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Plagues – biblical and modern

As I write this the plague of Covid-19 is currently spreading across the world, and it was pointed out to me that it is not an isolated plague, but rather simply the latest in a series that have struck us this year.  First there were the fire storms that struck all over the world, and then the fires were followed in some places by floods, and now this.  When will it end you may ask, and I think the answer is – when we learn the lesson and make the necessary change.  This whole situation is deeply reminiscent of the stories of the Hebrews in Egypt – and the series of plagues that struck.

I wonder what it was that the Egyptians were doing that was so damaging to their environment and ecosystem that it could bring such catastrophes.  The only hint of a reason we are given is that they would not set the Hebrews free.  This is not much to go on, but you find that the pattern is repeated throughout society – so if there is a lack of freedom in one place, there will be a lack of freedom everywhere.  If the society is oppressing one people, and forcing them to act against their inner natures then they are likely forcing the animals to work too hard, stressing themselves, trying to produce more from the land than it can really stand.  Clearly this forceful behaviour resulted in forcing the ecosystem into an unnatural state – which unbalance resulted in the plagues.  I am not much of a historian, and I do not know the history of the downfall of the great Ancient Egyptian civilisation, but perhaps someone else better qualified can say whether I am correct and environmental degradation and unsustainable farming practices had a part to play.

None of this is to say that it was not miraculous.  It is widely agreed that miracles are not things that happen outside the laws of nature, but rather natural phenomenon that by their timing guide us in the right path.  The Hebrew word for miracle “nes” means a sign, and they are signs that show us the way.  When we follow the signs we can keep on track.  We can find a blessed path through life, but if we ignore the signs we will only end up in more conflict with the nature of things.  In the story of Egypt people did not listen to the signs, and so step by step the plagues got worse, and the unfortunate suffering that they went through – we imagine must have been avoidable if they had only listened.

So today what are the signs telling us, and are we going to learn the lesson quickly? or are we going to wait and weather the storm of greater plagues that may be on the way?

Obviously there is an environmental element to much of what is going on.  We do need to relate to the Earth in a more caring, gentle way, and even the virus Covid-19 likely would never have touched human beings without the invasive interference of humans in natural ecosystems, and the fires and floods are even more clearly related to the unsustainable practices.

There is also an economic element – if we were not so globally inter-dependent, if we could maintain some kind of local self-reliance then this virus would not hit so hard – people could simply retreat to their small farms and villages and allow the crisis to pass.  In fact as I am staying currently in rural Portugal – an area that still produces much of its own needs – we see exactly that – no hysteria, people peacefully going back to their gardens, and having a reasonably pleasant time.

The economic element relates also to the community element.  This virus seems to both isolate people from community, and at the same time to strengthen community spirit.  Again if we had strong small communities this would hit us much less severely, it could be so easy to isolate ourselves as a small community rather than as lonely individuals, so there is the impetus to return to a more village based way of life.

But what is perhaps less obvious, but equally or even more important is the spiritual element.  Of course the isolation that we are experiencing draws us away from our religious communities, but gives us more reason and time to explore our own personal spirituality.  I am certain that people will be doing a lot more meditation and prayer and yoga in this time than they would in their ordinary lives.  This can be a good thing, but I would like to look at another aspect.  Many religious teachers say that when things go wrong in the world it means there is a lack of piety – a lack of spiritual depth – not only that spirituality can help us respond well to the crisis, but also that the lack of true spirituality directly causes the crisis.  I tend to agree with this outlook, and I think it works in several ways.  Firstly there is the direct impact of the quality of spiritual energies that are created.  The flourishing of the spiritual healing field in recent years has seen much demonstration of how high quality energies have healing effect, and in contrast how low quality energies can actually lead to disease and malfunction and this is true not just in the bodies of individuals, but also in communities, societies, and ecosystems.  Prayer circles, rain dances, kiirtan sessions etc seem to have some effectiveness in warding off disasters, and I would suggest that if they were done in more refined ways they might have even more effectiveness.

The less direct, but perhaps more obvious way in which spirituality influences these plagues and natural disasters is by the relative fullness or lack in our hearts – the sense of spiritual satisfaction and openness that can be achieved leads to the instinct to support and connect and work in harmony with those around you.  When this feeling is not satisfaction, but rather a lack or emptiness then it leads to greed, competition and the other mental ills that have led to our materialist, capitalist society being so damaging to the environment.  The religious teachers often suggest therefor that we should be doing more religious practices – doing more meditation, following more commandments, trying harder to be good people – but here is where I disagree.  I do not think it is so much the quantity of spiritual practice that is important, but rather the  quality.  Of course to some extent quantity does matter.  For example in someone who does very little of a spiritual nature, and lives a very materialistic lifestyle – then any little extra of meditation or prayer or whatever they choose to do will make a difference in their lives, but for those who are already engaged in spiritual practice the big changes in their lives depend not on how much they practice, but on how they practice.  I think that in order to resolve the crisis we are under at the moment the call is for us to both practically and spiritually to come into harmony with the environment, each other, the cosmos, and the divine.

