All posts by admin

Universal Worship: Experiencing the Divine

This is the Talk given at a Universal Worship presented by The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne on Sunday 12th November, at the Toorak Uniting Church.

Below are the sacred readings which were read as part of the service.

We all have experience of the Divine, even though we do not always recognise the experience as such. Sufis believe that we are part of the Divine One, and so the Divine is part of all of us; our mind is part of the Mind of God, our heart, within the Heart of God. So to experience the Divine we need to turn inward. As a drop in the ocean of the Divine, how does the drop experience the Ocean?

All the great Beings such as Krishna, Buddha, Zarathushtra, Moses, Jesus, and Mahomed and many others ‘known and unknown to the world’ have had a direct ‘seeing’ of the Divine and this has been described in the readings we have just had. It is almost impossible to describe these experiences, except perhaps in poetry. There are many similarities, and yet some differences, related to the time and culture of the peoples perhaps.

Fire and Light

Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita described the Supreme Personality of the Godhead, as unlimited and full of glaring, brilliant, radiance. It was glaring like the sun and its many faces were rapidly changing. although being faced with a living God is terrifying.  Because Arjuna has been able to experience this, as a human, means that we too can have this knowledge. The experience is not something that can be described – we catch it in a glimpse of the whole universe in the beauty of nature, when we are open to receive it. It is a peak experience, which can guide our whole life.

Zarathushtra too, experienced the Divine (Ahura Mazda) as Fire: – Ahura Mazda’s first thought blazed into myriads of sparks of light. It is interesting that the Ahura Mazda brings with him, his daughter, the Divine Feminine, the enlightened guide, full of love and compassion. Moses too sees God in flames of fire, from within a bush – but it was a fire which did not burn or destroy. This is a mystery!

In the Koran the Light (Nur)  is also spoken of as  being everywhere, neither from the East or West, even though flame touched it not. Again Light without flame.  ‘Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth’, says the Koran. This Light is Nur the Uncreated Light of God. Physical light is but a reflection of the true Light in the world of reality, and that true Light is God. We can only think of God in terms of our phenomenal experience, and in the phenomenal world, light is the purest thing we know. But light is dependent on so many things – energy, space and time. The perfect Light of God is free from any such defects. The lamp is the core of the spiritual Truth, the glass is the transparent medium through which the light passes, but protects the light from moths (low life or motives in man), gusts of wind (passions). So the spiritual Truth has to be filtered through human language or human intelligence to make it intelligible to mankind. Glorious illimitable Light, cannot be described or measured – it illuminates the mind and understanding.

Meditation – turning inward.

It is while Siddharta was sitting under a jambu-tree, pondering life, death, and the evils of decay, while concentrating, that he became free from confusion. All desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquillity came over him and a deep compassion filled his heart. So we are given the hint that it is by concentrating that we can achieve this state of ecstasy and knowing in ourselves. His inner voice showed him that everything contains its own opposite – where there is heat, there is the possibility of cold, where creatures feel pain there is also the faculty of pleasure.  We must seek the great deathless lake of Nirvana in which to purify ourselves of these opposites and rise above them into unity. If we do not find it, it is not the fault of the lake. It is interesting that Ahura Mazda also brought with him, love and compassion, so these are common to both religions. And Zarathushtra asserts that silent meditative thought is best for mankind.

Known and recognised.

I find it very moving that Moses was called by name by his Lord – he was known. In our own experience of God there is also this deep sense of being known and deeply accepted, even loved. It is as if God is holding out his hands to us. We can communicate with God, Just as Moses did on Mount Sanai. Moses answered, ‘Here I am!’ I think this means that we should respond to the call of God, and let him know we are hearing Him.

Being faced with a living God is terrifying! “Take off your sandals” says the Lord. This is a sign of respect and humility – the ground was made sacred by the Divine Presence, and so it was proper to take off his sandals. Moses was in the presence of the Divine.

When Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan, he experienced the Divine directly, as the heaven being torn open and the holy spirit descending on him like a dove. And Jesus heard the voice of the Lord saying “You are my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” This was a powerful experience of being known, like Moses, and being loved as a son, and of having pleased his Lord by his very being. John had foretold that one would come after him, who would baptise us all with the holy spirit.

All of these prophets were known and named by the One – the Divine, as are we all. The Divine knows each one of us. It is said that if we take one step towards God, then God takes a hundred steps towards us.

In our prayer Salat, we say:-

O Messenger, Christ, Nabi, the Rasul of God!
Thou whose heart constantly reacheth upward;
Thou comest on earth with a message as a dove from above when Dharma decayeth, and speakest the Word that is put into Thy mouth, as the light filleth the crescent moon. —-

All the messengers of God have had a direct experience, often in a time when the social order was in decay – when the world was in chaos. Their understanding of the message of God when taught to his followers, eventually became a religion. But it is this direct experience of the Divine, which speaks to us in the same way, when we understand and accept  the Truth we are being shown.

 

Experiencing the Divine.

We shall read from the Hindu Scripture

After seeing this universal form, which I have never seen before, I am gladdened, but at the same time my mind is disturbed with fear. Therefore please bestow Your grace upon me and reveal again Your form as the Personality of Godhead, O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, happily have I shown you, by My internal potency, this supreme universal form within the material world. No one before you has ever seen this primal form, unlimited and full of glaring effulgence.

