Swarm Mind and a Trip to the Bay

January 21, 2017

Where there is freedom, there is grace. Where there is freedom, devils play with angels. Swarm Mind chains them through the heart to the Swarm World.

Freedom is the result of not seeking a result. It is a means to an unknown end. It is a state imbued with grace. Swarm considerations expel the soul, and leave only husks of social being.

To be free means first and foremost to be true to one self. To be true to oneself one must give of one self. For it is in the giving that one manifests the growing bud of truth.

We must ascend to Heaven but our feet must touch the Earth. With our renewed energy, a gift from Above, we must allow the expansion of being to radiate into the Earth. This emanation is not from us but from Heaven. We, as men and women, are the medium through which Heaven meets Earth.

Through freedom we move both upwards and downwards , both inwards and outwards. Riding the Devil’s back we touch the sole of God’s feet.

How can I let life happen when I want to control it? The part in me that is the control freak, the “I” in me that seeks a result is the Swarm Mind that lives in me.

Freedom is seeing the Swarm Mind in Me.

swarm

Maybe seeing – vision is the wrong word to describe it. It is always a feeling, a flavour, a quality that no words can describe.

It is to feeling what vision is to sight. This feeling of freedom is Heart clarity.

To get away from the crowd and find some solitude I stay at a place right by the water at the Bay. You get to it by foot, air or boat. If you’re coming by boat, make sure that you can read the stars because modern navigational skills are useless here. Coming by foot doesn’t require star reading but it does require bare feet. Shoes will only get you to a swamp nearby.

Don’t ask me about the physics here. Location is important. The Global Positioning System here, at the Bay, is more astrological than astronomical. Pointing to the moon, looking in that direction, we miss the mark because the Bay is not in Euclidean space.

Psychics – physics – direction – up – down – in – out – close – far – positive – negative – are – all – in – a – continuum, like a multidimensional Mobius Strip. In this Bay, everything is connected to everything else. The higher dimensional frames are big and small enough to banish the Cartesian Spread.

Goethe said, “In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, under it, beside it and over it.” He forgot to add “ inside It ” for this inside is the entry point, the eye of the needle to the world that lies beyond Swarm World.

Inside it, is inside everything on the beach far away from the Swarm World Buzz.

This means that North is the direction our own question leads us. The compass is our conscience. So, to arrive at this Bay we need our own question and an inner need to be free. Free from the Swarm within and without.

The Swarm Mind, in its crudest, buzzes around inside a Bell Jar whose proportions are dependent on the Bell Curve – Consensus Reality – 3 D World – the Vegetative Eye’s view at one standard deviation. To see outside this, is a constant struggle against the hypnotic movement and buzzing of our life’s busy – ness.

We need help to go beyond the Swarm World – a lot of help.

We need help to free ourselves from the Swarm Mind buzzing in our skulls – a lot of help.

We need help to beyond fear and greed – a lot of help.
We also need to function well in the Swarm World because our physical survival depends on it. So, we are in a paradoxical position. We need the physical, emotional and intellectual sustenance that comes from a world we all share. At the same time we must be able to separate from the noise and the Swarm Clouds that come between our vision and another world beyond the Bell Jar. This apparent contradiction is reconciled through its tension and our attention to our need.

I didn’t mention another world? Well, if we seek freedom from the Swarm and the power to see through the Bell Jar, we are accepting another world which can house seeing and freedom.

At the Bay, the 3 D World becomes a porous cube held in place within another 3 Dimensions. The 4th, 5th and 6th dimensions hold the 3 D World together. Swarm Mind is stuck to this 3 D Sugar Cube and does not see or want to go beyond its sweetness.

Swarm Mind’s global nervous system (that is in one of its foetal stages) of telecommunications has connected all continents and every square inch of the earth’s surface by geostationary satellites. Google is photographing every street and house being placed in a Matrix of their Global Map. GPS enabled mobile phones and in car mapping shows that we are now immersed in an electromagnetic mist of data. The Internet of Things includes us.

We walk on earth, we drink water, breathe air, feel the heat of the Sun – what is the experience of electrographic data ( telephone, TV, internet, GPS, satellite communications etc) ? We don’t eat it, drink it or breathe it and yet it is an element of our experience and it is permeating our being more everyday. What are the implications of our immersion in this “matter”, the closest we come to touching Swarm Mind?

Embedded in the Matrix of Swarm World one need never be alone, even if they are in space and location. Why bother getting lost finding the Bay or losing connection with the Swarm?

It’s comfortable here – TV, Internet, home and hearth, family, friends, companions and fellow workers. Why would I want to leave my comfort zone, the zone where I sleep and dream great soma dreams and eat ice cream beside a Merry – Go – Round? Not only that, the sex is great here in Swarm World. Is there sex in your beyond world? Tell me why should I even think about this? What purpose does it serve me to consider my existence as a tiny voice adding to the chorus swarm buzz ?

Leave me alone, with my house, car and beautiful partner, please don’t wake me, shake me or break me.

Yes, these concerns are paper weights on our consciousness. Our flat paper world, the Swarm World, dare not be blown away.

This is why you must need to go to the Bay. You cannot fake need. Either you need it, really need it, like needing to take a breath, needing to pee, needing it – real need, not a wimpy want because you can afford it.

At the Bay, residents need to be there. Some were ship wrecked here and can’t go back to where they came from. Whatever, everyone on the Bay needs to be there. From these spaces of necessity extraordinary and miraculous events appear to take place and some do take place.

No matter how you get here at the Bay, the vision that one sees at the Bay is not framed by Hollywood decrees. Maybe vision is the wrong word to describe the outlook from the Bay. It is always a feeling, a flavour, a quality that no words can describe.

It is to feeling what vision is to sight. Heart clarity that resonates on whatever is at hand.

Bay residents often ask this question: Is there life on Earth or are we just dreaming?


Predicting Election Results with Astrology

April 1, 2016

Star Code Readings for Australian Election 2016:

ALP Bill Shorten >> Short answer >> ALP will win.

LNP Malcolm Turnbull >> Short answer >> LNP will lose.

Australia’s Chart Reading for #Election2016 #Ausvotes >> Short Answer >> Hung Parliament with negotiated ALP win.

The chances of accurately predicting an election by pollsters and journalists are pretty dismal. If I toss a coin, there’s a 50:50 chance of being right. That’s not bad compared to some political commentators’ predictions.

A few years ago I came across an interesting article that said nearly 80% of astrologers who attempted, accurately predicted the 2012 USA Election outcome at least 3 months and one 26 years before hand! In his 1976 book “The Astrological Chart of the United States, from 1776 to 2141” Gar Osten wrote that the year 2012 would see the “re-election of the incumbent president”.

Intrigued I looked further into it because an 80% correct result is not bad considering most mainstream media had written Obama off before the election. A prediction 26 years beforehand is mind blowing.

I looked into each of the astrologers’ forecasting methods and predictive techniques. I wanted to filter out all approaches that were foreign to my approach and/or would require a level of expertise I didn’t have. By the end of this looking I found one I could adapt to my approach.

It was the simplest.

Now, I’m aware that most of you reading this have a critical and sceptical view on astrology.

For this reason, I’ve wracked my brains over how to structure what I want to say about the coming election because I use astrology as a tool for understanding life. If I wasn’t using this tool to make sense of current political atmospherics and wrote an opinion piece instead, I’d have no worries. For some reason the mention of astrology gets peoples’ backs up and they immediately throw an Art that works with Time into the recycle bin.

Most people are happy to read opinions and commentary based on other biased opinions and commentary churned out in mainstream media. An opinion based on astronomical data ie number, generated by an active imaginative interpretation of this is “superstitious”. However, an opinion based from within a Press Gallery Reality Bubble is not. Is the Press Gallery commentary scientific? No, just an opinion embalmed in a mainstream media consensus reality.

The stars and planets I’m concerned with are archetypal forces (Carl Jung), mytho-poetic currents within humanity. Astrology for me is a means of exploring the edges of rational thought as it touches the unknown. The horoscope is like a semi permeable membrane, it can suspend the ordinary associative processes of the mind and allow a different kind of attention to manifest. This attention, striking off from the symbolic elements of the horoscope gives a different kind of mind environment. Psychologists call it imagination.

JUng collective unconscious

Diagram from: http://uregina.ca/~lawlorda/jung/jung.htm

This way of looking at astrology is not accepted by most astrologers because it banishes star forces, energies, vibrations etc of the external planets and stars. This way of looking at astrology is troublesome for many because it says there is NO intrinsic meaning to the planets. It also points the way to divination. Divinatory astrology puts it on par with other mantic arts – like Tarot and the I Ching. To many astrologers this is anathema because they like to consider it as a “science”.

Some have referred to this kind of astrology as Hermeneutic Astrology:

Hermeneutics is the study of meaning, of how we arrive at our interpretations of things. In the context of astrology the term implies a turning away from the common assumption that a fixed astrological meaning is simply “there”, in front of us, as some sort of fact of nature. The hermeneutic inquiry in astrology reveals the essential dependency of the meaning of symbols on the act of interpretation of that meaning. Seen in this way, horoscope interpretation involves something other than a supposed pre-existent meaning waiting to be decoded, and depends both on the context in which meaning is sought, as well as on the intentionality of the one making the interpretation.” (Cornelius, Geoffrey, C. 1994. “The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination”)

jung archetypes

I like to consider this way of looking at astrology as a poetic interpretation of astronomical data. Poetry from numbers and geometry – active imagination in action. The calculations and the process of symbolising are just a pretext to occupy the conscious mind. The complexity of nuance and context for symbolising engages the rational mind while the REAL work is done by the broader and more holistic unconscious. This unconscious insinuates “meaning” beyond the logical limits of rational “complexity”. So, my manner of working these “complexities” is to treat them as a long Zen Koan and the Sky Map – Horoscope as a Yantra.

One can explore consciousness and imagination deeper and look at the structures of mind and the material that appears as is done in various and diverse ways by Phenomenology. I just like to play on the edge of reason, that spot between sanity and insanity, where all the wild creatures are 😉

Sometimes, in flickering moments, astrologising can be vision. A “vision – feeling” into another world that is holographic in structure, energetic and alive. In these rare glimpses, a human and the universe are seen as the same organism. As above so below, Hermes Trismegistus says. A different relationship exists between things – or at least that is what appears when astrological Sun glasses are worn.

Here are two articles by Geoffrey Cornelius that point to a way I look at Astrology Practice “Astrology as Divination” and “Is Astrology Divination and Does it Matter?”

Below are posts in my blog which give further insight into my approach:

Guerilla Ontology

An Experiment With Astrology and the I Ching 

Astromusings 

An Astrological Turning 

I’m reminded of a Zen saying, “Don’t look at the finger pointing to the Moon, look at the Moon.”

All this astrological stuff is just a pointing finger.

My finger points to >>

Bill Shorten

Bill Shortn Natal Chart SF

Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull SF Natal

Tony Abbott

abbott natal

Australia

Aust Natal SF

 


A Ganma Odyssey

January 18, 2016

prologue ganmaA Ganma OdysseyThe Literacy Education Research Network  (LERN)  Conference, to most participants, represented far more than a collection of academic papers and workshops and, for Stavros at least, it spanned far longer than just 4 days…


 

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-1

Whatever the answers to these questions, I felt that in my own life, this journey to the Centre was a definite circle, a cycle of some sorts.

