Sunday, 6 November 2016

New Blog

From here on I am STARTING A BLOG. This post is all the blog entries from my old site. Running through it is the feeling that each glory of nature consists simply of their “isness”.. I first awoke to this concept many years ago, when I was standing in a coppice in front of a young tree and I asked myself: what is that tree for itself ? And at  that moment I found myself sharing, overwhelmingly, that core of the tree which I had asked for: it’s “isness”. At the base of all the ideas that arise is my regular visits to The Beech Grove: a discreet opening in the woods leads to beech trees ringing a round space with others beeches stand apart inside, Often I embrace the central tree, holding my forehead to its bark, then moving backwards a little way and touching my forehead to the ground, as I have learnt to do in the Sikh places of worship, when boying from their holy book, theGuru Granth Sahib.
A further strand concerns "wisdom": What is it? The bible helps with a major section known as the “Wisdom books”. It is quite different from being clever. I was clever when I was a professor of mathematics, but I have rarely been wise.
The core of my passion for the idea of Wisdom comes from the song O virtus Sapientie [O Wisdom’s energy!] by Hildegard of Bingen (my translation: see for text and alternative translation).
   O power of Wisdom!, you who in circling encircles and grasps all things into a living whole ...
   Three wings you have: one soars above into the heights, one sweats in the mire of the earth and the third flies through creation.
   Praise be to you, as is your due, O Wisdom.
The blog entries follow below, with the latest at the top

The longer time elapsed since the last blog has been an arid period, enlightened by my regular activities: an occasional drumming group, some meditation groups ... But today was richer, as I took a walk (more modest than13/10/16) over the Itchen bridge and then following the other side of the river Itchen as I had often done before. It was satisfying, including the enforced turning back when I encountered the high tide on Southampton Water. A new viewing of the familiar can be as satisfying as a discovery.
Coming back I dropped into the "sister church" of the one where I usually worship, populated only by two of the stolwards that keep the churches going. Having if they would mind this intended meditation (to which, of course, they cherefully agreed) I sung before the altar the first line of a poem by St Francis of  Assisi: "Oh Signore, fa di me uno strumento della tua pace" (O lord, make me an instrument of your peace).  
Had a gorgeous walk today through some nearby woods -- came home to look for ways of spreading this to other people, with lots of vague ideas -- went onto the internet for ideas to make this a reality -- drowned in irellevant complication.
So what is isness? First: when I encounter isness on my walk I see that is "nested". The isness of the leaf is within, and contributes to , the isness of the tree ... and so on. It's tempting to say that isness ultimately stems from the smallest elements of matter - quarks or whatever. (This is like the conclusion of the physicist Roger Penrose).  But this goes against the data of our feelings: yes, the isness of the smaller parts, around and within me, supply the "material" for my own isness: but I am also actively drawing together these smaller elements. "Being" derives from the drawing-up of the higher and the feeding from the more basic. This is reminiscent of the neo-platonic idea of existance arising from the "One" and the "indefinite dyad"
After an email conversation with an old friend (in both senses, but probably not older than me!) I'm turning back to my earlier thoughts
about the way in which animals (and in particular we humans!) make deliberate actions. I raise my hand "because I want to", whereas 
a rock falling by chance down a hill is simply part of the mechanical process of erosion. It feels as though this "deliberate action"
contains something that goes beyond mechanics: the "isness" that I noted on 13/10/16 is not just a passive feeling, but also an active intervention into the mechanics recognised by physics
A few days with our elder son and family. It's now becoming (for me) a much richer activity than in the past, when it was a feeling of duty: whereas now now it is community. We went with our grand-children to the "Dinosaur park" in the Chrystal Palace gardens and all, aged from 4 to 70 wowed at their lumbering magnificence chatted about the evolutionary strands.
And day by day the issue of "spirituality" raises its head. What is it? How is it to be included in among the mechanisations of science, the human struggles for freedom, the insanities of closed cliques, the mystery of the cosmos, the transcendent glory of nature?
13/10/16 (A long gap !)
Yesterday I had an extravagantly long walk from Southampton to Botley via (in part) the Itchen river paths, getting lost and going in a circle at one point ... realising that random walking can be a seriously bad idea!
But to return to the "What is spirituality" of the previous blog: I go with Meister Eckhart:
    "For you ask me: Who is God? What is God? I reply: Isness. Isness is God. Where there is isness, there God is. .
    Creation is the giving of isness from God.And that is why God becomes where any creature expresses God. Isness is so noble.
    No creature is so tiny that it lacks isness. If a caterpillar falls off a tree, it climbs up a wall in order to preserve its isness.So noble
    is isness!"
We’ve been clearing up old papers recently. One paper that recently emerged from the rubble was a brief exposition of the most well-known Hindu chant: the 24-sylable Gayatri, meaning “song of deliverance”. It is a prayer that first contemplates the glory of the highest supremacy, spoken of simply as Tat, “that”; and then prays that all beings may be fulfilled. Following this on my walk today, there came to mind another Indian concept, equally famous: the expression of our true nature known as “Sat-chit-ananda”, sometimes translated as “Pure being – Consciousness – Bliss”. To be truly awake (when is that?) is to recognise our true nature.
So when I was taking my walk, somewhat confused by these challenging ideas, I coined the mnemonic “from Sat to Tat”; and, realising I had (as usual!!) no pen or paper, I engraved “SAT – TAT” on a large, stout laurel leaf nearby so as to remind me on return. (It was illegible when I arrived at home, but the exercise had kept it in mind!) 
Then the walk offered gifts much more wonderful than these sophistries: there was the coming out from a deeply shaded path into a landscape all around me illuminated by the deep, rich brick-red light of the setting sun; and then seeing in the sky, a few minutes later, the sickle of a waxing moon.  The previous day at an ecumenical discussion group we were pondering “what is spirituality?”. I think I would now answer “to open our eyes to the gift from tat savitur vareniyam, the gift of all-embracing is-ness from the beetle to the cosmos”.

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