===========================================================================

We shall read from the Buddhist Scriptures

While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld with his mind’s eye under the jambu-tree a lofty figure endowed with majesty, calm and dignified. “Whence comest thou, and who mayest thou be?” asked the prince.

In reply the vision said: “I am a samana. Troubled at the thought of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for happiness that does not decay; the treasure that will never perish; the life that knows no beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought.

We shall read from the Zoroastrian Scriptures

Then I realised You as Bountiful,
O Mazda Ahura,
When the Good Mind encircled me.
His question was:
“Which party will you claim as your own?”
Zarathushtra replied:
“Henceforth, I will consecrate my homage to your Fire,
And as long as I am able I will meditate upon Your Truth.”

“Therefore grant me Truth whom I invoke.”
Then Ahura Mazda replied:
“I come to you with my daughter,
Armaiti, (full of love and compassion).
Place before us your searching questions
for by that questioning you will gain the Sovereignty
by which you will obtain understanding.

=======================================================================

We shall read from the Jewish Scriptures

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

=======================================================================

We shall read from the Christian Scriptures

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by Jothn in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

=======================================================================

We shall read from the Scripture of Islam.

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.  His light is like a niche wherein is a lamp, the lamp encased in glass, the glass as if it were a shining star. From a blessed tree the lamp is kindled, whose oil is neither from the East nor West, whose blessed oil would well-nigh shine out, even though flame touched it not!
It is light upon light. Allah guides into this light whom He wills; and Allah sets forth Parables to men, for Allah is the knower of all things.

=======================================================================

We read from the Gayan.

In the brightness of day and in the darkness of night what didst Thou not teach me! Thou hast taught me what is meant by wrong and what is called right. Thou hast shown me the hideous face of life, and Thou hast unveiled before me life’s beautiful countenance. Thou hast taught me wisdom out of utter darkness of ignorance. Thou has taught me to think after my thoughtless movements. Thou playest with me, my Beloved Lord and Master, hide and seek! Thou closest mine eyes and Thou dost open them.

 

Do not hide your Light!

 

‘Knowledge is the light of life. It is the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. The true light has always been in the world and it illuminates every person born into the world. It was in the world and the world is living  only because it had that light of knowledge within itself, but the world did not hold on to it.
It revealed itself to its own, but its own did not keep it. Only the ones who understood the knowledge, they alone were given the opportunity to become like it, by virtue of their belief in its essence. Those who believed in the fact that life is based in knowledge did not become the sons of the flesh, but became sons of knowledge.’[1] So wrote Tolstoy in his truly insightful book on the gospel.  Jesus said “You are the light for the world, so do not hide your light, but show it to people. After all, having lit a light, no one puts it under a bench, they put it on the table so that it shines for everyone in the room. Likewise, you must not hide your light, but you must show it in your actions, so that people can see that you know the truth. And, seeing your good works, they will come to understand your heavenly father.”[2]

In the fairy tales we have been delving into, the Feminine is constrained into hiding her light. She is ‘enchanted’ into wearing a frog-skin, or she is hidden in the depths of the ocean (of the unconscious). The hero’s quest is to find her, but the Feminine herself has her own quest to make her light shine forth. She must ‘get rid’ of her frog skin, and gain the ‘knowledge’ (enlightenment) to become the Queen she really is.

In a recent discussion on ‘From Lucifer to Satan’, at the Melbourne Jung Society, Lucifer as the Angel of Light, holds our awareness of our beauty, pride and our sense of being special. We have been taught that Lucifer is the fallen angel, but Lucifer is only ‘fallen’ when the ego grabs our concept of beauty and pride within ourselves. The shadow side of Lucifer can be narcissism and inflation – thinking of ourselves as being more important than we are. Lucifer is the light bringer – where the mind splits into opposites, the Light brings together the opposites into unity. Lucifer is in effect, the masculine Venus, or Freya, (Goddesses of Love, Light, and Beauty).

It is so easy for the feminine in the patriarchy to hide herself: to wear the frogskin. We can very often see this in the body language. Hunched over, head down, trying to disappear; to not be noticed. Our gaze is directed to the ground, rather than to the heavens. Raise your gaze, so that the world can see your beautiful eyes. Raise your gaze so that you can see the magnificence of the mountain tops. It is as if we have been enchanted, as it says in the frog princess story. The mind reflects the body and the body reflects the mind. Our training and our practice in the spiritual realm allows us to become aware of our beauty, and to be proud of what we have achieved. As Tolstoy shows us, to show our light in our actions, so that people can see the Truth.

The collective shadow is Satan, who stands as an accuser, tempter, and transgressor. Satan deflates our sense of importance and reminds us that we are frail corruptible flesh. It is Satan who prevents us from shining our Light. But he tempts us to move from austere self-sacrifice to the joy of earthly pleasure. He undermines obedience with a call toward self-reliance and a disregard of laws and conventions.

In his reflection on the life of Jesus, Tolstoy shows us a Jesus who went beyond the laws and conventions of his time, to teach the fulfilment of the eternal law, of the mystery of the other inner realm. Jesus defines his own spiritual laws most beautifully in the Beatitudes.[3] The shadow of Satan is unrestrained selfishness and power over others.

There is a very beautiful quote, by Marianne Williamson, often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’[4]

It is interesting to note that the fathers of both the Princess Vassilisa (in the Frog Princess) and Princess Zezolla (in Cenerentola) can also represent the patriarchy. It is the patriarchy which is not in relationship with the Divine Feminine, and sees the feminine as a young maiden, or virgin. For the feminine to disengage herself from this misunderstanding, is a momentous task and why it is so remarkable that Princess Zezolla achieves this.