It’s been 25 years since I last visited Central Australia. Back then, the Sturt Highway was a two way dirt road all the way from Darwin to near Port Augusta. In 1972, words like revolution, liberation, justice, equality, freedom and peace, rolled off my tongue with a tender passion. Feeling the emptiness in the institutions, the knowledge factories and the general lack of soul in the world I hit the road. Back then I was searching for something. Nowadays, I’m still searching and it seems that the ” R ” word is the only one that doesn’t roll off my tongue so easily. Perhaps it should.
Twenty five years ago I found myself, with little more than nothing, in the heart of Australia. All I had was my canvas pack with a few clothes, a couple of books and some water in a bottle. I had no money. The previous three nights I had slept under the stars along the highway and during the day I prayed for a lift. I was two hours south of Alice heading for Adelaide when I was dropped off at Erldunda, near the turn off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Across the road a petrol bowser stood as if on guard outside the general shop. A bus arrived and parked a few metres away from where I was standing. I watched the tourists get off. I hadn’t eaten a thing for over three days and I knew that the people getting off the bus would have something to eat. I approached a woman in a white hat as she stepped off the bus. Looking her in the eyes I said, “Excuse me, have you any food?”.

She looked at me with some pity and reached her hand into a brown paper bag pulling out a small green tomato. As she handed me the fruit I sensed everyone looking at me, from the bus driver to the little girl with her face pressed against the bus window. The white hat woman released the tomato into my hand and a ripple of disgust crossed her eyes and brow. I was dirty, I was homeless, a Dharma Bum now just a bum. I accepted the food and turned away from my shame. I noticed someone standing ahead of me in the distance waving, beckoning me to come over.

I had nothing to lose but everything to gain, holding the unripe tomato in my hand, I walked towards the stranger. As I got closer I could see white hair and a white beard on the face of an old black man. He wore trousers that were a little too big for him and a coat that was a little too small. He smiled and placed his hand on his belly whispering, what sounded like, “Hunger…hunger..” He took me by the arm and showed me to his home by the highway. It was a lean to humpy with a corrugated iron mulga branch roof. Some old flour bags were scattered on the dirt floor to sit on. He shared with me some milk arrowroot biscuit pieces and a powdered milk drink in a tin cup. He let me stay the night. The shop with the petrol bowser had switched its lights off. During the night, nothing much was said between us – the silences, with the occasional bark of a lone dog, said it all.

In the centre of Australia I saw that the dispossessed ones were the generous ones. We non – indigenous ones take and take while these people, the original ones give and give. Twenty five years later, in 1997, our government wants to stop the original people from reestablishing their culture and reconnecting with their land. Extinguishing the recently acquired native title rights is the equivalent of stealing what little these people have and giving this little to the rich, whether pastoralists, miners or just greedy transnational corporations. Will we the non – indigenous ones ever learn? So, 25 years later I was returning with a hunger so subtle that you’d miss it if you weren’t seeking it. It’s a hunger for something which may transform the hole in my being to the whole.

The LERN Conference promised an exploration into multiliteracies, cross cultural communication, anti- racism education and multicultural multimedia all under the theme of Learning. I didn’t know if my hunger would be satisfied attending the Conference. I was hoping for a taste, even a sniff of something that’s true. I closed the book and through the plane’s window noticed below us a road leading out of the desert. In the distance, over the desert and the dunes we could see it came from Alice Springs.

The next morning I arrived at the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs for the Opening Ceremony of the Conference. After the introduction and welcome by the traditional elders from Alice Springs, the Larumba Traditional Women’s Dance Group danced and sang traditional stories that could have a heritage far older than 100,000 years. The singing reminded me of Byzantine chants in the Greek Orthodox Church. The more I listened the more resonances I could hear, like echoes, reminding me of other sacred utterances I had heard – a Sufi zikhr to a Buddhist chant, a Hindu mantra and a native American prayer. It was almost as if there exists just one sacred song with many different versions vibrating through humanity’s common voice. It was fitting that the singing touched these notes because we were an international gathering.

I tried to make sense of the dance movements and resorted to number and rhythm. I was hoping that by keeping count of the position changes and the number of people moving in my awareness, would like insect repellent, keep away unnecessary inner talk. What was before me could not be evaluated in terms other than itself. We were not witnessing a performance, but rather we were being asked to be part of the ceremony. Sure, we were sitting watching a stage, but in the intention of welcoming us, we were entering their land, their world view on their terms.

The time span of these stories, these oral histories and ceremonies force us to come to terms with our sense of time. How do we know that our sense of the present moment is the only one around? Other peoples may have a much larger sense of the present moment than we do. And the other way around. You know, if we were truly transcultural we would have to accept Australia’s original peoples’ story of their origin. The translation of Tjukurrpa as Dreamtime has in many ways devalued its significance to those whose idea of dreaming is nothing other than random – neurological – connections – sparking – off – in – the – brain – when – one – is – sleeping phenomena. The idea of a dream time in this context points to a time that is unreal, wispy as inconsequential jingles and daydreams. However, if we consider that Tjukurrpa may be as real in its own terms as cyber space is in the technological, we may have an entry into true and equal dialogue.

Whenever Western experts place their civilisation stethoscopes on Aboriginal artefacts and markings the dating goes further and further back into the mists of time. First the age of indigenous culture was put at 20,000 years , then to 40,000 years, then 100,000 years and currently as a controversial minimum 160,000 years before our present time. Perhaps its easier to accept their version of things. Kevin Bates worked next door to me as the Regional Aboriginal Coordinator at Newcastle Campus. One day I asked him how long did he think Aboriginal culture was around for. I thought that he might say 200,000 years or even longer. He said, “We’ve been here since the beginning of time.” I asked him if he meant that metaphorically. He replied, “What is it with you? It says what it means – we’ve been here since the beginning of time.”

During the Opening Plenary Session, Vincent Forrestor said,

” I want to make this clear. Many people think that native title only has to do with land. Native title is more than land, it is our heritage, our stories, our songs, our dances, our customs, our ceremonies, our language, our culture. In short, native title is our life.”

I was one of the many and now it was clear to me that treaties, agreements and other deals negotiated by non – indigenous ones are nothing short of bargaining for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical survival of Aboriginal people. The dispossessed must bargain within the framework of the Invaders’ Law. It was only recently our courts admitted that when the invaders arrived there were humans here and that these humans had an intricate relationship with the land. The lie of terra nullius was corrected with the Mabo judgement. Now, a government that has big business interests at heart is trying to extinguish native title.

As I was walking out of the foyer I saw a poster of a man on a camel with a dialogue balloon saying, “Come camel riding in the Heart of Australia.” I remembered the little known history of the Afghani camel drivers who were especially invited to migrate to Australia about one hundred years ago. Their special skills were the husbanding of camels for use in Central Australia. Some returned to Afghanistan, some stayed and married Aboriginal women. The Islamic mosque in Alice Springs bears witness to the descendants of these Afghani camel masters. This brought to mind the Afghani writer, Idries Shah. In his introduction to the book, “The World of the Sufi”, by Ahmed Abdulla, Idries Shah mentions a story about Dhul’l-Nun the Egyptian and “The Pointing Finger Teaching System”.

In the surrounding lands, it was believed that a certain statue pointed to where hidden “treasure” lay buried. People from all over came to search, digging holes in areas indicated by the pointing finger of the statue. No one had found any “treasure” but still they searched heading further towards the horizon. One day, Dhul’l – Nun sat and watched the statue from sunrise to sunset. Then, on one particular day at one particular time, dug where the shadow of the finger fell, and discovered the treasure of ancient knowledge.

We need to turn around and not look at where the finger is pointing but to where its shadow falls. The finger points to never ending economic progress and development, it points to a future where the rich will only get richer at the expense of the poor. The shadow falls on native title. And the time is now. The Tjukurrpa – Dreamtime stories are the longest continuous religious beliefs documented anywhere in the world. (Josephine Flood, Archeology of the Dreamtime, Sydney and London, William Collins, 1983) Do we value the hidden treasure of the oldest living continuous culture on the planet? Do we recognise the “treasure” or do we filter out everything that requires some heart, some conscience? A natural sense of justice should spark a little recognition of the treasure in the finger’s shadow. The sense of a fair go cannot allow the extinguishment of native title.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-2

While waiting for the bus to take us to Alice Springs High School, where most of the presentations were being held, I thought about the next few days. These few days will be an opportunity to step outside the routine of my ordinary life. Firstly, there will be four days of conferencing and then a few days of touring the Centre with some friends who are also LERNing.The fact is that just being in a different location had already disrupted my habitual comfort zone. To make the most of these days I would have to make an effort to turn inwards, so that the momentum of being in a different location and doing different things wouldn’t be wasted. The momentum, I hazarded a guess, is an energy or state of awareness that could loosely be called “holiday consciousness”. This turning inwards has nothing to do with solipsistic analysis and the chattering monkey mind trying to guess and to strategise the next moment. It is more the effort to intentionally steer one’s attention to other parts of one self normally unconscious. We may call it the subliminal underground of our being, the shadow, what we in the industrially developed world call only “feelings” and “sensations”.

It has been suggested that the human notion and definition of self has been through major shifts since the beginning of human consciousness (Julian Jaynes, “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, Boston, Houghton Miffen, 1977 ). The closest to us historically, that may demonstrate this shift, is said to have occurred in Homer’s Greece.
According to this view, in Homer’s day, the people did not have the same sense of self as we may have. Their inner psychological organisation was different to what we take for granted. The voice of the mind was somehow perceived as a “god” speaking from outside themselves. It didn’t take too long before people started sussing out that there were a lot of “gods” running around in the temples and in the marketplaces saying contradictory things about how things were, that they saw the untruth of their “godhood”. Gradually this voice of the “gods” became established in the sense of self we call “ego”. What was there before the voice? Who and what was Ulysses’s “sense of self” on his Odyssey?

Have we in the dying years of the Industrial Age, come to a cultural cul-de-sac? Somehow, we have alienated ourselves from not only each other but also the common ground of experience – nature, the Earth. Is it time for another definition and sense of self, another way of knowing, one that acknowledges something other than the sovereign rights of the mechanistic, rational, technocratic and anti – spiritual mindset of the “Western” sense of self?

Edward de Bono in his “I Am Right, You Are Wrong”, thinks that this is the case. He suggests that a renaissance of thought and language patterns is needed so that humanity doesn’t self destruct. He proposes turning away from the “table top logic” of the traditional “Western” mindset in favour of developing a way of knowing that is based on perception. De Bono explains that recent developments in the understanding of self-organising systems and ideas from information theory, have given indications as to how the neural processes of the brain perform the activity of perception. Perception operates in nerve networks like a feature of a self-organising biological system, a living entity. Let’s call information that comes through our senses impressions. These impressions fall on the inner landscape of our mind like rain. The rain on the mind organises itself into tributaries, rivulets and streams of temporarily stable patterns. These patterns can subsequently flow into new sequences and patterns. According to de Bono, the perceptual mode of thinking encourages the mind to form multiple branching flow patterns; the sensory information is not boxed in by fixed linguistic concepts, generalities, and logic. Perceptual thought patterns follow the natural behaviour of neural networks; our present mode only plays back a recording of words and concepts provided by a preestablished cultural mindset.

