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Editor, John Evans
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Saturday Ramble: Does Miliband want to lose the election?

Ed Miliband

What are we to make of the report that Labour leader Ed Miliband wants to go into the General Election next spring without any defined policies; the aim being to base the campaign on an all-out attack on the Conservatives?

The only mitigation I can think of is that a hardish Left politician, such as he, has a ready-made portfolio of policies to call on. It’s called Marxism.

The problem with that scenario is that the name Karl Marx is anathema to the electorate and would finish his career for ever, especially as the Blairite wing of the party would be slavering for his blood. If he wanted to make a real job of it, he might try “Marxist-Leninism”.

The Labour party is in enough of a pickle as it is. With the voter-unfriendly figure of Ed Balls by his side as Shadow Chancellor, the pair are a publicist’s nightmare.

The alternative explanation is that Miliband has over-reached himself, promoted way beyond his pay grade, and he knows it. Is he ready to be Prime Minister next May? You’d have to travel widely around the country to find many answering “yes”.

The truth is, the Labour party itself is exhausted after 13 failed years in office. Neither it, nor its MPs, are anywhere near ready to resume power. Nobody in the party is articulating fresh policies, while the Conservatives are brimming over with confidence, despite some doubts about leader David Cameron.

George Osborne is making a fair fist of it at the Treasury, especially after an innovative Budget last week. Unless he bombs at some point, he can expect to be the favourite to replace Cameron when the PM chooses to step down.

Michael Gove is only half-way through his programme of education reform and would be reluctant to leave it unfinished, especially as he might not be an instant hit with voters for the top spot. While Theresa May, although a good Home Secretary, is a little sombre to be the figurehead.

The wild card in this scenario is Boris Johnson, whom Osborne and Cameron appear to have invited back into the Commons and presumably a government job. It’s not immediately clear what advantage this would confer on Osborne if he really coverts the berth in Number Ten.

Perhaps he doesn’t want the job after observing it first-hand from next door.

My money is on Boris.

* * * * *

I do wish the Left, particularly the Labour party, would shut up about Eton.

David Cameron was probably given no choice in the matter of his schooling, and if he had known his future, almost certainly would have begged to go to a more modest academy.

However, his effortless rise to the office of Prime Minister might not have been accomplished had he attended a typical comprehensive.

If Eton was noted for class, but delivered a poor standard of education, I doubt that students like Cameron — wealthy, but not from an aristocratic background — would ever go there.

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 soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world.

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Saturday Ramble: Losing your mind in peak experience

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

With the recent death of prolific author, Colin Wilson, I thought it appropriate to reprise one of his favourite themes: the peak experience.

Neurologist David Eagleman describes how our conscious mind knows nothing of what is happening in the brain where our lives are plotted out in detail well in advance of our knowing about it and acting on it. We are nothing but puppets on a string, according to science.

That basic template might be true as far as it goes, except that the process takes place outside the physical brain, which may be just a translation device, an interface, into the body.

Moreover, simple mystical techniques can return control of even the most shadowy of activities.

In my forthcoming book, provisionally titled A different way of looking at the world, the theme is developed beyond the stage of “seeing into the nature of reality”, the centrepiece of the first volume*. It covers the ground of the genuine mystic as a scientist of immateriality, by which I mean the physically unknowable: the cloud of unknowing.

It centres on a relentless pursuit of firsthand knowledge, a single-minded drive for the perfection of experiential knowing that can’t be mistaken for the truth because it is the truth.

A motor racing driver is a good analogy. He risks life and bones to arrive at a state where every bodily response to unpredictable circumstances is controlled by apparently automatic impulses. Indeed, to “think” about anything at all would spell disaster. Daydreaming or calculation would mean death at this level of performance. It could almost be described as an advanced form of meditation.

The reward is a sustained sense of elation, as consciousness seems to split from normal mind patterns and the inhibitions of daily existence. Total immersion in this state releases an experience close to spiritual exaltation, as slow, clunky thought processes give way before the unity of body and soul.

Many of us have experienced moments of peak experience when playing sports. Suddenly everything seems to go right: balls hit the right side of the line in tennis time and again, or the back of the net in football; there’s a surge of ecstatic energy in running or rugby; we’re suddenly stroking the ball to the boundary in cricket. For a while we can do nothing wrong. Our opponents watch in dismay. It doesn’t last, but we sure as hell remember it.