This means we need to go beyond following commandments, righteousness, and even love of God – all of which although good things still have in them a sense of separation.  We need to move towards ways of practice that create the sense of unity, harmony and peace that enables us to live in harmony with all.  This kind of connection to ourselves, the divine, and the world around us has several benefits – the first is the peaceful satisfaction that allows us to enjoy and be in harmony with nature and the world around us, and secondly paradoxically it engages us through that connection into service – into doing what we can for this world around us.  In this way with the combined impetus to peace and harmony and to service and action leads to gentle wise action that improves rather than damages the environment and community around us.  Of course there is the third element – the way someone who embodies this kind of connection radiates a loving peaceful feeling around them.  This is what Saint Francis did to gather the wild animals around him as his friends, and it is this peaceful radiance that allows the living masters to gain the respect of both sides of serious armed conflicts and seemingly effortlessly mediate solutions.   If we as spiritualists and spiritual communities can together embody and radiate such peaceful, harmonious connectedness then we will be unstoppable in creating a beautiful, harmonious way of living that will be immune to such plagues as we are seeing today, and by its harmony will in fact attract the blessings rather than the curses of the natural and divine worlds.

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Image result for chanting

Prayers, Ritual words, Mantras, Chants, Sacred books – the words that you use in spiritual practice and religion are not just prose – they are not just simple statements of fact that we can understand with our rational brain.  They operate on at least three separate levels simultaneously, and in the combination of those three levels they do not just tell us something, or say something.  They Do something – they change our state of consciousness.  In the best case when well written they elevate us to the state of joyous connection with the divine and with all things, and people will report unexplainable happiness and inspired wisdom following the use of these words, but if they are not written with such inspiration that could put us in any other state of consciousness – they could create depression or loneliness, or a sense of passionate love and desperation, or even the sense that God doesn’t exist and there is no point to religion and spirituality.

Image result for chanting

In most cases this is not too much of a problem because ritual words are either written by spiritually elevated teachers who know what they are doing, or they are evolved slowly by the community, and the community will naturally choose the best and discard the worst and by process of natural selection create the best possible expression to suit their needs.  (That second community based process can be rather slow and go through some less inspiring forms before it finds its inspiring form, and sometimes i think it is worth hurrying it along a little)

But where it does go wrong is when you translate those words of power into another language.

Let’s just take a little aside to understand how these ritual words work, and how they affect us so strongly.  As I said above they work on three levels simultaneously.  The first level is the meaning – what do the words say?  They need to express something that is uplifting if they are going to be uplifting – they need to express something that is inline with their purpose – You cannot build inspiring texts from words of insult or other coarse language, and in the same way you cannot build inspiring texts from any language that is not inspiring in some way or other.  This meaning level of the text is the most commonly understood, but perhaps surprisingly to some it is the weakest in terms of its effect on our consciousness – hence the common use of archaic language that we don’t understand in our spiritual services – it doesn’t matter too much what the exact words are as long as the general spirit is good.

The second level that words affect us is their poetry – the sounds and rhythms and ways that the words are put together.  Do they have a rhythm that is pleasing to the ear?  are their rhymes and recognised forms?  Does the sound that we hear, and the feeling on our tongue when we speak them create an experience that is inline with the inspiration and upliftment that we are looking for from them?  The sounds of the poems affect our consciousness in a stronger way than the meanings, but they can only have their desired effect if the meaning is also appropriate.

Image result for beautiful  english hebrew bible

The third and by far the strongest level is also the most esoteric (of course) – it is the energy that is conveyed through those words.  This energy is something that can be built up over time through use of the words – for example if people around the world are using the words in sacred, beautiful ways then those words take on an energy of sacred beauty, and share that with us every time we use them.   Texts can also be energised consciously – empowered by putting yourself in a particular state of consciousness as you use them and thus sharing that consciousness with them.  So the texts become a medium of direct communication of a state of consciousness from the people who have already experienced it and energised those words with it to those who have not experienced it, or need a boost. A well developed spiritual teacher with sufficient mystical experience should be able to consciously create and empower words to have particular effects and to create particular states of consciousness.  Incidentally this can be done through other media as well – body postures, yoga postures, musical compositions, symbols etc.  In some cases the power of the sounds are backed up with other elements that go along with them – eg in the Hebrew and Arabic texts the letters themselves also have a similar powerful effect on the consciousness as well as the sounds.

