The Conscious Baby

Being a father has been the most interesting adventure in my life (almost a year!). I have observed not only the step-by-step making of a human being, but also my own development as I take on a new role in my life, a role I’ve partially lived with other children, but now can live full-time!

One thing I think a lot of us don’t realise is how sensitive and precise babies are as they develop. We think of them as a “uncivilised” and in need of education – which I don’t entirely disagree with, they need help “navigating” this complex social world – but a large part of how they are reflects how they are treated. If we treat them roughly, they will reflect that back into the world; if we treat them with gentleness and respect, more often than not, that is how they will approach the world.

Observing my daughter, I’ve learnt just how precise she can be at times and how delicate she can be with various objects. She can be a little rough with the cats, and we don’t let her handle some objects in case she breaks them or hurts herself, but she isn’t reckless or clumsy. When she is being “destructive” it can be almost scientific, experimental. She is actively making observations about how she can affect the world around her. The point is, this isn’t something she does all the time, she can be really selective and careful.

If we do not allow them the time or space to experience things on their own terms, it goes directly into the unconscious, and from there they have no choice but to accept it. We expose them to things that overwhelm them, cause them stress or otherwise harm them, and they have to learn to accept it. It is “normal” even if it shouldn’t be, even if they should be allowed to reject it.

On the other hand, if we let them have the space to observe the world on their own terms and let them interact with the world in way they can understand consciously, each action then becomes careful and deliberate. They learn not to react to the world but act within it as conscious agents, carefully choosing what they want to do with a myriad of options.

It’s a lie that babies “don’t notice anything” – they notice everything; it all gets recorded in their implicit memory, influencing how their brain develops and forming the bedrock of their personality. The trick is that if we treat babies well early on, it will become the foundation for their own approach to the world. But if we are not so careful with them, we are creating problems for ourselves later on and the “terrible twos” can unnecessarily be terrible and possibly beyond!

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Ecothought: Nature of the Soul

When I think of “me”, my ego identity, it isn’t the whole of me, just a fragment. The whole of me, my soul, is something higher, wider and deeper than anything I specifically identify with. It transcends. The body, seen by many as a mere container for the soul and/or ego, is closer to the wholeness of being than this “I”, so the body is closer to the soul than the ego… or it is the soul. It is higher, wider and deeper than the ego, and far closer to the wholeness of self than “I am…” The body transcends the ego.

My body isn’t a separate object, it is the convergence of many different interactions, connections and sensations. Everything is sensation, immersed in the webstrings of the senses. I do not need to search for a connection to nature, because I am nature, and it is only the fragment of the ego that takes seriously the illusion of being “disconnected.” My soul, my being, stretches and connects to the whole cosmos.

I am part of the continuum of nature. Nature is my soul.

Truth Against the World

“Truth Against the World” is the motto of Iolo Morganwg, inventor of many of modern Druidry’s traditions. I just want to take a little time to examine what it means, and why I’m only recently contemplating it seriously.

The mystics say “abandon  the world” which can be understood well… or not at all. Usually it is understood as the Earth or nature, so spirituality became associated with something “above and beyond” the world of matter. Ecologically speaking, this has been a disaster, hence my reluctance to accept Iolo’s motto. We really don’t want to add to the anti-nature attitudes that have done great damage to our world.

But I think the hermits had it (partly) right.  They abandoned society and sought out isolated places in nature. They were tired of hypocrisy and the myriad fantasies that people called “reality”. Apparently only the tree, rocks, birds and weather talk sense – everything else is rubbish; they speak the “truth against the world”. A cold cave is a cold cave, it won’t pretend to be anything else.

But the world is getting smaller, and we can’t really abandon the human world physically like the hermits did. It’s also not going to make things any better – you leave behind society, and though you may feel better (partially), society certainly won’t. But our “abandonment” of society shouldn’t be physical (even if it is tempting) since being anti-social is also damaging, and you’ll always carry a little bit of society with you. The abandoment has to be a lot more subtle than that.