 

 

[1] Tolstoy, Leo. The life of Jesus. The Gospel in brief. Translated by Dustin Condren. Harper Perennial New York 2011

[2]ibid p 4

[3] ibid p 37

[4] Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love, HarperCollins, 1996

Trust No-One!

Nawab’s reply to my last blog has really shown the difficulty of the descent into the ashes and the hardship endured for spiritual purposes.

He wrote:- ‘Another way of seeing the death of Zezolla’s mother is: the birth of the independence of the soul, no longer tied to the Source from which we come. Then the descent into the ashes is a perfectly clear picture of every soul’s descent into the world of hard labour and limitation. What makes Zezolla remarkable is that her exile becomes her apprenticeship, and she becomes able to reclaim her royal nature. The ancient Hindus called hardship endured for spiritual purposes ‘tapasya’, meaning purification by fire, and it was the practice of some yogis to go and sit among the cinders of the cremation grounds as a way of mastering themselves.’

The apprenticeship is difficult, and it is a long one. It is not something that can or should be done quickly – it needs patience and Perseverance. The purification by fire is also painful – we see this in the fairy tales we are studying.

The longing for the Divine Sophia or Source which we have ‘lost’ is both painful and yet drives us on the do the Inner Work. The longing that we have for the Divine Source, points us to the Goal of our journey.

When Petru returns from the Fairy of the dawn with the magical water of life, the Goddess warns him:

‘Beware of your life; make friends with no man, do not ride fast, or let the water go out of your hand, believe no one; and flee flattering tongues. Go, take care, for the way is long, the world is bad, and you hold something very precious.’

Having achieved some level of insight or enlightenment, we begin to see the world and the people in it acting and reacting from ego. It reminds me of the old Indian legend where a young man asks his Teacher to show him a clear vision of the world as it is. When the cover was lifted from his eyes, he saw every human being with the face of some animal, except one, the Teacher himself. All these animals are within us, so we recognise them in others. This can cause us to react to these aspects of ourselves in others in a very harsh way. Our task is to master these ‘animals’ by the practices we are given by our Teacher; but it can make the spiritual life a very lonely one. Who can we trust?

The animals which Prince Ivan meets in the story of the Frog Princess, are aspects of himself which he does not like and immediately wants to kill them. We repress the parts of ourselves we do not like or want. Often they are not negative but powerful and fierce, like the ferocious bear. Girls especially, are not encouraged to nurture this in themselves. I certainly repressed this side of myself. Similarly the speedy and tricky hare, although an aspect of the Great Mother, is not honoured. So it is with all the animals that Prince Ivan encounters. But the all animals  beg him to spare them, as they will be useful in his journey later. When we have mastered our inner animals, we no longer fear them and can use them appropriately. We can also have compassion for others who are held captive, or in thrall to them.  These aspects are in control rather than the person. We see this in the addictions and in the violence, which beset us.

We need a Teacher for this work – a Being who knows and understand the path, who has fought his or her own demons, and who can mirror back to us, these ’animal’ aspects of ourselves, and guide us towards mastery. We are given practices, just as Cenerentola was given by the Dove of the fairies, so that slowly, over the years, we can re-claim our royal nature.

 

From Princess to Queen: the evolution of the Feminine.

In an earlier Blog, I posited the notion that the Princess Zezolla had brought about her own ‘descent’ to the cinders, in the story of Cenerentola.  Her act was similar to the act of burning the frogskin, in the story of the Frog Princess. Zezolla had in fact ‘burned’ her previous life as a princess, to sit amongst the ashes of this life, to quietly work on herself, amongst the cinders.

Someone in a recent workshop, was very disturbed by this and really disliked and resented the princess for, using, manipulating, and even tricking the men in her life, like her father, and even the servant of the King, so as to promote her own evolution.

This caused some interesting discussion in the group and, so I would like address this and  delve more deeply into this topic, as it is in fact very important.

In the opening scene of the story, Princess Zezolla is mourning the death of her beloved mother. Her father the prince adores her and sees the world through her eyes only. This is a telling phrase – for it is not appropriate for a father and a prince to see the world from the vantage of his young daughter, who represents his soul. He no longer has a mature and evolved feminine side or soul.

This would appear to reflect an aspect of the patriarchy which sees the feminine as young, childlike, and virginal. It is not fashionable to be rounded and voluptuous of body; women try to look like young girls, even when they could be grandmothers. This really infantilises the feminine and is open to issues of power and control of the feminine by the masculine.

It reminds me of a male friend who used to smile benignly at my interest in mysticism and the inner life. I was metaphorically patted on the head and told to go out and ‘play’. It was patronising, and the relationship could not sustain this attitude. The patriarchy is afraid of a fully evolved and powerful feminine, like the Goddess Freya, or even Hestia.

So there is something in the Prince (Zezolla’s father) who allowed the glorious feminine side of him to die. In this way Zezolla ‘lost’ her mother. The only thing for her to do was to disallow her father to ‘use’ her in this way, by  projecting his ‘soul’ onto his daughter.

Thus Zezolla persuaded her father the prince, to marry her nurse / governess – this would seem to be an appropriate match for him, given his level of evolution. He was not up to marrying a princess, although a prince should really marry a princess. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the patriarchy.

