Saturday 3 December 2011

A Soul's Journey

A Soul's Journey
The soul's journey is also a life's journey that we have all embarked upon by the very act of being born. We each have a life, a life that has been given to us, apparently as a free gift, an act of grace you could say, for we've done nothing to deserve it. We have done nothing to receive the gift of each new day as it comes with all the privileges that it brings, the rich experiences that that we may count as good or bad along with the joys and sorrows of the relationships that we must all share with each other.

We embark on this soul's journey, hopefully a journey that will entail a long life on this earth and we often do not recognise what we have been given. In short, we are often lacking in gratitude as we forget or ignore the injunction to 'count one's blessings' as though counting one's blessings is some sort of superficial throw-away remark rather than key to successful living. To have a grateful heart is an essential requisite for the soul's journey, to live each day as it comes, to take pleasure in the small things as well as the big events, to feel love and compassion even in some of the most hopeless of situations and to know that such sublime goodness comes from the eternal God, the God according to St Paul, is the God ' In whom we live and move and have our being.'

In this soul's journey we begin our earthly lives in a state of innocence, and in the earliest stages we are truly in the Garden of Eden. But the child soon finds the world with all its urgency, its demands, its mores and its attractions. The innocence of infancy our Garden of Eden very quickly becomes closed to us. In the book of Genesis we read how Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden and then at the east of the garden of Eden God placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. The soul's journey I think, is to return to the garden and perhaps we heard an echo of that in the 1970's Woodstock song:

By the time I got to Woodstock
They were half a million strong
Everywhere there was songs and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust, we are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

Or perhaps as Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The story of the prodigal son is one such parable of a soul's journey a story in which a younger son leaves his father and goes out into the world spending his inheritance in wild living until he becomes destitute and returns home in poverty to his father. The true meaning of the story is of course that the son realises, that the world and all its attractions can not provide the authentic joy of living that we desire at our deepest level, and that this can only be found in returning to the source of our being to God or in this case the Father, who truly loved him and rejoiced at his home coming.

Most of Jesus' teachings were in fact simply about this very important and fundamental matter, about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, it's a state of being that people everywhere, throughout the ages have sought, and have wanted to hear about. Intuitively they have yearned to go beyond the apparent superficiality of their lives in search of a deeper meaning beyond a temporal existence. If we can somehow visualise life in first century Palestine, a primitive world without the benefits of mass literacy and the technology of the modern age and if we can imagine a man like Jesus who can teach, who can provide answers, and can hold people in thrall with the spiritual power of his words. And how those words would strike right at the heart and soul of his listeners, there would be hundreds and sometimes thousands of them pressing on to him as a crowd. Often he would be obliged to preach from the deck of a fishing boat from the Sea of Galilee in order avoid the crush of eager people, straining to hear his words.

His messages were coined in simple terms like the Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl of great price so that much so that a merchant, a collector of pearls would sell all he had in order to buy it. 'The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus would say, is within.' How many times did he tell them? How many times did they need to hear it? And how many times do we need to be told? It's really a key question since experiences, ideas and thoughts come, piling into our minds, cascading, each one on top of the other, and the most immediate impression thought supplanting the last one and so on. We can hear the truth, but it can easily be subverted and beguiled by the so called rationalists and by our own pessimistic thought. The resonant words of the great sages can lead us to a deeper truth, their words become pointers on the soul's journey but they are words all too easily forgotten when we get lost once again in the world.

This is the trap that we all fall too easily into, we know the truth we have heard the message, and loved hearing it but all to often we find that the ideas we love to hear become like the seeds exemplified in Jesus' Parable of the Sower: 'Some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.'

 I wonder if the question is not so much about the inherent weakness of the human mind but rather a question of focus. In knowing and hearing what is good and true we must ensure that our best ideals become like the seeds that fall on good soil and bring  forth grain, as Jesus would have it, 'some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.'

Good soil and good seed can create a beautiful garden. A beautiful garden with lawns flower beds and perhaps fountains and pools of water. This beautiful garden was only created and obtained though hard labour and thoughtful design, a pleasure to see, to visit and to be in. We can close our eyes now and imagine it. There in this garden of the mind's eye we can hear the birds sing, feel the soft warm breeze of a summer's day, smell the fragrance of the flowers, and perhaps hear a gentle splash as the fish disturb the water with a sudden movement.

