intellect

Cultivate Attention and Discernment (6)

Illustration of Ibn al-’Arabi | Image source: www.en.qantara.de/

“He who knows himself knows his Lord;
… indeed, He is his very identity and reality.

— Shaykh Ibn al-’Arabi


Reading time: 25-30 mins

The Qur’an

Orthodox Islam has a bad rap these days, and not without good reason. However, just as Christianity has wisdom and truth underneath all the centuries of re-writes and distortions, so too the Qur’an which buried the strains of Islamic mysticism infusing its origins before corruption set in. The Sufi tradtion and the Islamic mysticism it stands for is very different to the Islamism and Jihadism of the kind we have witnessed in the modern age. Here too, the importance of discernment is clear.

Like the Bible that constantly warns of temptations and lies that could “deceive the very elect” the Qur’an is equally explicit in its warnings regarding dark forces of the demonic or Jinn overseen by the Shaytān or “Whisperer,” both of whom seek to imperial travellers on the “straight path” with “insinuating thoughts” or waswasa. The strengthening of spiritual perception is necessary in order to discern the true from the false and shun the crooked path. Indeed, we have seen that intelligence as much as faith is crucial to seeing the unseen and the signs of higher states of consciousness which might lead us to embody the presence of a Universal Intelligence or God/Allah. As the Hermetic maxim reminds us – “as above, so below”. And like the Bible, one has to sift for the gold in the Qur’an in order to see the reflected light.

Dr. Kabir Helminski‘s translations from his 2005 book The Book of Revelations: A Sourcebook of Themes from the Holy Qur’an provide an excellent summary of the qualities needed to begin seeing the unseen and its relationship to self-development and spiritual practice. The teachings encourage us to reflect and perceive the conscious creative power of all that flows through Nature and the universe. By paying attention to: “…the change of the winds, and the clouds that run their appointed courses between sky and earth: these are messages indeed for people who use their intelligence.” [1]

So, rather than having our head in the clouds and seeking signs and portents of a superstitious nature, we are learning to observe life’s hidden symbols and patterns of meaning. We may then learn to recognise the patterns of creative and entropic influences which can be understood as extrapolations of truth as it applies in Nature and man. Regarding these “signs” embedded in converging and radiating “arrows of time,” we have the following injunction to remain aware that intelligent design is at work, not only in the evolution of organic life but from the influence of other dimensions of existence that interpenetrate our own. We only have to take note of this design in order to see how carefully the Earth and cosmos is a school for learning:

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Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (2)

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

“Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.”

— C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 15-20 mins

Inner Considering

You’re on an internal cell phone to your “Self” that never stops ringing. You pick up and you say the same thing over and over. You hang up. And then it rings again and you start over, completely forgetting your last feverish conversation. Our wires become so crisscrossed and entangled with endless contradictions and conflations that we end up trapped in our mind.

A life of endless chatter, deliberation, vascillation, questioning, doubts, ten thousand possible ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’ fuelled by our fantasies of the future and the past. These thoughts get our brain and nervous system so habitually overheated, criss-crossing over each other with complexity, that we cannot discern or discriminate objective from subjective.

That’s an unfortunate part of being human. We all do it to different degrees – mostly as our default position. It certainly takes me back to all kinds of poor decisions which were based solely on that inner noise of fear and anxiety and not much else. We can even make ourselves believe that it’s all logical and rational rather than an internal babbling of self-protection.

All this has a name: “inner considering”, a phrase drawn from the 4th Way teachings of George I. Gurdjieff and its relationship to indentification and self-remembering.

When we fully identify with the object of our attention we immediately begin a cascade of thought loops about what might or might not be, fuelled by anticipation and inner dissatisfaction. People, in particular, form our most potent forms of identification. This is the social battlefield of unresolved childhood insecurities and misdirected sexual energies. Plagued by endless loops of inner considering we are not motivated by truth but by self-protection and inner comfort. It’s like we carry around a no-entry sign for any authentic interaction. Only those exchanges which bypass “sensitive” lanes into our heart are allowed access. And since most people are asleep to themselves, therefore inauthentic, much of what we see as social interactions are merely the exchange of inner considerations.