Zezolla, in truth, has ‘burned’ this part of her life, so that she could be free to develop and evolve in her own way, to become the Queen she really is. This is her way of burning the frog-skin.

All characters in this story are aspects of the one, of Zezolla herself, and so of us all. The feminine must not be seen and related to as a young, innocent girl, to be bought off with trinkets, lovely food and pretty clothes. Neither must the feminine in us be used, like the trophy wife in the Frog Princess story. The frog-skin, in the life of a virgin daughter must be totally disposed of – burned, so that she can sit amongst the ashes or cinders, in the central hearth or heart, as ‘Cenerentola’, totally herself, without pretences, without airs and graces, in mastery of her self, her ego. In this way, by doing her daily practice, which was given to her by her Teacher – The Dove of the Fairies, she becomes Queen and is recognised as such by the young King. Note that she becomes a Queen in her own right and not simply because she has married a King.

The masculine must not be allowed to dominate and control, and take over the process, as the young prince did, in burning his wife’s frog skin, in the story of the Frog Princess.

 

 

The Centre of All – in Cenerentola

Robert Johnston has given a beautiful image of the sacred quest by way of describing the Grail Legend. The Grail castle is much like the shining white castles which are talked about in the fairy tales. It is the central sacred place. Contained within is Holy Grail – a goblet which is never empty. When we drink from the Grail cup we experience the ‘water of Life’, enlightenment! We could see the beautiful white castle in the Fairy of the Dawn, as the Grail Castle.

The hero often discovers the Grail Castle in his teens, as a peak experience which cannot really be described. He is not quite ready to answer the Grail question and so must find the Grail castle again in middle age. He will be only be admitted to the Grail Castle when he correctly answers the Grail question: ‘Whom does the Grail Serve?’ The sacred water of life is the goal of so many quests. Johnston has said that men must quest for the Grail castle but women live in it. Thus the quest for soul and the sacred, is quite different for the Feminine.

In the story of Cenerentola, this is evident. The Centre is the central hearth which was in ancient times the shrine of Hestia, the first born of the Olympian gods and goddesses and the chief of the goddesses in ancient times, but now is practically unknown.  In Hestia’s time, every household’s hearth was Hestia’s shrine and the implications of this are fundamental to the understanding of this story.

The symbolism of the hearth should not be overlooked; it becomes the realm of Cenerentola. The central hearth also had a ritualistic focus for government and was served by the most powerful state officials. It was the Centre of All, of everything.

Hestia was the virgin goddess of the hearth, and of architecture and the right ordering of domesticity, the family and the state. It is said that both Apollo and Poseidon vied for her hand in marriage, but for her to choose one over the other would have meant war, so she chose to remain a virgin and serve her brother, Zeus, in his household hearth.

Peace became one of Hestia’s major attributes. Her name means the Essence, the true nature of things. We see that Zezolla’s descent to the hearth and becoming Cenerentola really means that she is now, quietly and unobtrusively in the service of the feminine, of Sophia / Hestia and the inner life and mysteries.

It was Hestia’s traits, not her actions that most defined her, Hestia was gentle, mild, forgiving, peaceful, serene, dignified, calm, secure, stable, welcoming and, above all else, well-centred, the guardian of inmost things. She was non-judgmental and forgiving, her “unconditional love” and calm acceptance inspired the love and trust of others in return.

Dependable and caring, Hestia was always there for others and helped them to manage their lives, which were certainly more exciting than her own. The circle symbolized Hestia as the ‘complete’ goddess, the goddess who was whole, ‘one complete within herself’. Hestia was, not only psychologically ‘centred ‘, but also representing the centre, the centre of the home and family, the city, and even the world itself.

The little date tree is also a symbol of the Centre; its trunk being like the Qutub in the centre of All, the pillar of Wisdom. The date palm, represents the Centre within the Centre. It was here beside her date tree, that Cenerentola did her spiritual practices, and cared for the ‘tree’ itself. Caring for it was part of her practice. Weeding, watering, polishing its leaves – it was a reflection of her inner life, and it was her practice.

The little palm tree at the centre of All, was the Wish-fulfilling tree of the stories, and it is when we are in our own Centre, and centred that we have our deepest wishes and prayers fulfilled.

 

Why is the Witch so scary? The Wicked Witch vs the Witch as Teacher

I have been asked how come the witch as a Teacher does not appear in most fairy tales. It is a good question. The stories I have used in my book have been carefully chosen as spiritual teaching tales. They are very ancient and seem to have retained their original purpose and meaning, although hidden. The witch or Baba Yaga featured in these stories is a powerful and wise teacher, who must be approached with respect. The Teacher only ‘helps’ when she knows that the seeker is genuine, dedicated and truly on the inner path (the journey of enlightenment).

The Fairy (according to Wikipedia) is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural. In many ways the fairy and the witch fulfil a similar function in fairy tales. The Dove of the Fairies (in the story of Cenerentola) is a powerful, loving and wise teacher.

In the more modern version of the tale (as Cinderella), the Dove of the Fairies becomes the fairy God-Mother. This is rather misleading, as it gives the impression that to become an evolved ‘Queen’ is just the result of the waving of a magic wand. Cenerentola, in the original story, is given a little date tree which she must nurture and this is her daily practice. As a result of this practice she becomes and is recognised as a Queen. The inner work still has to be done, even though it may seem like magic.