The garden is sustained by the work of its keepers; the weeds and the rubbish are kept out and constantly removed. And likewise, so in our minds, the destructive seeds of negativity of cynicism of disbelief we must also constantly weed out ensuring that only the seeds of positive self-development, seeds that can grow to bear out the spiritual truths within the garden of the mind, our own minds are permitted. This garden we seek to build in the mind, this way of being of becoming, is no soft option. Harder than physical labour it requires consistency, discipline and determination to keep heart and mind focussed on the destination of the soul's journey. If we cannot overcome our own selves, if we cannot embody the change we want to see, how can our lives speak for a world we want to see?

It is important to recognise that such change begins at the level of consciousness: our own consciousness. That is why in St Paul's letter to the Romans he wrote: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." We are being told amongst other things not to indulge in back-biting, gossip, and avarice, or perhaps to face up to life's demands, to become more than what we are, to meet our full potential and in doing so to reap the rich rewards of  our faith, our courage and our labours.

Tuesday 1 November 2011


Betrayal arises from disjunction, a disjunction between wilful thought and a deeper truth. When that disjunction becomes apparent to the individual concerned, there is remorse and personal turmoil. Life becomes hell.

As we know, Judas in his realisation and remorse for what he had done threw the money back into the temple and then hung himself. The money that Judas threw back could not be put into the temple coffers because it was blood money and so the chief priests used the money to buy a potter's field as a burial ground for foreigners. And even today, in Jerusalem, the field still exists and is known as The Field of Blood.

Unable to bear the burden of his guilt, Judas took his own life. But surely Judas was forgiven. When Peter asked how many times he should forgive someone who had wronged him, Jesus replied, not merely seven times but 'seventy seven times'. On another occasion, as we all know, Jesus said, "He that is without sin among you - let him cast the first stone."

The French enlightenment philosopher and historian, Voltaire wrote, "People continue to commit atrocities as long they believe in absurdities." And so this sin, in the end becomes a betrayal of our own humanity, a denial of our own true nature, of who we truly are. When that disjunction becomes apparent we may find also that redemption is not very far away.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

The Christ

In William Blake's painting, Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, we have this glorious, mystical Christ.  There are the crowds, and many are bowing in deep humility. Who are they worshipping? They are worshipping The Christ, not a Christ that is simply 'out there' an external figure, but the true Christ, the Christ that lives within them as it does in us, the Christ that is ultimately who they really are; our own potentiality. In surrender, the mystery of God's love is revealed.

Monday 15 August 2011


Pray in the present moment, be focussed and relaxed. Find the quiet centre within and know that anger and prayer are incompatible. But pray for transformation, for inner peace, for an awakening, for a knowing that can lead to the fullest realisation so that like St Augustine we may ultimately confess:

"You have made us for yourself. O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." Amen

Monday 25 July 2011


Sometimes when we stand on the hills and see the rays of the sun shining through the clouds in ethereal drama, it is such a majestic spectacle and not difficult to understand why William Blake should have written, “And did the countenance divine shine forth upon our clouded hills?”

I feel we are being drawn into a profound truth and that we need only allow ourselves to be carried along with the joyous momentum of it all like an ecstatic audience in thrall to the crescendo of a rousing symphony.

Monday 4 July 2011

The Joke's on Us

When we laugh at a comedy situation and find some empathy with a character portrayed as a dysfunctional or hapless agent within a situation; we are opening ourselves to love and forgiveness. Laughter is the trigger in which we recognise the mindless lack of love, the futility of passing things that in some way present as substitutes or consolation for the sense of abandonment and loneliness, inherent in an alienated world; an alienated existence. Then we see momentarily, our own vulnerability, and our kinship with humanity. Laughter is a temporary light in which we become at one with the world, and see that that the joke is really on us.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

May Day Greetings

May Day Greetings

May Day stands not simply as an historical record, something that belongs in the 'People's History Museum' but as a living reminder when we look at its celebration throughout the world, that like the fertile early summer ready to burst into life, we might see that yes, another world is possible, in spite of all the setbacks and disappointments because we live in a world that is crying out for justice, for food and medicine, for peace and love and compassion. And these two words: love and compassion, they're words we rarely if ever hear a politician use because we live in a world, if the newspapers and television are anything to go by, that is dominated by violence, alienation and division, it's literally a hell on earth for millions of people who share this planet with us.

But fundamentally my view of human nature, is that, everybody regardless of class, race or gender wants and needs  the same things: to be loved, to feel accepted and to feel secure. We should know this is so because when a child, a baby, comes into this world, helpless and vulnerable it is created as a human being, to receive and to give love and not to be subject to hate, and suspicion, or to be exploited or to exploit others, along with all the other alienating mores and ideologies of this mad world we've all created. This cannot be what being fully human is about.