I’m reminded of the Matrix films, and taking the red pill and the blue pill. Once you take the red pill and realise the truth that “everything is a lie” you don’t need to leave the world of egos and appearances behind, you just need to learn to navigate it without losing yourself. You can enter or exit the Matrix/world/society at will, work within it or work outside of it, without announcing your subversion or being detected by THEM! (“them” is pretty much anyone that has a vested/egoistic interest in Society, which is pretty much everyone). You maintain the ego as a Useful Tool, but not a Fundamental Reality.

Most people think of themselves as egos that drive bodies around, which is a Lie Against Nature. The beginning of the Truth Against the World is the realisation that we are bodies carrying egos. If we all started thinking like that, the world would be an extremely different place! (and hermits would come flocking back to society in droves… if they notice anything happening outside their cave, that is)

 

The Magic of Understanding

Magic is a way of making changes in your life the way you want or need, which is fine, but there’s more to it than “waving a magic wand”.  We can make changes and choose according to our desires, but without a key ingredient these changes and choices will not have any long lasting effects and may become overridden by what we don’t see. It’s like building a house without understanding the very ground you’re building on, which has an enormous effect on the structure of the house.

If we don’t understand the real possibilities and options present in life, how can we make effective changes? Haphazardly, that’s how. Sometimes, according to hidden patterns and forces, we may be lucky and get what we want to the letter, but sometimes we may be “unlucky” and it’ll work for a very short time and then fail, not work at all or blow up in our face. “Luck” is a word used to describe the vast swathes of ignorance and lack of control in our lives.

The basic work of a magician is to make changes, but the essential work of a magician is to enter into a process of expanding understanding and banishing ignorance, an effective magician will not base their work on “luck” but on a deepening understanding of the world within and without and also on self-transformation. Quite surprising, you wanted to change the world but you ended up transforming yourself! Not what we expected from magic,  eh?

With understanding we can make choices according to what we know and understand instead of falling prey to the vagaries of “luck”, but even more importantly the underlying structure of the magician’s mind is transformed by understanding, and the general trends and preferences it expresses follow suit. As we grow in understanding, life naturally changes.

In Search for Normal

There are many words that are misused, there are many words that are ambiguous, and there are many word that depend a lot on context for their meaning (who says it, why they say it, how they say it, etc.). One of these words is ‘normal’, and this a word that has always raised my hackles a bit, because it’s usually used in judgement of what people are doing and how they are. It’s a belittling word when used in the negative, and always carries with it a tone of what ‘should be’.

Here’s a few examples that are implicit and explicit in its use:
– natural
– healthy, sane, good
– usual, habitual, common, average
– conventional, general consensus
– acceptable, approved of

What’s normal in Spain isn’t always normal in England, and vice versa. And what’s normal in the natural world can be out of place in human societies, and vice versa. As definitions, they can be quite close, but at times there can be a great chasm between each one. Questions like “Do you think it’s normal?” are meaningless, until they define what they mean by normal.

In the dictionary, the two basic meanings are ‘natural’ and ‘habitual’, which I don’t think should be confused at all, since not everything that is habitual is natural. And in human society, many things that should be natural don’t have regular appearance in our lives. Perhaps my greatest objection is the idea that anything that is concieved of as average or conventional in society is somehow good, healthy or acceptable, where I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Spanish I can give a bit of leeway, because estar normal (to be habitual) isn’t confused with ser normal (to be natural), but even so, I tend to avoid it if I can, since there still seems to be an implicit social value of what ‘should be’, which doesn’t always coincide with habitual or natural.

One day, a rather eccentric lady and a friend of the family who didn’t see herself as ‘normal’ asked me “But what is normal?” My response was “Normal is whatever is normal for you, especially if it’s what you normally (usually, habitually) do.” After that I abandoned its use and substituted it with healthy or usual, which more or less matches the dictionary examples.

I’m not against the concept of ‘normality’ or the word, but it’s (mis)use makes it virtually senseless, unless it’s use is well defined. In the end, either we use it in a consistent and intelligent way, or we abandon it completely and search for more appropriate alternatives.