But the scary witch who frightens children is also a powerful archetype, but quite different to the Witch Teacher. There was no doubt in my mind as a five-year-old child, that my heart had been stolen by the wicked witch, and replaced by an icicle, just as in the story my father used to read to me, or should I say, tried to read to me. I just could not bear him telling me this tale (The Blue Pearl by Kathleen Fidler). It was written in the 1940s and was perhaps a manifestation of what happens to the ‘good mother’ in war time.

I find it interesting that in Cenerentola, the good and loving mother had ‘died’, and the step-mother and her daughters became ‘wicked’ in the Cinderella version of the story. In truth, they were not wicked as such but simply not ‘wise’. They were outer directed materialistic women of the world, rather than deeply mystical or spiritual. The step mother did her best, as do our own mothers, but that was not enough for Cenerentola. Perhaps this happens at a certain stage of our childhood, when we realise that our mother is only human, with her own failings. For someone on the inner path, this is not enough, especially when the outer mother has been traumatised or damaged in some way, and we are unable to connect with her.

It was only while writing The Weaving section of my book, that I really understood my mother’s difficult journey and how this impacted on my own. She had been abused and traumatised while escaping Hitler’s Vienna with my Jewish father and must have suffered from PTSD as a result. She was highly anxious and nervous. Children become self-aware at around five years of age, so it no surprise that this is when the wicked witch manifests, as a frightening aspect of mother. At that time, my mother took me through post war Europe (1948) from N. Ireland to Vienna. This was a long and difficult journey – crossing of the Irish Sea, and the English channel, as well as numerous train journeys across borders. My only memory is of dark, cold and fear, waiting on platforms for trains that never seemed to come. My mother must have been terrified, but she felt compelled to visit her much loved sisters and brothers in Vienna. Without my warm and loving father, my mother became the witch who stole my happy heart. These insights have resolved so many things for me and I now feel very sorry for my poor mother, who,  like the step-mother in the story, she did her best for me.

Eventually, after much searching, I found my own Teacher and followed my path. It takes a Witch to master a Witch.

 

The Centre of All – The Yellow River in Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram

Gold Chisel in his battle with the god of the Yellow River.

The story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, is an ancient Han Chinese fairy tale in which the Yellow River is the source of the sacred water of Life, it is a sacred river, just as the Ganges is the sacred river of India.

In our prayer Pir (to our Teacher) we say:

 Inspirer of my mind, consoler of my heart, healer of my spirit,
Thy presence lifteth me from earth to heaven,
Thy words flow as a sacred river,
Thy thought riseth as a divine spring, —-

The Yellow River as a sacred source can be seen in the words of ‘Pir’, ‘Thy words flow as the sacred river.’ The teachings flow as from a sacred river. This is the water of life.

In the story of Golden Chisel, the hero, is questing for the sacred water, which tradition teaches, will one-day flow from the lips of a stone ram. Golden Chisel did not have a Teacher as in other stories, – there was only the remnant of a tradition or prophecy in the village to guide him. Golden Chisel, our hero, finds a brilliant shining stone, in the dried-up village pond, roughly in the shape of a ram. From this, he chiselled the stone ram of the prophesy. Golden Chisel made an Ideal of God, or in other words, a structure of a belief for himself. This stone ram, when completed, comes alive and speaks to Golden Chisel. Following this the ram agrees to fetch the sacred water from the Yellow River, each night, so that the village has fresh spring water for its spiritual nourishment.

Golden Chisel does not go with the ram, as in other stories, where the steed, usually a horse, guides and carries the hero on his journey. In European fairy tales, the hero, having won his ‘horse’ after a great battle, rides the horse or psychopomp through the inner realms to the Centre, to find the sacred water. The psychopomp can be understood as the internalised teachings and teacher which carried him from one realm to the next, and who guides and teaches him on his journey.

As we have already said, Golden Chisel, does not have a teacher. All that was left for him in the village was an old tradition. He had to chisel the teachings for himself, out of the hard stone of this tradition, until he had created his  ram. He created his own structure of belief –  his own system. So, it was that the stone ram went to fetch the water for the village each and every night, from the Yellow River.

But after a long time, one night, the little stone ram, does not return, from fetching the water. Golden Chisel goes in search of him and finds him lying by the path – his forehoof broken. The jealous God of the Yellow River had attacked and grievously wounded him.

This wounding or loss of self, can be seen as a psychosis or a Spiritual emergency. This can happen when the Kundalini is awakened without preparation and knowledge, or when we venture deep into the Centre without being taught and prepared.

If we understand that we are all One, we are simply drops in the Ocean of Consciousness – we are part of the Divine One. When we dive into this ocean, we need to hold onto our sense of ourselves, our sense of ‘dropness’. If we do not do this, we can lose ourselves, lose our minds.

Without a teacher, Golden Chisel did not know or understand how to approach this sacred territory. There is a way of approaching this task, which must be understood. It is a dangerous quest, as we see in the story of the fairy of the dawn. In that story, the hero is given a tiny flute which he must play, while he is in the sacred realm of the spring, to subdue the beings which reside there. The Centre is guarded by the Fairy of the Dawn, who could be considered as one of the Archangels surrounding the Throne of God – the Centre in that story.  In this story, it is the God of the Yellow River, who guards the Centre, and who has grievously wounded the stone ram. We too can become seriously wounded, when we are not prepared properly for the quest.

Golden Chisel carried the wounded stone ram home and made for him a golden fore-hoof. So, we see that this terrible wounding can he healed – healed with the gold of Divine Light, with the knowledge of the teachings experienced directly. This also is a long process.