Ultimately we cannot change the world by using, teargas, prisons, bombs and guns. We have to convince people by demonstrating our own belief in the power of love, through this God of love who is both within us and at the centre of all creation. There is no alternative to that.

In the end we have no choice but to put aside the things that hold us back if we truly want to see the revolution implicit in the May Day promise that another world is possible, so that we too can be with Jesus who declared at Nazareth that:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
For he has anointed me;
To preach good news to the poor he has sent me: 
To proclaim for the captives release
and to the blind sight;
To send forth the oppressed in release:
 To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

This radical inclusive message were the words of a man who exhorted his listeners to embrace the spiritual life, "be ye therefore perfect, he said, "as your father in heaven is perfect." In other words, the life of the spirit is for anyone who seeks it, for say neither lo here! Or lo there! For behold the kingdom of God is within you. The gospel story, the death and the resurrection becomes a paradigm for the spiritual life and the spiritual life turned inside out, love in action, can change the world.

My favourite colour is red; I love that blaze of red flags that one can see on a good May Day demonstration:

The people's flag is deepest red
It shrouded oft our martyred dead
And ere their limbs grow stiff and cold
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.

So goes the song and the words to 'The Red Flag'

And here again is the same sentiment taken from that famous hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

His dying crimson like a robe,
Spreads oe'r his body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe
And all the globe is dead to me

Were the whole realm of nature mine;
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul, my life my all.

May Day Greetings!

Monday 21 March 2011

Afterthoughts on today's discussion on drugs and altered consciousness. . .

At the heart of the mystical experience is profound love. We do not need drugs for that; only a longing for the presence of God.

Sunday 20 March 2011

For Lent

We can see that in the past, in the life of the church, that the period of Lent was taken very seriously indeed but in the passing of time it seems we've reached a point where we hardly notice it, except that perhaps the supermarkets might have a special offer on for the sale of ready made pancakes or that already the chocolate Easter eggs are already displayed in their shopping aisles. It seems a pity really because this period of time, the six weeks before Easter could actually provide us with a real opportunity for reflection, for renewal and for spiritual growth.

The real story of Lent of course finds it's origins in the temptations that confronted Jesus in the wilderness where he fasted and prayed alone for a period of forty days and forty nights. We might remember that before he entered the wilderness we have this wonderful scene where John the Baptist who is preaching and baptising others at the river Jordan is also commanded by Jesus to baptise him also and it is in this context that we now hear these words:

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

The story of Jesus' baptism at the river Jordan is an essential part of the story of the forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, and actually shows us why he was able to resist the temptations. The end of the baptism scene in fact describes a subjective, transcendent moment in which Jesus sees an acknowledgement of his worthiness in the eyes of God. He is the Beloved. However, this status of being loved by God of being of worthy of God's love is as true for everyone as it is for Jesus. A close reading of the scriptures show us this to be so, in for example, the parables of the lost sheep, the prodigal son and the lost coin. We are told also that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. In other words we are here because we are loved by God because there is, here and now, a time, a place and a purpose for us. It is Jesus' knowledge of this, and his own special relationship with God that gives him spiritual sustenance in such arduous conditions.

And we too can have that assurance to know that even in the bleakest of conditions, where we might feel like Jesus did in the wilderness alone, and in want, we can know ultimately that we have not been abandoned and that if we allow ourselves this space to come into the presence of God we might discover that we need not despair. Another definition of coming into the presence of God, borrowing from Eckhart Tolle, we might say that, in a moment of stillness, silence and surrender to the present moment we can experience a felt oneness with Being. Tolle says of Being that, "It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible; some thing that almost paradoxically, is you and yet is much greater than you." A felt oneness; and we can hear an echo of this in the Psalm 46: 'Be still and know that I am God.'

Thursday 10 February 2011

The Epiphany

The Christ child is revealed to the Gentiles, for the first time, to the Wise Men who travelled from the East to see and worship him. The Epiphany therefore, was seen as a sign that this manifestation, the good news, the message of Christ was born, universally for all people, for all time.

And we have this beautiful image later in the story of these wise, wealthy, if not powerful men, kneeling to worship the Christ child with such joy and humility.  "And when they had opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh".  Gold, frankincense and myrrh, gold the gift of Kings and the emblem of royalty "Hark the herald angels sing" - "Glory to the new born king" - a familiar line from a favourite Christmas carol. 

But this king is the subversion of earthly authority, his kingship is the end of egotistic power seeking, the end of worshiping glamour and wealth, it is the proclamation of God's Kingdom on Earth, the gift of grace. This king is the teacher who tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven lies within ourselves.