Courtney Cazden during her paper on Ganma Space spoke of the necessity of getting rid of the margin and centre metaphor. This metaphor was based on the myth of terra nullius of students’ minds and being. Courtney told us that while she and Mary Kalantzis were flying to some school in the Northern Territory they noticed water holes that had fresh and salt water tributaries and other smaller rivulets all feeding the main space of the water hole. This, they found out was known as a ganma. The ganma looks like localised swirling spirals from the air. Courtney said that the mingling of brown, fresh and salt water in this space was analogous to the culturally diverse classroom. And in light of the process of perception is an apt image of the inner subjective world, our mind, our being.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-3

The multicultural classroom as a Ganma Space, this metaphor rather than create separate marginalised groups besides the mainstream, recognises the primacy of all the diverse groups’ backgrounds and experiences. There is no one central dominant culture enforcing a mainstream reality. There is an influx of different cultures, different literacies, different world views, a swirling waterhole, a turning of bracken water whose salt has not lost its savour. A living Ganma Space.
Let’s go one step further and consider that in the industrially developed world there is the primacy of the head, (some localise it to the left hemisphere of the brain) and all the other ways of being and cognition – feelings, sensations and intuition have been marginalised. What do we have if we apply the ganma metaphor to our own inner world? In this ganma, head, heart, body and spirit all contribute equally, but differently, to our sense of the real. These parts of ourselves may all be cognitive in nature, they may be different tributaries of knowing, different source data. Ganma Space taken as psychological space, the internal world of our experience, would allow for the possibility to connect our known and unknown parts of ourselves. This opens the opportunity to connect with others by being able to include more of the “other” in one’s awareness.
Could the perceptual mode of thinking be a ganma way of knowing?

The taste I seek is a taste of being – not in the philosophical sense – a point of view to be debated, but rather an experience, an immersion through the background/underground of one’s chattering monkey mind – into the moment. We’ve seen that working from only a part of ourselves doesn’t work. The problems confronting all of us in this time of planetary transition are whole systems oriented. Now we see through Chaos theory, that a butterfly fluttering her wings in South Africa has global consequences. And when it comes to the ecological state of the Earth and the widening gap between the rich and poor across the planet, it is obvious that whole, global issues require an effort and a response that is from the whole of ourselves, the ganma of ourselves.

I decided to attend the presentation, “One Step Ahead: Aboriginal Perspectives on Management Education” by Evelyn Schaber and Second Year Management Training Program Students (Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs). As the classroom became full, with little standing room available, I was handed a printed page depicting in diagrammatic form Tjukurrpa and its sacred relationship with the people and the land. I was particularly taken by the fact that the primary relationship is a triad, a trinity.This trinity is reflected in Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism and other indigenous traditions. Joseph Campbell in his “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and Mircea Eliade in his studies of religions and shamanistic traditions of the world point out other common features of invisible landscapes scattered across all cultures of the planet. So, what’s going on? What is this numerical coincidence that crystallises as a triad across and within all sacred traditions? Rather than be surprised by finding this fundamental triadic relationship within the sacred world view of the original people, I felt a kind of confirmation linked to feelings that arose during the Opening Ceremony.

After a few minutes, Evelyn introduced herself and the students beside her, Sherana, Patricia, Maxine, Cynthia and Sophie. She began by outlining the differences in the indigenous way of perceiving and knowing to the Western methodologies. She said, “It is not the knowledge that counts but how the knowledge is taught. Students need to know where the knowledge comes from and this must be put into political/ideological perspectives.” Evelyn explained that this entails the recognition of the narrative form, the story and the song as a valid means of conveying information and knowledge. Storytelling gives shape to knowledge and by having a whole form, bits of data and information find their meaningful place within the narrative. Evelyn compared the Western method of knowing to that of just focussing on a chorus and then a verse analysing each line of a song without knowing or listening to the whole song. “A song is more than the sum total of its parts. Our mob need to know the song, and hold the whole picture because education is political, education is an institution of the dominant culture. We need to be able to read where the dominant culture – ‘they’ – are coming from both politically and ideologically. That’s what is meant by having to be one step ahead.”

Martin Nakata, (University of South Australia) said at a later paper, Indigenous Perspectives on Multiliteracies , “Indigenous people must articulate their position, which has been historically constructed as the “other” and recognise the primacy of the indigenous perspective.” Martin also emphasised the importance of being taught by indigenous people, that what they had to say had as much verity as the dominant culture’s institutionalised knowledge. I was hearing that the indigenous way of knowing is holistic and the focus is on the whole song, the whole story. Martin was saying that there was an epistemological imperialism implicit in the way that research is conducted in “Western” institutions. I was hearing that an epistemology based on indigenous perspectives has as much ontological status as the positivistic technoscience paradigm of the “West”.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-4

It just crossed my mind that the Greek word nomos, normally translated as law, as in eco-nomy, astro-nomy etc. can also be interpreted as melody or song. Eco – melody and astro – melody would give a different methodological approach to eco-law and astro-law, economy and astronomy. And who’s to say that the means of material exchange in traditional indigenous cultures is not more of an eco – melody than an economy? Perhaps the First Boat People and those who wish to take away native title didn’t and don’t wish to hear the songs of the original people, because their white noise mindset makes them tone deaf.

After Evelyn’s introduction and overview, each student began telling their individual stories of their personal experiences of formal education. I was witnessing a continuation of the welcoming ceremony and songs, this time in English, in a classroom. As each student told their story, of how they came to be doing the program and the various obstacles that were in their way to learning, I became aware of a soft uneasiness, a gentle tension in the air. As each student spoke in turn, I noticed in their bearing a vulnerability, an openness, an uncertain dropping of the guard. Their stories exposed their humanness, their heart. The how was more powerful than the what. The vulnerability and the innocence of that vulnerability began to resonate with a part of myself that could only respond in eyes welling up with tears. I told myself, “Big boys don’t cry in conferences….keep your act together….don’t make a fool of yourself….” The law and the wall of my persona, my sense of self, was being demolished by the truth of their song – stories. The tears trickled and I slowly turned my head to see all of the people standing behind me also crying. Indeed, by the time the last student had told us her story, I noticed that everybody in the class room felt the same way. Such openness, such vulnerability, such trust – such courage. Warriors of the Heart. The students’ eyes revealed the suffering and the strength that came through their own personal transformation. The sharing of their stories with us was a part of this transformative process and a political act. Smiles like chunks of sun beamed across their faces as we applauded and wept at the same time.

In my ordinary life, working as an educator, I am predominantly in my head and this experience gave me the opportunity to make a shift. I have nothing against heads, it’s just that for most of us in the developed world, that’s all that’s in operation. Our education is an initiation into the rationalist world view. This perspective lifts the intellect, the head, to a detached point of view that sees everything as if it is on the outside. It is called “objectivity”. When we teach our students literature, from this perspective, we tell them, “This story was written by someone, who was influenced by someone who was born somewhere”. Students learn facts, objective things that are apparently verifiable by reference to other someones who have written about the story or the author. The more one is initiated into the realm of the written word, and now also into the electrographic realm of cyber space, the less the realm of one’s own experience counts for anything in the classroom. Students learn facts about the story or the poem rather than the stories and the poems themselves. They learn that these facts are true because they are emotionless, they are detached from personal experience and work through the medium of the written word. Our classrooms devalue the spoken/oral tradition and value the written word. Our classrooms through our system’s methodologies enforce a monoliterate consensus reality.This reality is taught and is seen to be more valid than other ways of knowing, of communicating and of researching. In this classroom at Alice Springs High School, Evelyn’s students found a way to bridge the realm of the head with the realm of the heart through telling their stories.

I learned that I truly need to learn how to learn.

Perhaps this was heart knowledge – a grammar of the heart. We were in – formed through a literacy that was independent of our permission. The in – forming by passed our heads and touched our feelings. The soft uneasiness and the gentle tension in the air of the classroom transformed into a scent of the true. The ambience born from this exchange points to hope of true reconciliation – a sharing of a common ground – between the original ones and the rest of us, some place in the Heart of Australia. As Evelyn said, “We as educators have to confront and transform the realities of power in the classroom, and assist students to leave the baggage of 200 years of prejudice and discrimination at the door.”

This is what happened during the students’ presentation – intentionally or not, they directed our attention to include another part of ourselves. We had to acknowledge that there was more to each of us than meets the eye. And this more belonged to all of us in common. Ganma within, ganma without – turning, turning – ganma without, ganma within.

Is the phrase “language of the heart” just a metaphor? Do indigenous sacred world views point to a real place inaccessible to the chattering rational mind (with or without a PhD), but accessible to the intelligence of the heart? Does reflexive practice, with an intention to include more of one’s self than just the head, allow for the entry of compassion? By doing this as educators, could we be assisting in creating textual bridges through firstly becoming human bridges? Are we talking about the politics of consciousness and the need to question the root assumptions of “Western” techno – rationalism? Do these assumptions, these desacralised paradigms of reality only make it possible to see a sacred site as a potential dollar making or military site? Was Kevin Bates right when he said that the Aboriginal people have been here since the beginning of time?

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-5

The act of turning inwards and acknowledging the ganma of one’s being is a political act of consciousness. This act may only be for a fleeting moment but it may have long term consequences in the classroom and the community. How does one move far enough away from the chattering rational mind, “table top logic” to include the stirring of feelings and sensations, without in any way losing the attention required to participate in events around one? Who is moving away, and where is this away? Who am I? Why am I here? These questions, if I can keep alive their intent, may open doors to other literacies that resonate through different cognitive frameworks underpin the creation of other worlds. These questions, this search for inclusion in the whole by becoming more whole may be the first letters of an unknown alphabet within my own being.

At the end of a day’s attending papers I decided to go on a guided tour of a sacred site. The promotional poster had this to say :

“Native Title Rights, Educational Rights” – A Time Line Presentation,
presented by Vincent Forrester.
Experience a Tour to Kyunba (Native Pine Gap)
– sacred site – 20 kms south of Alice Springs.
Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs.
While driving to our destination, our guide Vincent Forrester, called out the names of the surrounding hills, rocks and dirt and told us the stories of their birth. In this named landscape I was an alien. The naming stories revealed an invisible landscape that is visible to Vincent and his people. As we got off the mini – bus, Vincent said, “Welcome to my country”. Was I really in his country? Just because I was physically there, standing on the dirt, didn’t necessarily mean I was inhabiting the same sense of place.

The sense of country that gives birth to the Tjukurrpa – Dreamtime stories must be completely different to that which just measures acres of dirt. Somehow I was locked out of a sense of country and a way of knowing that Big Bill Neidjie, a Kakadu Aborigine refers to:

“I feel it with my body, with my blood. Feeling all these trees, all this country…when the wind blows you can feel it. You can look, but feeling…that put you out there in open space.” (Quoted in James Lowan, “Mysteries of the Dreaming” )

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-6

As the sun was setting, we walked following Vincent, he pointing out the various plants that had medicinal and other uses, we in silent curiosity and wonder. He showed us the places where adolescent males had their initiation rites. There were rock carvings and paintings at one ceremonial spot that seemed to have grown from out of the rock assisted by human hands. Vincent told us that some visitor had chipped off and stolen a big section of the painting/carving. It left a sharp straight line where it was separated from the greater stone and a large hole. No doubt, the missing stolen piece was going to be placed on a mantle shelf as a decorative item probably besides some bric – a – brac. Turning, he pointed his finger towards some low lying hills where the women had their own initiation ceremonies and rites. Ahead of us, about five minutes walk away, was the sacred centre of this land. We were not allowed to go there.