It’s (not) normal > I (don’t) like it

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) usually like that

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) healthy/good

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) naturally occurring

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) generally acceptable

Transition Between Spaces

Inspired after reading Stepping into ritual space

In many ritualistic traditions, the marking of space and our transition from “outside” to “inside” is structured so that we have a change in attitude. In Druidry and similar traditions, a circle is marked in preparation for magical or celebratory acts.

The dojo in martial arts is considered “different” from the world outside it. You can’t enter with shoes, and in some there is a certain ettiquette that has to be observed upon entering. It marks for me the moment when the work begins and informs my attitude from then on

In Ecopsychology we’re taught to ask “permission” of a natural place, following the non-verbal signals of the body (“natural attractions”) to verify what the place is “telling” us. We can’t just go in as if we own the place and do whatever we want – other beings live here, and they deserve our respect.

I think this transition is important, but I think it’s also important not to create a bubble of it, in that you only live this within that moment or place, and never apply it in your life. In OBOD ritual we’re taught to say “may memory hold what eye and ear have gained”, meaning that whatever we experience “in-circle” becomes integrated into us and we carry that attitude with us to “out-circle”.

Words!

I was reading through the European Unitarian Universalists’ website and I found an interesting article called May I have a Word with You? (last article on the page).From it I saw a quote from Mark Twain:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightining and the lightning bug.

There are many moment when I have read or heard something that made me think “I agree wholeheartedly… except for that one little word, which changes everything.” Sometimes I can overlook it, taking a “between the lines” interpretation, so that my own bias towards certain word doesn’t get in the way of communication. Other times I have to take a word seriously because it changes the sense of a sentence too much for me to ignore. Words aren’t just intellectual categories, they have instinctual and in intuitive aspects to them, too.

Words fascinate me for a number of reasons (or perhaps one reason dressed as many). I’ve written a lot of poetry, which I used as a device to express my inner process. As a writer, words gives form to my thought processes, so I can share ideas; it can also help me create whole new worlds and characters from the imagination. I am a student of languages, Spanish, French and Catalan, learning their similarities and difference (and a student of English – even though I’m a native speaker, there are still things I can learn about it), and a creator of others, inventing news vocabularies, grammars and pronounciations for my invented peoples.

In ecopsychology we learn of “verbalisation”, which has the scientific quality of sharing emprical data through language, and just as (if not more) importantly it has the psychological function of making the unconscious conscious, enhancing experience and impressions by giving it definition instead of letting it sink into anonymity and another thing that we “take for granted”.

Between the anonymity of birth and the anonymity of death there is life. But life doesn’t have to be anonymous, so long as we verbalise.

Today, through a mistake in Spanish, I learnt that emersion and immersion are opposites, where I’d been thinking of them as “immersion”. There’s little difference in pronounciation (or pronunciation for the orthographically correct); both can be /i-MUR-shuhn/, though emersion can also be /ee-MUR-shuhn/). I pronounce them both /i-MUR-zhuhn/ (zh as in viSion, Genre or miraGe), but who’s being picky, right?

Though just to be picky, I pronounce emersion /i-MURJ/ and spell it <emerge>. 😉

Identity and Self-Knowledge

Three keys essential on the path to self-knowledge: acceptance, rejection and synthesis.
Acceptance of those elements that are ours but we have rejected; rejection of those elements that aren’t ours but we have accepted; a synthesis with a more adjusted sense of wholeness and centred in a more essential sense of self.

I’m a regular reader of Druid Life, which has interesting articles such as Know Thyself. Nimue Brown was also helpful in publicising the Vote for the Conservation of the Glorieta Stream. Occasionally I comment on Nimue’s blogs, like Know Thyself, which I share here:

Identity and self-knowledge are very interesting subjects, which are two different but related things. The former gives us material to work with, the latter, a means to make sense of it.
The ego is a fragment that thinks it’s a whole, but once it realises that the human psyche is higher, deeper and wider than it’s own limits, well, we have a whole journey on our hands!
The closest I come to a “pure self” is the “I” without identity, it is the conscious, directive element in the psyche, and around this has formed the baggage of the ego (i.e. identity – there is a distinction here between identity and identifier). Roberto Assagioli said: “We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we dis-identify ourselves.”
Identity has it’s function, but it is less fundamental to my being than I often think. In studing Psychosynthesis, I’m learning that this “disidentifiying” has nothing to do with rejecting my identity (who I think I am), but simply changing my perspective of it as something that is not at the centre of the whole psyche. I “disidentify” from the ego’s box, which allows me to integrate and accept elements of the psyche that don’t fit in with the ego’s prejudices.
Sense of self expands and the process of psychic wholeness, or individuation, begins, moving the centre from the ego to the Self.