A mystic would observe that the “normal” mind is nowhere to be found during peak periods. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow has written extensively on these experiences; for a broad coverage of the field, see Colin Wilson’s New Pathways in Psychology.

These are just the foothills of dedicated mystical experience, but it illustrates the splitting off, and falling away, of normality required for full-blown experience of the ineffable. Paradoxically, this turns out to be more real than life itself.

Both my books explores the fundamental workings of what lies beneath the material world through experience, not through an electron microscope.

Physics always struggles to separate the scientist from the object under observation, straining for objectivity. Contrarily, the mystic plunges into the object area, observing it from within. Both quantum mechanics and mysticism demonstrate that objectivity is a deception by the egoic mind.

You won’t learn how to swim without jumping into water. Textbooks and all the mathematical demonstrations in the world won’t crack it. Experience of the actuality is essential.

Mysticism is not incompatible with science, as Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and, in recent times, others such as Fritjof Capra have shown. It represents the essence of who we are, from which we arise, and whence we return.

We need both sides to give us anything like a complete picture of the world, as all the spiritual texts ever written firmly attest.

* The Eternal Quest for Immortality

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 soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world.

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DIARY: What’s Putin on?, Boris inveigled?, Greasy poll, Poppycock Watch: Return of Green Dave, Profundity of the Week

Boris

Watching Russia’s President Putin on the news channels this morning, was a demonstration of the rejuvenating powers of armed conflict.

Almost unrecognisable from the scowling fellow of yesteryear, he appears to have taken on a new zest for life. His skin is baby-smooth, the permafrown replaced by the joviality of youth, and he even looked interested in his questioners and their queries. What is he on?

Does he realise how marketable such a product, or technique, would be in the youth-obsessed West? The Daily Mail would find it irresistible for its multitudinous women’s pages.

Vlad, you need a sales manager!

* * * * *

The mop-haired big beast that is Boris Johnson is on manoeuvres again in the bowels of the Tory Party, his old roistering ground.

Benedict Brogan, writing in the Telegraph reports that “George Osborne let it be known that he would like Boris Johnson to stand for Parliament in 2015, and join the Tory effort to secure an outright majority. David Cameron expressed much the same view …” It’s all kicking off — literally.

In politics, nothing is quite as simply benign as it is often made to seem. You see, Gorgeous George (his new sobriquet) is a plotter in the Ali Campbell mode. The rest of the Tory pack believe he is up to mischief.

Goodo! Nothing enlivens politics more than a portion of mischief, preferably a large one.

The suspicion is growing that by inveigling Boris into the election fray, they can pin the blame on him for its failure. Surely not!

And if they win, they can claim a personal victory and are unsackable for at least another parliament.

One fly for this ointment: Boris is versed in the black arts of ancient Greece and Rome, as wicked a bunch of villains as you’ll find in history until the Liberal-Democrats arrived.

It’s going to be fun!

* * * * *

Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, has deemed UKIP to be “a major” player for the purposes of May’s European elections. Nigel Farage’s party is steadily climbing the ladder of power.

Nige thinks UKIP will top the greasy poll (sic), and who can doubt him. Despite the verbal drubbing in the Telegraph recently, his nag is still well-placed in the field coming round Tattenham Corner.

Frankly, I hope he makes it. Anything to ring the changes from the sterile debates between the present unimaginative bunch of party leaders.

* * * * *

Poppycock Watch
At PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) last week, Dave burnished his green credentials (again!) as if they had never gone away. What a confusing fellow he is. Or would that be confused?

Now, I’m aware of the difference between common-as-muck weather and the aristocratic realms of climate science. Weather is in-yer-face, while climate is so damned esoteric that meterologists can have twenty different opinions before breakfast.

It seems that thirteen EU member states, including Britain, have set up the “Green Growth Group”, aiming for a renewable energy target of at least 27%. Their deliberations will not be binding at national level, however. Small mercies, and all that.

Dave should take on board Ed Miliband’s mocking banter on the topic last week. The election is not that far away; does he really want to be caught thrashing around in uncharted air currents?

* * * * *

Profundity of the Week
UKIP was in Torquay for the party conference over the weekend. Great choice of venue … Syntagma lives nearby.

I didn’t spot Nige with trouser bottoms rolled up taking a paddle in the sea though. Terrible disappointment.

I suspect the shrewd Farage realised that each stride taken in the briny is one step closer to Europe.

* * * * *

Postscript of the Week
Loved the line in The Guardian: 50% off Soulmates.