As we were returning to the mini-bus, the red colours of the twilight and the trees’ silhouettes shimmering in the breeze made me feel as in a dream. Pointing to a thin line, a wire fence nearby, Vincent said, “Our next door neighbour, over this fence, is Bill Clinton. In the 1960s, Prime Minister Harold Holt gave this land to the President of the USA. He didn’t talk to us, he didn’t ask us and he didn’t charge the USA any money. He just gave our land to President LBJ. This place over the wire fence is Pine Gap, a military site, where not even white Australians are allowed to visit.”

By now it was dark, with only the head lights of the bus providing some illumination. Just as he was about to climb on the bus, Vincent paused. There was silence for a few seconds as we waited. With a slight quiver in his voice, he said,

“I am asking you educators, you teachers to do something. We could sell land worth seven and a half million dollars to Woolworths for them to build their shop in Alice Springs – but there’s none of our children working there. Our kids are leaving school in year 8 and don’t return. You, you people who are the educators must do something.”

We boarded the bus and as I looked through the bus window I noticed the stars and the pattern we call the Southern Cross. Thoughts and feelings were stirring inside of me. Vincent was pleading with us to find a way to make education accessible to his people. He wanted his people to be initiated into the realm of literacy that confers power in the “Western” sense. Pine Gap – that “secret” electronic spy installation for the military purposes of Pan Americana, was just over the fence from a sacred Aboriginal site. He wanted his people to be able to straddle two realms – that of the Tjukurrpa, a sacred perspective and that of the “West”. The ability to do this is dependent on native title rights and educational rights for the original people of this country. The ability to straddle the two realms, the two world views, may also be essential for us to ensure the survival of all of us and the planet.

The Pine Gap military site is part of the electrographic world that now envelopes the globe. This electrographic world has connected all continents and carries data on every square inch of the earth’s surface traced by geostationary satellites. Information from the furthest reaches of the solar system and further out through Hubble’s eye, swirls into it. We are now immersed in an electrographic mist of data. Over the next 20 years or so, the mist will become rain, and this rain may become a flood of data. Or, it may become a global informational ganma. It all depends on us and the new neural networks, modelled on the human brain, that are now being developed.
The current digital infotronic revolution could have an impact on humans to rival the impact that the arrival of language had on the dawn humans. It is possible that the 40 year period between 1980 (the arrival of the Personal Computer) and 2020 may be seen in hundreds of years time, as one of the greatest turning points in human history. This revolution is much larger and faster than previous transitions like the change from an Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age. Whereas before, transitions occurred in specific places and gradually spread across the globe, the current revolution in technology is being felt globally and almost instantaneously. Through the coming Digital Age a global culture is emerging.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-7

What must it have felt like about five hundred years ago when the very first book was published on a printing press? For one thing, Gutenberg probably didn’t foresee that literacy skills would be needed by everyone. Today it is seen as a fundamental human right. Five hundred years ago only a certain elite, members of the church and some others, had access to books which had been hand copied one by one by monks. They were the only ones who could read and write. Gutenberg democratised the need for literacy. In the new world order of the Digital Age many people may not be able to access information technology and may not have the necessary electrographic literacy. This means that the poorest will become even poorer without access to this technology.

Questions and concerns like these were fluttering around in my head when I first met Johan Cedergren at the Dingo Cafe, Alice Springs. Johan, a teacher from Rodengymnasium Upper Secondary School, Sweden came to present his paper, “Baltic Region Knowledge: An Interdisciplinary High School Course for Swedish and Russian Students”. This project is part of a long term program for re-establishing contacts between north western Russia and the new Baltic States. The internet is used extensively to network the students between the two countries.
I also had an interest in this new technology and my paper, “The Hunter Connection: Getting Ethnic Communities Online “ was on a rural strategy that the Multicultural Education Unit, Hunter Institute of Technology, Australia is implementing to address the local community’s communications needs.

Johan and I found that our concerns were similar. How do we ensure that this technology is accessible to all who need it? The small proportion of humanity who has access to this knowledge and technology also uses up most of the planet’s resources while the greater majority of humanity is undernourished and living in poverty. This small proportion of humanity, from previous experience, may build new virtual ivory towers far removed from the hoi polloi paralyzed by techno fear or by the lack of access to the technology. There is a need for groups that have been “marginalised as the other” to colonise Cyberia. The secular clergy of our small proportion must work to ensure that all have access.

Whatever the answers to these issues, the fact is that we are experiencing a fracturing of the idea of specific location in space. Telecommunications in all its diversity is bringing the globe to one’s home and one’s home to the globe. Video conferencing in virtual rooms with participants from all over the world are a reality now. I cut and pasted this information about the Tanami Project from some email message I received in 1996:

VIDEOCONFERENCING IN THE OUTBACKSince 1993, Aborigine communities in Australia’s Northern Territory have
been using videoconferencing as the primary medium for personal and business communications among each other and other sites in Sydney, Darwin and Alice Springs. The Tanami Network, which uses PictureTel videoconferencing equipment, is favored over the telephone or radio because it can convey the extensive system of hand gestures used by aborigines while speaking. Most of the videoconferences held are personal or ceremonial in nature — paid for in large part by mineral royalties and community funds. Other aborigine videoconferencing networks include the Mungindi Project, which uses Cornell University’s CU-SeeMe software to link four remote schools.
(Technology Review Apr 96 p17)

This multimedia technology makes it possible to communicate Tjukurrpa information to community members whether three hundred kilometres or three thousand kilometres away. It is possible, with the right intent, to straddle both “Western” and indigenous perspectives if the technology is used appropriately and the resources accessible.

Both Johan and I decided to go and see this project. Johan went on a bus with a group of other LERNers to Yuendumu about three hundred kilometres from Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert. I went with another group to Alice Springs. When we became connected, the information signals were beamed to Sydney then bounced off from a satellite to Alice Springs and Yuendumu. It was a strange sensation communicating with this technology, there was a slight adjustment required in one’s sense of place. The next day in the foyer of the Araluen Arts Centre, Johan asked me to have a look at his laptop computer. On the screen was a picture of myself taken from the video screen at Yuendumu. Unknown to me, Johan took a picture of me “hosting” on his digital camera. He showed me other pictures he took of the conference. These pictures I downloaded from his website in Sweden when I returned home to Morpeth, NSW.

So, digital images taken from an electrographic encounter in the centre of Australia are accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with the appropriate technology. Not only images but also sound and text.The possibilities of using this technology to enhance communications between all of us is immense. The tributaries of information are now global and the challenge for us, as educators, is to ensure that all have access.

Those who do have access to the infotronic labyrinth with walls of World Wide Webs, do we need a thread like Theseus received from Ariadne to find our way to the centre and back? Who is the monster at the centre and what is the thread? Unlike geographical Siberia, Cyberia resides in non-Euclidean space where North, South, East and West do not exist. So, where is the centre of the maze? A computer program is a set of linear binary instructions. There are as yet no computer based devices which can handle patterns. Stories, as information devices, handle and convey patterns of knowledge.

Perhaps the thread we seek is our own story making capacity.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-8

The four days came to an end too quickly. The Closing Ceremony was performed by Pitjantjatjara traditional dancers. Faces of people I had met, the garden chats, the painting of the Conference Mural by LERNers, images of the management students, the Conference Dinner when we let our guards down and saw each other in motion, floated through my mind during the asymmetrical pauses of the dancers. A performance by a group of young local people followed giving the other half of the Closing Ceremony. The emerging global culture and its expression were clearly seen in the dancing. Dancing to contemporary hip hop music with moves informed by their aboriginal inheritance, the group expressed movements that were both uniquely local and global at the same time. Ganma dancing?

The next day I met up with my touring companions to pick up the hire car. All of us were born in different countries and had made Australia our home. Alejandra Martinez from Chile, Chandrima Mukerjee from India, Jenny Howard from Borneo, Beatrice Espenez- Stotz from Uruguay and myself from Greece. Our car was a little ganma space on four wheels, touring the centre of Australia with five dinkum Aussies. Alejandra, was the holy of holies – a mother to be, with only three months to go before the birth of her baby. I felt that her presence would ensure a safe passage for us all. Once we picked up the car I took some tapes out of my bag which would become some of the soundtrack of the trip. The first song we listened to as we were leaving Alice Springs was “Two Way Dreamtime” by Directions in Groove (DIG). We played this song often at different points on our journey :

Two Way Dreamtime

Dreamtime on a leyline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a leyline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long time.

Welcome to the alien nation, and this society based on invasion
where we don’t know soul from a hole in the ground.
Two hundred years of beating around the bush, digging money out boom or bust, well, ashes to ashes dust to dust…

It’s all those people that you buy and sell, millions of shares in a living hell. You’ve got a house and a pool and a Porsche and a beeper, but are you just making life cheaper, you’re gonna have to dig a little bit deeper, the price of admission is so much steeper.
You pay with your dreams, so wake up sleeper.

Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long time….

Welcome to the alien nation, but it’s not too late to change the equation.
Listen to the A-B-original people, the Earth is a church without a steeple, don’t look for heaven in a father above, it’s here on the ground in a family of love and deeper respect for each other, brothers and sisters with the one Earth for mother.

Now life is a state of constant creation and what we need is inspiration.
There’s more to me than meets the eye, so let’s find the spirit that let’s us try, to make a treaty with the past or we’re doomed to a future that cannot last. Heal the wounds, confess our crimes, free at last in a two way dreamtime….

Directions in Groove

The first place we visited was Stanley’s Chasm, a huge gap at the tail end of the McDonnell Ranges. We walked up and through a stony path, past desert palms, mulga, a plant with flowers smelling like delicate lavender. We saw a couple of rock wallabies scurry up shear vertical rock faces. We entered the chasm and heard frogs croaking. The rain had brought the mating calls of the frogs that reverberated through the chasm. As we walked out I had the distinct feeling of having emerged with realigned impressions. The surrounding rocks and trees vibrated invisibly and silently. Ally laid on her back across a flat smooth striated rock. Her belly, full of new life made a silhouette just left of Stanley Chasm’s opening . Birds became audible. Ally spoke to Beatrice in Spanish. I asked them what they were talking about. They said that they both felt as if they had just emerged from a womb. The words Mother : Matrix : Matter rose to the surface of my mind.

eductn-aust-ganma-odyssey-9

Space is what you first notice, once you’ve travelled in Central Australia a few hundred kilometres on no speed limit roads. The massive road trains, when they appeared, shuddered a reminder of how small you and your car really are. The expanse of sky and the horizon of the world’s most sparsely populated lands (apart from Antarctica) made me feel my smallness. Our first stop for the night was at King’s Canyon.

