystical in life was not an accident, and has behind it a corpus of experiential knowledge which guided her path. The letters to her early spiritual director, Baron von Hugel, are the best source of information about her personal spiritual life. The following (quoted by J.R. Armstrong) gives a taste of her attitudes:

Probably I ought to tell you this. Last October, one day when I was praying, quite suddenly a voice seemed to speak to me — with tremendous staccato sharpness & clearness. It only said one short thing; first in Latin & then in English! Please don’t think I’m going in for psychic automatisms or horrors of that sort. It never happened since & I don’t want it to. Of course, I know all about the psychological aspect & am not ‘hallucinated’. All the same, I simply cannot believe that there was not something deeper, more real, not me at all, behind. The effect was terrific. Sort of nailed me to the floor for half an hour, which went in a flash. I felt definitively called-out & settled once for all — that any falling back or leaving off after that will be an unpardonable treason. This sense has persisted. … A terrible, overwhelming suspicion that after all my whole ‘spiritual experience’ may only be subjective. There are times (of course when one has got it) when it seems incredible these things could happen to me, considering where I have been.”

Her notebook continues the theme: “Such lights as one gets are now different in type: All overwhelming in their emotional result: quite independent of ‘sensible devotion’, more quiet, calm, expansive, like intellectual intuitions yet not quite that either. Thus yesterday I saw & felt how it actually is, that we are in Christ & He in us — the interpenetration of Spirit — & all of us merged together in him actually, & so fitly described as his body. The way to full intercessory power must I think be along this path …

And again: “… the Spirit of Christ came right into my soul — as it were transfusing it in every part. How could I imagine this? I was not excited but deeply happy & awed. So intimate all-penetrating, humbling. Lasted a very little time. Far closer than even the best communions.”

In her book Mysticism, she demonstrates a clear understanding of the processes of nirvanic experience, as is show here: “… by a deliberate inattention to the messages of the senses, such as that which is induced by contemplation, the mystic brings the ground of the soul, the seat of ‘Transcendental Feeling’, within the area of consciousness: making it amenable to the activity of the will. The contemplative subject, becoming unaware of his usual and largely fictitious ‘external world’, another and more substantial set of perceptions, which never have their chance under normal conditions, rise to the surface. Sometimes these unite with the normal reasoning faculties. More often, they supersede them. Some such exchange, such as ‘losing to find’, appears to be necessary, if man’s transcendental powers are to have their full chance.”

These experiences and ideas are difficult to interpret because of Evelyn’s basic character and way of expression, although one of the events described sounds remarkably like the Prayer of Quiet (in Catholic nomenclature) — often called the divine light. Another seems similar to the next stage of progress: seeing into the nature of reality.

Hers was an essentially romantic temperament and, on the face of it, the incidents described do have an emotional frisson which tends to suggest a strong psychic rather than purely spiritual component. However, her intellectual honesty made her wary of drawing too flamboyant a conclusion from them. At some point in the correspondence she outlined three reasons for not dismissing them out of hand:

1. That they were given, rather than earned, and were quite unexpected.
2. “Overwhelming sense of certitude, objective reality & obligation.”
3. “That I have never tried to either obtain or retain them, & know any such effort would be useless.”

Her mysticism was empirical rather than academic, received not striven for, and theocentric. One feels she was not, deep down, a total Christian in the sense of exclusivity, although she quite plainly admired many aspects of Christianity, especially the liturgical side of High Anglicanism and the Roman Church. She listed four characteristics of mystical consciousness:

1. True mysticism is active and practical, not passive and theoretical. It is an organic life-process, a something which the whole self does; not something as to which its intellect holds an opinion [This has a lot in common with the work of her illustrious contemporary, Carl Jung].
2. Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual. It is in no way concerned with adding to, exploring, re-arranging, or improving anything in the visible universe. The mystic brushes aside that universe, even in its supernormal manifestations. Though he does not, as his enemies declare, neglect his duty to the many, his heart is always set upon the changeless One.
3. This One is for the mystic, not merely the Reality of all that is, but also a living and personal Object of love; never an object of exploration. It draws his whole being homeward, but always under the guidance of the heart.
4. Living union with this One — which is the term of his adventure — is a definite state or form of enhanced life. It is obtained neither from an intellectual realisation of its delights, nor from the most acute emotional longings. Though these must be present, they are not enough. It is arrived at by an arduous psychological and spiritual process — the so-called Mystic Way — entailing the complete remaking of character and the liberation of a new, or rather latent, form of consciousness …”