But now Golden Chisel is angry and wants to avenge the injury to his ram.

Golden Chisel took the Sun-and-Moon talisman that had been passed down through his family, and confronted the God of the Yellow River. Ancestor worship was prevalent in China, and still is, so this talisman, is a powerful symbol of his spirituality which he has from his family, even in his DNA.

The God of the Yellow River, attacked with various weapons such as cold and the turtle demons. It seems to me that the turtle demons may reflect the problem of the flooding of the Yellow river (see history below). But I also think that he – the ram, is attacked with cold reason and logic, with the head, rather than the heart. It could have represented a great conflict between a new belief system as rediscovered by Colden Chisel, and an older established religion.

The God had no answer when Golden Chisel told him that the sacred water flows for everybody and does not belong to any one God. The jealous God, thus was defeated by the power of the Sun-and-moon talisman, where the sun represents the masculine principle, and the moon the feminine, united together they represent the Divine Light – Nur. It is this Divine Light, which defeated the jealous god. Begging for mercy, the God of the Yellow River asked Golden Chisel what he wanted, and Golden Chisel and the ram answered with one voice that they wanted fresh water for the village. The God then took from his mouth, a pearl, saying that when the stone ram would hold it in his mouth, fresh water would flow from it forever.

However, the ending of this tale seems to be paradoxical. In returning to the village, the stone ram was ‘seen’ by a young cowherd, as a light shooting towards him. He cried out for everyone to look at Golden Chisel riding a stone ram. But when the ram heard this he immediately transformed into a heap of rocks, out of which flowed a limpid, sweet spring, so fulfilling the prophecy.

When we chisel out our Ideal of God, and indeed mend this from time to time, when it gets damaged,  we have constructed an inner structure of understanding the Truth of the world. Once the Light is perceived by the people or parts of ourselves, who are able to see it, like the young cow-herd, then the water constantly flows from the spring pure and sweet without any intermediary.

This water constantly flows from the sacred Centre of All, when we know how to access it.

Some background history:

The Yellow River is known as the “Mother River of China” and “the Cradle of Chinese Civilization”:  its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations and the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

The Great Flood of China, also known as the “Gun-Yu myth” (Yang:74), was a major flood event that continued for at least two generations, and which resulted in great population displacements among other disasters, such as storms and famine: according to mythological and historical sources. Treated either historically or mythologically, the story of the Great Flood and the heroic attempts of the various human and other characters to control it and to abate the disaster is a narrative fundamental to Chinese culture. It is also one of the main flood motifs in Chinese mythology, and it is a major source of allusion in Classical Chinese poetry. Various divine or heroic persons or beings contributed to control or in some cases worsen the flooding, including the mysterious bird-turtles of the Heavenly Questions of the Chuci. The main river involved according to tradition, was the Yellow River, and one of the keys to the eventual successful efforts to control the flood waters is traditionally the Yellow River Map.

Fu Xi, also known as Paoxi, is still actively worshipped in modern China. Fu Xi was a culture hero credited with his sister Nüwa with repopulating the world in the aftermath of a great flood, as well as with establishing civilization afterwards. Among his inventions was the Yellow River Map, from which he derived the first trigrams which later composed the I Ching. It is interesting that C G Jung wrote the Forward to the I Ching.

Bagua is a main concept in Chinese philosophical thought: eight figures of mythical origin and emblematic significance that are specifically said to be related to the Yellow River Map and the Luoshu Square. The origin of these concepts is prehistorical, and these have evolved into a complex body of literature, some of it more esoteric, and some less so. Derivation of the bagua has been conceived philosophically according to the taiji or other system in which original unity, symbolized by the bottom circle first differentiates into yin and yang symbolized by solid versus dashed lines. Eight possible unique groupings of these lines into three-line sets are possible. These sets of 3 are known as “trigrams”. Each trigram has its own proper name, in Chinese, and is also considered to possess or to symbolize various qualities of the natural, human, or heavenly worlds. Certain traditions suppose that the Yellow River Map and the Luo River Writing reveal all of these things to one who knows how to read them.

Wolfram Eberhard (sub “Square”, 276) says that the River Plan is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be a magic square. He connects it to the mingtang halls of worship, saying that they share a division into 9 fields: these in turn are correlated with the 9 “planets” (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu), introduced from and according to Indian astronomy. Other sources emphasize these points for the Luo River Writing. Another interpretation of the River Diagram has to do with the 5 “elements” (wuxing) and the 5 cardinal directions.[1]

 

 

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_River_Map  July 2017

The Centre of ‘All’ – in the Frog Princess

The Centre of All – that most sacred of places and spaces, has a completely different look and feel, in the Frog Princess story, to that Centre we talked about in The Fairy of the Dawn, in the previous blog.

After Prince Ivan has burned his wife’s frog-skin, she has ‘flown away’ to the realm of Kashchey the deathless, which incredibly is described much like the shining white palace in the Fairy of the Dawn. At least at the end of the story.

He comes to this central place where he meets his Teacher and enacts his final task to release his soul (wife) from Kashchey the Deathless.

Prince Ivan sees a little hut standing on a chicken leg at the edge of the forest. This is the abode of the Baba Yaga, the witch of Slavic fairy tales. The hut is standing on a chicken leg and turning round and round. There are no windows or doors. The spindly chicken leg makes me think of a Qutub or ‘pillar’ that is at the centre of the mystical realm. When doing Zikar the participants turn around this inner centre or ‘pole’, like the whirling dervish turning around his own centre. It could also be the Kundalini. It is the pole of the internal microcosm and the centre of the world. It is here that the visionary can meet his personal Holy Spirit. Communication with the ‘Alam al-mithal’ or Creative Imagination is possible only at the ‘centre of the world.’