Late at night I walked along an elevated metal path that was built to conserve the local environment. I was going to view the profile of King’s Canyon against the night sky. The end of the path was about half a kilometre away from the cabins. While walking down the metallic path, my footsteps echoed through the night space. Finally I stood at the end of the “Western” metallic thread. I turned towards the cool breeze blowing through the native land. How far had this wind travelled to get here – the Centre of Australia? Across hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometres of ground that was almost empty of people. I looked at the Milky Way splashing across the dome of my mind, streaks of falling stars crossed above King’s Canyon. All the while I felt the Southern Cross watching over us.

The next day after seeing and walking around King’s Canyon we headed further south to Uluru and Katajuta. Twenty five years ago when I arrived at Erldunda, the turn off to Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas, I couldn’t take the turn and went direct to Adelaide. This time I was ready.

On the way to Uluru we passed Atila (Mount Conner) whose flat table top contrasted with our post card expectations of Uluru’s and Katajuta’s roundness. We were only about twenty kilometres from Uluru when we passed an old panel van crowded with local Aboriginal men, women and children, waving to us. Getting closer to Uluru, the following refrain came from the car’s radio:

What if God was one of us,
just a slob like one of us,
just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home…..
In the near distance we caught a glimpse of Uluru, the largest Rock on Earth, right in the Centre of Australia, now in front of us. With many other vehicles we parked at the specified viewing area. We had arrived at the most opportune time to witness the almost miraculous changes in colour of Uluru as the sun sets. Uluru turned our sight away from the west where the sun was setting, towards the Red Centre. The shifting reds of the Rock vibrated against an eastern blue sky, the shadows of mulgas nearby almost merged with the red dirt.

The next day we visited Uluru where we spent some time at the Cultural Centre. Along the inner walls of the Centre, a Dreamtime story written in English had Aboriginal paintings as iconic reflections. The version below of the same Kuniya story comes from “Uluru, an Aboriginal History of Ayers Rock” by Robert Layton.

The Kuniya story (The Pythons)The Kuniya converged on Uluru from three directions. One group came westward from Waltanta (the present site of Erldunda homestead), and Paku-paku; another came south through Wilpiya (Wilhia Well); and a third, northwards, from the area of Yunanpa (Mitchell’s Knob). One of the Kuniya women carried her eggs on her head, using a manguri (grass head-pad) to cushion them. She buried these eggs at the eastern end of Uluru. While they were camped at Uluru, the Kuniya were attacked by a party of Liru (poisonous snake) warriors. The Liru had journeyed along the southern flank of the Petermann Ranges from beyond Wangkari (Gills Pinnacle).

At Alyurungu, on the southwest face of Uluru, are pock marks in the rock, the scars left by the warriors’ spears; two black-stained watercourses are the transformed bodies of two Liru. The fight centred on Mutitjulu (Maggie’s Spring). Here a Kuniya woman fought using her wana; her features are preserved in the eastern face of the gorge. The features of the Liru warrior she attacked can be seen in the western face, where his eye, head wounds (transformed into vertical cracks), and severed nose form part of the cliff.

Above Mutitjulu is Uluru rock hole. This is the home of a Kuniya who releases the water into Mutitjulu. If the flow stops during drought, the snake can be dislodged by standing at Mutitjulu and calling ‘Kuka! Kuka! Kuka!’ (Meat! Meat! Meal!). The journey to Uluru and lhe Liru snakes’ attack are described in the public song cycle recording the Kuniya story.

Almost half way along the Cultural Centre’s inner wall, a large video screen was showing the same traditional dancers that had performed the Closing Ceremony at Araluen Arts Centre. An electrographic video echo in Uluru.

When we approached Uluru none of us could envisage climbing the Rock. The original people of this land plead with tourists at the Cultural Centre not to climb Uluru. Even at the site where a chain railing extended up a ridge began its climb, there was a sign with a Red Cross stating that the local people would strongly prefer people not to climb Uluru because it was against their religious beliefs. Again, it was a request. What do fellow humans have to do to at least elicit some semblance of respect for their beliefs?

I am reminded of the Sufi saying: “When a thief sees a saint, all he sees is his pocket.” In this context could it be, “When a fool sees a sacred site, all he sees is a ladder of chains.” ?

On the way back to Alice Springs we decided to stay the night at Erldunda and make an early start the next morning. Once we got to the turn off I rang my family and found out that a friend had died the night before. Returning to our table outside the roadhouse, in shock over the news, I wept. My travelling companions brought coffee and sat with me. Their company was a comfort.

A group of about six Aboriginal men were dropped off a utility truck a few metres away from us, while I was lighting a cigarette. Speaking their native language they sat and stood a few tables away from us. One of them, who was standing, caught my eye and looked at me for as long as it takes to inhale and exhale two complete breaths. He walked over to our table and it was clear by the way he asked for a cigarette that English was his second language. I gave him the pack and the coffee with the news of Kevin Bates’ passing away resonating through my heart. He sat with us for a short time. An echo from twenty five years ago was heard at Erldunda that night. Twenty five years before, the old man had given me milk, biscuits and shelter somewhere near here. Twenty five years later I had given in return, acquired habits. Somehow, it didn’t feel it was an equal exchange. Somehow, I felt that I was still in debt.

After a while the utility truck returned to pick the men up. As they left I wondered at the coincidence of place, time and events. I meandered to my cabin, noting that the only other time I slept in Erldunda was in a humpy by the side of this road. Having said good night to my companions, I sat outside trying to locate the Southern Cross. I noticed a swarm of fireflies swirling to my right near a gigantic eucalyptus tree. I stared at the fireflies remembering that they are sometimes a symbol of the soul’s ongoing life after death.
Ally bought “Tribal Voice” by Yothu Yindi as soon as we arrived at Alice Springs. She wanted to ensure that the last musical sounds we listened to as we drove our hire car to the airport came from this part of Australia. Driving to the airport we heard the song :

TreatyWell I heard it on the radio – And I saw it on the television – Back in 1988 – all those talking politicians – Words are easy, words are cheap – Much cheaper than our priceless land – But promises can disappear – Just like writing in the sand – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Nhima Djat’pangarri nhima walangwalang – Nhe Djat’payatpa nhima gaya nhe – Matjini Yakarray – Nhe Djat’pa nhe walang – Gumarrt Jararrk Gutjuk – This land was never given up – This land was never bought and sold – The planting of the Union Jack – Never changed our law at all – Now two rivers run their course – Separated for so long – I’m dreaming of a brighter day – When the waters will be one – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Nehma Gayakaya nhe gayanhe matjini walangwalang nhe ya – Nhima djatpa nhe walang – Gumurrtjararrk Yawirnny – Nhe gaya nhe matjini – Gaya nhe matjini – Gaya gaya nhe gaya nhe – Matjini walangwalang – Nhema djat’pa nhe walang – Nhe gumurrtjarrk nhe ya – Promises – Disappear – Priceless land – Destiny – Well I heard it on the radio – And I saw it on the television – But promises can be broken – Just like writing in the sand – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Treaty Ma – Treaty Yeh – Treaty.

(M. Yunupingu / G Yunupingu / M Mununggurri / W Marika / S Kellaway / C Williams / P Kelly / P Garrett)

While flying over the Simpson Desert on the return journey, I thought about Gracelyn Smallwood’s paper where she compared the state of South Africa’s original people and Australia’s. She said,

“South Africa is striving for Truth and Reconciliation, not just Reconciliation without Truth. The truth is that over three quarters of the Aboriginal people have been murdered over the last two hundred years in Australia. In South Africa, the blacks during apartheid, kept their language and culture. In Australia there is a selective amnesia operating when it comes to the indigenous people. We need both Truth and Reconciliation.”

Perhaps one of the consequences of working towards Truth and Reconciliation may be Justice for the original people of this country.

I noticed that the land was getting greener and soon we were flying over the Great Dividing Range. Though I looked, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to spot the Three Sisters rock formation of the Blue Mountains. I was hoping that as we curved our landing onto Sydney Airport I’d catch a glimpse of what I and my two brothers called the Three Brothers. These were three twenty storey high Housing Commission flats that were built during the sixties across the street from my first home in Australia. Like many migrants of the fifties and sixties we lived in the cheap accommodation that was available those days in Redfern and other parts of inner city Sydney. Orienting my gaze from Sydney Harbour Bridge I tried to guess the approximate site of my first home here. The patterns on the ground below became angular and grid like, broken by the occasional patch and oval of green. I didn’t get a glimpse of the Three Brothers. Since the time of my childhood, many other sky scrapers were built and they were lost to me.

Botany Bay came into view as our plane was turning to land. As our plane looked like it was going to touch the water I felt Sydney, Eora, an edge metropolis of our ganma continent turn around the Red Centre, the rocks, hills, mulga, spinifex, red dirt and a few people in the Heart of Australia.

Published in Education Australia,1998


The Calling

August 22, 2015

The possibility that thought was matter and that this equivalence may be divided by a number, made every belief housed in my skull obsolete. Meaning was a promise made on the fact of my existence, so I thought. I knew then I had to seek solitude. Why and what solitude meant was just as an unknown as my new predicament. In this moment recognition crept along my spine. At first it was a tingle, a feather gently stroking my skin. From the small of my back up along the trough following my spine the sensation flowed. A place of warmth emanated from the middle, between my shoulder blades.

My body seemed at ease and receptive to some message. I didn’t know what was recognised, only that a call had registered through my nervous system. Who or what was calling?

It was strange how this new ignorance appeared. The recognition was sensed complete with a set of meanings ascribed to without consent of my mind. Could this new ignorance be old knowledge long forgotten? Deep down, beneathe  layers of thought matter was the hidden destiny. This is what I felt. It didn’t matter whether it was a long forgotten bone buried by some equally long forgotten god, or just an abstraction to humour a sense of self. This hidden destiny pointed in a direction away from thought.

I lit another cigarette and walked over to the window. The sky was clear, the thunder clouds were swept away by the afternoon breeze. What was this call that began to sound in my secret emptiness? “Surely bones don’t shape one’s destiny!” I said aloud. Perhaps destiny was too big a word. My skin felt warmer all over, I closed my eyes and concentrated on an image of a candle flame. This was something I did when I was a kid before falling asleep. I felt the in and out of warm and cool air, breathed through my nostrils. Deep inside my chest, the flame burnt steadily, wax the pulse, relativity the breeze. Gentle candle smoke rose and insinuated itself along fissures and walls of my skull. My feet and hands became an extension of an invisible stranger that uses flesh and bone as a gardener uses a spade.

A snake slithered through sounds in the air. Its presence a mere hiss of silence, a soft scrape against a wall. As I looked down onto my hand resting on the window sill I recognised the snake curled up in gold around my Holy Ghost finger, a ring, a gift from a long lost friend.

“Babylon is burning at the end of your cigarette,” she said. She appeared before me with a pitcher of water in one hand and the other holding a glass. The air around me crackled – static on a phone. She whispered, “Tell me, what is a man? Wind blown dust swirling into a cone of events, swinging to and fro, like a pendulum across the face of his quarter acre block?” By now she had me in her gaze, though I could not see her eyes.