Image result for beautiful quran

This energy that is carried through the words is by far more powerful in its effect on our consciousness than either the poetic sounds, or the meanings, but it depends on both of them.  Without the appropriate meanings and sounds the energy does not stick (not that the words will have no energy, but that they may be appropriate for a different kind of energy – a different state of consciousness)

What does this mean for translations?  It means that we translate the meaning – and this we manage reasonably well – though even here it can be difficult and we lose a lot of subtlety, the poetry is almost always completely lost, though some put some effort into recreating some kind of poetry.  But the energy – the empowerment of those words is completely lost – even in the best translation the same energy does not translate with the words, and so we create words without power.  If the words were truly without power this would not be too bad – we would have created a ritual that does nothing – and then at least we would be doing no harm, but words always communicate energies and states of consciousness – on some level everything always holds an energy and words are no different.  Therefore what we have created is not something that has no power, but rather something that has a random power that we do not understand.  And while if we are very lucky this might be an uplifting power – most often it is not – it creates an experience that is detrimental, or confusing to us.

Let me give you an example – until a few hundred years ago the Catholic Church had all its bibles in Latin, and held its services in Latin – and then they started to translate everything into different languages including English.  Now the old Latin services were very uplifting – as attested to by the love that we still hold for the Gregorian Chant of those days.

[Here’s a latin christmas carol many of you may be familiar with – but listen to the subtle difference in feel and effect]

Now some very well meaning people decided that we should celebrate in language we can understand and so we created the English Liturgy.  What they didn’t realise they had done is created words of power that have a sense of boredom in them – a sort of tiredness – so church became depressing – people kept going because they believed in it, but slowly that belief was leached away by the lack of inspiration and upliftment experienced in the service, and this fueled the move away from the church and to modern materialist rationality.

[The same hymn sung in English – see if you can feel the difference in effect]

We can never know what would have happened if the church had kept words of power that were inspiring and an inspiring service, but i would be sure that many more people would be attending church today if that were the case.

So don’t translate your prayers, ritual words, mantras, chants etc – leave them in their original sacred form.  Or if you really do feel the need to translate make sure you have a genuine mystic or spiritual teacher who can help you to make sure that your translation is also formed and empowered such a way that it has a positive influence on your consciousness, and on the consciousness of others who attend your services.

P.S.  And if you are not sure you believe me try it out – find a ritual prayer or chant from your tradition and its translation – and meditate with it – start by rating your happiness level on a scale of 1 – 10 then chant it 10 or 20 times or even more until you feel its effect – now rerate your happiness level, and do the same for the translation.  If I am right (and I am pretty sure I am) you will find the happiness level much lower after reciting the translation.

 

Words of Power or “Don’t Translate Your Prayers”

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Spiritual Science

I am deeply worried about the state of our relationships.  If we had as many ill people as we have unhealthy relationships then people would be panicking.  Relationship skills are one thing that all of us need to learn.

There is one single key that can unlock all of our relationship issues – one skill to learn.  (Well almost all of our relationship issues – it may not be so effective in finding your ideal partner – its better for dealing with the relationships you already have.)  It is not healthy boundaries, or sweetness, or loving yourself, or faith, or gratitude but it does have elements of all of these.  Technically it is called “Differentiation” though a more commonly understood term might be “Interdependence”  It is not independent and closed off to others, and it is not dependent and clinging to others, but interdependent and sharing with others.

Here is a discussion we had about the concept:

Here is a little discussion about how we managed to find interdependence and differentiation:

Differentiation refers to the idea that we can be closely connected with other with out losing our individuality – our differences.  It is what happens when you are authentic (true to yourself) – Compassionate (true to others) – and Positive (true to the infinite) – all three at the same time.  This is not necessarily an easy task and takes some practice, but it is not out of our reach.  What it means is that we must find ways to accept each other as we are – to not try to change each other, to not try to change ourselves, but to be truly who we are in connection with each other.

A disturbing but effective way of learning this is to ask yourself the question – “What would i do if i knew they were never going to change?  How would I be true to myself?”  If you can answer this honestly then you will find for yourself the answers you need and will create the differentiation that makes all the difference in relationships.  The irony is that when you stop trying to change people often they make changes by themselves, and progress is made.

Another method to learning differentiation is to spend time with well differentiated people – if you know anyone with a strong meaningful happy relationship and you spend time with them, you may find that you pick up something of their energy of their way of being and are able to express that in your relationships.

A more direct method is to use spiritual technologies that encode the energy of differentiation.  By practicing these you will directly practice embodying the feeling of differentiated relationships, and in time will be able to bring that feeling into practice in your relationships.  Here are some mudras that can be used to learn differentiation.

This one is for Men:

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This one is for women – you can see that it does not make me so happy because it is not the right one for me.  I am hoping to replace the image with a picture of someone else so that you can get the sense of the positive effect it has.

Image may contain: Alexander McDonell, standing and indoor

Some so called “Tantra” classes use other mudras and techniques that are based on differentiation (though there are plenty of classes that are teaching something completely different)

I am working on a set of energy medicines – water imbued with spiritual energies and there will be one for differentiation, and it can also be expressed through art and music.  Here is an improvisation based on an Indian Raga that expresses differentiation.

For those who want the video version here I am discussing differentiation and its importance, and below are some other video resources about relationships that you might find useful.

Negotiating Relationship Issues:

How to master Differentiation:

Finding your needs – the 10 needs:

 

The Secret to Relationships

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