 

We are told that the Baba Yaga’s hut contains a stove on which lies the Baba Yaga. The stove (a Russian stove)  symbolises the great Heart and centre of all, and I find it most astonishing that it seems to be the ‘altar’ on which lies the Baba Yaga with her nose pressed up against the ceiling.

In other words, there is no room above the stove (heart) for anything else except the Baba Yaga. The Baba Yaga represents the great Teacher, or Guide of Souls, for those who know how to face her and request her help. The house of the Baba Yaga is constantly turning but Prince Ivan has been taught enough to know what to do in this situation. He says his incantation, ‘Turn your back to the forest and your face to me’.

 

In other words, face me so I can enter the deep forest or mysterious realm. Of course, Baba Yaga knew everything that was happening and explains how difficult and dangerous it would be to get the Princess away from Kashchey the Deathless.

 

She tells him that to kill Kashchey, the prince must realise that Kashchey’s ‘death’ is right at the point of a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck in the hare and the hare is sitting in a stone chest which is in a lofty oak and Kashchey guards the oak, as he would the apple of his eye. This is mysterious and seriously long and difficult work – to the point literally, the place where his disjunction with his soul originated.

 

This Centre is the place of the Divine Presence, the place where we can be guided by the ‘Great Teacher and Guide of souls. It is only here that we can defeat Kashchey the deathless. All the lessons we have learned on our own journey, now help us. Often there are ‘traits’ or aspects of ourselves which we have perhaps wanted to ‘kill’ or reject. Every part of us, is part of the One – we should not judge our traits, only master them. The ferocious strength of the bear, is needed to uproot the giant oak for instance. We need the speed and trickiness of the hare, the duck whose realm is water and air – who can fly, and which carries the cosmic egg within it. The aggressive but wise pike, which can find this egg which has been dropped into the depths of the sea, of the unconsciousness. In the story of the Little Humpbacked Horse, it is the feisty perch who is the only one who can find the Tsar-Maid’s signet ring, in the mud at the bottom of the ocean. We have to discover these aspects of ourselves within us and use them on our journey.

 

But it is the hero or we ourselves, who must crack the cosmic egg and find that point of the needle, the point at the centre of All, where the disjunction with his soul originated. We must find that point for ourselves – perhaps go back to a memory, within a memory, and again to a previous memory, a long long time! until we get back to the first time it happened. The first time we lost contact with our soul. When we find this point, we are released and the soul is free.

That small point of the needle also represents that Centre of All, in the Centre of All. A dot is only a very small circle after all.

 

 

The Centre of ‘All’ – in the Fairy of the Dawn

In almost all of the fairy tales I have worked with, there is a central ‘place’, where the hero or heroine is in the Divine Presence – is in unity with the Divine, and here can achieve his or her purpose. It is always a journey to the Centre. I used to imagine that I was journeying ‘down’ into myself when in meditation or contemplation: then I heard that in some religions, the spiritual is upwards. But in understanding that the journey is towards the Centre, makes perfect sense. One can be going down or up depending on where we are on the Circle.

The structure of the inner realm is beautifully described in the story of the Fairy of the dawn. The ‘world’ can be seen as an onion, with the realm of consciousness and the material manifestation being the outer layer of the onion. From here, the hero Petru, must f journey to the very edge of his father, the Emperor’s realm. This is the realm of the Heart in Sufism and it is vast. This is surrounded by a deep abyss over which there is only one bridge, guarded by a fearsome dragon. Only by overcoming the dragon, can Petru enter into the deeper, strange and mysterious realm of the ‘creative imagination’ or collective unconscious.

Here the hero journeys through the copper, silver, and finally the golden woods, fighting monster Welwas, along the way, and releasing them from enchantment, so that they can now help him.

Having survived the woods, and come this far, Petru enters the realm of the great goddesses, first Mercury (Mittwoch, German for Wednesday) – who is the communicator between the realms, then Thunder (Donnerstag, German for Thursday) and finally Freya (Freitag, German for Friday), the great goddess of Love and the Guide of souls in the ‘Otherworld’. That the Goddesses are given names of the week indicate, a progression of time on the journey –  that the soul spends a long time in each of these realms, is a very  long time in human terms.  That they are given Norse names shows that this Fairy Tale has Norse roots and is in fact ancient and pre-Christian, even though the story is said to be Rumanian.

The goddess Freya teaches Petru how to make his way to the Fairy of the Dawn, so that he can achieve his task in taking some of the water from the sacred well at the Centre. She gives him a tiny flute, so that when he plays on it, all the creatures, in the fairy realm, including the great Fairy of the Dawn herself, are asleep, so he can achieve his precious quest and so rejuvenate and revitalise the world – the realm of the Feminine.

Once the hero journeys from the human realm, ever deeper towards the Centre, he finds himself in inner space – outside of time and space. These realms have been described as the Astral plane, the realm of the Jinns, the Angelic realms (from Cherubim to Seraphim), and the Archangels, with at its Centre, the Throne of God, which is surrounded by Archangels. Perhaps the great fairy of the Dawn is an Archangel. The Throne of God could well be the Divine Presence.