With the effort of a Houdini I replied, “I take refuge in my beliefs…..” I repeat this over and over in my mind, a merry-go -round mantra. The guns of doubt click and explode in Russian roulette timing: silent movies, iceberg expectations, half life relics, pantomime gestures. Bang! Frame by frame, every movement a question mark in human animation, every frame subtitled, ” I think, therefore I am.”. The soundtrack ever repeating “I take refuge in my beliefs”.

She placed the pitcher on the table and took a sip from the half empty glass. “You think that the real, natural heart’s,”  she pointed with her long finger , “that thing pumping in your chest. You are seriously mistaken.” She flicked some hair away from her eyes as she spread the feathers of one of her wings. Each feather had inscriptions that looked alternatively Cyrillic then Chinese with Arabic curves, Hebrew endings and Greek beginnings. All this however was just guess work for in truth I had no idea what was written. For all I knew each feather could have been a letter in this alphabet of feathers and the whole word wing a verb with an unknown subject . Perhaps the split between subject and object wasn’t even in this grammar – I was illiterate in the language of angels. I found myself  mesmerized by the area of her wing immediately to the left of her elbow. The letters or patterns were themselves hieroglyphs, or so I thought. I felt here was a mystery – how could something be itself and yet point to something else for its identity?

“This is not the time to labour the point. The whole three dimensional world presented to your senses five is a total illusion. If you could slow this holographic movie down to nearly zero you would find flesh and blood is one step removed from your real body. This real body which you fail to recognise is imperishable. It’s the same with your mind. You think that you think, that you set the perceptual and then the conceptual parameters, that the images and ideas in that psychological space are yours. They are just as synthetic as your heart.”

She stopped talking and stroked the rim of the glass with her index finger. The low hum coming from the glass punctuated the silence. She began talking again in a slightly louder whisper, “In fact your thinking is the thinking of someone else that has passed through your mind. You are property. Thoughts that cruise and fly by in your mind are visitors and have nothing to do with your volition. They enter, stay and leave, sometimes become squatters on their own accord. The cube of mind, a stage and a corridor, a cage and a peeping Tom show through cracks of vision, sound, smell, taste and sensation .”

Her countenace slowly began to fracture, crumble like a clod of dry clay and become translucent – from a Greetings Card angel to a stained glass living sculpture. Gradually her form shattered into many more countless pieces. She became a mosaic of color merging with the window. Like salt in water she dissolved through the glass and became orange streaked twilight dusk.

A snail slithers across the dome skull of history. Echoes, of prophets wailing, a curling shell. Cochlea. Earth. I heard the calling, (my) intent unknown.


Excerpt from G I Gurdjieff’s “Meetings With Remarkable Men”

October 29, 2012

G.I. GURDJIEFF

MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN

CHAPTER II

MY FATHER

MY FATHER WAS WIDELY KNOWN, during the final decades of the last century and the beginning of this one, as an ashokh, that is, a poet and narrator, under the nickname of ‘Adash’; and although he was not a professional ashokh but only an amateur, he was in his day very popular among the inhabitants of many countries of Transcaucasia and Asia Minor.

Ashokh was the name given everywhere in Asia and the Balkan peninsula to the local bards, who composed, recited or sang poems, songs, legends, folk-tales, and all sorts of stories.

In spite of the fact that these people of the past who devoted themselves to such a career were in most cases illiterate, having not even been to an elementary school in their childhood, they possessed such a memory and such alertness of mind as would now be considered remarkable and even phenomenal.

They not only knew by heart innumerable and often very lengthy narratives and poems, and sang from memory all their various melodies, but when improvising in their own, so to say, subjective way, they hit upon the appropriate rhymes and changes of rhythm for their verses with astounding rapidity.

At the present time men with such abilities are no longer to be found anywhere.

Even when I was very young, it was being said that they were becoming scarcer and scarcer.

I personally saw a number of these ashokhs who were considered famous in those days, and their faces were strongly impressed on my memory.

I happened to see them because my father used to take me as a child to the contests where these poet ashokhs, coming from various countries, such as Persia, Turkey, the Caucasus and even parts of Turkestan, competed before a great throng of people in improvising and singing.

This usually proceeded in the following way:

One of the participants in the contest, chosen by lot, would begin, in singing an improvised melody, to put to his partner some question on a religious or philosophical theme, or on the meaning and origin of some well-known legend, tradition or belief, and the other would reply, also in song, and in his own improvised subjective melody; and these improvised subjective melodies, moreover, had always to correspond in their tonality to the previously produced consonances as well as to what is called by real musical science the ‘ansapalnianly flowing echo’.

All this was sung in verse, chiefly in Turko-Tartar, which was then the accepted common language of the peoples of these localities, who spoke different dialects.

These contests would last weeks and sometimes even months, and would conclude with the award of prizes and presents — provided by the audience and usually consisting of cattle, rugs and so on — to those singers who, according to the general verdict, had most distinguished themselves.

I witnessed three such contests, the first of which took place in Turkey in the town of Van, the second in Azerbaijan in the town of Karabakh, and the third in the small town of Subatan in the region of Kars.

In Alexandropol and Kars, the towns where my family lived during my childhood, my father was often invited to evening gatherings to which many people who knew him came in order to hear his stories and songs.

At these gatherings he would recite one of the many legends or poems he knew, according to the choice of those present, or he would render in song the dialogues between the different characters.

The whole night would sometimes not be long enough for finishing a story and the audience would meet again on the following evening.

On the evenings before Sundays and holidays, when we did not have to get up early the following morning, my father would tell stories to us children, either about ancient great peoples and wonderful men, or about God, nature and mysterious miracles, and he would invariably conclude with some tale from the ‘Thousand and One Nights’, of which he knew so many that he could indeed have told us one whole tale for each of the thousand and one nights.

Among the many strong impressions from these various stories of my father’s, which left their mark on my whole life, there was one that served for me in later years, perhaps no less than five times, as a ‘spiritualizing factor’ enabling me to comprehend the incomprehensible.

This strong impression, which later served for me as a spiritualizing factor, became crystallized in me while, one evening, my father was reciting and singing the legend of the ‘Flood before the Flood’ and there arose between him and a certain friend of his a discussion on this subject.

This took place at the period when, owing to the dictates of life circumstances, my father was compelled to become a professional carpenter.

This friend of his often dropped in to see him at his workshop, and sometimes they would sit all night long pondering on the meaning of the ancient legends and sayings.

His friend was no other than Dean Borsh of Kars Military Cathedral, the man who was soon to become my first tutor, the founder and creator of my present individuality, and, so to say, the ‘third aspect of my inner God’.

On the night when this discussion took place, I too was in the workshop, as well as my uncle, who had come to town that evening from a neighbouring village where he had large market-gardens and vineyards.

My uncle and I sat together quietly on the soft shavings in the corner and listened to the singing of my father, who was chanting the legend of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh and explaining its meaning.

The discussion arose when my father had finished the twenty-first song of the legend, in which a certain Ut-Napishtim relates to Gilgamesh the story of the destruction by flood of the land of Shuruppak.

After this song, when my father paused to fill his pipe, he said that in his opinion the legend of Gilgamesh came from the Sumer-ians, a people more ancient than the Babylonians, and that undoubtedly just this same legend was the origin of the account of the Flood in the Hebrew Bible and served as a basis of the Christian world view; only the names and some details had been changed in certain places.

The father dean began to object, bringing forward many data to the contrary, and the argument became so heated that they even forgot about sending me off to bed as they usually did on such occasions.

And my uncle and I also became so interested in their controversy that, without moving, we lay on the soft shavings until daybreak, when at last my father and his friend ended their discussion and parted.

This twenty-first song was repeated in the course of that night so many times that it was engraved on my memory for life.

In this song it is said:

I will tell thee, Gilgamesh, Of a mournful mystery of the Gods:

How once, having met together,

They resolved to flood the land of Shuruppak. Clear-eyed Ea, saying nothing to his father, Anu,

Nor to the Lord, the great Enlil,

Nor to the spreader of happiness, Nemuru, Nor even to the underworld prince, Enua,

Called to him his son Ubara-Tut;

Said to him: ‘’Build thyself a ship, Take with thee thy near ones,

And what birds and beasts thou wilt;

Irrevocably have the Gods resolved To flood the land of Shuruppak,’

The data formed in me, during my childhood, thanks to the strong impressions I received during this discussion on an abstract theme between these two persons who had lived their lives to old age relatively normally, led to a beneficent result for the formation of my individuality which I first became aware of only much later, namely, just before the general European war; and from then on it began to serve for me as the above-mentioned spiritualizing factor.

The initial shock for my mental and feeling associations, which brought about this awareness, was the following:

One day I read in a certain magazine an article in which it was said that there had been found among the ruins of Babylon some tablets with inscriptions which scholars were certain were no less than four thousand years old. This magazine also printed the inscriptions and the deciphered text — it was the legend of the hero Gilgamesh.

When I realized that here was that same legend which I had so often heard as a child from my father, and particularly when I read in this text the twenty-first song of the legend in almost the same form of exposition as in the songs and tales of my father, I experienced such an inner excitement that it was as if my whole future destiny depended on all this. And I was struck by the fact, at first inexplicable to me, that this legend had been handed down by ashokhs from generation to generation for thousands of years, and yet had reached our day almost unchanged.

After this occurrence, when the beneficent result of the impressions formed in my childhood from the narratives of my father finally became clear to me — a result that crystallized in me a spiritualizing factor enabling me to comprehend that which usually appears incomprehensible — I often regretted having begun too late to give the legends of antiquity the immense significance that I now understand they really have.

There was another legend I had heard from my father, again about the ‘Flood before the Flood’, which after this occurrence also acquired for me a quite particular significance.

In this legend it was said, also in verse, that long, long ago, as far back as seventy generations before the last deluge (and a generation was counted as a hundred years), when there was dry land where now is water and water where now is dry land, there existed on earth a great civilization, the centre of which was the former island Haninn, which was also the centre of the earth itself.

As I elucidated from other historical data, the island of Haninn was approximately where Greece is now situated.

The sole survivors of the earlier deluge were certain brethren of the former ImastunBrotherhood, whose members had constituted a whole caste spread all over the earth, but whose centre had been on this island.

These Imastun brethren were learned men and, among other things, they studied astrology. Just before the deluge, they were scattered all over the earth for the purpose of observing celestial phenomena from different places. But however great the distance between them, they maintained constant communication with one another and reported everything to the centre by means of telepathy.

For this, they made use of what are called pythonesses, who served them, as it were, as receiving apparatuses. These pythonesses, in a trance, unconsciously received and recorded all that was transmitted to them from various places by the Imastuns, writing it down in four different agreed directions according to the direction from which the information reached them. That is to say, they wrote from top to bottom communications coming from localities lying to the east of the island; from right to left those from the south; from bottom to top those which came from the west (from the regions where Atlantis was and where America is now); and from left to right communications transmitted from the place now occupied by Europe.

As I have happened, in the logical course of the exposition of this chapter devoted to the memory of my father, to mention his friend, my first tutor, I Dean Borsh, consider it indispensable to describe a certain procedure established between these two men who had lived normally to old age, and who had taken upon themselves the obligation of preparing me, an unconscious boy, for responsible life and deserve now, by their conscientious and impartial attitude towards me, to represent for my essence ‘two aspects of the divinity of my inner God’.