Fear is still pumped into society on a daily basis and has produced immense distrust and cynicism. Our infotainment mediocrity elevates artifice and images devoid of meaning which means most of us search desperately for anchors of purpose. Albeit entirely understandable, this is a fool’s game because it is driven by subjective, frustrated assumptions and all manner of negative projections – all of it largely unconscious.

The net result means no change, or change for its own sake. The loops are still there based on a refusal to take responsibility for one’s own development. A contractile denial of one’s own deformations remains in place.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose VI: The Universe Doesn’t Negotiate Or “Welcome to the Matrix”

By M.K. Styllinski

Kazuakai Tanahashi | brushmind.com

“‘Soul-making’ needs to be re-imagined and reintegrated into our societies. We need not go back to animism or alchemy to find soul-making. We can find it here, in the everyday Now. …The interior life should be recognized as an inherent human need, and it should be socially acceptable and encouraged to direct part of our gaze in its direction. After all, if the outer sun rises but the inner sun does not, then nothing has been gained.”

~ Kingley L. Dennis


Reading time: 20-25 mins

This exploration of happiness seems to have morphed into that which underlies the seeking, namely what it really means to change ourselves and if there is something deeper to access. Change is about leaping into the unknown and battling with the dark recesses of our unconscious mind which have so far evaded detection yet continue to sabotage the promise of a life of meaning and purpose. Even if we have attained a semblance of peace and success in this world, depression and inner dissatisfaction continue to arise. This suggests something much deeper is going on and that exhortations to find happiness will only paper over the ever-widening cracks in our psyches.

Regardless of your beliefs discovering meaning and purpose is a spiritual quest. By “spiritual” I mean the will to obtain balance and creative flow with life, living in the Tao, or honouring the Divine in our thoughts and actions. The eventual result is more harmonious relationships and a constructive daily life. We create something unique in that exchange because we have made the effort to achieve it – it is our contribution borne from an accumulation of experience; a struggle that eventually bears fruit and from which everyone can be nourished. Happiness results, as a byproduct of observable results, namely, the effects we have on others. When that begins to occur, our state of Being radiates and effects whatever social unit we find ourselves embedded. But we have to cultivate resilience from a centre of calm within to let such dividends arrive. This process comes from simple understandings and life lessons which haven’t really changed much for thousands of years.

If you are skeptical that one person can change the world then we’d be in agreement. But one person who changes their inner world positively must logically cause ripples of change in the outer reality. We are wired to cooperate and to adapt to tumultuous circumstances. If your intent and consequent effort remains consistent you’ll connect with others doing the same. Being alone in daily life is not a good survival tactic as our ancient ancestors realised. This is the nature of real-life social networks: a contagion for good or for ill can spread in a non-linear bursts of transference, given enough key connectors. So, there is no reason we can’t transform ourselves, and by extension, our family life, the neighbourhood and local community, if we form or tap into the right kind of networks. As discussed throughout this series, applied knowledge/spirituality should be useful – useful to our own aims and to those of others, otherwise, what’s the point? As author Kurt Vonnegut, reminded us: “Find a way to be useful; if you aren’t useful you are useless.”

That doesn’t mean we seek global transformation because that very desire tends to run up against hubris and the consequent road blocks of ideology. Reality simply isn’t designed to be second guessed in that way. But we can start small and build seed-visions of quality that have tangible results in our lives. These seeds of change determine the quality of all that follows and sends a signal to the information field that we choose to join and augment the creative dynamics of reality, rather than enforcing our visions onto people and situations which, though well-intentioned, often add to the chaos commensurate with the law of unintended consequences. (Good intentions divorced from self-awareness and critical thinking – but satisfying for the emotions – always makes things worse).

The will to change from what is clearly not working to other more harmonious possibilities may not lead to spectacular revolutionary fireworks but then, constructive change seldom manifests this way. Usually, in terms of inner work, it’s just hard drudgery and a battle we must do alone even when surrounded by intense social interaction. (No one knows our weaknesses quite like we do). In the beginning, depending on the level of transformation you seek, sticking with it will eventually cause minor to major changes to your environment and the people with whom you associate some way down the line. In the short-term, you might have little to show for it, but when you keep going, step by step, day after day, month after month with incremental victories you suddenly realise that you are positively different and your life signals that change.

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