Our inner journey replicates this hero’s quest through the realms and back again.

Morality in a Time of Untruth

SYMPOSIUM: MORALITY IN A TIME OF UNTRUTH

by ZEE CHENG KHOR MORAL UPLIFTING SOCIETY INC & THE INTERFAITH CENTRE MELBOURNE.

From a Sufi perspective:

Since the dawn of humanity, there have been teachers, or messengers, who have come on earth, usually at a time of great need – when there is social chaos, or a breakdown in society. Perhaps even in a time of untruth. The message is the same, but because of the culture, geography, and the time when it is given, it has a different flavour. We honour these teachers, whether known or unknown to the world. Sufis have some special prayers which we say for our teacher or prophet. One of those is the prayer Rasul:

Warner of coming dangers,
Wakener of the world from sleep,
Deliverer of the Message of God,
Thou art our Saviour.
The sun at the dawn of creation,
The light of the whole universe,
The fulfilment of God’s purpose,
Thou the life eternal, we seek refuge in thy loving enfoldment.
Spirit of Guidance, Source of all beauty, and Creator of harmony,
Love, Lover, and Beloved Lord,
Thou art our divine ideal.

This prayer portrays in very beautiful terms the response of the seeker to the levels of guidance found in the teacher, the prophet, and the messenger.  Rasul begins with these words: ‘Warner of coming dangers, wakener of the world from sleep’ and sometimes the question comes, asked rather nervously, ‘What dangers? Is there some calamity for which we should be preparing?
We can suppose that our teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, foresaw a great deal of which he did not speak, but he made it very clear that the fundamental danger that lies before us today is the consequence of sleeping when we should be awake.  One might think of a sleepwalker approaching a cliff, or a driver sleeping at the wheel. For lack of a spiritual ideal, the world has fallen into a dense and snoring slumber, a drugged or intoxicated state one could say, filled with seductive dreams of the material consumerism, with the consequent fixation on possession and accumulation, on status and display. (Why do we take so many ‘selfies’?)  Even something as pure and simple as friendship is often perverted, when we cultivate an acquaintance for the sake of gain, rather than because we feel something in our heart for that person.

As Hazrat Inayat said, the Message or teachings are given as a lullaby to those who are sleeping, and a call to those who are beginning to awaken.  For the sleepers, they should rest until it is their time to rouse, that is natural, but at least they may have better dreams, dreams of gentleness, kindness, harmony, and beauty.  And for those who are struggling to wake up, the Message is there to stir us, to help pull us onto our feet and take responsibility for ourselves.  Though we seldom consider it, our every deed and impulse is in the service of something. It may be serving an ideal or a selfish desire or a preconceived notion we have picked up along the way, but our every thought, word and deed serves to advance something, and the more conscious we are, the more responsible we become for our service.  As an exercise, therefore, we could ask ourselves, as often as we remember to do so, ‘What does this serve?’  And we can be sure that the answer matters.  As it says in our Gayan,
Whichever path you choose, the right or the wrong, know that there is at the back always a powerful hand to help you along it.

The best we can do is to look inside ourselves, to find the Untruth within us, so that we can recognise it in others. We thus gain in wisdom, so that we can serve our community.

My thanks to Nawab for allowing me to use much of this material from his wonderful blog.

 

Leaders of the five religions or philosophies below took part in this symposium.

Precepts of the five religions or philosophies which took part in the symposium.

Christianity

Moral Codes for Christianity

The 10 Commandments List

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
  10. You shall not covet.

Also: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and Love your neighbour as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40)

Confucianism

Confucian principles are expressed in the goals of:

  • helping members of society to build a happy life;
  • popularizing traditional cultural education;
  • promoting the application of traditional culture in daily life;
  • preserving the wisdom of the teachings of the sages; and
  • enlightening people to implement moral education, by applying wisdom from sages’ teaching to lead a happy life, hence to have a complete and happy family and a harmonised society.

Dejiao

Ten virtues of Dejiao:

Filial piety

Brotherly love

Loyalty

Sincerity

Courtesy

Justice

Honesty

Sense of honour/shame

Humanity

Wisdom

 Eight precepts of Dejiao:

Do not cheat

Do not be untruthful

Do not be greedy

Do not be unreasonable

Do not be arrogant

Do not be lazy

Do not hate others

Do not be resentful

Sufism

Ten principal thoughts of all importance in Sufism for the inner human life:

1) There is one God, the Eternal, the Only Being; none else exists save God.

2) The one Master is the Guiding Spirit of all souls, who constantly leads followers toward the light. 3) There is one Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, which truly enlightens all readers.

4) There is one Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfils the life’s purpose of every soul.

5) There is one Law, the law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience together with a sense of awakened justice.

6) There is one human Brotherhood, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the Fatherhood of God.

7) The one Moral Principle is the love that springs from self-denial & blooms in deeds of beneficence. 8) There is one Object of Praise, the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.

9) The one Truth is true knowledge of our being within & without, which is the essence of all wisdom

10) There is one Path, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality and in which resides all perfection.

Taoism

Taoist Moral Code:

Philosophical Taoism seeks to realign humanity with nature and natural principles. As such, morality is seen in terms of excess and deficiency – too much or too little – rather than good and bad. The transformation of opposites (yin and yang) leads to an understanding of the appropriate action at the appropriate moment in time (alignment with the Tao). This idea allows for a fluid morality that can deal with constant change – the common, shared challenge of existence that we all must deal with.