This procedure, as was evident when I later understood it, was an extremely original means for development of the mind and for self perfecting.

They called it kastonsilia, a term derived, it seems to me, from the ancient Assyrian, and which my father evidently took from some legend.

This procedure was as follows:

One of them would unexpectedly ask the other a question, apparently quite out of place, and the other, without haste, would calmly and seriously reply with logical plausibility.

For instance, one evening when I was in the workshop, my future tutor entered unexpectedly and, as he walked in, asked my father:

‘Where is God just now?’

My father answered most seriously, ‘God is just now in Sari Kamish.’ Sari Kamish is a forest region on the former frontier between Russia and Turkey, where unusually tall pine-trees grow, renowned everywhere in Transcaucasia and Asia Minor.

Receiving this reply from my father, the dean asked, ‘What is God doing there?’

My father answered that God was making double ladders there and on the tops of them he was fastening happiness, so that individual people and whole nations might ascend and descend.

These questions and answers were carried on in a serious and quiet tone — as though one of them were asking the price of potatoes today and the other replying that the potato crop was very poor this year. Only later did I understand what rich thoughts were concealed beneath such questions and answers.

They very often carried on conversations in this same spirit, so that to a stranger it would have seemed that here were two old men out of their senses, who were at large only by mistake instead of being in a mad-house.

Many of these conversations which then seemed to me meaningless grew to have a deep meaning for me later when I came across questions of the same kind, and it was only then that I understood what a tremendous significance these questions and answers had for these two old men.

My father had a very simple, clear and quite definite view on the aim of human life. He told me many times in my youth that the fundamental striving of every man should be to create for himself an inner freedom towards life and to prepare for himself a happy old age. He considered that the indispensability and imperative necessity of this aim in life was so obvious that it ought to be understandable to everyone without any wiseacring. But a man could attain this aim only if, from childhood up to the age of eighteen, he had acquired data for the unwavering fulfilment of the following four commandments:

First — To love one’s parents.

Second — To remain chaste.

Third — To be outwardly courteous to all without distinction, whether they be rich or poor, friends or enemies, power­ possessors or slaves, and to whatever religion they may belong, but inwardly to remain free and never to put much trust in anyone or anything.

Fourth — To love work for work’s sake and not for its gain.

My father, who loved me particularly as his first-born, had a great influence on me.

My personal relationship to him was not as towards a father, but as towards an elder brother; and he, by his constant conversations with me and his extraordinary stories, greatly assisted the arising in me of poetic images and high ideals.

My father came of a Greek family whose ancestors had emigrated from Byzantium, having left their country to escape the persecution by the Turks which followed their conquest of Constantinople.

At first they settled in the heart of Turkey, but later, for certain reasons, among which was the search for more suitable climatic conditions and better pasturage for the herds of domestic cattle forming a part of the enormous riches of my ancestors, they moved to the eastern shores of the Black Sea, to the environs of the town now called Gumush Khaneh. Still later, not long before the last big Russo-Turkish war, owing to repeated persecutions by the Turks, they moved from there to Georgia.

In Georgia my father separated from his brothers and moved to Armenia, settling in the town of Alexandropol, the name of which had just been changed from the Turkish name of Gumri.

When the family possessions were divided, there fell to my father’s share what was considered, at that time, great riches, including several herds of domestic cattle.

A year or two after he had moved to Armenia, all this wealth that my father had inherited was lost, as a result of a calamity independent of man.

This happened owing to the following circumstances:

When my father settled in Armenia with all his family, his shepherds and his herds, he was the richest cattle owner of the district and the poorer families soon gave into his charge — as was the custom — their own small number of horned and other domestic cattle, in exchange for which they were to receive from him during the season a certain quantity of butter and cheese. But just when his herd had been increased in this way by several thousand head of other people’s cattle, a cattle plague came from Asia and spread all over Transcaucasia.

This mass pestilence among the cattle then raged so violently that in a couple of months or so almost all the animals perished; only an insignificant number survived, and these were merely skin and bones.

As my father, in accepting the care of these cattle, had taken upon himself, as was then also the custom, their insurance against all kinds of accidents — even against their seizure by wolves, which happened rather frequently — he not only lost all his own cattle by this misfortune, but was forced to sell almost all his remaining possessions to pay for the cattle belonging to others.

And in consequence my father, from having been very well off, suddenly found himself a pauper.

Our family then consisted of only six persons, namely, my father, my mother, my grandmother, who had wished to end her days with her youngest son, and three children — myself, my brother and my sister — of whom I was the eldest. I was then about seven years old.

Having lost his fortune, my father had to take up some business, since the maintenance of such a family, and, what is more, a family which until then had been pampered by a life of wealth, cost a good deal. So, having collected the remnants of his former large and grandly maintained household, he began by opening a lumber-yard and with it, according to local custom, a carpenter’s shop for making all kinds of wooden articles.

But from the very first year, owing to the fact that my father had never before in his life been engaged in commerce and had in consequence no business experience, the lumber-yard was a failure.

He was finally compelled to liquidate it and to limit himself to the workshop, specializing in the production of small wooden articles.

This second failure in my father’s affairs occurred in the fourth year after his first big calamity. Our family lived in the town of Alexandropol all this time, which happened to coincide with the period of rapid reconstruction by the Russians of the near-by fortress-town of Kars which they had taken.

The opening up of good prospects for making money in Kars, and the added persuasions of my uncle, who already had his business there, induced my father to transfer his workshop to Kars. He first went there alone, and later took his whole family.

By this time our family had already increased by three more ‘cosmic apparatuses for the transformation of food’, in the form of my three then really charming sisters.

Having settled in Kars, my father first sent me to the Greek school, but very soon transferred me to the Russian municipal school.

As I was very quick at my studies, I wasted very little time on the preparation of lessons, and in all my spare time I helped my father in his workshop. Very soon I even began to have my own circle of customers, first among my comrades, for whom I made various things such as guns, pencil-boxes and so on; and later, little by little, I passed on to more serious work, doing all kinds of small repairs in people’s houses.

In spite of the fact that I was then still only a boy, I very well remember this period of our family life down to the smallest detail; and in this setting there stands out in my memory all the grandeur of my father’s calm and the detachment of his inner state in all his external manifestations, throughout the misfortunes which befell him.

I can now say for certain that in spite of his desperate struggle with the misfortunes which poured upon him as though from the horn of plenty, he continued then as before, in all the difficult circumstances of his life, to retain the soul of a true poet.

Hence it was, in my opinion, that during my childhood, in spite of great want, there constantly reigned in our family unusual concord, love and the wish to help one another.

Owing to his inherent capacity for finding inspiration in the beauty of the details of life, my father was for us all, even in the most dismal moments of our family life, a source of courage; and, infecting us all with his freedom from care, he engendered in us the above-mentioned happy impulses.

In writing about my father, I must not pass by in silence his views on what is called the ‘question of the beyond’. Concerning this he had a very particular and at the same time simple conception.

I remember that, the last time I went to see him, I asked him one of the stereotyped questions by means of which I had carried on, during the last thirty years, a special inquiry or quest in my meetings with remarkable people who had acquired in themselves data for attracting the conscious attention of others. Namely, I asked him, of course with the preliminary preparation which had become customary to me in these cases, to tell me, very simply and without any wiseacring and philosophizing, what personal opinion he had formed during his life about whether man has a soul and whether it is immortal.

‘How shall I put it?’ he answered. ‘In that soul which a man supposedly has, as people believe, and of which they say that it exists independently after death and transmigrates, I do not believe; and yet, in the course of a man’s life “something” does form itself in him: this is for me beyond all doubt.

‘As I explain it to myself, a man is born with a certain property and, thanks to this property, in the course of his life certain of his experiencings elaborate in him a certain substance, and from this substance there is gradually formed in him “something or other” which can acquire a life almost independent of the physical body.

‘When a man dies, this “something” does not disintegrate at the same time as the physical body, but only much later, after its separation from the physical body.

‘Although this “something” is formed from the same substance as the physical body of a man, it has a much finer materiality and, it must be assumed, a much greater sensitivity towards all kinds of perceptions.

The sensitivity of its perception is in my opinion such as — you remember, when you made that experiment with the half-witted Armenian woman, Sando?’

He had in mind an experiment I had made in his presence many years before, during a visit in Alexandropol, when I brought people of many different types into various degrees of hypnosis, for the purpose of elucidating for myself all the details of the phenomenon which learned hypnotists call the exteriorization of sensitivity or the transference of sensations of pain at a distance.

I proceeded in the following way:

I made from a mixture of clay, wax and very fine shot a figure roughly resembling the medium I intended to bring into the hypnotic state, that is, into that psychic state of man which, in a branch of science which has come down to our day from very ancient times, is called loss of initiative and which, according to the contemporary classification of the School of Nancy, would correspond to the third stage of hypnosis. I then thoroughly rubbed some part or other of the body of the given medium with an ointment made of a mixture of olive and bamboo oil, then scraped this oil from the body of the medium and applied it to the corresponding part on the figure, and thereupon proceeded to elucidate all the details that interested me in this phenomenon.

What greatly astonished my father at the time was that when I pricked the oiled place on the figure with a needle, the corresponding place on the medium twitched, and when I pricked more deeply a drop of blood appeared on the exactly corresponding place of the medium’s body; and he was particularly amazed by the fact that, after being brought back to the waking state and questioned, the medium remembered nothing about it and insisted that she had felt nothing at all.

And so my father, in whose presence this experiment had been carried out, now said, in referring to it:

‘So, in the same way, this “something”, both before a man’s death and afterwards until its disintegration, reacts to certain surrounding actions and is not free from their influence.’

My father had in connection with my education certain definite, as I have called them, ‘persistent pursuits’.

One of the most striking of these persistent pursuits of his, which later produced in me an indisputably beneficent result, acutely sensed by me and noticeable also to those with whom I came in contact during my wanderings in the various wilds of the earth in the search for truth, was that during my childhood, that is, at the age when there are formed in man the data for the impulses he will have during his responsible life, my father took measures on every suitable occasion so that there should be formed in me, instead of data engendering impulses such as fastidiousness, repulsion, squeamishness, fear, timidity and so on, the data for an attitude of indifference to everything that usually evokes these impulses.

I remember very well how, with this aim in view, he would sometimes slip a frog, a worm, a mouse, or some other animal likely to evoke such impulses, into my bed, and would make me take non-poisonous snakes in my hands and even play with them, and so forth and so on.

Of all these persistent pursuits of his in relation to me, I remember that the one most worrying to the older people round me, for instance my mother, my aunt and our oldest shepherds, was that he always forced me to get up early in the morning, when a child’s sleep is particularly sweet, and go to the fountain and splash myself all over with cold spring water, and afterwards to run about naked; and if I tried to resist he would never yield, and although he was very kind and loved me, he would punish me without mercy. I often remembered him for this in later years and in these moments thanked him with all my being.

If it had not been for this, I would never have been able to overcome all the obstacles and difficulties that I had to encounter later during my travels.

He himself led an almost pedantically regular life, and was merciless to himself in conforming to this regularity.

