Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Zen Process of Uncovering Self Deception...

Meditation and illumination cannot teach a child, it can only make one. It is like a sword, a sharp and distinct bolt of lightening that cuts a person into two parts and of the space that remains; this is it! Without notions and only being, un-graspable and unknowing, not perceived by normal senses or existing... it has no name, form or function and yet wholly everything: the sum total of being. It is not attempting to navigate through a room filled with dense smoke, nor trying to focus upon a thing, but becoming the smoke and the room, experience and understanding. Finally, not sensing ourself as a container but containing all things... and then when all of this seems like a dream, of forgetting our self and being the child enveloped by zen.

How is 'what' not possible? 'What' is the distinction we create between our self and other things. It is a protection rather than an explanation. It is a terrible God that prevents our complete dissolution from an accumulated identity. We are therefore slaves to this perception of color, we struggle to maintain these confining bonds and create yet more chains to justify our existence through comparison. True compassion is not weighing the quality of something or improving it to our own standard, but truly an identification which is the same as a simple act of breathing with everything: a total absorption of all the energy, and in this process our 'what' disappears and dissolves as one tremendous wave like a blind, ecstatic cry of joy; un-contained and all-embracing.

Desire is only a form created within ourselves. It has little to do with that object we wish to embrace. In the action of desire our whole being succumbs to fragmentation like an exploding grenade or a shattered mirror that comes to reflect our self in a thousand myriad forms. In this way we are totally incapable of 'one-ness.' With a thousand heads we are completely drowned in a crazy, uncoordinated mass of individual voices screaming. We are forcing our-self to make constant decisions, to define, qualitate, select and categorize. To charge one with more importance over another and the many. Every moment of our time is thus filled with confusion and abstract emptiness. Perception becomes separated senses devolved into base survival; a struggle to manipulate the universe to our own demands, the strongest and the weakest, light and dark, hot and cold, birth and death... for ever.

Thus desire is the corpse that we make love to in our minds, a blind act of necrophilia which only satisfies the itching rash of a fever. In a genuine act of passion there is a complete symbiosis that incorporates all of existence; where two beating hearts are transformed into one complete breath. In one naked perception there are no distinctions or distractions. We embody all differentiations and transcend both positive and negative, assuming all forms and become an energy without a name that is pure and sparkling. This is not seeking a solution to a predefined dilemma but realizing the 'I am You.' This is the burning in one flame that illuminates the darkness surrounding us, and questions fall away in direct experience.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Book Review: Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe by H. Ellis and Davidson

This book is mainly concerned with the format and content of pre-Christian Scandinavian religion, using Celtic and Germanic equivalents as a means of reference, support and comparison. I first became aware of Scandinavian culture during my schooldays in North-East British Northumberland, and the lessons were mainly concerned with depicting the savagery of the Viking raiders, the terrible ‘dragon-headed’ long-ships, and their rape, pillage and plunder of civilized Anglo-Saxon Christian settlements. This image of barbaric ice-warriors filled my imagination until the mid-eighties when excavations and archeological discoveries at Coppergate in York revealed many interesting and highly cultured facets of Viking life in the early medieval period. Much of these discoveries and subsequent research was installed as a permanent museum now called ‘Jorvik Viking Centre.’ A decade later I was fortunate enough to visit Bergen in Norway and experience Scandinavian culture and history first hand, the Bryggens Museum is a showcase of finds from the earliest settlements and includes ceramics, rune inscriptions, artifacts and the remnants of a principally shipping and commercial society up to the Middle Ages. ‘Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe’ provided me with a carefully researched and detailed account of the spirituality of the Scandinavian peoples, and which brought to maturity all my previous thoughts and experiences, to an understanding which gives considerable credit to those communities for their important cultural legacy in Western Europe.

Davidson has used the medieval literature, myths and legends of Iceland and Ireland as the primary reference source for this book, in combination with archeological research papers and sources, and iconography of pre-Christian Western European culture. Her main inspiration appears to come from many scholars of Celtic history including Nora Chadwick, Kenneth Jackson and Anne O’Sullivan, although the principle thesis of the this research is prompted by Georges Dumezil (1898-1986) the religious historian who specialized in the analysis of Indo European civilization, who asks; “Is it possible to fit these Norse and Irish legends into a general pattern of Indo-European religious beliefs, extending back far into prehistory?” This question it seems, is the answer that Davison was seeking to explore within her work, and she does so with imagination, clear perception and a satisfying conclusion. With a broad yet defining sweep she manages to assess and investigate seven principle areas of interest; sacred places and sanctuaries, feasting and sacrifices, warriors, codes and rites and battle, land spirits, deities and ancestors, prophetic knowledge, divination and the priestly caste, cosmology and the other worlds, and finally the ruling gods, goddesses and divine pantheons.

Davidson begins with the earliest sources of a broad Indo-European culture, the archeological sources of Halstatt and La Tene circa 800 BCE to 200 CE, and follows through her study to approximately 1000 CE when the Scandinavian Vikings began to convert to Christianity. She employs free use and comparison of geographical sites, archeology, linguistics, cultural, social, artistic and spiritual characteristics, and the dynamics of the anarchical tribal-feudalism of early European society to successfully accomplish the study.

I grew up within a traditional working class British community. There, the cultural inheritance was composed of remnants of ancient and medieval thought whose pattern and dynamic has evolved little beyond the concept of ‘indentured servitude.’ Tribalism still exists albeit in the form of soccer, and beyond the boundaries of the town there still exists a fear, a dreaded chaos, of foreigners and disorganization. Even when I was a lad in the seventies there was a strong sense of home, a hearth and odd yet valid seasonal customs whose origins may be traced back a thousand years. From a curious perspective, even a psychological one, this volume (and others like it) helped me to understand my background, language, beliefs and culture from a traditional point, and subsequently how those traits still influence my perception and actions today. It is not a book that changed my life, but illuminated facets of it and helped me in understanding myself more.