Says it all, doesn’t it?

* * * * *

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 soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world.

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Midweek Mysticism: The still, small disruptive voice

FearMost of us are aware of a voice, apparently in our heads, that chatters away much of the time. It is not totally coherent and seems to flit over a variety of subject areas in a rambling manner. We think of it as “me”.

It isn’t.

In severe cases it can overwhelm an undisciplined mind and drive an individual to the brink of madness. But why is it there? What purpose does it serve?

When we are deeply interested in something, the intense force of our concentration overrides the chattering imp and silences it. Close observation of our mind, as in meditation, soon shows the voice who’s boss. Watch a cat stalking a mouse or a bird. It’s a masterclass in total integration of body and mind, embodied in silence.

Modern humans are split in many ways. The voice is only one indication, but the most apparent. The trouble is, we can’t abide silence and use many props, such as radio, TV, cinema and telephone, to overcome random silence.

Yet, in that silence lies sanity and wholeness. We are not the voice. We are the awareness in which our whole being floats.

To centre ourselves in that awareness is to be wholly who we are, free of the self-generated noise and din of the busyness we take for life. When we are wrapt in a book, or even writing one, we become like the cat, fully ourselves.

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.

To be published soon: Practical Spirituality: A different way of looking at the world.

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Saturday Ramble: It’s that time of year to start thinking about Cornwall

Cornwall

This is the time in the calendar when one starts thinking about places to go in spring and summer. My favourite spots are mostly in Cornwall, which is conveniently just across the River Tamar from the present abode.

If you’ve ever asked where former Archbishops of Canterbury go when they hang up their surplices? … or which Cornish fishing village provided the name for David Cameron’s newborn daughter? … and what town is the setting for a popular television medical comedy, renamed as Port When? … the answer is Port Isaac on the north coast of Cornwall.

Rowan Williams, former head of the Church of England, now donates his time to the exquisite St Endellion church, just outside Port Isaac as a prebend. It is his favourite church in the UK, he says. “The mixture of rock and space always gives me the feeling of sea light, of something wide, ungraspable; very much a north Cornwall feeling, opening out to a deep and broad horizon.”

David Cameron’s daughter, was born in nearby Truro Hospital when the family were on holiday. They named her Nancy Endellion after the saint.

And the TV series filmed in Port Isaac is, of course, ITV’s Doc Martin, featuring the ever-popular Martin Clunes.

As a fellow Cornwall addict I have schoolday memories of my family holidaying in nearby St Issey. Our cottage was surrounded by huge red cows, native to Cornwall and Devon — a striking sight in the morning.

North Cornwall is something of a well-kept secret for aficionados of the nation county. And there are many. You should take some books with you if you go. Two authors who almost define Cornwall in their writings are Denys Val Baker and the more sober author of the Minack Chronicles, Derek Tangye, alas both gone to Greater Cornwall in the sky.

Denys wrote in the 1950s through the 70s, and was a full-time professional author, by which I mean he was always broke.

Nevertheless, he managed to buy an enormous old tramp steamer, MVS Sanu, and, with no sailing experience whatever, took his large brood of wild children and long-suffering wife, Jess, on incredibly dangerous voyages. He was on the rocks more times than Jack Daniels.

Denys lived in Penzance, Land’s End and St. Ives in Cornwall, and was usually seeking some means of financing his next outrageous project. He was an adventurer in the grand English tradition, although always amusingly shambolic.

In the old days, when libraries were libraries, you could find his books on the shelves. These days they’re not so easy to come by, although Amazon has a good listing of second-hand titles, mostly at premium prices. Denys would have been proud. If you want a really good humorous read, do seek them out.

His character never allowed a moment to pass without doing something absolutely beyond the pale. When I lived in Penzance, we occupied a house across the road from his, although he had been dead for a decade. There was no blue plaque on his house, which is a pity, although everyone remembered him in the library, where he did most of his research.

Denys loved Cornwall with a passion and moved permanently to St. Ives in 1948, after a journalistic career in Fleet Street, launching a magazine, The Cornish Review in 1949. In 1959 he published the much appreciated Britain’s Art Colony by the Sea describing the community based around St. Ives.

Derek Tangye, a cat and donkey lover, also came to Cornwall from London after the war. If you’re into daffodil growing, and domestic animals, he’s worth a shot. But Cornwall is always the star.

In case you ask, I’ve not been hired by the Cornwall Tourist Office, just passing on a few tips for the discerning.

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