For instance, he was accustomed to going to bed early so as to begin early the next morning whatever he had decided upon beforehand, and he made no exception to this even on the night of his daughter’s wedding.

I saw my father for the last time in 1916. He was then eighty-two years old, still full of health and strength. The few recent grey hairs in his beard were hardly noticeable.

His life ended a year later, but not from natural causes.

This event, sorrowful and grievous for all who knew him, and especially so for me, occurred during the last great periodic human psychosis.

At the time of the Turkish attack on Alexandropol, when the family had to flee, he was unwilling to leave his homestead to the mercy of fate; and while protecting the family property he was wounded by the Turks. He died soon after, and was buried by some old men who had happened to remain there.

The texts of the various legends and songs he had written or dictated, which, in my opinion, would have been his most fitting memorial, were lost — to the misfortune of all thinking people — during the repeated sackings of our house; yet perhaps, by some miracle, a few hundred of the songs he sang, recorded on phonograph rolls, may still be preserved among the things I left in Moscow.

It will be a great pity for those who value the old folklore if these records cannot be found.

The individuality and intellectuality of my father can, in my opinion, be very well pictured in the mind’s eye of the reader if I quote here a few of his many favourite ‘subjective sayings’, which he often used in conversation.

In this connection, it is interesting to remark that I, as well as many others, noticed that when he himself used these sayings in conversation, it always seemed to every hearer that they could not have been more apt or better put, but that if anyone else made use of them, they seemed to be entirely beside the point or improbable nonsense.

Some of these subjective sayings of his were as follows:

Without salt, no sugar.

Ashes come from burning.

The cassock is to hide a fool.

He is deep down, because you are high up.

If the priest goes to the right, then the teacher must without fail turn to the left.

If a man is a coward, it proves he has will.

A man is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence of greed.

Truth is that from which conscience can be at peace.

No elephant and no horse even the donkey is mighty.

In the dark a louse is worse than a tiger.

If there is ‘/’ in ones presence, then God and Devil are of no account.

Once you can shoulder it, it’s the lightest thing in the world.

A representation of Hell — a stylish shoe.

Unhappiness on earth is from the wiseacring of women.

He is stupid who is ‘clever’.

Happy is he who sees not his unhappiness.

The teacher is the enlightener, who then is the ass?

Fire heats water, but water puts out fire.

Genghis Khan was great, but our policeman, so please you, is still greater.

If you are first, your wife is second; if your wife is first, you had better be zero: only then will your hens be safe.

If you wish to be rich, make friends with the police.

If you wish to be famous, make friends with the reporters.

If you wish to be full — with your mother-in-law.

If you wish to have peace — with your neighbour.

If you wish to sleep — with your wife.

If you wish to lose your faith — with the priest.

To give a fuller picture of my father’s individuality, I must say something about a tendency of his nature rarely observed in contemporary people, and striking to all who knew him well. It was chiefly on account of this tendency that from the very beginning, when he became poor and had to go into business, his affairs went so badly that his friends and those who had business dealings with him considered him unpractical and even not clever in this domain.

And indeed, every business that my father carried on for the purpose of making money always went wrong and brought none of the results obtained by others. However, this was not because he was unpractical or lacked mental ability in this field, but only because of this tendency.

This tendency of his nature, apparently acquired by him when still a child, I would define thus: ‘an instinctive aversion to deriving personal advantage for himself from the naivete and bad luck of others’.

In other words, being highly honourable and honest, my father could never consciously build his own welfare on the misfortune of his neighbour. But most of those round him, being typical contemporary people, took advantage of his honesty and deliberately tried to cheat him, thus unconsciously belittling the significance of that trait in his psyche which conditions the whole of Our Common Father’s commandments for man.

Indeed, there could be ideally applied to my father the following paraphrase of a sentence from sacred writings, which is quoted at the present time by the followers of all religions everywhere, for describing the abnormalities of our daily life and for giving practical advice:

Strike and you will not be struck.

But if you do not strike they will beat you to death, like Sidor’s goat.

In spite of the fact that he often happened to find himself in the midst of events beyond the control of man and resulting in all sorts of human calamities, and in spite of almost always encountering dirty manifestations from the people round him — manifestations recalling those of jackals — he did not lose heart, never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself.

The absence in his external life of everything that those round him regarded as advantages did not disturb him inwardly in the least; he was ready to reconcile himself to anything, provided there were only bread and quiet during his established hours for meditation.

What most displeased him was to be disturbed in the evening when he would sit in the open looking at the stars.

I, for my part, can only say now that with my whole being I would desire to be able to be such as I knew him to be in his old age.

Owing to circumstances of my life not dependent on me, I have not personally seen the grave where the body of my dear father lies, and it is unlikely that I will ever be able, in the future, to visit his grave. I therefore, in concluding this chapter devoted to my father, bid any of my sons, whether by blood or in spirit, to seek out, when he has the possibility, this solitary grave, abandoned by force of circumstances ensuing chiefly from that human scourge called the herd instinct, and there to set up a stone with the inscription:

I AM THOU, THOU ART I, HE IS OURS,

WE BOTH ARE HIS.

SO MAY ALL BE

FOR OUR NEIGHBOUR.

 


Sciatica, a Hair Shirt and Attention

April 13, 2011

So, this is sciatica. I get pains from my lower back and down my leg. I walk stilted and my leg is sometimes numb. I’m getting treatment for it and it doesn’t seem to be a chronic condition even though I’ve had it off and on for about 3 months. Each time the sciatic nerve becomes better I inflame it, twice now. Each inflammation was due to my helping Kevin the Handyman. It’s not his fault and neither mine. The jobs needed doing and I had to help him otherwise they wouldn’t get done and he could have got hurt if I didn’t help. Each job seemed small and if I didn’t have sciatica they were. I did not listen to my body.

Sciatica - diagram from Wikipeadia

This is the key – my not listening to my body.

In fact, if I view this situation from a Work perspective, the sciatica, instead of being a useless pain, could be useful as a powerful sensation reminding factor. I remember when I first came across the idea that sensation was the anchor, the platform, the foundation of awareness of oneself, I thought I found the key to my tan tien, my centre. Up to the discovery of sensation as an anchor for attention I visualised where my centre was. Informed by my Tai Chi teacher the centre, the tan tien was about  3 inches below my belly button and about an inch or two in towards my spine. I tried to direct my attention by visualising the surface of my body. With the discovery of sensation as an anchor things changed. I theorised that if I can place my attention on my body, or a part of it and at the same time carry on doing what I normally do, I have the beginnings of separation between “I” and “me”. The attention is divided between sensation and what I am doing. (Check out a development of this idea in my post Kites and Consciousness.)

I went about trying to find means of remembering my tan tien, my centre while watching and counting my breath using the sensation of cold incoming breath and warm outgoing breath through my nose. This was the simple Buddhist meditation of counting the breath. I scratched the spot where the tan tien should be on the surface of my body gently, I even put tiger balm on the area because the heat generated would draw my attention there. I thought I’d figured out why some monks wore hair shirts. It reminds them that they have a body and not to just squat in their minds.

Tan Tien

Did it work?

I gained a sense of my centre but this was also due to the growing sensation of my whole body. It was easier to remember the tiger balmed spot and it was the heat of the balm that drew my attention.

My sciatica has freed me from the need of a hair shirt or tiger balmed strategic spots. Sciatica has given me the “gift” of pain sensation in my lower back and leg and attending to it with awareness of my breath – I type or eat or drive as needed. The pain is there when inflammation fires up but my awareness of it is not. Reacting and feeling the pain is not being aware of it – the pain leads and my mind follows.

If I can build a floor, a stable point of attention in my body I will have the beginnings of separation.

Why the need for separation between the body and awareness?

Why the need to say I see through my eyes not with them; I hear through my ears not with them; I sense through my pain but not with it?

Without that separation “I” am not here, there’s just a happening, an event but no observer.

I wish to be present to what is happening and if what is happening is witnessed within the mind-body then I witness through this mind-body.

So, who am I? Who is the Observer? The Witness?


A born again virgin soul

April 6, 2011

I’m attempting to reach a state where I am a born again virgin soul, a state where I can dream once again of clouds passing through my ear into my head and out again through the other ear carrying life giving water.

I’m looking at the process of writing this down and it has opened up a little river of opportunity. Action … it seems acting (doing something) sets up its own dynamic in a super structure sense. The action into the unknown allows another higher order world that shows signs on the crossroads. The GPS here is set to the inner satellite orbiting one’s heart. Obviously the muscle pumping blood around the body hasn’t got a Latter Day Sputnik bipping around it. The heart I speak of is that part of ourselves which tastes truth and sees through the onion layered worlds we live in. Sees through? Yes, like a prehistoric insect sees through amber before it solidifies.

One of my greatest “heroes” is a guy called Gurdjieff. Someone wrote that the Fourth Way which Gurdjieff brought to the West was a method of making the real – super real. In fact, it is practical surrealism. So now I want to practically surrealise some of my dreams. Using the template of power-in-action through visualisation, various projects were able to be given a material existence (like the Cultural Stomp and the Flotillas of Hope). It is not “me” who did it, or who does it. In fact, my job as a person with heart is to move out of the way so that the forces attempting to make whatever needs to happen, happen.

I remember one time when the Flotillas of Hope project was white hot in its birthing. Two websites had already manifested, as well as a satellite phone and 2 boats. An art auction was about to happen in Sydney, where we raised over $8,000, and I get this call from a guy heavily involved in the Socialist Alliance.

 He says, “Stavros, this is big. How the fuck are you managing this – where’s your committee?”

I laughed and told him that if he knew the truth he wouldn’t want to work with me because he’d think I was absolutely crazy. Really crazy! He pleaded with me to tell him the truth.

So I told him,”My job is to just keep the fire burning while aligning myself to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life using the astrological chart of the project as the foundation.”

Tree of Life from Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi’sAdam and the Kabbalistic Tree, Rider, London 1974

 

 

Tree of Life - another aspect from Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi's "Adam and the Kabbalistic Tree", Rider, London 1974

 He went quiet. I added, “I am just focussing on the vision – the image of us sailing to Nauru and the focus is the fire.” 

 He replied slowly as if it pained him to hear something like that, “B-u-l-l-s-h-i-t !!”

I laughed and told him that it was true and if it was all bullshit, how did he explain the manifestation of boats, websites, satellite phones, art auctions, crews, inverters etc etc that are here in the real world? He didn’t ask me again how I was managing .

I’m trying to get out of the way so that what is most necessary at this time comes to fruition. Who knows, it may be a book, a million dollars, a shop with hidden treasures or a beautiful garden. It may be the birth of another grand child, or my recently planted grapevine bearing fruit this coming year.

Having a shed allows me to play and tinker to my heart’s delight. At the very least, I want to have made my scaled down Great Pyramid to experiment with to see if Pyramid Power is real, my very own Orgone Accumulator and a simple Dream Machine within a year or so.

I suppose to gain a born again virgin soul is really to regain the innocence of a child. We were all once children, so innocent and then experience came in and made us fall from that state of grace. This is so beautifully expressed in William Blake’s  “Songs of Innocence and Experience”.

William Blake's Frontispiece for "Songs of Innocence and Experience"

The Divine Image   by William Blake                                      

The Divine Image

       

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God our Father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity, a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.