Here’s an article by Will Parfitt on Identification and Disidentification, and an exercise for it here.

Polytheistic Meanderings

This is my reply to a forum discussion about “hard and soft polytheistic beliefs“:

My first brush with polytheism was with Wicca’s duotheism: “all gods are apects of one god and all goddesses are aspects of one goddess.” Later I added “and both are the same.” So the idea that “the gods are aspects of the same thing” was present early on. And I was interested in mysticism, so the unity of Ultimate Reality was something present, too.

Later I started to consider that the gods represented aspects of nature, so when I started to look for the “boundaries” that made each god (read aspect of nature) an individual, I saw too much overlap, flow and interdependence, so the whole “gods embody natural forces” reinforced for me that they’re all aspects of the same underlying, unified, interdependant nature/universe/reality, and that the gods of the different myths are interpretations of each culture of the “divine presence/s” in nature. The divisions of the roles and functions of each god at times seemed to arbitrary. They also appeared too human and culturally specific, and the “character” of nature didn’t seem to match the anthropomorphic images we find in myths.

Animism also had its hand in eroding hard polytheistic ideas: I considered “each thing” as having a spirit/soul, and as I considered “each thing” it became clear that even atoms have their own soul/spirit/consciousness. Could it be that my soul is made up of the souls of my body’s atoms? My answer became yes. This meant that the gods (forces of nature) were in turn constituted by smaller gods and spirits, in the same way that all forests are constituted by different forests, forests by trees, trees by cells, cells by atoms, and so on. If the whole Earth is a deity, then it is comprised of all the gods of nature, whether they represent seas, land, sky, weather, forests, deserts, fish, trees, people, rocks, etc.. Even humanity is an aspect of this god/dess.

Pantheism too: the universe is “God”, and everything is a part of the universe, so yes, the gods (polytheism) are aspects of the same God/ess (pantheism).

This eroded ideas about a soul surviving my body after death, too. When my body disintegrates, my soul disintegrates, though its constituent parts (the atoms) carry on. And even they are subject to disintegration at some point. I was strongly influenced by Buddhist ideas about impermanence, applying the idea to my soul and even the gods. [i]Everything[/i] is impermanent, without exception. The different aspects of nature are in a constant state of flux and transformation, meaning the gods are in a constant state of flux and transformation. And they cannot be subjected to our anthropomorphisms.

I also felt that belief in the afterlife contributed to dualistic thinking that separates spirit and matter, and from there the disconnection of humans from our environment and our harmful actions within it. “As above, so below” became for me a confirmation that there is no duality between spirit and matter. The nature-based aspect of Paganism was always what interested me more than the traditional polytheistic beliefs. I was more of an ecomystic than polytheist.

The Elephant in the Room II

There are other forces in the house (i.e. the psyche) besides the dog’s instincts: cultural and spiritual forces. There are angels and gods, and other varieties of archetype and stereotype.  We’re taught to ignore these too, so when we see an “angel” we ignore it for fear of going mad!

There are also intruders, burglars and gatecrashers that have come, uninvited, into the house through a door or window you left open (or someone else opened for you). And even though they don’t belong here, we’ve been taught to accept them as though they were. Shouldn’t we learn to identify them, reject them and guard well the house’s portals?

And have you ever looked upstairs? There a mysterious room filled with toys and colourful paintings. For many people this is a room that is shut off when we reach adulthood, and it gets abandoned. But it doesn’t go away. It is another “elephant in the room”. Hey, the inner child has a life to live, too! 😉