Taken overall, Evelyn’s life was a splendid one from an unlikely quarter. Her “big” book, which made her famous, Mysticism, has lasted well, even though its prose style seems now rather arch and slightly theosophical. It remains required reading for those of us interested in the subject. A 1993 reprinting of the 12th edition is now available. A Kindle version for the eReader, or Kindle for PC, is available from Amazon for the princely sum of £1.45. Was there ever such a bargain?

Her last major work, Worship, written when her health was failing fast, is an extraordinary achievement of scholarship (never her best side), and a suitable valedictory gift from a fine mystical contemplative who understood that our immortality really is staring us in the face.

* John Evans is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Muscular Mysticism is coming soon.

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Saturday Ramble: Mystical experience

Extracted from: The Eternal Quest for Immortality — Is it staring you in the face? by John Evans.

Immortality … The next unexpected incident occurred to me in November 1993 when back living in England. Once again I was involved in physical activity, this time some early morning limbering-up exercises. I was reflecting that my attempts at further mystical progress had not been very successful and wondering how I could turn that around. My book had languished after the first experience. The text now seemed totally inadequate compared with the real thing, as so many mystical/spiritual books are.

I needn’t have fretted. In an instant — and there is no other way of putting this — the world turned inside out. It was so sudden, and dramatic, I could scarcely take in what was happening.

I was now oddly separated from my usual chattering thoughts. They hadn’t gone away, merely left me. I was aware of my body, now curiously dislocated from “me”, continuing with its exercise regime, but “I” was not in control of it. It was more like a computer automatically running some pre-loaded software.

My attention switched away from the body to the surrounding room. It seemed as if I was swimming underwater. The objects and furniture had become insubstantial, almost transparent.

The space around them, though, had taken on a powerful reality. It was alive, vibrant and full of intelligence. Each time I looked at an object, I was made to understand that it too was part of this overall unity of being. Nothing was excluded.

Then, the sun shone through the window and with it several dazzling reflections, which seemed to take on the forms of two demons. “They are included too.” At once they lost their power and faded.

My body had now finished its programme of exercises and went to make a pot of tea in the kitchen, which was the normal procedure. As the tea was poured, I came back to everyday consciousness.

The unexpected feature of this state was that on resuming conventional bodily awareness, I was not in any way exultant, or even remotely excited. It was as if my normal thoughts had not been engaged at all. It was clearly not brain activity involved, but some other medium beyond it. The body, thoughts and emotions had been left behind — I could actually see and hear them. Yet, something still existed, and consciousness was continuous.

It was an enormously positive encounter and has completely altered my view of space, time, reality, and especially death.

The essential aspect of the encounter was that the usual “body-mind” means of knowing were literally left behind, yet continued operating separately. Despite that, consciousness remained, and a non-discursive awareness was present.

Clearly, it is a separate faculty from perception (of the senses) and conception (of the mind) very different from the crowded, tumbling experiences of the body-mind.

I believe this faculty sits in the background of human consciousness without our knowing it, like a deep form of awareness. It underpins the body modes in the same way that all five senses develop from one, that of touch.

Without this faculty of knowing neither perception nor conception could take place. They are specialized ways of being in this world, built up during our lifetimes from experiences and conditioning.

The good news of the experience is that it clearly mirrors the death process, and may even be the essence of the Great Death Contemplation of the ancient mystery schools, largely forgotten now, but still echoing through the rituals of modern Freemasonry.

The whole body-mind package is left behind—although unlike near-death-experiences, it carries on as if nothing else is happening—while the centre of gravity of conscious awareness lies beyond its activities. This state indicates precisely what it is that survives death, in my opinion, and is powerful, if anecdotal, evidence of life beyond the grave.

This book cites many incidents of similar experiences to very credible witnesses.

The Eternal Quest for Immortality — Is it staring you in the face? is available from all good bookshops, Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

ISBN: 978-0-9563656-0-6

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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:

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